If you would like to find out more about any of these articles,
or would like help delivering your business objectives,
please do get in touch.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

SEO - it's about good content and not second guessing algorithms

SEO is changing. 

Two recent articles caught my eye and explain what is currently happening.

In the first article, Econsultancy argue that SEO is not as complicated as you think:
"Google is very public about why it keeps making its search algorithms more complex; it wants to serve the best, most relevant content to its users."
Secondly, this article from Mashable questions whether we are coming to the end of SEO:
"SEO is not going to get easier. It's going to get harder and eventually will most likely be next to impossible - because Google's algorithms are always a step ahead of the marketers trying to game them. And with no keyword reporting, a major support system for SEO has been, quite simply, taken away."
And if you want to hear it from the horses mouth, please read this article in the Google Webmaster Tools blog entitled 'Create Valuable Content.'

I'm happy about these changes. They mean we have to focus on our users and not on anonymous search engine algorithms. It's time to relax and concentrate on writing great content. This in itself will encourage more people to visit your website and more people to share it.

I suggest creating a medium term month content plan (e.g. six months) for your website and social media channels. This plan should be aligned to your business and marketing objectives and should play an integral part in delivering these objectives.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Website behaviours in China

This second article on China online is an introduction to website behaviour in China.

The first article about online market trends in China is here, while the next one will focus on social media.

China presents a massive opportunity for UK businesses; but at the same time presents many challenges. Business is done differently and online behaviours are also different....

E-commerce in China

Currently 250m of the population shop online. This is less than 50% of active internet users.

There is less trust for retailer websites and most consumers prefer using a third party platform (such as Amazon although it has very low market share in China).

Popular  websites include:

TMall - this is the largest website (over 50% market share) and due to the high set up costs is only for more established brands. Businesses need to be registered in China. TMall stock a lot of well known fashion brands including M&S, Asos and Burberry.

Alternatively, if you do not have a local Chinese office, you can sell on TMall Global. You can ship from the UK but a deposit, annual fee and commission are still payable.

Taobao is the equivalent to Ebay. No deposit is required to gain listings and so can be a cheaper entry to market.

VIP.com, Jumei, jd.com, and yhd.com are other third party platforms.

Amazon is present in China. Although this provides the simplest way to list brands and test the market in China, their market share is low at around 2%.

The most important day in the e-commerce calendar is Singles Day on 11th November. It started as a day for giving gift to single people but it has grown into much more than that.


Given the high entry costs, it may be simpler and more cost effective to test the market by having your own Chinese focused website, hosted in the UK.

The firewall used to make this option impractical, but speeds have improved and this is now a viable option. You will need to check if your speeds are ok. If not, hosting in Hong Kong can be an alternative option.

You won't be able to register a .cn domain name unless you have a business registered in China so a .com will have to suffice.

Aliplay can be a good payment gateway. The Chinese currency is not traded on foreign markets and so they will collect funds for you and pay you periodically. They also take care of import duties.

Cash on delivery is normal in China as not everyone has credit cards.

There is no Google Analytics in China but they do have an equally good service called Baidu Tonji.

Website usage

Users in China interact with websites differently to the West.

The average age of internet usage in China is currently 25 (much younger than the average age of 42 in the USA).

Eye tracking studies show that users in China will spend longer on each page and like to see detailed information. They need to be reassured, they want to know who you are, what you do and the benefits of your products on each and every page. Minimalism should be avoided.

Users are willing to scroll and scroll down pages; provided the information is useful.

Consumers are sceptical and suspicious. Consumer advocacy is key and goes a very long way in building your brand. Product reviews are taken very seriously.

After-care and trust are very important in China and details of your customer service needs to be prominent. Websites commonly have Live Chat as a sign of trust and availability.

Consumers are used to freebies and discounts. In fact, the more generous you are, the more your brand is considered a success!

For mobile usage, Android is far more popular than iOS.

I hope that you have found this article useful. My thanks to the UKTI for hosting the recent event from which much of this information was gleaned.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Using the internet to export to China

Yesterday I attended a UKTI seminar on E-commerce in China.

Why you may ask? Because, as everyone knows, China is a rather large economy and one that continues to grow. Although none of my clients currently export to China it can only be a matter of time when they, or a new client, does; and I want to be ready to help!

I learned a lot and will split my observations over three articles. This first one will focus on general market trends, the second on how and where to sell online in China; while the final article will focus on social media in China.

The Chinese market

After years of very high growth, the Chinese economy is now 'slowing' to around 7.5% per annum. This is considered to be 'better quality' growth in that foreign investment is now encouraged and wealth is now spreading beyond the Eastern coast and into the interior.

The Chinese economic model is now shifting from an export-investment model towards greater domestic consumption. This offers greater opportunities for exporting high quality consumer goods from the West.

Traditionally, exporters have focused on Beijing and Shanghai. However, not only are these two cities already saturated with competition, it also ignores the rapid growth elsewhere in China. The size of the country makes it difficult to retail goods in every area which is why e-commerce can provide a good solution especially as the infrastructure is rapidly improving.

Being a large country, not only does the climate vary from sub tropical to very cold, but the population also vary in terms of attitude and even size! Understanding a very wide range of consumer profiles is essential.

The Chinese consumer

Estimates for 2020 suggest the middle class will grow to being 71% of the population in advanced cities, 67% in developing cities and 42% in emerging cities.

Middle class isn't measured on how much they earn or how big their house is, but how much disposable income they have (normally high due their being the inherited beneficiaries of the one child policy...) and their aspirations.

The statistics below are from Social Media Today.

About 45% are online - that is 618m people. However, internet speeds do vary greatly across the country.

A similar number are active users of social media.

Mobile phones penetration stands at 91%.

Register your trademark now!

The most important thing, repeated again and again, was even if you are not ready to export to China yet, it is worth spending around £1000 on trademarking your name. Once your application is in, you have protection even though the process can take 12-18 monte to complete.

There are many stories of brands exhibiting in Europe, or even just exporting to one country and someone trademarking the name in China. It can take years and cost thousands of dollars to regain your brand name....

Friday, 20 June 2014

the boathouse, Bradford on Avon Marina

My latest project has been to help launch the newly refurbished boathouse in Bradford on Avon.

This was formerly the Beef and Barge which had closed a few months ago. Although in a prime spot looking over a marina filled with narrowboats, the pub had struggled and was in need of a major refurbishment.

Fortunately, the new owners of the nearby Widbrook Grange Hotel saw an opportunity and grabbed it with both hands!

I have worked with the hotel for some years and was asked to set up a holding page for the new pub and then a full website for launch.

Social Media Strategy

In addition, I set up their social media profiles and managed their online marketing in order to create a buzz ahead of the launch.

With a new refurbishment, there is a ready made story. I visited every few days, took photos throughout the process and posted them online. Countdowns to the reopening, 10% off vouchers and a steady release of news all helped to generate a buzz.

It was interesting and rewarding to see how the Facebook Page grew so quickly. Clearly there was a willingness amongst the local community to see the pub re-open and lots of excitement at seeing the refurbishment happen.

Within one month, we grew Facebook likes to over 1500 by the opening (way ahead of our target of 1000). Admittedly, we did spend some money on Facebook Ads but they were targeted on the core audience and the high levels of engagement proved that the adverts were working.

Twitter wasn't quite so popular. However, it did reach people (in particular local businesses and journalists), that were more active here than they were on Facebook; and so it was important to cover both platforms.

Email Marketing

I also designed their email newsletter templates and we devised a 10% off voucher to encourage sign ups. This was publicised via Facebook, Twitter and the website and succeeded in substantially growing the number of subscribers.

"Everyone knew about it"

Chris, the General Manager, reported that when they handed out flyers in the centre of Bradford on Avon a couple of weeks before the opening, everyone had heard about the boathouse reopening.

Why was the marketing activity such a success? 

Because it was a multi channel approach. It encompassed both traditional marketing and online marketing. Traditional marketing activities included:

  • Banners were put up outside the pub - as it is situated on the road between Trowbridge and Bradford on Avon, it was very visible to lots of people. 
  • Local press - articles were published in the Wiltshire Times, the Community website and Local Life (where they ran a competition and included a recipe from the menu).
  • Flyers, with vouchers which encouraged people to try the menu in the first few weeks of opening, were handed out in town and distributed to local businesses.

This multi channel activity demonstrates that social media does not make traditional marketing redundant, but compliments it. 

The good news is that the pub was fully booked over the first weekend and continues to be very popular.

The boathouse is a welcome addition to the Bradford on Avon pub and restaurant scene and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute to its successful launch.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

The differences between social media platforms

It is one of life's challenges - to explain the differences between the various social media platforms. Which one should you use to communicate certain messages? How differently do people interact with each platform?

There is no right answer; there are no rules which cover all eventualities.

However, I saw this quote in today's Guardian and I thought it provided a neat summary:

"If Twitter is a lively, rambunctious public salon and Facebook a warm gathering of friends and family, LinkedIn is a group of dead-eyed, sharp elbowed junior executives in the bar of an airport Novotel at 2am after a conference, slapping themselves on the back, while scanning their peers for signs of weakness."

Ok, it may be a bit of a cynical view about LinkedIn, but I do think the Twitter / Facebook comparison is a good one.

The other point I enjoyed is "Thou shalt chill out a bit with the goddamn #hashtags." They used to help in searching for topics but they are no longer required. If you must use a #hashtag, then please use them sparingly. 

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Email Marketing for Mobile

A quick post today to mention a very useful article on the Econsultancy website about how to optimise your email newsletters for mobile.

The key points that the article makes are to ensure the senders name describes your organisation and the optimum length for the subject line is 45 characters.

And a bonus link! Web Designer Depot published this introduction to good email practice design yesterday.

If you would like any advice with email newsletters, I'm here to help!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The Future of Export in a Digital Age

I have been meaning to share the notes I made at a very interesting event that I attended last month in Gloucestershire.

The keynote was presented by the fascinating David A Smith of Global Futures and Foresight. He's a futurologist, which all sounds a bit mystical, but I can assure you his talk was very relevant.

As with all future predictions, there is guesswork but the trends seem reasonably likely.

Your first question may be "why am I going to something like this?" Well, half my business is now in digital marketing. My background in commerce means that my remit with clients can often expand beyond the original brief of designing a website or social media support. I have helped develop export markets for a couple of businesses in recent months. So it helps to have as wide a knowledge as possible on issues that may impact future business strategies.

Below are some interesting points made during the day. I know there are "lies, damned lines and statistics," but I think these statistics are worth thinking about when developing new strategies for your export markets.

1) "We do the old things using new technology." The point being, recent inventions are often used for existing activities, but their convenience is not established for a number of years. For example, tins were invented in 1810 but the tin opener wasn't patented until 1858!

2) Is the world economy going full circle? In 1820, China was the world's biggest economy and India was second....

3) The world middle class continues to grow. By 2020 it is estimated that 52% of the world population will be middle class. This will have a massive impact on consumption. Further more, by 2040, it is estimated that Africa will have 2bn more people in the middle class.

4) The top 75 cities in the world will generate 30% of world GDP by 2025. 40% of these cities will be in China, 13 in the USA and 3 in Europe (London being one of them).

5) 24% of people currently live in countries where Islam is the main religion. This is estimated to grow to 33% by 2050 and 37% in 2100. Are your products suitable and available in these markets?

6) The population is ageing. Mature economies will have a third of their population (up from 22%) above retirement age by 2025. In the developing world it will increase from 9% to 20%. This means we have to think about how we communicate with older people - is the font on our websites large enough for people to read?

7) Internet usage will double worldwide by 2025 - to 2.5bn people.

8) Mobile usage will surpass desktop usage this year. It's time to ensure that your website is optimised for the mobile web. At present, only 33% of websites are.... The internet and mobility will converge.

9) Consumers are changing from a transactional model to an engagement model. Social media is central to these changing dynamics.

10) Game theory and behavioural science will become more and more important. People will become more and more used to 'game playing' with retailers, service providers and Government. This shifts the dynamics to stopping telling people what to do; to encouraging them to do something. For example, in a recent test, cars were filmed speeding. All those that sped were still fined, but the difference was that the fines were shared out between all those who had not sped!

I hope that you found the above as fascinating as I did.

We have an interesting and challenging future ahead. Things will change, as they always have done, but it is those people and businesses who embrace change who will benefit most from it.


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