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  • 5 Surprising Ways Your Business Can Use Video Marketing

    Monday, July 10, 2017 by
    Video Marketing for your Business

    How to Make Video Marketing Work for Your Business

    Consumers love video. Over a billion people use YouTube and a full one-third of the time people spend online, they spend watching videos. All that love of video isn’t exclusive to videos made purely for entertainment purposes; video marketing also offers impressive results:
    • Videos in an email increase clicks by 200 to 300%
    • Landing page videos increase conversions by 80%
    • Watching a video makes consumers 64% more likely to buy a product online
    They may cost more to make than some other forms of content, but those statistics make a clear case that the investment is worth it. Of course, as with any type of content format, you have to worry about the issue of oversaturation. If you do the same things with video that every other brand in your space is doing, you’ll have a hard time standing out. Here are a few approaches you can take to video marketing that are a bit less common and can help you break through the noise. Recommended WordPress Hosting

    1. Create a regular talk show.

    The talk show format’s been around for decades, but it’s not something brands have made much use of. That means there’s a good chance you’d be the first (or at least one of the first) to tackle this format if you do decide to give it a try. A talk show format will work best if you commit to doing it with regularity – for example, a new episode every month – so you can gain viewers over time that know when to look forward to a new episode being released. And you’ll need to put the work in to research relevant guests and start cultivating relationships with them to make them more likely to accept an invitation to be on your show. The Wine Exchange, a wine shop in California, uses a talk show format to interview wine makers each week as a way to promote different wines and bring attention to both their own business and those of their guests. Video marketing talk show format Each video they release earns hundreds of views, and their YouTube channel has thousands of subscribers. The videos are entertaining, educational, and relevant to the Wine Exchange’s target audience: people who buy wine. Through the talk show format, they’ve managed to make their mark in a competitive space.  

    2. Use live video.

    With the launch of Facebook Live, live video on social media has come into the mainstream. It’s a great way to reach your audience, since anyone that’s already liked your page on Facebook will see your video as they’re scrolling through their feed (and let’s be honest, we know people spend a lot of time scrolling through their Facebook feeds). Live video gives you the opportunity to respond directly to your viewers as they watch, which makes it more engaging for your audience and more valuable for you. Facebook live video marketing Blue Apron’s live video introducing wines that would go great with Valentine’s Day dinners gave the brand a chance to answer both general questions that were useful to their audience, like what to do when ordering wine at a restaurant, and specific questions about their own products. They were able to be helpful to their audience while also increasing interest in a product they sell at the same time. That’s a balance brands constantly seek in content marketing and one that a strategic and well thought out live video can help you achieve.  

    3. Give your audience a behind-the-scenes look.

    Most consumer interaction with a brand only occurs with the end product, or maybe through a customer service call or email. You can make your business more real and relatable to your prospects by showing them the atmosphere and work that creates the end product they love. Most people use Google every day without thinking too much about how the service we rely on so much actually works. If you’re curious (and over four million people apparently have been), you can watch a video that shows a behind-the-scenes tour of the data centers that keep the popular search engine working.
    Give your customers a glimpse of what your brand looks like from the inside so they have a new level to connect to you on. It makes your brand less of an abstract concept and more something that customers can visualize.  

    4. Make short videos highlighting your employees.

    As much as we hope all our marketing will help consumers connect with a brand, most people have an easier time connecting with other people than any company. Luckily, your business is made up of people. Video gives you a chance to introduce your customers to some of the personalities behind your brand. Freshbooks shared a short, playful video of one of their data analysts Fernando solving a Rubik’s cube, along with likeable videos that give viewers a look at the Freshbooks office and a little bit of information into the personalities of employees that work there.
    Both types of video help to personalize the brand and put real faces to the company. Videos like these show your customers that their decision to buy isn’t just profiting some faceless entity, it’s keeping real, relatable people that (hopefully) like their jobs in work.  

    5. Create a branded web series.

    To be honest, this option is likely to be more costly than any of the others listed here, but if you’re able to make the investment, it could be a great way to bring new interest to your brand. A number of brands have worked with creators to develop branded web series that are entertaining enough to gain wide interest from viewers, while relating to the brand behind them in some way. GoPro, a brand that targets its marketing toward an audience of adventurous types, has a documentary series called the Searching the Maya Underworld that follows explorers (using GoPro cameras) as they delve into a hard-to-reach cave.
    Meanwhile, Nike funded a narrative web series called Margot vs Lily about two sisters who make a bet about getting a new fitness channel off the ground. The series is subtle in its mentions of the brand, but is very in keeping with the types of topics the Nike brand emphasizes in its advertising.
    Both of these examples touch on a couple of things that make branded web series work:
    • They have to be on topics of interest to your target audience.
    • They should relate to your brand, without hitting your viewers over the head with brand mentions.
    If branded web series get the right traction, they can be big. A Contently analysis found that the average number of views for an episode of a web series is over 200,000 (although smaller brands probably shouldn’t count on a number like that, the median number of views is closer to 3,000). If you’re up for the challenge, a well-made branded web series could be a powerful way to reach more people and promote your brand through video. If you can figure out the right idea and approach to create a video that attracts attention and really speaks to your audience, video can be a powerful tool to cut through the noise and encourage more engagement with your users. Carefully consider how best to work video marketing into your content strategy and try to think outside of the box to bring your audience something new and interesting.
  • Dropshipping 101

    Monday, July 10, 2017 by
    Dropshipping

    The Beginner's Guide to Dropshipping

    Becoming an entrepreneur always involves risk, work, and cost. But the good news for anyone considering entrepreneurship today is that the internet makes it possible to pursue a number of paths to entrepreneurship that involve less risk and cost than used to be possible. One of those paths is to start a business that uses dropshipping.  

    What is Dropshipping?

    Businesses that use dropshipping depend on another company to store and ship all the products they sell. Instead of maintaining inventory in a storeroom or storage facility, they trust another business to take care of all the physical aspects of running a retail business and focus on the rest. How dropshipping works  

    The Benefits of Dropshipping for Your Business

    Dropshipping appeals to a lot of new entrepreneurs because it takes some of the more costly and complicated parts of running a business of your plate.  

    1. Much Lower Startup Costs

    You don’t need to worry about renting a storefront or storage space, a cost that’s often a considerable chunk of a new company’s budget. And you don’t have to pay for inventory in advance – another huge expense in starting a retail business - you can purchase it as it sells. On top of that, you don’t have to pay the cost of having items shipped to you, since they’ll be sent out directly to your customers. That’s several levels of savings that can make a huge difference in how much you spend to get your business off the ground.  

    2. Less Work

    Not having to deal with physical items doesn’t just save money; it saves on time and labor. You don’t have to worry about receiving shipments and unpacking and organizing the items inside. You’re also off the hook for preparing boxes for shipment or tracking inventory.  

    The Challenges of Dropshipping

    While starting a business that uses dropshipping has its benefits, starting any type of business will inevitably have its difficulties as well.  

    1. Logistics Can Get Complicated

    A lot of companies that use dropshipping work with multiple suppliers. That means it can get tricky to keep up with who has what in stock and which orders have been shipped. In addition, anytime a customer orders multiple products that are sourced from different shippers, you have to figure out how to manage the different shipping costs in a way that doesn’t cause a disappointing experience for your customer (hint: charging them for multiple shipments separately likely won’t go over well). While the process saves you a lot of trouble when it comes to things like tracking inventory and dealing with shipping yourself, drop shipping creates a different set of tasks and responsibilities you have to plan on dealing with.  

    2. Dropshipping is Competitive

    Because of the low overhead costs and easier start-up process, a lot of people build businesses based on dropshipping inventory. Some of those people are willing to price low in order to sell more, which makes it hard for anyone else selling similar products to make the kind of profit that makes the business worth it. This is possible to overcome. If you find a niche or some kind of unique positioning that sets you apart from the businesses competing on price, you may be able to reach the kind of customers who would rather go with a brand they relate to than find the cheapest seller. It definitely takes some work and strategic thinking though, and anyone that decides to run a business that uses dropshipping should expect to tackle that challenge.  

    3. It’s Still Running a Business

    Handing over a few of the tasks of running a business doesn’t free you from the many other types of work involved. You’ll still need a business plan and strategy. You’ll still need to build a website, do marketing, and offer customer service. You’ll need to do accounting and will probably need to find and hire employees and contractors. If it were easy, everyone would be an entrepreneur. Using dropshipping is easier than some other types of running a business, but any entrepreneur that chooses to pursue this business model should still expect to do a lot of work. HostGator Website Builder  

    How to Find Dropshippers

    Finding the dropshippers you’ll be working with is one of the most important steps in any business that uses dropshipping, and it can be tricky for a couple of reasons: 1. Many legitimate dropshipping companies don’t do much online marketing. Their websites are barebones and outdated, and they don’t bother investing in tactics like SEO. That means you’ll have to do some research and digging to find them. 2. Some of the websites that are easiest to find aren’t from actual dropshipping companies. Instead, they’re scammers or companies that claim to do drop shipping, while really selling products at consumer prices. If you don’t know better, it’s easy to get sucked in by these businesses because they’re the easiest to find, but they’re not the businesses to work with if you want to build a profitable business using dropshipping. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to find legitimate suppliers.  

    1. Research the manufacturers of your products.

    Start by looking into the companies that make the types of products you’ll be selling. Do some digging to find a contact number and give them a call to ask if they provide dropshipping. If they do, they’ll usually be your most affordable option. If they don’t, ask what distributors they work with. The list they provide gives you the next set of names to look into and get in touch with.  

    2. Browse an industry trade magazine.

    While dropshippers usually don’t bother much with online marketing, some do actively advertise in industry-specific trade publications. Flip through any relevant industry magazines you can get your hands on and make note of any ads that appear to be from companies that sell the kind of products you’re looking for.  

    3. Attend a trade show.

    If you can afford it, an industry trade show will be one of the fastest and most effective ways to make contact with the suppliers in your industry. Research the relevant tradeshows in your area and determine which make the most sense to attend. When there, spend time in the exhibits area talking to various suppliers and making contacts you can follow up with once you get home.  

    4. Go deep into Google.

    If the first three steps produced a decent sized list of suppliers for you to consider, then you may not need to bother with Google. But if you still feel you need more options, then be willing to really spend some time and go further into the Google search results than you usually do. SEO consultants sometimes joke that the best place to bury a body is on page 2 of Google, but you should be prepared to venture that far into the results to find legitimate dropshipping suppliers. One trick to help you find a relevant supplier more quickly is to limit your searches by location. A dropshipping company that’s located close to where most of your customers are likely to be will end up costing you less in shipping costs, so it pays to get specific.    

    5. Make sure they’re legit.

    Any company that charges ongoing fees will cut into your profits needlessly. Legitimate dropshipping suppliers may charge an upfront set-up fee and/or a per-order fee, but they won’t ask you to pay recurring fees that aren’t tied to specific orders. Consider placing a couple of test orders with a company early on so you can see the quality of the items yourself. These are the products that will be associated with your business and the brand you work on establishing; you want them to be up to your standards. Ask about the technology a supplier uses. A company that runs efficiently will make your life easier, so look for a supplier that’s willing and able to communicate and process orders online. Don’t be surprised if a dropshipping supplier won’t provide much detail on pricing or how they do business before you’ve set up your company as a legal entity. Their business model is based on selling to other businesses rather than directly to consumers, so you’ll need to demonstrate that you represent a legitimate business before they’ll be prepared to work with you.  

    How to Build Your Dropshipping Business

    Like any other type of online business you start, you’ll need to go through a few main steps in order to establish your dropshipping business.  

    1. Choose your industry.

    This is an important step to take before you start looking for dropshippers to work with. The industry you choose to work in will define the types of products you seek out, the audience you need to reach, and the branding you develop. Keep in mind that for a dropshipping business to be profitable, it helps to find a niche that’s largely underserved. Instead of selecting a broad industry, try to find a subset of that larger industry that doesn’t have too many sellers in it yet.  

    2. Research your audience.

    Every business is dependent on its customers, so do all the research you can to understand who you’ll be selling to. Develop personas based on your research to help guide your branding and marketing. This should also help you pick the best products for your company, since you’ll gain an understanding of the types of products that most appeal to the people you want to reach.  

    3. Define your branding and positioning.

    Now you have to develop your brand. Figure out what to call yourself and how you’ll position yourself in the industry. You want to figure out a way to set your brand apart from others selling similar items. That’s the only way not to get stuck competing on price.  At this stage, consider bringing in a marketing consultant to help you get started on the right foot.  

    4. Determine your pricing.

    It’s not just you, pricing is difficult for every entrepreneur. You need to figure out prices that cover your expenses and make you enough profit to make running the business worthwhile, but that aren’t too high to detract customers from buying. Do some browsing to see what other businesses are charging for similar products so you know the range you have to work within. Don’t try to be the cheapest option, but also don’t try to be the most expensive when you’re just starting out. Figure out a number somewhere in the middle that will work for you.  

    5. Build your website.

    The most important single tool that every online business has is your website. Find a reliable hosting provider that offers fast speeds and put together a site that looks good and is intuitive for your visitors. You can use website builders that make it easier to build a website on your own, or invest in a graphic designer to give it more of a professional touch. Your website will be the main face of your business, so make sure you build one worthy of the brand you want to project. Create dropshipping website  

    6. Create your marketing plan.

    Getting the website out there is the first big move to launching your online business, but your next big challenge is to get people to your site. That requires marketing. Consider hiring a marketing agency or consultant to help you create a plan that will get your website in front of people in your target audience. Do some research into tactics like SEO, PPC, content marketing, and email marketing. Your positioning is important to helping set you apart, but your marketing is what will really launch you ahead of competitors – but only if you do it well.  

    7. Develop your customer service plan.

    The first sale is always the hardest to make. The businesses that succeed in the long term are the ones that are able to get customers to come back. Make sure you have a customer service plan in place to ensure that every person who buys something from your business has a stellar enough experience to want to do so again. Offer discounts and incentives to repeat customers to encourage loyalty. Decide early on what guidelines and tactics you’ll use to nurture the relationships you have with your customers and keep them coming back. Yes, dropshipping is competitive. But good positioning, marketing, and customer service are the three most important tactics any business can use to rise above competitors. If you’re providing an experience that’s superior, you can get away with charging more without driving customers away. By making smart business decisions early on, you can enjoy the savings of dropshipping without falling into the trap of competing on price.
  • Using Email Marketing to Create and Grow Customer Relationships

    Monday, July 10, 2017 by
    Email Marketing Customer Relationships

    Why Email Marketing Is Relationship Marketing

    For small businesses, online competition is fierce. And that’s in part because you’re not just competing against other businesses for your audience’s attention, you’re competing with a person’s friends on Facebook, their favorite entertainment blog, the news, and everything else they seek out online. If you’re going to have any chance of getting and keeping your audience’s attention, you have to develop a relationship with them. You want your customers to think of more than just your products when they hear your brand name. To do that, you need to cultivate relationships that go beyond the transactional, and give your customers opportunities to interact with you at moments other than when they’re about to buy. Where building customer relationships used to primarily happen in person, that process has now largely moved online for many businesses. Instead of urging your audience to make stopping by the store a habit, you want to give them reasons to keep coming back to your website regularly. The most powerful marketing tool you have for encouraging habitual online interactions with your brand is email marketing.  

    Email is the Cornerstone of Good Relationship Marketing

    Email marketing is a cost-effective solution that gives you the power to reach customers in a place most people visit every day — their inbox. Anybody who takes the step of signing up for your email list is telling you they want a relationship with your company. That makes them some of the most valuable customers you have. The research backs it up: As with any marketing tactic though, the power of email marketing doesn’t lie in the platform itself – it’s all about how you use it. The reason email has so much potential for success is because it gives brands a way to reach loyal customers regularly and directly. Relationship marketing – a marketing approach that prioritizes developing an ongoing relationship with customers – depends on this kind of access. Once customers agree to let you in, you have the opportunity to show them how much they matter to you with the kind of valuable content and special offers likely to keep them coming back. You can practice relationship marketing through other channels – on social media, in customer service interactions, and with loyalty programs, for instance – but none of those provide the direct, consistent interactions that email does. It’s quite simply the most important component to any relationship marketing strategy.  

    Best Practices for Email Marketing

    Every time a person signs up for your email list, it’s a marketing triumph – but there’s no promise that their decision to opt into the relationship is secure moving forward. You have to earn that. And it can be a challenge to pull off. For your email marketing to succeed – not just in terms of getting you new sales, but also in giving your customers reasons to continue reading and interacting with your emails– you need to follow a few main best practices.  

    1. Make email marketing part of your content strategy.

    Email marketing works best if it’s folded into a larger content marketing strategy, because email and content marketing are a perfect fit. Your email list functions as a tool to promote the content your team produces, while your content does the work of enticing more people to sign up for the email list. As you use your content more and more over time to build trust with your email recipients, you increase their comfort and familiarity with the brand to the point where they’re likely to help you in your promotion efforts. Email subscribers are almost four times more likely to share posts on social media than those from another source. And your email analytics can provide useful insights to help you understand your audience better and tailor your entire content strategy over time based on what tactics, formats, and topics perform best with your subscribers. Email is widely considered one of the most effective forms of content marketing, but it can be as useful for how it helps you promote and strengthen your other content marketing efforts as it is in and of itself.  

    2. Follow the rules – give customers the chance to opt-in.

    When you ask permission, you’re able to build a list of subscribers who are interested in your business and excited to hear from you. 64% of people say the main factor in deciding whether or not to open an email they receive is who it’s from. If you buy an email list and start contacting people with no prior relationship to your company, they have no reason to open the email you sent. Worse, not recognizing who the email’s coming from makes it likely they’ll mark it as spam – 43% of people say they click the “spam” button based on what’s in the “from” field. When people mark your emails as spam, you can end up blacklisted by some email servers, making it less likely that your emails will reach the people who actually want to read them. That’s bad, but what’s arguably worse is that you hurt your chances of ever gaining trust from the recipient. If they lump your brand in with the hundreds of obnoxious spam emails they get a day – many of them from outright scammers – why would they ever want to start a relationship with your company after that? Permission-based email marketing is the best route to developing long-lasting customer relationships that can drive repeat sales and valuable word-of-mouth for your business. The benefits of email marketing are only possible if the people receiving your emails care enough to open them, interact with them, and continue receiving them. Don’t jeopardize that by trying to push emails on people that don’t want them.  

    3. Don’t over promote.

    This is a tricky line to walk, because on the one hand, 61% of people say they’re happy receiving weekly promotional emails from brands (and some say they’d even prefer more frequent promotions); but on the other hand, almost a third say they trust content less if it includes a pitch. You have to find the right mix between providing valuable, educational content to your subscribers and sending promotional offers. And there’s not a clear right answer to how that should work, it depends on your particular audience. Pay close attention to your email analytics. If your promotional emails consistently get great results, then your mix is probably okay. But if you’re getting a lot of unsubscribes or a general lack of response, then you may be overdoing it.   Pro tip: Give customers a choice. The complicated truth is that some of your consumers will likely have a much higher tolerance for getting frequent promotional emails from you (or even prefer it), while others will get turned off quickly by them. You can better serve each customer by providing different options for email frequency and letting recipients choose which one they prefer.  

    4. Use personalization.

    Marketing software makes it fairly easy to use segmentation in your email marketing. By creating different email lists, you can create more targeted email campaigns based on what you know about your prospects. Customers that are already familiar with your brand should receive different offers than new leads that are still getting a feel for who you are. And different leads can benefit from different email campaigns based on the actions they’ve taken. Use the data you have to figure out what topics and products they’re most interested in so you can increase the likelihood of only sending them emails they’ll find relevant. Emails that are personalized see 14% higher click-through rates and 10% higher conversions. And 74% of marketers that have used personalization in their email marketing say it increases customer engagement. Personalization also plays an important role in the relationship building that’s your main goal with email marketing. You can’t build a relationship with a list of names, you have to provide a more personal touch. But it’s hard to be personal with every subscriber when you have a large customer base. Using data and segmentation might not be on the level of the traditional handshake or wave you’d give when someone came into a physical store, but it can help you achieve a closer digital analogue to it.  

    5. Provide something unique.

    Your email subscribers have taken a big step in showing some level of loyalty and interest in your company. You want to reward that. Share compelling, valuable content they won’t find anywhere else, but also provide them with special deals and information your average Twitter follower or website visitor wouldn’t get. These aren’t just any customers; these are the ones that took the step of letting you know they wanted a relationship with you. Show them what that means to you by making sure your email campaigns center them and provide something valuable and special to them every time. Email marketing isn’t always easy to do well, but it can be so valuable in helping you build and maintain the kind of relationships you most want to have with your customers. And the customers who open your emails and visit your blog regularly are likely to be some of your most loyal and profitable customers. They’re worth nurturing.
  • Top Tech Trends to Watch in July

    Thursday, July 6, 2017 by
    July Tech News

    July 2017's Top Tech News Stories

    Every new month brings new tech news with it, and businesses have good reason to pay attention. New technologies, updates to current tech tools, and the moves of the big tech companies are all likely to have an influence on how you run your business. To help you stay in the loop, we’ve scanned the web to bring you the top tech news you should be sure to keep your eye on in July. Recommended WordPress Hosting

    1. Uber Undergoes Big Changes

    The tech news world has Uber on the mind. The company’s not new to scandal, but the past month saw the ouster of the company’s CEO, the continuation of an intellectual property lawsuit against the company, and accusations that they ignored clear warning signs in hiring a driver that allegedly raped a passenger. In spite of all the bad press and big changes in the company though, Uber recently announced that their drivers have provided over 5 billion trips. Even as things get rough, the company still maintains a significant portion of the ridesharing market share.uber 5 million rides  

    2. Amazon Broadens Its Business Empire

    The other big story that got lots of people talking last month was the online giant’s purchase of a giant in an entirely different industry. Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods suggests a big shift from the company into an industry they’ve only dabbled in so far: fresh food delivery. People can already order just about anything else they could possible need from Amazon, so why not add grocery delivery to the mix as well? While for some customers this looks like great news, for other companies in the food delivery business it’s troubling. Blue Apron’s IPO launched at about 50% less than the price they’d originally hoped for after news of the acquisition hit the news cycle. As Amazon keeps moving in new directions, businesses in a variety of industries keep having to scramble to compete with the company’s dominance.  

    3. The Petya Virus Reveals Our Cyber Vulnerabilities (Again)

    Last month we saw the WannaCry virus scare businesses and governments around the world into focusing more on their computer security. Without giving us much time to take a breath, the Petya ransomware attack hit a huge number of businesses and organizations throughout Europe and the United States. The malware program demanded $300 in bitcoin for people to save their files. If you’ve ever been lax about the security of your computer and website, these last couple of months have demonstrated the importance of acting to protect yourself. Make sure your website is secure and always back up your files.  

    4. WhatsApp Gains in Significance

    You hear about so many new apps and channels and platforms every day that it’s hard to know which ones are worth paying any attention to. A recent report suggests that WhatsApp is not one to be ignored. The app now trails only Facebook and YouTube in how frequently people around the world use it – beating out the much more talked-about platform Twitter.  If you’ve been ignoring WhatsApp so far, it might be time to familiarize yourself with the platform.  

    5. Twitch Releases Update

    The popular gaming platform has announced plans to launch an update this month that provides many features gamers have been asking for. The mobile update will include the option of streaming games directly on your mobile app, the addition of a “dark mode,” and easier navigation options.  

    6. New Video Conference Camera Goes to Market

    In a move likely to be relevant to a number of businesses, Owl Labs just launched a product specifically focused on improving videoconferencing. The new camera, called simply Owl, will record a 360º view of the room and automatically focus in on the person talking at any given time. For businesses that have a lot of meetings over video, the technology can simplify and improve the experience. And it adorably resembles an owl. owl labs

    7. Facebook and Google Move to Correct Privacy Issues

    Even as Facebook has comfortably dominated the social media space, it has time and again earned criticisms from users concerned about privacy. Google has similarly been successful in a number of areas its ventured into while also facing discomfort at times from users who feel the company goes too far in tracking and using the information they collect. Both companies are showing they’ve heard those criticisms (at least to a degree) and are taking some moves to respond to them. Facebook has released features that allow users in India to protect who has access to their profile pictures. Google has announced that those ads you see when logged into your Gmail account that creepily promote things mentioned in your emails should be a thing of the past, as they won’t have their algorithms scanning email content anymore for personalization. For those concerned about their privacy on these platforms, these steps seem pretty small, but they show that the companies are listening to user concerns to at least some degree.  

    8. Facebook and YouTube Take Steps Against Extremist Content

    Recent months have seen a rise in stories about extremist behavior. A lot of people believe that part of the blame for the rise in extremism is the accessibility of hate speech and other extremist content online. To do their part in helping curb the growth in extremist movements, both Facebook and YouTube are taking steps to identify and remove any content that’s hateful or promotes terrorist activities from their sites.  

    9. Congress Takes Aim At Internet Harassment

    For years, victims of online harassment have been complaining that the law hasn’t caught up to technology. The lack of clear laws or a process for responding to online harassment has given online harassers a lot of power over the lives of their victims, and the victims very little power to fight back. The Online Safety Modernization Act proposed by Rep. Katherine Clark seeks to change that. If the bill passes, it will outlaw abusive online behavior such as doxxing, revenge porn, and swatting. It will also provide funding to train local police in how to handle these types of crimes when they arise. While legislation likely won’t solve all the problems of people behaving badly online, it may well help the internet become a safer space for many of those victimized there now.  

    10. Companies Moving Us Closer to Having Robots in the Home

    Any tech innovation that moves us closer to the cool possibilities we saw in sci-fi movies will always be exciting, and several companies are working to move us toward a future where families can have robots in the home. The toy company Sphero is launching a company, Misty Robotics, that aims to create robot butlers that can tackle some of those pesky domestic tasks humans have to perform now. The home robot Kuri, from Mayfield Robotics, is becoming more advanced as the company continues to hone the technology. They’ve announced it’s now able to recognize pets, as well as humans, it can move around more smoothly, and it can livestream high-quality video. And finally, the German company Kuka that makes the robotics products that help build cars and machines is branching into the home robot field as well. With more and more companies moving into this space, the possibility that you’ll have an (affordable) home robot to help you out around the house in the next few years is starting to seem within reach.  

    11. YouTube Provides Better 360 Video Analytics

    A bit less exciting, but more immediately important to some readers will be YouTube’s announcement that it will be providing better analytics data to users that load 360 videos to the platform. The video platform will now use heat maps to demonstrate to video creators the parts of the 360 video that attract the most attention from viewers. If you use 360 videos in your marketing, this improvement will help you better understand what’s working.   The summer so far has been rife with exciting tech news and updates and there’s no reason to expect things to slow down now. Check back next month to learn the tech news to watch in August.
  • Take Your Online Business Offline

    Thursday, July 6, 2017 by
    Take Online Business Offline

    Taking Your Online Store from Website to Brick-and-Mortar Business

    For years, brick-and-mortar businesses heard constant admonishments to move online. Within the past few years, the idea of having a business without a website has come to seem absurd. But now, just within the last year or two, an entirely different and surprising trend has come onto the scene: online-only businesses expanding their offline presence. Warby Parker from website to brick and mortar retail stores Take Warby Parker, for example. The online store for glasses managed to establish a brand reputation and grow a customer base entirely online over the last few years. Recently, they’ve begun opening storefronts all across the nation for customers who like the idea of browsing for glasses in person. Wired, the technology magazine and online store, has started opening up a pop-up store in New York each winter for technology enthusiasts doing their Christmas shopping. Even a brand that’s entirely focused on the technological and online worlds has seen the benefits of moving into the offline space in this particular context. And Amazon, (arguably) the king of online commerce, has drawn attention this year for plans to open a number of types of physical stores selling groceries, electronics, and – going back to their roots – books. Amazon Books Retail Store If you feel like your online store is due for an expansion, it might be time to consider if you want to take the bold, but potentially smart step of moving part of your business offline.  

    Benefits of Expanding an Online Business Offline

    When we’ve all seen stories of retailers facing lost profits or even going out of business due to the competition of online shopping, it feels unintuitive - risky, even - to consider going the brick-and-mortar route. Yet, it does provide some tangible, meaningful benefits.  

    1. You can meet customers in person.

    Shopping online – just like running a business online – is extremely convenient. However, it takes one part out of the equation that a lot of people find meaningful: meeting with a person face to face. Being able to chat with a customer in person, offer them helpful advice and answer questions on the spot creates a more personal and meaningful experience for both of you. When a customer can put a face to the name and has a picture that pops to their mind every time they think of the brand, their relationship to your company will be stronger because of that personal connection.  

    2. You’ll reach a new audience.

    Popup shop for online business While nearly 80% of all people in the United States say they shop online, 65% of people still prefer the experience of shopping in a physical store. Many shoppers like being able to browse a number of items and see them up close before making a decision to buy. The experience of in-store shopping is something that just isn’t the same online. By branching out into a physical store, you can reach a set of people unlikely to find you online, where getting found is extremely competitive. You may well earn some new customers to your online store who were finally able to find you only after your opened an offline location.  

    3. It gives customers an easier way to try things on.

    This point doesn’t apply to every type of online business, but if you sell clothes, shoes, jewelry, or anything else people wear, the ability for customers to try the items on to see how they look is an important part of the shopping experience. Granted, when people order clothes online, they can send back anything that doesn’t fit, but that adds extra effort to the process (for both the customer and your fulfillment team). Being able to see how an item looks and fits before buying is a valuable part of the experience for many shoppers.  

    3 Forms Offline Businesses Can Take

    Think that expanding your online business into a physical location could make sense for you? Here are a few ways to do it.  

    1. A Physical Storefront

    The most common and traditional option is setting up a storefront for your business. If you think about most of the stores you regularly go to when shopping, this is most likely the type of physical business they have. What are the advantages of a physical storefront? To set up a storefront, you have to identify an available space to rent, fill it in with furniture, decorate it to match your brand, and then stock it with your products. When you have a consistent storefront location, you can make the changes needed to the space to make it suitable to your brand and products. It also makes it easy for loyal customers to know where to return when they want to buy more. What are the cons? The main downside to starting a storefront for your business is cost. Renting a space for a storefront is expensive. Making any updates to the space you feel are important to making it fit your needs is expensive as well. And hiring people to help you run it and wait on customers is another big expense. If your storefront doesn’t attract enough customers, then you’ll have a hard time breaking even. Recommended WordPress Hosting

    2. A Pop-up Shop

    If you’re not quite ready for the long-term commitment of a storefront, you can start smaller. Pop-up shops are temporary stores that set up in vacant spaces. You’d still need to identify and rent out a particular space for your store, but you'll only have the space for a few weeks. What are the advantages of a pop-up shop? This option allows you to try out different areas of town – reaching different customers as you go. It’s more affordable, less permanent, and can help you test out whether or not having a physical location makes sense for you. It’s also a smart option for any business whose sales peak at a particular season. If you primarily sell bathing suits, then just having a physical store in the summer will make more sense for your business than having one year round. What are the cons? The main downside of pop-up shops in comparison to storefronts is that you lose out on some of the consistency of repeat business. People who visit once and like you are less likely to come back if you won’t be in the same place next time you’re in the area. And it makes promoting your physical location a bit trickier if you're always moving around. Nonetheless, pop-up shops are becoming more common for businesses that sell seasonal wares, wish to take advantage of big events that attract a lot of people, or simply want to test the waters of having a storefront without making the long-term commitment.  

    3. Booth at a Flea Market or Street Fair

    Tradeshow booth for online business An even more low-stakes option than a pop-up shop is setting up shop in a flea market or street fair. What are the advantages of a booth? This option can be great for some types of businesses ­– particularly those that sell items of the sort people are likely to be looking for when they go to a street fair. Businesses focused on clothes, jewelry, furniture, crafts, or artisan items like handmade soap are all likely to do well here. And the costs of going this route are much less than those of setting up a space of your own. Plus, you’ll gain access to all the people who come to the fair or market specifically to shop – in other words, you reach an audience ready to spend money. What are the cons? With a booth, you can capitalize on the marketing done by the market or fair and the crowds they bring in. But in exchange, you’re surrounded by a lot of competition also vying for those customers. If you want to start with a relatively low-cost, low-risk way of branching into the offline world for your business, research your local flea markets or street fairs to see if one might be a fit.  

    Tips for an Effective Transition from Online to Off

    There are both a lot of differences and a lot of similarities between running an online and offline business well. If your online business is doing well, then you already have some of the most important stuff down: good products, good UX, and good customer service, for example. To make sure your offline business is just as successful, there are a few tips you should follow to handle the transition.  

    1. Keep your online brand alive and well.

    There’s no reason to give up on what’s already working. If your online business is thriving, treat your offline expansion as an additional component of the business rather than a replacement. Keep your current staff and policies in place and hire any additional staff you need to manage the physical location, so you don’t risk getting overwhelmed and putting both facets of your business – online and offline – at risk.  

    2. Research the best location for reaching your audience.

    For a brick-and-mortar business to succeed, the location has to be right. In most cases, no one’s going to drive far out of their way to come to your storefront. You want your business to be located in place where your customers will find it while out and about shopping for similar things. It should be convenient for them to return whenever they want to come back. Also think about practical issues like parking and how easy it is to see your business from the road. Your business will perform better if people can access your location without any extra effort.  

    3. Make sure your physical location is on brand.

    You want anyone familiar with your online brand to be able to immediately make the connection between your physical location and the brand they know. Your name and products will already be the same, but also be sure to use the same colors and logo and instill the same customer service philosophy in your employees at the physical location. Every experience a customer has at your physical store will now influence their view of your online brand. You want that to be a good thing.  

    4. Use your offline presence to promote your online presence (and vice versa).

    Every customer that likes your brick-and-mortar store is in the target audience for your online store. Likewise, any online customer that’s located close to your physical store could be interested in checking it out. Use your website to promote your physical location, and let the customers that visit your physical store know about your website. You can even sweeten the deal for regular online customers by offering a discount when they shop at the offline store, as a way to get more people through the door in those first weeks and months. Ecommerce is still a big part of how people will be browsing and shopping in the future, but the brands likely to perform the best in the coming years will be those that figure out how to thrive both online and in person.