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5 Optimization Tips to Maximize Sales This Holiday Season



Advertisers will be facing a shorter time frame this year for the usual holiday hustle and bustle.  However, eMarketer is still forecasting total US sales to climb 3.8% making it the first-ever trillion-dollar holiday season. According to Forrester, 2019 online holiday sales will reach $138 billion.

As advertisers, we need to take advantage of these predictions and position ourselves for an outrageously successful holiday season. To set yourself up for success, we’ve highlighted 5 tips to maximize your online sales.

1.     Images and Video

Because your users cannot feel, touch, test, or try out your products, high-quality photos are crucial. A user needs to be confident in their purchase decision, especially when purchasing online, and being able to zoom in and see the details of the product they’re purchasing could make or break their decision. Consider what happens if they try to find better product images on the web just simply to get a better idea of what they might be purchasing, and they stumble across a better deal. Don’t let this happen to you!

Product images are extremely important, but it’s just as important to show off your hero shots or promotional images as well. Entering the holiday season, you want to stay relevant and purposefully target those holiday shoppers. Avoid using stock imagery. Create your own holiday imagery that will keep your customers engaged and create likability and credibility. Also, keep in mind the creative you’re using in your advertisements. You want to remain consistent so that users’ experiences are uninterrupted, and they feel a smooth transition from the ad through to the site.

It’s important to think about the video that you make available to your customers as well. Do you have video of your product in action? Consider utilizing this on your product pages but also use this material in your ads; intrigue your users by the use of the products and leave them wanting to learn more about it. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen video advertisements on Facebook of hair products (specifically L’ange) being used by brand reps and now I own three of their hair styling tools. This is because they have great holiday deals (see tip #3) and because the videos truly helped me learn how to do my hair and got me excited to try new things. Fun fact, or slightly embarrassing, – I’ll let you choose – I never would curl my own hair because I was terrible at it. That is, until I stumbled across these ads and was repetitively shown videos of brand reps curling their hair. Now, I have a scar from burning myself, despite also having a heat-protectant glove. BUT, in all seriousness, thanks to the help of these videos I’m able to curl my hair on a regular basis.

2.     User-Generated Content

Going into the holiday season, find the time or resources to look for and utilize user-generated content. Of course, be sure you have permission prior to sharing or using any of this content. Think about the credibility and trust you could build when you’re speaking on behalf of your customers rather than trying to sell it yourself. There are a number of things you can do with user-generated content.

  • Images
  • Video
  • Testimonials
  • Website or landing page copy
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See what people are posting on Facebook or Instagram and use those to your benefit. These images will look even more natural and may actually reduce the work your team has to put in to create your own images. Below is a perfect example! Someone I went to high school with simply posted pictures of her daughter’s birthday party and, as you can see, Party City asked for permission to use this photo for marketing purposes. It’s as simple as that!

instagram marketing permission

Many brands have brand representatives creating images, videos, their own sponsored material, etc. These videos are the exact videos I was referring to in tip #1. Get permission to utilize this content and place some of these helpful videos throughout your site where people are going to purchase. Heck, use them as testimonials!

Speaking of testimonials, browse through your brand’s Facebook page or Instagram posts for testimonials within the comments. Sure, there’s a review section within Facebook but taking the time to see what people are commenting should provide you with authentic testimonials. Taking a brief side-step – I think it’s important to also ensure you’re responding to these comments when necessary. Let your customers know you hear them and you’re taking action. That’s how you’ll build trust, keep users coming back, and show new customers that you care and you’re putting them first.

Lastly, consider the content throughout your site. It’s extremely easy to write a paragraph, or page, full of jargon. As employees or advertisers of a brand, there’s a language and a way you speak about the brand. However, your users or customers probably don’t understand your product or service in the same terms or language that you do. Therefore, it’s important to keep things simple. Use the comments from your customers, whether it’s from reviews, testimonials, Facebook posts, or Instagram stories, and use that language in your content. Talk to your customers the way they will talk about your product. Take some work off of your team, minimize the need to create copy from scratch, and take advantage of user-generated content.

3.     Discounts & Promotions

As we prepare for the holidays, customers will be expecting deals. Promos. Discounts. Whatever we can offer them, they’ll be searching for it. Utilize the imagery we spoke about before to highlight the current or upcoming promotions and be sure that these align with what’s being advertised. It’s crucial to make sure that your advertising messaging and promotions match what’s being promoted on your site at that time. It’s easy to miss this around the holidays as things get busy and many ads are in motion, promotions are changing, etc. But if a user gets to the site and doesn’t see messaging related to that 40% off promotion that was in the ad they just clicked, they’re likely to bounce and now you’ve wasted money on that click. Check out the example below that I saw many times this week, from different brand representatives.

facebook lange sponsored post
facebook lange site

From the ad, you can see that she highlights “up to 76% off” but once you open the site, the first thing you see if “up to 80% off.” I don’t think this is a huge concern but a small example of mismatched messaging. This is also a great example of holiday promotion imagery within the hero images. There’s no way a user will miss this sale.

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There are a few less-common things to keep in mind regarding promotions and discounts around the holidays.

  • A lack of Black Friday deals
  • Your only sale of the year
  • Urgency

I suppose you could say these could all go hand-in-hand. If you’re an online retailer that either doesn’t have a Black Friday sale or only has a sale once a year, I think it’s important to call that out to your customers. Set expectations for the lack of sale so they don’t wait to purchase, expecting a sale, and potentially miss out or decide not to purchase all together. If this is the only sale that happens, once a year, remind them of that to create that sense of urgency. Below is a recent example I stumbled across as my husband and I were preparing for Christmas.

no black friday sale faq

The reason I felt it was important to bring this idea to light is because of a few companies I follow on Instagram for children’s products. I discovered Nugget Comfort in the last year or so through another company on Instagram and knew that was what my husband and I were going to get the kids for Christmas. Though I’ve known of the company for a while now, I only started following them on Instagram recently. I’m so thankful I did because they announced their release calendar in October for all of their new prints and restocks of previously sold-out prints. With the transparency that they do not have Black Friday sales and knowing that these would be limited-edition prints, this created a great sense of urgency. Therefore, even though I’ll have to wait 2 months for Christmas, I set my alarm and purchased when my print was released so I knew I wouldn’t miss out.

nugget calendar release

 Here’s another great example I came across this week. This company has decided to do Black Friday deals all month long with different sales each week. Many of their products are also limited-edition colors and styles, so once they’re gone, they’re gone. As you can see below, each week they will be putting some of their limited-edition colors on sale. They’ve made it clear that these sales will be Monday and Tuesday of each week, with different colors, and once the sale is over, those colors will be taken off the site.

lemonade black november sale
sky blue black november sale

Not only do they do a great job of creating urgency, but this is also a great way to get even more revenue as a company. Because colors will be taken off the site each week, customers will likely make multiple purchases throughout the month of November rather than having the ability to wait and purchase all at once.

4.     Mobile

Mobile, mobile, mobile. At this point, I sense this is a buzzword. But I think it’s still a work in progress and something that needs attention. As we’ll discuss in tip #5, the purchase process needs to be easy. Specifically, for mobile, the process shouldn’t cause frustration or uncertainty. It needs to be mobile-friendly. A user should feel just as confident making the purchase from their phone as they would from their computer. A number of my completed purchases today come from advertisements I’ve clicked on through Facebook and the process is made so easy, they get me every time. In instances where I don’t purchase, unfortunately rare, I either don’t have my debit card near me, or the process has created a sense of hesitation or friction that I’ve paused and not completed the purchase. This type of interaction is what you want to avoid. Quick things that come to mind:

  • Subscriptions: make it easy to cancel or crystal-clear how to cancel
  • Guest checkouts: have them – don’t force account creation or login (@Target, you’re killin’ me)
  • Expensive products: create a way to “email to cart” or “save cart” so users can easily continue their purchase from their computer
  • Keypad: be mindful of the type of field a user is in and give them a numeric keypad when applicable
  • Phone number: if it’s easier to place an order over the phone for a larger ticket or complex items, make it easy to call for users at any stage
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5.     Checkout Experience

Keep it simple. Eliminate distractions. Improve usability. Checkout is the last place you want to lose a customer when they’re THIS close to completing their purchase. Don’t make it easy for them to leave the checkout. Eliminate the navigation and create a sense of urgency to motivate them to complete the transaction. Do not encourage them to go searching for coupon codes. Let them put in the effort to locate this field if they already have a coupon code but don’t flash it in front of their faces so that they go on the hunt for one. I’ll say it again – allow for guest checkouts. People don’t want to be forced to create an account or login. They want simplicity. Lastly, pay attention to your cart expiration. Don’t make a customer work harder to re-add things to their cart just because their cart expired. Keep their items in their cart so they’re ready to check out when they come back. (I feel like more should be added here or a better way to end this section)

Final Thoughts

I hope this gets you just as excited as I am to start thinking about new ways to maximize your holiday sales. Though this is a great way to get ahead for the holidays, don’t let this stop you from taking these tips and applying them throughout the year!

After you’ve prepared for this holiday season, check out these predictions for online marketplaces in 2020 as you begin to prep for the new year and new opportunities!


How Planning To Fail Can Succeed [Rose-Colored Glasses]



How Planning To Fail Can Succeed [Rose-Colored Glasses]

An interesting question came up recently in a marketing group I follow on social media: “What content should we create?”

The first few comments on the post were what you might suspect. Some people encouraged the poster to interview people who fit their personas to find out what they struggle with. Others talked about getting over writer’s block. A few suggested they list every question their potential customers might have and write posts about that.

The original poster responded by acknowledging the value of these responses but clarified the question. They weren’t asking what they should write that would resonate with their target audiences. They were looking for content ideas that would drive the most reactions. Full stop.

They wanted to create controversy, provocation, and a level of virality. The theory: Do something that makes a lot of noise and inspires a boatload of people to react, then the right people will pay attention to your other content that focuses on the things you do.

Predictably, the tone of the discussion shifted into a fiery debate of the flawed notion (if not ethics) of that theory. Let’s save that discussion for a different day.

But it got me thinking. Is there a case where it makes sense to deliberately put out content you don’t like, agree with, or approve of – with the explicit goal of failing?

My answer is yes.

Is there a case where you should publish #content with the explicit goal of failing? Yes, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Why intentionally failing can be a good thing

We all know failing can be a productive result. There are entire books written on how people tend to learn more from failures than successes.

But this concept almost always gets covered in the context of failing when trying to succeed. In other words, you do your level best to accomplish something – and something in that approach failed. The lesson is that you should have done something differently.

I’m interested in what happens when you deliberately try to fail or at least try something the world deems incorrect. You either confirm what you expected or get surprised by the results.

Of course, some activities lend themselves better to this approach than others. For example, I wouldn’t try to fail while learning to fly an airplane. However, in marketing – and especially content – this approach gives you an invaluable opportunity to expand your toolkit.

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According to the book Brilliant Mistakes by Paul Schoemaker, advertising icon David Ogilvy made deliberate mistakes frequently. He would run ads that he and the client team had rejected just to test their collective thinking. Most would fail. But a few, including the iconic eye patch Hathaway shirt ad – would become legendary campaigns.

Think about making time, money, or content available to test your core instincts. I don’t mean running a simple A/B test to evaluate two good efforts. That only determines which one resonates better.

I’m suggesting that you try a content piece that poses an idea you flat-out rejected. Or try investing in a channel that from every angle seems to be wrong. For example, later this month, I’m going to try TikTok. I’m 99.9% sure I will fail spectacularly.

What if you invest in a channel that from every angle seems wrong? Soon, @Robert_Rose will try on #TikTok via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

But what if I’m wrong?

There’s a famous quote attributed to IBM founder Thomas J. Watson: If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.” It seems to me there’s only one mathematical way to double your failure rate – and that’s if you occasionally deliberately try to fail.

How to fail on purpose

A friend and I had a funny saying we used to tell each other whenever we failed a test at school. We’d say, “I’d rather get a zero than a 59.”

Why? Because getting 59 means we tried and still failed.

Of course, we weren’t saying no one should ever try. We were being silly teenagers.

In content marketing, we know the value of tests and experimentation. However, most testing is done to confirm an initial assumption. In fact, a core piece of an A/B test is to form a hypothesis first. You have a suspected or proven winner, and you test an alternative version to see if it performs better.

Making a deliberate mistake is a bit different. In these are experiments, you assume you’re going to fail.

What could be the value of doing that?

Well, there can be two valuable outcomes. One is that you confirm your assumption of failure and learn something. The other is that you succeed (in other words, you fail at failing) and that long-shot effort might pay off handsomely. Even if it doesn’t, you’ve learned something.

If you make a deliberate mistake and succeed, you not only learn something, but the takeaway could pay off handsomely, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet

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There are different flavors of deliberate mistakes. One of my favorites was made by a vice president of marketing at a big B2B company. Over the years, they had accumulated tens of thousands of subscribers to their email newsletter. Every week they would dutifully email almost 90,000 newsletters, and every week, the engagement rates were extremely low.

So, the vice president did something interesting. He sent a large segment of the subscribed but disengaged audience an email with the subject line: Sorry to See You Go.

In the body of the email, the copy told the recipient the company was sorry they’d unsubscribed from the newsletter. But, the text continued, if they thought this unsubscribe might be in error, they could respond by clicking through to a survey.

This move was clearly a deliberate mistake. Certainly most, if not all, of these subscribers wouldn’t engage with the email. But their marketing team decided it was worth making the mistake and risk losing 30,000-plus subscribers to see if they had any shot with this unengaged audience.

The result? About 60% never responded or clicked and got officially unsubscribed from the newsletter. But 40% clicked and responded, “No, this was a mistake.” They hadn’t unsubscribed. For a while, this email had the highest click-through rate.

One other surprising result? Among those who responded, about 10% indicated they were interested in subscribing to a different topic addressed by the company.

The vice president of marketing told me, “We learned a lot from that ‘mistake.’”

There are a few key moments when deliberate mistakes might make sense for your content marketing:

1. There’s less to lose

Obviously, risk plays a role in how big a mistake you should deliberately make. Skydiving, for example, isn’t the best activity where an intentional mistake is likely to pay off. You don’t want to publish a content piece completely off-brand, run afoul of legal or compliance issues, or really offend your audience. But like the vice president of marketing at that B2B company. What could they lose other than a third of the email database that wasn’t engaging anyway?

2. Rigid, institutional rules

When you intentionally make a mistake, it will more likely go your way when the mistake goes against an institutional rule or rigid, outdated convention. A great example of this is the marketing for the movie Deadpool. It was, by most counts, a campaign filled with deliberate mistakes. Perhaps the biggest was its outdoor billboard campaign with a pictogram of a skull, a poop emoji, and the letter “L” with the premiere date. Adweek called the campaign “so stupid, it’s genius.”

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Billboard containing a skull, poop emoji, and letter L.

How about that rule that says never publish blog posts on the weekend? Everybody says it doesn’t work, and publishing on those days is a mistake. Why not make that “mistake” and see what happens?

3. You are the newbie

An optimal time to make a deliberate mistake is when you’re new to a particular problem or challenge. It’s when your audience, customers, or colleagues are most likely to forgive your mistake – and then, of course, you can refer to the first moment above.

One of my good friends has been the CMO of several startup companies. He told me that when he joins a new company, he goes on a “listening tour” to hear from the practitioners. He often introduces a marketing newbie mistake into the conversation to see if a practitioner will push back, correct it, or just go with the flow. Certainly, he risks coming across as inexperienced. But, he says, what’s more important is that they start on equal footing, and he can start a dialogue with his new colleague.

Failing to fail to fail

Of course, not every deliberate mistake will end up with a successful outcome. Sometimes, after all, a mistake is a mistake – and deliberately making it will get you exactly what you asked for.

There is only one thing that’s assured: If you only fail when we’re trying not to, you may just miss out on proof you should trust your initial instincts.

Get Robert’s take on content marketing industry news in just three minutes:

Rose-Colored Glasses is a new weekly column in which Robert Rose shares his view of content marketing challenges. Every Friday, he offers reasoning, rationale, and rhetoric to help you advance the practice of content marketing in your organization.

Subscribe to workday or weekly CMI emails to get Rose-Colored Glasses in your inbox each week.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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Top 11 Payment Processing Companies in 2022



Top 11 Payment Processing Companies in 2022

Which payment processing companies should you choose for your business? Many business leaders struggle with this question. After all, payment gateway and digital payment can be fierce, especially if you are not a regular user.

With dozens of companies offering credit card processing and online payment solutions to choose from, it will be difficult for merchants to make decisions.

Here, we’ve compiled a list of the industry’s leading payment companies to help you decide.

Table of Content

List of 11 payment processing companies with their pros & cons

  • Helcim
  • Paypal
  • Stripe
  • Adyen
  • Payline
  • 2checkout
  • Paymentcloud
  • Clover
  • Alipay

How to pick a payment gateway



Helcim is one of the top competitors in the payments gateway market. It enables merchants and sellers to grow their businesses with hassle-free payment processing solutions.


  • Hassle-free to use
  • No monthly fee
  • Quick and convenient for customers


  • Complex user interface
  • Not suitable for high-risk industries

GETTRX is a best-in-class gateway. So whether you have an eCommerce platform or online shop with Edgepay, you can choose the right integration for your business.


  • Customized POS options
  • Secure online payments
  • Non-profit solutions



PayPal allows access to millions of PayPal sellers and merchants for payment processing. It is a market player of some of the world’s most prominent digital merchants, including Airbnb and Uber.


  • Fast, hassle-free setup
  • Offers mobile wallet options in-store
  • No monthly fees or contracts


  • Not suited for a high volume of transactions
  • It doesn’t have 24/7 phone support

Stripe has been one of the renowned payment gateways in the market for a decade. Transparent fee structure, smooth integration with all major e-commerce systems, and easy-to-use interface have been essential factors in helping Stripe become one of the top options for customers.

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Stripe enables you to manage one-off payments, invoice on a recurring basis, or even handle in-person payments.

Stripe also ensures payment processing security and securely saves all credit card numbers and transaction details (using good AES-256 encryption keys).


  • Hundreds of integrations with business software
  • Custom pricing available
  • Accepts all mobile wallet payments


  • High-risk businesses must wait seven days for payment
  • Phone support upon request
  • Fraudulent activity may result in a hold on your funds

Adyen enables you to accept every payment made to your company from a single platform and provides you tools to manage risk and track results.

Adyen accepts more than 150 global currencies and 250 payment methods. Further, it lets you analyze transaction data to benefit from “data-rich insights.”


  • Ensure smooth streamline process
  • Ensure managing risk


  • No support for PayPal payments
  • Mixed reviews on functionality

Payline has been in the payment gateway business for a decade. It offers transparent fees and a fruitful interchange-plus pricing model.

It is a custom payment gateway that allows you to set things up like recurring payments or other non-standard payment schemes. Also, it provides mobile solutions designed to accept payments via mobile apps.


  • User-friendly interface
  • The transparent interchange-plus pricing model


2checkout offers services in over 180 countries. It provides a comprehensive solution to ensure the payment process seamlessly. Also, it will let you access an advanced platform where you can manage your business’ finances and e-commerce efforts.


  • Good customer support
  • Robust API


  • Slow process
  • Need improvement in security protection

Authorize.Net is a recognizable and oldest payment gateway operating on the web. It has made the payment process hassle-free for businesses of any kind to accept payments on the web and in person.

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As per your business needs, you can use Authorize.Net to issue invoices, set up recurring payments, and simplify the checkout process.


  • Ensure smooth streamline process
  • Ensure managing risk


  • No support for PayPal payments
  • Mixed reviews on functionality

PaymentCloud supports various customer bases and offers solutions for eCommerce stores and other online business needs. Since high-risk companies face many barriers, they ensure the process seamlessly mitigates security risk.


  • Fast application approval
  • Easy to set up
  • Next day funding
  • Dedicated account manager


  • No pricing information on the website
  • Pricing varies by risk
  • May face early termination fees

Clover offers an extensive range of POS systems that work with its credit card processing service. It processes payments using its own POS systems. In addition, it provides four credit card processing plans: Register, Register Lite, Table-Service Restaurant, and Counter-Service Restaurant.


  • Easy to use
  • Smooth processing


  • Complex dashboard
  • Customer service needs improvement

Alipay is a popular payment platform launched by Alibaba and has grown as an Eastern payments player. It can process payments through online, mobile, and in-store channels. The company claims over 1 billion users.


  • Real-time monitoring
  • Risk management


  • Stores detailed transaction history of users
  • Average reviews on functionality

How to Pick a Payment Gateway

Let’s find out what to look for in a payment gateway;

  • Does the gateway support your eCommerce platform?
  • Do you need more than one payment gateway?
  • What features do you need, specifically?
  • Does the payment gateway support the payment methods your customer base uses?
  • What fees are acceptable?
  • Does the provider have a good reputation?
  • Are you in a high-risk business?
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Does a Payment Gateway Work?

Payment gateways enable buyers and merchants (and their banks) to carry out transactions digitally. For example, after swiping a card, the payment gateway makes sure the card is authentic, makes sure that they have enough money to cover the transaction, and lets the customer know if the purchase is accepted or declined.

What is the Difference Between Payment Gateways and Payment Processors?

Payment gateways and payment processors are alike because they connect the merchant’s and customer’s banks. However, payment gateways can identify that the cardholder is who they say they are, while payment processors alone cannot.

Do I need a Payment Gateway?

Payment gateways used to be beneficial for eCommerce stores, but today they are a short-term necessity for almost all businesses. Especially after the covid-19 impact, people started considering digital payments and e-commerce and the declining usage of cash payments.

Over to You!

So, these are a few popular payment processing companies out there. Some companies have great advantages over others and do the required work seamlessly. Before choosing any of these options, ensure to consider their pros and cons to determine if they can match your business needs.

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How Your Company’s Attrition Rate Could Be Impacting Your Business



How Your Company's Attrition Rate Could Be Impacting Your Business

Happy employees are the key to a successful business. According to the University of Oxford, happy employees are 13% more productive. High employee satisfaction can go a long way towards your bottom line.


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