According to the latest reports, the U.S. economy is expected to gradually begin reopening within the coming months. While this is great news to many businesses around the nation, the truth of the matter remains that the repercussions of the pandemic still continue to be far reaching. Those beginning preparations for the post-COVID 2020 holiday season are currently faced with the cold, hard truth that the nation’s biggest time of year for retail sales is most likely going to be hit with a bit of turbulence.
According to the latest reports from Bloomberg, retail sales in “hard-hit discretionary categories” are expected to see a fall of between 5% and 10% compared to last year. Naturally, this decline is also anticipated to be felt by industries all over. However, we’re not here to project fear – we’re here to provide you with solutions. If you’re interested in learning the steps you can take to proactively prepare your company, then this article is just for you.
Reasons behind the less than desirable post-COVID 2020 holiday season projections
There are numerous reasons behind the projected decline in holiday sales. The tremendous impact of COVID-19 has affected every aspect of our society. However, there are four main reasons which companies need to understand in order to get a better grasp on how to effectively respond to the aftermath of the pandemic.
In April of this year, the LA Times reported that the unemployment rate hit an astounding 14.7%. That adds up to a whopping 20.5 million jobs lost – the highest in history since the 1940s. What’s even more interesting is that up until this point, the United States had been seeing “record economic expansion” and the “lowest unemployment in half a century”. While the job market will continue to slowly recover as the economy begins to reopen, the truth of the matter is that unemployment will continue to remain high throughout the remainder of the year.
2. Consumer Psychology
Consumer psychology encompasses the emotions, behaviors, attitudes and beliefs of the average consumer. The truth of the matter is that right now, the consumer population at large is skeptical – to say the least. Moral is low and people are naturally in a savings mindset and not looking to overspend. This will naturally boost the savings rate. When the future of the economy is uncertain, people simply aren’t looking to spend unnecessarily.
3. Risk of a second outbreak
Another factor influencing the projected downturn in holiday seals is the possibility of a future outbreak. In a recent interview with the Washington Post, CDC Director Robert Redfield warned of a second, potentially worse outbreak in the winter months saying, “We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time”. This fear will undoubtedly cause the public to continue to want to avoid crowded locations and retailers to continue to face the hassle of taking extensive precautionary measures to meet social distancing standards, including adjusting capacity limits. Naturally, brick-and-mortar stores will be most impacted by this.
4. Weakened supply chains
There’s no denying the fact that the pandemic has exposed some glaring vulnerabilities in our global supply chains which have been hit immensely hard during this time. Many manufacturing experts saying that supply chains must get shorter in order to begin to grow stronger. As the Washington Post so succinctly put it, “Supply chains are like the plumbing of an economy: We don’t notice them except when they break, and when they do, it rapidly becomes catastrophic.” As a result, many are naturally questioning whether or not chains will be able to recover in time for the holiday season.
Strategizing for the post-COVID 2020 holiday season
However, as we mentioned earlier, we’re not here simply just to spread doom and gloom. The pandemic continues to have a serious and palpable effect on businesses across the globe, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. With proper preparation and focus, you can take steps in order to ensure that you set your company up for success in the coming months. Don’t wait until the holiday rush gets here – start working out your post-COVID 2020 holiday season sales strategy now. Here are a few elements to focus on in order to ensure your business stand out in the crowd.
The e-commerce industry is facing a number of challenges due to the pandemic, including an increasing demand for online shopping. There’s no better time than now to get your online store up in running or in tip-top shape. If you’re interested in learning more about how to get started, Visioneer offers the tools to help you get your online store started off on the right foot in a few simple clicks. We offer easy-to-design, no coding websites which can give you the freedom to create, design and manage your online business in a jiff.
Customer Communications Hub
Now more than ever it’s important to ensure that you are providing above and beyond service to your customers. Customer communications hubs help streamline and organize your processes. Tools such as ours allow you to easily send email invites for meeting requests through both GoogleMeet and Zoom. You can also use platforms such as email or SMS to conveniently communicate with your customers securely. But that’s not all – we also offer customizable templates to help make the process quick and easy.
Reputation & Reviews
Did you know that 87% of consumers shop around for comparisons for every purchase they make? Even more interesting is the fact that 75% of companies say that their “online reviews, comments, and forum posts are important to the financial and reputational status of their business”. Point blank — your company’s reputation is everything — especially during times like these. Take steps to improve your reputation and garner great reviews so that your business stands out among the competition. With tools such as ours, you can quickly improve how your business looks online by monitoring and managing online reviews, as well as responding quickly to customer comments and concerns.
Online Presence & SEO
When customers are searching for businesses in your category, do you show up? Implementing SEO best practices is an essential way to boost your online presence and get you in front of the customers who need you the most. With tools such as ours, you can manage how your business shows up on numerous platforms. You can also keep your business hours, addressed and available services up-to-date and in-sync on important social media platforms such as Google, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (to name a few). Furthermore, our company is currently offering a limited-time free version of our Listing Distribution & Listing Sync Pro to help your customers stay in the loop.
Social Media Management
The increasing demand for online shopping during the pandemic means that now more than ever you’re going to need to bring your A-game when it comes to social media. There are numerous tools on the market which can assist with this including ours. Communicate messages that matter with your community and customers. Post on Facebook and Google My Business instantly or choose the option to schedule. To make posting easier, we offer a variety of post templates that can easily be edited and published. Plus, you also get robust reporting to help you monitor the reach and engagement of your content across all networks.
Did you know that the average ROI for every single dollar that you spend on email marketing is a whopping $42? In 2019, it was estimated that there were over 3.9 billion email users and that number is expected to jump to an astounding 4.3 billion by 2023. Email marketing is still an essential component for anyone looking to create a successful digital marketing strategy. Now is the time to make sure your email communications are operating smoothly and effectively. With tools such as ours, you can send beautiful automated email campaigns and gain access to customizable templates, design professionals and mobile-responsive emails that look great on any device. Check out Constant Contact for a free 60-day trial today.
If you aren’t using automated analytics, then you may as well be living in the dark. Analytics help provide powerful insights into your company allowing you to make better informed strategic decisions. Tools such as ours can help you understand how your business is performing online by providing you with easy to understand, automated analytics insights sent directly to your inbox on a weekly basis.
There’s no denying the devastating impact that the pandemic has had on the U.S. economy; and the full effects have yet to be realized. While current projections for the post-COVID 2020 holiday season are bleaker than usual, that doesn’t mean that the situation is out of your hands. Use this time to be proactive and take the necessary measures to prepare yourself and your company. By staying informed and educated, you can effectively keep yourself one step ahead of the game.
Visioneer is now offering FREE tools to help local businesses operate online! Fill out the form below and its yours now!
It seems like nowadays, everyone is always on the lookout for the brightest and newest shiny object that will completely transform their sales process and dramatically boost their conversion rates. However, sometimes, all it takes to see big results is a little bit of creativity and redesigning new models with tried and true elements in order to get the job done. If you’re looking to get an added boost when it comes to your sales process, then we’re here to tell you that video funnels can help you do just that. This article will detail just exactly what video funnels are, their benefits, and the various steps you can take to create killer video funnels to hack the sales process and increase close rates.
Sales funnels 101
In order to get a holistic picture of what exactly a video funnel is and what it can do for you, it’s essential to understand the basics of sales funnels in general. If you’re in the business of running your own business or helping others with theirs, then chances are you’re already familiar with sales funnels to some extent.
Sales funnels, also referred to as “purchase funnels” or “purchasing funnels”, are essentially just models that are designed to guide a consumer through your sales process. They illustrate a theoretical consumer journey towards the purchase of a product or services and identify/define various stages along the way.
The great thing about sales funnels is that they provide businesses with a way to structure the sales process. When you have a predefined, mapped out process of the consumer journey where you are able to identify various touch points along the way, you create a process that is both consistent and measurable.
This means everything.
When your sales process is consistent and measurable, you are able to effectively analyze it for deficiencies, inefficiencies and strong points in order to take steps to strategically improve upon your sales process and thus increase your conversion rates.
The power of video
Okay, so now that we’ve done a quick recap of sales funnels and why they’re beneficial, let’s move on to the next topic: the power of video. There’s no denying that video is one of the most popular tools you can use in order to increase brand awareness and boost close rates. This is primarily due to the fact that video content is simply just in high demand. Consumers love video. Not only does it make it easier for individuals to digest important information, but it provides a degree of entertainment that text simply just cannot compete with. In fact, recent research from Hubspot found that a whopping 54% of consumers surveyed cited they wanted to see more video content from brands and businesses which they support.
Simply put, when it comes to content, visual content is king — just ask your marketing department. According to 2019 research from Wyzowl, an astounding 87% of marketing professional use video as a marketing tool. Furthermore, recent research from Optinmonster found that businesses who incorporate video in their marketing processes get a whopping 66% more qualified leads per year than those who don’t.
Part of a marketing department’s job is to help funnel leads to sales. If they already see the value in video and reap the resultant rewards, then why can’t your sales department?
Video funnels, also referred to as “video sales funnels” are essentially just sales funnels that are structured around video content. Rather than leveraging traditional tactics of pitching, wouldn’t it be better if you could just get someone to watch a quick, entertaining 1-3 minute video to guide them into the sales funnel?
What is great about video funnels is that they don’t necessarily have to be these independent models that run on their own. In fact, many of them can be and are meant to be designed in order to be integrated with your pre-existing funnels and customer touchpoints.
Types of video funnels
You’ll no doubt find a variety of models for structuring out your video funnels. However, for this particular article, we will go over what we believe to be the most simplified and straightforward process for structuring out and categorizing your video funnels.
1. Conversion funnels
First and foremost your conversion funnels are focused on getting more of your prospects to respond to your marketing/sales efforts. As a result, they are most suited for sales and marketing. Your conversion funnels ensure that your efforts to hook in new customers are effective and causing them to respond favorably. These help get your potential customers in front of your product and/or services, thus exposing them to your brand and offer.
These funnels are great for engaging prospects, nurturing inbound leads, following up on proposals, warming up cold leads and following up after various events such as sales meetings, webinars or trade events.
2. Activation funnels
This is essentially phase two in your video sales process. Activation funnels are first and foremost designed in order to increase customer engagement. As a result, they are best suited for customer success and marketing. This set of funnels is specifically crafted in order to convert potential customers into active customers who are using your products and/or services. These funnels also help to increase both retention rates and customer lifetime values.
Activation funnels are best used for scenarios such as onboarding new customers, thanking your newly activated customers, responding to customer issues, rewarding your most loyal customers, upselling or reactivating churning customers.
3. Growth funnels
The third set of funnels are your growth funnels and as their name implies, are designed in order to increase growth in all aspects. As a result, they are best suited for everything from customer success to account management and marketing. These funnels are going to be focused on things such as getting more upsells and increasing the number of customer reviews and referrals from your most loyal brand advocates.
So, if you were interested in getting case studies from customers who have had positive experiences with your brand, growth funnels would be a great option. Growth funnels can also be used to help get reviews, survey responses, referrals and to help re-activate previous customers who have gone MIA.
Creating successful video funnels
When it comes to creating successful video funnels, you’re going to want to focus on video content for the three following stages:
- Top of the funnel
- Middle of the funnel
- Bottom of the funnel
Video funnels work great on a number of channels but perhaps one of the most popular to leverage is social media. After all, it’s no secret that video content dominates most social media platforms. In fact, according to recent research from Animoto, consumers cited video as the favorite form of content to see from a brand on social media.
When it comes to budgeting, it is suggested that you allocate approximately 20% to 40% of your budget behind your top of the funnel video content and then balance the remaining part of the budget behind your middle and bottom funnel content.
Top of the funnel video content
When it comes to creating your top of the funnel video content, you want to focus on establishing brand awareness. Focus on a length of 1min-5min, but generally speaking, shorter tends to be the recommended choice by social media professionals. When it comes to the type of video content to create, many times spokesperson videos tend to work best simply because as consumers, we naturally respond well to human faces.
Middle of the funnel video content
Your middle of the funnel video content generally should be much shorter than your top of the funnel content. We’re talking like, less than 1 minute unless you happen to be using something such as a testimonial video. Make sure that you’re using landscape video for platforms such as Youtube and square video for platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. It’s always a good idea to subtitle your videos as well. Keep in mind that you want your pitch to be more aggressive than it would be for top of the funnel content, but not as aggressive as bottom of the funnel content. It’s also a good idea to look into any historical data that you may have to identify any common FAQs, causes for returns/dissatisfaction or customer pain points. You’ll also want to make sure that you include important information relating to concerns over pricing, quality, trust and shipping.
Bottom of the funnel video content
This is where it’s time to really step it up a notch and kick it into gear. Content in the bottom of the funnel tends to be much more aggressive, short and to-the-point and also reminder-based. You’re still trying to win over your customer, but at the same time, you’re also trying to create an efficient process. This is also the perfect opportunity to provide your prospects with additional discounts or offers. This helps persuade those who aren’t quite ready to make a potentially significant investment into your product/services to purchase at a reduced price. It also helps build trust and win over those middle of the road prospects.
Video funnels are a great way to help invigorate the sales process and increase conversion rates and customer lifetime values. If you’re interested in incorporating video funnels into your sales strategy, use this article as a nifty guide to help you get started off on the right foot. We’re certain you’ll be happy with the results.
If you’re interested in learning more about how VisioneerIT can help you improve your processes and boost sales, visit us as www.visioneerit.com today.
This sheet is periodically updated when new bills are proposed, when bills die and when bills are passed into law.
Just so you understand a bit more about the proposed laws, Our friends over at Termaggeddon have summed up the privacy law beautifully as seen below! Here is an explanation of the factors for each bill:
- Business size limit: this bill applies to businesses of a certain size. For example, some of the bills apply to businesses that make millions of dollars in revenue or collect the personal information of a certain number of that state’s citizens;
- Right to access data: consumers have the right to see the specific pieces of data that the company has collected about them;
- Right to delete data: consumers have the right to request that the business delete their personal data;
- Right to correct data: consumers have the right to request that the business correct their incorrect data or complete their incomplete data;
- Right to restrict processing: consumers have the right to limit how businesses use their data.
- Right to opt out: consumers have the right to say no to the sharing or selling of their data.
- Opt-in consent required: consumers have to affirmatively allow the business to collect, use, sell or share their data.
- Right to portability: consumers have the right to receive their personal data that the business has collected on them in an electronic, commonly-used, machine structured format.
- Against automated decision making: the bill restricts a businesses’ ability to make certain decisions by solely automated means, without any human involvement.
- Imposes fiduciary duty: the bill obligates a business to act solely in the best interest of the consumer and not the business when it comes to that consumer’s data.
- Prohibits discrimination: the bill prohibits businesses from discriminating against consumers that exercise their rights by charging higher prices or by providing inferior quality service or products.
Since the proposed bills are always changing, make sure to check back frequently to keep up to date!
Here are the state links to each proposed privacy bill:
- Arizona SB1614: https://legiscan.com/AZ/text/SB1614/id/2118982/Arizona-2020-SB1614-Introduced.html;
- Arizona HB2729: https://legiscan.com/AZ/text/HB2729/id/2113461/Arizona-2020-HB2729-Introduced.html;
- Hawaii SB418: https://legiscan.com/HI/text/SB418/id/1861284/Hawaii-2019-SB418-Introduced.html;
- Illinois SB2330: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=&SessionId=108&GA=101&DocTypeId=SB&DocNum=2330&GAID=15&LegID=122685&SpecSess=&Session=;
- Illinois SB2263: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=&SessionId=108&GA=101&DocTypeId=SB&DocNum=2263&GAID=15&LegID=121653&SpecSess=&Session=;
- New York SB S5642: https://legislation.nysenate.gov/pdf/bills/2019/S5642;
- New Jersey A2188: https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2020/Bills/A2500/2188_I1.PDF;
- New Jersey A3255: https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2020/Bills/A3500/3255_I1.HTM;
- Massachusetts SD341/S120: https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/SD341;
- Minnesota HF3936: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?number=HF3936&type=bill&version=0&session=ls91&session_year=2020&session_number=0;
- New Hampshire HB1680: https://legiscan.com/NH/text/HB1680/2020;
- South Carolina H4812: https://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess123_2019-2020/bills/4812.htm;
- Nebraska LB746: https://nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/106/PDF/Intro/LB746.pdf;
- Iowa SF2236: https://legiscan.com/IA/text/SF2236/2019;
- Maryland SB957: https://legiscan.com/MD/text/SB957/2020;
- Maryland HB1656: https://legiscan.com/MD/text/HB1656/2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has without a doubt been one of the most unnerving and disruptive events that have impacted the functioning of both business and society that we have seen in decades. Perhaps the most disconcerting part of the crisis is the fact that even now in May, two months after mass shutdowns have begun, we have yet to see a definitive timeline for when we will all return to a state of normalcy. This current state of ambiguity undoubtedly leaves businesses, individuals, and the economy at large in a perpetual state of free fall, struggling financially with seemingly no light to be found at the end of the tunnel.
However, the truth of the matter remains that in time, this too shall pass. Companies now more than ever must begin to take steps to prepare themselves proactively for the eventual return to “business as usual”. But where does one start? How does a company start planning for the transition back to office when the time comes for it to happen and what steps can businesses take now in order to get off on the right foot? This article will discuss a number of things to consider when it comes to preparing for the transition out of COVID-19.
Rethinking traditional notions of the office environment
Now more than ever it’s important for businesses large and small to start rethinking the concept of what is considered “normal” when it comes to the functioning of business operations. It’s no secret that the remote work economy has been steadily growing. In fact, according to recent research, remote work has grown a whopping 44% in the last five years alone.
One upside to the current state of affairs is the fact that many businesses are discovering new and innovative ways adapt and collaborate virtually. Fortunately, there are many tools and platforms available on the market such as Bitrix24 which can help facilitate and support virtual collaboration by assisting with project management, file sharing, communications, CRM and more.
Many companies are even going so far as to considering completely revamping the way their businesses will operate in the future. For example, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently just made headlines due to his announcement that Twitter employees will officially be allowed to work from home not just during the COVID-19 pandemic, but “in perpetuity”. Companies such as Google and Facebook have additionally taken similar steps in the midst of the pandemic and during the aftermath. These decisions reflect their ability to adapt and adjust in the midst of crisis and undoubtedly will help set them ahead and better prepare them for the future.
Addressing challenges and creating a plan
There is no better time to get proactive and to begin planning for re-engagement than now. Companies must use this time to strategize and nail down all of the nitty gritty details necessary in order to ensure that when the time comes, operations are able to resume and ramp back up accordingly as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
Is remote work something that your company should consider in the long-term? If this is the case, have you taken into consideration the infrastructure which will need to be established in order to support this? Additional security measure may furthermore need to be implemented in order to ensure the transition to a remote work environment does not compromise business operations.
Or, what about when it comes to transitioning individuals back into the office? Have you decided how you plan to gradually phase these employees back into the workplace? Which functions are prioritized and as a result, should come back first? Will schedules need to be changed? What about equipment and software? What are your needs going to be based on your decisions for the future? Will they change? There are many questions and concerns which will need to be discussed and addressed as soon as possible in order to ensure that all of the details are hammered out before business begins to return to normal.
When it comes to reassurance, most companies have their customers as their number one priority. However, don’t make the mistake of putting your valuable employees on the backburner. They are the lifeblood of your company. When it comes time to begin transitioning out of COVID, do your part to reinforce the sentiment that choosing your company was the right decision.
Reassure your employees that their health, safety, and well-being are at the forefront of your mind. Keep them in the loop every step of the way and maintain open communications throughout the pandemic so as to ease any feelings of anxiety or uncertainty. Tell them your plans for the future and incorporate them into the decision-making process in any way that you can so as to emphasize how important it is that your company gets through this together as a family. Be empathetic and understanding. Now more than ever your employees are looking towards you to serve as an example and prove your worth during the hard times. Don’t let them down.
Preparing for reintegration
When the time comes for reintegration into the workplace, you’re going to want to make sure the process moves as smoothly and efficiently as possible while also keeping in mind the fact that this is a sensitive time where discretion and concern for the well-being of your employees is of the utmost importance. More than likely most companies will choose to gradually return to normal business operations.
This provides you with the ability to effectively implement any precautionary measures and policies. Companies should consider slowly phasing in employees for reentry into the workplace based on their roles. Many employees are able to work from home, but the truth of the matter is that there are also individuals who will be unable to do so due to numerous factors such as the nature of their role or for other reasons such as security. Start engaging the various departments within your company and begin identifying and prioritizing staff that is considered most essential.
Keeping social distancing guidelines in mind is also going to be of paramount importance. Consider the layout of the office environment and take measures in order to optimize it for social distancing. This may entail moving around seating or desks or taking additional measures such as by setting up partitions. Many companies may choose to introduce shift work as a way to encourage adherence to protocols while simultaneously allowing the business to ramp back up to normal operations.
Implementing policies to ensure safety and wellness
Many companies may find themselves cringing at the prospect of having to screen for admittance into the workplace. However, the truth of the matter is that as an employer, you have an obligation to provide a safe work environment for your employees under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Adhering to social distancing measures is a great place to start, but it is by no means an effective response in and of itself. Many businesses which are still in operation are implementing mandatory health screenings and assessments for all employees. This includes new hires as well as implementing protocols on a daily basis before individuals even enter the office (i.e. checking temperatures). Keep in mind that it is perfectly legal for you to ask your employees if they are or have been experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and to require individuals to wear masks while on the premises.
You’ll also want to take measures to increase cleaning protocols. Tech sharing in general should be limited in order to avoid transmission and thoroughly disinfected between use from one individual to another. Professional cleaning services should be implemented for the workplace as well and all areas should be cleaned on a regular basis throughout the day. Provide disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizers throughout the office space and include signage throughout emphasizing the importance of social responsibility good hygiene practices.
When it comes to transitioning out of COVID, we would be remiss not to include a section or two about the importance of focusing on your customer base. The truth of the matter is that your customers need you now more than ever. Furthermore, similar to your employees, they’re also looking to you in order to provide them with an example of what a company should be and how it should act during times as such. Open communication and transparency is always of paramount importance; however, it is even more crucial during this point in time.
Now more than ever you’re going to need to establish yourself as a pillar of strength and stability. Stay in regular communications with your customer base and keep them in the loop regarding any important updates or policy changes. Your job now is to provide them with the reassurance that you are just as dedicated to providing them with the same quality of products, care and customer service that they have grown accustomed to. Your corporate reputation is everything. Don’t give your customers a reason to question it.
Adjusting marketing strategies
Adjusting your marketing strategies is another essential step that businesses will need to consider when it comes to effectively transitioning out of COVID. Many companies are finding themselves in a perpetual state of panic, not knowing when the pandemic will end, how they will fare and what the future will hold. However, this is not a mindset that is conducive to ensuring that your customer base is well cared for. As of right now – many companies are adjusting their traditional marketing approaches. They realize that a focus on sales and acquisition is no longer the best strategy given the context of the current situation. Now more than ever, focusing on cultivating long-term retention and instilling trust within your current customer base is going to be crucial.
Take a customer-first approach and implement conscious marketing practices. Now is the time to show your customers that you truly care for them – that you’re empathetic to their needs and struggles. Your messaging should focus on safety and reassurance first and business second. Furthermore, don’t shy away from acknowledging the current state of affairs. The current climate is scary and uncertain for many and doing so will only prevent your messaging from truly making an impact by connecting with your customers on a deeper level.
What solutions can you provide your customers with during this time of need? What steps are you taking to ensure them that you are doing all in your power to continue to provide them with the level of care and attention that they deserve? Identify the needs, concerns and pain points of your customer base and do your best to find ways to help alleviate their struggles. Furthermore, remain open and transparent when it comes to your communications practices. Keep them in the loop whenever you can and make sure that all of your accounts and social media profiles remain up to date with the latest information. Your customer base needs to know that they can count on you during times of hardship.
While times like these are difficult for everyone, smart, socially conscious companies can leverage moments as such to stand out and truly shine among the competition. Now is the time to show your customers exactly why choosing your company is the best decision. Now is the time to show them your value, your worth and prove to them that they mean more to you than a couple of dollar signs. Focus on converting your customers into lifelong brand advocates and champions of your cause by being there for them when they need it the most.
While it may currently seem like there is no end in sight, the truth of the matter is that eventually, this pandemic will come to an end and society slowly begin to piece itself together again and return to business as usual. The time frame may still remain ambiguous, but that doesn’t mean that businesses can’t take steps to refocus their efforts towards proactively preparing for the transition ahead. The number one consideration at this point in time should be reassurance; reassurance to your customers and to your employees that you remain dedicated to them and empathetic towards their diverse needs and sets of concerns during this rough period in time. It’s up to you to get it together, regroup, refocus, adapt and trek forward towards the future as a shining example in the midst of the chaos.
Are you interested in learning more about how to adapt your business operations so you continue to thrive both during and after COVID? VisioneerIT can help your company make the transition by assisting with issues such as website security, virtual collaboration and more. To learn more, visit our website at www.visioneerit.com.
Over the past few years there has been a marked rise in the growth of voice recognition software and it’s easy to understand why. Many of us lead demanding, busy, on-the-go lifestyles and as a result, convenience has quickly become of paramount importance to the average consumer. According to a recent PWC report an astounding 71% of individuals surveyed said they would rather use their voice assistant in order to conduct a query as opposed to physically having to type it into their device. Voice search isn’t something of the future – it’s here – loud and clear. ComScore infamously predicted that 50% of all searches will be voice by 2020. We may not be there just yet, but that doesn’t mean we’re not close. If you’re interested in learning more about voice search and the various simple steps you can take in order to prepare your website for 2020, then this article is just for you.
A brief history of voice search
Voice recognition software has been around since the 1960’s so it isn’t exactly new, but mass mainstream adoption and commercialization voice assistants is. Google first rolled out Google Voice Search in 2010. The system required users to call into a telephone number at which point they were prompted to speak their search query and wait for results to populate on their mobile device. Needless to say, it didn’t catch on all too quickly.
In October of 2011 Apple introduced Siri as the first digital virtual assistant with their iPhone 4s and Google rapidly followed suit by introducing Google Now in May 2012. Microsoft and Amazon quickly threw their hats in the ring with Cortana and Alexa in 2014 and Google released Google Assistant in 2016. Now we’ve got Samsung’s Bixby and IBM’s Watson as well. Today, voice recognition software is encoded in everything from mobile phones to laptops to watches and personal home devices. Practically everyone wants a virtual assistant. Which leads us to our next section.
The growing demand for voice search optimization
Today, voice recognition software is encoded in everything from mobile phones to laptops to watches and personal home devices. Practically everyone uses voice search and as a result, the industry is a-booming. According to eMarketer, voice commerce sales peaked to an astounding $2.1 billion last year alone. Juniper Research further estimates that there will be a whopping 8 billion digital voice assistants on the market in use by 2023.
When it comes to voice search, Amazon leads in the voice-enabled speaker device market but Google still dominates the search engine market with a share of 92.71%. So, needless to say, when they start to make updates in order to further accommodate voice search, everyone takes notice. Their 2013 Hummingbird update changed search in profound ways by emphasizing natural language processing and taking into consideration things such as context and user intent. As a result, the focus became less on keywords and more on conversation and meaning.
This algorithm update coupled with the widespread popularity of smart devices using voice recognition software means that companies now more than ever need to be prepared to optimize their websites and content accordingly.
5 Ways You Can Start Optimizing for Voice Search Today
According to recent data from Location World, approximately 2 in 5 adults use voice search at least once daily — and it they use it for more than just finding out information. According to recent data from Amazon, the use of Alexa for shopping more than tripled in 2018 from the previous year (NOTE: at VisioneerIT, we offer voice search technology which can help you sell your products using Alexa voice). It’s important to note that there’s a significant difference between typed and spoken queries and as a result, voice search optimized websites will have a much greater advantage in 2020. If you’re looking to nab position zero, then we have 5 steps which you can use to get you started off on the right foot.
1. Use natural language
Let’s say you’re looking for some great grub in your area for the evening. If you head to your go-to search engine, your query ‘might look something like “best restaurants near me”. However, if you’re like the many individuals who use a voice assistant on your mobile device, your query is most likely to sound more along the lines of “what are the best restaurants near me?”. Our point here is that voice search queries tend to be longer than your average typed query. Not only that, they also tend to be conducted in a conversational tone. This is the exact opposite of what is expected when it comes to typed queries. Instead of ruthelessly optimizing for keywords, focus instead on what you need to do in order to optimize for semantic search. Use conversational keywords and phrases that are common when speaking and phrase these long-tail keywords in the same manner in which they are usually spoken. It’s not only ideal for voice search, long-tail keywords are furthermore a great strategy to use for traditional SEO.
2. Question phrases
When someone is conducting a typed query on a search engine, the goal is generally to get the main idea across as succinctly as possible. You’re not exactly trying to write a novel. If you’re looking for a black 1981 Pontiac Firebird you might type something like “1981 black Pontiac firebird for sale”. It’s not exactly a beaming example of English grammar. However, when using voice search, users tend to frame queries in the form of questions such as “Where can I find a 1981 black Pontiac firebird for sale?”. Keep this in mind when it comes to optimizing for voice search. It’s important to consider user intent as well as to think of ways to include potential questions your audience may have in your content, headers or subtitles. Not exactly sure where to start? There are numerous resources online which can help you identify the various questions your target audience may have surrounding your topic. Answer the Public is an immensely popular tool as such.
3. Aim for featured snippet quality
You may not exactly know what a featured snippet is by just hearing the name but you’ve definitely seen one. These little guys are the pieces of content that have been awarded the ever so coveted spot of position zero. They are above-the-fold snippets of useful information pulled from only the most worth of articles and featured in the spot before the rest of your search engine results. According to SearchEngineWatch, you can pretty much be certain that if the search results which get pulled up for your query include a featured snippet, your voice assistant is going to pull its answer from it. So, if you’re looking to rank highly in voice search results, you’re going to want to focus on making sure that you are delivering high quality content that Google would display in a featured snippet.
4. Structured data/schema markup
Structured data is a system where names are paired with a value in order to help search engines when it comes to indexing and categorizing website content. A while back Google, Bing, Yahoo and Yandex got together and came up with Schema.org (aka Schema) as a way to help people provide the information that their search engines need in order to provide the best search results possible. Schema is “a semantic vocabulary of tags” (aka microdata) that you can manually add to your HTML code in order to make it easier for search engines to read, interpret and represent your webpage. It often results in rich snippets of information being displayed (i.e. star ratings) underneath the title of your webpage. This tactic has been proven to not only increase click-through rate but to also drive traffic and provide a competitive advantage to websites which use them. While you will need to know a thing or two about code, you don’t necessarily have to be an expert in order to implement it. You can easily generate your own code for your webpages by using Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.
5. Improve your local SEO
Voice search tends to be more mobile and locally focused. In fact, one 2018 study conducted by BrightLocal found that a whopping 58% of individuals use their voice search in order to find local businesses. It also found that consumers are most likely to use voice searches in order to find additional information about businesses that they are already familiar with. This really comes as no surprise as people tend to use their voice search when they’re already on-the-go or planning on going somewhere. In fact, the phrase “near me” is extremely popular when it comes to voice searches. Most of these search bots use business listings in order to find the requested information. The quickest and most simple way to do this is to head on over to Google My Business and register your company. Fill out as much information as possible and make sure to keep it accurate and up to date.
Gartner predicted that by the year 2020, approximately 30% of all searches will be screenless. We still have 11 months to find out if that prediction pans out, but the truth of the matter is that you can’t afford to not be prepared. Optimizing your website for voice search is no longer an option – it’s a necessity. Use this article as a useful guide to help you get caught up on all things voice search related and to help strengthen your website so that you have an added edge over the competition in 2020.
Are you interested in leveraging voice search to help increase sales? At VisioneerIT, we offer voice search technology which can help you sell your products using Alexa voice. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can increase customer loyalty and improve your sales, contact us today at www.visioneerit.com.
The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is largely considered a landmark legislative piece set in place in order to afford greater protections to consumers and their privacy rights in the United States. Enacted in 2018, the CCPA officially took effect as of January 1st of this year. If you’re a business owner who is interested in learning more about the CCPA, as well as the responsibilities required of you and the rights afforded to your consumers, then this article will serve as a great guide to get you in-the-know and compliant for 2020.
Right to request disclosure
The CCPA affords consumers the right to request that a business disclose both the “categories and specific pieces” of personal information that the business has collected as well as the categories of sources from which the information is collected. It also affords consumers the right to request the business/commercial purpose for collecting or selling personal information as well as the right to request that the business also disclose the categories of third parties with whom which the business shares this personal information.
Right to delete
A consumer has the right to request that a business delete personal information which they have collected from the consumer.
Right to opt-out
A consumer furthermore has the right to instruct a business which sells personal information about them to stop selling said information. This is referred to as the right to opt-out.
Right to non-discrimination
The CCPA additionally affords consumers the right to non-discrimination. This means that a business may in no way discriminate against a consumer due to the fact that they have exercised any of the rights afforded to them by the act. Examples of discrimination include denying goods/services, charging different rates for goods/services, providing a different level or quality of goods/services to the consumer or even simply suggesting that the consumer will receive a different price, level or quality of goods/services.
The CCPA furthermore provides consumer with a number of remedies in the event their personal information become subject to “unauthorized access, exfiltration, theft or disclosure” as the result of a business’ negligence. In the case of such event, the consumer has the right to:
1) Damages no less than $100.00 and no greater than $750.00 per consumer per incident OR actual damages (whichever amount is deemed greater)
2) Injunctive or declaratory relief
3) any other form of relief deemed appropriate by the court
These remedies are only available if the consumer provides the business with 30 days’ written notice in which they identify the specific provisions which they feel have been violated before pursuing any action against the company.
In the event the business has the option to and is able to cure the violation within 30 days’ time and provide the consumer with written notice of such, no legal action against the company may be taken.
CCPA Business Responsibilities and Compliance
Definition of a business
The definition of a business as defined by the CCPA includes businesses which:
1) Have an annual gross revenue of more than $25 million
2) Receive, purchase, sell or share for commercial purposes the information of 50,000 or more consumers, households or devices.
3) Receive at least 50% of their annual revenue from selling the personal information of consumers
4) Control or are controlled by a business as such and share common branding with said business
Providing notice to consumers
Collection or sale of personal information
The CCPA mandates that businesses must provide notice to consumers at or before the time of the collection of personal information that they intend to collect said personal information and how they intend to use it. Furthermore, if a business sells personal information to third parties, they must additionally provide “explicit” notice to consumers that their information may be sold and that the consumer has the right to opt-out of the sale of their personal information. Children under the age of 16 years must provide opt-in consent and a parent or guardian must provide consent for any children under the age of 13 years.
Businesses must also disclose any financial incentives which may be applicable for the collection, sale or deletion of a consumer’s personal information. They must furthermore provide the consumer with the manner in which they calculate the value of their personal information and how the financial incentive is permitted under the CCPA. Financial incentives may take the form of monetary compensation or discounted goods or services in terms of quality or price. However, these financial incentives must be directly related to the value of the personal information which is provided to the business.
In the event a consumer gives opt-in consent to enter into a financial incentive program with the business, the business must clearly describe the terms of the program and the fact that it may be revoked by the consumer at will. The CCPA furthermore specifies that businesses may not use financial incentive programs which are deemed “unjust, unreasonable, coercive or usurious” in nature.
Providing reasonable access to consumers for submitting requests
The CCPA further mandates that businesses must provide “reasonable access’ to consumers for the purpose of submitting any requests to the business with regards to the collection and use of their personal information. A business must make available to consumers at least two or more designated methods for submitting requests which include at minimum, a toll-free number. In the event a business operates solely online and has a “direct relationship” with the consumer, it may instead only be required to provide an email address for submitting such requests.
In the event the business has a website, the website must be made available to consumers for the submission of requests regarding their personal information. There are also specific guidelines associated with this task. For instance, the business must provide a “clear and conspicuous link” on their homepage titled “Do Not Sell My Personal information” which directs the consumer to opt-out of the sale of their personal information. A business may also not require a consumer to create an account with them in order to direct the business not to sell their information.
The business must also ensure that any and all individuals who are held responsible for handling consumer inquiries are informed of all of the requirements associated with doing so and how to direct consumers to exercise their rights according to the act.
Responding to consumer requests
The CCPA mandates that businesses must verify the identity of consumers making requests to them regarding the collection and use of their personal information. However, a business may not require that a consumer create an account with them in order to make a verifiable consumer request. If a business is unable to verify the request, they are able to deny the request, but are required to comply to “the greatest extent” that they can.
Requests to delete information
In the event that a business receives a verifiable request from a consumer to delete their personal information, the business must comply and also notify any potential service providers to delete the consumer’s personal information from their records as well.
Businesses receiving opt-out requests from consumers must comply by refraining from selling their personal information. Businesses must also respect the consumer’s decision for a period of no less than 12 months before making another request that the consumer authorizes the sale of their personal information. Consumers may authorize other individuals to opt-out on their behalf and businesses must respect the requests made from said authorized individuals. Businesses must also treat any user-enabled privacy settings which signal a consumer’s decision to opt-out as a valid opt-out request.
Delivery of requested information
The CCPA also has various guidelines associated with the delivery of and response to requests from consumers. For instance, business disclosures must cover the 12-month period preceding their receipt of the verified consumer request and must be made in writing.
Disclosure and delivery of the requested information to the consumer must also be made available free of charge via the consumer’s account with the business, by mail, or electronically within 45 days from the date of the consumer’s request. In the event the disclosure of said information is sent electronically, it must be sent in a “readily useable format” which allows the consumer to easily transmit the information to another entity “without hindrance” (i.e. PDF file).
The CCPA also dictates that businesses are not required to provide personal information to a consumer more than twice in a 12-month period. Furthermore, a business may request an extension for the delivery of the information in the event one is necessary as long as the consumer is notified of the extension within the initial 45-day period.
Businesses are also entitled to charge an administrative fee for requests deemed “manifestly unfounded or excessive” or refuse to act on such requests altogether as long as the consumer is notified for the reason of refusal. However, businesses which take such action should keep in mind that they will have to bear the burden of having to demonstrate (potentially to the courts) that a consumer request was in fact “manifestly unfounded or excessive”.
The CCPA further mandates that businesses must maintain records of consumer requests and the business’ response to these request for a period of 24 months in order to remain compliant. If a business collects, purchases or sells information on more than 4 million consumers, they are subject to additional record-keeping and training obligations.
Businesses are deemed to be in violation of the CCPA if they fail to cure any violations within 30 days after they are notified of non-compliance. In the event the case of such event, businesses will be subject to an injunction and liable for civil penalties of a maximum of $2,500.00 for each violation. If found violations were intentional, businesses can be subject to as much as $7,500.00 in penalties for each intentional violation.
As of January 2020, the CCPA has officially gone into effect. As a result, businesses of all backgrounds and sizes are now liable for remaining compliant under this groundbreaking piece of legislation. If you’re interested in learning more about the specifics of the CCPA, a copy of the code can be found on the California Legislative Information website. Getting compliant and staying compliant takes due diligence, time and commitment. Use this article as a guideline to stay ahead of the game and set your business up for success in 2020.
At VisioneerIT we provide automated access to compliance free of charge to all businesses hosting their websites on our platform. Our convenient plug-in has the ability to automatically update customer policies whenever there are changes in the laws. If you’re interested in learning more, visit our website at www.visioneerit.com.