THE BLOG

05
May

Powering Conversational E-commerce With Instant Messaging

From its humble beginnings as a limited business-to-business phenomenon in the early years of the internet more than forty years ago, e-commerce leaped quickly beyond the stodginess of brick-and-mortar stores after the dawning World Wide Web gained widespread public popularity in the mid-1990s. After two decades of expansion that drove past at least one cycle of frenzied speculative investments, modern e-commerce looks on track to consume an even bigger share of global economic activity. An extensive report from The Wall Street Journal reports among other things that Activate, a leading industry research group, sees global e-commerce revenues soaring to $2.1 trillion annually by 2021.

Still, classic e-commerce has always suffered from a few shortcomings. Whether or not most people are consciously aware of it, face-to-face encounters with other human beings soothe our social natures. The brick-and-mortar experience inherently includes such encounters even if many shoppers skip speaking with anyone but the cashier and perhaps one or two other customers.

Enter conversational e-commerce.

Text messaging has become the de rigueur method for quick communications, eclipsing email. Instead of showcasing a jumble of goods and services with little or no direct interaction with other human beings, savvy e-commerce websites offer customers the ability to instantly discuss their needs or place direct requests for their desired goods or services. Then a friendly store staffer fulfills the order without fuss.

That some store staffers are no more than sophisticated chatbots is beside the point. The comforting illusion of human contact is maintained. The nature of texting makes this tactic an easy ploy for reducing costs and conserving limited staff resources for complicated orders and especially demanding customers.

An explosion in mobile computing.

Mobile computing has exploded in popularity over the past decade. Busy people increasingly want to do their shopping on the run. They don’t want to be tied to a desktop for renting automobiles, buying new clothes, making restaurant reservations, and everything else imaginable. While mobile computing is undeniably convenient, smaller screens can be limiting when trying to wade through screen after screen of information.

Conversational e-commerce largely bypasses this problem. Instead of endlessly scrolling around within the limited visual scope of smartphones or tablets, customers can simply describe their desired outcomes and leave it up to the e-commerce company to figure it out. Company website resources serve in this context as guides rather than exact catalogs.

Better branding and profitability.

Some people think chatting is inherently frivolous. Far from being frivolous, instant e-commerce messaging is an opportunity to listen closely to customers’ needs and concerns and persuade them that the company’s brand naturally means friendly, helpful staffers. It’s an opportunity to slip personalized upselling into the conversation. It’s an opportunity to build loyalty and generate positive buzz on social networks. Above all, it’s an opportunity to exploit the worldwide Messenger communications network for every possible avenue to greater profits and stronger branding.

A powerful tool for marketing.

E-commerce messaging has joined email marketing, search engine optimization, content marketing, and social media marketing as another powerful tool for attracting customers, building loyalty, and increasing profits. Instant chat boxes can help make your customers happy with their shopping experience. They’ll feel as if your company has been paying personal attention to their needs.

Happy customers leave complimentary reviews and mentions on social media. E-commerce messaging support creates goodwill, builds your brand, and strengthens your company’s reputation for superior goods and services.

E-commerce platforms everywhere.

A complete e-commerce website has clickable buttons to pay for orders, to support customer feedback loops, and to fulfill other e-commerce functions. Now, that indispensable toolkit includes built-in functionality or plug-in buttons for starting live chats between consumers and e-commerce staff members. Messaging plug-ins are available for a growing number of e-commerce platforms. If you’re already using a major e-commerce platform, the chances are good that you can immediately install a plugin to start having real-time conversations with your customers. Easy solutions to your messaging support needs include Shopify Messenger, Zendesk Chat, among others.

Rampant growth in messaging.

The greater messaging environment promises only to grow. As Business Insider’s BI Intelligence research branch reports, the four leading mobile messaging apps now rival the four leading social media networks in monthly users. In 2016, Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp chat applications, twin giants of the American chat marketplace, saw upward of a billion monthly users. Chinese chat colossus WeChat reached a staggering 697 million active users monthly by the end of 2015. Other popular chat applications such as Japan-based Line have contributed still further to meeting the enormous global appetite for live chat networks.

Many industry experts expect the number of regular users of chat apps to reach 3.6 billion by 2018, representing 90 percent of all people with internet access. In the face of such growth in the popularity of chat apps, the majority of professional marketers view on-site live chat with Messenger compatibility as a mandatory tool for e-commerce websites.

March into the future with on-site Messenger support.

The sooner you upgrade your e-commerce website with the capability for live Messenger chats, the sooner you can reap the benefits of instant customer support, such as upselling opportunities across a global marketplace for your goods and services.

28
Apr

7 Free Tools to Craft a Brag-Worthy Email Campaign

You know the names — Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram. You’ve likely heard the tales — viral posts, exploding marketing campaigns. Still, when the rubber meets the road, 140 characters doesn’t always cut it. When you have a longer message to send, you need an email.

Email may not be as flashy as a Tweet, but it can be remarkably effective. Question: How can you harness the magic of an old-fashioned email marketing campaign? Answer: With the right tools. Here are some of the best (free) email marketing tools that will help you convert leads into sales.

Benchmark Email

With the Free for Life plan, subscribers can send up to 10,000 emails per month, an amount far higher than what’s available with most free programs. By signing up, you have access to a huge array of features, including email templates for nearly every occasion and industry, photo editing, message tracking, and a code editor for users who are more HTML savvy. As your email list expands to an international market, Benchmark Email also translates your email footers and unsubscribe pages into a variety of languages, including Chinese.

Mail Chimp

With 15 million customers, Mail Chimp must be doing something right. The program allows you to build on your e-commerce marketing strategy by connecting with your online store. It also has integrated Facebook advertising, marketing automation, tracking analysis, and customization features.

Litmus

While there are a plethora of paid features that are worth consideration on Litmus, there are some spectacular free options as well. In case you’ve ever wanted to know how other marketing geniuses pull it off, Litmus’ free program Scope will give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse. It also lets you review and share mobile and desktop previews of your own emails. A little apprehensive about sending an email without first previewing it? Putsmail lets you do just that. Simply enter your desired recipient list, subject line, and HTML to view a fully functional perspective of your marketing campaign. Though online forums usually have about as much information as your refrigerator, Litmus’ Community betrays the odds. There, you can communicate with other marketers who are tech-savvy and willing to help each other overcome the challenges of Outlook and Gmail.

Vertical Response

VerticalResponse’s free plan allows subscribers to store up to 1,000 contacts and send up to 4,000 emails every month. While this number is much less than what other programs provide, it is a solid option for businesses that don’t have a wide circulation. Choose from a library of professionally designed mobile-friendly email templates, automatic email welcome messages to new subscribers, and analytics so that you know who opened the email and what links they clicked on in the email.

Mad Mimi

For people who appreciate simplicity, Mad Mimi delivers. It offers a free newsletter plan and simple email templates with a straightforward interface that makes email marketing very doable. Through an ‘Add Things’ feature, you can engage in RSS marketing, create web forms, and more… but it’s completely functional (and not overwhelming) if you choose not to as well. The program allows you to deliver up to five emails a month to 2,500 recipients at no cost.

ReachMail

Another user-friendly option that is intuitive for people who don’t necessarily know how (or want) to code, ReachMail lets you create an email marketing campaign within minutes. There is a myriad of reporting features to help you analyze what’s working in your efforts, as well as automated social media sharing, a spam checker, email list cleaning, and free email templates.

Sendloop

Sendloop is unique in that it allows you to send drip campaigns — that is, automated emails that go out whenever people buy a product, sign up to a list, or anything else — for free. It also provides detailed stats about your efforts so that you know when to stay the course or change direction. Similar to Mad Mimi, you’re granted five emails per month to a maximum of 2,000 people.

Selecting the right tool to craft your email marketing is just the beginning of the journey. You still need to create your emails, learn the apps, and build your list of contacts. It’s a lot of work, to be sure, but worth every minute if you use the right approach.

21
Apr

Why Strong Customer Feedback Loops Are a Top Priority

In the humdrum routine of daily operations, it’s easy to miss warning signs of trouble ahead. Failing to notice customer dissatisfaction is like missing oncoming shark fins while you’re surfing the waves. If you don’t respond in time, your profits could disappear into the toothy mouths of hungry competitors.

The horror … the horror.

An influential 2011 report from Oracle goes into chilling detail. A devastating 89 percent of the consumers surveyed said they’d jump ship to a competitor after having had a bad experience with a company. Fully 86 percent indicated they’d willingly pay more for a better experience, and half said having to wait a week for an answer to their question was enough to drive them away.

That’s disturbing enough, but it gets worse. The report discloses that a startling 79 percent of the surveyed consumers saw absolutely no response to complaints they posted online about poor customer experiences. Snubbing unhappy customers doesn’t sound like a recipe for roaring success, does it?

A wonderful opportunity.

With eCommerce competitors a mere mouse click away and social networks ready to pounce on the smallest scandals, paying attention to rumbles of discontent is mandatory. It’s not all gnashing teeth and frothing mouths, though. Widespread consumer dissatisfaction with non-responsive brands is an opportunity for your own company to eat the profits of inattentive competitors.

Listening to your customers.

Ironically, initial success at many companies is itself the problem. Procedures meant for a smaller operation may not scale well. Customer experiences begin to get lost in a welter of bureaucratic inertia. Uncaring or undertrained line employees start to routinely blow off consumer complaints while telling out-of-touch managers that everything is peachy.

Fortunately, fixing this problem isn’t hard. Instead of relying on random observations, you can set up strategic customer feedback loops wherever they make sense. eCommerce websites lend themselves perfectly to such feedback mechanisms.

What’s a customer feedback loop, anyway?

It’s as simple as discovering what customers think of how your company is treating them and then reacting to that feedback with thoughtful improvements. Setting up a customer feedback loop could be as easy as putting a clearly marked button on a sales page that pops up a quick form for gathering comments on the sales process, which then go straight to the sales manager. The button might be accompanied by the following text: “Did you have a good experience? Please tell us how we’re doing!”

The sales manager or whoever else is responsible for customer care might have a detailed manual of responses or maybe just a few Post-it notes stuck to the wall, but the reaction is always the same. Learn why a customer is unhappy and make that customer happy. Change the company’s procedures so that other customers will be happy too. Ask line employees what other improvements would boost customer satisfaction. The same logic applies to shipping speed, product quality, service quality, and every other company operation that directly affects your customers.

An expansive toolkit for all needs.

Truth to tell, the toolkit for smart businesspeople is expansive. Surveys, community forums, social media reviews, feedback forms, follow-up calls, personalized after-sale emails — the list goes on and on. You’ll have no trouble finding the right tools for creating customer feedback loops that work for your own business.

Smooth sailing ahead.

Having effective mechanisms in place for tracking and responding to customer concerns and questions isn’t the whole story, but it’s a big part of it. Listening closely to your customers means the difference between merely keeping your head above water and surfing huge waves of profit. The presence of strong customer feedback loops at all levels of your eCommerce company will lead to smiling faces, rising profits, and smooth sailing!

14
Apr

4 Common SEO mistakes that are easy to avoid

Imagine you’re playing soccer. Tensed but ready for a shot at the goal, you strategize as sweat trickles down to the small of your back. Bouncing off your foot, the ball’s trajectory seems right; you’re pretty sure you’ve nailed this one. Excitement builds. Yet, in the fractions of a second before the ball is supposed to meet the back of the net, the whole goal shifts—just an inch to the left. Nevertheless, that inch is enough to make the ball hit the side post and careen off the pitch. No goal, no point.

You feel completely deflated.

When you’re trying to optimize your website for search engine hits, that sinking feeling you get may feel very similar because the game keeps changing. Google and other search engines keep growing smarter. Tactics that worked a mere three years ago seem outdated by today’s standards. The challenge, then, is to simultaneously keep up with website maintenance while also updating for SEO purposes.

Here’s a glimpse at some of the most common SEO mistakes that even the most seasoned among us make. The good news is that each of them is easy to circumvent. Hint: That’s where we come in.

1. Only Focusing on the Numbers

When it comes to website traffic, quality matters far more than quantity. While it’s nice to see the number of visitors increase, it’s rather meaningless unless those numbers become conversions. Keep in mind that lower-traffic phrases will convert better because they’re more targeted to your ideal customer. Obtaining first-page search engine results with just a few of those key phrases can propel sales.

To find out what’s working, use an analytics package to establish conversion tracking for keyword phrases. Then, compare them against one another to see what’s benefitting the budget.

2. Keyword Cannibalism

Overstuffing your website with keywords and adding more content just to add more keywords is not useful. Though it may have worked years ago, Google has become privy to this practice and now favors quality over quantity. It also causes your pages to compete with one another. Instead, add a canonical to competing pages, create content that prompts people to share, and generate worthwhile inbound links.

3. Neglecting Meta Descriptions

Sure, the meta descriptions may not be as sexy as keywords, but they are nearly as important. Craft thoughtful meta descriptions to improve click-through rates from the SERPS and lessen bounce-through visits. Both of these are crucial elements to rankings on search engines.

4. Forgetting the Outside World

While you want to establish yourself as an authority, it’s important to link to authoritative outside sources as well. All too often people expend tremendous energy on linking within their site and neglecting to build credibility with outside authorities.

24
Mar

How to Maintain Motivation

When you first started your business, it was probably a roller coaster of ups and downs…good, bad, terrible and bad again. Honestly, it can feel crazy–we know. But it can also give that adrenaline rush that makes you so productive, and it’s new. The whole process is challenging and exhausting, but also exciting!

You most likely sailed through all of this due to your adrenaline pumping; due to the novelty, and due to your determination that your work would produce profitable results. However, once your business was up and running and on track for steady profitability, you may have found your motivation and drive fading away.

Why is it that once we “get the ball rolling”–I.E. the money is coming in–that we become bored, less than passionate, stale?  While you have the money, more than money needs to be in place to keep up your love of the work.

Here are some ways to get your motivation up and running:

People

You probably talked to many advisers, peers and industry experts when you were in the dreamy early phase of setting up your company. If you’re like most business founders, you got busy and stopped having the time to interact with these early influencers. Those who have been down the path you are on are not only invaluable for  their wisdom gained through experience but also their encouragement.  They are a shoulder to lean on, a friend who gets the crap you’re going through and stream of new perspective and ideas.

Clarity

If you don’t come up for air you will sink. Stop and really assess how you are spending your work time.  Identify or ask for help identifying time saps; tasks you can delegate and activities you can drop — even if it’s only one. And make sure not to jump on other new difficult tasks that could be delegated. Instead look for creative outlets. Studies find that having a creative outlet is correlated to boosted work performance.

Pacing

If you’re too tired to think, too booked to enjoy, money alone is not going to do much for you.  Delegate, drop, or streamline any process, system, to-do list, task etc that is in your power to simplify. If you need help doing so, get it.

We recommend outsourcing processes that do not need your direct involvement–this can also save cash as it can be less expensive than hiring an employee. Other time savers you can include are using Amazon for your product fulfillment, signing up for automated book – keeping or getting a virtual assistant.  Note that it is the tedious, repetitive tasks that are ideally delegated or outsourced; you do not want to hand over the reins of your business to someone else.

Celebration

Remember when you first started how every achievement called for a celebration? Acknowledging and getting excited about what you accomplish revs you up to produce more and better.  Take larger goals for your business and break them down into smaller daily or weekly tasks that you can and will actually do. Then, as you complete them, acknowledge that you are making progress and enjoy that– maybe even throw a party.

Newness

Day in day out same-o same-o.  Bored to death? Any innovation in your business can bring back the same zeal and enthusiasm you had when you first started out.  It is your business– go for it!  Try a new product line, shake things up a bit. Have fun! Why not go one step further and identify a new niche? If you have a clothing business, try including fashion accessories. If you have web design firm, you may want to branch out into social media management.

The Clincher: Take Responsibility for Your Experience

Treat yourself as an employee

Employees have a pay check to look forward to, they are also expected to work for the hours originally agreed upon and are often compensated for over time. While being a business owner does not always allow the same perks, it is your job to set in place rewards and boundaries for yourself.

Cultivate Joy!

Take some time and engage in the components of your company that actually interest you: Hang with your team or even your customers.  Test a trending marketing tactic.  Vamp up one of your products. Take time to remember why you started in the first place and remember how far you have come.  Most importantly take some time for yourself.  Pick up that hobby you dropped, do something crazy.  Catch up on sleep– chill.  Tending ourselves recharges us and goes a long way in producing momentum and results in our companies.
Yes, maintaining your books and going through employee performance reports is important. However, doing nothing but the daily grind is sure to leave you disinterested– just like in a relationship. Want your engine to rev? Take the time to fuel up.

17
Mar

Customer “Lifecycle” Emails

As their name implies, customer lifecycle emails are sent out during the ‘lifetime’ of the customer – not his natural lifespan, but the period for which he is a customer, or a prospective one. You may already be sending out welcome emails when they sign up, transactional emails like order confirmation and shipping notifications, and even marketing email in the form of newsletters. What you are probably not doing is sending out other types of emails that have the potential to increase sales, such as educational/informational emails centered around one of your products/services.

1. Shopping cart abandonment emails

If you are not sending them out yet, you should – 67.45% of all shoppers on e-commerce sites abandon their carts before checkout. The frequently cited reasons are ‘Website crashed’ and ‘Website timed out’. While these are technical factors that you may have no control over, you could win them back with shopping cart abandonment emails. These save them the hassle of not having to select the same items all over again and add them to their shopping cart. Interestingly, 44.1% of all shopping cart abandonment emails are opened and read. For some, it is the final price that is preventing them from making a purchase. They might have been enticed by the offer price, but shipping and taxes may have pushed it to an unacceptable level. A discount is all it takes to get them to complete the purchase.

2. Personalized emails

Notice how many eCommerce kings are using “Recommended For You” sections on their site? These add a personal element to return shoppers and translate perfectly into lifecycle emails. They should contain information regarding related products to your customer’s search and purchase habits. If your customers have had a great shopping experience with you, they are more than likely to buy from you again. Sometimes they just don’t know that you have that other product they’ve been looking for. A small nudge in the right direction does a lot more than a shot in the dark with general products.

3. Customer re-engagement emails

If there are customers who have purchased from your site, but it has been some time since their last purchase, you could win them back with emails that tell them they are valued customers. Emails with “Hello, how are you?” in the subject line with a personal message in the body mentioning how they haven’t shopped with you recently can prove effective in bringing these customers back. Add coupons and attractive discounts that compel them to make their next purchase. Try not to include product images or specific product discounts in the email body for personal re-engagement emails. These tend to de-personalize the first message. But general coupons with simple imagery can work well to add return incentive in a personal email.

4. How to do it correctly

The first step is to get the tone of the email right. This is best learned from experience, as what may work for one customer base may not work for another. You need to manually write emails to your customers using a variety of styles and see which ones work the best, or rather, which styles are the most suited for the types of emails mentioned above. A good trick to start writing personal emails to start testing what works better is by imagining the customer you’re writing to. Start with a name and determine little things about them that help you imagine who they are. By doing this, you’ll unintentionally write much more relationally and have a better chance of coming across as personal. Try multiple styles with separate customer blocks and test which ones have better results.

Now that you know what strikes a chord with your customers, you need to come up with email templates that still sound like they were written by a real person. These can then be programmed into an email software. You could have one that handles all your mailing, or you could choose specific software for certain types of emails.

5. The shortcut: email software

It’s really good to work through all of the above steps yourself, but that doesn’t make the tools I’m about to list any less helpful in the execution. Here are some of my favorite options for lifecycle email software:

Carthook

Carthook is an email software that specializes in cart abandonment emails. It’s a one-trick pony, and it does that trick exceptionally well.

Windsor Circle

Geared towards customer retention, Windsor Circle is a platform for sending out re-engagement emails. The cost of acquiring a new customer works out to be five times as retaining one, and so it makes financial sense to get you existing customers to buy from you again. For three of their clients, Windsor Circle manages to deliver revenues of $1.03 per email.

MailChimp

It can be used for all types of emails, including welcome emails and transactional emails. They have added product recommendations and shopping cart abandonment emails to their repertoire of features, and that makes MailChimp all the more attractive as a one-stop solution for all your needs.

Custora

This software suite takes care of all your emailing requirements. Custora makes sense when you have at least 200,000 email list subscribers already.

Drip

Drip does more than send out marketing email. It studies which visitors are most engrossed with the content on your pages, identifies them as the strongest possible leads, and then sends out email. This intelligent approach has landed their clients many new customers, and the lightweight software comes at a tenth of the price of comparable products.

Klaviyo

Klaviyo is built specifically for e-commerce sites. Klaviyo’s email templates are responsive. More and more people are accessing the internet on their mobile devices, and the number of mobile-only internet users has exceeded the number of PC-only internet users. Make sure that when your emails are sent, the ‘From’ email address is something that recipients can respond to. It should appear to have been sent from the account of a real person, not something like ‘sales@company.com’ or ‘care@company.com’. It only puts customers off when they read ‘This is a system-generated email, please do not reply’. You could even try adding ‘Sent from my iPhone’ at the end to give it a personal feel, as long as the emails sound like they were written specifically for the recipient.

Crafting a customer lifecycle email timeline takes work and time to perfect, but I think it’s the best customer-to-sales retention method out there and well worth the time and effort to setup. Let us know if you have any lifecycle email secrets that have changed the way you sell and don’t hesitate to call us if you want to talk to us about setting up a strategy that works best for you.

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10
Mar

Increase Organic Search Traffic

Organic traffic to your website is what comes in naturally, as opposed to ‘inorganic’ where you pay for it. For increasing organic search traffic, there is only one way – you need to rank higher. And this is how it can be done:

Does your website have all the right keywords?

You might think you do, but there might be terms that you have missed out on entirely. The best way to find out is look for what other terms or keywords users search for, in addition to those that you already have on your website. For instance, your site might be optimized for ‘marketing agency’, but this kind of keyword research might also throw light on the fact that those who search for this term also tend to search for ‘digital media agency’ and ‘online marketing agency’.

After you figure this out, your website needs to be optimized for them. Keyword stuffing is a strict no-no, so you would have to insert them subtly, as if there occur naturally in the copy on your pages – Google rewards a natural style of writing. A good content writer can help you out with this.

Long-tail keywords: Apart from making the most use of your keyword research, long-tail keywords like ‘marketing agency in San Francisco, California’ helps. Google doesn’t make a note of the preposition, but it does record ‘marketing agency’ and ‘San Francisco’. Too much repetition of a single long-tail keyword is a dead giveaway, so also try ‘marketing agency in the Bay Area’. It also helps if you can manage to insert other location-based long-tail keywords like ‘marketing agencies in the United States’. This could be part of a longer sentence, such as ‘Sea Green Marketing Solutions has grown to become one of the best marketing agencies in the United States.’

Regular Articles

Every change you make on the internet is noticed by Google. The search engine constantly crawls the web looking for fresh content. It would be hard to keep changing the design/content of your website regularly, so what you could do is have a blog section and post an article every now and then. Although the recommended frequency is once a week, it could also be once in two weeks, once in three weeks; or once in a month, depending on the industry sector you are in.

What you should absolutely take care to ensure is that everything you post adds value in some way. It doesn’t have to be about your product as long as it’s relevant to your buyers. There is no point in putting up articles that read like advertisements for your organization or service. Try to have ‘informational’ blog articles – these also generate a lot of traffic when they are shared on social media (people love experts who share their knowledge for free), and because Google also looks at social media activity, your web site is bound to be ranked higher, bringing in even more visitors.

Have a video

Video is the most consumed form of content online. Websites with videos tend to be ranked higher, because people stay longer on the pages to watch the video, which is an indicator of the website being ‘more interesting’. The world’s premier search engine is increasingly becoming more human-like, and so it would be wise to have a video. A well-shot promotional video is good – and you needn’t hire a camera crew, it could be done on your iPhone and edited down. If the video is too long, people lose interest midway – the average attention span for humans is only eight seconds.

A longer video is great, but only if it is a ‘how-to’ video that explains how users can do something themselves. This too contributes to a higher search engine ranking because of its informational content (users stay longer on your page to watch it). Just try not to have this on your homepage. Once people are committed to exploring your website they’re much more likely to invest time in watching a longer form video.

Say no to black hat SEO

These are techniques that are intended to fool Google into giving you a higher ranking. They might be temporarily successful, but Google constantly keeps updating its search algorithm, so once you are ‘blacklisted’, it might be hard to climb out of the hole, no matter what you do.

Too many websites shoot only to please Google. Including crucial keywords and attractive content to rank higher is essential for good organic traffic generation, but focusing on your customer’s experience is most important. Google’s algorithm is constantly updated in attempt to favor the consumer more and more. If you create good content for your consumers with a mindfulness of Google’s current trends, you’re sure to grow your organic traffic.

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03
Mar

Shopify vs. Magento: The Battle of the eCommerce Platforms

The choice of an eCommerce platform for an online shop can be one of the most critical factors in its success. Given the large variety of platforms to choose from, many online store owners tend to go for platforms that are both popular and affordable.

Magento is one of the oldest modern eCommerce platforms around, and many online store owners make use of it because of its reputation for being open-source and customizable. However, once they start using it, shop owners discover that Magento can end up being more of a curse than a blessing: it’s notoriously difficult to use and lacks decent technical support.

Shopify, on the other hand, is a SaaS eCommerce platform that until recently was known for being perfect for entry-level ecommerce and not much else. However, Shopify is now targeting the same user base as Magento. It offers several advantages that store owners are bound to love. Instead of struggling with a tired behemoth like Magento, here are some reasons why a swap over to Shopify might well be worthwhile:

Data security

Unless you’re using the uber-expensive Magento EE Cloud Edition, Magento relies on you, the store owner, to provide web hosting As a SaaS Shopify stores all customer data on its servers, so you never need to worry about whether your hosting is secure. Since Shopify hosts all the customer data, security is its responsibility. This fact can add to a shop owner’s peace of mind when running an online store; at least there’s one less thing to worry about!

Shopify is very restrictive around the checkout process since that’s where users will be sharing their confidential credit card details. Shopify has been criticized for not allowing much modification to checkout, but they do this on purpose — to ensure that there’s no way your customers’ data will be compromised, by sticking to a standard checkout flow that works well.

Ease of use

Magento offers customization options for every conceivable scenario, but integrating these options and getting them to work can be an incredible chore for an online shop that doesn’t have a dedicated IT team. Magento’s installation requires database configuration, hosting software configuration and a variety of other persistent niggles. Running Magento can be a nightmare because getting some part of the configuration wrong means your site becomes slow and dysfunctional. Shopify only requires a simple account to start running and uses minimal resources. The result? Increased efficiency and fewer headaches.

Shopify is also very customizable, with a variety of pre-designed themes to choose from. If you’d like to do a bit of coding, Shopify offers the ‘Liquid’ template engine that feels natural and very intuitive to use. The backend interface of Shopify itself is designed around ease of use and anyone can be taught the basics in a matter of hours. This is all quite unlike Magento, with its endless backend configuration options and challenging user interface. Shopify is streamlined and fun to use and experiment with.

Modules that work

Those with Magento experience will tell you that getting the various add-ons and modules to work together seamlessly can be a delicate balancing act. Unless you’re willing to design and write your own Magento extensions, you may be better off sticking with stock Magento functionality, which defeats the purpose of using a flexible platform in the first place. By contrast,Shopify takes an active role in curating their app marketplace to ensure that modules work together seamlessly.  Developers can’t access or change any core features of Shopify, which is great for most stores — fewer moving parts = fewer things that can break. With Shopify, you won’t have to worry as much about code conflicts or modules interfering with each other.

Lower costs

While it might appear that Magento is cheaper than Shopify due to the fact that Community Edition is free and open source, this is a misleading conclusion. It doesn’t factor in hosting or the IT expertise Magento requires, which can ultimately be much more of a financial drain. With Shopify, all you pay ist an easily-understood monthly fee for the platform, plus additional fees for apps you may choose to install (generally, apps cost less than $10 per month apiece!), and you don’t need to worry about unexpected infrastructure or development costs down the line.

Technical support

While Magento does offer technical support for their “Enterprise” solution, expect to pay a premium. If you’re using Community Edition, you’re really on your own! Better get a hosting company that knows Magento, plus an agency or freelancer to “keep the lights on” should the application take a bad hiccup. Nothing worse than having your storefront down when you’re in the middle of a promotion,, leading to lost sales and dissatisfied customers. The alternative? Shopify offers 24/7 technical support for all plan levels, and, as they host everything for you, you never have to worry about technical glitches.

In the final analysis, an eCommerce platform forms the backbone of an online store and most users want a platform that’s fast, easy to use and relatively customizable. While Magento offers customization at the cost of user-friendliness, security, and stability, Shopify is user-friendly, offers an intuitive interface, better technical support and a much more stable platform. It’s also sufficiently customizable to meet the needs of most online shop owners.

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24
Feb

Increasing Sales: Crafting a Satisfying Customer Experience

To increase sales on your e-commerce site, there’s a number of different things you can do. The main keys are A. Bring in new buyers B. Bring back previous buyers C. Closing the sale. Crafting a satisfying customer experience helps decrease your cart abandonment (closing the sale) and it will add incentive to bring back previous buyers. Your customer experience should be where you start to better serve your current and future customers. There are five stages that go into creating the ultimate user experience.

1. The customer needs to be guided to your site

This is done through advertising, which can be online or through word-of- mouth. A satisfied customer is your best advertiser – he/she would gladly recommend your website to others, and without hesitation. Rarely do people talk positively, even if they had a good experience. As customers, they feel they are entitled to it, and this is not without good reason – it is their hard-earned money that they are spending on your site after all. So the trick is not to create a ‘good’ customer experience, but an ‘awesome’ one that will leave them raving about it on social media. But to get to this point, you need to have customers in the first place. If you haven’t that many customers, then you need to focus on maximizing the yields on your marketing spend. Do the pop-ups link correctly? A review (and complete overhaul) of your marketing strategy might be in order if the marketing ROI (Returns On Investment) is low at present. There are always alternate avenues of advertising, and newer demographics to market your site. Explore all your options before arriving at what is best for your site.

2. The customer needs to feel comfortable just looking around

The user interface needs to be easy to use. Too often, when a user searches for something, multiple products are shown. Although they have thumbnail pictures, these have truncated product headlines, forcing visitors to click on them. After looking through 2-3 product pages and being disappointed with it not meeting their requirements, they leave. It can be extremely difficult to get them to come again. Metrics like bounce rate and exit rate can tell you how many visitors you are losing every day

  • Tip: Take a look at the design of your site and see if it needs to be changed.

3. The customer needs to find something that suits his/her needs

This is most important. After all, he/she is there to buy and not simply look around. You gain absolutely nothing if the visit doesn’t end in a sale.

Why are people visiting your site and not buying?

Are the rates higher than your competitors? If yes, you might want to consider reducing them to make them more competitive, provided they are utilitarian and not in the luxury segment. If your e-commerce site sells luxury items, you might need to have better (read well-taken) product photographs, and more enticing product descriptions. An expert can tell you if they are visiting your site from a search engine, and what keywords they queried for. Why this is important is you need to know if they came to your site looking for something which you do not sell. If it is out of stock, you need to remove the listing; otherwise you need to figure out how exactly your site showed up in the search results for those particular keywords. The chances are it is due to some dated content somewhere which hasn’t been removed. You would need to clean up your site.

  • Have you entrusted your marketing to a third party who bid on these keywords? If yes, you lose money for every click – and make nothing in the process.

4. The customer must have an extremely easy time at checkout

This is the most important part of the sale. If they are having a hard time at checkout (did you know that the most commonly cited reasons for shopping cart abandonment are technical reasons, like being timed out or the transaction taking too long to process?), they leave, never to return. No one who came with the intention of buying from you deserves to be treated this way. Analytics can tell you if they tried to make a purchase, and if this is happening to a lot of customers, you need to set things right.

5. The customer should be contacted later, to elicit feedback

If the sale was successful, you need to follow up with an email along the lines of “Thanks for shopping with us. Is there anything we can do to make your experience better the next time?”. If it was unsuccessful, shopping cart abandonment emails can help recapture some of the lost sales, but keep in mind they might not yield any significant results if checkout difficulties remain.

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17
Feb

5 Tips to Streamline Customer Service Accessibility

With data-driven marketing, it is easy to get lost in all the numbers. Still, it’s important to focus on your customers as unique individuals. Every touchpoint you have is an opportunity to understand their needs and to delight them with your exemplary service. Here are some ways you can streamline your processes to improve accessibility.

1. Use Live Chat

This is a much better option than directing your customers to automated responses or making them wait to speak to an executive. Customers prefer this channel as they can communicate in real-time. In fact, a recent ZenDesk study showed that customers were more satisfied with live chat than any other channel.

Live chat is less demanding than phone calls and enables your executives to multitask, thus cutting down your contact center costs. You can also streamline the process by using standard templates for certain common queries to improve the response time and quality. However, take care not to make the interaction too mechanical. Live chat also gives you a great opportunity to upsell products and reduce bounce rates; you can guide customers through the purchasing process in a non-intrusive way.

2. Include Customer Service Link on Your Website

Make it easy for your customers to get in touch with you when they need assistance. One good way of doing this is to display a prominent link to your customer service center at the top of your page. Include this link on your home page as well as other pages. This way, even when customers are navigating through your website or browsing for different products, they are just one click away from reaching out to you if they need assistance.

3. Display The Customer Service Phone Number Prominently

People enjoy the option of shopping online without having to interact with overzealous store assistants. However, when they have queries and complaints, they look for a chance to speak to people who can address their issues. This is why on-call support ranks just behind live chat in customer satisfaction. Display your phone number prominently so that your customers can get in touch with you easily.

4. Offer Easy Returns (minimize small text in your policy)

Dmitry Agarkov should be your new hero. Why? He shook down Tinkoff Credit Systems for an undisclosed amount of money by changing the fine print in the terms and conditions of his credit card. He edited the terms so that he would not have to pay any interest and also included a clause that the bank had to pay a fee of 6 million rubles ($182,000) to Agarkov if they wanted to cancel his card.

The moral of this story is that nobody reads the fine print. Not even companies themselves. Make life easier for yourself and your customers by minimizing the fine print in your returns policy. Being upfront about the policy will not only cut down confusion but also help you gain trust. Extending the return period and making the whole process easy will also help you gain more customers.

5. Use Videos

Creating good video content is not necessarily expensive or tedious anymore. Depending on your product, there are different ways in which you can leverage video content. Live webinars offer interactivity while video testimonials help establish trust in your brand. You can even develop a helpful FAQs page with walkthrough videos to guide your customers through the purchasing process.

Using a combination of these approaches can help you build better relationships with your customers. Improved support services will build goodwill for your brand which will ultimately translate into stronger sales.

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