Making Ecommerce work for Local Business

Let’s face it, we have few other choice. We need to find a way to keep business running. We have a duty to our employees to do everything possible to provide them employment and a duty to our customers who rely on our products. Some businesses have chosen the other path, the hunker down and hope it all goes away quickly. Truth is, we don’t know how long this abnormal situation will last. We hope it is not the new normal, but it is what we have for now.

So the answer is innovate, create, find a way. The ability for business to survive based on foot traffic, for most, is not viable. But consumers are not without resources. Yes, a great deal of consumers have been financially impacted, if their jobs have been impacted, but there are many who are still in need of acquiring the products you offer. Many are not venturing outside their homes, unless absolutely essential, to shop.

Consumers Have Time to Shop Online

What consumers do have is time. This is being filled by many with screen time. Streaming media, music videos, video chat, conferencing, movies, binge watching TV shows, and, shopping. Yes, online shopping is accelerating. If we don’t offer them a local option, they will buy from Amazon. This revenue available to local businesses.

Maximize Your Tools and Talents, Online

To make the best out of the current situation, think of the talents of your employees and help provide them with the tools to bring your products to your customers using ecommerce, email, social media, and any other technology tool available. This will help you keep your staff, your loyal staff, whom you have trained and who you rely on as a key success factor in your business.

Ecommerce is the start, getting your products online, on screen, so your customers can place orders. This is a foundational tool. Once in place, it’s time to maximize the rest of available tools and let your employees talents shine.

Get the Word Out

If you just implemented your ecommerce channel so you can sell online, you now need to get the word out. Remember, your customers will be looking online for sources of what they need/want. If they can’t find it locally, they will find it on Amazon.

Begin with your customer database. If you have been diligent and collected customer contact information, email addresses, and permission to market to them, then you need to get the message to them that you are now selling online. Past customers will be the most likely to buy from you again. Be willing to offer them incentives to shop online locally. You also need to offer reassurance of how you and your employees are protecting themselves and your customers from COVID-19. Safe working practices and safe product handling practices.

Social Media to Announce Your Ecommerce Channel

As mentioned earlier, there is more screen time being consumed than ever. People are working from home and people are spending their entertainment time at home. Alongside the email window and office applications, the browser window has their social media apps running. Leverage your social media channels to get the word out about your now available ecommerce store. If they are going to buy from somewhere, it should be you.

Should I SEO During a Downturn?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is that there may never be a better time to prepare for the future.

Continuing to Market Despite Downturn

For every adage out there, there is another one on the opposite end of the spectrum. When conventional wisdom says do one thing, the market leaders and innovators do the other thing. Many businesses are cutting costs as the “hunker down” for the bad times and hope to be able to climb out of their shell when it’s all over. Here is the good news for you, as some of your competitors retract, there is less noise in the market, more airtime for your business. When the economy recovers, your brand will be remembered, your sales will surge. Those that pulled the shell over their heads will have to re-start, regain lost position. This is even more so the truth in the world of Search Engine Optimization, SEO.

Of course, that is our opinion, and we are marketers, digital marketers, specialists in SEO. We spend our time helping clients climb the search rankings. We don’t believe that there is ever a good time to take your foot off the gas. Sometimes it means finding another gas pedal. We have dug up some support for our opinion, some cold hard research based economic facts that we thought would be good to share with you:

In today’s environment, with the COVID-19 health crisis and social distancing the current practice, many businesses that depend on walk-in traffic are struggling. There is help for Local Business Via Ecommerce. There is also much to gain now with respect to SEO. While your competition goes into hiding, you have the opportunity to leap forward, to grab a bigger piece of the mind-share, and vault up the SEO search rankings.

SEO Motivated by Survival

Survival is powerful instinct and a wonderful motivator when properly channeled. Channeling that motivation in SEO tight now will pay dividends while your competition lays low, waiting, inactive. Search engines like fresh content, on established websites. It’s a sign that the business is alive and growing. Stagnate website are frowned upon by search engines. If, relative to the other options available, they are no more than static content, they begin to slip in the rankings, while active websites begin to gain authority and more favorable positioning.

The Home Office Content Shop

For many office workers, they have taken their computers and set up an office at home. As someone in a similar situation as myself (home office for the past 10 years) said, ‘we have been preparing for this for over a decade’. For those that are new to the home office experience, you will find that there are prolonged periods without distractions. While the benefits of personal interaction, of collaboration, may be harder to obtain, the ability to focus on a task at hand may improve. One of these tasks well suited to the home office isolation is generating content. With a little time on your hands, it can be wisely spent re-writing existing content, developing new content, and re-purposing older content. All of this has SEO benefits to your website.

More Fresh Content is Good For SEO

Search Engines like content, they like new content, they like original content. When a search engine discovers new content on a website, it signals that the site is alive, that the business is active, that the content is likely more relevant that something produced years ago.

It’s Time to Take Advantage of SEO

Now is the time to take advantage of an SEO opportunity. As competitors go into the “hunker down” approach mentioned above, they tend to put all marketing work on hold. That usually includes SEO, to their detriment. If they choose to be stagnant, and you choose to be active with your SEO, you have a window of time on your side to march up and past the search engine rankings of your competition.

Hire In or Hire Out for SEO

In addition to content generation, a key component of SEO and improving your search rankings, there are a number of other activities that can help boost your site’s ability to draw in organic traffic. If you are an experienced digital marketer and competent in taking on SEO projects, then now is the time to make it a top priority. If your business needs help with SEO, now is the time to seek the skills of an SEO consultant. Whether you hire in (yourself) or hire out (consultant), take advantage of your opportunity.

Sell Online Plus Creative Delivery

Starts With Selling Online

In the face of a very difficult business environment, brought by an even more difficult health care environment, businesses that have products to sell are moving to sell online. At Netnotic, we are helping local businesses to sell online by offering discounted ecommerce website plans. This is the first step, being able to receive orders and receive payment when foot traffic to your retail location is not happening.

The time to get an ecommerce channel set up can vary but with some labour supplied to load the product data, and ecommerece site can be online and your can have the ability to sell online in under a week.

Product Delivery Options

In our discussions with local businesses, we have come up several creative and effective ways to get product off the shelves and into the hands of paying customers. Of course, this needs to be done in a manner that is safe for both the employees and for the customer, to prevent the spread of the virus causing our current crisis.

Option 1, Self Pick Up

One business we are working with is offering self pick up. After the order is placed online, it is packaged by employees wearing face masks and gloves. When ready for pick up, the customer is contacted. The customer then drives to the retail location and phones or text the store. The boxed order is placed out side the door and the customer picks up the package. Social distancing is maintained.

Option 2, Courier Delivery

If the customer does not want to venture out, courier businesses are still operating and they have been trained to be in compliance with health standards in terms of protective clothing and equipment. The courier retrieves the package from the retailer and delivers to the customer, usually with a door step pick up.

Option 3, Evening Delivery

One creative solution we are happy to have been involved in conceiving is an evening delivery service which is handled by current part time employees of the store, in this case university students. This practice is following similar methods to some door-to-door food delivery services. With university classes now migrated to online, these students have a flexible schedule and are able to gather a batch of deliveries and provide door-step drop offs.

Keeping Employees Working

A somewhat obvious benefit of selling online is to keep your employees working as much as possible. You have invested in their training, development, product knowledge and experience. It would be unfortunate to lose these valuable people if you had no revenue to pay them.

We are also finding retail business are using technology to their advantage to offer virtual sales experiences for their customers. We will describe some of these in a very near future post.

Local Business Survival in a Crisis

Take Action

As we all know, the Covid-19 (corona virus) is causing tremendous damage to the Canadian, Saskatchewan, and local economies. We cant just wish it away. We have to take action. That action, while necessary, has been bad for business. We can’t just wish for our business to survive through the crisis. We have to take action.

Ecommerce Channels for Local Business

If you have a product, you have an opportunity. If you are determined, courageous, you can help your business to generate revenue in the face of dwindling foot traffic to your business. In Saskatchewan, many of us are now going into the second week of social distancing, reducing the amount of interaction. Those who are able are working from home, TV binge watching, missing the hell out of live sports, and starting to get a little restless. We all have a profound desire for things to go back to normal.

As the desire for normal grows people will look for outlets and there is a coming wave of pent up demand, of people becoming more active. Getting off the couch and being active within the house or wherever they can maintain the social distancing requirements. So those who are financially able will start to buy again, those with a do-it-yourself attitude will get busy. Home fitness, home renovation, home entertainment. In order to fuel their home-based activities, they will need to be able to purchase products and have their products delivered. It will extend beyond these home items, to personal items, to entertainment and recreation. if you sell a product from a shelf, you have the opportunity to continue selling, online.

Ecommerce Websites

We are currently offering heavily discounted services to help local businesses bring their product offering to their website for online purchase. Tou can see more details at: https://www.netnotic.com/web-design/ecommerce-for-local-business/

Ecommerce + Innovative Thinking

In the face of necessity, the people of Saskatchewan get resourceful. Some of the most innovative thinking has come as a result of needing to overcome some form of adversity. We are certainly facing adversity right now. In conversations with other Saskatchewan businesses, we are developing creative plans to keep employees employed and keep revenues flowing. This includes both integrating technology into the sales process as well some low tech but equally creative solutions.

Adding Google Search Console to Google Analytics

#2 in the Series

Previous Article: Setting up Google Analytics Using Google Tag Manager

Google Search Console

As part of a comprehensive digital marketing measurement package, Google Search Console provides invaluable information on actual user searches that resulted in traffic to your website. This information comes straight from Google and can be found in the Google Search Console dashboard in the Search Query report. (Note: Google Search Console was formerly known as Google Webmaster). In addition to viewing the search terms, the data also includes the impressions for your website for these search terms and the resulting click through rate (CTR).

To view this data, first you must have Search Console set up, then log in, then select the report. There is a more convenient way to access this data. But we are getting slightly ahead of things. First, you need a free Google Search Console property set up.

Set Up Google Search Console

We are assuming you already have a Google account and a Google Analytics account. You will need to be logged into your Google account. Then go to:

https://search.google.com/search-console/welcome

Create your Google Search Console account. Make sure you use the same protocol (http:// or https://) and include or exclude the www from the settings depending on how your website is set to display. For example, if the URL of your website is normally displayed as https://example.com then be sure to use https:// and be sure to exclude www.

The most difficult part of setting up a Google Search Console property is performing the verification step. We suggest you read the Google documentation on this.

Link Google Search Console to Google Analytics

Once your Google Search Console property is properly set up and verified, it can be added to your Google Analytics account. Sign in to your Google Analytics account and click the Admin gear icon in the lower left to bring up the dashboard.

On the following page, click the menu link for Adjust Search Console

On the following page click the Add link. Because you are logged into your Google account which was used to set up both the Google Analytics account and the Search Console Property, a list of website properties will appear. If you are only working with one website, then only that property will appear. Select the website property and click Save then OK to Add association. this will resolve to that property in Google Search Console, leaving Google Analytics open in a previous tab. Click back to Google Analytics and click the Done button. To confirm that the association has been set up properly, from the Google Analytics dashboard, refresh the page. Then click the Adjust Search Console button again and you should see your Google Search Console property.

Search Console Data in Google Analytics

It may take up to 24 hours for Google Search Console data to be available in Google Analytics. To check for the data, in Google Analytics, click Acquisition – Search Console – Queries. This will provide you a view to the same data that is reported in Search Console, but much more conveniently in the same reporting tool as the rest of your analytics data.

Setting Up Google Analytics Using Google Tag Manager

Using Google Analytics for Reporting and Quality Control

#1 in series

We have said this numerous times, Google Analytics is by far the best free source of website user statistics you could possibly hope to use.  Google Analytics will provide you data on how website visitors arrived on your website (source), important classification on who they are (audience), and what they are doing on your site (behaviours).  This is not information that can be used to individually identify a user, that’s typically not even valuable information for marketing, but data you can spin and analyze to learn what digital marketing activities are actually working.  But let’s not get too far ahead.  Let’s begin by getting the tools in place.  The tools we strongly recomend putting in place for any website, new or existing are Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Google Tag Manager.

Creating your Google Analytics Account

Before you can set up a free Google Analytics account, you first need a free Google account.  Simply go to Google.com, or Google.ca in Canada, Click the Sign In button in the top right and then click Create a Google Account.  If you already have a Google Account, just Sign In with your account.  For new accounts there is typically a verification process, such as an email sent to the email account you provide or to the mobile phone you specify.

Once you have your Google Account, you will use the same account to set up all the tools we have listed above and described below.  It is always best that the email / Google Account used to set up the tools belongs to the business owner, or the website owner.  These are your account properties, you should own them.

Once you are logged into the Google Account you own, it’s time to get your Google Analytics account.  Click the following link to get started:

https://analytics.google.com/

You will need to name the account.  This does not need to be the name of the website.  Most often it will be your business name, but you can name the account anything you want.  Leave the Account Data Sharing Settings as they are, checked.  Click Next.  Click on Web for what you want to measure.  Click Next.  For Property details, provide the name of your website and then your website URL.  Make sure you properly indicate if your website is https:// or http://.  The industry category is only for Google’s own classification so choose something as close as possible to your industry.  Setting the time zone is important as this will determine the start/end times of each day for the data being recorded.  In most cases, choose the time zone of your head office.

When you click next, Google will generate a Google Analytics account id that will look something like UA-12345678-1.  Copy this ID or keep the browser window open.  You may also see some instructions on how to install the analytics code on your website.  Ignore this for now as we recommend that you use Google Tag Manager for this which we describe below.

Setting up Google Analytics via Google Tag Manager

Once you have your Google Analytics account ID, now we need to get it so that it begins to record data from your website.  Google Analytics receives a variety of data from the data layer (produced by your website server) and can store this for future analysis.  Each time a webpage on your site loads, new data is produced.  We recommend using Google Tag Manager as the means of placing the Google Analytics code on your website. 

So first we need to get Tag Manager.  While still logged into the same Google Account as above, go to:

https://tagmanager.google.com

Follow the steps to crate a Tag Manager account and a Container Setup.  For the container name we recommend using your website domain to make it easy to identify if you should end up with multiple containers.  Click Web for the Target platform and click Create.  You will receive confirmation that a Tag Manager container has been set up and instructions on placing the Tag Manager snippet code on your website.  The Tag Manager container will have an ID such as: GTM-AB1CD2E. 

We will need to do some basic set up to tell the Tag Manager container how to send tracking data to your Google Analytics account.  Click on Workspace.  Then Click Variables.  Scroll down to User-Defined Variables and Click New.  Rename your new variable (top left) from Untitled Variable to Google Analytics ID.  Click in the Variable Configuration box, scroll down and select Constant as the Variable Type.  Enter the Google Analytics ID from above in the format UA-12345678-1 and then Click Save.  In the left hand navigation menu, click Tags, click New, rename the Tag from Untitled Tag to GA Page Views.  Click Tag Configuration then select Google Analytics Universal Analytics.  Click the box for Enable overriding settings in this tag, enter {{Google Analytics ID}} in the box.  Scroll down and click the Triggering box.  Click on All Pages.  Click Save.

Up near the top right corner, click the Submit button.  Give it a Version name such as your initials and the date and for Version description enter Initial Google Analytics set up.  Then click Publish.  You now have a Google Tag Manager container that is ready to send page view data to your Google Analytics Account.  Now we just need to have the Google Tag Manager snippet added to your website.

Add Tag Manager Snippet to Your Website

If you have a custom html website, you will need to have your webmaster or web programmer add the Tag Manager snippet code.  The details for how/where to add the snippets (there are actually 2 snippets) can be found within Tag Manager by clicking the Admin link and then the Install Google Tag Manager link.  This will provide the two code snippets.

For a WordPress site, we recommend installing a Tag Manager plug-in.  The plug-in we have found to be reliable is Google Tag Manager for WordPress.  Once the plug-in has been installed, all that is required is to provide the Google Tag Manager container ID in the format GTM-AB1CD2E.

For other Content Management Systems, such as Squarespace or Wix, we recommend you check their user documentation as they have been updated several times in recent months.  The functionality to simply  insert the Google Tag Manager container ID may already be in place.

The Rise of Voice Search

Voice Search is Trending Up

As we as consumers seek more and more convenience and instant response, often we opt to rely on the more convenient source of information available as the authority source.  When using voice enabled devices such as mobile phones and internet enabled virtual devices, we interact as if we are having a conversation with a real person.  The conversation is like a Q&A interview and most often the answers are a single result, the result the device (the search algorithm behind the device) determines as the single best response.   The conversation is the key distinction in how these devices are changing the way in which marketers need to think to about their website content and how to capitalize on the rise of devices that act like mobile.

See Siri Told Me to Call You and Internet Devices that Act Like Mobile for the first two articles in this 3 part series.

Implications for Digital Marketers

If the method of search is different, meaning the search query is different, this in turn means there is an opportunity for digital marketers to offer up content that is more appealing to the search.  As mentioned above, the interaction with the device is more conversational and the request for information is typically a question, as compared to the common keyboard search phrase of several words.  This suggests that matching content will be best suited as an answer to that question, with the question contained in the answer.  As a digital marketer, the challenge will be to identify the questions that your website should be positioned to answer.  Hint: Some of these questions are already found in your Google Analytics data.

A New Search Scenario

Imagine it’s the weekend and a group of adventurous friends are gathered at one friends house, reliving past adventures, and planning for their next.  Dave calls out, “Hey Google, what is the top rated outdoor adventure company in Saskatchewan?’  Google answers, “ABC Outfitters has a Google rating of 4.9 and is located in Anywhere, Saskatchewan.” Dave replies, “Hey Google, call ABC Outfitters.”

Here are a few important points about this scenario.  First, it’s already happening.  Second, the search query, the question, was answered with a single response.  There were no alternatives.  Third, the action lead directly to a contact with the outfitter.  Lastly, the searcher never actually touched or viewed the website.

Beyond Mobile Friendly

For digital marketers, we need to start to think beyond just mobile friendly website design (responsive websites) to also consider mobile friendly and voice search friendly content.  A mobile friendly website is a must, otherwise you are losing positions in the Google mobile index, which is now searched more often than desktop.  But this is now just step one.

Using the free combination of Google Search Console and Google Analytics, we can dig into the history of searches that brought visitors to our website and determine which are more qualified and use this to optimize for more search traffic of this type.  That means an investment in time, and investment in data, an investment in analytics.

New WordPress Website for Northern Boreal Trophy Hunts

A new WordPress Website for Northern Boreal Trophy Hunts has just been launched.  This is another in a fairly steady stream of hunting and fishing outfitter websites we have built over the years.

See More in our Portfolio.

UEBC – WordPress Responsive Site

The new Urban Equities Business Centre website has just been launched.  This is a relaunch of the KD Group Canada website after a re-focus of their business operations in Saskatoon.  See more in the Portfolio.

California High School Rodeo Association uses Rodeo Management System

The California High School Rodeo Association has just come on board using the Rodeo Management SystemTM (RMS) supplied by Netnotic Marketing Inc.

The California High School Rodeo Association secretary was referred by another customer who was using the RMS through the summer Northern California Junior Rodeo season. They have signed up the District 3 association with rodeos running from September through May.  There are two divisions, High School and Junior High School, both of which are now taking advantage of the Rodeo Management System to handle rodeo schedules, rodeo entries, member databases, rodeo draw generation, results and payout calculations, standings, and custom reporting.

As with each Rodeo Association, there were a few unique requirements to the California High School Rodeo Association.  We have worked quickly to build these requirements into standard features and improvements such that the RMS is now better suited to handle additional High School Rodeo Associations across the U.S.A. and Canada.

2017 has been a tremendous year of growth for the Rodeo Management System, with new customers and new enhancements that suggest more great things to come in the last quarter of 2017 and into 2018.