Content Management System


The nine website features that make your retail business hum

10:07AM | Wednesday, 29 October

Some time back, I created a list of website features – or more accurately website platform features – required by retailers to run a professional e-commerce operation. But like all things digital, the landscape soon changes, so I thought it worth re-visiting just to ensure retailers had the latest information at their fingertips.   This list is by no means exhaustive – each retailer has different specific requirements. But for the smaller retailer embarking on their online journey, or perhaps streamlining it, this will provide a handy guide to what online tools you are going to need to make a fist of your e-commerce website.   As their business model is relatively similar, wholesalers are likely to require similar functionality.   1. Content management system (CMS) An absolute fundamental for your website. Having your web professional alter and edit your website whenever you need it adds unnecessary cost and delays when a CMS makes this relatively easy and convenient.   In fact, a CMS is so easy to operate these days that a reasonably computer-savvy shop assistant should easily be able to do this task if you don’t wish to do it yourself. Don’t even consider arranging a website without this fundamental editing and website management tool.   2. Integrated email marketing system (EMS or EDM) Despite social media very much being the flavour of the month, not everyone uses social media regularly, unlike email, which most people use on a very regular basis.   But the days of sending your specials to a group within Outlook are long gone. An EMS or electronic direct mail system ensures your email campaign will look great, be personalised and be integrated with the statistics you need to ascertain its effectiveness.   And by being integrated with your website platform, you cut out considerable time in having to keep lists up to date and synchronised. Better still, your customers can alter their details themselves, saving you even more time.   3. Integrated customer relationship management system (CRM) Of course an EMS without a CRM is a wasted opportunity and something of a waste of time. A good CRM will allow you to integrate your customers so that you can seamlessly send emails, keep purchase records and have a record of website visits, among other things.   This approach saves having to keep such data in a myriad of different unconnected places and the time involved in maintaining each one.   4. Secure shopping cart It goes without saying really, though for those not quite confident enough to take this plunge, they can start with basic product information via a CMS before going the whole cart route.   Just ensure that your website platform allows you to upgrade to cart/e-commerce functionality very easily and affordably. Your cart will need to be hooked up to a payment gateway – the secure encryption technology that allows funds to be transferred securely and safely. At its most basic, PayPal provides a great and affordable way to do this.   5. Auto-homepage capabilities There are few things worse in the online world than visiting a website some time after your previous visit, only to find that nothing has changed and that the so-called “coming soon” specials have never eventuated.   Auto-homepage capabilities allow you to bring new product, specials and so on to the front page of your website without having to physically alter it. In other words, by literally ticking a box the featured item brings itself to the front page of the website and keeps it fresh, interesting and above all, likely to result in more sales.   6. Australia Post delivery integration Managing delivery costs can be a major frustration for website operators as they constantly need to be updated to reflect changes in postal charges and product dimension, etc. But a good cart system will be integrated with Australia Post delivery charges. This allows real-time integration of the latest delivery charges so that you never need to alter it beyond your initial inclusion of the product leading to fantastic time and cost savings.   7. Currency conversion The truth is very few Australian retailers consider making interstate sales let alone those from overseas.  But why not? A customer is a customer is a customer, no matter where they’re located. And if they’re prepared to pay the delivery charge, even better. If you can’t achieve automatic currency conversion, at least have a prominent link to one so they can do the math themselves.   8. Financial software integration This capability is not critical to many retailers because online sales can be categorised as such on their financial software and entered periodically with a refer online sales report memo. Others prefer complete integration with their software.   Either way, such an integration is becoming increasingly viable with today’s cart solutions.   9. Social network integration Every retailer should fundamentally not let a customer leave their store – online or on-street – without either selling them something or getting their contact details. Just because they didn’t buy this time, doesn’t mean they won’t buy from you later.   Social networks provide a convenient, seamless and affordable way for customers to engage with you and for you to promote your wares for essentially nothing. So links to the major social networks should be prominent on your page.   Miscellaneous others There are numerous other website features a retailer could benefit from depending on the level of sophistication / automation required. Some of these include:   Inventory management – this can be used for all stock whether sold online or in-store Gift vouchers – an automated gift voucher system which bypasses the need to send a physical voucher Affiliate programs – others can promote your product and earn a commission for doing so Drop shipping management – orders can be despatched automatically to manufacturers and wholesalers for drop shipping Download sales – sell an audio, pdf or other file and allow immediate download following purchase. Product image zoom – allows you to zoom in on a product image for detail Wishlists – allows visitors to create a wishlist for gifting, etc, purposes Larger retailers will find this list somewhat primitive as they embark on exciting new capabilities like personalisation, virtual fitting and so on.   But smaller retailers will certainly be able to operate a professional online outlet if they ensure their website includes these capabilities.   The fantastic news about so much wonderful functionality is that it is so affordable these days. There really is no excuse not to make your product available for online purchase.   Don’t forget too that these websites are invaluable at promoting in-store purchase as well for those who are in your vicinity. In fact, the sales generated in-store from your website may well exceed those made online, giving you even more online bang for your buck.   In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.   This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.

Why my first startup failed

6:41AM | Monday, 30 June

Failure is always a possibility in the startup world. But even a crushing, financially devastating and humiliating failure can’t stop some from picking up the pieces and starting again.   They’ve learnt from their mistakes and know how to do it better next time, they’ll argue. Or the fear of failure is actually what drives them onward and upward.   Richard Eastes is a classic example. The founder of www.vroomvroomvroom has grown five startups over the years; one of those to the value of $20 million. He’s now back in the startup scene, helping businesses with their online marketing at But it’s been anything but smooth sailing.   “Most of my startups have failed miserably,” he says.   He launched a computer retail business in 2001 with a friend, but his prices were too low to ever be feasible.   Next was the launch of a free, easy-to-edit content management system called Nukedit.   “I learned that giving something away for free has value, but only if I have a plan to transition the customer towards profit,” he admits.   Car Insurance Comparison was born in 2006, which succeeded, but he procrastinated over the sale, so the business lost its search engine value and he could only sell it for $50,000.   “In this regard, it’s a failure. Lesson learnt about neglect, procrastination and that the worst enemy of a good idea is a good, different idea.”   Eastes also bought domain name for $22,000 in 2010, hoping to compete with Reddit before it became popular, but was too slow off the mark.   In 2012 came GreenLogo, which intended to pay for the carbon offsets of people’s website servers. “I learned that I need to do more market research to find out if people actually want the product I was making.”   He launched VroomVroomVroom in 2004, and admits he’s failed at hundreds of difference experiments to try and get it to grow.   Eventually, enough of the experiments worked and it paid off and it’s now Australia’s most popular website for renting cars, booking over $50 million in car rentals a year, he says. Failure has also come to wide calf boots business Bennetts Boots, which was placed into liquidation in May.   Business owner Amanda Bennetts blames the supply line for failure, admitting she’d do things differently if there was ever a next time.   “We kept getting taken advantage of and ripped off until we went under, because the only place that had the skill sets to make our unique product at a marketable price was China, and their culture of cutting corners and greed drove us out of business. Read ‘poorly Made in China’ – it explains the cultural and business differences, and as a small business, we really had little hope.”   A lack of sufficient market research cost Yvonne Walker dearly when she started an HR consultancy in a remote area many years ago.   She also blames a lack of support for small businesses in a remote location and a lack of a sustainable market, which she admits some market research would have indicated.   She’s now almost four years into her second HR consultancy, HR with Ease, which is a big success.   She advises other startups to do some research and make sure there’s a niche for them.   “Don’t think you have to do it all on your own. Build a network of people you can share information and ideas with.”   Finn Peacock is another brave enough to admit to failure early on. He launched a business trying to sell expensive, complex software through cold calling to address a problem he now knows no one really had. After 12 months, he realised he’d lost a year of income and gave up.   Success came, finally. He’s built, which is the most popular independent solar site in Australia, turning over millions. He advises others not to leave their day job or regular income until their startup has made some profit, which removes a lot of the risk.   “The first dollar of profit is much harder than the next $100,000 dollars of profit. And don’t try to build a business based on cold calling potential customers. It’s a miserable, hard and expensive way to scale. Use online lead generation and direct mail instead, which is much more pleasant and easier all round,” Peacock says.

Which e-commerce platform is right for my business?

6:24AM | Tuesday, 10 June

When it comes time to assess which e-commerce platform is right for your business, there are a few key questions to ask before looking at the options available.   Are you currently using systems that can be utilised?   If you’re currently setup and running a successful website or content management system (CMS) then it’s worth investigating if your existing technology can be extended to take advantage of e-commerce opportunities.   Will you have resource capabilities?   Are you flying solo or will you have access to development capabilities/resources as part of your team? You will need to feel comfortable operating the system you choose and if you have access to development resources make sure they are suited to the chosen platform.   How many products do you need to sell?   A practical overview of how many SKU’s your store is likely to be listing can help determine which shopping cart software is going to a better fit for your business.   How complex will the product sets be?   Some shopping cart systems do a better job of customising complex product listings than others. Researching this complexity and the need for customisation before choosing your shopping cart is paramount.   What is your budget for the project?   Budget is a relevant metric when choosing which shopping cart will be right for your business. If your budget is small an automated shopping cart system may be the wisest choice for your business. If your budget is larger you can engineer a shopping cart system that is customised to your business needs.   Retail stores   If you are also operating retail stores and want to integrate your shopping cart into your existing point of sale or warehouse system, then your choice might be made a little easier as systems might not have the support you require.   Here’s a quick look at a couple of the common shopping cart systems you will likely come across in Australia and the types of businesses they’re typically suited to.   Platforms   Magento   Founded in 2007 and acquired in 2011 by eBay for approximately $180 million, Magento is widely regarded as a leading enterprise level e-commerce platform.   Although Magento is largely enterprise level software (annual licence fee for support), they do offer an Open Source community version (free) that thousands of retailers successfully deploy commercially. The main difference between the two versions being a lack of official support for the product within the Magento user community.   Magento hosts a large marketplace of paid modules helping to enable rapid development of highly customised applications, however there is currently a large demand on developer resources in Australia meaning the costs to implement and customise Magento stores can be considerable.   SUITS: Medium to large business PROS: Support available to enterprise clients. Lots of modules to customise the platform to your business needs. CONS: Resource hungry - requires advanced hosting techniques to scale which can prove costly on enterprise packages. COSTS: Free community version. Enterprise version starts at $15,500 per year. Developers in Australia are in short supply and can be costly. SITES: Nike, Converse, The Enabler   Drupal Commerce   Drupal Commerce was developed by ‘The Commerce Guys’ and gained momentum upon raising $5 million in Series A funding in 2012. This saw many Drupal developers move away from the previously popular Drupal UberCart product including core developers switching teams.   Drupal Commerce is true Open Source (free) and a common option for the budget conscious retailer as the main costs are development hours. Drupal Commerce takes a slightly different approach to e-commerce. During install, most shopping carts load every feature which developers then proceed to turn off as per business requirements. Drupal Commerce only includes ‘add to cart’ functionality and backend order management - leaving developers to install a selection of modules (hundreds of free modules available) to build a tailored business system which helps keep things lean.   The downside for medium to larger businesses taking an approach with this system is there is no enterprise level package. Companies such as Acquia and The Commerce Guys themselves are trying to change this but the reality is if your business needs an enterprise level approach to e-commerce this could probably get the job done but might not gain management approval.   SUITS: Startup to medium business PROS: Hundreds of free modules and a large supportive developer community to help with your project. CONS: No enterprise level offering. COSTS: Free to download. Drupal developers in good supply at reasonable rates. SITES: Cartier, Open Sesame, Kenzo   WooCommerce   Another of the Open Source extensions WooCommerce is a free plugin this time for Wordpress. It’s been downloaded over three million times and powers over 250,000 e-commerce stores around the web including some bigger names such as Harley Davidson and New Balance.   In the past WordPress would have been overlooked as a stable e-commerce platform but WooCommerce is gaining solid territory. It’s really hitting a sweet spot with people who have already devoted a lot of time and energy into getting their business online (in Wordpress) and now just want to extend it to gather some sales.   Wordpress has a thriving developer community and lots of modules to extend the functionality. Similarly to Drupal Commerce there are advantages in having a fully fledged CMS alongside the shopping cart but the major downside is that once the business grows beyond a certain point there is not going to be an enterprise path to follow.   SUITS: Startup to medium business. PROS: Hundreds of free modules and a large supportive developer community to help with your project. CONS: No enterprise level support. COSTS: Free to download. Wordpress developers in plentiful supply at various rates depending on experience. SITES: New Balance, Harley Davidson, Zanerobe   Shopify   Shopify have come along way in the e-commerce stakes starting with a single online store back in 2006 going on to raise $122 million in funding between 2010 and 2013. They are now a powerhouse hosted service provider which now drives more than 100,000 business from their core engine.   With a sales model focussed on startups and smaller businesses looking to get started with e-commerce the Shopify platform allows business owners with limited technical resources and knowledge to create stores and upload products for sale.   SUITS: Startup to small business. PROS: Quick and easy to get started. Can take a D.I.Y approach without technical knowledge or development resources. CONS: Can be limitations once your store expands. You are constrained to the platform. Some POS options not available in Australia. COSTS: $29.00 per month (Starter) up to $179.00 per month (Unlimited) SITES: Bellroy, Apartment, Black Milk   Bigcommerce   Bigcommerce launched in 2009 with offices in the US and Sydney. They gained traction quickly and ended up raising $75 million in two rounds before the end of 2013 to become one of the largest players in the e-commerce space.   They take a similar approach to the market as Shopify but have a local advantage here in Australia. Bigcommerce also have an enterprise level offering to retain their customers that grow in size as they’ve realised many businesses will start out on this type of platform but eventually want to migrate over to something a bit more flexible.   SUITS: Startup to small business. PROS: Quick and easy to get started. Can take a D.I.Y approach without technical knowledge or development resources. CONS: Can be limitations once your store expands. COSTS: $34.95 per month (basic) up to $199.95 per month (Pro). Bigcommerce also offer an enterprise version for $999.00 per month in attempt to keep customers that grow and need to scale. SITES: Bicycles Online, Style Addiction, Ojay   When choosing a shopping cart it’s not always as simple as what’s the most popular or what’s the cheapest. It’s a matter of exploring the different options and seeing what’s the best fit for your business. If you’re still out of your depth after doing your own research it’s best to consult with an e-commerce build partner - there are plenty of agencies and consultants specialising in both big and small builds. It’s best to shop around and ask lots of questions to help get you on the right track.   Ben is an e-commerce consultant with a career spanning across roles in technology, creative strategy and business management, including: marketing, public relations, digital production, project management, web development and systems administration.

Five top lead generating tips for 2014

2:50AM | Tuesday, 18 February

Generating leads is an all-important task for businesses and especially so for solo traders, start-ups and smaller businesses.   Too many businesses end up taking a haphazard approach to lead generation, so here are five simple strategies you can use to find quality leads for your business this year.   1. Start with a strategy   So many people in business take a scattergun approach to lead generation, going for mass marketing to spread their message, without really knowing if the message is getting through to their target market.   Start at the very beginning, and decide who you want to target, advises Peter Griffith, the Asia-Pacific director of training and consultancy firm for businesses, rogenSi.   “Determine the look and feel of your ideal customer. Who are they, where do they live, work and play? Also, consider their habits and lifestyle, and think about what they buy and from which companies, how they shop, how they access information and how they make decisions. Also, think about their business and personal needs, and how you help fix these,” he says.   The best lead generation technique depends on the company, their industry, the products/services they sell, who they want to sell them to, how they differentiate from competitors and the brand they want to promote, he says.   Ask anyone even moderately tech savvy and they’ll tell you there are only two options – search engine optimisation and Google AdWords, he says.   2. Make your website work harder   Your company website should be working hard to generate leads for your business, so make sure it’s up to date and has all the bells and whistles.   This should be the central hub for all your marketing and lead generation, says Marnie Ashe, head of consulting for Reload Consulting.   “Not only will this allow for greater tracking of where your leads come from, what makes them inquire and ultimately what makes them become a customer, but also provides a central point for inquiry, allowing your potential customers’ details to be fed into a marketing database for future use,” Ashe says.   Increasing enquiries on your website can be easily achieved by making sure it’s easy to find your contact details, with a phone number on every page a good idea, and your contact page easily accessible from your navigation, she says.   “Also, have an enquiry form on every page. The easier it is to enquire, the more chance you have of a prospect inquiring. But keep the enquiry form short and sweet, you can collect more information when you follow up.”   Also, consider adding a live chat service to your website, which is like having a friendly sales consultant greet people and offer them live assistance about your service, and can cost around $10 a day. Check out Web Reception or Live Chat Monitoring, which both offer this service.   3. Get social   One of the best things you can do for your personal brand and business is to take social media seriously. When done well, building and communicating with your network of followers will build loyalty and trust in your business, and ultimately build sales.   A compelling and active LinkedIn profile can also work well to generate new leads, according to Joe Fox, marketing director of web development and digital marketing agency, Studio Culture.   “There are so many opportunities that people are missing by simply not updating their LinkedIn profiles and networking with other business owners or potential customers on the platform,” he says.   Catriona Pollard, director of Sydney’s CP Communications agrees, saying LinkedIn is without a doubt the best place for b2b lead generation.   “A basic account on LinkedIn will allow you to build relationships and maintain contacts, as well as give you a lot of transparency into your extended professional network. You can generally contact your first degree and second degree connections using LinkedIn InMail, even if you don’t have their email address,” Pollard says.   By upgrading to LinkedIn Premium, you can contact people outside of your network and gain further insights into who is viewing your profile, she says.   “You can also directly target new leads using LinkedIn’s advanced search, which allows you to drill down and filter people by role type, company or industry, leading to high quality leads.”   Facebook is another great tool. Melbourne business coach Maureen Pound suggests offering a free report on your Facebook business page to get people into your sales funnel.   “Make sure that whatever you are offering is really useful and alleviates some sort of pain for your target market, such as ‘5 biggest mistakes people make when starting out in business’, or ‘how to get your baby sleeping through the night’, for example. There’s lots of software out there to help you do this, such as lead pages,” Pollard says.   4. Do the little things   Understanding why and how you help people, and focusing on what problems you’re solving for them and how you solve them is paramount, says Frances Pratt, who explains sales to non-sales people.   “Use this information to get your message out there. This should be the central thing you talk about in your advertising and promotions. Use this information to tell them about what you do and to ask questions when you’re meeting people,” Pratt, of Metisan says.   Also, always ask for repeat business, she says. Once you’ve got something great for someone, ask if there’s something else you can help with.   “It’s amazing once you have achieved something, how people will open up with more problems that they need help with.”   Also, make sure you’re talking to the right people, who have the budget and power to spend with you.   “So many business owners spent time on people who aren’t the decision maker, or aren’t willing to pay, which is a huge waste of time and energy,” she says.   Businesses should shake their approach up a bit. Replicate what works 80% of the time using lead generation sources that have previously proven to lead sales. But 20% of the time, be inventive and try new lead sources, recommends Susanne Mather, executive director of Employment Office.   “One example in the recruitment sales business is that 80% of the time, we source leads from recruitment advertising, calling businesses that are advertising for staff themselves.   “But 20% of the time, we do things like take photos of the tent lists in the foyer of CBD high rise buildings and cold call them all. Or take photos of the logos on the sides of buildings and trucks when we’re out and about, and cold call these,” Mather says.   5. Get serious about content management   It’s crucial to have a robust content management system as a place to conveniently store, manage and access both new leads and leads you’re revisiting, says Mather.   Every team member at Employment Office starts the day with exactly 20 new leads entered in the CMS, which are sourced from a variety of channels, no excuses, she says.   “It’s important for lead generation to be a carefully thought out part of the sales process, and it needs to be executed with consistency.   “Investing in a program that really works for your business is something you will thank yourself for again and again, and has the capacity to repay the initial expense many times over.”   Once you’ve got a great way to manage your leads, adopt the ‘find, wash, enter’ process, This refers to finding leads strategically and consistently, washing leads to make sure they’re not being approached by colleagues and entering those leads into a content management system so they are easily accessible and manageable, she says.

Eight stylish steps to a grand online retail site

8:42AM | Tuesday, 27 August

The big players of online retail appear to have it made. Look at international apparel sites such as or – they boast a swish product offer, sophisticated websites with impressive images, and hefty turnovers.   Think of Australian sites, such as wine e-tailer, or furniture site They’ve got a distinct product offer, professional customer service, smooth delivery operations and engaged consumer communities.   From the outside, the success of these companies may appear daunting to emulate. Even for well-established businesses, e-tail can still trigger challenges for management used to dealing in the bricks-and-mortar world.   However, there is no need to lag behind your competitors when it comes to turning clicks into sales. If you set up a quality content management system, a niche product offer and well-oiled delivery operations, you are off to a good start.   Ahead of the Fashion Exposed trade fair, launching in Melbourne this Sunday, August 25, SmartCompany spoke to presenters at the event on how to catch up with the leaders in the e-tail sphere.   Simon Goodrich, co-founder of e-commerce platform provider Portable, and Jean-Claude Abouchar, chief executive officer of multi-brand fashion e-tail site The Grand Social, offer eight steps to get up and running.   1. Just do it   Businesses doing well in traditional bricks-and-mortar retail may have resisted the online push for fear it could stretch their resources.   “I think people feel a bit down being behind the boat in online retail,” says Goodrich. “But in the recent period there have been some really exciting methodologies and examples for people to use.”   Goodrich says people can be “scared” to shift online, as they don’t know what platforms to employ, or what content to generate.   “If you have a (physical) store, and you’re open, and you’ve got salespeople in there, people walk in,” says Goodrich.   “You’ve got a lot of other items within that built environment that can assist you to make sales.   “People think, my product or what I do might not work online, but I think they should go out there and test…there are lots of things people can be doing, it’s very exciting.”   Abouchar says to simply “just get started”, and experiment.   “Just get online with whatever you are trying to sell,” he says. “As soon as you learn about your customer and what works and doesn’t, then focus your energy, time and money into what is working rather than spend a year trying to get it perfect.   “Just get live, that is the bottom line.”   2. Find the right platform   Simple, effective content management systems are now easy to find, meaning you can have an e-tail shopfront up and running quickly.   Goodrich says you need a CMS that you can easily update. “A lot of systems have been refined over the past few years to do basic things well,” he says.   It shouldn’t be daunting. “There are a lot of out-of-the-box solutions. It comes down to how much people want to invest.”   Goodrich says it is a myth that the e-tail shopfront has to be professionally graphic designed and complicated.   “It doesn’t have to have a lot to it. It can just be images and an example of the business.   “Have a system that captures emails, develops newsletters, and have some form of social media reach out. There is obviously Facebook, there’s Twitter, it just depends on which platform best suits your audience.”   3. Own your audience   To generate sales, the best way is to build a loyal community around your business. Goodrich says to draw on the value of the people who engage with your business already – as they shouldn’t be separate to your online customers.   “You have to get ownership over your customer base. People in the past might have sent out paper newsletters or even email newsletters, but they may not have been getting statistics on how people are using that information.”   He says it is vital to use data collection tools to harness this feedback, so you can better tailor your content.   “Define your company voice. You ask what magazines your customers read, what movies do they like, what holidays do they want? Once you can get an idea of who that person is, the content bit becomes a lot easier.”   4. Plan your logistics   When Abouchar co-launched The Grand Social back in 2008, experimenting with warehouse and delivery logistics was a core challenge – one which the business continually refines.   “No one was doing third-party fulfillment,” he says. “So we had to set it up ourselves.”   The Grand Social offers multiple fashion brands on the one site, so initially products were coming in from countless sources.   “What we needed to do in terms of the fulfillment and the supply chain solution was really complicated. No one wanted to touch it, it was in the too-hard basket.   “For e-tail, there was a lack of options – Australia Post didn’t even have a system running.”   He says they initially tried bringing all of the products ordered to a central place, before shipping items to a customer in a single package.   They then moved to ‘drop ship model’, where the designers send the products directly to the buyer as the orders are processed.   He says experimenting and refining your system can take time, but it is essential to work out the best way for quick and efficient delivery.   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 5. Find a service niche   Abouchar says once your store is up and running, think about what extra layers of service you can transfer from your bricks-and-mortar world to online.   He says the “danger” is that it could become just an arm of your physical store, without the personal service.   “You need to have the second layer of service. Anyone can sell stuff online, but think, how are we going to be different?” he says.   “Customers will go where they get service and advice.”   He says to draw on your customer data, tailor content, and personalise their experience to maximise engagement with the brand.   Abouchar is an admirer of, a US start-up which is taking service to the next level.   “It is basically filling in a profile questionnaire about your personal style, and they send you a box of five different products that they’ve picked (based on the survey).   “You keep what you want, and send back what you don’t, and over time the platform becomes smarter about what is good for you. It works out outfits for you. It’s a subscription-based model with a service layer, added on to the technology layer.”   6. Progress constantly, but mindfully   It is tempting to try and be everything to every customer, and to panic that your competitors are more advanced in e-tail. However, Abouchar says to pick what is vital, do it well, and say no to the rest.   He argues that there is “only so much time in the day”, especially juggling both a physical store with a new online enterprise.   “It is about focus…about two years ago we decided to stop starting new things, and we said ‘let’s focus on doing a few things well’.”   The Grand Social narrowed down its key objectives – a refresh of the homepage, tailoring the customer experience, upgrading warehouse and fulfillment distribution, and perfecting inventory management and barcoding.   8. Have patience   Abouchar says people launching online may wonder why they are not getting instant results, but says to remember that just like a physical store, results can take time.   “It takes just as long to build a business online as offline. People have expectations that they will open an online business and in a year or two they will be relaxing in the tropics…it is just as tough if not tougher as there are millions of people around the world to compete with.   “Online is no different, it brings the same challenges as offline.”   Simon Goodrich and Jean-Claude Abouchar will be presenting at Fashion Exposed Trade Fair in Melbourne, which begins Sunday, August 25. For seminar details visit

Content marketing isn’t a buzz word, it’s here to stay

8:24AM | Tuesday, 20 August

Creating compelling content that builds audiences is an important marketing pillar for anyone starting out in business.   Known as content marketing, custom media, custom publishing, branded content and branded media, this style of marketing is particularly important given consumers are increasingly seeking out information they can trust.   Content marketing enables businesses to deliver content via tutorials, email newsletters, white papers, custom publications, ebooks, free reports, blogs or social media.   Anyone can create relevant content that spruiks their business. If you’re a landscape gardener launching your own business, you could own a niche audience of followers keen to hear your thoughts on drought-resistant gardens, for example.   Content marketing is the way of the future, says the chief executive of the Association for Data-Driven Marketing and Advertising, Jodie Sangster.   “The future of marketing is content marketing. The convergence of data, technology, new consumer consumption habits and digital distribution mean the business case for content marketing has never been more compelling.”   Craig Hodges, chief executive and founder of King Content says content marketing has been around forever. It works best for companies that want to drive leads and sales, working across multiple sectors from banking and finance to fast moving consumer goods, he says.   “It’s not something that has developed in the last couple of months, as many people might think. The real game changer has been the transformation in the way consumers find brands and ‘stuff’ in general.   “Google has played an integral role in this by determining they wanted a search engine free of keyword-stuffed landing pages, instead ranking quality sites with great content,” Hodges says.   This has encouraged brands to begin investing in owned, searchable content assets that are of value to the consumer and share the essence of what the brand stands for through storytelling, he says.   “If you couple this with the role of social media, a powerful sharing and amplification tool, it’s easy to see why there has been such a focus on developing quality content marketing strategies.”   Content marketing works well for new online homewares/linen store, I Love Linen.   Melbourne founder Lauren Roe has had strong results from Facebook despite the brand only launching a few months ago.   “A great Facebook strategy is based on engaging with customers and promoting a certain image around a desired lifestyle and then finding ways to link it back to your products,” Roe says. One of her recent posts was shared by a popular blogger with a huge Facebook following, which resulted in a day of high traffic and sales, she says.   “It’s so easy to manage because once you have a good content strategy and you know the themes around how you want to post, then you can pre-source and pre-load all the content. We do this once a week so it’s locked and loaded so we don’t have to think of content ideas on the fly,” Roe says.   “I know Facebook works because I track the click-throughs from Google Analytics and can track the purchase journey that way. A great example is a customer that I generated via Facebook has purchased with us three times in just under six weeks,” she says.   Content marketing is also a key marketing pillar for Intrepid Travel, with content partnerships forged to develop content that will appeal to potential customers.   One of its most successful partnerships has been with sustainable food filmmakers The Perennial Plate. This partnership sent two chefs to 13 countries to create short videos that reflect local food culture, which aligns with Intrepid’s new range of food adventures and commitment to responsible and sustainable travel.   “The videos are authentic and compelling and each has its own distribution strategy. The first video that was produced received over 300,000 views and the series so far has been viewed by 2.75 million,” global public relations manager Eliza Anderson says.   Many start-ups already embark on a PR campaign, but minor tweaks to existing PR, communications and social media content isn’t the same thing as content marketing, according to a report by technology research firm Gartner.   Hiring freelance writers to create your content, create a pipeline of talent via online freelance marketplaces like elance or outsource your newsroom can be great ways to get the content you need, says Gartner analyst Jake Sorofman.   Ultimately, businesses need to decide what end result they want to achieve from content marketing from the outset, he says.   “Do you want to create blog posts, build a special website or blog, or generate Facebook comments or Tweets? Ensure that whatever content management system you are using can create content forms that match your goals. Also ensure that each asset you generate can be shared socially,” Sorofman says.   But creating content is one thing. Making sure it’s reaching an audience is something else altogether. Distribution of content is a major issue, according to a recent roundtable forum held in Sydney.   Hosted by ADMA and content marketing firm Edge, it found that many businesses overlook the importance of developing distribution strategies.   Care needs to be taken when it comes to distribution as distribution via social media can turn consumers off, according to a recent report by Pitney Bowes Software. It found that 83% of consumers have had a bad social media marketing experience.   Simon Bird, general manager Australia, warns that annoying customers can mean lost revenue, with 65% of consumers saying they’d stop using a brand that upset or irritated them through its social media behaviour.   “It’s critical for businesses to develop an in-depth understanding of their customers’ communications preferences and what makes them tick. You need to approach customers through the channels they like and with content that is relevant to them and their current situation.”   Five tips to help start-ups thrive in the age of content   Create brand ambassadors. Use Twitter Advanced Search to find people who are talking about similar offerings to yours. Contact them and get them excited about your brand   Understand and track your SEO. Use free Google tools like Adwords, Analytics and Trends to compare keywords, view keyword search traffic demand and find out if your keywords are converting traffic   Take advantage of hashtags. Simple and consistent hashtags like #apps help your target market find your start-up. Use social dashboard tools like HootSuite or TweetDeck to find relevant hashtags.   Find free publicity. Sign up for free services like SourceBottle and HARO, which connect journalists with sources to easily and cheaply build a reputation in your industry.   Protect your reputation before you have one. Use free tools like Google Alerts and to find out what is being said about your company, competitors and industry.   Source: Ali Berg, head of content, Online Circle Digital

Retail Evolution Lab unveils five must-have technologies for stores

3:03PM | Tuesday, 12 March

Local retail design firm Red Design Group has unveiled a range of new in-store technologies for retailers, after partnering with AOPEN to launch the Retail Evolution Lab in Melbourne.

Time to call your Techmaster

11:51AM | Wednesday, 21 November

Earlier today, I decided it was high time to have a chat with Taskmaster Enterprises’ resident Gen-Y Techmaster.

A business that’s made to order

11:27PM | Monday, 5 November

Melbourne-based business OrdersInbox was built off an existing business, but is fast becoming a success in its own right, under the direction of Robert Reith and Douglas Reith.

Six steps to overhauling your website without killing it

3:02AM | Monday, 18 March

We recently overhauled our Home Loan Finder website and, as we were building it, we learned a few golden lessons.     By not following them, we could’ve killed the site entirely. Some of these were quite technical but would apply to all websites.   With increasing numbers of start-ups realising that their websites are their key sales and marketing tool, it’s important that when you make improvements to your online presence that you don’t sink it in the process.   Here are my top six tips for your website revamp:   1. Maintain permalink structure   A permalink is the name of a URL to a particular page on your website e.g., the permalink here is /apple/iphone-4s/.   Normally on a website there is a naming convention and a structure which ties all of the pages together e.g. in this case the iPhone 4s lives underneath the Apple category.   What you need to make sure of here is that you don’t go and change this structure. If you change it what you will get is a massive list of 404 errors with Google and this will cause your site to appear very broken and rank lower in the search engines.   The main causes of the 404s are links from external sites and internal pages on your site pointing to pages that no longer exist. To avoid this problem: Maintain your previous URL permalink structure or set up 301 redirects of the old pages to the new ones so that Google and users can easily follow the links to the new locations. Select your Content Management System (CMS) carefully and ensure it can preserve your permalink URL structure. 2. Test across browsers   Most websites still have a huge proportion of Internet Explorer users. This is because it comes default with Windows and most users are very basic in how they use a computer.   Most developers use Firefox or Chrome because it supports more features and it allows for faster browsing and more developer plugins.   The problem you will face here is that if you hire a web developer, there’s a good chance he or she won’t think to test your site on Internet Explorer.   Internet Explorer can be a real pain to develop for as it requires special code to make things work.   I’d strongly advise that your developer tries to use your website on an older computer.   I would also suggest you try using a lower resolution monitor and see what your website is like with that as well!   3. Check the user flow   When you develop your site, you become very close to it and you start to learn how it works.   You start to click in advanced and faster places that most first time users would never know to do.   The problem here is that you start to skip the basics that first time users will need to operate your website and you create a user flow that breaks.   The solution here is to hand your website over to someone who doesn’t know your business and has never seen the website. Get them to complete the main actions on the site.   You will be amazed at what you learn and the simple things that you missed. 4. Google Analytics and conversion scripts   The last thing developers do before they push a site live is roll out the pieces of code which track your users and conversions.   This is because they don't want to pollute the statistics with developer tests and fake user data.   This is completely understandable but it also means that a lot of the time you forget to add the scripts back onto the website when you are going live.   Always check that all of your scripts are installed after you go live. It will make sure your stats are consistent.   5. References to the old development sites   When you are building your site you normally build it on a development or staging site.   The problem you want to avoid here is that sometimes references to specific development environment elements are left on the actual live site.   Check before and after you go live that there aren’t any leftover elements from the staging or development site.   6. Work out the best time to launch your site   Everyone has different views on this, although I would suggest using one of the following: Launch when the site traditionally has the least amount of traffic. This will avoid major interruptions and allow you to make quick changes to the live site. Try and ensure you have as many hands on deck when launching. Usually a Friday launch might want to be avoided as people are winding down. That said, sometimes Friday might be the best time to launch as it may be your lowest traffic day.   Fred Schebesta is the founder of comparison website: Fred's passion for comparison and helping Australians save money lead him to recently launch Mobile Phone Finder to compare mobile phones, and Life Insurance Finder to compare Life Insurance. You can follow him on Twitter @schebesta.

News Limited-backed SportingPulse acquires BellvueIT

7:22AM | Wednesday, 4 July

Community sporting network SportingPulse, which is now majority-owned by News Limited, has acquired content management system BellvueIT.

Government road show aims to boost regional firms’ web presence

6:55AM | Tuesday, 14 June

The Federal Government has teamed up with the likes of PayPal, eBay and Optus to launch Driving Business Online, a nationwide road show designed to help small businesses achieve success online – and sell them on the benefits of the NBN.

New ways to cut costs

4:24AM | Friday, 27 April

There’s no better time to have a look at your cost base and try to put a bit more bounce in your bottom line.