5 Tips for A Creative Retail Branding and Design Strategy

Quality retail branding is meant to connect businesses with customers in a way that builds trust and desire in the consumer for the brand and their product. Branding has been around since ancient times (from Roman columns to Chinese stamps), but modern commercial branding is a new phenomenon. People are more involved with brands than ever, locally and globally, to the point where two golden arches are immediately recognizable by almost everyone around the world, without any words in the picture.

In the complex world of retail, which is composed of multiple elements and disciplines, a consumer can see connections, or a lack of connections, between all the different aspects of retail at a glance. And that is where design comes in. Retail branding and design aims to create a harmonious and holistic schema out of all of the elements of retail, from personnel to product presentation. Design is not just about looks, but about function. Without a good branding and design strategy, retail stores are a mishmash of unrelated ideas that can confuse and put off potential customers.

Design your layout based on traffic flow:

When customers enter the store, where do they look? Which way do they go? Position your best products in areas where customers are more likely to notice them. Pedestrian traffic is often influenced by vehicular traffic. That is, in areas where people drive on the right side of the road, in-store traffic patterns tend to move in a clockwise pattern. Use these patterns to your advantage.

Create a focal point in your visual displays:

Don’t just bring attention to anything and everything in the store, but draw customers in by featuring one item prominent, whether that’s in a window display or in the middle of your store. Strategically position lights and other items to point to your featured product and avoid distracting customers by putting equal weight on too many items at once.

Make window effects:

Windows make small spaces look larger and more inviting. Creating windows in the walls separating two rooms can give the entire building a more airy ambience, or creating visual illusions of windows such as white panels or drapes around mirrors, can also create a window effect, increasing the feeling of light and movement, especially if you are in a small space.

Avoid clutter:

Clutter feels noisy and uncomfortable for customers. Don’t overload your customer’s visual circuits with signs and patterns and displays galore. Instead, use neutral colors for larger items and accent the space with smaller items with brighter colors, and do not place your merchandise too closely together.

Use lighting to your advantage:

Lighting is important in any shop, and especially so in small corners. Make sure that your store is well lit, or else you will not be making good use of your space – customers don’t usually prefer to wander into dark, shadowy areas, so any merchandise displayed there will not receive a fair consideration. Use a combination of different lights to keep the space illuminated and to add variety and interest to the space.

Jewelry Making Kit Ideas for Kids

These jewelry making kit ideas include projects for both girls and boys. You may consider creating and selling kits like these as a business, or giving them as gifts, or using them to offer beading parties for kids.

Popular Projects for Teen / Kids Jewelry Making Kit

Children and teens love to make and wear jewelry. And a trendy jewelry project with a cool name can make a lot of sales!

These are some popular jewelry projects for kids of all ages to make. They are great designs to teach at a jewelry workshop or beading party, or to offer as kits.

1) Friendship Bracelet – for boys or girls. This has been a hot jewelry item for the past several years, with no sign oflining. Nice made with either "natural" beads, or colored glass / plastic ones, and strung on leather or hemp cord.

2) Friendship Anklet – similar to the bracelet above, except made ankle-size. (Less likely to be worn by boys.)

3) Surfer Dude / Surfer Chick Necklace – for boys or girls. A rustic choker-length necklace featuring a few beads and sometimes a small pendant. You can offer a variety of rugged, "natural" beads like clay, bone, horn, wood, recycled glass, etc. The beads and pendant are strung onto leather cord or rubber tubing, fastened with either sliding leather knots or a basemetal clasp. This is an especially popular teen / older kids jewelry making kit.

4) Princess Bracelet – an extremely popular jewelry making kit for girls. Possible components: large-hole beads to string on a pretty ribbon that ties onto the princess' wrist with a bow; beads to string on heavy-duty stretch cord; beads to string on beading wire and fastened with a basemetal toggle clasp. Pink and purple are a must in these designs.

5) Dragon-Bone Necklace – a popular jewelry making kit for boys. Simply provide a variety of bone beads and a few interesting spacer beads to string on leather cord and fasten off with sliding, adjustable knots.

6) Magic Bracelet – for boys or girls. An assortment of small magnetic hematite beads in a variety of shapes makes an endlessly fascinating toy as well as a piece of jewelry.

Tips for Creating a Jewelry Making Kit

Many of the commercially-made jewelry kits are disappointingly junky. They have a skimpy assortment of cheap components, flimsy tools, and poorly written instructions – packaged in a deceptively large box. It's very easy to create something that's vastly better than these!

When I create a jewelry making kit for workshops or for sale, I put myself in the customer's shoes – what would be excited to find in the kit? Here's an example of how I created some bead bracelet kits:

Each kit contained beads in a popular color scheme, with some nice contrast accent beads and at least one cool focal bead. I included an inspiring mix of bead colors, shapes, etc., and used a beadboard to measure how many inches of beads I was putting into each kit.

Then I tossed in a few extra inches of beads, so the recipient would have a good selection to design with, plus some leftover beads for other projects. I added a coil of leather stringing cord (cut a few inches longer than even the largest wrist would need), and instructions for good design, a comfortable fit, and making sliding knots.

I packaged it all in a transparent jewelry zip-close bag, stapled my product card to the top – and had a nice jewelry making kit.

SEO Strategies – The Truth About Search Engine Optimization

The Importance of Being Online

Did You Know? Right now, over 81% of people first search online before making a purchase vs using yellow pages, newspapers, traditional "offline" methods.

Did You Also Know? – 60% of traffic that comes to the websites is from searches-From people typing in what they are looking for in Google, Yahoo & MSN / Bing. Now, if your website is not on the first page of the search engine results, then unfortunately you are now. So knowing that, I am sure you would like to know how to achieve first page search results … and it begins with proper SEO strategies.

Let's get started!

First things first!

"A little bit of information is a dangerous thing"

Well the same holds true for too much information when it comes to SEO or Search Engine Optimization. When you are taught how to drive, was it necessary for you to have an understanding of the combustion engine, correct valve timing or be able to rebuild a transmission?

Of course not!

You simply needed the facts of getting your car going safely and smoothly down the road to your destination. Otherwise you will never get out of the driveway or be too overwhelmed and never learn to drive … never achieving your desired results.

Marketing Lesson # 1 "You can not steer a parked car!"

Unfortunately there is a lot of miss information that seems to be right in line with what people are trying to sell you online today. Imagine that?
The three reasons for this are simple:

1. SEO Companies, Gurus and Consultants want you to believe that only their big brains, experience and magic wands can make your site optimized and that little old you has NO chance, so do not bother and pay us lots of money.

2. Pretend Gurus and Consultants learn a few tricks and sell their wares unscrupulously all over the web for cheap leaving you with a crappy e-book and no results.

3. Lastly, there are the true webmasters out there who take on-Page optimization well beyond where it needs to go. (in my humble & profitable opinion) If you do not believe me, go ahead and buy one of those 200 page e-books that expect you to have degree from MIT and a full working knowledge of website coding. I would rather eat glass … I know this because I have read one of these, but dozens before seeing the light.

In other words, they tend to try and paint the Mona Lisa within every site but forget to invite anyone to the museum. IE All tech and no marketing. Remember, we did talk about the importance of getting the car moving did not we?

Dispelling the Myths of Search Engine Optimization

  • PPC or paid advertising is much cheaper and faster. WRONG. Paid advertising is only as good as long as you are paying for it, where On-Page optimization is a onetime set up. Natural Search Traffic is still 60% of all traffic & you will pay more per click in advertising if your site is NOT optimized.
  • SEO results take months, if not years, to achieve. WRONG. In fact, you can expect immediate results within a few days. Nobody has the time or patience to wait these days …
  • Optimal SEO results can only be achieved by an SEO expert. WRONG. No technical knowledge or SEO expertise is needed to achieve major success when you use the right SEO Strategies.
  • Hundreds of links are needed before I can start to see significant results. WRONG. Have you ever heard the saying, "Work smarter, not harder"? You can maximize your results with very little linking.
  • The Google algorithm is complicated and takes over 100 factors into consideration. It's impossible to achieve maximum SEO results without targeting them all. WRONG. There are key areas that have the greatest bearing and weighting over search engine results. In fact, these key areas make up the majority of the search algorithm.
  • SEO software yields the best results. WRONG. Simply put, if you know the key areas to target, you'll outperform any SEO program EVERY time. It's not a complicated process if you know what you're doing. (famous last words)

What is SEO All About Then?

All right, you've been patient. Here are the essentials of what you need to know about WHAT Search Engine Optimization is all about and then I'll get to the "HOW TO's" in just a minute. Let's walk before sprinting into uncharted territory.

OK so here's you first curve ball … there are two kinds of Search Engine Optimization! What? Who knew? Well I did and now so do you.

There is "ON PAGE" SEO and "OFF PAGE" SEO.

On-Page SEO is the method of configuring your website's size, layout, text, photos and videos so that they are easy to find by the search engines when someone is searching for them online.

Off-Page SEO happens outside of the website. It is the method of distributing valuable and relevant content about your products and services onto the internet in the form of blog posts, videos, articles, forums, podcasts, etc. that all point back to your website to help raise its rank in the search engines as well as drive traffic.

Now there is a middle man (more like a Judge) in the process and that is the search engines themselves like Google, Yahoo & Bing / MSN. They go around creeping and crawling around the internet and index or rank your website based on their own formulas known as algorithms.

No one knows the exact formulas (except those web geeks at Google, but they're not talking) but we have established some definite Do's & Don'ts when it comes to optimizing your website. The other thing to understand is that the Google's & Yahoo's use both On-Page & Off-Page optimization when ranking your website. For now, we'll concentrate on the on-site SEO which is the foundation for all other web marketing anyway.

Even paid web traffic from ads will cost you less with an optimized website because the search engines will reward you for playing by their rules … And simply the one theme that governs the rules of the search engines is to protect the consumer.

The Search Engines primary job is to bring the most RELEVANT results (websites, videos, articles, etc.) to the consumer or person doing the search based on the search term they type in. For example: If you were to search for "Snake Poison Antidote" on Google, you would be less than pleased and understandably angry if it folded up websites on snakeskin handbags and boots. You get the idea.

Getting Started with SEO Strategies

1. KEYWORDS : Prior to the SEO (or the process of correctly placing the right search engine friendly elements on your site) Optimization really begins with understanding the search terms people are using to look for products and services in the first place. These search terms are commonly known as "Keywords". Proper Keyword research is where most people (even seasoned marketers) fail before they even get started. Fortunately there are plenty of free and paid tools you can be using in no time to pick out the best terms to optimize your site with.

2. PLACEMENT : After you have thoroughly done your keyword research, it is time to strategically place them in all the elements * of your site (Header, Title, Description, Meta Tags, Navigation Links, Images, H1, H2, H3 tags, Alt Tags, Body etc.) to effectively have Google and the others to index or take account of all of them to be able to rank your site's relevancy for those keywords.

* Note: All of these "elements" are simply fields easily accessible to fill in on most commonly used website platforms.

Ok, that's it!

It can not be.

Yes it can! Sort of …

Like I said there are many geekier aspects of on-page optimization which includes things like which type of site structures to use, frames, types of scripts, etc. However, with the advancement of template driven and WYSIWYG * sites, many of these aspects are already pre-coded for optimization or ease of readability for those Search Engines out there doing their creeping and crawling thing … also known as indexing.

* WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) – An interface that provides the user with the ability to point and click to insert objects, images & text into most sites today.

So with Keyword Research and proper Placement in your site are the broad strokes of On-Page Search Engine Optimization. However, "How" to do the right and profitable Keyword Research for your niche and "How" to place them properly in all the elements of your sites is where you earn your stripes.

Your SEO Strategies Next Step

Fortunately I have put together a step by step guide that will not only walk you through on-page optimization but also how to drive FREE traffic through off page optimization as well.

Remember that Search Engine Optimization is an Investment, not an Expense. Unlike paid ads, the efforts you put in to really optimize your site today will continue to pay off well into the future.

With a proper search engine optimization guide, you can easily dominate search-engines like Yahoo, Google and MSN. Ranking high on search-engines is easy and can be very profitable for your website.

Think Credit Scores Do Not Apply To Young Adults? Think Again

By the time you turn 28, you will probably have a career and possibly a family. When you want to make big purchases like buying the car of your dreams or buying a house to raise a family, your credit score becomes more important than ever. Your credit score is also referred to as a FICO score and is typically a number between 300 and 850. Bank lenders who will loan you money for a house or a car will look at this score very carefully before lending you the money and deciding your interest rate. According to the article Starting Out by Kelly K. Spors in The Wall Street Journal, FICO scores above 760 qualify you for the best loan terms, while scores below 600 can mean unappealing terms and higher interest rates – or bar you from getting a loan all together. The breakdown of the FICO score includes a 35% weighting for payment history; 30% for the amount owed, especially as compared to your credit limits; and 15% for the length of your credit history. Also, having too many credit inquiries and loan applications by you or too many accounts opened in a short time can hurt your score.

So I made a mistake, how do I improve my credit score?

1. The first thing to do is to start paying your bills on time. If you have Internet access, it may be a good idea to set up an automatic bill pay (either through your bank's website or the actual credit card or loan company's website). This way, the bill will be deducted out of your checking account at the same time every month and will reduce your chances of your payment being lost in the mail. Paying your bills on time every month for about a year will dramatically improve your score.

2. The second thing to do is to check your credit report from all three major credit bureaus once a year. If you check it more than once a year, this may hurt your score. You can access your report for free at http://www.annualcreditreport.com . Be careful, many sites say they provide free credit reports but there is often a catch. Identify inaccurate information in your credit report and write a letter to the addresses listed below explaining your situation.

Equifax PO Box 740241 Atlanta, GA 30374

Experian PO Box 2104 Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion PO Box 2000 Chester, PA 19022

3. The third thing to do is to be smart with your credit. This means avoiding mall shopping sprees or playing online poker. Use your credit cards wisely. It is also smart to keep your credit card balances at 30% or less of your limit. This keeps your score up and leaves room on your credit card for emergencies like auto repairs and house repairs.

Copyright 2006 Debt Management Credit Counseling Corp.