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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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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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.


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.


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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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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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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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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Three Simple Steps to Defining Your Target Audience

Knowing and understanding your target audience is arguably the most important factor in internet marketing. Not only will this allow you to produce great work that draws attention and makes money, it will also ensure that your business is making the right choices to achieve economic security, sustainable growth, as well as establishing itself as an industry leader.

1. Who is your business?

The first step in this process is to figure out who your business is. Yes, who. Chances are you know what your business sells, where it sells what it sells, and how you go about selling. But ‘who’ is the heart of the matter here—who is your business?

If you’re actually a little stuck for an answer, think back to the planning or brainstorming phase. That was when you and your team members were narrowing down the business’s focus and considering whom the product or service would attract. Reconsider your business’s mission statement or the central purpose of your product or service.

Knowing who your competitors are can help you position your business within the market, too, so consider the top five. You can run a quick Google, Facebook, or Twitter search using some keywords related to your field of business. You may even dig a little deeper by reading into their mission statement or scanning the About section. By the end of this process, you should know the purpose of your business and its products, who is looking for and purchasing your content, and how you can do it better than your competitors.

2. Who is your Customer?

Next, delve down deeper into who you are selling to. Of course, it is wise to distinguish your customer bases, but aim high for this one and imagine your top customer base, the most specific, most profitable, but also the customer bases you’re planning to connect with in the future. Having high hopes for your business and the audience you market to only further supports business growth in the long run.

For this step, it’s necessary to tap into your analytics. You can find the relevant data on your primary website, via your previous advertising campaigns, on social media pages, and particularly your business’s purchase history. Google Analytics is also a great tool for viewing data on your audience, and Facebook Insights can show you how you’re doing on social media. Does the data show you’re connecting with those you’d like to target? Or does it show another customer base you did not intend marketing to? Can you align the two?

If you are having trouble locating or producing reliable data on your audience or your business has no previous customer base to work with, you can always work from assumptions. However, be wary of making your audience feel dumb. Your users may not necessarily understand your industry terms or they may not have had previous experience dealing with a brand like yours. Be conscientious and when in doubt, be broad and extremely detailed.

Revisit your analytics regularly using the tools above. You can also try sending out automatic emails to your audience asking for their feedback or conducting a semi-annual or annual user survey. This will give you more specific, individualized responses from your audience,  but this approach is generally more time intensive and produces fewer results than Google Analytics.

3. Learn and Change

In the third and final step, take the information gathered and apply what you already know. Maybe you are concerned your business has strayed too far from your initial target audience, that your product has turned out to be more appropriate for a different crowd. If this concerns you, work towards realignment—in other words, make sure you are making the right material for the right people.

Or, perhaps you are willing to accept the new audience your product appears to be servicing and changing your target audience altogether. In this case, you may consider customizing your user experience to accommodate the new target audience. If you have reached this point in understanding your audience, get back to basics. Rinse and repeat steps one through three – now with this new audience in mind.

By following the steps outlined above, you are ready to know and grow your business. So go for it – your market is waiting!

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Online Advertising Platforms: Where to Start

Brilliant ideas. Solid strategies. Gumption. There are dozens of different factors that go into creating a successful business, but in an increasingly connected world, every consumer has more options by the minute, and if you want them to find your services, you’ll need to spend every cent of your larger-than-ever advertising budget wisely. This isn’t easy; after all, you have plenty of options, too. How do you make the right choice and get the most hits for your money?

Know Your Clients’ Interests

Since the beginning of business itself, entrepreneurs have had to answer the all-important question of just who will be most likely to buy their products. In the age of the Internet, you have a huge swath of the world population at your fingertips: an estimated 3.5 billion people now have a convenient connection to the web.

Of course, narrowing down billions of people to find the ones who will want your product is no easy task, which is why the biggest online advertising platforms can do some targeting on your behalf. Facebook, with nearly 2 billion users, is perhaps the most effective widespread advertising platform for this reason, allowing you to target users by location, interests, and devices used, in addition to some demographic details. While this sometimes lands Facebook in controversial waters, there’s no denying how effective Facebook ads can be, and how many they reach for a relatively low price.

Twitter’s options for advertising have been growing exponentially as of late, and they, too, have a vast array of data points at hand to use for targeting – even letting you specifically reach out to users who use certain emoji.

Google’s AdWords service is another way to narrow your audience and stay within your budget, only charging you when people click your ads and only showing your ads when someone searches for phrases you decide are relevant. When you’ve reached the budget you set, the ads simply stop appearing until you’re ready to pony up.

What’s New

In an upcoming podcast we will be discussing advertising platforms further with a focus on the new advertising monster on its way to the top: Instagram. It sounds bizarre as an advertising platform and it is exclusive, but it has all of the right keys to be very effective for the right products. Keep an eye out for the podcast soon.

Get Personal

If you already have a database of users, one of the easiest ways to make sure they don’t forget about you is an old classic: email. Monthly services like Constant Contact and MailChimp have been around for decades, evolving to incorporate more social media-centric aspects into their software, but always staying focused on the proactive marketing inherent in email campaigns. Some CRM databases build their own email marketing tools, like iContact for Salesforce, which can go through your contacts for the information it needs to build an effective campaign. Newer service Mailify costs a little more than the older services, but takes a smart and fresh approach to its interface and thinks more about your campaign on mobile devices, all of which are crucial in the modern age.

Many a service makes promises to keep your business from getting lost in the shuffle, and choosing between them is a difficult task. Luckily, the world is smaller than ever, and your clients are right on the other side of your computer. And don’t be afraid to try out multiple services, and choose what works best for you. By really digesting your user base, potential scope, and your reach, you’ll find the right service for your business.

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How to Make New Customers Your Forever Customers

This article is about heartfelt engagement with customers. It’s about what makes them feel good, why loyal consumers matter, and how you can gain a faithful following for your website or business.

People like to be checked in on. They want you to ask them about their experience with your website, product, or service because it gives them the opportunity to talk about it! Customers enjoy hearing and seeing their names, and they especially love being remembered. No really: one in four customers gets upset when a business does not identify them as a past patron.

It’s not awkward either to request more information (like names and preferences) when 67% of American consumers would willingly provide companies with personal information in exchange for better products and higher levels of customer service. Persuade your customers, offering them the ability to track orders and receive special offers, to register and you can gain access to their buying history and preferences, show them personalized love, and ultimately make repeat purchasing faster and easier.

Now, let’s talk loyalty—programs. We probably all have a dusty coffee shop punch card tucked somewhere in our wallets! While that’s become a thing of the past, the future of loyalty programs is here, and it’s expanding. As of 2015, there were about 3.3 billion customer loyalty program memberships in the United States, and that number increased 26% from 2013. So they’re out there, and people still want them. In fact, some American consumers, roughly 34%, are loyal to a specific brand simply because of the loyalty program, and 76% of them believe their loyalty program, or that dusty punch card, is an integral part of the relationship they share with the brand.

People like prizes and perks, but what’s in it for your business? Lots. Loyalty programs increase revenue, order values, net promoter scores, and repeat purchase rates. They also activate customer engagement and interaction and help build a brand that customers perceive as concerned and likable. It does take creativity, commitment, and money to start and follow through on these programs, however, and a failure to keep it interesting, current, and active could negatively impact your brand or business. The good news is that every three out of four companies with a loyalty program generate a return on investment, increasing customer retention by 5% and profits by up to 95%.

It is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one, according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs. This is largely because current customers spend more than new customers. Take the ones you’ve got, learn their names, take down their information, send them considerate emails thanking them for their business, get your creative team brainstorming a new loyalty program, and let the customers do the rest.

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Elegance and Functionality: UX Principles for 2017

In recent years, web-based sales have grown exponentially, specifically through mobile devices such as smartphones. Digital portions of sales rose 23.7% in 2016, accounting for 8.7% of total retail spending worldwide (which will increase to 14% by 2020). Given the increasing importance of an online business presence, a contemporary, user-friendly website is key for large and small businesses alike. While keeping up with current UX trends can be challenging, some knowledge of UX styles helps to keep a business modern while offering a satisfying online retail experience.

Fortunately, current UI and UX tendencies are focused on combining functionality, style, and commercial viability, so I can stay on trend stylistically while keeping my e-commerce site user-friendly. The goal is to marry form and function. For example, while the carousel design looks very up-to-date, it is slow and can cause problems for SEO. Instead of hip design elements that don’t work well, designers are attempting to emphasize clean designs while boosting functionality across devices. Here are some more specific recent styles that allow designers to create a rich user experience with a contemporary, elegant appearance.
Semi-flat designs: Flat designs have been very popular over the past few years, in part because they look clean and clearly emphasize products. However, while the flat design is certainly timeless, it is becoming too omnipresent, giving it a cookie-cutter look. Semi-flat designs create dynamism while keeping the elegance and simplicity of flat designs. By adding small amounts of shading or depth cues, a site can stay current without losing readability.

Original images: Similarly, stock photos have been overused tremendously over the past few years. They are easy to obtain, but if I run a reverse image search online, I can easily see exactly how many other e-commerce websites are using the same image. Luckily, most phones today are built with a camera that can take professional-looking pictures for an e-commerce website. This small but original touch allows an e-commerce site to stand out as unique and detail-oriented with very little extra effort.

Creative Typefaces: This is the year to start looking for bolder, more creative fonts. While Google Fonts is fantastic, and new fonts frequently get added, their most popular ones are oversaturated in the e-commerce world—especially traditional sans serif fonts. Instead, we’re looking at big, beautiful fonts that become the statement piece of the website.

Dynamic Colors: More dynamic colors are getting deployed very judiciously in combination with copious amounts of whitespace. For example, designers are choosing a highly contrasting color palette (grays and reds, for instance), but only minimally, so that color can highlight the dominant whitespace. Or, alternatively, designers are using subtle color shadows in muted hues (shades of blue), which work well with a semi-flat design style. Both of these trends add dimensionality through thoughtful use of color.

Interfaces for unique users: Many new users are both older (65+) or younger (less than 10). As such, many designers are working with designs that can be tailored to age groups. For example, larger fonts are good with older users, while brighter, more vivid colors work well for younger users. As the ubiquity of metadata increases, so will the ability to have targeted web interfaces geared toward specific users.

Very simply, I see 2017 as the year of mobile interfaces, user and vendor functionality, and small, individual touches that make websites unique. Many of these styles are already popular, but given the emphasis on functionality and simplicity, they will continue through 2017 — and probably well beyond.

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