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Increase Website Traffic: Lessons from Chris Christie

ChristieCANDIDATES AND ECOMMERCE – So… we at Dynamicweb are doing this blog series on presidential candidates, how they use the Internet, and what actionable lessons there are for your e-business.  Of course, going through the various candidates, we’d be remiss if our Chris Christie-themed blog didn’t have tips for you to increase website traffic.

If you’re unaware, New Jersey Governor Christie knows a thing or two about traffic.  In what has been called “Bridgegate,” in a move to punish a political rival, members of the Christie administration intentionally (and criminally) closed down driving lanes in order to cause a massive traffic jam at the George Washington Bridge.  Whether or not Christie personally knew about or authorized the 2013 order, this increased traffic to a degree of monumental inconvenience.  Of course, when it comes to the ecommerce, you want to increase website traffic.

Instead of shutting down a toll plaza, we recommend that you attract additional traffic by offering your customers something they want, such as rich, compelling content.  This strategy of content marketing is also known as “inbound marketing” because your content actually draws potential customers to you.  No traffic conspiracies needed.  When prospects have a true desire to visit your site and your content is visible on search engines, your business will increase website traffic.

Of course, the part about search engines is important.  One study (from Fleishman-Hillard and Harris Interactive) shows that 89% of customers use search engines to make a purchase decision.   Customers like to take the wheel and do their own research, so it takes great content to attract these people as they search for information.

It’s best to have a range of content that informs potential customers about you, your brand, and your products.  Some content is designed to engage and help prospects early on in the sales cycle while other content is created to generate leads and move people towards a purchase.

Some examples of effective content are:

  • Evergreen content, such as videos or whitepapers, that stands the test of time and maintains relevance over a long tail. This content continues to attract organic search.
  • Newsworthy articles, such as blogs or features, that are immediately relevant to your target market.
  • Product information and rich descriptions for customers who want the details right away with the self-service offered by doing business online.

In order to increase website traffic, it should be easy for search engines to find and present your content to online customers.  This means utilizing the best practices for search engine optimization (or SEO).  The best tactic is to find the most relevant keywords for your audience and use those in your content, tags, and metadata.  That’s why Dynamicweb offers an SEO module that automatically looks at all your webpages (articles, product pages, etc.) and suggests the search keywords that help you boost your traffic.

Website traffic is definitely favorable to sitting in car traffic on the George Washington Bridge.  Online customers still get impatient, though.  If your site loads slowly or performs poorly, your former prospects won’t hesitate to take a detour to your competitors.  So optimize your website performance in addition to your SEO efforts.  Rich content, great SEO, and fast performance are all key to increasing website traffic to your e-business, and best of all, these strategies are customer-approved and legal in New Jersey.

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The M-Commerce Lesson from Donald Trump and Lindsey Graham’s Cell Phone Spat

Trump and Cell PhonesCANDIDATES AND ECOMMERCE – Campaign controversy seems to follow Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, but his brashest move may have been when he revealed Senator (and fellow candidate) Lindsey Graham’s cell phone number to a live audience during a speech.  Trump supporters began calling Graham’s mobile en masse, prompting Lindsey Graham to make a video detailing several creative ways to destroy your cell phone.  As supporters of m-commerce, we don’t recommend actually following any of these procedures.

Then the story continued as gossip website Gawker released a mobile number for Trump, which Trump later declared was an old number he no longer uses.  And this isn’t even the first time the billionaire real estate mogul has had controversy over mobile.  Trump once had a notable Twitter war with the CEO of T-Mobile, declaring he never wanted T-Mobile at his hotels.  But what do these controversies have to do with m-commerce?  What does it mean that popular attention and even the news is focused on mobile phones?

The business lesson is simple:  Mobile is huge, and it’s here to stay.

The point of the Donald Trump and Lindsey Graham chronicle, despite its absurd entertainment value, is to show just how ingrained mobile usage is in our everyday life.  Could you have imagined this argument would’ve been an issue when you were carrying around a mobile phone the size of an oven?  With news, campaign videos, and political debates focused on mobile, it’s only natural that mobile commerce, m-commerce, is just as huge.

Research from eConsultancy shows that the share of m-commerce in the overall ecommerce market grew from 3.5% to 36.9% between 2010 and 2014.  That represents a jump in revenue from 2 billion dollars to 42 billion dollars!  Again, the lesson is clear that mobile is not going anywhere.

With so many mobile users out there that want to do business on their chosen devices, a website that looks and performs great on mobile is an essential for today’s e-business.  Responsive mobile design gives your website visitors the user experience they want by adapting your website to fit any screen size.  Responsive design uses a grid-based format to dynamically adjust the elements on your website, so your site looks just as good on tablets and smartphones as it does on desktop.

Another benefit to responsive design is that it allows your website to offer the same experience on mobile that your customers are used to on desktop.  Many businesses strip away website functionality, features, and content in a desperate attempt to appeal to the mobile user.  But these customers are just like everyone else.  Mobile users don’t want a downgraded second-class experience.  They want the best website you have.  And with fast 4G and LTE Internet speeds and high-pixel-density screens, the device itself is not a limitation.

Donald Trump and Lindsey Graham may have made recent headlines over their cell phones, but they probably won’t be the last politicians to do so.  Mobile devices are on us all the time, and they’re an important part of American and global life.  It’s an e-business essential to cater to these potential customers no matter what device they choose.  And who knows?  Maybe your customers will end up being the President of the United States.

 

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Proving Personalization with Martin O’Malley and His Failed AMA

Martin O'MalleyCANDIDATES AND ECOMMERCE – Today’s customers are demanding, and so are today’s voters.  That’s the loud and clear message from Democratic candidate Martin O’Malley’s attempt to engage with his audience through an online question and answer session.  The widely negative response to his talking points and lack of actual answers showed that voters in this online forum instead demanded specific responses to their personal concerns.  Ecommerce customers also demand specific responses to their concerns, which you want to respond to with personalization.

O’Malley’s Q&A took the form of an AMA, or “Ask Me Anything,” on the Reddit website.  Reddit, for the uninitiated, is a community where anyone can post, and its users are masters at utilizing the art of snark.  As user “Rodic887” wrote to O’Malley, “This is not a place where people will be polite and only ask things you want to answer. Unfortunately for you, this is also the home of your next generation of voters.”

For e-businesses, the impatient and demanding Internet is also home to your next generation of customers.  Online customers are hungry for personal attention.  They won’t only ask the things you want to answer.  They want to know that you understand their interests, their needs, and their pain points.  Personalization is the way to satisfy these website visitors with the most relevant products and content for their demands.

Personalization technology tracks the online behavior of your website visitor in order to determine their interests.  Just as potential voters gave O’Malley data on what they cared about, each webpage your guests visit is a useful bit of information for you to personalize their experience.  Then the recommendation engine dynamically alters your website to offer the most relevant products and content for that person.  And the more relevant a given product is, the better chance for conversion.

Reddit user “TheTenthState” excoriated O’Malley for being out of touch as a politician and not answering questions the voters want.  The idea that a candidate is just an empty suit spewing his (or her) own talking points is akin to the website that just shoves unwanted products in front of a visitor.  Personalization is a huge competitive advantage over other online sellers that don’t respond to their customers.

Even for B2B companies, you don’t want to come off like a stuffy politician.  You still want to show that you care about your customers.  Those are real people with real concerns on the other end of the computer screen, and they want the answers that are most relevant to their questions.

Not every attempt to connect with voters is a success, and O’Malley’s failed AMA is a cautionary tale for e-businesses everywhere.  Personalization presents customers with the most relevant answers you have on offer, so your website doesn’t come off like a robotic political candidate.  For a deeper look into how Dynamicweb boosted energy company Nyfors online business with personalization, check out this case study.

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Marco Rubio, Net Neutrality, and Your E-business

Marco Rubio InternetCANDIDATES AND ECOMMERCE – In this series of blog posts, we show how presidential candidates use the web and what lessons you should draw for your e-business.  Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the candidate who has made the Internet his business – Marco Rubio.  As a senator, Rubio has and continues to strongly oppose net neutrality.  It sure sounds important, but what exactly is net neutrality?  And how does it affect your e-business?

Net Neutrality Explained

Net neutrality is the idea that different Internet service providers (or ISPs) should provide equal access to all sites regardless of what and where those sites are.  All data is created equal, in other words.  Without net neutrality, for example, ISPs have the ability to charge content providers extra for faster access to their websites while slowing speeds for others.

Net neutrality has big ramifications for ecommerce.  It’s easy to think all this stuff about fast-loading websites is overblown, but consider research by eConsultancy that reports 75% of mobile shoppers abandon a webpage if it takes longer than 5 seconds to load.  According to Google, “Milliseconds matter.”  Site speed is a huge component of the online customer experience.

The most recent news is that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has ruled in favor of net neutrality, giving Internet access the same regulatory status as other utilities such as phone communications.  This restricts cable company giants like Verizon or TWC from throttling Internet speeds and favoring certain websites over others.  But the fight goes on, as a US appeals court recently scheduled a hearing on the FCC ruling for December.

The Case Against Net Neutrality

Marco Rubio, as stated, stands against net neutrality and has campaigned vociferously against the idea.  He even has a page up on his website proclaiming that “Government Is Crashing the Internet Party.”  But what is the case for opposing net neutrality?

Rubio and opponents of net neutrality argue is that the idea behind net neutrality simply shifts the power from one source (the ISPs) to the government.  With the government in charge of ensuring net neutrality, Rubio and opponents of neutrality suggest that the government will inevitably play favorites.  People who oppose net neutrality have also raised the issue of imposing regulation on the free market of the Internet.

Opponents of net neutrality also suggest that the “fast lane” dilemma (that ISPs will charge content providers extra for better access to their sites) is not a big deal.  Rubio writes that “any deals that do take place are just as likely to benefit consumers by allowing highly trafficked sites to accommodate their visitors.”

Rubio and the net neutrality opposition see the concept as an obstacle to creating market-based solutions for popular websites.  Let’s say you have a popular e-business that gets tons of web traffic that you want to satisfy.  Now imagine you have the money to pay cable companies to put your site in the fast lane.  According to Rubio, you’re just using the market to satisfy your customers.

The Case For Net Neutrality

For those in favor of net neutrality, the Internet is a modern communication channel akin to the telephone.  The net has become an essential part of everyday life, and we know it’s become a part of how people do business.  This is behind the FCC’s ruling that the Internet is a utility.

Those who argue for net neutrality fear that if Verizon or Comcast control the speed and accessibility of various websites on a case-by-case basis, then the big cable companies would stifle innovation and push out smaller companies.  The argument is that, in a fair market, a fledgling e-business should compete with large ecommerce giants based on the quality of their products, services, and ideas, and not what they pay to the service providers.

Furthermore, those in favor of net neutrality argue that ISPs are not actually existing in a space of true competition.  Because consumers have a limited choice of ISPs to provide them with high-speed Internet connections, those consumers lack the ability to simply choose another provider if their primary ISP imposes any draconian policies.

News on the Net

The upcoming election is likely to be decided on the larger economy and foreign policy, but it’s important to know what net neutrality is and how it affects your business, especially if you sell over the Internet.  For more news and updates on everything ecommerce, check out Dynamicweb’s Resources page with blog posts, whitepapers, and our newsroom.

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Ecommerce Best Practices: Establishing Trust With Jeb Bush’s Emails

Jeb Emails CANDIDATES AND ECOMMERCEEstablishing trust with your customers is among the most essential ecommerce best practices.  But trust is a very delicate thing – difficult to earn, easy to lose.  This is a lesson Jeb Bush learned hard when his campaign turned to the web in an attempt to build up trust for the Bush brand.

Jeb Bush’s Trust Campaign

Prior to announcing his official candidacy for president, Bush published thousands of emails from his time as the governor of Florida.  The idea was simple: Build trust by being transparent with potential voters.  The Bush brand would benefit with a massive, open data dump, published on an easily-accessible website.

Unfortunately, these emails contained the personal information of Bush’s former constituents.  And not just names and email addresses.  Social Security numbers, home addresses, and more were released to the public.  The Bush campaign immediately went through hundreds of thousands of emails to redact this info, but Bush had already lost trust in his ability to hold and preserve the personal information of others, a crucial aspect of ecommerce.

Let Customers Know You Mean Business

Ecommerce best practices are meant to increase customer motivation to make a purchase and minimize the roadblocks in their way.  Building trust between you and your prospects does both.  The less anxious a person is about buying online, the greater chance of conversion. 

Although ecommerce has been around for a while now, some customers still have a little trepidation when buying online.  Information about your company and the people behind your company alleviates fear that comes with lack of knowledge.  An “About Us” page is a simple and effective tool to convey information about who you are and what your brand stands for.  Clearly displaying your contact information also tells consumers that you are a real business.

Establish Trust with Content

Product reviews are an excellent tool for establishing trust with customers.  The mere fact that you let past customers have a voice on your site shows your prospects that you care about what they think even after the sale.  Of course, not every customer wants to fill out reviews, so if you couple full-length reviews with star ratings, you make it easier for customers to rate your products, which gives you the benefit of social proof.

Don’t shy away from product reviews for the fear of negative reviews.  As with your customers, fear leads to paralysis when it comes to implementing ecommerce best practices.  The fact that you would allow a few negative reviews on your site builds trust with potential and past customers and proves your legitimacy as a vendor.  Customers know that if something is too good to be true, it often is.

Product reviews also build a sense of a user-based community around your website.  This type of community establishes trust, as the people that make up your customer communities are like-minded people.  Product reviews also help you out in search rankings because they add extra content to your site directly related to your offerings.  To read more on the types and benefits of user-generated content, check out this blog post.  In addition to product reviews, testimonials, case studies, and customer forums are also effective at building up trust with actual proof that past customers and clients were and are satisfied.

Trust Logos

In addition to the content you post, customer fears are also allayed by your association with trustworthy institutions.  If your site is secure and verified with Norton or McAfee or Verisign, then you want to post this on your website.  Similarly, if you are verified and accept Paypal, use that logo for Paypal.

According to a study by Actual Insights, 76% of online buyers said that trust logos did affect their sense of trust in a given website.  61% didn’t make a purchase because no trust logos were visible on the site.  Prominent trust logos are among our recommendations for ecommerce best practices.

Lessons from Jeb

After the mass release of social security numbers, Bush’s team moved quickly to redact the information.  For your website, you want a team that moves as fast as possible if anything goes down, for security reasons or otherwise.  Bush’s campaign had to learn that his past Florida constituents are real people with real concerns for their personal information, just like your online customers.  So if you use your resources to let your customers know that you’re a real business with really great products, that trust builds a foundation for successful ecommerce and many more customers to come.

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