The service providers and entrepreneurs who attended IRCE 2014 in Chicago know a lot about the need to stand out in a crowd. With more than 600 vendors crowded into an exhibition hall, you could almost taste the sense of competition and the need to get attention as you walked up and down the aisles. Flyers were thrust into my hand; greetings were voiced left and right. It was enough to make me want to tear the “Press” badge from my name tag.
Nevertheless, along with the new products and services in the room there was a huge amount of accumulated expertise when it comes to doing business online. I solicited comments on two topics of interest to all small business owners: trends and new developments in shipping; and ideas for marketing your online business and attracting new customers. Here’s what I gleaned from the professionals attending the conference.
Manish Chowdhary, CEO of ecommerce hosting service GoECart, took a moment from promoting his new GoECart 360 native omni-channel hosting package to pass along a host of tips he’s learned from watching successful businesses grow and thrive:
Use Pinterest. “Pinterest has just released a new ad unit that enables SMBs to monetize ads. Get on it before prices go up. Pinterest is driving more retail clicks and is better social commerce than Twitter. Shopping is a visual medium, so Pinterest makes sense from a marketing standpoint,” says Chowdhary. (For an example, see this Pinterest board.)
Get customers to create content for you. Customer reviews are great for SEO, plus they build loyalty and engagement, says Chowdhary. “Nobody has time to write content. Let the customers do it themselves.”
Also, remarket the right way. Remarketing is a powerful tool but many businesspeople don’t take full advantage of it, he adds. Rather than doing “blind remarketing,” you can make remarketing super-powerful by connecting your customer reviews to products listed on Google Shopping and Google AdWords.
Think Responsive. That’s responsive design: be sure to create multiple versions of your websites tailored to smartphones and tablets as well as desktop computers, says Matt Torres of eBay Enterprise. “It’s better to think about mobile out of the box rather than build the site and build it in later,” he commented. “Make sure your experience is consistent across the desktop, tablet and mobile devices.”
Do a video blog. Make videos and post them to your YouTube channel. Google likes the rich media content, says Mike White of Babymonkeystudios.com and shopping cart provider X-Cart. “You have to stick with it and do it consistently. I personally get 90 percent of my new clients via my tutorials,” he said. “You get feedback and questions and you learn from them, too.”
Make Priority a priority. Marcia Sapien of online postage provider Stamps.com says Priority Mail is still the most popular and cost-effective solution for business owners and consumers alike. “It’s really become the ecommerce shipper’s solution of choice.” Priority Mail charges stayed flat at the last USPS rate change, she added.
Give the customer options. “Same-day shipping is really starting to take hold,” says Emma Johnson of postage and shipping solution provider Endicia. “We’re seeing an uptick, but it’s important to find the right vertical. Some products like pharmaceuticals, coffee and other niche areas are gaining interest with same-day. Our customers need to find the right mix (of shipping options) and provide their customers with choice.”
Shop for the best rates. Along those lines, Jessica Hardecke of shipping software provider Shipworks urged business owners to do their research. “If a business is using a carrier that isn’t the most cost-effective solution, it could result in a lost sale,” she says. “SMBs can prevent this by doing price comparison research on shipping. It’s often smart for them to use multiple carriers so they’re shipping the most cost effective way for their small and large items.”
She added a detail that every conference attendee was eager to communicate: we can do that for you. “You can do the research via shipping software, like ShipWorks, or by going to each carrier’s site and using its shipping calculator.”
For more EcommerceBytes coverage of the Internet Retailer conference, see the following: