A Differentiating Edge for Ecommerce: Packing and Packaging

Below is a guest post from Jessica, a staff writer at Rakuten (aka Buy.com).

WebScout may help you design and develop a smashing ecommerce website that converts like a king, but if you don’t follow through with differentiated packaging during your fulfillment process, you’ll be missing out on high-potential repeat and referral business over time.

Packing, packaging, shipping and fulfillment is a big, big deal in the ecommerce today. When just under 90 percent of all online customers confess to leaving their shopping cart because of shipping costs alone, this is something to examine when trying to build business for an online store.

But creating innovative, smile-producing packaging is also just as critical to generating referrals and repeat orders. Many online retailers think as long as what the customer ordered arrives safely and on time, that is all that matters. Clearly this does matter, but it isn’t the only thing that matters, as the example below demonstrates.

A Question: Which Retailer Would You Choose?

If you were an online shopper and you had the choice to order from two different online retailers, with everything else (including product price and shipping) remaining the same, but one retailer’s package came in a plain brown box while the others’s came gift-wrapped like a present and filled with pretty paper, which would you choose? According to a 2013 survey, more than half of all customers would choose the retailer who sent the items in premium packaging.

How to Make Your Packaging Stand Out

You may think it will cost a lot more to make your company’s packaging really stand out. It will definitely cost you some extra time to scope out how to make your brand stand out from the pack. But it doesn’t have to cost a lot to actually put your plans into action.

Here are some ideas to price out:

– Choose a box color other than brown – preferably one that matches a color in your company’s logo.

– Order bulk stickers and place one above the return address on each package. Place a few more inside the box for customers to use and share.

– Instead of just using a box, package your smaller items in decorative gift bags (available for just cents online) tied with colored twine that matches your company logo.

– Be SURE your products are secure inside the container – no one feels good opening a box to see broken purchases!

– Tuck a note inside each order – on the front is your logo and inside is a handwritten PERSONALIZED note saying “Thanks for ordering!”

– During holidays and special events, have some bulk postcards printed up and add one to each order to encourage customers to take advantage of coupons, sales and freebies.

A Word About Free Shipping

The word “free” and all that it suggests will always be popular among consumers. But the key to offering free shipping is to offer it in a way that will not adversely impact the minimum profit your company needs to make per order.

Here are some ideas that can help you offer free shipping:

– Determine the point at which it makes financial sense to offer free shipping (is it a minimum order of $30? $50? $75?) and advertise that as a perk to customers.

– Hike your product prices to incorporate the costs of offering free shipping.

– Negotiate with your wholesale vendors to buy in larger quantities to get lower prices or change what you order so it is affordable enough to throw in free shipping too.

– Find another way to cut your costs: such as spending less time on inventory tasks, or optimizing your pay per click spending, or using smart automation technology to control ongoing marketing efforts and other operational expenses.

– Shift advertising funds you may have unknowingly been wasting to fund free shipping instead.

– Offer free shipping only for purchases that qualify for ground or media mail delivery.

– Offer free shipping as a promotional perk only at certain times each year.

– Offer free shipping instead of offering coupons or product discounts (many customers prefer the former anyway!).

– Give each customer the option of free shipping under certain sets of circumstances – they can choose the most cost-effective for their needs.

With these tips, your company can reinforce your brand and value to customers and earn referrals and repeat business as a reward!

Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who has worked in eCommerce for the last five years.  She currently writes for Rakuten Super Logistics and recommends them for all your online order fulfillment needs to further your success.

 

WebScout Quick Tip – Questions to Ask When Hiring a Marketing Company or Marketing Consultant

When you’re developing a product or service, it can be difficult to gauge what stage in the process is appropriate to start marketing. Marketing helps introduce your company to the masses, and when done right, can significantly improve your chances for success. But when do you stop handling marketing yourself and hire a company to take over? If you’ve gotten too busy or are running out of ideas, it may be time to hire a marketing company to help grow your business. But before you hire anyone, you need to consider what kind of marketing expert would benefit you and your company. Here are a few questions to ask when doing your research:

  1. Am I willing to listen and try new things? Hiring someone outside your company to plan and execute your marketing strategy means giving up some measure of control over it yourself. This can be difficult for some business owners, because they believe they know what is best for their company, and understandably so. However, relinquishing some control over to trained marketing experts can undoubtedly improve the long term success of your business. It’s important to have an open mind when listening to the ideas of your firm or contractor. Their ideas are objective, founded upon facts, research, and previous experience.
  2. Should I hire a marketing consultant or a marketing firm? Hiring a marketing consultant costs less than hiring a marketing firm, which can be beneficial for small businesses or start ups. However, if you have the resources to go bigger, marketing firms offer a variety of marketing experts with a range of specialties, allowing for greater success of finding your perfect match.  According to Business 2 Community, the cost of hiring a marketing agency is $3,000 to $5,000 per month. This may be a small cost to ensure that your product or service is visible to your target market. Hiring a marketing consultant would make more sense if you’re not looking to get help with every project. For the projects that you do need help with, however, you can hire a marketing consultant whose skills are especially tailored to your needs.
  3. Do I need marketing assistance full time or part time? Consider the size of your business, amount of sales, and number of projects to assess whether you need full or part time marketing help. Also consider if it would be beneficial to your business to have a marketing consultant on a project by project basis. This can be a cost effective way of getting the marketing expertise you need without committing to long term payments. A marketing firm would be more appropriate for businesses that are looking for a consistent source of marketing assistance or a vast array of differing skills. For example, graphic design for a printed brochure is a completely different skillset than website development or video production. In a larger company, they will have more variety of skillsets to accommodate a wide range of marketing needs. This can help keep operations running smoothly and ensure that marketing efforts aren’t taking employee’s time away from other concerns.
  4. Should I hire a local company? When hiring a marketing firm, their location is not as important as the question of whether or not they can really help you. Look for a marketing firm that has previous experience with companies of your size, and if possible, within the market you’re looking to target. Also ask the firm about their strategy and how they have helped other businesses–increased revenue, increased number of people reached, etc.–and see if it matches the results you are aiming for. That said, hiring a local company allows you to interact with the people handling your marketing more often than you would if the firm was not local. This can be extremely beneficial when developing a brand identity, working on strategic marketing planning and any creative work where a face-to-face meeting could vastly improve the outcome.
  5. What results am I looking for? When you’re looking for a marketing consultant or firm, the most important thing to keep in mind is what you want the final outcome to be. Are you looking for a new website to draw potential customers, improved SEO, more social media followers, or greater brand awareness? According to QSR Magazine, the best goals for successful marketing campaigns are specific, can be measured and are closely related to the avenue of marketing itself. For example, you may say you expect at least ten new prospects to derive from a certain Facebook promotion, instead of relying on less direct or short-term results like a temporary increase in website traffic.

Once you’ve thought about these questions, the next step is to do your research on which marketing firms or marketing consultants may be right for you. It will take time and effort, but the more research you do, the more likely you’ll be able to find the right match for you and your company. The quicker that happens, the sooner you’ll be able to execute a marketing plan and start seeing results.

WebScout has done the research for you and offers a free 15-20 minute phone consultation for anyone starting a new marketing project. Contact Us today.

5 Reasons Your Business Needs to be on Social Media

From your local news station to the White House,                                                                              it seems like everyone has a social 5 reasons your business needs to be on social mediamedia presence today. But is it just a passing fancy, or something that can genuinely have an impact on the long term success of your business? Is it worth your time and energy? The answer is yes. Cultivating  a social media presence has become an integral part of marketing strategy. The trick is figuring out which platforms will work best for your business, and making sure they’re ones that your demographic is still using. For example, young adults have largely moved past Facebook and into Instagram and Tumblr. Yet older demographics are just now embracing Facebook.

No matter whom you’re looking to target, there are several reasons why having a social media presence is necessary for your business.

  1. Increases Consumer Trust: Social media is an inherently personal product. It’s fundamental purpose is to allow one person to share their personal information with many others. By creating social media posts for your business, your audience is allowed to interact with your business in a personal way—the same way they interact with friends. A good social media profile can help increase customer trust, because they can communicate with you as a person instead of just a business. And of course, increased trust leads to increased sales and brand loyalty. The key is to be authentic. According to Digital Buzz Blog, auto-posting to Facebook decreases likes and comments by 70%. So rather than canned comments, be creative, and take the time to write personal, relatable posts, and most importantly–reply to comments left by your customers.
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  3. Builds Brand Awareness: As recently noted in this post, brand awareness is key to the long-term growth of a company. Social media can be extremely effective in building brand awareness, simply because it allows your business to be showcased on more platforms. The way you use social media for your business can help make your brand’s message more cohesive and its image more identifiable. Brand awareness is especially important in the early days of your business, so creating a social media presence early can make for a more effective launch. Also, the cost is relatively low compared to other advertising methods, making it optimal for a startup. With regular updates, using social media for brand awareness helps legitimize your business by proving that is alive and well, compared to the often-static content of websites.
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  5. Improves Targeting of Audience: According to Media Bistro, 74% of consumers rely on social media to influence their purchasing decisions. Using social media helps you see who your customers are and what’s important to them. People who connect with your business on social media are potentially the best representations of your target audience. With social media tools, you can track who is looking at your profile, including age, gender, and occupation, allowing you to target potential customers more effectively. Also, you can gain insights about what people are gravitating towards on your social media, through likes and comments. If photos are getting 20 likes and videos are getting 10 likes, you may want to focus more on posting interesting photos.
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  7. Allows for Quick and Easy Updates: When launching a new product or service, there’s no faster way to inform your audience than social media. For example, when someone likes your page on Facebook, posts from your company will show up on their news feed, meaning your customers will be made aware of new content without even having to look for it. Updates can also be shared and spread easily from person to person. Facebook has recently changed their algorithms and businesses have to work harder to get their message to the fans. Less than 10% of fans will see your updates if they are not sponsored. We encourage our clients to spend a portion of their ad budget on Facebook each month to gain exposure.
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  9. Increases Traffic and Conversion: According to Media Bistro, 81% of consumers are influenced by their friends’ posts on social media when making purchasing decisions. This is just one of the ways a good social media presence can increase traffic for your business. Posts can be seen by your customers and their friends, allowing for greater dispersion and visibility of your business, which can lead to increased sales. Also, your social media profiles and posts can be linked to your website, resulting in increased traffic and improved SEO. Social media increases conversion in part by increasing credibility. Companies with a high number of followers are often seen as more legitimate by consumers (and search engines), which may prompt them to choose your company over a competitor.

 

WebScout offers a free 15-20 minute phone consultation for anyone starting a new marketing project. Contact Us today.

WebScout Quick Tip – How to Build an Audience on Social Media

Next up on the FAQ list: How do I build an audience on social media? Here are 5 simple tips for building an audience on social media. Stay tuned for more specific tips for each network in future posts on some of the most popular social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest & Instagram. Let us know your own best practices and tips in the comments.

  • Communicate often and regularly.

Be sure to answer questions in a timely manner and acknowledge a fan who takes the time to reshare, comment or like your content. Fans love to be acknowledged by a company and are more likely to engage with your page if they know they are being heard.

  • Don’t be pushy.

Don’t “sell” your business. Instead, share your expertise with your followers so they come back to you time and again for more useful information.

  • Get personal.

Share information about your industry 70% of the time and something more personal 30% of the time. People need to see the “human” aspect of your business and they love “behind the scenes” details.

  • Stay consistent.

Get focused on sharing content that keeps your readers coming back for more. We all know it is tempting to post those funny cat memes, but too many of those will cause your fans to “unfollow” you quickly. Your fans are following you for a specific reason – give them what they want and what they expect from you.

  • Know your audience.

We will cover this in more detail soon. Yet, you should have a good idea about who is buying your products and services already. If you haven’t already identified your ideal customer and your not-ideal customer, then get busy learning more about them!

Incorporate these 5 simple tips into your social media playbook and your audience will start to grow on its own.

WebScout offers a free 15-20 minute phone consultation for anyone starting a new marketing project. Contact Us today.

WebScout Quick Tip – 5 Easy Steps to Build Brand Awareness

According to Wikipedia, brand awareness is “the extent to which a brand is recognized by potential customers and is correctly associated with a particular product. Expressed usually as a percentage of the target market, brand awareness is the primary goal of advertising in the early months or years of a product’s introduction”.

This leads us to one of the most asked questions we receive from potential clients. How do I create brand awareness? Brand awareness is an ongoing effort that every business should work on over time. We have a few tips to get you started using social media to help build brand awareness.

1.  People follow your brand to learn more about you.

Share content about: company culture, company news, employees, products and/or services. Customers want to see the faces behind your business. We love this post from ecomdash because it gives the customer a glimpse into the office.

5 steps to build brand awareness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Incorporate a “Fun Fact Friday” “Tell Us Tuesday” “Throwback Thursday (#tbt)”, “Wisdom Wednesday.”

You get the idea – anything catchy that you do each week that will keep your fans anticipating something specific from you on a given day. Make your content consistent, regular and relevant and your fans will start to look for your posts on those specific theme days.

3. Promote content that shares your expertise.

This will tie-in to another blog post about building relationships, but is also a building block of brand awareness. Find the people who are talking about the subjects that you want to be engaged with and share their content that is already getting attention. Not only share it, but comment on it and ask your audience questions about it. This will start a relationship with the influencers in your business community and over time hopefully they will reciprocate and share your content as well, thus building brand awareness.

4. Ask your audience questions.

This is a great way to start engaging your audience and learn what is most important to them at any given time. Share industry news and ask your audience their opinions about news in the industry. For example: You are a local retail business who is looking to open a new location. Ask your customers where they would like to see you expand. Ask your customers how they feel about retail companies being open on Thanksgiving Day; ask about new brands they would like you to carry, etc.

 
5. Feature an employee of the month.

Not only will fans like celebrating your employees, your employees will share their accomplishments with their own social networks and as a by-product begin to spread the word about your brand. Post an employee picture, tell a little story about the person (where they went to school, what they like to do for fun, where they grew up, etc.). If your company is growing and you’ve brought on a new employee – let your audience know about it – they love to see your company grow!

 

Use these tips to get started and work on them a little each week. Be sure you are consistently publishing new content to your social networks. This will keep your company top-of-mind with your audience and allow them to build a deeper connection with your brand.
WebScout offers a free 15-20 minute phone consultation for anyone starting a new marketing project. Contact Us today.

How to Differentiate Your Brand and Beat Your Competition

Online Marketing Brand Differentiation

Use this example graph to help you discover your true differentiators.

You’ve worked hard. You’ve built up your business on a dream and some good old-fashioned elbow grease. You know you’re good at what you do, and have the potential to be really successful.

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to know you’re awesome. Other people have to know you’re awesome, too. And the only way for that to happen is for you to get the word out. In today’s world, that means a successful online marketing plan. And this is where a lot of intelligent, talented business owners get tripped up. For the uninitiated, online marketing can be a daunting and confusing process.

With that in mind, we’re dedicating my next few blog posts to taking some of the confusion out of marketing your business online. We’ll walk you through what you need to do, using a prioritized, step-by-step process.

That said, we’ll go ahead and jump right in to one of the most important early steps toward building a successful marketing strategy–differentiation.  Differentiation falls under “branding” folks–it’s all about your brand, who you are, what you do and why you’re different!

So what is differentiation, and why do we believe it should be priority numero uno? Continue reading