Top 3 eCommerce Marketing Opportunities for 2013

It’s now time for anyone running an eCommerce business to switch their focus from Christmas and the January Sales, and instead look at their bigger plans for successful online selling in 2013, writes Chloë Thomas for Wanobe.com. Chloë, author of ‘eCommerce Masterplan’, has helped over 50 businesses launch or refine their eCommerce offering and has worked with small start-ups and major High Street brands.

There are three types of marketing that, if you get them right, are really going to fast-track your business success in 2013.

Content Marketing, Social Media Sharing, and Remarketing are three areas that can increase your sales and where you can still be the first in your marketplace to get it right. That will give you great power over your competition.

Great Content Marketing is going to sit at the centre of successful sustainable marketing activity in 2013. That’s because without great content you’re not going to get good traffic from the search engines, and there’s little for customers to discuss about you on social media (which also affects your search traffic). Plus, good content builds customers warmth towards you – it defines your brand and keeps them coming back again and again.

So what is Content? It might be a blog, it might be a video, or pictures of your latest photo-shoot, or even an infographic. Essentially content is anything people can consume online – written, visual, or audio.

If you really want to take it to top-of-the-class content – get your customers to create it for you! Ask them to write blog posts for you, review your products, or post videos of them using them.

Creating content isn’t easy, but this next tip for 2013 is.

Social Media Sharing Buttons. These are the little buttons you find on a blog or product page that invite the visitor to share the page on Twitter or Facebook etc. Once you’ve added them to your page templates, that’s it, the job is done.

So why should you add them? Well, if you want to win in the search engine rankings war in 2013 you need people talking about your site and your products on social media. That means you need to make it easy for them to do so. Visitors are more likely to talk about you and your products online if there’s a button on that product page telling them to.

Both the above tips are about driving more traffic to your website, the third top marketing tactic for 2013 is all about improving your conversion rate. Remarketing enables you to show ads to people who’ve already visited your website – reminding them to come back and buy from you.

You simply need to add a piece of code to all the pages of your website, and then create the targeting rules and the ads. To do all this you can use Google Adwords, and you pay for the advertising on a cost per click basis.

A few things to be careful of – with your targeting make sure you exclude those people who did buy, limit how long after their last visit they’ll see your ads, and set a maximum number of times they see your ad each day.

And finally, a little bonus tip – test out selling your products on Amazon and eBay. That’s where many consumers are spending their online shopping time – so if you’re not there, you’re probably missing out!

Chloë Thomas is author of eCommerce MasterPlan, and owns indiumonline (an online marketing agency) based in Kidlington. You can get eCommerce MasterPlan at all good bookshops, on Amazon.co.uk, and direct from www.eCommerceMasterPlan.com

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Survey finds rise of GDP brings confidence to small businesses

LONDON: A survey of 2000 small businesses undertaken a week after the 1% rise in GDP reveals that small businesses are now confident enough to start investing in their businesses – the survey was released byFreelancer.co.uk, the world’s largest outsourcing marketplace.

The survey found that 58% of small businesses are now willing to invest in their businesses, confident about the future and that investment will result in growth. Many are beginning to see sales pick up and a small return in consumer confidence.

Yet 61% of the businesses were refused a loan from a bank and will be using their own money to invest. 43% will use their savings, while 19% will borrow money from friends and family.

The survey found, however, that while businesses want to invest, they are wary about taking on new staff. 34% said they would now rather spend money on marketing, while 43% said they would now invest in improving their ability to trade online, saying that it was now easier to sell products over the internet.

The survey also found that 48% said they would be investing in hiring freelancers to undertake the work, saying that they only pay for services as they needed them

The survey was backed up by Freelancer.co.uk’s own growth figures, revealing that UK small businesses spending on freelancers has increased by 134% in the last few months.

“The Olympics may have given the UK economy a shot in the arm, but this survey shows that
small businesses believe that growth is now sustainable” said Matt Barrie, Freelancer.co.uk’s CEO.

“Small businesses are not only confident about the future, but they already seeing signs that consumers are confident too. More small businesses are hiring freelancers online, confident that their investment will pay off.”

“UK business are using sites like Freelancer.co.uk to carry out business across the world, undertaking data research, marketing, programming and rebranding,” he said.

Case studies:

Armstrong Security – Olympics security:

Gill Armstrong – a business that outsourced marketing needs and ended up providing 150 guards during the Olympics.

Gill was made redundant as a security officer and set up her own security businesses in Birmingham. Marketing her company digitally was crucial to its success, but local companies cost too much, so she hired a freelancer through Freelancer.com.  Such was the success that she had to supply 150 guards during the Olympics.

SEO was important to the success of her company, but as a start up she couldn’t afford the £5000 that a local company costed.

“Freelancer helped me achieve link building and digital marketing goals for Armstrong Security for less than a quarter of the price asked by local companies and professionals,” she said. “I wouldn’t have been able to afford to go digital without outsourcing to a freelancer.”

“With a very tight budget to market my services, Freelancer actually offered me the solution I as looking for…it also helped me learn most of the SEO from professionals I hired and now I have acquired very valuable SEO skills that I constantly use to stay ahead of competition”.

Gill made more than what she used to earn on her previous job in just 6 months. The Olympics led to increased business opportunities, with requests for the provision of security guards, stewards and bodyguards – Gill had to recruit 150 people to cope with demand during the period.

Mike Channing: Tuckbox

Mike was made redundant for the second time in this recession recently. (First by Zed Media where he worked on media planning and buying including the original Compare the Meerkat campaign) then he switched to BUPA.

He has subsequently decided to go self employed and start his own business and it will launch in the next week or so. Has a wife and three young kids, never had own business.

He used Freelancer for the design, ecommerce web development, photo editing and is going to run some research and other projects through the site. In his words he was “surprised” (read sceptical) when someone told him he could get the design and development done for under £1k via the site. He has now almost completed it for about £900. The site when it launches looks visually appealing and will be called British Tuckbox (selling British goods to expats with a yearning for Heinz, Cadbury’s etc).

Background

Webby award-winning Freelancer.co.uk is the largest outsourcing marketplace in the world. ThroughFreelancer.co.uk, businesses connect with independent service providers and freelancers. Freelancer.co.uk connects more than four million professionals from all over the world. Through our website, employers can hire freelancers to do work in areas such as software, writing, data entry and design right through to engineering and the sciences, sales & marketing and accounting & legal services. Jobs start at £20, and the average job is under £150, making Freelancer.co.uk extremely cost effective for small businesses and entrepreneurs, which often need a wide variety of jobs to be done, but cannot justify the expense of hiring full time.

Sage helps bring the power of Windows 8 to small to medium sized businesses

The Sage Group plc today unveiled its strategy to bring the simplicity, efficiency, enhanced security and flexibility of Sage’s business management software on Windows 8 to small to medium sized businesses (SMBs).

Launching four of the first business apps for Windows 8, Sage will help pioneer how businesses can benefit from Windows 8 and next generation mobility through shared R&D and product roadmaps to deliver immersive data and applications on demand.

  • In the UK, Sage 50 Accounts Pulse has been designed to deliver top-line financial information to Owner Managers and company Directors, who need to monitor customers, suppliers, cash flow and profit and loss. With no need for accounts experience and a friendly interface, the app gives users greater financial control and insight
  • In Spain, Sage eFactura Online is an invoicing solution that will help users increase productivity by managing invoices, companies and customers, wherever they are
  • In Germany, Sage Mobile Salary Calculator helps you determine your net salary and enables users to simulate salary developments or simply keeps track of net wages and deductions
  • In France, Sage 100 business mobile is an app that provides the key data dashboard coming from Sage 100, in real time, anytime, anywhere.

 

“At Sage, we are focused on giving our customers the freedom, confidence and control they need to achieve their business ambitions,” explained Álvaro Ramírez, CEO of Sage Europe. “Our technology agenda has always been driven by innovation that responds to customer needs and we believe Windows 8 has the potential to transform how businesses can search and share data and enjoy unprecedented value from Connected Computing. These apps not only allow existing customers, but also new users in a wider variety of roles, to access the data they need in an easy, meaningful way, whenever and wherever they choose, enabling them to do their job even better and to efficiently manage their business.”

Jay Paulus, director of product marketing, SMB, Windows, Microsoft Corp. added, “We are confident that Sage’s business software and services will help extend next-generation mobility to small and midsize businesses across the world. Sage’s innovative and intuitive apps are a great example for how businesses can benefit from Windows 8.”

More U.S. Small Business Owners Reporting Positive Business Conditions

Forty-three percent of small business owners consider business conditions to be positive, according to the latest Citibank small business survey released today. This is a significant increase since August 2010, when 24% of small business owners surveyed reported overall positive business conditions.

One-third (33%) of respondents said their own business is better than it was a year ago – up from 26% in January. Another 33% expect their business will grow by more than 10% this year.

“Small business owners risk everything to pursue their dreams and are willing to do what it takes to make it,” said Maria Veltre, Managing Director, Citi Small Business. “Their personal sacrifices, passion and ability to adapt have positioned them to capitalize on improving business conditions.”

NECESSITY: THE MOTHER OF REINVENTION
A majority of respondents (53%) say they have reinvented their business “to stay afloat or competitive.” This strategy is reinforced in the current competitive climate that 38% of respondents describe as “extremely intense.”

“Small business owners are especially adept at reinvention – whether because of obstacles or new visions for growth,” Veltre said. “Change is never easy, but neither is starting and running a business.  We see our small business clients embracing change and reinventing themselves to secure a rewarding future.”

As part of the reinvention process, small business owners say they focused on overhauling the products or services they offered (47%).  This was followed by adjusting their infrastructure, such as technology or staffing (24%) and beefing up their sales and marketing (18%). A small amount (7%) said they reduced pricing and took less profit. Only 3% relocated.

If small business owners aren’t reinventing their business, they stay sharp and evolve to keep up with the competition. The following steps were cited as ways they kept business thriving:
– 88% kept updated and knowledgeable about their field
– 70% increased face time with customers
– 67% updated/upgraded computer systems
– 52% increased their use of the internet and social media
– 51% built a network of suppliers and partner companies

Regarding the steps they plan to take during the remainder of 2012:
– 65% expect to increase marketing
– 56% will work to get better pricing on expenses
– 52% expect to work even longer hours
– 50% will introduce new products or services
– 49% will use social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, to market their business.

“Small business owners should consider these steps as a check list for growth and survival,” said Veltre. “Never one to sit idle, a small business owner continually invests in change in order to stay relevant.”

Part of that reinvention comes from spending, as proven by 38% of respondents who increased the amount they spent on capital investments like computer, inventory and facilities over the past 12 months. Their top two sources of funding have been revenue and profits (75%) and personal savings (62%).

PERSONAL SACRIFICE EARNS APPRECIATION FROM EMPLOYEES AND COMMUNITY

The past few years have taken a personal toll on small business owners: 63% say the major challenge they face owning or running a business was personal stress and being accountable for everyone and everything, second only to the general state of the economy (66%).

Despite overall optimism, small business owners report making significant sacrifices to keep their businesses going and growing over the past few years. Not only did 78% take less profit to support the business at some point in the past, 66% did so to pay employees rather than reduce staff.  A significant majority (70%) also say they worked more hours than usual, often sacrificing family time and missing vacations.

In addition to using their own money to help their business survive (69%), the majority of small business owners (54%) say they have gone without a paycheck. Looking back over the history of their businesses, almost one-quarter (23%) have gone without pay for one year or more.

Specifically, 80% of small business owners believe their employees appreciate the sacrifices they made to keep their businesses operating. Demonstrating true commitment, employees showed thanks by their own investment in the success of the company:
– More than one-third (38%) of owners say their employees worked additional hours without pay;
– Another 18% credit their employees with voluntarily missed or delayed paychecks.

To show their own appreciation of employees, small business owners offer additional time off (78%), a bonus (74%) or a raise (70%).

Customers, too, appreciate the stress and sacrifice of running a company. Almost seven in ten (69%) survey respondents say their customers recognize and appreciate their sacrifices. Even more (87%) say they have been thanked by customers.

“The level of appreciation shown to small business owners by employees and customers is uplifting,” said Veltre. “We encourage everyone to thank their favorite small business owner. Small business is a highly personal undertaking; to the small business owner a simple, personal gesture of appreciation goes a long way.”

About the Survey
This Citibank survey was conducted via telephone May 1, 2012 – May 18, 2012 by Abt SRBI Research and Public Affairs among a national random sample of 750 small business owners/operators, age 18 and older throughout the United States. Oversample interviews were conducted in New York (200 interviews) and California (200 interviews) markets. The margin of error for the national sample is approximately +/- 3.58% and +/- 6.93% for New York and California over samples.  Surveys are subject to other error sources as well, including sampling coverage error, recording error, and respondent error.

Card Turnover at Small Merchants Up 11 Per Cent

Turnover from card payments at small businesses was up 11 per cent in the first quarter of 2012 compared with the same period in 2011. This is the finding of an analysis of card payments at over 43,000 small, independent businesses by CardSave. The increase in some sectors is particularly marked:  card turnover at taxi companies increased by 95 per cent and at fast food businesses by 85 per cent.

“As the British public increasingly prefers to pay by card, small businesses that accept card payments are seeing the effects on their revenue. For some sectors, such as taxis, card payments are becoming the norm, and we expect to see more taxis adopt card payment solutions over the next year,” explains Clive Kahn, CEO of CardSave.

This belief is backed up by a recent YouGov poll that revealed 62 per cent of people carry £20 or less in cash on them, while 93 per cent carry at least one card. The average card transaction at small merchants in Q1 2012 was £64.13, down five per cent on 2011.

“Consumers feel increasingly comfortable putting smaller transactions on card in situation where previously they would have used cash,” says Kahn.

 

Kahn comments: “In the recent past the option to pay by card was a luxury, but Britain is swiftly moving towards becoming a cashless society and there is now strong customer demand for card payment technologies. Our Small Business Payments Index indicates that business owners with card payment facilities can significantly increase their total business revenue.

“Nearly a quarter of shoppers will walk out of a store if they don’t accept card, and while some will return having withdrawn cash, others will swiftly take their business elsewhere. Small businesses, which are already struggling to maintain their position alongside high street chains need to take cards if they are to remain competitive.” Kahn concludes.

Did your business survive Friday 13!

Were you challenged by  Friday 13th April?  Do you believe it’s an unlucky day … or are you a sensible doubter but still hedging your bets …. just in case it’s true.  Are you one of thousands who avoids social and business activities on Friday 13th?
You may scoff at the superstitious but fear of the number 13th is a genuine phobia called Triskaidekaphobia, and fear of 13 has lead to many buildings avoiding a thirteenth floor (see:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirteenth_floor )
And although it may sound strange, many people do avoid making arrangements on Friday 13th. Airlines confirm that bookings are down http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-2085656/Unlucky-Friday-13-sees-flight-bookings-drop-third.html and financiers have known investments to be deferred until another day.
Psychologists include superstitions among a wider range of human traits collectively called ‘magical thinking’, that includes other questionable beliefs ranging from a harmless belief in fairies through mildly disturbing beliefs in the paranormal to potentially more harmful beliefs such as fanatical religion.
Chartered Psychologist Graham W Price, from Abicord, has helped many clients with phobias and / or superstitious beliefs.
Magical thinking perhaps demonstrates the gullibility of humans, particularly in light of the fact that many such beliefs can be disproved. Track events on Friday 13th and compare the results with any other day and, unsurprisingly, there’s not much difference for the average person.
One might imagine the superstitious belief itself could impact the results. Couldn’t a belief that accidents will happen so distract believers that they become more prone to accidents? The studies suggest that even this doesn’t happen.
In fact a Dutch insurance company study in 2008 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friday_the_13th) actually showed that were fewer accidents on Friday 13th as people were preventatively more careful!
What can you do if you have a superstitious belief, or perhaps many such beliefs, that are limiting you in some way? Perhaps you can’t venture out of the house on Friday 13th and that’s costing you a day’s vacation, on average twice a year.
Graham W Price has some advice;
Hypnotherapy can sometimes help. It works for some, but on its own success is far from certain and relapse rates are high. Cognitive Behavioural Techniques (CBT) are generally more effective and sustainable for most mind-related issues, particularly if they’re combined with modern acceptance-based approaches such as Acceptance-Action Therapy (AAT).
A combined CBT-AAT treatment might involve challenging beliefs using an evidence-based approach, learning to accept any feelings such as anxiety and confronting the superstition by changing your behaviour.
When we act in ways that are consistent with an unproductive belief, we always reinforce the belief. Our mind gets a message that the belief must be true …. otherwise why are we behaving in that way. Conversely, if we repeatedly act in the opposite way, we’ll undermine the belief.
Graham recommends trying the following steps to help you move past the superstition and stop it holding you back:
Create a habit of noticing whenever you “buy into” the superstition and limit yourself.  Accept that this is the way you are right now. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t get annoyed or frustrated with yourself
Recognise that the superstition is irrational. Remind yourself that studies have shown there’s no evidence to support it
Drop the thought (surprisingly easy once we’ve carried out the first two steps)
Take the action you were hesitating over while accepting any anxious feelings this may generate
“Do this repeatedly and the limiting belief, and any anxious feelings it may be generating, will soon disappear.” says Graham.

Sharkonomics spreads fear amongst market leaders

Sharks are not only nature’s most revered killing machines, they are highly strategic and efficient predators. Studying their behaviour and instincts can provide lessons for companies of any size who want to attack the competition.

Stefan Engeseth, author of the new book Sharkonomics, argues that taking market share from market leaders is about being aware, creating presence and punching above your weight. By applying the behavioural traits of the shark, Engeseth has created a number of highly practical business strategies which include striking unpredictably, developing a sensory system, hunting in packs and how to locate blind spots. The more competitive your marketplace, the more effective Sharkonomics can be. After all sharks have been evolving for over 420 million years and are still very much the leaders in their space.

Why Sharkonomics
Quite simply, nature is smarter than the likes of Stanford, Harvard, MIT, McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, Bain, IBM, Apple and all of the other Fortune 500 companies. In nature, sharks have to move to survive. But in business most market leaders remain static, because they are stuck in history – and eventually they become shark food. Sharks don’t perform by producing endless Power Points; they bite into market share. Sharkonomics will reveal how the logos of market leaders will have more chunks taken out of them than a seal after a shark picnic.

It’s not just about attack
! Sharkonomics also includes tactics for companies to defend themselves against attack. It is important to state that Sharkonomics is inspired by nature, but Engeseth’s intention is not to spread fear in any form-except perhaps in boardrooms!

Stefan Engeseth, the author of Sharkonomics, dived with sharks in South Africa as part of his research for the book!

Take a bite of this new book at www.Sharkonomics.com

For more information, videos and book samples go to www.Sharkonomics.com.