Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Start Preparing For Holiday Shipping This Summer

Don’t let yourself get complacent about the holidays just because it’s summer! The Christmas season may not yet be on your mind, but when it comes to your business, it should be. Four months from now you’ll be in the middle of the busiest time of the year.

By starting to prepare for the holidays now, you’ll save yourself a lot of stress down the line.
Here are the steps you can take now to be ready to ship products during the holidays.

1. Consider Your Inventory

Now is the time to place your orders so you have the products you need for the holidays in stock and ready to ship. Focus on stocking up on your best sellers. If they’re usually your best sellers, it is likely they will be your best sellers during the holidays. Make sure you have enough inventory!

2. Test Your Website

You have months to make changes to your website so it runs smoothly for your customers during the holiday rush. Websites that run poorly tend to cause customers to shop elsewhere.

Websites that load slowly are one of the biggest reasons why customers become frustrated by a website. Test website loading speeds using software tools to ensure everything is running smoothly. You also want to make sure your product images and copy are updated and that the website is easy to navigate.

3. Stock Up On Shipping Supplies

You need more than a healthy inventory of products; you also need plenty of shipping supplies. Make sure you have a decent stock of corrugated boxes, bubble & foam wrap, tape, poly bags, and everything else you need to properly pack and ship.   

4. Examine Shipping More Closely

Timing is everything during the holiday season, so ensuring that your packages arrive to their destination in a timely manner is extremely important.

Think about your shipping providers. Have they been reliable? Do you regularly get complaints? Could your shipping options and returns policy be updated to make your customers happier? If you’re thinking about making changes, now is the time to get started.

5. Start Hiring Extra Help

If you know your current staff can’t keep up with sales volume during the holidays it’s time to think about hiring temporary workers. We recommend hiring your temporary staff in October so you have time to train new employees before it gets busy.

How are you preparing for the holidays?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

How To Develop Your Brand In 5 Steps

Your brand identity is extremely important, whether you’re a large corporation or a small startup. A successful brand invokes positive feelings. Your brand is your company’s story, its values, and its products. Without a strong brand you can easily be lost in the shuffle.

Your brand is what draws in new customers and keeps current customers loyal. You want your branding to be consistent, from your social media presence to your photography. And we’re here to help you do that.

It may sound a bit overwhelming, but we’re making this easy for you with just 5 steps.

1.      Think About Your Products

Think about your products carefully. So much of your brand gets built simply because of the items you sell. There are a few questions you’ll want to ask yourself to help you define your brand:
·        Why are you selling the products?
·        Why not something else instead?
·        How do your products help customers with their problems?
·        What makes your product unique?
·        What words would you use to describe your products?

By answering these questions, you’ve given yourself the framework you need to start building your brand.

2.      Consider Design Aesthetics

Your design needs to be consistent across all channels. The colors and fonts you use will build associations about your brand, so think about design carefully. Consider the style of your brand – is it more formal, or more casual? These types of questions will help you determine the design pallet you use for your brand.

What colors represent your brand’s personality? Your color pallet can have a huge influence on the way your brand is viewed. When working with typography, make sure you’re choosing fonts that are easy to read, but still represent the tone of your brand. Your photography should also reflect your brand’s color pallet.

You should use all of these elements when it comes to designing your company logo. This logo should be creative but easy to understand and memorable.

3.      Build A Brand Voice

Your brand voice will determine the tone of the copy you use on your website, social media accounts, and with customers.

By now you’ve already figured out the personality of your company, and that will dictate the tone of your brand. Your social media posts shouldn’t be written in a friendly, casual manner if all the content of your website is professional and technical. Once you choose a brand voice you need to stick with it across all channels.

Having a consistent brand voice is extremely important when it comes to connecting with your customers.

4.      Think About Brand Channels

How do you reach your audience? The platforms and physical locations where you reach consumers makes up your brand channels. You may have a physical storefront, conduct business exclusively online, or a mix of both. Your branding needs to be visible across all of these channels to help you create a consistent message.

Your branding aesthetics should be clear across your website banners, social media banners and posts, business cards, physical promotional materials, your storefront, and anywhere else your brand is visible.

Think about how different channels can share different aspects of your brand. Feature image galleries and blog posts on your website to give your audience an in-depth look at your company. Social media allows you to interact directly with customers and present your products in a way that makes the products about your customer, and not about your business. Advertising through social media and Google is another channel that needs to adhere to your brand standards. If you have a physical storefront, train your staff to interact with customers according to brand guidelines.

5.      Don’t Forget Packaging & Promotional Materials

Your branding doesn’t stop after a customer has purchased products from you. You also need to consider the packaging you choose. Do you want to promote eco-friendly values? You can do that with eco-friendly packaging. Do your customers want extra protection for products during shipping, or are they more minimalistic? These are the types of questions that should influence your package branding.

Easy ways you can personalize your packaging to reflect your brand includes:

·        Labels
·        Stickers
·        Fabric Labels
·        Tags
·        Flyers/Notes

You may also consider creating custom packaging, but that can get very expensive very quickly. Adding little touches inside your packaging materials is just as effective and less expensive.

In Conclusion

Building a brand can take a lot of hard work, but it’s easier to get started than you think. By starting with these 5 steps you’ll be well on your way to creating a memorable brand that your customers will love.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Retain Customers With The Best Return Practices

There’s no way around returns. The product your customer purchased may not fit, may not be exactly what they wanted, or may arrive damaged. No matter the reason for the return, it is important you use the best return practices you can to retain that customer in the future.

Retaining customers is much more inexpensive than gaining new ones, so even if you have to take a loss it is important you try to retain each customer’s business. If your return policy causes your customers grief not only will you lose their business, you will lose business due to their negative feedback.

A hassle-free return policy is an easy way for your business to keep customers happy and loyal. While return fraud is a real concern and absorbing shipping costs can be expensive, these are things you can work around in your return policy.

Instead of thinking of returns as a loss of time and money, think of them as an opportunity for excellent customer service that will bring your customers back again and again.

Here’s how.

Have A Clear, Easy To Understand Return Policy

Your customers are already dissatisfied with your product, so don’t irritate them with a policy that is difficult to find or understand. Keep the language of your return policy simple and easy to skim.
For example, take a look at the ShippingSupply.com Return Policy.

We have a single landing page that clearly explains our return policy, including an “Important Notes” section that states requirements for returns. Our language is free of legal jargon so it is easy for our customers to understand just by scanning.

Include Return Information In The Packaging

Making it more difficult for customers to return products they are unhappy with is shortsighted. When finding return information is challenging, customers become annoyed and more likely to avoid your business in the future.

Including a simple note with your packaging makes it easy for customers to find the information they need. Your customers will appreciate not needing to search the website for your return information. Don’t worry; including the information in the packaging will not make customers more likely to return it.

Don’t Begrudge Customers For Returns

It may be true that the customer is the one who broke your product or didn’t read the description closely enough, but if you resist taking the return it will hurt you in the long run.

Not only will it infuriate your customers, it will waste a great deal of time and you may lose that customer forever. If the experience is bad enough, that customer may leave negative feedback that other customers will see, or tell their loved ones about their negative experience losing you more customers. Returns are a part of any business, so make sure to provide excellent customer service to try and retain the customer. In fact, providing customers with an excellent return experience can gain a lot of customer loyalty.

Ask Customers For Feedback

Ask customers why they are making the return. While this idea seems very straightforward, you can use this feedback to make big changes so you have fewer returns in the future.

By tracking feedback patterns you will get a better idea of why a return was made. If a lot of products are returned due to damage, for example, you may not be packaging your products correctly. If customers state the product doesn’t meet the description, it may be time to update your product copy and photographs. Returns are an excellent opportunity for you to make improvements to your business.

Keep Customers Updated

There’s nothing more infuriating than waiting for your money to be returned to you, or for a replacement product to arrive. Luckily it is easy enough to update customers about the state of their returns via email or phone.

Inform customers when you receive the returned item(s) and how long it will take for the replacement item to arrive or for the money to show in their account. Your customers will be glad they don’t need to keep calling your business for this information.

Cover Return Shipping, If You Can

Depending on the size of your business you may not be able to afford to cover return shipping, but customers will appreciate it if you can.

Customers may be irritated at being forced to pay return shipping costs. As a compromise, you may consider covering return shipping for specific situations, such as a damaged product.

What return practices are you using for your business? What has worked and what hasn’t?

Friday, July 6, 2018

5 Marketing Mistakes and How To Fix Them

Whether you’re a large corporation or a small business, you are doing marketing of some kind. If you aren’t seeing the return on your investment you were expecting, it’s possible you’ve made some marketing mistakes along the way.

Luckily it’s not too difficult to change these marketing blunders into successes.

Mistake 1: Using Too Many Social Media Platforms

For the most part, all businesses know they need to be active on at least one social media platform. The problem is when companies decide to take on too many social media platforms. While it makes sense on the surface to sign up for every platform you can, that may be a poor choice. Unless you’re a large corporation you likely don’t have the resources to churn out amazing content for each platform on a daily basis.

Instead, focus on the social media platforms your customers are most likely to be using. Check your analytics to see what platforms are most worthy of your efforts. Once you know that, focus on producing quality content for those couple platforms.

Mistake 2: You Aren’t Paying Attention to Your Competitors

Look at their marketing strategies. What are they doing? What tactics do they try and never do again? What tactics get them a lot of customer engagement? Read their blog, watch them on social media, and sign up for their newsletter. This is a very easy way to see how your direct competition is interacting with your customers.

You can take what they’re doing well and do it better, and learn from the mistakes they make so you don’t make them yourself.

Mistake 3: Ignoring Current Customers

It’s easy to get too focused on chasing leads and attracting new customers. While this is an important part of your marketing strategy, your goal shouldn’t be to get a one-time sale from new customers, but to get customers to stick around.

Make sure you stay in touch with your current customers, both those who have only purchased from you once and those that have been buying from you regularly. Email marketing is the easiest way to accomplish this, but no matter what you do make sure you have a marketing plan in place for these existing customers.

Mistake 4: Not Using a Call to Action

You create a great piece of content and publish it to your blog or a social media platform. But then what? Without a call to action, customers will likely read the content and move on. You want to turn those readers into buyers, and to do that you need to use a call to action.

What is the purpose of the piece of content you’ve created? You may want to promote a certain product, direct customers to a landing page, or generate more traffic across your blog. Whatever it is, there needs to be a call to action so your customers will take that next step. Even better, you can use a call to action button so customers simply have to click and go.

Mistake 5: Not Thinking Like Your Customer

You may think the details about your product are obvious, but they likely aren’t to your customer. You also want to make sure to write in a language your customers are going to understand. Avoid jargon and write with a tone that your audience will relate to.

Your customer should be in your mind every time you write a blog post, email, or product description. Don’t write something you like, write something the customer will like.

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