On Site Tablet Use for Your Business

ReadWrite has an interesting article on the potential for tablets (particularly the iPad) to shake up traditional POS systems in small businesses.

Potential applications include table-side order entries at restaurants, roaming sales staff and redemption (think the Apple Store) for retailers, and increased opportunities to engage and gather customer data on site (surveys, Facebook likes, e-newsletter signups).

The 2 keys to making on site POS tablets work, besides the tablets themselves, is the combination of cloud-based storage and data transfer so the terminals can store and transfer data to the appropriate locations wirelessly (orders to the kitchen, sales to fulfillment center, etc.) and the custom software that will make this all work seamlessly.

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The Beginner’s Guide to Optimizing Your Site for Location Based Search

With the new tidal wave of smartphones hitting the market ( Smartphones account for a full half of all mobile phones as of February ) you need to make sure that your business can not only be found online, but you also have to make sure those smartphones can pinpoint your physical location as well.   90% of all smartphone searches are local.  87% of those users searching then take some sort of direct action.

To make sure your business is in position to capture those mobile users when they take those actions, you should be doing some basics to make sure your online presence is optimized for local search.  Here are the very basic beginner steps you can take to make sure users can find your business when they’re out and about and searching.

1. List Your Full Address Online

When listing your address on your web site, make sure that it’s a full address that displays your physical location accurately with the widest range of popular online mapping solutions.  A P.O. Box isn’t going to do you any good here.  Don’t get hung up on whether it’s technically the right mailing address or not, the focus is going to be on getting people to your doorstep, not on how they’re going to contact you via mail.

At the very least, you’re going to want your address on your home page as well as on quite a few of your main content pages.  Your address shouldn’t just be relegated to the “Contact Us” page anymore.  Having it as a permanent fixture in a header or footer (along with your phone number) isn’t a bad idea.

2. Spruce Up Your Third Party “Places”

Mae sure your business profiles on all the major search engines are filled out completely and accurately.  In the cases of Google Places and Bing Business Portal, the services work hand-in-hand with their mapping products.  They’re generally easy to claim and populate with your business info.  Some even allow you to setup special offers and discounts for free on the basic listing.

The Big Players in Location Based Search

Google Places
www.google.com/places

Of course you want to have your basics covered on Google Places (Address, Hours of Operation, etc.) but here are some things you may miss during setup:

  • Make sure you place yourself in a category (you can choose up to 5) and be specific.  Being in the proper category is important as a lot of mobile search will rely on those categories to help users nail down specific results.  Just choosing “restaurant” isn’t as effective as choosing “restaurant,” “Italian Restaurant,” and “Vegan-Friendly Restaurant.”  Make sure you choose from Google’s pre-populated list, as those tags will perform better in search than if you enter your own.
  • You can add photos (directly) and videos (via YouTube) about your business.  Any extra information you can give a potential customer about your business might give you the edge over a competitor during the decision making process and photos, as the old cliché goes, are worth a thousand words.
  • Google allows you to enter “offers” as well as a tiny but of customized content that displays on your Places page that can be tailored on a regular basis.

Bing Business Portal
www.bingbusinessportal.com

Bing’s offerings are about the same as Google’s with a few exceptions.

  • Bing offers a simple “mobile website” tied to Bing maps that is generated from the business account information you enter.
  • You can add a listing (up to 10) of key products and specials that is broken out and indexed in your listing.

Facebook Places
www.facebook.com/about/location

Claiming your Facebook “Place” can be tricky if you already have a brand page established and they are not one and the same.  The two can me merged but you have to make a choice over which page, users, and content become the default.  If you’ve already invested a lot of time and effort in establishing a Facebook presence you want to be sure not to lose your user-base when you merge. But, as we’ve established before, check-ins can be a powerful marketing tool, so you’ll have to weigh the risks with the rewards of combining the accounts.

FourSquare
www.foursquare.com/business/merchants

It’s easy to forget the original front-runner in location based online presences in the slew of other options, but it’s still a good idea to make sure your Foursquare information is claimed and squared away (no pun intended.)   Their large user base still prefer to use that service exclusively for check-ins even though they don’t have as much of an impact on traditional search-based activity.

  • Take advantage for Foursquare’s tracking ability to reward customers who visit and check in frequently like a digital punch card.
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Follow the Yellow Brick Code or How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love HTML and CSS

As Dorothy Gale well knows, it’s always a good idea to know a little bit about what’s going on behind the curtain.

Most businesses these days rely heavily on content management systems (CMS) to publish their web-centric marketing materials, be they web sites or email newsletters, so as to un-shackle content distribution from technical personnel.   While this democratization of distribution puts the publication of content justly in the hands of the content creators themselves, it’s always a good idea for the users of those systems to have a little familiarity with the code that’s being produced underneath.

Knowing a little HTML (the main programming language of web pages) and CSS (the predominant language used for controlling the elements that influence how web pages are presented: fonts, layout, colors, etc.) can go a long way towards being able to troubleshoot style and formatting glitches that may otherwise waste time and money in technical support.

If you think you or some of your staff could user a primer on HTML and/or CSS CodeAcademy.com is offering a free interactive online tutorial that will get you started in these building blocks of the web with no previous coding experience necessary.  It’s very accessible with a step-by-step approach for those who have a ground floor entry in terms of technical and programming knowledge.

If you’re waiting for the obligatory joke about the Scarecrow and finding the “technical brains” you’ve had all along, you best keep moving, there’s nothing to see here.

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Don’t You Forget About SEM

To paraphrase the Simple Minds soundtrack as John Bender walked confidently across a high school football field, his fist raised in triumph as he celebrated the conquering of yet another Saturday detention (not to mention Molly Ringwald’s affections), don’t you forget about… SEM.

With all the recent trends (and you need to listen to the guy talking about recent trends who just referenced the Breakfast Club of all things) in online advertising (re-targeting, in-game advertising, interactive ads, video advertising, mobile) it’s easy to forget about the grand old dame of the genre, Search Engine Marketing (SEM).  While not the sexiest option out there in terms of buzz, SEM continues to be the most effective online option for most retailers in terms of ROI.

Hotel Online has a nice article on the Do’s and Don’ts of SEM and has this to say on SEM’s prominence in the online media mix:

“With the search engines maintaining such an important role in the direct online channel, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) continues to be the most efficient means of delivering a targeted marketing message via the online channel, in terms of both traffic generation and revenue production.  Revenue from Internet Advertising increased 23.2% in Q1 and Q2 of 2011 compared to 2010, setting a new record at $14.9 billion. Search Engine Marketing advertising increased by 27% during this period and constituted 49% of the total online marketing revenue compared with 47.5% in 2010.”

At PADutchCountry.com we consistently see a higher quality visitor to our site from our SEM traffic.   In 2011, the users originating from our paid search campaigns visited 25% more pages, spent 20% more time on site, and had a bounce rate 25% lower than our average site visitor.

So what should you be monitoring to make sure you’re getting the most out of your existing search engine marketing program?  The Hotel Online article has a great list of Do’s to focus on, not just for hoteliers, but that can be applied to most folks in the retail industry.

For those of you who are just starting out in the SEM world, here’s a nice primer on the basic steps involved in setting up a program and some best practices.

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Facebook Timeline Dimensions Cheat Sheet

ImageAre you ready for Facebook’s mandatory rollover to its new Timeline design on your brand’s page?  The March 30th deadline to switch to the timeline view is fast approaching.  With wide page-spanning photos and the ability to highlight items on your timeline, the opportunities to tell your brand’s story visually has vastly improved on the platform.

To make sure you optimize the impact of the spaces available to you on the new Timeline, you need to re-size and crop your photos and graphics so they’re presented in their best light.  To assist you in your graphic resizing needs, Jon at jonloomer.com has worked up a handy reference sheet for the key Facebook Timeline Dimensions.

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Is Your Site iPad-Friendly?

Apple announced the third generation version of the iPad, its signature “post-pc” tablet device, today.  With improved processing speed, a new high resolution display, and rear facing cameras that will allow users to record movies in HD resolution, consumers will be sure to snap up these devices at a continued record pace.

The Rise of the Tablet

Last year, Apple sold 172 million post-pc devices (which include the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch) with 62 million in the last quarter alone.  The iPad itself, when compared to other PC Manufacturers like HP and Dell, outsold every other manufacturer in terms of PC sales last quarter.  Long story short, there’s a heck of a lot of tablets out there and the record adoption rate of these devices shows no sign of slowing.

Is Your Site Tablet Friendly?

Last month, nearly 7% of our total visitors at PADutchCountry.com accessed the site using an iPad.   That may not sound like a lot, but that percentage was closer to 0 as recently as 8 months ago.  That’s a pretty rapid rise for a device in terms of usage.

So considering you’ve most likely have users accessing your site using a tablet device, how pleased will you be with how your site performs on that platform?  How end users interact and navigate the web on tablets can be dramatically different so results can be mixed.  Here are a few basic things to look for so you can start getting a feel of whether your website is as iPad-friendly as it needs to be.

1.  Flash isn’t your friend

This is old news but it’s worth repeating.  Although other tablets on the market play nicely with the long standing web application, all of Apple’s iOS devices flat out refuse to support Flash.  In recent months Adobe (the cooperate stewards of Flash) has even backed away from trying to push their proprietary tool as a mobile platform in favor of HTML 5.  If you’re still reliant on Flash as a dominant element of your site, you need to face the reality that a growing number of visitors will have no access to that content.

2.  Make sure your site works in horizontal and vertical orientation

If you have a flowing layout to your site, you can no longer assume that users will be looking at your site in a standard horizontal orientation.  They flip those tablets around, so you have to make sure that your site flows with that movement as well.  Fixed positioning of elements is probably a bad idea since users cannot re-size the browser window in an iPad to accommodate where you’ve anchored items.

3.  Does your navigation still work?

Navigation that works great with traditional mouse interaction may not work the same way when you’re dragging and swiping with your finger.  Take drop down menus with sub menus for example.  With a mouse you would hover over a primary nav item to expand a sub navigation item.  On a tablet hovering over a primary nav item might launch that index page.  Make sure your navigation is as simplified as it can be and that if you need to expand to sub menus that the functionality is appropriate for each platform.

4.  It may be a “mobile” device, but don’t load your mobile site

If you have user agent detection enabled to launch your beautifully crafted mobile-friendly version of your web site when someone accesses your website with a smartphone, you want to make sure the agent isn’t misreading the iPad as a “mobile” device.  Those mobile-friendly sites are great for the 3-inch wide screens on your smartphone, but they look horrible on a tablet.  It’s very easy to mess up the detection script so make sure to test your site to make sure tablet users are getting the intended version of your site.

5.  Make the buttons bigger if you have to

An old joke amongst graphic designers is the reliable feedback from clients to, “Make the logo bigger.”  For tablets, it’s not such a bad idea after all.  If you have a singular or dominant call to action on your site, make sure the area that users need to “click” is big enough for them to see and interact with their fingers easily.  The clickable area with a traditional mouse interaction can be a lot more precise than the touch interface on a tablet.  Designers are going to have to increasingly account for that shortcoming.

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Discover-ability Doesn’t Take Up All of Your Time & Effort

ImageWanted to pass along a couple of quick takeaways from a post I ran across on the Rural Tourism Marketing blog.

The author relates how they were out exploring an area they were unfamiliar with and turned to their mobile device to locate a nearby place to eat (Mexican in particular.)  Ultimately, they were able to find a place that had an informative website, some great reviews on Google Places, and gave them a 10% discount when they checked in on Facebook.

Their experience reinforced a couple of things to keep in mind when you feel overwhelmed by the multitude of choices in front of you in regards to your online marketing efforts:

1. Using a few of the available internet marketing tools can get you the attention necessary to attract your customers.

In El Kiosco’s case, the owner has claimed his Google Places page (important to keep Google happy), created a very simple website and maintained a Facebook business page. That’s it.

In short, only pick the tools that work the best for you and your business. They don’t have to be the latest and greatest technologies to be effective.  Most of the time, they just have to deliver information that is simple, straightforward, and useful to customers who are basing their decisions on a few key questions;  Is this what I’m looking for? Is it close by?  What are other folks saying about this place?  If you can provide them these few snippets of information in a concise fashion, you increase your chances of reeling them in exponentially.

2. Internet marketing doesn’t have to rule your life to be successful.

This business owner, like you, spends most of his waking hours at his business. By encouraging us customers to check in and leave comments and reviews, he is effectively using internet tools to allow us, his customers, to help him do his marketing for him.

If you’re pressed for time in your marketing efforts (and really, who isn’t these days?) this is an essential element.  You have to make sure that your customers are doing some of the legwork for you.  But you have to help them along the way.  Any little thing you can do to spark the conversation will help.  Put up little signs reminding them they can check in or give them incentives to take action online.

Those small sparks are really an investment in word-of-mouth marketing.  That 10% “check-in” discount you give a current customer can turn into thousands of dollars of new business over time if it generates a positive experience and a glowing customer review.

Update:  Here’s a nice link on the transisition of Facebook Check-In Deals (mentioned above) to their Offers product.  Also some nice tips on how to activate offers and best practices in implementing them.

Posted in Low Budget, Mobile, Social Media | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment