Tag Archive: analytics

6 Ways to Increase Your Business Online Sales

6 Ways to Increase Your Business Online Sales

When small businesses rely on their ecommerce sites or online operations to generate a healthy revenue stream, it can be frustrating when sales slow to a crawl or reach an impasse. If the slump is temporary, attributable to a sluggish economy or bad weather, for instance, then small business owners need only to stay the course until customers start buying again.


However, if the slowdown in sales has been happening for a while, then it makes sense to look at the entire online sales process. Remember, it’s not just content but context that can help drive customers to your site.


Following are five tips that can help small business owners increase their online sales.


Leverage SEO for your content
You could have the greatest product in the world, but if few people know about your site then your hopes of increasing online sales are severely limited. To drive traffic to your site, you will need to broaden audience awareness of your business and product.

A great way to do that is to make your site, specifically the content on it, as search friendly as possible. This way when customers are using a search engine, such as Google, to look for online sites that sell a desired product, they will easily find out about yours via high search result rankings.


Brian Forrester, owner of Dynamic Web Solutions, a digital marketing business in Richmond, Virginia, works with small businesses and is a staunch proponent of this tactic. In fact, his firm has used targeted paid search, which is the practice of increasing web traffic by purchasing ads on search engines, for a local client, which boards pets. Not only did it double traffic to the site but the client ended up with numerous leads.


Paid search such as Google AdWords, tends to capture traffic further along the buying cycle,” explains Forrester. “This often results in higher conversion rates than other website traffic sources.”



And for those with a tight budget, Anna Lundberg, owner of Crocus Communications, a digital marketing consulting firm that works with small to medium-sized businesses, recommends making a paid search campaign as specifically targeted as possible. This includes putting the limits that you can set within Google Adwords, to define the maximum amount to spend per day.


Says Lundberg: “This means that you can make sure that you don’t go over the budget you have available. It’s very flexible and you’re never charged more than what you’ve specified; you can start as low as you like and increase as you learn from the results which keywords and which ads are working best as your business grows.”


To illustrate her point, Lundberg says that for one client, Grace & Wilde, a new luxury shapewear brand, her firm optimized their website so that it ranked on Google for select keywords. They also launched a paid search campaign that matched ad copy to the specific keywords.


“We also ran targeted Facebook and Twitter campaigns to go from zero up to over 2,000 fans and 500 followers respectively in just a few months,” she continues. “And these were real fans, not just fake or non-interested accounts,” as evidenced by their level of engagement and purchasing interest they showed in the product.


Build up social media presence

This might sound like a given for most business owners but the question needs to be asked: Do you have an active Facebook page? Do you post regular updates, which might include photos of items, special discounts, and even giveaways? Do you even have a Facebook page? If you’ve answered no to any of these questions, then it’s time to establish a better social media profile. The same applies to Twitter and YouTube. The more you can use these tools to actively promote your brand, the more you will be able to attract prospective customers to visit your site and buy your products.


At the same time, be careful not to oversell. Balance the sales pitches with content relevant to your target audience, such as how-to articles or whitepapers.


Says Forrester: “Creating content that resonates with the small business audience can drive targeted traffic via organic search. These visitors can convert into leads for service-based businesses and sales for ecommerce businesses.


Study dropout results in your analytics

Another way to boost your online sales is to see if there are any bottlenecks in your checkout process. Check your analytics to see if customers are not completing purchases and if not, when in the sales cycle that is occurring. Perhaps the fault isn’t with your actual products or digital advertising efforts as much as it is your online checkout procedure. Review the steps: Is the navigation complicated, full of superfluous steps? Does the customer have to click through too many pages? If so, you might want to tweak your checkout process to help convert these dropouts to sales.


Offer loyalty rewards

Regardless of the nature of your business, all customers like to feel special. Offering loyalty programs, such as cards or points that will award customers discounts or other rewards for their continued purchases is not just an effective way to increase sales but a best practice when it comes to customer retention.


Digital marketing consultant Lundberg agrees, noting that loyalty options can be done via e-mails that target customers based on specific purchases or information on their profile. “For example, this can be done via exclusive offers to reward Facebook fans,” she explains.


And once the customer signs up, he or she will receive regular news alerts, free shipping offers, and even birthday wishes, according to Lundberg.


Solicit customer feedback

Perhaps the best way to find out what you can do to boost your sales conversion rate is to go directly to the source—your customers. Ask for their feedback on your site. Poll them on their level of satisfaction with your business. What kinds of products would they like to see added to your offerings? Has your price point ever been an issue with them? (And to encourage free and unfettered disclosures, allow customers the option of remaining anonymous or cloaking their identity).


Sure, you may hear some cold hard truths about your business and your selling practices. But at the same time, the information gleaned could jolt you from complacency to begin the steps you need to take to increase your online sales.

Cracking the Code: Leveraging Website Analytics to Learn More About Your Customers

Cracking the Code: Leveraging Website Analytics to Learn More About Your Customers
by Iris Dorbian.

For small businesses with a burgeoning online presence, using online site metrics as a benchmark for performance can be critical to the company’s growth. Not only can such tools as website analytics track the number of visitors (or lack thereof) to a site, but they can also provide data as to what content is working and what isn’t. A big side benefit is its impact on a company’s sales message.

Wade Benz, owner of USImprints, an online provider of promotional products, credits his usage of website analytics as key to developing his company’s web sales strategy. “Website analytics tools are very important when refining your sales message,” says Benz, who began his company seven years ago and now has 18 employees. “You can use them to track the entire sales process of a website visitor: How long it takes them to checkout, how many visits go to conversion, and what content works better to make a sale.”

Benz began to use website analytics early in his company’s history to track his site’s traffic and unearth important data about each visitor, such as where they were coming from, what pages they visited. and how long they stayed on each one. Also of interest—the content and/or pages that were most popular as well as the overall conversion rate (the percentage of people who buy an item).

Based on the cumulative data provided by the analytics, Benz and his team, who use an arsenal of low-cost tools that include Google Analytics, HaveaMint.com, SEOmoz.org made the necessary improvements that would convert visitors to customers without having to increase traffic. This past year, he says his site’s “bounce rate” dropped nearly 20 percent following testing of customer interest in content.

“We have worked hard to increase our conversion, and have seen huge improvements,” reflects Benz. “This could not have been done without the use of our analytics tools.”

Using Benz’s example as a springboard, what are four ways that website analytics tools can help refine a company’s sales message?

PQ_WebAnalysis.jpgProvide comprehensive visitor data

Nick McElhinney, owner of MackTeck Solutions, a two-year old web design and development firm with a staff of five, says website analytics tools have given him a treasure trove of information on every visitor that logs onto his website, such as how long each one stayed on his site and how many pages were viewed per visit. As a result, he has been able to fine-tune his sales message to perfection.

“After my website was first launched, I was receiving a fair amount of visitors to my website daily,” he recalls. “I was able to analyze the data for each visitor and I noticed that for the most part, my website was engaging visitors because they spent a fair amount of time on the site and they viewed many pages per visit.” Still, when he compared the visitor data with the conversion data, he found that the website was underperforming.

Upon further analysis, McElhinney decided on a quirky tweak: He added a large call to action button that said ‘Let’s Work Together’ on the top right of every page. “This brought the visitor directly to my contact page,” he explains. “My purpose for this button was to disarm my visitors with a friendly message and direct them to the next step—contacting me. I decided I would put this button on my website and wait two weeks before analyzing the results.”

After two weeks passed, McElhinney says that his site’s conversion rate increased by an impressive 48 percent. This provided him with a pivotal realization. “I was spending the same amount of money on advertising and more people were contacting me,” he says. “This minor change to my website not only brought me more clients, it raised the return on investment of my advertising, which lowered my client cost per acquisition.”

Other ways that website analytics can tweak your sales message:

Decrease bounce rates

When Petplan Pet Insurance first launched in 2006, “the sales funnel was seven steps to purchase after saving a pet insurance quote,” recalls co-CEO and Chief Marketing Officer Natasha Ashton. To simplify the purchase process for customers while eliminating the bounce rate, Ashton and her husband Chris, who co-founded the company with her, sought the help of website analytics.

“We set up an A/B test and used analytics tools to help us monitor performance between the two funnels and make strategic adjustments based on data, rather than just gut feelings,” explains Ashton. As a result of this online fine-tuning, Petplan has enjoyed growth of more than 2,200 percent in revenue during the last three years and expanded its workforce from just a handful of staff to 60 employees.

Analyze where traffic originates

“Understand where the traffic is coming from” says Kenneth C. Wisnefski, founder and CEO of WebiMax, a small Internet marketing firm. “For a small business if you focus your sales message in [a specific geographic] area, you should cater your message to [this audience]. This will allow you to see if your sales message is branching out to other markets. If that is the case, refine your message to target these areas.”

To illustrate his point, Wisnefski cites a law firm client based in Southern New Jersey that started getting a lot of web traffic from the Philadelphia and Baltimore region. “We evaluated and tweaked the sales message to target specifically individuals in and around Philadelphia and Baltimore.”

Determine what is engaging visitors

Measuring traffic to your site is important, but so is ascertaining where visitors are spending their time when they get there and for how long.

“Time on-site is key as it will illustrate how engaging and informative your website is,” says Wisnefski. “Anything over 45 seconds is considered sufficient. If consumers are spending less time on your site, perhaps you need to consider creating a more engaging experience. This helps when trying to capture leads and create conversions on your sales side of the site.”

For small business owners looking to create an impact with their online sales messages, website analytics tools are a must. If harnessed correctly and effectively, the analytics can reveal data that can lead to important sales conversions without incurring undue advertising costs. The old maxim, knowledge is power, is applicable here because having a knowledge of your visitors and their activities on your site, can greatly affect your sales strategy and bolster ROI.

Getting started with website analytics

The following sites may be invaluable resources for small business owners seeking to use website analytics to improve their sales. Check them out:

Google Analytics: Arguably the most popular website analytics tool out there. Google Analytics can provide you with a plethora of data and best of all, it’s free. The site offers a tutorial on how to use it effectively. You can also contact technical support 24/7.
Woopra: As featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur.com and TechCrunch, Woopra can help you track your site’s visitors in real time and spot key customer segments. If you need assistance, just go to their live chat room. Pricing varies, running the gamut from free for basic use (which includes 30,000 actions per month) to $39.95 for 1 million actions per month to $349.95 for 15 million actions per month. All price plans come with a 30-day free trial.
Trace Watch: Here’s another complimentary website analytics tool that can help you track the visitors to your site in real time. Trace Watch can be installed on any website supporting PHP and MySQL. However, you will need to download a few files on your server.
Reinivigorate Snoop: A desktop application, Snoop has a Windows and Mac version. After you install it, you’ll get notified if an important development on your site occurs such as when you have a sale or a user signup. Sign up and get a 14-day free trial. $10 per month.

Thumbthing New: What the Rise in Mobile Marketing Means for Small Business

Thumbthing New: What the Rise in Mobile Marketing Means for Small Business
by Robert Lerose.

If you’re not involved in some type of mobile marketing, you’re cutting yourself and your business off from engaging and communicating with a significant number of customers and prospects.

According to CTIA-The Wireless Association, the nonprofit organization representing the wireless communications industry, there are more than 320 million wireless subscriber connections in the U.S. alone. And mobile app downloads are predicted to hit an astounding 25 billion by 2015.

In other words, mobile is increasingly how your customers live and shop. When you factor in the low barrier to entry and the potential for high returns, having a mobile presence should be as much a necessity as almost any other kind of marketing your business is currently doing.

To help you get started if you’re new to it, or to provide a reality check if you’re up and running, here is some advice from the experts.

Multiple channels for engagement

“Mobile marketing can help small business get new people in the door,” says Kim Dushinski, author of The Mobile Marketing Handbook. “It can help them increase the purchases from their current clients. It can be a customer service tool. There are a number of things [it can do], depending on what kind of tool they use and how they market it.”

Familiar examples of these new tools include text messaging campaigns and QR codes. To enroll in the former, a consumer sends a keyword to a five- or six-digit short code established by the business.

A QR (or Quick Response) code is a postage stamp-sized, two-dimensional barcode that is typically arranged in a square, black-and-white pattern. Using an Internet-capable mobile device, a consumer scans it and is routed immediately to the company’s web page or to a special micro-site; for example, a webpage with a discount coupon. The immediacy, speed, and convenience of QR codes enhance the chances that a browser will turn into a buyer.

To see these tools in action, check out the text and QR code-based campaigns waged by the arts and crafts retailer, Michaels. According to Dushinski, this company does a very good job of integrating their traditional, online, and mobile marketing. For example, consumers can scan codes on Michaels in-store signage, get taken to a mobile landing page, and choose the app they want.

“Mobile marketing has really become not so much a channel but channels, where you have things like location-based services [such as Foursquare], mobile-optimized websites, various apps and various ways to engage with the customer,” says Mike Craig, co-founder of Missouri-based Ruxter Mobile Marketing, a provider of self-service mobile marketing applications. But whatever channel you choose, the goal is to build trust and engagement between the customer and the brand.

PQ_MobileMarket.jpgSmall screen, simple message

As a first step, Craig suggests that you look at your website on a mobile device through the eyes of your customer. The smaller screen size, compared to that of a laptop or desktop, forces you to figure out what you can put in front of them that they can review and understand in 30 seconds.

“You need to think about stripping out all the extraneous information about your business except for the most fundamental things that you want to get across,” Craig says. Putting the top four things you want to tell a potential customer front and center is one of his mantras.

Know your audience

Another good place to begin—checking out your website’s analytical data to see how much of your online traffic is coming in via mobile. The numbers may surprise even the most web savvy entrepreneurs. For example, when Dushinski looked at the analytics numbers for her own Colorado-based training company, she was shocked to see that mobile visitors had more than quadrupled—from 4 percent to about 18 percent—in only a year. A recent comScore report found that, overall, online traffic now accounts for nearly one in ten website visits and the rate is only accelerating.

Optimize your site for mobile

To capture and hold all that booming traffic, Dushinski says it’s imperative to optimize your site so consumers can find what they’re looking for on their mobile device easily.

To accomplish this, you could reconnect with the webmaster who developed your company website to create a mobile version. “They’ll take care of making sure that when someone accesses your site, it will either give them the full-size site or their smartphone site based on what kind of device they’re using to access,” Dushinski says.

For those who are comfortable doing their own mobile-based website building, she says Dudamobile and Kishkee offer tools and services that are worth checking out.

The key, Dushinski says, is to feature basic information customers would be looking for when using a mobile device: things like business location, directions, hours, and menu of services. “Put the phone number in a lot of different places where people can see it,” she also emphasizes. “[The device] can turn from a webpage browser to a phone with just a click and that is so powerful.”

Getting started in mobile is relatively cheap compared to other marketing channels, such as mounting a direct mail campaign. Some tools let you ‘mobilize’ your site for free, while others may charge modest monthly fees—anywhere from nine to 40 dollars a month.

Customized sites, however, can run into tens of thousands of dollars. Dushinski sees no reason to go that route when there are plenty of excellent low-cost alternatives. “There’s a site called qrstuff where you can pay a very small amount to have the ability to track who’s scanning your codes,” she says.

Both Craig and Dushinski emphasize that mobile marketing is neither as hard nor as technical as some might think. That it is both cost-effective and quick to set up makes it very attractive for small businesses.

“If people can put the technology aside for just a little bit, plan out their strategy, then apply the technology to it, it all works so much better,” Dushinski says.

Getting started

Since mobile is a permission-based medium, make sure you get the consent of the customer before you begin either a text or email campaign. One way to get permission is to have an opt-in page on your website. Another is to promote your mobile campaign on your in-store signs, bags, and printed material that directs the consumer to send an opt-in keyword to your shortcode.

Because you’re working with very limited screen real estate, construct a site that’s easy to view and navigate. “Being able to present your ideas and your value proposition in front of the consumer in a way that they can quickly scan it, hit a couple of buttons with their thumbs, and get exactly what it is you want to sell them is really the key component that anybody needs to start with,” says Ruxter’s Craig.

Provide the consumer with something of unique and relevant value. Giving them something that they won’t find or see elsewhere in your marketing makes a greater impact than merely duplicating your existing incentives.

The A to Z of Small Business Technology Trends

As a small business, you might find it daunting to try to keep up with new technologies. There may be technologies that you can’t even define. The following is an “A to Z” overview of hot technology trends that you might want to explore for cost savings, marketing penetration or helping streamlined operations:

Analytics encompasses such new forms as “next-generation analytics,” which allows companies to make forward-reaching business decisions, and “social analytics,” which measure, analyze and interpret interactions among people and online content.

Browser add-ons are third-party software tools that can be accessed on the toolbar of browsers such as Internet Explorer, Safari and Mozilla Firefox. Add-on tools include design, collaboration and communication functions. Small business owners can use these third-party software tools to bolt quickly onto existing browser software. Now once-unimaginable services run natively on web tools.

Consumerization of IT refers to the fact that many companies, large and small, are saving money by allowing employees to use their own devices – such as tablets or smartphones – at work.

Data visualization has currently reached a lower price point and may be useful for data-intensive businesses, i.e. those that do high-volume Internet sales.

Easy mobile payment allows small businesses, and even microbusinesses, to take credit and debit card payments in settings that might have been cash-only in the past, i.e. arts and crafts fairs, mobile kiosks and homes.

4-G wireless cellular devices receive service that’s similar to the robust, plugged-in Web access that can be found in the office. Now, small business owners can browse the internet quicker. Additionally, all major phone carriers will be offering it.

Geo-coding converts a street address to equivalent geographic coordinates. Geo-coding creates the maps that local businesses often display on their websites.

Hybrid cloud is a combination of private intranet-based applications and public applications housed on a server by a cloud vendor. Small businesses might want to have both in case their customers have sensitive data and if small business owners want to avoid hiring internal IT staff to install and configure applications.

iOS and Android operated devices are gaining popularity among businesses, particularly small to mid-sized business owner. Given Apple’s focus on updating its operating systems to be more secure and manageable, the iPhone established a foothold in the enterprise space, opening the door for exploring uses for the iPad and Android-powered devices. Increasingly widespread adoption of various mobile technologies will allow small business executives on the go to access online information and multimedia content, and even have videoconferences with partners and customers in remote locations.

Jobcasting involves using podcasts to advertise open positions at a company..

Knowledge management tools are the process through which organizations generate value from their intellectual and knowledge-based assets. This insight can help businesses foster innovation by encouraging the free flow of ideas, improve customer service by streamlining response time and boost revenues by getting products and services to market faster.

Location-based mobile and Internet marketing is particularly effective for small businesses that want to reach out to customers in real time to offer discounts, promotions and invitations to events when the customer is in the vicinity of their establishment.

Multimedia marketing and communications will involve video being integrated into consumer electronics, digital and Internet-based television, mobile computing and social software. Increasingly, small business owners will need to use create content using video. In fact, it’s estimated that by 2012, more than 25 percent of the content that workers see in a day will be dominated by pictures, video or audio.

Network appliances allow small businesses to use one piece of hardware that can encompass phone servers, document servers, e-mail servers, firewalls and routers.

On-the-go videoconferencing is now possible for businesses of all sizes to connect via smart phones and tablets with built-in video cameras and video-calling features.

Predictive financial modeling tools are being developed that can alert small businesses if they are at risk of losing money.

QR Codes are two-dimensional barcodes that small businesses can embed into advertising and direct mail pieces. The codes link potential customers to a website, allow them to call your business or offer them a vCard when they scan the code with a smartphone.

Redundancy of data, documents and applications are facilitated by having cloud- and PC-based tools side by side.

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a practice by which small businesses can drive more traffic to their websites. Strategic keyword, tagging and coding techniques are becoming more sophisticated and may require the advice of an outside consultant.

Pull Quote.pngTouch-controlled work tools, inspired by Apple products, now include products that streamline small businesses’ daily operations, like printers and desk-top PCs, and that allow more interaction with customers via less-expensive touch-screen point-of-sale kiosks.

Unified communications is a relatively new term that refers to using a single interface for various types of communications. For example, small businesses can use a UC system to view their voice, text and e-mail messages all in one inbox.

Voice-activated software is improving in quality and reliability and allows small business users to navigate a computer and create documents more quickly than they could with a keyboard.

Web-based office software offer cloud-based word processing, spreadsheet and other applications that increase work product efficiency and allow backup and sharing in real time from anywhere.

Xtranets, also known as extranets, are growing in sophistication to allow secure outside access to internal intranets for the purpose of information sharing and ecommerce.

YouTube continues to be a fast and cost-effective forum for small businesses to post online videos as a means of advertising, marketing and communicating with customers.

Z-Wave is a wireless mesh networking technology that allows business owners to manage and control lighting, appliances, HVAC and security systems in their establishments even when they are offsite.