Make the most of what you don’t have

I walked into a bakery the other day searching out my favorite cookies, (oatmeal chocolate chip) unable to locate them in the glass case I approached the sales person and asked if she had any. After taking a look around and checking with the baker she returned and informed me politely that they had just sold out of the last batch (it was admittedly late in the day). Perhaps sensing my disappointment she then offered me some fresh-out-the-oven blonde chocolate chip brownies. I had money in my hand, and I was looking for a treat so I said sure and walked home with a half dozen.

Now what would have happened if after asking for the cookies the young lady had just said “I can’t find any” and walked away? Most likely I would have left disappointed and found my cookies elsewhere.

This situation happens all too often on the web. How many times have you been to a website and used the search bar to find a product only to be met with a page that says something like “sorry no results could be found for your search” and leaves you at a dead end? You’ve worked so hard to get people to your site and they are ready to buy something and you’ve basically said “I can’t find any” and walked away.

Why not instead offer some of your other products? Have your failed search page say “Sorry we don’t have what you were searched for. Perhaps you would be interested in…” It doesn’t always work but it’s surely better then the alternative. It also gives you the opportunity to show off some of your other products that the viewer may not have been previously aware of.

Check it out in action here by searching for “jetpacks”, I assure they don’t carry them. www.memphisnet.net

If you would like to talk to us about setting this up on your site drop us an email at marketing@tli2.com!

Till next time, stay well and busy, make friends and money! Oh, and by the way, the brownies were great!

A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words

In the fast placed world of social media and its relationship with your online business there is a new rising star. Pinterest is becoming more and more popular with internet users and retail companies.

So what is Pinterest?

Simply put, Pinterest is a place to share pictures. But it does go a bit deeper than that. So a user makes an account (currently you must be invited or sign up for a invite waiting list) using their Facebook or Twitter account, (which you can disconnect later if you wish) Pinterest looks to see if any of your friends are using Pinterest and adds them to your “follow” list. You can also choose to follow more people/companies as time goes on. Your “boards” are essentially categories in which you post or “pin” pictures, say, of your products with a short comment. Your followers will either see your pins on your company’s page or on the “home” page that feeds in all followed users pins. Once a pin is made users have the ability to “like”, which simply adds to the tally of “likes” under the picture and depending on their settings, shows up on their Facebook and/or Twitter account. A user can also comment on the pin and/or “re-pin” which takes the picture and adds it to their own board, allowing their followers to see it.

Pinning it.

So there are a few ways to pin. You can simply upload a photo from you computer, easy enough, but what if you want to pin a picture you are looking at online, do you now have to download the picture then upload it to Pinterest? Nope, they have that covered, when you sign-up (or later if you want) you install a small program whose icon sits next to your bookmarks. Whenever you see an image online that you like and would like to add to one of your boards you simply click the “pin it” icon and all the images on the page pop up for you to choose from and you add your comments and poof, it is added to your site for all to see. The final way, and one I think all retailers should have, to pin an image is to have a button on your product page (like the Facebook or Twitter button) which allows any visitor to pin it to there own board.

Why should my company join?

Why not? Any way that you can get your products more attention should be done, right? Right. This is especially true with the pin it social button. It is all well and good to post products to your own boards but the real viral power comes when people pin them to there own board. Your Facebook friends probably already know about a lot of your products but when they pin them to their own boards it allows a whole new group of people to see your stuff. When their friends re-pin and their friends re-pin you have just exposed potential thousands of new people to your products.
When someone pins a picture or product to one of their boards they not only can link to your site but can also include a price. Not to mention these links will vastly improve your SEO, the more links out there to your site the better.
Another great SEO benefit is that, unlike other links such as Facebook, your analytics will be able to tell you exactly which product interested a potential client, giving you a good idea which products should be displayed prominently on your site.
Another great idea is to hold a contest. Challenge your clients to get the most re-pins or to show the best picture of one of your products in action. Handing out a 50 dollar gift certificate to the winner may be well worth the exposure that the contest generates.

Where do I go from here?

Check it out for yourself! Or drop me a line at Cburkle@tli2.com. I will be happy to give you some advice, set you up with an account or apply a pin-it button to your product page, trust me it will be well worth it.

 

Power of the written word

What do you do before making a purchase? Personally I do a few things. I look around for a good deal, I try to decide whether or not I really need said item, and I research, research, research. Part of my research is understanding the item, for instance, I recently set out to purchase a new television (my old one somehow managed to get a remote lodged in it during a certain sporting event). I realized I didn’t know the difference between plasma and LCD, so I looked it up and decided what technology was right for me. Then it came time to decide on a model. Let me tell you, there are a lot of TV models out there. I found a few that matched the specifications that I wanted and narrowed down my choices. This is the point at which the most important part of my research happens, product reviews. How many times have you done something or bought something simply because someone recommended it? People want to hear that others were happy with their experience in their own words.

So if you looking to make an online purchase and you don’t actually know anyone that owns the item where do you go? Savvy folks may have a favorite review site. Some may just type it into a search engine. Why not make it easier for your clients by adding review area to your product’s page! And how do you populate this review area you ask? Two ways, you can have a “write a review for this product” link on your product’s page and/or the more effective version, you have a self triggered email that requests a review from the recipient. You would be very surprised how many people will take a minute or two to write a few sentences about a product they love. Which brings up an interesting point. What about bad reviews or those few bad apples out there that might write something rude? Simple, your administrator must approve any review that gets posted to your site. Not to mention poor review gives you the opportunity to comment back to the unsatisfied party and the chance to show your great customer service. I also encourage you to put a few “three star” reviews as apposed to all “five star” just to show the validity of your review area.  So how do you get this wonderful service? Simple again, you can add it to your site along with other custom email services in the email 6 pack upgrade (to be addressed in an upcoming blog) or by it’s self  by contacting us at marketing@tli2.com!

Worried about not getting the bang for you buck? A client of ours recently added it to their site and within the first week had over 70 great comments over a bunch of different product pages. Take a look at bostoncoffeecake.com! The reviews are in the tabbed area under the product area.

In the end this is a great way to promote your product, encourage sales, and put a smile on your face for a job well done!

New Years Resolutions

The team at Timberline would like to extend a thank you to all those that worked with us though the holiday season! We know everyone was busy as people do more and more of their seasonal shopping online. In the doldrums after the holiday rush it is almost hard to remember how much we were all scrambling to make sure everyone was prepared to accommodate their respective clients. Perhaps this relatively slow time would be best used reflecting on the past month or so. Time for some new years resolutions! Maybe less sweets, more gym time, or throwing that pack of smokes in the garbage? That’s up to you and your version of Jiminy Cricket. What I would like to suggest is a bit different. I am encouraging you and your co-workers to take a look at the past year of business with emphasis on the end of the year. What went right? What went wrong? What would you have liked to have that you just didn’t get going? There is no time like the present to get started and your friends at Timberline are standing by to help you reach your goals! So drop us a line at marketing@tli2.com and we can start the progress train a’rolling. Make that wish list and let’s work together to ensure that we not only have as good of a year as last, but we increase productivity, efficiency and income! We hope that everyone had a happy, safe and fun holiday season and we look forward to working with all of you throughout the upcoming year!

Is Your Email Branding Consistent?

You work hard on your image on your website, but if you’re like many people, the branding on your emails may have slipped by unnoticed. Email design is important, it sets the tone. Your emails don’t just convey your company’s message they also help to build engagement with your brand. We now offer an Email Overhaul package where we’ll review all your outgoing email templates (abandon cart, wishlist notification, etc.) and will unify the branding for you to ensure that they are consistent and match your website look and feel. Email Andy today to find out more details on the Email Overhaul package and get started.

Pull the Trigger

Triggered email pays eCommerce dividends.

Triggered Emails are a powerful tool you have at your disposal on CV3. And they are very high on the bang-for-your-buck scale. They increase your touches with key site visitors, at key times, and are relatively simple to set up.  Best of all, triggered email campaigns pay dividends indefinitely. If you are doing anything cool with triggered emails, I would be very interested to hear about it. Drop me a line – eric@commercev3.com

Abandoned Cart Emails and Request for Review Emails are a great place to start working on your triggered email strategy.

Abandoned cart emails are sent automatically to visitors who started the checkout process on your website, provided an email address, but never completed the order.  To understand the value of this technique think for a second about the conversion funnel on your website. If your site is like most eCommerce websites, the vast majority of visitors do not add a product to their cart. They come in, look around and leave.   Of those that do add a product, only a minority get to the point where they begin checkout. Of those that do begin checkout, you likely have a large minority that do not complete the process. This audience is THE MOST QUALIFIED LEAD SOURCE I can imagine. These are people who have come very close to ordering. Don’t let them get away!

The email you send can be timed, can include special incentives to completing the order and will prepopulate the abandoned cart info to make ordering easier.  This is free money, people! What are you waiting for?

Reviews matter. They give people unfamiliar with your brand a sense of trust about your company and your products and can help your natural search rankings by bringing fresh, keyword rich content to your site. An automated Request for a Review email message X days after an order can help you bring a stream of reviews to your website with little ongoing effort.  Simply configure an email to be sent asking the buyer to review your site and products. You may also consider holding off on the prompt until after the return period has expired (so your request doesn’t serve as a reminder to return) but sometimes sooner is better, depending on your business.

One of the keys for successful eCommerce is “working smarter, not harder”.  A robust, hosted solution like CommerceV3 is a step in the right direction.   On CV3, you don’t have to own the problem of hosting, web development, bug tracking, etc.   You can simply use the features of the system and focus on selling your products.

But as with all tools, you have to use them to get the benefit.

You can do this yourself by checking out the user documentation (or ask support to help you find it). Or if you are on the Growth Plan, talk to your coach about triggered emails. He can give you information on copy strategies and together you can make a plan. There are even email packages available where his team could do the work for you.

Thinking about a site refresh?

Read how long-time customer SERRV did just that- and the impressive results that followed!

We’re proud to announce the recent launch of the new shopping site for our long-time customer, SERRV, a $9.5 million fair trade network connecting thousands of artisans in developing countries with customers and volunteers across the United States.

A Timberline partner since 2005, SERRV has created a website to support and supplement their catalog sales of unique gift, home decor, clothing, jewelry and other items made by artisans and farmers in Asia, Latin America, Africa and Europe.  Serena Sato, Directory of Marketing at SERRV, says the process of working with Timberline and CommerceV3 to revamp their website was a pleasure from start to finish.

“I can’t say enough good things about Timberline and Deb Brisson [Timberline’s VP of Software Development],” Sato says.  “She’s done an amazing job, and our new site is a huge improvement over the old one.  Deb helped us problem solve, take advantage of opportunities, and even agreed to be on call when issues came up.  We could not have done it without her, for sure!”

The SERRV redesign features several improvements to the site, Sato says: “We now have more flexibility in how to categorize products.  For instance, we can use one, two or three tiers, which makes it much easier to navigate.  Also, CommerceV3 cross-sell options now allow us to use that field to focus on our artisan stories, which we’re really excited about.  Images are now nearly double the old size, which makes a huge difference in the look and feel.  The new redirects have also helped us a lot, as has the ability to do top and side navigation.  And we love the zoom, which highlights the hand-crafted quality of our products.  Though we’re a non-profit, it’s really important that our customers see us not just as a charity site, but as a purveyor of high-quality products.  In so many ways, the capacity of the new site has helped us display our products and our story in a manageable, flattering format.”

Sato reports excellent results for the new SERRV site when comparing sales from October 2010 to October 2011, including a 22 percent increase in individual consumer order sizes; a 30 percent increase in individual consumer purchases; a jump to just under 50 percent of orders coming in via the new web site, a slight increase over 2010; and a 12 percent increase in wholesale store orders, with nearly 60 percent of those orders coming in via the new web site.

Deb Brisson adds, “Working with Serena and the rest of the SERRV team was fantastic.  They are all very smart, driven and focused on producing a high quality shopping experience.  Due to the complexity of their pricing and business rules, we spent a lot of time up front determining how to structure their data so that each of their different customer types would see the appropriate display, product and pricing information.  We did this by heavily utilizing the CommerceV3 customer group and promotion tools, a very robust strength of the platform.”

If you’re ready to take your online sales to the next level, find out how to get started with CommerceV3 or Timberline, please contact me, Sharon Rogers.

 

Google+ for Business

   With over 40 million users (and still growing), google+ most likely has some fans of your brand on it – fans that (up til now) you might only connect with on that other social network (which we trust you’re already doing with a facebook page for your business). That’s about to change though, as google+ pages for business opened for business yesterday and the google+ badge for businesses will start appearing across the web, spreading as did the now ubiquitous “Follow Us” facebook icons and the +1 sharing button

Wondering if google+ will be the next Buzz or Wave? All indicators are that google is playing for keeps on this one, and if one thing will make google+ stick, it will be widespread adoption by businesses. Google+ should have an edge on facebook pages (at least initially) in some respects, such as the ability to group your page’s followers into smaller Circles, and even chat with them in video Hangouts (up to 9 at a time). The most interesting long-term aspect of google+ pages will be the upcoming integration with google AdWords paid search. You may have already noticed that there’s an option in AdWords Display Ads to overlay a +1 button for people to like your ad, and the option to add a Social Extension to your campaigns. This latter will tally all the +1’s of your ad, your site, your page and your search results (clearly google has embraced “bigger is better” math here), and allow people to view all of the recommendations for your brand in aggregate.

To add another layer to it, google’s Direct Connect goes live today, rolling out on select websites. This feature lets people enter ‘+’ followed by the name of your page in Google search to get directly to your Google+ page: try it for one of the brands that  already have google+ pages: NY TimesABC NewsDell. Certainly easier than finding your favorite brand’s facebook page. We’re looking forward to integrating google+ badges with the full suite of social sharing buttons, and then kicking back and watching the show in analytics.

More Holiday Marketing Tips

Last week we talked about last minute holiday marketing tips. I received some good feedback and wanted to pass on a few extra ideas.

1) Don’t forget Black Friday and Cyber Monday!

I blushed when I read this email. It was an important omission. These two days help companies and customers kick off the holiday buying season early.   It certainly will vary by company and the brand relationship you have with your customers, but typically you have to be pretty aggressive to stand out on these days, e.g. 20% off or more. Perhaps you can try this to reactivate nonbuyers, nonclickers or other segments of your file while still “keeping your powder dry” for emailing your best customers other holiday offers later in the season.

  • Try subject lines that promote urgency: “Today Only… 20% Off All Blue Widgets”
  • Try to incentivize volume on items that might not normally be bought in volume “Buy 3, Get 2 Free”

2) Try a 12 Deals over 12 Days Promotion

Typically these are set up to feature one blow out item or premium on each day. Choose items that have high margin cross sells or which are lead in products to other products in your line.

3) Look Sideways for Best Practices

Study what other companies are doing for online promotion during the holidays. During the Holiday 2010 Season, Responsys tracked emails from more than 100 large retailers and published a report of holiday email trends. They cover the takeaways and outline some predictions on 2011 in this guide: Retail Email Guide to the Holiday Season in 2011.

I found it be a value source of information and an excellent guide for brainstorming, but don’t forget – it’s a marketing piece for their very high end mailing solution. Not all of their “Best Practices” are appropriate for small and medium sized retailers.

One final takeaway:  Retailers have been pushing holiday marketing earlier and earlier in the season, i.e. “Black November” to start holiday promotions on November 1st.  So if you haven’t started your messaging plan in earnest, it’s high time you start.   We are in the 11th hour, but it’s not too late if you get going now. Giddyup! … and Happy Holidays.

 

 

Your Holiday Plan – Time to “Turn the Crank”

Ah, the holidays…   time with the family, good cheer, snowflakes on kittens and the crush of eCommerce retailing.

For many eCommerce retailers, this is the sales performance Super Bowl.   This post is to designed to give a few quick marketing tips to help you “get yourself right” for gameday.

 

CPC

 

If you did CPC last year, look at the corresponding keyterm performance reports for comparable periods of time last year.   It’s always interesting to me that different parts of the product selection seem to have different curves during the holiday season.   Some items peak earlier than others. Some items tend to be more for last minute shopping.   Peak season is the time to pay special attention to these trends. There are a lot of companies that don’t play the CPC game aggressively until the peak season.   You’ll see an influx of competition and price pressure to maintain position. You want to maintain your position on the terms that you are profitable on.  You need to have clarity on which terms those are. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of smaller retailers give away a lot of profit by being overly aggressive on their terms during the holiday because the prices went beyond where good ROI could be had. Conversely, you leave money on the table by not bidding aggressively on your best terms during the buying frenzy.

Consider testing a discount as a way to differentiate from the competition. For example, you might try a 10% off offer in your ad text or landing page. Run it as an A/B test with two different ads with two different tracking urls.

Lastly, double down on the holiday blitz by using Microsoft AdCenter. I’ve been impressed with the volume coming from Bing and Yahoo and you might find different veins of opportunity in the bidding environment in the AdCenter. Again, now is the time to try. There is volume and opportunity.

Email

 

Turn the crank!   Have you a had a meeting to talk about ramping up your email strategy for the peak season? Whoever is in charge of email should be at the top of their game right now. This is the peak season! If ever there is a time to be aggressive, it is now. How aggressive? Short answer is “VERY”. Do you have data from last year? Use it! Unless you saw some real blowback from over mailing – ADD SOME MAILINGS. You really don’t know where the line is, until you push up against it.

Also, this is the time where you have the best chance to do some testing. Segment your list. Try 3 messages per week vs 2 messages per week and compare results.   You are trying to maximize your ROI for this year and learn for the future. The peak season is a great time to run statistically significant tests.

Testing ideas:
Try an A/B/A test. Break your list into three parts. Depending on your list size this could be 33%, 33%, 33% or 10%, 10%, 80%.  Test an offer on two of the parts and roll the winner to the remainder. This allows you to optimize your offers for more than half of your audience.

Abandoned Cart Emails

Do you have them in place?  There are incremental sales to be had here at no additional cost. Peak season is the time when you have the most abandons. If you don’t have abandoned cart emails in place there is no quicker route to ROI than to implement them now.

Likewise, Product Reviews and Review request emails. The holiday season is the time for you to get a good volume of these to build up the quantity of reviews on your site. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an abundance of fresh content for search engines and site visitors in Q1 2012?

 

Shopping Engines

 

Just make a point to revisit your feeds and tweak your listings before Thanksgiving.  Make sure your listed products are up to date and in stock.

 

Your Webstore

 

Freshen up your category list. Does it make sense to make a “Gifts” category or “Holiday” category? Consider some seasonal “Hero Images” for your homepage or category pages. If you don’t have any, there still might be time. Circle the wagons and schedule a photo shoot.

 

SEO

 

Not much to talk about here.   SEO is not something you can change quickly.  Hopefully the peak season is the time when you can reap the benefits from your natural listings (and the work you’ve done to make your site search friendly, fresh and content rich all year).

Godspeed!