Articles tagged "ecommerce"

More Facebook Brand Fans Say They’re Loyal Followers

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
August 20th, 2011

Social media friends and followers still say they’re more likely to buy

 

Early research on becoming a fan of brands on Facebook or a follower on Twitter indicated that social media users with brand connections were more loyal and more likely to say they would buy the brand’s products than average. Over the past year, those kinds of connections have become more common, and many brands have grown their fan pages and Twitter followings significantly.

Longitudinal data from ROI Research suggests that growth has not diluted the power of social media connections, which still have a link with customer loyalty.

In 2010, 32% of US social network users told the research firm they were at least somewhat more loyal to brands they were fans of on Facebook. This year, that percentage ticked up slightly, to 34%.

 

US Social Network Users Who Are More Loyal to Companies or Products They Are Fans of on Facebook, 2010 & 2011 (% of respondents)

 

Similarly, 40% of respondents in 2010 said they were more loyal to brands they followed on Twitter, rising to 46% this year. There was also a significant drop in the number of users who disagreed with that claim, from 21% to 13%.

 

US Social Network Users Who Are More Loyal to Companies or Products They Are Followers of on Twitter, 2010 & 2011 (% of respondents)

 

At least half of Twitter and Facebook users said they had become more likely to talk about, recommend or purchase a company’s products after they began following the company on social media. And Twitter users showed a greater level of engagement than Facebook users across all these metrics, as well as in willingness to link to an ad for the product or attend a sponsored event.

Still, many users might want less communication from brands. More than 40% of social network users told ROI Research that brands should communicate with fans only once or twice a month, and another 26% thought weekly communication was sufficient. Only 10% of respondents wanted to hear from brands at least daily.

 

eMarketer

Why Gift Cards Will Lead the Transition From Plastic to Digital

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
August 1st, 2011

Over the past several years, gift cards have become the most popular kind of gift. They are the most widely-used addressable person-to-person payment method, totaling $91 billion in sales during the 2010 holiday shopping season. We love them because of their convenience. And we hate them because they don’t truly feel personal.

The mobile digital device will help to wipe away this awkward paradox. The days of plastic-based payment and gift cards are numbered. The ability to make a payment or send a gift from any device, anytime, anywhere, in any amount, dramatically shifts the convenience paradigm. And the gift card’s shift from plastic to digital may pave the way for other forms of digital payment.

Here, we’ll take a look at the three major factors driving this shift.


1. Embracing Digital Gifting


The first is the exponential growth of businesses that are embracing digital gifting. They are doing so to extend their revenue streams and to differentiate themselves from their competitors. RSR Research reported in late 2010 that half of the top 100 Internet retailers now offer digital gift cards. In January, Starbucks estimated that digital gift cards would represent as much as 20% of its gift card business in the near future.

But there are hundreds of others shifting away from plastic as well — from global brand names to smaller regional and local retailers. According to Urban Wallace Associates, more than 6 million U.S. shoppers bought digital gift cards within the past 6 months — a 150% increase since last measured three years ago.


2. Virtual Goods


The second key trend is increased purchasing and gifting of “virtual goods.” This market — already nearly $2 billion in the U.S., according to Inside Network Research — has millions of fans who love to buy and give gifts like virtual cakes, clothing, badges and FarmVille goods.

The next logical extension is for consumers to give digital gift cards that can actually be used to buy real stuff. Facebook already sells its credits as gift cards in retail stores. As the popularity of Zynga, Facebook and digital gift card currencies grow, they may well become major payment modes in both the virtual and physical worlds.


3. Personalization


The third major trend is personalization. The digital age not only enables it but stimulates it. Plastic is a form factor that knows nothing about you, nor can it easily express your personal gifting sentiments. Digital gifting is radically different. The Home Depot eGifting program, for example, enables consumers to upload not only photos but can now also capture live video on its digital gift cards.

Mobile apps are proliferating to support creative and new forms of retail promotion and value. Digital forms of stored value offer new experiences and opportunities never before possible with plastic. Three examples illustrate how versatile and pervasive the post-plastic era is becoming. These include:

  • Starbucks Foursquare checkin: To celebrate its 40th anniversary, Starbucks gave the first 600 customers to “check in” an instantly redeemable mobile gift card.
  • IntoNow: This social TV companion app partnered with Pepsi to give users instant digital gift cards for watching certain TV ads.
  • Chase GiftShelf: Chase’s iPhone app lets you redeem credit card points on the go for digital gift cards at Gap, Chili’s, Papa John’s, The Container Store and a dozen other retailers.

Conclusion


These developments provide only a glimpse of what is possible in the post-plastic card era. Digital gifting and payments are creating new possibilities of “instancy.” If you forgot to bring your nephew a present, you can order him a digital gift card for his birthday as you’re walking toward his house. Or you can send your niece one via Facebook and personalize it with a photo or short video telling her how proud you are of her.

It is no longer a question of “if” but rather of “how fast.” Market interest is clearly there. Starbucks’ new mobile card, for example, has already generated more than 3 million transactions, proving that mobile payments using digitally stored value can work.

Skeptics remain, but they’re of the same mind as those who said people would never prefer credit cards over cash. People, however, love convenience and immediacy. In 1975, one of the major credit card companies made a name for itself with the tagline “Don’t leave home without it.” Today, you will never have to leave home without a means of paying digitally. Those in the market who support that transition will be the winners.

3 Important E-Commerce Principles for Small Business

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
July 31st, 2011

If your business needs help with any of these needs please contact us today. Ventura County Now is a co-op of local businesses: web design, video production, photography, seo, programming, and marketing. Our services are designed to fit any business owners budget. We take the guess work out of the web and are here to build for you.

Give us a call today 855-826-2999.

It’s no secret that the internet can enable small business to compete on an equal playing field with larger online competitors; however, due to budget differences between the two the approach might be a bit different.

The current economy has made some small business owners shy away from internet marketing thinking it “simply costs too much to operate online.” This misconception is one that has caused many ecommerce businesses to close their doors during the past year or so.

The fact is that operating an ecommerce business online can actually be more profitable than operating the same retail business offline — but you must make sure you adhere to a few fundamental principles to make it work.

  1. Create ICE (Investment, Credibility, Exposure): Invest in your website design ensuring it speaks to your customers in their language and with a professional image. Talk about the benefits your products have for them rather than about yourself. Site design and functionality is important as it helps build credibility. Gain exposure for your products using a combination of online marketing channels such as SEO, Paid Search (PPC), and Social Media (great viral effect). The combination of marketing channels ensures that if one channel’s effectiveness temporarily lags the rest can help pick up the slack.
  2. Don’t Quit: Whatever you do, don’t stop marketing or promotions — doing this is a sure way to lose market share and sales. It may be tempting especially during tough economic times such as these, but refrain from doing it. Some of the most successful companies online actually increase their marketing spend during economic downturns. A previous article I wrote titled Ecommerce Survival in a Tough Economy – 6 Tips goes into that a bit more. If you think you do not have the funds to invest in marketing you need to consider enlisting the help of an expert who can ensure your marketing dollars provide you a proper rate of return and/or look carefully at your business model and product you are offering. Marketing should be an asset to a company not a liability. Proper marketing almost always drives sales.
  3. Instill Trust: I’ve asked this question before; “What is the one word that makes people buy?” The answer is trust. If you want to compete with the big guys then you need to ensure your approach always builds customer trust. Things like site design, use and appearance of security seals, and customer points of assurance go a long way toward building trust. If you can’t build trust you won’t build sales. It doesn’t matter whether a product or service is priced lower than the competition, if potential customers are uncertain about the quality of their purchase — or the companies behind them — they simply won’t buy.

Why Ecommerce Is So Important To Embrace?

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
July 25th, 2011

The Internet is an unlimited space for the growth of any ecommerce industry and many possibilities and opportunities are constantly becoming available for anyone to create their own online business. This new media is an open area for communication and the exchanging of experiences and wide range of opportunities across the globe. If you want to grow and expand your business, you will need to embrace this new opportunity and set up an interactive business in the cyber community.

Any Ecommerce website expansion is a significant obligation and commitment for any online trade. The main goal of any ecommerce trade is to expand business by an ever growing website presence. It is a platform that requires more and more traffic in order to succeed. The users and visitors are potential clients, need to be persuaded to come and surf and then buy your products or services, you have to identify and feel their wishes and requirements. This requires you to think like a buyer. We must appreciate that everyone will have their own shopping experience and method, however it is possible to create a general flow whereby you can direct a client, without him or her actually knowing they are being ed. Always remember that clients can be quite capricious, so try and think out of the box as well as catering for the ordinary client.

You should continue this list of questions and ask yourself what is needed, always remember you must start with a good plan. If all features and details are planned and included into your draft, then you will have far less and unexpected chances for failure.

The internet community now boasts millions of users all are potential purchasers, all of them have an internet connection and are surfing the net 24/7. Thus, think how wide your business can be or could be, don't think too rural. Think how much you could expand your business window from a simple website. Websites are designed popularize products and services around the world. If you try to embrace as many people as you can, you will gain more flow and potential sales profits, traffic and high numbers are a pre cursor to converting traffic into sales.

Also you must consider other competitors on the network who may have the same goals as you. Do you run away from this point? Do not think that competitors will only destroy your clientele and your faith in overall victory, this is absolutely wrong!Direct competition only makes you stronger and makes you to think day and night how to develop your business. You can and must use this power of competitive network. If you think laterally your network with have useful contacts and creating links you establish a good linkage and network. It will work for your website and boast your overall awareness far more than that of your competitors` websites. Improvise and develop your website from various points of view. If you need some  additional support and advice, then you are welcome to contact ecommerce web design Birmingham company. They will provide you with a range of services in all web building spheres, making sure that you will have a full control of your own website.

If your business needs help with any of these needs please contact us today. Ventura County Now is a co-op of local businesses: web design, video production, photography, seo, programming, and marketing. Our services are designed to fit any business owners budget. We take the guess work out of the web and are here to build for you.

Give us a call today 855-826-2999.

Static vs Dynamic Websites

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
June 27th, 2011

What is a static website? What is a dynamic website? 
What kind of website do I need?

A static website is one that seldom or never changes.  This means that once the site is designed and uploaded to a location on the Internet it is considered complete and not updated very often (other than annual or semi-annual maintenance). A viewer sees the exact same thing every time they go to the website.

While this may sound boring, static websites can be made more interesting through the use of slide shows, email forms, rollover buttons and programming such as Javascripts. Think of a static website as an online brochure.

A dynamic website's content is regenerated every time a user visits or reloads the site. The owner, viewer or automated programming can change the content constantly. This is done through the use of one or several databases located on the website hosting server.

Database driven websites are used for interactive websites such as online sales, blogs/message boards and sites that contain large amounts of information.  The data (or content) of a webpage is stored in the database and is retrieved when the viewer clicks on a specially programmed button or link.

An example of dynamic information is shown below. While this example is rather simple, dynamic sites can be very sophisticated and provide viewers with tremendous amounts of information with just a few mouse clicks.

There are many static websites on the Internet, you won’t be able to tell immediately if it is static, but the chances are, if the site looks basic and is for a smaller company, and simply delivers information without any bells and whistles, it could be a static website. Static websites can only really be updated by someone with a knowledge of website development. Static websites are the cheapest to develop and host, and many smaller companies still use these to get a web presence.

Advantages of static websites

  • Quick to develop
  • Cheap to develop
  • Cheap to host

Disadvantages of static websites

  • Requires web development expertise to update site
  • Site not as useful for the user
  • Content can get stagnant

Dynamic sites on the other hand can be more expensive to develop initially, but the advantages are numerous. At a basic level, a dynamic website can give the website owner the ability to simply update and add new content to the site. For example, news and events could be posted to the site through a simple browser interface. Dynamic features of a site are only limited by imagination. Some examples of dynamic website features could be: content management system, e-commerce system, bulletin / discussion boards, intranet or extranet facilities, ability for clients or users to upload documents, ability for administrators or users to create content or add information to a site (dynamic publishing).

Advantages of dynamic websites

  • Much more functional website
  • Much easier to update
  • New content brings people back to the site and helps in the search engines
  • Can work as a system to allow staff or users to collaborate

Disadvantages of dynamic websites

  • Slower / more expensive to develop
  • Hosting costs a little more

Summary

Many sites from the last decade are static, but more and more people are realising the advantages of having a dynamic website. Dynamic websites can make the most of your site and either use it as a tool or create a professional, interesting experience for your visitors.

This article aimed to tackle some of the questions faced by website owners. 

If your business needs help with any of these needs please contact us today. Ventura County Now is a co-op of local businesses: web design, video production, photography, seo, programming, and marketing. Our services are designed to fit any business owners budget. We take the guess work out of the web and are here to build for you.

Give us a call today 855-826-2999.

Why E-Commerce is Important For Small Business

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
June 20th, 2011

For the sake of the economy and the individuals involved, huge numbers of new small businesses are forming in hopes of making a positive impact to the community. In order to make that positive impact, you need to make sure that your small business is up-to-date and following the latest trends. When it comes to small businesses, current trends refer directly to e-commerce. Here are four major reasons why implementing e-commerce should be one of the top priorities in building any small business.

Internet is so Mainstream these Days

Just about every household in the US has at least a computer, laptop, or mobile device that can access the Internet and people worldwide are getting into it as well. With the introduction to social networking sites and online shopping, the Internet became a part of their daily lives conveniently getting work done.

Most Modern Businesses are Doing It

As a result of all the popularity the Internet has cultivated, it is a no-brainer for existing small businesses to jump on the electronic bandwagon and start doing transactions online. Most modern businesses do it primarily for convenience and also for security.

You need to get into it as well, not only because they are doing it, but also to stay competitive with any other small businesses offering similar products and services. E-commerce competition involves the innovative use of website design and creative development to give customers and visitors a seamless experience. It also adds brand awareness exposing your site to people that most frequently go online.

Reduces Workload

Ever since computers were introduced, processing of data has become faster and more accurate than ever before. Now E-commerce helps connect businesses and consumers closer than ever before. A lot of the tedious tasks such as calling for transactions and utilising e-mail are reduced here because the e-commerce systems handle the processing for you. The only work that is required is actually getting the e-commerce site up. This process is only done once so there is a lot of relief after the e-commerce site is finished. After that, it is all about getting the right people to use the system which should be easy and maintaining it to ensure the entire business is functional.

Necessary Step in Making the Small Business Grow Further

Once you already have an e-commerce site, the only direction you can go from here is upward. You will find more transactions to be done because of the ease in getting things done online and that very success can motivate you or any webmaster to improve the e-commerce experience and fill in any weaknesses discovered. Small businesses can grow into larger businesses in the same way as e-commerce sites becoming much larger and more feature rich.

E-commerce sites are an absolute necessity for any small business no matter what is being dealt. After efforts in marketing the e-commerce site, profits are sure to be made and further development can be planned from there. As long as there is maintenance involved, the e-commerce site should help the small business in every possible way.

If your business needs help with any of these needs please contact us today. Ventura County Now is a co-op of local businesses: web design, video production, photography, seo, programming, and marketing. Our services are designed to fit any business owners budget. We take the guess work out of the web and are here to build for you.

Give us a call today 855-826-2999.

Convert Boring Old Websites to one's that are Exciting and New

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
June 13th, 2011

Just about every web user has experienced landing on a website that just looks old.  Normally a quick scroll to the bottom of the page confirms the site copyright is from 2007 or worse.  To today’s web surfer, this two to three year old site may as well be a hundred years old.

If you were having guests for dinner, would you serve them two year-old leftovers.  Obviously not.  Why then are so many websites serving up two year-old content?  Two of the biggest reasons are:  First, it used to be enough just to have a website and a static site was fine.  Second, adding content was difficult and could be expensive.

Content Management Systems to the Rescue
Because of the rapid increase in social media applications such as blogging and sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Myspace, website visitors expect something more than three year old content.  They expect to see fresh relevant content, to be able to create content and form communities.

Six Ways to improve your Website

  1. Add a blog.  Blogs are one of the easiest ways to generate new, relevant content and establish the website owners expertise.  Furthermore, comments provide interactivity.
  2. Convert the current static design into a Content Management System (CMS).  Converting to a CMS will make adding new content as easy as writing an email.
  3. Web users today want to build communities and collaborate with other users.
  4. Add Twitter and Facebook feeds. Social media is here to stay and is a great business tool. As was the case with websites several years ago, customers are beginning to expect that your web presence extend beyond your website. Twitter and Facebook are great ways to interact with your current and future customers.
  5. Add a shopping cart. If you sell products that could be ordered online, but don’t offer this service, expect to see reduced revenue. Add a shopping cart and allow your customers to buy your products at exactly when they want too.
  6. Add relevant content feeds from other sources. The web is now a huge content generating machine. So you don’t have to create all the content. Find reputable experts in your industry and feature their blog postings on your site.

If your business needs help with any of these needs please contact us today. Ventura County Now is a co-op of local businesses: web design, video production, photography, seo, programming, and marketing. Our services are designed to fit any business owners budget. We take the guess work out of the web and are here to build for you.

Give us a call today 855-826-2999.

Don't Overlook Customer Service Basics

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
May 16th, 2011

The liberal return policies and fast shipping that define Internet marketplaces have made customer service offered by many retailers better than ever, whether they operate brick-and-mortar storefronts or online sites, says Micah Solomon, co-author of Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit. The problem, he argues, is that most individuals don't feel better about the service they receive—because of rising expectations, and because many smaller businesses don't do a good job keeping up with their larger counterparts. Solomon's tips for small business owners seeking to improve customer service:

1. Emphasize hellos and goodbyes. Ever wonder why hotels and resorts pay so much attention to the customer entrance experience? Solomon says it's because psychological studies show that people retain the strongest impressions of first and last encounters. "The ones in the middle are kind of a blur," he says.

Pay attention to where your first interaction with customers actually starts: It may be in your parking lot, on your website, or outside your front door. Wherever it is, make sure you "shine the doorknobs," Solomon says. "There's a superstore near me where people have to walk past all this trash and garbage to get inside. It looks like the store owners never stepped outside their front doors."

Avoid similar circumstances by being your own customer for a day. Park where your customers park, walk past what they see coming into your store. Search for your website and review all the links that turn up. "If Google Maps has your hours or phone number wrong, people will be mad at you before they ever get to your place," Solomon says. Make sure every page of your website includes a welcome message that orients customers to your home page and contact information.

2. Train greeters. Have a friendly employee stationed near your door who has a great smile and is not overly aggressive. "You want someone who can figure out what the customer needs but doesn't give off the feeling they're checking for shoplifters," Solomon says. "I was in a music store recently where I felt like a criminal. I made a $10 purchase and then on the way out they demanded to see my receipt. If your greeter is doing double-duty, at least have them be subtle about it."

3. Speed order fulfillment. The length of time customers expect to wait for orders has changed dramatically. "It's not even that you and I expect it faster than our parents did; we expect it faster than we did last year," Solomon says.

If you're a small retailer, think hard about the inventory you stock and what's available through your website. "Customers will not special order from your store anymore. They'll go online and buy it at your competitor, unless it's something very, very special they can't find elsewhere," Solomon says.

4. Hire selectively. It's nearly impossible to teach employees to have a genuine smile or a natural affinity for people. That's why you must hire optimistic, warm, and conscientious people, Solomon says. This is particularly true for those who will interact with customers in person, on the telephone, or online.

Once you have the right people on staff, give them the autonomy to make things right for your customers, no matter what the circumstances.

5. Get the language right. Even a nice person can unwittingly use words that make customers uncomfortable or insult them. "An employee may want to tell a customer, 'You owe $100.' But it's better to say, 'Our records seem to show you have a $100 balance,'" says Solomon. "That gives everyone a chance to save face,."

Don't be afraid to write some simple scripts for your employees—and make sure you model the language you want them to use. For instance, "May I take your plate?" is better wording for a waiter than "Are you still working on that?" A clerk should say, "You're welcome" or "my pleasure" rather than, "no problem," Solomon explains.

6. Develop a system to make each customer feel that employees care. An area where small businesses can shine is in relationships. Encourage employees to get to know regular customers and greet them personally, if possible. "The problem is," he says, "when a company gets even a couple branches bigger, [it loses] that personal touch."

Employ technology to assist you and your employees in remembering details about your customers, their preferences, and their typical purchases. "When a customer gets that feeling that he is remembered when he comes back, that's the best," says Solomon.

 

By: Karen Klein