Archive for January, 2012
You’ve probably heard a lot about Pinterest over the last few months. Undoubtedly one of the most popular new social networks, the site is a place to organize and share online images and ideas that you find interesting or inspiring.
Once uploaded or shared on Pinterest, these images become known as ‘Pins,’ which the user can place on customized, themed Boards. You can create Boards for any topic imaginable, from clothing to recipes and everywhere in between!
Although it’s new, the site’s popularity has exploded from 1.2 million users in August to over 7 million today, according to Mashable, and that number is only estimated to grow in 2012.
Take a look at how your store can take advantage of this captive audience on Pinterest:
Post your merchandise:
Add some of your most popular apparel items to Pinterest! It’s a great way to gain attention from not only current students but also others across the country, who may be diehard fans of your football team or alumni of the school. Once uploaded, the pin will link back to your e-commerce site, so viewers can easily purchase it, too!
While you may be tempted to only post promotional items, you should expand your Pinterest account to include topics that aren’t self-serving. Create a variety of boards that make students view you as a resource, offering them advice and fun ideas on topics that may not necessarily directly relate to your store. Here are some ideas:
• Finals study tips
• Dorm room decorations
• Words of wisdom
• Tailgating recipes
•Get to Know Campus (with local attractions and resources for new and prospective students)
Crowdsource or Run a Contest:
Create a ‘Biggest Fan Board,’ then encourage your students to post pictures of themselves with their favorite product of yours and tag you, using the @ symbol.
You can easily repin it to your designated Board, which will show potential customers that your current users really like your products. You could even offer a prize for the best submission!
Add the “Pin It” Widget to Your Website:
Even if you choose not to create an account for your store, this option will still let you take advantage of some of the site’s benefits. Just like you’ve added other social network widgets on your website and blog, you can add the Pin It widget, as well. This allows visitors to automatically share something they like on your site to Pinterest.
Around the holidays, many users also create a “wish list” board on their Pinterest page to curate the gifts they’re hoping for, so you can use this feature to encourage them to add your merchandise, too!
That’s only the beginning, though! There are endless possibilities when it comes to building your customer base through Pinterest! Want more ideas? Check out this article for additional advice on how to use the site to engage with customers. Need help on getting started on the site? Take a look at Mashable’s Beginner’s Guide!
If your store is already active on Pinterest, share your ideas and/or a link to your page in the comments section below!
Almost every college store in the industry advertises their services. What many forget, however, is the importance of the follow-up effort. Without determining if a promotion was successful in reaching its intended target audience, stores risk losing revenue as well as the opportunity to increase sales and traffic.
Understanding the significance of this strategy, University of Milwaukee Bookstore recently reevaluated their marketing plan to look for new ways to communicate with students.
“We’d been advertising in our student newspaper for a long time but we noticed that it wasn’t producing the same results, in terms of traffic, as it had in the past,” explained Caity Laubach, website and advertising specialist. “Even when our advertisements offered free merchandise, we were seeing very low redemption rates, so we decided to explore new options.”
After some brainstorming, the store’s staff decided to reach out a coffee shop, The Grind, located across from their entrance. After initiating a partnership, the store decided take advantage of The Grind’s Java Jackets as prime real estate for their marketing messages.
“We print our own stickers and there’s no cost to put them on the coffee sleeves, so it was very affordable,” Laubach said. “Since the coffee shop is so close, we thought it could be a good way to encourage those students who are already in the building to visit our store.”
Rather than simply add this new strategy into their current marketing plan, however, they decided to run the promotion on both the Java Jackets and in the newspaper simultaneously, to determine which was more effective. By redeeming either, students could receive a free water bottle.
“We ran the newspaper ad for a full week, which cost us nearly $800 compared to $75 for a day and a half of the coffee sleeve promotion,” she explained.
It didn’t take long, however, for the more effective channel to become clear.
“Coffee sleeves immediately started pouring in,” she said. “Within 20 minutes we had a line in the store! Out of the 1200 that were passed out, we had a total of 200 redeemed. On the other hand, we only had 2 students bring in the newspaper ad. ”
What was more interesting according to Laubach, however, was the longevity of the Java Jackets promotion sustained.
“Although we had a big rush at the beginning, students turned them in up to two weeks after they had been passed out at The Grind,” she said. “It showed us that they did find the offer valuable enough to redeem, even after all that time, which confirmed that the majority of our customers simply don’t read the ads in our newspaper.”
Based on the results, Laubach and the rest of the UWM team decided to expand their Java Jackets promotion, adding not only sales but also events such as buyback to the sleeves.
“It’s definitely the biggest attention grabber we’ve found and a very lucrative way to reach our students,” she said. “It took a little experimenting to decide where we should be investing our efforts, but it was worth it!”
Now, the store is exploring other ways to spread the word about their offerings.
“We’re going to put screensavers advertising our textbook options on all of the ATMs on campus,” she added. “We’re hoping it will grab the attention of both students using the ATM, as well as those just passing by.”
Based on this experience, Laubach encourages all college stores to uncover which marketing materials their students are most likely engage with.
“It’s so important to keep your audience in mind in all that you do,” she said. “If you can determine what they like, you’ll be so much more successful. A great place to start is with your student employees and co-workers; ask them for their feedback and use it to your benefit. It’s really helped me a lot!”
The following article, 4 Ways Brands May Benefit From Facebook’s Timeline, was written by Lior Levin, guest writer, for iBrandStudio.com.
It’s not even a certainty yet – whether or not the new feature from Facebook, called Timeline, will be even offered to brands for their commercial purposes. However, the buzz has already started about how and why brands – large and small – could benefit from the significant changes to the look, feel, and functionality of Facebook profiles that Timeline will bring.
Timeline is a new Facebook feature that allows profile owners to dramatically change the look of their profile, and in doing so, how they interact with their friends and profile visitors. If Facebook does deploy the same features to Facebook pages as they are planning to with profiles, brands may benefit from the change. Here are four ways the changes could help.
1. Tell a Story
From top to bottom, Timeline is all about building a story around an identity. For brands, this could mean a significant improvement to the existing Facebook Pages tool, which is basically like a restricted profile and not much more.
With Timeline, brands could have the opportunity to really focus on telling their brand’s story, starting with the extra large image at the top, which, by the way, is an improvement even over the existing custom welcome screen, because the extra large image will be seen all the time by everyone.
From there, the rest of the page tells a story via the updates, photos, activities, likes, and events that are displayed. The layout of Timeline aids in the story-telling, as the linear page dominated by time-stamped status updates is eliminated, and a more compelling, tied-together look (with a smaller box for updates) is displayed instead.
2. Implement More Control
While the name “timeline” implies chronological order, the actual implementation is anything but restrictive in that sense. Timeline will allow users to pick out updates, photos, and activities that they want to highlight, giving them a lot of power over what gets displayed.
All too often with brand pages, the really significant things get pushed way down the page and eventually out of sight, especially if brands use Facebook to do a lot of customer service and communication. If brands have the opportunity to take advantage of Timeline’s new “highlight” feature, brand social media managers can pick and choose the photos, status updates, and activities that best tell the brand’s story.
3. Expand Branding
Features are only special if they are taken advantage of, so it should probably be said that brands would be missing out on a huge opportunity if the changes coming with Timeline were ignored. There are huge opportunities for branding– including the massive cover image, the profile image collage, cherry-picked activities and updates, and numerous other things that would be in total control of the page owner.
The key for brands, large and small, will be to not limit the features to what they are at face value, but to discover how they can be used to create one cohesive brand image, so that no feature goes ignored or underutilized.
4. Centralize Focus
Perhaps the single most important change coming with Timeline is that profiles – and hopefully brand pages – will have much more focus. Timeline is being developed for profile owners – people – to help them showcase more of themselves and what they love and who they love. If Timeline is deployed to brand pages, brands will benefit from this singular, centralized focus as well. With the existing page structure, the focus is clearly on one thing – updates. But if Timeline is made available to brands, updates will be just one part of the activity, allowing brands to draw attention to other things while still providing fans the opportunity to interact with them via the wall like before.
With Facebook, a change is inevitable and usually right around the corner. While some of the recent changes have been received less than enthusiastically, this is a change many brands would quickly welcome and adapt to. Whether they get the opportunity to do so, however, is still to be announced.
What do you think of Facebook Timeline? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
Check out the following web design tips from the article 4 Ways Small Business Websites Can Drive More Sales, written by Aaron Sperling, CEO and co-founder of vFlyer, for Mashable.com
Keep Content Fresh
Give current and potential customers a reason to revisit your website. Think about the websites you visit regularly and what attracts you to them. How can you tweak those attractive elements to be more appropriate for your website and your industry? Start by integrating your blog, Twitter stream, Facebook profile, and other feeds that will automatically update your website when you post content elsewhere.
Publishing white papers, podcasts, videos and other content related to business trends can help establish you as a thought leader in your industry. Encourage visitors (read: make it easy for them) to comment on your content, and start building relationships with current and potential clients to spur engagement. In this new era, it’s all about providing your users with relevant information. Doing so will help drive new and continued traffic to your website.
Integrate With Social Media
Engaging users and providing relevant information via social media channels is an important factor in driving traffic to your website. The more your content is shared via social media, the better your website will rank in search engines, and the more referrals you will receive.
The ultimate goal is to build relationships with your site visitors, thus creating long-term customers and brand advocates. So you need to make it as easy as possible for visitors to find and share your content and refer your services to others. Include social media toolbars on your homepage so visitors can easily find all of your profiles. Add sharing buttons to content and to your website, and encourage people to use them. Share your content on social profiles and content aggregators such as Slideshare, and do your best to bring the conversation to your website.
Make E-commerce Easy
The massive amount of information on the Internet has shortened our attention spans and made it easier than ever to ”shop around” for lower cost competitors. Because of this, you need to make it as easy as possible for visitors to purchase what they want, when they want.
It is extremely important to evaluate all possible “purchase scenarios,” meaning the different routes a visitor could take in order to complete a purchase. For example, a visitor coming in through a paid search advertisement may land on a different page than a visitor who was referred from a Facebook link. Making it as easy as possible for these visitors to start and complete the purchase process will have a positive effect on your conversion rate.
Use SEO to its Full Potential
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a huge topic, far too vast and complex to address succinctly. That said, I can recommend three relatively straightforward steps that will likely increase your website’s search engine rankings, and thus make it easier for people to find your business.
- Identify your keywords. Start by building a list of the keywords that you think potential customers will use in searches to find your business. Once you have your list, use a keyword tool like Google AdWords to determine the frequency that those keywords are used and to find other related keywords. With this information, you’ll be able to quickly identify the most important keywords for your business.
- Use your keywords in your website. For each page on your website, figure out which keywords you want to target, then use those keywords in both the page content and the meta-data (the title, description and keywords of the page, which search engines use to determine what the page is about). Then, create links on other pages of your site to this targeted page, using the selected key words in the link title.
- External link building. When other websites link to your site, it indicates to search engines that the content on your site has value, and that boosts your SEO. For that reason, external link building is perhaps the most important aspect of SEO – but it can also be the most difficult, because you have limited control. It’s best to focus on the things that are in your control, such as your Facebook and Google+ pages, Twitter feed, blog, and Yellow Pages listings. Be sure to link to your website from all of these channels.
SEO is an ongoing process, so it’s essential that you monitor your keywords, stay on top of Internet trends, and adapt your strategy accordingly.
What strategies do you use to drive traffic to your site? Share your tips in the comments section below!
With most stores closed on Christmas Day, consumers went online in greater numbers than the same day a year ago to shop, according to new data from IBM.
Online sales on Christmas Day increased 16.4% from Christmas Day 2010, according to IBM’s Benchmark survey of 500 major online retailers. Early IBM data for Dec. 26 suggests that online sales yesterday were up 10% from a year ago. IBM did not provide dollar figures for its spending estimates.
Online traffic and sales originating from web-enabled mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers increased on Christmas Day compared with the same day a year ago, according to the IBM survey.
The company says 18.3% of all traffic to online retail sites came from a mobile device on Christmas Day, up from 8.4% a year ago. Of that traffic percentage, 7.0% of the traffic to retailers came from consumers using iPad tablet computers, 6.4% from iPhone users and 5.0% from smartphones operating on the Android platform. Overall, consumers using mobile devices accounted for 14.4% of the day’s sales, up from 5.3% on Christmas Day a year ago. IBM did not report the sales breakdown by device.
As of 2 p.m. Central time Dec. 26, mobile devices accounted for 18.7% of all of that day’s traffic to the retail sites included in the IBM Benchmark survey. Consumers using mobile devices accounted for 13.8% of sales. About 89 million mobile users in the U.S. own smartphones, according to a recent GfK/SapientNitro study, which says 30% of smartphone owners say they’ve used a mobile app to search for or purchase a product this holiday season.
Located just north of downtown Seattle, University Book Store at the University of Washington is a college store that knows its books. Unlike many others in the industry, however, their course material sales make up a relatively small percentage of their gross sales. That’s because the UW Book Store has established a general book department that engages UW students, faculty and staff as well as customers from surrounding communities.
In fact, with over 160,000 unique trade titles in stock, the store has been recognized as one of the nation’s leading independent booksellers. So, in a culture where print sales are estimated to be declining, how has the store maintained such success in their trade book department? Easy, answers Chief Executive Officer Bryan Pearce.
“As any successful independent company would do, we’re always looking at what differentiates us from the competition,” he explained. “Over the years, we’ve continually evolved those strengths to ensure they meet changing customer demands.”
As part of that process, the store prides itself on offering an extensive variety of services that simply can’t be found elsewhere in the area. For instance, UW Book Store offers a used trade book program that’s incredibly popular among the area’s dedicated readers.
With assistance from Powell’s Bookstore, one of the largest independent new and used bookstore chains in the world, UW Book Store established a trade book buyback program five years ago. The ongoing partnership with Powell’s has facilitated a robust used book buying and selling environment unmatched by any Seattle area bookseller, chain or independent.
“Offering a robust trade selection enhances the educational support we provide to our campus through our course materials services and also adds significant entertainment value,” Pearce said. “Our partnership with Powell’s has allowed us to further tailor our inventory to be that much more unique in terms of the titles we offer our customers.”
Comparing its used book selection to a treasure hunt, Pearce says that the store’s customers enjoy coming in often and searching through the new additions to the inventory.
“We have a huge bargain book selection as well,” he added. “By offering a diverse selection and variety of price points, we’re able to be attractive to different customer demographics.”
The store’s used book program doesn’t just benefit customers, though.
“Our used trade books also provide a much higher profit margin potential for the store, which helps cushion the decline in margin from new trade book sales,” explained Pearce.
As another unique selling point, the store boasts longstanding, experienced ‘booksellers’ who provide individualized recommendations and service to each customer.
“We’re fortunate in that most of our full-time employees have been with the company for over 20 years, so they’ve forged strong customer relationships and understand the community’s tastes and preferences,” he said. “We’re then able to leverage that expertise to enhance each person’s experience at the store.”
When it comes to hiring new employees, however, Pearce takes a different approach. “We don’t seek out individuals who just love to read, because that’s not the only aspect of being a bookseller,” he explained. “Instead, we look for people who are enthusiastic and personable with naturally interactive, appealing personalities, and then mentor them to become great booksellers. It might seem counterintuitive, but it works!”
Access to this expertise isn’t limited to customers who step into the store, either. Because the store incorporated an ‘Ask a Bookseller’ feature into their website, readers have 24/7 access to the information they need, by simply filling out a form or calling in.
“We’ve had great success with our online business, so it was important to us to strive to offer the same level of service available in the store on our web site as well,” he added.
Even those visitors who don’t have a specific question in mind can benefit from the store’s knowledgeable staff.
“We frequently highlight our booksellers’ top picks both on our website and in the stores to extend a selection of new titles or authors to try out,” Pearce described. “Our customers really enjoy it and many rely on us to find their next great read! It keeps customers coming back.”
Along with these everyday services, the store often hosts special events to further engage with their customer base.
“We host over 450 author events annually at a number of venues throughout the Puget Sound area,” he said. “We attract a wide variety of new, established and celebrity authors. In November, for example, we had signing events with Andrew Feinstein, Tom Brokaw, David Guterson, Chris Matthews, Neil Gaiman, and Mindy Kaling, who stars as Kelly on NBC’s The Office! Presidents Clinton and Carter also visited our store for book signing events recently.”
The store also holds book club meetings and invites children in for kid’s reading events several times a month.
“Our goal is to be a resource to the entire community,” Pearce said.
Although these special services are staples at the UW Book Store, they have integrated several new technologies into their offerings, as well.
“We want to provide our customers with whatever format they prefer to have the most enjoyable reading experience, so we’ve been adding more and more digital titles to our trade and course book selection,” he explained. “We also recently added an Espresso Book Machine (EBM), which allows us to print certain titles on demand and provide self-publishing services.”
Opening up their true inventory to nearly 3 million titles via the Google database, the store has tied the machine into more than just trade books with the ability to print open source materials through the EBM, as well.
All in all, Pearce believes the future of independent bookselling is bright and looks forward to continued success in the future.
“I’d encourage others to do more with trade books,” he said. “It can be an incredibly difficult part of running a college store, but I always remind my peers that it’s an important part of the college experience, too. We have to be a compelling part of that and transition our businesses to evolve with the dramatic changes taking place in the industry.”
Despite the promise that digital textbooks can lead to huge cost savings for students, a new study at Daytona State College has found that many who tried e-textbooks saved only one dollar, compared with their counterparts who purchased traditional printed material.
The study, conducted over four semesters, compared four different means of textbook distribution: traditional print purchase, print rental, e-textbook rental, and e-textbook rental with an e-reader device. It found that e-textbooks still face several hurdles as universities mull the switch to a digital textbook distribution model.
Perhaps the most surprising finding was the $1-dollar difference, which one course’s students encountered during three of the four semesters. The study’s authors attributed those slim savings to “publisher pricing decisions.” Making matters worse, the students renting e-textbooks could not sell the materials back to the campus bookstore when the semester ended. (In the second course surveyed, student savings were more significant, sometimes surpassing $40 per student.)
Survey results included in the study showed that students are clamoring for a cheaper alternative to traditional textbooks. Twenty-nine percent of respondents said they had avoided purchasing a textbook because of its high cost at least once, and nearly a quarter of respondents said they actually took fewer credit hours in a semester because of the cost burden of books.
Albert N. Greco, a professor of marketing at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Business who studies trends in the publishing industry, said he’s not surprised that students did not always save money through e-textbook rentals. And at smaller institutions where the cost of attendance is relatively low, he noted, the price of a digital textbook could still be out of reach for some students.
The electronic rental model caused a few other headaches for students and professors at the college, according to the study. Some students struggled to use the e-textbooks, thanks to disparities in basic computing skills. Those problems led some professors to spend class time conducting their own in-class tutorials, and even afterward a few said it was unclear who should be providing continuing technical instruction—faculty, campus IT staff, or representatives from the publishers.
Even students who adapted to the technology quickly sometimes struggled to open up the digital course materials during lectures. Wireless networks in classrooms where several students were using e-textbooks at once sometimes became overwhelmed, making access to publishers’ sites inconsistent.
As a result of these hiccups, more than half of survey respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the e-textbooks. However, most said they would still be willing to try e-textbooks—if the price were right. Specifically, respondents said they would consider the switch as long as they could obtain their materials for $35 or less.
Mr. Greco said he foresees continued adoption of the e-textbook model despite the challenges outlined in the study, in part because students are already adopting technology in other areas of their lives. “Students have clearly moved and accepted digital products,” he said.
Last summer, I had the pleasure of working on a social media campaign for Shasta Soda with a sister agency, MIO, that used Facebook Ads to help grow brand fans by 20,000 in just three months.
While this was far from easy, a major part of our success involved following these five tips for Facebook Ad Campaigns.
1. Give Them a Reason to “Like” You.
If you’re just starting out, Facebook ads are great for building a following, but you’ll need to give people something in order to get their “like”.
For example, Shasta ran a sweepstakes last summer where you could win prizes to make your backyard into the ultimate party destination, which included a backyard theatre system, Xbox game console, and a year’s supply of Shasta.
The catch is that you had to like Shasta on Facebook to participate. This is how we grew our community by giving people a reason to click “like”.
Base your ads on your demographics. Maybe there is a local personality or landmark that can be used, or language that would appeal more to a specific age group or gender.
For example, if you lived in St. Louis, Missouri, an ad for a barbecue restaurant that uses and image of the St. Louis Arch would catch your eye, especially if you had indicated in your profile that you love barbecue.
Start with the recommended budget that Facebook suggests, but it will take you at least 30 days to find out what your real budget should be. My experience has been that Facebook often over suggests budget when it comes to geo-targeted campaigns, but national campaign are usually pretty close.
Worried about running out of budget? Keep your Facebook ads live during the entire time of your promo by using an excel spreadsheet to divide your budget up by week over the entire period of your ad buy. Check how your ads are spending each week to revise your bid prices or budget.
If you’re running campaigns in several areas at once, move budget from underperforming locations to areas where it will spend!
4. A/B Test
In order to A/B test, you’ll want to have similar ads created and test them against each other. If you use the “select existing creative” feature in Facebook’s ad wizard, you can quickly duplicate your ad in order to test small changes to it.
Comparing apples to apples is critical when testing. Facebook automatically puts more of your daily budget towards your better performing ads. This can quickly create a situation where your ads being tested are not displayed an equal number of times, which is useless data if you are trying to A/B test. Creating a separate campaign for each variation of your ad will solve this problem.
After several weeks, see which of your ads performed the best. Keep this ad in the rotation and pause the others. You can either write two completely new ads to test against your winner, or write variations of your ad to try and find your ad’s “sweet spot”.
5. Keep Testing to Avoid Ad Fatigue
After A/B testing, you’ll have found the ad that seems to work best. This success doesn’t last long though. People seeing the same ad over and over again until they stop noticing it altogether causes Ad Fatigue. Essentially, your successful ad will stop working because people have seen it way too much.
The only way to get back to winning the game is to start all over again at square one with new ads and new rounds of A/B testing.
The five simple tips sound like a lot in the end, but once you get into the swing of things running a successful Facebook Ad campaign becomes second nature.
Our monthly marketing plans are designed to give you timely new ideas for generating interaction with your student customers. So, this month, we’re bringing you 3 fun promotional ideas you can implement in honor of Valentine’s Day!
There’s still plenty of time to squeeze these events into your planning, too, because we make it easy with step-by-step instructions! We’ve even created posters and flyers to help you with marketing each stage of the event, and there’s three unique themes to choose from so you can tailor the look of your messages to meet your distinct needs!
Check out the details on how to host a ‘Why I Love the Bookstore’ contest, a ‘Why We Love Our Students’ promotion and a Customer Appreciation Day within the January 2012 section of the ‘Event Planner’ tab above! Whether you implement one idea or host all three, they are bound to ensure a fun-filled in your store!
The great thing about saying “thank you” is that it costs almost nothing—and there’s almost always a payoff.
I like to think in terms of a “return on thank you” ratio; it may be impossible to measure precisely, but it’s among the most important metrics to try to understand. It can help you see the financial return gained for giving thanks to the people that make your business run every day.
How do you place a return-on-investment metric on giving thanks to employees, who work tirelessly to serve clients daily? To the vendors who give you great products and services to help your business run, and who patiently take annoying requests for something faster or cheaper? And to each and every customer that does business with you—as well as those that provide quiet advocacy in ways you may never really know?
What is the right amount of thank you?
Let’s start with the basic point: Thanking the people that help your business doesn’t require writing a check. Study after study shows that one of the consistent reasons people stay with companies—whether as an employee or as a customer—is the feeling of being appreciated. Translation: They want to be thanked.
Let’s be honest. No spreadsheet will give you a real ROI on making “thank you” a fundamental part of how you do business.
But you can look at other hefty line items in the budget to get a sense of your return. Look at the costs for recruiting great talent. Look at the bills for advertising to find new customers. Look at the prices you pay your vendors.
Being thankful is good for health and overall spirit—but it’s also good for the bottom line of your business.
This holiday, take the time to thanks to everyone that helps your business. And be sure that the holiday spirit continues throughout the new year.