5 Things Retailers Need to Know About Health Care Reform and Employee Benefits

5 Things Retailers Need to Know About Health Care Reform and Employee Benefits

"Health care reform. Open enrollment. Benefits administration. Premium. FSA, HSA, HRA! Ahhhhh!" Don't worry--we get it. Insurance can feel like a complicated mess. We got to know that pretty intimately while building Maxwell, which is why we're so set on transforming the way businesses manage benefits for the better. Health care reform can be an especially thorny issue for small retailers, who are technically...

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Retailer’s Guide to SoLoMo – Social, Local & Mobile Marketing [Infographic]

Retailer’s Guide to SoLoMo – Social, Local & Mobile Marketing [Infographic]

SoLoMo, the ingenious term for the coming together of social, local and mobile marketing, is altering the way we use information to interact with the physical world.  In a world where 90% of people who search for a type of local business on a mobile phone then call or go to that type of business within the next 24 hours, local mobile marketing cannot be ignored.  


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8 Easy Ways To Get Google+ and Yelp Reviews

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Reviews are really, really important. 

Yes, I had to say really twice.  It almost goes without saying that great reviews increase the likelihood that a visitor will turn into a customer. When a customer sees a Google+ Local page or Yelp page with lots of positive reviews, along with helpful and empathetic responses to those reviews from the business, what kind of feeling do you think they get? For me, personally, it’s often the final push I need when deciding to try a new café, restaurant or bar.

As if that wasn't enough, reviews are really important for your search ranking on Google and other search engines.  If your competition consistently succeeds in getting more reviews than you, they’re going to consistently outrank you on key local search terms.

So, how do you get customers to leave you reviews?

Sitting back and waiting for reviews to appear just isn't an option. It's a shame but complainers are often more motivated than people with something positive to say.  As a result, the people that leave unsolicited reviews on Yelp and Google+ Local are on average going to describe a negative experience. If you want a consistent flow of favorable reviews, you’re going to have to do something to get them.

Fortunately, we’re here to give you 8 simple methods you can begin implementing today to improve your reviews on Yelp, Google and other popular local business directories.

Before we hop into our 8 tips (I know, you’re excited and probably skipped right to them) I have some advice you should take before employing these methods. And that is:

Don’t push too hard too fast!

If your Google+ Local and Yelp pages were stagnant for the most part, getting 10 reviews in 1 week is going to look unnatural. This may lead to filtered Yelp reviews (and Google+ reviews) which is a messy situation to deal with. If you’re just starting out, you should try to get 3-5 reviews per month. Remember: local SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.

Okay, let’s get to it!

  • Family & friends – You have them for a reason, and that reason is to help you promote your business. If you’ve done work for family or friends, there’s nothing wrong with asking them to leave you a review. Don’t abuse this tactic right away; you don’t want to use up all of your family/friend resources in the first week of building reviews!
  • Email signature – Do you email customers & business partners? You should add a link to your Google+ Local page and Yelp page in your signature with a short blurb that say something like, “Have we done business together? Please review us on Google+ and Yelp!”
  • Ask! – It’s important to get in the habit of asking for reviews whenever the situation presents itself. Did you just have a great interaction with a customer in your restaurant or store? Ask them to leave you a review! You may be surprised how many people are willing to help you when asked.
  • Reach out to previous reviewers! – I’m sure you have other online profiles with some positive customer reviews. Why not reach out to them and ask them to leaveanother review on a different online profile? You already know that they’re the type to leave a review and that they like your business.
  • On the phone – Just have a great experience with a customer over the phone? Or did a previous customer leave a “review card” with their phone number? Ask them to review their experience with you online!
  • Review cheat sheet – Put together a brief “cheat sheet” that gives instructions on how to review your business. Provide links to your Yelp or Google+ Local profile, bonus points if you use bit.ly to shorten the link! Now hand this sheet out to customers you’d like to review you.
  • Website review page – Similar to the physical review “cheat sheet” but accessible online. Provide links to your online profiles with instructions on how to leave a review. Make the URL to this page easy to remember! You should be able to have someone easily remember how to find this page.
  • Email marketing (You do collect emails, right?) – If you don’t already collect emails, you need to start today. It’s as easy as collecting business cards or having a pen & paper sign up sheet. When sending emails out to customers, always ask for a review or provide a link to your newly created “Review Page” on your website.

So that’s it! Eight simple ways to get reviews on Yelp, Google+ local and other popular directories.

Do you have any other surefire ways to get Yelp & Google local reviews? Please share in the comments; we’d love to hear them.

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By Trevor Sumner

 Founder and CEO, LocalVox

Trevor is a technologist and product marketer with 15 years of management experience in digital, social media and mobile technology.

 

How Yelp Reviews Work

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You better believe that Yelp reviews can make or break a brick and mortar business.  

Nowadays more and more people are checking Yelp reviews before they frequent any business, especially cafes, bars and restaurants.  I've even seen customers walking away from a restaurant after checking reviews whilst stood outside.  

Yelp has a bad reputation amongst some Google+ circles (see what I did there?) as robbers of the local businesses they were designed to promote. While I don’t share this sentiment, we regularly host meetups with brick and mortar business owners and this a pretty good reflection of how they feel. The truth is, Yelp can actually be a really useful tool for a retailer. So, no matter what you may think about Yelp, it is time to get serious about understanding how their system works. 

Why Yelp Is Important

The days of ignoring Yelp are over. Especially if you want to rank for search terms on iPhones, which is pretty important when you consider how many people are out there checking reviews on the go.  

Apple has decided to kick Google Maps to the curb and use Yelp’s review system as a major component to how Siri finds searches on the next round of iPhones. Bing has also done a deal to include Yelp reviews in their Bing Local Pages, which will allow them to compete with Google+ Local’s integration of Zagat reviews. All of this means that Yelp now plays a much more sizable role in local search, especially in the mobile arena where 87% of users take action on their mobile phone searches.

The video below will help you get educated on how Yelp reviews actually work. It's important that you learn the system so you can make sure your top customer reviews stick on your Yelp pages and go right to the top.

 

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By Trevor Sumner

 Founder and CEO, LocalVox

Trevor is a technologist and product marketer with 15 years of management experience in digital, social media and mobile technology.

 


Email Marketing Matters: Why Retailers Need to Think about Email

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If you aren’t building out your email list and engaging your customers regularly, you are missing out on an enormous opportunity to create a relationship with your customers that extends beyond the four walls of your store. A really great email marketing program can help establish your brand, increase repeat business, drive revenue, and foster loyalty.

So Why is Email Marketing Important?

1. It Builds Your Brand

At its core, a brand is a promise. It’s a pledge to your customers that your store is in some way unique and that you will deliver this distinctive offering consistently. Email marketing can play a huge role in conveying this distinctive ‘brand promise’ to your customers. If you sell the freshest fish in the neighborhood, send out an email letting people know how you source your produce. If you have the latest Parisian fashions, tell your customers about your special french ‘buying’ trip where you found the supplier.

2. It Grows Word of Mouth

Retailers often tell me that they don’t worry too much about any kind of marketing because they rely on having good ‘word of mouth’. If you have this, and it is driving consistent referrals, you are onto a winner. Word of mouth is really the ‘holy grail’ of marketing – a friend recommends a friend who recommends another friend and your customer base just grows and grows, at no cost to you.

The simple truth, however, is that email marketing makes this kind of growth more likely. It puts you at the top of people’s minds more regularly and thereby increases word of mouth. Customers are more likely to tell their friends if you are fresh in their memory. As the expression goes: ‘top of mind is tip of tongue’. And in addition to directly spreading the word, customers are more likely to review you online if they are prompted while online. Of great email campaigns, are awesome Yelp profiles made.

3. It Drives Repeat Business

It’s amazing how something as simple as a weekly email can drive repeat business. If you put yourself in front of people, they will think about you. And if they are thinking about you, they will be more likely to drop in the next time they are out and about. Product-specific emails are often best in this regard as you can give people a real, concrete reason to come on by (or order something online). Information about new products, (we’ve got a new fresh fish bar!) and offers on your products (50% off Popcorn this weekend – for that perfect night in with a movie!) are really great for this purpose.

4. It is Surprisingly Affordable & Easy to Use

Compared to its pre-digital equivalent, the direct-mail campaign, emails are incredibly cost effective for small businesses. In fact, for retailers who are starting out with small email lists (~2,000 Subscribers), there are even online services that will provide sophisticated email management tools completely for free. You need only pay as your list grows.

These services like MailChimp and Constant Contact make it very quick and easy to put together Emails without requiring any ‘specialist’ skills. Their intuitive, drag and drop interfaces are actually even to use than most software that retailers will come into contact with.

5. It’s Measurable

One of the things I love about email marketing is the ability to push a specific product or product range and measure the impact that this has had on sales. In every retail business, there is a core product range of top selling, high-margin items that really drive the revenue of the store. Email provides a fantastic opportunity to throw a spotlight on these items and thereby drive sales. Best of all, the impact is measurable as you can easily track month over month sales of these items.

For example, you may be a grocery store overstocked on the snack aisle. You could consider sending out a ‘Movie Night Promotion’ offering 20% off on popcorn and ice cream and then track the results. In fact, if you collect emails at the point of sale you could even track the specific customers who bought the product.

BONUS REASON: It’s The Ultimate Insurance Policy

Picture the scene. Business is good and customers are really starting to love what you have to offer.  You are building out a steady stream of regulars and you are making money. Then one day your landlord comes in and tells you he can’t renew the lease on your coffee shop; Starbucks are offering to double the rent. [Note: This isn’t a hypothetical. It actually happened to a ShopKeep POS merchant in NYC.]

How can you effectively communicate what’s happening to your customers? How can you keep them informed about when you’ll be moving and where you’ll be moving to?

Or imagine a scenario when negative press about your store starts to spread. Maybe an unfounded rumor starts that you have an unclean kitchen, or an unfair hiring policy. Having a line of communication that reaches beyond your store is crucially important when things go wrong too!

If you’d like to learn more about how to collect emails from your customers using the ShopKeep POS system, please don’t hesitate to check out our great help article on the subject.

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By Jason Richelson

Founder and CEO of ShopKeep POS  

Jason has spent his career starting and growing businesses in both the technology and retail space. Click here to find out more about Jason.  

 

Email Marketing Matters: 5 Tips for Success

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While many modern retailers have become increasingly comfortable and confident utilizing Social Media, I’m still amazed at how many shy away from the use of email to communicate with customers. Some merchants are concerned that emails from their store will come across as ‘spammy’ and some are simply concerned that the process will be complicated and time-consuming. The truth is, the vast majority of customers are happy welcoming the brands they love into their inboxes and the process for making this happen is easier than you’d think.

The key to success, as with so much of what we do, is consistent quality execution. With that in mind, I’ve asked our in-house ShopKeep POS Email Guru, Richard Berger to bring you his 5 top tips for success.

1. Welcome Emails Rule!

You only get one first impression. E-commerce sites have long had the chance to follow up on a new customer’s first purchase with a personalized welcome email, thanking them for their business. Why do they do this? Because it is statistically proven to increase the likelihood that the customer will come back and shop again. If you collect customer emails at the point of sale or even using a clipboard and pen, you can take advantage of this strategy too. This is a fantastic new opportunity to introduce ourselves, our stores and our brands to our customers very early on.

Note: Make sure to send out a welcome email within 48hrs [ideally 24hrs] of the customers’ engagement with your store. You will be fresh in their minds and they’ll be more open to your message.

2. Make it Feel Personal and Exclusive

Small, independent retailers are in a unique position to make their emails ultra-personal and completely avoid any sense of ‘spamminess’. To make your emails as personal as possible, you should:

a) Directly address your customer by first name, i.e. ‘Dear John’, or whatever the first name is. Services like MailChimp make it possible to bulk upload emails with their associated names and deliver ‘personal’ emails en masse. Don’t worry if you don’t have names for all emails, you can easily set up a default if this is the case, i.e. Dear Valued Customer!

b) Write from you as an individual, not from the company. This is especially true for smaller, single location stores. Make the reply email something personal i.e. hank@myshop.com. There is nothing less inviting to warm customer relations than an email from noreply@myshop.com.

c) Use a personal, friendly, non-corporate tone when writing and include images of your wares, your customers, and even yourself.

3. Be Action Oriented.

This is perhaps the most important thing to know about Email Marketing. Each and every email you write should seek to drive a customer action.

If you are sending a ‘brand-building’ email, provide a link to your Facebook page and try and encourage your customers to like you and/or comment/share on your profile.

If you are sending a sales email, make it clear and easy to download/print your coupon, or navigate directly to the purchasing location on your site.

Note: Each email should have multiple links/opportunities for the customer to carry out your desired action (known in the industry as Calls to Action). Also, it is notoriously difficult to encourage ‘offline’ behavior (i.e. a visit to your store) through online communication, so one way to combat this is to create a sense of urgency through time-sensitive offers.

4. Plan Ahead and Automate

One of the great things about cloud-based email platforms is that you can plan ahead. While you shouldn’t feel compelled to email your customers all the time, it is important that you keep a consistent and reliable stream of content so you are always fresh in the mind of your customers. In order to keep this process from becoming overwhelming you should set aside a chunk of time initially to set up your preferred email program, build a template, decide on a content schedule, and figure out to whom each email should  be sent. For less time-sensitive communications, you can then schedule them to send in advance and simply follow the results. For breaking updates, you will still only need to fill in a template with new content and start sending.

5. MEASURE, MEASURE, MEASURE!

While this automation can free up a lot of time, it is absolutely vital that you make sure to track the results and adjust accordingly. Success should be defined according to how many of your customers carried out your desired action. Again, most email marketing services will allow you to quickly and easily see how each email performed. The metrics you should be looking at include: open rates, i.e. what percentage of your email list opened your email; click-through rates, i.e. how many took the action you desired; and unsubscribe rates, i.e. how many people decided they didn’t want to get emails from you anymore.

These metrics will give you a good idea of whether your email was a success or not. If you want to improve your rates you can play with adjusting things like the subject line, imagery, the length and tone of the copy, the layout and more. The process should be one of continuous innovation, trial and refinement, hopefully yielding better results over time.

Note: Don’t underestimate the importance of the subject line. People make very quick decisions about whether your email is worth opening, so your subject line must be appealing, interesting and, if possible, intriguing. Simple often works better than you think it will!

 

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By Jason Richelson

Founder and CEO of ShopKeep POS  

Jason has spent his career starting and growing businesses in both the technology and retail space. Click here to find out more about Jason. 

 

What is the ‘Retail Community’? Introducing Your 5 New Best Friends

What is the ‘Retail Community’? Introducing Your 5 New Best Friends

The ‘Retail Community’ is, for many, an elusive concept.  Who should you be turning to for advice and support? What’s the value in having coffee with a supplier? The answer is that there is a huge amount of insight and information out there that’s ready for the taking - and most people are willing to share it with you for no more than the price of a coffee.   

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