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7 Best Examples Of SMB Loyalty Programs [Retail & Hospitality]

This article dives into seven of the best SMB loyalty programs, showcasing innovative strategies that will inspire your own loyalty and rewards program.

Francesca Nicasio

Content Strategy Manager

When set up correctly, loyalty programs are one of the best tools for customer retention. 

Every business owner knows that bringing in new customers is more expensive than encouraging repeat business from existing customers. That’s why customer loyalty programs are particularly beneficial for smaller businesses, where money is tight and building a loyal customer base is crucial. 

Successful loyalty programs spark an emotional connection that brings in repeat customers — which translates to greater revenue. 

While bigger companies tend to steal the limelight for their membership programs (e.g., Sephora’s Beauty Insider program), SMBs have cool strategies too!

This article dives into seven of the best SMB loyalty programs, showcasing innovative strategies that would hopefully inspire your initiatives. 

Whether an award-winning, family-owned bakery or a homegrown fashion label — these businesses demonstrate the power of personalized loyalty rewards, community engagement, and seamless digital experiences in cultivating brand loyalty. 

Let’s dive in.

 


 

1. Pinjarra Bakery

Pinjarra Bakery, led by the Pantaleo family, is renowned for Australia's top meat pie. It has garnered over 700 state and national accolades, making it one of WA's most decorated bakeries. With over 25 years of satisfying customers, locals and tourists equally flock to enjoy its delectable treats.

pinjarra-bakery-winning

Program purpose:

The company used to have an outdated point-of-sale system when it recognized the need for a more efficient sales and marketing approach. It wanted a cloud-based solution to streamline its operations and decided that Lightspeed was the perfect choice.

The bakery also wanted to integrate its loyalty and marketing with its chosen POS. So it partnered with Marsello to integrate its rewards program seamlessly into its existing tech stack consisting of WooCommerce, Bopple, and Lightspeed (O-Series).

With the loyalty program, it hoped to gather customer feedback and purchase data to enhance the customer experience and tailor offers. It also wanted to use the data for automated marketing, such as sending $10 vouchers to encourage repeat visits from inactive customers.

Program style:

Pinjarra decided on a points-based loyalty program where customers receive 1 reward point for every dollar spent. Bonus points could be earned through referrals and by sharing on social media. Members can then redeem their accumulated points for free products, exclusive benefits, and member-only special offers.

pinjarra bakery loyalty program

Here’s why its loyalty program succeeds:

  • Pinjarra Bakery recognizes the importance of cultivating a robust database of loyal customers. A point system is simple enough for program members to understand — earn certain points and get rewards. This encourages more customers to sign up.
  • It simplifies customer engagement by offering effortless QR code-based sign-ups at its locations.
  • The loyalty rewards program cleverly doubles as a referral program. It’s also a useful strategy for social media marketing.
  • One of the program’s main aims is to harness data from an active database. This helps to drive revenue during campaign launches.
  • The program offers a delightful user experience as well. Check out the fun names of its rewards — “Magic brew to kickstart your day. Caffeine hit!” or “Pop it like it’s hot with PB pop socket - phone grip & stand.” 

Program results:

Pinjarra attained a 66% repeat purchase rate and increased revenue significantly via targeted marketing campaigns and automation, generating $100k from a single automation.

 

2. Scotty's Makeup & Beauty

Over four decades, Scotty’s Makeup & Beauty has been a cornerstone of the Aussie beauty industry. Established in 1980 by founder Scott Lattimer, the company introduced global makeup brands to Australia, becoming integral to various sectors including beauty salons, film, TV, and theatre.

scottys-makeup-and-beauty

Program purpose:

Initially, Scotty’s was searching for an effective email marketing solution. When the team learned about Marsello, they decided to set up a loyalty program as well. It aimed to establish a vibrant, involved customer database. Like Pinjarra Bakery, it also wanted to implement targeted marketing tactics tailored to customer buying behaviors and preferences.

scottys makeup and beauty program

Program style:

Currently, the Marsello app works smoothly with Scotty’s Shopify and Lightspeed (X-series) setup. The brand has chosen a tier-based or tiered loyalty program where certain loyal customers (Artistry Insiders) get exclusive access to better discounts. 

Program results:

63% of Scotty’s marketing-driven revenue originates from email campaigns. Its loyalty program efforts have also enhanced customer lifetime value and purchase frequency. Best of all — it has doubled its end-of-financial-year revenue.

 

3. Pace Athletic

Pace Athletic was founded by fitness enthusiasts, Will and Stu. They loved the welcoming atmosphere in surf stores and wanted to introduce the same to running stores which felt more exclusive.

Program purpose:

The co-founders knew they needed to build a loyal customer base to make running feel more inclusive. This is where Marsello came in. With its help, Pace Athletic created — what easily qualifies as — one of the best customer loyalty program examples on our list. 

Competing in a market overshadowed by major chains posed a significant challenge for the brand. Nevertheless, it cultivated a loyal customer base by prioritizing the overall experience.

pace athletic loyalty program and running club

Program style:

Pace Athletic implemented a simple points-based loyalty system that worked wonders. Customers earn points corresponding to the amount they spend. They can earn more points from social media engagement, referrals, etc., and redeem them for exclusive products and discounts. 

The loyalty program aims to seamlessly merge online and in-store sales data, providing a comprehensive overview of customer shopping habits. This integrated approach paves the way for personalized marketing messages and promotions based on customer data. That way, Pace Athletic can enhance customer engagement and drive more sales.

Program results:

Pace Athletic’s loyalty program account helped drive 28% of its total revenue. Because customers are highly engaged, its marketing emails yield impressive conversion rates. In fact, its email marketing campaigns contributed over 40% of its revenue, underscoring the program's impact on sales.

 

download free loyalty program roi calculator

 

4. ALPHA60

Founded in 2005 by enterprising siblings Alex and Georgie Cleary, ALPHA60 has created a unique narrative since the very beginning. With a solid focus on customer happiness and an unwavering creative vision, the brand has shown that you can find success by traveling the unbeaten path.

Alpha60 rewards

Program purpose:

The company was determined to follow a customer-first approach and wanted the brand experience to be consistent for all shoppers. It started using Marsello along with Lightspeed (X-Series), Shopify, Wrapped, and Klaviyo to help with its loyalty program strategies.

On brand with its customer-first approach, ALPHA60 wanted to make its sales, marketing, and rewards programs more efficient. It also wanted to streamline its gift card usage across platforms and synchronize customer data between its online and in-store channels.

Alpha60 rewards program

Program style:

The rewards program is simple. Customers earn points based on how much they spend and for engaging with the brand on social media. For every 1000 points earn, they get a $50 voucher. 

The purpose of this loyalty program is twofold. First, it excites customers at the point of sale but rewarding them for every purchase. Secondly, the program enables the brand to utilize data for segmenting customers, which then makes it easy to launch targeted campaigns.

Program results:

Every aspect of ALPHA60's business revolves around the customer and the results of its strategies speak for themselves. With a customer-centric approach, it maintains a repeat purchase rate of around 70%, surpassing the typical range of 20% to 40% considered good for retail enterprises.

 

5. Brandini Toffee

Brandini Toffee is a family-operated company that excels in crafting artisanal toffee through time-honored techniques and top-notch ingredients. It wanted a loyalty program compatible with its tech infrastructure and operational model, requiring seamless integration, in-store and online.

Program purpose:

The loyalty program was meant to capture purchase behaviors and preferences, grow the database, and enable tailored rewards to enhance customer retention rates. This involves integrating data across all channels to ensure a seamless omnichannel experience for Brandini’s customers.

brandini toffee rewards and loyalty program

Program style:

Using Marsello, the company set up a simple, yet effective loyalty program system. Like certain brands on this list, Brandini Toffee offers customers 1 Brandini Point for every dollar spent. Bonus points can be earned on birthdays or by completing certain actions, such as sharing on social media.

Program results:

Brandini’s revenue doubled within the first eight months of implementing Marsello. Since then, it has experienced nearly triple revenue growth from 2019 to 2023.

 

6. TennisGear

Started by accountant and avid tennis player Mark, TennisGear is a tennis center that offers coaching, four tennis courts, and an attached retail store. The company needed the right tech for its multi-channel businesses and wanted to make shopping easier in stores and online. With Lightspeed POS and Marsello, it manages all its data in one spot, helping create customer groups.

Tennis-Gears-Onichannel-Customer-Data-Lightspeed-Shopify

Program purpose:

The loyalty program serves multiple purposes. It centralizes sales data from all channels into one platform, aligns transactions with customer profiles, and fosters a seamless omnichannel experience. 

Plus, it facilitates database growth and utilizes customer interaction data to enhance product offerings and marketing strategies.

TennisGear rewards

Program style:

Tennis Gear created a points-based loyalty program. Every $1 spent earns customers 1 point. Reviews, social shares, and other actions earn bonus points. All are redeemable for discounts.

Program result:

TennisGear gains full sales visibility across all channels via multi-site reports and dashboards. On implementing Marsello’s prompts for Lightspeed POS, it saw a 2.5% increase in its customer database. Additionally, Marsello's automation tools efficiently recover abandoned carts and entice lost customers to return, alongside other effective campaigns.

 

7. HobbyTech Toys

Based in Perth, Western Australia, Hobbytech Toys specializes in radio control products. The brand has recently broadened its inventory to encompass toys, games, Lego sets, model kits, model trains, and more. It has also prioritized improving its online presence.

hobbytech toys rewards

Program purpose:

Year after year, the business experienced rapid growth. About two years ago, they transitioned to a new ERP, leading to a new point-of-sale system. This prompted integration with Marcello to link Lightspeed and Shopify, enhancing the omnichannel experience.

Program style:

The store recently introduced a $5 discount voucher reward system, replacing the previous 1000-point threshold for a $10 voucher. See, many regular customers weren't reaching this threshold within 12 months due to their frequent but lower-spending visits.

Program results:

The $5 reward significantly boosted redemption rates, enhancing customer satisfaction and the store's reputation. The brand has also used its omnichannel data to improve its email marketing campaigns.

 

Customer loyalty webinar (1)


Final words

All the examples mentioned above demonstrate a crucial point — customer reward programs that fit the unique needs of small businesses can work wonders. 

Special loyalty programs, easy omnichannel shopping, and automation can help grow your business and keep customers happy. That’s why if you haven’t done so yet, it’s time to launch a loyalty program that helps you reach your marketing goals. 

To learn how Marsello can help, talk to one of our experts today.

 


 

Get advice from a loyalty expert and start driving repeat sales.

Book a demo

 


 

Read more: 7 Steps To Building A Profitable Loyalty & Rewards Program

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    How to Collect and Manage Customer Feedback

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    Learn which methods of customer feedback collection could work best for your business and discover why you should consider this essential growth data.

    A Guide to Navigating Shopper Input

    A women leaves feedback on a wall-mounted tablet which prompts 'how was your experience'.

     

    Did you know that poor customer experiences result in an estimated $83 billion loss by U.S. businesses every year? 

     

    Gathering, managing, and analyzing customer feedback is a vital part of your customer success strategy, but is often neglected by businesses. In fact, a recent study by Hubspot found that 42% of businesses don't collect customer feedback at all. 

     

    If you don't know what your customers think or want, it's impossible to put them at the center of your growth plan. That's why a robust customer feedback management strategy is the key to fostering lasting relationships with your customers.

     

    In this post, we're going to:

    • Discuss why customer feedback matters
    • Identify key types of customer feedback
    • Talk about how to collect, manage, and analyze customer feedback

    Let’s dive in!

     

    Why is it important to collect customer feedback? 

    Let’s kick things off by discussing the benefits of having good customer feedback management practices in place. 

     

    It helps to refine your product/service

    Making the effort to collect customer feedback helps you to identify pain points, as well as gather suggestions that you can communicate to your customer success and product teams. In turn, this helps to enhance your product/service and promote a better user experience.

     

    Essentially, any omnichannel retailer should be making the customer the focal point of their business, and collecting customer feedback will enable this process. 

     

    It improves customer satisfaction and retention

    No matter what business you run, your customers want to feel as though their experiences matter. When customer service representatives take a long time to respond to concerns – or worse, don't respond at all – this can seriously damage the customer relationship. 

     

    On the flip side, when you make the effort to implement changes or updates on the back of feedback surveys, it showcases a customer-centric approach that aims to meet the expectations of loyal customers. And when customers are satisfied, your retention rates will soar.

     

    It strengthens your WOM (Word of Mouth) marketing efforts

    Here's a fact about marketing: We're far more likely to trust other people's perception of a business than what that business says about itself. In fact, 88% of consumers say that they trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations.

     

    With the rise of social media and community forums, we're no longer passive consumers of advertising. By making customer feedback a core functionality of your business model, you have a powerful customer acquisition strategy.

     

    Types of customer feedback 

    Customer feedback can be divided into two main types: Direct/solicited customer feedback, and indirect/unsolicited customer feedback.

     

    Direct/solicited customer feedback

    This refers to feedback processes that rely on the business reaching out to their customers for feedback. The advantage of this approach is that businesses can either tailor their surveys to specific topics, such as the usability of certain features, or they can ask about the customer journey as a whole. However, invitations for direct feedback often struggle with low uptake.

     

    Direct/solicited customer feedback methods include the following:

    • Customer surveys
    • Customer reviews
    • Focus groups
    Indirect/unsolicited customer feedback

    Conversely, indirect/unsolicited feedback is when a customer reaches out to a business with queries or concerns. It's within a business's interest to encourage this behavior, as unsolicited feedback can often bring up issues or opportunities they wouldn't have identified on their own. 

     

    The following can be considered types of indirect/unsolicited feedback:

    • Social media
    • Customer support centers
    • Live chat

    Note: It's a good idea to use a combination of methods to ensure that your business is getting impartial feedback data. In this next section, we're going to dive into some of these methods in more depth.

     

    How to collect customer feedback

    Now let’s look at the different ways that you can gather feedback from shoppers.

     

    Customer surveys

    Customer surveys are one of the most common methods for feedback collection. You can completely customize a survey depending on what your needs are, making it one of the best options for collecting feedback on a large scale.

     

    However, putting together a good feedback survey is a lot of work. Once you've chosen the area that you want feedback on, you need to decide what survey format is most appropriate.

     

    While a qualitative survey using free text fields is one of the easiest to put together, it can be a discouraging time investment for customers, and setting it up effectively could be time-consuming for you too.

     

    Instead, you could consider using some qualitative forms of customer satisfaction survey, such as:

     

    Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

    CSAT is a metric for determining how satisfied your customers are with different touchpoints in the customer journey. It captures customer sentiment when they're interacting with that stage of your offering i.e. "How would you rate your recent order or experience?"

     

    KiwiCo asks subscribers to rate their experience of using a specific product with 5 stars.

    CSATs usually give customers the choice of choosing a number between 1 and 5, with 5 being “very satisfied” and 1 being “highly dissatisfied”. CSATs can be single questions or use several back-to-back questions depending on how broad you want your survey to be.

     

    Net Promoter Score (NPS)

    NPS is another qualitative survey measure but it differs from CSAT. NPS measures long-term customer loyalty. It helps to benchmark a customer's willingness to recommend/promote your brand to others, which indicates their commitment to repeat purchases. So, if your NPS is low, this means your churn rate is likely to be high.

     

    Most NPS surveys use a 10-point scale, as shown in this template by Le Tote:

     

    Le Tote asks customers how likely they are to recommend the store with a 1-10 scale.

    2-choice questions

    In some cases, you want to make it as simple as possible for customers to provide feedback. This is why 2-choice surveys can be extremely useful when you want to gather a quick pulse from your customers. 

     

    The following example from Katie Waltman, which lets people indicate their feedback by simply tapping a happy or sad face is an example of quick and easy feedback collection.

     

    And in case customers would like to share additional details, Katie Waltman asks a quick follow-up question based on the shoppers’ initial response. Katie Waltman has a 97% customer feedback rating. Their customers have particularly positive feedback for KW’s product quality, customer service, and the value of their products. Keeping in mind that customers are most inclined to leave feedback when they are passionate, this makes praise that Katie Waltman has received all the more impressive.

     

    Marsello-Case-Study-Katie-Waltman

    Social media monitoring

    Did you know that 1 in 3 consumers would rather post service or product feedback on social media than contact a business directly? Quick and appropriate follow-ups to comments and mentions by your customers are vital on an open forum, and also presents opportunities to ask for feedback via polls and surveys:

     

    PlayStation uses Twitter to run a poll asking follower if theyll be buying a game this week.

    Qualitative customer interviews

    If you're wanting more in-depth customer insights, organizing a series of interviews with customers is a great tool for adding more context to NPS and CSAT surveys. Getting direct information straight from shoppers can help to highlight and create understanding around areas that are working well, versus areas of your business that could do with attention.

     

    This technique is best suited for interviewing long-term customers who can answer more in-depth questions about your product/service. It's a good idea to use your CRM to pick out loyal customers who can offer you the most valuable insights.

     

    How to manage customer feedback 

    Once you’ve collected a good amount of feedback, it’s best to set up processes for managing all that information so you can act on it. 

     

    Use the right CFM tools

    Feedback management tools are vital to getting the most out of your feedback collection. CFM (customer feedback management) software allows you to sort and analyze customer data effectively, rather than having your customer success team spend days or even weeks sorting through it manually.

     

    The right tools depend on how your business plans on gathering customer feedback. For example, if you plan on doing customer surveys on a regular basis, a survey tool like SurveyMonkey or Typeform is a good investment. Likewise, you're a brand with a large social media presence, consider a social listening tool such as Brand24 that uses AI to monitor brand reputation in real-time, a popular technique with SaaS companies. 

     

    On the other hand, if you want to grab quick feedback on the product or shopping experience of your customers, then an eCommerce CRM like Marsello is a great option. Marsello’s feedback tool makes it easy to attach quick surveys to your transactional emails so customers can let you know how they feel.

     

    From there, you can get detailed reporting on customer satisfaction and find ways to improve. 

    Marsello-Madame-Fancy-Pants-Customizable-Feedback-Survey

     

    Learn moreStart collecting feedback

     

     

    Implement a Voice of the Customer (VoC) program

    The Voice of the Customer (VoC) is a broad term referring to all of the data and metrics you've gathered from feedback management tools and unsolicited customer feedback. A VoC program collates all this data from across channels to identify emerging themes that indicate specific pain points, then develops a roadmap to address them.

     

    For a VoC program to work effectively, it can't be siloed just to your customer success division. It requires active collaboration with the product development, marketing, and sales teams to identify trends within their own workflows. For example, if the sales team keeps coming across a particular feature request, this can be passed onto the product team far more seamlessly.

     

    Close the feedback loop

    Once you've identified issues or opportunities and taken action in response, it's important not to miss out on informing customers what you've accomplished. This is known as “closing the feedback loop.”

    Unless customers receive a follow-up, they have no idea whether their concerns have been listened to. This leaves the feedback loop wide open and could affect your retention efforts.

     

    So, once you've decided to introduce a change in response to feedback, you need to think about the best way to communicate this. The appropriate channel will depend on the demographics of the respondents. For example, if your survey was hosted on social media, it makes sense to inform customers using the same medium. If it was an on-site survey, you could consider producing a webinar that discusses your initiatives.

     

    How to analyze your customer feedback 

    The best way to get the most out of customer feedback is to analyze it. Here are some tips to help you organize what you’ve collected and ensured that you gain actionable insights from them.

     

    Categorize your feedback types

    Once your data is in one place, assigning it to a specific group will help you get a broad overview of what areas are receiving the most attention from your customers. For example, you could use categories like:

    • Onboarding
    • Pricing/billing
    • Feature requests
    • Product/user experience
    • Technical support.

    You can also break these down further into sub-categories i.e. whether the feedback is negative or positive.

     

    This exercise will help you to highlight any overarching trends and “hidden” issues that your business might not have identified, such as confusing pricing structures or difficulty finding support documentation.

     

    Start feedback analysis

    While it's possible to analyze your feedback manually, this is a very time-consuming process and requires someone with strong expertise in coding and data analysis. Moreover, there's always the potential for personal bias to get in the way of finding actionable insights from your customers.

    Instead, consider using a tool such as Marsello, which can organize feedback data into graphs and tables that make it easy to analyze the information.

    Marsello-Feedback-ReportAs patterns start emerging, it's important to ask yourself some key questions:

    • Are these new or established customers?
    • Where are they located?
    • Who has been assigned to manage their account?

    This helps to add context to the results of your analysis – and may also establish some underlying causes for recurring issues.

     

    Present your results

    Once you have the results of your customer feedback campaign, you need to think about the best way to present them to your teams. This will depend on whether you're doing a relatively focused feedback survey or a landmark study on your product/service as a whole.

     

    If it's a small feedback project, you can likely present the results on a one-page that summarizes the key takeaways via bullet points or tables. In the case of large, multi-question studies, you will need to break this down in a lot more detail.

     

    Large-scale data visualization using line or bar graphs are a great way to communicate to your staff the changes to customer sentiment over time and provide answers to key questions. Check out this visualization by Thematic investigating the reasons behind a drop in NPS:

     

    Thematic uses a graph visualization to represent how a customer rating has dropped.

     

    Thematic not only displays the drop-in NPS rating over time but also offers the user detailed information that highlights why their performance could be taking a downward turn. 

     

    Final words

    Customer feedback has traditionally been one of the most neglected elements in customer success. It's easy for businesses to tell themselves that gathering customer feedback is too time-consuming or difficult to analyze to be worth the effort. 

     

    But at the end of the day, customer satisfaction is the key to long-term success as a business. If your customers are unhappy with your service or product offering, your churn rate is going to skyrocket. But by implementing a strong customer feedback program, you're in a much better position to foster retention and loyalty.

     

    Need to collect and analyze customer feedback? Marsello has powerful tools to help retailers gather input from shoppers and turn them into actionable insights. 

     

     

    Learn more about Marsello's featuresGET MARSELLO



     

    What is Omnichannel Marketing?

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    Omnichannel – the 'in' phrase of the retail space. So what does omnichannel mean & how can you implement it into your business? Read on to learn more.

    A Guide to Marketing Across Multiple Channels

    It's one of the biggest buzzwords in retail and marketing, and one that all businesses should be paying attention to. 

    Omnichannel.

    Industry data shows that marketers using three or more channels in any one campaign earned a 287% higher purchase rate than those using a single-channel campaign.

    With numbers like this, retailers have few reasons not to embrace the power of omnichannel marketing. 

    In this post, we're going to define omnichannel marketing, why it matters, and how to implement your own omnichannel marketing strategy for better customer engagement and sales.

    What is omnichannel marketing? 


    Simply put, it’s a retail strategy that involves the complete integration of all offline and digital channels. It denotes a customer-centric approach by prioritizing seamless, high-touch shopping journeys that take place across multiple channels.

    With seamless channel integration, customers can easily complete actions like checking inventory levels online before turning up at their local store. And it's shopping experiences like these that positively influence customer loyalty and helps to create brand advocates. 

    Omnichannel marketing ensures that customers receive a cohesive shopping experience. All sales and marketing channels operate in sync with one another to build trust and brand engagement.

     

    The difference between multichannel and omnichannel marketing


    Don't confuse omnichannel marketing with multichannel marketing. 

    While both involve coordinating marketing strategies that span several channels (such as eCommerce, social media, SMS messaging, and mobile apps), the execution is very different.

    Multichannel puts the product, rather than the customer, at the center of marketing activities. So, while multichannel marketing allows consumers to engage a brand via several channels, they cannot transition seamlessly between them. This silos messaging and keeps it static, rather than adapting to the needs of each customer.

    In contrast, the channel integration of omnichannel marketing means that every message is relevant and tailored to your individual customer as they shop across multiple channels and devices.

    For example, if a customer puts an item in their cart with the intent of coming back for it later, they might receive a push notification or SMS alert to let them know when that product is low in stock. They might also get a tailored promotion to entice them to purchase. It's these personalized interactions with customers which make omnichannel marketing efforts much more successful than a generalized multichannel approach.

     

    A retailer and a customer using an in-store POS system while smiling and chatting.

    Why implement omnichannel marketing? 


    Here’s a quick rundown of the advantages you can unlock from omnichannel marketing.

    Providing a consistent experience across channels

    If we think about our most negative retail experiences, they're likely to involve scenarios where retailers have obstructed rather than aided our efforts to shop efficiently. 

    As consumers show a growing preference to use multiple channels to execute their shopping journeys, it's never been more important for retailers to meet these expectations. According to a study by Invespcro, the most in-demand services are: 

        • Checking product availability before arriving in-store (82%)
        • BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick-Up In-Store) (57%)
        • Having a customer profile stored across channels (50%)
        • Personalized shopping experiences (47%)

    By implementing advanced omnichannel experiences like these, your customers have the freedom to shop how they want without barriers. This makes them feel empowered during their shopping journey and helps to foster trust in your brand.

    Maximizing touchpoints with your customer

    In the past, we would walk into a brick-and-mortar store, browse for a bit, and then make a purchase – often within the same visit. 

    Today, consumer behavior is very different. People want as much information as possible before committing to a purchase, especially if they are new customers shopping with a brand for the first time. This involves utilizing multiple channels to research and compare options.

    Today, 82% of customers use their mobile devices to browse before purchasing at a physical store. By offering customers a unified experience across digital and offline channels, you can add a huge amount of value through engaging touchpoints that build brand awareness and customer loyalty.

    Valuable data-driven insights

    Seamless experiences across different channels mean more opportunities to gather customer data. Omnichannel integration allows you to follow the customer journey from beginning to end, meaning that you gain access to in-depth insights about who your customers are and what they're looking for. 

    It allows you to identify key buying patterns and personas within your target audience – including those you hadn't anticipated shopping with your brand. This makes it easier to deliver the appropriate messaging that coaxes prospective customers along the path to purchasing.

    When you understand your customers, you have a much better sense of how to encourage repeat purchases. This is why retailers who use an omnichannel approach see 90% higher customer retention can those who don't.

     

    How to start an omnichannel marketing strategy from scratch 


    Ready to kick off your omnichannel marketing strategy? Here are the steps you should take to set yourself up for success.

    1. Start thinking customer-centric

    Going omnichannel in your marketing is about more than just integrating your channels. For many retailers, it requires a fundamental shift in how your brand relates to its customers.

    Why? Because what's most convenient for your customers might not be what's easiest for business. To make this transition effectively, you need to have everybody on board inputting customer success at the center of the shopping experience.

    Making omnichannel campaigns run effectively is a lot of work, and requires serious consideration of every touchpoint within the buyer's journey. 

    For example, when your customer enters your website, does it have a responsive design that easily adjusts to mobile? Are your social media posts optimized to drive prospective customers to the appropriate product pages?

    By having your operations, sales, and marketing teams evaluate your marketing approach step by step, you can ensure a positive omnichannel customer experience.

    2. Know who your customer is

    You might be surprised by how many businesses don't have an in-depth understanding of who their customers are. A study by HubSpot found that 42% of businesses don't run customer engagement surveys or collect feedback.

    This is a problem because if you don't touch base with customers and get their feedback, you won't get insights into what they want and need. Collecting feedback also helps you determine the right demographics, so you can create more effective personas for your campaigns.

    To  put your customer first, you need to invest in gathering data that gives you the full picture of their activities and preferences, such as: 

        • What problems does your business help customers to solve? 
        • Through what channels do they like interacting with your brand most, and why? 
        • Which kinds of content do they find the most useful/valuable?

    You can accomplish this by using data from your CRM, or by running surveys across channels and asking for feedback at multiple points during the shopping journey. 

    3.  Invest in the proper toolkit

    Example of Marsello's POS integration working with Loyalty.

    When it comes to omnichannel marketing, your strategy is only going to be as strong as the tools supporting it. 

    As well as helping you to generate and nurture more leads, marketing automation allows you to build personalized experiences for your customers by sending them targeted content that supports their needs. Best of all, the data captured from these workflows in the form of CTRs and engagement rates will tell you whether your efforts are hitting the mark.

    This is where a solution like Marsello comes in handy. Our software serves as an all-in-one omnichannel marketing platform that combines email, SMS, and loyalty programs. Since everything is accessible on a single platform, data flows smoothly from one channel to the next, and it's easier to provide a seamless shopping experience no matter where your customers are. 

    Marsello also integrates with leading point-of-sale systems and eCommerce platforms, so you can easily sync your physical and digital stores as one.

    GET MARSELLO


    4. Content, content, content


    No matter how advanced your marketing software is, the content remains the backbone of omnichannel marketing. This involves everything from your social media content down to in-store signage

    For example, let's say that your business is running a promotion that gives your customers 20% off storewide both offline and online. Your online store has a big banner on the home page publicizing the discount, and a promotional email has been sent out to your mailing list to spread the word. 

    But when customers walk into one of your physical store locations, there's no signage greeting them at the door to make them aware of the discount. 

    A lack of cohesion between your offline and digital marketing efforts can result in a lot of missed sales opportunities; if in-store customers don't know about the promotion until checkout, they're a lot less likely to maximize spending to get a better deal. This makes informative touchpoints essential for successful omnichannel retailing.

    Want to see an omnichannel content strategy done right? Check out Federation, a streetwear brand that runs a powerful omnichannel loyalty program. Federation allows customers to earn and redeem points in-store and online, so shoppers are rewarded regardless of where and how they're shopping. 

    Plus, the program’s content and messaging are consistent on all channels, so the customer experience always feels seamless and on-brand. 

     

    Federations SMS campaign overlaid on branded imagery

     

    Another excellent example comes from the jewelry brand and clothing stockist, Katie Waltman. The store runs a comprehensive marketing initiative that covers loyalty, feedback collection, and email marketing. In doing so, Katie Waltman is able to connect with customers across multiple platforms. 

    Just like with Federation, the content and messages that Katie Waltman puts out there are consistent on all channels and devices. So whether people encounter the brand in-store, on their eCommerce site, or via email, customers are treated to the same look and feel. 

    Marsello-Loyalty-Katie-Waltman-Email-Campaign

     

    5. Segmenting your messaging

    As we mentioned above, what separates multichannel marketing from omnichannel is that customers are not treated as a one-size-fits-all group. 

    The valuable data insights that omnichannel retailing gathers from across the shopping journey give you the ability to segment customers according to demographic data, shopping behavior, and the “warmth” of leads. 

    According to Epsilon, 80% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a brand that offers personalized experiences. In short, you can deliver the right content at the right time to enhance customer lifetime value. 

    For example, with the aid of marketing automation, you can set up specific triggers to target customers who've purchased certain items (e.g. "you might also like..." emails) or those who've been “inactive” for a certain period of time by sending an SMS with a link that allows them to set their communications preferences. 

    We can see this in action in Brandini Toffee, which uses Marsello to send automated marketing emails based on user behavior. One notable example? The Brandini team sends a campaign automated email geared towards shoppers who have abandoned their cart. To entice this segment to complete their purchase, Brandini Toffee sends a reminder email with a built-in product recommendations section that is automatically populated with similar products and items which the customer is likely to enjoy (based on their previous shopping behaviors). 

    Since they first created automated campaigns, Brandini Toffee has seen as much as a 583% increase in attributable sales and this campaign alone has generated 95% of the total orders generated by Brandini’s automated campaigns.

     

    Brandini Toffees abandoned cart email campaign on a mustard yellow background

     

    Learn more about Marsello's features


    6. Track and analyze

    The power of your omnichannel marketing efforts becomes more evident the longer they're in play. The more you invest in gathering and utilizing data from customer journeys, the more you can refine your approach to target exactly what it is your customers want.

    This is why it's important to test and track different elements of your marketing strategy to find what appeals most to your customers. This includes A/B testing of different copy, subject lines, images, and CTAs to see which gets the best response. 

    It's also important to compare your content across channels to see what works for each medium – what works on email, for example, isn't necessarily going to resonate with your audience on Instagram.

     By regularly analyzing the results of your omnichannel marketing campaigns, you can ensure that your business is using the very best formula to inform and excite your customers.

     

    Final words


    Implementing a thoughtful omnichannel marketing strategy is a big step up for retailers who are used to more siloed multichannel strategies. But if you want consumers to choose your business over the likes of Amazon, it's essential that you can facilitate seamless shopping experiences that allow customers to move between channels with ease.

    At the center of successful omnichannel marketing is a core philosophy; it’s seeing your customer as the center of gravity that your brand revolves around. So long as you stick to this core idea, the rest will follow.

     

    Mastering Personalized Email Marketing with Custom Segmentation

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    Learn how to segment your customers in groups derived from customers’ shopping data and use those segments to create targeted marketing that converts.

    marsello-miniblog-personalized-email-marketing-01

     

    Did you know that you can use Marsello’s email marketing features to send personalized product recommendation emails? Whether you’re selling t-shirts, soaps, high-end jewelry, or photography services, taking the time to customize your marketing for specific segments will have a huge positive impact on both your customer loyalty, and on your revenue. Just follow these steps to create highly-targeted segmentation marketing that converts happy customers.

     

    Infographic: Product recommendations account for up to 31% of eCommerce site's revenue.

    Fun fact: Product recommendations account for up to 31% of eCommerce site's revenue.

     

    Step 1: Create a custom segment

    Log in to your Marsello app, select the ‘Customers’ section in the navigation menu, and then click on ‘Segments’.

     

    Select ‘Create Segment’ to start building your audience. To use an example, let’s say you want to reach out to VIP customers who bought from your awesome graphic tee collection for men, but haven’t made a purchase in the last 3-6 months.

     

    PRO TIP: Avoid sending emails to your entire customer database. Personalized marketing is much more effective than blanket approaches. Remember – the email that's written for everyone works for no one!

     

    Step 2: Create a Campaign

    Navigate to the ‘Campaigns’ feature in your Marsello app, and click on ‘New Campaign’. Under ‘Choose Your Audience’, click on ‘Selected Customer Segments’, and choose the new segment you just created of graphic tee fans. Write a punchy subject line (don’t be afraid to try emojis!), review your settings, and click ‘Next Step’.

     

    Now it’s time to get creative; here are a few ways you can make this email stand out:

    • Use the ‘Personalize’ tool from your text styling menu to include your customers’ first names, their VIP tier, and their points balance

    • Match your email design to your website to keep branding consistent

    • Use ‘you’ and ‘your’ where possible to make the email feel personal

    • Drag in a video block and share your best content.

    Lemonade's summer stock email campaign using Marsello's drag-and-drop builder

    Step 3: Add the Product Recommendations block

    As you’re personalizing your email, drag and drop the ‘Product Recommendations’ block into your message. The block will show up differently depending on which customer receives it – Marsello’s algorithm runs through a giant database of purchase behaviors to determine what each user is most likely to buy based on how they’ve shopped before. It’s pretty in-depth stuff, and if you want to learn more about the nitty gritty, you can read about it here.

     

    Using ‘Product Recommendations’, along with the personalization options from Step 3, means that every single customer will get a different email, one tailored specifically to them – making them much more likely to convert!

     

    PRO TIP: Send yourself a Test Email to make sure you're happy with the finished product.

     

     

    Step 4: Hit ‘Send’ and watch your conversion rates climb

    Once you’re happy with your message, click ‘Next Step’, review your audience, settings, design, and select if you want to send your email immediately or schedule for the future. Depending on what you choose, click either ‘Send Now’ or ‘Schedule Campaign’, and wait for your results to come in.

     

    With these targeted email campaigns, your customers are 600% more likely to continue shopping with you and help you grow your business, simply due to the fact that you’re only emailing them when it matters. 

     

     

    Export a custom audienceGET MARSELLO

     

    How to Grow Customer Loyalty With Birthday Rewards

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    Learn the essentials about rewarding your customers on their birthdays and discover the benefits of a generous loyalty program.
     

    Did you know that you can use Marsello’s loyalty program feature to reward points to customers for making another journey around the sun? Follow the steps here to drastically improve your customer retention rate by helping shoppers feel special on their birthday.

    Improve your customer retention infographic

     

    Fun fact: a 5% increase in customer loyalty can increase your average profit per customer by 25-95%.

     

    Step 1: Collect Birthday Info

    Before you can celebrate a birthday, you need to know when it is! If your customers sign up for your loyalty program online, they’ll have the option to add their birthday when completing their profile; if they subscribe to your mailing list via a signup form, you’ll have to include the option when designing your form.

     

    Step 2: Set Up Your Loyalty Program

    In your app navigation, go to ‘Loyalty’ and click on ‘Loyalty Widget’. Take your time here to design a really eye-popping widget that matches your branding, and gets your customers excited to sign up. Include your logo, choose photos that showcase your products, and select a layout that will look great on your website. Make sure to also customize the ‘Tab’ section here, as this is the first thing site visitors will see of your new Loyalty Program! Learn how to create a loyalty program with Marsello.

     

    PRO TIP: Try a tabless program and include more details and design.

     

     

     

    Once you’re happy with the design, click ‘Save & Publish’ and check out how the live widget looks on your website.

    For more help setting up your program, check out this section of our Help Center and read our loyalty guide, The Loyalty Marketing Guide: 7 Strategies for Gaining Customers for Life.

     

    Step 3: Turn On Happy Birthday Rewards

    Now that you’ve designed your widget, it’s time to enable your loyalty settings and start rewarding customers. Back in the navigation, go to ‘Loyalty’ and click ‘Earning Points and Referrals’. For the purpose of this article, we’re going to focus on the ‘Member birthday’ option, but read through each possible action and turn on whichever suits your business.

     

    PRO TIP: 'Making a purchase' and 'Referring friends' are two powerful options you should have turned on. 'Making a purchase' rewards customers for shopping with you; 'Referring friends' rewards them for bringing you more customers! Win-win.

     

    Next to the ‘Member birthday’ option, click the toggle to switch from ‘Off’ to ‘On’. Here, you’ll decide how many points to award for this action, and whether or not there’s a minimum enrolment period. Click ‘Save’ when you’re happy with your settings to set it live.

    If you ever want to see how many people have gotten points for their birthday, simply navigate back to this page and click on ‘See Activity’. This will take you to a list of customers who have received birthday points.

     

    Step 4: Loyalty Program Marketing

    Your loyalty program can be a really powerful sales and marketing tool. Loyalty programs are proven to improve customer retention rates, and even a small increase of 5% in retention can boost profits by a whopping 25-95%.

    Now that you’ve built your program, this is where email, content, and social media marketing come in. Here are some of the most effective ways to market your new loyalty program, and let current and future customers know they can expect a truly rewarding experience with your business:

    When you add a new option for collecting points, such as the Happy Birthday reward, don’t be afraid to make a big fuss, and to use your favorite tactics from this list to get the word out. Remember: customers love to know what you and your brand can do for them, and the more opportunities you can create to help them feel special, the better.

     

    Turn on Birthday RewardsGET MARSELLO

    Collecting Feedback To Enhance Your Customer's Experience

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    Fun fact: a 5% increase in customer loyalty can increase your ROI. Learn about rewarding customers & discover the benefits of loyalty marketing. Read more.

    Marsello Feature Mini-Series. Boosting customer loyalty with birthday rewards.

     

    Did you know that you can use Marsello’s Loyalty Program to reward points to customers for making another journey around the sun? Follow the steps here to drastically improve your customer retention rate by helping shoppers feel special on their birthday.

     

    Improve your customer retention infographic

    Fun fact: a 5% increase in customer loyalty can increase your average profit per customer by 25-95%.

     

    Step 1: Collect birthday info.

    Before you can celebrate a birthday, you need to know when it is! If your customers sign up for your loyalty program online, they’ll have the option to add their birthday when completing their profile; if they subscribe to your mailing list via a signup form, you’ll have to include the option when designing your form.

     

    Step 2: Set up your Loyalty Program

    In your app navigation, go to ‘Loyalty’ and click on ‘Loyalty Widget’. Take your time here to design a really eye-popping widget that matches your branding, and gets your customers excited to sign up. Include your logo, choose photos that showcase your products, and select a layout that will look great on your website. Make sure to also customize the ‘Tab’ section here, as this is the first thing site visitors will see of your new Loyalty Program! 

     

    PRO TIP: try a tabless program and include more details and design.


    Learn how to create one here.

     

    Once you’re happy with the design, click ‘Save & Publish’ and check out how the live widget looks on your website.

    For more help setting up your program, check out this section of our Help Center.

     

    Step 3: Turn on Happy Birthday rewards
    Now that you’ve designed your widget, it’s important to decide what actions your customers will be rewarded for. Back in the navigation, go to ‘Loyalty’ and click ‘Earning Points and Referrals’. For the purpose of this article, we’re going to focus on the ‘Member birthday’ option, but read through each possible action and turn on whichever suits your business.

     

    PRO TIP: ‘Making a purchase’ and ‘Referring friends’ are two powerful options you should have turned on. 'Making a purchase' rewards customers for shopping with you; 'Referring friends' rewards them for bringing you more customers! Win-win.

     

    Next to the ‘Member birthday’ option, click the toggle to switch from ‘Off’ to ‘On’. Here, you’ll decide how many points to award for this action, and whether or not there’s a minimum enrolment period. Click ‘Save’ when you’re happy with your settings to set it live.

     

    If you ever want to see how many people have gotten points for their birthday, simply navigate back to this page and click on ‘See Activity’. This will take you to a list of customers who have received birthday points.

     

    Step 4: Market your Loyalty Program

    Your loyalty program can be a really powerful sales and marketing tool. Loyalty programs are proven to improve customer retention rates, and even a small increase of 5% in retention can boost profits by a whopping 25-95%.

     

    Now that you’ve built your program, this is where email, content, and social media marketing come in. Here are some of the most effective ways to market your new loyalty program, and let current and future customers know they can expect a truly rewarding experience with your business:

    When you add a new option for collecting points, such as the Happy Birthday reward, don’t be afraid to make a big fuss, and to use your favorite tactics from this list to get the word out. Remember: customers love to know what you and your brand can do for them, and the more opportunities you can create to help them feel special, the better.

    SEO Series Part 3: Common Mistakes SEO Mistakes for Retailers to Know

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    Solve common SEO mistakes before ever even making them with Part 3 of our SEO mini-series.

    In this article, we’ll be talking about the common mistakes online retailers make when optimizing their websites for search. Many eCommerce retailers make errors during their quest to improve their SEO without realizing it. They end up sabotaging their own efforts in small ways; small errors can build up over time to become a major barrier to their top-of-page-one aspirations.

    How to improve your retail store SEO ranking

    Fortunately, fixing these isn’t as complex as you might think; a few quick adjustments will have you on the way to a higher ranking in no time.

    Read the points below and see if you’re making these mistakes on your website:

     

    Mistake 1: Not optimizing your product URLs

    URLs might seem like a minor consideration, but they are extremely relevant to eCommerce SEO; this is because they play a significant role in how Google indexes each page of your site.

    The URLs of your product pages should help search engines to work out how the different parts of your site relate to each other. This is especially important for your broader product categories (e.g. ‘dresses’). You want these categories to rank well because this is how your potential customers can access your catalog from the search engine results page (SERP).

    Even the biggest eCommerce sites still make persistent errors in this area. See below this link from the clothing giant H&M:

     

    H&M product page url

     

    Would you be able to tell what the item was by looking at this URL? No chance. It contains no keywords, so it’s only by clicking that you’d know the item is a V-neck dress. This is exactly the kind of link you want to avoid; it looks messy and chaotic, so no one is likely to click on it.

    A messy URL also makes your site more difficult to navigate. If your customers can’t retrace their steps back to other parts of your site by reading your URLs, there’s a good chance that Google will struggle as well.

    What to do instead: focus on website hierarchy

    Your links should be offering a solid road map of your site. An optimized link would follow this structure:

    https://example.com/category/sub-category/product

    The pet care retailer Bobbie Dogs has a great URL structure – their URLs have a logical flow from the broader elements of the website (e.g., homepage, category pages, etc.) to the more specific parts (e.g., the product in question).

    As such, both Google and shoppers alike will find it easier to understand what the page is all about. Check out their URL below and note the logical mapping of data within the URL; it’s easy to follow, understand and remember.

    Bobbie dogs url
     
     

    Mistake 2: Keyword stuffing your product titles and descriptions

    In SEO, keywords make the world go round, so it’s a smart idea to incorporate them into your web copy. And since product descriptions make up a sizeable chunk of your on-site content, it makes sense for you to optimize them with the right search terms.

    Product descriptions help Google determine the relevance of your pages in response to a search query, so it’s vital that they show up on the search engine’s radar.

    But trying to write for Google instead of your customer through keyword stuffing will make your copy look stilted and awkward. Plus, the practice can really hurt your rankings because the clunky sentences make it look like you aren’t trying to be informative.

    Here is a prime example from a listing on Etsy:

     

    Keyword stuffing in an Etsy store product listing

     

    This description is very wordy and dense, using the keyword ‘top’ multiple times. It also uses far more descriptors than necessary, making it more likely to confuse customers than inform them.

    What to do instead: Sprinkle in keywords and don’t overdo it

    Use your keywords moderately and only in places where it’s natural to do so. Try putting yourself in the position of your customer when you read your copy. Is it relevant, useful and compelling? If so, that’s what will make them want to stick around – and Google, in turn, will reward your website for it.

    Check out this example from Triangl, a highly successful Australian swimsuit brand. In the following product page, you’ll notice that Triangle lightly sprinkles relevant keywords (e.g., ‘bikini’) throughout the content without going overboard.

    Triangls product listings are concise, clear, and helps to sell their products

    Mistake 3: Not having an internal linking strategy for your product pages

    What often gets overlooked in discussions about algorithms is that site ranking really boils down to usability.

    Translation: your site architecture needs to be on-point, and this is judged in part by how easy your site is to navigate. The purpose of an eCommerce site is to have customers buy products, so you need to gear your link structure to this end. There’s no point in only having navigational links to your site’s ‘about us’ and ‘contact’ pages. This won’t take your customers anywhere near the shopping cart! If your customer is looking for something specific, the links they come across in their searching need to be relevant and useful.

    What to do instead: Improve your site’s usability with the right internal links

    Internal linking really boosts your site usability. If you link between ‘similar’ product pages, whether they be companion products or products with similar features, this massively improves the user experience of your site. Keeping your customers browsing between products for longer periods sends positive ranking signals to Google, which helps you in the SEO department.

    Take this example from women's fashion store, Osmose:

     

    Osmose's product recommendations listed below their product pages

    On this page, Osmose has included a plug-in that recommends similar products to customers as they browse This aids a customer’s shopping experience because they’re able to find relevant products much easier.

     

    Mistake 4: Not optimizing your site for mobile

    Having a site that isn’t mobile-optimized may not be killing your SEO rankings just yet, but in July 2019, Google will begin using a ‘mobile-first’ indexing system – this means that your site will get judged according to its mobile-friendliness. Google’s new system replaces a previous update in 2015, which used a mix of mobile and desktop signals to dictate search results.

    So even though it currently makes no difference if the majority of your traffic still comes from ‘desktop-based’ searching, Google has basically confirmed that mobile is king. Moral of the story? If your site isn’t mobile-optimized, your ranking could be taking a hit in a few months’ time.

     

    What to do instead: Implement responsive web design

    Rather than having your mobile customers struggle with a shrunken version of your desktop site, you should install a responsive layout. Responsive Web Design (RWD) is the approach recommended by Google because it doesn’t create separate URLs for desktop and mobile, which can get confused as duplicate content (a real SEO headache). RWD instead adjusts to the layout needed for each user, whether it be mobile, tablet, or desktop.

    Google’s free mobile-friendly test allows you to analyze each page of your website by entering the URL, providing feedback on any issues.

    And here’s the good news: some of the best eCommerce platforms, including Shopify and BigCommerce, now provide responsive themes. So, it’s worth checking if you need to update to the latest version, or else switch to a custom theme.

    Mistake 5: Publishing low-quality content


    It’s easy to fall into the trap of ‘content for content’s sake’ to improve your ranking, particularly when it comes to your blog.

    Many SEO experts agree that having a blog is an important part of SEO strategy because they’re a great tool for adding more indexed pages to your site. Google’s ‘crawlers’ treat pages as individual search results that show up if they match a query. The more indexed pages you have, the more queries that your brand will get associated with. So, it’s tempting to churn out tons of short, hastily-written content each week, simply to get your indexed page count higher.

    But Google is well-aware that this strategy is used to ‘trick’ its algorithm, and the search engine penalizes websites with a high number of pages ‘thin’ content.

    What to do instead: Choose quality over quantity

    Switch to a strategy that prioritizes high-value content that engages, informs, and entertains your readers.

    In terms of the content itself, your focus needs to be less about the semantics of SEO. Being perfectly optimized for keywords isn’t what makes a blog interesting! So, what does? Content that is well-researched and contains insights that people can use or learn from.

    Check out the skincare specialist, Sigi Skin. Many of their posts are highly actionable and contain pointers that their customers can do on their own.

     

    Sigi Skin Blog
     

    Mistake 6: Not optimizing your images for SEO

    There are a number of key errors that eCommerce merchants make when it comes to images. They include:

    • Using larger-than-necessary images - It's a known fact that page speed is a ranking factor for Google. Using large images increase a page's load time, which in turn hurts your rankings.

    • Not having the right image titles and tags - Search engines crawl image file names and alt text to figure out what image is about, so by failing to optimize these components, you're missing out on giving Google valuable information about your images.

    • Using images to replace text - Some merchants use images that contain words, to avoid dealing with text formatting issues. While this may seem like a smart shortcut, it does nothing for SEO. Again, this practice prevents you from fully communicating with search engines, thereby hurting your rankings in the process.

    What to do instead: Always consider SEO when using images

    Optimize your image file names and alt-tags by using descriptive words. Let's say you're posting an image of a red party dress. Instead of naming it "IMG_0321111.jpg" use the file name "red-scoop-neck-dress.jpg".

    The same thing goes for your alt text. According to BigCommerce, in addition to serving as "an alternative when websites can't render the image for some reason," alt text "describes the image to search engines so they can understand them."

    The best thing you can do to optimize your alt text is to sprinkle in keywords that clearly communicate what the image is. Just make sure not to overdo it by keyword stuffing.

    As for your image sizes, BigCommerce recommends keeping your images under 70KB. Also opt for JPEG instead of PNG or GIF, because it “allows higher quality with a smaller file size.”

    Finally, avoid using images as a replacement for text. Remember, search engines determine your rankings primarily by crawling the text on your website, so make sure you have enough word-based content on there to give Google a clear idea of what each page is about.

     

    Creating a webpage as an image

     

    Final words


    SEO can feel like a real minefield for both new and experienced eCommerce merchants. Ultimately, though, the most important thing to keep in mind is that both you and Google have the same goal; to give your customer the best user experience possible. Focus on that and you’ll be on your way to better SEO rankings.

    Have you seen the rest of the SEO Series? Check out Part One and Two in the links below.

     

    Take me to part 1Take me to part 2

    SEO Series Part 2: Making Search Engine Optimization More Affordable

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    Part 2 of our SEO series gives you actionable tips on getting started with eCommerce SEO while taking the DIY route!

    Marsello's SEO blog series Part 2

    Welcome to the second instalment of Marsello’s eCommerce SEO series. In our previous article, we talked about the basics of Search Engine Optimization and the initial steps you should take to kick off your efforts.

     

    This week, we’ll be discussing the costs of Search Engine Optimization and the things you can do to get more bang for your buck.

     

    A 2018 study by Ahrefs found that the most popular hourly rate for SEO professionals ranges from $101-150 per hour. For those that charge monthly retainer fees, the range of $500-$1,000 per month was the most popular pricing tier.

     

    And while those figures aren’t surprising, they’re far from being chump change, especially if you’re a small business.

     

    So what does an SMB to do?

     

    While your exact steps will depend on how much SEO work you need, we’ve put together some expert-backed pointers on how you can save money on search engine optimization costs.

    Let’s have a look.

     

    Educate yourself

    If you have some time on your hands and don’t have the budget to pay someone $100+ an hour for SEO services, then going the do-it-yourself (aka DIY) route could be a good way to go. Just remember, though, that your results from your DIY efforts will only be as good as your SEO knowledge.

     

    That’s why if you’re not well-versed in Search Engine Optimization, the first thing you should do is educate yourself.

     

    “There are so many resources available online now to do your own SEO, even for online merchants,” says Ben Hanzel, chief editor at BestCompany.com

     

    He adds that eCommerce-centric SEO is different from the average website, which is why he recommends consuming SEO resources specifically for eCommerce merchants.

     

    Alex Ratynski of Make Bank Blogging echoes this advice. “In my years of experience as a professional SEO, I have worked with a number of brands and businesses big and small. For those smaller businesses in eCommerce, I think a lot can be done by just simply educating themselves beforehand. This will help whether they work with a consultant or not.”

     

    To start with, Alex suggests the comprehensive eCommerce SEO guides from Ahrefs, Backlinko, and Neil Patel. Guides such as these give a good grounding for the information eCommerce retailers need when getting started with SEO and it’s a great idea to get this base-understanding as early as possible.

     

    Hire a consultant who can offer advice

    If you have funds to spare, Hanzel recommends using it on a consultant. But rather than paying an SEO specialist to work on your site for 20+ hours a month for a year, you can choose to spend a fraction of the cost by consulting with an expert who can tell you what to do.

     

    “It may be worth getting an hour consultation, to know where to start,” he says. “Some SEO companies even offer this for free, as long as you're willing to sit through a sales pitch at the end of it.”

     

    Another option is to hire someone as an ’overseer’ rather than a full-fledged service provider. According to Ratynski, one thing you could do is bring in someone "for a few hours every few months to do full audits, give clear actionable improvements, reasons for those, and then give you the option to do it yourself.”

     

    With that said, if you decide to hire a consultant or advisor, make it a point to take action on their recommendations. “SEO does take time, so make sure you're putting in the effort and time to fully dedicate yourself to it, and you'll reap the benefits for years,” says Hanzel.

     

    To reiterate Hanzel’s point, SEO can take months even to seem to make a difference, and even then it’s not static. You will need to update your store, information, and content frequently to be sure that it’s relevant. The basic idea is that Google and other search engines see your site, process that information as valuable to the search requests of your potential customers, and prioritizes your site in the search results. The higher your store appears in that list; the more likely a customer is to click on it and convert to purchasing with you. SEO is a long game, but it’s undeniably important.

     

    Marketing professional uses diary and computer to make SEO plan.

    Go the DIY route

    Once you have the SEO info you need (either by reading up on Search Engine Optimization or consulting with an expert), it’s time to take action on what you’ve learned. The specifics will vary, depending on your site, but generally speaking, the success of your SEO efforts will hinge on how well you do the following:

    • Keyword research

    • Content creation

    • Link building

    Let’s look at each of these components in more detail.

     

    Keyword research

    As we mentioned in our previous post, keyword research is the cornerstone of any Search Engine Optimization strategy. Before getting to the ‘optimization’ part of SEO, you first need to identify the keywords that your customers are searching for.

    As we mentioned previously, the best keywords are the ones with a high search volume (because it means many people are searching for it) but with a competition level low enough for you to compete with.

    But there's another key component that makes a search term worth targeting, and that's intent. When doing your research, you need to discern whether or not a keyword is backed by a consumer's intent to buy.

    For example, a person searching for keywords like ‘where to buy a coffee mug’ or ‘travel porcelain mugs’ likely has a stronger buying intent than someone who's looking for information on just ‘coffee’ or  ‘how to clean a coffee mug.’

    When identifying keywords to use in your copy, ask yourself: "does this search term reflect an intent to buy?". If the answer is no, then it's not a good keyword to target.

     

    How to find keyword ideas

    There’s no shortage of SEO tools dedicated to keyword research. Some of the industry’s favorites include Ahrefs, SEMRush, and Mangools, though we should note that these come with a subscription fee.

     

    And since this guide is for merchants looking to save on SEO costs, we’ll be focusing on the free tools you can use to find keywords.

     

    Google Keyword Planner

    Google’s Keyword Planner is a great starting point for search term ideas. Simply enter keywords related to your product, and the tool will make numerous suggestions based on what others are searching for. Google will also display a search volume and competition level for each keyword.

    For instance, when you enter the word ‘mug’ into Google’s Keyword Planner, it’ll serve up nearly a thousand relevant ‘mug’ related keywords you can sift through.

     

    Google Ads keyword planner

     

    Ubersuggest

     

    Online marketing guru Neil Patel created a nifty tool called ‘Ubersuggest’, which can be an excellent source for ideas. Much like Google Keyword Planner, Ubersuggest displays search volume estimates and competition info. Even better, Ubersuggest offers keyword difficulty insights that can estimate your chances of ranking in the top 20 search results.

     

    Ubersuggest keyword search volume

     

    Amazon

     

    Another easy way to surface the right keywords is to use Amazon. Just start typing your keyword into the search box and take note of what the autocomplete feature will display.

    What’s great about this method is that since Amazon is already a shopping site, most (if not all of the keywords) it suggests would be high-intent search terms.

     

    Amazon search suggestions

     

    Google

     

    Google (the search engine) also has a great autocomplete feature that you can mine for keyword ideas. Again, just type in a search term and see what the tool suggests.

     

    Google search suggestions

     

    Do note that that with the last two suggestions (i.e., Amazon and Google) you won’t get any data on search volume and competition. That’s why if you’re using these sites for keyword ideas, you’ll need to take note of the keywords you want to target and enter them into a tool (like Google Keyword Planner) that shows you how many people are searching for the term and what the competition looks like.  

     

    Content creation

    Once you've figured out the best keywords to target, start incorporating them in your copy. There are a number of key places to do this, including your title tags, meta descriptions, headers and subheads, and product and category descriptions.

     

    A great example of a website that does all of the above is Zazzle. Their website is one of the top search results for ‘funny mugs’ and for good reason. As you’ll see below, all the key areas of Zazzle’s category and product pages are optimized for search.

     

    Title tags – In addition to telling search engines what the title of a page is, the title tag is also text that shows up on search results, so it's also one of the first pieces of information that potential visitors see. In eCommerce, the best places on which to optimize your title tags are your category pages and product pages.

     

    Meta description – As we mentioned in our previous post, meta descriptions don’t directly affect your rankings. However, they still show up in search results, so they can influence a searcher’s decision to click through your site. For this reason, it’s important that your meta description still contains relevant keywords

     

    Zazzle meta description

     
    Headers and subheaders – Headers and subheaders can have a lot of SEO value, as Google factors them in when determining if a page is relevant to a particular search term. From user's perspective, headers can act as signposts that help visitors easily skim your content or jump to the section that's relevant to them. In the world of ecommerce, your headers usually come in the form of your product titles and subtitles, so make sure they're optimized for search.
     
    Creating webpage headers and subheaders

     

    Product or category descriptions – Your product and category descriptions essentially tell customers and search engines what your merchandise is all about. In addition to peppering in relevant keywords, you want to make sure your descriptions are unique. Google doesn’t like duplicate content, so using the product descriptions of your manufacturers – or worse – copying another website’s description, will lead to poor rankings.

     

    Creating SEO-optimized product titles

     

    Link building

    After you’ve optimized your content for SEO, the next step is to build links for your site. While no one knows for sure how Google's algorithm works, pretty much everyone agrees that links are a critical ranking factor.

     

    According to Search Engine Journal, “Backlinks remain an important Google ranking factor, but over the years, Google has learned to weed out the bad links from the good. More links will still result in a higher score, but only if they’re from a number of diverse and authoritative domains.”

    In short, the more high-quality links pointing to your site, the better your chances of ranking.

    So, how do you build those precious backlinks? Consider the following ideas:

     

    Get featured on relevant blogs

    Build relationships with bloggers in your niche and see if they can feature you on their site. An effective tactic here is to send them a free sample in exchange for an honest review. You could even assign a promo code or affiliate link that allows bloggers to earn a commission when someone buys your product through their site.

     

    For instance, when Tarashaun Hausner reviewed Daily Harvest on her blog Blender Babes, she included a special promo code that gives readers 3 free cups when they sign up. Her post also contains affiliate links, so she can earn revenue for each signup.

     

    Daily Harvest used influencer marketing for SEO

     

    Do press outreach

    Connecting with members of the press is another great way to obtain backlinks. Find journalists who are writing a story relevant to your industry and volunteer yourself as a source for their article.

     

    You can easily do this using a tool called HARO. Short for “Help a Reporter Out,” HARO is a service that lets journalists submit queries asking for expert input for their articles. When you subscribe to their service, HARO sends you daily queries from journalists, which you can then respond to. If the journalist likes your input, they’ll include it in their article and will often link back to your website.

     

    Here’s an example of what query looks like. The journalist sends in a description of an article that they’re writing along with a request for sources. Members subscribers receive the query in their inbox and can choose to respond if they’re a good fit for the article.

     

    Marketers can use Haro to submit and create research requests

     

    Create share-worthy content

     

    Another way to gain backlinks? Produce link-worthy content. Create a piece of content (e.g., guide, video, blog etc) that’s so engaging that people would naturally want to link to it.

     

    Dollar Shave Club is a master at this strategy. The company regularly creates useful and entertaining content for its website; in addition to helping DSC engage their followers and subscribers, all that content is also helping them gain backlinks.

     

    For example, DSC’s ‘Original Content’ homepage currently has 285 backlinks, many of which are from high-quality sites.

     

    Dollar Shave Club's backlinks

     

    DSC is also doing well with video. The company has produced several hilarious videos about their product, which earned them backlinks from the likes of The Wall Street Journal, Vox, Entrepreneur, and more.

     

    One of their top videos currently has more than 25 million views and over 53,000 backlinks.

    As you can see, effectively gaining backlinks doesn’t just happen. Getting others to link to your site requires active outreach and content creation, so it’s critical to incorporate these tasks into your SEO strategy.

     

    Take advantage of free or affordable tools

    Depending on the SEO tasks that you’re doing, you can save a lot of money by choosing your tools wisely. We’ve already mentioned several free tools above, but here are additional SEO solutions you can use to optimize your website:

     

    Yoast – Yoast is a plugin made for WordPress. The free version enables you to optimize your blog posts through tools like keyword optimization and Google preview. Yoast can also check your content for readability and make on-page recommendations on how to improve.

     

    Keywords Everywhere – This is a free browser plugin for Chrome and Firefox that displays search volume, CPC, and competition data for the keywords that you search on sites like Google, Amazon, YouTube, Answer the Public, and more.

     

    LinkMiner – Another Chrome extension, LinkMiner helps surface broken on any website. Broken links can be harmful for SEO, so this tool makes it easy to find those pesky links so you can fix them.

     

    Can I Rank? – Can I Rank is an AI-powered tool that analyzes your website and gives you insights on what you can do improve? It provides insights like which pages are ranking well (and why) and you'll get suggestions for content ideas, link opportunities, and more.

     

    SERP Preview Tool – Curious about how your website will appear in search results? Portent's SERP Preview Tool can help. Just enter your title tag, meta description, and URL and the tool will generate Google search result preview for you.

     

    The tools mentioned in this guide are just the tip of the iceberg, though. If you’re looking to dive deeper into various SEO tools, we recommend the following resources:

    If you must outsource, know which tasks to do yourself and which to leave to a pro

    If you have a full plate and don’t have the capacity to fully shoulder all things SEO, consider adopting a hybrid approach where you do some tasks yourself while outsourcing others.

     

    How do you determine the right balance? Start by making a list of the SEO tasks that need to be addressed (e.g., link building, creating content, creating a site map, etc.). From there, figure out your strengths and focus your efforts on the things that you’re good at.

     

    As Catherine Giese, SEO associate at Fundera puts it, “SEO encompasses a lot of time-consuming techniques such as keyword research, site structuring, and link building. That's why it's often at least one person's job, if not that of an entire team,” she says.

     

    Giese continues, “take stock of your strengths to determine how to prioritize. For example, if you're an engineer, you may be able to do site structure, but may not be comfortable with doing outreach for link building purposes.”

     

    Follow her advice when you’re mapping out your strategy. Before diving into various SEO tasks, iron out the specific jobs that need to get done, figure out what you can do yourself, and then outsource the rest.

     

    Visual business chart with an agent showing how to interpret marketing metrics.

     

    Be smart about working with agencies and freelancers

    If you decide to outsource your SEO, do your research and make sure you select a reputable agency or freelancer who can optimize your site using ethical and white hat tactics. One of the best ways to go is to ask for referrals from merchants you know that are ranking well on Google. Then once you have a handful of prospects, request for case studies and references so you can see the results they’ve achieved with other businesses.

     

    In terms of working arrangements, we recommend avoiding long-term contracts, as the last thing you want is to be tied down to an agency or freelancer who isn’t a good fit.

     

    As Matt Antonino, Head of Operations at the marketing agency Digital Eagles points out, “many agencies have 12-month contracts but if they don't perform you are stuck with a long-term relationship that costs and has little value.”

     

    Antonino adds that “long contracts don't create an incentive for the agency to continuously help improve your business... thee and six-month deals may make more sense.”

     

    Once you know who you want to work with, be smart about the tasks you assign to the agency or freelancer. You want to make sure you get the most value out of their efforts, so figure out the best use of their time and resources.

     

    “The trick to keeping costs down is to ask yourself if what you want that expert to do is their highest and best use,” says BJ Enoch, VP of Enterprise Accounts for SocialSEO. “If you're looking for someone to do alt image tags across 1,000 products or fix internal broken links, is that something you really need to pay an expert, or could you be doing it yourself?”

     

    Enoch adds that you can lower your costs even more by taking care of content yourself.

     

    “Content is one of the most labor intensive and expensive parts of an SEO strategy (and one of the most important). There are some content elements that should have some expert insight, but making sure you've got unique product descriptions and resolving duplicate content on your own can save a surprising amount of money with a consultant or expert.”

     

    SEO doesn't have to be expensive

    While search engine optimization requires an investment (in both time and money), you can lower your costs significantly by being smart about the tasks you take on and the SEO experts that you hire.

     

    With the right SEO education, some patience, and competent experts on your side, it’s totally possible to take your SEO game to the next level.


    Have you seen the rest of the SEO Series? Check out Part One and Part Three in the links below

     

     

    Take me to part 1Take me to part 3

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