Thanksgiving gives way to Christmas eCommerce
Posted by: Norm Prevett on Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)
It has been an exceptionally busy fall for us and that is certainly something to be thankful for. As often happens, Thanksgiving and the promise of "Black Friday" prompt all of our eCommerce customers to make last minute improvements to their web sites. And that keeps us hopping! Now, with the Christmas holiday approaching fast, it's probably too late to make any major changes, but there is still lots that you can do to take advantage.
First keep your social marketing program going. I know it's hard to focus on tweeting, bloging and posting to facebook, but now is the time to keep your name and seasonal offers in your visitor's mind. I know that the gurus say you should keep you avoid the hard sell in those venues, but the people who visit you have an interest in what you do. Why not have a special discount offer just for your facebook/twitter/blog fans (What a great idea -- I think we will be doing just that ourselves -- stay tuned).
Keep your content fresh and uptodate. But avoid making drastic changes. Last minute changes often have unintended consequences. Do fix bad links and out right errors as soon as you spot them. And remember, good customer service always pays off. You may win new customers because you have a great price or good delivery, but that doesn't assure they will be back next year when the Christmas frenzy is over. Take care to capture their names, follow up after the sale and make sure they are satisfied.
On a still positive note, despite the weak economy, Forrester Research has a new five-year forecast predicting that e-commerce sales in the U.S. will keep growing at a 10 percent compound annual growth rate through 2014. It forecasts online retail sales in the U.S. will be nearly $250 billion. This year they are expecting nearly $173 billion up from $155 billion in 2009. Last year, online retail sales were up 11 percent, compared to 2.5 percent for all retail sales.
We'll soon be seeing if those predictions are on the mark. We hope that all of our customers have a happy and prosperous next few weeks. And if you missed out on taking maximum advantage this season, you can still get back in the game for 2012.
Posted by: Norm Prevett on Friday, September 10, 2010 at 3:05:23 pm Comments (0)
Few things have ever so profoundly awakened the American spirit as have the images of those burning towers. Yet here we are several years later and already the "spin" has blured the day and clouded our minds with doubts and confusion. We have fought a war on two fronts, seen the housing market collapse in ruin and are mired in the doldrums of an intractable resession.
Yet I sense that the spirit still lives. Shaken, disappointed by the lack of leadership and disgusted by those who would use adversity as an excuse to promote self interest and personal gain, we still find hope alive and the determination that all those who have given their lives in battles waged long past, in the present and those yet to come, shall not be for naught.
Please join with us here at Jenica, in offering a prayer or whatever your belief system allows, as a measure of thanks to those fallen and as a promise to the future that we will never forget the price of Freedom.
Are you a good listener?
Posted by: Norm Prevett on Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 5:43:51 pm Comments (1)
Believe it or not many of the Fortune 1000 companies have added a position called CLO to the pantheon of CEO, CFO, CIO and other corporate officers. The new position is Chief Listening Officer, and no this is not the company shrink sitting next to a couch, pen and pipe in hand, ready to ease the daily anxiety of working in a high stress corporate environment.
Years past, companies hired clipping agencies to send them articles clipped from magazines and newspapers that mentioned their company or products. But that has all changed with the Internet. Instead of a few thousand influential newspapers and magazines, commentary on a busines can pop up on any one of hundreds of thousands of websites or blogs and immediately spread to millions of individuals who repeat it on their Facebook MySpace and Twitter accounts to a hundred million more.
Initially the need is of course, to respond to any negative or damaging comments, but more and more the task is simply to find out what folks are thinking about you. How are the business and it's products and services viewed? What are the likes and dislikes of the consumers and who are the ones influencing decisions? The CLO has become a full fledged arm of the company with dozens of analysts, programmers and data specialists mining cyberspace for every crumb of information.
Few of us run businesses with the resources to duplicate these efforts, yet we all need to be that CLO for our own businesses. One good way is to sign up for Google alert. Google will send you a link and a summary everytime your business or product is mentioned. You can also establish direct channels for folks to comment by adding forms to your website or establishing your own social media presence. Or you might use a blog to open a dialog with your customers about important issues. And by just encouraging employees to keep an ear out for what people are saying about you can give you valuable insight. .
Once you have started collecting this information, don't ignore it. Succesful businesses got there by listening and then doing what was needed to satisfy their customers. Be open to what you hear no matter if it is good or bad. Move over NSA and CIA there are going to be lots of new kids with big ears listening to the chatter.
Searching Less and Enjoying it more.
Posted by: Norm Prevett on Friday, August 27, 2010 at 5:27:33 pm Comments (0)
Recent statistics released from Nielsen show that the number of searches being done on the Internet has gone down by 16 percent in the past year. Google of course still leads the pack with 64.2 percent of the total while Yahoo and Bing fight it out for a distant second place at 14.3 and 13.6 percent respectively.
The question is why? Certainly a good deal of the drop is a result of the poor economy. If people are buying less they need to spend less time searching for things to buy. Makes sense to me, but does that explain it all?
There are several other trends that come to mind and that could very well continue to eat into the search pie. Chief among these is video. YouTube, DailyMotion and a raft of similar sites aggregate videos which are then distributed over thousands of web sites when people share those that they find humorous, interesting or relevant to the topics at hand. Social websites such as Facebook and Twitter are full of links to informative videos and direct links to websites of interest to their community of friends.
In the past website owners concentrated on SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (Search engine marketing) often including paid search. These are the basics. You still need to be sure your website can be found in the traditional manner. After all we are talking about billions of searches. Once you have taken care of the basics, video and social marketing are a good way to add that extra boost that smaller website operators need to get noticed.
Social marketing requires a good deal of commitment in time and energy. Think it through before hand and do not bite of more that you can chew. Perhaps start with a blog and add Twitter and Facebook as you develop followers.
Video is an excellent choice for promotion because, once it has been created it can spread and continue to promote the website without constant attention. Testimonials, product "how to's" and even tongue in cheek product parody videos can take on a life of their own. Just be sure that they are also optimized for searching and are submitted to multiple distribution sites for viewing. At JMS we've recently added several economical video marketing services to produce and distribute videos for you, but with a good camera and a little "Cecil B DeMille" attitude, you can do it yourself.
Posted by: Norm Prevett on Sunday, July 11, 2010 at 1:50:49 pm Comments (1)
Todays successfull websites are built on information. Information serving both the website owner and the visitors. Search words, visitor profiles, page views, and tracking every action your visitors take are all actions that every website owner wants to know. Add to that third party buyer incentive programs, buyer protection programs, refferal programs and shopping comparison programs and you have a considerable number of ingredients added to the soup.
We were discussing the installation of a new ecommerce tracking and shopping enhancement module with the owner of a very active web site we host, when he posed the question "Will this slow down my website?". The answer was "could be". While it stands to reason that adding extra code to a shopping cart or applications program adds overhead, most good hosting platforms can be scaled to handle it with very little effect. But there are other issues that are not as easy to control.
Most of these add on programs employ some kind of "call home" scheme to accomplish their tasks. It may be some java script pulled from their servers, and image file to track or other remote process calls that send a bit of information off site and accept something back. Most of the time this takes place transparently with little notice to the visitor. But what happens if this third party server is busy, slow, or down? Even the big guys like Google have outages and slow downs, and when this happens your web page can not completely load until a response is received.
To avoid this most of these programs recommend that their activation code be placed at the bottom of your page. The theory is that the visitor can be reading the contents of the page that have already loaded and by the time they are ready to take an action the remote processes will have completed. Until then links are likely to appear dead and the visitor can not move on to checkout or fill out a form or whatever the next step might be. If the delay last too long you can be sure the next step will be leaving your site.
Generally the benifits of any of these programs far outway the negative effects. But here are some suggestions that may help you avoid the worst.
- Eliminate redundant tracking sources. Every tracking source has it's own special appeal and format. However the information may be ecentialy the same from one to another. Pick the one that gives you what you need in the format you like and eliminate the others.
- Buyer incentive programs vary in effectiveness based on the visitor profile. Analyze the results for each program and eliminate those that show very little return.
- Buyer protection programs can also incentivise visitors to your site. Keep any and all outgoing links for awards and certifications but reduce the number of ratings services that require a live connection to their site to only those that are most important to your visitors.
- Streamline your affiliate, ratings and referal programs to those who consistantly send you visitors. The program that sends you one sale a year may not be doing you a favor if his slow response server causes three other visitors to abandon the site.
- Document every bit of extra code you include and place it at the bottom of your page if possible. Test by commenting out the code from time to time to see which, if any, programs adversly affects performance.
Protecting your domain name
Posted by: Norm Prevett on Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 11:40:48 am Comments (0)
It astonishes me how cavalier many web site owners are about the status of their domain name. Stop and think for a minute what would happen if you lost control of your domain name.
- Your web site would stop working.
- Your customers may think you are out of business.
- All the efforts you put into building traffic might end up benefiting someone else or worst yet might be sending people to some porn site.
Can't happen you say? Wrong--we encounter these disasters way too often.
Most of the time it is inadvertent. One of the most common mistakes that domain owners make is to change their email address without updating the information with their domain registrar. Perhaps because they have changed Internet providers or perhaps they have changed a free email services from say gmail to hotmail or visa versa. Perhaps they have lost track of who their registrar is. If you have registered your name with one of those large domain name discounters, you will never get the email telling you to renew. Believe me, they will not chase you down. Your name will just expire and someone else can grab it.
Another common error is to respond to a bogus renewal offer. These scams are perpetrated by a few disreputable domain registrars pretending to be renewing your domain when in fact they are attempting to sell you new services (see our news article "They are at it again"). Once this happens it's easy to loose track of things.
Here are a few simple precautions to take:.
- Use a consistent email address. If your domain is example.com use email@example.com as your email address not firstname.lastname@example.org. That way if you change Internet providers from Comcast to Verizon your email will still be the same.
- Know with whom your domain name is registered. Keep track of your login and password.
- If possible register your domain name with your hosting provider. You have an ongoing relationship with your hosting provider and most good hosting providers will monitor and auto renew your domain for you.
- Don't respond to renewal notices from unknown companies no matter how "official" they look.
Just remember, your domain name is the single most important element in your Internet business strategy. Treat it like gold!
Censoring your web site
Posted by: Norm Prevett on Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 11:16:44 am Comments (0)
Do you want the government censoring the content of your web site? Of course not, but that's exactly what some law makers want to do .
Claiming to be making the Internet safer for consumers, lawmakers are considering passing a bill that do just that. The bill would require your hosting company to block scam sites and emails (among other things) that use the name of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation
The SIPC is a
nonprofit organization that steps in when brokerages shut down and tries to return investors' money
to them. With today's Wall Street failures it's no surprise that spammers and con men would use the SIPC name to perpetrate frauds. .
Here is what the bill says: "Any Internet service
provider that, on or through a system or network controlled or operated
by the Internet service provider, transmits, routes, provides
connections for, or stores any material containing any
misrepresentation (of the SIPC) shall be liable for any damages caused
thereby, including damages suffered by the SIPC".
As usual, it is the unintended consequences that will end up getting you. As a Hosting company we simply can not investigate the validity of web site content on our customers sites. If the government even suggests that you are a spammer we would have no choice but to shut you down. Your value as a customer would be overshadowed by the potential costs to us. You would be guilty until proven innocent.
And once we start down this slippery slope, what would be the next issue? Are you advertising products deemed unhealthy like trans fats or tobacco? Are you making too much profit? Sounds far fetched, but then who have believed that the government would own General Motors?
Should spammers who victimize the public be punished? Absolutely - but do it using our judicial system. Gather evidence prosecute and punish the guilty. Don't set up an arbitrary process of threats and intimidation that can target the innocence as well as the guilty without either having a chance to defend themselves.
To Blog or Not to Blog
Posted by: Norm Prevett on Friday, April 9, 2010 at 2:09:44 pm Comments (0)
Well here I am with sweaty hands, poised above the keyboard , about to post the first enty in our new blog.
Call me blogiphobic if you wish, but sometimes I think that the blogosphere is just one more new age gimmick fouisted on us by the same folks who brought us new math. Sort of like rapp claims to be music but is actually bad highschool poetry with a beat. One has to wonder what some bloggers could accomplish if they put the effort into more productive tasks.
But blog I must and so should you if your goal is to promote your business. Blogs and other social marketing methods raise awareness of your company and provide a forum in which to get closer to your customers, understand their needs and evaluate your performance.Twitter and Facebook are good places to see and be seen, but your blog is the place where you get to set the tone and lead the discussion.
We have had the opportunity to help many of our customers develop their websites into dynamic marketing engines that power their business. We've seen success and failiure. In nearly every case a successful communications strategy has paid off and bloging has been a contributor.
Here are some suggestions that might help you:
1. Brevity is bliss. Have a point and get to it. Pick one clear subject for each post.
2. Avoid excessive double talk, hyperbole and blatent marketing.
3. Loose the shock talk and way too clever imagery. Content is what counts.
4. Most of all focus on the subjects that you know. You are the expert on what it is you do.