Small Business Online Sales for Holiday Season

Get inspired for the holiday season with these small business online sales success stories

As a small business owner you are well aware that boosting online sales for the holidays is critical to your business bottom line. Yet, are you worried that you won’t be able to compete with the big retailers? You shouldn’t be, especially if you have a loyal customer base and a website that is ready to take on the holiday order load.

Your website plays a key role in your online presence hence a large part of increasing online holiday sales is dependent on your website. How it looks, what it offers to the customers and how easy it is for customers to make purchases; all will determine your online sales. Therefore the first step is your website itself.

In a recent post, I wrote about how you can boost online sales during the holidays. Website redesign, creating a responsive website, error-free navigation, adequate coupons and discount options, ensuring hassle-free shipping, apply easy to implement WooCommerce plug-ins and extensions.

Small businesses around the world are increasingly providing online purchase options. While the offline work that goes into online sales is considerable, quite a bit of work needs to go into the online components as well. Companies that enhance their website often are rewarded with better sales conversions and repeat customers.

The best part is that the changes need not be very large or expensive. According to a CNN Money post, just changing the color of buttons and even just changing the text on them can go a long way in ensuring sales.

In this post we’ll look at some of the small businesses that have found online sales success not just during the holidays but in general as well. But first, let’s just quickly run through the essentials for boosting online holiday sales.

1. Give your website a redesign for the holidays

This is often an overlooked aspect of your online presence. For the holidays make sure you get your website to look not just festive but to look festive while highlighting your products. Ensuring that customers can get information fast and easily, access product details quickly increases the probability of conversion to a sale. Content should be plentiful and 100% relevant.

2. Responsive website

Today’s mobile population needs to be able to find you on their phones. If you aren’t yet a responsive website, get to it today or miss out on thousands of potential customers. A responsive website ensures that customers can easily access and purchase your products from the comfort of their handheld devices.

3. Easy to avail discounts, coupons, returns

Apply adequate and customer friendly plug-ins and extensions that make discounts, coupons and returns as simple as “a mouse click away”. Customers want a hassle-free experience and there are enough ways to get custom plug-ins that provide your customers with a unique and rewarding experience.

4. Keep the shipping lanes free

Research has shown that free shipping leads to higher sales conversion, with as many as 6 out of 10 customers citing it as a reason for making a purchase online. There are quite a few WooCommerce extensions that can make the shipping experience easily traceable and tension-free for the customer.

5. Stay active on Social Media

Engaging the customer on social media and doing a bit of social media marketing will also help with the sales process. Allowing customers to access your website and make purchases through their social media login makes the process simpler for the customer and they are more likely to complete the cart checkout process. Now let’s look at a few small businesses who applied one or more of these strategies.

These small businesses got it right

All types of small businesses can benefit from the right online strategy. Whether it is email marketing or social media marketing or simply a tweak in your website’s layout, at the end of the day the strategy must pay off. I am not saying that all strategies work for all businesses, but here are some online small business success stories that you can draw inspiration from.

1. The Free shipping incentive

Who: NuFace, a USA based e-commerce website selling anti-aging and skin care products

What: Customers knew of the products, visited the site in large numbers but seldom made purchases

Why: They needed a purchasing incentive

Solution: NuFace added a threshold based free shipping incentive. For purchases above $75, shipping was free.

Results: Orders increased by 90%. Customers also started purchasing more to meet the threshold for free shipping. Company could provide more products, better discounts, and develop products in wide price range.

Free Shipping Incentives for Small Business Online Sales

In case you are wondering how to set your free-shipping threshold, I found this great piece on the subject. For holiday shopping, you may want to combine your free shipping threshold with one or two product freebies thrown in. Nothing like good quality freebies for making a customer want to buy more.

2. Responsive design all the way to the bank

Who: Think Tank Photo (TTP), a California based company that makes and sells equipment and accessories for photographers.

What: Continuously increasing traffic from mobile devices

Why: They risked losing close to 15% of their customer base

Solution: TTP implemented a responsive design for their website.

Results: Mobile orders went up 96% compared to the year before. Page views increased 224%. Revenues went up 188%.

Responsive design for small business online sales

In short, get responsive. If you are unsure how, an expert in responsive website development will be able to walk you through the nitty-gritty. Before the holiday season gets into full swing, make sure that you are mobile friendly.

3. Social Media and small business success

Who: Uuni, a UK-based company that sells wood-fired ovens for quick-cook pizzas.

What: Needed to build a community

Why: They wanted to reach the right audience and sell the product fast

Solution: Establish strong presence on Twitter and Facebook and now Instagram.

Results: By allowing customers to reach them through social media, they instantly tapped into the large community that they were catering to. The company is engaged on social media on a daily basis handling everything from product feedback to original posts to customer support. In 4 years they now have three online stores and serve customers in 50 countries.

Social media is a great way for niche businesses to quickly develop a community of customers. What’s more the reach is global at a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing methods. It is literally a word-of-mouth network. Apart from that most social media platforms allow you to make use of techniques like PPC and the algorithms can even help you advertise to your specific demographic.

During the holiday shopping spree, customers would be more than happy to share their experiences with their loved ones. Sharing their experience and responding to them brings you closer to your customer and improves the overall perception about your business.

Add a dash of holiday cheer to your online sales

Now is a good time for you, as a small business owner to think about ways to connect with your customers in a way that converts to increased sales. The holiday season is just around the corner! Get in touch with us and let us help you achieve your online sales goals. A small investment for a bigger, brighter future don’t you think?

The rise of the online education – WordPress LMS Website Development

Education is increasingly imparted online, especially through WordPress LMS websites. The availability of continually improving Learning Management Systems or LMS on platforms like WordPress has made it possible for educators to go online and teach.

For over half-a-decade now, there has been a steady rise in the number of courses available online, the number of universities and institutes worldwide who have made online courses part of their regular curriculum.

Along with this rise has stemmed an almost unrelenting debate about whether online education can be as effective as traditional education avenues. Opinion pieces have been written about it and governments have run extensive debates and want to make online education the norm.

A consensus that appears from the debates is that online education is here to stay but it must be imparted in such a manner that it replicates the critical thinking nature of traditional education.

This post doesn’t argue the point that online education has become a reality. It also won’t debate the pros and cons. If it comes to that even traditional education systems have their pros and cons. Any system is up for debate, so I am not going to debate it further.

In this post, we’ll work with the reality that online education has become a way of life and that education institutions must embrace this method wholeheartedly.

I write from a technology view point. The technology that makes it possible to go online and learn is improving every day. LMS has evolved from standalone systems to Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress. This has made it possible for education web development with technology-driven LMS that makes learning as challenging as the traditional methods.

Why online education is a good thing

Public education systems and private education systems both stand to lose very less if they embraced this technology. What technology brings to education are certain key factors:

  • Access
  • Affordability
  • Flexibility
  • Feasibility

Access:

Technology proliferation in the form of internet penetration and the fast spread of handheld and portable devices has made it possible for people to access courses and education systems that would otherwise be out of their reach physically. Technology reduces the distance between the institution and student and between the student and the teacher.

Affordability:

There is no denying that online education allows an affordable channel of learning. Students who cannot afford the tuition and accommodation at universities are now able to access the course materials for significantly lower prices which enable them to learn like their peers who can afford the real time experience.

Flexibility:

An online course can be managed at the student’s time. For people who work full-time or people who are unable to attend real-time classroom sessions, online education websites provide ample flexibility to pace their courses and learn at comfortable speeds.

Feasibility:

An online education website makes it feasible to achieve the goal of educating children across social spheres, where traditional systems may falter. An online system is not constrained by space or time.

When education is viewed as a birthright of every human, we can see the larger picture of how online education helps. I am not just saying at the college level. Public schools, charter schools, private schools and institutions of higher learning must make learning available and affordable. Online learning systems make it possible.

The Standalone LMS

Online LMS have been making eLearning possible for the last several years now. LMS like Blackboard, Moodle and Canvas enable millions of people worldwide to eLearn like never before. These are stand alone systems which have their own specific set of characteristics:

  • They tend to be complex. Configuring an efficient back end can take hours of coding.
  • Look and feel are pretty much always standard. Standalone systems are generally not very high scoring when it comes to customization to enhance user experience.
  • Installations are megabyte-heavy and can cost quite a bit when it comes to scaling up for many users. Shared hosting is not really a strong point for systems like Moodle.
  • Combining eCommerce and eLearning is not simple with standalone LMS. In fact, while Moodle allows you to sell a course online, order management, payments, and tracking are not a possibility for standalone systems.

The WordPress option to set up your LMS

When it started, WordPress was a blogging platform. It has since evolved into a Content Management System or WordPress CMS that has quickly and surely become the website design tool that nearly all businesses want.

In its next level, WordPress has become the platform for developing Learning Management Systems as well.

When compared to the standalone systems, WordPress LMS website development has some distinct points in its favor:

  • Easy to structure and restructure especially when using WP Courseware which allows designing a course through simple drag and drop options
  • Enhanced user experience through the use of custom WordPress theme, widgets and CSS animations
  • The size of installation is much smaller than standalone LMS – it is about a third of the standalone system even with resource intensive plug-ins
  • WordPress is a great marketing tool and allows easy integration with WooCommerce. You can manage your course sales quite simply and elegantly.
  • WordPress extensions allow sharing content on social media, web traffic analysis, email campaigns and much more.

WordPress LMS theme options

Several LMS options are available under WordPress, each has its own USP. From the popular LearnDash plug-in which costs between $129 and $299 as a one-time fee and can support unlimited users to the free, open-source LifterLMS plug-in to the full WordPress theme called WPLMS they satisfy the different needs of the institutions looking to offer courses online.


Academy of Mine
For people who are looking to sell their courses and content. Includes built-in eCommerce functionality.
LearnDash WordPress LMSPremium WordPress LMS with full features. Integrated with WooCommerce and BadgeOS.
LearnPress WordPress LMSFree plug-in that comes with free and premium add-ons.
LifterLMSPremium plug-in with integration with PayPal, WooCommerce and Stripe.
Namaste! LMSFree and professional versions available and offers unlimited courses and students.
SenseiManage courses, registrations and charge for content.
WP CoursewareAimed at people who are looking to sell courses online and enables you to make custom objects and badges.

Schools and Colleges, get online!

A few years ago, a report from the Heritage Foundation had found that online education in the K-12 system of public education has the potential to allow children from disadvantaged areas to access high quality learning opportunities. The same can be held true for all types of educational institutions.

Today, the education sector has valuable technology at its disposal. This doesn’t mean that technology will replace teachers. This technology will only evolve and it will become easier to teach and learn online.

More than that, platforms like WordPress are a solid way to create your brand awareness. To get help getting started with your WordPress LMS, get in touch with a web development specialist in custom WordPress development and make a difference.

Liked This Article?

By entering your email, you agree to our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Alternative back link strategies to email outreach

Email outreach and targeted guest posting may be overused strategies

Link building remains a key SEO strategy for most of us. Email outreach for back links is a time-tested strategy for boosting your website’s ranking on Google. Almost everyone does it and so do you. Yet, it may be time to look for alternative back link strategies given just how ubiquitous outreach emails and guest postings have become.

A glimpse into the past

There was a time when you could:

  • Pay for links
  • Post links to directories all over the internet
  • Spin articles in order to get a link back to your site
  • Stuff keywords all over your content
  • Sneak in broken links just to make sure Google picked up on the keywords
  • Use unnatural anchor text

It worked for plenty of websites and so these practices continued. Until the day these websites simply didn’t turn up on Google anymore. Articles disappeared, blogs wouldn’t show up – online traffic to these pages came to a standstill.

What most of us don’t reckon with then, but are acutely aware of now, is that the Google search engine is continuously evolving and what was OK in 2008 just won’t cut it in 2016. Google’s algorithm is now all about organic growth of a website up the ranking system. A website must rank higher ‘naturally’.

It doesn’t mean that you can make a website and hope for the best. While it doesn’t mean that back linking is a dying method, Matt Cutts of Google emphasizes that how you build the links will matter.

You will also in all probability need expert SEO folks working to build your ranking steadily in Google. While there is plenty of discussion on what is natural link building, one method that Google seems to like is link building through outreaching emails.

How and why outreach emails work?

What happens is pretty straightforward. You, for example, have a travel website. Now to get Google to see you as a quality website you need some kind of validation.

If other travel domains are willing to link their content back to you, then it is considered validation that your website is what it appears to be and therefore qualifies to be ranked on Google.

How do you get an external link / 3rd party to link back to you? You send an email that directly or indirectly asks them to link back to your website. You then hope that the recipient of your email will click your link, scan through the website and link back as requested.

The other method is requesting the opportunity for guest posting by asking the recipient to read what is written on your website and having them link directly to your post in case they want to share something with their customers on a particular topic.

In many cases, you may even offer to create their posts for them and link back to your own website.

Since these methods get ranking results and Google regards such link building as natural, almost everyone has been doing it. But there are a few things to consider:

  • This strategy is time consuming and therefore expensive.
  • It becomes less cost effective if the links are not bringing you the type of result that you were hoping for.
  • It only works if you have really valuable and relevant content.
  • Your run the risk of appearing spammy – a BIG no for Google.

Why we need to look at alternative back link strategies for SEO

There may be such a thing as overusing a strategy. Although outreach email link building method can have as much as 5% turnaround (it is very high, trust me), it is up to you to decide if this is worth the time it takes.

Also remember that this technique requires quite the innovative skills. Your emails must be attention grabbing and not churned from the mill.

Also your website must be robust before you ask for links back to it. Some of the critical points are:

  • Aim to build less backlinks not more. Links should be from authoritative domains. Quality over quantity
  • Have a technically optimized website. This also means eradicate all technical errors on your website.
  • Strong site architecture leads to better link building.
  • Last and certainly not the least, get in really good (and I mean really well) content. For those who think that content doesn’t matter, there is no need to go further with this post.

For optimization, content is still king – even more than ever

The simple logical reason why content is important is that people come to a website, searching for specific content. If someone is looking for suiting material of weight between 200g and 300g, that is what they are going to type in the search engine.

Your website should have adequate content that addresses the search. Relevancy of content is therefore paramount. Only if I have relevant content shall I be able to convince another domain owner to build a link with my site.

Moreover Google’s algorithm is now evolved enough to place content relevancy as the deciding factor when it comes to the back links your site gets. Also if well written content on your website is acknowledged by other domains, and especially if the acknowledgement is unsolicited, it adds to the authority of your domain.

Therefore, today a webmaster has to come up with alternative back linking strategies that allow them to take advantage of link building without compromising the website.

What alternatives are there to outreach emails?

Some of the alternatives to back linking strategies that are fast catching on are:

  1. Building valuable content: As noted above, excellent content is a surefire way of attracting attention from authority domains. An original research article, an original video or even a well-developed infographic would all constitute attractive content. When someone voluntarily links to your content it is the most natural method of link building. You can always reciprocate the gesture if you find that their content is equally evocative and relevant.
  2. Get reviewed by third parties: Today the probability is much higher that a customer will make a purchase decision based on reviews that they find about you on the Internet. Sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor etc. are picked up by Google’s algorithm to check which brands are attracting the most number of reviews. Since reviews cannot be solicited, you may want to encourage your website visitors to leave their own reviews by showcasing third party reviews on your website. A simple “Read about us on Yelp” link should suffice.
  3. Social sharing: Your brand can send some really strong signals to Google’s algorithm if the brand has a strong social media presence. While activity in social media is not the cause of ranking changes, what it does is that it adds to the authority and trust of the domain. This then gets reflected in the search rankings of Google.
  4. Posting links to trusted directories: Whether you post your optimized link to a link directory or a web directory, make sure the directory is trusted and has not been excluded from Google search results. Building links in niche directories and directories of industry-relevant informative websites are a solid method for getting better link building results.
  5. Use outreach emails and guest posting judiciously: While these strategies work, you may need to cut down on the numbers if you want Google to view you as an authority site. Choose your recipients carefully and have well-written content to share when sending outreach emails. If you want to guest post, choose domains that are 100% relevant to your business and provide content that adds value. I also found Brian Dean’s Moving Man Method quite a good way to make outreach emails more effective. It combines broken link building and email outreach in an ingenious manner.

Then again, if email outreach for back links doesn’t seem to be working for you, then it may be time to look for alternative methods to get back links. Before that you may want to:

  • Take the time to compare your website and a competitor website
  • Look at the site architecture
  • Look at the site’s technical integrity
  • Look at the site content

Better yet, reach out to an SEO expert who provides a full range of services from website redesign (which includes content revamp) to masterful SEO strategies (including link building, graphic design, social media marketing, social media management and much more).

If you still want to use email outreach as a ‘natural’ link building strategy, make sure that you have all the key factors in place before you start employing it. Otherwise you run the risk of appearing more ‘unnatural’ than otherwise.

12 ways of boosting Holiday sales for your online store

Season’s Greetings are always early for online store owners. It’s October now and already high time for you to have got your reindeer’s in the harness. In 2015 online sales crossed $70 billion, in the US alone, of which 17% was through mobile shopping.

Experts predict that sales will continue to increase this year as well with online sales expected to reach $98 billion.

If you are an online store owner this is certainly good news. In fact, it’s beyond good. No time like the present, as they say, to make hay. Christmas is just over two months from now, and you need to start planning your strategy now (if you haven’t done so already).

Believe me when I say that there is no such thing as too much planning. In fact, you will have to plan each component of your operations thoroughly – right from the website redesign, to the inventory, to the promotions, to the shipping.

Every tiny detail will need to be scrutinized to ensure that you get through the holiday season with minimum pain and maximum gain.

In this post, we’ll look at what is perhaps the most important thing for an online store, and what also is equally likely to get pushed out of sight as you fine tune logistics – your website’s redesign for the festive season.

That’s right, for the holiday season, you will need to decorate your online store just as you would your brick-and-mortar establishment.

While some of the redesign elements revolve around the look and feel, functionality is equally important. Functionality is where WooCommerce online store will be a real advantage.

Since you will be running ragged getting all the offline stuff in place, here’s a handy checklist for you to refer for your online makeover as you gear up for sales in the holiday season.

1. Do plenty of research

You will have to look at people’s past shopping trends during the holiday period to understand when people start buying, what they are likely to buy, how much they are likely to spend and why their Christmas spending may differ from other holidays.

This will help you plan your inventory and your sales period. For example if you have customers in Canada or the UK then Boxing Day Offers would also feature on your website.

2. Plan the layout of the holiday sales website early

Make sure you know how and what you are going to display when your holiday sales start. This is similar to window dressing and critical to draw the site visitor in.

How your merchandise is displayed (the photographs, the accompanying price and discount information) can go a long way in engaging people to remain on your website long enough to make purchases.

3. Make sure your website is responsive

The mobile shopping segment accounted for $11 billion in online sales in the US in 2015. This is a growing segment and you don’t want to miss out on sales because your website is only desktop friendly.

Get a responsive website today. It’s not just for the holidays but for all your mobile customers to access your store at any time in any season.

4. Landing Pages

Make sure that you have landing pages on your website for all your promotions and sales. Create landing pages for your ads and your email campaigns as well.

If buyers get special offers on other purchases make separate pages for those as well. Having separate landing pages will help in boosting conversion rates for your online store.

5. Display all relevant information early

Whatever information your customers need to know about your offers and sales, make sure it goes up well in-time for the actual sales days.

Make sure the information is clearly visible not only in your promotion campaigns but also on your website. Post all promotion deadlines clearly and remember to mention the days your store will be closed or when customer service won’t be available.

Discounts and promotions must be displayed up front. Make sure that as soon as the customer lands on your website, the discounts and promotional offers catch their attention.

Even a simple banner displaying various products with discounts clearly marked can increase the chances of the customer making the purchase. Here are some tactics to increase customer life time value and loyalty.

6. Keep your website error-free

Holiday shoppers are less forgiving about technical errors on your website than when they are shopping in the off-season. The reasons are simple. They are trying to make the best of deals and want services quickly.

Ensure that your website isn’t slow, that the order pages load quickly, the shopping carts work without error and that the checkout module has no hang-ups!

Enhance holiday purchase experience with WooCommerce

7. Coupons, Discounts and Promotions

Coupons are the biggest influencing factor for people to buy holiday gifts. WooCommerce has plenty of extensions that you can take advantage of. Something like Smart Coupons which shows available coupons right on the shopping cart makes it that much easier for a customer to decide which ones they will apply to what.

Coupons as gifts: Make sure to make it easy for customers to purchase coupons as gifts. Make sure that they are able to send the gift coupons through email and that when the coupon is applied there are no glitches. You don’t want your customer’s friends and family having to pay for the gift because of an error at your end. You will lose your customer and future customers as well.

WooCommerce has coupon extensions that make coupon management automatic and so much simpler for you and the customer. Automatic discount rules and even automatic features that tell customers when they have reached their discount levels  help to  make the buying experience all the more richer for your customers.

8. Get the right plug-ins

Plug-ins are small programs that can add so much value to your website. For example, a countdown clock that adds to the excitement of the holiday. You could add plug-ins that make available different kinds of shipping options just for the holiday sale. There are plenty of options available online. Make sure to take advantage of all the ones that are suitable for your particular sale.

9. Give your customers a range of shipping options

Make use of WooCommerce extensions like Ship to Multiple Addresses and Shipment tracking. The former makes perfect sense since people may want to send the same item to various relatives around the country or even abroad. Instead of having to go back and forth to place multiple orders, help them to simply multiply their cart by choosing the option to ship to multiple places.

Tracking shipments is always a necessity, more so when customers want to ensure that their loved ones receive their gifts. Make it easy for them to receive shipment information in their emails so they can always be updated on the go.

10. Make sure to track the shopping carts

Holiday shopping is a time when you might see carts filling up and then being abandoned. It could be that the customer changed their mind or there could be a problem with checkout. If it is the latter, you need to get it resolved quickly or risk losing customers. Here is some of the WooCommerce extensions to power up your website.

11. Get on social media

Statistics show that people post complaints on social media and more people expect to have their complaints resolved within the hour.

If you don’t have social media channels already, this may be a great time to get on board. If you are already active, then make sure to track your social media channels really closely during this time.

Even something as simple as a blog post that tells customers how to access customer support is beneficial in boosting sales.

Better yet, get in social media buttons on to your website, during the checkout process using the WooCommerce Social Checkout option and even allow people to login and make purchases from their social media accounts using the WooCommerce Social Login option.

Integrating social media to your website in this manner does quite a few things:

  • Makes an easy and secure experience for your customers
  • Enables customers to share their shopping experience as they shop

12. Easy returns

Make it easy for customers to return or exchange goods. A single-page RMA management system like WooCommerce’s Returns and Warranty Requests helps you ease the overheads of returned goods. Customers themselves manage the whole process which leaves you the time to ensure that the goods come back into inventory and are available for purchase by other customers.

If you are looking for a holiday re-cheering of your website, an expert in WooCommerce development could be the best option for you to get all these and more enhancements in place.

If you are thinking about cost, it is highly unlikely that you won’t recover it over the course of the sale. What’s more, these enhancements will be beneficial to your customers (both existing and potential) regardless of the season. Surely, it is money’s worth?