7 Dec 2012

Create a successful website - FULL GUIDE

Easitill, as a company that builds websites, is often asked for their opinion after a website goes live, on why it isn't performing better (be it the number of visitors or sales are low)- whether it be one we have built or someone else has built we often hear this question being asked.

We at Easitill try and disseminate and convey as much information as possible during the building of a website project, write guides, blog articles (like here), manuals as much as possible, we'll even analyse a website free of charge and offer explanations and reasons for this and recommend ways of improving a website, but somewhere along the way the information, lessons and messages still seem to get lost or forgotten.

The primary lesson to be learnt is that websites need constant attention, detail and planning to be a success. Any business needs hard work, marketing and ongoing attention to succeed - a website is no different.

In order to try and assist people further whether it be with one of our own websites or another and the build and launch of it, we have written an "ultimate guide" which hopefully covers everything you should know and consider when building your website and going forwards after going live with it.

To download our comprehensive guide on "Building a Successful Website" please click here.


22 Nov 2012

If You Build It They Will Come – Not Unless You Work On It

So what makes a successful website, and how do you ensure that yours can be successful?


In simple terms a successful website sells things that customers want, are not too expensive, look trustworthy to the customer so they are assured that their money is safe and you will deliver, and come up on Google when the customer searches for what they want to buy.

Inventory

If you are creating a website to add an extra revenue stream for your shop, the temptation is to list everything in your shop. This can be many thousands of products and might be a waste of time. Clearly it is better to sell what you know. What you have an interest in. It depends on what your niche is and who you are targeting, but sometimes it is better to restrict your inventory to the items most likely to sell online. It is much cheaper to list and maintain 1,000 products rather than100,000. That said in some markets it is better to list absolutely everything to give the impression that you are the place to go for anything in that niche. Although your designer can advise (and should) you are the expert as it is your chosen marketplace.

By having an over-large inventory you create several problems. First the category structure needs considerable thought so that visitors can easily find what they want rather than having to trawl through dozens of pages. Second the cart's search needs to be very very good to ensure that the right items come up and not hundreds or thousands of close but unwanted matches. Third the site will cost more to host.
There is nothing wrong in having a site with a few products. If they are the right ones it can be more profitable. One of my favourite examples is http://www.thebrowncorporation.com/ which has a massive inventory of 6 items.

If however you have the wrong inventory, no amount of great design will save your site.

Prices

With your competitors only a Google search away, the prices on your site have to be correct. They do not have to be cheapest, but they have to be within reach of what your visitors expect to pay on the internet for the goods. If your site looks the part, then visitors will buy from you rather than keep on searching to shave off a few pence.

Look and Feel

An Ecommerce site exists to make money. Its main purpose is to encourage visitors to buy the products. It is much easier to get visitors to convert to customers and part with their money if they believe that this is a genuine store, which looks professional, will keep their information safe, and will deliver their order promptly. Whilst all design is subjective there are some fundamentals that should be present on any Ecommerce site. Again I will use the Brown Corporation as an example (I have no connection with them)



Brown Company


In this design, it is very clear what is being sold, how much it is, and how to buy it. The postage costs are clearly displayed on every page, and a sense of humour is used throughout the site.
Moving down the page

 Brown Company


Under the professional looking diagrams there is a customer service section that includes
  • Delivery information
  • Terms and Conditions
  • Returns Policy
  • Privacy Policy
  • Contact us
These are essential sections and you should have a link to such sections on every page. Many savvy shoppers will look at these before deciding to risk their money with you. You should never forget to have these information pages.

Search Engine Optimisation

There are thousands of sites and resources dedicated to this subject. We have also covered this in our blog here over and over and conitnue to do so to try and assist you as much as possible.


Basically it is how you get your site to appear near the top of the search results when people search for things you sell. Again this is not an exact science and if you have two experts in the room you will get at least three opinions. There are some basics that a site should have.

Page titles should be relevant and different for each page. Do not be lazy and have the same page title site wide. For example product pages should have the product name in the page title. Pages should have proper structure with headings, and sub headings. Product descriptions should be well written, not copied from the standard manufacturers blurb, and include the key words and phrases that the customers may use to search.

Also see our earlier blog with a few key pointers for this area "8 SEO Pointers for Ecommerce Product Page".

Figures

Now any designer will tell you that it takes time to build up custom and sales. That you should not expect to break even straight away. This is undoubtably true, but you need to ensure that progress is being made. There are some essential metrics that you need to collect on a regular basis to ensure that your site performance is improving. For most sites this should be weekly.
  • Number of unique visitors – the number of people who have visited your site
  • Bounce Rate – the percentage who leave straight away
  • Conversion Rate – the percentage of unique visitors who place an order
  • Average order profit – the amount of profit you make from an order
This is the very minimum you collect. You should monitor these to ensure that they increase. (not the bounce rate!). Ignoring the bounce rate, these figures tell you on average how much money your site earns per thousand visitors. If you start a campaign you need to monitor the figures closely to see if the bounce rate goes up or the conversion rate goes down. These are indicators that you are targeting the wrong people.

Google Analytics provides you with free tools to monitor these. If things do not improve as mentioned above then you are doing something wrong with your website and need to review what you are doing - remember it's not necessarily the websites fault as illustrated earlier - you must take into consideration all factors to make your website a sucess for you.

Want to ask us more? Email web@easitill.co.uk

14 Nov 2012

8 SEO Pointers for Ecommerce Product Pages

Search engine optimization can be the difference between ecommerce businesses that thrive, and those that don't. Optimizing product pages for search engines is especially important.
Below are eight pointers to make sure your product pages are properly optimized.

1. Place Keywords in Title Tags

One of the most important elements is the title tag of your page. If you type a keyword in Google, you’ll notice that most results will have the keyword in the title tag (the title of the page). Make sure the keyword is as prominent as possible in the title (ie. not weighted down by other words preceeding it).

In the case of an Easitill website we auto-populate the title for you based on the product description/name entered on the product record. Or in the case of Groups, Departments & Catergories this is the title displayed.

To have the best title tag possible, make sure that you do your keyword research for the products that you want to rank best for and think about your Easitill Product Descriptions. Google’s free AdWords Keyword Tool can help with this research.

2. Use Description in the Meta Tag

If you search Google for any keyword, you’ll notice the search results usually displays descriptions that have the keyword. While this isn’t always the case, for best SEO results, you should use your product keywords in your description tag.

An important aspect of this tag is to make sure to have a unique description tag for every product page. Do not duplicate these tags.

The Product Records on the Easitil system allow you to enter a meta keyword description about teh product into a field called "meta description" and a few keywords selected which relate to the product seperated by commas under the field "meta tags".

3. Use Alt Meta Tags in Product Images

Your product photos display the actual image to the user. But the alt tag for the image tells the search engines what it is. Use this alt tag as an opportunity to insert a keyword you are optimizing that specific product page for.

Again Easitill will populate this for you based on product description entered on the product record, however it is also in the same vein a good idea to also name your images something like product_descrption.jpg for example.

4. Insert Keywords in the URL Strings

A key element for search engine optimization is the actual URL — i.e., www.yourwebsite.com/insert-keyword-here — for that page. You should insert your most important keywords in the product pages' URLs. If you search on Google for a keyword for a product, look at the URL for a page in the search results. You likely will find that keyword, or the keyword that is most relevant within the URL string.

Again Easitill do this for you by rewriting the url to reflect the prodcut description, group, department or catergory of the page you are on, so again as long as you research your keywords in point 1 above and choose keywords for your product description you should be ok. Google’s free AdWords Keyword Tool can help with this research.

5. Use Robust Product Descriptions

As much as we hear that content is king for SEO, many ecommerce websites do not use adequate descriptions of their product, such as what it is, how it works and key points consumers need to know. If you create good content for the consumer, it will also benefit search engine optimization.

Importantly, do not write product descriptions only for search engines. Write them for the sole purpose of helping consumers. Use keywords where necessary but dont overdo it so that the blurb about the product is overpopulated with keywords and doesnt make sense to a consumer.

Remember, in Easitill's Product Manager on the Product Records, this would be the "Internet Text" Tabs where you enter your Product blurb and make it descriptive.

I personally wouldnt buy from a site if had no clear definifition of what the product is about, good for etc would you? Unless i have already done my research on the product, and in which case if i've done my research i'll more than likely buy from the site that gives me all the information i need without me having to continue my search.

6. Make Your Product Page Link Worthy

Content and link building are important for SEO. It’s important, therefore, that your product pages have links pointing to them. We call these “deep links.” They not only help that specific page, but the overall SEO of your website.

There are many websites or bloggers that link to other sites. For example, if your website sells NBA jerseys, approach bloggers that write about basketball. They may link to your product since they are writing about it.

To make your product page link worthy, use effective images and content. This includes terrific photos, videos, illustrations, and descriptions.

7. Display Social Media Buttons

Social media activity affects search engine algorithms.


Make sure you have share buttons on every product page to allow users to share and distribute the product. Pinterest, for example, allows users to post a picture while linking back to the source of that image. Make sure every product page has social media sharing buttons. -

Again Easitill does this using the share this widget enabled on the website on everypage.

8. Utilize User Generated Reviews

Another way of helping your product page rank in search engines is to use content that is created by the users, such as product reviews. The best example of effective reviews is at Amazon.com, which uses them not only to help consumers, but also for SEO purposes.

Summary

Use these eight SEO pointers in all your product pages. It will help search engines identify them and highly rank them.

31 Oct 2012

Getting Started with Google Shopping

One of the best-kept “secrets” for creating incremental traffic to online retail sites is actually Google Shopping. Not only is this traffic “free,” but the conversion rates are often higher than the more widely used channels.
Google Shopping Logo


Historically, it has been quite difficult to get Google Shopping set up, and it was almost certain that you’d need to hire a company that specializes in running shopping feed programs. While I still highly recommend seeking out experts with specialized experience here, it is actually quite possible to begin this process on your own. Here’s how:
First, you will need to open a Google Merchant account within Google. If you already have a company Google Adwords account you use, I would use the same login credentials to open the Google Merchant Account to keep your accounts and management process streamlined.
Once you set up your account, you will need to verify and claim your url, create your product data automated feed and launch the store.
Here is some in-depth information on how you can set up your Google Merchant Store.
Once you are running a Google Shopping program on your own or through a provider, there are some great opportunities available for advertisers that are on Google Adwords and are also running Google Shopping.

What is Google Shopping?

Google Shopping allows you to submit your products for inclusion in their search results under the "shopping" search results. People searcching in google for a product can use google shopping results to search for specific products and order by price and other criteria.










Additional paid options for Google Shopping....

Google Product Extensions

Product Extensions are an excellent way to enhance your existing AdWords ads. It’s a great tool to increase click through rates and drive more sales.
Product Extensions are based on your product feed. They will show in a plus box under your regular text ad on the search results when the search query typed in by the user is related to one or more products on your Google Merchant Center account.
This is a core reason to  keep your product feed updated with as much information as possible about your products. The more complete and updated your feed is, the higher the chances your Product Extensions will display with your text ad.
Product Extensions

Just like a normal text ad, your Product Extensions ads are also charged on a CPC basis, which means you will pay the same price per click regardless if the user clicks on your text ad or on one of your Product Extensions.
You can track Product Extension metrics on a campaign level through your AdWords interface. Here, you can view impressions, clicks, CTR, cost, AVG position, conversions etc. You can also track Product Extensions revenue using Google Analytics, but you will need to add a unique tracking code to your destination URL on the product feed. This way, you can identify revenue that came from clicks to your Product Extensions versus your text ads.
Setting up Product Extensions on your AdWords account is quite simple. Once you have your product feed uploaded to your Google Merchant Account center, just click on a campaign and click on the “Ad Extensions” tab. Once there, just select the “New Extension” button and choose your product feed.
Keep in mind that if you are running Site-Link Extensions simultaneously for the same campaign, your Site-Link Extensions are more likely to show than your Product Extensions as they have a higher priority in terms of extensions rankings. Sometimes both extensions will display at the same time but it doesn’t occur very often.
So, if you really plan on gathering accurate data from testing Product Extensions, make sure you disable all other extensions for that campaign.

PLA’s – Product Listing Ads

Product Listing Ads campaigns are fairly easy to set up, and you can manage them through your Adwords interface or Adwords Editor just like any other campaign. PLA campaigns, unlike your normal text ad campaigns, are not keyword-based. Google will choose to show your ads based on the quality and relevance of your product feed.
This means you want to make sure your product feed includes as many details as possible about your products, such as product name, description, color, size, images, price, etc. Make sure that your destination URLs are updated constantly and are taking your customers to the correct product page.
Even though your PLA campaigns are not keyword-based, it’s important to understand how different products and categories are performing. The best way to do this is to split your campaign into Ad Groups. One best practice to employ when creating Ad Groups to your PLA campaign is to separate them according to the product labels column on your product feed. This will allow you to easily manage your bids and ads.
To set up the Ad Groups with the product labels, just click on one of the Ad Groups and go to your “Auto targets” tab on AdWords. Once you’re there, you will want to click on the “Add product target” button and select “Add a group of products.”
From the combo box below, you will choose “adwords label” and on the input box just type the name of the label. Click on validate, and a green check sign should appear. That means your label is set correctly.
Now, just repeat the process for all of your Ad Groups. If you get an error message saying that your label is not validating, it could be that you have your product label name typed incorrectly or that you have too recently uploaded your product feed. It often takes up to 48 hours for a new feed to be available to validate your labels.
Now that you have your campaign set up and ad groups in place and validated, you must also create Ads for your PLA campaigns. PLA ads are a bit different from your regular text ad copy.
A PLA ad consists of a single line and only allows up to 45 characters. So you want to make sure you create a very concise and direct message. If you offer free shipping or some type of discount, make sure you state that on your ad. You can also run multiple ads per ad group.

Here is an example of PLA ads for “joules sherpa hat”


As you employ these tactics, continually test messaging and visuals to determine what works best for your brand and products within the Google Shopping arena. I hope to have demystified this rather easy-to-deploy channel, as it is a prime opportunity for incremental traffic and competitive leadership in the search space.
Do you have any Google Shopping “secrets” of your own? Please do reach out and let me know what is working for you, or where you’d like to see guidance in future columns.

How can Easitill Help?


Easitill have created a Google Shopping feed data file which can be exported from Easitill and picked up by your Google Merchant account and submitted by you to be part of the Google Shopping results.
We charge £125 one off setup fee for this assistance. Please contact us on 01604 881881 to arrange.

UPDATE - March 2013

Please note that due to changes in Google, Google Shopping data feed submission and listing is now no longer free as it once was. It is still a powerful source of driving traffic so worth while.
Please see our new article "Google Shopping Listings Now replaced by paid Product Listing Ads in UK now too" for further information on this subject.

 

5 Ways to Attract New Customers

For ecommerce merchants, new customers mean new business. There are many customer-acquisition tools available to online retail marketers. Five of the best can be pay-per-click advertising, email marketing, social media marketing, marketplaces, and contest marketing.

1. Buy Pay-Per-Click Advertising

Pay-per-click advertising is frequently the premier online marketing tool for attracting new business. For the unfamiliar, pay-per-click ads appear on search engines and other sites. When a potential customer clicks on one of these ads, the marketer is billed.
For search engines, consider using at least Google. It may also make sense to look at other PPC networks, including Facebook, to reach potential new customers no matter where they shop.
Once a PPC network or networks have been chosen, it is important to have clear goals and a clear plan of execution.




In addition, Google will often provide free AdWords consulting for new advertisers. If it offers one of these free consultations, take it. As a final bit of PPC advertising advice, sign up to become a Google Trusted Site. Once earned, a Google Trusted Site badge appears next to PPC ads on the Google AdWords network.
--

 

2. Get Email Subscribers

Email marketing is another powerful tool for online retailers, but it can be overlooked as a new customer acquisition tool. This is a mistake. Make it very clear that you want site visitors to register for a newsletter, special offers, or discounts.
Once a visitor subscribes, the retailer will get many new opportunities to convert that subscriber into a paying customer.
Murdoch's Ranch & Home Supply enters new email subscribers in a contest to win a $50 gift card.
Murdoch's Ranch & Home Supply enters new email subscribers in a contest to win a $50 gift card.
--

 

3. Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing has received some poor press recently thanks to a report from research firm Forrester, which I addressed here recently, in "A Social Media Marketing Paradox?" In spite of this, practically speaking, it is one of the most effective tools available to small and mid-sized retailers.
Social media can take many forms. For example, blog content is social, as are posts on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, Fancy, and YouTube.
While most of the marketing on these platforms should be aimed at engaging customers in a sort of ongoing conversation, from time to time, it is acceptable to ask for a sale. This is especially true during the holiday shopping season.
Asking for a sale on social sites can be as simple as posting occasional specials or sales.
Asking for a sale on social sites can be as simple as posting occasional specials or sales.
--

 

4. Use Marketplaces

Retailers should be willing to sell where shoppers are.
“Selling products across multiple channels is a growing trend for ecommerce merchants. If you rely on a single online store, you will likely to be left behind, because consumer-shopping behaviors are changing rapidly,” wrote Dale Traxler, of E-Business Vision, an ecommerce consulting firm, in "Multichannel Selling a Necessity," a recent article.
Amazon, eBay, Sears, Newegg, and many other large retail sites with millions of monthly visitors also allow small and mid-sized retailers to sell from their site. Put simply, to get more customers, place products on these marketplaces. When orders come in, be sure to include coupons and discount offers in the shipping box, encouraging folks to return directly to your ecommerce site.
Amazon allows other retailers to sell products from its site.
Amazon allows other retailers to sell products from its site.
--

 

5. Give Something Away

Contest marketing seeks to get potential customers to register or sign up in exchange for a chance to win a prize.
In the context of attracting new customers, contest marketing is similar to email marketing, in that it is a gateway of sorts that introduces customers to a merchant and increases the chances of making a sale by increasing the amount of exposure.
In "3 Examples of Contest Marketing," I explained site-based promotions, social media-based contests, and email-based giveaways.
Consider giving everyone who enters a contest a coupon for 10 or 20 percent off.
A contest on a social network like Facebook can help a merchant get new customers.
A contest on a social network like Facebook can help a merchant get new customers.

Multichannel Selling a Necessity

Selling products across multiple channels is a growing trend for ecommerce merchants. If you rely on a single online store, you will likely to be left behind, because consumer-shopping behaviors are changing rapidly.

This article examines sales and marketing channels that are now available for online retailers.

Sales Channels

  • Physical stores. Brick and mortar is thriving in some segments and dying out in others. Stores selling commodity products or electronics are the most challenged.
  • Online stores. Most resellers have at least one online store; even well known brands sell directly to consumers.
  • Mobile stores. With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, it is becoming mandatory for your store to function well on those devices.
  • Mobile shopping apps. Dedicated apps will likely be the preferred way to shop for most consumers. How those apps become visible to search engines is yet to be determined.
  • Marketplaces. These are virtual malls like Amazon, eBay, Sears.com, Overstock.com, Buy.com, and more. How long before Google Shopping and Facebook join in?
  • Comparison-shopping engines. These are places to promote your products, not sell them. You need to support CSEs with the same content you do in other venues. Popular CSEs include Google Shopping, Bing Shopping, Shopping.com, and TheFind.com.
  • Catalogs. Many observers thought printed catalogs would go away. But they are thriving for many multichannel retailers as a means of promoting their brands and creating customer loyalty.
  • Direct sales. Many companies still employ field and telesales forces for direct order taking. 
  •  
Zoom Enlarge This Image Even Sears.com now offers a marketplace for third-party merchants. In this example, a lawnmower is offered for sale at Sears.com from an independent retailer, "D's Play Store."
Even Sears.com now offers a marketplace for third-party merchants. In this example, a lawnmower is offered for sale at Sears.com from an independent retailer, "D's Play Store."

Marketing Channels

  • SMS. "Short message service" — text messaging — is still more of a marketing channel, but it could lead to more transactional sales with the advent "near field communications," where smartphones communicate by touching or being physically close to each other.
  • Interactive advertising. This includes banner ads, pay-per-click ads, Facebook ads, and other online ad formats. The goals here are changing from click-throughs to sales conversions, with the use of more sophisticated ads and landing pages.
  • Mobile advertising. This is in its infancy and could drive huge direct revenue to merchants.
  • Social media. As with mobile advertising, we’ve barely scratched the surface with social media. 

What Does This Mean for Ecommerce Merchants?

Retailers need to support all the touch points where their customers are browsing and shopping. To the lists above, add traditional media such as magazines, newspapers, television, and radio — which some think of as brand advertising. You should support the entire customer lifecycle. I addressed this in my recent two-part series "Managing Your Ecommerce Sales Funnel."
Forrester blogger Brian Walker addressed the notion of touch points in his recent post, “Welcome to the Era of Agile Commerce.” According to Walker, "agile commerce" refers to adapting commerce to where consumers are, and not focusing on channels. This makes sense to me.
In short, understand what your prospects are up to. Are they still using search engines to look for products, or do they go to Amazon? Are they using iPhones? Do they seek shopping apps because they are so user friendly, and then forget about shopping on their laptop? Do they research on Facebook, or Bing Shopping?
For example, if I find a product online that looks interesting, the store better have the level of content detail and reviews I am seeking, or I will go to Amazon and be assured of good technical content and many reviews to read. I likely will buy there, too.


Systems and Processes to Support Multiple Channels

Next, look at your environment and decide if you can support the required channels. At the very least, you need to reduce the number of silos you have to as few as possible. Don’t create a mobile website that is separate from your existing online store. You need to leverage content and product information in all your channels.
Face the reality that your marketing budgets are going to increase. You will likely need to (a) support social media, (b) create increasing amounts of content, (c) have a mobile app, and (d) utilize mobile advertising on various platforms. And competition will get more intense. Develop a mobile strategy now. That’s where the ecommerce action will likely be in the next three years.

Managing Your Ecommerce Sales Funnel, Part 2

An ecommerce sales funnel refers to the steps involved in converting a targeted market segment into paying customers. In the initial installment of this series, I reviewed the first three steps of a typical funnel. They are:
  • Step 1: Convert Target Customers to Visitors;
  • Step 2: Convert Visitors to Prospects;
  • Step 3: Convert Prospects to Shoppers.
In this final installment, I will review the remaining steps — 4 through 6 — that ultimately lead to a community of loyal customers.
A sales funnel refers to the steps involved in converting a targeted market segment into paying customers.
A sales funnel refers to the steps involved in converting a targeted market segment into paying customers.

Step 4: Convert Shoppers to Buyers

This is a crucial part of the process. For many online stores, cart abandonment can be 50 percent and checkout abandonment 20 percent. That is a lot of money being left in the shopping cart. Many stores don’t know why they lose deals. Here are some of the things you can do to reduce your abandonment rates.
  • Watch your analytics. Rigorously monitor your analytics, especially the abandonment rates. If you see a sudden increase, there is probably a reason.
  • Test your checkout regularly. Put an order through your own checkout at least every other week. This will detect items such as a simple change of a graphic or script that makes your checkout insecure.
  • Shopping cart clarity. Make sure you have an easy-to-understand shopping cart that includes a description of the item, an image, price, quantity and extended total for all items, as well as shipping and tax.
  • One step check out. Amazon sets the bar here. Having a one step checkout will likely increase your conversion rates.
  • Guest check out. Do not force a shopper to create a login. Many simply will not do that. Offer a guest check out as well as a registered login.
  • Have a shipping estimator. One of the fastest ways to cart or checkout abandonment is to not clearly spell out shipping costs or sales tax.
  • Saving carts. Allow your customers to easily save their shopping cart for future use.
  • Multiple methods of payment. Be sure to offer more than one way to pay. Offer credit cards, PayPal, and Checkout by Amazon, among others.
  • Email cart and checkout abandoners. Many ecommerce platforms now offer the ability to email shoppers who abandon their carts during checkout or even during the shopping process, reminding them they have an open cart and offer to answer any questions they may have.
  • Offer an incentive to buy now. As in the prospect stage, provide an incentive to buy now versus later. Present an offer with a time deadline on it.
  • Offer a rewards program. Shoppers enjoy exclusive offers. Make shoppers feel special by offering them some type of rewards program for frequent purchases. This will create repeat sales, encouraging the shopper to buy now.
  • Have competitive pricing. Be aware that its very easy to price shop. Assume that your buyers are armed with alternative prices. Be competitive.
  • Chat and phone support. Offer a method to immediately answer questions from shoppers. Conversion rates will go up in most cases.
  • Ask for feedback on your website. Many stores now place an obvious link to provide feedback. This engenders trust and the feedback can help you address problems.

Step 5: Convert Buyers to Customers

Is a one-time buyer really a customer? It depends on the type of business you are in. But I don’t consider a one-time buyer as a customer. "Real" customers are likely to buy from you more than once if they are happy with your product or service. Certainly, the cost of acquiring a new customer is much higher than retaining a loyal customer. So most businesses aggressively build their repeat-customer-base.
Here are things you can do to promote long-term customers.
  • Deliver the goods. Ship the products your customer ordered in the timeframe that you promised. Document the items shipped. Charge the correct prices. Package the order securely. Ship via the carrier requested.
  • Provide terrific customer service. Send a confirmation email with a tracking number. Respond promptly to any customer requests.
  • No nonsense returns and refunds. Make it incredibly simple to return unwanted items. This does not mean you have to pay return shipping, but don’t haggle over returns. Also, don’t dispute missing items. It just is not worth it. You are always just a chargeback away from both alienating a customer and losing money on your sale.
  • Customer follow-up. Send an email asking if the customer is happy with his order. Include a promotional offer or incentive to return to your store.
  • Do surveys. Ask customers what they want to buy, how their experience was, what they like about your website, and other relevant questions. You will likely receive more input than you expect.
  • Newsletters. Offer a topical newsletter that is not promoting something, but has value.
  • Exclusive offers. Make occasional offers to your customers that you don’t post on your website.

Step 6: Convert Customers to Community

The last step in the funnel is converting customers into a community. This possibility exists largely because of social media.
  • Engage in a dialogue with your customers. Blog about relevant topics. Post pictures and updates on Facebook. Tweet about new products or promotions. Post original boards on Pinterest.
  • Have some fun. Sponsor a contest on Facebook. Conduct surveys and quick polls.
  • Post customer stories or images. Solicit stories and testimonials from your customers, and post them in your store.

12 Oct 2012

Managing Your Ecommerce Sales Funnel - Part 1

An ecommerce business has a sales funnel. Business-to-business sales funnels are generally more complex than business-to-consumer ones. But the basic steps are the same, as are the supporting sales and marketing activities. Service businesses generally have a different funnel that includes more research and may not include an actual sales transaction.
This article will focus on the various activities that support a sales funnel and how to manage them to optimize your conversion rate.
A sales funnel refers to the steps involved in converting a targeted market segment into paying customers.
A sales funnel refers to the steps involved in converting a targeted market segment into paying customers.

Step 1: Convert Target Customers to Visitors

Invest the time to identify who your target customers are and how they likely seek out the products or services that you sell. You can research this using the keyword tool within Google AdWords or other similar tools.
Once you understand your target customers, be sure your website is visible to them from search engines, affiliate sites, relevant blogs, directories, and other online sources. Your goals in this stage of the funnel are to identify your target market and drive visitors to your store. Here are a few of the marketing tools you should be using to make this happen.
  • Search engine optimization. Focus on keywords likely to draw visitors to your website
  • Online advertising. Includes pay-per-click ads, ads on Amazon.com, banner ads in relevant ad networks, and affiliate sites.
  • Print advertising. In targeted industry publications.
  • Comparison shopping engines. Support product feeds to Google Shopping, Bing Shopping, TheFind, Nextag, Shopping.com, and other comparison sites.
  • Marketplaces. Sell on Amazon, Buy.com, Overstock.com, Sears.com, eBay, and others.
  • Blogs. Your blog should have compelling content to attract traffic.
  • Social media. Be sure you are visible in the various social media sites. They will be more important later in the funnel.
Develop content — including relevant ads — that supports your keywords and otherwise appeals to your target customer.

 

Step 2: Convert Visitors to Prospects

Once you get visitors to your website, you need to keep them engaged beyond the initial landing page. A prospect, to me, is someone who browses more than three pages and bookmarks your website. Here are some of the key factors to turn visitors into prospects.
  • Site design. You want a visually clean site, with relevant content that's clearly visible.
  • Compelling content. Provide original, detailed descriptions of the items you sell. Don't force visitors to leave your store for research. They likely won’t come back.
  • Good navigation. Be sure you have a robust site search, hierarchical navigation, and other ways to navigate to your products.
  • Security and trust. Establish trust through testimonials, security badges, and memberships. An “about us” page that includes a history of the business, its location, and identifies its management is also helpful.
  • Load times. Be sure your store is fast so your visitors do not leave.
  • Merchandising. Offering promotions of some type in your store is important. Be clear about what they are, but don’t let them be your entire focus. Think about them as the end cap in a grocery store. You see a few things in a product category that are appealing, but you can move past easily. Loss leaders are a good way to skip directly from visitor to shopper.
  • Wish lists. This is an effective way to move someone from visitor to prospect.
  • Landing pages. Use landing pages that are tightly integrated with where visitors came from and what they may have been searching for or browsing when they clicked through.
  • Contact and signup points. Include obvious links to your email signup, and links to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and any blogs you may support.
  • Reviews. Product reviews develop trust with your visitors and demonstrate that you are transparent and open to feedback.
Your ability to turn visitors into prospects will also be assisted by your presence in social media. Many people click through to those sites to see what other people are saying about your company or products.

 

Step 3: Convert Prospects to Shoppers

At this stage, you are trying to get a prospect to put something in the shopping cart. Here are some of the critical elements of this stage.
  • Chat and phone support. Offer a way to get immediate answers — not an email — to questions.
  • Newsletters. Send initial subscribers a confirmation email. Offer them a few preference choices — topical, frequency, type ( i.e., promotions only, new items, general updates).
  • Social media postings. Mix up your posts with offers, new product introductions, how-to tips, surveys, images, funny stories. Let your prospects get to know you.
  • Remarketing ad campaigns. Google and other ad networks now offer ad campaigns that target visitors to your store. It’s becoming popular because it is effective in reinforcing brands and products. We've addressed remarketing recently at "How to Use Google's Remarketing Platform."
  • FAQs. Be sure to have a section for frequently asked questions. This may include information about products, returns, shipping, pricing, and discounts.
  • Site promotions. Offer a daily deal, free shipping, or something that creates a “buy now” impulse.

17 Sep 2012

Shopping Cart Abandonment

Unfortunately shopping cart abandonment is the same as someone browsing in your store and choosing not to purchase. There are many possible reasons.Online shopping is no different.

According to a study done by the Baymard institute over 60% of all e-commerce visitors abandon their shopping cart.

People may even add items to their basket and return time and time again before actually ultimately making their purchase. These will be seen in your order manager as non completed/"passed for payment" order status - an abandoned cart.

For the below chart we look at data from Forrester Research's North American Technographics online survey, which shows factors involved in shopping cart abandonment.
























For further information please see out previous article "Managing Shopping Cart Abandonment."

12 Sep 2012

Internet Explorer: Microsoft plans 'silent' updates

From January, Internet Explorer (IE) users will be automatically updated to the latest version of the browser.

Microsoft said it was starting the project to update millions of machines to improve security online.
Future updates to the browser would be applied without a user's knowledge to help beat scammers catching people out with fake updates.

Those who did not want their browser updated could opt out or uninstall the software, said Microsoft.
"The Web overall is better - and safer - when more people run the most up-to-date browser," wrote Ryan Gavin, Microsoft's IE boss, in a blogpost explaining the plan.

He said the data gathered by Microsoft for its security intelligence reports showed that many cyber criminals targeted old or outdated software when they tried to trick people into installing fake updates.
To beat such scams, Mr Gavin, said that once the latest version of the browser was installed all future updates would arrive silently and be applied without a user getting involved.

Chester Wisniewski, senior security advisor at Sophos, said the plan would aid those who did not see the importance of staying up to date.

"Microsoft has been struggling with browser stragglers for years," he said in a statement.
Demise of IE6
 
The giant upgrade programme will affect IE users running Windows XP, Vista and 7, and will first be rolled out in Australia and Brazil. Only those Windows users with automatic updates turned on will be enrolled in the programme.

Those using Windows XP will be upgraded to IE8, while those on Vista and 7 get bumped up to IE9. This will probably mean the demise of IE6, a 10-year-old version of the browser that Microsoft has been trying to kill off for a while.

Figures gathered by Microsoft suggest IE6 is used by about 8.3% of people around the world, with the biggest number of users in China, where almost 28% of people remain wedded to it.
Globally, Internet Explorer is still the most popular browser, with more than 52% of people using it, according to net market research firm Net Applications. Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome are battling it out for second place.

Microsoft said it had made tools that would let people avoid or uninstall the more up-to-date versions of the browsers if they wanted to stay with an older copy.

Article taken from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16214912

Kogan charges 6.8% tax to anyone using Internet Explorer 7

As some of you may or may not be aware Microsoft are on the verge of releasing IE10. Despite new versions coming out almost annually and it being easy to upgrade people still seem reluctant.

Unfortunately as documented on various website, forums and blogs, IE7 and below versions are outdated, insecure and bug ridden. Due to these flaws it takes web developers hours in additional development to fix these flaws or work around them, include IE specific styles to counteract display issues or even redevelop and code certain parts specifically for IE, whereas firefox, chrome, safari all work fine and use the same web standards.

This could be resolved easily if people were just forced to update outdated browsers. In all Easitill websites there is the option to turn on IE detection within the website. If we detect that you are not using the latest version of IE will will warn customers/end users that this will impact upon their viewing and use of the website and they should upgrade. It seems were not the only ones trying to combat this issue.

Kogan.com, an Australian online retailer website, has found an interesting way of alerting IE 7 users; and trying to force them to upgrade to newer versions of IE or to choose other browsers like Firefox, Chrome, Opera, or Safari.

Customers who shop on Kogan.com using IE 7 will be presented with an extra tax of 6.8% (0.1% for every month since IE7 has been released). Rusal Kogan stated that their website developers had to spend as much time adding support for IE7 as it takes for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox combined. He also noted that he didn't expect anyone to pay the charges, and rather believed that everyone would most probably upgrade to a newer version of IE or use an alternative browser.

This "Internet Explorer tax" has absorbed positive comments from Kogan customers and other bloggers.


 



15 Aug 2012

7 Strategies to Grow Ecommerce Revenue

With increasing competition in most markets, ecommerce merchants need to continually grow revenue to add stability to their businesses and to cover rising operating costs.
Recall from our previous articles — such as "Who Needs an Ecommerce Strategy, Anyway?" — a "strategy" is an idea. A "tactic" is a plan or action to support your idea. Here are seven revenue-growth strategies to consider.
  1. Acquiring new customers.
  2. Targeting new markets.
  3. Sell more to existing customers.
  4. Increase your average order size.
  5. Expand your product lines.
  6. Increase prices.
  7. Cross-channel marketing.
Some of these strategies are quick and inexpensive to implement — remarketing to your existing customer base, for example. Others are more expensive and time consuming. When evaluating strategies, remember the big picture. Though more expensive and time consuming, investing in a new store serving a new market may double your business, versus the incremental bump you may receive from another idea.

 

Acquiring New Customers

Every ecommerce business presumably seeks new customers. But, are you really focused in that effort? Here are some ideas.
  • Referral sales. Set up a referral program to leverage your existing customers. Give them an incentive to refer your to their friends through social media, email or other venues.
  • Increase advertising. Pay-per-click ads, remarketing ads, content ads, print ads targeting new customers, keywords, or products.
  • Social media buzz Run a sweepstakes or contest in Facebook to get new email subscribers, blog a lot, Tweet about your specials and new products, expand your followers and fans.
  • New positioning. Create a new marketing campaign with a fresh look and feel that will appeal to a different market segment, refresh your website with a more modern look, get some media exposure and create buzz about something you do differently than your competition.
If you want to increase your sales by 20 percent, you need to acquire 20 percent more customers. It’s possible that your new customers will not buy quite as much initially as your current ones, so factor that into your plans.

 

Targeting New Markets

By "new markets," I’m referring to entirely new consumers that don’t know your store exists.
In some cases new markets may be reached through a new store. In other cases, such as targeting an overseas market, it may require translating your website into the local language.
  • Overseas markets. Consider localizing your website for various languages and target those countries through ads, social media and other marketing efforts. In the case of English-speaking countries, it may be as simple as creating new landing pages to reassure customers that you are committed to serving their country and understand shipping, customs processes, and local habits.
  • Niche market. You can expand your offerings in a niche market and open a new store to just service it. We did that in my previous ecommerce business by opening a store that focused on jewelry, instead of beads and pendants.
  • Broader market. If you have a niche store, consider expanding your offerings to a broader market.
  • Wholesale or retail? There are many stores that start out either wholesale or retail and find that by simply modifying their pricing strategies they are able to serve the other market. Be clear about the differences — there are many. But it is a viable alternative for many ecommerce businesses.
  • Sell in a new channel. Expand your product offerings to marketplaces like Amazon, Buy.com, Overstock.com, Sears.com, or eBay. In many cases, these are different consumers than your existing ones. When we added an Amazon store in 2010, for example, we found a great new market for products we had previously sold mostly wholesale. It turned out to be a high-volume and high-margin marketplace for some very obscure gemstone pendants that were not selling well in our original target market.
The advantage to targeting new markets as a strategy is the impact can be huge versus incremental. The disadvantages are that the investment can be substantial and the risk higher.

 

Sell More to Existing Customers

I like this strategy for most businesses. Merchants sometimes get lost in trying to get new customers and forget about the thousands of customers who buy from them already. There are many ways to get more revenue from your existing customers. Most of them require little investment.
  • More remarketing. Email newsletters are a tremendous way to do remarketing. You can email promotions for abandoned shopping carts, send transactional email promotions with all orders and shipping confirmations. You can target promotions to the most likely buyers for the products you sell.
  • Aggressive promotions. Target your email subscribers, Facebook fans, and Twitter followers with aggressive promotions on a limited number of items. Offer them deals only on the products you know they like and try to up-sell and cross sell other products with higher margins. People like a deal. We found that customers will also spend money on other impulse buys at the same time.
  • Loyalty programs. This is a no brainer to me. Offer your most loyal customers an enticement. It can be as simple as free or same day shipping. In our case, we offered customers who spent over a certain threshold an additional annual discount. That kept them loyal to us and decreased the likelihood they would shop around for a better price.
  • Daily deals. Offer a daily deal to keep people looking at your store and keep your brand front and center. It will increase the likelihood of purchasing from your store, even if they don’t respond to the deal of the day

 

Increase Average Order Size

Many companies overlook this strategy. Here are a few specific ideas.
  • Cross-product selling. Present relevant related products on your product detail pages and within your shopping cart. Some carts are highly automated to present items that are frequently sold together. But we found that by adding specific complementary items ourselves, we increased selling them together.
  • Volume promotions. If your shopping cart will support it, offer a volume discount. If your average order size is £50, offer a 10 percent discount at £75.
Increasing the average order size as a strategy can be elusive in the long run, as your order size probably fluctuates seasonally and over time. But, if you choose it as a strategy and execute a plan to make it successful, you will likely find success.

 

Expand Products

Of all the strategies listed here, this may be the most effective. It also may carry a hefty price tag if you need to make a substantial investment in inventory and manpower to get the products in your store and promoted to your customer base.
It is straightforward: Know your customers and add the products they are likely to buy. Troll your competitors and figure out what’s selling well. Talk to your suppliers and see what other stores are selling. Ask your customers what they want.
  • Add new product lines. In this case, I’m talking about products that are loosely related to your current product lines. You may get the benefit of additional sales to existing customers and you may also be able to target customers who were not likely to visit your stores before you sold them.
  • Expand selection of existing lines. In our ecommerce sites, we added “known” sellers first, whenever possible. Over time, we would add other colors, styles, sizes, and so forth. This is a very low risk investment and a logical way to grow your store over time.
Adding a new product line may require learning about a new market and developing a different way of merchandising it. It may also require more resources to display online or fulfill the orders. Make sure you consider the impact on the rest of your business before you proceed.

 

Increase Prices

Here’s an old concept that still works. Increase your prices by a very small percentage. You don’t have to do it on everything. It does not have to be a huge amount. If you increase your prices across the board by 5 percent, your revenues go up by 5 percent. The risk of losing sales exists. A 15 percent increase will be noticed, but not 1 to 5 percent, typically.
  • Mark up prices across the board. Try a small increase and see if anyone notices.
  • Mark up prices for select items, You may have certain items that do not have much price elasticity. Increasing the price on those items would raise a stir with your customers. In that case, leave those prices intact and only raise the prices on more niche or less popular items.
  • Charge for shipping. In this era of free shipping, this is a different approach. But, give it a try. Charge for shipping on smaller orders. Charge a small handling fee on all orders. Shipping costs go up every year — usually two or three times per year. Why pay that on an ongoing basis? It’s reducing your profits. If you ship 500 small orders per month and recover £3.00 per order, that’s £1,500 in revenue.

 

Cross-channel Marketing

For those of you with both a physical and online presence, coordinate those efforts. Here are some cross-channel marketing ideas that many larger retailers use.
  • Sell online, pick up in stores. If you have an online store, allow your customers to pick the order up in the physical store. This allows them to have something now, not pay for shipping, and it gets them into your store where they may actually buy something else.
  • Buy in store, offer free shipping. If a customer is in your physical store and wants to buy something but you do not have in stock, order it for them online and have it shipped to them at no cost. This is a particular pet peeve for me. Retailers simply don’t carry the selections they used to and inevitably I find myself frustrated that they never seem to have what’s in their catalog in their store. Do the right thing and order it for them and ship it to them.

16 Jul 2012

Google Shopping’s Impact on SEO

Over the next several months, Google’s free Product Search feature will start costing ecommerce sites a lot more. Since the launch of Google’s Froogle in 2002, Google has provided a free product search service. The newly launched Google Shopping marks the first time that the company has converted a free service to a pay-for-placement model. Search marketers wonder, what does this mean to organic search?

How Google Shopping Affects SEO

For those who focus purely on search engine optimization, the change may actually be a positive. Some of the placement tests for Google Shopping results actually improve the organic results’ position on the page compared with other paid modules. For example, a search for “teddy bears” before the move to Google Shopping would have resulted in the result at left below. The shopping results are beneath the paid results, pushing the organic search results lower on the page. We can only see one full organic result in this image, and the top of the second.

Comparison of Google shopping results placement.
Comparison of Google shopping results placement.


Today’s shopping results are still in flux as Google tests the best placement for these new ads, but many of the placement experiments are appearing in the upper right. In the example above and to the right, the shopping results appear as an anchor point for the paid search ads, to the right of the top block and above the right block. As a result, Google is able to squeeze two more organic results into the same space that the previous shopping module had taken up.
The experiments are still running, however, with the full launch set for sometime this fall. Until then, Google will likely continue to test and revise placement of the shopping modules to find the balance it needs to strike between revenue and searcher satisfaction. Expect to see larger and smaller modules, different formats and different placements during this transition period. With individual searches producing experimental experiences like the ones below, the true impact on organic search performance will likely be difficult to determine for some months yet.

Style and placement of Google Shopping ads varies.
Style and placement of Google Shopping ads varies.

The majority of the marketing world will not see this change with purely SEO eyes, of course. For most, Google Shopping will likely represent more downside than upside as tight budgets and human resources are stretched even further. Even the relative positive possibility of more organic visibility would be countered with a decrease in real estate dedicated to paid ads.
Google claims that relevance and shopping-result quality will increase as companies are forced to manage their data feeds more closely once payment comes into play. According to Google’s blog, “Higher quality data—whether it’s accurate prices, the latest offers or product availability—should mean better shopping results for users, which in turn should create higher quality traffic for merchants.” While there’s some logic to this, it will also have the side effect of forcing ecommerce sites with fewer resources out of Google Shopping, effectively ending what had to this point been a free source of traffic.
For more information on managing the transition to paid placement, see Google-product-search-extinction our previous article on that topic.

New Product Type Shopping Ads

In addition to design experiments, Google is also experimenting with product types content. The first of these noted has been a product type ad for tents, with types of tents listed rather than images of specific tents from specific stores. Logically, this makes a great deal of sense and is consistent with Google’s practice of including lists of related keyword phrases. The product type ads turn the related links into visual cues, however, leading the searcher deeper into Google Shopping.
Google product type ad for "tent".
Google product type ad for "tent".

The addition of product type ads is a very calculated move for Google. The highest number of searches is for single words like “tent” or “shoes.” While Google is very good at determining intent, a single word doesn’t give enough context to determine if a search is informational or transactional. When searchers type “tent,” do they want to know how to pitch a pup tent, or do they want to buy a mountaineering tent? The product type ad gives more specific ecommerce-related choices to help determine intent, while at the same time shepherding the searcher down the Google Shopping path and away from the organic search results. We’re so accustomed to and drawn toward icons as helpful navigational tools that some searchers may not even realize that they’re segmenting their search results to see shopping results only.

Visual Cues to Click

Google Shopping has a lot going for it. Most obviously, as a new moneymaker Google is now incentivized to make sure Google Shopping thrives as a paid advertising program. In addition, however, Google Shopping also benefits from subtler visual linking cues. Images draw the eye. Where the eye goes, the click is likely to follow. When faced with a page of black and blue on yellow and white, the images definitely attract eyeballs.
Organic search can use smaller visual clues in the form of rich snippets to help attract eyeballs and clicks as well. For example, shoe etailer Heels.com uses an older form of video rich snippets to fight for eye share in the crowded search results page landscape. The resulting video — filmed with a striking hot pink background — still draws the eye right past organic listings one through three to its number four ranking.

Search result showing Heels.com's rich snippet and Google Shopping ads.
Search result showing Heels.com's rich snippet and Google Shopping ads.

Other types of rich snippets —see Google's description — can also be coded in using microdata, as a way to label content to describe a specific type of information, such as reviews, person information, or events. The microdata isn’t visible to users, but it helps search engines identify information or media that can be used to improve the search result snippet. The reviews and ratings stars, recipe images and author mug shots seen in search results are all placed there thanks to the use of microdata in the hosting web site. Ecommerce sites wanting to battle for eye share should get started today incorporating microdata into ecommerce sites to trigger rich snippets.

27 Jun 2012

Google Product Search Extinction

On May 31, 2012, Google announced a game changing move in how retailers will use the search engine giant to generate sales.

Here’s the lowdown: Free Google Product Search (the ability to list your products in shopping results you see listed in google through a data feed) will be no more. It will be renamed Google Shopping.
All Google Shopping traffic will now be purchased using Product Listing Ads, managed through AdWords.

Your Google Merchant Center account stays the same (but will soon only be used to push your shopping feed data to Product Listing Ads). The retailer shake-up is about to begin. According to Google’s official blog post on the subject, they assure retailers that “Google Shopping will empower businesses of all sizes to compete effectively—and it will help shoppers turn their intentions into actions lightning fast.”

The outcome of this shift will be dependent on many factors.
Who knows… Google’s optimistic hopes just might be realized in the coming months.

This full Google Product Searh change over will not be completed until 15 August 2012 however so there's still time to get to grips and prepare for the change.  

Easitill are investigating if this will affect the data feed we currently allow you to export to upload to Google Product Search results our end through the Easitill EPoS Function "Google Export".


However your end you also need to be proactive in understanding the migration and how to get your products into Google still and the changes you will experience in your Google Merchant account because of this new paid ad only way of listing your products in google shopping search results.

We have found the following guide from ROI Revolution - http://www.roirevolution.com which explains all.

Click here to download the Guide from ROI. 

Having a Google Merchant Center feed is not going to be anything new to most retailers who were already enjoying the free results from Google Product Search. The main result for retailers is to make sure their feeds are cleaned up with current inventory, current and complete pricing, and accurate product data. By requiring a cleaner feed, Google will help increase search result relevance and reliability while weeding out unreliable retailers who are more focused on quick traffic than their customers’ satisfaction.
To stay relevant retailers must ensure their products, descriptions, and pricing in the feed is accurate and up-to-date if they want a chance to show in the results on Google Shopping. Retailers should take the time to examine their feed and make sure it is ready for implementation through Product Listing Ads on Google Shopping.

Tips to launching a new website

Your e-commerce website is your shop front so making sure it is relevant to your customers and updated with fresh content is crucial to your success. You need to sell as soon as people reach your landing page. If your shop is outdated it may be time to launch a new website. This can be a great way of refreshing your brand image, generating some buzz, increasing sales and driving more traffic to your site. 

Easitill are available to help with ecommerce quotes for projects and website design work or just a reworking of your existing Easitill website and graphics, but in the meantime here are our tops tips to help you plan your new website update/launch...

Set objectives - Before you start any planning set some realistic performance objectives of what you would like to achieve with the new site. An audit of your current site will help identify any problem areas that you can address with the new site or reworking of existing. This way it will be easier to track your ROI.
You can request bespoke software development quotes from Easitill by calling us on 01604 881881 for any additional features you wish to add to the standard website product separately or if you're a new customer it can be added onto the standard quote package.

Dont Run before you can walk -Starting off a website is daunting and very new to most. Easitill make our website packages scalable so that you can start with the standard or a basic site and features and after your website had been running a while and you understand things more and your needs and requirements and those of customers grow and change you can add additional features later. This also reduces initial quotations and up front costs.

Plan and develop a project team - A website launch is a big task for any business. To get it right you need to be organised. Assign a project manager to oversee the launch and assemble a project team. Have someone in charge of development, content, imagery, promotion, testing and ensure appropriate approval processes are put into place.

Get insider help - It is fair to say that you will have a good idea of what content and pages you would like to update for launch but is this a fair reflection on what your colleagues also would like? Capturing everyone’s requirements from the start will ensure it is easier to obtain organisational buy-in for launch and will limit any internal issues later on.

Optimise your site - In such a crowded market ensuring your new site is optimised for the search engines has never been so important. Check every page and make it includes keywords, phrases and titles. If you do not have a search function in-house it may be worthwhile getting professional help with this. If you are going to be spending a lot of time and money on your new site you will want it to rank well.
Easitill now offer add on SEO packages and contracts.

Remove any marketing jargon - The IMRG tells us that the UK e-commerce market is growing (13% predicted for 2012) and very competitive so you need to make sure that if you succeed in driving traffic to your site that once they arrive they are not put off. Get straight to the point and describe your products / services clearly. 

Focus groups - Sometimes you may be too close to your own business to give a subjective viewpoint. Running a focus group with a random selection of consumers can give you an invaluable perspective from the outside world. Getting your group to browse your site and test out its usability will highlight any issues. Concluding the session with a group discussion can also draw out further conclusions.

Get your tracking in place - How will you track the performance of your new website? Whether you will use Google Analytics or a specialist provider make sure you will easily be able to measure your website traffic and any important metrics that you will need to report on.

Don’t stop testing - Just because you have launched your website does not mean that the job is complete. On-going testing and evaluation of your website is critical in ensuring it is meeting its performance objectives. Make sure you ask for regular feedback from your customer facing functions, as well as having an external feedback channel in place.

Publicise & Market - We've mentioned this key item before in previous blogs, but it really is important. Make sure people know your website exists dont just rely on them stumbling across it in search results even with SEO in place. If you have an existing brand and shop cash in on this. Try and utilise any existing loyal customer base you have and expand on it with various media such as facebook, twitter, print and press etc. Engage existing customers, create a community surrounding your brand and expand on this for success. Promote with discounts/offers/featured products and newsletters in conjunction to drive traffic.

Customer Service - Ensure you have thought hard about how you are going to look after your customers. What are your policies? - Publiscise them on the website to reassure people about dealing with you. 
Have you set up proceedures and policies internally so as to make sure you ship promptly and look after your customers carefully. Ebay is a prime example of this as we've said before - the seller rating system forces people to think carefully about theirs customers and make sellers go to the extra mile to look after them. If they dont they get bad feedback and people wont want to deal with them. If people have a good experience with you then they are obviously more likely to retun to your site and purchase again and also recommend you to friends and family.
Advertise how quickly people can expect despatch and ensure you meet it. 

Dont cut corners -In general a website compaed with the running of a physical shop means reduced overheads (no rent, rates etc),  however it’s very important to recognise that making e-commerce work requires continuing investment . Cutting corners in may reduce your costs but may also reduce your level of success in the long run and ultimately contribute to your failure.

And Finally, if this all seems a bit daunting and your having second thoughts bear in mind the following stats which demonstrate how rewarding in the long run investment in being online really could be:
  • 77% of households have internet access
  • 42.6% of Britain’s shop online at least once a week
  •  Shoppers in the UK spent £5.3billion online during may 2011 
  • 2011 online sales in the UK were £50.34 billion (€59.4 billion) or 12.0% of UK retail trade. 
  • The average British spend online is £71 per month 
  • Only 78.7 per cent of businesses have a website, of which only 15.3 percent use their website for selling


If you would like any further information on bespoke features you wish to add to an existing Easitill website, Building a completely new website with Easitill or SEO Packages please call Easitill on 01604 881881 or email sales@easitill.co.uk.