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THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Economic boosters poised to open Southland’s first high-tech business networking hub 4343
THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Economic boosters poised to open Southland’s first high-tech business networking hub 4343
Reggie Greenwood of the Supply Chain Innovation Center and Business Incubator at Governors State University shows off the logo for 4343 Ascending House in Matteson, a hub where small-business owners and other professionals may rent space, network and access technology.
Reggie Greenwood of the Supply Chain Innovation Center and Business Incubator at Governors State University shows off the logo for 4343 Ascending House in Matteson, a hub where small-business owners and other professionals may rent space, network and access technology. (Ted Slowik / Daily Southtown)

Small-business owners and other professionals in the south and southwest suburbs will soon have the chance to access shared office space, technology and networking opportunities.

The innovative hub at 4343 Ascending House will be the first of its kind in the area and give entrepreneurs access to new tools to grow their businesses, said Reggie Greenwood of the Supply Chain Innovation Center and Business Incubator at Governors State University.

“We don’t have anything like this,” Greenwood said during a tour of the 6,000-square-foot office space being renovated at 4343 Lincoln Highway in Matteson. “We want this to be a networking center for the region.”

For as little as $1,000 a year for a “hot desk,” members will be able to drop by and tap into Wi-Fi from an open, shared space. They will be able to print documents or host a Zoom video meeting from a conference room.

They could record a podcast or stream a Facebook Live video from a studio with professional lighting, audio and video equipment. Manufacturing companies will have access to a $25,000 3D printer that may be used to produce spare parts for equipment, Greenwood said,[Most read] Going to the Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin game at Soldier Field? Here’s what to know, including the schedule for ESPN’s ‘College GameDay’ and the new bag policy. »

For $2,000 per year, members can reserve a semiprivate cubicle. For a $3,000 annual fee, patrons can secure a private office. The rates are introductory and subject to change, Greenwood said.

Amazon, Comcast, Nicor, Mi-Jack, other sponsors and grants have covered costs of renovating the space.

“We’ve raised $500,000,” Greenwood said.

The facility’s numeric name was inspired by 1871, the nonprofit Chicago technology and entrepreneurship center that opened in 2012 on the 12th floor of the Merchandise Mart.

One could feel exasperated that it took nine years to bring a comparable facility to the often neglected south suburbs, or one could rejoice that such a valuable enterprise is finally here. The target opening date is Jan. 2, Greenwood said.

Reggie Greenwood of the Supply Chain Innovation Center and Business Incubator at Governors State University gives a tour of 4343 Ascending House in Matteson, where small-business owners and other professionals may rent space, network and access technology.
Reggie Greenwood of the Supply Chain Innovation Center and Business Incubator at Governors State University gives a tour of 4343 Ascending House in Matteson, where small-business owners and other professionals may rent space, network and access technology. (Ted Slowik / Daily Southtown)

Several various programs and entities that support small businesses will share the space and create opportunities for innovation and collaboration, Greenwood said.

“Having programs connected to a space makes them more real, I’ve found,” he said.

Greenwood also is executive director of the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corporation, an agency affiliated with the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association.

The space at 4343 Ascending House will be used to host networking events, from morning seminars over coffee to afternoon classes on entrepreneurship to evening gatherings with wine and hors d’oeuvres, Greenwood said.

Shared spaces include a kitchen that can accommodate catered events. It is unclear what policies will determine the fate of food left in the office refrigerator or penalties for leaving the office microwave a mess.[Most read] Ask Amy: Generous father plans a blues cruise »

All kidding aside, 4343, as Greenwood calls the center, sounds like it will create exciting opportunities for entrepreneurs to share ideas and grow their businesses.

There also is an, “If you build it, they will come,” element to 4343, to borrow a line from the film “Field of Dreams.” There seems little doubt that there is sufficient demand to fill the six 30-square-foot cubicles and 10 office spaces that range from 100 to 190 square feet.

The Supply Chain Innovation Center and Business Incubator is conducting a pilot course on e-commerce strategies and training. Nineteen entrepreneurs from the south suburbs are enrolled, Greenwood said.

“They are all small companies and they are all doing such a great job in the class,” Greenwood said. “One of our ideas is to be inclusive, and I think all of them are minority women.”

The center’s emphasis is e-commerce, which involves logistics, online sales and other services.[Most read] ‘Foundation’ review: Apple TV+ takes a big swing adapting Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi book series »

“E-commerce is a methodology of creating new connections for your customers,” Greenwood said.

Reggie Greenwood stands outside a brick office building at 4343 Lincoln Highway in Matteson, where 4343 Ascending House will offer space for small-business owners and other professionals.
Reggie Greenwood stands outside a brick office building at 4343 Lincoln Highway in Matteson, where 4343 Ascending House will offer space for small-business owners and other professionals. (Ted Slowik / Daily Southtown)

Those opportunities might include a storefront retailer accessing new markets through internet sales or a restaurant attracting new customers by offering pickup or delivery services through an app.

The services at 4343 will help entrepreneurs implement and execute their ideas to expand their enterprises.

“As you use digital marketing more effectively, it requires a change in the entire supply chain,” Greenwood said. “E-commerce is a strategy for your company that involves the evolution of the supply chain.”

It helps that corporate sponsors include the behemoth online retailer Amazon, which is on the verge of opening huge new fulfillment centers in Matteson and Markham in addition to its facilities operating in University Park, Monee and elsewhere.[Most read] ‘This is such a grand facility.’ As historic Arlington Park crosses the finish line, horse racing workers wonder how they’ll fill the void »

Amazon’s newer facilities rely heavily on robotics to aid in packaging, sorting and distribution. The workforce of the future will include many employment opportunities for technicians to program and service robotics equipment.

That’s why 4343 also will be the new home of the Southworks Engineering and Robotics Competition. The Chicago Southland Economic Development Corporation created the annual event to give teams of high school students the chance to show off their chops in applying concepts learned through courses in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.

Greenwood said he hopes to continue expanding services offered through 4343 once it opens early next year. He said he’d like to get a company to sponsor an electric vehicle charging station in the parking lot.

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In addition to the confirmed availability of a high-tech 3D printer, Greenwood said he would like to offer members opportunities to use blockchain technology to mine for Bitcoin.

“Blockchain’s application involves more than cryptocurrency. It’s part of the supply chain,” Greenwood said. “If you’re buying something, it’s provenance is important. Let’s say you’re buying organic coffee. You want to make sure your organic coffee came from an organic farm.”[Most read] Chicago aldermen question mayor’s plan to raise property taxes, rely on federal COVID-19 aid in new budget »

I did my best to grasp the many potential opportunities involved with 4343, but some of the technological concepts seemed over my head. I told Greenwood the introductory offers of $1,000, $2,000 or $3,000 a year for memberships sounded affordable.

The bargain prices are just one more reason now is good time to consider investing in the Southland, where costs are low and the potential for growth is high.

Ted Slowik is a columnist with the Daily Southtown.

tslowik@tribpub.com

THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Economic boosters poised to open Southland’s first high-tech business networking hub 4343

https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/daily-southtown/opinion/ct-sta-slowik-southland-economic-incubator-st-0926-20210924-6fbpzf6wtzcxbod35uqsplliv4-story.html

4343 Ascending House, GSU, Ecommerce EDU complete first eCommerce strategy course for the Chicago Southland

4343 Ascending House, GSU, Ecommerce EDU complete first eCommerce strategy course for the
Chicago Southland

ecommerce education courses southland Chicago 5 stars

The 4343 EMPOWERS THE CHICAGO SOUTHLAND BY BRINGING DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION TO MANUFACTURING BUSINESS THROUGH COLLABERATION AND EDUCATION

The 4343 is committed to working with manufacturing and distribution companies to enable them to take advantage of new ways business development is being done. Ecommerce is a major component of our effort educate and empower success. An essential business practice.

THESE PROGRAM ARE AIMED AT SUPPORTING DIVERSITY IN BUSINESS

Understanding, accepting, and valuing. The unique differences in races, ethnicities, genders, ages and more. The differences in education, skill sets, experiences & will be enhanced through the 4343 and its programs!

We aim to be collaborative, supportive, and a respectful environment
that increases the participation and contribution of all our members.

 

SUPPORTING THE CHICAGO SOUTHLAND THROUGH EDUCATION

 

The South-Southwest Suburban Region, commonly known as the Southlands are comprised of more than 2.5 million residents living in 62 communities throughout Cook and Will Counties. Historically, the Southlands have been a key source of people and firms driving the regional economy. Today, the regions remain asset-rich, housing over 20percent of suburban Cook County’s population and nearly 15 percent of its businesses. However, this region faces new challenges as they have become increasingly disconnected from the regional economy and its trajectory. This growing exclusion heightens the social, racial, fiscal, and other challenges these communities face, and undermines the long-term growth of the entire metropolitan region.

 
 

The most severe poverty rate increases in Chicago occurred in the southern suburban cities of Harvey, Chicago Heights, Robbins and Calumet City. This zone of spiraling poverty is in contrast to the City of Chicago, which has seen stabilization in its low income population. The greatest need in the southern suburbs is for basic needs such as food insecurity, housing and safety from abuse. The Southland area consists of disinvested areas, both Economically Disconnected Areas (EDAs) and struggling commercial and industrial areas. Those areas have a concentration of low
income and BIPOC populations and have experienced a loss of economic activity over a sustained period. Without action, evidence of increasing training requirements and decreasing employer investments in training raises concerns about compounding inequality and lagging employment.

 
 

One distinguishing feature of the South Suburbs – compared to other parts of the region’s suburban landscape – is their prominence as a place of residence for the region’s African-American population. The southern suburbs are experiencing increased needs and reduced services and are poorly equipped to advocate for the resources they need to support their residents.

Build a strong foundation in ecommerce sales & marketing with an introduction to core principles and develop needed practical skills. At GSU it is imperative we educate our members in the wild world of ecommerce. 

You are taking so much more than a course. You are joining likeminded individuals on a similar journey. Thanks to the 4343!

This 4 Week Course covers.

  • Ecommerce Overview & Strategy 
  • How to start selling online 
  • Picking Platforms & Online Marketplaces 
  • Choosing Products & Product Positioning 

The  course is designed to build a strong foundation in the basics of ecommerce. It is a perfect introduction to consumer behavior and understanding what drives sales online.

This GSU Ecommerce Course will teach you how to optimize your ecommerce strategies and tactics in the context of multi channel online sales, social media, search engine management, search engine optimization, ecommerce and paid digital display advertising. This course has been developed by leading digital marketing experts from within the US and features up-to-the-minute content covering all aspects of the ecommerce spectrum.

Businesses future is facing serious challenges. The world is changing quickly around us, ecommerce is no longer an option but in fact it has become an expectation. You are one step closer. We believe that too. So what are you waiting for? Start the journey in becoming an even bigger force to be reconnected with.

Lets work together to make your efforts online a success. 

Ecommerce Education Ecommerce EDU
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What is Workforce Innovation? – MEP News

August 30, 2021By: Matt Fieldman

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This blog is the sixth in a monthly series brought to you by the America Works initiative. As a part of the MEP National Network’s goal of supporting the growth of small and medium-sized manufacturing companies, this series focuses on innovative approaches, and uncovering the latest trends in manufacturing workforce development.

V’principe, da.

In Russian, it means, “In principle, yes.”

In reality, it means, “No. Not a chance. Nyet.

Definitions are important, and it’s a lesson that I’ve learned the hard way. From 2006 to 2007, my wife and I had the opportunity to live in St. Petersburg, Russia, where our job was to consult for local nonprofits with the goal of strengthening their operations. In the years after the fall of communism, Russia’s nascent nonprofit sector had a tremendous opportunity to grow and develop from literally nothing into a robust and vibrant sector. Filled with recommendations and suggestions for improvement, we would offer our ideas to our Russian colleagues with the best of intentions. They would respond positively, saying “V’principe, da.” Then, weeks and months would pass with no action whatsoever. Finally, a Russian colleague explained to us that, while the literal translation was “yes, that makes sense,” the actual meaning was, “No, we’re not interested, leave me alone.” As you can imagine, it was a challenging year!

It occurred to me recently that, six months into this blog series, we haven’t yet defined what “Workforce Innovation” actually means. What constitutes “innovation” when it comes to workforce development?

Accelerating the Impact on Workforce

As readers of this blog may know, the goals of America Works are to accelerate the impact of MEP Centers nationally when it comes to workforce. One of the tools we’re using to do that is mini-grants: $10,000 grants to MEP Centers to try something new when it comes to training programs. The four criteria for these grants are pretty simple: How innovative is this program? Will it create a best practice that can be scaled or replicated nationally? Does this not only use partnerships with other local organizations, but maximize each player’s strengths? And finally, will this generate new knowledge for the MEP National NetworkTM? As I reviewed the numerous, thoughtful proposals in this first round of micro-grant applications, I realized there were three themes that kept popping up:

  1. Leveraging emerging technologies: As we’ve seen in the MEP Workforce Database, MEP Centers are rapidly adapting new technologies to deliver training. Whether it’s Learning Management Systems (LMS), Tooling U-SME, virtual classes, simulations, phone apps, or games, these Centers understand that leveraging technology for cost-effective training of remote populations is important. Earlier this year, we took a deep dive into Oregon MEP’s Smart Talent platform, which adapts an existing LMS specifically for manufacturing clients. One of the exciting areas that saw several mini-grants was in virtual reality, where MEP Centers want to leverage TRANSFR VR’s manufacturing career awareness headsets to bring manufacturing careers directly to high school students.
  2. Reaching out to new populations: We’ve talked about how MEP Centers are on the front lines of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and this grant round reinforced that point. We saw emphasis on promoting minority ownership of product-focused startups, exciting new forays into online education for displaced workers, a new program to train young adults with autism the skills of CNC machining, and – as mentioned above – using VR to engage high school students.  
  3. Launching new partnerships: While MEP Centers are skilled at manufacturing consulting and training, it’s important to recognize that we’re not experts at everything. For example, we aren’t traditional teachers, social workers, guidance counselors, or career coaches. But as we enter this new era of workforce development, where we’re focusing on the holistic needs of each individual trainee (and not just those of the company), we understand that all of those roles are important. That’s where local ecosystems partners come into play. Community colleges, workforce investment boards, re-entry organizations, high schools, and so many more must be engaged and encouraged to bring their unique assets to this ongoing fight. Another set of unique partners are the Manufacturing USA Institutes; we’ve done two webinars to learn about their new workforce programs. To steal a well-known saying, it’s going to take an entire village to develop the advanced manufacturing workforce we need.

With those considerations in mind, I’m excited to announce the seven winners of the first round of mini-grants:

  1. Montana Manufacturing Extension Center (Montana MEP) – Launching a new re-entry training, placement, and support program that will take place in two local men’s and women’s prisons.
  2. Catalyst Connection (part of Pennsylvania MEP) – Launching Pittsburgh’s first-ever regional workforce conference, which will forge new partnerships and create new collaborations that advance workforce in the area.
  3. Polaris MEP (Rhode Island MEP) – To bring manufacturing career awareness and training to two high schools through VR.
  4. Impact Washington (Washington state MEP) – To provide lean tools and training to 40 Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC)-owned companies.
  5. NWIRC (part of Pennsylvania MEP) – To pilot a new training program for individuals with autism to learn CNC machining (with Uniquely Abled Academy).
  6. PRIMEX (Puerto Rico MEP) – To partner with Jobs for the Future (JFF) to bring manufacturing apprenticeships to Puerto Rico, including marketing, translation of materials into Spanish, and expansion.
  7. CONNSTEP (Connecticut MEP)– To incorporate VR manufacturing training into 12 high schools participating in the Manufacturing Skills for CT program.

Of course, while I’m excited about the local impact and national scalability of these new programs, not every workforce venture is going to be successful. Still, these are good lessons to learn, as we seek to push the limits of each technology, better understand the needs of each new population we want to serve, and maximize our local and national partnerships. In any case, we’re not going to beat around the bush like my Russian colleagues those many years ago; instead, we’re going to be candid about what worked, what didn’t work, and how we can improve from month-to-month and year-to-year.

And that’s the point of these America Works mini-grants: to experiment, fail, iterate, and try again. Because strengthening America’s manufacturing workforce is a marathon, not a sprint, and we’re going to need innovation – along with a very clear definition of what that word actually means! – if we’re going to win this race.MEP National Network and Workforce

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

matt fieldman

Matt Fieldman

Matthew Fieldman is currently Executive Director of America Works, a nationwide initiative to coordinate the American manufacturing industry’s training efforts, generating a more capable, skilled, and…

Marketing 101: Top Ten Tips for an Effective Call-to-Action

Lead generation is your bread and butter for long-term growth and stability. Your store depends on a steady stream of new customers to refill the pipeline.

Whether your business model relies on thousands of smaller transactions — or a smaller number of large transactions — you should continually improve your lead generation marketing strategies. And an effective call-to-action (CTA) lies at the heart of it.

Why?

Because without clear, focused, actionable directions, your potential leads will be left to guess their next step. This result is inaction and a missed opportunity to secure a new lead.

Let’s examine ten CTA tips with a focus on lead generation and customer acquisition.

1. Shrink the obstacles to taking action

New leads are often hesitant to pay full price at a business they’ve never purchased from. If the journey to becoming a customer takes five steps, your lead generation CTA should take them from step one to step two.

So instead of ‘Buy Now,’ it might be ‘View Our Products.’

Here’s a chart showing more examples of bigger vs smaller steps in the sales process:

Shorter-step CTAs Longer-step CTAs
Take the quiz Join our newsletter
See your score Schedule a free consultation
Try a free sample Get my first week free

Notice that none of these are asking for a sale. But it’s less daunting to take a quiz or see a score than to join a newsletter or schedule a consultation. Trying a free sample with no obligation is easier than a first week free, because the second option implies you’re signing up for something.

The smaller the step, the less your leads will feel like they’re making a commitment. That means less resistance to your offer.

2. Use first-person language

‘Sign Me Up!’ is better than ‘Sign Up!’. It personalizes the CTA. It gives the person ownership of their decision and gets them more invested in the outcome. Simply adding pronouns like “me” and “my”, as opposed to “you” and “your”, helps turn a CTA from a message into a decision.

This CTA on Okdo’s site uses first-person language to encourage visitors to join their community
 This CTA on Okdo’s site uses first-person language to encourage visitors to join their community

Other examples of this approach:

  • Send my free book
  • I’m in!
  • I want to be in the club!
  • Reserve my spot in the webinar

3. Make your CTA as specific as possible

Be clear exactly what the person is getting when they take action. This is why ‘submit’ isn’t super effective.

What happens after you send in the form? Find a way to imply or directly state that in the CTA.

CTA on BAM Bamboo Clothing's site asking visitors to subscribe and get a catalog
BAM Bamboo Clothing is specific about what happens when someone subscribes: they get a seasonal catalog delivered to their door

‘Send Your Question’ implies that an answer will be forthcoming. ‘Snag My Fast-Action Guide’ tells someone what they’ll get when they ‘submit’ the form. By telling the lead what happens next, you help prepare them for when it happens. Then, they’ll be more likely to take the next step you offer as well.

4. Focus on benefits and outcomes

‘I want to save more money’ focuses on the outcome, whereas ‘Send my budget guide’ just tells someone what they’re getting. Both are good because they’re specific and use first-person language. But the first one states the desired outcome vs. the tool you’re offering.

The person is thinking, “I don’t want this guide because I have nothing better to do. I want it because I want to save money.”

Dr. Scholl’s focuses on the benefits of their products in every CTA
Dr. Scholl’s focuses on the benefits of their products in every CTA

Below the main CTA, some businesses will use the opposite approach to manipulate people into accepting. Instead of a simple “x,” there might be a line of text that says “No thanks, I don’t want to save money,” with a link to close the offer.

This is distasteful and could damage your company’s reputation. Moreover, if you use manipulation to close deals, those people are more likely to be unhappy, leave poor reviews, and be one-and-done customers.

5. Use numbers

Numbers are a particularly effective form of CTA. For example:

  • Respond within three days
  • Get 20% off your first order
  • Upgrade to one-day shipping

The number adds to the certainty of what’s happening for the customer.

6. Make the CTA impossible to miss

Visibility is really your top priority for your call to action button. And yes, you should probably use buttons instead of text links because they grab attention more easily. For offline CTAs in direct mail situations, text emphasis like color, bold, underline, centering, larger fonts are essential.

Daelman’s uses an orange button that stands out from the blue background
Daelman’s uses an orange button that stands out from the blue background

If your brand guidelines have a bold color that’s reserved for special occasions — this is the occasion. You want it to stand out without straying from the feel of the rest of your brand. If your page consists of a lot of text, using an image could draw in visitors’ eyes. Another option is to leave physical space around your CTA (white space) so it stands on its own.

And for longer sales pages, use more than one CTA. Sprinkle them throughout the text as appropriate. If you do this, use the same text each time so the person hears the repetition and gets a clear picture of what is expected of them. Don’t change the messaging every time, or it feels like there’s more than one offer.

7. Place CTAs where they fit in your copy

Timing is everything, as they say in comedy. The same is true with marketing. It’s not just how you phrase your CTA or what it looks like; it’s when you say it.

Putting it too early can dilute your message and make it obvious you just want their information. Putting it too late can cause you to lose some readers. Putting them every other paragraph will make the reader feel like you’re desperate.

Some good places to put CTAs are:

  • After you’ve asked a key question that the offer answers
  • At natural pauses
  • When you’ve just finished a main point that is meant to motivate the lead

Also, consider the location of the call to action on the page.

Here’s some data on how well CTAs have converted at various locations. You have to take this kind of data cautiously, of course, because no conversion rates will be consistent across all industries. Nevertheless, it’s notable which places seem to perform better than others.

  • Sidebar: 0.5 – 1.5%
  • Generic, end-of-post: 0.5 – 1.5%
  • Pop-ups: 1 – 8%
  • Sliders and bars: 1 – 5%
  • Welcome gates: 10 – 25%
  • Feature Box: 3 – 9%
  • Navbar: varies

The one place that stands out the most is the ‘welcome gate.’ This is typically near the top of the page or takes over the entire page, and requires someone to respond before they can close it. If it’s the right offer that touches on a core need for your ideal customer, you can amass a treasure trove of leads.

You’ll need to be careful, though. These full-page takeovers can annoy users and actually earn you penalties from Google. And gated content can boost conversions, but also turn away casual visitors who might have otherwise become loyal fans over time.

8. Employ CTA urgency

‘Claim your spot’ is good. But ‘claim your spot before the webinar fills up’ is better. If you’re giving away physical copies of a book, limit the number and use it in the CTA. Deadlines of all sorts can move a person considering taking action to actually do so.

Urgency is one of the most powerful marketing techniques. It might just be the missing element of your entire sales effort. Don’t wait until it’s too late — learn how to implement urgency in your marketing.

9. Use ‘power words’

‘Subscribe’, ‘buy’, ‘get’, and ‘sign up’ have their place. These do well in certain situations. But they can be better. ‘Claim’, ‘reserve’, ‘snag’, ‘secure’, and ‘seize’ have more emotion behind them.

Don’t be afraid to sprinkle in a bit of “negative” language when appropriate. This can emphasize the fact that you’re offering a solution to a specific problem:  “Stop struggling,” “End bad hair days,” etc.

You can also use descriptive words like ‘easy’, ‘simple’, ‘fast’, ‘quick’, ‘proven’, ‘free’, and ‘guaranteed.’

Urgency can be enhanced with words like ‘only’, ‘miss out’, ‘lose’, and ‘give up’ (as in, don’t give up your chance to X).

Action is driven by emotion more than logic. Inject emotion into your CTA.

10. Make sure your CTAs are responsive

It’s important that your calls to action look great on all devices, from desktops to tablets and phones. Otherwise, you’re not reaching a large portion of your audience!

Take the time to check your design with a tool like LambdaTest, which previews your site on devices and browsers of all types. Make sure that nothing’s cut off, buttons are easy to click, forms are easy to use, and everything looks great for everyone.

Heggerty’s call to action stacks on mobile for an engaging, easy-to-use experience

Convert more leads with better calls to action

You’ve worked hard to create an awesome product or service and you’ve worked equally hard at driving traffic to your site. Encourage those visitors to take the steps you want by providing clear, motivating, and inspiring calls to action. Make sure each CTA is specific, can’t be missed, and creates urgency. Then, just like with everything in marketing, continue to experiment to see what works best for your audience.

If you’re looking for an edge in your business, spending some extra time perfecting calls to action might just be all you need.

Have you discovered something that works for your site? Share it with the community in the comments below!

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Four New Countries and Launch of Multi-Currency for WooCommerce Payments

Our native payment solution, WooCommerce Payments, is available in four more European countries! If you’re a merchant in Spain, France, Germany, or Italy, you can now benefit from a secure and fully integrated solution that supports new local payment methods.

In this latest iteration of WooCommerce Payments, we’ve also introduced Multi-Currency. You now have the power to accept payments in multiple currencies on your store – without the need for an extra extension!

Get started for free. No set up costs or monthly fees – just a small charge per transaction.

Increase your conversion rate

Did you know that the average cart abandonment rate is over 84% across all industries? There are a number of reasons why this happens, but a poor checkout experience is almost always a contributing factor.

With WooCommerce Payments, you can streamline the purchase process for shoppers by keeping them onsite the whole time – no redirecting to a third-party payment provider required. And with the option to save their card details on your store, future purchases are even faster.

For an even speedier checkout experience, why not offer Apple Pay® for a one-click checkout?

Go global with Multi-Currency

Dreaming of international expansion? Or maybe you want to give your existing international customers an easier way to shop? With Multi-Currency, you can choose from 135+ additional currencies to add to your store, enabling your customers to shop and browse in their preferred currency.

Now available straight out of the box – no additional extension required.

New local payment methods

Attract new customers by offering additional ways to pay. WooCommerce Payments comes with the popular European payment methods giropay and Sofort – giving you the ability to tap into new markets and offer more flexibility to your customers.

We’ll be adding more local solutions to WooCommerce Payments later in the year. Let us know what you’d like to see!

Manage everything within WooCommerce

Get access to the important transaction data you need, without having to log in to another system. As a fully integrated solution, WooCommerce Payments enables you to monitor charges, handle disputes, track deposits, and manage recurring revenue with WooCommerce Subscriptions, straight from your store’s dashboard.

Where would you like to see WooCommerce Payments next?

WooCommerce Payments is currently available in 10 countries – the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, France, Germany, and Italy.

We’re continuing to launch WooCommerce Payments in more countries this year. Keep an eye out for future announcements, and let us know if you’d like to see your country on the list.

Get WooCommerce Payments
Merchandise Returns: How To Turn a Pain Into Gain

Let’s be honest: no business owner enjoys returns. They can be expensive, time-consuming, unpleasant, and tedious. But do returns always have to be so terrible? Can return policies actually help boost your business? The answer is — absolutely.

There are seven common reasons for returns:

  1. The customer purchased the wrong product
  2. They no longer need the item
  3. The product didn’t match its description
  4. A gift purchase was incorrect
  5. The product arrived damaged
  6. The store shipped the wrong item
  7. The customer bought, used, then tried to return the product.

Returns and return policies are a crucial part of your business plan. 66% of customers review return policies before buying and 80% won’t shop with you again if it’s difficult to return an item.

A poor or nonexistent policy can hurt your reputation quickly via negative word-of-mouth, social media posts, and bad reviews on sites like Yelp, Google My Business, Foursquare, and many others. With an estimated 72% of consumers writing at least one business review online, it’s best to take this seriously.

But a good return policy can benefit your business by building customer loyalty, strengthening engagement, and generating positive buzz. All of this leads to repeat purchases and higher sales.

Keys to a successful return policy

Here are a few suggestions for making returns less painful and more gainful.

1. Have a clear, written policy

Let’s start with the basics — creating a crystal clear policy in written form that leaves little to interpretation. A well-considered and detailed statement will mean less miscommunication, confusion, hassle, and headaches for your employees and customers. Keep in mind, if you also use a third-party sales channel, it may have its own return policies that must be honored.

An effective return policy should include:

  • What items can and cannot be returned.
  • What items can be exchanged, credited, or refunded.
  • The deadline for returns after purchase date.
  • The required condition of returns.
  • If a receipt or ID is required.
  • How to obtain a return/exchange.
DRYFT Fishing return policy
Photo © https://dryftfishing.com/

DRYFT Fishing’s policy includes options for both returns and exchanges. They go the extra mile by providing specific instructions for how to package items, details about what to include in the box, and a link to a super simple form so there’s no confusion. They even suggest a shipping carrier.

TermsFeed has more examples of return/refund policies and templates that you can download for free.

What if your store doesn’t accept returns? 

Potential customers are still going to look for a return policy, so create and link to a page with that information. It should be clear that you don’t accept returns or issue refunds.

2. Make your return policy easy to find and understand

On your website, add it in the footer navigation, FAQ page, product page, cart, checkout, and any customer service or support menus. Include it in your confirmation or follow-up emails and receipts.

Have one page with all the information. If your policy has a lot of special conditions for different products, start on your main page with general information and link to the finer details on separate pages. Put introductory text at the top of the page that emphasizes your commitment to a quality experience.

3. Be more lenient and flexible

According to a University of Texas study, more lenient return policies led to increased purchases. Researchers also found that extending the return window led to fewer returns.

IKEA return policy page
Photo © https://www.ikea.com/us/en/

One example of a laid-back return policy is the Swedish home furnishings giant IKEA, which allows returns of unopened items within a year and opened items within six months. Their cheery and helpful returns page is another great example to follow. Their generosity is consistent with a reputation for value and a pleasant buying experience — undoubtedly key elements to their success.

4. Make the process quick and easy

In addition to the tips above, the process or platforms used to handle returns should be easy to learn and efficient to use. Good news — if you use WooCommerce, you already enjoy a tool offering easy returns and refunds (more on this later).

5. Be friendly

Neither party usually enjoys the returns process and your customers aren’t always thrilled. Don’t make things worse by acting rude or irritated during the transaction. Take responsibility and don’t blame the customer. Note IKEA’s headline at the top of their returns page: “It’s OK to change your mind!”

6. Make returns a sales opportunity

Some stores extend their return period for members. Others make the process easier for email subscribers, who you can reach in the future with discounts and sales.

If appropriate, a customer service representative can suggest specific alternatives to an item being returned (like a different size or feature). They might even offer a discount for the new product. This can flip a return into an exchange and give your store a second chance at providing a product that meets the customer’s needs.

7. Be on alert for fraud

Fraudulent returns are a significant and growing problem. Common schemes include returning stolen merchandise, using false or stolen receipts, and buying something to use with the plan to return it.

Return fraud cost businesses $25.3 billion in 2020, according to the National Retail Federation. The tricky thing about fighting fraud is that most of the measures you would take to address this problem involve making your return policy more stringent. Anti-fraud measures might include requiring receipts or ID, fully intact product packaging, or shorter timeframes, and allowing only exchanges or store credit.

Every business owner should take a long look at their particular situation and balance the need for fraud security against the benefits of a lenient policy. Ask yourself: How large a risk (or ongoing problem) is return fraud for my business? With an eye for balance, adjust your return policy accordingly.

Tools of the return

WooCommerce offers options for both automatic and manual refunds. Automatic refunds change the order status and reverse the charge. Manual refunds change the order status but require you to manually return money to the customer.

refund request with the WooCommerce Smart Refunder extension

The WooCommerce Smart Refunder extension makes things even easier with a quick, simple, and automated process. You can offer instant refunds, enable customers to request a return from their Account page, and allow both full and partial refunds. And, with the Smart Coupons extension, you can issue either cash refunds or store credits.

Returns are an inevitable part of running an online store. Instead of letting it become a frustration, consider it an opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition. You can turn less-than-thrilled customers into your best advocates with a surprisingly delightful and human-centric approach.

WooCommerce has the tools to simplify your return process — it’s up to you to determine your policies and set your brand’s attitude towards this essential part of customer service.

WooCommerce Smart Coupons
How to Create and Print Shipping Labels with WooCommerce Shipping

As an eCommerce merchant, you probably find yourself wishing you had a few extra hours each day. Between marketing, customer service, inventory, and dozens of other tasks that need to get done, it seems like 24 hours just isn’t enough.

While you can’t bend the rules of time, you can free up some extra hours. One area where your store can benefit from automation is in shipping label management. By eliminating some of the manual tasks involved in the shipping process, your business can run more efficiently and you can use the time you save to catch up on other projects or cut back your work days and focus on self-care.

Why you should automate your shipping label process

Need more convincing to automate shipping label creation and printing? Check out the following three benefits:

  1. Worry less about tasks: As a store owner, you’re constantly switching hats throughout the day. The more tasks you have to switch back and forth to, the easier it is to lose focus and waste precious time. Automating your shipping label process gives you one less thing to do so you stay focused on more pressing matters that can’t be automated.
  2. Avoid navigating to third-party carrier sites: Using a third-party carrier site is not only incredibly time-consuming, but could make you more prone to mistakes. Entering each customer’s information manually makes you more prone to typos and incomplete information, which can lead to angry customers who haven’t received their products. In addition, carrier sites like USPS only permit you to print up to 20 labels at a time. If you have 100 time-sensitive orders, this would be quite an inconvenience.
  3. Skip a trip to the post office: Shipping automation lets you drop your packages in a dropbox or schedule a USPS pickup at your door. You get to put off your drive into town or avoid waiting in line at the post office by printing your shipping labels at your home or business.

Now that you’re on board, let’s look at WooCommerce Shipping and why it’s an excellent choice for automating your shipping process.

WooCommerce Shipping benefits

WooCommerce Shipping perfectly integrates with your WooCommerce dashboard to make printing shipping labels a breeze. It’s the most efficient way to print domestic and international labels and empowers merchants to fulfill orders for customers around the world. Plus, you benefit from discounted rates. Here are just a few reasons to use WooCommerce Shipping:

It’s free!

There are no subscription fees or per-label costs. All you pay are the carrier shipping prices.

Ship domestically with USPS or internationally with DHL Express

Get instant access to exclusive, low shipping rates from USPS and DHL. Ship easily within the United States or to over 220 countries and territories with DHL Express.

You can print labels directly from your dashboard

There’s no need to spend hours copying and pasting between your dashboard and the carrier site and worrying about potential errors. WooCommerce Shipping is built right into your dashboard, integrating your order fulfillment process from start to finish — all you need is a printer and labels.

It easily integrates with the USPS Shipping Method extension

If you’re already using the USPS Shipping Method extension, WooCommerce Shipping is a great addition.

By combining both extensions, you can stop losing money on flat-rate shipping and charge your customers actual delivery costs based on their location. Automatically calculate postage rates for domestic orders via USPS.

How to print labels with WooCommerce Shipping

Here’s a step-by-step guide to printing labels:

1. Navigate to WooCommerceOrders and select an order you want to send out.

2. On the Order Details screen, you’ll see a box with an option to create a shipping label or track packages. Select Create shipping label.

button to create shipping label in WooCommerce Shipping

3. Enter the full origin address for the shipment.

screen asking for origin address in WooCommerce Shipping

Once you enter this address, WooCommerce Shipping will save it for all future orders, and you won’t have to enter it again. Confirm both the origin and destination address, then select Verify address.

4. Confirm the package details and select Use these packages.

packaging section with WooCommerce Shipping

5. Select the shipping rate and choose whether an adult signature is required to receive the package.

choosing shipping rates with WooCommerce Shipping

6. You’ll be prompted to buy shipping labels or add a credit card if you haven’t already input your payment method.

Shipping summary screen with WooCommerce Shipping

If you need to add your credit card, you’ll be taken to the Add Credit Card screen to complete the required fields and save your card.

Once your payment method is confirmed, you’ll be able to select Buy shipping labels, and you’re now ready to proceed.

buy shipping level option

7. After selecting Buy shipping labels, you can view your shipping label in Print mode.

print screen for shipping labels

8. You can now either print or save the label for later use. Or, create multiple labels and batch print all at once.

Other shipping automation options

WooCommerce Shipping is free to use, making it the most cost-effective solution for shipping automation. Being able to do everything right from your WooCommerce dashboard also removes extra steps in the order fulfillment process. However, you may find that you need other features — like additional carriers. Below are three popular shipping automation solutions that integrate with WooCommerce:

Shippo logo

Shippo

Cost: Free account + $0.05 cents/label — $200/month for up to 10,000 labels

Shippo promises that its customers will have easier shipping with discounted rates that result in happy customers. Appealing to merchants that ship worldwide, Shippo lets store owners quickly access global shipping via integration with over 85 carriers.

There are three main benefits to using Shippo:

  1. Discounted shipping rates: You’ll instantly get discounted rates from carriers like UPS, USPS, and DHL Express.
  2. Simplified label printing: Orders import automatically from your eCommerce store, and you can batch print to automate your process further.
  3. On-Demand tracking & free return labels: Customers can choose tracking options and are provided with a free return label. You’ll only be charged if they return an item.
ShipStation logo

ShipStation

Cost: $9 – $159/mo

Overseas store owners who want to save time should look no further than ShipStation to speed up their shipping process. Available in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, ShipStation offers discounts on labels no matter where you are. Great for small and large merchants alike, the tool also comes with custom notification emails, packing slips, shipping labels, and even a branded tracking page unique to your shop.

eCommerce store owners who spend a lot of time on the go will love the ShipStation mobile app to run their business from the comfort of their phone or tablet.

ShipStation features include:

Stamps.com

Stamps.com

Cost: $17.99/mo

For shop owners in the United States who rely heavily on USPS to get their orders out, the WooCommerce Stamps API extension is just what you need.

By integrating the Stamps.com extension, you can create ready-to-print shipping labels for USPS that come with the most up-to-date rates. So whether you ship five orders a day or 500, you can rest assured that Stamps.com is providing you with affordable USPS shipping rates.

The Stamps.com API extension offers features such as:

  • Access to USPS shipping services
  • Discounted domestic and international USPS shipping rates
  • Discounted Stamps.com insurance

While there are several shipping options out there, it’s up to you to choose the process best suited for your online store. No matter what solution you choose, automating your shipping will help you save time and give you another tool to run an efficient and successful business.

Save time and money with WooCommerce Shipping
The Incredible Story of Thomas’s Trendy Socks

Many entrepreneurs have faced and overcome setbacks and challenges to achieve their business dreams. Still, few have succeeded against the kind of odds faced by Thomas Barry and his father, Finbar.

Of course, few of us share the vision, tenacity, and sheer force of will possessed by this amazing family of Irish entrepreneurs.

A rough start

The youngest of seven children, Thomas was born with Down Syndrome, along with a host of other severe illnesses, including Perthes Disease, Hirschsprung Disease, a heart murmur, an underactive thyroid, Hiatus Hernia, and stomach reflux. He wasn’t expected to survive his first two months, which were spent in intensive care.

But then, as now, Thomas was a fighter, and he fought his way home.

As a child, he was often sick, spending many months each year in the hospital for various illnesses. He would become the youngest person in Ireland to have a total hip replacement. The harsh reality was that Thomas could probably never hold down a regular type of job due to his disabilities. But this being Thomas, this had no effect on his desire to work and express his creativity.

The fact is that when Thomas makes up his mind about something, he’s very determined — even relentless — to see it through.

“I want a job”

Despite all of the pain and struggles that Thomas faced growing up, he had one all-consuming dream by the time he reached his teen years. He wanted a job, a real “get up in the morning and go to work” kind of job.

The kind of job that he’d spent his childhood watching his father and brothers march off to each day.

“Dad,” he’d say, “Make me a lunch. I’m going to work!”

For Finbar, his son’s dream was a deeply concerning one. When Thomas first began to voice his desires, he wasn’t even able to walk. His overall health was still quite poor and he lived with severe pain daily.

How would he be able to maintain any type of job?

“We just kept kicking the can down the road,” says Finbar, “telling him ‘maybe next year’ and hoping for a miracle. We just couldn’t bear the thought of pouring cold water on his dreams.”

But Thomas never gave up.  “I want to get to work; I want to get a job; I want to go to work.” The same never-give-up rock-solid determination that saw him through those first precarious months of life was as strong as ever. And, as always, Thomas fought on.

Thomas and his father with a pair of socks that say, "It's okay not to be ok."

All about the socks

As “I want a job” continued to be his son’s mantra, his father wondered what he could possibly do to help.

Then one day, it came to him. If there was one constant in Thomas’s daily life, it was his socks.

He went nowhere without socks, keeping them with him both day and night.

Where other children found comfort in blankets or stuffed animals, Thomas found his in his beloved sock collection. Thomas had always played with socks. He would put one sock into the other and swing them around his fingers for hours until, after years of practice, he was amazingly adept at it.

He never played much with toys in his early childhood but would go nowhere without his socks.

“He took them to bed with him,” says Finbar, “so that the first thing he’d see when he opened his eyes was the socks in his hand.

I remember wondering to myself, ‘Is this something Tom would identify with, or could even do for a living, sharing his love of socks with others by selling socks online?’”

WordPress and WooCommerce

That’s when Finbar approached his grandson Shane for help. Having studied computer science, programming, web development, and digital marketing in college, Shane seemed like the best choice to take Thomas’s and Finbar’s dreams and make them a reality.

“When my granddad approached me about the business,” says Shane, “we sat down, came up with a plan, and I knew immediately that I was going to use WordPress and WooCommerce. I’d used them before and I was confident in both.”

For Shane, WooCommerce came hand-in-hand with WordPress, and he found the combination simple and easy to use, allowing him a lot of flexibility.

When asked about using Shopify, Shane was quick to respond.

“I think you’re quite limited with services like Shopify. You have to pay a monthly recurring fee, and it’s just not as flexible as having your own website and your own host.”

As they began to design a website for Thomas’s new business, the Barrys implemented WooCommerce, using Stripe (a fellow Irish company) as their payment processor. They had briefly considered other processors, but previous experiences and fees deterred that option, and they’ve been pleased with their ultimate decision.

With WooCommerce and Stripe, Apple Pay was easily enabled, giving Thomas’s customers a fast and secure way to pay online.

A product page for socks displayed on an Apple MacBook Pro.

Getting started

“Once we set up the website with a product catalog and some basic selling tools,” says Shane, “we began adding more advanced options and a monthly subscription plan. Using WooCommerce, it was all very straightforward.”

Even though his education and experience allow him to write his own code, Shane appreciates the ease of use and ability to customize that comes with the wide variety of WordPress plugins available to users.

“Like WooCommerce Subscriptions,” he says, “if I were to try to program something like that, it would take me a long time. But because it’s already available as an extension, it saves me a lot of work. There’s a great base of extensions available.

We use Stripe for everything from taking individual website payments to invoicing commercial customers who want to order in bulk.

Really, it comes down to making the whole purchasing experience as easy as possible for the customer.

That means, among other things, having a one-click payment option that they prefer to use available to them, such as Apple Pay. Having a payment option that the buyer is most comfortable with integrated into our checkout process goes a long way towards building their confidence in our brand.”

Currently, Thomas’s Trendy Socks’ sales are nearly 100% online, with an inventory of more than six thousand pairs of socks. Inventory turns over fast. So fast, in fact, that the family is considering bringing manufacturing in-house.

three pairs of socks held in front of a canyon

Targeting designs and patterns

Thomas, of course, is constantly coming up with new designs. Shane uses site and sales data to determine how popular each might be with customers.

“After I’ve determined the core audience,” says Shane, “we then look at what previous products these customers have shown interest in. What are the commonalities? (Animals, food, and beer themes have historically been very popular).”

The family wanted to do something to support Down syndrome awareness as well, so Thomas actually drew a Down Syndrome awareness sock. The first run sold out almost immediately. The Barrys plan to expand their charitable work and help use their socks to spread awareness in the future.

“As soon as we start manufacturing in-house, I think we’ll be doing a lot more experimenting.”

The business is always considering different fun ideas to promote their socks, including videos with Thomas. As far as digital marketing, they use social media ads and email campaigns.

It’s easier than you think

Shane isn’t the only one who’s found WooCommerce and WordPress easy to use. Recently, 77-year-old Finbar was left running the company while Shane had to be away.

“He didn’t grow up in a time where you used computers for everything,” Shane told us. “Before we set up this business, he probably would’ve been able to use Microsoft Word, but that’s about it. I was away for a couple of weeks, and Grandpa was able to learn how to use WordPress and WooCommerce. He learned how to log in, manage the store, and process all the orders himself.

I think that really says a lot about the software, that somebody who didn’t grow up with computers was able to pick it up so quickly and easily.”

The secret of their success

The Barry family started Thomas’s Trendy Socks on a shoestring budget of less than €1,000, and have built on that through a simple formula of scaling up month after month.

“That’s our approach: just scale and reinvest, scale and reinvest. At the moment, there are three of us, but the long-term plan is that when we start producing our own products in-house, we hope to be able to employ people like Thomas.”

Perhaps the most essential element to the success of Thomas’s Trendy Socks is attitude.

“Thomas has been through a lot. He’s had to overcome a lot of challenges, and yet, despite all of that, he’s always happy and always smiling, and he just wants to make other people happy and smile, too. I think the business is thriving because Thomas shares that positive energy through every pair of socks to every customer,” says Shane.

Thomas is bringing joy to people’s lives by sharing not only his fun socks but his indomitable spirit as well.

And that is Thomas’s job.

How to Use Email Marketing to Increase Product Reviews in Five Steps

How many of us have noticed a new restaurant in our area, only to pull out our phone and immediately check the reviews? We do it so often that it’s become second nature.

No matter how you slice it, reviews seem to rule the world around us. They can either make or break a decision to eat at a restaurant, buy coffee at a cafe, or make a purchase from an eCommerce store.

If you run a business, product reviews instill trust in your brand and help improve your online presence. Email is one great way to collect them.

However, if you’re not sure how to use email as a tool to increase your product reviews, this is the guide for you. By the end, you’ll feel equipped with the knowledge to start collecting product reviews that will help you take your eCommerce store to the next level.

Why do product reviews matter?

Collecting product reviews and feedback from your customers can help in many ways. They:

  1. Give your company a good reputation: Building a solid reputation is crucial for the success of your business. People want to buy from an online store that appears trustworthy and reputable. A staggering 88% of consumers say that they trust online reviews as much as they would a recommendation from a friend!
  2. Build a rapport with existing customers: Asking returning customers for their thoughts on a product shows that you care and contributes towards building a rapport with them. Imagine how you would feel if your favorite brand asked for your feedback and then featured it on their website? You want your customers to feel important and that you care about their thoughts. Showing personal interest is an asset that can set you apart from your competition.
  3. Provide you with testimonials: While you can work hard to create your brand, testimonials can speak louder than anything you could say. You can even create an entire area on your website or social media account dedicated to product reviews and what people say about your shop. This way, new visitors will know exactly where to go to find out what people think. These pages may even motivate them to buy highly-reviewed products, therefore increasing your sales.
  4. Gain valuable feedback. Reviews also help you hone in on areas that you can improve across your business. Perhaps multiple people comment that your return policy is hard to find or your shirts run large. You can gather that information and apply it in ways that benefit both previous and future customers.

How to ask for reviews in email marketing

If you’re already sending newsletters or promotional emails to your subscribers, you can use the same software to ask customers for reviews en masse. Or, use tools like MailPoet, which can automatically ask individual customers for a review after a set period of time.

Mack Weldon email asking a customer for a review on the sweatpants they purchased
Photo © Really Good Emails

Here are a few tips for requesting reviews:

1. Customize your emails

Although you might use predesigned templates, this doesn’t mean that they need to be cookie-cutter responses. With all the spam people have in their inbox, you don’t want to get thrown in with unwanted messages.

Start by customizing the email with their name. While you want to maintain a sense of professionalism, you also want them to view you as a friend. A simple “Hi there {subscriber name}!” or “How’s it going {subscriber name}?” will give your emails the personal touch you need to stand out from the crowd.

Another way to customize your emails is by separating them by product and category:

Purchased this product emails

Let’s say you want to increase sales or reviews for a particular product. Using Mailpoet’s product-specific email feature with WooCommerce makes this a breeze. First, you can customize your emails based on the product purchased and set them to automatically trigger after a set period of time.

"purchased this product" settings with a dropdown for send time

You might send tutorials on using the item or suggest related products. Plus, you can ask them for a review.

Your review request might say something like:

Hey {subscriber name}! 

You purchased {product name} X days ago, and we wanted to check in and see how you like it! We appreciate your support and just can’t wait to know how it’s been working for you. Could you share a few thoughts? Your honest feedback will help us improve our products now and in the future! 

{Insert call to action button}

You can remind them of their purchase in a few short sentences and motivate them to give you some helpful feedback.

Purchased in this category emails

What if you’re looking to increase sales in a particular category? Send a “Purchased in this Category” email to reach a wide group of customers from this segment. Unlike the specific product emails, these target customers based on the category they purchased from initially.

dropdown for "purchased in this category" email showing options for scheduling

You can request a review (which will give you more credibility with new shoppers) and remind former customers of other products they might like to add to their collection — all at the same time!

Don’t be afraid to sound friendly and casual here. You want people to think of you as a friend encouraging them to return to a store they love. These category emails can be scheduled in advance to be sent out days or weeks after the initial purchase.

2. Give a clear call to action

Make it as easy as possible for your customers to leave reviews. The last thing you want is for them to feel that it’s another vague email that’s landed in their inbox. Instead, leave a clearcut call to action at the end of your message.

Target email asking for a product review of a memory foam bed pillow
Photo © Really Good Emails

This might take the form of a short message with a button saying, “Click here to tell us what you think” or “Fill out a brief survey.”

3. Timing is everything

When using email marketing to increase product reviews, timing is everything. We’ve all been here: you download a new game app on your phone only to be accosted with a review request five seconds later. You haven’t even tried the game!

It’s the same with product reviews. When sending emails, you want to wait long enough for the customer to get familiar with their purchase. This also means factoring in the time it takes for shipping.

Take the example of a digital download versus a hoodie. Someone who bought a digital download will likely access it right away, so sending a product review a week after the delivery date would be ideal.

On the other hand, a physical product like a hoodie needs to be washed and hung up in their closet. A person might not reach for it until a windy day. Consider sending a product review email after a few weeks. This gives them enough time to wear it once or twice, and they can give it a thorough review.

You can automate your emails to send at specific times with either of the MailPoet features. Emailing people in this manner helps you catch your customers at the right times.

4. Don’t annoy your customers

While you want to get these coveted reviews, you don’t want to come across as pushy. It’s okay if some people don’t respond to your request for a testimonial. If they’re a repeat customer, there will be plenty of future opportunities to ask them for a review.

Sending out requests for product reviews too often will have your customers unsubscribing faster than you can say “email.” Instead of spamming them, why not consider including an incentive in the subject line?

An incentive could look like a 15% off coupon for giving their thoughts or offering a buy one, get one deal on their next purchase.

Your subject line might say:

{subscriber name}, get 15% off your next purchase for sharing your thoughts! 

Or,

Hey {subscriber name}, how does BOGO on your next purchase sound? 

5. Thank them for their time

Finally, and most importantly, you want to thank your customers for the time they spend filling out a survey or sending in their thoughts. Even a not-so-stellar review can give you some much-needed insight into how you can improve your products.

Use MailPoet to send behavior-triggered emails after a customer has filled out a product review. If you promised a discount, send it through. Otherwise, a simple thank you email gets the job done.

We get it; asking for product reviews isn’t a perfect science, but the rewards make learning what works all worth it.

In summary, you’ll have a successful email marketing experience if you stick to the following:

  • Customize your emails (product and category emails)
  • Give a clear call to action
  • Time your emails right
  • Avoid harassing customers
  • Thank customers for their time

As long as you follow these tips, you can feel confident asking for product reviews by email. Remember, people want to feel valued. Showing your customers that you care will benefit you, your business, and your reputation for the years to come.

Learn more about mastering email marketing with MailPoet

Customize your store with official extensions for WooCommerce in our marketplace
How to Create an Email Marketing Strategy for Your Online Store

Bells and whistles continue to ring across the internet, claiming to be the ‘secret’ to business growth, marketing, and more money. But email marketing retains the top spot in terms of ROI and remains the number one method for companies to communicate with their customers.

Thus, creating and implementing an email marketing strategy for your store should be a top priority if you want to increase revenue without spending tons of money.

If you’re not fully utilizing email marketing for your business, and you’re looking to increase your revenue, this article is for you.

Let’s look at some keys to creating and implementing the best possible email marketing strategy for your store.

1. Establish a goal

Every strategy starts with goal-setting. What do you want to increase with your emails? Sales? Brand awareness? Thorough product education? Positive reviews? Maybe it’s several of these.

Get specific with your goals. How much do you want to increase sales? How many new reviews? This gives you a tangible benchmark to reach and helps you gauge progress — ”We’re halfway to our monthly goal!”

Setting specific goals dictates everything else in your strategy. It will help you determine who you send messages to, what those messages say, and the actions you ask readers to take.

2. Define your audience and types of email

Your audience is going to depend heavily on your goals. You don’t want to send every email to every subscriber — you want to find those who are going to be most receptive to your message.

If your goal is to increase reviews, focus on previous customers. You can then create two segments — those who purchased recently and those who haven’t bought anything in a while.

options for a Purchased This Product email in MailPoet
With MailPoet, you can easily send emails based on previously purchased products.

You can use a tool like MailPoet to remind recent customers about their purchase, feature a specific item they bought, and ask for a review. You can also set automated emails that send a request to future buyers a couple of weeks after they complete their transaction.

For those who haven’t been active in a while, you’ll need to provide a bit more context to remind them of your brand. This can also serve as an opportunity to re-engage them with your newest offers.

If you want to grow revenue, think about new versus existing customers. Give newbies more information about products, include testimonials, emphasize customer support channels, and highlight any generous return policies you may have. Emails to existing customers should focus on upsells, related products/services, new product launches, and refer-a-friend programs.

The more specific you can be, the better. Instead of emailing everyone about a product that you know isn’t super popular, you might email just those who already bought one. They’ve indicated that they like the item, so you could offer to sell them a few more at an amazing discount!

If this audience is too narrow, you can expand to others who’ve shopped in the same category. If the item is similar to something else they liked, they still might be more likely than your average subscriber to buy it.

People like emails that are relevant to them. Even more importantly, they really dislike a bombardment of emails that aren’t. You may decide that you want to touch each subscriber no more than five times per month. So by defining your audience and sending emails to specific groups, you can save those touches for the absolute most relevant emails and really boost your performance.

3. Think about the frequency of your emails

There isn’t really a set number of emails you should send in a given time period — it all depends on your business and your audience. For example, if you sell a membership program that includes recipes for the workweek, it may make sense to send an email every Monday with meal ideas. Or, if you target busy professionals, you might just send a roundup of tips and news once a month so as not to overwhelm their already-cluttered inbox.

But it’s also important to consider the time you can invest in writing effective emails. Can you be consistent and send a newsletter every week? Or would it be better to send it once a month? After all, you don’t want to overpromise and under-deliver or, worse, send out ineffective or poorly-written emails.

Here are some tips for determining the right frequency:

  • Consider starting with monthly emails to see how that works for your audience and schedule. This will help you get used to sending consistently, and you can always increase the frequency later.
  • It’s generally better to send fewer, well thought-out emails instead of more, quickly-written, sloppy ones.
  • Consider automating your emails and using templates to save time (more on this later).

You may need to play around a bit to find the sweet spot for your specific situation. Make sure to keep a close eye on your email analytics to determine effectiveness and consider reaching out to subscribers directly to find out what they prefer.

4. Establish a format/template

You don’t want to reinvent the wheel every time you send out an email — this can be time-consuming for you and confusing for your customers. Instead, create a few set formats and templates that you can reuse based on the type of email you’re sending.

There are two types of email formats: plain text and designed.

a text-based email from GameStop addressing the COVID-19 pandemic
This text-based email from GameStop addressing the COVID-19 pandemic looks just like an email from a friend, which makes it seem more personal. View the full email.

Plain text emails are quick to create and typically don’t look like a marketing email, which might help you get attention. However, they can be boring and are limited in terms of layout and options for showcasing products. And, without a visual reminder, some folks might not remember or recognize your brand.

A designed email from Minna with bright colors and patterns
This designed email from Minna grabs attention with bright colors and patterns. View the full email.

Designed emails offer more options for grabbing attention and engaging with customers. They promote your brand visually with a consistent look and feel, reassuring customers that they’re coming from you. Plus, they’re reusable and can include elements like buttons — which can lead to more clicks. However, they can also be time-consuming to create and require expertise to design and perfect things like mobile responsiveness.

But if you’re not a designer, don’t worry. MailPoet makes it easy to create visually appealing emails that are as simple (or as complex!) as you’d like. Use the drag-and-drop editor to put elements exactly where you want them without needing a line of code. And you can even save templates for future use!

5. Create content with value, not just a sales pitch

Creating compelling content helps you stand out from all the other emails sitting in subscribers’ inboxes.

If every email you send is just another sales pitch, it won’t be long before subscribers tune out your messages or mark you as spam. The trick is to deliver value while also showcasing your products or services.

If your goal is to boost sales, think about how your emails can strengthen the relationship with your customers and encourage them to come back. Include how-to guides, product tutorials, exclusive looks at new products, pictures from charity initiatives, or case studies.

An email from Barilla with recipes
Barilla shares recipes using their products in this email rather than focusing on promotions. View the full email.

Also consider fun and informative articles on topics of interest to your audience. If you sell camping and outdoor gear, for example, offer articles with tips on campgrounds and hikes. It doesn’t always have to be original content — link to good articles on reputable, non-competing websites or partner with influencers to create unique content that you can use.

6. Take a multichannel approach

Make email one of several marketing channels you use, driven by your overall strategy. People spend time on a variety of platforms, and your marketing mix should be a reflection of how — and where — your audience spends their time.

If you have a large social media following, create exclusive, email-only opportunities to encourage them to subscribe to your list. Now, you can reach them in more than one place! It goes the other way, too. In your emails, include an option for subscribers to follow you on social media or sign up to receive a physical catalog.

Use consistent messaging and graphics across all channels so your fans recognize your brand and trust they’ve made it to the right place. To be more efficient, you can reuse content from one platform on another. However, make sure that each at least occasionally has something unique and exclusive — that way people have a reason to follow you multiple places.

7. Measure and improve

It’s important to regularly step back and take stock of what’s working and what’s not. In the day-to-day scramble of running a business, it can be easy to push this task aside, but it’s critical to making your email campaigns more effective.

Most platforms offer data on how well your messages are engaging subscribers. Here are some pointers for using this information to improve your strategy:

  • Keep an eye on your stats and make incremental improvements. You might notice that emails get higher or lower engagement on certain days or times, for example. Or perhaps certain types of content generate more clicks than others.
  • If you’re getting a high number of unsubscribes, review your content, process, and strategy. It could be something simple! For example, if you tell people they’re signing up for a monthly email, but you send them updates every week, you could be driving them away.
  • Most importantly, remember why you’re sending email marketing campaigns. Are you reaching your goal(s)? Do you need to try a different approach? Check in regularly to ensure you’re not getting off track .
A simple, attention-grabbing email capture in the footer of a website
Heggerty includes a simple but attention-grabbing email capture in their footer.

8. Build your list

Emails are pointless without a quality list of subscribers. But how do you create that list? Here are some tips:

  • Make it easy to subscribe on your website. A prominent callout with a quick and easy sign-up form is essential. And add this where it can’t be missed — your homepage, sidebar, or a footer that’s on every page.
  • Experiment with the location of your forms. You might try adding them to popups, banners, or in the middle of blog content (just don’t be too intrusive!).
  • Add a signup button to your checkout page.
  • Emphasize the benefits of signing up. Will they find out about the latest sale items and deals? Be notified of in-store events? Get special promotions only for subscribers?
  • Introduce opt-in bonuses (e.g. join our list to get 10% off your first order).
  • Get consent every time. Don’t add someone to your list unless they’ve explicitly opted in.
  • Use your other marketing channels to encourage sign-ups.

9. Save time with automation

Email automation is like having an entire team of marketers that just wait for the best time to send out targeted messages to specific subscribers. And the right message with perfect timing equals stellar results.

But this particular team doesn’t take up space in your office, or more importantly, your payroll. And once you’ve done the work to create automations, they just work — days, nights, weekends, whenever you need.

So what kinds of emails can you send with automation?

10. Choose an email platform that’s right for your strategy

There are many email platforms out there, each with different features and benefits. Take the time to research the differences so you can determine the right one for your business, audience, and budget.

If you’re not an email developer, you probably want to find a tool with a drag-and-drop builder. If you’re short on time, choose one that focuses on email automation. The priorities are up to you!

If you’re only running automated campaigns, AutomateWoo is a great option. Or, if you want to send a combination of automated and regular email newsletters, MailPoet is a better fit.

The power of email

Email remains one of the most effective tools to engage potential customers, retain existing ones, and expand your reach. Regular, thoughtful communication is the key to success. The right strategy, paired with tools to help you work more efficiently, only makes things better.

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