Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Website Usability–Three Main Rules for Your Website Search Box

Basic website usability - If you want to convert more visitors into customers on your website and achieve a higher over all conversion rate you need to pay attention to your Website Search Box;  where it is, how obvious it is, and the results it produces – in other words, does it find what your visitors are looking for?

It’s astounding how many e-commerce sites, from small to large (and I mean very large) do not pay enough attention to the importance of their website search box and the results it produces – I’m sure that you, like me, will have left a site in a hurry in frustration at the time it takes to find something, when it should have been immediately obvious.

Your website may have been found by natural search, or re-visited by a repeat customer but the reason that potential buyer is there is because they are looking for something.  Obviously, you may say, but take note that if they don’t find what they’re looking for fast they will leave in a flash and go somewhere else. 

Also note that on-site search beats website navigation every time – how much easier is it to put a search term into a website search box and be taken straight there, rather than take several steps to get there via navigation?

1.  The first rule about your website search box is that it should be at the top of your site – visible on every page, and preferably on or near the top right.  Anywhere else and it’s in the wrong place.

There’s a reason why it’s here…
Netaporter for site search
and here…………….

John Lewis for Site Search

2.  It should also be absolutely clear that it is the website search box, saying (strangely enough) ‘Search’ or ‘Search by Product’.  Or something similar.  Never imagine that your visitors will be able to read your mind.   They won’t.

3.  You need to make sure that your product titles and content copy match and/or contain the keywords and phrases that people are looking for when using natural search engines such as Google. 

This is where most of the mistakes are made, in that not enough attention is paid firstly to how people are searching for the products that you offer and secondly that you are making use of that information on your website.

None of this is rocket science but so many get it wrong and lose conversions accordingly. The conversion rate from a product found through your search box will be one of the highest on your website – so make it easy for your visitors to get straight to what they’re looking for.




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And contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com
Contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com
and at www.thesiteguide.com

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Christmas Deliveries–How Clear Are You?


Some of the busiest Christmas shopping days are still coming up, with online retailers sending out newsletter after newsletter informing their subscribers that there’s still time to order before Christmas.  But hit the website and it’s not clear.  Why not?

I’m astonished at how many sites I look at right now that are not announcing loudly that there’s still time for customers to place orders.  Maybe you’ve already closed for Christmas orders, and I know some who have had to due to the sheer volume they’ve already received, however if you still want those orders you need to announce as clearly as possible on your home page when your Christmas delivery dates are.

Christmas Delivery Dates

At this time everyone’s in a hurry, and no one wants to a) search for your Christmas delivery information b) even worse, call you up.  They’ll simply go away and buy somewhere else, where the information is crystal clear.

To carry on selling up to the last moment make your Christmas delivery dates obvious.  Right now.  Or wonder why everyone else is selling and you’re not.

Find me on:
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
LinkedIn:http://uk.linkedin.com/in/shopaholicguide

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Website Security–Making it Obvious

It doesn’t matter how much you’ve spent on your beautifully designed, gorgeously stocked website, unless you’re obviously secure you’re going to lose orders.  Website security has always been an issue, and as the number of e-commerce sites grows like topsy one of the ways you can differentiate yourself from those who aren’t aware about just how important this issue is, is to make it as obvious as you possibly can that you are a trustworthy merchant. 

In essence, you may know that you are completely honest, but how do you expect the rest of the world to be assured of that as well?  The web has made it possible for every store, large and small, to open it’s virtual doors online, most honest, a few unscrupulous.  What are you doing to make sure that everyone knows you are safe to buy from?

This is an example from the home page of  Zappos in the US, well known, with an enormous range which started with shoes and has now branched out into fashion, beauty, accessories, kids – you name it, Zappos probably sells it.  If it’s important enough for them to display security and review badges, then it should be for you as well.
Zappos security links
Most online shoppers will have not problems in ordering from a household name, such as John Lewis, Selfridges or Debenhams.  These are huge, multi channel retailers they will almost certainly have shopped from offline, so there’s no reason not to do so online.  Then there are those with a large online presence (some of whom are now venturing into bricks and mortar) such as ASOS, Boden and The White Company, again we’ve all shopped from them enough to know that they are trustworthy.

The retailers I am talking about are usually small to medium sized, frequently with very attractive websites, and products that are different enough from the run of the mill that customers will be interested in buying from them.  These are the ones where, if they don’t demonstrate that they are secure, will lose out.  Here are two examples of smaller retailers who have done the right thing, Accessories Online, and The Wychwood Deli.

Accessories Online Website Security Wychwood Safety Banners

You need to display clearly, on your home page, the payment methods you take, plus accredited retailer security badges such as ISIS, by IMRG (Internet Shopping is Safe) which is without question the one I would go for first, and you can apply to join here.  As you grow you should also offer independent customer reviews.  Not those where anyone can put up a review, but where only customers can review the products and services they have purchased.  As Social grows swiftly alongside the web we listen more and more to what other customers have to say, and so showing customer reviews will become the standard, not the exception.

You should also give clear contact details in your ‘contact us’ section, not just offer a form for customers to fill in.  Address, Telephone number and email address are best practise. 

I suggest that you don’t waste any time in shouting out that you are a trustworthy place to shop from, and if you need any help you can contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com.
Find me on:
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LinkedIn:http://uk.linkedin.com/in/shopaholicguide

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Your Twitter Bio–Why it Matters

I know, I have written about this before, but it seems that some are still not listening.

To succeed in Social Media, whether it be Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or anywhere else you first need to establish your credentials.  So your Bio – the information about you – anywhere, is very important and you won’t get very far without it.

There are three main rules for succeeding.
1.  Establish who you are
2.  Engage with others
3.  Be prepared to work hard at engaging, communicating, exchanging information and being friendly, informative and interesting.  Constantly.

If you’re not prepared to put the work in, there’s really no point in bothering to expect that others will respond to you, and the first step is always in establishing who you are.  So you need a photo, preferably of you, in your profile everywhere so that others know who they are talking to. 

You need an intelligent, interesting and preferably witty bio which sums you up in a very few words – you, your interests and your hobbies – your USP, in other words.  Why would you try and get by without one?

Then you need to reach out to those who might be interested in talking to you.  If you don’t have the above, and you don’t make the effort, you reduce your chances of success and won’t get the response you’re looking for.

Find me on:
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
LinkedIn: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/patriciadavidson1

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Affiliate Marketing Tips–What your Banners Say About You

This morning I decided to review as many as possible of the affiliate marketing banners at www.thesiteguide.com.  One major fashion multi-channel retailer, because of the quality of their banners, slipped off the home page and into nowheresville.  In a second.

The whole point of affiliate marketing is that you get yourself advertised on other people’s websites and pay commission when browsers click through and buy your products.  This is no different to any other type of advertising – you’re standing there saying ‘here I am…….buy me’. 

So it is astonishing that some e-retailers (and I’m not talking small here) cannot be bothered to present themselves in a way that is attractive and attention grabbing enough to make a) Affiliate marketeers such as myself want to promote them and b) potential customers tempted to click through.

Brand definition is key whoever you are and whatever your target market is.  If you are a classy, upscale, luxury product brand you have to promote yourself in that way always and everywhere.  Where affiliate marketing is concerned you also have to give enough choice to your chosen advertisers so that you know they are likely to pick one of your ads/banners.  Simple enough, surely?  Apparently not…………….

I believe, and I have said this before, that those running affiliate programs for their merchants are not giving them enough advice in this area.  There are many online retailers out there who need more.  Just ask, please.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Blackberry Failure–The Art of Customer Loyalty and Dealing with Problems

 

This week’s Blackberry failure, RIM outage or call it what you like has highlighted that where customer service and retaining customer loyalty are concerned all businesses from the smallest to the largest are capable of getting it very very wrong.

Everyone at some time or another has a breakdown in their systems, servers fail, products go wrong or are despatched with missing parts, fashion can be faulty, cars break down.  The important thing in retaining customer loyalty is not to try and prevent every possible problem as there will inevitably be an occurrence you cannot control/did not prepare for.

The important thing in retaining customer loyalty is how you deal with problems when they occur, and Blackberry, with their current failure, have got it supremely, totally, comprehensively wrong.  By handling a problem intelligently it is almost always possible to increase customer loyalty by disclosure and dialogue.  In this case Blackberry are doing the opposite.

There’s no doubt that Blackberry are doing their utmost to sort this out.  It is a complete disaster and may well affect the future of RIM. Where they have gone wrong is in not updating their millions of customers, old and young, business and casual on the emergence of the problem, apologising profusely for it and giving a regular and updated scenario of when there is likely to be resolution.  Even if they do not know when their problem will be solved there should be updates on the hour at the very least.  So many of their customers are affected. 

The last time I accessed their Facebook Page it had been updated most recently 15 hours ago.  If they were aiming to anger their 8m+ followers on Facebook I cannot think of a way of doing it better, moreover it is an indication of their attitude that they cannot be bothered to do anything other than the very least in terms of keeping their seriously put-out customers informed.

As Alastair Campbell Tweeted "Day 3 of BlackBerry black-out. Some free advice. Explain while you fix. Apologise when you have. Recompense after. Handling so far woeful."

I couldn’t put it better myself.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Selling off the Screen–The Model Issue

From my years in fashion mail order – ie catalogues – and having done everything from running photographic shoots to page layouts to talking to customers I know full well that some models sell and others will hold back sales.

I was writing at Glamoursleuth about eveningwear (or black tie dresses) online, and there was one very large e-commerce site whose dresses I couldn’t include, not because they weren’t suitable for the post, but because the dresses had been shot on models who did not look right in the clothes.  If you’re going to show a gorgeous curvy evening gown it needs to be photographed on a gorgeous curvy model, who knows how to stand, has the right shoes (gladiators with an evening dress?) has simply groomed hair and who fits the dress. 

Anyone whose in photograph fashion knows all about the pins and clips that go on at the back of some of the shots and that’s all very well, but what the retailer needs is to show clothes in a way that’s going to make the browsing customer-to-be think ‘yes I could look like that in that dress’ (or whatever) and I’m going to see if I do.  And a good stills shot is essential as well.

Fashion is one of fastest growing areas of online shopping.  To succeed you have to show several views, offer zoom, preferably video, 360 degree spin, model shots, stills shots, full details and customer reviews.  If that sounds like a tall order then you may be in the wrong business, as the competition will be way ahead of you.

But going back to this major online retailer – and I’ll name no names – please give us models who can wear your clothes properly, shoot them in a way that makes us lust after the clothes and give us stills shots as well.  We don’t want models who are too thin, nor too big, nor necessarily who look like ‘real people’ as there has to be some aspirational effect at work to get us to click on the ‘buy’ button but you can do better.  Seriously………..enough said.

Friday, 9 September 2011

The Importance of More than One Product View

As online conversion rates fall and we become a nation of researchers rather than destination shoppers, it becomes more and more important that every trick in the book is used when it comes to getting the ‘researcher’ to commit.

Don’t think that because you’re in fashion, or jewellery, or electricals, that this doesn’t apply to you…..it applies to anyone selling products online.  It’s quite simple, show one product view and you have much less of a chance of getting the ‘buy’ button clicked than when you show three or four, particularly if you have a competitor just a click away who offers several clear pictures, back, front and sideways, whichever is applicable to the product.

http://click.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/click?id=CX54I0Ftnrk&subid=0&offerid=254410.1&type=10&tmpid=6887&RD_PARM1=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.net-a-porter.com%2Fproduct%2F523298
Take handbags for example.  To get me to buy a handbag online I would want to see it front and back, what the base looks like and how large it is in relation to a person.  I want to see (not read) what it’s lined in and how it looks inside.  I may read how many pockets it has and the dimensions, but I’ll be making my mind up far faster from the pictures.  And I’m not alone.

Take this Balenciaga handbag at Net-a-Porter.  Would you really spend that much money from just the one picture?  Or would you have a good look at all the product views.  There’s no fudging the issue here – you need to invest in more views or you will lose business.

http://www.awin1.com/cread.php?platform=dl&awinmid=1203&awinaffid=32306&clickref=&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.johnlewis.com%2Flenovo-miix-3-10-tablet-intel-atom-windows-8-1-microsoft-office-365-10-1-wi-fi-32gb-black%2Fp1869628%3FnavAction%3Djump
The same applies to pretty well all products – the more we see the more we’re likely to stop, look, read and order, provided the price is competitive.   Combine clear pictures and multi views with zoom and the right price (and video where applicable) and the order is much more likely to be yours. 


Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Invaluable Website Compare


Having been asked to review a couple of new websites recently where the aim had obviously been to re-invent the wheel I really wanted to write about this.

Two things I hear all too frequently; 

1)  I really wanted to do something different from all the rest
and
2)  A friend of a friend developed my website for me, what do you think?

Brand impact is very important when you’re launching a new site and there, with logo and brand message, you can be both different and idiosyncratic.  But frankly that’s where the trying to be too different should end.  There are so many tried, tested and extremely successful e-commerce websites out there, plus so much knowledge and information about how we, browsers and potential customers read websites and what is most likely to make us click, that to try and be really different can be an enormous risk if not downright foolhardy.

Which ever route you want to go down, find a website (or several) that you know is already well established and successful and use that/those as a guide for your own. Look for sites that you find attractive and disregard the product.  Do not stray down your own flights of fantasy and try and start from scratch.

Alternatively and much more preferable use a well established e-commerce template such as www.shopify.com and know that you’ll be including all the bells and whistles such as tested designs, SEO benefits and email marketing.  You will be tied in to them, but then you’re tied into anyone who hosts your website and this is a much better option.

That brings me onto another subject, that of ‘friends or daughters of friends as models’ don’t get me on that one, at least not that time.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Don’t Make me Wait - The Importance of Speedy Customer Service

This was my next topic in any case, however today, having spent about an hour trying to get through to someone at Aviva regarding motor insurance, and listening to my son yesterday spend the whole day trying to sort out Sky, just made me wonder about the sheer arrogance of companies that believe it’s ok to make their customers wait for an efficient, friendly, speedy response.  To anything.

It doesn’t matter what size organisation you are.  With the huge growth in demand of online services and products and the enormous competition out there you simply cannot afford not to look at every detail in your customer service chain.  Too many companies centre their customer service response around their least expensive employees.  If you do this you are heading for a fall which you deserve.

If  you look at our friends across the pond you will find they put customer service first in almost every case.  They tempt and nurture their customers, turning them into loyal repeat buyers and then ‘friends’ by going the extra distance whenever necessary.  Answering calls, live chat availability, response to emails, all are at the forefront.  The customer may not always be right, of course they’re not, but they are the most precious commodity of any business.  Period.

I’m absolutely sure that it wouldn’t matter how many of us petition the larger companies to get rid of their voicemail and ethos of keeping us hanging on for hours and actually get to the phone faster – they simply do not appear to give a damn about the individual.  For everyone else you need to look to your laurels.  Make sure that your customer service response team is well versed in what makes great service – who cares if the marketing director knows?  It’s irrelevant if the person at the end of the line does not.

Respond fast.  Answer emails very quickly with a reply address.  Call me back.  Don’t keep me hanging on and if I have a problem sort it out so that I smile rather than tear my hear out.  In other words.  Don’t make me wait.  Please.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Twitter Tips: Three great little Twitter Apps to help you get more Twitter Followers

 

It seems that everyone is on Twitter, apart from those die hard sceptics I bump into occasionally who can just about to keep up with email and simply don’t get Twitter and social media in general.  For those who have embraced Twitter there are in my opinion three main reasons for using it.

To post interesting content – whether blogs, articles and/or news.
To join in conversations
To upsell your business

This last is a bit of a thorny one but let’s face it, if you’re on Twitter and you’re running an online business you are going to use it to broadcast your products, offers and general business news.  Most importantly business upselling should not take over from the first two above as those are what Twitter is all about.

Having joined Twitter, started to gain followers and responses it’s always interesting to find out what makes people tick.  Why do they follow you?  Why and when do you lose followers?  What is the best time of day to tweet if you want the greatest response and, though not essential, what your Twitter standing is?

Here are three useful apps that will give you all of this information.  Be warned, these can become very addictive.

tweet effect

Tweet Effect will tell you in a flash which of your tweets gained or lost you followers.  And it’s free!

14 blocks

14 blocks will tell you the best time of day to tweet, when your likely greatest number of followers is online, every day of the week.  You can then schedule your tweets to go out in advance, using 14 blocks (for a small fee) or alternatively Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, one of which you’re probably using already.

klout

Klout’s mission is to help you understand your online influence, measure it and see whether you’re going up or down plus how others are influenced by what you have to say.  It’s interesting, when combined with Tweet Effect, particularly if you’re after more followers, your score is on the decline and you want to find out what is turning followers away.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Web Hints–Coloured Backgrounds–Don’t be Tempted and Why

 

Recently I’ve been asked to review several websites run by small retailers.  Both with coloured backgrounds, one turquoise, one a soft purple.  In both cases I have advised that they should get rid of the colour and go with something neutral.  There are three reasons for this, ignore the first if you like.

1.  I personally don’t like them.  Ever.

2.  Some people may not like the colour you have chosen.  It may be your favourite colour, irrelevant – you want the greatest number of people possible to like your website and if you even put a small percentage of them off you will be losing orders. 

3.  And most importantly, it makes text harder to read, and pictures less distinct.

Have I managed to convince you yet?

I say it so many times but with the web and e-commerce there is no reason whatsoever to try and re-invent the wheel at the basic web design stage.  Use the tried, tested and trusted templates and don’t try to be clever.  It’s just not necessary.

Having attended the hugely interesting IMRG Fashion and Luxury Retail event yesterday it is quite fascinating the innovations being incorporated by the larger online retailers, specifically in the arena of mobile e-commerce, which is expected to grow by 83% this year, pictorially; in terms of zoom and spin; and the use of rich media.  But all of this on a base of instantly apparent website structure.

We will try and track web pages in the same way whatever your design and the tiniest variation trying to force us away from the norm will reduce conversion.  End of story.  So please lose the coloured backgrounds.  No retailer can afford to turn customers away and in the potentially hugely profitable area of e-commerce why would you do something that even might achieve just that?

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Social Media Marketing–Developing the Strands

Social Media Marketing is now here to stay and growing like Topsy.  It’s a way to get your voice heard, your business discussed and to develop new contacts.  Combine the power of Facebook and Twitter (as starters) with LinkedIn, blogs and a strong email marketing campaign and you have so many more ways of reaching your market than you did a couple of years ago.

There are many online retailers who haven’t yet embraced this free resource, or they’ve done it badly, for two reasons.  Firstly because they’re not sure how to go about it properly, and secondly because the time investment needed to firstly set up and then manage social media marketing strands is considerable, without a doubt.
However the benefits are well worth the effort.  Social media creates a clear path to any message you may want to send, it will get more traffic to your website, inform prospective customers about your products, instantly announce promotions and offers and, quite simply, get you talked about.
Selfridges has over 68,000 fans following their Facebook Page, Net-a-Porter.com a whopping 315,000 (are we surprised) – they may take a little while to catch up with, however you don’t have to be huge to succeed here, you just have to establish your ‘voice’ and work hard at it.

Be interesting, friendly and informative and you stand a good chance of getting a much larger audience to your business than you ever could before.  With Facebook alone having 30m users in the UK and Twitter averaging 140m tweets per day, how can you afford to not let your voice be heard.

Patricia Davidson offers a Social Media Service enabling you launch your social media campaign and blog in a way that from the first is totally relevant to your brand and at the same time attractive and interesting to your customers. 

At that point you can either choose to manage the campaign yourself or not.  For further details please contact phd@thesiteguide.com or call 07734 872322
You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Glamoursleuth and of course at www.thesiteguide.com where you can sign up for our email newsletters.

Come and join me and let’s get the conversation going.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Trust Building for Retailers - IMRG e-Commerce Awards

 

IMRG Awards Logo for Home PageOne of the most popular ways of demonstrating that you are a trustworthy online retailer is to display an award (or several, preferably) on your website. 

Having said that there are only a few that really count, and the IMRG e-Commerce Awards is probably the most important.

IMRG is the industry association for e-retail in the UK, providing expert analysis and statistics and best practise guidelines to their members and the press together with online experience resources including mobile commerce and digital TV.

IMRG also owns the ISIS (Internet Selling is Safe) and IDIS (Internet Delivery is Safe) badges, giving retailers the opportunity to become accredited and show that they have registered and been verified by IMRG. ISIS-Accredited retailers now account for approximately two thirds of all UK online shopping, so if you don’t yet have this accreditation you should apply.  There’s a special offer for ISIS applications in the Retailer’s Section at www.thesiteguide.com.  Please scroll down as the offer is at the foot of the page.

The IMRG e-Commerce Awards take place each year and there are quite a few categories, including Best Multi-Channel Retailer, Best Small Online Retailer, Best Customer Service Award, and Best Use of Social Media.  There are 18 Awards in total.

If you would like more information about where to sign up for ISIS, or the IMRG e-Commerce Awards please contact Paul Evans, paul@imrg.org.  As soon as there is a form where  you can sign up I’ll attach the link to this post.  You can also ask me if you have a query at phd@thesiteguide.com

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Articles - How to Turn Your Readers Off. If You’re Writing Something–Read it First Please

 

It’s impossible to keep up with the vast number of interesting articles for which links are posted on Twitter, LinkedIn or elsewhere.  This morning I clicked through to an online marketing piece that had an interesting header. 

Whoever had written it may have had something useful to say – actually I have no idea, as the piece was filled with bad grammar, poor spelling and numerous other typos.  The overall message is, in this kind of case ‘read this if you want, we don’t really give a damn’.

Articles abound on the web, many of them extremely helpful and on just about any subject you can think of.  Gone are the days when you needed to buy the book or read the printed magazine.  Everything is available online.  Unfortunately there are those out there who are producing pieces simply for SEO purposes without paying any attention to the quality of the actual content.  This just litters the web with annoying, time-wasting rubbish.

So the next time you’re thinking of writing an article or feature please handle it with care, write with attention, read through more than once and if you think your grammar or spelling is not quite up to it either leave the writing to others or get someone else to proof-read for you.  Credibility is destroyed in just a few seconds and very hard to get back.

I’m now going to spend just a few moments proof-reading this with the thought in my mind about people and glass houses and stones.  Let me know if you find anything please…………………………..

You’ll find me at :

www.thesiteguide.com
Twitter
- http://twitter.com/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
Linkedin - http://uk.linkedin.com/in/shopaholicguide
www.glamoursleuth.com
www.webhints.co.uk

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Roots–Canadian Lifestyle Brand Shipping to you Right Now

Several years ago when I was lucky enough to be skiing in Whistler (well the kids were skiing and I was more drifting downhill slowly) I came across Roots, and from then on had a big problem keeping the daughter out of the well designed and all-too-easy-to-browse store. 

Roots was established in 1973 in Toronto and now has over 120 stores in Canada and the US and specialises in premium quality leather goods (particularly leather bags and leather jackets), classic casualwear and accessories such as laptop and iPad covers and backpacks.  Don’t expect to find the latest in high fashion here, that’s not what Roots is about, but do expect to find very good value for the quality (even when you add on shipping and duty) and a timeless modern/classic look.

This is a very good website to browse (and an example to many) where you can see all the products very clearly and get so close up you almost want to put your hand out and touch.  The pity is that the website doesn’t reflect the vibrancy of the stores, with wooden tables and products piled high.  Without a doubt the strongest part of this collection is the bags (not surprisingly), where there are several views of each – now essential to online retail.

roots bag roots boot roots cardigan roots scarfroots red bag  roots black bag

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Social Media Marketing–Keeping the Traction Going

There are those organisations that have totally ‘got’ social media, embraced it with open arms and have integrated it with their other marketing and PR activities. At the other end of the spectrum there are those who still think that social media is not for them, do not understand the term ‘viral marketing’ and probably think that for the most part the customer is wrong, or at the very least somewhat of a nuisance.

The most active voice in the marketplace today is that of the consumer, because whereas a short while back a complaint formed a letter by snail mail or phone call now a complaint is public property, instantly, and the less opportunity a business gives a customer to be heard the louder their voice will be online.

Social media is here to stay as an unstoppable force. To that end every business needs to make use of the opportunities it offers, no matter the size, and the glory of it all is that the one man band can make just as much noise as a large corporation - all it takes is a little bit of effort.

One of the most important aspects of social media marketing, and this applies to everyone, is that you have to keep the traction going. You cannot tweet once and then leave it for a few days, not bother to post on your Facebook Page every day, not bother to update your page icon or wall photos, however there are a surprising number of successful businesses who are doing just that. Business who employ people just to run their social media campaigns even.

If you are a small business and you want your voice to be heard this is your golden opportunity. A few days ago I was discussing a competition for www.thesiteguide.com with a cashmere company (and watch this space) who thought I had a whole room full of ‘back-room boys’. ‘No’ I said ‘there’s just me’. And as everyone who knows me knows I can be exceedingly noisy………..

So join in the chatter regularly and get talked about, good or bad you want to know. Pretending social media doesn’t exist will get you absolutely nowhere. And it ain’t going away either anytime soon.

You’ll find me at :
www.thesiteguide.com
Twitter
- http://twitter.com/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
Linkedin - http://uk.linkedin.com/in/patriciadavidson1
www.glamoursleuth.com
www.webhints.co.uk

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Creating Trust Online–Why it Matters So Much

chris colour for home pageOne of the things that many online retailers don’t seem to realise, particularly those that are not household names, is that people are more likely not to trust them then to hand over their credit card details without thinking.

There are far too many websites out there who expect visitors to trust them and buy from them for no reason. There are thousands of fraudsters out there as well and the number of both is growing. You simply cannot sit back and wait for people to come to you and buy, (I know I’ve said that before), you have to demonstrate that you’re trustworthy at point 1 when they arrive at your website so that they're in no doubt at all.

payment logos

If you’re a household name then of course people will trust you. If you’re not, you need to show in any way you can, and as obviously as possible, that you are to be trusted.

So show the payment methods you take. The security measures you have in place. Your membership of any accreditation schemes such as ISIS from IMRG (Internet Shopping is Safe) and any awards you have won. And do that as soon as possible. Don’t take anything for granted, particularly where trust is concerned.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

It Ain’t Broke so Stop Trying to Fix It–5 Tips for Small e-Commerce Websites

Yesterday I was asked to help with two new or recently launched websites. One ticked most of the major boxes – layout, usability and picture quality but fell flat where range was concerned and as for SEO? Well not really…….

The second had such a confusing home page that even I couldn’t work out what you had to do to buy something. Great products, lovely pictures but if I couldn’t find them I’ll bet you couldn’t either.

The fact is that there is absolutely no excuse for wannabe successful online retailers to get it so very wrong. The examples are out there with clear templates for success, from the largest websites to the smallest. If you do not follow the basic principles of online retail you will fail, it’s a simple as that, and the smaller you are, the easier that is going to be.

To be successful in online retail you need to do the following:

Check-out what your successful competitors are doing – learn from them. Do that first.

Make sure you have enough of a range to launch – too small a range and you will get very little interest. Not only that but visitors will not hang around on your website.

Take clear pictures with several detailed views of each product. If your pictures are bad your products will not sell. Better to go for high quality ‘stills’ photography using a system such as Cubelite rather than a cheap model (if you’re in fashion). Do not use amateur models or someone’s friend or daughter. You must have high quality pictures to be successful online. Do not try and run a shoot if you don’t know what you’re doing. Here you will need help.

Make sure your site navigation is crystal clear with signposts all the way. Do not try and be clever here. You don’t need to. Let your products sell themselves with great pictures, a clear layout and concise, friendly copy.

Learn about SEO if you cannot afford someone to do it for you. If you are a new or small online retailer it’s much better to do it yourself. It’s not rocket science, however much some people tell you it is. You need to optimise your website for natural search before you start paying for ads.

These are just five tips. There are far more. If you’d like help please contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Customer Service–How to Get it Right

 

I recently wrote about Zappos – the customer service driven US online store about which I have yet to hear a complaint.  Tell me if you have one.  Their model is built on customer service, they started that way, it’s their mission statement and apparently they deliver in spades.  And they are hugely successful.  That’s not to say there are not many online and offline retailers who try and do the same, it’s just that this one I seem to hear about all the time.

Today made me think about the whole customer service issue and why it matters so very much.  Boringly (or not if you ever need one) this is about plumbers.  I had a leaking hot water cylinder.  One plumber wanted thousands to replace the whole thing (it’s a huge cylinder) the other came along this morning (Sunday) with a new valve, replaced it, mopped up the floor which I had been paddling in for the past two months and then charged a ridiculously small amount.

The former will get no praise from me and is unlikely to be allowed to darken my doors again, in other words I will never ‘shop’ from him again.  The latter will not only get more work from me, but will be praised and recommended far and wide and no I’m not going to give you his name.  So I will not only ‘shop’ from him again but my ‘customer review’ will go out through personal recommendation to people who will again recommend him on.

The short sightedness of some stores in not realising just how important great (forget good, I mean great) customer service is, is frequently breath-taking.  Some larger stores do not seem to realise that they are only as good as their most junior employee – if they allow that employee on the shop floor, that is, or to answer the phone.

Here are my main tips for Great Customer Service

Respond Fast – to any call, query or complaint.  The faster you respond the less likely you are for your customer to a) go elsewhere and b) complain about you online.

Have your best people as respondents – not your most junior.  Put your best, most knowledgeable people on the phone, responding to customer service emails and any other social media activities such as Twitter and Facebook.  Make sure they know your products.  Customer deserve quick, knowledgeable and intelligent response.

Answer the Phone and Email personally – Voicemail is more and more annoying. Be bothered to answer your phone and talk to your customers.  Don’t send standard ‘we will respond within 24 hours’ email responses unless you absolutely have to.  You will lose customers that way.

Let your Customers have their say by allowing them to publicly review your products and service.  This will not only improve your conversion rates but demonstrate transparency.  You cannot lose by doing this.

Go the Extra Mile – Don’t try and win an argument with a customer, you will be the loser in the end.  If you have a complaint go the extra mile and do something unexpected – send a gift voucher or a personal message.  The aim is to turn customers into friends.  Strangely enough handling a complaint intelligently can help you achieve this.

Competition is everywhere, following up closely behind you and breathing down your neck, particularly in the world of retail.  You may have a great product range.  You may offer excellent prices. Your online store may be beautifully designed.  But if you don’t score at the top for customer service you will lose out to someone who will go the extra mile.  Put your customers first.  Talk to them.  Listen to them.  Help them.  If something goes wrong do that little unexpected thing that will turn them from an unhappy shopper to your loyal friend.  And don’t let juniors answer the phone or answer customer service emails unless you totally trust them.  Customer service has to come from the top and go all the way down the line.  Business building is not a matter of luck.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

SEO Tips–Optimising your Website–First do your Keyword Research

 

Chris colour wider for home page2There’s no shortcut to good keyword research and the more landing pages you have the more you need to do.  Someone said to me yesterday ‘I guessed what people would want to find here’…….well guessing will get you nowhere fast.  I liken it to standing in a cupboard with the door shut, as opposed to arms outstretched in the light shouting ‘here I am’.  The number of websites with closed doors is astounding.

There are, of course, a number of large companies who will do your research for you, but a) they are likely to be very expensive and b) do they really know your business, or is that hyper intelligent sales person going to hand you over to a junior to do the research on your website who really doesn’t understand your customer, your product and how to marry the two together?

Your keyword research will provide you with invaluable information about who is searching for what and then allow you to optimise your site for the search engines, and there are two places to get results from.  The first is your competitors’ websites – ie what keywords are they using and how much competition is there for them?  Secondly (and there’s no short cut to this) you need to use a keyword tool and trawl for gold – those words and phrases that are being searched for by a high number of people and where there is less competition (again).  This can take you a while, but it’s worth doing for every page on your website.  Start with your home page and go on from there.

Don’t think that finding out what keywords your competitors are using will provide you with all the answers, it won’t, but it will give you very useful information which you can then add into the mix when you use your keyword tool.  I use the Google Keyword Tool – it’s free and easy to use and will show you everything you need to know. 

Then you can start to create your title tags, descriptions, headers and copy. 

First do your keyword research.

If you  have any questions on the above or would like any help with your keyword research, creating title tags or optimised content then please contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com.

This is the first in a series:  The next post will be ‘SEO Tips – Writing your Title Tags’.  Please follow this blog to make sure that you receive it.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Check your Links–Check and Check Again

 

chris colour for home page lighterHaving just published a new blog on wrap dresses at www.glamoursleuth.com I went to check the links  and three had ‘fallen down’ (my rationale for their not working).

There’s no excuse for sloppy links any more than there is for typos and even though most of us are guilty of writing/blogging/publishing in a hurry we need to haul back.  Stop.  Take a deep breath and take the time to check every single link.  This is even harder when using a mobile device to blog but either way it’s an essential.

Inevitably we write and publish blogs faster and faster.  Who has the time to keep up with the social media caravan every single day when work/meetings/weekends are just set up to get in the way?

If you don’t check your links you’re guilty of looking careless at best, unprofessional at worst and it’ll happen on a day when someone you really want to impress happens by.  Whether you’re talking about affiliate links, text links or picture links on website, blog or anywhere else you need to check, check and check again.

Oh and by the way, if you spot that one of my links doesn’t work please let me know.  I’m just as guilty as anyone else.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Affiliate Marketing–Getting the Creative Right

 

Chris Colour for Online Fashion BusinessAs an affiliate marketeer at www.thesiteguide.com I am frequently turned away from merchants who I would otherwise be interested in promoting due to their creative – the banners which they hope and expect I will display on my site.

Now you may consider me overly fussy, but there’s a particular image I want www.thesiteguide.com to portray which matches that of its visitor base and if a banner does not match what I’m looking for the merchant does not get the exposure.

It’s impossible to please everyone, undoubtedly, but the most important rule here, if you are a merchant, is that you should try.  You only have to look at the most successful affiliate merchants to see that they offer something for everyone, from the smallest button to leaderboards and everything in between.  Rushing in with a few small, unattractive creatives will get you nowhere fast and you may wonder why you get no clicks.  At least give your website a chance to convert by enticing potential customers to click through.

The other rule about affiliate creative is to be timely.  We want your Christmas banners well before Christmas, your sale banners when your sale starts (not after Christmas because you haven’t bothered to do them before although everyone else is well on sale) and your new season’s banners in time for the new season.

Affiliate marketing takes a great deal of work, and merchants should be making it as easy as possible for advertisers to promote them.  Yes you need to think about the design of your creative.  Yes you need to offer as much choice as possible.  Yes you should try and build a relationship with your most successful advertisers. 

You need to look at your banners as advertisements for your business and ask yourself if you would look at them or click on them before you send them anywhere.  If the answer is no, try again.  This one is worth doing properly or not at all. 

If you’d like any help or if you’re considering whether or not affiliate marketing is for you, please contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Trashing the Typos

 

Chris colour for facebookHaving proof-read seven books and numerous features and thinking I was ‘above all that’ I sent a piece off to the US between Christmas and New Year.  Typed in haste I’ll admit, but it should have had ‘DRAFT’ written all over it as there were no less than three horrors lurking within the three or so pages.  These were not met with amusement.  I apologised, re edited and rectified while muttering the words ‘picky, difficult, perfectionist’ under my breath.  And by the way writing this is ok.  I said that I would.

Which brings me back to what I really want to say – that you cannot be too careful.  Whatever you are writing, however long or short, for website, letter, resume or blog you need to check, check and re-check and if possible get someone else to check as well.  You never know if typos are the particular bugbear of the person you are writing to or for and you don’t want to be on the receiving end if they are.  Which, let’s face it, they should be.  You may go straight into the trash.

Because the urge to click on ‘send’ is so strong and we all ‘message’ so fast, if you have one business resolution this year it should probably be, as it is now in my case, to slow down and get it right, rather than think it doesn’t matter.  Trust me;  it does.