Now is the time to utilise the marketing power of video
Think about the last time you watched a video online. You’re probably only going back a couple of days, a week, or perhaps a month at most. Even if it’s just snippets of news, interviews with sports personalities, or funny YouTube clips, watching videos online is now a way of life for most people, which is why video marketing has suddenly become so powerful. Creating a marketing video for your business can bring a huge number of benefits, and here are just a few of them:
Videos are more engaging than text or images
It’s no surprise to learn that most people would rather watch a two minute video than read a whole article of text that will take them ten minutes or more. A video can entertain them as well as providing information, and they are more likely to remember something they have seen and heard on a video that something they have read.
Videos also engage customers on a more emotional level than either text or still images. If a picture tells a thousand words, then a video must surely tell a million. If a potential customer watches a short video about your business, they will feel they have already made some sort of connection with you even before you have ever been in direct contact with them.
The team behind Concrete 5 (www.concrete5.org) created a video to help sell their product’s flexibility and ease of use. Concrete 5 is a website content management system, despite naturally being a technical and often complex subject the video does fantastic job at communicating to the audience at a human to human level. The video also provides some brief demonstrations which highlight the usability and interface of the product.
The Concrete5 introductory video
Videos add value for your customers
Think carefully about the content of your video. Customers are more likely to watch videos that provide valuable content than videos that are blatant sales pitches, and the search engines tend to feel the same way. Use your video to teach your customer something or provide a practical demonstration.
Videos work particularly well on ecommerce sites and many retailers are now combining product images with videos. A great example is fashion, where a short video of a model walking in a dress can tell the shopper more about how it looks, hangs, and moves, than a written description or still image ever could. Videos are a fantastic way to show your products in action.
The Diamond Store (www.thediamondstore.co.uk) utilises video in their product pages, providing an insightful demonstration for each of their jewellery items. This video (Youtube) for example reveals a great deal of visual information about the ring which would otherwise be absent on a static product page.
The Diamond Store provides insightful videos for each of its products
Videos increase traffic and search engine rankings
Search engines just love videos. Google especially will give priority to websites with video in its search results, so posting a video on your own site can improve your search engine rankings. Customers also seem to love video as search results with videos have a much higher click through rate than those that are just plain text. Videos are much harder for search engines to index than written text, and they are continually improving their algorithms. Currently videos will be ranked higher if they are watched for a substantial period of time, rather than just for a few seconds, so again you need to make sure your video is worth watching.
Posting your video on other sites such as YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ can also increase traffic and search engine rankings as long as the video links back to your site and it is well titled and tagged. Videos are very easy to share on social networking sites and if your video goes viral in this way it will give your search engine rankings a huge boost. Pinterest has recently opened its boards to videos as well as images, so make your videos visually appealing and get pinning.
Although video marketing is certainly on the increase, it is still relatively underused, so creating a marketing video right now can really give you a competitive edge. Producing a creative, high quality video that provides value to your customers is fairly affordable compared with the cost of magazine advertisements or similar, and it can provide far more exposure for your business. Remember to make it appealing to your customers so they will want to watch and share it, which in turn will make it appear valuable to the search engines.
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Social media has completely changed the way we market our businesses online. It’s a quick and easy way to spread the word about your business and to interact with your customers. Social media is fun and it’s free, two words that are very rarely combined in the world of business. However, it’s easy for companies to get caught up in the whirl of tweeting, posting, and pinning, and to forget that a robust online marketing strategy does also need something more tangible.
Social media is fabulous – as part of a wider strategy
Often the benefits of social media are also the factors that limit its effectiveness:
- Social media is immediate, meaning that your customers see your message instantly and can follow your call to action. However, it is also fleeting, and the moment that your update leaves Facebook walls or your tweet falls off the bottom of Twitter feeds it will disappear, never to be read at all. The buzz created by a social media post is usually short lived.
- The content of social media posts is very limited, meaning that your customers receive messages that are short, sharp, and to the point. However, this can prevent you from providing detailed information that could engage your customers more deeply.
- Social media allows you to reach a wide audience very quickly, but that audience won’t necessarily be totally committed to your business. Liking a Facebook page or following a Twitter account is a lot less of an investment than signing up to on online newsletter, for example.
Twitter – great place to start new relationships
While nobody would argue that social media isn’t important these days, there are many other aspects of online marketing to integrate it with. One of the key purposes of social media is to attract visitors to your website, so this is a great place to start. Making sure that the content of your website is well displayed, up to date, and informative will help you retain the visitors that arrive from social media sites.
Having a blog integrated into your website provides current news for your customers as well as supplying valuable content for the search engines. Posting at least once a week will keep your website fresh and will give your customers a reason to visit your site. In addition try regularly adding static pages to your website such as articles and press releases. You could also release a monthly newsletter or e-zine to your website’s mailing list.
Publishing content on your own website is very important, but only visitors to your site will see it. Publishing content on third party websites will help you to be seen as an authority in your field of business. This could include syndicating articles and press releases, guest blogging on a relevant site, or writing for an appropriate online trade publication.
Don’t limit yourself to written content; videos that are posted to You Tube as well as your own site can generate a huge interest in your business. You could also register for targeted business directories that allow you to upload detailed information about your company. Creating valuable web content is an important part of any online marketing campaign, particularly if that content has a link back to your own website.
Once you’ve published content on your own website or a third party website, your social media networks are a fantastic way to publicise it. Blogs can be set up so that a Facebook update and a tweet are automatically generated when you publish, saving you time and effort. If you’re publishing on a third party site, you can post your own links and engage the followers of that third party site at the same time. While social media on its own can be a little transitory and insubstantial, when you combine it with more durable content it can be a very powerful tool for your business.
Simple, careful planning of your social media activity and how it fits into your online marketing strategy is a really great place to start. And remember, creating fresh and interesting content is important and also gives you something new to shout about and valuable to share as well as the opportunity to create a buzz which is fun, sociable and will engage existing customers and reach potential new ones too.
Enjoy yourself online!
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At Helix we strongly believe in using open source software to build our clients’ websites and e-commerce solutions. For business websites we use Drupal, an open source content management system, and for online shops we use Magento, an open source e-commerce platform.
When we refer to the concept of open source software we occasionally get blank looks from our clients so we thought we’d write a short explanation of what open source software is and why we use it.
The definition of open source software
For software to be classed as open source, its source code must be available for users to access and to modify. Users have the right to distribute the original program as well as their own modified versions of the software, with or without charge. Users can also integrate parts of the software into other programs. There are no usage restrictions for open source software. Conversely, with closed source software users are not allowed access to the source code, and usage is restricted by strict licenses. Microsoft is a good example of a company that produces closed source software that must be updated by Microsoft and cannot be modified by anyone else.
Open source software is often distributed under the terms of the GPU General Public License, which guarantees the freedom to share and change all versions of a program. Open source software is often referred to as ‘free software’ which can be misleading. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the software is free of charge, but rather that the user has the freedom to modify it.
The benefits of open source software
We choose open source software because it provides many benefits to our clients:
Low costs - The most obvious advantage of open source software is that it keeps costs down. There are no initial or ongoing license fees to pay, which reduces the overall cost of the website or online shop. It also means that there are no restrictions on the number of users.
Flexibility – Because we have access to the source code for the software that we use, it can be modified and customised to do exactly what our client’s need it to do. Drupal and Magento provide a robust basis for our business solutions, but both the look and the functionality of the software can be completely customised to suit our clients’ needs.
Scalability - Open source software has the capacity to grow with our clients’ businesses. Developers are continually working on new modules that can be added to standard versions of the software to create more complex solutions as and when necessary.
Portablity - One of the joys of open-source developing is that the resulting website becomes completely portable. A key benefit of this is that websites can be moved to new developers efficiently and easily as long at the process is well managed. This allows businesses to change developers much more easily. This could be for a variety of reasons, but one example could be if a business develops at a rapid rate and the support and development requirement increases significantly, moving a website to new developers who are experts in high transaction processes or who have a large support team can be organised without disruption or downtime for the business.
Evolution - In a world where advances in technology happen every day, static software quickly becomes outdated. Open source programs such as Drupal and Magento have a dynamic community of global developers who combine their efforts to introduce new functionality and to make sure that the software is compatible with every new advance in technology.
At Helix we’re certainly strong believers in the open source philosophy of software such as Drupal and Magento. We enjoy being part of the Drupal and Magento global communities and in contributing and collaborating within the global development framework. We do our best to make sure our valued customers enjoy the many benefits of these platforms when they choose to work with us.
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It was Comic Relief for Red Nose Day yesterday and some of the Helix team couldn’t wait to don a nose and join in!
Quirky looking bunch – look like they are on the set of Top of the Pops!
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Customer reviews are now an integral part of online retail and many shoppers will spend as much time reading reviews as reading the retailer’s product descriptions. Online shoppers can’t pick up a product and look at it or try it out, so they depend on the opinions of the people that can; those that have already bought the product.
Customer reviews benefit retailers because:
* They have been proven to increase conversions
* They are seen as more trustworthy than product descriptions
* They remove doubts that the shopper may be having
* They make it easier to choose between different products
Magento, our chosen ecommerce platform, has fantastic customer review functionality built in. Alternatively we can integrate a third party review system such as Shopzilla or Revoo into a Magento online shop. A third party system is often seen as more credible than on-site reviews and retailers can benefit from increased traffic from the review site. Reviews on these sites are authenticated so readers can be sure that the reviewer has actually purchased the product.
Dealing with bad reviews
Retailers dread poor reviews of their products, but some negative opinions can actually increase conversions. Shoppers will trust reviews when there is a mixture of positive and negative opinions. Reading the negative comments often means that the customer is ready to buy and is just making sure there is nothing too awful in the reviews before they commit to their purchase.
Of course it’s important that the bad reviews don’t outweigh the good ones. Three or more poor reviews would put a lot of customers off buying, depending on the product and overall number of reviews. When a retailer does receive a bad review, the way that they deal with it is often more important than the review itself. If a customer can see that the complaint has been dealt with positively a negative review can still be used to the retailer’s advantage.
Attracting customer reviews
Unfortunately customers are more likely to leave a review if they have something negative to say so, to make sure you get the right balance, your satisfied customers may need an extra little nudge to get them to have their say. Many customers are happy to review an item they’ve purchased when they are asked to do so.
Personally it all depends on how I am approached for the review. If it looks like it will be a quick and simple process and I am asked at the right moment ( normally a day or two after the delivery of a product) I will happily provide a review. Particularly if I am very pleased with the service or goods and am very happy and want to tell the company, or alternatively if I am not happy and I feel strongly enough to share the negative feedback. If I start the process and feel I am being led off into a complex form that asks lots of unnecessary questions and doesn’t allow me to say exactly what I want, I will abandon the process. Making the process simple, clear and quick is important.
Things you can do
Consider e-mailing customers a week after their purchase has been delivered. This will give them time to try out their product and is soon enough to make sure it is still fresh in their minds. You could also offer an incentive for leaving a review, perhaps an entry into a monthly prize draw.
Make the process for leaving a review as simple as possible, preferably using a scoring system for a small number of categories such as material, quality, cost, and so on. Some customers like to write a detailed review while others prefer just to tick boxes, so an optional text box is a good addition to a review form.
Whether you use the review functionality on your ecommerce platform or integrate a third party system, we’d advise all online retailers to allow customers to leave reviews, and actively encourage them to do so. Reviews can convince a customer to try a product, and can influence which retailer they buy it from. Customer reviews build up trust and allow shoppers to benefit from the personal opinion of someone who is already in possession of the item they want to buy.
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At Helix Websites we love to hear about other uses of the helix concept around the world, and the Helix Bridge in Marina Bay, Singapore must surely be the most impressive helix we’ve ever seen.
The Helix Bridge was completed in 2010 and forms part of the walkway around Marina Bay, linking Marina South and Marina Centre. Its unique curved design is based on a double helix with two strong opposing steel spirals resembling the structure of DNA. The pedestrian walkway is 280m, the longest in Singapore, but if the steel spiral structures were stretched out they would be ten times the length.
Helix Bridge. Marina Bay in Singapore
Inspired by the Asian concept of yin and yang, the design of the Helix Bridge represents life and continuity, renewal, growth, and everlasting abundance. It is thought that the bridge will bring happiness, wealth and prosperity to the Marina Bay area.
The bridge offers one of the best views over Marina Bay and includes glass canopied viewing pods that can accommodate up to 100 people each. The bridge is most spectacular at night when coloured LED mood lighting emphasises the spiralling helix design. The interior of the bridge provides a display area and often features local artwork.
It occurred to us that we can draw several parallels between the Helix Bridge and websites created by Helix. Both are strong and robust in their architecture, whilst at the same time being contemporary and stylish in design. We’re sure that websites created by Helix bring growth, continuity, and prosperity to our clients in the same way the Helix Bridge does to Marina Bay!
We hope our clients and their customers agree…………..
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We’re thrilled to announce the launch of our new, fast to market, online shop built on the Magento ecommerce platform. The shop is our flagship product and offers all the functionality that a retailer needs to start generating online sales for one very affordable fixed price. The online shop combines a decade of ecommerce experience with superior Magento functionality to create a product that can be making sales within weeks of our initial consultation.
The Helix ecommerce solution based on the superior Magento platform
Inspiration for the Helix Ecommerce Solution
The inspiration for our new online shop came from retailers themselves. We’ve met with potential customers that have spent thousands having an online shop built from scratch, only to find that as their business grows and technology moves forward their store is unable to keep up. We’ve also seen plenty of online shops that look great and are beautifully designed but which fail to offer basic functionality such as effective product browsing.
Our approach in creating the new Helix online shop was to focus on our customers’ priorities. Retailers that we spoke to wanted a shop that was affordable and quick to set up initially, scalable and customisable as their business evolved, and robust and reliable so their customers benefited from great service levels.
The shop we have designed meets all these needs and more. The front end of the shop is customised to be unique to each retailer but it runs on a standard tried and tested Magento platform, making it quick and affordable to set up. Regular readers of our blog will know that Magento is our ecommerce platform of choice because it is affordable, scalable, and customisable, and it leads the field in ecommerce innovation.
Responsive Design and mobile commerce capabilities are built in
Whatthe Helix Ecommerce Solution Includes
The core package includes the build and launch of the online shop as well as initial support. Each shop will have all the functionality needed for a modern, profitable online shop including:
• Responsive design and mobile commerce capabilities
• Catalogue and product browsing
• Site and catalogue management
• Marketing and promotional tools
• Checkout, payment and shipping functionality
• Customer accounts and customer services
• Order management, analytics and reporting
• Basic search engine optimisation
Once the shop is making sales our customers can decide whether they needs additional services such as annual support, product creation, advanced SEO, multi shop capability, or specialist extensions.
You can visit our ecommerce page to find out more about the new online shop or contact us to book an ecommerce consultation. We run quarterly workshops aimed at helping businesses to increase their online revenues, visitor traffic and overall performance online. If you would like to receive an invitation to the next workshop, please We run quarterly workshops aimed at helping businesses to increase their online revenues, visitor traffic and overall performance online. If you would like to receive an invitation to the next workshop, please add your details and we will get in touch once the next date has been set.
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Pinterest Success for Online Retail
At first glance you might think Pinterest is just another social network that will take up time you don’t have, but for online retailers Pinterest really is worth a second look. Although it doesn’t yet offer the huge volume of referrals you can get from Facebook, the leads that it does provide seem to be of a higher quality, with a better chance of conversion and a higher average order value.
Average order value of Pinterest driven sales is higher than other social networks
What is Pinterest?
Pinterest is a virtual pin board where you can collect and categorise online images from any website. Initially it was aimed at individuals but recently Pinterest has become more business focused, creating specific business pages and launching new functions that appeal to online brands. These include ShopInterest, a DIY online shop facility for small merchants looking to sell their products directly through Pinterest.
The success of Pinterest seems to be the image driven approach. Its design is simple and appealing, and larger sites such as eBay are taking inspiration from Pinterest when redesigning their own web pages. Pinterest is not about the hard sell, but instead is about sharing ideas and interests, and about building up a style or personality within each pin board.
Make sure the images are high quality and attractive
Many retailers are now using Pinterest as an integral part of their social media strategy and are creating pin boards that contain their own products, along with other images, in an attempt to drive sales. According to U.S. based research published by Rich Relevance, the average order value of Pinterest driven sales is much higher than other social networks. Their figures showed the average order value in 2012 to be $71 for Twitter, $95 for Facebook, and a staggering $169 for Pinterest, so it is certainly something worth adding to your marketing strategy.
Tips for using Pinterest
Here are a few tips for making your Pinterest adventure a profitable one:
- Make sure you add prices to the descriptions of any of your own products that you add to Pinterest. This will allow them to be picked up by the gifts feature on Pinterest where visitors can browse items by price range.
- Pinterest is driven by images and visual appeal so make sure the photographs of the products that you pin are high quality and attractive. Lifestyle shots tend to work better than basic product shots as they place the product into context for potential customers.
- Don’t be afraid to pin other retailers’ products as well as your own, even if they’re your competitors. It can help to associate your brand with other well known retailers, and can provide exposure of your brand to a wider audience.
- Integrate your Pinterest account with your Facebook account so that images you pin will automatically appear on your Facebook wall. This will save you time and allow you to maintain multiple social media streams, reaching a wider audience.
- Your Pinterest page shouldn’t just be a copy of your online shop. Take care to add a selection of your own products, perhaps your best sellers or those with the best images, combined with images from other sources all over the internet. Arrange boards by theme, colour scheme, or season.
- Don’t neglect the social side of Pinterest. Successful retailers look at other people’s pin boards, make useful comments, and re-pin images, rather than simply focussing on their own pin boards.
Even websites can be displayed
Does your marketing strategy include Pinterest? If it already does, maybe following the simple tips above will increase the success your customers are having in finding and buying from you… and if it doesn’t perhaps it is worth that second look.
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A distraction or increased exposure? With a mixed response from the ecommerce world, we thought we’d look a bit deeper.
Until recently one of the possible downsides of online shopping was a loss of the social interaction that you would get from traditional shopping. Hitting the High Street with your friends or family, and getting their input on prospective purchases can be part of the fun of shopping, and it is tricky to replicate online.
This situation is now starting to change with the introduction of free social shopping functions such as Help Me Shop from eBay, which uses Facebook to make online shopping a more collaborative activity.
Ebay’s Help Me Shop Video
How Does Help Me Shop Work?
Help Me Shop from eBay allows you to get your friends’ input on things you’re thinking about buying online, before you make your final decision. Users of Help Me Shop must have a Facebook account, and need to drag and drop a Help Me Shop button into their browser’s bookmarks bar before they start shopping (not quite as easy as it first looks!)
When you find something you’re thinking of buying on any website, not necessarily eBay, you can click on your Help Me Shop button and add it to your shopping list, which is known as your stash. Once you have created a stash you can use Facebook to get your friends’ opinions on the products you have chosen.
Help Me Shop Allows you to:
- Set up a five day shopping poll allowing your friends to vote on up to six items in your stash
- Receive feedback and comments from your friends including links to other suggested products
- Invite all your friends to vote by posting the poll publicly on your Facebook wall
- Invite up to ten selected friends only, by posting the poll as a private message
The Benefits of Help Me Shop
For the user the benefits of Help Me Shop depend on the products you are buying. If you’re clothes shopping, for example, it can make the whole process more fun and can replicate the experience of having a group of friends in the fitting room with you. If you’re buying a gift for someone you can check with mutual friends whether they think it will be appreciated.
On a more practical note, if you’re investing in a significant purchase such as a new camera or a piece of sports equipment, you can invite friends who you know have particular knowledge about these products to vote on your poll. They can give you valuable advice and recommendations on what you do and don’t need.
For the retailer the reactions to Help Me Shop have been mixed. Some are concerned that these types of social shopping functions will distract customers from actually making a purchase, when their aim is to get the customer from the product screen to the checkout as quickly and simply as possible.
However, other retailers are embracing Help Me Shop as they believe that it will make online shopping more appealing, that it will increase exposure of their stores on social networks, and that it may encourage users to buy something they would otherwise have decided against.
Whichever way you view Help Me Shop it is a clear indication that online shopping is expanding and evolving, and that large companies such as eBay are looking for ways to bridge the gap between High Street shopping and internet retail.
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A couple of weeks ago we looked at the many reasons that consumers are switching to online shopping, which included convenience, availability, affordability, and anonymity. However, there is still one area that many online shoppers are unhappy with, and that is the physical delivery of their order. You may have a great product but if it arrives late or not at all you’re unlikely to have satisfied customers.
There are lots of home delivery companies so take time to choose the right one
In the news last week there was a lot of discussion about the dark side of online delivery, with reports of parcels being thrown over fences, left in wheelie bins, or placed outside front doors in full view of passers-by. Poor delivery is one of the main reasons customers give for switching retailers, so even though your deliveries are probably made by a third party, unfortunately their performance will reflect directly on you.
Delivery doesn’t have to be the downfall of online retail, and although there will inevitably be the odd occasion that a delivery fails there are plenty of things you can do to reduce the risk of that happening.
The Christmas before last we carried out a survey amongst our own online shop retailers to find out their success level with regards to their delivery companies during the pre-Christmas rush. We were delighted to hear that most polled had an almost 100% record of successful deliveries so it seems they had found companies that matched their requirement well. Whether it be for small packets for posting, large and heavy furniture that needs manpower to take into the customers premises or fragile and delicate items – selecting the right company is a key decision in the successful outcome.
If there are problems, offer a solution that works in the customers favour
Here are some ideas on improving your online delivery:
Modern technology makes it easy to accurately track a parcel from the point it leaves your warehouse to the moment it arrives with your customer. Providing your customer with access to detailed real-time online tracking will give them a realistic idea of when to expect their delivery. You could also consider sending them an e-mail or SMS alert an hour before their delivery is due to arrive. Couriers that use this type of technology may cost you a little more but the profit you make from retaining satisfied customers should make it worthwhile.
Manage your couriers
The rise of online shopping has caused a boom in home delivery companies, so take your time to shop around and choose one that suits your product and required service levels. Negotiate a service level agreement that rewards quality of deliveries rather than just quantity. Many small courier companies currently only pay their drivers for completed deliveries, meaning that they are more likely to leave parcels in unsuitable places just to make sure they get paid. These types of companies are best avoided from a customer service point of view.
Capture customer details
When your customer places their order there are various ways to improve the chances of a successful delivery. One is to allow them to choose a specific delivery day or time slot which makes it easier for them to arrange for someone to be at home to receive the parcel, or make it easy for a delivery address to be specified which may be a workplace or a friend or family member who is likely to be available to accept the delivery. Another is to give them the option of specifying a safe place where they’re happy for the parcel to be left such as “in the shed”, on “in porch”or with a particular neighbour.
Manage customer expectations
Paying for delivery is unpopular with online shoppers, and the success of retailers that offer free standard delivery is clear to see. If you’re not in a position to do that be reasonable with your delivery charges; the more a customer pays for delivery the better the service they will expect. Be realistic with your delivery timescales and only promise something you’re sure you can provide.
There will inevitably be occasional delivery issues, but when these occur make sure your customer has a freephone number to call that goes direct to you and not your courier company. If you keep them up to date with the situation and find a solution that works in their favour you may find you’ve gained a loyal customer after all.
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