9 December 2013

Does Social Media Impact Ecommerce Sales?

Black Friday online sales hit a record of $1.2 billion, according to published reports. But only a very small percentage of those sales could be attributed to social media, says an IBM report.

In analyzing traffic and sales from nearly 800 retailers, IBM found that only 1 percent of visits to ecommerce sites came from social networks. (To be clear, IBM’s measurements consisted of sales that could be directly attributed to traffic from social media — a “last click” from the social site to an ecommerce site.)

These findings are commensurate with a 2011 survey conducted by Practical Ecommerce, which revealed that 77 percent of responding merchants saw less than 5 percent of sales coming from social media.

Social Media’s Role in Customer Purchase Journey


If social media has little bearing on direct sales, then what purpose does it serve in the overall ecommerce sales continuum?

An article from Google Think Insights points out that social media does, indeed, play a role, albeit a supplementary one.

The article outlines four different segments where marketing channels fit along the customer path to purchase: Awareness, Consideration, Intent, and Decision.
Google divides the customer purchase path into four segments.
Google divides the customer purchase path into four segments.

It refers to the first three as “Assisting” channels, which “build awareness, consideration, and intent earlier in the customer journey.” In each of the industries considered, including retail, social media functioned as a means to influence purchases rather than be directly responsible for them.
Social media assists in the purchase process.
Social media assists in the purchase process.

5 Benefits Gleaned From Social Media


Despite not being a direct sales channel, social media can support ecommerce in the following ways.
  • Promote brand awareness. One of the chief benefits social media provides is its ability to help retailers build brand awareness. A survey conducted by online marketing tools vendor Wishpond found that 89 percent of respondents said social media marketing generated more business exposure.
Due to its viral nature and ability to quickly and easily spread a message, brands that commit to regular posting of relevant content on social sites grow their base of fans and followers, and have ongoing interaction with them should, over time, expect to see an uptick in awareness.
  • Help overcome customer reluctance to purchase. While customers still express some degree of confidence in advertising messages, that pales in comparison to their reliance on word of mouth, especially when it comes from trusted sources such as family and friends.
According the most recent Nielsen Trust in Advertising report, 84 percent of those surveyed said word of mouth was the most influential factor when deciding on a purchase. Consumer opinions posted online ranked third at 68 percent.
If “trust” is a potent factor in convincing consumers to purchase a product, through its focus on building relationships and fostering interaction, social media can serve as a channel to help consumers overcome their reluctance.
  • Improve customer loyalty. In a day when customers are one click away from doing business elsewhere, the importance of increasing customer loyalty and lifetime value cannot be overstated.
By building relationships with new customers and strengthening relationships with existing ones via social networks, it stands to reason both will increase.
  • Provide marketing insights. Even retailers who choose not to pro-actively participate in social media can benefit by listening to the groundswell of opinion expressed by consumers on such sites.
If it’s true that people trust recommendations and advice from other people online, then it behooves merchants to make a practice of hearing what these folks have to say about their brand, products and services.
  • Support search engine optimization. In her Practical Ecommerce article, “SEO: 5 Reasons Not to Ignore Google+,” search marketing expert Jill Kocher cited a report from search marketing tools vendor Moz, which stated there is a correlation between higher search rankings and Google +1s.
“Though Google denies that +1s are an algorithmic factor in search rankings, some speculate that sharing content on Google+ has a causal relationship with higher Google rankings. As Google’s social network becomes more mainstream, we can expect its social signals to be incorporated into Google’s search algorithms,” said Kocher.
If that is the case, or soon will be, then social media participation merits consideration for SEO purposes alone.

Recommendations for Merchants

  • Think Social, Not Shopping. Facebook and other social networks are “social” environments where people gather to share updates about their lives and interact with friends, not as a place to shop.
Merchants can still utilize the channel, but have to think differently about their approach. The experience needs to remain social, interactive and contextual. They should balance promotional posts with those that educate, inform and entertain, and put the needs and interests of customers above their own.
  • Start with a Strategy. Merchants need to first determine the reason they want to participate in social media and what they expect the outcomes to be. Unfortunately, strategy is often usurped by tactics, leaving such outcomes uncertain.
  • Establish Measurable Objectives. Even with a strategy in place, unless there are hard numbers associated with it in the form of measurable objectives, merchants may not be aware of social media’s impact on their business.
Objectives can fall under several categories including:
  • Traffic from social media to their ecommerce site;
  • Ratio of traffic from social networks to conversions;
  • Number of fans and followers that represent their target market;
  • Ratio of social media audience growth to overall sales;
  • Ratio of social network engagement (comments, likes, shares) to sales;
  • Number of repeat sales from customers connected to their brand via social media;
  • Percentage of customer service inquires handled through social media as opposed to a traditional channels.
These represent but a few of the ways to tie social media to sales. For more insight, read the Practical Ecommerce article, “How to Measure Social Media Marketing; 3 Steps.”



Even though social media has not proven to be an direct sales panacea, the ability to build brand awareness, overcome reluctance, increase customer loyalty, provide marketing insights, and improve SEO makes it a worthwhile channel that merchants can use to influence purchase behavior over the long term.

Article source :  http://www.practicalecommerce.com/

3 December 2013

The ‘When’ of Ecommerce Marketing

Ecommerce marketers are quickly learning how consumers use different devices and when they use them. Marketers know that different age groups and demographics use them differently. City dwellers have different patterns than suburban or rural dwellers. Each use Facebook for different reasons than Pinterest or Twitter. Fifty-year-old shoppers may be more likely to watch television on a Thursday night than 22-year olds.

I recently reviewed recent mobile trends leading up to this holiday season with a senior product director with Akamai, a leading content delivery network. Its data presents clear patterns for online access on different types of devices on a daily basis. Akamai’s data shows that consumers access the Internet much more on mobile devices from Friday morning through Sunday evening. During the week, consumers mainly use desktop devices, according to Akamai.

Other studies indicate that there is a trend within this same pattern of people heavily using smartphones — rather than desktops — starting in the late afternoon during weekdays. Consumers then switch to tablets sometime later in the evening, frequently while watching television. Those of us in ecommerce know that evenings are frequently a heavy shopping period.

In other words, there are opportunities to optimize your marketing and merchandising activities by device and by day and time.

Marketing Tactics During the Day

  • Workday. During the day, when most people are working on their desktops and laptops, consider delivering email promotions and advertising that targets these devices. Use larger images. For advertising, target sites where workers are most likely to see your ads as they work.
Consider remarketing ad networks on news sites and large portals like Yahoo, or other venues your target consumer may be viewing through the day.
  • Late afternoon and early evening. During the late afternoon, utilize smartphone friendly emails and landing pages. Consumers are socializing, and preparing or eating dinner. They are likely accessing the Internet on their smartphone. In urban areas, many are commuting, but still engaging in email activities from the workday.
Engage your shoppers and provide them with a path and reason to purchase later in the evening when they sit down with their tablet and focus on things other than their commutes and dinner. Consider scheduling ads for smartphones and tablet devices. Consider, too, SMS marketing during this time. Mobile and SMS ads are proving to be highly effective tactics that lead to purchases.
  • Late evening. In the late evening, consider promotions in your online store that will likely to lead to conversions. Make sure your ecommerce site is mobile optimized.

 Daily or Weekly Tactics

Consumers have much more time to research products and shop in the evenings and weekends. Most ecommerce merchants I know see a large volume of orders late in the weekend and early on Monday morning. Time your marketing activities accordingly. Friday afternoons and evenings may seem like a poor time to send an email, but in my previous online jewelry business, we experienced very good results from Friday afternoon promotions. Frequently, the sales from our most loyal customers.

When using social media, time your posts when consumers are likely shopping online – in the evening and weekends. Monitor Twitter and Facebook and be responsive to your Fans and followers.

If you use pay-per-click advertising, use time-of-day settings for your ads. Consider, also, geographical targeting.

Seasonal Tactics

Be aware of what your competitors and influencers are up to. Online promotional activities start earlier for seasonal events every year, seemingly. Don’t want to start the party to early, but don’t join in late after your target consumers have already made purchases.

For social media, start your promotional messaging early. This provides an opportunity to receive feedback. You may then have a better idea of when your consumers are ready to start shopping.

Know Your Customers

Know your customers and prospects and how they most likely align to these types of timing questions. Different demographics have different behaviors. Use your own analytics to look for trends in devices and visits to your store. Experiment with different tactics.

 Article source : http://www.practicalecommerce.com

26 November 2013

16 Free Online Tools for Small Businesses

Whether you’re starting a small business or you’re just thrifty, you can likely benefit from some free online productivity tools.

Here is a list of online productivity tools for small businesses. There are apps for collaboration, accounting, scheduling, development, customer management, general office tasks, and more. All of these tools have free plans, and several are entirely free. If I missed your favorite free application, be sure to include it in the comments below.



Wave offers online accounting and finance applications for small businesses. It includes invoicing, accounting, payroll, payments, receipts, and personal finance software. Price: Accounting, invoicing, receipts, and personal finance applications are free. Payroll application starts at $9 per month, payments application is 30 cents + 2.9 percent per transaction.




Square is a payment-processing app for iOS on iPhones or iPads. Square offers a Wallet app for mobile transactions and a Register app for a modern take on the cash register. Square offers tools to track sales, tax, top-purchasing customers, and more. Pay only when you sell. Square does not require a contract. The card reader attachment is free when you sign up. Price: 2.75 percent per swipe or online sale and 3.5 percent + $.15 per manually entered transaction.

Square website

Google+ Hangouts


With Google+ Hangouts, turn any gathering into a live video call with up to ten friends or simply call a contact to start a voice call from your computer. Enhance your call with Cacoo for online drawing, SlideShare for sharing presentations, and Conceptboard for whiteboard collaboration. Price: Free.
Google Hangouts
Google+ Hangouts.



Dropbox is a cloud-storage service that lets you access and sync files across all your devices. While Dropbox only offers 2 GB of initial free storage (Google Drive and SkyDrive offer more), it expands free storage up to 16 GB free for referrals. Dropbox offers native support for Linux and Blackberry, as well as Windows, Mac OS, iOS, and Android. To supercharge your Dropbox, utilize the many third-party apps, which offer enhanced file syncing with Dropbox’s new Datastore API. Price: Free for 2 GB. Pro plans start at $9.99/month for 100 GB.
Dropbox website



If you make appointments with customers, you may need Appointlet, an online appointment-scheduling app for Google Calendar. Add it to your website and let your clients do the booking. Confirm, decline, cancel, or reschedule any appointment right from the comfort of your Google Calendar. Easily gather all the information from your clients that you need to fulfill the appointment. Price: Free for unlimited appointments. Premium plans start at $10/month for custom branding, payment processing, and enhanced technical support.

Appointlet website



Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards. Trello tells you what’s being worked on, who’s working on what, and where something is in a process. Trello uses boards, lists, and cards to create projects and develop your workflow. Price: Free.
Trello website



Mural.ly is a visual-collaboration whiteboard app. Drag and drop images, links, and documents to organize your ideas. This simple visual tool can keep your team in sync through brainstorming, planning, or designing a project. Features include private murals, auto-save and backups, comments, activity feed, and chat. Price: Basic plan is free. Pro plan is $10 per month.
Mural.ly website



KeePass is a free password manager to help manage your passwords in a secure way. Put all your passwords in one database, which is locked with one master key or a key file. Remember one single master password or select the key file to unlock the whole database. The databases are encrypted using secure encryption algorithms (AES and Twofish). Price: Free.
KeePass website



Evernote is an app to remember everything, from lifelong memories and vital information to daily reminders and to-do lists. Everything you store in your Evernote account is automatically synced across all of your devices, making it easy to capture, browse, search, and edit your notes everywhere you have Evernote. Price: Free. Premium plan is $5 per month.

Evernote website



Rapportive shows you everything about your contacts right inside your inbox. Immediately see what people look like, where they’re based, and what they do. Establish rapport by mentioning shared interests. Record thoughts and leave notes for later. Price: Free.
Rapportive website



Boomerang for Gmail lets you write an email now and schedule it to be sent automatically at the perfect time. Write the message as you normally would, then click the Send Later button. Tell Boomerang when to send your message by using the calendar chooser or the text box that understands language like “next Monday.” Price: Basic plan is free. Premium plans start at $4.99 per month.

Boomerang website



Streak is a customer relationship application for Gmail. Track your deals from your inbox. Group emails from the same customers together, utilizing spreadsheet view right inside Gmail. Use the mobile app to keep track of your customers, make calls, and send emails. Share selective parts of your inbox. Schedule emails to send later. Price: Free.

Streak website



HelloSign is an application for getting documents signed. It includes tools to facilitate document signing, tracking and management. Notifications keep you appraised of the signer’s activity. Signed documents are securely stored and always accessible. Sign an unlimited number of documents for free. HelloSign has mobile apps and a Gmail extension. Price: Free accounts allow you to request up to three signatures from others every month. Premium account is $12.42 per month per user.

HelloSign website



HootSuite is a social media dashboard to manage and measure you social networks. Manage your messages, get custom analytics on your social campaigns, and communicate internally without leaving the HootSuite dashboard. Access a single interface to monitor Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ Pages, WordPress and more. Or add more social networks with the HootSuite App Directory. Price: Individual plan is free; Pro plan is $8.99 per month.

HootSuite website



NutshellMail takes copies of your latest updates in your social networking accounts and places them in a snapshot email. The NutshellMail update is then sent to your primary email address. NutshellMail supports Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp, MySpace, YouTube, Foursquare, and Citysearch. Receive updates as often as you wish. Price: Free.

NutshellMail website



Gmail is a Google’s email application, which includes 15 GB of free storage (across Gmail, Google Drive, and Google+ photos). Gmail also lets you communicate via SMS, voice, or video chat. See who’s online and connect instantly. See your contacts’ profile photos, recent updates, and shared docs next to each email. Price: Free.


Article source :  www.practicalecommerce.com

25 November 2013

The Most Powerful Word in Ecommerce Marketing

The word “no” may be the most powerful marketing tool available to ecommerce owners and marketers. If used properly, the word “no” emphasizes planning, encourages making good choices, provides freedom and control, and recognizes that every ecommerce business great or small has limits.

In some cases, “no” will be applied to good ideas or good marketing tactics, but when that happens, it is at its best.

An Example of ‘No’ in Action


Consider the case of a multi-channel retailer in the northwestern United States. Back on October 21, this retailer began working on a promotional flyer that would be distributed to a quarter million potential customers just before the end of the Christmas shopping season in an effort to get shoppers to visit the company’s online and brick-and-mortar stores. The flyer had been through two proofs and was about three days away from final approval, when a new marketing opportunity popped up.

A vendor, whose products were already listed in the promotional flyer, released a new, and somewhat alluring offer. If a shopper purchased $150 worth of the vendor’s product, that shopper would receive a $25 online gift card to a popular entertainment site. The vendor knew about the merchant’s forthcoming flyer, and wanted this new offer to appear. The vendor even offered to pay co-op, meaning that it would cover a portion of the flyer’s production cost. But the merchant said, “No.”

However good the offer was, the merchant had not planned for it. There were questions about how the online gift card would be distributed. How customers would respond to the offer, and whether the offer was best suited to attract shoppers to the store, which was the promotional flyer’s goal, or encourage shoppers to spend more.

‘No’ Emphasizes Planning


Saying “no” to some marketing campaigns and tactics will help an online retailer emphasize marketing planning.

Good marketing begins with business goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. Next, a marketer will develop a series of actions or tactics intended to achieve those business goals. Once a complete marketing plan is in place, the word “no” should be deployed frequently to prevent changes to that plan and prevent refocusing efforts on something other than the underlying business goals.

In the case of the promotional flyer mentioned above, the business goal was to encourage shoppers to visit the retailer’s stores online and off. But the offer was focused on increasing the size of an individual order. While this is certainly a worthy goal for any Internet retailer, it was not the desired effect. Saying “no” showed that the merchant was emphasizing planning and goal setting.

‘No’ Encourages Choices


Applying the word “no” to a marketing campaign, advertising offer, or even a particular business goal enforces the idea that ecommerce marketers have choices. This may sound a little obvious, but in nearly any small or mid-sized company you can find examples of a marketing department doing things simply to please an owner, a vendor, or even a particular customer. In effect, that marketing department is doing things because somehow its marketers don’t feel like they have a choice.

In the promotional flyer example, a vendor told the retailer that it wanted its offer to appear in the flyer and even said it would pay a portion of the costs, but the merchant demonstrated that it still had choices. The merchant said “no.”

‘No’ Provides a Measure of Freedom


In 2011, communication coach, Carmine Gallo, wrote a great article in Forbes titled, “Steve Jobs: Get Rid of the Crappy Stuff.” In the article, Gallo described a conversation between Apple’s iconic founder, Steve Jobs, and Mark Parker, the chief executive officer at Nike.

“Do you have any advice?” Parker asked Jobs. “Well, just one thing,” said Jobs. “Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.” Parker said Jobs paused and Parker filled the quiet with a chuckle. But Jobs didn’t laugh. He was serious. “He was absolutely right,” said Parker. “We had to edit.”

Think about this story along side of another bit of wisdom from Jobs.

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.”

The point is that using “no” means that you have the freedom to say “yes” to those things that can truly improve your business.

‘No’ Recognizes that You Have Limits


If an Internet retailer has unlimited resources both in terms of time and money, there really would be no need to say “no” to one marketing tactic over another, but the final reason that “no” is so powerful in marketing is that it recognizes that every marketing department and every ecommerce business has limits.

Saying “no” to something is saying “yes” to a goal, campaign, or tactic that will better serve the business given a finite set of personnel and money.

Saying “no” emphasizes planning, encourages making good choices, provides freedom for innovation, and recognizes that every business has resource limits. Taken together these concepts make “no” one of the most powerful words in a marketer’s vocabulary.

Article source : www.practicalecommerce.com

30 September 2013

7 Ideas for Better Ecommerce Marketing Emails

Email marketing is an excellent way to engage customers and increase both site traffic and sales. Not all email messages, however, are equally effective.

In 2012, 44 percent of promotional email recipients made at least one purchase based entirely on receiving an email marketing message from a merchant, according to Convince & Convert, a social media and content marketing firm.

While there are many things that ecommerce merchants might do to improve their email marketing’s effectiveness, here are seven ideas to consider.

1. Have a Singular Focus

Ecommerce marketers often send relatively frequent emails to the same customer list or segment. This is especially true during the holiday shopping season, from early October through the end of December. What’s more, the folks who regularly receive promotional emails, don’t necessarily want to spend a lot of time reading those messages.

Given the frequency of emails and how busy recipients are, it can be effective to focus on a single call-to-action or a single category or item in each email.

As an example, a singularly focused email might mention a special sale on a particular category of products, but not necessarily show a recipient three different sale offers.
GNC has a singular focus in its email.

2. Aim at Specific Customers

Whenever possible, online retail marketers should target messages to customers. If you sell men’s and ladies’ clothing, as an example, you may want to send separate emails, targeting each category based on known customer preferences.

In data taken from nearly 11,000 segmented, promotional email campaigns, email service provider MailChimp found that aiming at specific list segments — specific customer preferences — improved open rates by 14 percent over average list performance and boosted clicks some 15 percent over average email click rates.

Segment targeting also reduced bounce rates, abuse report rates, and the number of recipients who chose to unsubscribe.

3. Write a Compelling Subject

Recently, Google added tabs to its popular Gmail email client. One of the default tabs has the title “Promotions,” and most email marketers have seen roughly a 1 percent drop in open rates from Gmail users seemingly as a result.

In response, marketers are doing a lot to convince customers to move promotional emails from the Gmail Promotions tab into the Primary tab. But in truth, these messages are promotions. So maybe a better strategy would be to focus on standing out, regardless of how a recipient’s email client has categorized the email message.

A strong subject line is now — and always has been — the way to make your email message stand out in a list. In fact, even before the advent of Gmail tabs, market research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey reported that some 64 percent of promotional email recipients open email just because of the subject line.

Writing great subjects can be something of an art, but consider using A/B testing and measurement to determine which subject lines work best for your business.

4. Use Attractive Images and Graphics

Regardless of media, pictures are still important. They can also do a good job of conveying brand or product information.

Notice that leading online retailers — from Amazon and Walmart to the Gap and Zappos — all use large and attractive graphics in their email marketing campaigns. These are companies that spend a significant amount of time and money optimizing, and they all use great graphics.
The GAP includes attractive photography in its email marketing.

5. Don’t Depend on Attractive Images and Graphics

Unfortunately, not every email recipient will see your attractive images and great graphics, since many users will block images at least initially.

Convince & Convert reported that optimizing your email messages so that recipients can still understand your offer even without images could increase return on investment by 9 percent or more.
One easy way to do this is to simply include good alt tag data with your email images.

6. Optimize for Mobile

Four in ten American adults read emails on a mobile device, according to Constant Contact, the email platform. This implies that if an ecommerce marketer is not optimizing email messages for mobile devices, 40 percent of potential customers — folks who may have been interested in an offer — might not read or interact with the message simply because it doesn’t work well on their device of choice.

To make emails more mobile friendly avoid using table layouts and inline styles that impact appearance. Also, consider segmenting email lists based on the type of device a user is likely to use.

7. Optimize Landing Pages

Remember that promotional email marketing doesn’t end with the email. It must send the interested recipient to a landing page to complete some action. Be certain that your landing page delivers what was promised.

Offer a clear path to conversion. If you were promoting a 30 percent off discount on hats, be certain your landing page shows hats that are 30 percent off and include clearly marked “Add to Cart” buttons or similar.

Optimize for the device, too. If you took the time to segment your list by device and create a special mobile-optimized email, make certain that the email links to a mobile optimized landing page.
Shoppers who purchase products as the result of a promotional email spend 138 percent more than other customers, according to Convince & Convert, so it makes sense to try and earn business with email marketing.

Article source :  http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/59077-7-Ideas-for-Better-Ecommerce-Marketing-Emails