Archive for October, 2013

16 Tips for Ecommerce Holiday Season Success

October 21st, 2013

According to market researchers, retail ecommerce holiday sales this season are expected to top last year’s — by over 15 percent– with sales in November and December alone expected to reach $61.8 billion.

Contributing to the increase in online sales, more consumers are using mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) to research products, comparison shop and purchase items online on the fly.

Is your ecommerce site ready for the holiday rush? To find out — and learn how you can drive more traffic to your online business and increase sales this holiday season — check out these 16 tips from ecommerce and online marketing pros.

1. Don’t wait until the last minute to get your site holiday ready. There is nothing worse than getting on the back end of your designer’s schedule or paying to have your project expedited because you didn’t prepare. Have everything — any programming — ready to go by November 1st, Your landing pages, emails and ads need to queued up and ready to go when you know they’ll be most effective.

2. Make sure your teams, servers and partners can handle holiday traffic. According to the National Retail Federation, 139.4 million consumers shopped on websites over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend in 2012 — and several well-known online retailers experienced downtime and technical hurdles due to this overwhelming shopper response. To avoid losing sales, ensure your website can handle traffic increases, especially when large promotions hit. If you’re hosted on-premises, review your past performance metrics against your seasonal forecast and ensure that you have bandwidth and capacity for the expected spikes. Similarly, work with third parties and vendors, including pay-per-click advertising managers and email marketers, to ensure they can handle increased load  Equally important, work with warehouse and fulfillment teams to know when cut-off times are for shipping and ensure all feeds are properly updating inventory and pricing at the correct intervals.

3. Make sure your site is secure. Before the onslaught of holiday traffic begins, ask the following questions, Is your website administration and back end secure? Are your admins using two-factor authentication? Are you prepared for possible DDoS attacks? Also, be sure to monitor your Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificate validity and expiration date, SSL provides the required cryptographic security needed to provide security to your customer communications. It’s important to test and monitor the certificate expiration for adequate customer experience.

4. Have a mobile version of your site. “Last Black Friday, one in four U.S. retail website visits were from mobile shoppers. This year it is expected to reach at least one in three. Given that the majority of mobile shoppers will abandon a website if it’s not mobile friendly, it’s essential to launch a mobile-optimized version of your website. To make sure your site is mobile friendly, make sure the site isbuilt to address unique mobile shopping behaviors and isn’t simply a re-skinning of your current site for mobile technology.

5. Stock up. Pay extra attention to inventory planning before the holidays. If your website runs out of products, you will lose out on holiday sales, as well as potential future sales from new customers.  Not only do you need a solid forecast of what products will sell, but you also need to make sure you have allowed sufficient lead time and factored vendor delays into the equation, she says. Late arriving goods put added pressure on your back-end operation, which can lead to shipping delays.

6. Make sure pages load quickly. Web performance expectations have evolved and users are demanding much more — a one-second performance delay can be the difference between a profitable and unprofitable year According to a Harris Poll, 44 percent of shoppers would cancel their online purchase mid-way during the final checkout process due to website delays and 89 percent of adult U.S. shoppers would simply stop shopping at an online store as a result of a poor website experience. The solution? Implement sophisticated traffic management and Web content optimization tools to improve performance and reduce webpage load times. Make your site load very fast, ideally less than 2 seconds per page load. A site that hangs for a few seconds before loading may lose visits from casual shoppers who are doing comparison shopping if competitors’ sites load faster. A fast, responsive site also makes it more likely that users will explore your site fully. And to avoid costly downtime, “make sure you have website monitoring tools in place which will alert you of sluggish performance. This is a step that often gets missed and is probably the most important. Do not wait for customers to alert you of any issues with your hosting infrastructure. You want to identify and fix it before they even realize it occurred.

7. Make products shareable. “Encourage your customers to share favorite products from your site across their social networks by integrating social media [Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+] buttons on to pages. In addition, “show the likes, favorites and recommendations of other influencers within search results and help your customers find social mentions quickly by indexing content from various social sites in a separate tab on the search page. For visual companies, “Pinterest’s PinIt button is ecommerce gold.

8. Make checkout easy. When gearing up for the holidays, run a few short A/B tests on your cart-to-checkout process. This should be spearheaded by marketing, not IT, but the CIO should understand the importance and enable marketing to run these tests if they need IT help. You can get amazing wins with A/B and multivariate testing, and there’s lots of tweaks that can be made to prevent leaving money on the screen.

9. Optimize your copy. Do your listings describe your products or do they sell them? Features rarely make the sale, so you should seek ways to emphasize the benefits. If you carry products that aren’t unique to your store, use [unique] product descriptions to say something new and enticing. Besides the avoiding the SEO penalty Google puts on duplicated content, this is also a good way to make sure you are not just competing on price.

10. Use video and 360-degree images. If you’re not already utilizing the power of videos and 360-degree photography, you should start, immediately. More than just a holiday trend, using videos and 360-degree images build customer confidence and increases time spent on site which dramatically increases your SEO, traffic, conversions and revenue. Dynamic images and videos will transform your customer experience by better showcasing your products — and [diminishing] the risk of returns.

11. Implement a holiday SEO strategy. “SEO takes time. So optimize your top performing pages [now], starting with the home page. Make sure you include several highly searched keywords while matching them up with your title tags and headers. And don’t forget to update your meta descriptions, the snippet of information that appears below your URL in search engines so Google gives your pages high priority when users are searching for those keywords. Introduce seasonal product pages on the same URL as many months in advance as possible to build up organic SEO juice before the actual buying period begins. If the products can’t yet be sold, have a ‘Coming Soon’ page and ask the customer to sign up to be notified when the product is available.Linking these pages from blogs and external content will help drive the organic SEO in time for when the product becomes available. By the same token, if your products are seasonal and only available from year to year (Christmas trees for example), keep the page URL the same or make sure you 301 it if it changes.

12. Staff up — and be ready to answer customer queries quickly. Fulfilling orders is a time-consuming process, especially for smaller ecommerce businesses. Hiring additional staff ensures that orders ship out the same day they are ordered. Calculate staff and machine capacity for the worst case scenario. Remember that scaling down in peak times is easier than scaling up during the holiday rush. And make sure you have people ready to answer customer emails, tweets, Facebook queries and calls. Holiday shoppers generally ask questions when they are ready to make a purchase. Focus your customer service strategy across all channels — Twitter, Facebook, 800 number and emails — and aim to answer questions in under 15 minutes, The faster you respond, the higher the conversion rate.”

13. Ramp up your email marketing campaigns — and add SMS marketing to the mix. Stage your email offers to begin approximately 4 to 6 weeks out. At two weeks out, begin to engage customers more aggressively with 50 percent off and free shipping deals. Save your best deals for the biggest shopping days (Cyber Monday, Super Saturday, etc.), and consider making them limited-time or limited-quantity offers to spur immediate action, he says. Just one word of caution: avoid running crazy sales too far in advance because you’ll risk cannibalizing your holiday season profits. Text message marketing can be a powerful weapon to reach shoppers as they visit your brick-and-mortar competitors. Holiday shoppers are very active, jumping between multiple physical stores to find the right product and best deal. Send text messages on holiday weekends with strong promotional offers and a link to purchase right away from an easy-to-use mobile website. There’s no better way to reach your on-the-go holiday shoppers and compete with the brick-and-mortar stores.

14. Run pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. “Organic SEO takes months in advance to build, and promoting holiday SEO terms that far in advance will hurt your regular website traffic. A PPC campaign is perfect for holiday season, because you can switch it on and off as needed and see almost instant results.”

15. Incentivize customers to order early. Consider offering an incentive for early orders, For example ‘Buy your holiday gift purchase by November 30th and receive free shipping or Purchase a $50.00 gift card for just $45.00 if you buy before December 15th.

16. Offer free or discounted shipping — and provide shipment tracking. “A 2012 comScore study commissioned by UPS showed that 73 percent of shoppers expect free or discounted shipping, and 70 percent were willing to add more products to the cart to reach the free shipping minimum. So clearly stating your shipping costs and offering free shipping at an order minimum [or in general] will help you sell more. And provide tracking. Being able to tell customers when and where their package will arrive is another incentive for them to do business with you. So explore shipping technologies that automatically generate an email with tracking details as soon as a package is sent. Providing notification of shipment and a link to the current delivery status results in fewer phone calls from customers wondering about the status of their shipment, allowing you to spend more of your time fulfilling orders.

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By Jennifer Lonoff Schiff


The Top 7 Content Marketing Trends of the Future

October 10th, 2013

Whether you realize it or not, chances are your business is already using content marketing as part of your overall marketing strategy.

With content marketing being arguably the most critical piece of an inbound marketing strategy, and with an estimated 60% of businesses employing some form of inbound in their marketing, we’re poised to see explosive growth in the way businesses ‘do’ marketing.

While consumers continue to tune out traditional, intrusive marketing communications, they increasingly crave the type of genuine, customer-focused information that content marketing delivers.

What is Content Marketing?

Before we get into my predictions for content marketing in 2014, let’s define content marketing. Content marketing is really about providing valuable information or content to current and potential customers for the purpose of building trust, branding, awareness, and positive sentiment. A successful content marketing campaign establishes you as an expert in your field, and that sets the groundwork for a long-term business relationship.

Simply put, its primary focus is on building the relationship, not the hard sell.

Types of content that typically form a content marketing strategy include:

Blog posts

Guest blog posts


Email newsletters

PowerPoint presentations


Standard videos

Micro-videos (ie, Vine)

Social media posts

Live presentations


White papers

If you’re looking for more tips on building a content strategy contactWebInteractive at 800 418 2358

So, where is content marketing headed? What challenges and trends can we expect to see in 2014?

1. Businesses Will Finally be Able to Define Content Marketing

As mentioned previously, almost 60% of businesses are already using some form of content marketing as part of their overall marketing strategy. However, I bet few of them would actually be able to define content marketing if asked to do so. Throughout 2014, I believe businesses will increasingly be able to explain what content marketing is, how it aligns with their larger business goals, and why it’s important. ‘Content marketing’ won’t just be a catch-all phrase used interchangeably with ‘marketing collateral’, but will have distinct importance within organizations.

2. The Top New Marketing Job Title Recruited and Hired will be “Director of Content”

With this increased awareness of what content marketing is and its importance, CEOs will be inclined to make investments in documented content strategies. Greater departmental and company-wide support will mean more of the budget being designated for content creation and dissemination, and companies being willing to invest in dedicated content marketing managers. Companies that don’t assign content creation and dissemination to specific people or departments will lose out. According to HubSpot’s 2013 State of Inbound Marketing Report, companies that clearly define marketing and sales roles in relation to content marketing experience significantly lower customer acquisition costs than those without marketing/sales agreements. Companies that continue to distribute responsibility haphazardly and diffusely will find their content marketing less effective and more costly than those who have a solid plan for content creation and distribution.

3. Mobile Content Marketing Strategies will Separate Winners from the Rest of the Pack

With the prediction that mobile will overtake desktop usage within the next 2 years, not incorporating mobile into a solid content strategy is no longer an option. Google’s recent rollout of its new algorithm, “Hummingbird,” along with the complete revocation of keyword data from Google Analytics, reinforce this prediction. Creating content that can be read ‘on the go’ will become increasingly important, which means mobile-friendly formatting, shorter and more actionable blog posts, and considering which devices your audience will be using to access your content.

4. Calculating Content Marketing ROI Will Spawn New SAAS Software and Companies

Because the results of content marketing are often spread out over time, tracking and measuring ROI’s is difficult. Businesses will need to come to terms with the fact that the results of inbound marketing techniques can’t always be measured on a case-by-case basis, but are often better calculated as a whole, over longer periods of time. SAAS software and companies will emerge with various attempts at helping businesses calculate the ROI of their content marketing efforts, and many CEOs delving into content marketing for the first time will demand visibility into the profitability of their efforts. As such, these SAAS software companies will flourish.

5. Businesses Will Look for Ways to Automate Their Content Marketing, and These Efforts Will Fail

While content marketing will never be fully automated, businesses will continue to pursue ways of making it more efficient and less labor-intensive. However, these attempts will result in lower quality content, which will cause entire strategies to backfire. Bad branding and sentiment resulting from poor-quality content will turn away customers rather than attract them. While there may eventually be a place for automation within content marketing, the strength of content marketing resides largely in its personal and customer-focused approach. Many businesses will swing too far in the direction of automation in 2014 before finding a more balanced middle ground.

6. Google+ and Slideshare Will Become Essential for B2B Content Marketers

According to the Content Marketing Institute, B2B marketers are using social media to promote content more frequently than they did in 2012. And with the predicted growth of Google+ in the coming year, I expect we’ll see it become an even more important tool for content dissemination and social sharing. This is largely due to its importance in Google Author Rank and Authorship, which I predict will be two of the dominant trends within the SEO industry by the end of 2014

Slideshare will also continue to be a key player when it comes to content sharing, if it continues to follow its current trend: 40% of B2B marketers currently used it for content distribution, as compared to 23% the year before.

7. Location-Based Content Marketing Will Provide Huge ROI for Brick-and-Mortar Businesses

With the rise of mobile device usage, GPS-enabled smartphones will increasingly utilize location and personal-preference information to provide flash deals based on a user’s current location. While this technology already exists, it will become pervasive by the end of the 2014. Brick-and-mortar storefronts that fail to adopt location-based content marketing strategies will see sales decline as their competitors cannibalize those sales with location-based flash deals, offers, and coupons. Tech-savvy businesses will gain a significant upper hand in 2014 as they capitalize on the mobile device trend by implementing mobile content marketing strategies.

Final Thoughts

In 2014, businesses will need to increase their investment in content marketing. As a result, roadblocks to creating and executing content marketing strategies will continue to decline as CEOs and decision-makers morefully understand the importance of content marketing to reaching their business goals. Where do you see content marketing going in 2014? Do you agree that businesses will be more willing to invest in content marketing strategies? Share your ideas with WebInteractive today at 800 418 2358 or email us at

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Jayson DeMers, Contributor