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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.