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Content And Why It’s Important For Your Online Business

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The Importance of Content

You’ll hear a lot about “content” these days, if you keep up with any sort of business news, and how it’s important for your business. But what does that mean for you, and what do people mean by content? The dictionary definition says that content in this instance means “information made available by a website or other electronic medium”, and that’s a good place to start because information is key, here. But what makes it so important that people talk about it as being “king” in the modern Internet landscape?

Content in this context means engaging, consumable media. Basically, it’s the real substance of any website – information, as we said earlier. It’s what keeps you on a website, instead of simply clicking away to another page immediately, or getting up and doing something else altogether. Content is what makes people keep looking at your site, and ultimately one of the reasons they make a purchase from you.

An online store might have a blog, or a lot of details in their product descriptions and categories, or even information rich pages on the site giving customers resources they might need for the products and their uses. A news site will have news articles, infographics, opinion pieces, focus pieces, etc. There are a lot of different ways to increase the overall amount of content your website has, but for this article, we’re going to focus the details most important to an online business.

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Why Search Engines Like Content

Search engines like Google and Bing have gotten increasingly sophisticated about picking out sites that people will want to visit – among all of the empty sites full of spam and advertisements that used to be so common in the early days of the Internet. They use a number of ways to determine this, but one powerfully simple one is engagement. Engagement is basically answering a few questions about search results:

  1. How often do people go to this site?
  2. How much time do they actually spend there before going somewhere else?

Sites that people click to hoping to find what they’re looking for is important, but if they’re immediately backing out and looking somewhere else then you can be pretty sure that’s not a useful resource. If it’s a pattern search engines see develop, that website starts dropping off of the search results. On the other hand, if it’s a site that people really seem to find useful and spend time on, you can see a slow but steady upwards increase in search rankings. That means more shoppers, which means more purchases for your business.

It’s helpful to note that social media companies also pay very close attention to this same thing. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all paying attention to how to give people the content they want to find. They determine this via engagement in just the same way that search engines do, and in fact sometimes spend even more effort to determine which content pieces are most useful to specific groups of people.

For those who are running an online business, at first you may think that all you have to do is put up a list of products with their names and a couple of photographs, then set up the backend system and you’re ready to go! While this is technically true, it’s important to realize that your website isn’t an online inventory list. Your website isn’t a catalog, it’s your store.

Now, it’s true that some businesses get a lot of their traffic from somewhere besides search engines. Social media, a strong existing customer base, brand recognition or advertising via other means – all of these are fantastic ways to have customer outreach! But in the end, your potential customers will tend to behave a lot like search engines in a way. They want to use a website that feels fleshed-out and useful to them far more than one that doesn’t, which brings us to…

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Why Site Visitors Appreciate Content

It’s important to keep in mind the your website is your entire store to your online customer. In a brick and mortar store, you can pick up the product, read the packaging, feel the weight, see about how big it is, maybe even use a demo model. If you have questions, you can ask a salesperson nearby in an instant. Also, a quick look around and you’ve seen an entire section of the store’s inventory.

An online store isn’t going to have all of these. You want people to want to spend time on your site. If you sell clothing, for example, you might want to have information on sizing, styles, brands, any number of questions a customer might have. You might want to keep people updated on the latest trends and fashions, or remind them when you’re having sales or new inventory. Give them another reason to visit, other than purely to shop.

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When you go to make a purchase offline, you typically go to a store with a nice building and well-maintained space. You’re probably not going to be as comfortable making a transaction with someone who has a hand-painted sign and a card table set up showing off their wares – unless it’s something like a child’s lemonade stand.

The same can be said for your website. Have you ever walked into a new store and felt like it just wasn’t finished? There were too few products on the shelves, or everything wasn’t labeled properly? Did you make a purchase – or just leave and continue shopping? If you did, it probably wasn’t a substantial purchase – and definitely less hefty of a dollar spend than a store with an impressive store display. You can get the same feeling from an online store if it’s just a handful of products and nothing else to see.

Customers appreciate a site with depth. The more there is to get out of your site, the more people will spend time on it, or come back to it again and again. Customers appreciate this kind of attention to the details of your site. They notice that you’ve thought about their needs, and it helps elicits a positive impression of your business.

The rise of “conscious consumers” has also given reasons for providing increased details about your business and your products. People like to know if your products are made domestically, or what materials they are made from. If you have a service, people want to know your hours of availability, and in some cases what to expect from hiring you. If you or your business contribute to or assist with charities, this is a great opportunity to showcase that to the world.

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Ways to Increase Your Site’s Content

First and foremost, look at what you already have. Can you expand on it, do your products have enough description and important information available? If you’ve got a Frequently Asked Questions page (and you should), spend some time seeing if you can add more detail and more questions to it. Your “About Us” page should be more than just the date your business was founded and what time you close – this is your chance to tell people the story of your business and hopefully get them to feel invested in you a little bit. A personal story can go a long way in building customer confidence for your brand.

Product categories and brands are also great places to have more information. Some pictures and a few paragraphs about the products or services you carry can help customers have a little peace of mind about giving you their credit card information. You will also want a trust seal from a service verifying that your site meets all the security and safety standards consumers have come to expect from a reputable online business. If your site has had some effort put into it, you’re planning to be available to them in the future, not disappear into the night with their money or information.

Information pages are another useful tool for online businesses. A store that sells art supplies, for example, might have some tutorials on how to use various products or introductions to techniques. An automotive parts store may have writeups about trade shows, how-to guides, showcases of builds, or reviews. Many businesses have pages dedicated to helping customers choose between different products depending on what they need to use it for.

For a store owner, the blog is the most underused tool for increasing visits to your website. This can hold even more true if your blog is actually useful to people. An article or infographic good enough to be shared can mean an increase in traffic many times your everyday visitor count.

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What If I Don’t Have Time?

We get it – you’re busy, running a small business or department. Maybe you’ve got time to do a few things, but the kind of upgrade we’re talking about looks like it might take a good chunk of your valuable time. Or perhaps you’re just not that technical/don’t like writing very much. If you’ve got employees, they might be able to assist you with some of this assuming you can spare them. Writing might not be their specialty either, however.

Hiring a professional team to beef up your site’s content can really improve your site’s quality and help increase your traffic. It can even generate repeat business sometimes! The quality and proofreading that goes into such work can make a world of difference, and is less expensive than you would often expect.

Professionals know how to gear the text both to your customers’ needs and the attention of search engines. They can make your page look professional and well-informed without being intrusive. If you can establish yourself as a useful resource in the minds of consumers, your reputation with them will grow right along with that. And as your reputation grows, so does your site’s traffic and your bottom line.

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Since your website is your entire online presence, it’s a representative of your brand. It’s more than just a catalog, it’s how you represent yourself to the world. Your website is almost always the beginning and end of each customer interaction with you, so it’s a good idea to put your best foot forward.

In addition, you want people to visit in the first place! Giving the search engines proof that your site is worth listing can be worth its weight in gold, and one of the absolute best ways to do that is by giving search engines what they want – information. Their entire goal is to give users links to sites with lots of information. Customers want links to sites with lots of information when you get right down to it.

Remember, every single new page your site is another potential starting point for someone to find themselves on your website. The more you have, the more chances someone will come to your site. If you can make sure that people are engaged in your site and getting value from their experience, then you’ve already established a tiny fragment of a relationship with them. It’s far easier to grow a small relationship into a larger one than it is to try and start from scratch.

Customers who have everything they need to make an informed decision at the moment they’re ready to make a purchase are customers who aren’t going to leave halfway through shopping and go to some other site to make a purchase. User-provided reviews can provide you with additional content once you start getting more visitors. Having quality content is one of the easiest ways to make your site useful and beneficial to both you and your customers.

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The Importance of Trust Seals for E-Commerce Conversions

The concept of buying a product online is a risky one. Any successful transaction relies on an impressive number of expectations.

To make a purchase, you need to send money to an essentially anonymous individual who may be in a completely different country. You then expect that store operator to act in good faith and ship out your product.

At the same time, you expect that your personal data is protected from prying eyes. You expect that the shipping carrier is going to act in good faith and deliver the goods on-time. You expect the website administrator to take measures against accidentally exposing your data to hackers.

However, the Internet is decentralized. There is no single, all-powerful authority capable of establishing trust between you and some distribution warehouse in Shenzhen, China. For this reason, e-commerce store owners go to great lengths to establish trust with customers – and you should too.

What is a Trust Seal?

Trust Seal Example

If you have spent any time on the Internet, you have seen trust seals. They grace most professional webpages and make specific, branded promises. Major security firms like Norton and McAfee are some of the most readily identifiable – because they’re the most popular.

These seals tell website visitors that your website is legitimate – that a reputable third-party has verified that your business is authentic and your website is not leaking data to hackers and cybercriminals. Importantly, this message is implicit – it’s something that website visitors feel when they visit your site, even if they don’t know exactly what the trust seal means or does.

How Do Trust Seals Affect Conversion?

Interestingly, trust seals have been found to affect conversion rates. CrazyEgg carried out several case studies using A/B comparisons on websites to find out just how much of a difference trust seals can make.

  • Blue Fountain Media replaced a generic privacy policy reminder with a branded Verisign trust seal and saw a 42% increase in sales for the trust seal-containing page.
  • Virtual Sheet Music experienced a significant drop in sales when its trust seal provider removed the seal due to a contractual disagreement. Upon reinstating the seal, the website saw a 31% increase in conversions.
  • Clean Energy Experts found that adding a trust seal increased conversions by 137%.

The statistics clearly show that online customers prefer websites that offer a branded security guarantee to website users. 65% of online shoppers feel that Norton’s Secured Seal is a reliable indicator that a website is safe to browse.

How to Obtain a Trust Seal

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Obtaining a trust seal is easy – so long as you meet the requirements of trust seal providers. Generally, if you have an SSL certificate and an EV code signing certificate for your site, you qualify for a trust seal.

Your provider will ask you to implement some code on your site. This code will take care of the verification process, ensuring that your site meets the standards set forth by that provider. Once your site is verified, the provider will give you the code for implementing the site seal, and you are free to place it anywhere on your site.

You may notice that some sites have multiple seals. This is because specific seals assure website visitors of specific security concerns. For instance, the McAfee Hacker Safe seals makes a different promise than the BBBonline Business Trust seal. The three main types of seals are:

Privacy Trust Seals

These seals verify and certify your website’s privacy policy and regularly check up on your site to ensure that you follow your privacy policy.

Security Trust Seals

These seals ensure that your website is reasonably well-defended against cybercriminal activity and malware. Generally, you receive a security trust seal upon buying an SSL certificate.

Business Trust Seals

These seals verify the identity of your business and assure web users that you authentically represent your business and try to keep customers satisfied. If your web reputation is too low, you may not be able to get this seal.

Importantly, e-commerce store owners follow the same basic process to implement these seals. The provider’s code takes care of managing and verifying your website’s data, and they contact you to either approve or reject the application for the seal.

Ensure Compliance

Since the trust seals offer rely entirely on compliance with industry standards, you must ensure that your site is compliant with these standards. In most cases, professionally designed websites hosted on reputable platforms pass verification – if your site doesn’t, the trust seal provider will walk you through the process of achieving compliancy.

The entire process is beneficial for all parties involved. Your customers want to be confident in your website, you want inspire greater customer confidence, and your seal provider has a clear incentive to sell meaningful trust seals.

 

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How E-Commerce Retailers Use Lifestyle Photography to Generate Brand Value

Previously the exclusive tool of the world’s largest luxury brands, lifestyle photography has become the obsession of the Internet generation. The availability of high quality camera and image editing technology made this style a dominating element of digital marketing campaigns, which now can be harnessed by the e-commerce store owner.

Lifestyle vs. Product

Almost every online retailer with an e-commerce store selling physical products is deeply familiar with product photography. The need to accurately show consumers the product being sold is an integral part of the online shopping experience – without it, most Internet retailers of this kind could not exist.

Product photos favor clinical detail over showiness and pizzazz. Typically, they feature the product in question over a neutral or full white background. Alternately, they can feature the product in an attractive setting that speaks to the brand’s value proposition.

Lifestyle photos, however, are all about telling stories. These are the photos that not only describe what the vendor is selling, but also showing what kind of customer buys the product being sold. That extra layer of meaning is what makes all the difference in the world of online shopping.

How Lookbooks Work in the Context of E-commerce

The storytelling element that separates lifestyle photography from generic product photos is what gives it its unique power. Fashion designers have been using this type of photography for decades – incorporating narratives into fashion photography fashion statements called lookbooks for decades.

A lookbook is a collection of images showing an ensemble of products grouped together. Typically, they involve models and take place in exotic locations. Ideal for fashion editorials, they use photographs to illustrate the lifestyle a product’s consumer desires.

In the Internet-era, fashion is not the only industry that can benefit from a lookbook. Nearly any physical product retailer can use this medium to describe the type of customer it serves. That includes tech start-ups and kitchenware designers to furniture sellers and hygiene product manufacturers.

The lookbook gives consumers the information they need to distinguish between the products they would shop for and the ones that simply don’t interest them. It is a highly visual marketing tool that uses an environment, model, and narrative to describe the person who would buy the main product being advertised.

Use Lookbooks to Sell Online Products

By appealing to consumer emotion and imagination through lookbooks, online retailers can develop loyal brand followings. Social media users – especially on Pinterest – interact with and share lookbook content far more often than regular product photos.

Any product that addresses the need of a specific demographic can benefit from using lifestyle photography to drive home its value in the eyes of consumers. The more specific the demographic, the greater the potential benefits of incorporating lookbook photography on the website.

Follow these steps to make the most of your lifestyle photography campaign:

Step One: Use Demographics to Tell Stories

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Lifestyle photography needs to tell a story. Find out how customers find your products and what they do with those products to determine the personality of the customer. Once you hone in on a specific customer lifestyle demographic, you can create a story that matches.

In many cases, stories can come from real customers. This is the case for products that meet specific needs, such as sports equipment or technology products. Regardless of where the narrative comes from, it needs to address the specific demographic that the product targets.

Step Two: Don’t Skimp on Photography

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Since lifestyle photography has a completely different goal than product photography, it requires a different set of conditions for successful execution. Not only do e-commerce merchants need to hire a professional photographer, but they must also consider the location of the shoot and the specific model or models hired.

Good lighting and a professional make-up artist can mean the difference between a magazine editorial-quality shoot and a generic no-name lookbook. Faces tell stories and drive engagement on Instagram – and they’ll make or break your lifestyle campaign’s success.

Step Three: Ensure Website Compatibility

The simplest way to use high quality lookbook photos is by posting them on social media. If your website has a blog, you’re encouraged to ensure that it is compatible with the imagery in question.

For instance, if your website is based on BigCommerce, you can choose from a broad range of themes that support lookbook imagery. Themes are customizable templates that can profoundly change the look and feel of your site. The theme Lookbook lets e-commerce retailers tell their customers a story through mosaic-styled imagery.

However, the most enterprising online retailers take product photography a step further by offering user interactivity – custom-coded lookbook photography can be designed to link website visitors to specific product pages when they click on the products featured. The fact that lookbooks combine products from different sources offers opportunities for valuable cross-promotion, as well.

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Use Product Reviews to Drive Sales – Conversion Optimization

Sample Product Reviews

As any ecommerce customer knows, product reviews are a critical part of the online buying experience. Analytic tools give you a unique opportunity to learn about customer psychology and implement solutions for addressing their needs.

Reviews aren’t capable of driving sales on their own – they need to be understood through analysis. Analytics turn reviews into tools for conversion optimization. You can use reviews to generate conversions, ramp up product reviews, and sell more products.

The intersection between analytics and conversion optimization is important because of how usage data can lead to better decision-making. For instance, a website with a high bounce rate may be poorly designed or addressing the wrong audience.

This is a situation that calls for optimizing the store’s conversion strategy. Product reviews are an ideal place to start.

Get Good Product Reviews

In the world of ecommerce, few messages are more powerful than an excellent product review. Almost every e-commerce platform includes some sort of reviewing mechanism – whether in the form of a one-to-five star rating or via lengthy, descriptive, and often entertaining comments.

The greater task of conversion optimization relies, in part, on racking up excellent product reviews. This is because having large numbers of good reviews establishes a sense of legitimacy that is almost impossible to generate otherwise. As eConsultancy.com points out, user reviews increase conversions.

• Having more than 50 reviews per product can lead to a 4.6% conversion rate increase.

• Customers are 63% more likely to buy products from websites that offer user reviews.

• Reviews keep visitors on-site.

88% of consumers consult reviews when making a purchase.

Reviews can drive conversions – but how can ecommerce store owners increase the number of reviews their products generate? In short, by asking for them.

Get Bad Reviews Too

30% of online consumers assume that product reviews are fake if no negative reviews are shown, according to Vendasta. When creating a strategy for online reviews, ecommerce store owners need not be afraid of the criticism that an unfavorable review entails.

Unless the review is so scathing that it absolutely needs to be censored, including it is usually a good idea. Leaving the occasional negative review in with a mostly-positive set of responses is a good way to give the process a sense of authority and trustworthiness.

Importantly, brands need to respond to negative reviews quickly and decisively. More often than not, an unfavorable review is one of the best chances for a brand to gain a new, loyal follower and publicly promote itself in a positive way.

Doing this successfully requires solving the customer’s problem and demonstrating that the business is committed to continuously improving itself.

Test Post-Purchase Copy to Get More Reviews

Knowing that reviews help customers make purchase decisions and that having only good reviews is undesirable, e-commerce store owners have good reason to get as many reviews as possible. With luck, the percentage of good reviews to bad ones will be in the upper 90s, showing that, overall, people are happy with the products or services they receive.

One of the first ways e-commerce store owners increase review responses is through better handling of their post-purchase copywriting. Most customers are generally willing to sign up for email newsletters or other tertiary services after they’ve made a purchase with a specific brand. Asking for a review can be one of the most valuable post-purchase actions a customer can make.

Successful post-purchase copy asks for a review without seeming insincere. Generating a sense of authenticity will produce the greatest benefits at this stage in the conversion cycle.

The following strategies tend to produce results.

• Offering return customers a discount code for leaving reviews can help incentivize the process.

• Some online retailers reach out to customers on social media. Any social media user who tags the brand or mentions it is likely to respond favorably.

• Follow-up emails work when they are targeted and narrowly focused. Run A/B comparisons to get an idea of what types of email marketing campaigns work. Digital receipts, for instance, enjoy a 65% open rate and a 10.7% click rate.

Reviews Offer SEO Benefits

On a concluding note, product reviews carry significant SEO benefits. Each review consists of unique, often keyword-heavy content useful for search engines, which can increase ranking. One of the most useful keywords that reviews help boost is “[product name] + review”, which is a top-performing search term for most products.