ecommerce

Ecwid? Shopify? or Volusion? Which E-Commerce Solution is Best?

People today not only shop in person, but also shop and buy online with mobile devices, and social media. If you are a merchant with products to sell, it is crucial to use an e-commerce solution to globally reach tech savvy customers on the move.

Which e-commerce solution is best for merchants?

To help answer this question will depend on your needs and whether you already have a website or want to establish one. There are numerous e-commerce solutions available, but today I will review 3 that I am familiar with: Ecwid, Shopify, and Volusion.


ECWID

ecwidEcwid is short for “e-commerce widgets” and is a widget-not a standalone solution. It integrates with your existing website, social pages, or blogs. To make your life a bit easier, there are built-in features for Ecwid plugins with site builders such as WordPress, Joomla, Wix, and Yola. Some of Ecwid features include, but not limited to:

  • Four plans ranging from $0 to $99 a month. The FREE forever plan allows you to add 10 products to your store. The most expensive plan does not put a limited on the number of products you sell.
  • Fully hosted including upgrades and SSL-certificates
  • Limited to payments via PayPal
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • No transaction fees

Ecwid is perfect for merchants that already has a website and want to add a simple feature of selling products. Think of it as the “Spark” of vehicles to simply get you from point A to B in e-commerce. If you are on a budget and have a few products you want to sell, then the free plan is ideal for you.


SHOPIFY

shopifyShopify is not a widget like Ecwid and combines the features of being a website builder and an online store in one solution. That makes it a fully featured content management system. Some of Shopify features include, but not limited to:

  • Three plans ranging from $29 to $179 a month. There is no limited to the number of products you can add to your store. The costs vary depending on the amount of file storage you need and the available features you are wanting. There is also a 14-day FREE trial.
  • 100 + customizable themes available with some being FREE and others for an additional cost
  • Built in full blogging platform
  • Fully hosted including upgrades and SSL-certificates
  • 70+ international payment gateways
  • Transaction fees depending on plan chosen
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Discount codes and gift cards

Shopify is perfect for merchants that don’t already have a website or online store and is looking for a mid-range e-commerce solution. Think of it as the “Impala” of vehicles to drive you in e-commerce. If you are needing advanced POS functions, a full blogging platform, require numerous payment gateways, then Shopify is ideal for you.


VOLUSION

VolusionVolusion also combines the features of being a website builder, an online store, and a fully featured content management system in one solution like Shopify. What makes Volusion different is that it offers more functionality for customers to compare and view products online. It also lacks a blogging tool, but it is possible to link third-party blogs to your store. Some of Volusion features include, but not limited to:

  • Four plans ranging from $15 to $135 a month. There is no limited for the amount of file storage you need. The costs vary depending on the amount of products you are wanting to sell and features you are requiring. There is also a 14-FREE trail available.
  • 100+ customizable themes available with some being FREE and others for an additional cost
  • Fully hosted including upgrades, fraud score protection, and SSL-certificates
  • Multiple payment gateways
  • No transaction fees
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Built-in YouTube product video management
  • FREE Live Chat software

Volusion is perfect for merchants that want the “Cadillac” in e-commerce solutions. Volusion has been in the industry longer than Shopify and with that offers more experience and offerings. If you are requiring more functionality for your customers, less emphasis on blogging, and have the time and patience to utilize and navigate thru the numerous bells and whistles in this e-commerce solution, then Volusion is ideal for you.


Note: In my opinion, I would choose Shopify. It has affordable plans and enough options to for any merchant to sell products effectively online.


Are  you currently using an e-commerce solution and want to voice your opinion? Please share. I’m listening.

5 Retailers Using Social Media the Fashionable Way

blog.mobstac.com

Source: blog.mobstac.com

Social media is used by fashion retailers to brand awareness, drive fan engagement, and provide merchandise previews to name a few. All of this is to navigate customers to their websites and to increase e-commerce sales.

According to an article by Seema Nayak“5 Online Fashion Retailers Making the Best Use of Social Media”, the retailers below are using social media the fashionable way.


KEEP.COM

Keep.com audience is women between 20 and 30 years old. Since Instagram is popular with fashion blogs and live fashion events, Keep.com created a list of most fashionable women. This list included 100 artists, musicians, models, and actresses. From that list of influential women, Keep.com focused on the makeup, jewelry, shoes, and handbags that the celebs were wearing. They then gave customers links to websites where they could buy them.


RUE LA LA

Rue LA LA is an online fashion retailer for members only. They used Pinterest to create a “Mom’s of Style” campaign. They asked the users to make a board about their mom’s fashion style. The top three winners were featured in a Mother’s Day boutique.


BURBERRY

Burberry is a British luxury brand. They used an “Art of the Trench” campaign inviting trench coat aficionados to post images on their Facebook page. The people, influenced by fashion bloggers, voted on their favorite looks. This campaign boosted Burberry’s page to over a million fans. They now rank among the top fashion icons like Ralph Lauren, Kate Spade, and Gucci.


KATE SPADE

Kate Spade of New York is known around the world for stylish and bold designer clothing, shoes, and fashion accessories. They use Facebook to create brand awareness and to nurture customer relations. They use Twitter to reach fashion lovers and to develop trends. Kate Spade uses Instagram to give their followers a sneak peek into their corporate headquarters. Not surprising, they also use Flickr, Tumblr, and YouTube for promoting photos, and other visual content.


FREE PEOPLE

Free People is a bohemian lifestyle brand. They encourage people to upload pictures of themselves wearing clothes and apparel from their fashion line. By utilizing Twitter and Instagram, Free People encourages their users to tag pictures with specific hashtags. Customers receive a card in every shipment with the hashtag information.


While the article features only 5 fashion brands, it is still important to point out that social media plays a major role in all fashion purchases across numerous fashion brands.

Do you know of any retailers using social media the fashionable way? I’m listening. Please share.

Source: http://blog.mobstac.com/2014/01/5-online-fashion-retailers-making-the-best-use-of-social-media/

www.digitaldining.com

5 Restaurants Using Social Media: A Menu for Success

Sharing meals with family and friends has always been a social event. With the popularity of eating out at restaurants, social media is playing a major role in attracting new customers and maintaining loyalty of patrons.

Restaurants use social media to gain feedback and insight on menu items and service. They also update customers with new openings, promote contests, and monitor reputations by using multiple social platforms.

Below are 5 restaurants that are using social media as a menu for success:


STARBUCKS

Starbucks embraced social media early on and it didn’t hurt that drinking coffee was already a social activity. They offer quality products and promote social interaction with free WiFi in every location. But that is not where it stops. They use Facebook to inform their customers of new services and products instead of trying to sell them something. When Starbucks takes a photo, they post it on Facebook, tweet it on Twitter, share it on Instagram, and pin it on Pinterest. They also have a mystarbucksidea which is an online community where people can make suggestions and submit ideas to improve products and services.

Their unique way of using Twitter involves reaching out to customers that have complaints or negative feedback. They encourage dissatisfied customers to follow-up using a Twitter related email address. Call it tweeting damage control.


BABBO RISTORANTE

Babbo Ristorante is Mario Batali’s fine dining restaurant in New York. They post on Facebook daily with pictures of the fresh fish of the day, uncorking of wine, and behind the scenes from the chefs. They also embrace YouTube and Instagram to share videos and pictures of their food.

Barbbos uses Twitter to notify their patrons of any cancellations and include the times and availability for guests.


HARD ROCK CAFE

The Hard Rock Cafe devotes a whole page on their website to social media engagement. “Get social with 13 million strong” is proudly displayed on their social page with links to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google+, and YouTube. No rock is left unturned. They encourage fans to tag their pics with popular hashtags and provide a convenient upload button.


DENNY’S

The breakfast diner chain Denny’s openly invites their fans to “stalk us online”. One can stalk them by using Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and YouTube. They always engage their fans with interesting and creative content and displays their social media in the center of their website’s homepage.

Six months ago, they launched a Hispanic Facebook page that already has acquired 53,000 likes. They maintain a Tumblr page to reach a younger crowd. In addition, they are introducing an animated YouTube series called “The Grand Slams” premiering soon.


JACK IN THE BOX

Jack in the Box social media presence is for those that “like” fast food and snarky updates. They use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Tumblr to promote their food and the Jack character.

Last month, Jack in the Box  achieved a Guinness World Record tile by setting the record for the largest coupon. It measured 80 feet tall by 25 feet wide. The coupon was carried down the street to a Jack in the Box drive thru, redeemed, then hung on a high-rise building. Fans were encouraged take a picture to redeem the coupon and to share the coupon socially on Twitter using #WorldsLargestCoupon.


Is your restaurant using social media to its fullest? Do you have a social media menu for success? I’m listening. Please share.

www.usingmyhead.com

Squarespace vs WordPress: Which Platform is Best?

While in the planning stages of building your own website, you will definitely be overwhelmed by the choices of platforms that are available. Deciding on one is not always an easy task. I know. I’ve been there.

So, which platform is best? The answer to that question will vary from person to person depending on individual requirements for a website. But first, lets look at the features for 3 popular website platforms:  WordPress.com, WordPress.org, and Squarespace.

What is WordPress.com? WordPress.com has a basic FREE plan and is a fully hosted version of WordPress with these features:

  • Focuses on your creative content and they handle the rest.
  • Includes premium hosting and security with the ability to upgrade to a custom domain.
  • Intergrates with social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and much more..
  • Includes sharing, stats, comments, and polls.
  • Available personal support and forums.
  • Hundreds of themes that can be customized.
  • Upgradeable to Premium and Business plans to increase your bells and whistles. Pricing between $99 to $299 a year.

This was the first website platform that I used to get my feet wet in building a website. It is perfect for blogging and for someone who is new to working with websites. For more information, please visit their site at WordPress.com.

What is WordPress.org? WordPress.org is a FREE, self-hosted version of WordPress with these features:

  • Hands on platform where you host your own website.
  • VaultPress is offered for security and backups, but you need to find a host and perform backups and maintenance yourself.
  • Build your own website with PHP and CSS or use installed custom themes.
  • Sharing functionality requires installing plugins.
  • Additional plugins required for your site’s functionality
  • Available forums for assistance.
  • No registration is required.

This was the second website platform that I used and found it a little challenging. My college is currently hosting the 3 websites that I built in this platform. So, there are costs involved for a domain and hosting outside of school. I also was able to add a webstore widget for e-commerce. It is perfect for someone who wants full control of designing and is comfortable in coding. For more information, please visit their site at WordPress.org.

What is Squarespace? Squarespace is a SaaS-based CMS that is structured by a website builder. blogging platform and hosting service. Features include:

  • Modern templates designed with mobile devices in mind.
  • Employ HTML, CSS, and JavaScript techniques.
  • Allows you to install multiple templates to a one site and work with multiple designs at one time.
  • Style editor to help you customize.
  • Customizable content layouts.
  • FREE typekit fonts
  • FREE Google fonts
  • Custom CSS can be applied.
  • Restore ability for content with original template at any time.
  • FREE 14-day trial

I am currently working in this platform and find that it falls in the middle of difficulty between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Meaning, it is not difficult to work with if you have little experience building a website and I don’t need to use any code to make a professional looking site. There is a little learning curve finding out where everything is and how it works, but they offer tutorials to help you out. There is an added bonus knowing that most of the work in designing has been done for you and all you need to do is to add your content and logo to make it your own. For more information, please visit their site at Squarespace.com.

Which Platform is best for me? And the winner is….drum roll please…Squarespace. I love the modern templates that are easy to customize with my own content. Although, it is limited in the way of e-commerce, I still know it is a fit for my purposes in website building at this time. The only down size is that you have to pay after the 14-day trial, but it is a very small price to pay.

I hope this blog helps you to decide on which platform is best for YOU!

Which website platform will you choose and why? Would you like to share? I’m here to listen and welcome your comments.

www.spi-global.com

3 Social CRM Tools for Small Businesses

Customers today frequently use social media to comment on product-related questions, like personal experiences using products, and share with friends and followers their intent to purchase a product. Traditional CRMs used by businesses are sales driven and lack the ability to incorporate the social interactions and data of your customers. This is where social CRM tools enter the picture. Social CRM tools allow businesses to connect with their customers thru social media channels and much more.

Nimble, Insightly, and GreenRope are 3 social CRM tools that I recommend and are ideal for small businesses. Let’s take a look at what each social CRM has to offer.


Nimble_logo_blue_423-180x80

Nimble works for your small business by providing a single view of the past, present, and future of all of your contacts. Nimble features include:

  • Tracking the history you and your contacts share on multiple channels.
  • Message sending thru Nimble or not. Use Outlook, Gmail, or Hootsuite widgets to mobilize your workflow.
  • Stay in touch reminders  and ranking with a star system based on importance.
  • Analyzed shared interests to inform you why a contact is relevant to you.
  • Categorized or segmented groups with saved searches and tags.
  • Filters and segments by recently contacted or last contacted from the sidebar.
  • Monitoring for your contact’s entire social stream.
  • Information about the connections you share in common with each contact.
  • and so much more…

The business plan is $15 a month per user. And, of course, there is a FREE 14-day trial to determine if this social CRM is an ideal fit for your business. For more information, please click here.


Insightly

With Insightly, you can unleash your inner hero. Insightly offers:

  • Powerful CRM to help manage your leads, contacts, partners, vendors, and suppliers.
  • Integrated project management with an overview screen where you can see the recent activity of any project.
  • Social CRM that lets you explore your contact’s public profile information thru any social channel where the contact has participated.
  • Sales reports and opportunities with dashboards, tasks, and milestones.
  • Mobile apps that allow you travel with whatever device you have.
  • and so much more…

Insightly also integrates with popular applications such as:

  • Google Apps & Gmail
  • Google Drive

The plans available includes a FREE plan for 2 users with basic features. There are robust plans priced from $12 to $99 a month per user. For more information, please click here.


GreenRope

GreenRope lets you take command of your business by offering all the turbocharged tools you need in one place. GreenRope offers:

  • Complete CRM to help you keep track of each interaction you have with your contacts
  • Marketing automation that allows you to set up processes.
  • Social media marketing tools so you can broadcast email campaigns to all of your social network sites
  • Video tracking that allows you to see who is watching your videos and when.
  • and so much more…

GreenRope also integrates with:

  • SalesForce
  • WordPress
  • Outlook
  • GoToMeeting
  • QuickBooks
  • Live Chat
  • Magento
  • Gmail

The affordable plans available include unlimited users and emails. And, of course, there is a FREE trial to determine if this social CRM is an ideal fit for your business. The fees range from $149 to $499 a month and are based on the number of contacts that you have. For more information, please click here.


Do you have a social CRM tool to recommend? I’m listening…

umsldigitalmindshare.com

Social Media Monitoring: Are You Listening About Your Brand?

The Cultureist Infographic

The Cultureist Infographic

Do you know how much time is actually spent by people using social media?  Day in the Life of the Internet is an infographic that breaks down the statistics of internet users and where they spend their time socially. With over 3 hours a day spend by people visiting social media sites, it only makes sense for your brand to be connected and engaged with customers and prospects by the way of social media.

But, that’s not enough. Are you listening about your brand? If your brand is to be the trusted source of information and products, then you need to respect your customers and prospects by listening to them.

One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. – Bryant H. McGill

Social media monitoring, also know as social media listening, is all about listening to what is important and responding when your brand is mentioned online.

Did you know that 53% of Twitter users recommend companies in their tweets?

Social Media Monitoring tools such as Hootsuite, Rapportive, and Boomerang are useful tools to consider for listening about your brand. They help you to discover:

  • Positive and Negative Comments – Hearing positive things about your brand is great and reassure you that you are doing the right things. But, it is also important to address the negative. Damage control can help reestablish the trust and respect of your customers.
  • Questions – Monitoring the frequently asked questions about your brand or industry can open an opportunity for you to create content to help answer those questions.
  • Trends – Tracking trends opens the door for your brand to be proactively mentioned into the conversation.
  • Influencers – Monitoring social media can help your brand by locating someone in your industry that has a social voice louder than the others. This is a great opportunity to learn from their success.
  • Advocates – Discovering your brand advocates helps to spread the word about your brand.
  • Links – Tracking who is linking to your brand is helpful for search engine optimization campaigns.
  • Languages – Acknowledging the languages that your brand is being mentioned in helps your brand by determining the languages required to communicate effectively. This and make it a priority to translate content and/or consider multi-language customer service.
  • Customer Service Feedback– Knowing how to get customer service right is important for your brand. After all, 15% of 16-24 year-olds prefer to interact with customer service using social media.

How do you use social media monitoring to learn information about your brand? Thank you for listening.

LinkedIn

How to Use, Improve, and Optimize Your Linkedin Personal Profile Effectively

LinkedIn HelloMy first introduction to LinkedIn was back in 2008 while working for a marketing company in the St. Louis area. At that time, all of the employees were encourages to create an individual LinkedIn Personal Profile to promote the company and to connect with current vendors and potential customers. When I asked what LinkedIn was, I was told it was a  “Facebook” for professionals.

Truthfully, what is it? LinkedIn is a social networking site focused on businesses. With basic free services and the ability to upgrade, it allows you to locate clients, colleagues, and business associates you already know and those you don’t. You “connect” through LinkedIn by creating a LinkedIn Personal Profile. A LinkedIn Personal Profile describes you. This includes your education, interests, career history, and other information that you want to share about yourself in a professional social network.

How do you use, improve, and optimize a LinkedIn Personal Profile effectively?

I asked myself the same question a few years back when I was first getting started with composing my LinkedIn Personal Profile. To make things a little easier for you, I have listed a few helpful tips below:

  • Your Career Story. Summarize your professional background as a story. This makes it easy for potential employers to understand how you gained skills and expertise in your journey for a career. To strengthen your story, be sure to have a great network of contacts. This will demonstrate to potential employers that you are serious about your career.
  • Who You Are.  Describe who you are and be sure that it mirrors your resume. Be professional. After all, that is the type of employee that companies are looking for.
  • Your Work Samples. Add media like videos, documents, links, images, and presentations to the Education, Experience, and Summary sections of your LinkedIn Personal Profile. This allows you to highlight samples of work and projects while optimizing your profile. Learn how to add work samples to your profile here.
  • Professional Profile Photo. Send a strong message who you are. Casual and blurred photos relay that you are not serious about your career. Even worse, is not having a photo at all.
  • Searchable Skilled Keywords. Use keywords to highlight your skills. If you want employers to find you, keywords are essential for search engine optimization. 
  • Endorsements of Skills and References. Ask supervisors, co-workers, customers, and clients to endorse your skills and to write references on your behalf. These will appear in your profile and are commonly searched by recruiters and hiring managers. Learn how to endorse someone’s skills here.
  • Your Profile Link. Utilize a personal LinkedIn URL to share your profile. This adds another touch of professionalism. Learn how to create a personal LinkedIn URL here.
  • Call to Action. Include your contact information. Once someone reads your story, finish by telling them what to do – contact you!

Would you like to comment on how to use, improve, and optimize a LinkedIn Personal Profile effectively? Suggestions are always welcomed!

Resources:

http://cashmoneylife.com/how-to-use-linkedin/

http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/linkedin.htm

http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/23454/The-Ultimate-Cheat-Sheet-for-Mastering-LinkedIn.aspx

http://theundercoverrecruiter.com/linkedin-profile-tips/

http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2013/04/23/7-steps-to-creating-the-best-linkedin-profile