Author: Jeff Nicely

Effective Local eCommerce Strategy for Small Business

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How do you eat an elephant? As the adage goes, bite by bite. This works when you think a problem is too big to manage all at once, but it also makes a great deal of sense when it comes to local eCommerce strategy.

Consider the probability of any eCommerce startup skyrocketing to “unicorn” status. These usually require millions of dollars in angel and venture capital, and even then the vast majority of eCommerce shops fail early (90% in the first few months) and even after a year in business (it stands at around 78%) . Do you know what one component most of these eCommerce sites are missing?

Focus.

And, more specifically, localization. Localization is important to eCommerce, because people like to do business with businesses that are near them for a variety of reasons. These include familiarity, convenience, better customer service, loyalty, and trust. Further, there is a strong Shop Local movement happening, which has made consumers more conscious and conscientious about shopping local even when they’re shopping on the Web.

eCommerce Website Sales Strategy

While having a website is fundamental to business visibility today, it’s important that business owners recognize the value of a website’s connection to sales.

Websites are where sales happen online today. So, why would a business website not have some ability to display products or services, and take payments? (If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us nothing else, it’s that it’s vital to be able to reach customers and continue to transact business online in the face of dynamic circumstances.)

So, we start with a sales strategy and then we build an eCommerce website to support its purposes. What are you selling? And, how does the website fit the needs to sell it/them?

Moreover, much of the past two decades’ worth of marketing research demonstrates that the supermajority of your sales will come from consumers within a five-mile radius. Google noticed this with consumers performing local searches and purchasing via mobile ads, and it biases search results in Google’s Local Search to around that same distance.

Businesses that have a great eCommerce presence can capture the 70+% of local searchers who go to a business’s website standing outside the store. If a potential customer finds what they need on your website, even if they don’t buy on the eCommerce website, they are likely to enter the physical store and purchase from you. This cannot be underscored enough times.

Online shopping promotes physical retail, and supports physical retail when it’s not possible or as a convenience to the customer. Local eCommerce is the best thing to happen to local commerce. All it takes is understanding this premise when building your website strategy. And, so, what should your website strategy look like?

Email Is Important

At the heart of every eCommerce website marketing strategy is email. It’s the stitching that holds together the fabric of online sales. From email marketing newsletters to email sales funnels and emailed receipts with requests for reviews.

Some questions to consider in building your local eCommerce email marketing:

  • How will you generate leads to capture their emails?
  • Where does email marketing (i.e., promotional, relational and transactional messages) fit into your overall business strategy?

Which email marketing service provider has all the features you need at the price you can afford?

To learn more, check out this article on small business email marketing strategy.

Mobile Is Dominant

If it wasn’t already apparent, people are using mobile phones more than ever and it’s driving sales. Whether it’s for researching online to buy offline (ROBO buyers) or for safety, convenience, or loyalty to a brand, mobile arguably has a hand in almost every sale happening online today.

  • Some questions to consider in building your mobile marketing:
  • Is your website mobile-optimized?
  • Is your content “snackable” and organized for mobile reading?
  • Back to email, how are you capturing leads through email capture on mobile?
  • How are you connecting a mobile visitor to your products/services?

Learn more here about small business mobile marketing strategies.

Content Marketing & Advertising

While much ado has been made of social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Snapchat for its ability to get in front of potential customers. And, yes, they can get your business in front of many people. You need to create content on your local eCommerce site that is worth creating Social Media posts about, that drives visitors. And, while social networks like
your Social Media posts, you need to have a budget for advertising your best performing content to people beyond those who merely follow you.

If you want to excel in local eCommerce you need a mix of great content (in the form of blog posts, podcast episodes, or videos), Social Media posts that bring people to your site (organically and through social ads), and products and services on your website that can convert visitors.

Here are a few important questions to think about related to content marketing:

  • What localized content do you need to produce to bring potential buyers to your local eCommerce website?
  • How does your content marketing connect a potential buyer’s felt need or want to what you offer?
  • Do you have a content calendar so that you can keep on top of creating enough of the right content?
  • How will you measure the success of your content marketing efforts for your
    eCommerce website?

Here is a great article on digging in deeper into small business content marketing.

Local Search Optimization: Local Schema, Hyper-
targeted Local Content, and Local Listing Directories

The last ingredient in local eCommerce strategies is far from the least important–local search optimization. Three different parts combined on and off the eCommerce website itself make up local search optimization: local schema, local content (hyper-targeted, preferably), and local listings.

Local Schema

Google (and the other search engines) use structured content (just like HTML), Schema markup, on local websites (including eCommerce sites) to display rich snippets to local searchers. Schema allows not only the business to get visibility on Google, but it also provides an ability to get specific content and products on your eCommerce site to be shown to more people by using it.

At the very least, your eCommerce site should display your name, local business address, local phone number, and hours of operation using the Schema markup. If your eCommerce website doesn’t have the functionality built into it, you can use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper and Structured Data Testing Tool to add and test how your Schema looks on your site.

Also, if you have a product catalog in your eCommerce site, you will want to push the product feed into Google Shopping.

Hyper-Targeted Local Content

Next, you can create a volume of local content that is great for Google without much more work than generating the original content in the first place. This method requires you to create your base pages for your products and services. Then, you can identify all the localities and landmarks for which you’d like your product or service to appropriately rank on Google.

The tricky part is understanding how web pages are displayed to Google and website visitors versus those displayed in the menu navigation of the eCommerce site. For hyper-targeted local pages, you only care about Google seeing those pages and directing visitors to them, but they will not be displayed in your website’s navigation menu.

For example, you might have a “Men’s Haircuts” page on your local business website and people can book appointments and pay/tip online. But, if you have a hyper-targeted local page for every neighborhood that your hair salon business serves, you’ll rank better and gain more traffic. So, you might have pages that are duplicates of the main page but are modified (approximately 20% different than the original), such as “Men’s Haircuts on Main Street”, “Men’s Haircuts in Somewheresville” and “Men’s Haircuts in the Neighborhoodsname”. These pages will include content that highlights the locality and landmarks, and because they’re 20% different than the main page, Google will see them as different than the main page and they’ll rank well for when people type those local searches into Google.

Local Directory Listings

Finally, but just as powerful, it is important for local commerce and local eCommerce alike to take advantage of local directories. These are online business directories that can generate a good amount of traffic for savvy small business owners.

The most prominent today is Google My Business, but there are many others available (see the sites that Local Listing Ninja submits to as a service to get an idea about how many there are).

The important part is to keep the listings data (especially hours of operation and website details)
up-to-date, and with Google My Business, it provides a portal to post updates, offers, products
and services, and even eCommerce links (purchase, appointment/booking, online courses,
events, etc.).

Conclusion

eCommerce sites are tough to launch, so don’t you want to do it well enough so that it actually pays for itself and more? Use this eCommerce marketing framework to consider how your products/services are going to be positioned on the Local Web. Then, consider how your mobile-optimized website is going to handle your sales, what your email marketing is going to
do for you, what content marketing you’ll create and when/where you’ll distribute it, and then how you’ll optimize for Local Search.

When you do these things well, you have a local eCommerce website that has a chance of standing up to Big Box eCommerce and outpacing your competition.

 

Thanks to Ray Sidney-Smith, guest author of this post.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan

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Eligibility Restored For Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance

Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance

Small Businesses are now eligible for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance

The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) just announced that the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advance is available to small businesses.

This advance can give your business much needed financial relief.

What You Need To Know

  1. Your business is now eligible to receive $1,000 per employee up to a maximum of $10,000.
  2. You do not need to repay this loan advance.
  3. Your business does not need to qualify for this loan advance.

Questions Your Business Should Consider

  1. Has my business received a Paycheck Protection Program loan (PPP)?
  2. Did I complete my original EIDL application correctly?

Yes, I received a PPP.  Therefore, your EIDL Advance amount will be subtracted from your PPP loan. That amount will not be eligible for forgiveness.

The Small Business Administration will verify and validate the information in your EIDL application. After that, your advance will auto deposit into your bank.

If there are issues verifying your banking or business information you will receive an email. The email will ask you to update any missing business information.

If there is an issue with your bank information, you will be asked to update your banking information as well.

If you have questions about EIDL or need help navigating the loan process, please contact our office:  (540) 868-7093

Our director Christine Kriz is available to answer your questions or point you in the right direction.

In addition, we have created a frequently asked questions page to help you navigate the loan process.  

 

Four eCommerce Best Practices You Can’t Afford to Ignore

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According to Statistica, approximately 1.8 billion people, or ¼ of the world’s population are buying online.  Online shoppers demand that we pay close attention to eCommerce best practices.

If you are a small business owner, you cannot afford to ignore eCommerce!

In today’s environment, customers want options. 

Customers want to buy what they want, when they want, and the way they want. And they want to use the payment type of their choice.

Obvious E-Commerce Best Practices

You must be selling online.

Selling online gives your customers options, saves them time, and gives you the extra revenue streams you will need in times of change.

Prior to the shutdown our country has just experienced ,  one study showed that 81% of people check out business websites before walking into the store.

A strong online presence coupled with eCommerce are important for every small business.

eCommerce best practices

Make Your Website Easy To Navigate

When you walk into a retail store, you see displays, sales associates, and it’s clear where and how you check-out.  

Does your website make it clear to visitors where and how to check out?

An unclear path online will create confusion and cause paying customers to exit your website.

When visiting your website, what’s the first impression a visitor gets?

Hopefully your website doesn’t scream 1998.  In today’s environment, customers are checking to make sure your business is open online first.

Today’s consumer demands great looking websites that are functional and easy to navigate.

Your website is one of four eCommerce best practices.

Things To Consider About Your Website

  1. Based on your website, does your business appear open and relevant? 
  2. Have you updated your website lately? 
  3. When visiting your site, what is the experience like for customers?

My suggestion is to ask a few people to test our your site and give you feedback from an “outside” perspective. 

Let them give you feedback about your online product displays.

If visitors need help while on your website, do you have Live Online Chat, a phone number that is set as a link so customers can connect with you at the push of a button?

Do you have a FAQ page on your website or is your customer left to figure things out on their own?

Remember, if a customer gets frustrated on your website, they won’t make it to your checkout page. They’ll leave your site and leave you with a high bounce rate.

As for eCommerce best practices, make sure your visitors can get the help they need while visiting your site.

E-Commerce Best Practices Require Your Sales Process To Work

When was the last time you or someone from your team went through your online sales process from start to finish?

When testing your online sales process, think about what your products look online.

If someone has a questions while on your site or making an online purchase, do you offer customer service online via Live chat, a linkable phone number, a FAQ’s page or is your customer left to figure things out on their own?

When people can’t get the help they need they get frustrated. Frustrated shopped will go somewhere else where the buying process is more convenient and easy.  

Before another potential customer leaves your shopping cart, test your online buying process. Have a friend who has never bought online from you test out your online system.

Take extra steps to make sure your system works flawlessly because you’d hate to loose sales over something you could have fixed.

And without testing your process, you’ll never know what’s happening on the customers buying end. 

Choose The Sales Platform That Fits Your eCommerce

When considering which platform is best there are many options to choose from. 

Consider what you’re selling. Is there is a specific platform that works better than others for your particular product. 

For example. If you’re selling downloadable products then Gumroad might be perfect for your needs.  If you want to sell on multiple platforms at once, you’ll want a platform that integrates with those platforms (example Etsy or Ebay). 

Make sure the platform you choose takes the payment your customers prefers to use. Make buying easy for your customers and invest the time and effort to understand what you need before you start to sell online.

If you already have a website on Wix, Weebly, Godaddy, or use Squarespace, these websites have an online store option that will cost you little each month. 

They have great templates to help you get started easily.  If you have a point of service system, it’s important that your POS integrates with your online store.  I don’t recommend having two sets of inventory, payment, and tracking systems.

For WordPress users, WooCommerce  is the biggest eCommerce in the world and works with WordPress.  It can handle affiliate sales, blogs, event management, and it works well with Taxjar which is an add-on that can compute sales tax, and auto file for tax remittance. 

Ecwid and Magento are two others that work well with WordPress. 

BigCommerce is known for it’s headless marketing displays and is great for wholesale businesses or multichannel sales.  Shopify has over 100 different payment options.

ECommerce best practices include offering online sales, having a website that’s easy to navigate, having an online sales process that works, and an online sales platform that works best with the products and services you sell.

If you have questions or need free assistance from members of our team, please contact us and we’ll get you connected to the expert who can help you navigate the world of eCommerce, Websites, and online sales.

 
 

Supreme Court rules LGBTQ people protected on the job

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Supreme Court rules LGBTQ peple are protected on the job

For our friends in the LGBTQ community, today’s Supreme Court ruling is a landmark moment.

To fire an employee simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) is now a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

The Supreme Court ruled that federal anti-discrimination laws protect LGBTQ employees  

This decision was written by one the court’s most conservative justices, Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s first nominee to the court. 

The court made this decision by a 6-3 vote with Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas voting against the decision.

“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court.

“The Court tries to convince readers that it is merely enforcing the terms of the statute, but that is preposterous. Even as understood today, the concept of discrimination because of ‘sex’ is different from discrimination because of ‘sexual orientation’ or ‘gender identity,'” Alito wrote in a dissent that was joined by Thomas.

“The court has previously stated, and I fully agree, that gay and lesbian Americans ‘cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth,’ ” Kavanaugh wrote, quoting a previous case.

Kavanaugh added, “Our role is not to make or amend the law. As written, Title VII does not prohibit employment discrimination because of sexual orientation.”

Court’s first cases on LGBTQ rights since 2015

Today’s cases were the court’s first on LGBTQ rights since Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement and replacement by Kavanaugh. Kennedy was author of the landmark ruling in 2015 that made same-sex marriage legal throughout the United States. 

In recent years, some lower courts have ruled that discrimination against LGBTQ employees is prohibited by federal law. 

So far, Congress has not been able to change the law.

Two of the three cases today involved gay men fired by their employers — Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, and Altitude Express v. Zarda

The third case heard by the high court on October 8 and argued separately — R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC — involves a transgender Michigan woman, Aimee Stephens, dismissed from her job as a funeral director after she announced plans to transition. Tragically, Stephens, who was 59, died on May 12, just weeks before the ruling came down.

Today’s Supreme Court ruling will impact federal civil rights laws pertaining to sex discrimination in education, health care, housing and financial credit. Lawsuits currently pending in lower courts are required to follow Supreme Court precedent.

As our country moves forward, there are an estimated 8.1 million LGBTQ workers across the country impacted by today’s decision.  And while most states have not provided workplace protection in the past, Virginia is a most recent state to enact full protection against employment discrimination for LGBTQ people.

According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA law school, there are an estimated 13 million LGBTQ people ages 13+ living in the U.S.

 

(Excerpts from AP, Washington Post and USA Today)

 

 

Small Business Success Stories

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Small business success stories is a way for our team to bring together small business owners who want to share stories around business themes.  Our hope is that stories will spark ideas, give courage and build confidence in small business owners.

Stories capture our attention.  Stories connect us more deeply with others.  And stories mark moments in time that we remember well into the future.

Each week we will gather on Zoom to share stories around particular topics.  Week 1 will be “Pivot”.  Week 2 will be “Customer Service”

Small business stories will be a judgement free zone so whether someone arrives with negative connotations or experiences with the topic or positive, we welcome every story.

Stories may be from our personal experiences or they may be one’s we’ve read or heard about.  Every story opens to us the possibility of learning.  Whether we learn what to do or what not to do, both are valuable to our journey in business.

As we listen to each other’s story, new ideas will be discovered. And when needed, our team will provide the coaching free of charge to help you act on those new ideas.

Whether it’s through listening to the story of others or sharing one of our own, small business stories is to be a place where small businesses come to spark new ideas, gain courage and build the confidence needed to move forward in business

We look forward to being with you in Small Business Stories.  Together, we will win!.