Gate Customer Newsletter Gate.com
Issue: June 2014

Four E-Commerce Trends Leveling the Playing Field for SMBs

SMBs are trying to compete with the big guys online, and in many cases are doing so quite successfully. But it’s taken a while for many cash- and time-strapped SMBs to get to the point where they can even have a consistent online presence, let alone one that is optimized to help them compete against high-profile competitors. Now that the tide is turning for SMBs, there are four key trends emerging that need to be embraced to move to the next level.

  1. This is the year for mobile commerce. Every year, experts claim “this is the year” for one technology trend or another. According to a recent report from InMobi, 2014 is the year for mobile commerce. The report states that 83 percent of global shoppers who use mobile devices plan to make a mobile purchase in the coming year. Worldwide, 48 percent of respondents listed mobile as a key media that impacts purchasing decisions. Reliance on mobile is even higher in some consumer markets, such as India, where it was cited by 60 percent of those surveyed. Prepping your website to meet this mobile commerce wave means more than simply optimizing your existing website for iOS, Android and other devices. Small business owners need to make their buy-from-anywhere shopping more appealing to potential customers by building out great mobile experiences, with responsive websites that work on every device and resize in a way that makes sense to the increasingly savvy mobile shopper. Seamless browsing and shopping across platforms will be crucial for SMBs in 2014. Ask your hosting provider for tips on getting started.
  2. It’s time to get social. Social media and content marketing are no longer online marketing “trends” – they’re an inherent part of many customers’ commerce experience. SMBs are realizing the importance of interacting with their followers on Facebook and solving customer service queries via Twitter. Social referrals and conversions from sites such as Facebook and Pinterest are becoming a critical part of the e-commerce experience for SMBs, with the objective of having customers not just interact with your business, but also with each other.
  3. Align your small business with Big Data. Calculators and cash registers don’t allow businesses to do anything more than crunch numbers. But new point-of-sale (POS) technologies will let SMBs evaluate their sales data to spot trends and buying habits with a whole new depth. Its customer relationship management (CRM) meets POS, and the information gathered will not only help with sales, but with the other elements that SMBs need to manage their businesses, such as staffing and inventory. According to a recent customer survey commissioned by ShopKeep, up to 42 percent of the 640 small businesses surveyed are already using real-time data to adjust business decisions, in some cases in under 24 hours.
  4. Get familiar with personalization. Using the information gleaned from Big Data above, SMBs have the opportunity to go beyond simply suggesting similar products – which is a must-do strategy in and of itself – to actually tailoring a user’s shopping experience based on previous data. Allowing customers to move through different channels based on what they’ve done on your website in the past is essential to e-commerce in 2014.

What one thing do all of these trends have in common? They are enabled by advances in technology that make adopting methods once beyond reach now easy and cost-effective for businesses of all sizes. In many ways, SMBs are ahead of the game, because they’ve limited their investment in “enterprise-grade” technologies that gave large businesses an initial leg up. Now that advanced e-commerce capabilities are available to the little guys at a price point they can afford – and in a “form factor” they can understand – the playing field is starting to become a little more even.

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In This Issue
Four E-Commerce Trends Leveling the Playing Field for SMBs
Three Ways Retailers Can Benefit from the Cloud
Seven Tips to Optimize Your AdWords Landing Page
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Three Ways Retailers Can Benefit from the Cloud

It’s no secret that cloud computing is playing a major role in the transformation of several industries, and retail is among the fields capitalizing most on its benefits. From breaking down silos between legacy systems to revolutionizing the Point of Sale (POS) model, cloud computing has helped both e-commerce and storefront retailers alike streamline operations and improve business outcomes.

According to a recent report from Accenture, cloud computing has spawned “A new era for retail,” making capabilities previously only available to large retailers affordable and intuitive for small and medium-sized businesses. All that’s required is Internet access and a web-enabled device.

In addition, many cloud-based offerings boast transparent pricing models and scaling based on tiers, so businesses are not stuck with long contracts, legacy equipment, or upgrade and customization requirements. Cloud-based solutions offer retailers unprecedented flexibility by providing access to data and analytics in real time across business lines.

Let’s take a look at three ways retailers are benefitting from cloud-based services:

  1. The Rise of Mobile POS: Retailers like Apple and Home Depot recognized years ago the need to provide an option for customers to check out with the sales associate that helped them make a purchase instead of waiting in a general line. Since then, mobile POS systems have been popping up in restaurants and bars, clothing boutiques, mall kiosks and other businesses as retailers streamline the shopping experience and improve the intimacy of the customer interaction. Mobile POS systems also help stores recapture valuable floor space because they no longer need to worry about housing servers, computers and cables under a sales counter. While large retailers scramble for ways to make their legacy POS systems PCI-compliant in the post-Windows XP era, retailers that embraced cloud-based mobile POS solutions early on – or made the migration from legacy solutions already – are now sitting pretty.
  2. Real-time data from the sales floor: Real-time data is valuable across the board – from C-level management to department managers to buyers to sales associates. For example, management can see if their investment in a new designer’s line is paying off based on marketing campaigns they conducted vs. the number of people who take that designer’s outfits into the dressing room during the first few hours the store is open. Then they can see how well those dressing room numbers convert to sales.
  3. Real-time access to inventory across stores: Perhaps the most powerful impact of cloud-based services will be on the sales floor. For example, Nordstrom has armed its sales associates with mobile devices that allow them to not only check customers out using a mobile POS, but also gives them access to the company’s entire inventory, which is useful when helping customers check if an alternative size or color is available at another location or online. It also keeps sales associates engaged with customers rather than hiding behind sales counters.

The scope of change that cloud computing is bringing to the retail industry is stunning. Web-based SaaS solutions hosted in the cloud are making their mark on every part of the business, from retail tools to human resources and ERP applications.

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Seven Tips to Optimize Your AdWords Landing Page

Keyword-driven advertising programs like Google’s AdWords can be a terrific resource for generating interest in your business. However, marketers can often become so focused on keywords and click- through rates (CTRs) that they forget the intended goal of these programs: lifting conversion rates.

Conversion rates indicate how many visitors from these ads actually purchased the intended product or service. That means what’s on the landing page is just as important to your online marketing campaign as the advertisement itself, so optimizing your landing pages’ effectiveness is critical to the success of your program.

A big part of the equation is just being seen. Nearly a decade ago, the major search engines began considering landing page quality in their ranking algorithm. With Google AdWords, for example, your landing page quality score and the cost of your keywords determine your AdWords ranking. Building a high-quality landing page can help you achieve a higher ranking and save money.

Fortunately, nearly all of the things search engines consider to determine your landing page ranking are things that lead to a better experience for your visitors. Here is a list of seven things you can do to keep your landing page score high and deliver on its intended results: conversions.

  1. Make your headline compelling and match it to your ad. The headline is the first thing the search engines and your visitors use to judge the quality of your landing page. If your headlines and content do not contain the keywords that your visitor is looking for, that visitor is going to go look elsewhere for what they want. Your landing page should be a reflection of your ad, and your ad should be an indication of your landing page’s content.
  2. Allow visitors to share. The strongest messages will likely not come from you, but rather from your satisfied customers. Make it easy for visitors to brag about their purchase and share their experiences by adding links to all types of social media. The most successful companies in the world do it, so why shouldn’t you?
  3. Create a dedicated landing page for each ad group. It seems like an insurmountable task, but if you start small, you can see how well individual landing pages for each ad group can work. Start with one landing page per campaign. As you have the time to build a new page, add it in and slowly convert your ad groups to all have specific targeted landing pages. Many businesses drive visitors to their home page from the AdWord ad, but that’s a mistake; your homepage is general, while your AdWord campaign is usually pretty specific. Creating a fresh page that’s directly related to your keyword ad will significantly improve your quality score.
  4. Optimize pages for conversion. Every landing page has a conversion goal, whether it’s to sell a product or get visitors to sign up for a newsletter. Visitors have a better experience with your landing page when that goal is clear and easy for them to accomplish. Keep the page clean and easy to read; give users more than one prompt to provide their information and only ask them to provide for the information you need most. This will appear as less risky to your visitors and will lead to higher conversion rates.
  5. Do not use pop-up windows. Many people associate pop-up windows with unwelcome advertising and find them annoying. Search engines are likely to penalize you for a poor user experience if you use pop-up windows on your landing page.
  6. Test often, but do so carefully. The landing page may be the best and perhaps last chance to close the sale. In the same way you test ad text, A/B test landing pages. Create sample landing pages and put them out there to test. Use your imagination and try different themes, colors, headlines, layouts and keywords. Testing various combinations for your landing pages is the best way to find out what works and what does not. Doing so will allow you to change and test single variables such as headlines, imagery, body text, and calls to action evenly over time.
  7. Don’t rush it. Not allowing your tests to run for significant amounts of time and stopping after one test are common mistakes. Gather as much data as possible before determining which option works best, then use that data to set up ongoing tests against the winner to find and display the best possible advertisements and effective landing pages you can.

Using the tips above to create highly relevant landing pages can help improve your quality score and thus your page ranking. When more people see your ad, there’s more potential to convert.

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