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Extension > eMarketing: Practical and Useful Research > July 2013

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Online reviews - the new word-of-mouth

First of a series of fact sheets on "Online reviews and your business," presented in partnership with the EDA Center at the University of Minnesota Crookston.

Author: Adeel Ahmed

The Internet has changed the way consumers expect to get information. Shoppers don't just get tips from their family and friends anymore. Now, customers can easily go online to get information about businesses, rate products and exchange opinions about consumer experiences across a vast, geographically dispersed group of people. This makes the Internet the new "word of mouth" for consumers, and small business owners are advised to pay attention.

Research on consumer behavior shows that online reviews are a key resource for shoppers trying to decide where to go and what to buy. That's why it's important for small business owners to understand the potential effects of customer opinions on their operation--and learn how to manage online reviews.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Putting your business online

Author: Ryan Pesch

Getting online is more important - and easier

First we had phone books. Then the Yellow Pages. And they're still useful if you know exactly what you're looking for. But nowadays most customers first go to the Internet to search for products and services. What's more, if shoppers can't find you online, they may simply overlook your business and go elsewhere.

Pew Research recently found that nearly 60 percent of all Americans and 78 percent of regular Internet users research products and services online before purchase. Pew Research also found that 92 percent of Americans use search engines at least occasionally. The numbers say it all: Your business absolutely needs a web presence so customers can find you.

This fact sheet offers three ways you can get started putting your business online: (1) create a web presence using free and easy tools, (2) correct your business listings already on the Internet, and (3) connect with University of Minnesota Extension for free and affordable workshops and consultations.

How can I learn more about visitors to my website?

Author: Ryan Pesch

Tip: Use web analytic software to gather information about your customers and patrons

If you're part of a small business or other organization, you probably know that analyzing the traffic to your website or blog is one of the best ways to learn more about your clientele so you can serve them better. But how do you get that information?

The answer is web analytics--the measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting of Internet data to help you optimize traffic to your website or blog. web analytics can assist you with business and market research to improve your products and services. At its most fundamental level, web analytics can help you make better decisions.

There are various brands of web analytic software on the market today, including Google Analytics, which we will focus on in this fact sheet. We chose Google Analytics because it's free and relatively easy to understand. However, we strongly recommend that you check out other web analytic products to find the one that best suits your needs and budget. You can find a list on Wikipedia at

How can I better tell my business story online?

Author: Ryan Pesch

Tip: use a blog to reach existing customers and find new ones

As the owner or operator of a small business, you are probably looking for an effective, yet reasonably priced way of promoting your products or services online. A blog might be a good choice.

A blog is a specialized type of web page that acts as an online journal or "web log." Blogs contain "posts" of text and/or photos, videos, and links in a reverse chronological order so your most recent entry is on top (see figure below). Although blogs do not suit every type of business or organization, they do offer the following advantages: (1) easy to update and maintain, (2) effectively communicate timely information, and (3) allow interaction with readers through a comment function.

Like other social media tools, blogs lend themselves to creating personal connections and engaging customers. Research even indicates that readers can discern a blog writer's personality online, which affects attraction to a blog (Li & Chignell, 2010). Some businesses tactically employ blogs to drive traffic to their main websites or demonstrate responsiveness to customers. Other businesses use blogs to show off the inner workings of their operations or provide other value-added information of interest to customers.
Image used with permission of East Silent Lake Resort

Friday, July 12, 2013

How are your customers shopping online?

Hye-Young Kim
Ryan Pesch

Tip: Define your target market; research online habits

It is obvious to anybody in business today that the Internet plays a significant role in sales and marketing. More and more purchases occur online and customers' expectations have changed as a result. Today customers use the Internet much as they would a phone book a decade ago, and they expect even the smallest business to have some kind of online presence.

If you operate a small business, you may dismiss electronic commerce (e-commerce) as the world of Amazon and eBay. The truth is that online purchases are only a small part of e-commerce. Keep in mind that the Internet plays an even greater role as a tool for researching merchandise and services (Levy & Weitz, 2009). Many websites serve businesses by providing effective communication about services, products, and other features.

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