THE BLOG

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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10
Feb

Product Photography That Turns Browsers Into Buyers

They say a picture is worth a thousand words—and nowhere is this more applicable than in the world of e-commerce. Often, the trustworthiness of a company and the value of its products are based on the visual allure of its website. More to the point, the eye-candy sprinkled throughout a site can prove to be the difference between profit and loss.

To create an attractive website, you need to showcase your products at their very best, including how they can be used, worn, or consumed. Doing so helps buyers justify their purchases. However, before you wildly start snapping pictures and posting them online, consider this: 67% of consumers consider image quality ‘very important’ when making a purchase online.

Here are some tips to help you transform pixels into purchases and browsers into buyers.

Simplicity

There was a time when consumers were in awe of flash, color, and blinking images. Not anymore. Now the key to success lies in simplicity. A simple, white background conveys professionalism and class. A white background showcases the item being sold and fits in well with nearly any website color. The exception to the rule is when your product or the website on which it will feature is predominantly white or light in color. Then, choose a darker or textured background.

Along with background simplicity is image simplicity. Focus on the product being sold and only on that product. Resist the temptation to clutter the image or website with irrelevant or distracting props. Customers want to know exactly what they’re buying and are reluctant to wade through unrelated imagery to figure it out.

Consistency

Maintain consistency to convey a professional, well-designed appearance. Keep the same background throughout and ensure that each photo is taken from a similar distance from the object. Likewise, make sure the item is in the same position and space within the frame. By creating a uniform look, you create an aesthetically pleasing landscape that is easy for a viewer’s eyes to scan.

Less Isn’t Always More

In many ways, less is more. In terms of product photography, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Most websites limit visitors to using only one sense — that of sight. That’s why it’s critical to capture every angle and detail of the product being sold.

Start with a basic photograph of the product that will appear first under the product listing. With few exceptions, this is a frontal shot. For chairs, it often means a 45-degree angle; for plates, it is typically top-down; and for shoes, it’s almost always taken from the side. From there, capture the image from a variety of angles so that consumers can see the details and imagine themselves actually using the product. Consider using 360-degree imagery so the product can be fully rotated and viewed from every angle.

Action Shot

This tactic requires a bit of psychology, as you must climb into the minds of prospective buyers and imagine what they might do with the product. Now take a picture of that. Once you’ve figured out uses, play with space, positioning, and color to create an alluring image. Give viewers a focal point. If photographing more than one object, avoid lining them up. Instead, place them on different levels and at slightly different angles.

Consider Video

There’s no such thing as too sophisticated. This becomes apparent when you consider all the video imaging potential you can harness. Take buyers on a journey of your product by filming it from different angles for a genuine 360-degree perspective. Capture a person or animal interacting with the item so that customers can imagine using it in their everyday lives.

When designing an e-commerce site, it’s about crafting an experience so enticing that consumers will click on it to learn more and then make a purchase. Bottom line? The better your stuff looks, the more you will sell.

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03
Feb

Seven Lessons that Businesses Can Learn from E-Commerce Giant Amazon

When attempting to build a successful e-commerce plan, you don’t need to look much further than Amazon’s e-commerce business model. Amazon is not only one of the earliest and most popular eCommerce platforms, but also the longest running and most consistently successful. From its early history as an online bookseller to its current status as the US’s largest e-commerce company, Amazon has grown its sales model and skillfully navigated multitudes of challenges as it moved from a twentieth to a twenty-first-century company.

Here are some of the key elements found in Amazon’s model, as well as some ideas on how you can apply them to your own business:

1. Personalization

Remember that online shopping is an experience as well as a means to an end. A one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to provide a pleasurable online customer experience. One of Amazon’s greatest successes is the way it has skillfully built personalized home pages which use past searches and interests to recommend a tailored list of products. In this way, Amazon has transformed itself from a company that sells everything to a website that curates a personal shopping list.

2. Need for speed

If a website’s pages take a long time to load, customers will simply lose interest and go somewhere else. Amazon has researched the relationship between speed and customer retention and adjusted its own site accordingly. An additional delay of 0.5 seconds to page-load time causes a 20% drop in traffic. Never sacrifice speed for bells and whistles and test your web pages’ performance.

3. Usability (keeping it simple)

Amazon’s simple interface—in which a customer can look at products, decide on a purchase, and easily pay with only a few steps—illustrates the company’s no-frills, easy to navigate approach. It also saves addresses, allows customers to configure primary addresses and payment plans, and streamlines customer accounts.

4. Reviews

Consumers trust online reviews from validated sources. Think of reviews as a form of content marketing; they can describe the key selling points of a product in detail. Amazon goes a step further than the average Joe. Their space efficient and user-friendly dedicated review page illustrates how to make reviews simple to access and easy to find helpful reviews. Reviews are sorted according to rating and can be easily filtered or up- or down-voted according to usefulness, causing the best reviews to rise to the top, which further validates the worthiness (or lack thereof) of the product.

5. Transactional emails

Transactional emails, or automatic emails deploying orders, shipping, etc., have higher opening rates than other emails, and encourage customer interaction and repeat sales. Amazon also leverages automatic emails to encourage customers to rate and review products. In addition, personalized emails, sent directly to the customer based on purchasing habits, connect the customer to special offers or a perfectly-timed coupon.

6. Mobility first

By emphasizing a mobile-friendly website with options such as auto-fill or one-click ordering, Amazon has become an industry leader in mobile e-commerce. It’s important not just because e-commerce is going mobile, but also because Amazon experiments with new interfaces and emerging trends. Do not be afraid to experiment to improve customer satisfaction, and remember to test your site to verify usability and performance on mobile.

7. Free, no-hassle Shipping and Returns

More than in almost any other area, Amazon has set the standard for e-commerce by offering cheap and fast shipping with free, easy returns. It was also Amazon who has made two-day shipping normal. E-commerce lends itself to frequent returns, and customers feel better knowing they can exchange products easy.

While these are seven crucial lessons that can be learned from Amazon’s rise to the top, there are many more lessons to be learned from them. We’ll cover a few of  their other signature successes, such as Amazon Prime and free 2 day shipping in more depth in the future. Knowing what works best in eCommerce is essential to making your own brand and company compete with the best, but don’t sacrifice originality. Amazon wasn’t copying another eCommerce giant for all of their tricks but they weren’t afraid to learn a few tricks from those around them and adapt them to their own marketplace. Learn from their successes and make them your own.

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27
Jan

The Top Five Toughest Items to A/B Test on eCommerce Sites (That Should Be Tested, Anyway)

No online marketer worth his or her salt should undervalue A/B testing for e-commerce sites. After all, these sites always aim to convert visitors into buyers, and one of the most efficient ways to improve their conversion rates is through A/B testing different elements.

Also known as split testing, A/B testing is a way of testing multiple versions of an element to see which one converts better. For example, half of your visitors will see landing page A, while the other half will be directed to landing page B. These two versions are then compared and analyzed to see which one performs better.

Ideally, you should test every single element on the site to optimize conversion. Unfortunately, the following items are a little bit harder to A/B test, although doing so can reap substantial rewards:

1. Pricing

Product prices are one of the key elements of every eCommerce website, so one would think testing them should be fairly simple. But while there’s usually no problem with presenting different prices, it’s tough on most eCommerce platforms to ensure that the system charges only what is shown on the product page according to the test variation. Plus, it’s extra tough for international sites that transact in multiple currencies.

2. Shipping Strategies

When you have to deal with different shipping options like FedEx, UPS or USPS, it can be difficult to A/B test all of them. Some eCommerce sites also make it almost impossible to bring the shipping estimates to the product detail page or shopping cart, where it is convenient for most customers.

Free shipping promotions that are done in exchange for, say, subscribing to a newsletter or signing up for a club, can also be hard to test on most conventional A/B testing tools due to the complexity of the process. The same goes for shipping discounts once the consumer reaches a certain amount in his shopping cart.

3. Checkout Process

Many eCommerce platforms have hard-coded checkout processes that make it impossible to change the steps involved. So, if you want to reduce the number of steps during a consumer’s checkout process (or create a single-page checkout), you might need to use more advanced A/B testing tools.

4. Product Filters

Results of split testing for product filters and categories have always produced mixed results, with some eCommerce sites finding product categories unnecessary while others find them indispensable. Indeed, it’s a case-to-case basis, which is why it’s important to A/B test them, though this is by no means an easy feat. For one, you need to group each of your products in categories via the front-end, and this can be a tedious process. If you fail to do that, your testing team will be limited to what’s been grouped on the website already, thereby yielding incomplete — and therefore inaccurate — results.

5. Social Sharing Impact

Tracking social sharing is a slippery slope when it comes to A/B testing eCommerce sites. Shares via social media buttons can be tracked quite easily, but measuring its reach and network effect is still impossible as there is no technology available for split testing this yet.

The elements mentioned above may be mere drops in the ocean of eCommerce web pages, but they can create ripples of ever-increasing revenue once you optimize them properly through A/B testing. You just need the time, skills, and necessary resources to do so. In the end it will be more than worth it!

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20
Jan

Email Marketing: What to Consider Before You Press ‘Send’

When you run an online business or an eCommerce store, every minute of your time and every marketing dollar is critical. You have finite resources for both, but stretching them to get the very best results in terms of traffic, revenue and profits is not as hard as you might think. Simply use a tried and true method: email marketing!

While it might surprise you that we suggested email and not social media, there is no better medium than email marketing for businesses. The statistics are quite clear and they are astounding:

What Works in Email Marketing?

Taking the time to carefully plan your first campaign will give you better engagement and a better payoff by focusing on the purpose of your campaign.

Personalize It

Cater your emails to the people they are addressed to; people decide whether to open your communication based solely on the subject line, so make it count by making it personal. Which email would you open?

  • Open this email right away
  • Debbie, I’ve got some great news for you about XX
  • Information about XX inside

If you are like most people, the one that starts with your name (and tells you upfront what the email is about) is the winner. Beware of forcing personalization, though—and it follows by implication that it’s difficult to make large email blasts sound cozy. Nevertheless, being as personal as one can be in one’s email marketing definitely pays dividends.

Preview and Test It

Always preview and test your campaign. This way, you can avoid the rookie mistake of sending out an email to hundreds of people with a typo, a bad link, or images that don’t load.

Use your email marketing tools to test your content on a variety of devices and different email systems to see how it will look to recipients. Make sure your emails are mobile friendly, meaning they’ll fit nicely on whatever sized screen the recipient is viewing. If not, count on it being instantly deleted.

Never Spam

You want your email marketing to make you money, not scare off potential customers, so make sure nothing you send can be construed as SPAM. Spam filters will weed out certain content, so don’t use all capital letters, lots of exclamation points or spammy words and phrases. Chances are, emails with those things will never hit inboxes.

To entice your subscribers to engage, keep the content you send relevant, on-brand and consistent.

Be Yourself

It’s very easy after seeing an unsuccessful email to go out to overthink things and to try and change your style. Don’t! Write for the audience that wants to read from you not for the person who wants to write for them. Learn your genius and make your own brand. There will always be people who leave or who don’t like your content, but don’t let that change how you write. It’s good to get to know your audience, but don’t let them define you as much as inform you.

Track Your Metrics

How will you measure success in your email marketing campaign? What are your goals for open rates and click throughs? Create realistic goals so that you can measure your campaign performance. You should review these average email marketing rates from Smart Insights so you know what to expect, and plan from there:

  • Open rate: 22.87%
  • Click-through rate: 3.26%
  • Unsubscribe rate  0.53% (0.47%)

Not everyone will open your email but if over 20 percent of people do on your first try, you’re doing great. Likewise, click-through rates show what your recipients are responding to, giving you good information for future campaigns. Good tracking will guide you in the right direction. When you have a flop, move on, but when something works, rinse and repeat!

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