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How can customer reviews help your e-commerce site?

Posted Wed, May 14, 2014 by Julie Short

Nobody’s surprised at how quickly e-commerce sites have grown in popularity: today’s consumers want access to things from all over the world, and they want to research their investments before buying. With the rise in ecommerce, the competition between different sites has grown increasingly intense. One thing that makes a big difference in sales and can set an ecommerce site above its competition is the presence of customer reviews. Even for small businesses with brand-new ecommerce options, customer reviews can make a world of difference in sales and subscribers. Here’s how.


Reviews inform potential customers.


The modern consumer wants to be informed before she invests her hard-earned money in a product or service. In fact, 61 percent of customers want to read online reviews before they make a decision about purchasing a product.


Reviews give buyers a real-world opinion of a product, both good and bad.


Some business owners worry about allowing online reviews on their site. After all, what would happen if some customer left a negative opinion? As it turns out, even negative reviews do their part in increasing sales. In fact, potential customers suspect something is not quite right if all the reviews are positive. No business can be that perfect. An estimated 30 percent of customers believe all positive, glowing reviews are phony. A recent study found that even bad reviews help improve conversion rates by 67 percent, meaning that it is ideal to a have a mix of both positive and negative reviews.


Not only does the presence of negative reviews make the site’s customer review aspect seem genuine, it also helps customers know what the worst aspect of a product is, according to an MIT technology review. In other words, if a customer is reading a review for a phone, and a negative review states that the phone’s battery life begins to dwindle after a year of use, the customer can then decide if that is a big enough issue to prevent them from buying the product in question. Many times, complaints about color options or superfluous issues like those are not a big enough problem to prohibit a sale.


Customers have a chance to share their thoughts.


Aside from helping potential customers decide if a product is right for them, having customer reviews on an ecommerce site also gives previous customers the chance to express their feelings. Many times, happy customers want a way to share their positive experience with a product or service, and a customer review section is the ideal location for them to do so.


They’re easy to create.


If you’re an ecommerce site owner, you should utilize customer reviews if only for fact that reviews increase conversion rates – and adding them is a simple process. You could encourage customer feedback by offering a reward (like a freebie or a discount on a product) for opinions, or you could just provide past customers with an easy way to leave feedback. Regardless of how you go about garnering reviews, it is important that you understand the many benefits of customer reviews on your ecommerce site.


Ecommerce site owners should always be looking for ways to increase their conversion rates and overall customer satisfaction. Adding a customer review option to a site is an easy way to do just that – and it’s all-natural advertising.

 

Posted in : Websites , e-commerce | 
Tags : e-commerce , reviews


Button, button: creating call-to-action buttons that work!

Posted Wed, May 7, 2014 by Julie Short

Having a social media campaign is a huge step forward for any business – but social media marketing doesn’t stop at just maintaining a website, your Facebook page, and your Twitter account. To develop loyal followers who can eventually be converted to customers, you need to go one step further and entice your viewers to become involved by using a call-to-action.


Even if you don’t know it by name, you’d recognize a call-to-action (often abbreviated CTA) even if you were blindfolded. It’s your kid following up a surprisingly practical list of reasons for owning a dog with a less practical plea to get the puppy. It’s getting “The Look” as you drop your date off at her door. There’s a reason for you to go through with something – you just have to agree to do it.


On a website, a traditional call-to-action might be a reminder at the bottom of the page for customers to call your company today. But in today’s market, you are more likely to ask the potential customer to click on the call-to-action button to connect via social media. A few factors can help you make your call-to-action buttons more successful.


What is the purpose of your call-to-action button?


Your call-to-action buttons should be geared toward a specific purpose – not just be on your web page or blog simply because you think they should be there. If your goal is to increase likes or followers on Facebook, include a button linking to your Facebook account. If you want to encourage visitors to download an informational pamphlet, the pamphlet could be the focus of your main CTA button.
Determining the purpose(s) of your CTA buttons can help you prioritize which ones you want to display. One or two buttons are typically sufficient; having more than that can confuse customers and distract attention and energy from your main goals. If you are unsure about which actions have the highest priorities, list out the result of each (revenue generated, technical complication). Then decide which buttons deserve the prominent space on your page.


Make your buttons informative


People tend to skim, not carefully read. They may be unlikely to read the entire web page to find out why they should click on the call-to-action and what the results will be. A more successful approach is to develop a button that includes text stating exactly what the button does or why visitors should click on it. Here are some generic examples:

  • “Click here to like us on Facebook.”
  • “Limited time offer - get your free download now!”
  • “Take our survey and enter to win a prize.”
  • “Click here to follow us on Twitter and reveal the rest of this article!”


The call-to-action can be more effective if you create a sense of urgency by placing a time limit on an offer or offering to reveal interesting information once the viewer clicks the button.


Consider other details of your call-to-action buttons


Your call-to-action buttons need to be visible but not overwhelming, easy to use, and represent your business as credibility and trustworthy.

  • Be sure that the color of the call-to-action button contrasts with the background color of your website so that it is easy to see.
  • Make the call-to-action button big enough to see, but not so big that it appears to be a paid advertisement from a third party.
  • Consider a floating button or set of buttons so that the reader can click on the call-to-action button from any point on the web page without needing to scroll up or down to find it.
  • Include your privacy policy near the buttons to increase user trust.

You can increase conversions by making your call-to-action buttons easy to use and encouraging for readers. Track your button conversions and see whether you can make them more effective for your business. (We bet you can now!)

 

Posted in : Website Content , Tips and Tricks , SEO/SMO/SMM | 
Tags : call to action buttons


Contact forms not working? Here's how to fix it

Posted Wed, April 30, 2014 by Julie Short

It seems like every single website has a contact form these days – but does that mean these forms are effective at generating more leads? As it turns out, success takes more than simply sticking a form online and hoping people fill it out. Use the following tips to make your contact form an effective way of attracting interest and leads.


1.    Keep your number of fields to a minimum. A HubSpot study showed that lowering the number of contact form fields from four to three raised response by almost 50 percent. Think about it: the more fields someone has to fill in, the more opportunities they’ll have to get bored, rethink giving out their information, and develop carpal tunnel.


2.    Don’t be nosy. To build on the minimum number of fields, avoid asking for any info that’s not totally necessary. In most cases, you can get what you need with a person’s name and some form of contact. Wait to get the more personal stuff until after you’ve already communicated with them and established trust.


3.    Loosen your grip on formatting. Don’t make your visitors angry because your form requires specific formatting. Remember that any information submitted via forms can be automatically standardized using specific coding on your back end. You can also guide users to use correct formatting in the first place by using ghost text – that light-colored suggest text that’s in the fields of some forms.


4.    Emphasize user-friendly formats. Highlight the field that the user's cursor is on; make it easy for them to debug things like incorrectly formatted email addresses; and set up all of the fields and buttons in a predictable sequence. Pay special attention to the "submit" and "cancel" buttons. Make sure that the submit button is the first thing after the last form field so that people who have been tabbing through the form don't accidentally hit cancel instead. (That’s the worst.)


5.    Let users know that you aren't a spammer. We come in peace! Tell visitors exactly what you'll do with their contact information. Assuming you don't intend to sell a list of email addresses, let people know that you won't sell, rent, or otherwise share their contact information.


6.    Make your drop-downs smarter. If you use a drop-down list for the country field, put the ones that your targeted audience comes from at the top. This is especially true if your would-be customers come from the USA or the UK. The letter "U" is a long way down from "A," and it's annoying to have to scroll so far to get to it. First world problems, right?


7.    Encourage browsing. Let people see your site before you ask them to fill out a contact form. A trend has emerged where sites will pop a newsletter signup window up right on top of the content when a visitor first arrives. While this guerilla tactic can work fine for newsletters, it's not so great for contact forms. In fact, it probably hurts your conversion rate. It makes more sense to give people a chance to see why you're worth communicating with before you ask them to do so.


If your contact forms haven't been bringing in the number of leads you're looking for, implement a few of these tips. By keeping things simple, you'll make it easy for people to fill out the form on a whim. Once they do so, your sales team can eventually turn these contacts into more customers.

Posted in : Websites , Website Content | 
Tags : contact forms , websites


5 Ways for Small Businesses to Streamline Inventory Management

Posted Wed, April 23, 2014 by Julie Short

Staying buttoned up and accountable with your business is crucial – and especially so in regards to your inventory. Inefficiencies or inaccuracies in inventory management can waste money for your company and lead to unsatisfactory customer experiences. We’ve rounded up five of our most effective ways to streamline your inventory management system – all of which are straightforward to implement and will work in the long-term.


1. Accept and utilize new technology.


Inventory management software can help you – you guessed it – streamline your inventory management system. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, for example, can successfully take charge of planning and tracking inventory – almost as well as (or even better than) a new employee could. This type of software can be customized to your business to handle sales tracking, purchasing, and the myriad other aspects of inventory.


2. Focus your energy.


Inventory itself is hard to get a handle on – so focus your energy on the following categories in order to keep track of it. Replenishment; safety; and prevention and anticipation of extra or obsolete stock.


3. Use a cross-functional team.


Most of the time, many different departments within an organization will be involved with inventory.  It makes sense then, to use a cross-functional team to plan out your inventory: everyone will be on the same page, and you might hear from departments that aren’t getting their needs met.  Plus, you’ll be able to ensure that the stock you order coordinates with a given marketing campaign or smaller team’s efforts.


4. Focus on the supply chain.


We said earlier to focus on replenishment, safety, and avoiding obsolete stock – but you should also be paying close attention to your supply chain. Review all the different parts in your supply chain and make sure they are all working efficiently... one cog can throw off the whole inventory wheel. If you don’t already have one, implement a distribution strategy to improve customer service and delivery time. Don’t forget to keep track of the location of your inventory - everything from raw materials to finished goods. You can use spreadsheets to keep tabs on this, but customized inventory management or ERP software will take the headache – and a lot of wasted time – out of the equation.


5. Reduce inventory.


You can also streamline your inventory system by carrying fewer items. Reduction might not be right for everyone, but there’s something to be said for curation over just collection. When you have larger numbers of fewer items overall, you’ll find that it’s easier to predict quantities and to lower your amount of safety stock. If you want to offload some of your existing stock without just waiting to use or sell it, you can try returning it; reselling to other companies; giving it to your employees; or selling to customers at a reduced price.


Your inventory might be considerable in volume, but there’s no need for it to be more of a burden than it’s worth. Get in touch with us to learn more about the crazy-good things a solid inventory management system can do for your company.

 

Posted in : Business Strategy , ERP | 
Tags : inventory , ERP


Is your accounting software system costing you money?

Posted Wed, April 16, 2014 by Julie Short

Computerized accounting isn’t inherently efficient.


At this point, nearly every business uses computers for its accounting. Software for the everyman – like Excel – makes the process extremely accessible to organizations of all sizes. So, as long as you are more advanced than pen and paper scribbling, you’re up to date – right? Everything seems to be running smoothly so, if it's not broken, why fix it? We have some answers to that question : some businesses have broken accounting systems and they don't even know it. Worse still, it's costing them time, money and customers.


Is it time to customize your accounting?


Every business is unique and has different needs and goals. Even two businesses in the same field offering the same products and services will each have their own set of priorities. Maybe it's customer retention, or maybe it’s market expansion. Perhaps cutting costs is a crucial goal; maybe you want to focus on adding new product lines. Whatever priorities a business sets for itself, accurate accounting systems are crucial to reaching those goals successfully.


Consider a recent article by Forbes writer Bill Conerly. Conerly posits that a business can be hemorrhaging cash, but without a clear, succinct vision of its cash flow, there is no way to correct the problem. Almost any accounting system can tell whether a business is generally profitable from month to month, but what happens when it shows a loss? Does the system show exactly where that loss has occurred? Without knowing precisely what's going on, Conerly explains, and being able to identify the exact dollar amount a project is costing or making your company, there is no way for a business to choose a clear solution to the problem.


This is where a customized accounting software system or custom-built application becomes invaluable. To succeed, every business needs an accounting system that can help it accurately track its income streams, overhead and costs. With that information in hand, all of those crucial business decisions about marketing, expansion, investments and project bids can be made with confidence and accuracy.


These signs point to an outdated accounting system!


Still on the fence? Not sure you need a new accounting software system? There are other telltale signs that it's time to give your accounting system an overhaul. Here are a few of them.

  • It's hard to find the data you need in time to make important, time-sensitive business decisions.
  • The data bases crucial to the running of your business have outdated or inaccurate information.
  • You've outgrown your data storage capacity.
  • An unexplained expense creep is cutting into your profit margins.
  • Security breaches are a growing concern -- for either you or your customers.
  • It's become difficult to anticipate cash-flow needs.
  • Reports and records have mathematical errors.
  • Your sales staff can't close deals because they can’t access necessary data.
  • Sloppy record keeping has triggered financial audits.
  • You need to do extensive research to find out if a given project, employee or department is showing a profit.

If any of these sound familiar, it may be time to look at your accounting system. After all, it's not just a record of your business activities – it's a vital business tool driving growth, sales and profits. Don't let an antiquated -- or nonexistent -- accounting software system keep your business in the Stone Age.

 

Posted in : e-commerce , CRM | 
Tags : accounting , web applications


6 Ways to Generate Leads with Social Media

Posted Wed, April 9, 2014 by Julie Short

We’ve discussed the benefits of claiming social media accounts for small businesses – and now we’re back on it to get into the specifics.


When it’s used effectively, social media has the potential to take your business to the next level. While the ultimate goal of social engagement and sharing is to convert leads into paying customers, the initial goal is to generate more leads to give your company a wide base of potential clients. If you’re an old pro at social media, you already know that having a meaningful network is much more useful than having thousands of followers or likes that you pay for. Before you can focus on conversion, you have to focus on establishing a solid following.


The good news: social media platforms are so wide-ranging and extensively used that they provide businesses with unprecedented opportunities to attract a broad consumer base. Below are some of our best tips for generating leads via social media platforms.


1. Build relationships.
Consumers tend to patronize businesses with which they feel a personal connection. Consumers want to know that you listen to them and will respond to their needs. Along that line of thinking, an easy way to build relationships using social media is to be responsive. Always respond to customer comments on your Facebook page, Twitter account, or blog – even if (especially if) they’re not flattering. Courteous, helpful responses from you will encourage people to keep coming back to your feed – and they often attract your followers’ friends as well. On the other hand, neglecting your pages makes you seem cold or unconcerned about your customers’ needs.


2. Cultivate your presence.
When you’re able to get someone’s contact information, be proactive about generating leads with it. Send out regular emails or even text messages with updates and deals to entice people to visit your web page or social media accounts. Millennials in particular tend to appreciate being recruited. They are aware that they have multiple options for goods and services, and a large part of their decisions rests upon how earnestly you try to connect with them.


3. Offer incentives.
All consumers like to find good deals, and you can generate leads by offering incentives in exchange for interest in your company. Offer coupons for discounted, upgraded, or free services to those who become your Facebook friend or refer other leads. Buying followers won’t do you any good in the long run – but drawing in followers with discounted products is an effective way to create new customers.


4. Keep your social media platforms current.
An outdated site or social media account is unlikely to draw much (positive) attention; visitors who do happen upon a neglected web page or Facebook account probably won’t return because your business doesn’t seem worth patronizing. If your website needs an update, call in the pros – they’ll know how to give your site a fresh look without disrupting your functionality (in fact, they’ll probably improve it).


Keep your social accounts current by making sure that any special deals are posted and by removing information about events and specials that have ended. To keep your website humming with activity, post regularly on your blog and participate frequently on Facebook and Twitter. You can share helpful industry-related information – for example, how to choose an event-appropriate dress if you’re in the fashion industry – or company-specific updates – like the flavor of the day if you are the owner of an ice cream shop.


And lest we forget: regularly updated websites, blogs, and social media accounts perform better in search engine rankings, which usually translates to better leads and conversion rates.


5. Ask for reviews.
Strong reviews can generate more leads. Ask current or past customers if they’d be willing to write a testimonial or reviews of your company for your website or online directories. To encourage them, send out text message or email reminders after they use your services – whether they are in your brick-and-mortar store or office or made an online purchase.


Another way to get people to write reviews for you: offer discounts or incentives on your social media accounts for everyone that fills out a survey or review for you. As much as positive feedback is a good thing, you don’t want a ton of canned reviews – readers appreciate honest, authentic feedback.


6. Stay relevant.
Focus on keeping your brand consistent and unified. Be sure that your website links to each of your social media accounts, and vice versa. You don’t want to deter any potential visitors with inconsistencies. Your social media accounts can serve as a place for your business to be more personable and transparent with customers – and to reinforce your existing branding. Some potential customers might find you via social media instead of your site, so remember to feature information about your company and who to contact on your social media profiles.

 

Posted in : SEO/SMO/SMM | 
Tags : leads , social media


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