Is Affiliate Marketing Right for You?

In most industries today, small business owners will find that e-commerce is the only true route to success. If you’ve already built your online business and are now struggling to turn a small but devoted customer base into a large and vocal fandom, maybe it’s time to recruit your customers to sell your product for you. If you’ve already come this far, maybe it’s time to look into affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing is often confused with multi-level marketing (MLM). In light of the recent Herbalife settlement, people are once again thinking of MLM as a bad word – just Google “MLM” and you’ll see that one of the first results is “Is multi-level marketing a pyramid scheme?” But that’s missing the point of the settlement, which we believe is actually a good thing for the industry.

In 2012 Bill Ackman, founder of Pershing Square Capital, a hedge fund, began a campaign against Herbalife, accusing the 35-year-old dieting supplement company of being a pyramid scheme. After a lengthy investigation, the company agreed to establish a $200M fund to reimburse distributors for lost wages and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found that Herbalife was operating legally.

This settlement is meaningful because, despite the fine, it reinforces that MLM is a fair and legitimate business model. In the words of Herbalife CEO Michael Johnson: “The settlements are an acknowledgement that our business model is sound and underscores our confidence in our ability to more forward successfully.”

While it shares superficial similarities with MLM, affiliate marketing is itself a distinct business model from both multi-level marketers and illegal pyramid schemes:

Pyramid schemes require that people pay to participate in the scheme and only profit when they recruit others to participate. The “product” is only redistribution of money pumped into the scheme: the business is built on recruitment. It’s a closed system and the money flows overwhelmingly toward the top. With no incentive to actually sell a product, those at the bottom of the pyramid eventually run out of new recruits and the pyramid collapses.

Multi-level marketing companies rely on the sale of real products for their cash flow. New recruits are brought on board and the company incentivises recruiters, but the profits at all levels still come from actual sales. Rather than profiting off fees charged to recruits, the company rewards recruiters with a percentage of profits based on sales. In other words, the product is everything.

Affiliate marketing is a single-tier system which rewards affiliates for each visitor or customer the affiliate directs to the business. The affiliate is not selling the product but is instead marketing the business and directing traffic to the company’s website.

Affiliate marketing is often overlooked by digital marketers. Though the methods are more or less identical – SEO, SEM, PPC, email campaigns, etc. – instead of coming from the business directly, the content is actually being promoted by a third-party “publisher” (the affiliate). This is a powerful tool for building trust in a brand; when somebody else speaks up for your product, it makes a greater impression on consumers than hearing it directly from the merchant.

The product is still everything, however. Some people get into affiliate marketing or MLMs because they seem like a solid, profitable business model, and then figure out what the “product” is later. But the medium is not the message. There is no product that is a poor fit for affiliate marketing as long as you’re doing it for the right reasons. Get your product right first – the best time to introduce affiliate marketing to your business is once you have a small but growing customer base, a group of potential brand ambassadors who can prove to you and others that you have a great product.

Affiliate marketing is not a “get-rich-quick scheme” and it’s certainly not a scam. It’s good business. If you know you have a great product and a great online business, affiliate marketing is right for you.
From the start, our mission has always been to provide freelancers, self-employed professionals, entrepreneurs and small business owners with convenient and affordable tools for growing their business. We believe in small business and want to do what we can to help improve the lives of your customers – check back often with the Payza blog for the latest tips and tricks on growing your online business, and be sure to follow us on: Facebook and Twitter

Disappearing Banknotes in India: Understanding the Terms Surrounding Digital Payments

Don’t know what are UPI, NPCI, IMPS, NEFT, or RTGS? Don’t worry, we can help!

The people of India are still adapting to the sudden demonetization of the 500 and 1000 rupee banknotes. Emerging from what experts have described as a “debacle” and utter “fiasco” in monetary policy, many Indians are frustrated by media reports that offer confusing information about India’s financial system.
To help bring some clarity to the situation, we wanted to go over some of the unclear terms in finance and digital payments that are common in media reports about demonetization.

What is UPI?

Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is a digital payment system network. Using an app on a smartphone, the UPI enables citizens to transfer money between bank accounts of 19 major Indian banks. In addition to simplifying and increasing access to many basic banking services, the UPI app lets a customer to transfer funds to the bank account of a merchant to make payments without the need to share private financial information.

The National Payments Corporation of India along with The Reserve Bank of India developed the app to encourage Indians to replace cash transactions with digital payments.

For more information, see this article about UPI and the related app in The Hindu: What is Unified Payment Interface?

What is IMPS?

Immediate Payment Service (IMPS) is a digital payment system network. IMPS enables the instant, digital transfer of funds between major banks.

Like the UPI, the IMPS platform makes it easy to digitally transfer funds between banks using mobile phones. Using this service, citizens can transfer funds whenever they please, even during off-hours and bank holidays.
The IMPS platform is managed by the National Payments Corporation of India and operates using the National Financial Switch network.

What is NEFT?

National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT) is the most extensive banking network in India to transfer funds digitally. This network provides a simple and cost-effective means to transfer funds throughout India and is popular for settling retail remittances. This banking service is available during business hours and closes for bank holidays.

What is NPCI?

National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) is a non-profit organization that oversees all retail payment systems in India. The organization aims to offer all Indian citizens unrestricted access to digital payment services. Endorsed by the Reserve Bank of India, the NPCI is a leader in advancing India’s “cashless society” initiative.

What is RTGS?

Real-time gross settlement (RTGS) is a money transfer system within a country that enables the transfer of a high volume of funds between banks. Finance companies use this system to transfer money or securities instantly, where the funds are sent individually rather than bundles or batches that are mixed with other securities. The RTGS provides essential financial infrastructure for a country’s Central Bank and monetary system.

Do you know of other banking and finance terms we should add to our list? Would you like for us to explain the details of a digital payment system? Tell us in the comments section below.

Increasing your SEO Score for More Online Visibility

Here we provide a strategy to ensure your customers will find
your online business when conducting internet searches.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO), a fundamental component of website building and digital marketing, has been around long enough that we in the business already look back fondly at the “good old days” of SEO. Once upon a time, getting your website to rank was as simple as cramming enough keywords into a page, a practice that now has the opposite effect. These days, SEO is a complex set of best practices that is constantly being changed and updated, so keeping your website optimized can be a full-time job.

Before we go any further, to understand SEO we need to understand how search engines work. Basically, Google, Bing, etc. send robots all around the internet that “crawl” every website they can find. They pull all the data from these sites and, using a very large set of complex algorithms, attempt to identify which ones have the most valuable information for their users.

For example, when you type “e-commerce” into Google, it attempts to sort the search results in order of what you are most likely to find useful. The problem with this is that robots are not that good at deciding what is and isn’t useful to humans.

The practice of search engine optimization then is to find ways to tell those robots that your website is the one people are looking for. But this comes with a problem as well, which is that even poor or spam websites can still have good SEO, and so Google, etc. have to constantly improve their algorithms in order to filter out the sites that are trying to “trick” them into thinking they’re useful and return only the best possible results for their users.

So as search engines get smarter, SEO practices have to get more sophisticated. Let’s have a look at some of the key elements of SEO and how you can use them to increase your online visibility.

Terms you need to know

Keywords: Keywords are the terms or phrases browsers are searching for. Search engines catalog the keywords you’ve incorporated in your website and use them to rank your site appropriately in their results pages.
In-bound and out-bound links: Search engines consider how many other websites link to yours, as well as which websites you link to, to measure the legitimacy of your site. The quality of the in-bound and out-bound links will also influence your score.
UX: User experience is a broad category of its own which includes ease-of-use, intuitive navigation and quick loading times. Search engines consider how pleasurable it is to use a website when ranking them in their results pages.
Bounces: When someone clicks through to a site only to discover that it is not what they were looking for, they will hit “Back” to return to the results page. This is called a “bounce” and it signals to search engines that your site is not what visitors are looking for, so they will rank it lower in future search results.

Tips to get you on track

Don’t Get Comfortable

If you haven’t updated your SEO practices in the last year they’re at least partly out of date, but there’s another reason why you need to be constantly tweaking and maintaining your website. Search engines rank websites lower if they appear stagnant – if the content of your website is updated infrequently, it may do damage to your SEO score.

Understand Your Audience

The main function of SEO is to leverage keywords. By modifying the structure and content of your website, you can incorporate keywords that are relevant to your products and that your target market is using to search for similar products on the web. However, it’s important to focus on target keywords very specific to your potential audience. Popular search terms are a double-edged sword – avoid common keywords unless they’re definitely favored by your specific audience, otherwise you risk a high bounce rate.

Use Analytics

Analytics can help you keep it fresh. By keeping a watchful eye on your website analytics you can identify which of your SEO campaigns are performing well and how to deploy your resources most effectively. Pay attention to your bounce rates, paid vs. organic traffic, brand vs. non-brand keyword performance, and long-tail vs. short-tail traffic.Search engines also use analytics to identify the legitimacy of a website. If you can increase the average time your visitors spend on your website, search engines will see that as a vote of confidence that your website is indeed useful to their users.

Optimize Your Site

There are a few ways to optimize your site:

Pages more than three levels deep into your website are rarely going to be seen by a human being, so keep all the important information close to the surface. If users have to click more than twice from your homepage to get to the information they’re looking for, most of the time they will go looking for it somewhere else.
Trimming unnecessary pages from your site and eliminating duplicate content can increase your score since both of those are interpreted by search engines as spam.
Search engines consider loading times and broken links when ranking sites, so make sure your site is running smoothly at all times.

Leverage Marketing and Social Media

Good customer service never goes out of style – it’s even more important to the overall success of your business than SEO. In the age of social media, a bad review can spread like wildfire and severely impact your ability to reach new customers. Social media is a boon to SEO practitioners for its utility in link building, user-generated content and reputation management. Signals from social media, including the number of followers, community engagement and content sharing tells search engines that your brand and website are valuable to their users.
More traditional forms of marketing can be effective as well, such as email marketing, maintaining a local physical presence, and getting your business reviewed by popular blogs and news outlets.

We are far from the age of “If you build it they will come”, especially not in the crowded and competitive online retail industry. Search engine optimization is the key to standing out in this market –9 out of 10 consumers use search engines to make purchasing decisions, and SEO is the way to compete for their attention. If you have any further questions about implementing good SEO practices for your website, leave a comment below, and keep visiting the Payza Blog for more tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your e-commerce business.

Creating a Successful FinTech Company

The FinTech industry has grown exponentially over a relatively short period of time, and it shows no sign of stopping. Now, several young entrepreneurs are attempting to break into the FinTech industry. Their goal is to create an easier way to handle finances with technology and morph this way into an entire brand. However, not everyone goes about forming a new business the right way. Business owners must formulate a strategy that appeals to both potential funders of a company and a target market. The following are some questions to answer that will help you begin a successful FinTech brand.

What Is Your Niche?

Now that the FinTech industry is booming, there are hundreds if not thousands of companies trying to make money in the FinTech sphere. Therefore, you need to research the industry thoroughly. Figure out what people are doing well in the FinTech sphere, and what you can do better. Better yet, determine what FinTech customers are still looking for within the sphere. These tactics will give you the necessary knowledge to determine if your business is viable, and how to become a solution for your target market.

Is Your Idea Too Complicated?

FinTech is, obviously, a complicated technical sphere. However, the most successful companies are the ones that connect with the average user. This means being able to speak about your brand and product in simple terms. People are very set in their ways in terms of finances and banking; there are some who refuse to consider online money transfers as an option! Your potential users need to be able to understand how their money will be handled from start to finish.

Do You Have a Social Media Marketing Plan?

One of the biggest mistakes that new FinTech companies make is thinking they are outside the realm of normal entrepreneurial ventures. Even though FinTech is a relatively new industry, emerging FinTech companies should be treated on the marketing side like every other new business. This means having a social media strategy. You must build a community around your product through writing engaging content and interacting with users on social media. This is the most effective way to obtain customers.

How Will You Get People To Trust Your Company?

Having a niche, a marketing plan, and a simple business model is all helpful, but none of it will get you customers if your company is not deemed trustworthy. The easiest way to get people to trust your company is to partner with already-trusted influencers in the FinTech field. You can form a relationship with traditional banks, or connect with influencers and ask for their opinion and endorsement.  

Fintech Investments Soar

Since the start of the new year, entrepreneurs have been on edge. Venture capital seemed to be dwindling, which made business owners worry that any company they began would struggle to stay afloat. However, the past few months have shown that companies in the financial technology, or Fintech, sphere need not worry. Corporations and banks have been investing so much in Fintech startups that funding for said companies is higher than ever before.  

The amount of funding put into Fintech startups has doubled since 2015, reaching 13.8 billion dollars. Investments have stemmed mostly from the corporate sphere. Corporations invest in such startups in hopes to make their operations run more smoothly. Unfortunately, this increase in investments came at a cost. It surged because of stock performance by many Fintech startups that was lower than expected.

Therefore, banks and corporations all took part in deals for startups in order to expand their investment portfolios. One such bank is Citigroup, which is a well-known and established bank, that has thirteen startups in its investment portfolio. Other financial corporations backing several Fintech startups include Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase. The investment in Fintech startups by banks and corporations is not just limited to the United States either. Corporations in Asia, for example, make up almost half of all investors in startups.

Investing in Fintech startups by financial corporations and banks bodes well for the future of finance all over the world. It shows a push in outdated financial institutions to adapt to modern times by incorporating new technology into their business models. It is paying off for customers already. Banks have developed applications for mobile devices that allow easier banking transactions, for example. Also, exchanging money digitally is as seamless as ever. Fintech innovation has even reached a point that stocks can be monitored and traded right from a technological device.

However, there is some uncertainty in Fintech startups, as they have become wary about the nature of the bank investments in their companies. They are, of course, thrilled that banks are dedicated to breaking into the digital age, but there is still a question as to whether or not the financial institutions will be good investors. Bank regulations are very limiting, and many such regulations prevent them from investing in innovative Fintech ventures.
Only time can tell how involved banks will be in Fintech startups in the future, but I hope they continue to take a large investing role. Moving all banking into the digital age is the only logical course of action in this day and age, and it has the ability to help everyone become more money-conscious.

Bitcoin At University…Is It A Good Fit?

Firoz PatelIn May of this year, Simon Fraser University became the first Canadian post-secondary institution to install automated Bitcoin vending machines. SFU installed these AVMs at bookstores on each of the school’s three campuses.

For some, the idea that you can use Bitcoin to buy your Psych 101 textbook is merely a fun novelty. But the reason behind SFU’s decision to invest in these AVMs is rather telling.

By purchasing these AVMs, it’s likely that SFU is stating their belief in the current and growing use of this cryptocurrency. Instead of fearing the decentralized, completely digital currency, this university is willing to participate with and provide access to the currency.

The university’s Executive Director of Ancillary Services, Mark McLaughlin, claims that “The plan is to eventually roll it out to our dining hall.”

He goes on to state that the school didn’t incorporate AVMs into its landscape because of financial incentives. However, there were two purported goals in utilizing this new currency at bookstores at each of the three campuses.

While some may argue that there are certainly financial perks that the school’s book sellers receive owing to accepting this type of currency (ie. no transaction fees for the retailer), the school maintains that the objectives were a bit more heady.

First of all, incorporating Bitcoin into the bookstores’ forms of accepted currencies, it started a dialogue on campus about disruptive technologies. Additionally, students and staff members alike had the opportunity to learn about Bitcoin.

Although the school does not disclose the number of Bitcoin transactions that have come through these AVMs, they do remain optimistic about the future of the currency at the school, and pleased with the number of people currently taking advantage of the fact that it is being treated as an alternative to other payment methods at the school’s bookstores.

While only time will tell where and when this trend will catch on, Simon Fraser University will certainly offer an interesting testing ground for how young people choose to interact with this currency when it is presented as a payment option IRL.

Countries Other Than China Set their Sights on Singles Day

Firoz PatelSingles Day started as a holiday in the 1990s in China that essentially served as an opportunity for single people to treat themselves to something nice. With the advent of e-commerce, however, the holiday has become one of the country’s highest traffic shopping days. Part of this is due to significant promotions from e-commerce titan Alibaba. Last year Alibaba earned three quarters of sales from that day. That is to say a reported $9.3 billion USD in sales. A Nielsen survey reports that the average expected amount to spend per person for the holiday is $277.76 USD. This number is based on a sample size of over one thousand internet users based in China.

While Singles Day not only rivals, but exceeds the numbers from Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals in the US, another interesting trend of note is the changing demographics in terms of who the buyers are. In China, Singles Day captures the rising middle class and a younger generation that is flush with disposable income and developing a growing desire to spend.

Although Singles Day stems from a holiday first celebrated on Nanjing Campus back in the ‘90s, Alibaba is responsible for not only helping to spread the popularity of the holiday, but to brand it in a way that directly links the celebration to online shopping.

In many ways, Alibaba owns the holiday – and not just in a theoretical way. The Alibaba Group puts a lot of money into creating the advertising and content leading up to the holiday, and has built an infrastructure and system that caters directly to the demands of this day. But in an even more practical sense, in 2012, the Alibaba Group trademarked the term “双十一” (or “Double 11”). Although that is different from the term “Singles Day”, it is associated very intimately with the holiday. And in the fall of 2014, Alibaba threatened legal action against any media outlets that would enter into advertising deals from competitors that used this term.

Alibaba Although Singles Day has continued to grow rapidly over the past few years, this year international markets are clearly taking notice of the potential for this holiday, and Alibaba will celebrate Singles Day by ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. Although this is not a new holiday, this particular gesture suggests that other countries have really begun to take notice and that expansion of celebrating the holiday globally is likely on the horizon.  

6 New FinTech Cities To Watch

Firoz PatelWhile payment loans and emerging payment solutions tend to be the focus of this site, it’s important to take a step back every now and again to consider the broader industry. Today payment solutions are intrinsically linked with emerging technologies.

And when it comes to fintech, there have been three major players that have been dominating the industry: New York, London, and Silicon Valley. But as the market grows rapidly, other cities are coming up to make their mark. Here are 6 cities to keep your eyes on:

1. Vancouver

Known for valuing privacy and security, Vancouver has acquired an “organic” talent pool of engineers and innovators with their lack of government influence and sponsorship. Within one year, they have already tripled their value from $4 billion in 2013 to a little over $12 billion in 2014.

2. Hong Kong

Hong Kong has been a constant pest to the top fintech cities for awhile now though some experts have argued that it have been dropping off the map compared to other cities. But it’s showing successful numbers similar to Vancouver. The country’s roughly $3 billion market jumped to around $12 billion in 2014. It also repositioning itself towards a leading position with its ever-thriving Cyberport.

3. Dublin

Dublin is ready to challenge London for its leading position by taking a crash course into the European markets. Being an outsourcing location for many companies, It’s the hub for Accenture (a fintech dedicated to the ecosystem worldwide) and the U.S. bank Citi.

4. Singapore

Singapore has become a major player across the board in the industry. Both in global services and in Asia. Over a span of the next five years, the country has pledged $166 million for fintech investments.

5. Sydney

With its thriving deep-rooted professional, creative and digital industries, Sydney has come out of the woodwork and started to utilize its fintech potential. Sydney’s hub has been estimated to be worth over AUS$2 million and continuing to go strong with support from the government and the private companies.

6. Berlin

Known as the startup capital, Berlin has mastered growing tech startups and has become the second largest hub with fintech funding in Europe, bringing in a whopping $300 million in 2014. It’s second to only the U.K.

 

Info courtesy of Procurement Leaders and Tech Crunch.

 

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