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How small firms can benefit from online video

December 10, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

How small firms can benefit from online video{{}}Online video on mobile is fast becoming one of the most influential marketing channels.

Recent research from eMarketer reveals that consumers in the United States spend almost an hour, on average, watching digital video every day – that’s up from just six minutes in 2010. In the UK, advertisers are spending £316 million this year on digital video ads – a figure which is expected to double within four years.

But it’s not just the big firms that are benefiting from this surge in mobile video advertising. Thanks to more affordable technology, small businesses can also take advantage of the opportunities that mobile video offers.

The growth of mobile video

Surfing on mobile is increasing and it’s clear that mobile is driving consumer behaviour. BuzzCity’s study of mobile video consumption shows that 84% of mobile surfers watch videos on their handsets.

Better telecoms infrastructure is driving the growth. In the UK, between 2013 and 2014, the number of active 4G mobile subscribers jumped nearly 19-fold to over six million.

In addition, carriers are offering better rates, independent video sharing sites are expanding and smartphones now have bigger screens and faster processors. So it’s no surprise that social media sites like Instagram, Facebook and Flickr, which started with photos, have expanded to include video.

What opportunities are out there?

The empowering tool is the power of sound and moving pictures; these appeal to our senses and create an emotional quality that is highly engaging. What’s key for small firms is that this relies more on creativity than on budgets; creating powerful videos has never been easier.

The opportunity is not new, of course, and many brands, such as the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, have created powerful viral video strategies. In addition, Honda has used music videos as a promotional tool and Harley Davidson has encouraged user-generated video to build its brand presence online.

In many ways though, these brands follow the traditional “branding on TV” route. Digital video, on the other hand, promises the same emotional response with the practicality of direct response. Advertisers can inspire engagement with mobile surfers and then track their spending. This is an added bonus for small businesses, enabling them to budget more effectively in line with results.

More art than science

Data and analytics are vital. But advertisers also need to be mindful that the user experience of video is subjective. The only way to get engagement is to create content that people really care about or are interested in. This is more of an art than a science and it’s not something that can always be quantified.

This is what makes mobile video accessible to businesses of all sizes – it’s not the size of the budget which counts but the combination of strategy, measurement and creativity.

Copyright © 2014 Dr K F Lai, ceo of BuzzCity.

Shoppers love free delivery – and you should too

December 08, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Shoppers love free delivery – and you should too{{}}Did you know that 83% of people are willing to wait an extra two days to receive an online order if they get free delivery?

According to a recent ComScore study, consumers are perfectly happy to forgo instant gratification if they don't have to pay for delivery charges.

That's how important free P&P is to online shoppers. But it's just one element of why free delivery is so important to consumers and why it can actually pay for itself several times over for an online retailer who offers it.

Don't put a roadblock in front of the shopping cart

If the products you sell are available in a store, then it doesn't make sense to charge for postage. This is especially true if your product is sold in a department store where the consumer will have more choice for competitive products and you run the risk of them buying something else there.

The last thing an online retailer wants is for a shopper to abandon their shopping cart and head down to their local retailer simply to avoid delivery charges. That's a lost sale that might have been prevented.

When a shopper is making an online purchase, they are, for the most part, already committed to a brand. But they can very easily jump ship when faced with delivery charges.

According to the Wharton School of Business, over half of shopping cart abandonment is due to delivery costs. Wharton’s Professor David Bell reveals that: "A free shipping offer that saves a customer $6.99 is more appealing to many than a discount that cuts the purchase price by $10.”

Free delivery increases average order volume

Why is free postage so important to online retail success? These compelling statistics have been gathered by Demac Media in this infographic:

  • Nearly half of all online orders currently include free delivery;
  • Free P&P increases average order volume by 30%;
  • 52% of abandoned shopping carts are due to P&P costs;
  • 58% of shoppers surveyed said they abandoned their shopping cart because postage made the purchase cost higher than expected;
  • 57% loaded up the cart to compare against competitors;
  • 50% said they abandoned the cart because their order wasn't large enough to qualify for free delivery.

Why free delivery is good for your business

Here are some of the business benefits of offering free postage:

Short-term gains. Free delivery can immediately boost online sales.

Larger orders. Free postage can lead to larger orders particularly when retailers set minimum purchase thresholds.

Long-term gains. Many online shoppers will only buy from merchants that offer free delivery, so, when it’s offered, merchants should expect to acquire new customers.

Repeat purchases. Free P&P can contribute to the lifetime value of those customers that a merchant might not otherwise have achieved had it not been for free or discounted delivery.

Staying competitive. Customers are more likely to leave a merchant and shop at a competitor site if they are offering free delivery.

How to keep your costs down

Of course, offering free delivery will add to the cost of a merchant doing business. However, you don’t have to offer free P&P on every item at all the times in order to increase sales or become more competitive.

Here’s how to manage your costs:

Offer free P&P with minimum thresholds. Setting minimum order value thresholds encourages larger orders and reduces risk. It's more realistic than free delivery on everything.

Offer free delivery on certain Items. Perhaps on products with higher margins.

Offer free delivery at certain times of the year. Target peak events such as Christmas.

Offer free delivery to certain locations. Setting geographic parameters either within country or on an international basis can help control costs.

Offer free delivery on returns. No-one wants to pay to return something that doesn't fit right or, worse, arrives damaged.

Offer flat-rate postage. While not free, shoppers will immediately come to the conclusion that larger orders are more economical.

Free delivery is something consumers expect and appreciate. When a merchant does something the consumer is happy about, they are building loyalty. So free delivery should be seen as a loyalty deliverable.

In exchange, merchants could consider asking for account registration or some other option to gather more information from the consumer or require the consumer to opt into email lists.

But what it really boils down to is removing a roadblock. The easier it is for the consumer to click the "buy" button, the more likely it is that they will go through with their purchase. And isn't that what we all want?

Copyright © 2014 Greg Shepard, ceo of AffiliateTraction.

How marketing helps small firms get ahead

December 01, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Why experiential marketing helps small firms get ahead{{}}Small businesses have unique, localised advertising needs and are often subject to financial and logistical restrictions when it comes to marketing. So which approach is best – promotional or experiential marketing?

Promotional marketing, such as discounts and offers, focuses on creating an incentive to persuade consumers to take action by immediately purchasing a product.

A recent UK survey found that promotional campaigns produce a higher ROI than radio and outdoor advertising and one equal to that of TV commercials and print ads. 56% of the people surveyed felt more favourable towards a brand after receiving a promotional item and 79% said that it made them likelier to do business with the company.

However, giving things away isn’t always an option for businesses on a budget. So how can small firms compete with larger rivals?

Targeting a niche audience

For starters, they can focus on localising the nature of their campaigns and developing memorable ways of differentiating their messages from competitors. A niche can be a valuable commodity. Large companies often won’t bother targeting small segments of the market – and that opens the door for smaller specialised companies to flourish.

Creating an experience

Experiential marketing techniques provide opportunities to directly and creatively engage potential consumers. One of the simplest ways of achieving this is by celebrating success or growth with the local community. Whether a business has opened a new location, launched a new product or won an award, take advantage of this opportunity and throw a bash, offer a limited-time service or sponsor a charity event.

Participating in local events

Actively participating in your local community by sponsoring school or sports teams, operating a stand or entering a contest at a local fair, hosting an annual public cook-off will make customers happy and appreciative. Those feelings will, in time, foster trust, loyalty and provide an incentive to support your business.

Word of mouth

Inspiring word of mouth is key to drive small business sales. A recent Nielsen survey found that 49% of consumers say that friends and family are their top sources of brand awareness. And another study revealed that 77% of consumers are more likely to purchase a new product after learning about it from people they know.

The more involved a business is in its community, the more of a stake the community will take in the business. By directly engaging with local consumers, small businesses have the advantage of building real relationships and appealing to customers’ emotions. That’s how experiential marketing can deliver results – even on the cheap!

Copyright © 2014 Duncan McCaslin, director of Kreate.

Why these are exciting times for independent retailers

November 26, 2014 by Rachel Miller

Why these are exciting times for independent retailers{{}}Things are changing on our local high streets. Consumers are shopping in a different way and these new habits are bringing exciting new opportunities for independent retailers.

Just last month, a report by the Local Data Company in conjunction with the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) revealed that the number of independents is now at its highest level in four years following a net increase of 432 new stores in the first half of 2014.

There are lots of reasons for this positive news – consumers are keen to support local retailers and the recovery, although unsteady, is certainly helping too.

But the biggest driver seems to be a shift in shopping habits. New data shows that we are increasingly swapping the old weekly food shop at an out-of-town supermarket for more top-up trips made locally. And that is driving footfall to all kinds of shops on our high streets.

A new generation of canny shoppers

The recession has permanently altered the way we shop. We are less keen to drive to out-of-town supermarkets. And we are determind not to waste food as we once did. That means we would often prefer to buy our food locally as and when we need it.

What’s more, when we are visiting a Tesco Metro or a Sainsbury’s Local to get some essentials, we are also increasingly visiting other local stores as well.

But that’s not the whole picture. We’re also lapping up any opportunity to get a bargain. While the likes of Tesco and Sainsbury struggle, discounters such as Aldi and Lidl are flourishing. And of course, we are increasingly shopping online too.

All this has prompted Goldman Sachs to suggest in November that one in five big supermarkets may need to close. It points to “altered shopping habits” as well as competition from the big discount chains and pressures from online retailers.

These are clearly seismic shifts – not just recessionary aftershocks.

Grasping the opportunity

Now’s the time for independent shopkeepers to grasp these new opportunities. It’s about promoting what makes you special and giving customers the kind of friendly, personal service that big names just can’t deliver.

Tell your customers just how much good they are doing by shopping locally. According to Independent Retailer Month, for every £1 spent locally, 50-70p goes back into the local economy. For the same £1 spent out of town or online only 5p trickles back to the local community.

After all, a recent survey by Vend has found that 53% of consumers who choose to shop at small businesses do so to support the local economy and 30% of shoppers choose small businesses to buy one-of-a-kind items.

The convenience of online shopping, however, is undeniable. Independent retailers can also win more business by having an appealing and accessible website where customers can browse, get information, order online and either have goods delivered or click and collect. Judicious use of discounts and deals will also appeal to many shoppers that are counting the pennies.

Support for independent retailers

All over the country there are shop local campaigns offering support and inspiration – Love Hackney Shop Local or Buy Local Norfolk to Totally Locally Durham are just a few examples.

Above all, at this time of year, it’s well worth getting involved with Small Business Saturday. Taking place on 6th December, this grassroots campaign encourages consumers to shop locally and support small businesses in the run-up to Christmas and beyond.

You can download support and marketing materials on the Small Business Saturday website. And look out for the Small Business Saturday bus – coming to a town near you in November and December.

Blog by Rachel Miller, editor of Marketing Donut.

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The power of the two minute check-back

November 24, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

The power of the “two minute check-back”{{}}It's so much cheaper to keep a customer than to find a new one, that for a small business it's perhaps the most vital ingredient for a healthy future.

So how do you keep customers? Price is the most important factor for many shoppers and some businesses trade exclusively on that. But there are two problems with this as a long-term strategy: firstly, most customers don't decide where to buy on price alone; and secondly, those that do will eventually be worn down by an apparent lack of care by the seller.

Excellent customer service is the foundation stone on which to grow your online business. In this day and age, when so many companies give poor (or simply neglectful) service, it's also a fantastic way to stand out from the crowd.

It's not a short-term strategy; it should be a permanent, long-term mission statement. Being friendly, efficient and above all helpful may not immediately get you more sales, but it will help to persuade customers to return and it will encourage them to recommend your business to friends and family.

I'd like to re-emphasise the word helpful. Go out of your way to help your customers. Distinguish yourself from companies with robotic staff who parrot the usual line, not intending, or caring whether they really help. Actually solve problems, don't just sympathise; offer real solutions, not just a goodwill gesture.

Above all, contact your customers to check if they're happy. That’s what the restaurant trade calls the “two minute check-back”, and it works brilliantly when the waiting staff are properly trained – it allows them to check that everything is okay with the customer's meal and experience, but it's also a great opportunity to offer more drinks and get more sales.

Whatever you do, don't hide behind your website. You may not have that bricks and mortar store, but it's no excuse for zero interaction. Publish your phone number clearly; interact with customers through email and social media; contact them frequently for that “two minute check-back”.

The customer may not always be right, but they are always the king, and if you invest the time and effort to treat them like royalty then you'll be creating the conditions for a long-term, thriving businesses.

Copyright © 2014 Simon Michels is a director of Photo Productions.

Introducing graph databases: the new way to deliver customer happiness

November 17, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Introducing graph databases: the new way to deliver customer happiness{{}}Marketers are keener than ever to understand customer preferences and behaviour – and increasingly that means understanding data. But it has also becoming apparent that not all data is equal; the way you use it is key to how you'll be able to derive value from it.

This distinction comes back to the way technology has changed in recent years. As marketers, we know that everything is connected. But traditionally this isn't how we've stored and accessed data. Until now, we've mainly been looking at individual datum, not connections.

Graph databases fix this by because they explore connectivity within the data. More traditional relational databases answer simple questions such as: "what is the mean age of people shopping on Oxford Street?". In contrast, graph databases can identify relationships and answer queries like: "how many customers are talking about my brand on social media and how many of them know each other?".

This may seem like semantics but it actually represents a huge leap forward for informed marketers. So what are the three key things that graph databases can teach us?

1. How to offer the right products and services at the right time

Data from past purchases and information on customer interests can enable marketers to spot patterns and make recommendations or relevant offers to customers for next time. With a graph database you can go one step further and make real-time recommendations, instantly capturing any new interests shown in the customers’ current visit.

2. How to identify brand advocates

Looking at your customers, their connections and social media activity you can quickly identify those that are most likely to speak about your brand and recommend services to others.

Graphs allow you to ask questions such as: “which customers of mine are mentioning my brand on social media and via which channels?"; and "which have most social influence amongst their networks and like to write reviews?". You can then correlate this with: 2which of these digitally active customers are buying most of our products?"

In short, marketers can now identify the most appropriate individuals that can be nurtured into brand advocates.

3. How to provide quicker customer service

In an age where global selling is the norm, many businesses now offer a wide range of products and services, making it hard for both employees and customers to navigate online or in-store. Using a graph database allows businesses to identify and offer customers a product that is closest to their needs and react quickly when problems arise.

For too long, it has felt like getting to know your customers is made more difficult by the way companies manage their data – databases are vast and can be overly complex to navigate.

Graph databases change this, building the importance of relationships into every piece of data and every query you make.

What may sound like a somewhat "techy" area is actually one that can deliver the most old-fashioned marketing advantage of them all: happier, more loyal customers.

Copyright © 2014 Claudia Remlinger, marketing director, EMEA, Neo4J.

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