2 Jun 2016

Link Building

So you have a brand new website? Now it’s time to sit back and relax, right?

You have just paid a designer for a shiny new website so now you can take a break and expect the enquiries/sales to come flooding in. Unfortunately unless you are a targeting an incredibly niche market, this is rarely the case.
Imagine your website is a small shop on a back street off the main shopping high street and no one knows about it. How are you going to get people to your shop and get some footfall going? By telling people about it of course! Be it with marketing like sandwich boards or print ads in the local press or A boards pointing to your side street where your shop is, you are going to want to point people in your shop direction. Well think of your website in the same terms. You need to tell people about your website in order to succeed.
A new website competes with other sites that have been around for years, potentially decades but there are a few things that you can do to make sure you end up higher in the listings, make sure Google lists you in their index as soon as possible and you end up with a search engine friendly website…
Here are some general tips to help track your website and enable your site to be listed quicker in the main search engines.
- Install Google Analytics
- Add your website to Google Webmaster Tools
- Link Google Analytics with Google Webmaster Tools
- Create a robots.txt file and upload it to the root directory of your site (Easitill does this for you on "Go Live" but go to www.yourwebsite.co.uk/robots.txt to check if you have one).
- Create a sitemap.xml file submit this to Google Webmaster Tool (Easitill does this for you on "Go Live" but go to www.yourwebsite.co.uk/sitemap.xml to check if you have one).
Link building
Many of the leading search engines count the amount and quality of your inbound links as a major factor so here are some tips.
- Create a ‘related links’ page on your website so you can link to reputable sites and even more importantly they link back to you. (think suppliers, local business directories, partners, industry associations not competitors)
- Add a Google My Business page
- Use Moz’s Open Site Explorer, and add your main competitors websites, view their “Inbound Links” from “Only External” sources to see their related links. Contact any reputable companies and request the opportunity to exchange links.
- Over time, the search engines will crawl your site and add you to their listing but you may be able to speed this process up by manually entering the URL for your site at these popular search engines..
Don’t use any automated submission programs to submit your site to multiple search engines at one time. This can be considered as spam and you could be removed completely.
- Spend as much time as possible adding your new website to free business directories and use their features like reviews to make your profile really stand out. Here are some that I would recommend…
- Add your website link to your business cards, flyers, stationery, emails, forum signature and any social media platforms.

The above recommendations will give your new website a kick start to being found on the internet. It can be time-consuming trawling the internet looking for appropriate places to link back to your website but I can assure you that it’s well worth the effort. You should invest at least a couple of hours from when your website launches to make it a happy, healthy search engine friendly site ready to take on the competition. Good luck!

11 Dec 2015

E-commerce Case Study: Website A

In this case study we give an example of a site that has gone from just £4.5k takings in its first year and doubled its takings each year to now reach £264,017 in its 4th year of trading.

There are many e-commerce platforms that advertise the ability to have a functional ecommerce site up and running in essentially no time for very little money. There is a sense in which these claims are true. But in most cases, the site launched is unlikely to lead you to e-commerce success.

Having a successful e-commerce website takes time, money, or both.

Invest in your website if you want your e-commerce shop to succeed and apply the same rules as you would to opening a new physical store. You need a marketing strategy and budget, and to spend time, money and effort.

Adding e-commerce to an existing retail business probably won’t boost sales significantly overnight, but once it does start growing it will add to your business and help improve your offering to your existing or new customer base. Be patient and put in the time & effort and you should see results.

One of our Easitill customers in the pet and aquatic sector is a key example of good e-commerce growth. They initially opened the website with minimal effort, simply utilising the features available to them using in their existing Easitill EPoS system. The product data was predominantly already there in their existing system and so they got a website up and running with this. They saw little initial return (£4.5k takings in the first 6 months), but recognised that if they wanted results they needed to invest in the site further. They had ambition to achieve much greater sales results and understood that to achieve this the website needed investment from them in further time, money and effort including a marketing strategy and USP's to set them apart from their competition.

In order to protect their business we are going to quote examples from them anonymously and refer to them as Website A.

Weekly Sales - YoY
(Note the nose dive in week 6 is only due to a Google Adwords Campaign error and having to stop google advertising. The steep climb and inflated takings in week 8 is due to a competitive offer on a specific product thanks to a special deal with the supplier.)

Monthly Sales Chart - YoY

As you can see from the sales graphs with the ambition to achieve greater takings year on year and investment in resources and marketing & help from Easitill they have achieved what they set out to and increased their takings significantly.

We interviewed them to ask them what they believe has helped achieve this success and whether they would mind us sharing this with others starting out and they agreed. Here are the results.

·       Website A currently spend approximately £500 per month or approximately £16-18.00 per day on Google Adwords advertising in conjunction with Google Shopping. This started around £150-300 per month and has grown to the current expenditure gradually. They are currently looking at increasing this again to £35 per day.

Here is an example of Google Shopping Ads — using the search term “levis 541 jeans.”

·       The majority of the sales for Website A come from google shopping results driving traffic to them.
·       The second highest source of sales now comes from people visiting the website directly. This is due to the initial marketing efforts, consistent prices and offering now attracting repeat business.
·       Third most successful source of sales is organic traffic followed by email marketing.

·       They also have built up their brand advertising through some yellow pages style ads and directory listings.

·       They have some social media interaction with a following of approximately 1,500 people but this has proved marginal at driving sales directly. However it has proven a great way of keeping existing customers involved with the business and events and the brand as a whole. They keep their page updated at least weekly and not just with products, they engage customers in other ways too.
·       They have also done some local radio advertising by way of collaboration with their local radio station on a pet competition.

·       They paid Easitill to rework and redesign the site after the initial release to try to improve and simplify the site, as well as make their brand image consistent. They made it cleaner and easier to navigate and tried to make their group, department category structure easier for customers to use.

·       They believe their increase in sales is predominantly down to the following factors:
o   Google Adwords in conjunction with Google Shopping to drive sales
o   Their customer service i.e. a dedicated online order advice and phone line - open 7 days, care sheets, next working day delivery as standard, low delivery charges on all items that aren't free delivery, text alerts from the courier for shipping progress, FAQ section on website
o   free delivery offered over a range of items
o   the clean and easy navigation of the site
o   being an friendly family established business image

·       Advice they would give to others starting out retailing online is "Start small and build slowly. Keep adding gradually to your marketing, website and offering."

Website A also employs as many ecommerce best practices as possible and take key retailing lessons from running their bricks and mortar retail operation, such as the following:

  • · Upselling/cross-selling products by setting up associated products in Easitill
  • · Multiple pictures – products from different views etc.
  • · Compelling and high quality product imagery
  • · Clear contact details and dedicated phone line
  • · Next day delivery as standard
  • · Low rates and free delivery on items
  • · News and events content pages
  • · About us pages showing the company background and history – showing the company is “real” and established.
  • · Other content useful to customers such as pet care sheets
  • · Clear and detailed product information
  • · Brands assigned and featured within product information
  • · Clear and easy navigation – which they review when necessary
  • · Clear delivery and returns policies
  • · Clear payment logos and badges to reassure about online payments & methods
  • · Customer feedback
  • · Social media sharing widgets
  • · They have written descriptions and their website first and foremost to be for their customers rather than focusing just on Search engine optimisation.
  • · Product Information includes at least 30-50 words about each product including helpful data like product specification where relevant.
  • · Keep website regularly updated and “fresh” with new content. They review the website regularly and make changes when and where necessary.
  • · Email marketing
  • · Clear and friendly “no questions asked 14 day money back guarantee” Returns policy.
  • · Option to pay using PayPal to speed up checkout – no card details necessary just log in to PayPal
  • · Secure certificate badge to reassure people the site is secure and safe to use
  • · Key Selling Points in a Prominent Place – directly on landing page and in header and footer.
  • Good Customer Service
During the period of growth for Website A, Easitill have also done what they can within the license fee to assist and improve the product and keep up to date with the e-commerce industry standards. The website software has been added to and improved with regular updates. Conversion barriers have been removed in the checkout process where possible and streamlined in order to try and make checking out easier and we continue to explore this and other areas all the time. Any elements we learn on SEO and structure we try and add and improve wherever possible in new releases. We are trying to streamline customers e-commerce processes too. Upselling and cross-selling has continued to evolve with a new release now automatically associating offers as well as the option to upsell/cross-sell associated products by manual selection. Our content editor (CMS) has been reworked most recently to be easier for people to use with drag and drop capabilities.

In summary, for ecommerce success, continued investment must be made. An ecommerce store opening should be treated as if you were opening a physical store with the same rules of retail applying such as marketing & merchandising, investment, customer service, pricing, products, quality and more applying. The website must be tended to regularly.

24 Nov 2015

Last-minute Black Friday & Cyber Monday Marketing Tips

As two of the most important days for holiday shopping approach, ecommerce marketers who've left planning late could be feeling the pressure to increase sales. Marketing planning for Black Friday and Cyber Monday should have started months ago. But there is still hope for marketing dawdlers, thanks to the following tips that could save your holiday marketing!
Adobe has released its 2015 Digital Index Online Holiday Shopping Prediction for this year’s Christmas shopping season, defined as the entire months of November and December. 
According to this report, the UK will have the largest peak online shopping day in Europe with a total projected spend of £474 million on Black Friday (27 November). On this day, the average online spend per person will be £8.06.

The data analysis – based on more than one trillion visits to 4,500 retail websites over the last seven years - predicts that UK consumers will spend £17.7 billion online this Christmas, a 7% increase over the previous year.

More than half (57%) of Christmas shopping is predicted to be online, according to a separate survey of 400 UK consumers. Low prices and good deals remain the biggest driver to shop online, with over two thirds (67%) of consumers ranking this among their top two motivators. 
Although some shoppers have already made their initial holiday purchases, Christmas sales — which may account for 19 percent of total U.S. retail sales this year, excluding gas, groceries, and travel — will start in earnest on Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.
Marketing planning for Black Friday and Cyber Monday should have started months ago, but there is still hope for marketing dawdlers …
Online retailers that have waited to focus on marketing for these days may still have hope if they are willing to send email fearlessly, offer smart discounts, be active on social media sites, speak directly to top customers, and spend money on advertising.

1. Send Email Fearlessly

On Sept. 3, 2015, Practical Ecommerce advised merchants to “Plan Cyber Monday 2015 Email Now.” The article recommended to have offers prepared, build a list specifically for Cyber Monday, and plan segmented, targeted messages.
Now that there is no time left, the plan is to blast them.
According to published reports, nearly half of shoppers will learn about Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals from email. Armed with a couple of freshly minted Black Friday and Cyber Monday discount offers (see tip 2., below), plan to start emailing immediately.
Back in 2013, A Better Lemonade Stand founder Richard Lazazzera suggested an email schedule that went something like this.
  • Monday before Thanksgiving. Send an anticipation email, letting folks know that your Black Friday or Cyber Monday sale is coming. If you have time, have a landing page ready.
  • Thanksgiving Day. Reveal your Black Friday or Cyber Monday offer and remind folks that the sale will start soon.
  • Black Friday. Use strong calls to action to get sales immediately.
  • Cyber Monday. Similar to your Black Friday ad, get sales right now.
  • Tuesday after Cyber Monday. Send a sale extension offer, earning a few more hours or days of sales.

2. Offer Smart Discounts

The best Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers are planned. Do not make crazy offers. Instead, offer smart discounts. Find overstock items, things you would likely close out in January, and offer those closeout prices now.
Or make a general offer, like £10 off of any £50 purchase. If your shopper spent exactly £50, you’d be giving a 20 percent discount, but don’t be surprised if the average order value is as much as £80, making the discount percentage much less.
If you sell gift cards, another option is to offer a free gift card with purchase, such as a free £25 gift card with every £100 purchase.
And free shipping is mandatory.

3. Be Active on Social Media

If you’d planned ahead, you could spend Thanksgiving Day eating turkey, spending time with family and friends, or watching football. Instead, you need to be tweeting, pinning, and posting actively.
You have two goals for your last minute social media marketing.
First, without completely annoying your followers and social media friends, post about your offers. Use a schedule similar to the one described above for email.
Second, respond to customer posts. It is that simple.

4. Send a Message to Top Customers

The folks at Springbot, an ecommerce marketing platform, suggest that you “take a cue from individuals who send special holiday greetings to their friends and family and do the same for your customers.”
Select your top customers. This might be 10 folks for a very small business. A mid-sized ecommerce retailer might have 1,000 or 2,000.
For each of these customers, send a special shopping invitation with a special offer. Keep two things in mind.
First, the special offer really needs to be special. It should be better than the offer you are sharing with the masses via email and social media.
Second, personalize this message. Rather than just sending another email, consider sending a card or handwritten note via mail. If you start scribbling now, you’ll still have time.
… “take a cue from individuals who send special holiday greetings to their friends and family and do the same for your customers.”

5. Buy Ads, Especially on Facebook

If you can afford it, buy online ads. Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers are going to be looking for sales and offers. In many cases, they will search for those deals on search engines or on social media.
You want your Black Friday and Cyber Monday ads to show up when they search.
Black Friday Starts in...
Christmas is in...

10 Nov 2015

Use Shopping Surveys to Increase Conversions

Original article from Practical Ecommerce

If you ever want to know what online shoppers are thinking, ask them. Shopping surveys tell you what’s working and what isn’t. They can also tell you things you never thought about. No matter what you sell, if you’re not asking for real feedback, you’re missing one of the best ways to determine why people leave the store without buying.
There three main types of surveys (also called feedback).
  • In-session requests. The visitor is asked to complete a survey either right then or at the end of the shopping session. These are typically general surveys that ask questions about the website and how it functions.
Foresee is a popular feedback service used by big etailers.
Foresee is a popular feedback service used by big etailers.
  • Exit surveys. Driven by behavior (typically by an actual or expected exit from the site), these surveys ask why the user is leaving.
  • Post-purchase surveys. Typically used to ask shoppers about their experience, and whether or not they’d recommend the store to others. These are usually delivered via email.
While in-session pop-up or popover requests are the norm, most visitors close them because they interrupt the task at hand. They do, however, provide some of the greatest detail when it comes to site usability, primarily because they’re completed while the site is fresh in one’s mind. Exit surveys are actually more intrusive — it’s like stopping someone on his way out of Target, asking, “Why are you leaving?”
Whichever methods you choose (and you should be toggling feedback requests for usability and reasons for buying), be sure to ask what’s important, and ditch what isn’t.
Focus on what matters.
  • Don’t ask too many questions. If you’ve ever taken a shopping survey, you know how frustrating it is to be prompted with “next page” buttons. Try to ask no more than seven questions.
  • Don’t make them read or think too much. Who really wants to answer a plethora of stock questions on scales of 1 to 5 or 10, such as “How likely are you to share xxxx.com with others?” Instead, consider a yes/no question. For example, “Would you share xxx.com with your friends?”
  • Gather their thoughts and emotions. You want to know if they were thrilled or disgusted by the experience. Instead of a sliding scale, ask them straight up if they had a good experience. Leave room for collecting a detailed comment.
  • If you want to ask for demographics, make it optional. While it’s important for companies to understand their consumer base, detailed analytics already gives this insight. Don’t force shoppers to get so personal.
And ditch what doesn’t matter.
  • Don’t waste valuable real estate by asking how visitors found you. Analytics will tell you this for the bulk of your shoppers. And while you might be interested to know if they heard about you from a friend, what you’re more interested in is if they will tell their friends about you.
  • Don’t ask if they follow you on social networks. This is often used as a ploy to gain more followers. Instead, include links to social profiles on the thank you page.
  • Don’t ask for phone numbers. Email addresses should be optional in case they’d like to be contacted for follow up.
  • Avoid questions and responses that make you look like you’re already aware of a problem. Instead, provide an “other” option and a comment field.
The typical unsubscribe survey includes options like, "I receive too many emails from you." This indicates that you are already aware you send too much. Same goes for permission. <em>Source: Get Response.</em>
The typical unsubscribe survey includes options like, “I receive too many emails from you.” This indicates that you are already aware you send too much. Same goes for permission.Source: Get Response.

Survey Software

There are many online services and tools that can be used to collect information. Survey tools often provide reports so you can see overall ratings, but online forms can also be used if you don’t expect a great deal of responses or want to manually review each one.
Then there’s the simplest of all tools. GrooveHQ.com – which offers help desk software – found the response rate on surveys sent to customers who canceled to be quite low – just 1.3 percent. GrooveHQ ditched it and focused on one specific question, which it sent via email.
Asking one, simple question can garner the highest number of responses, as well as more detailed replies. <em>Source: GrooveHQ.com.</em>
Asking one, simple question can garner the highest number of responses, as well as more detailed replies. Source: GrooveHQ.com.
The response rate on the email was more than 10 percent, and it provided Groove with valuable information, including bugs and hang-ups the company didn’t know existed. Testing the psychological response to “why” vs. “what”, they found that asking “What made you cancel?” instead of “Why did you cancel” boosted the response rate to 19 percent.
Whether you use a full-blown service or a manually operated tool (like email), be sure to follow these pointers.
  • Read comments. This takes time, but you’ll be surprised how many ideas you’ll have that can help increase sales.
  • Respond appropriately. If a responder had a bad experience and included his email address, reach out to fix the problem. Likewise, if he gave you a good idea that you implemented, let him know.
  • Don’t ditch “ridiculous” responses. Log them and analyze to see if more of the same comes in. You may find that seemingly oddball issue is a pain point for many.
  • Create an actionable list. Any website should be constantly improving. Use responses to schedule updates designed for better experiences.
  • Analyze often. Compare the completed actions list to current responses to make sure you’ve done things right.

6 Nov 2015

Promo Codes: Discounts vs. Benefits, for Ecommerce

Shoppers will be looking for discounts on holiday items in the next few weeks. If designed right, a promo code can offer the discounts shoppers seek, and help merchants increase sales and profits. Creating a promo code isn’t as simple as sticking a 10 percent off label on everything. It needs to be designed to drive maximum benefit to your business.
In this post, I’ll address how to create an effective promo code.

What Is a Good Promo Code?

A good promo code is one that helps a site’s shoppers as well as the business itself.
A promo code should be attractive to shoppers. There are three rules to remember to accomplish this. The promo code should be:
  • Easy to remember;
  • Easy to calculate;
  • Easy to apply.
I’ll touch on each of these. An easy-to-remember promo code uses everyday words. For example “Thanksgiving2015” or “BlackFriday2015” are easy to remember. “PROMOA342” is not. Make it easy on the shoppers, not on you.
The promo code discount should be easy to calculate by using round numbers. For example, 10 percent off is much easier to compute than 14 percent off. Similarly $20 off all orders over $100 is easy to calculate.
Finally, the easier the promo code is to apply, the more it will be used and the more transactions you will have. This means it should have minimal restrictions on date, product type, locations, and other factors. Do not make your shoppers think. When they think, they hesitate. And when they hesitate, they might leave your site without purchasing.

Holiday Business Goals

Not all businesses will have the same goals for the holidays. Some might want to obtain a certain gross profit while others might want to drive awareness. Three common goals of ecommerce merchants are:
  • Hitting a certain gross profit target;
  • Acquiring new customers while not losing money;
  • Moving surplus inventory.
These three goals can be boiled down to the same promo code calculation with a few variations. I’ll use an example to explain. You will need access to your analytics data to adapt this calculation to your situation.

Sample Promo Code Calculation

Assume a company, Cool Widgets, sells gadgets on its website, which has the following key metrics.
  • Monthly traffic: 25,000 visitors.
  • Average conversion rate: 3 percent.
  • Average order value: $100.
  • Gross profit margin: 50 percent.
Based on its marketing efforts, Cool Widgets expects to receive 20 percent of its monthly traffic on Black Friday. It is considering offering a straight discount across all products, and it assumes the conversion rate will increase as the discount increases.
While that is a reasonable assumption, there will likely be a point where, despite increasing the discount rate, the conversion rate will stabilize. But let’s say that conversion does increase as the discount offered increases.
So what needs to be calculated is the incremental benefit Cool Widgets should expect as a result of offering a promo code.
First, if Cool Widgets did not offer any discount on Black Friday, it can expect to make $7,500 in gross profit on Black Friday. Here’s how we arrive at that calculation.
Calculate Cool Widgets' expected gross profit as: <em>Traffic x Conversion Rate x Discount Rate x Average Order Value x Gross Profit Percentage</em>. (5,000 x 3% x $100 x 50% = $7,500.)
Calculate Cool Widgets’ expected gross profit as: Traffic x Conversion Rate x Discount Rate x Average Order Value x Gross Profit Percentage. (5,000 x 3% x $100 x 50% = $7,500.)
So, offering discount promo codes needs to generate more than $7,500 of gross profit to be worthwhile. Cool Widgets believes that offering a discount of 5 percent across the board will increase the conversion rate from 3 percent to 4 percent.
Calculating the incremental benefit is easy.
Offering a discount of 5 percent across the board will increase the conversion rate to 4 percent, which will produce an extra $2,000 of gross profit.
Offering a discount of 5 percent across the board will increase the conversion rate to 4 percent, which will produce an extra $2,000 of gross profit.
So Cool Widgets stands to make an extra $2,000 if it offers a discount of 5 percent across the board. By repeating the above calculation for a range of discount rates and conversion rates, we can now determine which discount rate will drive the maximum benefit.
Applying the calculation for a range of discount rates and conversion rates, Cool Widgets can determine which discount rate will drive the maximum benefit.
Applying the calculation for a range of discount rates and conversion rates, Cool Widgets can determine which discount rate will drive the maximum benefit.
The highlighted cells, above, show how the incremental benefit changes by discount rate offered and by conversion rate increases. Plotting the same table on a chart makes it clear what the peak for Cool Widgets benefits is.
A discount of approximately 30 percent will give Cool Widgets the maximum incremental benefit of $7,500.
A discount of approximately 30 percent will give Cool Widgets the maximum incremental benefit of $7,500.
A 30 percent discount will produce the maximum incremental gross profit of $7,500 to Cool Widgets, assuming that the conversion rate will increase as the discount offered increases. So Cool Widgets now has a formula to double its projected gross profit on Black Friday from $7,500 to $15,000.
This is a simplistic model that assumes a straight discount across all products. To apply it to your business, tweak the model for the goals you want to hit, such as acquiring new customers at breakeven or getting rid of surplus inventory.
Depending on the nature of your business, here are a few things to consider when building your promo code model.
  • Memberships. Existing members show more loyalty than non-members. If members account for most of the site’s revenue, then offering a promo code may not increase overall conversion rate by much.
  • Product mix. If the mix of products on the site have a large price variance, then the average order value may be misleading and the products may need to be evaluated using multiple discounts and conversion rates.
  • Channel focus. If the Black Friday traffic will have a different channel mix — i.e., paid search, organic search, social, email — compared to an average month, then adjust the conversion rate based on the expected channel mix.
In short, taking time to carefully design your promo codes can pay off for your business this holiday season. And while you can include a slew of wrinkles into the model to increase the accuracy, the basic idea is to get to a ballpark figure of what the discount percent should be, and not necessarily to get it down to a decimal point of accuracy.