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
The Top Ten Marketing Trends To Look Out For In 2019
With 2018 behind us, there is no better time to start looking to the future.
Most people start making their new year’s resolutions this time of the year, goals to make things better for themselves in the coming year. This is something that businesses need to look at doing too.
Running a digital marketing agency means one needs to keep ones finger on the pulse.
The world is continually changing and developing, and if businesses want to survive and thrive, then they need to grow and develop too.
As with everything else, marketing is also continuing to change over time, so it is important for businesses to be on top of the newest trends. Even if 2018 was a successful year for you and your marketing team, don’t get left behind by ignoring the latest trends. Make the necessary adjustments to ensure that 2019 is just as successful.
Maintain an advantage over your competitors by preparing yourself and adjusting your marketing strategy before they do. Whether your current marketing strategy is working for you or not, this article will help you by identifying the top ten marketing trends that businesses should look out for in 2019.
The first few trends look at technology that you have likely already heard of, but with constant advancements in technology, it is still worth taking a look at.
1. Chatbots and live chat
Although this is not a new technology, chatbots and live chat is becoming very popular with businesses all over the world. People are interacting with more and more chatbots on a daily basis. This technology has become so popular because of the benefits it offers businesses in terms of customer interaction and better customer service.
In a very conversational way, chatbots message back and forth with customers for a number of tasks, such as suggesting products to customers and ordering the items. Chatbots enable businesses to provide a 24-hour service to customers by providing customers with an instant response to questions, providing an easy form of communication, resolving complaints quickly and providing a good customer experience. It is a lot easier for customers to communicate with chatbots online than it is for the customer to phone or send an email to a company representative.
According to research, live chat makes it three times more likely that customers will complete the purchase process. With so many benefits to businesses, it is very likely that the use of chatbots and live chat will continue to grow in 2019 and beyond.
If you want to experience chatbots, feel free to visit this link and click on the chat button that appears on the screen.
2. Enhanced personalised recommendations
This technology has already stared becoming the way of the future. Personalising the customer experience is a trend that most businesses are already starting to implement, whether it is recommending movies or series when watching Netflix or recommending other products that the customer might be interested in based on previous buying behaviour, this technology can help businesses enhance the customer experience by giving the customers more of what they want.
This artificial intelligence algorithm is constantly being bettered and is making more accurate recommendations as time goes on. This is a trend that should not be ignored in the coming year.
3. Facebook and Instagram adverts
The trends around paid social media ads are constantly changing. With these changes it is becoming obvious that businesses prefer to focus their attention on Facebook and Instagram ads over other social media platforms.
Social Media Examiner published the following data to show how ads on social media sites like Snapchat and Pinterest are becoming less popular with businesses, while Facebook and Instagram are growing in popularity.
As we know, Instagram is owned by Facebook, so it is not a surprise to see these two social media sites growing in popularity together. Businesses are able to manage ads on both these social sites in the same place. The format of these sites make it much easier for businesses to create ads that target the right audience, based on its needs.
Although it is a good idea to advertise on as many social media sites as possible to ensure that you are reaching the largest audience possible, it would be wise to focus most of your attention on these two top trending sites. If you are only looking at making use of paid social media ads in the coming year, then these two sites are the ones to start with.
4. Voice search
Voice recognition software has been around for a while, but the technology is evolving at a steady pace. Google Home now has a 95% word accuracy which shows how the technology is gradually getting better and more accurate. Voice search makes it easier and faster to search apps, to conduct web searches and even conduct image searches. Very soon, voice searches may represent the majority of total searches.
With voice search technology, people are searching for information, making purchases and even interacting with websites using only their voice. In time businesses will need to rethink how information is presented to audiences and may even be forced to come up with entirely new structures to keep up with this change.
In was reported that as of January 2018, voice searches were conducted 1 billion times a month, and in 2019 this figure is expected to grow. As a business, this should be flagged as technology of interest.
5. Mobile payments
Marketing your products and reaching potential customers is only half the battle won, the other half is completing the sale. Being able to offer customers a variety of payment options is something all businesses need to look at. A growing trend in this regard is mobile payments, so this is another option that businesses need to look at offering customers.
One portion of mobile payments allows customers to pay for goods and services directly from a mobile app, another portion of mobile pay comes from alternative payment options.
In 2018 an estimated 440 million users across the globe used contactless pay options, and this number is expected to increase in 2019.
The following graph shows exactly how this trend has been growing.
Your business should be prepared to accept these types of payments because consumers are getting used to it. If you don’t have their preferred payment option, they may take their business elsewhere.
Related: Free Sample Marketing Plan Template
6. Interactive video content
Video marketing is a trend that has been on the rise for many years. More and more videos are being uploaded to social media and websites as part of marketing strategies. Video blogs (vlogs) have also been taking off in this regard. In 2019 we will start seeing changes to the way video is consumed with an increase in interactive videos.
An example of an interactive video is a 360-degree video that allows users to view the whole area being discussed in the video by clicking the navigation button in the top left-hand corner of the screen while the video is playing.
This 360-degree video was uploaded to YouTube by Washington Post.
Offering interactivity with videos means that more people can engage with your content. Interactivity also makes your videos more exciting for your viewers to watch than traditional videos. Research has shown that 360-degree videos have a greater click-through rate than traditional video formats, offering a higher return on your investment.
This is a trend that will continue to grow due to its popularity, so it definitely worth looking into now.
Instagram has decided to re-envision mobile video with the introduction of IGTV. This new standalone platform has been developed specifically for mobile phones. Instagram has caught onto the fact that people these days are watching less TV and more videos. They have decided to develop this trend and cater to the growing wants and needs of the masses.
Instagram is definitely evolving with the times and its popularity has continued to grow because of this since its launch in 2010. Instagram currently has over 1 billion active users on its site, so even if a small percentage of these users download IGTV, it is still a large audience for marketers to target.
It will be highly beneficial to have an active presence on both Instagram and IGTV in order to use the large number of current users to your advantage. With the IGTV platform being so new, try to get a step ahead of competitors by getting to know the platform and producing content for it.
8. Beacon technology
In a mobile era where mobile apps are becoming more and more popular, businesses need to get onboard with the latest technology if they want to stay current. Beacon technology is a great way for businesses to improve the profitability of their mobile app. This new technology works in a similar way to GPS, just not quite as complex.
Firstly, with this technology retailers need to encourage their customers to download their mobile apps. Once the customer has downloaded the app on their mobile phone, the app will be able to track their location. Retailers can then strategically place beacons around the shop so when the app users walk past a beacon, the business will know exactly where the customer is and what the customer is shopping for. With this information businesses can then send the customer a promotion via push notifications.
This technology can even be used by businesses that only have an ecommerce platform. Beacons can be placed in public areas relevant to what the business offers. Promotional push notifications can then be sent to the user when they are in the vicinity of the beacon.
Below is a visual representation of how the beacon technology works.
2019 Will see a rise in popularity with this technology because of the rise in popularity with mobile apps.
9. Predictive analytics
Predictive analytics is very much related to personal recommendations in the sense that it uses a variety of statistical techniques that analyse current and historical facts to make predictions about the future. Businesses can use predictive analytics to gain a competitive advantage by uncovering new opportunities. Predictive analytics are used to determine customer responses or purchases and help businesses to attract and grow their customer base.
Technology like this can be so beneficial to a business, and that is why more businesses are making use of it. Its popularity is growing and will definitely continue to grow throughout the coming year and many years to come.
10. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning is by no means new technology, in fact, many of the trends discussed in this article make use of AI and machine learning. It is so important for businesses to learn the marketing skills needed to survive in this age of AI as it is the fastest growing technology and no business can afford to ignore it. Ignoring developments in technology could mean that businesses will not be able to keep up with competitors.
It is so important for all businesses to recognise the newest trends and to keep developing their marketing strategies along with new technology in order to be able to compete in such a competitive, ever-changing market.
2019 Is sure to be a very big year for marketers so I hope that by following these trends, your business will find success in the coming year.
Now’s The Time To Go Digital
The digital age has completely transformed the way businesses market their products and services to their customers. As a result, the playing field of industries both big and small has forced companies to relook their strategies.
- Call: 086 142 8710
- Visit: www.digitalschoolofmarketing.co.za
Digital marketing is a broad term covering digital channels that people use to market their products. But what makes digital marketing different and unique compared to traditional marketing channels?
It gives the marketer or advertiser the opportunity to hone in on specific audiences that are more likely to purchase or see value in their offer, says Lisa Schneider, Managing Director at the Digital School of Marketing.
“Because digital marketing is computerised, it allows the marketer to get accurate analytical data about their campaigns, both in the research phase and when their campaign has finished. This makes digital marketing an easy way to gauge ROI of marketing and advertising efforts.”
Do you know how to market your businesses online?
Regardless of the size of your business, to remain successful, you need to have a good understanding and grasp of what digital marketing is and train your organisation on the skills it involves. According to Lisa, digital marketing skills encompass aspects that include:
- Analytical skills
- Social media skills
- Search marketing skills
- Copywriting skills.
“Without a doubt the most important element is understanding who your customers are and what makes them tick. One of the biggest advantages by far in digital marketing is the ability to market to an audience, assuring that your message will be seen, heard and appreciated,” says Lisa.
“The technology that is made available to market products in the digital realm is sophisticated software that allows the marketer’s message to be seen as widely or as granularly as they would want. A solid understanding of your target market is absolutely one of the most fundamental and important elements of digital marketing.”
Advance digitally without breaking the bank
Marketing is an expensive exercise no matter how you look at it, says Lisa. “Digital marketing requires a solid understanding of many different areas that are quite broad, and how to manage and understand a multitude of platforms and analytical data is imperative. This will allow the marketer to extract the most value without burning a hole in their pocket.”
As a business owner, you must look at what is out there in terms of online education providers. It’s important to do your homework about the company and what accreditation and endorsements the company holds.
Lisa suggests contacting the accreditation body to find out the legitimacy of the educational provider. The Internet provides a wealth of information regarding different institutions and how their courses can benefit the company.
What defines a reputable online marketing education provider?
Authentic online education providers have a third-party accreditation or endorsement. In a nutshell, accreditation means that a third party, that is usually government regulated, has looked through the institution’s educational material and internal business procedures to see that it has met their standards of approval.
What this means is that the education provider is not self-governed but is regulated by higher government authorities. This makes your course more credible, recognised and respected compared to a non-accredited provider.
For best results, choose the experts
“The Digital School of Marketing stays on top of trends through solid research,” Lisa explains.
“Google is constantly updating algorithms and adjusting their online marketing platform capabilities. Social networks also come and go and adjust their marketing and advertising platforms.”
Related: Free Sample Marketing Plan Template
DSM prides itself on the ability and appetite to constantly research trends by reading industry journals, attending workshops and seminars, but only publishing what is relevant and has longevity. “We also benchmark the changes that are made on online learning platforms, so we can offer our students an experience that is unique and truly fulfilling on their educational journey,” says Lisa.
I Built A Social Media Following Of 1 Million In 30 Days. Here’s How You Can, Too
By applying these social strategies you can build a huge following with high levels of engagement.
Many people want to share messages with the masses to gain exposure for their brand, product or service on social media. But, with over 60 billion messages shared each day on mobile platforms alone, most content gets lost in the noise. For the last 10 years I’ve worked on improving online strategies for people like Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Disney. I’ve learned how to optimise analytics, data and paid media to help companies achieve massive growth.
When I set out to gain my own One Million Followers, I was aware that the people I work with had the advantage of fame and influence. But, I wanted to see if I could use what I’d learned to build an audience for someone unknown – someone building a following from scratch. That way I could gain validation and credibility for anyone that wanted to achieve their dreams. So, in June of 2017 I put into practice all my tools and by July of 2017 I had a million Facebook followers.
The experience changed my life and now hopefully it can impact yours. If, as an unknown digital strategist, I can create this type of social following so can you. By applying the social strategies below you can build a huge following with high levels of engagement. For the purposes of this article, I’ll focus on strategies for Facebook, but many of the tactics can be applied to the other social channels as well.
1. Hypothesise and test
Aim to create shareable content with your audience. Do research about what gets people to share and come up with a hypothesis about the type of content to create. Identify a format or theme that will engage your audience around a specific message. Then create a low-cost proof and test it.
When I built my following, I used a lot of picture quotes. They are fast and easy to create and are highly shareable. However, if you have the means to create short videos, between 30 seconds and four minutes, they usually perform the best.
2. Learn from your tests and pivot when necessary
My ability to learn from the tests I conducted was essential in reaching a million followers. Take the time to understand why certain content works and why other content doesn’t. Be very specific with your tests – I tested thousands of variations of content and segmented out as the variables to truly learn what was optimising performance. I also didn’t waste time; as soon as I saw that something wasn’t getting the engagement I desired I pivoted. For example, I posted viral videos of dogs and kittens performing cute and funny actions as well as prank videos. Although they all performed really well, I decided to pivot because they didn’t align with my brand’s theme of thought leadership.
Analyse the results from your tests and allow them to drive both your short and long-term content strategy. Test until you find a format or theme that truly works.
3. Find a hooking headline
Imagine walking by a newsstand in the supermarket. What is it that makes you stop and stare at an article in a magazine? Usually it’s a headline that communicates the story’s hook-point in a succinct and exciting way. It’s a short sentence or phrase that stands out, grabs attention and leaves your audience wanting more. A good headline helps communicate what makes your brand, message or content different and valuable to your customers.
When creating the headline be specific and find relevancy to your audience’s lives. Linking content to celebrities or current events is a great way to grab people’s attention.
4. Target the right audience
You can have great content, but without reaching the right audience you won’t develop a following or find the people who will champion your message for you. As Nike‘s CEO Mark Parker explains, “It’s our obsession with serving the consumer that sharpens our focus and drives our growth.”
One of the benefits of using the Facebook ad platform is the level of niche targeting it provides to find your ideal consumer. When creating ads, segment out your targeting by: Gender, age, location, interests, lifestyle (married, single, occupation, yearly income and products or brands they like) and target some of your competitors’ fans.
5. Invest the time and money necessary to reach your goals
Reaching a million followers has gotten me opportunities to speak at conferences, but getting to a million isn’t necessary for everyone. Gaining a following requires an investment of time and money. Where you put your energy depends on how quickly you want to grow.
To determine how much you need to invest, analyse the benefits you want to receive from building a large following – the return on investment (ROI). Imagine your end goal and work backward. Sometimes the ROI isn’t a dollar amount – instead, it’s more validation or credibility that gets you into a meeting with a casting director, modelling agency a music producer or an investor. Ask yourself how many followers you truly need and invest what’s necessary to reach those goals.
We live in a digital world and social following numbers matter. Hope to see your content on Facebook soon.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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