Use Social Commerce to Grow Your Business & Boost Retention

by Bistriti Poddar |

Use Social Commerce to Grow Your Business & Boost Retention

Social-commerce

Since the pandemic, customers are fast switching to online mode of shopping. Various factors like value for money, faster deliveries, convenience, flexible refunds and returns, buy now pay later options have created a great demand for social commerce. Social commerce is the use of social media channels for e-commerce transactions. It’s fast becoming a growing … Read more

Social Commerce: the Future of eComm & Customer Loyalty

social commerce

It’s 2019 and social media is evolving way beyond social purposes alone. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram have taken giant strides toward implementing a seamless eCommerce experience into its functionalities. From discovery to conversion, commerce can now be facilitated from your favorite social media channels, across devices and countless supportive apps. Social media and other … Read more

Facebook Is Dabbling in Online Shops…Again

Facebook shops

Everyone is joining the ecommerce game. Facebook is following suit behind Pinterest by testing new Facebook stores, which let companies set up ecommerce shops within their current Facebook pages. Facebook made previous attempts to enter the ecommerce space but has seen relatively little success. Last year they introduced a Buy button similar to Pinterest’s Buyable Pins. … Read more

Push Your eCommerce Company Into Rapid Growth

Whether you’re a mid size retailer or manufacturer just starting out in the world of eCommerce, your goal is to grow your business rapidly and get new customers before your competitors do.  Traditional marketing is no longer effective with today’s social and mobile customer base. Augmenting your eCommerce business with Social Commerce is the surefire way to acquire new customers, engage and convert them quickly, and keep them coming back. Online commerce empowers owners of mids

ecommerceize and startup companies in ways that simply wasn’t possible in the foot traffic days of brick-n-mortar business. As Internet virtually eliminated the constraints of location, the physical foot traffic gave way to the digital foot traffic. One such powerful source of digital foot traffic is Social Media.

Following are some ways Social Commerce can push your eCommerce business into rapid growth.

Level the Competitive Playing Field

As your company grows you are competing with enterprise companies for customer’s attention and only half the advertising budget. Social Commerce helps level this playing field when it comes to traffic, engagement, compelling content, and loyalty. In the digital and social media space, midsize and new businesses can compete on a more equal basis with well-crafted Social Media campaigns, contests, and other social marketing programs. Creating a national television commercial is incredibly expensive, but creating a compelling, visually stunning social media campaign is well within the means of even a small ad budget. And should a social post go viral, your company gets the opportunity to experience the same level of attention their enterprise competitors receive at a much lower cost.

Expand Your Business Faster

Sure, the people in your region love your clothing boutique. The people in other states and countries probably would too, if they knew about it and had a convenient way to shop. When you add eCommerce to your bricks and mortar business, you open the door to a potentially worldwide audience. Setting up an online storefront is remarkably easy these days, including setting up “shopping cart” technology and secure online checkout. You’ll need to invest in high quality images of the products you sell, but these can be used as part of your local traditional advertising strategy as well. Augmenting that with a solid set of social commerce tools opens the door to a vast wealth of User Generated Content including ratings and reviews, image galleries and social conversations. You can utilize this to improve your customer service, expand your marketing content, and reach a wider range of customers.

Mobility Empowers More Customers

In the last quarter of 2014, more traffic arrived at online stores from mobile devices than desktop computers. The lines between mobile and social started blurring when over 80% of off-line shopping experiences began on a mobile device.

eCommerce capitalizes on this mobile revolution, particularly when businesses make the mobile shopping experience  as simple, aesthetically pleasing, and frictionless as possible. If you are just starting your business’s eCommerce strategy, then “mobile first” should be your guiding principle. Website architecture needs to be suited to the mobile experience, and fortunately, more web developers than ever are cognizant of this and are making it a priority to create websites that are visually appealing, responsive, and functional for both desktops views and mobile use.

Another promising trend in mobile eCommerce is the convergence of people who use mobile to strictly browse and people who actually complete purchases on their mobile devices. People are  becoming more and more comfortable shopping from mobile devices, and technology is allowing businesses to make the mobile checkout process fast, seamless, and intuitive.

This quickly developing shift towards mobile shopping offers new companies an opportunity to disrupt the space and get ahead of their enterprise counterparts. As they are just beginning their eCommerce efforts they can build mobile functionality and friendliness into their strategy for seamless marketing and customer experience right from the get go.

Social Media Can Build Your Brand Faster and more Efficiently

Social media and eCommerce can work together terrifically, and the investment in social media is more of a time investment rather than a capital investment. The social media landscape includes giant corporations that use social platforms to burnish their reputations as well as smaller businesses that use the platforms to build their brand. The great thing about social media is that when it’s done well, a small or mid size company can appear just as impressive and dynamic as their larger enterprise competitors. One especially effective technique is to employ user-generated content, especially photos and videos. A picture taken by a real customer with the product in real life situation can be remarkably inspiring and helps consumers make better purchasing decisions.

Successful social media strategies revolve around engaging with customers and providing them with information that is entertaining, fresh, original, and relevant to their interests and preferences. Companies can run contests on social media websites, and can, on occasion, use these platforms to announce new products, offer promotions, and even collect feedback. You have to be careful, however, to avoid using social media simply to pitch products. People are quick to unfollow brands that they believe are constantly trying to sell to them. Social media should be mostly informative, entertaining, and engaging.

A huge range of businesses can add eCommerce to their operations at a relatively low cost, and expand to serve consumers in a much broader geographic territory – worldwide in some instances. Social Commerce gives businesses the ability to capture user profile information with a click of a button, take and fulfil online orders easily and boost revenues significantly without a huge capital investment.

Mobility is revolutionizing people’s browsing and shopping habits, and with a mobile first strategy, businesses can reach people around the world, around the clock. Social media platforms give new companies a worldwide stage on which they can educate, entertain, and inform their customers, and ultimately monetize their social media following.

 

SPAM is a Four Letter Word: How to Avoid It

Can of Spam circled and crossed out in red. Photo manipulation by hegarty_david at Flickr. Attribution-NonCommercial license. Spam meat product registered by Hormel.

Email is a bread and butter marketing tactic for many ecommerce companies, however it comes with its own set of risks. Primarily, the possibility of being labeled a spammer. Misleading, deceptive, and spammy email can come with negative sides effects for both your reputation and your legal department.
In the United States, the  CAN-SPAM Act, prohibits misleading or deceptive commercial email. Noncompliance with the law  can bring serious civil and criminal penalties, including fines of up to $6 million and prison terms of up to 5 years for willful violations.

Spam laws are not only a concern for U.S. domestic marketing operations, if your ecommerce company operates internationally you need to learn the ins and outs of spam laws in the other countries you operate. For example, if you do business in Europe, you should understand the European Communications Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive.

Here are some best email practices for avoiding the dreaded spam label, staying on the goods side of the law and most importantly maintaining your reputation with your customers.

Company-Wide Email Policy

Smart ecommerce companies develop a “best practices” policy across all divisions, departments, and marketing groups to help ensure compliance with anti-spam laws and ensure consistency throughout the organization. It is important to include vendors and other third parties you work with in this group.  Under certain circumstances, your company could be held liable for anti-spam law violations by vendors who send email on your behalf.
One of the most important aspects of your company policy should be the maintenance and compliance with an opt-out database. CAN-SPAM requires companies to stop sending emails to people who opt out of receiving them, so it’s important that you take all necessary steps to ensure that your customers have the option to opt-out and if they take advantage of it, they do not receive any future emails from you.

Use Due Diligence Before Purchasing or Renting Mailing Lists

Under CAN-SPAM you’re still allowed to buy or rent email lists from third parties. However, the Act still applies to the commercial emails sent based on these lists. Therefore, it is important to thoroughly vet suppliers and obtain sufficient assurance that the list was created in compliance with CAN-SPAM, that people on the lists have been given notification that their email address could be shared, and that people on the lists has not opted out of receiving marketing email. While these assurances don’t release you from liability under CAN-SPAM, they offer recourse if something goes wrong. In short, make sure your social commerce strategy includes working with quality email list vendors.

Avoid Common “Red Flags” That Activate Spam Filters

Once you’re sure your social commerce strategy takes sufficient care to avoid violating anti-spam laws, you still need to ensure your emails won’t trip spam filters. Common “red flags” that trigger these filters include the use of all caps, excessive punctuation and substituting numbers for letters in subject lines.
Vague subject lines, such as “FREE Information!!!”, spelling mistakes, or the addition of “Re:” in a subject line to trick recipients into thinking you’ve corresponded before can also trip a spam filter. MailChimp says the words “help,” “percent off,” and “reminder” generally won’t trip spam filters, but are perceived as spammy and have low open rates. Mequoda offers an extensive list of “trigger words” you should avoid in your marketing emails. These steps not only help reduce the likelihood your email will land in a spam folder, they are also good practices to ensure your emails are perceived as professional and will hopefully increase your open rates.

Links, Images, and Reply-To Addresses

Spammers often send emails with long lists of links and minimal text. If they get past spam filters, they’re often discarded upon being opened. Having links in email content is fine, as long as they make sense in context and don’t make up the bulk of the text. Spammers sometimes use images in special offer emails because spam filters have a harder time reading information in images. Emails containing a large image and minimal text are often flagged as spam, so be sure to try for a balanced text-to-image ratio.
Using a human (or human-sounding) reply address makes a connection with the recipient more likely. eCommerce emails with [email protected] or similar addresses in the “From” box appear detached and uninterested, and turn recipients off. You’re better off using a real company email address that goes to an actual person with whom subscribers can communicate.
Of course, the best way to avoid violating spam laws and alienating customers is by not writing spam. When your emails focus on informing or entertaining your audience, you bolster your social commerce strategy without giving up opportunities for selling. Just because you can craft emails that technically skirt anti-spam laws doesn’t mean you should. This will only annoy recipients and damage your brand’s reputation. Be familiar with both the letter and the spirit of applicable anti-spam laws to ensure your ecommerce marketing efforts stay on the good side of the law and your customers.

How to Optimize Your Commerce Website

Commerce Website

If you’re in the eCommerce business, you know that optimizing your website is not a choice, but a necessity. The pages of your site are your revenue generators, and optimizing them can improve sales regardless of other measures like social media commerce strategies and marketing. Pages that ignore search engine optimization (SEO) or that present your products in less than a flattering light can cause you to miss out on sales unnecessarily.

Commerce Website

The content of the pages that make up your eCommerce website can build or damage your brand. Optimizing these pages can make your brand stand out from the competition and directly affect your company’s bottom line. Put the extra effort into your site’s pages and you increase interest from shoppers while boosting your brand. Get to work on optimizing your pages and you should see your pages turning browsers into shoppers more efficiently. Here are some tips on how to do it.

Optimize Product Descriptions

How you word your product descriptions is important to SEO. The keywords relevant to your product should go in the page’s title tags and META description. If you can include keywords in product URL strings, that’s better still. Avoid the temptation to reuse product descriptions from manufacturers, because Google considers this duplicate content, which it penalizes in terms of search engine ranking. Improve content descriptions by appealing to shoppers’ feelings and emotions, bringing your products to life through narratives that avoid being technical or dull.
If you can’t redo all your product descriptions, add unique content in the form of reviews or user comments.

Use Clear Product Images

happy online shopper

Large, clear, high quality product images sell more products, and can increase sales conversions by up to 9%. If possible, you should have multiple images of products, showing it from different angles and highlighting different features. Product images should be consistent throughout your eCommerce store. Using similar image backgrounds, photo sizes, and angles creates a consistent browsing experience and give your site a more professional, polished look.

Make Your FAQs and Policies Easy to Navigate To

Another key to making your site more user friendly and boosting your social commerce stature is making your site easy to navigate. This is an important principle for SEO as well. Users should find it easy to reach your FAQ page and to find out things like your shipping and return policies. The idea is to find a happy balance between cluttered pages with links to everything and too-spare pages where it’s difficult to find your way around. Your web designer or SEO strategist can help you optimize navigation to please customers while boosting SEO.

Make Social Sharing Easy

social media sharing signs

If you’re going to succeed at social commerce, you can’t shy away from content generated by your customers. User-generated content can bring higher conversion rates and increased sales, and the regular addition of unique content keeps your site fresh, which is another property that search engines tend to award with higher rankings. Make sure you put social sharing buttons beside your product images or descriptions so shoppers can easily share what they’re looking at on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Meanwhile, your social commerce strategy should include interacting with customers and potential customers on social media sites. Inviting readers to submit photos of themselves using your products can also be great for your social commerce strategy. The ultimate goal is to build a community of happy customers. You never know when a brief customer video of his dog enjoying a toy purchased from your site will catch on and go viral.

Conclusion

Optimizing your eCommerce site isn’t just a good idea, it’s absolutely essential to success. Built upon a solid SEO strategy with high quality imagery, great product descriptions, and user-generated content, your eCommerce site can serve to strengthen your brand and build a loyal community of shoppers. Though these principles require effort, none is particularly difficult or expensive, so there’s no reason to be left behind while competitors are busy improving their social commerce practices.

8 Essentials Your Ecommerce Site Should Have

Store front

With the start of 2015 a new shopping year begins for both consumers and online businesses and with it brings the opportunity to focus on fresh, innovative and engaging ideas. Retailers should review their websites and makes the changes necessary to stay relevant and compelling, because that’s what shoppers expect.

Here are 8 basic tips that you can implement to stay ahead of the ecommerce game.

Promotions

Online shoppers are savvy and always looking for the best deal. Promotions no matter the type are an instant eyes catcher – especially free shipping, since high shipping costs are one of the biggest turn-offs for online shoppers. By incentivizing your customers with promotions, you increase your conversion rate, leading to reduced cart abandonment and a boost in your average order value. To make them truly effective, promotions must be highly visible on your homepage and strategically placed on specific product pages.

Clear logo and branding

First impressions are everything and your logo and branding are no exception. Part of the challenge is capturing a first-time customer within the first few seconds of them entering your site. Your logo and site branding should be easily visible and a customer should be able to quickly identify if your online store sells the products they are interested in. Below are some examples of stores with great branding and logos.

Product reviews

Curating customer reviews and offering shoppers the opportunity, to share their experiences is vital in building your online reputation as a retailer. It proves you are dedicated to providing customers with outstanding value and ensuring you offer products to suit their needs and interests. Consumers are much more apt to purchase your products when they are supplemented with reviews.

Popular products

Do not make it challenging for your customers to find your best products, new products or exclusive sales. Online shoppers have short attention spans and if they have to hunt for something, they may just turn to your competitor. Whenever you have news, are planning an upcoming event, offering sales or have any other information customers care about, it is important that these things are displayed prominently on your home page. Furthermore, return customers are more interested in several new sale items rather than searching through your inventory for something new.

Mobile friendly

With leaps made every year in smartphone and tablet technologies more and more consumers are turning to their mobile devices to shop online. It’s convenient in the palm of their hands so to speak. It is now 2015 and a surprising number of online merchants that are still relying on old platforms and losing out on the added sales revenue from mobile shoppers. As the market share for mobile phones increases it is imperative to your stores future to stay up to date with these technologies.

Socialize it

Your customers know you best, and it is important to immerse yourself in the conversations they are having about you and your products. Being “social” is not just about asking someone to like your page, its about joining a community of people that have interacted with your brand. There are many tools out there that make it possible to leverage your customers as product experts, join discussion groups, promote certain products to a segment of customers and discuss it all via social media. Work to integrate your customers shopping experience into the social channels they use on a daily basis.

Product comparisons

No matter what kind of products you sell, you always need to give the customer the option to do their own comparison shopping. Consumers should have the option of creating side-by-side comparisons of the products features, specifications, benefits, and reviews. By making it easy for your customers to make comparisons you keep them engaged with your store, rather than losing them to your competitor. It is also a great way to up-sell them on related products or accessories.

Omni Channel

The Omni-Channel approach to business has changed the way ecommerce stores do business. The Omni-Channel model gives your customers real-time visibility into your online inventory levels as well as in store. It indicates how many units are available and what is the quickest way to obtain them. It provides alerts for items that are arriving in stock, in stock and out of stock. If your product is anywhere at all your customers will know how and where to make the purchase.
While there are many more things an ecommerce store can do to enhance the shopping experience these few items listed can help retailers start adapting to the high expectations of the online consumer. Some of these are quick fixes while others present a longer term project, but identifying solutions could help make a difference for your online success.

Why Businesses Need Social Media To Survive

social media icons

It is amazing how many enterprise business, new or established still fail to grasp social media and, use it to market their business, either by simple interaction with their customers or, through the use of social commerce to help with brand building and sales. Word of mouth advertising, outbound marketing and trade shows are great marketing tools, but adding social media to your marketing strategy will give your ecommerce business greater exposure that will benefit your business well into the future.

There is a saying. Times have changed, and they have especially for online business. It’s more than likely that your intended audience uses social media. The days of people going through the yellow pages or the newspaper have gone the way of the Dodo bird. Now there’s Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines that provide instant access to companies on computers, tablets and smartphones. When someone wants to know more about a company they look for a website, read a blog or Facebook page or anywhere the company has an online footprint. In the fashion industry, people will look for a brand on Instagram and Pinterest. If the company does not have enough presence online or keeps relying on outdated strategies, potential customers will simply move on to someone who does.

Abercrombie and Fitch had to embrace social media, to save their business. With sales sliding for four quarters in a row, and profits shrinking 77% last year Abercrombie & Fitch problem was a dependence on an outdated strategy that once made them a powerhouse, was now leading them towards the path that so many had gone down before such as, Kodak, Blockbuster Video and Circuit City. These companies focused on the present marketplace and failed to anticipate the future.

Instead of falling into the same trap as other before them, Abercrombie and Fitch embraced social media and by partnering with fashion bloggers and “kids who incorporate Abercrombie products into their Instagram posts.” The company posts more than 300 items per week on social media and their rate of engagement has quadrupled since January.

Social media is important for online businesses for several reasons. Content that is generated by consumers that links back to your products enhances your search engine ranking and drives more traffic to your website. Reviews written by customers who actually use the products will have an effect on potential customers. They will listen to what others are saying is great and worth buying. Because social commerce is amalgamated on so many levels and deeply personalized, it offers ecommerce companies new ways to engage with customers more intimately. Consumers want to feel like they are being listened to and have a say in what a brand does.
photo credit: free stock images via photopin cc

Best Practices for Loyalty Programs in Ecommerce

loyalty program for ecommerce

An effective loyalty strategy will offer the customer plenty of choices  in order to learn more about what their personal preferences are. Providing points based on signing up for a newsletter or sharing your experience on social media can generate a wealth of insights.

Should Be About The Customer

Organizations should manage their loyalty programs around their customers and not their products. Organize your loyalty programs based on around data collected around certain customer segments. Measure the impact of these programs and use them to help improve the loyalty program of the customers in each segment.

Create A Simple Earning Structure

It is important that that the earning structure should be easy for your customers to understand. a simple earning structure doesn’t have to be only about points. It should also be about earning badges or collecting buttons. Once they earn enough badges they can earn some type of reward, whether a percentage of money or a product or service.  Consider adding bonus opportunities to earning structures such as trying out new products or reaching a threshold of purchases. Bonus opportunities should be done on a limited basis to keep it fresh and exciting for your customers. Another benefit is it facilitates ongoing customer engagement.

Facilitate Brand Engagement

Loyalty programs offer a mix of watching videos, leaving reviews and interaction between other members. The important thing is to make it fun for members and allow your customers the opportunity to interact as well as learn more about your brand. Simple engagement opportunities can be more appealing to certain customers than earning discounts or rewards.

Triggered Communication Plan

Have a targeted communication strategy in place for your customers such as a message that a customer receives upon doing something specific such as achieving a higher level or tied to a specific event such as a birthday.  A targeted message to a specific customer carries much more weight than a typical mass market message. By recognizing the achievement or the anniversary of the customer is a great strategy that helps your customers feel that they are important to your brand.

Provide Status Updates

Status updates are one of the most effective ways to keep customs engaged in your loyalty strategy. This is similar to the emails we all get from our credit card loyalty programs that present our current points level. Customers will appreciate being updated on the program or the brand. Not only does this keep your brand in their mind, it also leads to some type of interaction where they can redeem rewards or end up making a purchase.

 

Making a good First Impression with User Generated Content

user generated content

We all know that first impressions matter, whether it’s a conference, a new client dinner or a first date. Does your site make a good first impression? Make your site the one that catches your customers’ eyes by calling upon and showcasing your existing community of fans. This can give your site an immediate impression … Read more

Groupon’s doing it, you could too: 5 use cases for Flash Sales

flash sales

The idea of a Groupon-style Flash Sale may turn many brand conscious marketers off, but a well orchestrated Flash Sale can be perfectly onbrand as it provides significant objective benefits. Consider the use cases below for Flash Sales and see how something like it can function as a flexible, powerful tool. Launching a new product … Read more

3 Perks of Peer Referrals

referrals

Paid advertising, pagerank, and peer referrals arguably have the largest impact on site and in store traffic. However, unlike other methods, traffic from peer referrals come with three attributes that make them more valuable than the rest. These act as an online word of mouth phenomenon, quickly driving high quality traffic on site. Higher Conversion Rates … Read more

A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Retweets (and then some)

The old saying goes, ‘a picture’s worth a thousand words’. In the new age of social media, this is more true than ever. Visual social sites, Pinterest and Instagram, blew up last year. Other social giants strove to catch up with update after update, optimizing their newsfeeds to make them more visual. Twitter, known for … Read more

Creating a Powerful Loyalty Platform in 10 steps

Developing online loyalty programs that ensures a successful outcome can be hard, but at Annex Cloud we’ve determined 10 crucial steps that help our clients build out a powerful, customer-centric loyalty solution. Segment for maximum effectiveness Loyalty programs are not one size fit all; treat your customers differently based on their engagement level, demographics and … Read more

Top 6 Most Common Loyalty Mistakes Marketers Make

loyalty

Customer loyalty programs can be extremely successful with huge benefits to your brand as well as your customers. But loyalty programs are complex and can fail when not executed properly. We’ve rounded up the top 6 most common mistakes marketers make when developing a customer loyalty program and solutions for avoiding them. Treating all customers … Read more

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