Posted by & filed under Business & Entrepreneurship, ecommerce.

Virtual Reality ShoppingFacebook made headlines when it made a $2 billion purchase of VR pioneer Oculus in 2014. The social media giant’s move signified a huge transformation for gaming and mobile devices. Its Focus 360 technology (thanks to in-house, proprietary Oculus tech) enables users to enjoy a 360-degree panoramic experience without using a headset. Now that we’re closer to VR experiences becoming a day-to-day reality, the question lingers about how virtual reality will improve the online shopping experience.

1. Hardware is Getting Cheaper

While not everyone is clamoring to buy a Samsung Gear VR headset, Google Cardboard is proving there is an appetite for a cheap, essentially disposable viewer. Amazon has been in the hardware business for some time, and it’s not unlikely that they could develop a proprietary headset that works exclusively with their store. Alibaba, the e-commerce giant, successfully launched a VR shopping headset in 2016 for Singles Day in China, the country’s largest online shopping day of the year. Other major e-tailers could easily rush to compete to give shoppers the most in-person like shopping experience from the convenience of their mobile devices.

2. Try it On

If you’ve never purchased clothing from a brand, and aren’t familiar with how its sizing fits you, buying clothing online presents some risk. Major retailers like Zappos and Nordstrom make their online shopping experiences more appealing by offering free shipping for returns, mitigating the risk that a new pair of boots or a coat doesn’t fit quite like you thought it would. Imagine, though, slipping on a pair of goggles and actually trying on a new garment or accessory.

It’s not out of the question to think that consumers would be motivated to use a similar easy-to-deploy tech for trying on everything from lingerie to a pair of jeans. That future isn’t as far away as you may think. In 2015, Underside, a Belgian app developer, created an app that enabled you to try on the Apple Watch. The technology wasn’t difficult to implement: cut out a piece of paper, affix it to your wrist and use the iPhone’s camera (and the AR Watch app) to view the watch on your wrist. The Gap is already letting shoppers play with AR dressing rooms.

3. Looking Around

Physical expansion is costly, and retailers can’t possibly open a location in small markets where a limited customer base doesn’t guarantee the volume they need. So, before Zara or luxury brands expand into a new city, they’re more likely to invest in virtual shopping experiences. Imagine touring a store, touching merchandise, and enjoying the relaxing and fun experience of looking around. Virtual reality shopping won’t always replace the excitement of the in-person experience, but if the closest Chanel store is hundreds of miles away, this may be your only way to examine a $3,000 purse.

4. Using Virtual Reality Online for Large Purchases

It’s typically very difficult to experience a new sofa, dining table set, or other household goods when you’re looking online. It’s equally challenging to picture a sofa that you do see in person in your house. A future where you can virtually place that large piece of furniture in your home is not far away. VR and AR developers are working hard and the race is on between companies like Oculus and Magic Leap to solve these big problems for big purchases. For instance, the Ikea app already has AR features that shoppers can use on Android and iOS.

5. Booking a Vacation

Photos and videos already do a pretty good job of capturing the essence of sitting beach-side at a five-star resort. Travel agencies, hotels, and travel writers will soon deploy AR and VR to make it even easier for you to book your next vacation. This landscape is shifting constantly, but it’s probably only a matter of time before you can click onto a hotel website or the visitor’s bureau for a country or landmark and feel like you’re literally standing next to a volcano or sipping cocktails on the sand. There are a host of apps right now that are pushing the technology along, albeit with mixed results, but as the hardware improves and gets cheaper, we anticipate that the tourism industry will exploit augmented and virtual reality to improve online browsing for potential guests.

Is your content future proof? Is your team prepared to use virtual reality in your user’s online shopping experience? We’re here to help you plug up any holes in your content quality so you’re ready for anything.

Posted by & filed under Social media marketing.

Social Media PlatformsDeciding on the best social media platforms for your business depends almost entirely on your customer demographic, your customer personas, and the type of products you sell to those customers. To help marketers who are relatively new to social media marketing as a source of lead generation, we broke down the most popular platforms by demo to help you prioritize how to leverage your content marketing strategy and ad spend the most effectively.

Demographic Breakdown by Social Network

If you’re a relative newcomer to marketing metrics, we thought it would be helpful to define each major U.S. demographic, and the networks they frequent, to assist in your quest to use social media for business.

Baby Boomers

In 2015, the youngest Boomers all turned 50 (the group represents the post-War generation, born from 1946 to 1964). They are a potent demographic, with 70 percent of our nation’s disposable income, according to Forbes.

Do Boomers Use Social Media?

While a mere 54 percent of Boomers own a smartphone, 84 percent of them are active on Facebook. They are still traditionalists, watching real-time television, and getting their news from online media outlets. The good news is that they are frequent and avid Facebook users (especially Boomer women).

Baby Boomer Bottom Line

If you’re planning using social media for lead generation with boomers, focus your efforts on desktop rather than mobile, and invest heavily in your Facebook campaigns.

Generation X

Gen X are the literal children of Boomers, born from 1965 to 1981. Their headcount does not come anywhere near Boomers (or their younger cousins, Millennials), but they are a powerful buying force in the U.S. There are roughly 60 million of them (25 percent of all adults), with a substantial amount of disposable income. Over 2 million X-ers have an annual household income of $250,000, more income per household than either Boomers or Millennials.

Do Gen Xers Use Social Media?

Resoundingly, yes. Like their Boomer parents, they spend most of their time on Facebook. Only 48 percent claim to use Twitter, with just half that claiming to be active. Your second stop on the Gen X social media train, surprisingly, is Pinterest. An impressive 44 percent of the network’s daily “Pinners” range between ages 30 to 44. While most of those users are typically women, Pinterest bragged as recently as 2015 that men were flocking to the network, too, with 20 percent of them joining Pinterest to follow their favorite brands.

Generation X Bottom Line

Social Media for Lead GenerationIf your target market is the babies of Baby Boomers, you’ll find Generation X first on Facebook, and then Pinterest.

Millennials

Sometimes also called Generation Y, they are the future of marketing. Born between 1982 and 1997, their population is set to peak at 81.1 million in 2036. They are such a massive demographic shift in terms of birth rates that they are set to overtake net immigration. As a group, they love their social media networks by a larger margin than any other single group. If you want to reach them, you have to diversify your message among several different platforms. As the first official “digital native” population, they are the most likely single audience to shop online. Because they are so digitally savvy, their online behavior is a bit more complex and diverse than Gen X and the Boomers.

While their overall time on Facebook is decreasing, they still check in every day. Their second most popular destination is Instagram, with more of this group saying they are spending an increasing amount of time on the Facebook-owned photo sharing site. Lastly, Snapchat is becoming a big favorite, with 45.5 percent (according to a study done by RBC capital markets) increasing their time on the app.

Millennials prefer indirect ads to direct ones, so be subtle when you talk to them online. Story-based marketing tends to work well with them, as does direct, simple, straightforward messaging.

Millennials Bottom Line

With this growing group of young buyers, you’re going to have to watch them closely because their online habits are dynamic and could change tomorrow. For now, though, your priorities in terms of posts are Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.

Generation Z

Because this group is still so young, measuring their online behavior is tricky. Born between 1998 and 2014, these young people trend towards whatever is new, because, historically, that’s what all young people do. With Gen Z, it’s the message that matters. They are socially conscious, and they want to make a difference. They have the shortest attention span of any demo, because they are used to filtering out ads and sales messages. It’s no coincidence, then, that they are the group most likely to use ad blockers and other filters to stop you from reaching them completely.

Do They Use Social Media?

Oh, yes. They use all of it, all the time, and their usage is all over the map.

Right now, Snapchat is still a hot commodity with this demo. A telling 45 percent of Snapchat users range from 13 to 24, with 70 percent of them being girls and women. Snapchat is a highly personalized app, so catching your users there is tricky. They are also posting pics on Instagram, with 64 percent of girls between 15-17 using it daily. They do use Twitter, but nothing in comparison to their older siblings and parents. For them, Facebook is the has-been of social media sites, but they check in (similarly to Twitter) to see what’s trending.

Generation Z Bottom Line

With this group, message matters more than anything. You’ll have to be creative and experiment with multiple platforms, including their parents’ site (Facebook), and other sites where they spend time daily, including Instagram, Snapchat, and dozens of other private networks that place an emphasis on visuals. They won’t fall for taglines and aspirational messaging. Make them feel like they are a part of something greater than themselves by creating campaigns that encourage social involvement, causes, and the environment (their #1 concern). If these are your people, and you’re looking for the best social media platforms for their attention, you have to watch them grow and evolve to keep pace with their changing online behavior.

References for Using Social Media for Business

The data we used was heavily sourced, and we thought these links would be helpful as you continue to educate yourself about using social media for lead generation.

We loved these two articles from Hootsuite on social media marketing

https://blog.hootsuite.com/top-social-media-sites-matter-to-marketers/
https://blog.hootsuite.com/how-to-engage-any-demographic-with-a-social-media-campaign/

If you need help with raw data from a reliable source, PewResearch is a great go-to:

http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/11/11/social-media-update-2016/
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/04/25/millennials-overtake-baby-boomers/

Lastly, this blog from American Express has some amazing pointers on leveraging all the extra income that Generation Xers have at their collective disposal (it’s from 2014, but many of these factoids still hold true):

https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/gen-x-how-to-market-to-the-forgotten-generation/

We are always here to help you read the tea leaves and define a strategy that best uses social media for lead generation. Contact us here and let us give you some pointers that can change how your online audience engages with your brand.

Posted by & filed under Content Strategy, ecommerce, SEO Strategy.

mobile-commerce-strategyWhile desktop shopping numbers still largely dwarf mobile spending, that’s changing quickly. Millennials and Gen X shoppers love their mobile devices, and the former is set to become the largest demographic as Baby Boomers age. Eventually, most purchasing will happen from handhelds, so getting smart about your mobile commerce strategy now is the only way to future-proof your b

1. SEO Matters Everywhere

A solid mobile commerce strategy improves search results just as much as traditional desktop tactics. Research your keywords and deploy them carefully and strategically. Users are constantly searching on mobile (over half of searches now come from mobile devices), so make sure that your user team is focusing on mobile search results.

2. Push Special Offers to the Top

Want your users to spend more of their mobile shopping dollars on your site? Push your sales and any special discounts to the top of your mobile site so it’s the first thing shoppers see when they browse on their smartphones. You only have about 10-20 seconds to grab a user’s attention, so always give them the good news first. Entice them with money saving deals, free shipping, or free membership offers up front.

3. Platform Proof Your Mobile Site

It doesn’t matter how well thought-out your mobile commerce strategy is if no one with a new Android phone can see it. You have to constantly check your mobile site’s compatibility with operating system updates and new mobile devices. There are third parties that will do this automatically for you, so you don’t have to think about it. Often, web hosting platforms include this feature as a part of your annual contract. Scale the site so it loads quickly; load times are even more important in the mobile environment than on PCs.

 4. Feature Bite-Sized Information

Mobile ShoppingGoogle defines “micro moments” as the instantaneous moment when people use their mobile devices to look for a single piece of information, such as celebrity birthdays or last-minute shopping information while they’re standing in the checkout line. Question your micro-moment strategy:

  • How can you and your brand capitalize on micro moments?
  • What product-related information can you feature to facilitate this type of quick research?
  • How can you curate or create original content that exists solely for these types of searches?
  • What kind of useful, brand-relevant information can you deliver for customers while they’re on the go?

5. Develop a Separate Mobile Ad Campaign

Drive users to your site with ad campaigns on social media apps that are tailored to the mobile shopper. Use Facebook’s mobile ad developer tool and cultivate images and videos that pop. Find out which other content-based apps your users spend a lot of time on. Can you do an affordable ad buy on these apps? Include smart and easy to navigate calls to action to make it as convenient as possible for buyers to respond to your mobile ad.

6. Use Push Notifications Creatively

Millennials love push notifications from their social networks. Use yours carefully and thoughtfully when you’re making a big announcement. Mobile shopping isn’t just about impulse purchases. Younger shoppers are educated and aware of value. Tie your marketing campaigns into other promotions and make them as interactive as possible. Personalize your push notifications whenever possible. Experiment with humor and personality.

7. Measure, Measure, Measure

The success of your mobile commerce strategy depends almost entirely on how well you measure and collect data. Try out different campaigns in small batches to clearly defined groups and measure how well each worked. Let the data drive your behavior as a marketer. Your assumptions are never as important as response rates and clicks.

Need help putting together a mobile content marketing strategy? We’re here to help. Reach out to us today and find out more about how our platform and ecosystem of writers, editors, and project managers can support your content goals.

Posted by & filed under Social media marketing.

The starting point for optimizing your current social media strategy is to take some advice from Jay Baer, President of Convince & Convert e-commerce consulting services:

“Companies should focus more on how to BE social, and less on how to DO social media.”

It’s true that social media optimization (SMO) does require some website and network analytics and administrative tools for measuring progress with your strategy, based on quantifiable markers like page views, social shares, likes, and retweets. But the willingness to interact with your audience, to give them solid, valuable content, and to put in ample time to do both are fundamental to any successful social media marketing campaign.

Whether your current strategy has been yielding most or all of the results you wanted at the outset, or whether it has gaps in some parameters that have created a mixed bag of results, you can tweak it to obtain even greater or more balanced outcomes. Most experts suggest you should approach the SMO task by revisiting the plan that brought you your results. The optimization tips here are reminders of why and how you developed your social media strategy in the first place, peppered with some tools and insights that may help you freshen or revitalize your strategy.

Do You Need to Re-Shift or Narrow the Objectives of Your Social Media Strategy?

Most experts agree that relying on social media for e-commerce is the product of any number of company marketing goals and objectives. And they suggest that, although the goals are interrelated, only one or two specific social media objectives should be driving strategy.

Look at the following list and revisit what you and your company want from your strategy.

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Drive traffic to your website
  • Generate new leads
  • Grow revenue
  • Boost brand engagement
  • Build customer loyalty
  • Build a community around your business
  • Drive social signals for SEO
  • Increase mentions in the press
  • Research and learn about your customers

Each one of these objectives has its own specific tactics and analytic markers for measuring their success. But the key is determining which one is most appropriate for your company, its mission, its resources, and its future.

The Goals That Many Social Media Marketers Pursue

A 2014 “Social Media Optimization Survey” by Software Advice and Adobe found that marketers had their greatest success with two social media marketing objectives specifically — gaining new followers and enhancing recognition of their brands. They were least successful at using social media to generate leads and to drive direct-response sales.

What this finding may suggest is that the primary objective of a social media campaign should target less at generating revenue and more at establishing an audience, and then using subsequent marketing strategies like emails to improve sales. Again, the trick is to be social.

Use the SMART Model To Reset Your Goals and Objectives

Goal-setting theory is a fundamental management technique and is particularly appropriate in marketing. One of the theoretical models that SMO experts agree is most useful in social media marketing is called SMART. To achieve your objectives, each goal has to be:

  • Specific (with precisely defined amounts or outcomes)
  • Measurable (with clear-cut indicators for monitoring progress and results)
  • Achievable (with realistic ceilings and boundaries)
  • Relevant (with strategic application and linkage to resource commitments)
  • Time bound (with target dates for specific milestones)

One of the best ways to apply the SMART model is to think in terms of the broad company goal first, and then determine how the social media objective helps achieve the broad mission in the most consistent, consequential way possible.

social-media-strategy

Source: Flickr user -Aaron Davis-

How Are Your Social Media Marketing Resources Targeted?

There are hundreds of social networks that may be appropriate for your marketing campaign. The top 10, as of 2017, include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, and Snapchat. Many experts agree that you shouldn’t overextend yourself and try to be everywhere at once. They also agree, however, that placing your content on multiple networks is necessary for enhancing your visibility and extending your audience reach.

Analysis (as of 2017) of statistics from an Edelmann Trust Barometer survey showed the following breakdown of company participation on social networks:

  • 23 percent are on three
  • 25 percent are on four
  • 16 percent are on five
  • 10 percent are on six
  • 3 percent are on eleven or more

Altogether, 84 percent of companies are using at least three social media networks to share their content. Yet the more revealing statistic is that a full 48 percent are using only three or four.

Are You Capturing the Right Audience?

You had customers in mind when you launched your business. But was your consumer analysis definitive enough to match your social media message with the right people?

Social media marketing experts recommend creating “buyer personas” to determine your entire target audience down to the last person who would purchase your product. Buyer personas are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers that capture personal characteristics. These characteristics include age and gender, income and occupation, and avocational interests, but also more specific details like motivations, problems, dislikes, habits, and other internal values.

Target the right people with the correct message by checking out online resources, including research, surveys and interviews, to create buyer personas to precisely match your social media marketing campaign.

Are You Appropriately Distributing the Content You Use to Target Social Media for E-Commerce?

Regardless of whether your content sharing on social media is visual, audio, or print — in blogs, or posts, or tweets — how you present it in the right amounts and the right time parameters is key.

Follow two rules:

1. Use the “Social Media Rule of Thirds” set forward by Hootsuite for targeting content:

  • One-third promotes your business, converts readers, and generates profit
  • One-third shares ideas and stories from thought leaders in your industry or similar businesses
  • One-third consists of personal interactions with your audience

2. Create an editorial calendar for creating content by determining:

  • Times and dates and frequency of content posting
  • The target audience for each piece of content
  • The author of each piece of content

Posted by & filed under Content Strategy.

 Blog OptimizationBy now, what you’ve read has you convinced that your e-commerce business needs a blog to build relationships with your customers, so you’ve written your first post and added it to the website. And the result is the sound of silence. It doesn’t appear that people are reading the blog at all, so what’s your next step toward winning readers’ attention? These tips will help you with winning blog optimization for the best results.

Act as a Mentor for the Best Blog Content

While the ultimate goal is to convert readers into buyers, when you write blog posts, you need a different mindset. Make it your priority to mentor potential customers beyond just your own products. Answer the readers’ questions and provide them with useful information relevant to those questions. Include quotes from authoritative sources about related topics. For example, if you sell cookware, include a statement or two about using cast-iron skillets from Ina Garten or Ree Drummond or other popular, well-known chefs and cooks.

Keeping the content up to date is important, as well. Web spiders, which crawl the web looking at sites and ranking them, don’t like sites that never change. At the least, update your blog weekly, more often if you can. For the best blog content, use original content and don’t limit posts to straight text. Be sure to include photos, videos, and even podcasts.

Make Content Easy to Read

If readers must work at deciphering your blog, they aren’t going to bother reading it. Stick with dark letters on a light — preferably white — background. Pick an easy-to-read font and use a larger size than you would for emails or printed letters. Save the fussy backgrounds and fancy scripts for special text blocks for blog optimization that keeps them coming back.

Keep the lines and the paragraphs short, as well. Having to scroll from side to side to read an entire line is not fun and may discourage readers from continuing. Keep lines to 75 characters or fewer, as much as possible. Break the copy into short paragraphs of six lines or fewer whenever possible, and use the extra white space to make the page visually appealing and easy on the eyes.

Ensure That Collecting Email Subscribers Is Easy

Conversions rely on more than just your blog, although it is an important open door. Building an email subscriber list should be the next step in your marketing strategy, so make it simple for both your readers and yourself. Add a two-step, opt-in subscription form. When readers click at the first step, a form appears for them to add their email addresses.

Take off distractions like RSS feed icons. Having readers subscribe to those feeds doesn’t do anything for you, so keep the focus on that email list by eliminating the distractions. While you are adjusting the display, add a “popular posts” section to help readers find useful information that encourages them to subscribe to the email list.

Offer an “honorable enticement” to encourage signups. Provide a special report, a webinar, or even an e-course to those who join the club. You may even want to give a small discount on the next order to those who sign up, which may also build brand trust.

Use Blog Optimization to Aim for Increased Social and Search Traffic

Generating Search TrafficGenerating a buzz about your company is another goal of your business blog and blog optimization, so you need to make sure that you are making it easy for people to share and to find you through search engines. The most obvious solution is to be sure your blog has social sharing buttons available: a quick click sends the post to Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms. Also, make sure that your images match the best-fit sizes for your favored social media channels. If they are either too large or too small for readers to see them well when shared, you lose all the power of pictures.

Strong headlines make a big difference in generating search traffic, too. Take care to use brand authority by mentioning the benefits of the information found in the post by using strong adjectives and numbers when feasible. Be sure your keywords and phrases appear in every headline, and aim for them showing up in the first 55 characters.

Backlinks are also valuable in generating social and search traffic. One or two authoritative links, especially from .edu or .gov sites, carry more benefits than dozens of less selective links, and making sure the anchor text includes or is relevant to your keywords is crucial. Remember to link back to your own content, as well, whether it’s to other blog posts or to your product pages.

Remember That Clean Copy Works Best

It seems obvious, but it’s easy to overlook these tips. Make sure your blog loads fast, and check that all the links work. When possible, shorten the permalinks — those used to find the site — to match your keywords. And ensure that your blog (and the rest of your website) is mobile responsive. Larger and larger numbers of people read blogs on their phones and tablets, so confirm that yours shows well on the devices.

Once you’ve incorporated these tips, sit back and “listen” to the chatter your blog generates.