Tips & Tricks for table59 clients on how to promote their business online.

e-Commerce Pitfalls and Solutions

offer_ecommerceAre you running an online store, accepting payments for products (or services) on display?  There couldn’t be a better time to give it a go – low overheads, no staff required and the online store is open 24/7.  This is a perfect business model requiring the minimum of work – pick the right product and the rest is practically automatic – right?  Of course, the reality is somewhat different to the model.  Yes, there are the massive opportunities in selling online, but neglecting some basic business principles will cause your store to fail every time.

This article provides straight-forward tips on how to maximise the potential of your online store, whether you’re selling paperclips or office machinery.  Follow these tips and avoid cost and frustration and of course you can contact me with any questions.

 Tip One:  Sell, Sell, Sell

Let’s not forget why your online store is there – it’s there purely to sell your product.  In that regard it is no different to a high street store selling coffee or birthday cards.  This means that your Home Page is your Shop Window, the product catalogue is your shelves and the check-out is your till, where customers pay for the product.   This means that the website must be laid out to make it easy for customers to find what they want and then to pay for it.

This advice might seem like complete common sense but you would not believe how many people overlook it.   Some people prioritise other Calls to Action on their store, such as registrations for their e-Zine, subscriptions to Social Media channels and so on.  Whilst those Calls to Action can be important, they are of secondary importance to the purchase.

Tip Two:  Make it Easy to Find your Product

Make sure to organise your products into simple categories and most importantly into categories where customers would expect to find them.  I’ve worked with many clients who want to use technical names for their categories that only they really understand.  Speak to family members and friends about the categories you should use.  Even better, you should use the Google Keyword Planner to know for certain what your customers search for and name your categories after that.  Click here to read my recent blog on using the Keyword Planner.

Tip Three: Make is Easy to Buy

Imagine you are actually running a high street store.  Imagine that a customer has come into your store and picked a product off the display and come up to the till to pay for it.  Would you consider asking the customer to fill in a membership form before they can buy from you?  No, of course you wouldn’t, so why would you do it on your Online Store?   There are still too many Online Stores that require customers to open an account before they are able to buy from them.

I strongly recommend that the payment process be kept simple and extremely quick.  When it comes time for your customer to check out, they should follow these steps:
Go to their Shopping Basket to review their purchases and then confirm
Enter their shipping and contact details to help determine the shipping costs.  Pick an e-Commerce system that calculates shipping costs based on weight or dimensions of your product.
Enter their billing details and then confirm

If you would like to offer customers the opportunity to register then do so at the end of the process and make it a tick-box, using the details they entered as their registration information.

Some checkout processes involve over 6 steps in the process causing a drop-out rate of over 80%.  This is comparable to 4 out of 5 of your high street customers picking a product from the shelf and then leaving it at the till and walking out.   Reduce this drop-out rate by keeping the number of payment steps to a maximum of 3.

Tip Four:  Trust

There is still a great nervousness about entering credit cards details into a website.   This is understandable as online fraud is a real problem, so as proprietors of online stores we need to overcome this nervousness.  I recommend doing this by including the logos of major credit cards in the checkout process, such as Visa and Mastercard and PayPal.  This makes your customer feel that the transaction is secure.

Follow these basic tips and they will transform the performance of your online store.

 

 

Invest in Your email

cae581b9-e807-4cbe-aca4-454ce81d9ee8Everyone understands email,  right?  Email is simple to set up, to manage and of course we use it every day.  For a business, email is not just handy; it’s fundamental.

The fact of the matter however is that business email is different from personal email and can be quite difficult to set up and manage.   And that of course is a potential problem because without email,  many of us couldn’t run our businesses effectively.

So what makes business email different from personal email and what are the challenges?    The answer to that lies in your domain name (website address).  It is widely recognised that your business email address should include your domain name.  My email address is stuartm@table59.co.uk for example.  Personal email addresses like a Hotmail address can seem less professional.

If you’ve read any of my previous blogs you’ll have noted that I’m a big Google fan.  It’s no surprise therefore that my recommendation for your business email is Gmail for business (or Google Apps for Business).  This service enables the user to easily set up their email on their domain and provides a service which is reliable,  powerful, secure and mobile.

Reliable, because Google knows what they’re doing!  Powerful, because Gmail offers massive storage space and a range of other highly useful applications (like Google Calendar).  Secure, because Gmail offers 2 Step Verification,  which can send a unique PIN number to your phone every time you log in.   And finally, mobile,  because it is easy to set up on your phone or tablet.

Okay, there is a charge of just over £3 per month, but this is small when we take into account the benefits.   Of course there are cheaper alternatives out there but why take a risk with one of the most important aspects of your business?   Imagine losing a business lead just because the email went missing.   Google’s small fee is well worth it.

If you would like to find out more about business email please contact me.

Put your Phone Number on your Website

This week I had the great pleasure of taking some time off to attend a friend’s wedding in Donegal.  It gave me and the family a chance to enjoy the fantastic weather AND a great chance to use my mobile to search for local things to do.   Here is a summary of some of the good and the bad practices I came across with best practice tips.

Very few of the websites I visited were easy to read on my phone.   Either the text was too small or the images didn’t fit on the screen.  It was hard to select a menu item, which meant it proved difficult to find the information I needed.  Some of the sites visited also used flash animation or were based on out of date technology,  which meant they didn’t show at all!

This leads me to mention the first bit of best practice:

Make your Website Mobile Friendly

Your website needs to work on a mobile device – fact.   On a previous blog I mentioned that this time next year most people will be viewing your site on their mobile.  Case made.

Make sure the Important Information is Really Easy to Find

There are a few things that are really important when browsing a local company website.  These are particularly important for businesses chasing tourists,  just like the ones I was looking for, but unfortunately very few sites had that information.  This is the second piece of best practice – make sure all of this information is readily accessible:

Contact Phone number should be at the top of every page of the website
Location map should also be clearly visible
Testimonials should be easy to find

So why is it important to make this information so easy to find?  Well, unless we have uninterrupted access to wireless internet, we are going to incur data charges for browsing the Internet on our mobile phones.  This is particularly unpleasant when are overseas, potentially suffering data roaming charges.  Put simply, we aren’t going to spend a lot of time online searching for things to do, so we need information to be immediate and relevant.

You Don’t Have to Close the Sale on the Website

An easy trap to fall into is to try to secure payment through the mobile device, via a payment form on the website.  Given that we are already impatiently trying to find immediate and relevant information, we are unlikely to conduct a transaction through the mobile device.  In all cases, it is best to encourage the visitor to place a phone-call or at least an email enquiry (which must be followed up).  This reduces the possibilities of losing the sale.

The Winner – Tullagh Bay Equestrian Centre

Tullagh Bay Equestrian CentreI couldn’t be paid to sit on a horse.  However, my wife and kids love them, so the search began from our hotel in Donegal for a horse-riding centre, and Tullagh Bay Equestrian Centre was the winner by a stretch.   Check out their website at http://www.tullaghbayequestrian.ie/.  The centre has their phone number, email address and location map easily visible on every web page together with links to their Facebook and Twitter accounts.   The site is mobile friendly and it is easy to read about the services they offer and to get a feel for the character of the business.  This is a family run business, which is one of the most friendly and professionally run businesses I have come across.

As ever, if you have any questions about please do not hesitate to leave a comment.

Become a Movie Star to Promote your Business

Okay, it’s a bit of a dramatic title but at least I’ve got your attention, right? This article sets out to (1) convince you to publish a short corporate video and (2) provides some simple (cost-free) ways of going about it.

So who doesn’t get a bit embarrassed when uncle Harry produces the video camera at Christmas time? I suppose we wouldn’t be human if there wasn’t a hesitancy about appearing on a video and particularly one that could be seen by complete strangers. But when Google purchased YouTube a few years back it became an important marketing opportunity for small business owners.

So Why Record a Video?

So why consider recording a video for your business and uploading it to YouTube? Well it goes without saying that prospective customers that can physically see your business are more likely to buy from you. And let’s not forget the sheer number of prospective customers who watch YouTube:

  • Over 800 million unique users visit YouTube each month

  • Over 3 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube

  • YouTube is available on 350 million devices

So how to do it

There are a couple of options here: firstly, you could hire a corporate video firm to direct your video (with the associated cost) and secondly (and my personal recommendation) ask a friend to use their smart phone for free. Okay, the second option might not get nominated for an Oscar, but it will be quick, cost free and effective. It will show prospective customers that you are genuine and are really interested in doing business, and after all that’s all we really need to achieve.

Saying that I must pay tribute to the excellent corporate video which you can see at the top of this article. This was produced by a client called the Nail and Beauty Bar in Bangor and is fantastic. This would normally have cost a considerable amount, but Corine’s contacts got them an unbelievable deal!

Follow these steps to produce a simple but effective 30 second corporate video:

Step One: Preparation

Write out four bullet points on what you want say using the following format:
– Introduce yourself and state your role in the business
– State how long your business has been established and the areas it services.
– Quickly outline your main products and services
– Offer a free consultation and how people can take it up

Step Two: Set up your video

If recording at your desk make sure to tidy it up and ensure that any awards and promotional materials are visible. Also make sure to wear something appropriate.

Step Three: Record your Video

Make sure your friend keeps the phone still and don’t be afraid of doing some dry runs. You will tend to run over the 30 second limit, but make sure to keep it to around that time. The most important bits are the beginning and end – make sure you say the last sentence confidently and hold your stare at the camera for a few seconds.

Once recorded most smart phones can trim the video to remove the inevitable “go!” at the start and the pause at the end.

Step Four: Upload to YouTube

If you haven’t already set up a YouTube account now is the time. This simply involves setting up a free Google account (which you did following last week’s tip) and upload the video. YouTube will guide you on how to do this, but make sure to give the video and description that matches your company name, your service and where you are based.

Step Five: Share, Share and Share some more

Once your video is uploaded to YouTube you will be able to grab a link to share the video on emails, Facebook, Twitter and all other social media outlets. A really important place for it is in your Google Places listing, which i explained last week. YouTube will also provide you with the code required to place the video on your website. I will do this for you for free, yes for free – that’s my offer!

So, are you ready to give it a go? What’s the worst that could happen? Go for it!

Paid Online Advertising – Friend or Foe?

What if I told you I could guarantee visitors to your website?  And not just ordinary visitors either; these visitors are genuinely interested in what you have to sell.

Well, Google Adwords can deliver on that guarantee and become the most effective online marketing that you have ever done or ever could do.

However, before you run off to open a Google Adwords account to start down the road to fame and fortune, let me introduce a word of caution.   Google Adwords is also a huge gaping hungry mouth which loves to devour your hard earned cash.  If you decide to advertise you better know what you’re doing.  Google Adwords is complex and therefore dangerous.   This article sets out to explain the basics of Google Adwords and remove some of this ugly complexity.

Over the last couple of weeks Google has introduced a new service called Keyword Planner.  It’s so new that the phone I’m typing this on hasn’t got it on auto correct yet.  The Keyword Planner is similar to the old Keyword Tool but far better – it combines it with the old Traffic Estimator.  Put simply,  you can use it to determine the actual numbers of people who search for your keywords together with the number of visitors you will receive to your website based on your budget.

Give me an example I hear you say.  Okay – I’m just about to run a Google Adwords Campaign for a large financial institution here in Northern Ireland.   Using the Keyword Planner I was able to build a list of highly relevant keywords for their main services – critical illness, annuities etc.  I was able to restrict my research to searchers based in Northern Ireland and based on a daily budget the Keyword Planner told me how many website visitors I would receive.  There’s even a screen which tells me whether my daily budget will optimise the visitors I would receive – pretty smart!

Armed with this knowledge we can set about writing our Google Advert together with the web page that visitors will land on when they click on the ad.

Avoiding the pitfalls

The first thing to do is to make sure you set a daily budget.  This limits your expenditure and allows you take stock after a few days.

Secondly make sure that you have narrowed down your target location for the advert.   Most businesses are local and sell to local people; Adwords provides the facility to target by country,  county or even postcode.  This means you are directly reaching your prime target.  

Thirdly,  restrict your ad to run at certain times of day and on certain days of the week.  No point in running an ad in the middle of the night for most businesses!

This article is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Google Adwords but at least it provides a basic understanding and likely will save someone from making an expensive mistake,

If I can provide any more information please do not hesitate to contact me.