Whether you’re a retailer or service-based business, content is your secret weapon to driving business onward and upward. Creating content that resonates and aligns with your brand (and audience) isn’t an easy task. However, experts agree it’s worth taking time to produce quality content. If content marketing isn’t a key part of your strategy by now, consider making it a top priority in the new year.
“Content marketing should be a major cornerstone in your marketing arsenal. By providing valuable, free content, that builds customer empathy, you will attract and convert new prospects into brand-loyal customers. The caveat to producing great content is having the foresight to produce content that aligns with customer interests, while continuously delivering new content that your customers hunger for.”
— Christopher Yin, Creative Director, Redstage
There are many platforms and channels that make it easy for people to find, consume, and share content. As a result, it’s even more challenging for companies to connect with consumers. Retailers understand that creating a holistic consumer experience is a significant challenge. On the other hand, B2B companies are challenged with building loyalty and relationships within their customer base. However, there are still traditional touchpoints like email, case studies, social media, e-books, and mobile apps that customers rely on to fulfill their content needs. Each of these channels is a spoke on the content marketer’s flywheel. Here‘s how to produce “Evergreen” content that can continue to drive value far into the future across all channels.
1. Empower Customers with Brand Storytelling
Content is a form of storytelling. Your end goal may be selling a product or service, but your customers want to know if that product can relate to their journey or benefit their business, before completing a transaction.
Melanie Allen, the CMO of Brooks says “I don’t focus on the brands, I focus on the runners,” stating the importance of getting into your customer’s head to create effective content that engages customers.
Technology and human nature are now intertwined. Understanding this can help with the creative process. To resonate with and evoke emotion from your audience, your content needs to:
Create impact and opportunity
Drive purpose or connect to a social cause
Contain thought leadership
Feel organic, authentic, and true to the brand
3. Source Creativity, Rather than Influencers
Influencer marketing is meant to impact consumer behavior and drive sales through the use of public figures with large followings. However, this strategy is becoming overused and influencers pitching product after product seem inauthentic to audiences. Additionally, it’s important to select an influencer that has a direct connection to your brand messaging and mission. Constellation brands, for instance, chose an influencer who published photos regularly, sharing her love for Corona Extra and all things summer. It was a natural choice to pick her to move forward with additional promotion strategies.
Also, the Corona brand delved into cause marketing this year with a “Pay With Plastic” campaign to clean up beaches. The plastic waste collected was turned into Adirondack chairs, which were repurposed for in-store displays. When you think of Corona, you think of summer and the beach, so what better way to connect with customers on a more intimate level than with a cause today’s consumers care about?
According to several panels at Advertising Week New York, the best marketers are those who give equal attention to both content, products, and data. They do this by testing various methods, analyzing the results, and incorporating a natural message. Think outside the box to create a conversation between your audience and your brand. Help them think critically about the industry. Remember, visual communication resonates better than written when it comes to online, mobile, and OOH audiences.
4. Data Quality Is Everything
There should always be a purpose behind creating content and each piece of content should have a specific objective you want to achieve before your pen hits the paper. Not even a simple twitter post should be published without a particular goal in mind. Here are some KPIs today’s top brands use to track content engagement and value:
Interaction: How much time is your audience spending interacting with your content?
Emotional Engagement: Is your audience finding, reading, loving, remembering and sharing your content?
Brand Building: Is your brand expanding, lifting and converting?
Think about the ritual your customers go through when engaging with your brand. When do they use your product? When do they buy it? How do they buy it? Determining the “Magic Moment” when your product solves the customer’s problem should be the epicenter of customer stories and content that revolves around that ritual. For runners, content about different routes, trails, or morning routines could be a trigger to buy a new kind of shoe or water bottle. If new mothers are your target, a blog about a child’s first steps or first finger painting can touch your customer’s heart and connect with them with your brand products on a deeper level.
There are many creative strategies to ensure you are producing the best content possible for your audience. B2B companies should be producing content at every part of the sales funnel to see an ROI. While these tips can be helpful in the planning process, it is also important not to limit yourself in the creative process. Don’t be afraid to dream big and be bold or educate and entertain, as long as your ideas are anchored to your customers’ lives, habits, and connection to your brand. With content marketing comes the need to personalize, track, and measure the effectiveness of your messaging. Learn more about the top 5 ways e-commerce companies are making the most of their content marketing in our blog post: Top 5 Trends in Personalization and Social Selling!
If you missed out on Advertising Week this year, be sure to check them out for further updates and information.
Happy New Year! With 11 months of heavy-lifting ahead of you, there’s no better time to work smarter. To help, we’ve compiled this list of 5 Omnichannel Resolutions to incorporate into your 2019 ecommerce strategy. There’s a lot here, so bookmark this page and subscribe to ensure you’ll never miss a tip that will give your brand a competitive edge.
#5: Monitor & GroupKPIs for Data-Driven Decision Making
Here’s a short list of the standard KPIs that marketers, operations professionals, and Ecommerce managers use. Most, if not all of these should be familiar to you. We put them into a few separate buckets that help achieve specific goals. Our team recommends organizing them in a similar way, as each can help you create a simple report rather quickly, and each tells a very different story. Even if you have software that does this for you, putting stats in different tranches like this can help you identify key trends you can act on. Hover over KPIs for individual calculation formulas.
Customer Engagement KPIs
These KPIs allow you to see at a glance how your site is performing:
Conversion Rate (CR)
Average Order Value (AOV)
MVP/VIP AOV (AOV of your most valuable customers)
Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
Cart Abandonment Rate
Browser Abandonment Rate
Mobile Site Traffic (Make sure you’re using this in 2019!)
Returning vs. New Visitors (includes non-converting traffic)
Returning vs. New Customers (excludes non-converting traffic)
Page Views Per Visitor
Site Uptime %
Budget Management KPIs
Here we have a short list of “must-have” budget-oriented KPIs:
Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)
Customer Acquisition Cost
Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)
Return on Investment (ROI)
Fulfillment Costs (Especially Cost of Returns)
Customer Feedback KPIs
There are additional customer-facing stats you should keep an eye on, which help identify how your customers feel about your products, service, user experience, and more. Under analysis, these metrics are helpful for determining where friction occurs in the buying process. For example:
Customer Satisfaction Score
Net Promoter Score
Customer Service Avg. Response Time
Customer Service Call Count
Customer Service Email Count
Customer Service Chat Count (for those with chatbots)
Average Customer Service Rating (if you have surveys after chats, emails or calls)
Average Customer Sentiment (with tech like YOTPO, you can gage overall review sentiment)
Google Reviews Rating (if applicable)
Yelp Reviews Rating (if applicable)
Top 10 Products
Worst 10 Products
Top 5 Service Strengths
Top 5 Service Weaknesses
Number of App ‘Superusers’ (Customers who use your app every day)
Tracking Revenue Per Visitor (RPV)
In 2018, a relatively new KPI began gaining recognition in the market. Revenue Per Visitor (RPV) has been called “the most valuable metric” for gaging online sales performance, and is especially helpful when it comes to A/B testing. To find your RPV value, multiply your conversion rate by your average order value. This gives you an estimate of how much the average customer is spending.
#4: Make A/B Testing A Habit
A/B testing is invaluable. In an age where data-driven decision making has the highest ROI, companies who make experience alterations on a whim are falling behind. Whether its email subject lines or adding a PayPal Express Checkout button, merchants should be testing these changes with sample groups before making them across the board. Do your due diligence and add A/B testing to this year’s resolutions (especially for Mobile optimization).
Mobile Checkout Testing
Throughout 2018, we tested a variety of mobile checkout enhancements, eventually culminating in the global Mobile Optimization Initiative, now open to Magento merchants everywhere. After running tests on the mobile checkout experiences of more than 20 merchants, we noted several key trends, but one stood above others: The need for merchants to A/B test constantly.
“Some of the changes we assumed would have a big boost to revenue had very little effect and vice versa. It really highlighted the value in making data-driven decisions rather than going off conventional wisdom.”Oliver Sosinsky, Redstage Solutions Engineer
Every site is different, and more importantly, every audience is different. While some tests revealed huge opportunities for brands to rake in more dollars on mobile, the same tests flatlined or even resulted in a downturn for other merchants (in a few cases). As the race to close the mobile conversion gap continues, our top piece of advice is to start designing digital experiences for mobile users specifically. Most importantly, merchants must work to understand what their mobile customers expect and how to simplify experiences to match. If you’re interested in learning more about the initiative or getting some of your own mobile experiments in motion, sign up here.
“In a world where responsive design is trying to give [customers] all the same functionality we have on desktop in mobile, there may be a divergence here where we have to start thinking about different mobile-first customer experiences.”Adam Morris, Redstage CEO
#3: Create Rich, Interactive Brand Experiences
Creating & Curating Today’s Most Resonant Brands
Traditional retail has hit rock bottom. While Sears and Toys ‘R Us are two of the best known casualties, the implications stretch to each and every physical store on the planet. Both retail giants suffered at the hands of decisions that went against their customer experience. For Sears, the decision to switch to “Everyday low prices” was the first nail in the coffin. Prior to this, the company’s coupon catalog had created buzz and drove customers into stores weekly. Without it, there was little customer experience left, especially with a rapidly decaying in-store experience.
Toy’s ‘R Us was no different. Understaffed stores became empty warehouses. Items were difficult to find in these cold depths, and staff were largely unhelpful when it came to navigating the superstores. Eventually, there was no reason customers wanted to go visit physical locations. With other toy retailers offering better prices online, it was easy for the customer base to choose alternative means. Interestingly, in a last-ditch effort to save the brand, Toys ‘R Us created an augmented reality app. With the app, customers could quickly find the products they were after, and kids could play mini games, test out toys, and go on scavenger hunts around the store, guided by an animated giraffe (the company’s mascot). Unfortunately, it was too little too late, but what are today’s resonant brands doing to keep customers engaged?
The In-Store Experience Revolution will Dominate 2019
Amid cries of 2017’s “Retail Apocalypse,” we made a series of predictions for 2018. In an article titled AR & AI: The Ecommerce Armsrace we anticipated a revolution for in-store experience technology.
Interestingly, while we were wrong about which DTC giant would debut this tech, we were right to suspect its prompt emergence in the market. In early December, Covergirl shook the global beauty sector by installing an “Experiential Makeup Playground” in its Time Square flagship store. The store uses the latest connected retail technology, including voice, IoT, and augmented reality to let customers ‘try on’ products via smart mirror “glam stations.” Expect the company’s rivals to shortly follow suit.
Brand Loyalty and the Immersive Retail Experience
Nike took a similarly immersive approach with in-store experience upgrades at its first “Nike Live” store on Melrose Ave. in L.A. As soon as shoppers enter the store, geofence technology recognizes the presence of the app on their smartphone. From there, Nike’s customer algorithm will give product recommendations based on shopper stats, style and shoe size. Among the rich, app-driven incentives, Nike will even automatically reserve a pair of shoes customers might like. When customers buy Nike products online, Nike ships them to personal smart lockers in-store that can be accessed simply with a Nike+ member pass. No friction, no waiting, no problem.
“[I]n the heart of West LA is also the first Nike Live concept store that blurs the line between digital and physical shopping. Powered by Nike digital commerce data, everything about the store is designed to work seamlessly with the Nike Plus app on shoppers’ phones.”Fast Company
The Digital “Show Room”
Both Nike and Covergirl ushered in amazing retail makeovers by leveraging customer data to solve common customer challenges. For Covergirl, the new tech helps customers try out products they might not be able to physically test anywhere else. As a second key benefit, the experience encourages customers to try on more makeup during their session than they typically would. Third, because shoppers are using AR, this doesn’t cause physical product waste like the often seen “try me” lipstick in other stores.
For Nike, a key decision to place the concept shop on Melrose Ave. arose from the fact that “one in fifty pairs of shoes sold in the area was a Nike Cortez, which was reflected in the product selection available to customers,” according to the Fast Company article mentioned above. Based on this data, Nike responded by creating a store where customers could get expedient access to the newest products (which are usually in high demand). The connected retail space also creates a better environment for millennial shoppers who hate interacting with sales staff, something the retail sector has been slow to pick up on.
Experiences like these are the future of brand loyalty. While we predict stores will become more like show-rooms in the coming years, brand experiences like these will drive customer retention & acquisition. The stage has been set for the in-store experience revolution, and the brands that can best serve customers (digitally and physically) will make it known in 2019.
With this push toward immersive brand experiences in brick-and-mortar stores, brands who lack physical locations will need every advantage to ensure a fast, frictionless, and competitive online experience.
#2: Explore and Implement Deep-Personalization
As Apparel Magazine notes, “According to SAP’s Digital Readiness Survey, 75 percent of retailers believe it is important to deliver a valuable, relevant, and personalized experience specific to the consumer. Further, more than 60 percent of retailers believe it’s important to develop context-relevant, personalized recommendations based on consumer sentiment and history.” This rapidly growing trend is why today’s omnichannel push exists. Making your products available to consumers on their favorite platforms like Facebook, Amazon, Ebay and Google is simply a deeper way of aligning brand experiences with the habits of your customer. With this frame of mind, lets explore some additional methods for creating a rich, visible, and convenient brand.
Recalibrate Your Personalization Tech in the Year Ahead
1. PPC, Email, and Remarketing
Revisiting our #4 recommended resolution for the year ahead, A/B testing isn’t limited to the checkout. Review and optimize your lead-attractors, from PPC and remarketing ads to emails, popups, and SMS. Take a good, hard look at your targeting and make sure you’re using your data to its optimal effectiveness. Test out a revitalized approach to mobile advertising. Investigate your messaging effectiveness between channels. Is the message consistent? Should it be? Have your customer expectations changed? Are customers more responsive to different messaging on different channels or devices? Would you consider creating new PPC ad groups by repurposing your best email subject lines of 2018? Analyze, experiment, evaluate, and optimize.
2. Voice Search Marketing
Comscore predicts half of all online searches (or more) will be conducted via voice by 2020. Despite more than 100 million Amazon Alexas being sold to date, voice search only accounted for a measly 0.4% of online sales in 2018. However, $2.1 billion in sales is nothing to ignore. Between 2016 and 2017, voice search went from zero to 10% of all search volume. Today, more than 20% of searches have voice-based intent. Moreover, smart speakers are predicted to penetrate more than 55% of homes by 2022, a figure that doesn’t account for digital assistants already embedded in smartphones. With millennials relying more on mobile ecommerce and a growing interest in IoT, 2019 may be the year we see another jump in voice search. It’s time for retailers to get invested as adoption continues to pick up.
Video is a marketer’s best friend. Consumers are “anywhere from 64-85% more likely to buy after watching a product video,” and in 2018 the industry began using them in more creative ways. While tutorials, product videos, and UGC have historically driven sales, merchants with content-driven commerce strategies now use video to enhance, repurpose, and revitalize content. Consider creating interview-style videos where users discuss the product with a member of your team. Host a live Q&A on twitter or facebook for popular products, new releases, or products with high views and low sales. Another option is to record video introductions to new or once-popular blog posts to grab additional clicks on social media.
Think what you might about chatbots, but visit any merchant site and they likely have one (or at least a live chat). As customer patience becomes paramount, it’s important to give customers immediate help before they bounce. Moreover, make sure you’re optimizing and changing up your automated greetings at a reasonable pace. Setting up automated conversation paths is another promising benefit of chatbots, and programming responses based on keywords can save time for your sales & support teams.
Newly released data from Adobe and Internet Retailer reinforces once again that mobile sales will continue skyrocketing. As we mentioned earlier, payment options and your checkout process in general needs to be more than simply “responsive.” Mobile customers expect frictionless experiences, and as our research shows, are more likely to buy if you offer payment options like PayPal Express Checkout, Venmo, Apple Pay and even Amazon Pay. However, while we’ve seen success across the board for stores that add the PayPal option before regular checkout, every merchant’s audience will have different preferences. Be sure to make mobile wallet testing a priority, especially before Black Friday rolls around again.
6. Shopping Apps
Shopping apps allow merchants a chance to increase brand value, customer retention, and AOV. The promise of better experiences drives app downloads, which in-turn drive sales and customer loyalty. Think of apps as the most targeted remarketing channel brands can use. The ability to send a notification to a customer is one thing, but getting access to large swaths of individualized data is a whole new world. In this way, apps are the pinnacle of personalization, allowing retailers to alert users about products they might like or share reminders about past purchases they may want to replenish soon. Deals and coupons can be shared instantly, and with the average millennial spending 5.2 hours per day on their smartphone, it’s an avenue worth trying out (The average Gen-Z user spends 5.9 hours on their smartphone per day). Customers generally like apps due to their simplified functionality and UI compared to bulky company websites, and with your brand’s logo on their phone, they’ll likely interact with you more often.
Amazon, Customer Service & Social Selling
According to the Future Shopper Report, 68% of shoppers first visit Amazon.com when searching for products. 80% of shoppers compare prices on Amazon when they’re shopping somewhere else. Why? Because Amazon offers a simple and superior shopping experience. If we dissect the ecommerce monolith, the wide variety of products, wholesale prices, and incredibly fast shipping options make it the easy choice for finding just about anything. All things considered, it’s no wonder Amazon surpassed Google for most product searches last year. That said, theres a lot retailers can learn from Amazon, and several ways to fight back.
For starters, Amazon’s rich product information and advanced search abilities make finding the right product easy. All companies from B2B to B2C can make customer lives easier by following Amazon’s model in these areas. Next, Amazon’s customer support is second to none, replacing lost or damaged items immediately, without additional cost to the consumer (shipping included). In light of this, merchants should work to create better returns policies and frictionless customer service.
Another way to combat Amazon is to succeed in both product authority and social selling. As a specialized retailer, you need to prove yourself as a thought leader to rise above the competition. Whether that means having a presence at Fashion Week, getting influencer endorsements, or simply creating compelling and informative content for your blog — you need to earn authority and respect from your users. You can achieve the same effect by reflecting your extensive industry insight in product descriptions and including niche-specific attributes.
Beating Amazon’s customer support may prove tough, so social selling is another good way to fight back. Rather than focusing on reactive customer support, refocus your sales team’s time and energy on starting conversations that earn trust and influence sales. The team at 4-Tell have some great sales enablement tools, including machine learning algorithms for site search and product recommendations. Sales teams can also build custom product boards to share with customers based on shopping habits. Personalization doesn’t get more personal than that.
#1. Prepare for the Global Omnichannel Transition
Thanks to significant buy-in from major retailers, a global omnichannel transition is now underway. In 2019, more industry titans and mid-tier merchants will progress from the planning and building phase to execution. With this comes a threat to smaller retailers who harbor strong digital backbones, now having to fight on all fronts against groups with bigger budgets. What’s more, as a growing number of B2B companies undergo their own digital and DTC transitions, a realization is coming to the fore: Every business must adopt even stronger logistics capabilities. Here’s how:
Fighting “Faster” with “Frictionless”
With Amazon’s Prime Now option, customers can receive last-minute orders within 2 hours in 50 cities across the united states. However, items available on Prime Now are limited to household goods and groceries, with only a select few grocers (aside from Whole Foods) listing their products on the platform. Since most retailers are unable to compete in terms of delivery time, the industry’s best bet is to drive convenience through pervasiveness.
Use (More) Convenient, Shoppable Channels
Ebay, Newegg, Facebook Marketplace, and Etsy are just a few of the many sites where retailers can flex their omichannel muscle. In line with this thinking, retailers need to up their ad game and start creating more enticing shoppable posts on social media. It’s not enough to have a constant stream of social content. Brands need engaging content that resonates with their audience and keeps them coming back. Take a note from Young & Reckless, the Skateboarding brand that achieved a 3x return on adspend through Instagram. By combining influencer marketing campaigns with branded and shoppable posts, they were able to broaden their audience, reach more customers, and keep their products in the spotlight by aligning with trends and celebrities their audience cares about. In fact, half of the brand’s online traffic comes from social media. That’s the value of resonance.
“Companies with omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain on average 89% of their customers, compared to customer retention rate of 33% for companies with weak omnichannel customer engagement.”Invesp
Creating a simple and frictionless return experience was also a key part of Young & Reckless’ success. When customers know you have a safe and sensible return policy (usually with no cost to them), they’re more likely to buy your product. This is all part of ecommerce consumer psychology. Millennials understand the pain of buying something online that turns out to be the wrong size. Next comes the inconvenience of contacting the return center (sometimes a lengthy process), going to the post office, paying for shipping, and sending the product back. Lastly, the customer has to buy the product all over again, only this time, they’re short a few bucks and have to wait for the delivery to arrive all over again.
Having this experience just once might be enough to make customers look elsewhere for the same product, or worse, never shop on your site again. What might seem like a small inconvenience for some is unforgivable in the minds of millennials, who expect the utmost simplicity. When this expectation isn’t met, their trust in the brand is broken. Moreover, as the most cautious customer segment, they may suspect future purchases from your store could result in the same negative experience, compelling them to avoid the risk altogether.
In 2019, retailers should do their best to offer frictionless returns. Your customers will pay you back in spades. Critically review your returns process and policies. Consider using returnable, pre-paid packaging, and if you can, aim for BOPIS options. The Buy-Online, Pick-up In Store revolution is yet another movement born from evolving ecommerce psychology. It not only relieves customer contention points like faster delivery and delivery safety, but gives “bricks-and-clicks” retailers another opportunity to engage with customers in the physical world.
We designed this rather long-winded thought piece for merchants and marketers to vastly enhance customer experiences in 2019. We hope you found some valuable strategies and new ideas to use this year, or at least began to think critically about some aspects of customer satisfaction and engagement you may have overlooked. If you think anything should be added to this article, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below! If you’re looking for a team of Ecommerce veterans to help you achieve your 2019 goals, reach out today to schedule your free project consultation.
A well curated eCommerce email list can provide your online store with recurring revenue and provide you with a strong competitive advantage. Realizing that value, however, is highly dependent on how you use it, and a variety of factors that can make or break your bottom line. In 2016, the average open rate across industries was 25% of recipients. If you can reach that number or improve upon it, you’ll see incredible benefits. But how can you get there?
Email marketers employ many useful strategies, such as email verifier tools, list segmentation, performance tracking, and critical CX details Redstage covered in last week’s webinar with dotmailer (video). However, there are four specific types of eCommerce emails that can lead to high conversion rates and drive repeat customers. Implementing each of these is a low-cost investment that, when done correctly, can lead to an extremely high return.
1. Ecommerce Email Up-Selling & Cross-Selling
These types of emails are among the most lucrative in the world of eCommerce email marketing. This becomes clear when you compare the average 25% open rate to the 61.7% seen in post-purchase emails. These can be sent out in a variety of ways, but the following are two of the most common:
Follow-up with receipt: include a discount or exclusive offer with post-order receipt or other custom transactional emails, incentivizing repeat purchases and customer referrals.
Follow-up with similar items: when a customer purchases an item in a given category or collection, you can send a follow-up email promoting related items (think of Amazon’s “frequently bought together” up-sell strategy).
2. Loyalty Programming
Building a relationship with your customer is extremely important to the long-term value of that customer, and email marketing is a great way to overcome this issue. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
“We’ve Missed You”: If a customer hasn’t returned to your store in a while, send them an email that includes a promo code and an easy way to opt out of future communications.
Personalized Life Events: Many businesses collect information about customers in order to provide them with personalized service. Consider sending a birthday email, along with a discount eligible for that week or month.
Restocking: If your business sells replenishables (like air filters, motor oil, and engine belts), launching automated emails at certain intervals can help keep your brand top of mind when supplies need to be replenished. How long does it take your average customer to go through a gallon of cleaning liquid?
3. Incentives and Promotions
Letting your customers know about a sale or limited-time offer is a tried and true method for driving traffic. Whether you’re offering holiday deals, announcing a new product line, or sharing an exclusive offer, customers are much more likely to be interested if they’re getting a unique product or price. These kinds of emails become critical for B2B buyers, who are always looking for easier ways to find the best product and price. Promotional campaigns like these are often extremely successful. In fact, according to Coteries Lab, “44% of people who received targeted emails acknowledged buying at least one item because of promotional message.” Emails advertising a discounted price have a conversion rate of over 1%, and a 9.68% click-to-conversion rate.
4. Win-Back Campaigns for Abandoned Carts
Customers will often be interested in an item, add it to their cart, and then fail to complete the purchase. This lost revenue can be reclaimed simply by reaching out through abandoned cart emails. Something as simple as “Hey, you forgot!” or “Check out now for 5% off your entire order!” can help turn abandoned carts into solid sales. As you might expect, these are among the most efficient emails in terms of conversion, especially when combined with discounts.
While email marketing platforms can help you target any segment of your customer base, these are some of the most common ways marketers use email to reach out. Each option offers a great starting point for strong B2B eCommerce email marketing campaigns. These four methods can have a quick, significant effect on your overall sales. Having trouble with your email marketing? Need a recommendation on what platform is best for you? Ask the experts at Redstage!
About Our Guest Author:
Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course.
The past decade brought many changes into the world of eCommerce, and one of the most prominent is certainly the key role social media now plays. It’s where companies promote their products and interact with potential customers, raise their brand awareness, and increase conversion rates. While Facebook is still the number one social media platform, Instagram has experienced enormous growth in the past two years and continues to grow every day, transforming it into a more-than-ideal tool for eCommerce businesses to expand their reach and get their names out.
As is the case with all other sites, you first have to learn a thing or two about how it all functions and what the users’ expectations are, but once you’ve learned the ropes, you can reap great benefits. Here are some useful tips on how to boost your sales using Instagram.
If you haven’t switched to a business account yet, you should do it right now. This feature presents numerous opportunities for large and small businesses alike. Not only does the biz account give potential customers a one-click “contact us” button, it also grants access to various analytics tools that will offer valuable insights into your engagement rate, impressions and your followers. This way, you’ll be able to track what’s working and what’s not, and change your approaches accordingly. You can also easily (paid)promote any posts you like, which has shown to work rather effectively for eCommerce businesses.
Get people to your store
When it comes to promoting your products, the problem with Instagram is that you still can’t put clickable links in your photo descriptions. In the past, retailers got around this issue by adding a link to their online store in the profile description; however, in doing this, customers are directed to your homepage (rather than a specific product page) where they may need to spend considerable time to find the product they saw on your Instagram.
However, new solutions have been developed to overcome this issue. One of Instagram’s newest features gives businesses the ability to tag products within posts. When clicked, the tags lead customers directly to the product page of your site so they can shop seamlessly. This feature is already available in many countries; all you need to do is get verified as an eCommerce account by Instagram (video), and soon, expect your online shop visits to skyrocket. If for any reason you can’t take advantage of this feature, there are similar alternatives that can make your feed shoppable.
Keep the quality high
If the content you post isn’t high quality, the sum of your efforts will be in vain. Instagram is a visual-oriented platform. As a result, you must put great care into the content you post. Make sure your photos match the standard resolution (1080 x 1080) to prevent compromising photo quality.
When it comes to showcasing your products, you should mix up high-quality flat-lay images, single product close-ups and photos/videos showing your products in use – focus on providing ample variety in the content you post. At the same time, also make sure your feed is neat and appealing. It’s suggested that retailers turn to professional photographers for best results. In addition, you should never exclusively post pictures of your products – hard selling is never an effective method. Rather, you should think about using branded imagery to showcase your brand.
Moreover, the key to building an effective social media channel is consistency. If you’re not posting consistently, your followers will get bored and leave, and you’ll wonder why you’re not seeing a return. For this purpose, scheduling applications come in handy. You can prepare your posts weeks in advance and schedule them to go live whenever you like. To decide what time you should post at, take into consideration your target audience’s time zones as well as general habits. Use your analytics to determine your optimal time to post, and try a variety of hashtags to boost your post reach.
Take advantage of hashtags
While it’s always better to outsource keyword research for your eCommerce website to an SEO agency, you can easily find the most effective hashtags to use on Instagram yourself. Take advantage of websites that keep track of each day’s most popular hashtags, and use them will multiply your posts’ visibility. In addition, learn what hashtags your competitors use, as this is a cheap but effective way to fight competition.
Be aware that you can use up to 30 hashtags in a post and you can either put them in the description or the comment section. Mix up your hashtags from time to time to prevent Instagram from misidentifying your posts as spam. It’s also useful to create a specific hashtag that only your business will use, which will help users browse your products on Instagram easily.
The main goal of any Instagram endeavor is generating engagement. The more engagement you can create, the more your account will grow, leading to a bigger reach, more brand exposure, and an increase in sales. Of course, the most important thing of all is that you are present. This means that it’s not enough just to schedule your posts and check on your Instagram once a week. You should be interacting with your audience every day in order to create a friendly and approachable image that will benefit your brand. Like and reply to comments under your posts, answer questions and be professional when it comes to resolving conflicts.
You can also take your interaction to the next level with a couple of methods that many businesses employ nowadays. First of all, you can write your photo descriptions in such a way that encourages commenting (for example: asking a question or encouraging people to tag their friends). Moreover, you should also track product pictures posted by your customers.
User-generated content is insanely powerful for attracting new customers, as people viewing your product for the first time are more likely to trust their friends and family than a business they’ve never bought from (think of it as digital word-of-mouth). Don’t forget to like and re-post some UGC content from time to time, just make sure you ask the customers permission to use their likeness first. This will show your customers that you care and they will be more likely to shop from you in the future as well. When you find this content, you can quickly add it to your company’s Instagram Story, generating double the content off a single post. Think about how you can build user engagement by running photo contests and adding “Who wore it best?” to your company’s Instagram Story… there’s a lot of potential there.
To further promote your brand, one very effective method is reaching out to influencers. Some charge more than others for promotions, while others will swap shout-outs or mentions in return for your page doing the same. Another way to score placement on an influencer’s feed is by giving them some free merch to try out.
Send them some of your products and their followers will be made aware of your existence. The most important thing to pay attention to here is that you choose your influencers wisely – they have to be related to your niche so that their followers are more likely to be interested in your product.
Remember, everyone loves free stuff, not just influencers. Try to organize giveaways when you reach follower milestones like 10K, 50K, 100K followers, etc. Just make sure you comply with all the rules of hosting such events. You can also reward your followers by occasionally sharing discount codes to some of your products – this is a surefire way to convert more leads and show your top followers you care!
As you can see, the opportunities Instagram provides for eCommerce businesses are numerous. If used properly, they can give a massive boost to your sales. However, Instagram is just one of the many platforms you can use. For example, websites such as Pinterest can also give a boost to your eCommerce sales, but of course, different rules will apply there. That’s why it’s important that you get informed about the basics before you jump into it.
Guest Author Bio:
David Koller is a passionate blogger and copywriter for Media Gurus, mainly interested in SEO and Digital Marketing.
A sustainable firm needs loyalty customers – this is undeniable. Over the last century, retailers have been using reward programs as an effective tool to gain more repeat customers, and from this, build customer loyalty. However, the fourth industrial revolution is coming and the perspective on loyalty programs is consequently different. Marketers and business doers today realize the importance of AI and Big Data in determining repeat buying behavior. Hence, to take advantage of high technology in loyalty programs catches online retailers’ attention and requires a lot of intellectual and financial investment.
2018 will be the year of AI and Big Data
Customer loyalty programs should be perceived as a campaign designed to build and preserve interaction between clients and brands, not just to increase revenues. From this new standpoint, apart from investing in a powerful reward program, customer experience and satisfaction will become an increasing concern for businesses. There should be additional methods to form higher customer retention, which requires the application of technology, especially artificial intelligence (AI) and Big Data. Interestingly, 2018 may be the year which marks an outburst of AI in general and AI application in customer loyalty programs. This is represented through the figure of NewVantage Partners’ annual executive survey conducted within Fortune 1000 corporations which shows that a very large proportion, 97.2%, of these organizations are investing in AI and Big Data even though the levels of investment is being kept low. Also, according to the BPR Consulting research in 2017, nearly half of retailers would utilize AI to improve CX, and 55% would plan to focus on increasing customer loyalty within the next 3 years. In addition, according to Accenture, customers today tend to be enticed by programs or deals which are tailor-made for their personal needs, as they favor personalized rewards and specialized care. This, as far as I’m concerned, cannot be done without AI-based tools. These facts raise a big question to marketers: How to deploy AI in building customer loyalty programs in future?
What is AI?
There are quite a lot of arguments among experts about the term AI, also known as Artificial Intelligence. In 1956, John McCarthy explained AI as science and its application to making machines, especially computer programs, which are considered smart. These intelligent machines are able to perform some tasks as a human being would. To clarify, they are able to recognize speech, learn, make plans and solve problems in the way a human does. In this early stage of AI development, people both doubt and fear its potential power in the future. However, for a marketer or an e-retailer, there is no choice but to accept and prepare for its upcoming presence in every single aspect of business.
Artificial Intelligence is no longer a foreign concept to most people nowadays, especially in e-commerce. Customers are now used to receiving personalized emails, being greeted by their names and being offered customized services. According to Chiefmarketer, buyers are, in fact, totally okay with their personal information being collected and analyzed, at an appropriate and considerable level, to get better discounts, more precise recommendations and more personalized services. Such services are what shopping doers are expecting from online retailers without any awareness of what AI is. However, we marketers have to start keeping a close eye on it from now on.
What is Big Data?
The term Big data refers to data sets which are extremely large, so large that traditional methods of data processing are unable to handle them. We usually get Big data when collecting information from sources such as videos, audio, social channels, log files, websites and networks which are literally created in real time. Big data can be used to help computers analyze patterns, trends and associations which are often related to human behaviors and interaction. Big data contains information which used to be left untouchable, and by analyzing this data, we are able to make better and faster decisions.
How AI and Big Data can contribute to customer loyalty programs
Tailor-made customer experience
Buyers are becoming more difficult about what they purchase and how they are served in your online stores. Most importantly, customers’ expectations of the personalization in products and services increase as the customer-centric culture is spread among big companies like Amazon. From this, I know that the one-size-fits-all era has ended, that mass-production is no more than an old-fashioned trend and that free-size jeans are being replaced by personally-designed ones on the shelves.
Big Data powered AI systems have made a big step in analyzing and understanding customers’ needs. Now, you are able to collect necessary information and track customers’ purchasing history, shopping behaviors and preferences. Based on these ‘big data’, AI learns and makes a decision to timely offer buyers a personal touch, tailor-made products and personalized services.
Not only is this about sales or conversion rates but also customer loyalty. By deploying AI, customers really get that attention which they crave for today. They know that their problems are heard and solved personally. Also, they get extra benefits when shopping at the store. This is a major factor to retain buyers in this digital era – the era of global shopping just with a few clicks, also the era of commitment and loyalty being difficult to gain.
Even better experience
Bombfell deploys AI to help their stylists pick individually suitable outfits for their customers can be a simple example for the era of personalized services. With AI, user experience in an online store is optimized at the highest level. Customers, thanks to this, find themselves cared for and feel important.
Not only can they have products customized for individual’s needs like at Bombfell, buyers can be welcomed in the store like the way it is at bricks and mortars. Customers are greeted and called by their first names. Their voices and faces are recognized by AI and, thanks to this, all information about their purchasing history or shopping habits is remembered, like the way a shopping assistant in your favorite local store recognizes you. She knows that you love discounts, you often go shopping on weekends and are willing to pay a lot for trendy shoes. And, on a Saturday morning, she speaks to you in a friendly voice: “Hey we’ve just released a limited model of trainers and, because I know you’d love them, I’ve kept them for you with 10% off. Thank me later!”
Besides all that, AI will develop to the level that customers can comfortably communicate with online stores through chatbots. Hence, the response time will be sped up to tick-tocks. Algorithms are developed to enable machines to think like human beings and even to understand customers’ emotions in order to perform appropriate actions. Not only solving problems quickly, AI also helps to replicate a human-like communication atmosphere.
Customer satisfaction and personalized experience combined with tailor-made services are the key points in showing buyers that they are highly appreciated by the brand and consequently in laying a great foundation for building customers’ trust. This is the fundamental of cultivating customer loyalty.
Challenges for brands
Questions about safety and privacy
As mentioned above, customers are willing to share their data for a better price, customized services or more convenience. However, worries about privacy and information security are still very much real, and they form a barrier between customers and brands in building trust. Shoppers, on one hand, understand that their data is collected and love the benefits coming from it. On the other hand, they question about the level at which their personal information is exploited and how it is used. Is their data safe when AI is that powerful? Are e-retailers able to protect them from frauds and identity theft when cybercrime is increasing?
To win customers’ trust is a big challenge that e-commerce websites are facing in building customer loyalty. Personally, I will definitely leave an online store which gives me doubts about security. For example, as a travel lover, I used to make a room reservation online on a well-known hotel booking site; however, one day, I was warned that this website leaked customers’ confidential information including credit card number, CVC and expiration date. Even though there was no frauds or misuse of the data recorded, I decided not to give this brand any second chance.
So make sure you provide your customers an optimized security solution, and more importantly, make a big commitment to providing the highest level of customers’ safety and privacy. They need to feel peace of mind by knowing that their data has always been and will only be used to improve their shopping experience and to give them personalized offers.
Big data is actually not difficult to be collected, yet it is hard to be captured, organized and analyzed. Different sources of data are always ready to be deployed but remain unused due to lack of structure and technical know-how.
The biggest challenge here is how to, through AI, really understand data and to have an overview of it while too much information comes from various sources such as invoices, emails, social media and CRM. Also, how to turn big data into patterns, trends or associations which are useful for marketing activities and customer insights in real time is extremely important.
Just like other actual personal relationships, that customer loyalty is built on trust, the consistency of high-quality services to buyers and unchanged commitment form a long-lasting relationship. That e-retailers are considering applying AI in building customer loyalty shows their dedication to it in spite of many difficulties.
The development of AI and Big data, in recent years, has given online retailers both opportunities and challenges. In the next decade, digital stores will be equipped more optimized tools based on AI, and through this, they are empowered to strengthen customer relationship and enhance customer retention. This is a technology competition and I believe that the one who wins the game will also win the customer’s heart.
Guest Author’s Bio:
Summer reads and writes blogs about marketing and e-commerce. She’s especially interested in solutions which help merchants improve their customers’ shopping experience and increase customer engagement for Magento 2. “One of the best ways to enhance user experience on an online store is to provide a better Layered Navigation” says Summer.
Everyone’s asking, “What technology will have the biggest impact on marketing in 2018?” Will it be the illustrious AI, the illuminating abilities of augmented reality, or perhaps… chatbots?
With the emergence of all this new tech, marketers are left to base their budget allocation for 2018 on speculation. As a result, I am inclined to believe that without a doubt, 2018 will be somewhat of a plateau for marketing; defined by a knowledge-gap surrounding new avenues for advertising and the deteriorating value of current methods. Here’s why:
Marketing Tech in 2018
As we await the true advent of AI, AR, VR and Mixed Reality in the mainstream, contemporary digital advertising is rolling over and dying, with search, social and display ads experiencing a gradual decline in usefulness. Gen-Y and Gen-Z hate ads, and while pervasive multichannel messaging was previously a working strategy, ads are ignored now more than ever… and expansive ad campaigns are annoying customers, damaging brands.
The savior in this scenario was and still is video, which many companies lack the capability or know-how to properly leverage. Many still refuse any attempt to enter the video realm, despite annual marketing reports for the past decade marking video as the most effective channel for sales and brand engagement. Right now, the benefits of video seem to be buffering (pun intended), with numbers stagnating as users look for something new.
As a natural side-effect of the decline in channel efficiency, marketers have turned to big data as the new god to drive vertical engagement. However, many retail marketers lack the experience and/or artificial intelligence applications necessary to make sense of this wealth of data.
Getting a Grip on AI
This past year, we’ve seen the launch of some incredible remarketing software in ecommerce, like HiConversion and Rejoiner. Programs so powerful they can replace entire marketing teams that would typically manage the breadth of digital messaging (emails, ads, social, tracking, analytics, etc).
However… because these systems and the technology are so new, we’re combining the adoption curve with a learning curve. While marketers get a grip on machine learning Saas, I expect their true potential will be neither realized, nor their full impact felt in the market this year.
To make matters worse, today’s AI market focuses exclusively on predictive AI, which all-too-soon will be replaced with cognitive AI (Rajesh Sinha, Fulcrum Digital‘s CEO, predicts in the next two years). There’s a chance the change-over could immediately render predictive systems obsolete. On the other hand, retailers and brands can’t sit around waiting for cognitive AI, and those that do could see big-time losses (Hence the dilemma). Overall, what most of the martech world considers “AI” will soon be baked into every major software system available. What matters is how you use them.
Playing the Waiting Game & Winning
For now, we have to keep milking the avenues we have available. Optimize performance as much as possible with regard to channel strategy and be diligent. With the current pace of innovation, you might not get a second chance.
Now is the time for companies to start looking into how AR, AI, VR, IoT and other emerging tech can reshape business alongside other digital transformation strategies. While the long-term strategy teams focus on how they will deliver value in 2020 and beyond (when these technologies are expected to have much wider reach), it’s time to bring our websites into the new age. Maximize your site and sales funnels with every possible upgrade, build out content and bulk-up ad spend while we get over this hump. Rethink your strategy for the next four years and think seriously about how you plan to invest all the new martech. If you haven’t already made significant investments in your mobile customer experience, that’s a good place to start.
Some companies will spend a little more on ads to wait this out. Others will buy into expensive (soon-to-be outdated) platforms they’ll be stuck with long after the competition moves on. Unfortunately, the largest group will likely be those who sit on their hands and refuse to innovate. These will be the losers. Instead, find out how much budget you can pack into the time between now and 2020. Focus on your omnichannel experience and unifying your brand strategies with supportive AI products you can afford (for the short term). In addition, bulk up your ad spend, get some videos or podcasts going, and settle in for the long hibernation period ahead.
So let’s review. What technology will have the biggest impact on marketing in 2018? You, the human, which should be an empowering, albeit intimidating challenge for marketers. Lastly, remember, there’s no need to be discouraged. Plateaus are part of every high-growth process…