Show More, Sell More

Shhh … Here’s a little secret we’ve learned throughout years of building websites that we’d like to let you in on…

“The more you show, the more you sell!”

78% of shoppers research their future purchase online. And—just like when they shop in your store!—if they find what they’re looking for in your online Product Catalog, they’re more likely to stay on your site longer and make a purchase, either from your store or ecommerce shopping cart.iStock_000005308920XSmall

The “Products” page on your Imagine Retailer website includes up to 1,000 products that you may choose, change and rearrange as you wish. Your job is to determine which products to feature. Here’s how:

  • Choose from our ever-growing Master Product Catalog. In the furniture industry, our Master Product Catalog has nearly 30,000 items from 100 different manufacturers to instantly add to any website.
  • Request a Custom Product. We’ll create a set number of products for you free of charge during the lifetime of your account, which is determined by the base price of your website. Creation of additional Custom Products is only $5 each. Contact your Online Specialist to learn more.
  • Create a Custom Product yourself to showcase special buys, closeouts and one-of-a-kind items in your store. Upload your own photos, add descriptive text, dimensions and specifications. Custom products will only be shown on your website and are not included in the Master Product Catalog.

“Product Count” is the total number of products you’ve added to your website’s Product Catalog. You can add and remove products from your website’s Product Catalog at any time. And if you sell online or want to show more and sell more, you can easily increase your Product Count:

  • Up to 200 products for an additional $50 per month
  • Up to 500 products for an additional $100 per month
  • Up to 1,000 products for an additional $200 per month
  • Call for a quote for more than 1,000 products

So what are you waiting for? Use your Product Catalog to your advantage and sell, sell, sell!

SEO Strategy

Part 3 of 3

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Beyond technology, here are three principles to remember when planning and executing an SEO campaign:

Flow

Remember, the reason you are trying to get your website to the top of the first page is because you want people to come to the site and look at your content, then buy what your selling. Don’t get so involved in SEO that you junk-up your site with links and keywords beyond the user’s ability to read the page. Balance your site design your site between bots and people. Don’t lose your users for the sale of search engines. Remember, bounce rate (the time your users spend on your site) is a part of SEO as well.

Patience is a virtue

SEO campaigns are not for instant gratification junkies. Give your site about three months to sink in. Check your analytics, watch to see how the site is doing and adjust accordingly. Keep your efforts simple; make a minimal amount of changes so that you can accurately see what works and what doesn’t.

Updates

Stay on top of things. Keep an eye on the search engine guidelines to ensure your SEO is always up to date. The last thing you want is for your long sought efforts to slowly wash down the drain as technology advances.

By applying different techniques used to achieve organic search results, you’ll find online marketing to be a cost-effective, simple solution to promoting your business and products.

Part 1 of this 3-part series explained why SEO is the new normal and how companies can budget for search engine optimization campaigns. Part 2 defined a Glossary of Key SEO Terms. This article was published in its entirety in the March 2010 issue of Western Retailer magazine, a publication of the WHFA.

Glossary of Key SEO Terms

Part 2 of 3

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Understanding these key SEO (Search Engine Optimization) ideas and terms will help you make the best decisions for your search marketing strategy:

Title

Each page on your website is coded with a unique title that is different than the page name. Depending on your internet browser, check the name of the tab or the command bar to see if your site optimizes titles. The title should contain carefully chosen keywords, because this is the first thing search engine web crawlers, bots and spiders read (these are automated computer programs that methodically browse the web gathering information). Your titles should be no longer than 100 characters; however, Google will truncate the title if it is more than 60 characters including spaces.

  • Example: “Home Furnishings, Home Décor, Outdoor Furniture & Modern Furniture”
  • Example: “Bedroom Furniture, Dining Room Furniture, and more quality Home and Office Furniture”

Keywords

Keywords and phrases drive SEO campaigns and fuel your site’s success. Keywords are a tricky business though so take your time, research your keywords and make sure you select keywords that are in your niche. Often amateurs will not take much time in this area, simply plugging in obvious words. For example, suppose a small store called ABC Furniture automatically chooses the key phrase “furniture store.” They’ve unwittingly gone to head with major players who are throwing big bucks at the “furniture store” key phrase. While not impossible, it will be very difficult for ABC Furniture to outspend these players and reach the first page of the major search engine search results. Unique niche phrases can yield effective results and cost pennies by comparison.

  • Example: furniture store, sofas, dining room furniture, mattresses
  • Example: “pillow-top mattresses Oakland CA” or “leather rocker recliners Oakland CA”

Body text

The main content of your website should also contain keywords. The keywords should be used naturally to avoid being pegged as a “keyword spammer,” someone who uses the word “sofa” 48 times on your living room page in attempt move your site up in the rankings. This will get you booted from Google and other search engines, who carefully measure your “keyword density.” Too low, and you may not achieve optimum results. Too high, and you’re considered a spammer. Google will only tolerate a 2% keyword density; Yahoo and MSN are considerably higher at around 5%. Qualified web designers who use qualified and trained copywriters can help creatively optimize your keyword density, unlike hackers who jam nonsensical words into your body and footer.

  • Example: Central Oklahoma Furniture. ABC Furniture is a family company. Browse our selection of Central Oklahoma Furniture or visit our store to sample Central Oklahoma Furniture. You deserve Central Oklahoma Furniture form ABC Furniture!
  • Example: From San Antonio to Austin, ABC Furniture delivers beauty, quality, and value to your home.

Heading Tags – Each page on your website has a heading tag that should also contain your keywords. Ideally, the tag should be right up there at the beginning of the page, as close as possible to the top of the page.

  • Example: Living Room Furniture
  • Example: Directions to ABC Furniture

URL

Consider purchasing a domain name containing your keywords. If ABC Furniture sells solid wood furniture in Columbus, Ohio, they should consider columbussolidwoodfurniture.com. Search engines use the domain name as an SEO qualifier so keep that in mind when choosing your domain names. With a little savvy programming, keywords can also be incorporated into the URL of each page. If your keywords for a particular page are solid wood bedroom, the page name should be www.abcfurniture.com

Links

Make sure there are no broken links in your site. Search engine algorithms consider broken links as incomplete, so the overall rating of the site is affected. Restrain yourself from the traditional “click here” link. When web bots, crawlers and spiders come across a “click here” link, they will associate the destination page with the words “click here” instead of your valuable keywords. Instead, optimize your site’s searchability and usability with full-sentence links that use verbs to direct the user what to do.

  • Example: “Click here for a price quote.”
  • Example: “Explore your furniture design possibilities.

Inbound links

Links from other websites are supreme to the rating of your site. Inbound links are like personal referrals, so these links should be from sites that are of high quality. The higher the rating of the sites that link to yours, the higher search engines will rate you. Getting inbound links is the hardest part of SEO by far. You can pay for quantity, but quality is often compromised if you do so.

  • Example: www.popularlocalblog.com/abc-furniture-is-the-place-to-shop
  • Example: www.marketplacespammer.com/abc-furniture

Part 1 of this 3-part series explained why SEO is the new normal and how companies can budget for search engine optimization campaigns. Part 3 will outline an SEO Strategy. This article was published in its entirety in the March 2010 issue of Western Retailer magazine, a publication of the WHFA.

How To Make Your Website Stick

Room with a wall of tv screensConsumers have a lot to look at these days. We’re exposed to several thousand advertisements and websites each day, yet we remember very few of them – despite billions of dollars spent on advertising.

How can you do a better job than your competition at attracting your consumer’s attention?

  1. Be brief. Decide what to leave out. Be selective about what you say. Pick one point and stick to it, because that’s all the consumer will remember anyway.
  2. Be bold. Have you ever surfed the web while listening to music, or watched TV while eating dinner? On your usual drive home from work, you can easily chat with an old friend. But while driving on an unfamiliar street in a strange city, we need to stop talking and take in what’s going on around us. Your consumer may be multitasking, too , and is likely to ignore the expected. An unexpected element grabs attention.
  3. Be clear. The Wizard of Ads, Roy H. Williams, once said, “The price of clarity is the risk of offense.” Clarity leaves little room for vague impressions and enables your consumer to see your brand real. Posing and hype don’t hold up in today’s marketplace, yet many marketers fear telling the truth. Would you dare say who your brand is not for?
  4. Be sustainable. Once you’ve attracted attention, you must sustain it. Your marketing must grab the consumer and never let them go. Continue to make your website interesting, or consumers will go somewhere else.
  5. Be relevant. Make sure the attention-grabbers on your website and advertisements are relevant and don’t distract from the main point you want consumers to remember.

What do you want your customer to do? You want them to focus on your brand and your message. You want them to think of you first and best when they have a need for your particular product. You want them to remember why you’re different and how you’re better than your competitors.

Let us help you be attractive.

Do You Get Personal?

Human TouchBruce Springsteen sang about the Human Touch:

“You might need something to hold on to,

When all the answers, they don’t amount to much, Somebody that you could just to talk to,

And a little of that human touch baby.”

Today’s modern technology has made us even more desirous of a human touch. Most fast, efficient online transactions are completely lacking human contact. The customer is shocked when you provide a truly personal online experience.

Here’s how you can get personal with your online customers:

  • Call first time customers within a day of their order. Ask them for feedback and thank them for their support.
  • Ditch the boring executive bios. Post profiles from the rank and file, the people who actually interact with your customers on a daily basis. Profiles remind your customers they are buying from people, not some corporation.
  • Answer the phones yourself. Tell customers who you are and get their feedback first hand. You will hang up with loads of new ideas.
  • Give to a worthy cause. Make sure you communicate specifically the people who benefit from your donations, so customers feel the connection.
  • Include a picture of each customer service representative in their email signatures. Make it easy for our customer to remember they are dealing with real, caring people.
  • Listen and respond to your customers via Facebook and Twitter. Don’t create social media outlets if you’re looking for another way to push your offers down the throats of your online friends.
  • Start blogging.

Have you ever been shocked by a company “getting personal” with you? Share your experience.

Old Advertising Formulas Aren’t Working

Old FormulasThe last time paid newspaper circulation in the United States was at its current level, a new house cost $4,600, a gallon of gas was 15 cents and the average annual wage was $2,400.  Clearly a lot has changed in the past sixty-four years.

Unfortunately, furniture marketing is stuck in this mid-20th century fantasy land. Print media is still the dominant media choice for family-owned and family-run furniture companies.

According to the 2009 ABTV industry watch report, the Top 25 sources experienced an average drop in sales of 10.4% last year. According to this same report, “Marketing holds the hope for revival.” This is a scary proposition, because as the report points out, “In furniture companies, of course, marketing has traditionally been weak.” It goes on to say, “Even dire circumstances have not induced furniture companies to try to learn from other consumer goods sectors” (page 15).

Marketing in today’s environment is confusing and difficult. Retailers and suppliers alike are trying to find enough consumer money to keep the lights on. Marketing professionals are paddling beyond control to learn and implement emerging media in a way that benefits their clients.

At the same time, even the studies are confusing and conflicting. While newspaper websites report that 43.6 of all U.S. internet users visit their sites, newspaper page views are less than one percent of total U.S. page views. In minutes, newspaper sites get the attention of the U.S. online audience just 1.2 percent of the time.

The conclusion of the ABTV report and my point are exactly the same: “The furniture industry needs to reject the old formulas that no longer get results, to replace the old dogmas that have lost their meaning, to refuse to settle for mediocrity, and to insist on world-class performance. It’s the only way to survive.”

Using Your Head

Using Your HeadAs I talk with a business owners of all sizes, and they explain how their hands are tied in moving forward with an internet strategy. They believe they are doing the best they can under the circumstances, of course, but really there are departments in their organization that need to be protected, prices that need to be kept, sacred cows that can’t be touched. “After all,” they argue, “why should I wipe out my current business just to succeed online?”

This dogged thinking is great, unless your competition decides differently.

When you have someone who is willing to accomplish THIS without worrying about THUS and SO, they will likely defeat you. Online, this happens fast, since there are organizations that are willing to grow at the expense of revenue, ethics or reputation. In your short term, being focused may be a real advantage.  Sometimes, focusing on accomplishing just one thing (whatever it is) pushes a business through this recession or that far-ahead pothole. But at what expense? The competition makes a ton of money and you’ve lost forever.

Retailers, vendors, suppliers, factory branded stores, chains, regional players, local independents, Top 100’s, Mom-n-Pop’s and every other nook and cranny of retail need to think hard about this before it’s too late.

Just the Facts, Ma’am

“Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.”

Your customer – let’s call her Ms. Jones – might pull out this Joe Friday line when she’s shopping. Even if she falls head over heels in love with a sexy sofa or a sweet-smelling new car, she’s going to have to justify her financial investment with some cold, hard facts.

Look at the following areas where Ms. Jones might find information about your product. Rate them for accuracy, and then rate them for influence:

1.       A recommendation from a friend

2.       The internet

3.       A store visit

Now rate your store in these same areas, accuracy and influence. How does your word of mouth rate? Have you irritated your customer base to the point that your name is dragged through the mud more often than it’s recommended? Do you have a website? Is it fresh and relevant? Do you have product information in your store she can take home with her? Does your entire staff know your policies? Are your people well trained? Be honest!

Once Ms. Jones is in the information gathering stage, she has already decided that she’s going to buy. The only question is, from whom?

The Chaos Scenario

Recently I’ve had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with several retailers. We talk at ease about television and radio and newspaper, but I’m often met with blank stares when I bring up the subject of online strategy, ecommerce, SEO, PPC, email marketing and other non-traditional media.

Many store owners tell me they still spend the majority of their advertising dollars on newspaper and other print media. In a recent report, stores categorized as LOW PROFIT businesses continue to spend 34.3% of their marketing in print. These same companies are spending under .05% on all things web!?

Retooling is coming to a newspaper near you in the near future. The newspaper industry is in a free fall in every measurable category: 24 of the top 25 papers in North America declined in circulation in the last 15 months. The average decline in circulation is 20%. Advertising spending has dropped 7.5% overall, but the first quarter of 2009 saw a decline of 28.3% in advertising spending. There is a plunging reduction of $2.6 billion from just a year earlier. Scripps, Gannet, McClatchy, and the New York Times have all watched their stock price go to zero in 2009.They are bankrupt!

The Chaos Scenario by Bob GarfieldIn the new book, The Chaos Scenario, Bob Garfield writes in Chapter 1, page 33; “Both print and broadcast — burdened with unwieldy, archaic and crushingly expensive means of distribution — are experiencing the disintegration of the audience critical mass they require to operate profitably. Moreover, they are losing that audience to the infinitely fragmented digital media, which have near-zero distribution costs and are overwhelmingly free of charge to the user. Free is a tough price to compete with. As documented by Woodward and Bernstein, Deep Throat’s advice to unraveling Watergate was to ‘Follow the money.’ To understand the current predicament, you must follow the no-money.”

Safeguarded opinion established in days gone by can cause you real problems in the days ahead. Ask yourself these questions from Garfield’s Chaos group:

  1. Consider your own habits.  Do you read newspapers as frequently as you once did, or do you get your news online?
  2. Discuss the impact of Craigslist, Monster.com, and eHarmony on newspaper classified advertising.
  3. If newspaper and magazine display advertising disappear, what alternatives will connect that audience to your brand?
  4. If media institutions as large as the Tribune Company (Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times) are in bankruptcy, is any mass media outlet safe?
  5. How has the Internet changed the availability of content?
  6. How did you get your news ten years ago? How do you get it today?
  7. How much time do you spend connecting with your friends vs. consuming media?  How has that ratio changed in the last ten years?
  8. If you could no longer buy advertising on mass media, how would you connect with your customers?
  9. Can you name any businesses that succeeded in stopping cultural shifts?
  10. Can you name any businesses that successfully adapted to cultural shifts?
  11. Is your company organized/equipped to effectively listen to its customers?  What should you change or implement in order to hear them?
  12. What are your customers trying to tell you?  What are you doing about it?

Empowered business owners get to decide what they believe. Documented changes in business should not be avoided. Entrenched thinking might be more comfortable than the alternative, but without a planned strategy your future is bleak. When the newspapers themselves fail in your marketplace, how will you deliver your story?

Does your shopping cart scare your customer away?

Your customer is most anxious on your website when she’s reviewing her cart. The cart page shows the cart total for the items added and the basic price – but often doesn’t show the tax or shipping charges – thus begins the fear of the unknown.

Aside from price, the customer wants assurance that she’s getting what she wanted. For furniture, this is usually size and color, material, or wood finish at the very least.

Bad cart summary pages don’t provide enough detail:

The customer is interested in a lot more information about the product.

Do not be vague. Without a thumbnail image it’s near impossible to figure out what type of bed and which finish she is going to receive if she makes the purchase.

Excellent cart pages show the sku, color, large thumbnail images, availability, tax and include a shipping calculator pre-checkout.

Reduce her anxiety on the cart page, and you’ll reduce cart abandonment.