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Bob Sandidge & Anne Ward: Get ready for the couch commerce revolution!

Are you ready for “couch commerce?” The holiday buying and giving season is almost here and the next big change in online shopping is coming to town. By ready, we're talking about mobile-ready. If you have a web presence and sell any of your products or services online, being mobile-ready needs to be a high priority.

Last year, customers spent $35.3 billion at retail sites. That was a 16 percent increase over holiday 2010 and exceeded projected growth of 15 percent by an increase of 1 percent which, in dollars, is a huge amount.

Looking ahead a few weeks, it appears that 2012 slows no sign of slowing down. But the biggest change is in how customers are shopping and buying. More and more e-commerce is occurring on smartphones and tablet computers. Is your website optimized for those mobile customers? If not, you may be missing out on your share of those billions of dollars in sales. Like it or not, more and more shoppers do a little “show rooming,” looking at actual products, and then retreat to the sofa, tablet in hand, for a bit of laid-back couch commerce.

As today's advanced technology empowers more and more consumers, those shoppers are demanding not only what they want to buy, but also how they buy it. And they want it fast. Smartphones and tablets are gaining their own market share as the choice interface for social media, news, and e-commerce. Social shopping trends are still unraveling themselves. While Facebook e-commerce has not quite taken hold as predicted, the amazing new site Pinterest has come from nowhere to become an overnight game changer for e-commerce. We know you’ve got plenty of other things to be thinking about this holiday season, but social media sites are crucial marketing tools, not just extras to get around to.

A quick checklist:

• Is my website mobile and tablet ready? Not all websites work well on mobile devices.

• Where am I with social media marketing?

• Is it easy for visitors to sign up on my website and blog? When they sign up, what do they receive?

• What is my Pinterest IQ? Pinterest, which features photos, is the fastest-growing site on the web. Many retailers are finding great success with beautiful product photography drawing buyers to their e-commerce stores.

• Am I building my data base of customer and prospect email addresses all year?

• Do I keep the relationship warmed up with communication, promotions, offers, and events to keep customers excited about us?

If it has been a while since you updated your website, here are a few things you can do to freshen it up:

• Update product images with the best photography possible. HD images are the standard these days and are proven to attract more customers.

• Review product descriptions and update them. Use bright, snappy language to engage visitors with your products and set them apart.

• Review your site navigation. It may seem logical to you, but then, you already know where things are placed. Navigating your site must be easy and intuitive for your visitors or they will simply click on by to your competitor.

• Some sites will work well on smartphones without a lot of work but, optimally, you'll want to have a version of your site designed just for smartphones. Big monitor screens are horizontal in orientation, so layout is logically horizontal. A mobile phone is better suited to vertical navigation.

Not only do we have holidays that will bring new business in the next few weeks, but we also have an election year. There is a direct mail rule-of-thumb that sales rise in election years. So no matter who wins on Nov. 6, we should see a lift in online sales.

There’s still time to do that tweaking. So do your research and be ready for the couch commerce revolution!

• Anne Ward and Bob Sandidge, CreativeCore Media in Algonquin, are marketing, communication, management and training consultants who help small business and non-profits overcome the marketing and motivational myths that are keeping them and their businesses from unbounded success. AnneBob@CreativeCore.com – www.NLPeople.com

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