Friday, May 25, 2018

How to Improve the Profitability of Your Small Business Mobile App

If you have been following the latest marketing developments, you know everything is trending in a mobile direction.

Consumers are seemingly glued to their phones and tablets. In fact, 77% of adults in the United States own a smartphone. That number is up from 35% in 2011.

That’s why it’s so important for you to optimize your web design for mobile users. While this is a necessary approach, it’s not enough if you really want to enhance your mobile marketing strategy.

The way people use their phones has changed. People don’t consume information the way they did five or ten years ago.

With the rise in smartphone usage, it makes sense that there is also a growing popularity in mobile app usage.

In fact, 90% of mobile usage time is spent on applications.

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If you are one of the small business owners who recognized this trend and built a mobile app, congratulations.

Developing an app is no easy task, and it’s definitely not the least expensive investment you’ll make in your lifetime. But now that your app has launched, you might be having some concerns about your return on investment.

You expected to see massive profits right off the bat, and that’s not always the case.

Some of you may have had your small business mobile app out for a while now. At first, it was performing well, but over time sales have become stagnant or even declined.

Even if your mobile app is successful, there is always room for improvement. That’s the inspiration for this guide.

I’ll explain everything you need to know about optimizing your small business mobile app to maximize sales and increase profitability. Here’s what you need to know.

Don’t charge users to download your app

I know what you’re thinking. How can you make money with a free mobile app?

Charging an upfront fee for downloads may seem like an appealing way to get some fast cash. It could be the way you forecasted getting your initial investment back. But I advise against this strategy.

As a small business owner, you know how important it is to prioritize customer service. You also know how cost-sensitive your customers are.

The investment to download your app will turn people away. Even if you’re only charging a few bucks, it’s just not worth it to people.

Why?

Well, for starters, your customers are not used to paying for their apps. Research shows the vast majority of mobile app downloads are free.

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Is your app really that much more valuable to the user than all the other free apps on their device? I doubt it.

Removing the cost to download an app will ultimately result in more downloads. Now people won’t have a reason to hesitate when installing your app on their devices.

The more people download your mobile app to their smartphones and tablets, the greater the chances of them spending money.

Here’s another way to think of it. If you’re using this app as a platform to sell your products, what’s the cheapest item offered on your app?

Now, compare that to the cost you were considering charging for a one-time download. It’s just not worth it to collect an insignificant fee when you can cover these user acquisition costs with actual purchases instead.

Focus on app store optimization (ASO)

Since you’ve already developed a mobile app for your business, I’ll assume you’re somewhat tech-savvy.

Even if you didn’t build it yourself, you at least have your finger on the pulse when it comes to the latest technology. You probably have a website and understand the basic principles of search engine optimization (SEO).

Well, app store optimization is basically the same concept. But it’s in reference to the app store as opposed to an Internet search engine.

There are certain elements based on how you set your app up that will affect your ranking in the app store.

However, there’s a catch. These algorithms and factors will differ depending on where your app is available. The two biggest app stores are the Google Play Store for Android devices and the Apple App Store for iOS devices.

Those of you who have your app available on both platforms, which I definitely recommend, need to understand how these elements affect your ranking.

Here is a look at some of the main differences between these two app stores:

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As you can see, there are definitely some similarities between the two stores that have implications for your ASO strategy. The app title in both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store has the most significant impact on your search rankings.

The way user reviews and ratings impact your search ranking is also similar on both platforms.

However, some of the key differences here include:

  • description
  • keywords field
  • app listing links

You’ll need to make changes to your listing in each store so that it’s appropriately optimized for ASO.

If you have your app available only in one store, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity here. Alienating a large percentage of your customers is costing you money.

Once you have your app offered in both app stores and prioritize your ASO, you will see more downloads.

As I have previously stated, increased downloads will improve profitability.

Personalize the user experience

What happens when someone downloads your app?

Think about what everyone sees on your homepage and interface. Is it the same?

If the answer to that question is yes, you’re making a mistake. You should encourage app users to create a customer profile when they launch your app.

Often, people are turned off and discouraged by the time-consuming and tedious process of creating a profile. You can make it easier for your customers by integrating your app with their Facebook profile or Google accounts. This simplifies the login process.

Here’s an example from the Quora app that illustrates exatly what I’m referring to.

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This is much easier for your users than having to type in all of their information to set up a profile.

But now that they have an account with your app, every action they make can be tracked to enhance their personalized experience.

Based on things such as their search history and previous transactions, you’ll be able to recommend appropriate products and services to each customer.

You can also recommend items based on age, location, gender, etc. Tracking previous purchases makes it easy for customers to complete repeat orders.

All of these factors will help you drive sales and boost profits through your app.

Personalized offers encourage customers to spend more money. In fact, 39% of customers are willing to spend more after receiving personalized mobile promotions.

Use your app to enhance the in-store experience

I know that some small businesses operate exclusively online. So this tactic may not apply to you at the moment.

But I still encourage you to review this section in case you expand your company to physical locations in the future.

But if you have brick and mortar retail locations, your app can help complement the in-store buying process for your customers. How well have you been tracking your customers’ shopping habits?

If you watch them closely, you may have realized they are already using their smartphones while they are shopping in your store.

You might as well integrate your mobile app with your physical store to make shopping even easier for your customers. These are the top ways that customers use their phones while shopping in stores:

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Your app should be able to do all the things on this list.

Make it easy for customers to scan a barcode of an item in your store directly from your mobile app platform. Now they’ll have access to a detailed product description and be able to read user reviews.

Give them an option to save items in a list of their favorites so they can buy it later, even if they don’t want to buy it right now.

This will make it easier and more appealing for them to complete the transaction.

On the flip side, they can browse for an item on your app and save it in their favorites list before they get to your store. When they arrive, your app can tell them exactly where the product is located in the store.

Now they can check it out in person to make sure it’s exactly what they had expected before buying it. This really enhances the customer experience.

As we previously discussed, you want to personalize the customer experience.

Your mobile app can also act as a customer identification card for each user. This will be linked to their account and loyalty rewards program. We’ll discuss this concept in greater detail shortly.

Send push notifications

Your mobile website is a great asset to your small business. But one thing it can’t do is contact your customers at will.

Since you have a mobile app, you need to use push notifications to your advantage and reach out to your customers.

You just need to be cautious when it comes to the type of message you’re sending with each push notification.

We know that 48% of app users want to receive push notifications about special offers based on their preferences. This relates back to one of my earlier points about personalization.

Just don’t send push notifications too frequently. That’s because 52% of users believe that push notifications are an annoying distraction. You don’t want your company to be perceived as annoying. Sending too many notifications can cause damage beyond your brand’s tarnished reputation.

For example, 32% of app users will stop using an app altogether if they get too many notifications.

You should also consider the word count of your push notifications.

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If you have too many words, they may not fit on the screen. This will obviously have a negative impact on your open rates.

That’s why push notifications with ten or fewer words have the highest click rates.

When it comes to your push notification strategy, your best bet is to only send messages that add value to the recipient. I’d recommend discounts or promotions to get started.

Timely notifications are helpful as well. If your company is delivering something to the customer, such as food, a notification “your food has arrived” would definitely be appropriate.

Just don’t go overboard with these, or users can turn off notifications. If that happens, it won’t help you generate more profits.

Set up a loyalty program

You don’t always need to turn to new downloads and user acquisition to make more money. Instead, look at your most loyal customers as a way to increase profits.

As I mentioned earlier, your mobile app can act as a digital customer loyalty rewards card. We’ve all seen these before. Your small business may even have one of these systems already in place.

I’m talking about things such as a simple punch card. For example, if you have a sandwich shop, you may offer a free sandwich on the customer’s 10th visit.

The problem with this system is that cards get misplaced, and it’s not easy to track the purchases. But a mobile customer loyalty program is much more effective.

You can set it up based on the number of visits, but I’d recommend taking your strategy to the next level. If two customers each make ten purchases, does that mean they are equal?

Not if one spends $100 total and the other spends $1,000 total. Setting up your rewards program based on a spending threshold system rewards your top customers.

Here’s a look at how Sephora implemented this strategy based on a customer’s annual spending:

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Adding this feature to your mobile app will help increase the buying frequency and average purchase order for each user.

That’s because customers are encouraged to spend more money so that they can reach the next level. Once they get to a new threshold, their benefits will increase.

As a result, you’ll see higher profits and improve your customer retention strategy at the same time.

Encourage user referrals

As I just finished saying, you don’t always need new customers to improve your profits. That said, it certainly helps.

A great way to get new downloads is by leveraging your relationships with your current customers. Encourage them to refer their friends and family to your app.

However, this is easier said than done. Simply asking your existing users to refer others probably won’t be enough to get the job done.

Sure, your app may be great, but it’s not enough for someone to help you just out of the kindness of their heart. They’ll be expecting something in return.

Reward customers for their referrals. Give them an incentive, such as a discount off their next purchase.

You can reward the referred user as well. It may seem as if you’re giving away too much, but it’s worth it in the long run since you’ll be getting new customers.

Here’s a look at how this feature looks on the Airbnb app:

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Research shows that this referral tactic helped boost their app download rates by 300%.

It’s safe to say it’s a winning strategy. It can also create an exponential download effect.

That’s because each time a new user downloads the app, they’ll also be encouraged to invite their friends to join.

This is one of my favorite ways to get your customers to recommend your brand to others.

Optimize the checkout process

Let’s continue our discussion of customer profiles. You want to take full advantage of this feature.

Once the customer makes an initial purchase through the app, you can save all of their information to their account.

Now you have their shipping address and billing information. Unlike on a desktop or mobile site, they don’t have to enter this information each time they want to buy something.

All they have to do is click on what they want and finalize the transaction. The entire checkout process can be completed in a couple of clicks.

That’s why mobile apps have higher conversion rates than mobile websites:

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Do everything possible to make your app’s checkout as smooth as possible.

Fewer steps and less friction to complete a purchase will help drive sales. Plus, your app makes it easy to accept alternative payment options, such as Apple Pay.

Constantly monitor the performance

Nobody’s app is perfect.

Sure, you spent the time to make sure it was good enough before you released it, but there is always room for improvement.

Prioritize speed. Avoid glitches. Fix crashes and errors as soon as possible. It will help improve the user experience.

Research found 48% of app users are less likely to use an app if they have a poor experience. And 31% of people say they are less likely to buy something from a company based on a poor app experience. You can’t afford to overlook that.

Read through your user reviews to see the feedback and what needs to be changed.

Use beta testers to help you get valuable insights before releasing new versions and updates.

Conclusion

If your small business has a mobile app, you are already on the right path to success. But if your app isn’t generating high profits, it can feel as if there is a hole burning in your pocket.

One of the best ways to improve your app’s profitability is by finding ways to get more downloads. Ultimately, downloads will translate to dollars.

Make sure you offer your app as a free download. Focus on app store optimization to improve your search rankings in both stores. Encourage users to invite their friends through a referral program.

Personalize the user experience. Use your app to improve the way they shop in your physical stores. Set up a mobile loyalty program, and send promotions through push notifications.

Simplify your checkout process so it’s easy for app users to make a purchase.

If you follow these tips, your small business mobile app will turn into a money-making machine.

How are you using your small business mobile app to drive sales and increase profits?



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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

How to Enhance Your Content by Building Infographics with These 12 Tools

Those of you who have been reading my blogs for a while know I’m a huge advocate of using visual elements to enhance my blog posts.

In addition to being visually appealing, images can actually improve the performance of your articles. That’s because blogs with pictures receive 94% more views than posts without them.

According to a recent study from the Content Marketing Institute, 73% of marketers say their top priority is to create more engaging content.

And 55% of these content creators are prioritizing visual content.

If you haven’t been using images to enhance your content, you should consider starting with some infographics. Even if you have included pictures in some of your old content, you can take this strategy to the next level by building custom infographics.

That’s because infographics are a combination of text and images. Research shows people follow directions 323% better if the directions include both text and illustrations.

On social media platforms, infographics get liked and shared at three times the rate of all other content.

Once you start building infographics, you will drive more traffic to your website. That’s because other people will use your custom images to enhance their own content.

As a result, you will consistently build backlinks, which will improve your SEO.

Now that you understand why you need to create infographics, it’s time for me to show you how. There are tons of tools available, but not all of them are created equal.

I’ve narrowed down the top 12 tools for building infographics.

1. Easel.ly

If you want to create an infographic fast and efficiently, Easel.ly is a great place to start.

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Above is a sampling of some of their top infographic templates. All you need to do is select the template you want and plug in your information.

They’ve got a template for everything. Some are designed to fit more text on the page, while others prioritize numbers from any research you may have conducted.

It’s free to use Easel.ly, but if you want premium templates, you can access over 500 of them for a fee. I recommend starting off with the free ones to see whether you’re happy with the platform before upgrading your membership.

Another cool feature of this platform is that they have community infographics built by others. You can plug your information into those as well.

The Easel.ly website features an easy to follow guide on how to create content on their platform. They also offer a live customer service chat option in case you have questions or run into any problems with the platform.

2. Pitkochart

Pitkochart is another top option for beginners. The platform makes it easy to create custom infographics without any design experience.

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In addition to infographics, they have other design templates as well. You can build things such as:

  • flyers
  • posters
  • presentations
  • reports

Some of my favorite types of infographics on Pitkochart are the graphs. It’s a great way for you to display your numbers in a custom chart.

Pitkochart also has a map feature. You can customize the color options on these maps to show how different states, regions, or countries have varying results for your discussion.

Speaking of color options, Pitkochart has many. You can select colors for each portion of your infographic, or you can choose preset color schemes.

It’s an important feature because different color schemes can impact sales on your website.

They have a library of more than 1,000 icons. You can use these without having to pay licensing fees or give an attribution to the creator.

This definitely makes things less complicated, which allows you to spend your time and effort on building the infographics.

Once you build your infographic on Pitkochart, they help you name your image so that it’s optimized for SEO. Then, you can share it directly from the platform.

They have sharing options for email, ebooks, and social media. You can get an embedd link for your website, share it with your team, or download a high-resolution version of your infographic.

3. Venngage

Are you a student? If so, Venngage will let you use their software free. But everyone else will have to pay for the platform.

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Their monthly rate is $19 for individuals and $49 for businesses. It may seem pricey, but the business membership comes with premium features such as:

  • custom templates
  • unlimited infographics
  • 100 image uploads
  • branding help
  • charts
  • icons
  • team collaboration
  • high-resolution downloads

If you know you want to take advantage of these features for the entire year, you can pay upfront annually and receive a 20% discount off your membership.

Venngage is great because their infographic templates are seemingly endless. With so many options, it’s less likely you’ll have similar to other infographics templates already published on the Internet.

This can make your brand stand out from the crowd.

They also group their infographics based on several categories. You can build the right image for whatever you’re trying to illustrate. Some of the top categories include:

  • statistical
  • lists
  • timelines
  • geographic
  • real estate
  • nonprofit
  • human resources

They even have “fun data” templates to help you display your unique research in a way that’s easy to comprehend.

4. Visme.co

A list of visual design tools wouldn’t be complete without Visme.co. The platform specializes in all kinds of visual content, including infographics.

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If you need to make an infographic that compares multiple variables, Visme.co has more than 20 charts and tables to choose from.

There are a couple of different ways you can input data into these visuals. Your first option is to type the numbers in manually. But if you have lots of information, you may prefer to import your data.

Another cool feature of these charts is the ability to connect with live data.

All of the templates have customizable fonts. You can change the color, size, and style of your text. Don’t see a font you like? No problem. Visme.co lets you upload your own fonts as well.

This software can help you take your infographics to the next level by making them more engaging. You can add video and audio files.

They also give you the option to embed polls, surveys, and maps. You can even add motion features, like popups, to your infographic.

Once your infographic is published, you can track how well it’s performing. The analytics tools tell you how many people saw your infographic, what type of device they used, their location, and level of engagement.

5. Infogram

Infogram is another one of my favorites. The platform allows you to fully customize every element of each infographic you create.

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In addition to infographics, you can also use this software to create:

  • reports
  • charts
  • maps
  • dashboards

Infogram also helps you build images specially designed for your social media channels.

Their platform has more than one million icons and images, all royalty-free.

What I like most about Infogram is their editing tool. You can drag, drop, and move every element on the screen to fully customize your design.

If you have data that needs to be imported, it’s easy for you to upload spreadsheets from Excel, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. You can even use a cloud service or their API to set up live data integration.

They have interactive charts and maps at your disposal as well.

Ultimately, if you need a one-stop shop for all your infographic needs, you can’t go wrong with Infogram.

6. Canva

Even if you don’t plan on making a ton of infographics, Canva has plenty of other design tools for you to take advantage of. Those of you who are a little bit more advanced will enjoy the graphic design features offered on this platform.

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One of my favorite elements of the Canva platform is the versatility it offers. You can use it on the Internet as well as your iPhone or iPad.

They specialize in photo editor, color palette, and font combinations. But their infographic building tools are just as good, if not better. You don’t need to have a design background to figure it out.

Unlike some of the other Canva tools, the infographic builder is free to use. All you have to do is create a Canva account before you get to work.

Their library has more than one million photos, illustrations, and graphics for you to choose from. If you’re not happy with their selection, you can also upload your own images.

Once your image is uploaded, you can select a font from over 130 options. They make it easy for you to change the background and color scheme too.

After you’re satisfied with your custom layout, you can save these unique templates to your account. This makes it easy for you to repurpose the same layouts for your future infographics. It’s one of my favorite time-saving marketing tools.

If you’re not satisfied with all the elements in the free Canva library, they have premium elements available for purchase.

But unlike some of the more expensive infographic tools we’ve seen, the Canva premium purchases cost only $1 at most. It’s an extremely cost-effective way to enhance your infographics.

7. iCharts

If you want something a little bit different from the tools on our list so far, iCharts definitely fits the description.

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This platform is cloud-based. It’s a visual analytics tool allowing you to organize complicated business information.

You can use iCharts to simplify data from extensive research studies. Since it’s a cloud-based platform, you can access it from wherever you are. Nothing needs to be installed on a device.

They have a feature letting you implement real-time data integration.

This option isn’t a typical infographic builder. But you can still export the charts and graphs to enhance your content with custom images.

8. Skitch

Similar to our last tool, Skitch doesn’t necessarily build custom infographics either. But I use Skitch every day to help enhance my visual content.

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Some of you may not be interested in building all your infographics from scratch. That’s OK.

If you’ve got a Mac, you can use Skitch to help you customize infographics from other sources. Here’s how you do it.

Once you download Skitch on your Apple device, which is free by the way, you can use it to take screenshots of infographics. Then you can markup specific sections with arrows, boxes, and text to make it your own.

Regular readers of my blog posts might recognize the pink arrows and annotations from Skitch. That’s what I use to mark up the images on my blog.

If you use this tool to help you build infographics, make sure you give proper credit to your image sources.

9. Creately

Creately is a platform specializing in creating unique diagrams for your business.

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Although they aren’t exactly the same, diagrams and infographics are very similar, which is why I thought it was worth adding this tool to my list.

I recommend Creately for businesses that have multiple designers producing content at the same time.

With this software, you can collaborate with up to 20 team members on the same project with real-time updates, edits, and changes to your design.

They have over 1,000 diagrams for you to choose from. Even if you don’t want to publish your diagrams, you can use the tool for in-house projects such as building a customer journey map.

10. Google Charts

When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to use tools you’re familiar with. As a business owner, you’ve likely used Google Analytics to help you with your marketing solutions.

Well, Google Charts is another great option offered with your Google account.

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Once you determine which types of data sets you want to include, you can customize your design fully. You get to select which type of chart you want to use from Google’s extensive gallery.

It’s easy to add these infographics to your website, email messages, and social media channels.

Their dynamic data feature allows you to connect your data source so the charts updated with real-time information.

Google really stands apart from the crowd when it comes to customer service. There are thorough guides to help you with the tool. Every section has step-by-step, easy-to-follow instructions.

11. Gliffy

If you’re looking for another tool for creating custom diagrams, Gliffy is a great choice to consider.

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The software is extremely easy to use. You won’t need any type of design skills to build your infographics.

Everything is done with an HTML5 editor, so you don’t need to download anything to your devices in order to use this tool.

If you want to get your project done as fast as possible without building your own template, it’s no problem. Gliffy has ready-made templates. All you need to do is plug in your information.

Share your infographic with an embed link, or upload it directly to your social media profiles.

You can also use Gliffy to collaborate with your team members. Grant access to people whom you trust making edits to your design.

12. Wordle

Not every infographic needs to be a complicated set of data.

Sometimes, it’s effective to have only one statistic or sentence displayed to stand out from the rest of your content. If that’s the case, Wordle is one of your best options.

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This platform is made for creating word clouds. You can use customized fonts and templates to create these unique images.

You can even use Wordle to reinforce a point you made within the text of one of your blog posts.

Conclusion

Images and visual elements are more powerful than words alone.

That’s why you need to be using infographics to enhance your content. But if you don’t want to search for infographics online, the tools I’ve outlined above allow you to create your own.

Don’t get me wrong: there are dozens of other infographic building tools available on the Internet. But from my experience, these ones are the best places for you to get started.

There’s something on this list for everyone—it just depends on what you’re looking for.

Some of these tools are free, while others charge a fee. Certain tools are better for charts and datasets, while others specialize in custom images and animations.

Refer to this guide for all your infographic creation needs.

What tools does your company use to enhance your visual content strategy with infographics?



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Monday, May 21, 2018

The Top 10 Social Media Trends of 2018

Social media is constantly evolving.

It’s no longer just a place for your family and friends to share old and embarrassing photos of you every Thursday.

As a marketer, you need to learn how to properly leverage these platforms to your advantage. Being active on social media is huge, and it’s absolutely necessary for your survival.

But that alone won’t automatically make you successful. You also need to stay up to date with the latest marketing trends and apply them to your business.

Today, marketing and social media go hand in hand. As we near the midway point of 2018, I’ve taken the time to identify the top social trends of the year to date.

I analyzed data from previous years and determined what trends saw a steady incline. Plus, even though the year isn’t over yet, I was able to see which new developments were the most prominent in these early months.

I predict that these trends will continue in the coming year. It’s important for you and your brand to stay on top of things right now.

1. Live video continues to thrive

Live video content made big waves in 2017. In one of my previous blog posts, I explained that you should jump on the live video bandwagon.

It should come as no surprise that this continues to be a popular trend in 2018.

In fact, live video content has become so popular that roughly 95% of brand executives say it will be a crucial part of their 2018 marketing strategy, according to a recent study.

Why?

Consumers love it. Research shows that 80% of audiences prefer watching live video from brands as opposed to reading a blog. And 82% of consumers say they would rather watch live videos than read social media posts.

As a result, the most popular social media channels have implemented live streaming options. Brand marketers are taking advantage of this.

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When it comes to live streaming, Facebook leads the way, according to the 2018 state of social media report from Buffer.

In 2017, only 31% of businesses broadcasted live videos to promote their brands. I expect to see a much higher percentage by the end of this year.

Marketers aren’t the only ones taking advantage of live streams. Regular people share live videos to interact with their friends and family on social media.

The increasing popularity of live video means your company needs to get on board with this trend right now. Businesses need to recognize how this trend can help increase engagement with social media followers.

Start going live on all your distribution channels. Respond to user comments in real time.

This will help you maximize your reach and generate new leads for your company.

2. Chatbots are taking over

Internet chatbots have been around for a long time. They go all the way back to the days of AOL instant messenger.

But like everything else, they are evolving. Now chatbots are being integrated with social media platforms.

Businesses are using chatbots to communicate with their customers on social media. This trend is growing at a rapid rate.

In the first year of the new Facebook Messenger platform, we saw the number of chatbots jump from 33,000 to more than 100,000.

The possibilities here are seemingly endless. Take a look at how Pizza Hut uses chatbots to make it easy for customers to order food through social media:

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These bots recognize words phrases sent by users. Their automatic responses are based on how they are programmed.

As you can see from this Pizza Hut example, these bots can be used directly to drive more sales and increase revenue streams.

I believe we are going to see more businesses take advantage of these tools by the end of 2018. In fact, a recent survey suggests that roughly 80% of marketing executives have used or plan to use chatbots by 2020.

It’s a winning solution that’s a cost-effective alternative to paying real customer support representatives.

It’s estimated that chatbots are going to save businesses in the healthcare and banking industries a whopping $8 billion per year by the year 2022. That’s compared to $20 million in 2017.

Sure, nothing can replace the personal touch of a human response. Well, at least not yet. But these chatbots out there right now are certainly on the right track.

3. Influencer marketing is evolving

Influencer marketing isn’t a new concept either. But the way that it’s being used on social media channels is definitely changing in 2018.

More specifically, companies are starting to partner with micro influencers to increase their credibility.

What exactly is a micro influencer? They are people on social media channels who have a strong following but don’t have a celebrity status.

While there is no exact threshold, micro influencers typically have anywhere between 1,000 and 90,000 followers. Once we start to reach the hundreds of thousands of followers line, we are entering macro influencer territory. And anything higher than a macro influencer is considered to be a celebrity.

These are some of the top reasons why brands are partnering with these types of influencers:

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Research shows that micro influencers have 60% higher engagement rates than traditional celebrity influencers. You can also expect to see 22.2% increase in average weekly conversions from this marketing tactic.

Another reason why brands are so drawn to micro influencers is because they are cost-effective compared to other advertising expenses.

This is still a relatively new trend, so brands and influencers alike are unsure of how to come up with a standardized pay scale. As of now, it’s anything goes.

I’ve seen some businesses that don’t even pay their influencers. They just send them free stuff for social media posts.

But as we continue moving forward in 2018, I’m expecting micro influencers to be more business savvy and demand pay for their efforts.

They know their followers trust their opinions. So don’t be hesitant to spend money on influencer marketing as the year continues.

4. Brands are taking advantage of paid advertisements

It’s 2018, so businesses know they need to have an active presence on social media. They have profiles on multiple platforms and update them on a daily basis.

While this is definitely necessary for survival, it’s not quite enough.

Companies that want to take their social media strategies to the next level also pay for advertisements.

Facebook alone has more than six million advertisers on its platform. In September 2017, Instagram hit two million monthly paid advertisers.

That’s because it’s become very easy to set up ads to target a specific demographic. It’s hard for businesses to turn down this type of precision in targeting.

Just look at how simple these options are for marketers who want to advertise on Facebook:

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In addition to being able to reach such a precise audience, Facebook also makes it easy for you to set your budget. You can set it up on a daily or weekly basis. It’s also possible for brands to manage their budgets based on the lifetime of each ad.

There are also many different options for the type of ad you want to run.

It’s easy to experiment to find out what works best for your company based on the demographic you’re targeting.

Research shows that by the year 2020, social media advertisements will surpass newspaper ad spending.

I anticipate that more companies will allocate a larger portion of their marketing budgets to paid social media ads in 2018.

5. Social listening

Social platforms are listening to your conversations. Whether you want to believe this or not, it’s the truth.

I know you’ve seen it before. You’re talking about something with your friends and then you see an advertisement for it on social media.

Creepy? Yes. But that’s the reality of the world we live in right now.

Marketing solutions like Sprout Social offer social listening tools to help brands analyze various audiences.

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There are many ways in which businesses can take advantage of social listening.

It gives you the opportunity to see what consumers say about your company. But you can also use this tool to monitor relevant keywords or hashtags used on social media.

You can use this data to adjust your marketing strategy accordingly and make sure you’re targeting the right audience.

6. Brands are leveraging user-generated content

User-generated content is basically like free advertising. It’s one of the best ways to grow your business by doing less work.

Get customers to talk about your company.

Encourage them to use hashtags and post about your brand on social platforms. One of the simplest ways to accomplish this is by posting user content to your company’s profile.

If people see you are willing to feature user photos, more people will post about you in an effort to be selected.

Look at how Thule employs this strategy on its Instagram page:

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As you can see from the comments section, the user who shared this photo even thanked Thule for posting their content.

Now more followers will be encouraged to do this as well. It will broaden the reach of their products to a wider audience.

When a customer posts about your company on their personal profile, it exposes your brand to all of their followers. Some of these people might not even know your brand exists.

Plus, people trust recommendations from their friends and family.

That’s why leveraging user-generated content is a top lead generation strategy. Social media platforms are the perfect distribution channel for this type of content.

7. Augmented reality

Augmented reality takes something that’s real and alters it using technology.

One of the best examples of augmented reality successfully applied to the consumer market was with the Pokemon Go gaming app.

The app accessed the user’s camera and added fictional elements to the screen.

But now, social media channels are implementing augmented reality on their platforms as well. I’m sure you’re familiar with Snapchat’s face filters.

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Facebook jumped on this bandwagon as well with their camera effects platform.

They are taking augmented reality to a whole new level with these features. They even built an augmented reality studio for developers to design unique animations.

These filters respond to motion and interactions in real-time, even during live streams.

Here’s an example of what this looks like during a Facebook Live broadcast:

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Since Facebook also runs Instagram, it’s safe to say these types of options will be available on that platform as well during 2018.

I’m expecting to see big changes in social media augmented reality in the near future that will be much more impressive than just a dogface filter.

8. Ephemeral content

If you haven’t heard of ephemeral content before, it doesn’t mean you’re not familiar with it.

The definition of ephemeral content is something that is short-lived, lasting for up to 24 hours before  disappearing forever.

Of course, I’m referring to things like Snapchat and Instagram stories. After Snapchat came up with this concept, Instagram quickly recognized its popularity and implemented it on its platform as well.

The reason why short-lived content is so popular is because people feel as though it is more authentic compared to a traditional sponsored advertisement.

Users love it and add such content to their personal profiles on a daily basis. But brands need to take advantage of this as well.

It’s a great alternative to live video streaming, but it has similar effects.

It’s an opportunity for you to post several times throughout a day without spamming your followers’ timelines.

For example, you may not want to post five pictures and videos per day on Instagram. Users who follow you may perceive this to be an annoyance.

In fact, posting too frequently on social media can cause people to unfollow your profile.

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But adding new content to your story isn’t as annoying because it doesn’t take up space on everyone’s timeline the same way a picture or video would.

Plus, these types of stories create the fear of missing out.

If your business starts to regularly share ephemeral content, users will make sure to check back frequently to make sure they aren’t missing out on anything.

I’d recommend using this strategy to run flash sales or other promotions to drive sales. We’re going to see more businesses as well as regular  people  add more short-lived content to their social media profiles.

9. Referral traffic and organic reach are declining

Social platforms are changing their algorithms. This is impacting what users see on their timelines.

As a result, homepages and timelines aren’t flooded with as many posts and ads from brands. Instead, posts from family and friends are being prioritized.

In previous years, these algorithm changes have caused organic reach on Facebook to drop more than 50%.

So you can’t rely on all your social media posts to drive traffic and clicks to your website.

That’s why brands need to come up with alternative social media marketing methods such as paid ads and micro influencers to increase referral traffic.

10. Small businesses are increasing their social presence

Nobody can afford to ignore social media anymore. It’s become a regular part of our everyday lives.

Ten years ago, small business owners may have thought it was unnecessary to build a presence on social media, but now they are all realizing how important it is for staying competitive.

In fact, 52% of small business owners post to social media on a daily basis.

While Facebook is still the most popular option, other social channels are seeing an increase in the number of small business users.

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With so many platforms to manage, business owners are being forced to change the way they operate.

They are hiring social media marketing managers and using time-saving tools to help manage and schedule their posts with automation.

Businesses without active social media profiles will struggle to survive in 2018.

Conclusion

Developments in social media are constantly changing.

As a marketer, you’ve got to stay up to date with the latest trends to keep your finger on the pulse and effectively reach your target audience.

Based on the research I found, I was able to narrow down the top ten social media trends to keep your eye on in 2018.

Use this list as a reference and guide for positioning your marketing strategy.

I’ll even throw in a bonus one for you. Although this isn’t necessarily a trend, it’s more of a prediction.

I think Twitter is going to make some big changes in 2018. Unlike the rest of my list, it’s more of a gut feeling as opposed to a fact-driven statement, which is why I left it out.

Use this information to your advantage moving forward in the second half of this year.

What social media trends will your company focus on to generate leads and drive conversions in 2018?



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Friday, May 18, 2018

The Top 21 Best Practices for Running a Successful Ecommerce Website

If your business sells tangible products, you need to have a strong online presence.

But with so much competition in the ecommerce space, it can be tough for you to establish your ground. Not only are you competing with local and regional brands, but you also have to deal with international giants such as Amazon and Walmart.

That’s why it’s important for you to focus on every detail of your ecommerce website.

Learn how to design a homepage that converts.

This guide is useful to everyone. Whether you are a brick and mortar retailer expanding into online business, a company that operates strictly through the Internet, or something in between, you’ll benefit from these tips.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re building a new website or making changes to your existing one.

Following these 21 best practices will help you increase conversions for your ecommerce store. You’ll also be able to generate more leads and add additional sales revenue to your bottom line.

1. Avoid clutter

Ecommerce websites with simple designs have higher conversion rates. Take a look at your homepage right now.

What’s the first thing a visitor sees?

There should be a clear point of focus. The visitor’s eyes should be drawn straight to a CTA button or products you sell.

But too much clutter makes it difficult to identify your CTA.

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As you can see, 53% of websites have CTAs that take visitors more than three seconds to locate. You should be aiming for a time much quicker than that.

What actions do you want consumers to take when they visit your website? Obviously, you want them to make a purchase.

Make this as easy as possible for them. Don’t distract people with clutter. It’s overwhelming and confusing.

2. Simplify your menus

Menus are a great way to stay organized and group what you’re selling. But as just mentioned, you don’t want to overcomplicate things.

Too many menu categories will confuse the consumer, preventing them from finding what they’re looking for.

Your menu shouldn’t be super specific. Instead, use broad terms to categorize your products.

For example, let’s say your ecommerce brand sells clothing with items such as:

  • t-shirts
  • long sleeve shirts
  • sweaters
  • tank tops
  • vests

Rather than having five different menu options for each of these choices, you can group them into one category: “tops.”

3. Add a search bar

Let’s continue talking about simplicity.

Now that you’ve removed some clutter and simplified your menu options, you’ll still need to make additional changes. Since visitors will have fewer menu selections, they’ll see more products when they click on each category.

I know some of you may not have a ton of products for sale, but other ecommerce sites could have hundreds or potentially thousands of options to choose from.

Forcing users to scroll through these choices randomly won’t drive sales and conversions. That’s why implementing a search bar is the best solution.

Check out this example from the Nike website:

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The company sells thousands of sneakers on its website. A search bar makes it easy for its customers to find what they’re looking for.

Take a look at what the search for “running sneakers” yielded in the example above. As you can see, there are 155 products that fit this description. That’s still an overwhelming number of items to scroll through.

But Nike has additional filters and search results on the left column of its search feature.

This helps customers narrow the options based on parameters such as gender or sport.

If you use this strategy, make sure all your products are clearly tagged with the appropriate labels. Then the search results will be accurately displayed for each shopper’s query.

4. Buy a premium web hosting service

Speed is one of the most important elements of a successful ecommerce website. Each page needs to load fast to yield high conversions.

But if you buy a budget web hosting plan, it’ll cost you in the long run.

Research shows a one second delay in page loading time can lead to a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction and a 7% loss in conversions. If your site has a two or three second delay, you’re in big trouble.

Even worse than a slow loading time is site crashes, glitches, or error reports.

That’s why you’re better off spending the money on a premium web hosting plan now as opposed to dealing with these headaches later. Trust me, it’s worth the investment.

5. Eliminate steps in your checkout process

Once a website visitor decides to buy something, they should find it easy to complete the purchase. It’s your job to make it so.

Each additional step in the checkout process will increase the chances of them abandoning the transaction. In fact, 28% of consumers said they abandoned a shopping cart during checkout because the process was too long and complicated.

The key here is to get only essential information from the buyer.

There’s no reason to ask for their mother’s maiden name, the first concert they attended, or their favorite vacation spot.

Get their billing information and shipping address. That’s all you need to process a transaction.

6. Don’t force shoppers to create a profile (but encourage it)

As I just said, you want your buyers to go through the checkout process as quickly as possible.

That’s why you need to offer a guest checkout option instead of forcing visitors to create a profile. That said, you can still encourage them to create a profile.

Check out this example from Lululemon to see what I’m talking about:

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Once items are added to a shopping cart, users can finalize their transaction through the guest checkout option.

But that doesn’t mean Lululemon is done trying to encourage people to create a profile.

When the order is being reviewed, guests can see an express checkout button, but they can’t use it.

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This option is reserved for customers who set up profiles.

They can go through the checkout process even faster since all their information is saved in their accounts. Subtle features like this encourage profile sign ups without being annoying or putting too much pressure on the customer.

7. Send shopping cart abandonment emails

Once a user sets up their profile, you can tell when they add something to their shopping cart without buying it. Don’t ignore this.

You’re missing out on money.

Often times, they were just a click or two away from completing the transaction. Clearly, they were interested in the product enough to add it to their cart.

Sending an email reminding the shopper about the item can be just enough to finalize the sale.

8. Prioritize SEO

Not everyone who wants what you’re selling will navigate straight to your website.

In fact, research shows that 46% of consumers start the buying process through a search engine, such as Google.

If your ecommerce site isn’t one of the top results, they’ll buy from one of your competitors instead. That’s why it’s so important for you to focus your efforts on search engine optimization.

Do everything in your power to reach the top of Google rankings based on searches related to whatever your brand is selling.

9. Write blog posts on a regular basis

How often will the same person visit your ecommerce website?

Chances are, they’re not buying something every day. They probably won’t buy something even once a week. Only your top customers might shop once per month.

If people aren’t on your website, they obviously can’t spend any money.

But running a blog in addition to your ecommerce site is a great way to build a strong following. Now people have a reason to check out your site on a daily or weekly basis.

Once they’re on the site, they’ll be more likely to buy something.

10. Build an email subscriber list

To have a successful ecommerce site, you need to have lots of visitors ready to buy. But how are you planning on driving traffic to your site?

Building an ecommerce email list is one of your best options. Once you have a subscriber’s email address, you can contact them with special offers and promotions to entice sales.

A great way to add subscribers is to collect email addresses during the checkout process. Here’s an example of this from SAXX:

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By default, this box is already checked off. Shoppers will have to deselect this option if they don’t want to be added to the subscriber list.

Once people are added to your list, it’s the perfect opportunity for you to send them personalized offers to drive traffic to your website and increase sales.

You can even offer an incentive for shoppers to sign up for emails, such as a discount off their next purchase.

11. Accept as many payment options as possible

You can’t assume everyone has a Visa or MasterCard.

Even if they do, that doesn’t mean it’s their preferred payment option. One of those cards may be maxed out, or they could have better membership benefits on another card.

Even if other credit card companies charge higher merchant transaction fees, you still need to take other cards like Discover and American Express.

Your ecommerce site also needs to accept alternative payment options such as PayPal and Apple Pay.

12. Write informative product descriptions

You can’t sell something with just a name. Each product on your website needs to have an informative description.

But make sure you avoid large blocks of text. Keep these descriptions short and to the point.

Explain how the product works by highlighting the key benefits. You don’t need to explain the entire history of the product or how it was made. That won’t drive sales.

You can even use bullet points to make it easy for consumers to scan through the text and read the description.

13. Get rid of ads

Some of you may be using your ecommerce site as a platform to sell advertisement space to other brands. Don’t do it. You’re making a big mistake if you do.

Sure, you may get some additional income. But it’s not worth turning away your own customers.

Sidebar ads and popups can look like spam. A visitor may be afraid to click through your site for the fear that they’ll be redirected somewhere else that’s untrustworthy.

Take a look at how consumers throughout the world feel about advertisements on websites:

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As you can see, 82% of consumers in the United States say that online ads are disruptive to their shopping experience.

Remove any ads you have, and leave it as blank space. This will help you eliminate the clutter in your design—the point I discussed earlier.

14. Provide easily accessible customer service

Not all of the transactions on your ecommerce site will go smoothly.

Customers will have questions and problems. This is inevitable.

When people are experiencing an issue, such as finding a product or troubleshooting an item they have previously purchased, you want to make sure they can get help as soon as possible.

That’s why you need to have readily available customer service support through various options such as:

  • phone
  • email
  • live chat

Now customers can contact your brand based on their preferred method of communication. In addition to your customer service being easily accessible, it also needs to be friendly.

Don’t keep customers on hold. Make sure your staff are trained to resolve issues quickly and efficiently.

15. Run tests and analyze the results

How do you know if your ecommerce site is set up for the highest possible conversions?

You don’t.

But if you run A/B tests on a regular basis, you’ll have a much better understanding.

Now you can adjust the CTA placement, its phrasing, or button color. Determine which landing pages are driving the most sales.

Based on the results of your tests, you can make the necessary adjustments, increasing the chances of your success.

16. Go mobile

Your ecommerce site needs to be optimized for mobile devices.

That’s because in the last six months, 62% of people who owned a smartphone used their devices to complete online purchases.

You can’t afford to exclude mobile shoppers. If you want to take your mobile strategy to the next level, you may even want to consider building an app for your ecommerce business.

This is the ultimate way to personalize the consumer shopping experience. Plus, you can save user information on file, such as their payment options and shipping address.

Now they can check out and complete each purchase in just a few clicks as opposed to having to enter their credit card for every transaction.

17. Offer free shipping

It’s simple: don’t charge your customers for shipping.

That’s because unexpected costs are the top reason for shopping cart abandonment.

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Put yourself in the shoes of a consumer.

They see a price listed on one page of your website, but at checkout, they see additional charges. Sure, they can expect to pay taxes, but shipping too?

These added costs are driving people away. Increase the prices of your products to cover any shipping costs incurred by you as opposed to charging for shipping separately.

18. Partner with brand influencers

Establishing credibility is one of the best ways to drive sales and have a successful ecommerce website.

Having a celebrity or someone with a strong social following endorse your site will make you seem more legitimate. This marketing tactic won’t be free, but it can definitely yield a high ROI.

Just make sure you’re working with someone related to your industry.

If you’re selling skateboards and related products, having an influencer who has never skateboarded won’t have much of an impact on your sales.

19. Display high quality product images

Having an ecommerce shop means customers don’t get to touch and feel the products the same way they can in a physical store.

They rely on pictures to give them a sense of what they’re buying.

That’s why you need to take multiple pictures from every angle of each product you’re selling. I know this may seem tedious, but it’s necessary.

Zoom in and highlight all the top features and benefits.

20. Give video demonstrations

Sometimes, images aren’t enough.

If you’re selling something requiring a demonstration, add a video.

According to Forbes, 90% of consumers say videos help them make a decision about purchasing a product.

That must be why Thule implemented this strategy on its website:

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In addition to its high quality photos and product descriptions, the site also has video demonstrations for the majority of items they sell.

This added information makes it easy for prospective customers to learn how each product works.

21. Feature customer reviews and testimonials

Testimonials and reviews are another way to add credibility to your products and brand.

It’s important that you include these on your ecommerce site.

After a customer buys something, send them a follow-up email asking them to review the item they bought. Just make sure you give them enough time to use it before you ask for their feedback.

I realize this can be scary for some of you. Not everyone will be happy with your products, and the idea of negative comments being publically displayed can be frightening to some brands.

But that’s OK. Don’t let a few bad reviews discourage you. Look on the bright side of it.

This will show shoppers the reviews and testimonials on your site are legitimate and trustworthy. A couple of negative remarks can make your positive reviews appear that much more powerful.

Conclusion

Running a successful ecommerce website is not an easy task.

Fortunately, you can do many things to improve your chances of driving sales and keeping your customers coming back for more.

Don’t let this list of best practices intimidate you. I don’t expect you to implement all 21 of these overnight.

That said, you should start to identify changes that need to be made and prioritize the ones you think are the most important.

What elements of your ecommerce website need to be adjusted to improve your conversions rates and drive more sales?



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