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Go Green! 5 Tips for Sustainably Responsible Retail Businesses

In this day and age, most of us know the importance of going green. We recycle at home and have switched out plastic bags for sustainable totes when going to the grocery store. However, not as many green efforts are being made in retail businesses, even though it’s easier than ever to do so.

There are so many reasons to go green, with the most important one being that it is beneficial for us, the future generation and our planet. However, it’s also good for business! Going green helps you both save and make money.  When you make small changes, such as becoming energy efficient, you save money every month on your utility bill.

Plus, consumers are demanding more than ever that the companies they are loyal to become more environmentally sustainable.  By showing your customers that you are committed to going green, you can attract a new audience base, thereby increasing your sales.  Below are five easy tips on a sustainably responsible retail business that you can start implementing today:

Make it Part of Your Corporate Culture

It’s not enough for you to decide to go green, you must encourage your entire team to do so with you. Incorporate an environmentally-friendly initiative into your corporate culture. Discuss ways to be more sustainable with your employees and how you can reduce, reuse and recycle, and then implement the strategies into your everyday life. Purchase blue recycling bins so that your employees remember to recycle. Reward them for biking, taking public transportation or carpooling to work.

Reduce Paper Use

Over 30 million acres of forest around the world are destroyed every year to make paper. This is why it’s important to reduce paper use as much as possible. Encourage your employees to email or write something down on a small post it rather than print an entire page when it’s unnecessary. Teach them to print on both sides instead of single sided.

Ask your customers if they prefer an email receipt over a paper one; this will also give you the opportunity to collect email addresses to stay in touch with your clients. Reward your customers with a small discount for bringing in their bags instead of giving our plastic ones.

Create a Green Wall

In many retail businesses, air is recirculated throughout the ducts and becomes stale. Instead of using the A/C even more or investing in an air purifier, create a green wall! This will allow you to create a unique space that is affordable and will improve air quality. Spider plants, common ivy and sword plants are the best options for cleaner indoor air and a cool look.

Turn Everything Off

It’s likely that you leave computers, cash registers and lights on when your business is not operating, which wastes electricity and raises your utility bill. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of turning each and every item on and off daily, invest into a smart plug. This way, you can control your devices from anywhere with an app or with voice control through Alexa or Google Assistant.  

Green Marketing

Once you commit to making sustainable changes in your retail business, spread the word!  Concentrate on effective green marketing strategies to let your customers know all of the new initiatives you’re putting forth.

Why not host an event to celebrate you going green, and educate your customers about your efforts? This is an excellent way to increase foot traffic and help new customers get acquainted with your business.

IOU Financial works with small businesses to help them finance their needs. If you need a small  business loan in order to help your company go green, visit us today at www.ioufinancial.com.

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.

 

Marketing Ideas for Spring

Spring is a time for new growth and new opportunities! Retail business owners should consider ways to market their companies or products during this season. After the cold winter months when many people stay indoors, spring is the time to focus on attracting new customers and keeping your current ones loyal with strategies to boost profits. Utilize these marketing ideas to jumpstart your sales during the spring season.

Focus on the Holidays

People love holidays, and one great strategy to market your brand is to tie it to a well known event. There are a multitude of options during the spring—major holidays such as Easter, Mother’s Day and Passover, and less known ones, such as Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.

Just so you know—”last year, U.S. consumers spent an estimated $17.2 billion for Easter, $20.7 billion on Mother’s Day, and $13.3 billion on Father’s Day,” a source explains.

To attract clientele to your retail location, consider putting on a holiday-inspired event inside your store. If your business is family-friendly, you can advertise an Easter celebration with a bunny, an egg scavenger hunt and other child-centered activities. If your store is more adult-oriented, you can hold a more sophisticated event with music and light bites.

Let the public know about your celebration and you will attract new foot traffic from people who may never have heard about your business and gain new customers for life!

Spring Cleaning

Spring is a time to get rid of the old and focus on the new. It provides a chance to analyze your inventory of products that are not selling as well or no longer serve your brand image and hold a blow out sale.

If you advertise a sale, chances are you will boost your profits for the quarter while getting rid of overstocked items.When discounting items, create a price ending in 9, such as “$23.99” or “19,” as research has found that this strategy increases sales by 24%!

Tax Season

Another important event happening during the springtime is National Tax Day. It is estimated that about two thirds of individuals expect tax refunds during April. This is a perfect opportunity for retail business owners to encourage customers to spend that cash!

A great incentive to attract shoppers to your location is to offer a free item or discount with proof of filed taxes. Or, celebrate Tax Day by waiving taxes on purchases in your store on April 15th!

Marketing Strategies

With holidays, spring cleaning sales and tax season as three main ideas you should consider for the season, you will need to plan on actual ways to market them, which can include:

  • In-home mailers
  • Marketing emails
  • Ads in the local paper
  • Social media advertising
  • Sponsorships
  • Handing out leaflets
  • Leaving ad materials in other local businesses (cross sponsorship)

Start planning now on how to put the spring marketing ideas into motion. IOU Financial is ready to provide financial assistance to help you grow your business. Contact us today at www.ioufinancial.com.

Four Easy Strategies to Create Email Campaigns that Retain Customers

Customer loyalty is one of the most important differentiators between a successful and a failed business. It takes time and and investment to attract new customers—customer acquisition costs alone can make it cost prohibitive to run a business. This is why taking steps to retain your current customers is vital to generating sales in a retail environment.

Keeping your customers in the loop about new products and services, alerting them to sales and special deals and simply staying in communication with them through email campaigns is a cost effective and proven strategy. In fact, one source claims that email marketing is more effective than Facebook and Twitter! We share with you tricks of the trade to implement email campaigns to ensure customer loyalty.

Know Your Audience

Email marketing is completely ineffective unless the emails are opened and read. In order to accomplish this, you need to tailor the content to your particular target audience. Do you know who your clients are? Knowing the following demographics can significantly increase the chances of your emails being read:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Location
  • Income level
  • Interests
  • Purchase history

Once you have these demographics, you can segment your email lists to make them more interesting to your customers. MailChimp found that segmented campaigns get 14.64% more opens and 59.99% more clicks than non-segmented campaigns.

Personalize Emails

People get dozens, if not hundreds, of emails per day, most of it spam. We are so used to ignoring or deleting content that is of no interest to us, that it is increasingly difficult for retail owners to cut through the clutter. One way of getting a reader’s attention is to personalize the email that is sent out.

Experian found that simply including a person’s name in an email’s subject line increased open-rates by as much as 42% for companies that are selling products or services. And the biggest bonus was not just that more people read the emails, but that they spent more money! “Transaction rates were 49% higher and revenue per email was 73% higher with personalization.”

Share Interesting Content

To retain your customers, it’s not enough to simply make announcements in your emails, you need to create relevant content that is interesting and important to them. In addition to sales announcements, consider sending out articles that educate your readers about topics that are of interest to them.

One article explains that educating customers not only builds trust, but it also adds a human element to email marketing. When you are able to get your customers to trust you, you become an expert in your field in their eyes, which makes it easier for them to open their wallets and make purchases based on your recommendations.

Create a Call to Action

Always focus on the main goal of every email—it’s not just to get readers to open or read it, but to generate a sale and retain a customer. It’s not enough to hope that individuals do this, you need to ask, or better yet, direct them in doing so.

Include a call to action (CTA) in every single piece of email sent out. These can ask readers to like your social media page, visit your landing page, purchase a product or share your article with their social network.

There are many useful software programs that will help you design and test effective email marketing strategies that work. If you need financial help in setting up a marketing plan, turn to IOU Financial. We can secure a small business loan for you with a few easy steps and quick funding. Contact us today!

Should My Business Participate in Cyber Monday?

Cyber Monday (CM), the Monday after Thanksgiving that promotes online shopping, has become almost as important as Thanksgiving and Black Friday in terms of holiday sales. In 2016, CM sales increased by 12.1 percent year over year, reaching a volume of $3.45 billion. That’s a higher sales volume than experienced on 2016 Black Friday. There is nothing to prohibit online sellers from participating throughout the Thanksgiving holiday, but CM is the day set aside for the biggest online promotions. The question of whether your small business should aggressively compete for CM business turns on several considerations:

What is your online presence?

If you don’t have a website, or if the website has problems, it’s getting late to make it work right. You certainly don’t want to be out there on CM with an untested or buggy site – it’s much better to perfect the website before using it. You’ll be better off by opening a page on Etsy or Amazon this year and then promote your website next yet.

What do you sell?

The extended Thanksgiving selling season favors products over services, with perhaps the exception of travel. Certain merchandise has historically seen strong sales on CM, such as laptops, cellphones, data storage, clothing, and beauty products. But that’s not to say you shouldn’t participate on CM with different types of merchandise – it’s ultimately your call.

Can you afford CM?

The purpose of CM is to achieve a sales spike. That means you might need extra merchandise and extra labor. Depending on your size, this might not be a major consideration. However, if you are a bigger business, you might have to prepare for CM by purchasing extra inventory and hiring additional part-time workers. If you anticipate significant costs in this regard, consider taking a loan from IOU Financial – the terms are fair, the money is available quickly, and you repay a small amount in daily or weekly increments instead of facing a largely monthly payment.

Can you absorb promotion costs?

Sure, on CM you can sell your most popular items for 90 percent off and make a big splash. Can you afford such an aggressive promotion? Is it overkill, or is it a reasonable response to your competitors? Do you sell a product mix that encourages repeat shopping? If so, getting folks to place their first online order with you might be worth an upfront loss. On the other hand, if you give away the store, you might not survive until next year’s CM. It comes down to sales projections, budgets, and cash. You can prepare for just about any promotion if you start early enough, but spontaneous last-minute promotions might leave you in a cash crunch.

Engage social media.

Activate your pages on Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn and so forth to promote your CM sales. Ads on these pages are cheap and can be very effective. If you maintain a customer email list, prepare to ramp up a few days before Thanksgiving and again on CM. Services like MailChimp can help you set up and execute an email strategy – it’s not expensive but requires some preparation, so don’t wait until the last minute.

Try to establish closer relationships with new customers:

Hopefully, your CM promotions will draw in first-time customers. Besides adding them to your mailing list, do something extra to help cement your relationship with them. You might send them special offers or coupons as a thank you for shopping with you.

If you fit the CM profile, go for it! After all, you do want to increase sales, don’t you? Need to get a handle on your budget before the big day? Check out our Business Budget Smart Sheet. 

How to Start an Online Site for Your Retail Store

Whether you already own a brick and mortar store, or just want to focus your retail efforts online, creating a website is an important step to growing your business. With over half of Americans preferring to shop online, not creating a user-friendly e-commerce site is not a smart decision. Read on for steps on starting an online site for your retail store.

Choose a Website Name

The first step to creating a retail store is choosing a website name. Ideally, you want the name to be the same as your actual business name. If you are just starting a business, consider including relevant keywords into your domain name to make your site come up in Google search rankings. 

Check GoDaddy to verify if your first choice for domain names is available; the site can also recommend domain names for you based on keywords you input into the search field. If available, choose a .com address as that’s the most common and easiest to remember. Although this is not officially stated anywhere, Google doesn’t prefer .biz or .info extensions because a majority of those websites are considered to be spam. Purchase a domain name through your web hosting provider or a different domain name service.

Pick a Hosting Solution

In order for your website to be found online, you need to choose a web hosting platform that will store your site on its server. There is a multitude of web hosts to choose from, both free and paid. Paid web hosts typically provide more options and services that can benefit your site in the longer, such as:

  • Storage: While free web hosting solutions offer up to 10GB of free storage, a paid service can give you unlimited storage space. Images and videos can take up a lot of space, causing you to run out of storage quickly.
  • Domain Name: If you want a custom domain name, you will need to pay for your web host because free options mostly include their own site in your domain name, such as www.wix.com/yournamehere
  • Ads: Free web hosts often make their money by advertising on your site; if you would rather control what ads (if any) you run, you will need to pay a premium fee.
  • Support: It’s very difficult to get support for free web hosting solutions, while paid ones will usually provide a phone number or chat options to a specialist who can help you 24/7.

Consider Wix, WordPress, HostGator or FatCow for inexpensive options for your ecommerce website.

Hire a Web Designer

While many web hosts allow novices to build websites from scratch using pre-designed formats and add-ons, it is always best to hire a professional web designer who will create an easy-to-use, functioning and unique website that will look and feel professional.

Concentrate on Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

According to Entrepreneur, SEO is the third vital step to online business success after offering good products and creating a great site. Optimizing your website with keywords that online users can search for to lead them to your site is imperative to gain traffic. 

Utilize Google’s Keyword planner to enter terms relevant to your brand. This free tool will suggest other terms, as well as provide information about competition and search results for each keyword. Once you have this information, you can include the keywords in your website content, blogs, press releases and image tags.

Starting a retail website usually requires an initial investment for website design, SEO and advertising. If you need financial help to grow your business, turn to IOU Financial. We can provide a small business loan of up to $300,000 in 24-48 hours.

 

How to Make your Retail Store Stand Out From the Masses

If you believe that you have something truly unique and beneficial to offer your clients, but you simply can’t seem to get anyone to walk through your store’s doors, you are not alone. Many small business owners complain that their brick-and-mortar location stands empty, and they simply don’t have the skills required to attract customers. The problem is that competition from other retail locations and online e-commerce sites is high, and it’s often hard, although not impossible, to set your store apart from the competition. Read below to learn new ways of getting your store noticed and increasing sales!

Get to Know Your Community

The target audience for a retail store is typically the local neighborhood, so getting to know your community is the best way to increase brand recognition. Strategies to make this happen include sponsoring little league games, school fundraisers or local charities. If you are able to create a poster or put your name on sports jerseys, you will create great marketing materials for your store.

Another way to get to know your community is to encourage your staff to volunteer for local causes. Consider setting up a beautification event for a community park or garden or a clean up event at a nearby beach. You can advertise in the local paper, hand out flyers or geo-target your neighbors through online advertising.

When you help your community, the residents don’t just learn about your business, but they want to thank you for your contributions by shopping at your store.

Create a Loyalty Program

Once a customer has visited your store once, do you have a strategy in place to keep them coming back? One way to encourage customer loyalty is with a customized reward program. This can include punch cards or a points system where you offer your customers discounts, extras or freebies for making purchases within your store.

Ice cream and coffee shops are great examples of businesses that can implement a punch card as part of their customer loyalty strategy. When a customer makes a certain number of purchases, they get a free item. A clothing boutique can utilize a points system that rewards shoppers with discounts or exclusive promotions once they have spent a certain amount, such as “10% off your next purchase once you spend $250 or more.”

Research the Competition

Finally, if you want to set your store apart from the masses, you need to know what they are offering. Make it your mission to visit your competitors within a certain distance, such as 10 miles, observe their offerings and customer service and write down thoughts about your experience.

This will provide you with an opportunity to see what things other business owners are doing right, and what you can incorporate into your own operations, and also to see what can be improved, and offer that to your customers!

You may require financial help should you choose to sponsor a local event, cause or charity or offer new services or products to your clients to help you stand apart from the competition. IOU Financial is prepared to finance your goals with a small business loan up to $300,000 in under 48 hours. Call us today!

How to Create a Personalized Customer Experience in Your Store

It’s not surprising news that brick and mortar locations around the country are in trouble, with many closing doors because they are failing to attract and keep customers. Retail owners should not despair, however, and focus on creating a plan to attain brand loyalty and increase sales. The best way to achieve this goal is to create a personalized customer experience inside the store.

“With customers changing quickly and expecting retailers to know their needs and habits and provide them with personalized offers and experiences, the question for retailers isn’t whether they need to change — it’s ‘Where to start?’” states PricewaterhouseCooper’s (PwC’s) report.
If the process of creating a personalized experience for your shoppers sounds unattainable, take it one step at a time. Incorporate the following tips in your operations to increase your customer base and maximize profits.

Build a Website 

Customers are making their opinions heard, and they are no longer interested in stopping by a store, purchasing an item and leaving. They want a connection with a brand instead of a simple transaction. Business owners can achieve this by infusing the shopper’s experience with the digital element. This is especially important as “modern consumers don’t differentiate shopping on a brand’s ecommerce site versus their store — they want a cohesive experience no matter where they engage a retailer,” another source comments.

To start, create a user-friendly website that will allow customers to view and interact with your products or services, even if you don’t introduce an e-commerce option on the site. A website is useful to engage with your users via newsletter signups, product descriptions and recommendations.

Create a mobile-friendly website or an app that will allow your shoppers a cross-channel experience where they can view an item online and purchase it in the store, and vice versa.

Utilize Social Media 

When it comes to creating meaningful connections, social media is the most important tactic to engage your audience. PwC’s report found that 40% of individuals surveyed reported being swayed by social media content, and 84% of people aged 18-24 based their shopping habits on it.

Make your presence known on social media platforms, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. If you don’t have the time to devote to all of the sites, select the ones most utilized by your specific audience.

Increase your social media reach by paying for campaigns or working with influencers in the space, such as bloggers with a heavy following who can help to spread the word about your brand.

Curate Products

Shoppers are overwhelmed by the mass amount of product ads they are bombarded with every day. Most of them don’t have the time to research the best options, which is why individuals stay loyal to businesses that help make their shopping decisions easy.

Brands that are thriving are not simply selling products, they are curating them. They track their customers shopping habits, and recommend items that are right for them.

Amazon is a perfect example of a retailer that is getting the curation process right. They recommend products based on the shoppers’ searches, which allows them to upsell before the customers checks out. This strategy is so successful that it accounts for 35% of their revenue.

Utilize the same tactic to train employees to remember repeat customers, notate their favorite products and specific needs, and make recommendations based on that.

 

Let IOU Financial help you create a personalized customer experience for your shoppers. We can help with the funds needed to create a website and spend on social media advertising with a business loan of up to $150,000.