SDDS Web Design https://sddsweb.co.za We do Websites Affordably Fri, 03 Jul 2020 10:38:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.2 BUILD IT AND THEY MIGHT COME? https://sddsweb.co.za/2020/07/03/build-it-and-they-might-come/ https://sddsweb.co.za/2020/07/03/build-it-and-they-might-come/#respond Fri, 03 Jul 2020 10:38:11 +0000 https://sddsweb.co.za/?p=7197

As a Website Designer I often have clients that have this “pie in the sky” perception about having a website. Their expectation that by having a budget website of one or two pages will result in a sudden increase in business within 2-3 days of it being launched, it makes me think of the movie “Field of Dreams”.

The truth of the matter is that having a website built is the first step in a very long process of creating an online presence for your business. I read a post recently that having the expectation that a Website will solve all of your turnover problems, is similar to starting a restaurant and employing a great chef, having a great chef will not make your restaurant a success, it will just make the food taste good, you need to consider the venue, the location, the décor, the service and the advertising, be it through word of mouth or paid media … Only then will you have a successful restaurant.

The same apples to having a website ….

Build a DIY site on WIX or have a website designer build you a one page site with 2 paragraphs of text and 3 out of focus pictures taken with an old Nokia 3310 and then sit  back and hope and pray that the business will suddenly start rolling in …. You are doomed to failure and so is your business.

There are several things you need to do and consider when embarking on this journey of taking your business online and getting found on the worldwide web.

CONTENT

The best web designer in the world is not going to build you the best website if you cannot invest time into providing good quality images and content for your website, Google cannot read pretty stock images, they need to know about your business and you have two options in this respect, either get a qualified content writer to create the content for you or spend time and effort in doing so yourself to make the visitor to your site and Google understand what you do, why you do it and how you do it.

THE DESIGN      

Now that you have the content on hand and you have some awesome photos for your new website, you look for a website designer, or you embark on a long and arduous journey of trying to design a site using a free drag and drop website builder like Wix, again, you are not investing in your business using the DIY methods, there is a lot more to web design than simply dropping pictures and text into little blocks.

Then you have those clients with requests like “make the logo bigger” or “lets make the background more colourful” and stuff like that and while it might look pretty, is it practical? Will it work? Does it comply with requirements that Google needs before it will index and list your site.

THE HOSTING

Now that your awesome site has been designed well and looks great, it needs to be stored somewhere on a server in the big wide world, and luckily you found a great package with a host somewhere in the middle of nowhere that will only cost you a couple of rand a month, however once launched, your site is as slow as a turtle on a beach in mating season and times out more than it loads… and two months after it was launched it is hacked and has malicious code injected into it that redirects the user to a Chinese adult toy site and your site and domain is now blacklisted by Google.

Alternatively you invest in your business and buy hosting that has security, that is reliable and has a good uptime track record, and this is where you load your awesome new site.

MARKETING

So now you have a website, and you have hosted it on a super fast and reliable server, now you need to tell people about, but more importantly, you need to tell the search engines across the world that your site exists and allow then to serve up your details to the users that is searching for your services. There are many aspects to marketing and some of it costs more than others but you need them in at least one form or another in order to get people to visit your site and the general rule is that the more people that visit your site and the longer they stay on your site, the higher Google will rank it and the easier you will appear in searches, there are obviously a lot of other things that the search engines like Google take into account …

Stay tuned for the next instalment on the importance and methods of Marketing and how it can help your business get found.

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Why Does Your Business Need an Online Presence? https://sddsweb.co.za/2020/05/14/why-does-your-business-need-an-online-presence/ https://sddsweb.co.za/2020/05/14/why-does-your-business-need-an-online-presence/#respond Thu, 14 May 2020 14:17:11 +0000 https://sddsweb.co.za/?p=7026

In the digital age, it is absolutely essential for your business to have an online presence. Whether it’s a website, an e-commerce platform, a social media page or a combination of all three, getting your company online will reap major benefits. Even if your company does not conduct business online, customers and potential customers are expecting to see you online. If they don’t see you there, you could be losing out on the opportunity to increase your customer base and get the word out about your business.

 

Here are just a few of the many reasons why your business needs to establish its online presence:

1. Make it Easier for Potential Customers Come to You

Today, if someone wants more information about a company, they’re most likely to do their research online. Whether they’re specifically looking for your company, or they just want to find any company that offers the products or services that your company offers, having an online presence will give you a competitive edge. Potential customers will not put a lot of  effort into finding you, and they should not have to. A simple Google search should provide them with all the information they seek.

Real life example: Your business distributes seafoods, meats, fine wines and other spirits. A potential customer is having an impromptu family get-together and needs a few bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon and some shrimp.  She uses her smartphone to search for “wine and seafood in Jamaica”. Your company’s website is listed in the search results. After browsing your website, she’s satisfied that you can provide her with what she needs. You’ve just earned another customer!

2. Make it Easier to Showcase Your Products and Services

The Internet gives businesses an effective platform for showcasing what they have to offer. Whether it’s a portfolio and testimonials from clients on a website, or an album on a Facebook page with photos of your newest products, it has never been easier to let the world know what you have to offer. With a few simple clicks, your customers can see what you’re all about. They can even do this outside of business hours! An online presence is an extension of your brand that never sleeps.  

3, Make it Easier to Build Relationships with Customers and Potential Customers

Social media is all about building relationships. This is true for both individuals and businesses. Social media gives your brand a voice – it makes your company more “human” and relatable. Customers and potential customers can interact with your brand on a more personal level. It also gives you the opportunity to truly get to know your customers. If everyone is on social media except you, you are missing out on an invaluable opportunity to connect and communicate with your target audience. Social media is one of the simplest, yet most effective ways to get persons interested in your company and to form real relationships with real people.

4. Make it Easier to Market Your Brand

Websites and social media platforms are excellent marketing tools. They are also some of the most cost effective methods of sending out information to thousands of people. Online marketing is extremely important for all businesses because it has a huge influence on the way consumers make purchasing decisions. Moderns consumers have even indicated that they look at companies in a negative light if they cannot find them online. Using the internet for marketing purposes allows you to overcome distance barriers. Persons thousands of miles away can be learning all about your business with just a few keystrokes. The “shareability” of social media allows your customers to easily spread the word about your business to all their friends. Ultimately, online marketing gives you the opportunity to market your brand in creative and exciting ways.

Modern businesses must ensure that they are not left behind. An online presence is one of the most important investments that a business can make. The benefits are endless!

NEED TO GET YOUR BUSINESS ONLINE ?

Contact us for an obligation free quote

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Time to stop ducking an eCommerce future https://sddsweb.co.za/2020/05/04/time-to-stop-ducking-an-ecommerce-future/ https://sddsweb.co.za/2020/05/04/time-to-stop-ducking-an-ecommerce-future/#respond Mon, 04 May 2020 02:46:30 +0000 https://sddsweb.co.za/?p=7006

DURBAN – South Africans have been reluctant to throw themselves into online shopping.

Many of us would rather spend a leisurely Saturday wandering through shopping malls and buying on whim, but Covid-19 has forced essential businesses to offer delivery options and pushed consumers to buy online.

Businesses that never considered an eCommerce platform necessary are now scrambling to position themselves for a delivery-centred retail reality.

This need not be an intimidating transition said Warrick Kernes, founder of the Insaka eCommerce Academy.

“The monumental shifts we are seeing around the world as a result of the coronavirus have proved a game changer for the eCommerce sector. So many industries are struggling, but ours is not. Ours is the solution,” said Kernes.

Kernes, who founded the award-winning Action Gear online store in 2010 and sold the venture in 2018, is South Africa’s go-to guy when it comes to establishing a successful eCommerce platform. Over the years his academy has taught thousands of South Africans how to start, grow and scale their own eCommerce businesses.

He predicts that under government’s necessary, but challenging, five-level lockdown exit strategy, eCommerce will be the fastest way to inject life back into the thousands of small businesses that are now tittering on the brink of bankruptcy.

“The sooner we allow delivery sales – not only online sales, but also email and telephone orders – the better,” he says. “This would enable these companies to carry on with business, to pay their staff and get the economy working again,” said Kernes.

Kernes warns, however, about regarding an eCommerce strategy as simply a band-aid which can be discarded when the current crisis ends.

He said, “This really is a seminal moment for eCommerce and for the industry,” he says. “The secret is to position your business to take advantage of the exponential acceleration in eCommerce over the long term.”

For two decades eCommerce has thrived despite facing some significant challenges, something which Alibaba founder Jack Ma discussed during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in 2018.

“For the past 20 years, with poor logistics, terrible payments, terrible connection of the internet in the world, astute eCommerce has grown like this [gestures up],” said Ma.

“My belief is that eCommerce is the future, and [that] eCommerce is going to replace a lot of traditional ways of doing business,” Ma said at the time.

South Africa was already hovering around an eCommerce surge before the coronavirus pandemic, having passed the R14 billion mark – or 1.4 percent of total retail sales – in 2018, according to World Wide Worx’s Online Retail in South Africa 2019 study. With online sales growing at around 20-35 percent annually, it was projected then that the 2 percent mark would be reached by 2022. Even before the coronavirus effect, Statista Market Forecast was projecting that 2020 would be a key year for South African online sales, with expectations of the market hitting R60 billion in sales.

“As things stand, the South African eCommerce space has just been accelerated by two to three years. Right now, for anyone who has been retrenched, for professionals looking to set up a secondary income, for stay-at-home mothers looking to create an income source or any South African with a drive to succeed, the eCommerce space is hugely exciting,” said Kernes.

Jonathan Smit, MD of online payment solution PayFast, agrees that eCommerce will continue to be an exciting place for a long time to come.

“The impact of the lockdown and the anticipated lengthy return to ‘normal’ are going to fundamentally change the way many people shop. Businesses have to adapt and embrace eCommerce either as a sole distribution channel or to augment their existing physical channels,” said Smit.

Curated from IOL 

3D graphics image by Quince Creative

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YOUR BUSINESS AND COVID19 https://sddsweb.co.za/2020/04/15/your-business-and-covid19/ https://sddsweb.co.za/2020/04/15/your-business-and-covid19/#respond Wed, 15 Apr 2020 08:00:13 +0000 https://sddsweb.co.za/?p=6983
We’ve officially made it through the first 20 days of the national COVID-19 lockdown with another 15 to go and hopefully it does not get extended further. For those lucky enough to have a busy at-home schedule the time has most likely flown by; but for possibly the majority of you it has been a painstakingly slow week with the only “excitement” stemming from the panic that races through your body when you wonder how your business will survive lockdown.

Although the rules were pretty unclear in the time leading up to the lockdown, the government has since stepped up by setting out clear guidelines and regulations for businesses and consumers to follow and there is much hope that they will be allowing couriers to deliver non essential items as well and thus restrict people leaving their homes.
All things considered, we are fortunate to be in lockdown now in 2020 instead of a decade or so ago when technology wasn’t as affordable and generally available. With a good internet connection and by making use of readily available tools, you can get creative and diversify your business into online.

For those of you who have based your life’s work in the arts, such as professional photographers and musicians, under lockdown you have the opportunity to make some money by leading online classes. Same applies to yoga and gym instructors, as well as chefs who can lead virtual cooking classes.
If you were thinking about creating an online store for your craft or product idea then now is the perfect time to do so. If you are an artist you can easily set up an online store to sell your works of art (include digital pieces as well for instant transactions), or if you are a jewellery designer now is the perfect opportunity to create a beautiful online store to list your products.

With more employees working from home and less shoppers visiting physical stores, the time is now for brands to strengthen their direct-to-consumer (D-to-C) mind-set. Even lightweight solutions, like creating a simple online store to offer curbside pickup or local delivery options to your customers, can eventually lead to a more holistic shift to selling all or most of your products online.
If you’re a brick and mortar retailer and you’re not selling online, now is the time to get set up and start.

It doesn’t matter what type of product you sell – fashion, footwear, homewares, sports equipment, gardening equipment, books, toys. You name it, more and more consumers want to purchase online. You might think your customers don’t want this, they need to touch and feel the product, to try it on. The growth of online shopping over the last 15 years proves this is no longer the case.
In 2020 we face uncertain times in the retail sector. Now is not time to panic or look for a quick fix for your business. It is unlikely either of these will have a significant impact. If your business is structurally sound, use the downturn to get the foundations for online selling right.

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The New Normal https://sddsweb.co.za/2020/04/15/the-new-normal/ https://sddsweb.co.za/2020/04/15/the-new-normal/#respond Wed, 15 Apr 2020 04:04:55 +0000 https://sddsweb.co.za/?p=6977 Hi, My name is Chad, I am the owner of Specialised Design and Development Services, better known as SDDS and we are a Marketing Agency specialising in Website Design with close to 8 years of experience in the field.

Today I want to talk to you about how the global markets are changing and how this affects your business and the way you do business and hopefully you can get something useful out of this to help you adapt to this crazy, changing world that we live in.

Adapting your Business

COVID19 has fundamentally changed the world and made us all look at it in a different way, it has caused global panic and business are closing down, leaving many unemployed, but in the same vain, it is also creating opportunities for those that do not sit on the side line and watch the collapse around them. Dinosaurs could not adapt and thus became extinct and your business will to if you do not embrace change and make a change to the way you do business.

Some great examples of business that quickly adapted to the situation around them was for example INTERFLORA who could not deliver flowers so they quickly adapted to delivering basic necessities and groceries.

Some might say, “Yes but that was because they couldn’t deliver flowers and they will go back to normal once everything else goes back to normal” Maybe you are right, but maybe they will start a whole new business that specialises in other deliveries!

Things will never go back to NORMAL as we knew it, the world has changed forever, just like 9/11 changed the shape of travel, this will change the way people interact, many businesses will continue allowing their staff to work from home, saving thousands on rent and associated expenses.

The way people shop will also change because even after our lockdown and quarantines have been lifted, people will not want to interact with people on a one to one basis and there will be a large portion that will still want to avoid crowds.

People have learned new skills with regards to Google and Shopping

South Africans have never fully embraced Ecommerce or Online Shopping and Takealot made mention of this a while back when comparing sales to the likes of Amazon and AliBaba, arguably the worlds two biggest ecommerce platforms.

Through the Lockdown imposed on us, many South Africans have turned to Online Shopping for the first time, in fact the same applies to a large portion of the world, to the extent that Amazon had to employ close to 100 000 additional staff to cope with the influx of orders. The likes of Pick and Pay and Woolworths just cannot cope with their deliveries and online orders because their business was not geared for it.

Once the “New Normal” comes into effect, it is predicted by several analysts, that a large number of people will continue to shop online and will prefer to do so, in order to not only save time, but money and minimise any risk of contact with other individuals in crowded or confined spaces.

Another benefit of trading online is your market share … with a brick and mortar store, you limit your market to your immediate community and yet with an ecommerce store, you can expand your market share to the whole country.

Is your business ready to provide this alternative to your clients ?

What if you do not sell a physical product?

You might say, but I sell a service, not a physical product … Well it is just as important to have a Website so that your business can be found online, in fact it was important before the world changed, and now it is critical that clients not only find you online by searching for you through Google and other search engines, but it is important that your website is interactive, allowing clients to book online or chat online to get quotes or make use of you.

If your business provides an information service, like a Psychologist for example, you could look at online consultations, through Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts or Microsoft Teams, but again, an online presence is a must where these consultation methods can be built into your site, making it easy for a client to interact with you.

Change

Most people do not like change and will often resist it, but the world has changed, whether you like it or not and if you do not embrace the change and adapt to the “New Normal” you will be left behind and your business will eventually cease to exit.

You need to look at how your business can adapt, for example, a company producing Gin, now suddenly produces hand sanitizer and maybe they will continue to produce the hand sanitizer in line with their Gin in the days going forward as an additional revenue stream.

Courage is taking action despite your fear and it takes you out of your comfort zone but forces you to do things differently, there is no other option but to change the way you do things and do business.

Its not one big change that you need to make, it’s a lot of small little changes to the way you do business that will help your business grow and succeed … it is also easier to make a small change rather than a massive changes and these little changes you make will become the turning point in your business … 1% at a time …

Marketing your Business

The old analogy of “Build it and they will come” does not apply to websites, having the best website in the world with no marketing is like having a boutique store in a dark back alley of a city, no one is going to find you!

Many Website designers will tell you that they do marketing and SEO as well, but both of these fields are extremely specialised and in order to get the most out of your investment budget, you need to allow a professional with a proven track record handle this for you.

Although we offer Marketing, we do not do it ourselves, we have aligned ourselves strategically with a well known and reputable marketing agency that works very closely with our clients and ourselves as they are able to offer a specialised service, the same applies to IT Hardware and Support and Search Engine Optimization, and yes you could Do IT Yourself or Destroy It Yourself but are you willing to take that risk with your business?

Remember that marketing is not a cost or an expense, it is an investment in your business and your future.

Get in touch

If you would like more information on how to get your business online, need help with a marketing plan or anything similar, them get in touch with us via our website and we are proud to say that our advice is always free and our quotes come with no obligation.

In Closing

There is a massive opportunity and if you shift you can take advantage of that opportunity, the choice remains with you.

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When the going gets tough, go ONLINE! https://sddsweb.co.za/2020/03/20/when-the-going-gets-tough-go-online/ https://sddsweb.co.za/2020/03/20/when-the-going-gets-tough-go-online/#respond Fri, 20 Mar 2020 13:32:41 +0000 https://sddsweb.co.za/?p=6779
Having an online store is even more important than it was a week ago, and one week from now it could be the only way to keep trading.
So much has changed in the past couple of days on how we do business and many people are resorting to online shopping as the safest way to get what they want.

We realise that for many small businesses out there that cashflow is a concern and with no money coming in there is no way to invest in your business and keep it afloat.
This is where we have the solution and would like to offer small business enterprises a straightforward 2 page website with an online store at reduced rates.

The benefit to your customers is that they have a virtual store to go to and can shop from the comfort and safety of their home.
The benefit to you is increased visibility and accessibility to your product and even more reason to partner with us is our 24/7 support assistance.

If your business is not online, chances are your potential customers will choose a business that is!
Talk to us to see how we can help. Together we will plan it based on your goals and help you get the most out of your website.

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Why Is Website Maintenance Important? https://sddsweb.co.za/2019/12/16/why-is-website-maintenance-important/ https://sddsweb.co.za/2019/12/16/why-is-website-maintenance-important/#comments Mon, 16 Dec 2019 10:08:27 +0000 https://sddsweb.co.za/?p=6536

Website maintenance is important to any business, regardless of size. Your website is a worldwide window into your business and it can have a big impact on how the value of your product or service is perceived. A well-maintained website is critical for real-time service industries. All businesses need regular website maintenance to attract and retain customers, maintain search engine rankings and present new information, products and services to the public. Website maintenance is also required to maintain the value of the website over time.

Search Engines

Website maintenance is critical to search-engine rankings. Websites with old content rank lower in search engine listings. Some search engines, including Google, check your page’s “if-modified-since” HTTP header to determine whether it is worth crawling. Failing to make frequent modifications could cause you to be pushed below active competitors in the listings and cost you business over time.

Corporate Image

Your website is a public reflection of your corporate image. A poorly maintained website with lots of errors, broken links, dead pages and outdated information projects a sloppy corporate image and can cause business to decline over time. Routinely examine the look and feel of your website and update it to match your corporate image. Check and fix broken links, poor grammar and spelling mistakes as quickly as possible — preferably before a customer brings them to your attention.

Considerations

Your website-maintenance activities need to cover some business-critical key areas. These include copy production, quality control, publishing, feedback monitoring, performance monitoring, infrastructure maintenance, routine maintenance, change control and risk control. For risk management, you need to have a business-continuity plan in place for your website and ensure that your hosting service provider has a backup and maintenance plan that is in line with your own business service levels, especially if you have a real-time or mission-critical website

Need More Info ?

Take look at the maintenance plans that we can offer you or contact us to design one specific to your needs.

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What to look for when requesting a Web Design Recommendation on Social Media https://sddsweb.co.za/2019/11/21/what-to-look-for-when-requesting-a-web-design-recommendation-on-social-media/ https://sddsweb.co.za/2019/11/21/what-to-look-for-when-requesting-a-web-design-recommendation-on-social-media/#respond Thu, 21 Nov 2019 10:55:58 +0000 https://sddsweb.co.za/?p=6510 Every Day I see posts on Facebook where clients call for recommendations via social media with regards to website design and it amazes me how “Website Designers” will comment with posts like :

“I have a special offer I charge R1300
Here are the links of websites that i have created:…”

and

“R350 once off”

Not once did they ask the client what his requirements were … Number of Pages … Functionality Required … NOTHING

They see one thing only … Money … I went and looked at a couple of portfolios and found the following :

  • One guy was designing everything in Dreamweaver and every single site he designed looked the same
  • One Guy was using a standard template from WordPress and every site he designed looked the same
  • One Guy should not even be left near a box of crayons because from his portfolio is was painfully obvious that he had no clue was he was doing

The strange thing is that a client often does not know what really goes into a website design, often has no idea what they really need in terms of structure and doesn’t realise that they could be paying for something that cannot be changed at a later stage or his developed on something similar to a WIX platform which does not allow them to move the site or take ownership of it.

Yes I know that all website designers are aiming for a piece of the pie, but at the end of the day we must take the client into account and their needs should be put first, it is not just about churning out template based websites …. This is a crucial part of a client’s business and they need it to work for them!

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Is your Website going to Crash on PHP7? https://sddsweb.co.za/2019/10/30/is-your-website-going-to-crash-on-php7/ https://sddsweb.co.za/2019/10/30/is-your-website-going-to-crash-on-php7/#respond Wed, 30 Oct 2019 05:41:52 +0000 https://sddsweb.co.za/?p=6456

PHP 5.6 is now at the end of its life

While the general man on the street has no idea, or even cares what version of PHP their website is running on, it has a massive effect on their digital presence and with PHP 5.6 coming to the end of its life many hosts are disposing of it and opting for PHP 7.x. How will this affect you and your business?

Firstly let’s look at What is PHP ?

PHP (recursive acronym for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor) is a widely-used open source general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited for web development and can be embedded into HTML

What PHP 5.6 End of Life (EOL) Means

PHP 5.6 End of Life (EOL) means that this PHP version will no longer receive any security updates or bug fixes. There has been fixes and updates throughout the life cycle of PHP, and for PHP 5.6 these will stop.

Your PHP application and website will continue to continue working on Php5.6

But… if there are any security vulnerabilities discovered after the EOL date, they will not be fixed. This will leave your website, web application, an e-commerce store or blog vulnerable to potentially getting hacked.

If your host has decided to terminate PHP 5.6 they will automatically upgrade your hosting account and in all likelihood this will “break” your website as many of the older websites do not support PHP 7 and above as there are fundamental differences in the code.

Several well known hosts have already indicated that they will be terminating PHP 5.6 completely at the end of November 2019.

Why are so many websites still running the older PHP 5 versions ?

Let’s look at why this may be. It will give us some insights as to why you may have not upgraded yet.

  • The main reason is that business owners don’t understand the technology behind their website or applications. Much of this technical stuff has been left to the developer or website host.
  • Budget is a factor is the slow adoption of newer versions of PHP. It takes programmers time to modify the code and test the application in new versions of PHP. You simply can’t just simply upgrade the server without testing or modifying the code. Programmer time to do this comes down to budget.
  • Time for testing and upgrading. Developers have to test their code and applications in the latest version before they can roll out new code updates. Some functionality of the application may need to be rewritten and modified. The more complex the application and code the more time it takes to complete.
  • Web Hosts don’t want to break compatibility. Web hosts are not responsible for maintaining the website and application code. So, although most web hosts will provide the option to upgrade the server, they were not pushing clients to do this, because if they push the PHP update on the server and it breaks the website, and this will result in increased support calls and tickets for the web host, but they now really have no choice and are forced to do so due to the vulnerabilities created on the servers running PHP5.6.

At SDDS Wed Design we currently run PHP 5.6 as an option but will also be terminating it at the end of November 2019 and you are welcome to get in touch with us if you would like us to check if your site is compatible or if you would like us to give you an obligation free quote on upgrading your site to a more modern design and making it mobile friendly and compatible with the latest PHP Versions.

CONTACT US TODAY

Get in touch with us for your FREE website PHP audit and obligation free quote

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How to Simply (and Effectively) Make Your E-Commerce Business Stand Out https://sddsweb.co.za/2019/10/28/how-to-simply-and-effectively-make-your-e-commerce-business-stand-out/ https://sddsweb.co.za/2019/10/28/how-to-simply-and-effectively-make-your-e-commerce-business-stand-out/#respond Mon, 28 Oct 2019 04:17:30 +0000 https://sddsweb.co.za/?p=6449

For e-commerce as a whole, business is booming. According to estimates from Statista, the number of worldwide digital buyers is expected to reach 2.14 billion by 2021, with global e-commerce sales exceeding $4.5 trillion. While this paints a positive picture overall, many e-commerce sites struggle to see success for themselves. Though there are many factors that can hurt an e-commerce store’s profitability, one of the most common issues is entering a crowded and competitive niche.

Even if you have a great product to sell, the sheer number of competitors can make it difficult for your store to stand out. Because of this, finding ways to create separation from your competitors will prove essential for ensuring that you too can get a slice of the booming e-commerce marketplace. Here are four to help you get started.

1. Create a memorable unique selling proposition.

Ultimately, your products are the best way to differentiate your store. There may be thousands of e-commerce stores that sell baby clothes, for example, but ideally there’s something different that would help your own baby-clothing platform stand out. This is where a quality unique selling proposition (USP) makes all the difference. Research your competitors and consider how your product addresses meaningful pain points in a way that others in your niche do not. Even if your product is essentially an update to something else that already exists, this can still serve as a helpful USP if you highlight how it will better meet customer needs.

While special offers like free shipping or a generous return policy can grow out of your USP, they aren’t part of the USP itself. These are add-on features that can add value to your store and play a part in your marketing messages, but your primary focus should be what makes your product or service truly different from the rest.

2. Get involved in a meaningful cause.

Americans increasingly want to do business with brands that support a cause. In fact, the 2017 Cone Communications CSR Study revealed that 87 percent of consumers will be more likely to buy products from companies that advocate for issues they care about. Adopting a charitable cause can provide valuable separation for e-commerce stores.

To get a better understanding of this practice, I reached out via email to Ryan Smith, co-founder and CEO of Modern Tie, for comment. Smith’s e-commerce store sells ties, but is also invested in a charitable initiative known as #KnotAnotherLife, which donates a portion of all tie sales to opioid-addiction education efforts and treatment-center scholarships.

“Having experienced the pain of opioid addiction first-hand, it was a natural fit for us to try to find a way to give back through our store,” Smith explains. “For a charitable effort to have meaning for your customers, it has to have meaning for you, too. E-commerce stores should choose causes that they are passionate about, because their genuine commitment will shine through. This will help you make a real difference while also drawing like-minded customers to your store.”

3. Invest in a visually appealing site.

For e-commerce brands, a website plays the same role as a brick-and-mortar storefront does for physical retail. It must be attractive and show off your products in the best light if you want to make a favorable first impression with your customers. In fact, according to data from Neil Patel, 52 percent of online shoppers will decide not to return to an e-commerce store if they are displeased with its overall aesthetics, and 42 percent use design alone to formulate their opinion of a site.

You could offer amazing content and products, but if your website is hard to navigate or just plain ugly, you could be losing a significant portion of your customers almost immediately. Web design may seem like a costly investment, but few things are more important for the sustainability of your e-commerce store.

4. Leverage social proof to drive sales.

Traditional marketing can certainly play a role in building your e-commerce brand, but social proof can ultimately be even more valuable for growing your customer base. Research from BrightLocal reveals that 91 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds in the United States give just as much weight to online reviews as a personal recommendation. The seemingly minor shift of allowing customers to leave reviews for products on your site could be enough to encourage others to buy.

Then there is influencer marketing. Survey data from CivicScience reveals that nearly one in five Americans have bought a product online because of an influencer or blogger recommendation. These rates were higher among younger demographics and those who spend more time online, with 34 percent of daily Instagram users having made a purchase because of influencer marketing. Partnering with a relevant influencer can go a long way in expanding your audience and driving sales.

Standing out in a crowded e-commerce niche will require investing in marketing, but all the marketing in the world won’t help if you don’t have a strong foundation to build on. By taking the time to fine-tune your USP, website and overall brand vision, you will be better equipped to make a lasting impact with your product.

 

Curated from Entrepreneur.com 

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