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4 ways for traditional brick-and-motar businesses to embrace cutting-edge technology

4 ways for traditional brick-and-mortar businesses to embrace cutting-edge technology

Businesses don’t have to be exclusively e-commerce to use new technology as a launching point for growth. Technological advances can offer more convenience for the customer, more data for the business — and huge potential for growth. Here are four ways even more traditional businesses can adapt new technology for the better.

Consider augmented reality.

Augmented reality applications allow consumers to preview a product in their homes before actually making a purchase — but this technology isn’t limited to just big business and online stores. While major retailers have the budget for launching their own AR options, small businesses can use services to add the feature to their own.  For photographers and print shops, for example, platforms such as Shoot and Sell, Studio Pro and Swift Galleries allow small businesses to show their clients what a particular print or canvas would look like hanging in their own home.

The beauty of integrating new technology is that there’s often similar technology that makes it actually easier to implement. For example, product-based businesses could use 3D scanning apps to show potential customers a 3D look at the different options.

Try a voice assistant.

Shopping online isn’t nearly as convenient as asking a smart home assistant to do the shopping for you. Building apps or skills that can be integrated into Alexa, Siri, or Cortana assistants adds even more convenience for customers. Working with voice control will require a bit more skill — probably contracting a programmer specialised in the task — but can be helpful for businesses that have customers frequently re-ordering the same things or any business where added convenience is a big plus (such as pizza delivery).

Customer loyalty software brings personalisation in-store.

Personalising the customer experience ins’t exclusive to ecommerce. Using customer loyalty programs allows even small businesses to track what each customer likes to buy and when, and whether that customer shops online or offline. Thankfully, a number of different customer loyalty software programs allow even smaller businesses to implement a system.

Customer loyalty is a technological win-win. Customers get discounts and personalised service, while businesses get access to data that can help increase sales. Loyalty programs can also be integrated into other aspects of your business, like expanding your email marketing with personalised recommendations.

Accept contactless payments.

Technology means that sometimes customers aren’t even paying with any sort of physical contact. Accepting payments such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, or Google Wallet can be an added benefit for customers, and it’s easy to add for businesses. Thankfully, you don’t have to figure out all the tech behind Apple Pay — you just have to choose a payment system provider that allows you to accept the contactless form of payment. That’s an easy way to add a new technology to your brick-and-motar business.

While ecommerce businesses may have a jump start on integrating new technology, even traditional businesses can expand by embracing some of the latest technological advances. Considering factors like AR, voice assistance, customer loyalty software, contactless payments and more can help small businesses grow.

5 quick ways to improve customer experience that you can start on today

5 quick ways to improve customer experience that you can start on today

Improving customer service shouldn’t be a one-time task. But while improving customer experience is a continual process, that doesn’t mean each step will take businesses months to integrate. By taking baby steps to improve how customers feel after working with you, you can boost your sales, gain new lifelong customers and more — without the wait. Here are five ways you can improve your small business’ customer service, with tasks you can start on today.

Motivate your team.

As the business owner, chances are, your employees have more face-to-face interaction with your customers than you do. A grumpy employee can quickly ruin all your efforts to improve customer service. Try offering extra motivation for employees — take the employee that gets the best comment card out to lunch, start a fun contest for employees, or simply send each employee a note to let them know that they are appreciated. Of course, these things go hand-in-hand with other elements, like offering flexibility, fair wages, and compassion to your employees.

Learn from your mistakes.

Chances are, you’ve failed at delivering the best customer experience in the past — and probably more than once. Instead of ignoring those failures, write them down. Then, brainstorm ways that you can do better. Don’t get overwhelmed looking at the mistakes, but use them as a launching point to determine what to do next.

Launch simple ways for customers to help themselves.

Many customers would prefer to complete a purchase without having to interact with a customer service department at all — and businesses can help by implementing simple changes to help customers before they get to that point. Create an FAQ page for your website. Place helpful signs in the stores. Design a helpful guide or online help centre for using your product. Customers would often much rather quickly find an answer online then have to wait for a response to an email or sit on the phone.

Start a customer survey.

How well do you know your customers? How good is that customer experience already? Businesses can get a jump start on building a better customer experience by both understanding the customer, and pinpointing where the current level of customer satisfaction is at. Offer a discount for customers that complete a survey — include the survey or link with the receipt, share it on social media, and send it out in those email newsletters. By getting to know your customers and what they aren’t happy with, you can pinpoint the actions that are going to make the most impact on your business.

Place your goals in a spot that’s easy to see and schedule regular time to work on customer experience.

Sometimes, building customer experience is just a matter of making the time to do so. Start by identifying your goals, then display them in a prominent spot in your office as a regular reminder. Then, schedule time to work on customer experience. Whether that’s daily, weekly or monthly, setting aside some time to brainstorm, work on integrating new options, and more will help the gargantuan task of building customer experience seem much easier to tackle.

5 Ways for Small Businesses to Optimise Online Sales

5 Ways for Small Businesses to Optimise Online Sales

Customers are increasingly looking online before shopping, whether that’s for true e-commerce or by checking out a business website before coming to the brick-and-motar store. Today, the customer experience often starts well before the customer walks into a store — if they walk into a store at all. And a slow, organised or otherwise optimised website begins that customer experience off on the wrong foot.

So what should small businesses do to optimise the online experience? Here are five things to consider to deliver the best possible customer experience — online.

Make sure your website is running efficiently.

Waiting for a page to load is the modern equivalent of waiting too long in the checkout line. Small businesses should regularly check their website for possible speed improvements. Visitors are more likely to click that back button if a website doesn’t load quickly, not to mention the bad first impression if they do stick around patiently. Some common factors of slow webpages are cluttered code and unnecessarily large image files, to name a few.

Ensure email marketing efforts are helpful, not annoying.

No one likes junk mail — so where do your email marketing efforts fall? If subscribers aren’t opening your emails, it’s time to rethink your email tactics. Consider adjusting how often you send out the emails. Revamp your subject lines. Rework the topics to ensure the emails are helpful. Set up emails to send when a customer hasn’t opened an email in awhile. The key is to reach customers, without driving them to click that unsubscribe button.

Keep your website well organised.

How hard is it to find something on your website? Potential customers will quickly look elsewhere if they can’t find what they need. Make sure your website has a simple, straight-forward menu system that organises all the different pages in a simple way. Add a search bar for finding specific items. Correctly categorise blog posts. Include shortcuts to main pages from easy-to-access locations.

Test your website.

Finding errors in your own website is tough. Just like proofreading your own emails only to see an error as you hit the send button, having someone else test your website will help highlight issues and possibilities for improvement that you didn’t see. Invite a handful of people to test your website. Encourage testers to click on all the links, to start an online order, and to explore the website. Prepare a list of questions to ask about the experience, then leave an open-ended question to allow testers to offer their own insight.

Revisit your website on a regular basis.

Websites aren’t meant to be static. Along with posting current information, small businesses should regularly look for ways to improve their online presence. At least every few months, brainstorm new, helpful content to add to the website. Consider ways to enhance the performance of the website. Evaluate options for grabbing attention on the home page.

As the welcome mat to a business, small business websites should deliver a positive customer experience. By considering what’s working and what’s not, small businesses can help create a positive experience before a customer even places an order or walks into the store.

Glossy vs. Matte Finish: What print type is best?

Glossy vs. Matte Finish: What print type is best?

It’s the paper or plastic of the photography printing world: glossy or matte finish? While the choice of a finish may be a matter of artistic opinion, there are still a few qualities that each print type offers that may make one better than the other for certain applications. So in the glossy vs. matte finish debate, which print type is the right one for you?

Glossy photo finish

Glossy photos do just what their name implies — they gloss over the photograph, giving it a nice shine. The paper and the coating behind that glossy photograph is actually made up of the same stuff as a matte image, except that more of the final coating is used. That extra layer of shine tends to give the image an apparent boost in color and, well, like anything with a bit of shine to it, just looks pretty.

The problem with the glossy photo finish is that it creates glare. You’ll see light reflecting off the photo itself, making it hard to view equally under different lighting scenarios. One of the issues many photographers have with glossy photos is also the fingerprints they tend to attract. The finish of a glossy photo leaves the print more susceptible to fingerprints, which means photos that will see a good deal of handling aren’t the ideal shots to use with a glossy finish.

Bottom line: Glossy photos are good for colorful shots — but only if you don’t mind glare or fingerprints.

Matte photo finish

With less of that final shiny layer, matte prints offer a similar lifespan, but without that glossy sheen. Matte photographs don’t quite have the same color boost as glossy — though if you shoot and process the photo right, you can still get a good deal of color from a matte print. Matte photos tend to be better for less vibrant color schemes or monochrome shots, particularly if you were trying to imitate a film effect. Where the glossy finish tends to emphasize color, matte prints tend to play up the texture in an image.

Without that extra gloss, the matte photo isn’t as susceptible to shine and fingerprints. In general, though it’s not always the case, professional photographers tend to choose matte over glossy because of the lower likelihood of glare and fingerprinting. While matte tends to play up texture, the image may look bit grainer because of that enhanced texture, however.

The bottom line: Favored more by pros, the matte finish doesn’t glare or fingerprint, but the tendency to highlight texture could also bring out unwanted texture like noise from high ISOs.

A matte photograph’s anti-reflective qualities often makes it a better choice for framing large prints, while the enhanced color may help snapshots stand out more with a glossy finish. While there is no right or wrong answer when choosing your photo finish, there are pros and cons of each type that are important to understand in order to get the most from your prints.

4 Ways for Small Businesses to Show Customers They Care

4 Ways for Small Businesses to Show Customers They Care

Customers are often quick to spot a business that only cares about the bottom line. But the businesses that make it obvious that the customer matters? Those are the businesses that tend to get lots of repeat business. So how can businesses show customers that they aren’t just there to make another buck? Here are four ideas for small businesses to show customers how much they care.

Support a non-profit that customers care about.

Some businesses are built entirely around the idea that, for every sale, a donation is made to a charitable cause. The shoe company TOMS, for example, donates a pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair of shoes purchased. But small businesses don’t have to build their entire sales philosophy around charitable giving from the get go to show customers how much they care.

Consider a special event that donates a portion of all the proceeds to a local non-profit. Ideally, you should choose a non-profit that your target audience cares about or a charity that’s related to your industry. For example, a photographer specialising in children’s photography could make a donation to a children’s hospital or an organisation researching childhood ailments. If you still need inspiration, consider a charity related to the season. Give to an environmental organisation around Earth Day, for example.

Go beyond what’s necessary for customer service.

Good customer service is a must for businesses to thrive — but why stop at just good? Customers remember the businesses that went above and beyond. Don’t just fix the problem the customer comes to you with, but offer a coupon for their next purchase for their troubles. Reward employees that go above and beyond, like the cashier that helps the mum with the crying baby unload her cart, to encourage others to do the same.

Offer personalised service.

Customers remember the businesses that make them feel like they are more than just a number. Besides just remembering the names of your regulars, brainstorms ways to integrate personalised experience into your business. Consider software that will help track a customer’s preferences. For service providers, take a few minutes to ask a few questions to tailor that service to the individual, like finding out about a client before taking their picture or cutting their hair.

Go environmentally friendly.

More and more people are becoming aware of environmental issues. Some businesses have noticed and done things like ban plastic straws in the name of leaving less plastic in oceans and landfills. Try switching to environmentally-friendly packaging and letting your customers know about the switch. Consider using biodegradable paper bags instead of plastic. Brainstorm ways to reduce your trash. Both your customers and the environment will thank you.

Customers are more likely to return to a business where they felt cared for, not like just another number. That customer care can show in a number of different ways, from customer service that goes above and beyond to donating a portion of profits to a charitable cause.

2019 Point-of-Purchase Trends For Small Businesses To Watch

2019 Point-of-Purchase Trends For Small Businesses To Watch

An ad doesn’t do any good if no one sees it — but where should ads be placed to reach the ideal customer? A recent study by Frank Mayer and Associates recently pinpointed the current point-of-purchase trends in marketing for 2019, highlighting ever-changing advertising opportunities.  So where should small businesses direct their ad efforts in 2019?

Point-of-Purchase (POP) is a term used to refer to the placement of displays and ads, optimised to maximise the potential impact. POP can mean the difference between an ad or display with high impact, and one with minimal impact. By looking at POP trends, small businesses can brainstorm new ways to expand POP efforts.

Unique POP opportunities are created by crossing industries.

Traditionally, businesses advertise in their own industry to reach a specific customer. But the customer that buys your product doesn’t live on a figurative island and likely has other interests and activities as well. Crossing POP to another industry, Frank Mayer and Associates suggests, could open up more opportunities.

Small businesses can brainstorm ways to reach their target customer as they go out through their daily routines. If your target audience is mums, for example, consider the different places mums frequent like grocery stores and playgrounds, as well as the different online spaces such as mum blogs and apps. The advertising medium doesn’t have to be directly tied to your industry to be successful if it reaches the right people.

Businesses shouldn’t ignore technology, and in particular, augmented reality.

Augmented reality mixes both the real and digital worlds — and its becoming a prime spot for businesses to reach customers. Fashion companies have used the technology as a virtual dressing room, photographers can use AR to show clients what their prints would look like on their walls. Businesses can design their own Snapchat filters for a unique AR ad.

AR is growing in popularity because by mixing the real and digital world, consumers can integrate a product they are interested in into their own lives with just a smartphone. Brainstorm ways to use AR to stand out and offer customers a more personalised experience.

Convenience isn’t going away any time soon.

Saving customers time and effort has always been a good thing, but research suggests convenience will be paramount to reaching customers through POP in 2019. The study notes growth in options like programs for picking online orders up in store or using electronic kiosks for easier checkouts or customer service. Grocery delivery services are also growing in popularity.

Take some time to sit down and ask — what would make my product or service more convenient for customers? What can help them save time or effort? Pinpoint your customer’s pain points and find ways to ease them, and you’ll be rewarded with repeat business for that convenience factor.

Location matters when it comes to placing products and ads. Looking at POP trends can help small businesses increase the impact of their campaigns.

Mum Marketing: 5 Tips For Small Businesses To Reach More Mum Customers

Mum Marketing: 5 Tips For Small Businesses To Reach More Mum Customers

Mums are amazing — and we’re not just saying that because Mother’s Day is right around the corner. Between raising children and managing a household, mums do a lot. For many small businesses, mums are a key customer with many mothers making the everyday purchase decisions for their households.

So how can small businesses reach this unique, but important group of customers? Here are five ideas for reaching mums.

Make shopping convenient.

The average working mum puts in 98 hours a week between her job and taking care of her family. The key take away? The easier the shopping experience is, the more likely mums are to return, because convenience is a big factor when you’re working 98 hours a week. Mums, for example, may prefer to visit the fast food restaurant that brings the food to your table because between the baby and the diaper bag, her hands or full. Or, mums may prefer to order online and pick up in store to skip the hassle of shopping with kids. The same goes for online shopping — a slow-loading website or app that’s difficult to navigate may make mums shop elsewhere instead.

Make your online presence easy to find.

Another study suggests that 80 percent of mums research a brand online before buying. How easy is it for customers to find information about you online? What does that information say? As you build an online presence, consider what the customers looking for you online will find. Encourage positive reviews with good customer service. Use key terms to make your website easy to find.

Use social media to reach out to mums.

Social media can be a key tool for reaching mothers. Besides the fact that you can specifically target an ad towards mums, many in this group use social media to unwind and laugh a little. Share relatable, fun posts on your social media page. Take out ads that are targeted towards mums for products that are specific to mums, kids and families.

Build a presence with blogs.

Those same mums researching products online before they buy are also frequent visitors to blogs — or there wouldn’t be such a thing as a “mummy blog.” Businesses can reach mums by writing guests posts for these blogs, or taking out ads on blogs focused on motherhood. Building your own blog with tips centred around your products and service isn’t a bad idea either.

Make reviews easy to find with a service like Yelp.

When mums research products online, they look for reviews. Make reviews for your product or service easy to find using platforms like Yelp. Encourage reviews by claiming your business on Yelp and similar sites. Don’t be afraid to ask for a review via a note in your email newsletter, a social media post, or even an in-store sign, just make sure to be tasteful. Other services like the reviews on Google Maps, Facebook and more are also great for making it easy for customers to find relevant reviews.

Mums are an important part of the family dynamic — and are often a big part of many businesses. Reach more customers through marketing tactics focused on mums, and keep them customers by offering a convenient experience.

How to Expand Your Business Using eBay

How to Expand Your Business Using eBay

Looking for ways to grow your business? eBay’s online sales platform could be the answer. Using eBay is straightforward, and there’s no fancy application process to get started with sales on eBay. Yet, eBay is one of the more popular eCommerce websites, which means you could put your product in front of a lot of people. So what’s the best way to expand an existing business using eBay? Here are five ideas.

Try an eBay store instead of basic listings.

Anyone can list products without upfront fees to sell on eBay. But subscribing to eBay’s store options allows businesses to create a custom store front page. With an eBay Store, you’ll also gain access to marketing tools and discounts that aren’t available otherwise. The format also makes it easier to promote your items and track sales, if you’re willing to spend a few bucks on the Store subscription.

Discount combined shipping to encourage more sales.

What’s better than selling one item on eBay? Selling two. Offering a discount to buyers who purchase more than one item from your store front can help increase your sales. Discounts will encourage buyers to order more than one product. Similarly, eBay will also allow you to set temporary sales to encourage shoppers to buy now.

Make sure buyers can find your listings.

Your products won’t sell if no one sees them. To build more sales on eBay, make sure your product listings are easy to find. User keywords in the title and description that buyers are likely to search for. If the product has more than one name, for example, integrate both to make it easier to find in a web search. eBay also has tools to boost listings inside eBay search results.

Mix your existing business with your eBay listings.

Expanding a business using eBay and starting an eBay-exclusive business are two entirely different tasks. Take advantage of the fact that you’ve already got a business up and running. Use existing resources like an email marketing list, your social media accounts, and even in-store flyers to spread the word that customers can also shop on eBay. Link to your eBay store on your website.

Understand how eBay is different.

Several things will overlap between selling on eBay and selling through your usual channels — but eBay is also different. Make sure you understand how eBay works before embarking on the new eBay expansion. Look through other listings for similar products and see how you can make yours stand out. Seller ratings are everything on eBay, so when you get that first sale, be sure to put your best foot forward on customer service to get started with a high rating.

Sure, eBay is home to many business owners that run a business exclusively on eBay. But expanding to eBay is a good way for many existing businesses to expand their online sales. Try an eBay Store, create combined shipping discounts and more to help your venture into eBay go smoothly.