The Ultimate How-To Guide to Digital Success

From CX to SEO, tips to boost your marketing plan, tweak your sales strategy, raise your social media game, and more

We know: Between your smartphone, your tablet, and your laptop, between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, you’re feeling…a teeny bit overwhelmed. But all these devices, sites, and apps really are integral to your business. Read on to see how they can help your sales, your customer service, and more. Now, take a breath, and begin.

 

how to create a digital marketing planHow to Craft a Digital Marketing Strategy

You’ve worked hard to turn your brick-and-mortar store into a destination. now make your website a must-visit.

Gone are the days of running an ad or two in a local newspaper during the year and ­sending reminders for Mother’s Day or Christmas via postcard. These days, in order to promote your business, communicate with your customers, and increase your profits, you need a truly effective digital advertising campaign.

“There are a lot of different options out there when it comes to digital marketing, but most people don’t know the inner workings of any particular medium,” says Shane O’Neill, vice president at Fruchtman Marketing in Toledo, Ohio. Depending on how much you plan to invest, experts suggest focusing on a couple of elements at the outset rather than trying to do everything at once. Both search and social platform algorithms give preference to a web presence that grows incrementally over time, rather than a onetime blitz.

For more helpful tips from digital marketing pros, keep reading!

1. Start With Your Website

The customer interest you generate will bring people to your website, so it needs to be a good destination. “It’s important for stores to have a strong digital presence that’s up-to-date,” says Zontee Hou, founder and president of Media Volery in New York City. Even if they plan to visit your brick-and-mortar store, Hou points out that today’s consumers almost always do online research before shopping. “They want to know what’s carried, but they also need to know about hours, parking, and special events or sales,” she says. If a Google user lands on your page and finds broken links or a Valentine’s Day promotion in May, a potential client might have slipped through the cracks. “That disconnect can harm the retailer,” Hou warns.

2. Consider Your Digital Advertising Options

So how do you get people to your great website? Options include paid search, email marketing, social channels, blogs, and vlogs—and of course, with sufficient resources, any or all of these elements. Just remember, Hou says, that it’s critical you have the time (either yours or a staffer’s) and tools to keep your digital presence fresh. O’Neill has a few suggestions for how tech neophytes can dip their toes into the digital waters. “More than likely, I’m going to recommend paid search and social media as a start,” he says. These two channels capture potential customers at different points in the marketing life cycle: Paid search targets people who are actively looking to buy, and social media is a powerful brand positioning tool.

Paid search is considered the most accessible PPC (pay-per-click) form of advertising. Choose keywords on Google AdWords and Bing Ads, then bid on how much you’re willing to pay for a would-be customer to click on your ad when it shows up in a search. When you develop your ads, follow the recommendations in this guide about what to include to make your site rise to the top of Google rankings. Since you only pay when a user clicks on the ad, marketing experts say this is a fairly low-risk foray into digital advertising.

3. Invest in Paid Social Promotion

Digital marketing pros say paid social promotion—running ads on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and/or other networks—is worth the investment. The targeting tools used by Facebook, for instance, are sophisticated enough to build a target market that mirrors your existing followers, so your ad dollars will reach a very specific audience with attributes that mirror those of the people who already are fans of your store or brand.

4. Use Email to Persuade

Hou says it’s not enough to just email customers telling them you have something to sell; you have to show them why they need to buy. “All retailers, but definitely in the jewelry space, should think about how to use email to be a complementary part of your advertising process,” Hou says. “Most jewelry purchases aren’t because you need something. It’s because you want something. So think through the marketing message of how you tap into that set of motivations.” —Martha C. White

 

how to grow your social media followingHow to Grow Your Following on Social Media

A robust multi-platform presence is nonnegotiable in today’s ­social-driven sales climate. We guide you on the best ways to increase those likes.

Experts agree: As a jewelry retailer, your job is to sell jewelry, not spend six hours a day chasing likes on social media.

“Businesses and marketers need to stop obsessing about their number of followers,” says Anna Bennett, founder of White Glove Social Media in Vancouver, British Columbia. “Having high engagement is much more important.”

Ben Smithee, founder and CEO of the Smithee Group in New York City, says the preoccupation with “vanity metrics” can distract from a jeweler’s primary mission: selling. “People sometimes care about the size of their following more than what matters, which is sales growth.”

Still, both experts concede that there’s a parallel reality to face: Social media is no longer an optional tool for retailers. Social is where shoppers hang out. And not only have the lines between social and e-commerce blurred in recent years—Instagram reported last year that at least 30 percent of its users have purchased a product they ­initially ­discovered on the platform—but social sites now also ­function as their own search engines. That means posts from companies with large and highly engaged followings rank higher in online searches than those with less robust and/or active followings.

There’s also the validation that comes from having a zillion followers. “The number does matter to people,” Smithee says.

So while it’s unhealthy to obsess over the number of your followers, there are good reasons to keep them in ­perpetual growth mode. Here are a few of-the-moment tips for ­reeling in highly engaged followings on social media:

1. Think Cool Content

“Really great and interesting content” is the ultimate magnet for followers on social, says Smithee. “If you’re not investing in content, you’re doing it wrong. That can be partnering with wedding photographers, jewelry photographers, etcetera.” And not every photo has to be perfectly produced and Photoshopped: “Get a manicure and do rings-on-fingers photos,” he adds.

“You want users to think of your feed as essential to your region,” says Julie Gotz, chief marketing officer for Freshley Media, a Charleston, S.C.–based multimedia marketing firm for jewelry retailers. “If users feel like they’re getting valuable info, they will start sharing it with their friends.”

2. Holler Back

Gotz says she often sees clients create beautiful social feeds, then neglect to chat with users who are commenting on them. “As a business on any platform, it’s key to respond to people’s comments and reviews,” she explains. “When you’re a company that’s engaged and responds to comments that are good and bad, you attract users.”

3. Break the Ice

Gotz also suggests asking questions—for example, “What’s your favorite gemstone?”—and creating posts that include fun discussion prompts. “The more engagement you whip up, the more comments you’ll get,” she says.

Another way to get followers chatting: savvy hashtagging, which allows your posts to get in on trending conversations and your feed to be seen by a wider demographic. Hashtagging etiquette differs across networks. Marketing analytics software company TrackMaven found that tweets with only one hashtag generated the most engagement on Twitter; on Instagram, nine hashtags garnered the most user engagement.

4. Pay to Play

Both Smithee and Gotz say posts with organic (unpaid) content are the backbone of a business’ social strategy, but agree that all great social strategies include paid advertising that drives strategically conceptualized campaigns. “Pay-to-play is one of those social tactics that’s becoming not so much a choice anymore,” Gotz says.

Adds Smithee: “If a store comes to me and asks me about follower count yet they’ve never run a true Facebook ad campaign, I know their priorities are totally out of whack.” —Emili Vesilind

 

how to grow your social media followingHow to Bring in E-Shoppers

Think it’s just about listing your entire inventory on your site? Think again.

The growth of e-commerce means that you have more competitors than ever—not just in your town or metro area, but all around the world. The silver lining of this dynamic, of course, is that smaller and independent jewelry retailers can reach customers who would never walk into their brick-and-mortar stores.

“E-commerce is something they all have to eventually do because every industry is selling online now,” says Matthew Perosi, chief thinker at Sapphire Collaborative, a Totowa, N.J.–based digital marketing consulting firm that ­specializes in the jewelry industry.

Perosi and other online-marketing experts say there are certain things to keep in mind when your goal is to bring customers to your online sales platform.

1. Focus on Your Specialty

Distinguishing yourself from the crowd should be part of your broader search marketing strategy, says Emmanuel Raheb, founder and CEO of Smart Age Solutions in New York City. “When somebody goes to Google to find out about you, what do you want to be known for, in layman’s terms?” Think about what your store specializes in or what your brand has built its reputation on: Timepieces? Repairs? Bridal or custom jewelry? The better you can define your niche, Raheb says, the easier it will be to stand out from competitors and bring customers to your virtual doorstep.

2. Don’t Cram It All on One Page

Loading up a single page on your website with all the products and services you offer might be the easy approach, but that won’t help potential customers find you because of the way search engine algorithms work, says Steven Domingue, executive director of digital at Stuller in Lafayette, La. “People try to blanket a lot of keyword targets on one page,” he says, but this is a mistake. “Break out that content on unique pages,” he advises. For instance, you could have one page dedicated to custom work, one to bridal jewelry, one to watch sales, and so on. While they might take a little longer to set up, individual pages with keywords specific to each category will capture potential customer search queries and more effectively drive business to your site.

3. Use Text Rather Than Images

If your site is full of images with text overlaid in them, search engines can’t “see” those words and won’t be able to point customers toward the products they’re seeking. For customers to find your product listings, the text needs to be in HTML format. (Not sure? Try to copy and paste the text into a document or onto your computer desktop.)

4. Jettison the Jargon

Abbreviations and acronyms that are second nature to you won’t help attract customers to your site because they’re not the words ordinary people will type into a search engine. “A website that fully describes a product without using jargon will usually sell better than one that does,” Perosi says. “If you can lower the barrier of understanding, you can usually get better sales.” But the experts do say you should include the names of the major brands you carry in the text of your site. (Logos, as noted above, are image files that can’t be “read” by Google.)

5. Keep Your Goals Realistic

Jewelry retailers venturing into online sales would do well to concentrate on small-ticket items. “The expectation should not be that they’re going to sell a bunch of engagement rings,” says Shane O’Neill, vice president at Toledo, Ohio–based Fruchtman Marketing. “That’s a difficult type of e-commerce to do,” he says, because engagement ring shoppers usually want to see, touch, and try on options before making a decision. Instead, O’Neill suggests targeting a lower price point—say, $500 and under—and devoting most of your e-commerce resources to impulse-buy and gifting categories like Pandora beads, charms, and fashion jewelry. By all means, include photos and links to social and educational information about higher-priced items. But focus your online sales promotions on categories likely to actually convert browsers to buyers. —Martha C. White

 

how to improve your brand online customer experienceHow to Better Your Brand’s Online Customer Experience

News travels fast on the web—which is why retailers must give clients all the virtual help they might need, and then some

By the year 2020, customer experience is expected to surpass price and ­product as the key brand differentiator. Or so says a recent study by retail ­consultancy Walker, which also predicts that 86 percent of U.S. consumers “will be willing to pay more for a better customer experience” by the same date.

In a marketplace flooded with creative and varied ways to sell products, a company’s customer experience (“CX” in corporate-speak) quotient already contributes most directly to its success or contraction.

Why is this the case? Word travels fast online. Consumers can access review sites such as Yelp, and locate past shoppers on social media.

Before the internet, an aggrieved shopper might simply vanish from a store, never to return. But nowadays, “an unhappy shopper will burn your social media to the ground,” says Travis Garrett, a former tech entrepreneur and a current VP of music at the Los Angeles Times.

And as consumers increasingly do their shopping online, the necessity of offering positive experiences online intensifies. Follow the tips outlined below to improve your site’s CX.

1. Ensure Your Website Works

It sounds basic. But in fact, malfunctioning e-commerce sites are epidemic. And in -high-tech 2018, consumers are (rightfully) irritated by them.

“Your site needs to be fully functional and user-friendly,” says Alex Fetanat, founder and CEO of jewelry industry marketing firm GemFind. “The website itself is the most important component of online customer experience.”

2. Design for Ease

Garrett, who personally designed more than 100 websites for a music merchandise business he cofounded called Cap That, says a site should reflect a brand’s DNA while maintaining simplicity.

That doesn’t necessarily mean your website has to adhere to the all-white, Apple-ish aesthetics currently ruling web design. “If you do a really cool interactive kind of experience that doesn’t mess with the user getting the stuff into the cart and checking out, people really like it,” Garrett says. “But you can’t be so cool with your design that you have to have an MBA to figure out how to add something to the cart. It’s a fine line.”

3. Offer Help

Last year, research firm Gartner forecast that by 2020, more than 85 percent of customer interactions will happen without human intervention. When it comes to e-commerce, that day feels even more imminent. Chatbots—artificially intelligent shopping assistants programmed to answer common consumer questions—are suddenly everywhere in e-comm, and have proven to increase conversion rates for retailers.

The human equivalent of the chatbot is a live chat box, which allows shoppers and employees to essentially text back and forth.

Fetanat says both tools can better your online CX significantly. “It’s like someone coming into your store, and you going to greet and direct them and answer their questions,” he explains. “With chatbots and [live chat], it’s the same exact experience, only online.”

4. Pick Up the Phone

Dissatisfied customers often want to speak to someone on the phone. Occasionally, “you see a company that tries to hide and not respond online,” Garrett says. “And that just makes things worse. The customer is getting more pissed off.” And they’re telling their friends about it.

So while many small companies can’t afford to operate a 24-hour customer service line, having a clearly printed phone number on your website that, when dialed, gets you to a company associate during normal business hours is a must.

“I see a lot of people are shifting to email only for customer service, and sometimes you really need to talk to someone,” Garrett says. “There’s that human touch with a phone call that’s really important.” —Emili Vesilind

 

how to improve your google rankingHow to Improve Your Google Ranking

Here’s the skinny on improving your search engine ranking—and snagging sales as a result

Search engine optimization is the key to making your business’ digital investment pay off. According to digital marketing firm Blue Corona, the top three results in any search capture more than half of the clicks that search generates. These strategies have evolved, though, and the reliable SEO “tricks” that once bumped up a store’s page in search engine rankings no longer deliver the results they used to.

The challenge, according to online marketing pros, is that just as users have gotten smarter, so have search engine algorithms. But the good news is that, while it might take a bit more effort on your part to climb Google’s ranking these days, the strategies experts now recommend are more conducive to building a strong base for future digital ­marketing campaigns. Simply follow these guidelines.

1. Get a Google Business Listing

Create a validated business listing via google.com/business, says Steven Domingue, executive director of digital at Lafayette, La.–based Stuller. “That one thing is literally the most important thing a brick-and-mortar business can do to drive traffic to their store,” he says. “Once you get it approved, you can build a profile about your business, and add content like photos and videos.” Although creating your business listing will take some time, the good news is that you don’t need any special tech skills—or even a business website—to do this.

2. Pay Attention to Location

Check that your address is consistent across platforms, Domingue advises. If your website reads “100 Main St.,” make sure your Google business listing says exactly that rather than, for instance, “100 Main Street.” Unlike people, search engines are very literal, and these inconsistencies could affect your ranking if someone is searching for a retailer in your area. Similarly, Domingue says you should list a phone number with a local area code rather than a toll-free number as your primary business phone contact, since matching area code to ZIP code is another way search engines verify where you’re physically located.

3. Be Active Online

A key factor in ranking is where and how often the pages on your website are linked to from other sites. Emmanuel Raheb, founder and CEO of New York City digital marketing agency Smart Age Solutions, recommends being active—not just liking or upvoting, but posting and commenting—on social platforms like Facebook, business-to-business forums, or your local chamber of commerce. And, when appropriate, you should include the link to your website. Raheb says the idea is for the search algorithm to recognize that you are “credible by association” with other established sites.

4. Get Strategic About Keywords

The old line of thinking was that if you wanted to sell, say, engagement rings, your website should use the keyword engagement rings over and over. Now, search engine algorithms have grown wise to this “keyword stuffing,” as it’s known among search marketing experts, says Matthew Perosi, chief thinker at Sapphire Collaborative, a Totowa, N.J.–based digital marketing consultancy for the jewelry industry. He suggests creating a Google AdWords account to find related keywords that people tend to search for. (For instance, if your keyword is engagement rings, you also might incorporate halo setting and diamond solitaire into the text on your website.)

5. Make Sure Your Site Is Mobile-Optimized

Google tweaks its algorithm all the time; recent changes take into account the growing number of people searching from mobile devices. “The bottom line is to make sure the website is usable on your smartphone and it’s fast—that’s the biggest thing for anybody to keep in mind,” Perosi says. Mobile-friendly navigation across platforms is paramount, he adds, meaning that your site should perform equally well on iOS and Android. If your site is hard to read, slow to load, or difficult to navigate on a phone, your search ranking could suffer. —Martha C. White

 

Illustrations by Sébastien Thibault