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5 Mobile Marketing Tips and Trends for 2013

As mobile device usage continues to soar (including smart phones, tablets and mini-tablets), business owners should plan to tap this trend in 2013.  According to a “Mobile Path to Purchase” study conducted by Nielsen, one of the top uses of mobile devices by consumers is finding and calling local businesses, and accessing map and driving directions.

In short, mobile devices have become the “go-to” tools for millions of individuals to find, contact and visit local businesses.

Depending on the product or service category and device used, as many as 73 percent of mobile users report looking for a business phone number and subsequently calling the business. In addition, up to 84 percent of mobile searchers report looking up a business location and accessing driving directions (again, depending on the category).

Those are huge numbers driving leads and sales for local businesses. And the implications are clear:  You need to be visible in mobile search, and your ads or listings should always include a phone number and directions. Here are five mobile marketing tips and trends for small business, looking ahead to 2013:

1. You Must Provide Information with Local Relevance

The key to success in mobile for 2013 will be to provide information with local relevance along with local offers. “If an ad or listing doesn’t have local relevance at the time of action, the consumer will move on to the next business, so including local phone numbers rather than toll-free numbers is helpful,” says Bill Dinan, president of Telemetrics, a firm that provides call tracking services.

In the Nielsen survey, mobile users cited local relevance and local offers and promotions as the top reasons for engaging with mobile advertising.

2. Pay Attention to Timing

Consumers use their mobile devices differently depending on the specific product or service they are looking for. In general, when someone searches for business information on a mobile device their so-called “purchase intent” is strong. But the exact timing depends on what they’re looking for.

For example, about 87 percent of people searching for a restaurant on a mobile device plan to go there the same day – often within the hour. In the travel category, however, most mobile searches are research based and don’t always result in immediate buying decisions. In the autos category, searches are a mixture of quick purchases and research type activity. About 49 percent of searchers intend to make a purchase the same day.

Overall, about 85 percent of mobile restaurant searchers, 51 percent of mobile auto searchers and 46 percent of mobile travel searchers ultimately make a purchase. The study focused on restaurants, autos and travel because they rank as three of the top categories projected to show major mobile growth over the next three to five years. But results are similar in other categories as well.

3. Tablet Trends are Changing the Mobile Mix

Growing popularity of tablet type devices such as the iPad (and their new mini tablet siblings) is altering the mix of how consumers use mobile, and how you should approach mobile marketing in 2013:  Here are some key tablet trends:

  • Across all vertical categories, tablet owners mostly use their device at home (72 percent) while smart phone users mostly use their device on the go (68 percent)
  • Among smart phone users, local directory apps are most popular for restaurant and automotive users, while brand websites are most popular for travel users. For tablet users, however, branded websites are the most popular among all categories.

4. Making Your Website Mobile-Friendly is More Important than Ever

Consumers shun using browser search on mobile devices, preferring to go directly sites or apps. This means that having visibility for your business specifically geared to mobile is extremely important. To help consumers find you in mobile, make sure your website is mobile compatible or consider creating a dedicated mobile site.

Also, get listed in mobile directories and Google Places, and include mobile advertising in your marketing mix. xAd (www.xAd.com) is among the largest mobile-local ad networks in the U.S. and one of the few that offers the ability to target ads by both location and search context.

5. Tailor Local Offers and Deals for Mobile Users

Keep in mind that mobile users greatly favor ads and listings that include specially-tailored offers and deals. Many local businesses are achieving success with limited time ads and offers targeting people in the area via their mobile devices. For best results, also include a strong call to action and stress local exclusivity.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

3 Deadly QR Code Miscues and How to Fix Them

Quick Response (QR) codes are turning up more frequently in small business advertising and marketing materials, including posters, business cards, packaging, drink coasters and you name it. But unless local businesses use them properly, QR codes are wasting your time.  But few businesses are using QR codes in a way that lets them track their marketing campaigns effectively, says Scott Wilson, founder and CEO of RankHigher.ca, a Canadian internet marketing and SEO firm.

“QR codes used the right way can be a fantastic marketing tool,” says Wilson. “Wouldn’t it be great to track your web traffic directly back to that beer coaster in the restaurant or the coupon you mass mailed to thousands of homes? That’s vital information for any marketer. The problem is that most companies are missing these opportunities because of basic mistakes.”

Here are the three most common QR code miscues and what to do about them:

Miscue #1: Using cookie-cutter QR code patterns churned out by online generators, which are mistakenly read as direct traffic to a website by Google Analytics.  Solution: Have the QR code send traffic to a URL location where Google’s tracking software can monitor your marketing work and redirect to the desired location.

Miscue #2:  Using long URLs in QR Codes makes complicated codes that are difficult or impossible for consumers to scan. Solution: Keep the URL short so your QR code will be simpler and easier for scanners to read, not to mention easier to fit on a business card.

Miscue #3: Using third-party services, such as bit.ly, to shorten URLs attached to QR codes, leaving them vulnerable to potential technological problems or service changes.  Solution: Host your QR code URL on your own domain so you have full control to quickly fix errors. If a third party URL shortener goes down, so does your entire QR code marketing campaign.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

12 Top Tools to Manage Your Social Media Marketing

Small business owners who are successful at marketing through social media often have help from a growing arsenal of time-saving tools and services that make it easier and more effective. Taking advantage of these tools can mean the difference between having time to make social media marketing work for your business or not.

Here are 12 of the most popular web-based services that are being used by small businesses to keep the time commitment in check, while leveraging the power of social media. Some have similar features so it’s best to try them out and see what works best for you before deciding which to use.

1)    Shortstack (www.shortstack.com) is a service that helps businesses design a better looking Facebook page and customize it with such things as contests, forms, videos and more.  The service is free for pages that have up to 2,000 “likes.” Beyond that, a tiered pricing system kicks in.

2)    Buffer (www.bufferapp.com) is a great way to schedule your social media activity. The service lets you add posts and tweets to your “buffer” from anywhere and have them automatically distributed throughout the day.  By keeping your buffer topped off with content, you can be assured of having a fresh social media presence for an entire week or more.

3)    Postling (www.postling.com) was designed with small business users in mind and provides easy-to-use tools, alerts and insights that will help you get the most out of social media marketing. Postling lets you publish to all of the major social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress, Tumblr and Flickr and schedule your posts in advance.  It also pulls comments from all of your social media sites into one place which saves a lot of time and effort for responding.

4)    TweetDeck (www.tweetdeck.com), which is owned by Twitter, is a “dashboard” from which you can manage a variety of social media. It allows you to monitor and manage unlimited accounts, schedule tweets to suit your audience and filter content to focus on what matters to you the most.

5)    HootSuite (www.hootsuite.com) is similar to TweetDeck and lets you manage all of your social media accounts on a single dashboard.  This is a good solution if more than one person at your business posts to your social media accounts.

6)    MediaFeedia (www.mediafeedia.com) is a free business tool for Facebook (only) that lets you manage multiple fan pages from one dashboard, schedule content, track messages and distribute deals through something called Mediafeedia Offers.

7)    Sprout Social (www.sproutsocial.com) is a popular tool among small businesses to monitor what’s being said about you online, schedule and publish updates to your social media pages with one click, and track your efforts with various reports.

8)    Pagelever (www.pagelever.com) is a highly affordable analytics tool that’s all about measuring your social media marketing results. It produces professional looking charts and graphs showing traffic, fans, users, comments and more, including some demographic data.

9)    If you blog for your business, Disqus (www.disqus.com) is a terrific plugin for getting more marketing mileage out of reader comments. This takes the standard “comments” function that exists on most blogs and turns it into a social media machine that lets users sign in and comment via a variety of platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.

10) Constant Contact, a leader in email marketing, offers a service called NutshellMail (www.nutshellmail.com) that’s a social media lifesaver for business owners who prefer to receive updates via email. NutshellMail tracks what’s being said about your business in social media, packages it up in a “nutshell” and sends a summary email to you on whatever schedule you choose.

11) Crowdbooster (www.crowdbooster.com) is a handy way to keep track of your social media accounts and marketing efforts from a single dashboard. It will automatically post to Facebook and Twitter, keeps track of your “likes” and followers and tells you how often your content is being shared.

12) Shoutlet (www.shoutlet.com) is a do-it-yourself platform for managing social media marketing. But it’s a fairly sophisticated service, favored by many larger businesses as well. It offers a wide range of features, including sophisticated data capture, customer relationship management (CRM) and unlimited accounts.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

10 Small Business Predictions for 2012

Technology shapes how small businesses survive and thrive, and 2012 will see record numbers of small businesses harness the power of technology and especially new online productivity tools to grow their businesses. Jerry Nettuno, founder and CEO of Schedulicity, which is one of those online tools, shares his small business predictions for 2012: 

1.      Daily deals dive: The daily deal space exploded last year, but 2012 will see deal shrinkage of 30% or more. Rapid contraction will leave just a couple of “big guys,” some vertically positioned players and a long tail of locals finding ways to thrive by serving a few small regions or cities.

2.  Surviving deals get a makeover:  Burned by go-for-broke deals, many local businesses will fine tune and target their offers to strengthen loyalty. The more geographically concentrated your customer-base is, the better your chances of turning deal-seekers into repeat buyers. Look for an increase in frequent buyer and perk programs to support this movement in 2012.

3.   Small businesses move to the cloud. The ability to self-publish quickly via the cloud is moving businesses out of traditional media.  Productivity services such as Google Docs, Zoho Creator, Office 365 (from Microsoft) and many others are making it easier than ever to operate entirely online.  Low cost tablet computers will let more service professionals and small business owners run their businesses from a mobile device. 

4.      Breakthrough tools arrive. Emerging technology will spawn more break-through productivity tools.  Business owners will see new, off-the-shelf ways to connect with consumers.  With the launch of Siri, Apple’s new voice-activated personal assistant application, developers will be hard at work on amazing voice-activated apps that will offer a unique way for local businesses to stand out.

5.      The “Digital Coupon Book” takes off:  The move to more online shopping turns passive discount recipients into active coupon seekers.  Digital “coupon books” will dominate within the next two years, offering small businesses another way to leverage existing customer relationships with hyper-local offers.  We’ll see a growth in local offer networks, personalized consumer dashboards and highly targeted deals.

6.      The appointment book disappears.  The success of sites such as Schedulicity, OpenTable and ZocDoc reinforce the idea that the traditional pen and paper appointment book may soon disappear.  The number of appointments booked online is soaring.  Schedulicity alone has seen nearly 7 million appointments booked online since mid-2009. 

7.      Mobile commerce soars.  Mobile payment, location-based promotions, and mobile scheduling will all change the way small business owners conduct business in 2012.  Whether iPad or iPhone, Kindle Fire or Droid, the move to mobile will continue apace.  Making your business website mobile-friendly is only a start.  As more and more consumers are making mobile a mainstay, it will be essential for small businesses to have a mobile commerce strategy to tap into this opportunity.

8.      Thinking “local” gains steam.  With a still-shaky economy and unbending unemployment rates, 2012 is poised to be trying for small business.  Small business owners need to think local – the headlines in the local newspaper and the vibe on Main Street are more important than what’s being talked about on CNBC.

9.      Social media gets marketing money.  Social media marketing isn’t just for early adopters anymore.  Big brands and Fortune 500 companies have spent the past three years discovering (and utilizing) the marketing capabilities of Facebook, Twitter, and other online tools.  In 2012, more small businesses will expand online and embrace Facebook as the dominant social media marketing tool for local business.

10.  The client continues to be king.  Small business and independent service professionals are no longer “too busy for new clients.”  Taking advantage of networking opportunities and exploring new online listing options will help small businesses make themselves known and available to new clients. 

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

Inside Tips on Using Google +1 for Business

Right now, Google officials are quietly meeting with corporate partners to enlist support for the much-anticipated business version of Google+, their new social media platform. Soon (they hope), local businesses will be competing to be “+1s” from customers (similar to a “Like” on Facebook).  Here’s a sneak peak at what Google execs are saying:

  • Circles:  Big G says today’s social media experience is “sloppy” (we only connect with certain people at certain times); “scary” (all online conversations are public); and “insensitive” (we all define friend and family differently).  With G+ Circles, you can separate groups of coworkers and customers, which lets you share certain information only with the people it’s meant for.
  • Sparks:  Sparks is meant to be an online sharing tool that feeds you relevant content from the web.  Businesses can use it to stay up to date on important news about an industry, profession or competitor.  
  • Hangouts:  Connecting with others online can be awkward.  When someone doesn’t respond to a request, you aren’t sure if they’re not there, or just not interested. Through multi-person video chat, Google+ Hangouts changes the game.  For example, businesses can arrange video conferences with up to 10 employees or co-workers; or use Hangouts as your own live customer support line.
  • +1:  Putting +1 buttons on your website will let customer recommend your business, site, page or content to friends and contacts.  Consider it free word of mouth marketing.
  • Photo sharing for business: A phone is a perfect collaboration tool for business owners since it’s always with you and always online. But getting photos off your phone is a pain. Google+ instant upload lets users add photos to a private site in the cloud, and even add locations.
  • (Also see ShopTalk: Social Media’s “What Local Business Should Know now about Google Plus.”)

The +1 Button is the Key

The +1 button lets users recommend you right on Google search – or from your own site, if you have the button installed.  Adding the +1 button to your business website gives customers and other visitors another way to endorse your business or brand.  The more +1’s your business collects, the better. Having +1’s will improve search results for your business, product or service, and also give your ads more oomph.   It works like this:

1)      Julie clicks the +1 button next to your online ad or organic search result about your business. This now becomes a public recommendation, linked to her profile.

2)      Her contacts will see a personalized “annotation” (more on this below) on her own search results and ads showing that Julie “+1’d” (pronounced PLUS-ONE’D) it.

Where to Get the Button

Google has created a special page for businesses and webmasters to learn more about the +1 button, download the code and even create customized versions of the button for specific uses.  That’s where you’ll find everything you need.  Put the button wherever you think it will be most effective. On the top half of the page, near the title of the page, and close to sharing links are good locations. Placing the +1 button at both the end and the beginning of an article or story can also be effective.

How +1 Affects Search Results and Traffic

Basically, +1 helps people find relevant content—a website, a search result, or an ad—from people they know. As G+ expands, the +1 button will appear on more and more websites and ads.  You’ll see a +1 button on a Google search result or next to an article you’re reading on a news or industry site.

Adding the +1 button to pages on your own site lets users recommend your content, knowing that their friends and contacts will see their recommendation when it’s most relevant—in the context of their future Google searches (yes, a little scary, but true).  Personalized annotations next to your page in search results may increase your site’s visibility and click-through rate. To see how +1 affects your search traffic, try the +1 Metrics tool available in Google Webmaster Tools.  Available metrics include:

  • Search impact: See the pages on your site that received the most impressions with a +1 annotation, and see how +1 annotations impact click-through rate.
  • Activity: See the total number of +1’s received by pages on your site.
  • Audience: See aggregated information about people who have +1’d your pages, including the total number of unique users, their location, and their age and gender.

Google+ Annotations

Personalized annotations display the faces of friends and social connections who’ve already +1’d a piece of content. Google tries to display +1’s to people (specifically those in the user’s social connections) who would find them most useful. By making the recommendations more discoverable, users will be more engaged with your site. 

How to Stay in the Loop

To preview the latest updates to the Google+ platform, subscribe to the Google+ Platform Preview group.  For updates specifically about the +1 button, subscribe to the Google Publisher Buttons Announce Group.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

15 Great Tools and Apps to Grow Your Business

One of the great things happening in the digital world these days is the steady parade of helpful applications (apps), web-based tools and online services for small business.  Here’s our shortlist of some of the newest, most interesting or under-the-radar tools, services and apps you should know about:

  1. Appbistro (www.appbistro.com) is an app for finding apps.  It’s an easy-to-use marketplace (just search or browse) of Facebook business applications – some free; some fee – that can help you create a more engaging Facebook page for your local business.
  2. The ASBDC Loan Center is a new service that aims to connect small business owners with willing lenders. It’s a partnership between the Association of Small Business Development Centers and BoeFly.  Visit: www.boefly.com.
  3. JitterJam (www.jitterjam.com) is a web-based social marketing app that combines social media, email and mobile engagement with a contact database and tools to turn social interaction into new revenue opportunities. It helps your business realize measurable return on your social engagement by providing you with a social marketing and customer development system.
  4. Sign Up is a simple (yet flexible) app from North Social (www.northsocial.com) that lets you create contact forms and online surveys directly on your Facebook page so you can easily collect helpful marketing data. You can customize the appearance of the app by uploading a header image and choose whether people must “like” the page in order to view it.
  5. Work for Us (www.work4labs.com) lets you post job openings and even take applications right from your Facebook Page, for free.  If your business isn’t yet posting jobs online, this is a great way to get into the game.  It also lets you leverage the power of social networking to create awareness of your job openings.
  6. Vimeo PRO (www.vimeo.com/pro) is a new service that makes it easy and affordable for small businesses to host their own high quality videos. This can help restaurants better showcase their food and atmosphere.  Real estate agents will find it helpful to show higher quality home previews.
  7. BetterWorks (www.betterworks.com) is a new kind of web-based employee perks program and management system that helps small businesses provide a range of benefits and product or service discounts to employees.
  8. Nefsis (www.nefsis.com) offers business-grade video conferencing, including Nefsis Basic, a free, cloud-based video service for small business.
  9. Buckaroo (www.buckaroo.com) has a new web-based tool that lets small businesses run custom email and social media promotions.  Merchants can upload an email list and company logo, and send sharable promotions to customers.
  10. Schedulicity (www.schedulicity.com) has a new app called Deal Manager that helps appointment-dependant businesses control the flow of discounted services generated from a daily deal promotion.
  11. Batchbook (www.batchbook.com) is a handy contact management app lets you easily keep track of your business, personal, and social networking contacts and share them with others. Create a flexible contact database from scratch, or import contacts from another system.
  12. Picnik (www.picnik.com) is a terrific – and free – online tool for any small business that needs to edit, crop, resize and share photos and other images, but can’t afford the time and money buy and learn Photoshop software.  Offers an easy to use yet powerful editing tool. Get creative with choices of effects, fonts, shapes and frames.
  13. Dlvr.it (www.dlvr.it) is a nifty social syndication tool that can help you manage and distribute content to your blog, Facebook page, Twitter account and other social networking locations.
  14. Updater (www.updater.com) is a helpful online tool to manage your offline mail.  This tool arms you with the ability to control who can access and use your postal mailing address, and gives you a way to stop unwanted paper mail. Also simplifies change of address.
  15. Carbonite (www.carbonite.com), a leader in online backup solutions, launched a Carbonite Business solution specially made to get small business into online backup, with anywhere-anytime access to stored files.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

10 Ways to Fight a Growing Computer Security Threat

I don’t mean to scare you (check that; I actually do mean to scare you), but here’s something you should know:  Small business is now a prime target of hackers and data thieves intent on stealing credit card and other sensitive information.

Think you aren’t vulnerable or that it can’t happen to your business?  Think again. Major credit card companies now estimate that 95 percent of data theft they uncover happens at the very smallest businesses that accept credit cards (and thus have customer credit card information; if only briefly).

The data theft divisions of Verizon (which operates data transmission networks) and the U.S. Secret Service, which investigates cyber crimes, saw data theft reports at small businesses jump 400% last year.

The reason is simple:  Hackers find small businesses to be easy targets. Even a local hair salon, pizza shop or dental office has names, addresses and credit card data. And with more small businesses now storing information electronically, the opportunities for data theft have soared.  And it will get worse before it gets better.

The problem is tricky because it takes so many different forms. One common hacker tactic is to plant malicious software programs called “malware” on small business computers.  These programs, sometimes sent to employees as email links or attachments, can steal information and send it undetected over the web. Point-of-service credit card terminals are an increasingly common target as well.

Here are 10 ways to protect your business:

1)    Keep security software up to date:  If you do nothing else, installing (or updating) the latest versions of anti-virus and anti-spyware software will provide some protection. 

2)    Use a secure wireless connection and a good firewall: Many small businesses use unsecured wireless networks.  That’s asking for trouble. The old standard, known as WEP, is useless. What you need is WPA2 Encryption, the current standard in data protection.

3)    Segregate your sensitive data:  The fewer places your sensitive information is stored, the less you have to worry about. For example, credit card information should be segregated from other data and from your network as well.

4)    Revise and rethink your passwords: Many small businesses are victimized by data theft and other computer crimes simply because they have weak passwords. Change passwords regularly, and use strong ones that are not predictable. Some experts suggest using three-word or more password “phrases.” These can actually be easier to remember and quicker to type.

5)    Don’t leave computers unsecured: Require logins for all computers and laptops, and set them to return to the login screen after five or ten minutes of inactivity.  Only download or install applications that come from trusted sources.

6)    Avoid direct connections to the Internet: Many small businesses don’t have networks or routers and simply plug directly into the Internet. But business owners can block many common threats by using a quality router, such as a Netgear or Buffalo brand router and making sure to change the router password from the default setting.

7)    Upgrade security policies and email standards: In this age of social media it’s more important than ever to set policies and standards on what types of information can be shared online. And many businesses still treat email as confidential communication, which it isn’t. Think of emails more like postcards, and not sealed letters.

8)    Protect tablets and mobile devices, too. Mobile phones, iPads and similar devices should also be password protected and kept in secured storage when not in use. Avoid storing any sensitive data on these devices.

9)    Use a secure SSL connection for sending or receiving data: Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is an encrypted Internet connection for sending data safely over the Internet.

10) Get help: OnGuard Online (www.onguardonline.gov) offers practical tips on computer security from tech specialists. SANS (www.sans.org) is one of the world’s most trusted sources for information security training.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

A Digital Replacement for Paper Loyalty Cards

The tried-and-true “Buy 10 get 1 free” loyalty card is being replaced by a new service called Stampt that lets retailers move their loyalty reward programs from paper cards to a smart phone application.  Stampt, which has just rolled out nationally, provides local merchants a more effective way to increase customer loyalty and stimulate more purchases.

Small businesses in San Francisco, Cincinnati, Chicago, and New York are already using Stampt, including restaurants, yoga studios, coffee shops, yogurt and ice cream stores, delicatessens, dry cleaners, auto repair shops and others.  The service will now be available coast to coast, and offers quick and easy sign-up. Each merchant card and offer is unique and branded for that merchant. Some sample offers include:

  • Buy 7 coffee drinks, Get 1 Free
  • Make 5 purchases over $10, Get a $15 gift card
  • Buy 7 yoga sessions, Get 1 Free

Digital “cards” will reinvent customer loyalty for local business by making it mobile and social. It’s more convenient and effect, and eliminates the problem of lost and forgotten cards.  Business owners can also benefit from improved customer interactions and insights into how loyalty programs are used, now captured digitally.  You’ll finally get a better handle on the impact of your loyalty program. Plus, consumers love it because the app lets them build loyalty at more places, more often, without the nuisance of paper cards.

How it Works:  Consumers pull out their smart phone at the point of sale and scan a Stampt “Quick Scan Card” that the merchant places near the register. The system records the visit and reward-eligible purchase, and stamps the customer’s digital card. Getting “Stampt” for the purchase is fast and easy.  It’s a perpetual incentive program that motivates consumers to use the service regularly.   Stampt is super easy to set-up and use, requiring zero systems integration and perhaps three minutes of training for store clerks.

Special offers and announcements:  Local businesses can also use the platform to offer news and special offers directly to customers who can see (and react) to offers within 15 minutes.  

Social interaction:  Customers can also post their Stampt activity to Facebook and Twitter, allowing their friends and followers to see where they’re earning rewards.    

Information reporting:  Participating merchants receive reports showing helpful information that’s impossible to get with paper cards, including these key metrics:

  • The number of active card holders
  • How frequently customers purchase
  • How recently they’ve visited
  • Most visited times of the day
  • What products and services customers are buying.

Business owners can use this information in direct marketing campaigns through Stampt.

Getting Started:  Any retailer, of any size, in any location, can use this free customer loyalty service.  Merchants simply visit Stampt.com and fill out a short registration form.  You can then specify the type of loyalty reward program you want to offer (buy 10 get-one-free; buy five get 20 percent off; buy one get 50 percent off; etc.).  Participating merchants also receive a kit with posters, a window sticker, and the Stampt “Quick Scan Card” that is placed near the register.

To learn more and sign up for a free merchant kit or download the app visit www.Stampt.com.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

ShopKick is Next Big Thing in Local Social Commerce

Remember this name: ShopKick. You’re about to starting seeing a lot more of it. ShopKick is a new mobile application that tracks and rewards customers with points (called KickBucks) just for walking into your store. Think of it as a new digital way to easily drive foot traffic into your location. 

Customers earn additional points for picking up and scanning the barcode on an item in your store using their smartphone’s camera and, of course, for making purchases. The more involved with your store a shopper becomes, the more KickBucks they can earn. It’s like a digital version of the old-style repeat-purchase punch card, but with vastly more capabilities.  

KickBucks can then be redeemed for rewards such as discounts, gift cards, merchandise and charitable donations. Consumers simply download the free ShopKick app to their smartphones and start looking for nearby stores and restaurants offering “Kicks Rewards.” The ShopKick FAQ section helps explain in detail how the app works from the customer’s point of view.

ShopKick is amazingly simple and – apparently – effective as well.  Several big retailers such as Crate & Barrel, American Eagle, Macy’s and Target began experimenting with it in 2010.  Best Buy, the electronics big box giant, likes it so much it recently rolled it out nationwide.

The big news, however, is that ShopKick has just launched a pilot program to begin offering the service to local businesses in 11 cities and metro areas, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Austin, Seattle, Washington, DC, Detroit and New Orleans. Initially, 1,000 local businesses will be selected to participate and will get the service free for a year.

While any local business can apply for free, the preferred types of businesses for the experimental program are coffee shops, yogurt shops, bakeries, family restaurants and local clothing boutiques.  Other factors in your favor include these:  You have less than 20 locations are located in a shopping area, have a good Yelp rating and a distinctive store design.  Citibank is picking up the tab for the pilot program, and clearly sees big things ahead for ShopKick. Citi officials see it as an exciting new retail program that local businesses can use to help them connect with customers in their communities.  

A New Local Mobile Frontier

The huge growth of mobile commerce via smart phones is fueling Palo Alto, CA-based ShopKick and will change how customers interact with a local business. Already, about 20% of consumers use their mobile phones to check prices, according to a recent Booz & Company study. As smartphone penetration more than doubles over the next 3-4 years, that figure is expected to soar as well.  Booz & Co. also predicts that purchases made directly from mobile devices will more than triple by 2014.

It creates a new personalized experience for customers to tap into when shopping at local merchants.  And according to BIA Kelsey, which tracks local marketing trends, ShopKick is already available in 2,500 big retailer locations and 160 malls nationwide.

In short, ShopKick is a new retail technology that – for the first time – starts to meld the previously separate worlds of selling either online or offline.  Armed with their app-equipped mobile devices, customers can now exist simultaneously in both the digital and physical shopping worlds.

ShopKick, founded in 2009, has high-powered venture capital funding, and counts Kleiner Perkins, Greylock Partners and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman among its backers.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

10 Ways Small Business Uses Google Apps

BizBest has often recommended Google apps (some free; some fee) as great productivity tools that any small business or startup can access quickly and easily, including business email through Gmail, shared online calendars (Google Calendar), documents, spreadsheets and presentations (Google Docs), easy-to-build websites (Google Sites), and many others.  

These easy-to-use applications offer dozens of ways to leverage the web to work efficiently and get ahead of the competition.  Here are 10 ways that small business owners are using Google Apps for key tasks every day using Google’s template galleries for such tasks as invoicing, conducting customer surveys, managing employees, building a budget, writing a business plan or creating a website.

The first six tasks use the Google Docs template gallery; the other four use website templates from Google Sites.

  1. Design your business letterhead:  Create a professional looking template for your outgoing letters and share it with others in the company. Print letters directly from your browser.
  2. Build a business budget: Easily build budgeting spreadsheet that you can edit from anywhere throughout the year – no matter where your spending takes you.
  3. Create professional looking invoices: Save time by creating invoices in a spreadsheet – totals are automatically calculated, and you can share them with co-workers to ensure accuracy and speedy payments.
  4. Survey your customers: Get feedback from customers and visitors about your product or service with a form. Easily analyze and graph the data.
  5. Write a business plan: Put your vision down in a doc. Share it with family, investors, banks, and others to get input and spread your ideas.
  6. Manage your projects:  Give others in your company insight into key milestones, completion dates, and other project details.
  7. Build your own company intranet: Build an internal website (intranet) where employees can access company news, employee training information, company policies, holiday schedules, and more.
  8. Track all of your projects: Centralize project information in one place. Display a team profile and key dates, and embed project docs and spreadsheets directly in the site.
  9. Take your team online: Build a team site with team rosters, schedule team meetings, and track progress of action items all in one place.
  10. Create an in-house community:  Build a community by creating employee profile pages where your employees can post their goals, internal resume, and internal blog.

Also check out some of Google’s new resources, including product videos and other templates at www.google.com/apps/smb.

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