Just in case you hadn’t heard, the Internet is coming. The truth is, the Internet is here and it’s already affecting everything we do from our mobile phones, our friendships, the way we learn, watch TV, listen to music to how we’re educated.
Now it’s time for our businesses to be affected too. In fact, your business is already being affected either by your action in the digital revolution or lack thereof. If you’re an individual and have had that one idea that you wished you could sell to the masses, then your world is about to open up wide.
Commerce has changed. At the very least commerce shifted somewhat from a face-to-face experience involving human beings exclusively to one that occurs online while the customer sits comfortably at home or work and clicks around your website looking to buy something you’re selling.
A new form of commerce is already going mainstream and it’s called e-commerce. Trust me when I say this: Your customers are looking for what you’re selling and if you aren’t online to offer it to them they’re going to find it somewhere else.
David Perel, co-founder of Obox, a wordpress theme company and SalesGenius, a trend tracking company, says that an online store was the best way for him and his brother and co-founder, Marc, to gain exposure for their talents: “My brother and I are really good at what we do – web design and development – but we’re not great salesmen. So the best way to get our products out there was with a great e-commerce site.”
There are some among us who didn’t hesitate and created online stores that are generating revenue and will soon be huge. There are others who sell their digital goods online, their eBooks, stickers, clothing, pet food, website themes, kitchen accessories and everything in between.
Is it right for you?
When considering online commerce it’s important to think about the value of selling online for your business, product or service. Sometimes being online for the sake of it can do more damage than good. For example, if you’re selling something online but your payment process is broken, your customer will get irritated with you and probably never return.
Be sure to understand the reason for entering the realm of digital commerce carefully. This isn’t a case of dive in headfirst and learn to swim on the way towards the water. You’ll probably drown in all the nuanced complications that arise as you progress if you don’t prepare effectively.
For Luke Jedeikin, one of the founders of Superbalist.com (previously Citymob.co.za), starting an online store and selling other people’s products was a simpler proposition conceptually than doing it in real life.
“Build a webstore and find existing real world products to sell from it. As opposed to, build a webstore and build a digital product. We actually started selling coupons during the group buying storm but moved to physical products after the first year or so,” he says.
Some people will tell you that getting started is difficult, others will blame payment processes, design, the government, banks, technology or fulfilment for the difficult time South Africans have when setting up an online store. But there’s no good reason to avoid online commerce and there are many resources and tools to assist you along the way.
Choosing a platform
Choosing the correct platform for your needs can be a difficult task. As with anything, the first step is always the most overwhelming and this is no different. The biggest question on most people’s minds is “Where do I start?”
There are many options that you can choose from. The criteria you use to get started on your online shop should look something like this:
- How much money do I want to spend building?
- How big is my product list?
- Do I need people to pay me immediately using a credit card?
- Do I need to support recurring credit card payments?
- What countries will I operate in?
- Is my product virtual (digital download) or physical (delivered by a courier company)?
Each question is important and can lead you down a rabbit hole of confusion. Fortunately, most of the services out there will walk you through all of the solutions when you sign up.
Here’s a list of services that you can visit right now to evaluate, investigate and figure out which is best for your needs.
WordPress + WooCommerce
WordPress is a free to use platform that you’ll need to instal and host yourself to operate a WooCommerce store. There is a fair amount of knowledge to acquire in order to become an expert in using WooCommerce, but it’s the first choice of over 500 000 stores around the world and is a South African company. Online tutorials, walkthroughs, a forum and lots of Googling will help to get to grips with the platform.
I chose to use WooCommerce to set up my online store where I sell socks (www.nicsocks.com). The reasons for using this platform were simple; I found it easy to set up and it was free. I took photos of my products using my phone, uploaded them, added a price and began to sell. The cost of expanding happened after launch but this is standard practice for free platforms. They allow for growth if you’re happy to pay for it.
Courtenay Farquharson, an entrepreneur who founded www.petheaven.co.za, an online company that delivers dog food to owners around South Africa, chose Magento because it’s free and well supported: “I was looking for something free that would allow me to expand. Magento simply seemed to be the most supported software out there. I also liked the fact that I could write modules and extend it if need be and it came with hundreds of various themes for me to choose from.”
Shopify is definitely one of the most well-known online commerce platforms in the world. It’s well supported globally as well as in South Africa and is fast and easy to use.
If you’re a company that requires a lot of functionality that doesn’t come standard in any of these free platforms, then you’re probably going to require an online store that is built especially for your needs.
Beware, this route can become a black hole of expense and is not for the faint hearted or the under-prepared. Be sure to evaluate the partner you choose to build your store and be sure to find out about ongoing monthly costs to maintain your site, get access to the core platform and what would be required if you were to leave the partner.
Once you’ve had a look at your platform choices it’s important to understand what kind of payments you will need to support.
Are you selling a single product online? Is this product a once-off purchase or does it require a monthly recurring payment (similar to a magazine subscription)? Are your customers in South Africa or abroad?
Let’s consider the various scenarios and problems that may occur:
- First you can ask your customers to do an electronic bank transfer into your bank account. For this option it’s probably a good idea to get a business account at your bank. These are fairly easy to acquire and your bank should be happy to assist.
- You could also support credit card billing in your store. This option has become increasingly simple as most of the e-commerce platforms support various payment providers such as Payfast, Paypal or PayU. WooCommerce will even walk you through setting up and installing the various payment providers they support.
A word of caution about using Paypal. As of yet Paypal does not support the South African Rand as a currency. This means that your local customers will checkout and see dollars as opposed to rands in their baskets. This is not a major problem and many stores happily do this, but be aware of it nonetheless.
“Our products are sold in dollars which proved a huge challenge when setting up our payment gateway. We use 2checkout, which is based internationally, but sends payments to us once a week. The downside is they charge a lot per transaction but currently it’s the only way to sell our products to a massive international customer base,” says Obox’s David Perel.
- The other option for payments that is often overlooked by small businesses is cash on delivery. This option is available to you if you or a staff member are doing the deliveries for your online orders. You arrive at your customer’s door with the product and they pay you in cash. Simple and effective.
Take note: A red herring in this entire process is that sometimes you will be required to have a merchant account to support some of the payment options. While your bank will tell you that this is a quick and painless process, my bank made it extremely difficult for me and the process took over six months to complete.
At NicSocks my biggest issue isn’t platform, technology or payment providers. My biggest challenge is customer acquisition. South Africa is a very young online shopping market. There aren’t that many people who shop online using their credit cards or any other payment mechanism for that matter. Those who do shop online mostly shop at trusted sites with a history and shy away from young upstarts whom they feel may expose them to unnecessary fraud or risk.
This leaves small online stores with a major challenge: Marketing and promotion.
Almost all of the e-commerce products out there will help your store appear in search engines like Google and Bing. They’ll also optimise your content for these search engines (this is known as Search Engine Optimisation or SEO) so there’s no need to focus too heavily on this in the very beginning but this needs to become a focus as you grow.
Superbalist.com co-founder, Luke Jedeikin feels strongly about email as a key to their online traffic: “Email brings us around 90% of our traffic. SEO, Google, and social media brings the rest. We’re focusing heavily on lessening our reliance on email.”
Social media marketing is also extremely valuable to niche online stores. Building content that people want to consume and share with their friends can really boost sales and drive loyalty. Make sure you have a Facebook page, an active Twitter account so that you can respond to customers in real time and if you’re a visually driven brand or product be sure to make use of Pinterest for a further push.
Generally speaking the time is right to enter into the online space and provide your customers with a place to buy your products. The South African online e-commerce market is expanding rapidly and if you wait too long you’ll be left playing catch up to your competitors.
However, there are areas of concern right now to be mindful of. Be sure to choose the right fulfilment partner. Shipping is a sensitive issue in South Africa and if you charge your customers too much to deliver your product and fulfil their order you’ll lose them at the point of payment.
Access to Internet and the devices being used to access your specific shop online can become problematic for stores that aren’t optimised for multiple devices.
Be sure to consider who your target market is, where they are browsing and if they even have access to the Internet at all.
Fighting for consumers’ attention should be your priority. Be different, stand out and try to maintain their attention long enough to get them to buy something from you. For this you’ll need a few simple things: A great product, a visually appealing but simple website that promotes spending and finally, amazing customer service.
An online store is simply another way to get feet through your now virtual door and sell your amazing product. Keep it simple and dive in.
Recommended Reading: How to Not Lose Your Customers Through Your Site
10 Online Marketers To Watch In 2018
The more diverse your sources of news and inspiration, the better. These ten people can help get you there.
Online marketing requires experience, creativity and a working knowledge of the latest trends and technologies necessary to stay competitive in the modern landscape. And while there aren’t any shortcuts to gain more experience, there is a convenient way to stay up to date on the latest marketing trends and get inspiration for your creative campaigns.
That way? Following and paying attention to the best, smartest marketers in the industry.
With 2018 just getting started, I wanted to list some of my favourite marketing influencers, some of the most influential experts in the industry and some of the most promising creative minds to pay attention to this year:
The Best Conversion Rate Optimisation Tips To Help You Grow Your Business
Whether you’re the owner of a company, or an online blogger, knowing conversion rate optimisation techniques will help you immensely.
Conversion rate optimisation, otherwise known as CRO, is a 21st-century way to turn visitors to your website or blog into followers of your information or customers of your product or service.
Therefore, whether you’re the owner of a company, or an online blogger, knowing conversion rate optimisation techniques will help you immensely.
What Is Conversion Rate Optimisation or CRO?
Internet marketing, or what some people call online marketing, is promoting your product or service on the Internet through the digital channels available. Driving traffic is to your website or blog is hard, but it’s something you need to do in order to sell your product or service, so the last thing you want is to leave money on the table.
Traditionally, from the traffic you drive to your blog or website, a percentage of that traffic will become your customers or followers.
CRO is conversion optimisation strategies that puts a focus on your blog or website to determine what small or big changes need to be made to convert as many of your visitors as possible.
It’s the classic case of not working harder, but smarter.
Changes such as a new headline, new sales copy, a different coloured CTA (Call-to-Action) button, and more, are tested for effectiveness. This helps you take out all the guesswork and make changes that are proven to convert more sales.
Techniques such as A/B testing, where you create two different landing pages and send the same amount of traffic to each, is one example.
At the end of the day, the version that receives the most conversion is the one you would choose. A site with significant traffic may successfully test over a shorter time. On the other hand, in order to get accurate data, a site with a smaller amount of traffic will likely need more time than a larger one for testing.
What Happens When You Convert More Visitors Into Customers?
It’s a no brainer, when you convert visitors into clients and customers, your sales increase, and that’s the number one goal of any company or business. CRO can help you grow your business by receiving the same amount of traffic that you’re currently receiving.
Technically that means that you can make more sales without having to spend more money on marketing.
That also means that you’re not focused on the number of traffic you pull in with a mind on percentages, but rather focused on making the most of the traffic you currently have which makes the most of your marketing efforts.
Not Utilising CRO Means You Are Leaving Money on The Table
Let’s say you’re a small company with a goal of R50,000 a month in revenue. Your job is to turn a percentage of your visitors into customers. Without the correct conversion rate optimisation strategies, you’re looking strictly at numbers. You find that 1,000 visitors turn into 50 customers with a revenue of R20,000, which is R30,000 away from your goal.
Without the correct CRO strategies in place, you would work to increase the number of visitors to your site. However, with CRO, you implement e-commerce CRO tips that result in those 1,000 visitors turning into 125 customers. That brings you to your R50,000 goal. Without performing conversion rate optimisation, you’ve left R30,000 on the table.
Now that you’ve reduced your cost per acquisition, or what you pay per sale or click or form submit, you can either invest more in advertising or just bank the profits. Now that you understand what conversion rate optimisation is all about, let’s have a look at some of the best strategies that can help you take your business to a whole new level.
20 Of The Best CRO Strategies
You can spend loads of money on a fancy website or blog, but if it isn’t converting correctly, you’re losing customers and sales. That’s why conversion rate optimisation is becoming the number one priority with websites and blogs in the 21st-century.
1. Create an Effective Headline
If you are trying to convert visitors into followers or customers from a specific post, then your headline is one of the most important elements. It’s not there for a hard sell; it’s there to draw your potential customers to your site so that they’ll check out your product or service.
Your headline must show people what benefit they will receive from using what you have to offer.
Keep changing up those headlines till you find a strategy that works.
2. Reduce Huge Blocks of Text with Bullet Points
The way you present the content on your website is crucial. Give a potential customer too much information, and they’ll leave your site with eyes glazed over. Any material you present should be not only easy to understand but short and to the point. One of the best ways to do that is with bullet points.
Bullet points create an organised presentation that keeps potential customers interested.
3. Include Your Contact Information
Significant changes can be done to your website or blog to increase conversions, but so can small ones. Include your contact information on your site or blog. This shows that you’re accountable and don’t mind being contacted, which can lead to customer trust and eventually sales. Include your phone number, email address, and even your mailing address.
4. Replace Phony Stock Photos
You know what a phony stock photo looks like. It’s the kind that you purchase from stock photo sites, and they’re the kind that you often see at more than one website. These types of photos look phony, and they reduce your credibility. Replace fake-looking stock photos with professional, unique photos or good quality photos that you’ve taken.
For example, instead of using a stock photo model with a cheesy grin, use a picture of one of your employees.
5. Use a Pop-Up Form
One effective way to convert visitors into followers and subscribers is a pop-up form. When visitors come to your side, a form pops up that encourages them to leave their name and email address, or just their email address, to become a subscriber. When you have a list of subscribers, you can then turn them into customers through newsletters, emails, etc.
6. Eliminate Unneeded Form Fields
A website or blog that is not user-friendly when it comes to form fields may not translate to customer conversion. A form field is where your customers type in their information. What is the bare minimum of customer information that you need? You ask for the name, but do you also need the company name, for example, or can you do without having a customer type that in?
7. Remove Automatic Image Sliders
Images that flash before your eyes automatically may look attractive, but automatic image sliders have been proven to create banner blindness and therefore, reduce conversion. Use static images instead.
8. Include Videos
Videos have proven to be effective in drawing visitors and turning them into customers. If your site sells fishing products, for example, include a video of an expert fisherman using one of your fishing poles. Make sure the video is no more than two to three minutes long and be sure to put one on your landing page.
9. Make Your Call-To-Action Button Pop
Here is another strategy that seems small but that may prove to be very effective. Alter your call-to-action or CTA button. For example, is it more efficient for your button to say “Download Now” rather than “Buy Now”? Is it better for your CTA button to be a bright red rather than a navy blue? By testing changes to your call-to-action button, you can determine if such a change will be effective.
10. Limit Your Call-To-Actions
If you have one call-to-action button on your website, that’s a wise choice. Too many call-to-actions can confuse potential customers and turn them off from your site. Put your focus on one effective call-to-action.
11. Have You Included the Word “Free”?
If there’s one thing that people love, it’s free stuff. What can you offer potential customers that are free?
For example, let’s say you sell psychic readings. Offer your potential clients a 10-minute free reading and display the offer prominently on the front page of your site. Chances are you’ll get a lot of conversions for your niche. Once you’ve drawn in customers with the free deal, you can better bring them to your paid services.
12. Match Your Landing Page to Your Ad
When your ad matches your landing page, the colour co-ordination and organisation can translate to conversions. In addition to the colour, the copy you use on your ad should match, in some way, with your landing page. So, when you draw potential customers to your ad, you gently move them to your landing page with no sharp differences.
13. Incorporate Trust Seals on Your Checkout Page
If there’s one thing that draws customers to a product or service, it’s trust. Incorporating trust seals on your checkout page and other places on your website is an excellent way to show that you are legitimate and to increase conversions.
For example, if you are offering dental products, a seal from a trusted dental association helps with customer trust.
14. Convey a Sense of Urgency
When you are promoting a product or service letting your potential customers know that a particular price will end soon, or that a product or service will only be offered for a limited, time greatly helps with conversion.
For example, let’s say yours is a site that sells cookware and you’re providing a crock-pot at a temporarily discounted price.
You would display on your blog or website a photo of the crock pot, along with content and possibly a video, and you would show the price and when the price ends.
15. Give Them a Money-Back Guarantee
There will always be a percentage of customers who are on the fence about your product or service. So how do you get them over that hump and create a conversion? One way is to offer a money-back guarantee and to display it where it can be seen.
Keep in mind that it’s good to put a time limit on the money-back guarantee to something like 30 days or 60 days.
16. Include Live Chats
Many companies are adding live chat prominently on their websites to answer customer’s questions in real-time. This is an effective solution that can lead to conversions. It allows you to take care of all a client’s issues to lead them into a sale. Many companies utilise chat apps to help with this process.
17. Retarget Your Ads
There are large and small changes that can be made to your website to increase conversions, but changes to the way you’re handling your ads could be done as well. Retargeting customers, can help increase conversions period.
When visitors come to your site, you create a customised targeted ad to get to them as soon as they leave.
If a visitor has come to your cosmetic store looking for an eye shadow, when they leave your site you target them with an ad for a different eye shadow in your line. The goal is to keep a visitor engaged with your product or service while staying top of mind.
18. Give Them Free Shipping
Shipping costs for a product can often make or break a sale. So, if there’s one thing that can contribute to conversion, it’s free shipping. Let your customers know that shipping is not a cost that they have to concern themselves with.
If free shipping seems unaffordable for your company, work with ways to cover shipping costs with your product prices.
19. Include Real Testimonials With Photos
One of the best ways to instill confidence in your product or service is with real testimonials. Have customers write testimonials of 50 to 100 words about your product or service and include a photo of the customers next to their testimonials. Include their full name with their picture.
20. Get Customers to Share Their Purchases on Social Media
These days, almost all of your clients are likely to be on at least one social media site. Encourage them to share the purchases they’ve made of your products on social media, such as Instagram.
Every time a customer buys one of your products or your services, automatically give them an opportunity to share and talk about what they’ve bought with a user-friendly share process included on your site.
The sooner you work on conversion rate optimisation tips on your blog or website, the sooner you’ll be bringing in customers in the most efficient way.
Customers translate to profits and profits translate to a successful company or business. CRO takes time, but with patience, your website or blog will see vast improvement in conversions.
Implementing 2 Advanced Google AdWords Strategies
Find out how Dynamic Search Ads and Call-Only Campaigns can give you that competitive edge you need on Google AdWords.
Let’s explore two advanced Google AdWords campaign types: Dynamic Search Ads and Call-Only campaigns. Give these two campaign types a try. They’ll let you squeeze even more from your AdWords account.
Dynamic search ads (DSAS)
Dynamic search ads are magical keys to reaching your customers. And the best part? Using them is easy once you master the setup.
What Are DSAs?
Google knows it’s hard to keep your campaigns perfectly in sync with your website. If you have an e-commerce site with thousands of products changing regularly, it’s a chore to be constantly creating new keywords, new ad groups and new ads inside your AdWords account.
DSAs were created to fill this gap. They let you show ads to excellent prospects who might be searching for items you sell on your site even if you don’t have a corresponding keyword for them in your account.
Why should you set up a DSA?
As long as you set a low cost-per-click, dynamic search ads typically have a decent CPA and provide additional relevant traffic. They’re also great for research as you get to uncover new search terms that people are using to find your site. (You can use this intelligence after the fact to add new keywords to your account.)
Let’s say you’ve just started selling wrought-iron fire pits on your e-commerce site but you don’t have the keywords for them yet in your AdWords account. A new prospect – we’ll call her Kim – is currently online searching for this by name. Kim types it in verbatim: “wrought iron fire pits.”
If you have a DSA campaign set up, you’re in luck: Google instantly recognises that you sell these but don’t yet have keywords for the purpose. Thankfully, you don’t miss a beat with Kim – Google shows her your Dynamic ad, then she clicks, comes to your website and makes a purchase.
How do they work?
It starts with Google regularly scanning your website and keeping an index of all its pages. When you’re starting out, you can choose to point Google to your entire site – we recommend this for your first DSA campaign – although later on you can target specific categories within your site.
Google knows what keywords are in your account and, more importantly, what keywords are not there. This means they can make accurate judgments about when to step in and show your DSA ads.
When setting up DSAs, Google creates the headline and you write the description. They choose the final URL and you set the bid.
Here’s how to set up a DSA:
- Create a new campaign. One of the options you’ll see is to create a DSA campaign. We suggest not using that as it would limit your options further along. Instead, create a new Search campaign with “all features.” Your plan will be to only use DSAs inside that campaign.
- You’ll need at least one ad group to hold your DSAs, and one is typically enough if you’re just starting out.
- You still want to be split-testing, even though Google chooses your headline for you. So, create two different DSA ads with different body copy in each.
- Choose the target. Start with the “all webpages” default. Save the advanced targeting for later.
- Add in ad extensions just as you would for a regular campaign.
Ongoing management of your DSA
Review your data. Keep an eye on the search queries Google chooses, particularly in the first few days. This lets you add any new negative keywords that you don’t want your ads shown for. And it’s a good way to identify and add new keywords you hadn’t yet thought of for other functioning campaigns. (You can add these new keywords as negatives in your DSA campaign, which forces that keyword traffic over to new campaigns in your account. Your DSA campaigns won’t be affected.)
These allow you to create search ads where Google shows your phone number rather than a headline. As such, they only show on mobile devices capable of making calls.
A person clicks on your ad, which starts the process of calling your business directly from their mobile, rather than taking them to your site.
Why use call-only?
Call-only campaigns force people to call your phone number rather than visit your site. If generating more phone calls is high priority for your business, call-only campaigns are worth testing.
How to set up call-only campaigns
Setup is simple. You can create a new campaign from scratch or just copy your existing search campaigns and change the ad type. Replace regular ads with call-only ads.
Tip: Google wants to see individual ad groups with a reasonable number of impressions at the ad group level. So a small number of ad groups with more keywords in each one – generating more impressions per ad group – will work better for call-only campaigns.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com
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