Brand, Product Sales, and You

Building a successful business does not happen overnight. Great products and marketing strategies are not the most important aspect of building a business, even if there is a serious need for what your company provides. Without proper branding, you run the risk of getting lost in the competition without the ability to make your business stand out from the crowd. Your brand needs to work for you as much as your advertising and marketing does in order to effectively reach your intended audience while motivating customers to make a purchase. Understanding the importance of good branding is key to truly making a mark in any industry, especially when building your business online.

What is Branding?

Branding is a way to represent your business through the use of a logo, color scheme, and overall visual aesthetic. Think of some top brands, such as Nike, Facebook, McDonald’s, and Starbucks. According to Seabrook, brand is the single most important element to a business or organisation. It is easy to immediately recall the logo and colors of companies that have proper branding. With the right branding, you can gain trust and loyalty from those who are interested in learning more about your business.

Risks of Not Branding Your Business Properly

According to Entrepreneur, one of the biggest mistakes your company can commit is not understanding the power of branding. Without proper branding, you run the risk of losing the interest of potential customers, leading to fewer sales and less generated revenue. When your business is not properly branded, it becomes increasingly difficult to garner followers, attention, and motivated shoppers. Before revamping your company’s branding, consider the following:

  • Do you have a set logo that represents your business and the products or services you provide? Does your logo convey the message you want to send to prospective customers?
  • Do you have colors that are utilized consistently on your official website, within your logo, and on your social media pages? Is your logo too busy or too dull? Spend time comparing competitive businesses for inspiration and ideas during a brand revamp.
  • Who do you want to reach? What interests do your users have? What styles of graphics and photography translate best with your followers and shoppers? What successful companies and brands does your audience follow and invest in?
  • Is your company name easy to spell and remember? Does your logo require text, or is it possible to share your message using iconography and simplistic imagery?
  • Are you using high-quality graphics and photography in your branding? Are your images outdated or not relevant to your user base?

How to Develop Better Branding

Developing proper branding for a business requires a bit of research and testing. Gather inspiration by comparing competitive logos to determine which type of visuals work best for your audience and the demographics you are targeting. According to Oberlo, you should strive to be positive in your branding messages. Your business needs to use great photos, if you decide to go with that kind of visual. Use websites such as Pinterest and other online communities focused on marketing and design to learn new methods and techniques of creating visually appealing graphics and imagery to catch the eye of your followers and customers.

Ensure all of your social media pages use the same page name along with your website’s official URL. Use the same logo and color scheme on each of your social platforms along with your website’s layout and design. Avoid choosing usernames and page names that are difficult to remember or not relevant to your company’s name as this appears unprofessional and often leads to an inability to generate sales or gain the trust of users online.

Get Some Thoughts From Others

Ask for input from your followers and those who currently subscribe to your email newsletter, especially when you are just starting out with a new business. Gathering consumer input is extremely valuable and creates a sense of community with those who have a vested interest in seeing your business and brand grow. You can also ask any mentors you might have in the industry, as well, according to Under30CEO. They might have insights that you or your consumers might have never thought about.

Use AB testing with third-party ad hosts, such as Facebook ads, to see what works best for your business. Share different types of imagery, such as traditional photographs, illustrations, and graphics with varying aesthetics. Focus on reviewing and monitoring analytic reports that are available with each individual AB testing campaign you launch to discover what your users respond to most. Once you have an idea of the visual style your prospective customers prefer, it is much easier to solidify the brand tactics that guarantee success for your business.

Takeaways

Without proper branding, it is challenging to set your business apart from others, especially your greatest competition. Knowing how to effectively brand your business is key to generating sales while gaining followers who are genuinely interested in your products and services. Using the right methods and techniques (like polling your customers), you can create a brand for your business that your customers will find appealing, interesting, and unforgettable.

7 Software Packages Every Online Retailer Needs to Know

Millennials are now making 54% of their purchases online while non-millennials are doing it at 49%. If you are part of this growing industry or in case you have just seen its potential profits and you want to join, there are various software packages which can assist you to run your online business successfully.

Featured image credit: MLM Business Software Central

OpenCart

This basic package can be extended to meet your requirements. OpenCart requires little effort to install as long as you have a Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP (LAMP) stacked on a server. The setup is basic for the majority of web servers, and it is highly likely you are ready for the software package. In case you are unsure, confirm with your service provider. Clients can go to OpenCart’s marketplace to look for add-ons that add to its functionality. This includes free primary integrations like Facebook plugins or Square payments. You can find Microsoft Dynamics integration for up to $2,000 in the marketplace. Other tools offered by the marketplace include Excel tie-ins or SEO insights for product management.

PrestaShop

This software package applies the standard eCommerce solutions formula referred to as core-with-extensions. It comfortably fits into the majority of websites because it has been built on PHP which is a popular web development language. PrestaShop provides more than 1,500 templates. 500 of these are add-ons which allow integration with Amazon Marketplace, Google Merchant Center, and Stripe. The software package offers support to global stores and numerous stores within a single back-end. If you have separate storefronts in Canada and US, you can take care of all of them in one place. Prestashop has forecast ability, and Intelligent Merchant KPI features as reporting capabilities.

osCommerce

Being one of the earliest eCommerce software, osCommerce has numerous add-ons made for it. More than 7,000 integrations have been made for the program for free, and there is a big community offering support and working on it. Through its Apps Marketplace, osCommerce integrates with all kinds of third parties. It is possible to integrate Facebook and Sage Pay and present your website in numerous languages. It is not a sophisticated software, and in case you have some problems using it, you can consult the osCommerce Community. Hosted versions starting price is $8 per month.

Pollcart

This is an ecommerce plugin that seeks consensus from the inner circle of the buyer after checking out, before billing and shipping. It gives purchasers the confidence to shop, an incentive to maintain a product, and a reason for sharing. Pollcart assists to increase referrals and sales since the customers do the marketing for you.

Magento Open Source

In addition to being open source, Magento is one of the most popular eCommerce software. It offers basic tools to users for free, but the more powerful tools are for sale. The program can assist in making content and landing pages for your products, managing your shipping, and generating essential reports like stock and sales tax. The extensions marketplace for Magento has various extensions such as live customer chat, custom stock systems, and sales tax integrations. A single extension can cost up to $5,000. Users can also purchase themes which are pre-made to dress their websites up. You can go for free themes or buy one that can cost up to $500.

WooCommerce

This is a WordPress shopping cart plugin which is open source and is not a full eCommerce solution. WordPress is the most famous content management solution and is not to be confused with WordPress.com. Businesses using WordPress can use the plugin to convert their websites into a store. If you are accustomed to WordPress, adding WooCommerce is easy. It has all the functions and needs little customization. One of its most famous features is the one-page process of checkout, which lets users pay for the items on sale easily.

Volusion

Volusion’s monthly plans can help you in launching an online store. Volusion has customer support around the clock with video tutorials and thorough support pages. It has themes covering fashion, beverages, food, beauty, electronics, and more. The themes are customized to be usable on mobile devices. Hence, your customers will have a smooth shopping experience on any device they use. Volusion’s App Marketplace has over 60 apps that you can use to boost your store. Additionally, the software assists in integrating with eBay and Amazon, getting automatic tax rates, offering subscription billing, and adding products.

If you are an online retailer, one or a combination of some of these eCommerce software packages will assist you to run your online business smoothly.

Why Your Dental Practice Should Start Selling Home Care Products Online

Image courtesy of South Temple Dentists

If you’re looking to expand your practice, consider selling dental home care products. There are many types of dental home care products available for your patients — there are probably several that you already encourage them to use. It makes sense to sell them through your practice rather than referring patients elsewhere when they might forget. With that in mind, here are four important benefits of selling dental home care products online.

Increase the Profitability of Your Dental Practice

It’s understandable to want to increase the profits that come from your dental practice. Considering that, you’ll definitely want to sell dental home care products online. Referring patients to another home care provider gives this company all of the profits. Instead of doing this, selling your own dental home care products helps to ensure your office obtain increased revenues.

Grow Trust Between Patients and Dentists

Many dentists know the importance of creating a trustworthy relationship with their patients. With that in mind, it can be hard to obtain this trust while referring patients to other companies. On the other hand, choosing to sell dental home care products increases this trust. Patients will be much more likely to order from a trusted dentist than an unfamiliar company.

Enhanced Patient Understanding

While it might seem wise to refer patients to another home care provider, this could end up damaging patient relationships. For instance, patients might falsely assume you’re trying to get rid of them. In addition, this could alienate patients who are wanting full explanations of dental home care products. However, selling these items online give patients an easy avenue for ordering the products they need.

Drive More Traffic to Your Dental Office’s Website

In the modern age of doing business, you’ll certainly want to have a website. That being said, having a website doesn’t mean much without receiving traffic. With that in mind, you’ll find that selling home care products online can increase the number of website visitors you receive. Having more visitors often helps to increase local search engine rankings.

 

To summarize, there are several benefits of selling home care dental products online. Selling these products works incredibly well for increasing the profitability of your practice. Providing products directly can also help increase the trust factor between a dentist and their patients. While these products might be purchased online, your workers can still ensure that patients easily know how to use these items. Lastly, selling your own dental care products works wonders for increasing your office’s online presence.

How To Address Negative Product Reviews

As a business, your reputation weighs heavily upon the reviews that you get. The way that customers share their experiences with your products and services can shape your future sales and memberships. Your goal should be to gain positive reviews always and turn the negative ones around as soon as you realize you have them. You don’t want to have a bare review history because that’s as bad as a negative one. Here’s some information about the fact that having no reviews is as bad as having negative reviews and how to solicit legitimate reviews without paying for them.

Why Reviews Are So Important

The reason that reviews are so direly important is the word of mouth factor. You see, people usually read consumer reviews before they make a buying decision, and they usually share that decision with their loved ones, family, and friends. That means that a prospect has the potential to share a positive or negative word that can hugely affect your productivity. For that reason, you have to stay on top of your reputation and take steps to correct it if something tarnishes it.

Tips for Handling Bad Reviews

There are three steps to handling a bad review, and there are two rules. Rule number one is never to ignore a bad review. Rule number two is never to react negatively to a negative review. Prospects don’t just pay attention to the negative review itself. They pay attention to how you handle the negative review, too. There is a way that you can bounce back from even the worst of reviews and come out of the challenging situation looking like a complete and total hero. Here’s how:

Apologize Immediately

The first thing you need to do is to apologize for the customer’s poor experience no matter what the complaint is. This is something that you must do. It doesn’t matter whether the patron is right or wrong. Just apologize for it. That shows that you are empathetic, compassionate and understanding.

Tell the Customer You Appreciate Him or Her

Let the client know that you appreciate his or her business. Consumers like to see a business that acknowledges their customers. Therefore, you must thank the customer for choosing to deal with your company.

Ask How You Can Resolve the Matter

Finally, ask how you can resolve the problem that the customer had or has. Nine times out of 10, you will be able to turn things around. Even if you can’t, prospects will still see that you tried to resolve the matter. That means a lot.

How to Get Free Positive Reviews

You can get your clients to leave you positive reviews by just asking them when you know they’ve had a great experience. You could also use incentives such as discounts on products and services. Some customers enjoy leaving reviews and don’t need an incentive to do it.

Don’t Buy Reviews!

Buying any reviews at all, whether it’s on Google or Yahoo or anywhere else, is a bad idea. It’s a strategy that will break the trust of customers and get you painfully punished by search engines. According to Podium, “While there are ways to get disingenuous and non-organic reviews, based off of google guidelines to remove inappropriate reviews, the practice is not appreciated by Google (or really any review site). Using fake reviews can result in getting your business blacklisted or worse, as some review sites are cracking down and taking legal action against egregious offenders.”

Make a habit out of asking each one of your customers to leave a review for you. Pretty soon, you’ll get enough of them accumulated to make a difference. If you consistently check your reviews and address the negative ones positively, you’ll build a wonderful company image that customers will value and trust.

Putting Your Product In Their Shopping Cart

It happens. They’re interested, to the point of putting your product in their shopping cart, then, poof, they’re gone.

PollCart might save some from that abysmal fate. We’re looking for 10 forward-thinking Shopify stores to test and see if the plugin (available in the Shopify App store) helps reduce cart abandonment while increasing the site’s sales and customer base.

Would you be open to test-driving a new Shopify app, developed in Dallas? The mission is to see if the plugin, PollCart, available in the Shopify App Store, will increase sales and referrals while decreasing cart abandonment and returns.

Here are some examples of May 2017 enhancements to PollCart. First, we now offer the New Image Button as well as the Classic HTML Button. The Classic HTML Button has a customizable CSS option for fine tuning.

First, we now offer the New Image Button as well as the Classic HTML Button. The Classic HTML Button has a customizable CSS option for fine tuning. And last, we’re working on a way to choose which products in a store use PollCart.

iPad Size in PollCartDemo store adjusted using new CSS option.
iPad Size in PollCartDemo store adjusted using new CSS option.
Desktop Size in PollCartDemo store adjusted using PollCart's new CSS option.
Desktop Size in PollCartDemo store adjusted using PollCart’s new CSS option.
Using Chrome's code inspector before inserting CSS in PollCart's configuration.
Using Chrome’s code inspector before inserting CSS in PollCart’s configuration.
The quick CSS change to PollCart's PollCartDemo store configuration.
The quick CSS change to PollCart’s PollCartDemo store configuration.
The New Image Button is a bold alternative to the Classic HTML Button, seen here with the help text tooltip.
The New Image Button is a bold alternative to the Classic HTML Button, seen here with the help text tooltip.
The New Image Button is a bold alternative to the Classic HTML Button, seen here without the help text tooltip.
The New Image Button is a bold alternative to the Classic HTML Button, seen here without the help text tooltip.
Using PollCart's product selection feature to decide which items in a store use PollCart.
Using PollCart’s product selection feature to decide which items in a store use PollCart.

 

Social Commerce Takes Off, PollCart Benefits

Social Commerce Startup Pinduoduo Increases Social Commerce Awareness

Social Commerce startups are getting funding and traction on the same principals fueling PollCart’s customer engagement messaging platform.

A friend sent the PollCart team an excellent article about Pinduoduo (PDD) described as a kind of Facebook-Groupon mashup that could revolutionize e-commerce. It has raised over $100 million with a valuation of over $1.5 billion.

With that kind of validation and acceptance, we took a look at how it reflected on PollCart’s innovative customer engagement model.

The article describes PDD with similar language that we use to describe PollCart:

  • “give shoppers an experience more like spending a day at the mall with friends.”
  • “get feedback from people you trust.”
  • “social commerce.”

The article also noted that Facebook and Twitter discontinued their social commerce experiments because “most users don’t want to be solicited while hanging out with friends online,” which we discussed previously in our article about Twitter’s Buy It Now button.

Same Social Commerce, Different Focus, Use

While PDD and PollCart have a different focus and use, the key to PollCart is that neither PollCart, the retailer nor the platform is soliciting. Customers are engaging their friends: This is a highly important distinction. PollCart is retailer focused with a view towards making a shopping experience on the retailer’s site a social experience much more mall-like.

The article notes that demand for PDD has exploded, demonstrating the impact of Social Commerce and a focus on customer engagement. In fact, PDD is now the largest private e-commerce company in China by sales volume.

The other positive for PollCart is that investors finally see the value of Social Commerce. Investors look to Social Commerce, customer engagement and capturing sales from abandoned shopping carts as a recipe for a high growth, organically growing company innovating into high margin markets.

PollCart loves that a prominent Social Commerce app is emerging as a “Social Commerce” app.

As retailers struggle to find a way to attract more customers and make their online experience a social experience, they will conclude that PollCart helps their customers engage with their products and share them with friends and family, follow through with a sale of a product in an online shopping cart and keep products that buyers might otherwise return.

This Amusing Button Gives You The Online Store You Imagined

PollCart's 'Ask Some Friends' button on the XLBand.com site

E-commerce shop owners could find sales and referrals in the strangest places!

Adding a PollCart button option to your e-commerce checkout flow is easy and potentially the best way to increase sales and referrals while decreasing cart abandonment and returns. PollCart’s patent-pending checkout polling platform gives consumers the confidence they need to buy on their first visit to your website.

The PollCart button says, “Ask Your Friends,” but what does it do?

When your customers click PollCart’s “Ask Your Friends” button, they are invited to enter the email addresses and mobile numbers for the friends and family that buyer trusts. PollCart’s platform then texts and emails the customer’s circle with easy opportunities to just click a link in a text message or email to vote yes or no to the purchase. Once a majority of the buyer’s contacts approve the purchase, the payment system captures the charge, and PollCart queues the order for fulfillment.

Visit xlbandcom’s Shopify store to see the button installed on a working e-commerce page.

PollCart’s platform landing page has a link to your brand, store, and product as well as an image of the product and an infographic expressing the most recent votes in the checkout poll. Participants can quickly add comments about the purchase and see what other anonymous users have added to the comments, or how they have voted.

Because the actual purchase depends on their vote, friends and family take these requests seriously. By doing a few minutes of research to cast an educated ballot, the friend or family member invests their goodwill into the buyer certainly, but also the brand and products.

The ‘Make an Organic Introduction’ Button

By asking their inner circle to vote “yes” on their item’s PollCart checkout poll, your buyer has made an organic introduction between your brand and product and their most trusted friends and family.

PollCart is currently available as a Shopify plugin for Shopify store owners, and we’re currently working to make it available to any online commerce platform. Please contact us if you believe PollCart could increase your sales and referrals while decreasing cart abandonment and returns.

Social Commerce, Twitter, and the Buy Now Button

Social Commerce, Twitter and the Buy Now Button

Twitter is discontinuing development of its Buy Now button. Is it giving up on Social Commerce?

Twitter announced its “Buy” buttons back in 2014 as it worked on developing its e-commerce strategy. In 2015, Twitter announced its partnerships with various retailers on its “Buy Now” initiative. Twitter was dipping its toes into the Social Commerce pool.

About a year later, Twitter announced that it was ending development of the buttons and disbanding its commerce team to focus on customer service and advertising. Buzzfeed suggested that Twitter’s backing away social commerce suggested that it was not the “low-hanging” fruit that they had hoped. People were buying on the mobile web, not social media.

The Context is Wrong

Another commenter suggested that Social Commerce via social media is not dead, it was just that the context is wrong, noting that Pinterest and Instagram as platforms, and Taylor Swift as a personality, generate significant commerce through “shoppable” media. Matthew Knight of Carat, writing for Retail-Week.com believes that:

“The blunt approach of making everything shoppable has passed. Now it’s time to learn from early experimentation and apply it intelligently. Slapping a Buy Now button onto every piece of media and communications is not clever – no one wants to be sold to constantly. But enabling purchase in the most meaningful and relevant moments, and making that experience as effortless as possible? Well, that’s new retail.”

The Social Commerce gurus at PollCart agree that enabling the purchase at the most relevant moment is critical. We also believe that enabling the interaction between a purchaser and their influencers at the time of purchase is what turns e-commerce into Social Commerce. This harvests all of the benefits to the retailer, the product, and the brands.

Directly Engage Family and Friends

PollCart gives retailers the tools to enable their customers to directly engage their family and friends in the online shopping process, providing a communal, interactive experience. It’s much like a shopping trip to the mall.

That is the power of Social Commerce.

Social Commerce Powerful Trends List

PollCart Thoughts on List of Powerful Social Commerce Trends: Article on Social Commerce Trends makes us wonder who has been bugging our meetings.

The PollCart Illuminati was sequestered deep in their underground bunker thinking about developments in Social Commerce (trademark pending by PollCart for your convenience).  They happened upon an article by a renounced B2B Content Marketer who identified the four most powerful social commerce trends.

A hush went over the room while they called in the black ops guys to check for bugs and listening devices.

It was like she was peering into the PollCart model for Social Commerce that drives customers to buy more and return less when they interact with their friends and family over online purchases.  That was a bit windy.  We’ll explain further.

Why Social Commerce is so Important

Shayla Price begins her examination with why Social Commerce is so important.  It is because shopping is an emotional activity.  This is true of the digital world as well as the bricks-and-mortar world.  How people feel about what they buy is an extremely important part of why they buy.

This is why PollCart is so effective for online merchants.  In the offline world, a group of people can see, feel, touch and discuss a product before purchasing.  In the online world, someone can create a wishlist, send a link or discuss an item on Facebook.  However, it is a cumbersome process with little interaction and several steps away from actual commerce.

“As online relationships become more personal and shoppers can connect more directly with brands, there’s a big opportunity for smart branding to play a big part in how customers feel about a brand. Whether purchasing physical or digital products, marketers need to realize that shopping is a highly emotional endeavor.”

An Emotional Connection to the Purchase

PollCart lets a consumer create a poll and puts the buying decision into the hands of friends and family who vote.  There is now an emotional connection to the purchase tied to the social interaction of the poll.  The abandoned shopping cart has itself been abandoned.  Returned products are less likely.

That is the power of Social Commerce.

Ms. Price’s article goes into more detail, and we will touch on additional points in a future blog post.  Stay tuned.  You know you want to.

PollCart Invents Plug-in That Helps With Online Shopping Decisions

From the “Inside Naveen Jindal School of Management” Newsletter: JSOM Alumnus Invents Plug-in That Helps With Online Shopping Decisions by Jimmie Markham, July 31, 2016

Online shoppers have such a dizzying array of product choices available to them with just a tap of a screen or click of a mouse that the risk of making an uninformed, impulsive or even financially unsound purchasing decision is greater now than ever before. JSOM alumnus Rich Williams, MBA ’10, has invented a new technology called PollCart that helps solve this by turning online shopping into an opportunity to solicit input from loved ones as well as a fun social experience.

Rich Williams, Photo by Hal Samples

“The target audience for PollCart’s functionality is anybody who is in a relationship and wants to maintain accountability in their purchasing decisions,” Williams said. “Any consumer that needs permission to make a purchase thinks they could get in financial or relational trouble by doing so, or simply would like to solicit feedback from and interact with social peers prior to making a purchase would benefit from using our product.”

Consumers aren’t the only ones trying to avoid the pitfalls of technological convenience. Online retailers have created a dilemma for themselves, too. Technology that makes online shopping convenient also enables consumers to easily abandon their shopping carts. Recent reports estimate that $4 trillion worth of online shopping cart merchandise is being abandoned every year.
Williams’ invention solves problems for both consumers and retailers by providing an option within e-commerce platforms for consumers to create approval polls that solicit purchasing advice or even determine whether the online purchase will be made.

The shopper creates a poll as part of the checkout process. After the buyer’s card is validated, the poll is distributed to one or more of the shopper’s trusted contacts. The people being polled have 24 hours to approve or reject a purchase—in part or in whole. Threshold approval levels can differ, depending on whether the shopper is soliciting advice or permission—or simply wants to start a conversation. Once the predetermined threshold for consensus or approval is reached, the online store charges the card, processes the order and ships the item automatically.

If, the result of the shopper’s polling group is unfavorable, then the order is canceled (or pending cancellation, if the buyer prefers to make the ultimate decision) after which PollCart recommends alternate products that are more likely to be approved by the shopper’s circle of trust. The key point is that the critical shopping feedback loop is maintained but no longer has to be solicited in real time. The transaction has already been processed and is simply awaiting social consensus.

The buyer visits the site only once, thus maintaining the convenience of the original shopping experience while adding buffers of accountability and social opinion gathering—along with the benefit of a virtual social shopping experience.

The retailer gains several competitive advantages—first, the cart abandonment problem could be significantly reduced. Second, marketing intelligence is increased dramatically by learning not only what buyers prefer, but what their circle of trust prefers (via the yes/no votes and anonymized comments from those polled). Third, consumer confidence is increased because shoppers perceive the retailer as being “in their corner” by offering a layer of security against bad-impulse shopping decisions. Finally, the problem of rampant returns is reduced because input from the buyer’s circle of trust reduces or even curtails dissatisfaction, buyer’s remorse and conflict associated with the purchasing decision.

PollCart earns a commission based on a percentage of the polled shopping cart total as well as on recommending alternate products if the polling results in a declined purchase.

Williams stated that the idea for his product comes from both a lifetime of participating in e-commerce and his educational path, which has focused both on psychology and marketing.

The PollCart team is currently creating a demonstration environment for the patent-pending technology and business process using the popular Shopify platform. The first version of the plug-in will be available to Shopify e-commerce platform users. Subsequent versions will be available to any e-commerce platform via custom API integration or conceptual license for in-house integration.

—Jimmie Markham