All Posts By

Kevin Urrutia

Small Business Problems

By | Marketing | No Comments

5 Typical Small Business Problems and Best Ways to Tackle Them

There is nothing small about managing a small business – this particular company profile makes up the majority of the economic capital of many countries of the world, making it a very competitive business model, and a very profitable one when you find the perfect gap in your market. Precisely due to the massive competition and the continuous technological advancements that keep all companies on their toes, small businesses often encounter issues that hinder their growth.

How you tackle them matters especially during the first several years of your existence, so the following tidbits of advice can help you define the best ways to handle your setbacks and ensure optimal growth for your small business!

Building a reputation

For companies of all sizes, small ones included, whose names have been known for a while, it’s easy to talk about getting new customers or keeping the existing ones. They know the ins and outs of their niche, and they know their customers so well that it’s very difficult for newbies to step in and steal their spotlight. However, a new business has to start from scratch and become a household name from a completely anonymous company.

There are several ways to deal with this issue, from talking directly to your target audience, testing your marketing and design ideas, all the way to finding platforms where you can make your business known to others. Social media is the modern-day chatroom for brands, so make sure that you inspire engagement from day one and collect as many honest reviews as possible – this type of feedback is crucial in establishing your name in the market.

Keeping up with the times

As we’ve previously mentioned, living in the era of constant advancement makes it difficult for small businesses to keep up. There is always another project management platform to try, or another marketing trend to follow, and your budget is far from infinite.

Make sure that you know what your competitors are doing, how they position themselves, how your customers’ views are changing, and the tech trends you could introduce. Anything and everything all the way down to the latest hashtags can make or break your campaign, or even your growth rate on a much larger scale.

Staying afloat

The old saying that you have to spend money to make money stands true especially for small businesses, and making the right investments at the right time is key to growth. However, every company has to factor in the high likelihood of spending more than it makes in the first year or so, and find a contingency to cover the necessary expenses.

If, for example, you need to work with a marketing agency to boost your online ranking, or you need to maintain your payments to a bookkeeping company, using a payment portal can be the right solution for you. Once you start making more than you spend, paying off this loan will be a much easier task than making up for lost marketing efforts you had to invest in.

Finding and retaining talent

Reputable companies have it easier in yet another respect – they can find qualified employees who are much more eager to stay on board. While you certainly have much to offer, you also need to communicate the perks and challenges clearly in order to attract the right talent.

From making sure they know what to expect in terms of benefits, such as paid leave and health insurance, all the way to presenting and clearly outlining what their job should entail, every future employee should feel eager to join your team and help you grow. If you cannot communicate your passion and share your values with your potential employees, you’ll face a similar challenge when it’s time to define and reach out to your customers.

Wearing many hats

As a company owner, the key manager, the head of your finances, and the head of marketing, among many other roles, keeping up with the needs of each of your departments will become overwhelming sooner or later. And it is to be expected, since another saying comes to life in this area of business, and that is that a jack of all trades is a master of none – and you need to define your role and delegate.

Negotiating with clients, signing contracts, and similar priority work can always reasonably fall under your scope of work, but daily sales, invoicing and other tasks can easily be delegated to your team, or even outsourced if needed. Just make sure that your attention where it’s needed the most, and you’ll allow your business to grow!

 

Content Marketing Tactics

By | Marketing | No Comments

Content marketing is a foolproof way to capture a lot of attention. According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is 62% cheaper than outbound marketing, yet it can create up to three times more leads and results. But the benefits of content marketing are not only limited for marketers. Small B2B companies that blog regularly generate up to 67% more leads on a monthly basis as compared to their competitors who don’t.

As we spend hours scrolling through our mobiles and laptops, the demand for exciting new content is even greater now. Producing quality content that grabs the attention of customers requires a lot of research, time and effort. This is why many small business owners often struggle to produce engaging content that can uplift their digital marketing strategy.

Content marketing, if done intelligently, can convert any boring digital marketing campaign into a super successful one. You can get exceptional click-through rates, conversion rates and engagement rates- all through a few content marketing tactics. So, if you haven’t used it to boost your digital marketing campaigns yet, this article is for you.

1- Understand your target audience

You can’t develop an effective content marketing strategy without target audience analysis. It is crucial to know what your audience can resonate with before you start designing your digital marketing campaigns.

Here are a few questions that will aid you in identifying your core audience and create content that is tailored to their needs:

  • Who will be interested in the product/service that you offer?
  • What are their pain points and how can you offer solutions?
  • Is there anything that can help you streamline this process?

By answering these questions, you can develop a cost-effective content strategy and help you be more successful by targeting a specific niche. After all, to be a good marketer, you must understand the customer. Regardless of your business niche, try to provide value for your potential customers, rather than focusing on hardcore selling strategies. Learn more about how Neil Patel spends $30,000 for content and gives it away for free!

Educate instead of selling! With this attitude, you’ll get great content and much more brand awareness on social media.

2- Optimize your headlines

An informative blog with a poor headline will flush all your efforts down the drain. A headline acts as an invitation for fans and followers to click on our link. This is why you should develop some killer headlines that can convince and convert your readers. Headlines with an emotional message work exceptionally well for increasing your click-through rate and also help in getting your content shared across social media.

Try to opt for headlines that start with words like ‘How to’ or with a number of ways to get things done. Likewise, create content that resonates well with your target audience to increase its chances of being shared.

3- Use proper keywords

Before you start creating your content marketing strategy, it is crucial to research the effective keywords. They will help you perform better in the SERPs. Instead of finding one or two common keywords, try to find the best possible combination of keywords that will help create catchy headlines and improve your search engine rankings.

4- Be consistent with your posts

Content marketing is just like a fitness routine- you have to stick to it if you want to see results. In order to maintain your brand’s reputation and attract loyal followers, you should post valuable content consistently. Take a look at this case study by Pepe Jeans, a global fashion brand- by improving their post frequency and creating localized content, they managed to increase comments on posts up to 70%, boosted engagement levels by 48% and reached a Facebook fan base of more than 2,000,000.

5- Repurpose old blog content

You don’t have to come up with new content for every single blog post. Learn how to repurpose old content and gain extra traffic by sharing it through different channels.

You can turn an article into a small video or an infographic or a downloadable lead magnet (PDF). Once you have the new forms of content ready, start sharing them on the platforms best suited for them. Videos go on YouTube, Slides on Slideshare and Infographics can be sent out to bloggers so that they can add them to their site and link it back to your website.

6- Concentrate on your star social network

Instead of spreading yourself too thin, try to find social media platforms that bring you the most viewers. Trust us- it is easier to maintain the quality of one channel instead of trying to be a jack of all trades. The point is to stick to one social media network, develop a relationship with your viewers and thrive a strong community before you decide to move to another platform.

YouTube? Facebook? Instagram? Snapchat? Decide what is best for your company and develop a digital marketing campaign accordingly.

7- Get an influencer on board

According to a recent study, 94% of the marketers agreed that influencer marketing was an effective digital marketing strategy. But before committing to a certain influencer, it is important that you do your research and examines their audience and trustworthiness.

H&M has one of the largest numbers of Instagram followers, thanks to their effective influencer campaigns. They make sure to bring fashionistas on board who reflect H&M’s vision through their own personal style statement. H&M partnered with fashion blogger Julie Sariñana for its fall 2017 catalog. She loved the clothes so much that she promoted it through her own Instagram account too:

8- Keep bonus content for your email subscribers

An eye-catching email newsletter is a sure-fire way to get results for your digital marketing strategy. Make sure that your email newsletter contains ‘bonus content,’ as it will get you a lot of email subscribers and will help it stand out among the barrage of automated email newsletters in a person’s inbox. Be sure to add a professional email signature at the end to make even more impact.

Read more about tips to create an effective email marketing campaign here.

Conclusion:

Content marketing can do wonders for your digital marketing campaign. Just focus on providing value-based content and raising brand awareness- the conversions will follow automatically!

Do you have any more content marketing tactics that can boost a digital marketing campaign? Share your tips with us in the comments below:

About the Author:

Alma Causey is a Freelance writer by day and sports fan by night. She writes about tech education and health-related issues. Live simply, give generously, watch football and a technology lover.

 

 

 

 

How to Choose the Right Hardware for Your EPOS System

By | Marketing | No Comments

In a society that is evolving to use less cash, an EPOS system is an essential addition to your business. How often have you had people asking you if you take cards? If you don’t, you run the risk of losing custom — accepting debit and credit card payments is vital for business growth.

Whether you are a one-man band or the proud owner of a restaurant empire, you can leverage technology in your business. EPOS systems level the playing field between David and Goliath by making technology more accessible — it was previously only an option for larger companies.

Now anyone, no matter how large or small, can have access to the latest in POS technology, putting technology at the heart of their business.

If you are new to the world of EPOS, you may wonder where to start.

Identify your business’s needs 

There are many options available to you, but you must first identify what you need from your EPOS system. An EPOS system isn’t just a place to stash cash, and you should be clear on what one can do for your business — choosing the right EPOS system is just one part of the puzzle. You need to make sure that your EPOS hardware does what you need it to.

This way you’ll be able to choose a system that has the features that you and your business need.

Do you want your EPOS to link to your e-commerce store? Do you want to be able to ring up orders anywhere in the store? Do you need a reliable receipt printer? Or perhaps you need a barcode scanner for speedy service. Perhaps you’re looking for a solution that gives you the functionality of a full EPOS but with a small footprint.

The hardware that you choose will impact on what your EPOS system is capable of, and how you use it.

iPads 

The system that you choose needs to be easy for employees to use.

iPad EPOS systems are the go-to solution – Apple is so successful because their software is designed to be fast and intuitive. One major benefit of an iPad-based EPOS system is that your staff will need virtually no training — they’re already used to the technology and iPad interface — unlike old proprietary touchscreens or punch tills, which require specialist training.

They’re also far easier to service. If your touchscreen till breaks down then you might have to pay for a repairman to come out and service it, or, worse, pay thousands of pounds to replace the whole system. By contrast, if the iPad that you’re using as an EPOS stops working, you can simply download your EPOS app to another iPad and use that instead.

Unlike proprietary touchscreen and push-button point of sale systems, which utilize specialist (and, all-too-frequently very expensive) technology, iPads are consumer goods priced for the average consumer. You can find iPads for sale in pretty much any town center, or get one delivered to your door with just a few clicks. If cash flow is an issue, then there are a plethora of second-hand models available for significantly less than what they cost new.

What’s more, iPad EPOS systems are far more aesthetically pleasing than the original cashpoint service tills. iPads are easily portable — or, if security is a concern, you can opt for a secure iPad stand like the Heckler WindFall. This stand screws into your countertop making it as close to theft-proof as possible.

Receipt printers

You may find that your business’s premises dictate the type of EPOS hardware you go for — and receipt printers, which connect to your iPad in a variety of ways, are no exception.

Receipt printers tend to connect to your iPad using either Wi-Fi, LAN, Bluetooth, or USB, and each type of connection has its own advantages and drawbacks. Wi-Fi printers are flexible and you can connect several to a single iPad, but they’re harder to set up and rely on you having a stable Wi-Fi network.

USB printers, by contrast, connect directly to your iPad using a Lightning cable, so you’ll never lose connectivity. The drawback of this is that you can only connect one printer to your iPad.

You also need to consider the number of transactions that the hardware is likely to have to cope with. A Bluetooth printer is a great option for many businesses, but if you experience a high volume of transactions, your business could be better served by a LAN receipt printer for fast, long distance, reliable communication.

There are two major providers of EPOS printers — Star Micronics and Epson. Their products are largely similar, but some EPOS systems only integrate with one or the other, which is something to bear in mind if you’ve already got EPOS printers set up.

Most receipt printers are thermal printers, but in particularly hot and crowded kitchens then an impact printer like the Star SP700 might be a better option. These are noisier and print at a lower resolution than thermal receipt printers but they are harder-wearing.

Or, if you need to scale down your footprint then one option might be an all-in-one model like the Star mPop, which combines a cash drawer and a receipt printer into one sleek, piano-black unit.

Card readers

Along with the iPad and the receipt printer, the card reader is another vital piece of the EPOS puzzle. Being able to take advantage of the latest payments technology is a key reason to upgrade from a cash register to an EPOS system.

Payment processors tend to supply their own card terminals — normally on a lease — so the specific terminal you get will depend on the payment processor you choose. But all card terminals do the same thing, more or less: they allow you to take card payments.

After that, form tends to follow function — readers like SumUp and iZettle’s are small, sleek, and easily pocketable. They’re pretty much a PIN pad and a screen, powered by a rechargeable battery.

Other card terminals have larger screens on which you can display your branding, and some others have inbuilt receipt printers for customer card receipts — these are made by Worldpay, and are leased to merchant providers like Paymentsense and PayZone.

Pretty much every modern card terminal comes with NFC capabilities, meaning they can accept payment using contactless cards and phone-based payment systems like Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Another thing to keep in mind is whether your card terminal is integrated with your EPOS system. If it is, you can send payment details directly from your iPad to your card reader — if not, you’ll have to type in each transaction manually. Integrated payments are a real boon if you’re in a fast-paced environment with lots of transactions to process.

To Conclude

An EPOS system can’t change your business, but it can certainly add to it.

You want your customers to enjoy the holistic experience and environment of your business, and there is no reason why the design elements need to be compromised by the style of your cash drawer and printer. This is your opportunity to get rid of your cumbersome cash register!

You need to be clear about what you want and be vocal about your needs to your supplier. Once your supplier understands how you need your EPOS system to perform, they’ll be able to direct you to the most relevant hardware and help you to find a system tailored to your requirements.

With USB, Wi-Fi and NFC-enabled EPOS hardware, you can boost efficiency every step of the way. The data that an EPOS system collects will give you increased visibility of your business, unlocking actionable insights. Find out when the busiest times are, what are your most popular products, and what percentage of customers are new or returning — data which can be used to make fact-driven decisions to boost your business’s success.

George is one of Nobly POS’s co-founders. He’s completed a masters in Management and Organisational Analytics and has helped build digital teams and products for companies such as BSkyB and McKinsey & Company. It was at the latter where he met his fellow Nobly co-founders and the rest is history — they’ve been providing EPOS systems for coffee shops, delis, restaurants and bars for five years.

 

Digital Marketing Strategies That Are Still Ignored By Experts

By | Marketing | No Comments

Are you looking for digital marketing strategies? Maybe you’re new to online marketing, or perhaps you are just looking to step up your game. Either way, here are 6 digital marketing strategies to improve your digital marketing skills.

  1. Social Media

Social media is an incredibly popular and ever-evolving platform. From Facebook to Twitter to Instagram, social media is all around us and serves various purposes. One of the best purposes it can serve to someone looking to market to consumers?

Advertising and introducing products. It has been found that if social media is a part of a consumer’s path to them using a product, then consumers convert at a 129% higher rate than if social media was not used (Rare Staff, 2018). In addition to this, customers are four times more likely to buy from a brand that uses social media than one that does not.

An amazing example of social media marketing done right can be seen if you look at Arby’s social media rebranding in 2016. By engaging the interests of the public while still displaying and advertising their product, Arby’s has increased by over a million likes on Facebook since 2016 and have 3 million active followers of their Facebook page.

This kind of engagement drives up revenue and sales all over the world, catching the attention of consumers online (McFadden, 2016). All of this and only using one simple tool. In the short 280 character limit of Twitter, a quick post or ad on Facebook or a picture on Instagram could drive up sales for your company.    

  1. Videos: Podcasts and Live Videos

It’s needless to say that videos have been a part of marketing for years now. From advertisements on television to promotions through movies or you tubers, videos are heavily featured in marketing. But what are some new and interesting ways to use them?

In today’s culture, one popular method is podcasting. Podcasting, while commonly audio, can include filming members of your company (perhaps even yourself) as you sit down and talk about topics for the week (or month, depending on how frequent you would like to make these podcasts).

These podcasts could be specific to your company as you go through new products, remind viewers of old ones, or talk about ways to use them. You could also talk about more general topics, for example: a movie company may review current movies while a laptop company may talk about the latest innovations and discussions presented at the CES this year. Whatever your company may be, there are plenty of topics you could fill your podcasts with (Goldman, 2018).

But, maybe a long podcast isn’t your company’s kind of thing. Then consider looking into live videos on social media platforms like Facebook. These live videos notify followers when you go live and can bring an exciting and engaging feature to your digital marketing, allowing consumers to ask questions as you reveal a new product, check out demonstrations and get a more personal feeling to the videos they watch for your company. So if you’re looking to spice up your video marketing, live video is a great place to start.

  1. Mobile Marketing

Mobile marketing has a variety of meanings. The two main focal points of mobile marketing are these: Mobile Apps and Mobile Websites. First, websites since their creation have been intended for internet browsers on desktops.

However, with phones and tablets ever-growing popularity in digital markets, it is important to incorporate better ways to interact with consumers on mobile devices. This means that it has become incredibly important to have a mobile website available for customers.

One of the biggest mistakes companies make is assuming their website designed for desktops will translate fine on a cell phone or tablet. The problem with this is how coding for websites works. In traditional HTML, the spacing of the website is based on how it will load on larger screens, like a 1024 pixels by 768 pixels screens.

However, the average phone has a must smaller screen that is larger vertically than it is horizontally. This is problematic when the coding of a website fails to place pictures or text where it is supposed to be and can make a website not optimized for mobile usage look tacky or unprofessional to the mobile consumer. It’s best to prevent this by designing and incorporating a mobile website into your company to prevent any distaste from consumers.  

  1. Prioritize Blogging

Increasing in popularity, blogging has been a great asset to companies to increase outreach and get better flow through websites. As blogs attract consumers, soon you will find the money spent on blogging will return to you as search engines increase the traffic flowing through your websites and blogs.

Statistics show that marketers that blog are 13 times more likely to get a positive return on investments. In addition, 67 percent more leads are generated for blogging than for companies not blogging (Goldman, 2018).

And before you completely shoot down this method of digital marketing, look to the website you are on right now. What brought you here? The need for SEO help, or this blog post?

  1. Prioritize your customers

Customers are everything. Regardless of whether you are a legal firm or an essential oils company, companies can’t exist without customers. While you can spend time focusing on polishing and rebranding your marketing strategies, it’s important to remember the most important part of marketing.

Keeping the customers you already have before driving them away in favor of new ones. Loyal consumers will be of great benefit to your company in the long run. So, while you may find it appealing to buy that Facebook ad or spend money producing an ad for television, don’t forget to make your company active and engaging with its current consumers.

Send out emails and offers, give them special perks for staying engaged with your company. Don’t neglect the one thing that is most important to any brand: the customers.

  1. Analytics and Tools

Finally, take advantage of the analytics and tools at your disposal. Google Analytics and Facebook Analytics are only some of the wide variety of tools which are at your disposal as digital marketers. Look at these to see what is best at engaging consumers.

Check out your Facebook analytics to see what posts worked best at enticing consumers and then look to replicate these posts as you continue to build your company to greater heights in the digital world. Whether you enjoy doing so or not, looking at your company’s digital analytics will give you an edge that you need in today’s digital age.

If you’re tempted to skip it or investigate it later, just remember that your competition is likely using analytics already, so you need to stay on top of the game (Bullas, 2017). Digital Analytics is the way of the future.

Author: Usman Raza is a freelance writer, marketing specialist at Crawford and O’Brien and co-founder of Usman Digital Media. When not working, he’s probably spending time with his family. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

 

5 Best Shopping Cart Software to start an eCommerce Business

By | Marketing | No Comments

Looking to go beyond the horizons of Brick & Mortar stores? Absolutely a fantastic idea! But embarking on digital selling is easier said than done. At the very outset, you have to take an important decision – Do you want to sell products on your own website or on Amazon?

No doubt, you can sell your products through existing platforms such as Amazon, eBay etc. But hey, Amazon and eBay are product-centric. They aren’t seller-centric. And this fact is a no-brainer- Competition on Amazon, eBay etc., is obsessive and intense. For all intents and purposes, the thrill of building your own online store and doing business is inexpressible. And here’s another reason to start your own eCommerce site – You need not pay any commission to renowned international marketplaces.

Now that you have genuine reasons to start your own eCommerce business, let’s look at the best shopping cart software.

#1: PrestaShop

This international shopping cart solution is programmed in PHP. Across the world, it’s used by more than 270000 shops. Its user interface is perfectly intuitive. You can download the software for free but pay for its web hosting. If you aren’t cautious and diligent enough, you might end up paying a fortune for its hosting and set-up.

This e-commerce software is backed by a community of 800,000 members. They are doing their very best to keep Prestashop exclusive to open source e-commerce community. Thanks to their efforts, this shopping cart software is available in as many as 65 languages.

Other noteworthy features:

  • More than 50 world-class payment processors
  • More than 5000 modules and themes
  • Designer guides
  • E-commerce analytics
  • SEO and mobile commerce

PrestaShop is ideal for medium and large businesses. It’s not recommended for small businesses. If you need many add-ons, this shopping cart solution can become expensive. If you don’t have technical expertise, you may have a tough time!

#2: OpenCart

OpenCart is one of the best shopping cart software. It’s free to download and highly customizable. Just like PrestaShop, it’s programmed in PHP and has a huge pool of community members. Thanks to their monumental efforts, OpenCart has more than 13000 extensions. The latest version is OpenCart Cloud. But it’s not perfect. There are quite a few bugs and the development team is working on them.

OpenCart’s dashboard is clean and systematic. There are interesting features such as the discount engine, sales reports and analytics, multi-language and multi-currency support etc. You can easily customize your products and incorporate category meta tags.

Other noteworthy features:

  • Beautiful themes
  • Error logging module and unlimited listings
  • Backup and restoration tools
  • Accounting and marketing
  • Product review and rating

OpenCart is free to download and upgrade. But you cannot use it without a web hosting, SSL certificate, and a domain name. You should spend some significant money. Also, customer support is limited. While there are numerous integrations, most of them aren’t free.

If you are a small/midsize business, OpenCart is for you.

#3: Magento

On Magento, the user experience is simply top notch. Many proponents of this shopping cart solution vouch for its bundle of features such as scalability, high-level security, great resource library etc. The fact that many popular brands use Magento speaks volumes about its popularity. Customer support is exemplary. There are various resources such as an informational blog, knowledge base, chatting forums etc.

Other noteworthy features:

  • More than 9000 plug-ins
  • Open source
  • SEO and Social commerce extensions
  • Catalog and product management
  • Private sales
  • Robust inventory management
  • Seamless checkout and multiple payment gateways

If you are a beginner, it’s likely to find Magento not at all easy to use. Its Community edition is available for free. But it has its own set of limitations. The Enterprise edition is expensive. Customization and set-up are complicated. This shopping cart solution is best suited for corporate stores.

#4: BigCommerce

Keen on making BIG money in e-commerce business? BigCommerce will surely assist you in your endeavors. It’s a SaaS (Software as a Solution) shopping cart solution. In other words, you don’t own the software. You are required to pay a monthly fee to use it.

This platform can be used for selling both physical and digital goods. And unlike Magento, BigCommerce caters to non-tech savvy people as well. If you have little or zero expertise in HTML and CSS, it makes no difference!

BigCommerce has advanced features such as automated image optimization, integration with powerful email services such as MailChimp, Constant Contact, iContact, etc. Content management and product review functionalities are robust. There is a wide range of professional reporting tools as well.

Other noteworthy features:

  • Multiple payment gateways
  • 7 free themes and 120 paid themes
  • Shopping cart abandoner
  • Great drop shipping support
  • The straightforward and intuitive user interface

There are limits imposed on annual sales. If you exceed them, it’s mandatory to upgrade to expensive monthly plans. Themes are very expensive. BigCommerce starter plan isn’t affordable for starters. The built-in blog feature is impressive. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support RSS feeds.

If you are looking for a professional and e-commerce centric business solution, you should try BigCommerce.

#5: Volusion

Volusion is yet another best shopping cart software. Just like BigCommerce, it’s a SaaS (Software as a Service) e-commerce solution. World over, Volusion is used by more than 40000 shops. As a matter of fact, these 40000 shops generate an estimated $17 billion in sales.

There are two versions of Volusion – V1 and V2. The biggest difference between these two versions is the presence of transaction fee in V2. The transaction fee is zilch in V1. But there are impositions on bandwidth allotment. If you overshoot your bandwidth allotment, you are required to pay $7 per GB. In V2, there are no impositions on bandwidth allotment. However, the transaction fee is charged and is anywhere between $0.5 and $2.0%

More often than not, both the versions register an impressive 99.9% uptime. For all intents and purposes, the platforms are PCI compliant. Round the clock assistance is a boon to beginners and ambitious eCommerce entrepreneurs.

Other noteworthy features:

  • Built-in email marketing system
  • Step-by-step tutorials
  • Social media sharing plug-ins
  • Mobile management
  • Returned Merchandise Authorization tool

While round-the-clock assistance is definitely in the offing, Volusion’s customer service is spotty and erratic. Of course, both the versions are PCI compliant. However, if you are running your store on V1, you still have to pay for SSL certificate. Transaction fees on V2 is an unending pain.

Volusion is definitely a long-term investment option. But I cannot wholeheartedly recommend it due to its limitations.

I hope this article on 5 best shopping cart software to start an eCommerce business gave you an overview of different e-commerce solutions. There are many node js shopping cart solutions that are worth trying.

Got any doubts? Got any queries? We’d love to hear them. Shoot them in the comments below. I shall reply in a day or two. Keep watching this space for insights on node js shopping cart solutions. Cheers!

Advertising Trends to Pay Attention to in 2019

By | Marketing | One Comment


For the past six months, digital advertisers have been busy implementing marketing strategies in accordance with trends that looked promising around this time last year. And now that we are at the halfway point of 2018, it is time to begin this cycle anew.

While the trends of yesteryear won’t start losing relevance just yet, a slew of new ones is already on the horizon. Since marketing is in a constant state of flux due to technological developments, shifts in consumer opinion, or the introduction of the new legislature, staying on top of trends is par for the course for everyone involved in the field.

Unfortunately, the dynamic nature of modern marketing makes it easy for opportunists, charlatans, and con-artists to peddle their spiel with impunity, usually by promoting advertising ideas and techniques that have little basis in reality. So to understand what is going in marketing, and where things are heading in the coming year, you first need to separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff, i.e. figure out which trends are going to be worth your time.

To aid you in this task, we have scoured the web for trends that show the most promise, gathering the results in a handy list which you can find below.

1. Marketing Automation Through AI

Over the past several years, AI-based technologies have slowly been making their way from R&D labs into the mainstream. Enterprise-level AI solutions, as well as consumer-grade AI products, are becoming more widely available, and as a result, they are seeing increased use in multiple industries, including marketing.

In terms of advertising, what AI brings to the table is smart automation. As marketing is becoming more data-driven, there is a rise in demand for systems that can process vast quantities of information in real-time, and then act on the results without needing additional oversight. Since AIs are better equipped than humans to handle these tasks by design, marketing agencies are starting to make more use of them in their day to day operations.

Some of the examples of AI-driven marketing automation include:

  • customer profiling, whereby customer activity is being tracked across multiple channels and networks, allowing marketers to have an accurate, up-to-date picture of their target audience at all times
  • chatbots, which are a powerful tool for customer engagement, as well as a means to automate processes such as customer support
  • advanced performance tracking for advertising campaigns, which is essential for making adjustments on-the-fly

2. Content Adapted for Voice-Search

Mobile-first design is a trend that has taken off a while ago, and it has caused numerous offshoots in the process. One of them is a renewed focus on voice-search. Browsing the web on a portable device while on the move has led hardware designers and software developers to explore user interfaces, and voice-based ones have proven to be one of the more convenient options. The fact hasn’t gone unnoticed in the world of marketing.

What voice-search brings to the table in terms of marketing, is a new paradigm for content creation. Presently, digital advertising content relies on phrases and keywords that target written search queries. Such queries are expressed in a particular kind of lingo, which differs from the one we use in everyday speech. Since voice-search queries are more likely to be phrased in the latter, creating content that matches the tone, grammar, and vocabulary of an everyday spoken language is set to become a priority in 2019.

Adapting marketing content for voice-search involves:

  • using long tail keywords, phrases, and sentences, instead of abstract arrays of words which are better suited for written search queries
  • anticipating the specific questions consumers are making, and creating content that has the form of an answer you would get in conversation
  • optimizing for local SEO, as voice-search queries usually have immediate practical significance for the consumer

3. Combining Video and Native Marketing

Video content has skyrocketed in popularity in recent decades thanks to platforms like YouTube, Twitch, Netflix, and Vine. Video advertising quickly followed suit, as evidenced by the plethora of ads that you can see running before, after, or during videos hosted on these services. More recently, video advertising has begun to transition into a new phase, one that is marked by the ample use of principles of native marketing.

Instead of creating a video with the specific intent to promote a service or product, marketers are now attempting to blur the line between advertising and regular video content, as per the principles of native marketing. This simply means that the ad part of the video is no longer separated from the content. In other words, video ads no longer have a recognizable form that can be used to identify them, allowing them to bypass consumer resistance to ads.

To capitalize on the new wave of video advertising, marketers ought to:

 

  • start working with influencers and other independent video creators. The indie scene has traditionally been the source of some of the best video designs in the recent years
  • optimize video for viewing on portable devices, in order to capitalize on the growing mobile audience
  • integrate video content into websites and social media profiles, to ensure maximum possible exposure

4. AR-powered Multimedia Advertising Campaigns

Augmented reality is still a technology in its infancy, but what we have seen so far shows a lot of promise. The ability to add digital properties to physical objects is a game changer for industries such as marketing, which thrive on multi-channel interaction with consumers.

The idea behind AR advertising is to give the consumer a fully-immersive experience while maintaining complete control over all channels of interaction. AR advertising campaigns share a lot of similarities with video-games. Each action the player takes and each piece of feedback he receives are meant to keep him engaged with the overarching narrative, which is itself based around a particular product or service that is being promoted.

Some of the benefits of AR-powered advertising are:

  • increased consumer engagement, in response to being given an opportunity to participate in a fun activity
  • positive word of mouth on the street, as a result of consumers interacting face to face with each other during a campaign

In conclusion

If these trends are anything to go by, 2019 is shaping up to be another promising year for advertising. New technologies are being introduced, old strategies are being updated, and the industry as a whole is growing. Keeping an eye on trends is the essential part of future-proofing, and we hope that our article has brought you up to speed on what’s likely to happen in the world of marketing in the coming year.

Five Companies Changing the Game of Advertising

By | Marketing | No Comments

It is one thing to keep your advertising unique amongst your competitors. It is something else entirely to change the face of advertising as we know it. Some companies and small businesses do well enough just surviving while others make their mark on advertising. You may not see your business as a trendsetter, but it can be helpful to see the companies that are changing the game to get some ideas and inspiration.

Advertising is a world that thrives on change. When new consumer preferences and technologies come to the table, companies need to change their marketing strategies in order to keep up with the times. Otherwise, these companies will fall behind the competition. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to find the new solutions and tactics to keep your business and its advertising efforts moving forward.

For some help, here is a look at five companies that are changing the game for themselves and others.

Tillamook

You probably do not recognize this brand name since it lacks the global punch of more major corporations. That fact, however, has not stopped this farmer-owned business cooperative from putting its own mark on advertising. What is so special or game-changing about a company that does not have its own Super Bowl ads?

It has been around for a while. The game-changing aspect about Tillamook is the fact that it refuses to die as industries and marketing shift. While other businesses fail to keep up with the changing times, this company has been at the forefront of marketing and its changing trends for an impressive 109 years.

Since its beginnings as a cheesemaker in 1909, Tillamook has weathered many challenging periods, like the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. These days, the company is utilizing social media like Instagram and Twitter, talking about Greek yogurt, showing exploding ice cream and demonstrating what the deconstruction of a grilled cheese sandwich actually looks like.

The lesson here? Age is not an issue in modern advertising.

Wieden+Kennedy

It’s not always the company retailing its products that can change the face of advertising. In fact, it makes sense that some influential businesses are those that spend 100 percent of their time actually focused on marketing — like ad companies. One of the most well-known agencies that have influenced the industry for the past 35 years is Wieden+Kennedy.

This ad agency built its reputation doing some stellar work for Nike back in the 1990s. Responsible for showing sportswear in a way that made shoes cooler than shoes should be, W+K has long known how to adapt to the changing times while setting some trends of its own. With the rise of social media marketing and other new technologies, the advertising agency was one of the first to expand marketing campaigns beyond just the 30-second TV spot.

Today, W+K is pushing advertising into the experiential realm. Using new technology like virtual reality, 3D printing, and sports analytics, the company continues to work with titans like Nike and KFC, creating a custom sneaker innovation lab for the former and a VR training program for the latter.

Forsman & Bodenfors

Some companies do not get high marks for pushing the limit in terms of “cool” advertising. While many ad agencies and business corporations are trying to create the next viral hit or new immersive experience, others are content with keeping it simple. The advertising agency known as Forsman & Bodensfor from Sweden is changing the game by bucking the trend of “new & cool.” Instead, they like to change the advertising channels.

Having worked with big names like Uber, Volvo and H&M, the advertising agency knows that good marketing is all about being unique. In some ways, changing the game of advertising is unique in its own right. Unfortunately, most advertising campaigns are not effective if they are just innovative.

Therefore, F&B has demonstrated they are capable of being innovative and effective at the same time. Case in point, they turned Airbnb into its own advertising platform by listing Sweden as a possible place to rent and stay. Want an entire country to call your own for a weekend? Come to Sweden!

Adidas

Many sportswear brands have pushed the boundaries of traditional advertising. In fact, many notable brands, including Adidas, introduced the very idea that advertising does not require a television or printed ad to be effective. “Lifestyle branding” came about as millions saw well-known athletes wearing athletic wear as everyday clothing.

While Adidas does not have the same punch as other brands like Nike, they have been doing some subtle but cool things in recent years with their marketing. In particular, the growing trend of wearable technology has become a new outlet for the company as it carves a niche in this new advertising space.

For example, Adidas is succeeding in the native advertising space more than other sports companies have in the past. The All Day app has become a popular fitness tracker and health resource that helps spread brand awareness while offering useful content to customers at the same time.

Red Bull

No discussion of game-changing companies would be complete without mentioning the one that has done more trendsetting in advertising than virtually anyone else. Going from an energy drink company to a worldwide brand that represents extreme thrill sports, Red Bull has done more than giving the world a catchy slogan.

More than anything else, the company brought advertising into the world of action sports. By sponsoring events, merchandise, athletes and more, the company has turned the experience into an advertisement. These days, they continue to bring a new action to sports and experiences while expanding the brand and product lines.

One innovative strategy that really stands out is Red Bull’s use of social media and new video technologies to bring the experience (and advertising) to people who aren’t there. By using things like 360-degree video cameras and live-streaming services, the company increases its audience numbers beyond the physical location limits. They also maintain one of the best social media platforms with outstanding, engaging content.

How to Monitor Android Phone – Parental Monitoring

By | Mobile Apps | No Comments

Having your teen getting enthralled about the launch of the latest Samsung Galaxy S9 is no more a bolt from the blue. The latest feature-rich Android smartphones fascinate our teens more than the adults as they allow texting, making group video calls, surfing the internet, exchanging media files with fellows and buddies and much more exciting features. However, the excessive and unrestricted use of these smartphones can be more harmful than advantageous.

In this digital age, our teens dedicate most of their working hours to the social networking platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Tinder among others. The time they spend using social media platforms can be the riskiest period as they may expose to the cyber-bullies, child predators, sex offenders and online criminals out there. The commonly used dating and socializing apps are causing more harm to our youngsters than good. Today, the parents are required to be informed of the online threats and keep tabs on the digital behavior of their children.

By good fortune, we have several applications to monitor android smartphones of children. These apps enable parents to keep tabs on the activities of kids in the online and real world. Read on to know how you can monitor Android phone remotely and secretly without giving any hint to your kiddo.

How to monitor Android phones with spy app?

There are numerous spy applications rightly available in the online market. However, picking the most suitable and reliable app can be a hard nut to crack if you do not have enough information about the spy applications. To help you get a trusted and feature-rich Android spy app we have reviewed the highly rated monitoring and tracking apps of which TheOneSpy can be recommended to parents.

Once you get yourself registered to the Android spy software, you are provided with an online control panel through which you can monitor and record almost all of the cell phone activities of your teens and tweens. All you need to do is to install the spy software on the Android phone of your kid. After successful installation, the software gets access to the mobile phone data and uploads that data to the online control panel from where parents can review and download that data.

Track Social Media Apps on Android Phone

Among the high-tech features of TheOneSpy Android spy software, social media monitoring is the most appreciated feature. It enables parents to keep an eye on the activities performed by their kids on social media platforms including Facebook, Skype, Instagram, Snapchat, Tinder, Kik, WhatsApp, Hike, Telegram, Zalo and Yahoo Messenger. All the conversations, exchange of media files and social media posts of your kids can be reviewed from the online control panel of the spy app.

Record Calls on Android Phone

Have you ever wished to tap the secretive phone calls of your loved ones? With the Android tracking software, you can record all the incoming and outgoing calls of your kids with getting access to their phones. The spy app automatically records all phone calls either received or made and uploads these recorded calls to the control panel of the spy app.

Monitor Surroundings of Targeted Android Phone

The Spy 360 feature of the Android tracking software enables parents to keep tabs on the real-life actions and conversations of kids with a simple click. As you send a command to the targeted phone from the online control panel, it starts showing you the surrounding scenes. Also, it lets you listen to the spoken words and sounds in the vicinity of the monitored phone without any delay.

Monitor Online Activities of Android Phone

Whatever your kids do on their Android phone connected to the internet can be monitored with the help of the spy software. From the internet browsing history to the credentials of the online accounts of your kids, you can trace almost all of their online activities and restrict their access to the objectionable content prevailing on the internet.

The Bottom Line

There are several other ways to monitor the Android phone of someone else using the Android spy software. It lets you trace the activities performed on and in the vicinity of the targeted cell phone without leaving any clue for the user of that device.

The Dos And Don’ts Of Facebook Marketing For Real Estate Agents

By | Marketing | 3 Comments

Looking to get the word out about new properties on the market? Interested in attracting new clients? Facebook offers a gold mine of opportunities to agents savvy enough to take advantage of it — real estate being one of the industries with the highest ad conversion rates, according to Wordstream.

So, if you’re a real estate agent wondering how to use Facebook to the fullest, here are some basic do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.

  1. DO set up a separate Facebook page. It’s as true for real estate as it is for any other business: Advertising on Facebook starts by establishing a professional Facebook page. While you could post new listings and information on your personal page, it’s technically against Facebook’s Terms of Service to use personal accounts for commerce purposes. You want to separate your business in some way so it’s easier to connect with new prospects. Keep in mind, by the way, that you are looking to connect with prospects — not other agents, not competing brokers and not colleagues.
  2. DON’T neglect that page. After you’ve set up your Facebook page, the last thing you want to do is forget about it. Rather than letting it languish, keep it updated — daily or even multiple times a day. Swap out your cover photo often to feature new listings. Create a “featured listings” tab where you display current properties for sale. Post helpful photos, video, tips and other information that will appeal to your audience. This helps them stay engaged with you.
  3. DO act as a local resource. Part of building credibility in your geographical location involves showing prospects that you know (and are updated on) what’s happening in the community. Post about local events, activities or news. Share locally focused resources that will appeal to both buyers and sellers.
  4. DON’T ignore analytics. Through Facebook Insights, you have automatic analytics tied to your Facebook page. This can give you data about audience demographics so you know who’s looking at your page and can better craft content to reach them.
  5. DO direct new leads to your page. Whether it’s through business cards at open houses or weekly email newsletters, keep generating new leads to your Facebook page and keep inviting them to like it. A one-time connection is good, but an ongoing relationship through Facebook marketing is even better.
  6. DO interact with prospects. Respond to every comment someone leaves on a post, as well as to any direct messages you receive. The more communicative you are, the easier it is for prospects to connect with you.
  7. DON’T be afraid to share testimonials and reviews. Building trust is a complicated process. To convince buyers and sellers to work with you, you want to show them why they should. Post photos with happy customers when you close deals. Share testimonials from clients who’ve been pleased to work with you.
  8. DO run highly targeted ads. Use Facebook’s Power Editor to create ads highly targeted to specific groups of prospects. Craft calls to action tailored to each group, and use them to direct people to signup forms on your website.
  9. DON’T forget why you’re on Facebook in the first place. Too many agents fall into the trap of pursuing likes just to have likes. Keep your main goal — generating leads that can become customers — front and center. According to Inman, you should be running a 2:1 ratio of page likes to email addresses secured; aim all your content and efforts toward that goal.

Using Facebook properly as a real estate agent is all about focusing on the goal of generating new leads. Use the tips above to guide your efforts, and start leading more prospects to you!

 

Author bio: Shanna Mallon is a contributing writer for Straight North, one of Chicago’s top Internet marketing agencies. She’s also been a freelance writer since 2007.

How Blockchain is Affecting Content Creators on Social Media

By | Marketing | One Comment

While it’s true that blockchain is still a relatively young concept in the grand scheme of modern technology, it’s implications are already massive – and far-reaching – being felt in nearly every corner of the Internet that you can think of. Case in point: blockchain technology isn’t just changing the way that money is traded over the Web, it is also poised to impact how people create and share content on social media on a mass scale moving forward.

What is Blockchain, Anyway?

But before you can get a better understanding of how blockchain is affecting content creators on social media, you need to learn a little bit more about what it actually is to begin with.

At its core, blockchain is a type of digital ledger system in which transactions made in various cryptocurrency forms (with Bitcoin being perhaps the most famous example) are recorded both chronologically and publicly.

To break things down a bit, a typical transaction goes a little something like this:

  • Party A requests a transaction from Party B. Money, and specifically, cryptocurrency is about to change hands.
  • That requested transaction is then broadcast to a peer-to-peer network of computers, also commonly referred to as “nodes.”
  • Those nodes then validate the transaction, along with the user’s status, using a series of sophisticated, known algorithms.
  • After the validation is complete, the transaction is then combined with other transactions to create an entirely new block of data for a ledger.
  • That new block is then added to all existing blocks (hence the name “blockchain’) in a way that is both A) permanent, and B) totally unalterable.
  • After all of this has occurred, the transaction is now complete.

There are a few additional things that you need to know how all this works. For starters, like cryptocurrency itself, blockchain is designed to essentially “de-emphasize” the role of a traditional financial institution in financial transactions. You’re essentially removing the need for a major bank or other entity to be involved at all, bringing the power of financial transactions right to the people – similar to P2P file sharing, albeit on a larger scale.

Secondly, because the blockchain isn’t actually stored in any single location, the records it keeps are available to the public and are easily verifiable. Instead of being hosted by one computer in a bank server room software, it’s literally hosted by millions – and the data contained on it is accessible to anyone with an active Internet connection as a result.

But the real benefit here is one of security. Because there is no “centralized” version of the blockchain, there is no way for a hacker to corrupt it. It’s a truly distributed database in every sense of the term.

Now that all this is out of the way, we arrive at the original question: “how, exactly, is blockchain affecting content creators on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more?” The answer, to put it mildly, is “quite a lot.”

Blockchain and Content Creation: What You Need to Know

According to a number of experts, much of the current growth that cryptocurrency is experiencing – and indeed, the continued use of the blockchain – can be attributed directly to social media. In fact, social media and blockchain have had a very close relationship for almost the entire lifespan of both concepts.

In the early days of social media and content creation, it was possible to make a lot of money in a relatively short amount of time just by being savvy about what you were created, how often you were creating it and who, specifically, you were targeting. Sadly, those days seem to be over – at least from a conventional perspective. Forbes agrees that currently, content on social media really benefits the platform itself more than the people actually creating it, at least as far as money is concerned.

A number of companies, however, have begun using blockchain to develop solutions designed to address this issue head-on. WildSpark is just one example, which uses blockchain technology to allow content creators to get paid for their efforts from their users directly. So when you sit down to create a scatter plot or a survey with a tool like Visme (which I’m the founder of) and then publish it on social media, you don’t have to worry about the platform you’re using making all of the money. You get to enjoy the increased level of brand awareness and engagement that content brings with it – along with the revenue it directly generates – all at the same time.

Essentially, a solution like WildSpark is to social media sites like YouTube as cryptocurrency itself is to a centralized bank. Instead of having the social network make all the money and then pass along a far smaller share to content creators, that middleman has been eliminated entirely. But even more than that, blockchain is literally being used to give content creators better control over how their content is shared, distributed and even consumed by their target audiences.

At the end of the day, blockchain is helping content creators all over the Internet by making sure that they receive more than just “recognition” for all of the hard work that they’re doing on a daily basis. Not only is it a way to guarantee them 100% ownership (and all earnings that occur as a result), but it also gives them better input over pricing decisions and other distribution elements at the exact same time.

Social media was created with the intention of empowering people and from a certain perspective, blockchain is only taking those concepts one step further. If anything, it represents a major shift in the playing field in terms of who holds all the power on the Internet – one that will absolutely continue to disrupt content creators and consumers alike moving forward.

About the Author:

Payman Taei is the founder of Visme, an easy-to-use online tool to create engaging presentations, infographics,  and other forms of visual content. He is also the founder of HindSite Interactive, an award-winning Maryland digital agency specializing in website design, user experience and web app development.