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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Americans Are Phoning the Web

E-commerce businesses, take notice: Increasing numbers of people are accessing the Web primarily through their cellphones. "Businesses who realize that the efforts put into an excellent mobile Web experience are as important as the main website -- more important, actually ... -- will be most ready for whatever the future holds for mobile," said mobile consultant Jonathan Thaler.

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Cellphones have become a primary way for people in the U.S. to access the Web, according to a recent survey released by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.

Seventeen percent of of cellphone owners surveyed said they surfed the Web primarily with their phones rather than computers. Using their phones was a matter of convenience for many, but others said that they were the only means they had to access the Web.

Pew based its findings on a national telephone survey of 2,254 adults aged 18 and over conducted March 15 through April 3, 2012.

Eighty-eight percent of adults in the U.S. owned a cellphone as of April 2012, and 55 percent of those cellphone users accessed the Internet with their phones, the survey found. That represents an increase from the 31 percent of cellphone users who reported accessing the Internet with their phones in an April 2009 Pew survey.

"Phones are convenient," said Pew Research Center Senior Research Specialist Aaron Smith, who wrote the survey report.

"They're always there, and they fit with peoples' lifestyles," he told the E-Commerce Times.

Moving Trend

Whether the trend toward phone access of the Internet will continue is an unknown, but Pew's surveys do indicate a steady increase in all kinds of mobility.

"We stay out of the trend prediction business," said Smith, "but the broader trend toward increased mobility is something that has been consistent and is something we continue to see in all of the work that we do."

One of the driving factors behind this trend, according to Smith, is convenience.

"There's something qualitatively different about cellphones in terms of convenience," he said.
What It Means for E-Commerce

The upshot of this survey for e-commerce businesses and anyone who reaches the public via the Web is that they must have mobile-friendly sites.

"There's a large number of potential customers who are not going to be accessing your services or site in a traditional big screen with a full keyboard and mouse," said Smith. "They're going to be accessing it when they're on-the-go, distracted, with a smaller screen and no keyboard -- or a virtual keyboard. That's a very different consumption experience. People are in a very different mindset when they're running around with their phone than they are when they're sitting at a computer."

Consumers want to be able to access information wherever they are and whenever they want, and often that means they're going to reach for their phones.

"People want easy access to information where they are -- they are not sitting at a laptop or a computer when they are out and about, which is most of the time," Jonathan Thaler, founder of When I'm Mobile, told the E-Commerce Times. "We have virtually unlimited Internet browsing as part of our data plans, and the browsers on our devices are very capable."

Many businesses, however, are not prepared for these mobile users. Their sites are still designed and directed toward computer screens and capabilities.

"At present, I'm afraid the typical Web experience on a mobile browser has a negative effect on e-commerce," said Thaler. "Nobody wants to have to enter 10 to 15 form boxes into a non-mobile Web page they can't even see properly. We are on the go, have little time and choppy bandwidth, and need to get in, get what we need and get out. Entering credit card information to a phone website is a juggling act at best. I do think business is being lost when the website is too difficult to use on a mobile device, which is still the case the vast majority of the time."

Becoming more mobile-friendly, in other words, is central to doing business in the 21st century.
Mobile CRM

"Understanding the importance of initiating the customer relationship with the mobile device, to continue and expand on that relationship when the customer is not at the computer, will position businesses at the forefront of mobile commerce," said Thaler. "Reliable and easy-to-use mobile payment systems, integrated seamlessly into the mobile browsing experience, are also necessary for m-commerce to proliferate."

In fact, the mobile version of a site might be even more important than the desktop one.

"Businesses who realize that the efforts put into an excellent mobile Web experience are as important as the main website -- more important, actually, since people have their phones with them far more of the time than they have computer access -- will be most ready for whatever the future holds for mobile," said Thaler.

"I don't think phone browsing will completely replace computer browsing," he said, "but an integrated Web strategy which enables website owners to be ready for the visits to their site regardless of how they get there, will provide both the audience and the business with the best opportunities to engage and transact."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Three C's of Facebook

Article By The Connection and PRWeb.

No online marketing strategy is complete without Facebook. The world's largest social network can give your campaigns enormous reach, especially when you integrate it with your other marketing tools. According to the latest stats, 96 percent of small businesses now have a company Facebook page. If you're in that 96%, fantastic – but are you getting the most out of it?
Effective Facebook marketing comes down to three key points: Customer Service, Content and Connections.


1 Customer Service
Having a Facebook page where customers can post reviews, comments and even complaints is essential to building a rapport. Over time, that rapport will turn into brand loyalty. It also inspires word of mouth, as customers/fans encourage their friends to "like" your page, and try your product/service. Try to monitor your company page for a few minutes a day and respond to customer comments within 24 hours or less. You can also sign up to receive an email alert whenever someone posts to your page.
2 Content
Your Facebook page is a face for your business. Keep it fresh. Share news, offer promotions, link to outside content and thank customers for their feedback. They're all great ways to keep customers engaged. Think for a second about how you use Facebook to check out your friends' news and click through their photo galleries. Customers want to check out your business the same way. Facebook is an ideal platform to share product photos and for customers to post their own photos of your products in action.
It's not just about engagement. There are several apps available that let you add "buy now" buttons to photos, taking customers straight to your website. Other apps let you create customized coupons for your fans, and host customer sweepstakes on your Facebook page. Whether you use apps or not, aim for one update, post or promotion per day.
3 Connections
Social media is a vital publicity tool, which makes it an integral part of effective marketing. Getting "likes" and fans is how companies build connections on Facebook. Got a special event happening? Send a message to your fans. Need feedback on a new product? Create a quick survey using a Facebook survey app. The more you connect with your current fans, the more likely their friends are to see your page and become fans (and customers) themselves.

Monday, June 18, 2012

How to harness the incredible potential of blogs

These days, it is common knowledge that branding is an essential tool for building a successful, sustainable enterprise -- but what does that mean if your business is you? To answer this question, I scoured the land of independent-publishers-turned-savvy-branders to ask the best of the business to share their insights on what it takes to create and sustain their successful brands.
As many of you know, well-executed branding can ensure a consumer chooses your product over all others, though the others may be incredibly similar. The classic example of this is the powerful brand of Coke. People around the world choose Coke over other types of cola, which taste virtually the same due to one single differentiator: branding. Coke has perfected its brand over a century by ensuring its products stand for consistency and enjoyment while visually being equated to these feelings. The results of its successful branding can be seen today, where Coke is reportedly recognized by 94 percent of the world's population.

Stay informed. Want to harness the power of social TV -- and use it to your advantage? Attend the iMedia Entertainment Summit, June 26. Request your invitation today.
In the past few years we've seen the explosion of personal blogs. In fact, WordPress keeps a handy counter on its website that shares the number of WordPress sites in the world -- its count is up to 73 million. And that is just one -- albeit the largest -- platform. Many of these voices are clambering for the same audience and must look to branding as a key differentiator that will help them stand out in a crowd.
The challenge for most publishers is that the process of branding can feel uncomfortable because you're spending lot of time thinking about yourself rather than your audience. Most publishers I know would much rather think about their audiences' interests, their next blog posts, or how to improve their photography -- not what their personal brands mean. But most are motivated to overcome these fears of self-promotion once they understand the tremendous benefits of branding. Effective branding means readers will choose to follow a specific blog over all others and, to that blogger, this can mean lasting success.
But what does effective branding entail? I had in-depth conversations with some of the savviest publishers on the web, and here are some of the common themes I heard from them.

Read entire article at iMedia Connection