3 Effective Marketing Methods for Online Retailers

As an online retailer, you probably have your ecommerce site up and running already, quite possibly bringing you some sales and revenue too. At this point in time, you are probably wondering how to increase the sales.

This post will show you three effective methods to achieve just that – grow your website traffic and boost sales.

  1. Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC)

ppc-icon-newThis is an online advertising service provided by all the three major search engines today (namely Google, Yahoo and Bing). The following steps will allow you to start advertising your site online using the PPC method. (You’ll have to repeat these steps for each search engine where you wish to advertise):

  • Open an account
  • Create one or more ads for your site (with text and/or graphics)
  • Enter a list of keywords corresponding to which you wish your ad to be shown
  • Specify your geographic and/or demographic targeting preferences
  • Specify how much you wish to spend/pay each time a user clicks your ad and visits your site
  • Specify campaign duration, spend limits etc.

And that’s it. Within a day or two from the time you finalize your campaign (often faster), the search engine/s will start displaying your ads and the traffic (and sales) will start rolling in.

Of all the web marketing methods this article will cover, PPC advertising is the only method that delivers almost instant gratification. It is also a highly accountable method that provides totally measurable ROI.

You can read up some more on PPC advertising as it relates to online retailers at Entrepreneur.com.

  1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

searchSEO is the art and the science of getting your website to show up at or near the top of the results when the prospective buyers of your products search for keywords related to your business and products at various search engines.

High search engine result rankings for the keywords relevant to your products achieved via SEO will almost certainly boost the traffic of potential customers flowing in to your web site, with the resultant increase in sales and revenues.

SEO, however, is not a path that you should tread lightly, for two reasons. First, it is not an easy or a trivial task. In order to be executed successfully and effectively, SEO requires deeply entrenched knowledge, expertise and experience, backed by ongoing study and knowledge update processes. Secondly, if executed in a manner that violates the arbitrarily and rapidly changing best practice guidelines of the search engines in any way, SEO can potentially backfire drastically, causing your site to get blacklisted by the search engines in the worst case scenarios.

To get up to speed with the most current SEO scenario, you can go though this useful 90-slides presentation from Rand Fishkin.

Insomuch as you have an online retail operation going, it is quite likely that your website has been built using one of the several ready-made ecommerce software platforms.

While most of such software platforms provide at least some basic features to facilitate SEO, there are huge differences in SEO features across different platforms.

  1. Social Media Marketing (SMM)

smm-iconSMM, you can say, is the ‘newest kid on the block‘ so far as online marketing is concerned. As you can readily imagine, there are gad-zillions of people (including your potential customers) spending untold numbers of hours everyday at various social networking sites and services like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest etc. And therefore, marketing your online retail business at these social media sites can certainly be a very lucrative way of growing your brand visibility, traffic and sales.

Most of the popular social networks offer their own self-service advertising programs under various pricing schemes and models, including PPC (that we looked at above), with Facebook, as is to be expected, leading the pack in terms of reach as well as ease of use.

And then, there are many third-party services and agencies that help you grow your website traffic and sales using various social media platforms.

You can read this article at the InternetRetailer portal to get interesting information on social media vis-a-vis small retailers.

Online retailing is a highly competitive business so make the most of the tips above to enhance your marketing operations.

Author bio: Catalin is the founder of Mostash.com (a digital marketing studio). He likes hot soup and hot jazz.

Can Belly be an Omnichannel Loyalty Program?

Belly is a startup focused on loyalty. It launched in 2011 and has since grown to be active in 18 markets and more than 6500 locations. It aims to reach 10 000 locations by the end of this year and as things look, it might just do so.

The product works by allowing customers (aka “Belly Members”) to “Belly” every time they visit a “Belly Business”. That basically means scanning their unique QR codes every time they visit a partner location. In exchange, customers receive loyalty points that can be used to claim rewards.

The system is part old-school loyalty program and part gamification. Belly Businesses can encourage customers to keep coming back by adding increasingly valuable rewards, redeemable with an increased number of points.

Belly rewards at Doyle's Cafe in Boston

Belly rewards at Doyle’s Cafe in Boston

The product is free to use for customers. Locations that feel the product is right for their marketing efforts pay a subscription fee and get fitted with the nice iPad used to interact with visitors, belly cards and access to digital features in the app.

Belly cards

Belly cards

Features include data on visitors, social media marketing options, access to reputation management on Yelp and the ability to attract new visitors with the help of Belly Bites. These are special rewards offered by locations targeting new customers. By gathering data on users, Belly can recommend the right customers with special rewards based on previous behavior.

The company has been among the first to be featured in Apple’s Passbook and is also integrated with Google Wallet and Samsung Wallet. With these integration up its sleeve as well as its game-like approach, Belly can become one of the leading solutions in loyalty programs.

But to do that, it will have to connect both offline and online experiences, providing a truly omnichannel loyalty approach, ready for the next of innovation. That is not going to be easy as what may today means payments , tomorrow can include loyalty. Apple, Google and PayPal are hitting each other hard in this market. They can surely tackle smaller companies.

But the other way around is also an option. Loyalty can turn to payments so maybe there’s more than meets the eye for Belly.

Andreessen Horowitz is Betting on Digital Commerce

You might know Andreessen Horowitz as … oh, just one of the most successful investors in the history of tech. They have invested in 231 companies,  and managed to exit their investments through 36 acquisitions and 4 IPOs according to Crunchbase. The venture capital company has no less than $2.7 billion under management.

Founders Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz

Founders Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz

Basically when a16z goes after something – you know the market will soon follow. And guess what’s the latest news?

Why … if it isn’t ecommerce.

Their latest monthly newsletter is dedicated to ecommerce. The venture capital company has mashed together a list of brilliant posts and podcasts on what it considers to be the the future of commerce.

The topics range from holiday shopping to logistics to competing with Amazon. My personal favorite, however, is “The End of Ownership“, an eye opening piece on what happens when people stop wanting to own stuff:

The sudden interest is actually not that sudden. In the past two years investors have increased investments in digital retail and connected areas. For example investments in logistics tech have increased by 1370% in 2014 compared to 2012. Andreessen Horowitz’s investments in ecommerce startups have also picked up. Some may still be working on reaching success (ex. Fab.com) and some may never find it (ex. Groupon). But others are growing by the day. Belly, Julep and Fanatics are doing just great.

4 Companies That are Disrupting Logistics

There is no shortage of logistics needs in the world. As the world gets smaller, more products have to be moved. Recent changes in consumer behavior helped increase the volume of moved goods. Almost $19 trillion worth of goods were imported and exported in 2013, 5 times as much as in 1990.

This 19 trillion market is stuck for the moment with two very big problems leading to ineffectiveness. The first one is technology infrastructure. As goods move to and from very different countries and cultures, there is no unified backbone for making shipments happen. As such, logistics are somewhat slow, compared to other areas in the commerce landscape.

The second big problem is the last-mile delivery. The likes of FedEx and UPS are great at moving goods from New York to Shanghai and the other way around. They’re not really that great at building local delivery networks, able to ship goods fast and cheap. As you might notice, this is a bit of a problem for ambitious retail companies such as Amazon, Walmart or Alibaba, aiming for global dominance.

But worry not.

Investors have picked up on the opportunity to disrupt the $19 trillion market and have turned their investments to logistics companies. According to Crunchbase, investments in logistics startups went from 0.1% of total investments in 2012, to 1.37% in 2014. The total amount invested in 2014 in logistics startups ($1.8 billions) means an increase of 1370%. That is a sure sign that something big is really just around the corner.

As the market is ripe for disruption and investors are generously tapping into logistics, a lot of companies will be showing up on the logistics radar.

Among all these, here are 5 companies that might be the model these investors are looking for:

No.4: Amazon is trying to ship goods with drones

Amazon Fresh, one of the companies logistics challenges.

Amazon Fresh, one of the companies logistics challenges.

After Jeff Bezos announced Amazon is building a drone-delivery service, a lot of people (me included) were questioning whether this could be real or just a PR stunt. It seems that not only is Amazon serious about the drones, but it is also very focused on building the model for the next generation of logistics operations. It has invested more than $14 billions since 2010 in its warehouses.

It has invested in robotic fulfillment operations, purchasing and integrating Kiva Systems. Becoming one of the most automated fulfillment and shipping company, it leads the way in large scale ecommerce logistics. As a result, the company is improved its operations vastly. In 2012 it managed to ship 10 million products per day, leading to 1.05 billion products shipped in the last quarter of 2012.

No. 3: Freightos takes a shot at a trillion dollar market: the cargo industry

The Freightos network

The Freightos network

It may come a shock to those reading this but the cargo industry is really in need of some technology updating. A lot of work in the freight (cargo) industry is done with the help of emails, spreadsheets and … fax machines.

Freightos aims to change all that with a SaaS product that connects those in need and those offering freight services. Unlike the previous way of managing shipping costs, Freightos provides a cloud application that can allow for real-time responses.

No.2: GoGoVan connects vans, delivers the last mile

gogovan

Remember the thing about the last mile the likes of FedEx just can’t handle? It turns out they really don’t want to handle that last mile. Large logistics companies in Hong Kong outsource 70% of their local operations, estimates Gabriel Fong, CEO of Hong Kong GoGoVan.

The company employs Uber’s taxi-hailing model to connect van drivers and those in need of moving goods. They basically replace the old and ineffective call center with a mobile app.

GoGoVan estimated that 35 000 of Hong Kong’s vans are owned by freelancers. These freelancers usually subscribe to a call center which can forward requests and lease radio communication equipment. It’s usually ineffective for both the van-driver and the customer so GoGoVan decided there is a market there.

Right now GoGoVan has 18 000 vans registered with their service so things are going great.

No.1: Uber has transformed the cab industry, it can go further

uber

Uber started as a car-sharing service but soon turned into a multi-billion company, available in 45 countries and 200 cities. It has done that by allowing those with an acceptable vehicle play cab-driver for anyone willing to pay.

The company so far successfully dodged cab regulations and managed to change the way people move in the urban environment.

Lately they have figured out that if they can move people from point A to point B they can also do that with merchandise. After experimenting with a fast delivery service called UberRUSH, trying on a Corner Store service and shipping Christmas Trees, Uber got it: It can do logistics.

Specifically – urban logistics. After all – it really is not that hard to adapt the model to minivans (see GoGoVan above).

I can’t wait to get my online orders delivered in a black luxury sedan. Hear that, Uber?

 

 

 

I, Robot, Will Take Your Job

robot

Isaac Asimov was among the first to ponder the implications of robotics. In his “I, Robot” collection of science fiction stories, he debates the theme of humans, robots and morality. Asimov wonders how humans would interact with robots, how robots would be treated and why using robots merely as tools could or could not be moral.

The term “robot” was first coined by czech author Karel Čapek, in one of his plays. His “robots” were merely simplified human beings, capable of work but not capable of thoughts or able to express emotions. They did not care for self-preservation and were used for only the most menial of jobs. The absolutely brilliant but rarely quoted play that coined the term “robots” is called “R.U.R.” (Rossum’s Universal Robots) and it’s a must read.

In this play, the robots eventually rebel against human beings, kill them all and eventually restart the cycle of evolution as replacements for humans.

As interesting as both works are, they miss an important part in the trans-humanist evolution – the point where machines and humans have to coexist in symbiosis. While you’re picturing these machines we will once have to coexist with, you should drop the anthropomorphic image. The robots don’t necessarily have to have two legs, two hands and do our simple jobs in the way we would do it.

Picture them as a combination of hardware and software that creates abstract versions of us. Picture screens and buttons. Picture programs and applications.

Picture the mechanical hands that wield automobiles together and the software that controls it.

Picture planes with all their mechanics and the software that manages most of the jobs the pilot doesn’t have to.

Picture automated trading systems that move trillions in capital across the globe each day.

Picture systems that handle most companies’ management.

The fact is that although we have (probably) not yet built Artificial Intelligence, we have built the machine to host it. Still, our lives are not those envisioned by Asimov or Capek. Not completely. Yes, we do manufacture more. Yes, we do work less to produce it. Our lives, however, are not easier. The robots don’t serve humanity. The robots serve a tiny fraction of us humans and technology has not made life far better.

Wealth disparity has increased and it will continue to do so. Technology is unaffordable for most.

Time seems to move faster but this is only because we are now competing against faster and faster machines. Each job is getting transformed. The jobs that were here yesterday are now programmed and sent to automated workers, software or hardware machines that request little pay and offer increased returns.

If you believe your job is safe, you are wrong. The great change the industrial revolution has brought to the world is the assembly line. This assembly line works just as good when building cars or selling banking services. Each uncreative job is but a small piece in a very large mechanism. Ultimately, everything gets abstracted, simplified and robotized.

Industry after industry has fallen victim to the automata. The media, construction, automotive, telecommunications, manufacturing and of course commerce. All have something in common. They need to get better, more productive, yield more results but humans, we are not scalable.

This will continue to go on. We have first built the steam engine, then the assembly line, then electrical and pneumatic robots, then computers, software and eventually the Internet to tie it all together. Each time a new technology comes – it is widely accepted. We live better for a few years and then we need something else as it is never enough.

Now it is time for the robots to take our jobs and mark my words – they will take them.

But…

Do we really need jobs? Is mankind’s purpose to place all its individuals in small cubicles or large factories? After all, these robots that are taking our jobs, they are here to solve problems. The are here for a life of drudgery and they do not care about that. The word “robot” comes from the czech term “robota” – hard work. And hard work they do.

Taking away our hard labor we are left with nothing but the choice to be what we were meant to be – creators, discoverers and artists.

But to do this, humanity has to change its ways. It has to lay away the habit of humans enslaving other humans. The disparity in wealth and increased tension in the world stands as proof that some change is about to happen. This change can mean awful things and in our history it always has.

But it can also mean that we could now make free men of all of us, discover the skies and let our spirit roam throughout the stars. Meanwhile – let the robots have our jobs.

$9.3 billion in Sales in Just One Day – Alibaba’s Singles’ Day

Each year on Nov. 11th, China celebrates an event called Singles’ Day. The date (11/11) is a symbol for those unwed and stands as an anti-Valentine’s Day celebration. Chinese retailers have turned it into a sales mega event and this year it has turned global, with a lot of help from Alibaba’s marketplaces.

A live counter showing sales going through the roof.

A live counter showing sales going through the roof.

Inspired by US sales shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Alibaba decided to take the event global. The campaign was a huge success and overcame any expectations. It was so big that it accounted for more sales than Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US. Combined.

But let’s have a look at the hard facts post-sales bonanza:

  • Alibaba registered a total of $9.3 billion in sales in just one day;
  • The company registered a peak sales of $2 billion in just one hour;
  • Consumers from 217 countries bought merchandise from AliExpress, Tmall and Taobao;
  • 1.2 million household appliances and 50.000 cars were purchased;
  • The campaign was aimed at attracting China’s 360 million online shoppers (yup, that’s more than the entire US population), as well as shoppers all over the world.

Pretty good for a singles’ holiday.

 

 

 

 

3 Content Strategies that Work Great for Ecommerce

You’ve chosen the best products for your customers, you’re spending top dollar for advertising and your customer service works great. Yet something seems to be missing. Your online store does not yet stand out. If so, you may be in need of some content marketing.

Now content – this is a rather big word and it may mean lots of things for lots of people. For me, content is about more than keywords stuffed on product descriptions or carefully changing your product title to match whatever Google is into these days.

It’s about your shop’s personality. It’s about standing out and standing up for something. It’s your story to the world.

So let’s have a look at five ways to build great content for your online store:

1. Tell your story. No one cares “About us”.

What do you do when you meet someone? You try to look as interesting, smart and great looking as possible. You wouldn’t just go ahead and show them your ID card and recite a bunch of boring facts about you.

You tell a story.

Ecommerce sites all have a story. At some point someone thought - hey, I can do better than my competitors. They decided to stand for something. Yet most of the times they miss the opportunity to show this. They get lost in boring and useless “About us” statements that fail to transmit anything else than the fact that someone bothered to fill in some words on that page.

Others, however, they make it personal. They tell everyone what they stand for and why should you choose them. Meet Warby Parker:

Warby Parker decided they would have none of that boring “About us” corporate double talk. No sir. They went on and shared everything the company stands for. The history, their social responsibility program, even why they’re named Warby Parker (Turns out they’ve named the company from two characters in a Jack Kerouac book).

The point: tell a story, not just a few facts about the company. After all, your customers are people, not robots.

2. Show them “How To” do it

So you’re selling lots and lots of products. That means you should be some kind of expert on how they could be used. As shocking as you might find this, your customers are probably not.

So tell people how to use your products.

Take Sephora for example: As their online sales grew intensively, they’ve built a special How To’s page. It features videos, inspiration photos and user posted tips on how to best use make up.

Even the products have their own how to’s and user submitted gallery:

How to look good at everything on Sephora. Being a complex product, it gets easier to use with videos and photos.

How to look good at everything on Sephora. Being a complex product, it gets easier to use with videos and photos.

The point: make your customers understand how to use the product. You probably know a bit more about the products than they do.

3. Earn your media. Own your media. Have a voice.

You know who’s the best at saying great things about you? That’s right. You.

Don’t rely on others to say great things about your products. You know they’re great. Otherwise – why would you sell them?

Build a magazine for your niche and stick to it. Explain what your customer should do to look better, feel better, spend better. After all, you have already picked those “whats”. The times where media was owned by large corporations and they alone could make or break your business – those times are gone.

Just go ahead and build a blog and fill it with great advice, just like the good folks at Gilt.com did. The Gilt MANual is a great resource for men interested in fashion. It’s ran by Gilt and very popular.

giltmanual

And Gilt is not the only case where ecommerce sites built their own media outlets. Bonobos publishes great fashion advice on Equateur. Alex and Ani, one of the fastest growing online retailers in the US runs a great blog that showcases events, company news and things customers would take interest in.

The point: start writing and earn media instead of paying for it. It’s a great way to share insights with your customers and build relationships.