As our economy is ravaged by uncertainty as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic, it can be easy to find ourselves in a downward spiral of doom and gloom. From hotels to fitness centers to restaurants and more, industries across the spectrum are bracing themselves for unprecedented changes that no one can quite yet predict.
It’s vital to the health of our businesses - and ourselves - to look for opportunities and silver linings. Ecommerce business owners are in a unique position to leverage new opportunities and stay afloat in a rapidly changing marketplace. In an age of social distancing and sheltering in place, online shopping offers a sense of safety, comfort, and peace of mind.
Our customers need us now more than ever. If there were ever a time to get creative, this is it.
And what better place to adapt to our new reality than social media?
Even in the best of times, social commerce is an excellent way for ecommerce stores to make themselves visible to their target audience. And in the absence of face-to-face connection, more and more people are flocking to social media to virtually connect with friends and loved ones.
Here are three reasons to consider using social commerce to amplify your social media presence during these trying times.
Grow your audience. With more eyes on social media platforms, more eyes will be naturally drawn to the content and products you share.
Life has slowed down for most of us, and people have more time on their hands. Focus on catching their attention, rack up the likes and shares, and you just may find yourself connecting with people like never before.
An added bonus: From tweets to Facebook pages to Instagram business accounts, most platforms make it easy to track these metrics and tweak your message accordingly.
Create customer loyalty. The state of the economy is affecting us all. People are clutching their purse strings tightly, and understandably so. No matter how enticing an ad may look, even the most eager customers may be focusing on more pressing essentials.
Even though sales may be sluggish, social commerce lets businesses connect with people in a myriad of other unique ways. You could focus on offering entertaining, thought-provoking content, or you could focus on communicating and building rapport. Whichever strategy you choose, now is the time to make a mark on people’s minds so they’ll remember you when they’re ready to buy.
Become a beacon of hope. Simply put, people are terrified. They’re afraid for their families and their finances.
Engaging with customers with social commerce offers business owners a special opportunity to be a calming, soothing presence for people amidst all the chaos and uncertainty.
We - our customers, our suppliers, our businesses, and ourselves - are all in this together. A common thread connects us all.
You and your customers can help each other through this. Communicate this to them.
Whether it’s promoting your work with local charities, providing easier access to comforting essentials, or simply offering some reassurance, people will remember the businesses who helped them through these unprecedented times.
These will be the businesses who weather the storm.
For seasoned ecommerce sellers, those struggling through their first year, or even newbies, the decision on how and where to peddle your goods is critical. Everyone is familiar with the colossal platforms Amazon and eBay, Shopify, and more. They offer a vast audience full of potential customers. They also offer an almost insurmountable level of competition.
You aren’t stuck with them. Using good research skills, you can pinpoint an alternative market. We have some tips for exploring product-specific markets, or those that are best suited to your business.
The importance of choosing the right platform relates to the reason they exist in the first place. Ecommerce stores allow you to collectively manage products, offer promotions and sales, personalize the sales and service experience, and access analytics to see what is and is not working. Completely customizable, the best of these facilitate personalized content. In short, you can create a brand for yourself without investing in and counting on a solo website.
Surprise! Count yourself as one of millions of ecommerce merchants who likely never anticipated the type of global disruption facing virtually every individual and every entity today. By now you and everyone you know is operating in crisis mode both personally and professionally. Your business may be your first priority, and the news there is mixed.
Since the COVID-19 virus took hold overseas, eventually making its way to the US, economic impacts have been devastating. The financial markets tumbled. Tourism is in near-halt mode. And those who sell goods and services are in a veritable desert; a Catch-22 scenario of either lacking customers or a supply chain to meet customer needs.
The struggle is real, and despite criticism of unnecessary panic, an all-out shift in operations is no longer just a possibility. Running an online store during this cross-continental crisis demands creativity to mitigate inventory shortages, shipping uncertainties, and uncomfortable customer communications. Industry analyst Bruce Biegel notes that this is the first genuine global crisis experienced in high volume by the ecommerce sector.
Amazon sellers are all too familiar. That company, in a panic over how to fill orders safely, has placed a temporary moratorium on third-party vendors. No word on when or if that will lift in the near future.
Even giants like Microsoft and Apple Computer are sounding the alarm about significant sales drops, with Apple recently deciding to temporarily close all retail locations outside of China.
The constant stream of comparisons and differences between brick-and-mortar retail establishments and online stores may become trite over time, as more and more commercial activity unfolds in cyberspace. There are definite overlaps that call for the same basic principles, but as the internet becomes more sophisticated, and more buyers navigate there to make purchases, the differences are starker than ever.
Marketing analytics is a function made simpler for those who operate online, by sole virtue of the complex, computerized system you already have in place. Tracking sales, customers, inventory, and just about everything else is somewhat automatic. In most cases it’s not necessary to actually ask a customer how they stumbled onto your store. Identifying strategies and efforts that are paying off is also much easier when your shortcut to analysis is effectively done for you.
But that doesn’t mean it requires no efforts. Putting in place an accurate, useful, and – more important – tailored process for tracking these markers demands a plan; it necessitates putting a sensible marketing analysis strategy in place.
If you have woven Facebook into the menu of social media platforms you use to engage existing customers and attract new ones, you’ve noticed their somewhat annoying trend of endless alterations to both policy and offerings. The Mother of All social media networks, Facebook is, for all intents and purposes, a social media monopoly. That won’t be changing any time soon.
No one feels sorry for them, but it’s fair to acknowledge that Facebook executives who need to continually balance the need for revenues while keeping users happy face their share of challenges. And for an online platform that is now regulated by Federal and state entities because of its heavy volume of political content, it creates an ongoing need to shift gears.
In 2011, Facebook started forwarding only critical notifications through email, so as to cut down on high-volume inbox flooding. Photo tags, security, payment, and privacy notifications made the cut. Business owners who are accustomed to a high volume of email communications, but not having to access Facebook several times per day, will have made that adjustment.
Now there’s a new revision that business users need to be aware of. Beginning March 4, 2020, access to supported “Message Tags” after the standard 24-hour window (following the last customer contact) whittled down from 17 supported tags to three, plus an additional tag in beta. Message Tags facilitate one-to-one interactions with customers, including updates, customer service questions, promotions, and pretty much anything relative to your customer relationship.
With that pathway narrowing, it’s critical to build in adjustments that will maintain your presence on Facebook and keep you in good standing with the platform. In order to bypass the allowed 24-hour period, you must use these remaining tags with your messaging.
It’s not hyperbolic to proclaim that computers are taking over our communications. Considering smartphones and tablets are effectively mini-computers, it’s safe to say that between emails, texts, and online chatting, the days of verbal interaction are waning.
The development of the “chatbot,” a cute moniker for pop-up screens that allow one-on-one interactions, originated from old-style chatrooms and expanded to take on a more commercial application. If you’re in the biz to sell goods or services, you may find yourself gravitating to that medium in order to provide optimal customer service.
Here’s a figure to knock your socks off: In 2018 there were more than 300,000 active chats on Facebook alone. That social media platform is an ideal venue, but considering this next statistic may be even more shocking. Experts say chatbots will likely handle more than 85 percent of all customer service interactions this year.
Here’s how it works: Your potential or existing customers have a question about a product, or an existing order. A chat icon on your page opens a chat window in which you and the customer may engage in a friendly discussion.
How to leverage Instagram for your benefit
Have you wondered where all your Facebook followers have gone?
If you’re a retailer – or just an average user – you may notice that you’re seeing more ads, political content, and puppy pictures than usual. And most important, fewer younger users.
That’s because the graphics-based social media platform Instagram has swooped in and begun dominating social users.
Instagram claims over one billion monthly active users. ONE BILLION. That’s a tough figure to ignore, and it illustrates why so many smart retailers are taking notice.
Instagram’s early days offered a somewhat rudimentary vertical display of pictures. Period. Ultimately its potential grew, and combined with forward-thinking strategizing of its leadership, it now has become a major player in advertising and marketing.
What drives most of Instagram’s appeal are “influencers,” or celebrities and others who have massive followings. Not willing to mess with the litany of issues that keep making Facebook more of a chore than a pleasure, these high-profile dazzlers maintain captive audiences. Some may be compensated to plug a product, but others are self-financed, and they honestly promote their favorite clothing, cosmetics, household décor, and just about anything they think of.
In a pleasant turn of events, sophisticated consumers are no longer automatically averse to email solicitations. Perhaps the years have instilled patience and discretion, leaving them more open to opening an email even if it isn’t from a colleague, romantic interest, or their mom.
That said, there is a method of madness to employ when crafting a direct mail campaign strategy – or really, any form of communication between your business and a current or prospective customer. And it’s something few really think about.
Let’s start this with an illustration. When you open your email app and peruse the cascading list of incoming mails, what’s the first thing that catches your eye? Chances are it’s a sender address that is recognizable. This is where we start with productive, successful marketing.
A “sent from” name can be an automatic invitation to the trash bin. Consider this one:
It goes without saying that an email with this sender name isn’t exactly inviting. And truthfully, it’s more likely to come from a larger company with a robust list of email accounts linked to their domains. Even then, with the glut of spam out there, it’s not likely to be read.
Do you have a single email account linked to your domain name, with your actual name as the prefix? That’s not a winning strategy. Add a few more. Even dedicated customers may not react to an email coming from a name they don’t recognize.
The color king chooses classic blue as its color of the year
If there are fifty shades of gray, count on triple that for an old favorite: blue. Pantone gets this and, in typical fashion, is not afraid to lean on it for its 2020 “color of the year” designation.
The marquee source for go-to color advice, Pantone Color Institute™ supplies designers, graphic and print artists, and hobbyists with definitive hue-related tips and hints. Its licensed shades offer industry standard consistency as they create vivid, sublime, or subtle colors. For 2020, Pantone has selected classic blue as its annual designee.
And classic it is, as this version of blue is a compelling blend of rich and neutral, dark and medium; its utility in home interior design, clothing, and art is unlimited. Blue is making a comeback in the second decade of the 21st Century, and Pantone is celebrating in style. This is a win-win for designers of denim clothing, and an intriguing potential boost for designers of modern furnishings.
Among shades on the master list of Pantone blues that sing the blues are navy to royal, French to robin’s egg, and sky to Copen. Classic blue seems to be a happy medium with contemporary significance. Find it in bed linens, tapestries, furniture finishes, artwork, and even kitchen appliances. Blessed with versatility, it’s still a really gorgeous shade you’ll want to focus on and work with.
Seeing is believing
Consider this eye-catching paint job, courtesy of none other than classic blue:
Classic blue velvet offers a rich, romantic feel to this velvet upholstered chair:
And casual is as casual does, with this high-top sports shoe reaping the benefits of Pantone’s honored color:
What’s hot and what’s not? That never-ending question drives buying decisions of vendors everywhere, including ecommerce players eager to cash in on upcoming trends. With a new year kicking in, we’ve centered in on an extravaganza sure to fill your mind with a dizzying array of considerations: the Las Vegas Market Winter 2020 event.
Scheduled for January 26-30, 2020, this annual marquee fiesta offers a glimpse into the hottest, best-selling, and promising product lines in home goods. A special presentation by Las Vegas Design Center, it draws attention to LVDC, the Southwest’s premiere home furnishings and design resource. Las Vegas’ state-of-the-art campus of the World Market Center will host, bringing buyers and shoppers to more than 30 designer showrooms with more than 4,300 brands and lines and 500 unique temporary exhibitors just minutes from the infamous Las Vegas Strip.
Assisting your difficult perusal through product lines will be experts in home fashioning and design offering top-notch tutoring in trends, methods, business advice, and everything related to interior décor.
Discover the best of the West with exhibitors eager to show off their wares in a tempting venue where you can develop merchandising plans, solicit tips on price and quality, and just explore through a vast wilderness of home products.