Retail Tips: Weathering the Covid-19 Economic Storm

Retail Tips: Weathering the Covid-19 Economic Storm

Clothing & Apparel, E-commerce, News, Retail, Web Tips

Retail Tips: Weathering the Covid-19 Economic Storm

By Mark Nelms

Coronavirus cell Covid-19Before we get started, I want you to know that none of this article is written lightly. What we are discussing today could potentially impact the future of your businesses for many years to come, not just now in this time of crisis, but for the remainder of the 4th industrial revolution. I’d also like to remind our readers, I am not a physician or an economist, but I am an expert in retail. With almost 25 years of working for, consulting with, and in retail; I have a unique advantage in predicting the behavior of retail buyers.

Many of you have already spoken to me about the sharp drop in foot traffic, and unfortunately, until this virus is contained, I expect these trends to continue. BUT, there are things you can do in order to cauterize this wound, and that’s the topic of our conversation today.

  • How is social distancing effecting retail?
  • How can you use technology to assist your customers with Social Distancing?
  • What are some long-term impacts of Social Distancing?
  • Ways to be productive with your time during the storm?

How Proper Social Distancing Adherence is Affecting Retail

There are quite a few immediate ramifications of Social Distancing in the retail world. Today we are only going to discuss a few that I have been able to corroborate. As this virus continues to spread, more may become apparent, so please know it is impossible for me to foresee them all.

  1. Your products may no longer be available
    1. If you are like many of my clients, you import your goods from areas that have had some, if not all their factories shut down. This would most likely be the case with factories in China, Italy, Northern California, etc.
    2. Start looking at options for new suppliers now. It doesn’t hurt to already have done your research just in case.
  2. Limited Staff
    1. Your Staff is afraid to come into work. Allow non-essential personnel to work from home if possible.
    2. As Covid-19 cases in your areas rise, you will be more pressed to have the Covid-19 conversation. By addressing the situation in advance, you can alleviate many of their concerns.
    3. Make sure your staff knows to not come in if sick. Don’t just hope they know, make sure they do.
  3. No Traffic
    1. This is the most critical one in my opinion.
    2. By utilizing Buy Online Pickup in Store, Delivery, and Ecommerce, you can allow your customers to still shop with you, even though they cannot spend time in your store. But this requires you to notify them that you have it available.
    3. This may not end with the current epidemic, depending on the results of the Economic Stimulus Plan, the ramifications can potentially have a longer effect. By spending local you can reduce this by ensuring $0.67 of every dollar stays in your community.

Technologies that can help with Social Distancing.

Empty conference room

  1. Web Conferencing: If you institute web conferencing software, you can virtually eliminate the need to pack all your employees into a small space. According to Trust Radius, “web conferencing software allows participants to conduct or attend meetings via the internet. This is also known as online meeting software. It enables remote meetings based on VoIP, video conferencing, instant messaging, file and screen sharing.” Some of these include GoTo Meeting, WebEx, Adobe Connect, Vonage, and Zoom.
  2. Integrated Ecommerce: As American shoppers begin to stay home and avoid crowded places, your store needs to adapt to their new way of shopping. While many of you already have ecommerce, many of you have yet to integrate it into your POS. By not integrating your POS, you run the risk of not following through on your promise to your customers.
  3. BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup in Store): In New Orleans, restaurants are being required to close unless they are offering delivery or To Go orders. Just imagine BOPIS as ordering your retail goods “To Go.” This article can explain a lot more about your options for BOPIS. By implementing Buy Online Pickup Curbside, you are allowing your customers and employees to limit interactions to just one on one. If you have already integrated your POS to your Website this can be a simple “flipping a switch.” If you have not this can take between 6-12 months to properly implement.
  4. Delivery: If there is one article I implore you to read and take heed of TODAY, it is the one we wrote several weeks ago titled “Pet Industry: Should You Offer Home Delivery and What Technologies should you use?” Going forward delivery will be a must-add as more and more Americans will be staying in their homes and avoiding shopping. Don’t just add this for your business but add it for your customers and your employees.
  5. Contactless Payments: While this technology has been available for some time, many retailers are not endorsing it. When we are living in a time in which just touching an unclean surface can help spread Covid-19, it may be more important than ever to ask people to utilize Apple Pay or Google Wallet. This is typically available with the Ingenico ISC250 or similar payment terminals.

What Are Some Long-term Effects?

Man with credit card shopping onlineI was speaking to a group of millennials this past weekend and 2 out of 9 of them had just signed up for an Amazon Prime Account. That equates to 22%, and it scares the heck out of me. That potentially means that more Americans right now will sign up during this crisis, than have since it first gained popularity. If you combine that with the idea that Amazon is hiring an additional 100,000 employees during the crisis, it’s easy to see the writing on the wall. Amazon knows that this trend will not end with the Coronavirus epidemic. People will get used to shopping online and have their items delivered to them. This means that we can no longer delay adding these services to our portfolio. That is, not if we want to be relevant during the remainder of the 4th industrial revolution.

Ways to be productive with your time during the storm?

  1. Improve Your Supply Chain: This is a great article on three strategies for improving your supply chain.
  2. Conduct Physical Counts: Don’t wait until your foot traffic starts back up to get this done.
  3. Make Changes to your Software: Thanks to the recent Economic Stimulus Package you have quite a few low interest opportunities to make capital investments.
  4. Do Your Software updates and upgrades: Call or email RCS today to see if an upgrade to your current software can give you the required functionality.
  5. Re-merchandise the store so that it’s fresh when the crisis recedes.
  6. Use Marketing to Promote Your Store: If you have been collecting email addresses, then that is the easiest and most cost-effective method. If not consider social media marketing, local news reporting, zip code-based marketing, etc. Anything to let your prospects know that you have added BOPIS, Ecommerce, and Delivery.

Closing Thoughts

So whether or not you are worried about the bottom line cost of the Coronavirus to your business or your desire to prepare for “Retail Armageddon” it is easy to see why it’s important for you to add these technologies sooner rather than later. You have tons of reasons to try it and limited reasons not to. For the next article, we are going to discuss; Buying Local, Marketing Mailers, Custom Apps, and a couple of other things you can do to weather the economic storm that is likely to follow this epidemic.

Mark Nelms headshotAbout the author

Mark Nelms is a Business Development Manager for Pet Rewards POS. He has conducted over 400 interviews with retailers from almost every vertical and size. In prior roles, he’s assisted clients like Cumberland Packaging Corporation (Sweet N’ Low), The New England Patriots, and NCR.

Why retailers should be thinking about Locavores and the experience economy (1 of 2)

Why retailers should be thinking about Locavores and the experience economy (1 of 2)

Clothing & Apparel, E-commerce, Just for Fun, Retail, Specialty Retail, Web Tips

Why retailers should be thinking about Locavores and the experience economy (1 of 2)

Part I: The line is blurring between e-commerce and brick & mortar retail. Locavores and virtually every other subset of shoppers want options.

By John Garvey

While it’s in some ways laudable, the stereotype of young consumers who want to know “the story behind the product” is an easy target for comedy.

ChickensLocavores were hilariously satirized in the oddball sketch comedy show Portlandia, in a skit where a couple at a restaurant asks a barrage of questions about the chicken. Is it organic? What kind of diet is it raised on? How much room do the chickens have to run around? Do you have a good relationship with the farmer?

“They do a lot to make sure that their chickens are very happy,” assures the server. She goes so far as to provide a file containing photos and in-depth biographical information on the chicken they’re about to eat. Still not quite satisfied, the couple asks the server to hold their table and goes out to visit the farm.

(And then things get weird.)

Although it’s often satirized, there are lessons from the locavore movement that relate to consumer retail as well as food service.

From warring opposites to mutually dependent: Ecommerce vs. brick & mortar

For many retailers, there must have been a certain irony to the ecommerce behemoth Amazon acquiring Whole Foods. After all, WFM arguably did more than anyone to popularize the term “Locavore.”

It’s odd how farmers markets and more experiential brick-and-mortar retail concepts have blossomed in the last decade, even as ecommerce has gained so much market share. Weirder still, the same kind of consumers who preferentially buy local goods of one sort are likely to shop exclusively online for other needs.

At Retail Control Systems, we provide customized ecommerce and omnichannel retail solutions for a dozen industries. But we’ll always love our brick and mortar retail heritage. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you navigate the changing retail landscape and thrive through the 2020s and beyond.

As paradoxes go, it’s hard to beat all the pure play online retailers like Warby Parker, Amazon and Birchbox opening physical storefronts. This is reflective of consumer demand for a blended experience—a combination of convenience and personalization. Ecommerce companies have seen pure online sales spike in places where they have physical storefronts.

Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers and online retailers are finally using multiple touchpoints to leverage, rather than cannibalize each other. The line between different channels is blurring. Consumers who initially encounter a brand in one channel are increasingly apt to purchase through another, weeks later.

Consumers still see shopping, in part, as a social experience. Talking in-person with a store rep with first-hand product experience provides greater assurance than aggregated online reviews. Savvy consumers know that many vendors game the system, making in-person conversations all the more valuable.

The Experience Economy

Jia Wertz, writing for Forbes, recently wrote that “consumers have slowly but surely been moving away from strictly shopping for products, instead seeking a more engaging experience. The trend has been driven largely by millennials and their preference for experiences over things.”

Two women in the back of a car

In recent years, the increase in household spending on “experience-related services” has quadrupled the growth of spending on goods. That’s according to a report by Worldwide management consultancy McKinsey & Company.

Although the “Experience Economy” has only recently become part of the popular vernacular in the last couple of years, a 1998 Harvard Business Review article discussed the then emerging phenomenon. Those insights remain relevant.

For instance, thinking through what you’d have to do to theoretically justify charging admission to your store may help you identify opportunities to differentiate your shop and capture new, high-value customers. While most in-store events aren’t admission-based, “demonstrations, showcases, contests, and other attractions” could be.

Some of these ideas remain radical 21 years after publication. For instance, the authors state that “In the full-fledged experience economy, retail stores and even entire shopping malls will charge admission before they let a consumer even set foot in them.” We’ll see. For now, the most visible examples remain things like educational workshops, fitness classes and store-sponsored running clubs to promote athletic brands.

What’s a theme you can leverage to make your customers’ or guests’ retail experience totally unique to your store?

Bonding over experiences and “stuff”

Retail has always been an experience in some sense, and will be for generations to come.

Meeting a second-generation shop owner, clothing designer, coffee roaster or even a geeky electronics expert who can help you with your home entertainment system are all experiences unique to shopping in physical stores. It’s a pleasure to talk and listen to people who are passionate and knowledgeable about what they do. That’s one of the reasons brick and mortar stores will still be thriving for decades to come.

Next month, we’ll discuss how to use simple, memorable experiences to make your customers your greatest advertising asset.

We Make Data Your Friend, Not Your Boss

Shorter Buying Cycles. Fewer Stockouts. Less Surplus Inventory.

Our retail point of sale support services can help you optimize day-to-day and strategic decisions.

The Future of Retail isn’t Digital, it’s Omnichannel

The Future of Retail isn’t Digital, it’s Omnichannel

E-commerce, Just for Fun, News, Retail, Web Tips

The Future of Retail isn’t Digital, it’s Omnichannel

Play to Win.

By John Garvey

It’s funny how in business a single headline, data point or catchphrase can overshadow the big picture. We’re talking about the Retail Apocalypse, but we’re talking more specifically about the impact of e-commerce on brick and mortar retail.

Contrary to the impression news headlines can create, many sectors of traditional retail are thriving. The number of store closings in recent years, however, may be costing you sleep regardless of how your business is faring. For all the turmoil, this is actually a time of great opportunity for traditional retailers. In fact, Forbes, Business Insider, Entrepreneur and others have maintained the perspective that:

  1. The impact of e-commerce on brick and mortar retail is overstated and misunderstood, and
  2. The long-term outlook for retail is great.

The Best of Both Worlds

Woman online with dog in bedRetail chains that have continued to prosper through the so-called “Retail Apocalypse” are those that “understand the biggest advantage e-commerce retailers have is their ability to collect and leverage insights into consumer behaviors gained by technological innovations like big data,” according to Forbes Technology Council Lucas Roh. “They are adopting technology and processes to achieve the same advantage and adapt to today’s retail landscape.”

Roh boldly and bluntly states that “The Retail Apocalypse Is Not Happening,” and he’s not alone in that belief. But nobody’s saying we’re not in the midst of a seismic shift.

“The real impact e-commerce has on the retail industry is in consumer expectations,” Roh continues. “Consumers now expect a more convenient, tailored omnichannel shopping experience, whether they are online or in-store.”

This all points to at least one key lesson:

Four people gathered around looking at a guys cell phoneBig Data, customer analytics and online marketing are no longer competitive advantages.

Yesterday’s advantages are today’s necessities. That may sound stressful at first, but we’re excited about how these can benefit retailers and consumers.

That’s because today’s solutions address issues that have plagued retail for generations. They can make your life easier and your business more profitable. Even mom and pop retailers can now use business intelligence tools to reduce spoilage, pilfering, and stock-outs; enjoy higher margins; and optimize staff scheduling.

NCR Counterpoint—which RCS has used for decades— can now integrate data across multiple departments and generate over 40 reports. Among other things, these help forecast inventory, flag suspicious transactions and optimize pricing.

Instead of thinking of this as a David vs. Goliath thing, think of e-commerce style capabilities as ways brick and mortar retailers can solve problems that were around long before Amazon.

Omnichannel, not digital, is the face of the future

Companies that provide customers flexible purchasing options understand that decades from now there will still be thriving brick and mortar stores with e-commerce integrations. We’re not moving to an e-commerce model; we’re moving to a hybrid model. Why else would the kingpin of e-commerce be opening brick and mortar grocery and book stores? Why would Amazon have acquired Whole Foods if brick and mortar were tanking?

“Brick and mortar retailers no longer have to feel that they’re staring up helplessly at the giants of e-commerce,” writes Jia Wert, CEO of the fashion brand Studio 15 in Forbes.

E-commerce firms, it turns out, need a physical presence to build brand recognition and achieve their long-term business objectives. More to the point, traditional retailers who make use of the digital economy’s capabilities can not only survive but prosper with the help of modern inventory, marketing, and point of sale platforms.

Contact Retail Control Systems

Learn how we can optimize your ominichannel marketing, inventory management and sales.

Reduce spoilage, pilfering and stock-outs | Increase margins | Optimize staff scheduling

Google Runs the World, Not Your Business

Google Runs the World, Not Your Business

E-commerce, Just for Fun, Retail, Technical Tip, Web Tips

Google Runs the World, Not Your Business

By Ryan Parks

Everyone on Facebook does a good job of updating me about enjoying a vanilla latte at their favorite coffee shop (at least my friends do). However, people don’t always remember to update their business profile on Google, Yelp, Facebook, and other platforms if there is a special event or something out of the ordinary happening.

Google search screen on a computer on a tableOn a recent trip to Seattle I was reminded how important it is to keep your business profile up to date. While visiting we went to one of the main attractions in the city. Now, we only had a few days and this particular attraction was only open the first day we were there due to construction, so we knew it was going to be a time crunch. According to their website, they would be open till 8 pm and the last tour left at 7 pm. We arrived at 6:45 with what we thought was plenty of time, only to have the security guard tell us that they close at 7 pm. But… we contested, the website says 8 pm, he then proceeded to tell us, “well, that’s google’s listing, we don’t control that.” As someone who traveled from out of town and wasn’t sure when he’d be back, this was disappointing, to say the least.

Google Business

Yes, you do control your business listing on Google, or at least you should… If you haven’t already, go add or claim your business listing on Google. Seriously, go do it now, stop reading this. Okay, you are now in control. You can now edit your post, add pictures, change the hours, add special hours for holidays, events, or construction. The Google business listing is often one of the first things people see when they google your business if you don’t see one for your business you should create one. Keeping this listing up to date will greatly benefit your business, but it isn’t the only listing to keep in mind.

Facebook

Phone with Facebook next to computerIf your business isn’t using social media, you are missing out. Even if you feel like your company doesn’t have anything exciting to share on social media, it is an area you need to have a presence. With over 70% percent of Americans on Facebook, your business page has the potential to reach millions. Facebook now has a feature that allows people to ask for recommendations. For example, if I was traveling to Austin, Texas, I can now ask my friends who live there or who have traveled there if they have recommendations for a restaurant or a record store. Facebook will then add details about your friend’s recommendations. A Facebook business page is a great way to get more online traffic, but don’t forget to keep that information up to date as well. Learn more about creating a Facebook business page.

Website

Lastly, but certainly not least, your website. You want to make sure your website’s information is always accurate. Companies list their address and store hours in all sorts of places, the about section, the contact page, an information page. It’s okay to have this information in more than one area and certainly don’t remove it if you’ve always had the information in a certain location. However, the easiest and most convenient section is at the bottom of your site in the footer. The footer is on every page and is an obvious place for your location, phone number and/or store hours. Even if you only do online orders it is a good idea to have a physical location listed on your website. Sometimes people want to know how far away an item may ship from, if you’re local or what timezone you are in if they want to call. Also, it helps let people know that you have a physical location and aren’t just a vague concept floating around the internet.

These three areas are not the only places where your information can be listed, but they’re a good place to start. Keep in mind that people traveling from out of state or even out of the country may be relying on this information and you don’t want to damper their experience or cause them to write a bad review. Remember, Google knows a scary amount of information about your business, but you still control most of that information, for now…

Beware: Google Document Phishing Scam

Beware: Google Document Phishing Scam

Technical Tip, Web Tips

Google is warning all to not open a phishing scam e-mail being currently sent out. The sophisticated looking e-mail will look like it’s coming from an e-mail address that you may recognize. There is one key giveaway to recognize these e-mails: The mail is sent to a fake email address in the main recipient field — hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh@mailinator.com. Your address is included in the BCC field.

Google Docs Phishing Scam Image

According to a tweet by Google, make sure you immediately report this e-mail as a Phishing attempt via Gmail and then delete. Do not open any attachments, click on the link, or respond to the sender. Google is in the midst of investigating where this phishing scam originated and how to stop it from happening again in the future. Read more on how to report an e-mail within Gmail.

Gmail Tweet

When users click on the file, the fake Google Docs will seek permission to access your account. Users who click on the link and follow through with the process should go to Google’s account permissions to deny access.
Phishing is generally carried out via e-mail, but can also happen via websites, ads, etc.. It means that an internet hacker is trying to convince you to share your personal information online, like credit card information, social security numbers, banking information and more. Read more about phishing scams and how to avoid them. If an e-mail looks suspicious, don’t open it!

e-mail on phone

Here are some additional e-mail “Safe Sending” Tips:

  • Do not send personal messages from your corporate account
  • Do not forward company emails or corporate data to your personal account
  • Always remember that email is not private
  • Check with the sender before opening attachments
  • Do not send sensitive information over email
  • Respect email laws and regulations
  • Know the difference between public and private information!

Read more about the phishing scam.

 

Update: May 4th, 2017, 4:00 pm

Google has addressed the issue and it should be re-mediated. If you think you were affected, follow this link: http://g.co/SecurityCheckup

See the tweet from Google

Millennials: Retail Sales Will Never Be the Same

Millennials: Retail Sales Will Never Be the Same

Clothing & Apparel, Retail, Web Tips

Millennials: Retail Sales Will Never Be the Same

Retailers: like it or not, the Millennial mindset is here to stay. And it’s going to continue to change the way you think of retail sales marketing.

Millennials—or those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s—are a HUGE market, with roughly 80 million members. It has become increasingly important for merchants to understand Millennials’ shopping and buying habits in order to “stay alive” in an ever-changing retail sales market.

Here are 4 Millennial-focused retail sales trends to keep in mind for the coming year:

1. They want more.
Millennials are a special group of consumers unlike any we’ve seen before. Millennials want more, more, more out of their purchases. Extremely value-driven, many Millennials came of age during the recession, which forced them to shop around for the best product at the best price.

2. They want things fast.
Once you’ve convinced a Millennial to buy something, you don’t want to lose him or her because your checkout process is too slow or you don’t have the item in stock. Retailers must continue to update their payment and inventory management systems, so that the buying process can be as streamlined as possible—in-store and online.

3. Mobile & e-commerce technology is going to continue to play a big role in the way they shop.
In the 2015 holiday shopping season, about one-third of shoppers purchased their items online and opted to pick them up in-store (“click-and-collect”). Millennials especially like to take advantage of the convenience of online shopping, while still being able to look at, touch, and take home the items that day. This is good news for brick-and-mortar retailers, especially those who also have an online presence, since nearly 70% of shoppers who used click-and-collect during the 2015 holiday season purchased additional items in the same store and another one-third purchased items in adjacent stores.

4. If you’re not on social media, get there—fast.
Social media continues to be a big deal for retailers. Nearly three-quarters of Millennials rely on social media to get more information or to see reviews on items they want to buy. Whether it’s through embedded “Buy!” buttons on Facebook or product sharing on Instagram, social media retail sales are a hot market you don’t want to miss.

Most merchants are going to need to cater to millennial consumers in order to stay alive—and thrive—in today’s retail sales marketplace. Retail Control Systems can help retailers better understand the importance of an all-encompassing, customized Point-of-Sale solution that will manage online and in-store retail sales, track inventory in real-time, and ensure the checkout process is quick and easy. Call 1-800-417-3030 or CONTACT US to learn more about helping your millennial customers have a better shopping experience.

How big is your transactional tax footprint?

How big is your transactional tax footprint?

Clothing & Apparel, Web Tips

How big is your transactional tax footprint?

6 questions to assess if your sales activities are a compliance risk

Repost from Avalara.com

At some point, you’ve probably pinpointed your company’s position on a 2×2 matrix to determine its strengths or weaknesses or its position relative to competitors. But have you ever rated your business on sales tax compliance?

Many companies get into trouble with state and local tax because they don’t know where they owe. Often, the business is growing in some way, either physically in terms of new locations or by expanding its product or service offerings, bringing on more field staff or selling through new channels such as online, at tradeshows or through affiliate programs. All of these are important growth strategies. They also carry sales and use tax implications. The more ways you engage a buyer, the more likely you are to create nexus — an obligation to collect and remit sales tax in a state where you’re now doing business. As nexus increases, sales tax gets exponentially more complex or laborious, and it can become difficult to manage with in-house resources, albeit people or systems.

Just as you are focused on bringing as much revenue as you can into your business, the states are doing the same thing. Indirect taxes makes up a large portion of the states’ coffers and they’re becoming more diligent about getting what’s coming to them. Miscalculations and failing to register or remit returns aren’t something they take lightly. Warnings are for traffic cops, not state auditors. Be found out of compliance and you’ll likely be looking at steep fines and penalties on top of any uncollected taxes.

To better understand where you may have sales tax complexity or nexus obligations, Avalara put together a self-assessment survey. Answer just a few questions about your business and sales activities and instantly get a score that will help you determine your transactional tax footprint and risk of non-compliance.

The self-assessment includes a guide to understanding how each of the four quadrants — and your score — impacts your business when it comes to sales tax. It’s a quick and easy way to uncover any vulnerabilities you may have that need addressing or even just provide peace of mind that you haven’t overlooked any obligations. You may also learn that you fall into a higher complexity, higher go-to-market risk area than you thought. Knowing where you fall on this spectrum can be helpful in determining if it’s time to add sales tax automation.

Bring the results to your technology provider and talk them about your concerns in managing sales tax. Ask about integrating Avalara AvaTax software into your billing system, ERP or eCommerce solution to handle these compliance functions automatically for you.

Using Google Analytics Effectively

Clothing & Apparel, Web Tips

For any business with a web presence understanding how traffic works and where it comes from is incredibly important. Google Analytics is a free (and powerful) solution that provides a wealth of information about how well a website is functioning.

A business can use Google Analytics to determine how much traffic is coming to its website, where that traffic comes from, and what visitors are doing once they are on the site. Google’s tool works pretty simply by tracking “tags” – a small piece of JavaScript code that needs to be installed on every page of a business’ website.

The tag effectively pulls data and collates it within a reports page in the Google Analytics admin interface. Here, a business can set up multiple reports for multiple websites within a given account.

Let’s consider Google Analytics in some more depth and how it could benefit your business and its understanding of traffic sources to its website.

Time Metrics

 

This is a way for a business to monitor how long visitors are staying for, where Google calculates an average length of time for those visitors. Businesses can use this data to understand what keeps a visitor on its site, but also what makes visitors leave – this is perhaps the most important area for a business to consider.

You want visitors to stay and click around on your website – the longer that those visitors stay on your site, the better the chance that they will become purchasers of your products and services.


 

Traffic Sources/Acquisitions

Acquisitions

This information is incredibly important to a business and its marketing efforts. Knowing where your visitors come from ensures that you can better target those locations and provide better links and more streamlined traffic options to your website.

It’s worth exploring traffic sources in much more detail and your marketing department would do well to define the different kinds of traffic arriving at your website. Your business would do well to understand what constitutes quality traffic, how to identify revenue and conversion drivers, what kinds of information to look for in keyword reports, and how campaign attribution functions within Google Analytics.


Google Analytics – A great free tool

Audience

There are plenty of things to champion when it comes to Google Analytics. The program will track geographical data, gender, age, IP addresses and much more. This is ideal for discovering if you are actually hitting your target audience. You can then more accurately create content targeting the customers that you want. From the screenshot above, you can see that there are many more male visitors, which is about right for this particular business.


Content Drill Down

content_breakdown

The majority of businesses now use content to help market their company and drive traffic to the site. This can be distributed in a variety of ways including through email newsletters and social media. Knowing which pages are receiving the most attention can really help you to hone your message and further target customers in your ideal demographic.


Using Keywords

Keywords and phrases is the most important consideration a business can make when it determines that it wants to achieve better web rankings and increase traffic to its website. A business should conduct keyword research and determine words that it wants to be ranked by. The keywords should relate to your niche and be ones that your ideal customers are likely to search Google for.

You can measure both paid and organic keywords in Analytics and whilst the ‘not provided’ issue is an irritating one with regard to organic keywords, if you use AdWords then it can help you to discover which are performing well and which aren’t.


 

Bounce Rate

Bounce-rate

The other important consideration relates to the time that visitors spend on your site and how quickly that they leave – this is known as the bounce rate. If you notice a lot of visitors arriving and then leaving your site very quickly you have a problem that needs addressing. The higher your bounce rate, the quicker people are leaving; however, it’s worth pointing out that if your blog gets a lot of attention, this can give a high bounce rate that’s not necessarily accurate.

The bounce rate shouldn’t be confused with the exit rate though, the latter of which is the percentage of visitors that left the site from a specific page. The bounce rate is the percentage of single page visitors that your site receives.

If you have a high bounce rate, then you can reduce it using a variety of tactics. Before you do this though, let’s have a look at the benchmark averages for bounce rates, according to Google itself.

  • Content sites: 40-60%
  • Lead generation: 30-50%
  • Blogs: 70-98%
  • Retail sites: 20-40%
  • Service sites: 10-30%
  • Landing pages: 70-90%

As you can see, even Google acknowledges that the bounce rate is high for blogs. The reason for this is that Analytics doesn’t measure the actual time that’s spent on each blog post, but rather that the visitor has only visited one page. There is a way of addressing this by tweaking the tracking code and creating an event when a visitor spends more than a set amount of time on a page.

The modified code looks something like this in Google Analytics (note: this is not the correct code for Universal Analytics).

<script type=”text/javascript”>

var _gaq = _gaq || [];

_gaq.push([‘_setAccount’, ‘UA-XXXXXXX-1’]);

_gaq.push([‘_trackPageview’]);

setTimeout(“_gaq.push([‘_trackEvent’, ’15_seconds’, ‘read’])”,15000);

(function() {

var ga = document.createElement(‘script’); ga.type = ‘text/javascript’; ga.async = true;

ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl’ : ‘http://www’) + ‘.google-analytics.com/ga.js’;

var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);

})();

</script>

I’ve highlighted the necessary line in red and this is where you can specify how much time the visitor needs to stay on the site for until they are not counted as a bounce.

In Universal Analytics, you will have to take the following steps to implement this:

  1. Create a new custom tag in UA and set it as Custom HTML tag (call it whatever you like)
  2. Add the below code into the HTML field

<script>

setTimeout(“dataLayer.push({ ‘event’: ‘GAEvent’, ‘eventCategory’: ‘NoBounce’, ‘eventAction’: ‘Over 30 seconds’ })”, 30000);

</script>

  1. Add {{event}} equals gtm.dom as the ‘firing rule’
  2. Save tag and container and publish.

An article by Justin Cutroni sets out in detail how to create events that more accurately track how your users engage with your content which is well worth checking out.

You will need to set up and configure Custom Dimensions and Metrics before you can implement the code if you want to use it though. For full instructions on how to do this, take a look at the article, which contains full instructions.

The technique and code that the author has created uses events to track when a pages loads and the user has scrolled more than 150 pixels down the page. It also tracks when the user gets to the bottom of the content and page.

Event-tracking

The script allows you to see the difference between a scanner and a reader, based on how long it takes them to get to the bottom of the page.

So if you have a high bounce rate and it’s not the blog’s fault, what can you do to reduce it? Firstly, try to understand what it is that’s making visitors leave. There are plenty of reasons that they might, which include:

  • Poor navigation
  • Lack of search facility
  • Low quality content such as poorly spelled written content or glitchy video
  • Pop-up windows
  • Site speed
  • Site not mobile friendly
  • Poor design
  • Over-abundance of or poorly placed advertisements

All of these can be discussed with your design and are essentially user experience (UX) issues. Modern web users are pretty demanding and if they land on a site that is slow to load, or if they can’t immediately find what they’re looking for, they will leave.


Powerful Business Intelligence

Use Google Analytics to check the voracity of your site and to ensure that your content is ranking you highly in Google’s search results. Make sure that you target relevant keywords that reflect your business, its brand, and its niche. Consider what’s working on your site and what isn’t, then adjust your marketing targets and budget accordingly.

Google Analytics is both a powerful and important program for a business to use to monitor its website and its success. The data provided by Google Analytics cannot be underestimated and as it’s a free program there’s really no reason why your business shouldn’t utilize the service. This article doesn’t even really scratch the surface of what it can do but serves as a good introduction to finding your way around the software.

How to get more conversions on your E-commerce site

Clothing & Apparel, E-commerce, Web Tips

Today, online shoppers are highly informed on the products they want to buy. Getting them to chose your product over someone else’s has and always will be the key to a successful business. So how do you convince your potential customers to buy your product?

One successful way has been to offer coupons or discounts on the item, which is usually a one-way street. The customer gets what they want, and you may never see or hear from them again.  The best approach in this situation is to ask for their email address, while offering them a discount in return. So, how do you know when to ask the question? Right when they enter the site? No, that would more likely turn customers away, and people don’t like popups to show right away, especially if they frequent your site. There is a smarter way to make this happen, and I’ll show you the FREE tools to do it, and with little, to NO coding knowledge required! Seriously, your 16 year old nephew Justin could do this.

Let’s get started

The first step is to head over to www.sumome.com and watch the video on how their plugin works. The code they supply you can be easily added to the <HEAD> of your website. If you’re using Magento/NRO you can add it under System>Configuration>Design and look for the HTML Head section (see below).

SumoMe code screenshot

Once it’s in, save it and head to your Home Page. You’ll have a little blue box to the top-right side of your website. Click it, and Sign Up for an account. From there, you can click on the Sumo Store, where they offer some other cool additional plugins. The one we want here is the List Builder. If you open the List Builder, you’ll see the green “settings” option. In there you can change things like the color of the popup, what text is displayed, and more. Here is where you’ll put your amazing copy such as “Sign up for our newsletter and we’ll give you 15% off your order!” or “Get 15% off your order by entering your email address below”

Now for the cool part

You’ll also have the ability to change the Timing of the popup. For our use, we’re going to pick “Smart” with a frequency of 2 Minutes. This can be changed of course, but what it’s doing is saying that if the visitor is on your site for more than 2 minutes, then allow this popup to be shown. Now the “Smart” setting is really cool but very simple. When the visitor moves their mouse outside of your webpage (let’s say they want to close their browser window), the popup displays which gives you a greater chance of converting that visitor to a customer.

So where do the emails go?

You have the option to connect with a third party service, like Mailchimp or Constant Contact, to not only collect these email addresses, but also to assign them to a list for your weekly newsletter, or to automatically send out a coupon for that 15% off you promised them. Alternately you can download the email list from the plugin as a CSV file, to import into Counterpoint’s Customer Connect, or any other service you might use.

Hooray for more customers!

At this point, you’ve got a free tool that provides an easy way to convert a visitor who may be on the fence about purchasing a product from your online store, and it took you all of 15-20 minutes to setup, right? And it’s a benefit to you because you get an email address to add to your fun-tastic newsletter, and possibly drive more sales through that as well! It’s a win-win (and I don’t use that term lightly)!

By the way, if you haven’t already signed up for our newsletter, now’s just about as good a time as any. We provide free tips, like this one, and many other including social media tips, new retail technologies and more!

How to design a successful Email Marketing campaign

Clothing & Apparel, Web Tips

Email Marketing is one of the most effective campaigns a business can run. It’s one of the least expensive options, and you can run metrics to find out who’s opened your email, how many people clicked on your links, and more. Today I’d like to focus on the design of an email campaign, and provide those without a design-eye a look into elements that should be considered when launching an email campaign.

Many of our customers run email campaigns that effectively connect with their customers, whether it be NCR’s Customer Connect, Mailchimp, or Constant Contact; It’s important that you’ve got the right elements in your email. There are 3 important elements to include in your emails.

  1. Message
  2. Visual Hierarchy
  3. Action Item or “Call to Action”

The “Message” is the most important information you want to get across to your customer. The more defined your message, the easier you make it on your conversion rate. If your message is too broad, it can cause confusion, and you could lose those click-throughs. Here are some examples:

Defined Message, just enough info to keep it relevant.

Hi (Customer name), We’re excited to tell you we’ve got 3 new styles of pants in for the Spring season. We’ve picked out a style for you based on purchases you made when you last shopped with us. Although you can’t try them on online, they’re even better in person. We can’t wait to see you!

Broad message, not as intriguing to read.

We’ve got new styles of pants in for the Spring, and they’re on sale. Come check them out!

In both examples, you can read that the message is, “We’ve got new pants, come in and buy some.” However, it’s important not to treat email marketing as an advertising platform, and start thinking of it as the best way to personally greet your customers. Offering suggestions in the email for a specific style not only feels more personable, but also leads to higher conversion/click-through rates.

Next up is Visual Hierarchy. How does your email look and read. How does your eye travel when looking at your email? Do you look at the big bold text first, the image, the colorful button? It’s easy to put these elements together, but you’ve got to keep it organized. That’s where Visual Hierarchy comes in. By changing sizes, colors, and placement of elements, you can force the readers eye to specific places in a sequential order. Take a look at this email template here:

Click the image to see the full email template
Click the image to see the full email template

There’s a few great elements in the email. First, the animated .gif that gives a playful feel to the email. You can read more on using animated gif’s in your email here. They have a clear and concise header, slightly bolded (which plays into visual hierarchy) that briefly describes the topic. The secondary text goes into more detail on the topic. If you keep your emails brief and consumable, you’ll have higher quality conversions. They repeat this for a few different topics, and it follows the same structure throughout. So, How did your eye travel when reading that email? Try one of the emails you received in your inbox today. Does it seem to have visual hierarchy?

Here’s another example of an email I received the other day. It’s got great visual Hierarchy, but their message is lost. It just so happens I know what this app does, but if I were a new customer, it would have been confusing.

Clear and concise message, big photo, and an action item.
Clear and concise message, big photo, and an action item.

The one things that this email design does best is direct you to an action item. Besides the image of the app/iphone, what’s the next thing that draws your eye? I’d bet it’s that shiny black AppStore button! That call to action will certainly help with conversions, as it’s most likely the one thing you’d be tracking conversion rates upon. So again, this element is key.

Since beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, I’ll leave the pictures to your discretion, but I want to urge you to keep your pictures as clear as your message. Show your images to someone that’s not familiar with your business, and ask them what they think the message of the image is. If it’s not in line with your email’s message, it’s probably the wrong photo to use. I’m not going to leave you completely empty handed though. There are a lot of great free resources to help you launch a great email marketing campaign, and I’ll link to some below. If you’d like me to look over your email template, I’d be more than happy to, so just leave a message on our Facebook.

Customer Connect
Mailchimp
Constant Contact

Tips on what to say in your email
Making your email look good on mobile devices (aka Responsive)