How Can You Optimize Your eCommerce Store to Increase Sales?

You’ve put a ton of work into your online store and even started getting a decent amount of traffic to it. But, when it comes to sales, you aren’t meeting your goals. Does this sound like you? If so, don’t worry — Many online stores owners are facing the same problem. You need to optimize your marketing efforts to acquire more customers, and this article show you how.

First, You Need to Determine When Shoppers Leave Your Site

While there are some general optimizations that will benefit allonline stores, the areas where you need to make improvements to your site are determined by user behavior. You need to know precisely when a shopper leaves your website. Upon determining at what point website traffic navigates away, you will have an idea what elements must be improved.

So, you’ll have to monitor your website traffic. From real data, you can acquire invaluable understanding. Here are the indicators you want to look for and what you can do to improve your sales potential.

A High Bounce Rate and How to Solve it

A high bounce rate (above 56%) indicates that your page design or load speed is severely lacking. The problem for your shoppers is immediate, so they leave right away — and most of them won’t come back. So, the first thing you need to do if your bounce rate isn’t at least average, is run a page speed test.

Google PageSpeed Insights can provide you with page load speed and optimization ratings for mobile and desktop browsers. Follow the advice given, step-by-step, right to an optimized user experience upon arrival to your online store.

If you find that your website is fully-optimized and your bounce rate stays in the high range, it may be time to get some feedback on your design and/ or images; the aesthetic appeal of your site might be non-existent or lacking (this is a tough but extremely commonpill to swallow).

Tip: Find a neutral focus group to test your design and give you unbiased feedback on your website design. Most of the time, your staff, friends, and family are going to tell you what you want to hear, whether the aesthetics of your site are terrible or not.

Site Traffic Drops off on Product Pages and What This Means

After arriving at your home page, interested, qualified leads will likely move to your product pages. If this is where they move away, there could be something wrong with your product descriptions. Crafting optimized product descriptionswill have a powerful effect on your sales.

SignMission’s now hiring banner product description provides a great example of everything necessary for converting a page visitor. Here’s why it works:

  • Right off the bat, it tells the reader what to do with the product: “Advertise your employment needs…”
  • Next, it showcases the main benefits: durable, pre-grommeted mounting holes, indoor and outdoor use, fade-resistant, made in the USA, outdoor, heavy duty, 13 oz vinyl.
  • Then, it explains where the product can be used: job fairs, grand openings, roadside, and more.
  • Plus, it seems to be super SEO-friendly with wise use of subheadings and lists.
  • Finally, it makes wise use of grammar and power words.

If you wrote the product descriptions for your online store and this is where visitors are moving away, it’s time to study up on psychological sales triggers, power words, and maybe even grammar. There’s a lot that goes into effective product descriptions.

Tip: If you hire someone to help you rewrite your product descriptions, make sure that you check references. You’ll probably be better off hiring someone with experience in your niche because they will already know the language if your target market.

What if Shoppers Drop off on Category Pages?

You may think that when your traffic moves away upon landing on your category pages, it’s for the same reason as product pages and you need to update descriptions; this couldbe part of the cause, but it’s definitely not the most likely. Instead, when shoppers leave after landing on category pages, it’s probably because your navigation needs some work. The simpler your navigation menu is to use, the longer shoppers will browse.

MightySkins’ provides a great example of an eCommerce site with good navigation. From one category page you can choose to create your own popsocket skin, buy a pre-designed skin, use the dropdown menu to see a list of the most popular products, or do a search. In the sidebar, they provide product images of other popular products with images. Follow their lead to encourage clear opportunities for conversions on category pages.

Tip: Try to make your main conversion point stand out on your top menu. If website traffic is drawn to the “Shop” button, you’re likely to get traffic to your money pages.

Are Your Shoppers Abandoning Their Carts at Checkout?

. Shopping cart abandonment is one of the main conversion killers eCommerce stores face. You’ll need a streamlined checkout experience if you want shoppers to see their purchases through. So, learn why online shoppers abandon their cartsand check to see if your experience makes the grade.

Here’s what an optimized checkout process looks like:

  • It never presents shoppers with unexpected costs.
  • The price of your products, including shipping, is competitive.
  • Site is functioning properly as far as page speed and bandwidth.
  • Utilizes minimal security measures while maintaining trustworthiness.
  • Presents sufficient and affordable (free when possible) delivery options.
  • Shows relevant currency information.

Tip: If you sell the same inventory on and offline, you should use a credit card reader that connects to your online store. This way, you’ll have an easier time with inventory management.

Final Thoughts

An optimized online store leads to higher conversions, hence a greater ROI. If you’re in the business of selling online, use these tips to improve your business’ financial situation. Most of these tips can be implemented right away, so don’t wait to make the right move – start now.

Guest post: About the Author

Ashley Kimler is part of the superhero team atHeroic Search in Tulsa. She’s been working in the digital marketing industry for over a decade. Follow @ashleykimlerand @heroicsearchon Twitter to see what she and her team share next.

 

3 Must-Haves for Smooth Running Operations

This is an exciting time to manage a business—technological advances and new opportunities due to increased globalization lead to greater profits, innovative business models and new customer bases. However, increased competition and higher demands from customers create new challenges for managers and business owners that leave some unsure as to what goals are right for them.

One of the most vital answers to running a successful business in current times is streamlined operations. When staff is properly trained and motivated, smart systems are in place and customer demands are met—the company is headed on a positive path. To keep your operations running smoothly, make sure you focus on the following three must haves:

No Single Point of Failure

One of the most common pitfalls that stagnate growth is a single point of failure in any aspect of operations. Most companies train specific employees in different areas of the business; however, when an unforeseen emergency arises preventing them from their duties, no one else is able to take over their responsibilities.

To prevent this from occurring at your workplace, work with Human Resources to cross train your workers. Additionally, it may be advantageous to switch teams within your organization, thus allowing different team members to handle various aspects of the operations.

This practice would prevent a single point of failure and would make certain that there is always someone at the workplace that can take over for a colleague should they be unavailable for work.

Automation

Operations are always at risk for human failure, which is why automating processes with the latest technological offerings is a beneficial way to streamline this area of your business. Although automating processes usually involves a high upfront cost to purchase software, integrate it into your routines and train staff, the return on your investment (ROI) is usually significant.

Automation leads to higher productivity, reduced costs, better customer service and reduction in errors. It is important to note that even artificial intelligence and machine make errors, so designating a team to review these operations on a regular basis is imperative to running a tight ship.

Motivate Employees

Your business is nothing without its employees, and successful operations result from motivated and empowered staff. An employee who comes to work daily and gets away with minimal effort is one that is failed by management.

Create incentives to encourage your employees to work hard, be proactive and creative instead of those that are satisfied with the status quo. Maintain that with constant feedback, recognition and rewards for your highers performers—the more invested your employees are in the success of your company, the smoother your operations will be!

It’s always a good idea to invest financially into projects and strategies that will streamline your operations. IOU Financial is ready to offer financial help into your endeavour. Contact us today to inquire about our quick and easy business loans.

 

Is Your Company Maximizing its Digital Potential for Revenue?

The world today is fast-paced, and largely driven by innovative technologies, which means businesses are under immense pressure to keep up. Companies need to follow the latest digital trends to stay competitive, as failure to do so can potentially lead to a decrease in profits, in part due to the likelihood of losing clients, an inability to streamline business processes, or incapacity to take advantage of revenue increasing measures. Here are five ways that a company can maximize its digital potential.

Outsource to Skilled Workers

Outsourcing helps a company reduce and control operating costs, mainly because high-quality services can be acquired at a lower cost. In the article ‘4 Ways Outsourcing Can Save a Failing Business’, business leader Richard Walton explains how outsourcing allows companies to “access to talented professionals from across the globe.” He details how digital networking has made it possible to hire someone with the specific skills you need for a part time or hourly period, which is cheaper than employing someone full-time. Walton says that the biggest advantage is “[that] this kind of special assistance can help small businesses to keep up with the professionalism of firms who have much larger in-house teams.”

Automate Workflows

Automation can help enhance productivity, and, in some cases, even aid HR in hiring the best people. For instance, credit firm oMelhorTrato uses TensorFlow to automate part of their hiring process. This decision to automate, according to company co-founder Cristian Rennella, has allowed the company’s HR to spend more time interviewing the best available candidates since the automated process eliminates the need to manually pore through CVs. The aforementioned manual process can be very time-consuming and laborious. Instead, TensorFlow makes use of certain algorithms to distinguish between good and bad candidates who send in their CVs through the company website and third parties.

Engage Customers on Social Media

Social media is a powerful tool that companies can use to connect with and engage their intended market, to generate more profits, as found by the owners of the Neon Retro Arcade. Mia Mazadiego and her husband, Mark Guenther, began using Facebook to boost sales largely by enticing people online to come visit their store in Pasadena, California. Facebook is just a part of Neon Retro Arcade’s expansive online presence, as it has its own website, an Instagram account, a Yelp page, and a YouTube channel, too.

The use of social media is just one aspect of digital marketing, which encompasses the vast scope of digital technologies. Unsurprisingly, many companies big (KFC, Microsoft, etc.) and small (Neon Retro Arcade) are now using digital marketing to their advantage, which in turn is leading to an increased demand for digital marketing professionals. That demand is set to increase even more in the coming years, with Maryville University pointing out that digital marketing spending will rise to $335 billion by 2020. In line with said forecast, it comes as no surprise then that companies are making a conscious effort to elevate their brand presence in the digital world. In fact, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters senior marketing manager Tom Funk notes that 80% of Fortune 100 companies are active on social media. With more people using social media platforms, companies must take advantage of this huge digital costumer base.

Big Data

Big data helps companies accurately predict the market’s future behavior through an analysis of existing trends and statistics. This ability, in turn, allows businesses to adjust accordingly, keeping the predicted behavior in mind at every step. Athleisure manufacturers, for instance, can make use of big data to gauge the styles that may corner a particular market and then focus their efforts in that direction. By doing this, companies can proceed with a clear goal in mind, and this means that time, resources, and effort will not be wasted performing tasks unrelated to the achievement of said goal.

 

Guest post: About the Author

Jay Dixon is a computer science graduate who now specializes in writing about the latest trends in the tech industry. He hopes that his insight and knowledge will help readers get a better understanding how technology is successfully changing the home and workplace. When he is not in front of a computer he can be found at the latest tech conventions.

How a Business Owner Can Take a Vacation Like a True Boss

Many people aspire to be the boss so that they can control their own schedule and take off as much time as they want. However, the stark reality is that many owners don’t take vacations at all, year after year.

According to a recent survey, half of small business owners take an average of three days off per year, while 70% work on holidays, including Thanksgiving. The main excuse for lack of time off is that business owners don’t feel like their companies can survive or thrive without their presence and input.

However, not taking any time off leads to extreme stress, feeling burnt out, loss in productivity and a creativity block. In fact, lack of vacations can lead to depression, cognitive decline and even heart disease!

There are ways for all business owners to take a vacation with these tips:

Start Small

It’s probably not the best idea to take a two-week cruise where you will be fully inaccessible if you haven’t taken more than a day off in recent years. Instead, start small and train your staff and yourself to run the business without you little by little.

Start by giving yourself half-day Fridays when work permits, and leave after lunch to see how your staff does without you. If all goes well, take an entire day off, followed by a mini-vacation for just a few days.

Assess how your employees are able to handle responsibilities on their own, and how much they need to contact you to make decisions before taking a week off or more.

Designate a Leader

They say that when the cat’s away, the mice will play. This especially applies to the workplace, where employees feel they can give themselves luxuries they would never dream of when their boss is at the office.

This is why it’s vital to designate a leader in your absence who will be responsible for overseeing the workplace. Choosing a proven and trusted colleague will help you rest easier, and will let your employees know that work will resume as usual.

Limit Checking In

Although you may force yourself to get on a plane and jet to a new destination, you may not be as relaxed as you would expect when you return. That is because the majority of business owners can’t abstain from constantly checking in with their staff while on vacation.

It’s hard to lay on the beach or take an excursion when you’re constantly checking emails or  are on the phone. Plus, the more you make yourself available, the more your staff members will feel like they can reach out, even for non-vital matters.

Make it clear to your staff that you will only check in once every 24 hours, and that they can only defer to the leader if an emergency occurs and you need to be contacted sooner.

This will allow you to take true time off, while empowering your employees to make decisions without your input.

Slow Summers? Contact IOU Financial for a loan to help smooth cashflow, get winter inventory ready, or up your marketing efforts. We can approve you for up to $300,000 in just 24-48 hours.

 

A Small Business Guide to Building Business Credit

While most small business owners are well aware of personal credit scores (like those from FICO), the concept of business credit remains more elusive. Though 65 percent of business ownersuse credit for business purchases, only 50 percent of those cards are in the business’ name. This article tackles the basics of:

  • What business credit is
  • What affects business credit scores
  • How to establish a business credit profile
  • Ways to maintain a good credit score

The Basics of Building Business Credit

For many people, discussing credit or credit cards has become a social taboo. In a study by Experian, the average American’s credit card debt has creeped up 3 percent from last year. The good news is despite the rising debt, credit scores have also increased.

The reality is you need credit to purchase a home, a car, and to sometimes to get business credit. The best way to wrangle this beast is to increase your financial literacy on how credit works, and to get an in-depth knowledge on the ways personal credit differs from business credit.

For small business owners, keeping their personal credit in good standing and separate from their business ventures is crucial. Though, it’s still something that not many people fully understand. Let’s dive into how a business owner establishes a business credit.

What is Business Credit?

Business credit is the result of the information collected by business credit bureaus. They look into your business trade credit transactions in order to create your business credit report. They use your business name, address, and federal tax identification (FIN), otherwise known as your employer identification number (EIN).

Based on your company’s business credit transactions, the business credit bureaus will compile the data and create a report that determines your business’ credit profile. This affects the amount of money your business can be granted, the types of credit cards you can open, and whether or not your business is deemed financially trustworthy.

Establishing Business Credit Profile

Before the major credit bureaus Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business can begin  compiling the data necessary to provide a credit report, you need to incorporate your small business. With sole proprietorships and general partnerships, the business is legally considered the same as the owner. Incorporating a business or forming an LLC creates a separation from the individual, this provides protection to the owner’s personal assets.

Dun & Bradstreet uses a 9-digit DUNS (Data Universal Numbering System) number to identify every business that has a credit file. The Small Business Administration reports the DUNS code is “the most widely used number for identifying companies in the United States.”

With personal credit, your history is automatically tracked; however, if you have a small business, you or your vendors have to voluntarily send your information to business credit bureaus in order for it to be reviewed. Your business needs to have a federal tax identification number or employer identification number (EIN). The process for obtaining this is fairly easy. Go to the IRS websiteto access the EIN Assistant page, and click on “Begin Application” at the bottom to get started. The EIN is required on federal tax filings and to open a business bank account in the name of the corporation or LLC. The EIN is like your small business’ social security number.

The next step would be to open a business credit profile with all three of the major credit bureaus in order to have your information tracked. Each credit bureau calculates business scores differently, so it’s important to note their range and how they rank high credit risks compared to low credit risks.

Factors that Determine Your Credit Score

Business owners are responsible for opening their business credit profiles to establish business credit. Once a credit profile is open business credit card issuers may need to be notified to report credit transactions specifically to business credit reporting agencies. The Experian and D&B credit scoring system uses a range from 0-100; the higher the number, the lower the risk. Equifax’s scoring system ranges from 101 to 816. The primary determining factors of a business’s credit report can be:

  • Number of trade experiences
  • Outstanding balances
  • Payment habits
  • Credit utilization
  • Trends over time
  • Public record recency, frequency, and dollar amount
  • Demographics such as years on file, Standard Industrial Classification codes and business size
  • Delinquencies such as collections, bankruptcy, and liens

Building Your Business Credit Score

In order to begin sending positive activity to the business credit bureaus you should be conscious of keeping your credit utilization low, and managing a variety of credit. Begin by opening a business checking and savings account, apply for small business credit cards in your company’s name, and obtain a small business loan using your business savings account as collateral.

Once you’ve created a business credit profile it’s important to maintain exemplary financial behavior. The goal is to be considered a low risk to banks and other financial institutions. This is accomplished by paying your bills on time and in-full by the end of each month.

Business credit is an intangible asset, according to the NSBA Small Business Access to Capital study. 20 percent of small business loans are denied due to business credit. Of businesses surveyed, 27 percent claimed that they were not able to receive the funding they needed. For those 1-in-4 businesses, the most frequent effect the lack of funding caused was preventing the owners from growing their businesses.

Conclusion

As a small business owner, it is imperative to begin building your business credit profile to maximize your company’s funding potential. Stay informed and up to date with your credit reports, and your business will become a trustworthy borrower.

Guest post: About the Author

Courteney Reed, is a financial industry analyst dedicated to empowering people to make smarter financial decisions.

4 Bad Habits That are Killing Your Productivity!

Do you often leave the office after a long day only to feel like you haven’t accomplished anything you set out to? If so, you are not alone. Although Americans are working longer hours than ever before, many companies are reporting lower productivity. To fight the workday slump, you must fix the following four bad habits that are killing your productivity:

Not Creating a Daily Agenda

The office is a fast-paced environment with many balls being juggled in the air at once. You can be prepared, and catch the most important balls that keep you on track, or you can be unprepared, and drop all the balls, causing you to fail to meet your priorities.

To maximize productivity, create and follow a daily agenda. Focus on the most pressing items to handle first—these can be projects with a short turnaround or matters for an important client.

List each task and write down the approximate amount of time to get it done. This will help you to move along and not get stuck on trivial details that will hinder your progress.

Personal Communication

Between our computers, tablets and smartphones, we are more accessible now than ever before. Stopping your work to check on an incoming text or browsing through social media to see what your friends did over the weekend is tempting, but it is a major productivity killer!

While it may be impossible to resist all forms of personal communication throughout the entire working day, limit it to your break times. Close all the windows to your personal email and social media accounts and silence your mobile until lunchtime, and just see how much more you’ll get done in the same amount of time!

Poor Diet

Mornings are a rush for everyone, as we try to do morning drop offs and handle the nightmarish commute, few of us feel that we have time to devote to a healthy breakfast. Most of us resort to a sugar-laden coffee and a bagel or doughnut to tide us over until lunch.

The problem is, many of us end up working through lunch, and get by on vending machine snacks to tide us over. What ends up happening is a sugar crash every few hours that leaves us tired, irritated and in a brain fog.

To promote energy and productivity, make healthy changes to your diet. Instant oatmeal takes less than a minute to make at home or in the office, and contains B-vitamins that metabolize energy. Or, grab a healthy juice full of vegetables, such as carrots and beets, that contain carbs easily digested for energy.

Sitting Too Long

Did you know that the very thing you think you must do in order to work is hurting your productivity? We are talking about sitting at your desk!

Research has found that sitting is not only bad for your posture and health, but it decreases energy levels. One source states that our bodies enter sleep mode when we sit, which leads to the following results: “your blood circulation slows and production of insulin, a hormone that helps turn food into energy, decreases.”

To fight these negative effects of sitting, you can take frequent standing and stretching breaks, switch over to a standing desk, or create a standing meeting policy at your workplace.

To make positive changes to your business, you may benefit from a small business loan (those standing desks are not cheap)! IOU Financial is committed to helping small and medium-sized companies thrive. Contact us today at www.ioufinancial.com to learn how you can qualify for a loan of up to $300,000 in one to two business days.

Five Tips for More Productive Meetings

Meetings are necessary at the office, but the truth is that everyone dreads them. They tend to get a bad rep for being overly long, boring and often unnecessary. You don’t have to follow the same status quo when it comes to having meetings, you can implement ways to make them more productive with these tips:

Time Meetings

It’s been found that “64% of meetings last more than an hour, with 39% of all meetings exceeding 90 minutes. With the length of these meetings, it’s no wonder that most of us cringe when we get a meeting request.

The duration of meetings don’t match with scientific evidence about our ability to concentrate before getting bored or distracted, which is anywhere between 10 and 18 minutes (fun fact, this is why Ted Talks are 18 minutes or less).

Many modern managers are limiting meetings at 15 minutes, which increases productivity as employees are more alert and able to follow along.

Create an Agenda

Some teams are so used to holding weekly meetings that they forget that it is not a necessity. To make the meeting more productive, require that the organizer create an agenda, which is distributed a few days prior to the meeting. No agenda = no meeting!

This is imperative so that everyone understands the relevancy of the meeting, and only the required employees attend instead of everyone in the department. This also lets the attendees prepare instead of being surprised during the meeting.

Stick to the Agenda

There are a lot of moving parts in an office, and it’s easy to get sidetracked. However, to optimize the meeting in the time you have, stick only to the items on the agenda.

This will structure the meeting and sidestep any unnecessary conversations, which will simply waste time. Designate a person who will be responsible for monitoring chatter, and cut off those that go off topic.

Stand Up During the Meeting

A meeting doesn’t have to be confined to a conference room with chairs. To make the meeting more efficient, require that the attendees stand up. This has several benefits—the first being that we sit too long during the day, which leads to physical and health-related issues.

The second benefit is that after a while, we get tired of standing, and we try our best to end the meeting so we can get back to our comfortable chairs.

The third advantage, and perhaps the biggest one, is that standing allows us to be more creative, energetic and collaborative than sitting.

Create an Action Plan

It’s important to discuss topics during the meeting, but don’t dismiss your employees without creating a game plan on what happens next. Otherwise, you’ll just meet next time without any progress having been made.

In addition to creating goals, distribute a follow up email after every meeting to summarize what was discuss and outline objectives with due dates so everyone is on the same page.

If you are invested in making positive changes within your company and could benefit from a small business loan, IOU Financial can help. We offer quick and hassle-free loans of up to $300,000 in 24-48 hours.

How to Choose the Right POS System

It’s safe to say that we’ve finally reached a point where hard cash and cash registers have become rather obsolete. Even credit card processing systems and hardware don’t do the trick anymore and, considering how technology has progressed over the years, and it’s not surprising in the slightest.

Making the correct choice when it comes to new and state-of-the-art POS systems requires some knowledge and skill. The big issue people have here is that there are many different, yet effective platforms that offer POS solutions. So, which one is the best one? In this review, we’ll be talking about what to look out for when choosing your first POS system. Here’s what you need to do:

Define the Needs of your Business

First thing’s first – you’ll need to openly define what you want with your business and what it needs. This includes functions, features, services, inventory, the checkout process, and even customer management and relationship. The thing is, not all POS systems can support what you’re looking for, so this should hopefully sift all the incompatible ones right away and leave you with the ones that are capable of fulfilling the needs of your business.

Additionally, have a chat with your employees – their opinion and happiness (as well as efficiency and productivity) matter as well.

Set a Budget

It’s no surprise that you won’t have unlimited resources to deal with so setting a budget is crucial. It all depends on the size of your business and what you need from a POS system. Your usual desktop-based programs and software require between $1,200 and $2,500 for a license (for a single user).

There are also cloud-based POS systems that are vastly superior to traditional ones and can range from being free to around $50-$200 a month (again, depends on the complexity and size of the business).

Audit and Compare POS Systems

Try to find some industry feedback and reviews on POS systems to get a feel for what is good and what isn’t. Experiences also matter (as for everything in life) so be sure to talk to other retailers that have opted for a POS system. There are many ways to do this, and it’s up to you – ask up front, search LinkedIn, check on forums, and even call vendors to see how they’ve chosen the correct POS system.

Get the Set-up Right

When you’ve finally reached a decision on which POS system you want, it’s time to set it up as best as possible. This means getting all the crucial software and equipment. The set-up itself depends on what kind of POS you’ve chosen (alongside the requirements and size of the business). The POS vendor should give you instructions on how to set it up but, if you run into any issues, make sure to contact them for help. It’s better to get it right from the start than trying to figure out what’s wrong and fixing it.

Make the Most of your POS System

Once the system is in place and ready to start working, you’ll want to maximize its efficiency and use. This comes down to picking and getting apps, extra POS-enhancing hardware, and various add-ons. A great idea that you should practice is to establish a warm relationship with your POS vendor as, not only will they help you with servicing the POS system, they’ll also be there for you to give a hand in expanding your expertise and business.

Conclusion

The truth of the matter is, choosing and setting up a POS system isn’t easy, and you probably won’t be able to do it yourself. You’ll need all the help you can get, but once it’s up and running, it gets easier. Remember – keep your POS vendor close for the reasons we already mentioned. You don’t want to be left alone with a faulty POS system that might be very easy to fix if only you contact the vendor. If you need help – ask; there’s nothing wrong with having someone else give you a hand!

 

Guest post: About the Author

With over 10 years in the financial vertical, focusing mainly on debt, Kevin Tomlinson is an experienced writer with the best tips and tricks for dealing with debt of any sort.