The benefit (and cost) of online coupons

Businesses that have transitioned into the ecommerce marketplace have done so typically to gain access to a larger customer base. The next task once a digital storefront has launched is to begin engaging consumers and crafting a marketing campaign that will drive traffic. By taking advantage of all the resources provided by its ecommerce software provider, any new online vendor should have the tools needed to create a comprehensive and targeted marketing strategy. Social media, blog postings and email campaigns are all vital components to a successful advertising effort.

Beyond those implementations, many businesses consider using online coupons to capture the attention of internet shoppers and drive traffic to their sites. According to Practical eCommerce, online coupons can increase visitors and conversation rates, however, they can also lead to one-time transactions and a decrease in brand loyalty. Before deploying such a campaign, an ecommerce business should take the necessary precautions to protect itself against abuse.

The good news is studies have shown that online coupon campaigns typically raise new customer conversion and acquisition rates. According to a survey conducted by WhaleShark Media, 74 percent of active coupon users said they would be more likely to purchase products from unknown brands if they could apply a coupon. Additionally, when making the final decision on a purchase, 88 percent of respondents said an available coupon would push them to complete an order.

A poorly deployed coupon promotion can have adverse effects for an ecommerce business, however. If a company does not take the time to protect itself against potential abuse, they could stand to lose revenue from one-off customers looking to take advantage of a sale. One step a digital vendor should take when designing a coupon campaign is to set expiration dates to avoid having customers repeatedly take advantage of promotional codes. Bringing in new customers is great, but if they are only purchasing products without generating any profit, their value to an ecommerce business is fairly low.

Building brand loyalty and trust

Many businesses looking to expand their customer base beyond their immediate vicinity have turned to a digital storefront. Using ecommerce software as a platform to distribute goods and services online, companies from any industry have the potential to greatly increase their sales numbers. Of course, as any good business owner knows, building brand loyalty and customer trust is essential to running a successful operation. Current ecommerce software should provide interested parties with all the tools needed to create a online shop that will draw traffic. Vendors launching an ecommerce website should, however, take note of several factors that can help or hinder their efforts to build customer loyalty.

Dynamic Business contributor Jo MacDermott recently identified vendor transparency as the key to building trust with new or prospective customers. A clean, easy to navigate website will allow customers to search for and find whatever information they require. For example, a business' contact information should be clearly visible in case a client needs to ask a question or report a problem. In the event that a situation does arise, customer complaints should be handled quickly and to their satisfaction. Knowing that a business will go to great lengths to address any concerns will help to instill brand confidence in a client.

Another step online vendors can take to cultivate customer trust is by utilizing a product review system. Internet shoppers put a lot of stake into reviews, with a recent study reporting that 70 percent of shoppers trust consumer opinions. A few positive customer testimonials could bring in higher sales numbers for an online shop. Naturally, business owners may be worried about the possibility of receiving an occasional negative review. However, those situations are opportunities for vendors to demonstrate their commitment to quality and problem resolution. Even the most carefully run organization will hit a snag at some point. Having no negative reviews at all may very well engender more skepticism from customers than having a few.

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The growing importance of social media for ecommerce

Ecommerce software is quickly becoming the preferred format for conducting business. More retailers than ever before are adopting online resources to present their products and services to customers. With the growth of online business, a premium has been placed on identifying the best ways to engage potential clients. Recent studies suggest one of the most influential mediums for customer behavior is the social media sphere. By directing their marketing efforts toward these communities, ecommerce businesses stand to increase their potential customer base.

One characteristic of social media users that makes them an appealing target for ecommerce companies is their predilection for online shopping compared to other demographics. According to a report on social media trends issued by Nielsen, 70 percent of active adult social network participants purchase products and services from digital storefronts. That figure is 12 percent higher than the average adult internet user.

It is no secret that consumers have developed more skeptical attitudes toward advertising campaigns. According to some figures compiled by Hubspot, 75 percent of people in the United States do not accept advertisements as statements of truth. However, people are more likely to believe recommendations made in a social media environment. Seventy percent of shoppers trust other consumers' opinions. In addition, social media participants have significant influence over the purchasing decisions made by other users. Shoppers are reportedly 71 percent more likely to buy a product if it is referred to them via social media.

Social media sites offer ecommerce businesses a fantastic platform to communicate with customers and spread brand awareness. By targeting users with a strong degree of influence within the community, companies can significantly widen their customer pool. With the resources provided by quality ecommerce software, businesses will have all the tools they need to engage in an effective social media marketing campaign.

The many benefits of an ecommerce business

For the last few years, industry trends have pointed to the rise of ecommerce. Online businesses have continued to cut into the market share of brick-and-mortar stores, with ecommerce sales recently topping $1 trillion across the globe. For businesses or individuals who are still considering adopting ecommerce software, the sooner they can launch their digital storefronts, the better. With online sales at an all-time high, there has never been a better time to get into the ecommerce business.

Practical eCommerce contributor Armando Roggio recently provided several benefits of opening an online shop. Roggio argued that a migration to the ecommerce marketplace could be a viable solution for brick-and-mortar stores that are looking to expand their business. Opening an online store automatically widens a business' available customer pool. According to data compiled by Internet World Stats, there are more than 245 million internet users in the United States. With ecommerce software, businesses can offer customers from across the country a convenient and simple shopping experience. Stores no longer are confined to the consumer base in their immediate vicinity.

The development of both ecommerce software and the marketplace has made the transition to an online storefront much easier than it may have once been. While early trailblazers of online retail may have struggled to offer an attractive package to skeptical or nonexistent customers, the current ecommerce landscape is radically different. Software providers can offer businesses the tools needed to build an appealing and convenient website interface as well as launch targeted marketing campaigns. In addition, the modern internet user is much more comfortable making purchases online than in the past. New software additions have made it possible to transfer funds or charge credit cards over the an ecommerce business' website as well. Changes in the retail industry have been favoring online enterprises for years. For companies that wish to not get left behind, the time to enter the marketplace is now.

Optimize ecommerce social media efforts

Ecommerce software can offer online businesses a variety of resources, including email marketing and social media integration to promote their products and services. While it is recommended that every company with access to these tools utilize them to their full capacity, sometimes businesses feel somewhat overwhelmed at the prospect of actually implementing them. Social media sites can be great venues by which ecommerce businesses can engage potential customers and direct them to their products. For vendors looking to launch their social media presence, there are a few key factors to take into consideration.

Search Engine Journal contributor Pratik Dholakiya recently offered several strategies to review when first entering the social media sphere. The important component of social media to recognize is that there are essentially two groups of participants: Those that use social media tools to express themselves and those that simply want to be entertained. Any ecommerce business serious about enhancing its online presence should target those users in the former category as they tend to be more active and have more followers. Winning over those individuals with greater influence can help an online vendor gain a larger audience with a fraction of the effort.

Another factor to consider is the focus and type of content an online business is offering via social media. Practical eCommerce contributor Paul Chaney suggested that content should stimulate consumer engagement while demonstrating the company's industry experience. Producing a balance of material designed to entertain potential customers while also establishing the thought leadership that can cultivate consumer trust and respect will help vendors' social media campaigns. In addition, most of the content created should address the needs of customers. Engaging consumers means listening to their concerns and attempting to address them clearly. Social media can be a great tool for ecommerce businesses looking to expand their user base, as long as companies approach it with the intention of starting a conversation between the customer and retailer.

Best practices for maximizing ecommerce blogs

With the implementation of ecommerce software, online vendors have an incredible range of tools at their disposal to engage potential customers and spread brand awareness. Many members of the industry have recommended that ecommerce businesses take time to craft targeted marketing campaigns that integrate, social media, email communications and blog posts. While retailers may have no trouble composing emails or social media posts that promote new products, some can get tripped up crafting an effective and engaging blog post. There are a number of different topics and outlines that beleaguered ecommerce businesses can use to enhance their online visibility.

Practical eCommerce contributor Paul Chaney recently outlined several effective methods to approach writing a blog designed to draw in readers and convert them into customers. A straightforward strategy would be to create blog content similar to what is contained within an email marketing campaign and simply promote products or services offered on the website. With the increased space and flexibility of a blog, ecommerce vendors can get more creative with that content and include tutorials, product reviews and customer testimonials to promote their wares.

A different approach that ecommerce businesses may want to consider when creating blog content is engaging the public through thought leadership posts. If a company wants to establish itself as a major force within its field, composing pieces that target market trends with authority can be an effective way to build credibility. A blog offers ecommerce vendors the opportunity to create the narrative that will propel their brand.

A blog can be a useful tool for online businesses that wish to better engage internet users. Blogs can be more likely than a storefront to appear in search engine results. By taking advantage of their increased visibility, ecommerce businesses can gain a larger audience to convert to customers.

Restaurant chain finds new life through ecommerce

Entering the digital marketplace is an attractive prospect for new businesses looking to launch their operations without having to deal with the overhead costs that come with opening a physical storefront. However, the appeal of ecommerce software is not simply limited to unestablished enterprises. Established businesses have utilized online tools to great effect as well. Although retailers have famously implemented ecommerce solutions to reach more customers, restaurant chains have benefited from the increased convenience that ecommerce software can offer their clientele too.

Internet Retailing reported that the United Kingdom and Ireland division of a global restaurant chain had seen a large percentage of its sales figures transfer from its physical locations to online storefronts. The corporation announced that online transactions accounted for more than half of all U.K. sales recorded in 2012. That figure appears to be rising, with corporate executives expecting the trend to continue. Ecommerce sales have soared within the last year. The restaurant chain reported a 46.7 percent increase in online sales over the previous year.

Company executives were quick to praise the organization's increased focus on the digital marketplace, noting that consumers who made orders through the chain's ecommerce software were more likely to become repeat customers than those who ordered over the phone or walked into a physical location. Email marketing campaigns and online sales promotions were credited with further facilitating the corporation's efforts to increase sales.

Many franchisees also reported that the increased focus on the company's digital storefront has led to a reduction of expenditures. Store managers could save costs previously spent hiring employees to answer phones and place orders. In addition, some franchisees even cut back the number of phone lines servicing their stores because they were receiving more orders online. The ability of ecommerce software to reduce a business' incurred overhead costs appeals to small and large companies alike.

Expanding an ecommerce business overseas

Businesses that have implemented ecommerce software have seen the number of potential customers their services and wares can be solicited to expand beyond those residing in their immediate vicinity. If it succeeds, a physical storefront would eventually reach a saturation point within its local market wherein it could not reasonably expect to gain any more customers than it already had. Digital shops do not have this problem. An ecommerce business essentially has access to an entire world of potential clients. While it is certainly wise to focus marketing campaigns on domestic customers, at some point an ecommerce business may want to consider branching out into a global reach.

Tamebay contributor Scott Galvo recently addressed the benefits of expanding an ecommerce business to target international buyers. The most obvious advantage would be the increased customer base with potentially different preferences. A product whose sales are languishing may find new life on the world stage. If sales of multiple products take off in different regions of the world, an ecommerce business would not be so dependent on the sales provided by a handful of wares. In addition, businesses that sell seasonal items can take advantage of the dichotomic nature of the hemispheres. Summer items may only be in demand in the United States a few months out of the year, but those products could be sold all year long if marketed to countries like Australia or New Zealand.

The worldwide ecommerce market is rapidly expanding, with global sales reported to have recently topped $1 trillion. For businesses looking to capitalize on this trend, especially the surging Asia-Pacific region, expansion into the international market may be a necessary step to increase their companies' growth. The emerging global ecommerce industry can offer businesses a wider customer base with the potential to dramatically diversify sales.  

How to enhance email marketing content

Part of any good ecommerce business plan should be a strong, targeted email marketing campaign. In the world of online retail, there may be no better way to directly engage a potential customer base and promote the products and services offered by a company. Too often, however, ecommerce businesses overlook the potential of a well thought out email marketing strategy and settle for a generic campaign that is just as likely to be ignored as to bring in new clients. Vendors who fail to take the time to carefully craft an effective email campaign are missing out on a great opportunity to deliver promotions and tie together various aspects of their larger marketing efforts.

Business 2 Community contributor Shell Robshaw-Bryan recently examined several options for crafting more focused and targeted email campaigns. The main focus of any marketing effort should be to increase consumer awareness for a brand, product or service. Sending potential customers emails alerting them to new items for sale, special offers or approaching sales is a great way to bring attention to a digital storefront.

Additionally, emails can be used to foster communications with current clients and ensure their continued satisfaction. After a customer has made a purchase, a follow up email asking for feedback can alert companies to any areas of their business that need to be strengthened or errors that should be corrected. These concerns could include site navigation and product quality issues. It is better to hear complaints about a business' operations earlier when problems can be more easily solved and potential damage mitigated.

According to Practical eCommerce contributor Paul Chaney, email campaigns present a great opportunity for businesses to tie in various aspects of their marketing efforts. Links to company blogs, social media sites or any complimentary articles that have been written about the business or industry can increase a website's visibility and esteem. 

Improve ecommerce sites with unique content

Ecommerce software is a great tool to use to launch a successful business. Offering potential customers a convenient and quick shopping experience, online storefronts have increasingly drawn clientele away from their brick and mortar competition. There are many measures an ecommerce business can take to increase sales, from crafting an interface that facilitates easy site navigation and implementing targeted marketing campaigns. One aspect of a digital storefront ecommerce businesses can manipulate to stand out to search engines and visitors is site content. Web copy can be boring, bare bones material or it can grab a customer and encourage him or her to peruse a site's products.

Econsultancy contributor Peter Meinertzhagen laid out several steps ecommerce businesses can take to enhance their website content. One mistake many businesses make is laying out product information in a flat, nondescript style. The more information a customer is given, the more likely he or she is to make a purchase. According to a report jointly issued by Google and Shopper Sciences, 38 percent of consumers comparison shop online. Regardless how high quality a product is or how great a deal a business is offering, if a vague description creates doubt in a customer's mind, he or she will go elsewhere to purchase a similar if not identical item.

With some unique descriptive content and some clear product pictures, ecommerce sites can increase their conversion rate. However, Meinertzhagen found that many companies have enhanced customer conversion rates even further by integrating video content with their sites. Videos can create a more dynamic representation of a product's appeal than static photos. Companies can use videos to showcase their products' various features and functions as well as give customers a primer on their operations. With more descriptive product information in hand, ecommerce site visitors are more likely to become repeat customers.

Making an online shop more customer friendly

The advent of ecommerce software has been a great boon to business owners everywhere. By providing a foundation from which to build an online storefront, the technology has allowed numerous companies to expand beyond the confines of a brick and mortar store and reach an entirely new and global audience on the internet. Any ecommerce vendor that has been in the marketplace long enough knows one of the greatest issues within the industry is customer conversion. Site traffic is a valuable metric, but turning those visitors into paying clients is a matter of great concern. Obviously, the product or service being provided is a major determining factor, but oftentimes small changes to a ecommerce business' website can entice or repel potential customers.

Practical eCommerce contributor Elizabeth Ball recently outlined several simple steps ecommerce companies could take to ensure their websites are more customer friendly. The focus of any effort to enhance an ecommerce website is to make site navigation more convenient for the visitor. For instance, while login processes are critical for verifying a customer's identity when making a purchase, there are other scenarios where making them a requirement is cumbersome and can easily dissuade a visitor. If asked for product and service feedback, customers are much less likely to do provide it if they must go through login screens to verify their identity.

Another aspect to consider when reviewing a site's customer friendliness is how promotions and sales are handled. Although sending potential customers emails promoting sales with a small window of opportunity can be a useful marketing technique, overdoing it can anger consumers and drive them away. A sense of urgency can be the push needed for a customer to make a purchase, but done improperly it can come across as bullying.

Ultimately, the best way to approach making a ecommerce site more customer friendly is by fully considering their viewpoint. Everyone who has ever browsed the internet has encountered irritating site functionality issues. By identifying and rectifying these problems, an online store can become that much more enticing to potential clients.

Improve ecommerce sites with unique content

Ecommerce software is a great tool to use to launch a successful business. Offering potential customers a convenient and quick shopping experience, online storefronts have increasingly drawn clientele away from their brick and mortar competition. There are many measures an ecommerce business can take to increase sales, from crafting an interface that facilitates easy site navigation and implementing targeted marketing campaigns. One aspect of a digital storefront ecommerce businesses can manipulate to stand out to search engines and visitors is site content. Web copy can be boring, bare bones material or it can grab a customer and encourage him or her to peruse a site's products.

Econsultancy contributor Peter Meinertzhagen laid out several steps ecommerce businesses can take to enhance their website content. One mistake many businesses make is laying out product information in a flat, nondescript style. The more information a customer is given, the more likely he or she is to make a purchase. According to a report jointly issued by Google and Shopper Sciences, 38 percent of consumers comparison shop online. Regardless how high quality a product is or how great a deal a business is offering, if a vague description creates doubt in a customer's mind, he or she will go elsewhere to purchase a similar if not identical item.

With some unique descriptive content and some clear product pictures, ecommerce sites can increase their conversion rate. However, Meinertzhagen found that many companies have enhanced customer conversion rates even further by integrating video content with their sites. Videos can create a more dynamic representation of a product's appeal than static photos. Companies can use videos to showcase their products' various features and functions as well as give customers a primer on their operations. With more descriptive product information in hand, ecommerce site visitors are more likely to become repeat customers.

Making an online shop more customer friendly

The advent of ecommerce software has been a great boon to business owners everywhere. By providing a foundation from which to build an online storefront, the technology has allowed numerous companies to expand beyond the confines of a brick and mortar store and reach an entirely new and global audience on the internet. Any ecommerce vendor that has been in the marketplace long enough knows one of the greatest issues within the industry is customer conversion. Site traffic is a valuable metric, but turning those visitors into paying clients is a matter of great concern. Obviously, the product or service being provided is a major determining factor, but oftentimes small changes to a ecommerce business' website can entice or repel potential customers.

Practical eCommerce contributor Elizabeth Ball recently outlined several simple steps ecommerce companies could take to ensure their websites are more customer friendly. The focus of any effort to enhance an ecommerce website is to make site navigation more convenient for the visitor. For instance, while login processes are critical for verifying a customer's identity when making a purchase, there are other scenarios where making them a requirement is cumbersome and can easily dissuade a visitor. If asked for product and service feedback, customers are much less likely to do provide it if they must go through login screens to verify their identity.

Another aspect to consider when reviewing a site's customer friendliness is how promotions and sales are handled. Although sending potential customers emails promoting sales with a small window of opportunity can be a useful marketing technique, overdoing it can anger consumers and drive them away. A sense of urgency can be the push needed for a customer to make a purchase, but done improperly it can come across as bullying.

Ultimately, the best way to approach making a ecommerce site more customer friendly is by fully considering their viewpoint. Everyone who has ever browsed the internet has encountered irritating site functionality issues. By identifying and rectifying these problems, an online store can become that much more enticing to potential clients.

Online travel spending soars

Many sectors have benefited from the migration to ecommerce software, but perhaps there has been no greater success story than the transformation of the travel industry. By offering customers the ability to browse the web for information about flights, hotel reservations and vacation packages, online companies essentially allowed clients to become their own travel agents. Ecommerce succeeded in streamlining and simplifying what was once a much more arduous process. Since the first travel sites cropped up on the internet, online businesses have steadily become the standard for booking flights and planning trips. Sales in the travel ecommerce sector have been strong but only just recently hit a new benchmark.

Analytics firm comScore issued its report on the travel ecommerce industry in 2012, finding that within the United States alone, sales reached $103 billion. That figure, while a landmark high in its own right, represents a 9 percent increase over the previous year. Air travel accounted for 65 percent of the total travel ecommerce spending in the nation. Although rises in gas prices have long given analysts concern that air travel spending would fall, the ecommerce industry saw a 10 percent increase over the course of the year.

Online hotel reservation and car rental services also saw significant growth, with each sectors' annual sales increasing by seven and six percent, respectively. Much of the success of businesses within the travel ecommerce industry can be attributed to the increased convenience of their services over traditional methods. By offering customers an easily accessible and customizable experience, online agencies have provided travelers with a highly desirable service. Judging by the current market reports, travel ecommerce does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

"Travel is a leading online ecommerce category, and despite being a pioneer in the sector 15 years ago it is still growing at nearly double-digit rates and remains very competitive," said comScore executive John Mangano.