The holidays are quickly approaching. That means that there is a wave of customers preparing the make holiday purchases. This year, it is expected that over 50% of holiday shopping will occur online. Over the next few weeks, we are sharing some resources that we believe will help you prepare. 

First up in our series, we have a technology playbook prepared by our partner, ShoppingGives. ShoppingGives has created a technology to give back on every purchase, at no extra cost to the consumer. ShoppingGives integrates seamlessly into an eCommerce store’s customer shopping journey, creating a frictionless giving experience for customers and guiding the customer to convert, with the knowledge that a donation is created with every purchase.

In their recently released guide, ShoppingGives shares overviews of six different technologies and how they can benefit your conversion rates throughout the holiday season and beyond. This technology includes:

  • Yotpo which helps brands integrate product reviews and user-generated content throughout your customer journey, providing built-in trust signals and social proof to potential customers that helps lead to conversions. 
  • Sezzle, an alternative payment method that allows customers the option to buy now pay later, an especially important option for these higher spending months. 
  • Fulfillment partner, ShipBob, which provides affordable or free 2-day shipping and reduces logistical hassles.
  • Returnly, the return management solution that helps brands offer free and streamlined returns. 
  • Klaviyo,  a growth marketing platform that helps brands maximize marketing automation and make full use of their customer data.
  • And of course, ShoppingGives which helps brands keep in mind the holiday spirit of giving while building meaningful customer relationships and boosting conversion rates.

This is an excellent guide for starting to build your tech stack in order to prepare for the craziness of the holidays. We also recommend looking into:

  • Subscription options like ReCharge in order to establish a customer relationship during the holidays that will hopefully extend far after the season is over
  • Customer service solutions like Gorgias which help you manage all of your customer support in one place

If your brand would like help integrating the above solutions or has unique needs outside of the options presented here, contact us. The developers as Sellry have worked with hundreds of apps and all major ecommerce platforms and can provide informed and individualized recommendations on building your brand’s tech stack.

 

Anything that can be automated should be.

If you find yourself frequently repeating tasks, you should find a way to automate them—each click, each dropdown adds up. Wasting time equates to wasting money, and ecommerce businesses can’t afford to waste either. Automation is such an effective cost-cutting strategy, that some fear that it will eliminate 40% of our workforce. Whether or not these fears are warranted remains to be seen. What is currently provable is that automation saves those of us currently working a lot of time—particularly those of us running ecommerce businesses. Most of what makes an order management platform success commonly depends on how well they automate parts of a workflow that people shouldn’t have to perform. 

Free up some time by having your order management system perform medial tasks like assigning orders to specific employees, or applying the right shipping service based on items ordered. They’ll do it far quicker than any human could. Furthermore, human error and dejection are more likely to occur to bored workers performing repetitive tasks.  Ultimately, if an action can be applied to more than one order, you should find a way to automate it to save time in the future. 

Flagging Problematic Orders

If you have flagged customers, back-ordered items, or regions/countries that you don’t ship to, having a way to make sure that you don’t process the payment on these orders and then pack and ship them is crucial. In the rush of fulfilling orders, it is always possible to let something like this squeak by. After all, “to err is human.” Automating this lets you avoid timesuck activities like reaching out to a customer, disputing charges, and dealing with customs charges for returned merchandise. Nipping this in the bud is the best course of action to take before it blooms into a problem. 

Inventory Management

Inventory is a prime example of something that humans simply cannot and should not compete with computers on. Inventory management is a big task, and auditing and keeping tabs on your stock levels is only a small part of its feature set. 

Things to automate via inventory management systems: 

  • Low inventory warnings
  • managing inventory across multiple channels (Shopify, Amazon, Magento, eBay, etc.)
  • reordering inventory once it falls below a certain quantity 

These are all tasks that a human worker can do, but these repetitive, time-consuming tasks are ideal for automation. Solutions like BrightPearl, SkuVault, and StitchLab can help you more effectively manage your inventory across various selling channels.

Shipping & Fulfillment

Shipping can be time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. There are so many variables that you don’t think about until you start shipping that take time to manually configure. However, no one knows your business better than you do. Once you figure out what works best for your orders, such as shipping service and package type, automation rules can apply these actions to your orders upon import. We’ve compiled a list of automation rules that you should use to save time and money. 

Parts of your shipping that you should automate:

  • Assigning Priority Mail to all orders over 16 ounces 
  • Adjust weight to include additional packaging
  • Include coupons and other loyalty rewards to preferred customers.

Transactional Emails

Transactional emails are among the most read emails a business can send. Marketing would be much easier if people were as eager for newsletters as they are for shipping confirmation emails. They have a 76% higher open rate than standard marketing emails. Crafting a top-notch transactional email is one thing, but finding a way to automate sending them to the appropriate customer requires a different strategy. 

Let automation processes help send targeted emails to customers based on: 

  • Items ordered (special instructions, etc)
  • Getting them to become repeat customers
  • Promotional/holiday campaigns  

Additionally, finding ways to capitalize on your branding is important. Default email templates convey the information needed, but they don’t help create any stronger customer loyalty. When a customer opens a transactional email, the main thing they’re wanting to do is to track their package. Providing a way to display this information in a more engaging and branded way helps elevate your business in the mind of consumers and can increase their loyalty to your brand. 

Conclusion

Automation processes and automation rules require a deep understanding of your inventory, customer base, and workflow. It can also be a time-consuming initial setup process, but once these processes are in place, it is very much set it and forget it. Even if the services and programs come with a premium price tag, working with a leaner, happier crew makes it well worth it.  

 

Learn how ShipStation’s software helps enterprise users scale quickly and efficiently here.

 

Save time and money with ShipStation the best online shipping platform for your ecommerce business.

At Shopify Unite 2019, our team was excited to hear about all of the new Shopify features available to ecommerce retailers. Here are a few of the many features we are excited to see more of:

1. Online store design experience

The new Shopify online store design experience will make it easier for merchants to create and customize their storefronts without code. Later this year, all Shopify merchants will have access to new editing features including:

  • Sections on every page that allow merchants to easily add or move content in a few clicks on any page of their website.
  • Master pages that allow merchants to decide what content will appear on multiple pages, and apply changes to all pages by editing the master page.
  • Themes will offer starting points, a selection of pre-configured content sections that will make store setup faster by simply populating with their own content.
  • Content portability which will allow merchants to make changes to their store without transferring their content manually.
  • Drafts that allow merchants to draft changes prior to publishing.
  • A new, more intuitive user interface.

For Shopify Partners (including us), these updates will also unlock new app sections, giving merchants the ability to add apps to their storefront. Shopify Partners will also be given access to Shopify’s new checkout app extension, which focuses on improving the purchase flow for subscriptions – we are a huge fan of recurring revenue.

Shopify is also allowing video and 3D for product sections for all merchants. Merchants will be able to manage media from a single location and Shopify hosted video and 3D assets will share the same workflow as images. Merchants using one of Shopify’s 10 basic themes will be able to display their video or 3D assets on their storefront in addition to product pages. The Media APIs which will allow developers to associated video and 3D model assets with products.

2. Online Store: Advanced

For merchants with more unique requirements, Shopify is introducing custom storefront tools The custom storefront tools—made up of our Storefront API and related SDKs (JS Buy SDK, Mobile Buy SDK, etc.)—let you build for complex, niche, and innovative customer-centric businesses. These tools allow you to engage with customers through new “storefronts” including vending machines, voice shopping, smart mirrors, smart fridges, etc.; have multiple developers working in parallel in their programming language or framework of choice; and leverage the advantages of headless architecture. Additionally, new updates will allow merchants to sell in multiple currencies, improve product recommendations, access to metafields, and more.

Additional APIs will also allow you to merchants to sell in multiple languages and a new multiple currencies feature on Shopify Payments will expand the opportunity to reach international audiences for merchants of all sizes.

3. Shopify POS

Last year, Shopify POS grew to reach over 100,000 merchants and has driven sales in the billions. Shopify is continuing to invest in this tech with extensions including loyalty and promotions and a completely redesigned app.

4. Backoffice

Shopify is improving the back office merchant experience through Fulfillment APIs. The API is currently in beta and will enable app developers to give their users more control and visibility into order fulfillment including multi-location order fulfillment, improved visibility into the fulfillment process for merchants, better communication between the app and merchant, and even the ability to decline a fulfillment request. The Fulfillment APIs will become available in October 2019.

New Delivery Profiles API – available this summer – will also help Shopify businesses optimize their checkout experience by setting per product and per location shipping rules. Order Editing APIs will add even more flexibility to the customer experience by allowing Shopify merchants to edit open orders at the buyer’s request.

5. A New Shopify Plus

Already one of our highly recommended platforms, there will be additional benefits added for merchants on Shopify Plus, making managing their business even easier.

6. Developer products

New capabilities from Media API, Order Editing API, and Delivery Profiles API will make a huge difference in the platform’s flexibility and speed. Shopify App Bridge is a new code library that enables apps and channels to embed directly into the Shopify Admin on both web and mobile, as well as via POS. Shopify App CLI will also allow developers to build apps faster. API versioning and developer previews are also helping communicate new features quickly and consistently and allowing developers to test new features prior to deploying them.

Our first version of Shopify’s Admin API (GraphQL and REST), named 2019-04, introduced no breaking changes in April 2019. We also introduced changes to the Partner Dashboard, the developer changelog, and our developer documentation to make it easier for developers to stay on top of upcoming API versions. The next version, 2019-07, will be available in July, just a few weeks after Unite.

7. Shopify Fulfillment Network

Shopify Fulfillment Network is a geographically dispersed network of fulfillment centers with smart inventory-allocation technology, powered by machine learning that predicts the closest fulfillment centers and optimal inventory quantities per location to ensure fast, low-cost delivery in order to best serve merchants and their customers. Shopify Fulfillment Network is built across the US (to start) and will reduce back office errors and frustration with up to date order, inventory, and customer data; maintain accurate inventory information; ensure 99.5 percent certainty and accuracy; and work with warehouses so you don’t have to. The new feature will also support returns and exchanges, custom packaging, and multiple channels including your store, Amazon, Instagram, and more.

For more insight and documentation on the many new features coming to the Shopify, go here.

These 5 Shopify stores are shining examples of e-commerce customer experience. Here’s how to begin increasing your conversions by following in their footsteps.

The secret to getting higher purchase prices and lower cart abandonment rates lies in prioritizing the ecommerce customer experience. From minimizing clicks and lengthy forms, to offering flexible payment options at checkout, today’s shoppers value the experience more than ever.

You’ve heard it over and over again, millennials and gen Z-ers are “all about experiences.” Even though it might sound counterintuitive, the same generational outlook that causes people to invest in experiences over things can also encourage them to spend more at your Shopify store.

In this article, we’re shining a spotlight on 5 successful Shopify stores that are great examples of ecommerce customer experience. If you want to kick your conversions up a notch, take a tip or two from these 5 ecomm innovators.

1.MVMT: Quick and Easy Shopping Experience

MVMT prides itself on a customer-first approach to luxury watches and accessories by offering lower prices on a wide selection of products. Similarly, their website prioritizes the consumer by speeding you through checkout. Instead of creating an account and filling out multiple pages of information, you can add to cart, checkout as a guest, and express pay or type your info into one simple form. This low-click approach capitalizes on spur-of-the-moment decisions and makes it easier than ever to invest in a new watch that feels as elegant as the shopping experience.

2. Coco and Breezy: Crystal-Clear Return Policy

Glasses can be a big commitment and a significant investment. Coco and Breezy counteracts this inherent problem by offering a friendly return policy. Instead of burying their return information within an FAQ page or in a disclaimer, they post it prominently (complete with illustrations) so that their customers feel at ease and confident in their purchase. This transparency helps to alleviate buyer hesitation and encourage higher spend, even on tricky products like prescription glasses.

3. Storets: All About Options

Storets offers more payment options than your average store, and it’s really paying off for them.

In fact, the most successful online merchants offer shoppers 8+ payment options. Many of today’s top payment solutions lead to increased conversions by relieving the buyer hesitation associated with cash flow problems or credit concerns. One of Storets most flexible options is Klarna Slice it, which allows shoppers to automatically pay for their purchase in 4 interest-free installments, collected bi-weekly. Splitting up payments into 4 smaller interest-free bites makes it easy for Storets customers to say yes to new fashion trends.

4. Kjaer Weis: A Message That Matters

Providing extensive product details within a clean and streamlined webstore is a balancing act that few have mastered; Kjaer Weis is a shining example. Their luxury beauty products include a promise of sustainability and conscientiousness for the modern woman, but unlike many brands that claim to have a cause, Kjaer lives it. Their reusable and refillable products are organic, cruelty-free, and include an alphabetical breakdown of each and every ingredient. All the while, they keep their branding, packaging, and Shopify store sleek, and chic. Kjaer Weis proves that a seamless shopping experience can help express your message, enhance your customer’s overall experience, and build brand loyalty that lasts.

5. Allbirds: Instagram All-Stars

Allbirds has found tremendous success on Instagram, and your customers are browsing products on social media too. Instagram’s new in-app shopping features are proof that more and more shopping journeys are beginning on mobile. In light of this, moving your customers from social to checkout without too many annoying steps needs to be a priority. Allbirds’ shoppable Instagram with Shopify integration instantly takes customers to a product detail page straight from the app. In today’s fast-paced, digital world, it’s essential to capture spontaneous web-based purchasers and lead them through a fast and seamless checkout experience. Working with technology partners that can keep you on top of ecomm’s ever-changing technology can help too.

These brands are living proof that a smooth shopping experience can help you increase your conversions while turning fickle shoppers into brand evangelists.

This article is part of a 4-part series about sustaining and growing your ecomm business in 2019. Insights are brought to you by the ecomm and payments experts at Sellry and Klarna.

Want the full picture? Check out style tips one, two, and three.

You put a lot of work into building and maintaining a strong brand identity. Don’t let a less-than-stellar e-commerce experience send the wrong message to your customers.

This article is part three in the 4-part “Shopify Style Series” powered by Klarna and Sellry.

 

An antiquated e-commerce experience can damage your company’s name and prevent potential sales. Here’s how to show your customers who you really are through a customized online store that reflects your brand’s hard-earned integrity.

1. Create a Smarter Experience

In fashion, image may be everything, but in fashion e-commerce, user experience is far more important. While you focus on designing a sharp and stylish site, don’t neglect your customer’s journey. No matter how slick your branding is or how great your store looks, a clunky checkout will stop shoppers in their tracks.

With “ecomm-petition” revving up, many retailers are differentiating their brand by investing in new online shopping capabilities driven by consumer demand. And what do your customers expect from your brand? It all boils down to ease of use.

Lengthy forms, mandatory account creations, and multi-step checkout procedures only create hesitation and frustration, which often leads to cart abandonment.

For repeat customers, encountering multiple hurdles for a second is especially annoying. Integrating smart payment technology like one-touch buying, guest checkouts, and auto-fill forms can help take shoppers from browsing to buying, and allow you to treat return buyers as VIPs.  Plus, when you make shopping and checkout short and sweet, you can capitalize on subconscious desire – an essential factor in online fashion purchases.

2. Offer Modern Payment Options

If shoppers don’t see their favorite way to pay, they might reconsider their purchase. That’s why many successful retail companies, from H&M to TopShop and Asos, are using flexible payment options as a way to differentiate their brand while adding value for their customers.

In fact, giving shoppers more payment options has been shown to increase conversions and build positive brand associations. A recent study showed that 44% more purchases were made due to the availability of Klarna at checkout alone. Try Before You Buy and interest-free installment options are two of the most popular, and successful, new payment methods.

Offering as many payment options as possible builds trust and credibility while encouraging higher spend. Plus, with the right partner, these modern options work seamlessly for customers and retailers alike, making payments fast, intuitive, and risk-free.

3. Rethink Returns

We’ve talked a lot about returns thus far in this series, and there’s a good reason for it. Returns aren’t easy – it costs a lot to pay for shipping, and with customers frequently trying to game the system, it’s hard to maintain an easy and free policy. According to recent research, the #1 reason for cart abandonment among American shoppers was that “the retailer did not have a decent return policy.” As it applies to customization and branding, prioritizing your return policy can really set you apart from the pack.

Your customers look to you for honesty and transparency at every stage of their shopping journey, and trust goes a long way toward brand loyalty, word-of-mouth recommendations and of course, repeat purchases. But an unclear or unreasonable return policy can upend all the hard work you’ve done to build their trust. Creating a simple and direct policy, and letting shoppers know items can be returned or exchanged is an effective way to decrease cart abandonment overall.

4. Personalize Everything

Personalized shopping and curated fashion sites have proven time and again that customization resonates with today’s buyer.  Taking this same approach to your e-commerce experience is an investment you can bet on.

If you apply the same creative and customized methodology to your checkout as you do to your products and services, you can transform your ecomm experience into something unique, effective, and worthy of your brand’s name.

 

This article is part of a 4-part series about sustaining and growing your ecommbusiness in 2019. Insights are brought to you by the ecomm and payments experts at Sellry and Klarna.

Ditched the mall for online shopping? You’re not alone. But even though 80% of Americans shop online, our relationship with eCommerce is far from perfect. Enter: try before you buy.

 

This article is part two in the 4-part “Shopify Style Series” powered by Klarna and SellryRead the first part here.

 

Try before you buy is a relatively new ecomm phenomenon that helps retailers’ improve the overall online shopping experience by encouraging shoppers to test drive items before they commit to purchase. Here’s why it works wonders for both you and your customers.

1.Try Before You Buy Eliminates Risk

Unsurprisingly, 43% of American shoppers have reported feeling frustrated by the lack of product details available online. And even if the measurements, materials, and fit are displayed loud and clear on your site, there is still no guarantee that the garment or product will meet your shoppers’ expectations “IRL”. Offering the option to pay later virtually eliminates the limitations of the online world, turning your customers’ home into a dressing room (minus the weird fluorescent lighting).

 

And for the retailer? Today’s top flexible payment options always pay you right away, even if the shopper is late or defaults on their payments. By working with a third-party payment provider, retailers can rest assured that they are protected just as well as their customers.

2. Fast and Easy for Shoppers

Try before you buy only requires a few simple details in order to complete a purchase. And the faster the checkout, the lower the risk of cart abandonment. Implementing this innovative payment option has the power to alter the customer mindset, encouraging them to add more items to their cart, without stressing about buyer’s remorse.  Pick, click, done!

3. Makes Returns a Breeze

Bad return experiences that take too long, cost too much, require action within a short window of time, or (worst of all) force online shoppers to go to a physical store have scared people away from buying large-ticket items online. Try before you buy removes one of the biggest checkout hurdles of all–the dreaded return. When trust is broken by an unclear or unfair return policy, it’s hard to repair it. Offering more flexible payment options can help your customers, even lapsed ones, take a chance on you. And that chance could pay off big time.

4. Proven to Increase Conversions

Speaking of paying off, savvy online retailers like Warby Parker and Zappos have found tremendous success by encouraging customers to order first and pay later. Research shows that when customers are put in control of their shopping experience, the chance of conversion increased sales goes up. In fact, in a survey of 2,000 consumers from Klarna and Retail Connect, 71% said they would consider ordering goods and paying for them after they were delivered (and only if they decided to keep them), while 72% said they would consider ordering goods and paying for them later. Bottom line, the more flexible you are, the more confident your customer feels.

5. Helps Bridge the Gap Between Online and In-Store

 

We may be spending more time online than we do in stores, but that doesn’t mean that online shopping has completely replaced the brick-and-mortar experience. It has, of course, changed it. Today’s customers demand synchronicity between your site and your store.  Recreating a comfortable “in-store” experience at home shows customers that you are adapting and evolving to their preferences in order to deliver the best possible customer experience, no matter what the future holds.

 

Including a try before you buy option on your checkout page builds trust and boosts sales by putting the control back into your customer’s hands, all at no risk to you.

 

This article is part of a 4-part series about sustaining and growing your ecomm business in 2019. Insights are brought to you by the ecomm and payments experts at Sellry, Klarna, and Shopify.

Wondering how to increase conversion rates? Learn how to convert more shoppers and build brand loyalty by delivering on the five things that customers want most.

This article is the first part of the “Shopify Style Series” powered by Klarna and Sellry.

 

Attracting more shoppers is always in style. But how do you increase your conversion rate once they’re on your site? The best way to avoid abandoned carts is to pay attention to consumer preferences. After all, when you give the customer what they want, they’re less likely to go elsewhere.

Since today’s digital world makes data collection easier than ever, consumer demands are no longer difficult to pinpoint. The only mystery left is…why aren’t all online retailers delivering on those preferences?

With so many new features and technologies becoming available on Shopify, it can be hard to determine which ones are truly worth the investment. That’s where we come in. By focusing your energy on the following areas, you can move the needle forward on conversions while building brand loyalty at the same time.

1. Harmony In-Store and Online

Today’s most successful retailers have dedicated entire teams to the omnichannel experience. Why? Because despite what you may have heard, people still love shopping at brick-and-mortar stores. In fact, 60 percent of shoppers are using their mobile devices to help them shop while inside the store. That means synchronicity between your site and your store is more important than ever.

For example, if a customer visits your store to try something on but is unable to purchase it later from their phone or computer– the magic is broken and the sale is lost. Make sure that your technology tracks inventory across all possible channels and allows for easy, pain-free purchases in person and online.

2. More Payment Options than Ever

Today’s shoppers are used to having multiple choices, and if they don’t see their go-to payment method on your site, they might end up looking elsewhere. The most successful online merchants offer shoppers 8+ payment methods (yes, really!). These include payment solutions that allow shoppers to finance items over time, split their purchase into interest-free installments, or even order items and try them on before paying at all.

And before you get nervous about the risk involved with these features, some solutions actually take on the risk for you, making it possible to offer flexible payment options while still getting paid upfront. For merchants and customers alike, technology like this is a win-win.

3. Frictionless Shopping

Raise your hand if you love filling out forms! Everybody wants their shopping journey to be fast and easy, and nothing slows you down more than typing out your credit card number, address, and password over and over again.

And no, this is not just anecdotal. According to the 2018 Checkout Conversion Index, auto-fill “had a particularly profound effect on merchants’ checkout processes.” A one-click login option, or even an auto-filled billing address, can speed up your checkout and create a positive impression of your online shop. The easier it is to buy, the higher your conversation rate will be.

4. Exceptional Customer Service Around the Clock

Few things are more annoying than running into an issue and not being able to find help, and because of this, few things hurt conversion rates more. Today’s customers expect 24/7 online support, and if they don’t get it, they might leave your site upset and angry, or worse, they might just forget you. When a shopper can’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll go somewhere else to find it, costing brands not only a conversion but the ability to hook a repeat customer.

Don’t let frustration ruin your reputation. Invest in the best customer service support, including a quick-and-easy online chat option. Good customer service can transform a bad experience into a great one. Simply being there for your customer goes a long way toward brand loyalty and repeat sales.

5. Pain-Free Returns

No matter how easy your checkout is, an unclear or unreasonable return policy will still cause customers to abandon their carts. Your customer hasn’t even seen the product in person yet, so why should they commit to owning it? Retailers who acknowledge and plan for this inherent risk by offering free and easy returns are rewarded with higher purchases and less cart abandonment overall. The more confident your customer feels about your policies, the less likely they are to abandon their cart.

Increasing conversions isn’t as hard as it seems. All it takes are the right technology partners (and Shopify has a lot) in order to transform your shoppers’ most important preferences into tangible ecommerce solutions. Customers who get what they want when they want it will always come back for more.

 

This article is part of a 4-part series about sustaining and growing your ecomm business in 2019. Insights are brought to you by the ecomm and payments experts at SellryKlarna, and Shopify

The digital age has created massive shifts in the way we build and operate our businesses and nowhere is that more evident than in the field of marketing. Now that customers can be found on countless social media sites, search engines, and in every corner of the web, it can often be confusing trying to figure out where exactly you should be trying to reach them. This confusion often leads brands to throw money at social media marketers advertisements. What these businesses don’t realize that their most effective marketing tools are right in front of them and have been all along. Your own customers are an amazing marketing resource just waiting for you to unleash their potential.

Potential Customers Trust Their Friends More Than Brands

When scrolling past the posts and advertisements on my newsfeed, I tend to trust the advice of my friends 100 times more that a brand’s advertisement. Whether they’re recommending a movie, a restaurant, or even their favorite place to buy jeans, I know I’m getting the unbiased truth when I turn to my friends, and I’m not alone! According to a global report done by Nielsen, 84% of people trust a friend’s recommendation. What this means is that your customers have the potential to be turned into a powerhouse for traffic referrals. By investing in and incentivizing your customers (we’ll dive deep into that later), the network effect will grow and you’ll have plenty of influential marketers in no time.

Shoppers are Filtering Out Traditional Advertising

I don’t think I know anyone that actually enjoys sitting through a 15-second YouTube commercial or having their Facebook video interrupted by an ad. More and more customers are becoming fed up with the swarm of targeted ads following them everywhere they go. This oversaturation is so drastic that 92% of internet users claims that they pay no attention to online ads. In addition to that, 11% of global internet users got so tired of advertisements that installed an adblocker to remove them completely! Reaching your customers through Facebook and Google advertising is quickly diminishing in value. Since consumers are losing trust in traditional advertisements, they will more than likely turn to their friends for a genuine recommendation. With this strong trust in a recommendation and the faltering effectiveness of ads, word of mouth marketing will become a more and more important pillar of online marketing.

Your Customers Are the Most Cost Effective Marketing Tools

Effective marketing isn’t always easy. It takes time and effort to get it right and if a brand isn’t willing to spend the time, sometimes they have to spend some money instead. For reference, social media consulting can often cost between $2000-$5000 per month. For any company that isn’t a Fortune 500, that can be a hard bill to stomach. On top of the upfront cost, traditional advertising techniques just aren’t as effective anymore. You’ll be paying exorbitant fees to reach a small group of people that hold a much smaller value. If you look at it from the perspective of your return on investment, traditional advertising just doesn’t seem to make sense. Instead, you could provide an amazing experience for your customers and then provide them with incentives to do the marketing for you. Building brand advocates is an incredibly cost effective method of spreading the word about the quality you provide.

Rewards Programs Can Help Convert Customers into Marketers

So how exactly can you start turning your customers into the acquisition army you know they can be? Believe it or not, one of the most effective ways to unleash the marketing potential of your customers is by running an incredible rewards program. How, you might ask? Allow me to answer your question in three parts…

1. Reward Customers for Inviting Their Friends to the Site

As mentioned before, a friend’s recommendation means much more than any other form of advertising. This puts it heavily in your advantage to encourage customers to share your site with their friends. A rewards program is a perfect way to do this for two reasons: a) rewards elevate the current customer experience and b) rewards encourage newcomers.

We’ve all had that one incredible experience with a brand that turns us into loyalists for life, whether it was visiting Disneyland or receiving a Starbucks Gold Card in the mail. A rewards program, like the one Starbucks runs, is a fantastic way to elevate the customer experience and increase satisfaction. By rewarding your customers for shopping with you, you’re giving shoppers a reason to get excited. So long as you gave them a great experience worth sharing, there is a good chance you’ll earn stellar recommendations amongst friends.

A rewards programs also allows you to specifically reward customer referrals. Most programs will allow you to reward the receiver of the referral with a discount of some sort and then reward the referrer with credit to your store. This is huge because it gives an incentive for your customers to advertise for you, it entices new customers to shop with you and it encourages your current customers to shop with you again as they’ll now have new store credit.

2. Reward Customers for Sharing a Product or a Purchase

About a year ago I came across a phone called the Nextbit Robin. Its distinctive look really caught my eye but it was $400 and I already had a phone. I kept up to date on the phone, watched some reviews and even some unboxing videos, as it turned out, the phone was pretty great. The only problem was I still had a perfectly functioning smartphone. That weekend, one unfortunate canoe accident later, I no longer had a smartphone leaving me free to pull the trigger on the Robin. My new issue was that I had to wait 5 days for shipping. In that time, I must have watched every video on the internet about that phone. When it finally arrived I was so excited, I showed all of my friends, filmed an unboxing video, bought accessories and filmed a review video for those!

When people buy amazing products, they like to share their experiences, recommend them to other people and brag about the cool new stuff they get. A rewards program can help you harness this powerful excitement by rewarding people for sharing on social media. You can reward for a Tweet or a Facebook share, for example. This further encourages people to share their purchases, convinces others to buy from you and rewards your most enthusiastic customers!

3. Reward Customers for Telling Others What They Think (Reviews)

It’s pretty well agreed upon that people love having their their opinions  heard.That’s why we’ve seen the rise of review sites like Rotten Tomatoes, Yelp and Google Reviews. When I finish a book, one of the first things I do is to rate it on Goodreads. Then I immediately tell my friends about it and if the book was any good, I recommend it.

This desire to have your opinions heard and valued works hand in hand with reviewing products. When a customer makes a purchase from you, a good portion of your customer base will receive the products, be pleased with them and want to leave a review on the product, giving you feedback. Getting reviews on your site is a great way to encourage future buyers, as 90% of online shoppers claim they are influenced by reviews.

On top of that, it’s also a great way to boost your SEO as many reviewers will use terms that other shoppers are searching for! Luckily a rewards program can often be the perfect solution to encourage customer reviews! Just simply give them credit or points each time they leave a review and you’ll get more user-generated content on the site, the customer will feel like their opinion is valued, and more than likely it will even lead to a couple new and repeat purchases!

Encourage Loyalty, Build Brand Advocates

I hope it’s become clear now that you’ve got an potential acquisition army at your fingertips. Your customers are ready to share your site, products, and brand with the people in their lives. All you have to do is give them an amazing experience that makes them smile and a little nudge in the right direction. If they’re your customers then you’ve obviously done something right and they see value in your product or service. By elevating your customer experience even further and using a rewards program to turn your loyal customers into brand advocates, you’ll be taking advantage of your highest potential marketing tool. It’s simple: if you reward your customers, they’ll reward you right back!

When consumers online shop, they do so with the intention of finding a desired product in a quick, simple and efficient way. Through category pages, visitors are able to improve and narrow down their search to speed up the process and check out faster. Ecommerce sites should be able to provide visitors with an optimal experience, and part of that experience is competent category navigation. Here are three easy jollways you can improve your category navigation to ultimately turn browsers into buyers!

1. Promote Certain Products on Category Pages

Sporadically placing products on certain category pages is one approach you could take, however, a better approach would be to promote certain products on category pages. This is especially useful when you want to push certain products such as best sellers, sale items, those with higher margins, and products of excess stock.

For example, Jollyes.com promotes their best selling products at the top of the results for specific category pages.

Jollyes.com

2. Include Promotional Banners on Category Pages

Including promotional banners relevant to the category page is valuable and informative to consumers. Placing banners is useful for promoting specific campaigns, highlighting sales, or redirecting visitors to other relevant, complimentary pages. Nextopia’s merchandising tool allows one to create promotional banners on the fly, and even allow you to manually place these products in a specific pattern on category pages.

For example, Pink Boutique uses promotional banners to inform consumers that a certain product is back in stock.

Pink Boutique

3. Allow Shoppers to Filter their Navigation

Category pages act as a tool to narrow down search for visitors, however, they can still be very overwhelming if a category page has endless pages to scroll through. This is where a tool such as filters can help by allowing customers to filter their navigation to more specific results. Some popular filters are price, color, size, brand, and material.

Jackets

Tip: Make sure you don’t display filters that are not related to a category page. For example, you don’t want to display a shoe size filter on a jacket category page because it’s irrelevant. Rather, use filters such as pattern, style, and length for jackets (see photo above).

Nextopia allows you to control the filtering on each category page based upon taxonomy. Only the associated filters that are related to that category will appear on the page.

With the eCommerce world becoming more saturated every day, it’s important for retailers to make their online sites optimal and stand above their competitors. These tips are some of the easiest and most effective ways to improve the overall shopping experience for consumers.

This article was written by Jessalyn Rafalovich, a content creator, on the Nextopia team. Nextopia provides powerful site search, navigation and merchandising solutions for internet retailers.

Nearly all ecommerce owners understand the value of SEO, but many overlook the impact that a site redesign can have.

We find that roughly ⅓ to ½ of all website relaunches do affect SEO negatively, at least initially. In some cases, a poorly-thought-out relaunch means the site can never recover its SEO!

The solution isn’t avoiding a needed redesign but rather considering SEO closely as part of the effort. By taking careful precautions and preparatory steps before a relaunch, you can guard against a painful downgrade.

In this article, we lay out some of the most common SEO issues we see ecommerce sites experience during redesigns, revamps and as well as an initial launch.

We’re taking it as a given that you know how important it is to build and preserve SEO “juice” (if not read this 3rd-party article). What you may not realize is just how impactful “slight” changes can be, particularly with URL’s:

  • Organic SEO rankings are inextricably linked to the specific URL of each page on your website.
  • Changing the taxonomy of a URL, or even a single character in the URL, makes Google see that page as a brand new page that has never been indexed.
  • Carefully following best practices for URLs is a baseline requirement for good SEO

Enough intro already! Let’s dive in.

Easy SEO Mistakes to Avoid and Beneficial Changes to Keep in Mind:

URL Structure Changes

Organic rankings are tied to the specific URL of each page.  Changing the taxonomy of a URL, or even a single character of it makes that a brand-new page that has never been seen by the search engines before.  Inbound links are associated with specific URL’s as well, meaning that when you create new version of that page, none of the link equity automatically follows.  If you’re changing platforms this is especially crucial as many ecommerce platforms create new directory pathways or alter URL extensions.  

What to Do About it

If your URL’s or page taxonomy is changing, ensure that you’re using 301 redirects to let search engines know that there is a new version of the page.  This will automatically redirect both visitors and search engine crawlers who access the old URL. Additionally, this will transfer most of your link equity from the old page to the new one.

The Wrong Redirect

Platforms (and developers) will often default to using a 302 (temporary) redirect rather than a 301 (permanent) redirect.  Both redirects will accomplish the same thing for a visitor, but Google looks at them differently.  The common belief is that a 301 redirect passes link equity while a 302 does not (because it’s temporary).  In all fairness, Google’s Gary Illyes came out last year and said that a 302 redirect passes the same equity as a 301 in a July 26th, 2016 Tweet.  Many in the SEO community don’t quite buy that yet.

What to Do About it

Check, check and double check.  Make the redirects work for a visitor and a search engine.  A tool like Redirect-Checker.org will show the actual request and tell you if a URL redirect is a 301 or 302.  Screaming Frog is another easy way to mass check URL’s for the redirect status code.  Even if Gary is right, why chance it?  Don’t set your redirects to 302 unless it really is a temporary situation.  

Top level and Footer Navigation Changes

Just like an inbound link from another website can add equity to your site, internal links in your site can play a similar role.  Think of your navigation in both the header and footer as the circulatory system of your site. Changing the navigation and internal linking structure is akin to changing the layout of your own veins and arteries.    

What to Do About it

Put in the time upfront and map out the current state of your site.  Look at where internal links are coming from for your pages if you’re changing the navigations.  Use Screaming Frog or your other favorite tool to check the crawl path report on URL’s if you really want to be diligent.  Know that pages losing a large portion of their internal links could have issues being crawled and indexed or lose some of their equity.  

Title Tag, Content and Data Migration

A redesign is hectic on any site, an ecommerce website exponentially complicates that process.  With so many moving parts it’s easy to sideline seemingly smaller things and tell yourself that you’ll worry about it once the site is live. Title tags, meta descriptions, headings, content and structured data shouldn’t be one of those things. Whatever SEO prowess the top level, category and product pages have right now is directly influenced by the meta data and content that’s present. Launching a redesigned site without the same data and information in place is a recipe to see organic rankings drop.

What to Do About it

Just like mapping redirects, put the time in up front.  Use something like a MOZ crawl test or Screaming Frog to get a full picture of all page titles, meta descriptions, H1’s and subheadings and structured data.  Make sure that you’re

Example 1, What Not to Do:

New Site Launch Date Dec 2016

This Google Analytics snapshot is of an online retailer in the software industry that redesigned their outdated site into a new platform.  The plan was to recreate the site exactly as it had always been, but move it to a new more user friendly platform.  

Eccomerce Redesign Issue 1

This is a textbook case of forgetting about 301 redirects completely in launching a new site.  Aside from the home page, every single URL of a 5,000+ page website changed, but Google couldn’t follow them.  To add fuel to the fire, category and product level title tags and meta descriptions weren’t moved to the new site either.   

Example 2, Make it Through Unscathed

New Site Launch Date: Feb 2017

A men’s online clothing retailer migrated from an outdated ecommerce platform into an enterprise CMS.  The site had far outgrown the outdated site built in Pearl and was ready for a more professional solution.  

Mitigating SEO in Ecommerce Redesign

The entire URL structure of this site changed as did the navigation, adding faceted search and eliminating several lower margin brands.  The client started prepping launch several months in advance and had established a solid redirect strategy, migrated meta data and structured a robots.txt file to address faceted search functions.  They experienced temporary dip in organic traffic due to the massive change in taxonomy but recovered almost fully within 60 days.  

Example 3: Slingshot

Nov 2016

This company sells and supports several thousand downloadable course products and had been operating for several years on a home-grown CMS that was non-mobile friendly and unable to scale with growth.

Eccomerce Redesign Issue 3

This company took 6 months to plan for the launch of the new site and in that time mapped out several thousand new redirects, redid the navigation to improve indexing and crawl budgeting and improved the load the speed.  At launch, they experienced a few weeks of minor instability, followed by a continual upward trend that has continued.

A redesign is an exciting time for an ecommerce business.  

Top 5 SEO considerations when launching or redesigning an ecommerce store:

  1. Get a 100% complete and clear picture of your current site as soon as you know you’ll doing a redesign.  On page elements, navigation, content and links.  Invest in some tools if you need to.
  2. Create a clear page structure and taxonomy for the new site.  Document what’s staying, what’s going and what will be new.
  3. Map out all your 301 redirects as soon as you can.  They’ll likely change the as the vision of the new site evolves and it’s better to alter the redirect mapping as you go rather than wait until things are solidified and then start.
  4. Get your tech straight.  Take all existing rel canonical tags, schemas and robots.txt get them documented and moved to the new site.  Take into account changes in internal search or new navigations that might require alterations.  
  5. Whether you’ve hired an agency or area completing the process in house, insist on making SEO a priority.  The project should be a collaborative effort and, if SEO isn’t at the forefront of mind, there won’t be anyone coming to the site to experience the new UX.  

Conclusion

Redesigning any website, particularly an ecommerce site, is perhaps the single biggest threat to the site’s successful SEO. This article lays out common issues and how to resolve them, to avoid a dangerous and potentially deadly downgrade in SEO following your next relaunch.