7 Dec 2013

10 Great Ecommerce Ideas

Offer Support via Social Media

“Nielson research discovered that in 2012 one-third of social media users prefer to contact a company via social media than by phone. On your support pages, provide links to your social media profiles. Set up notifications in the social media accounts so you know when someone contacts you. This way you provide timely customer support to those who want it — in the way they want it.”
Joshua Uebergang
Marketing Manager
Online Visions

Make Research Easy for Prospective Buyers

“Research [for buying decisions] is a massive resource cost to businesses around the world. It is also a primary reason for lost deals. Were you to provide comprehensive information that was easy to find and on which a buying decision can be made, then your close rate would substantially improve. Add to this, an easy purchasing process and, rather than scouring the web, a buyer would see your site as a preferred source.”
Tony Lorge
CEO
Saxum Commerce

Stay Ahead of the Curve

“It doesn’t take a lot of time for cutting-edge to become old hat. Keep researching to be aware of the latest tools and technology. If you stay still, you will find that your competitors will quickly surpass you.”
Seth Boylan
Owner
Xpert Fulfillment

Don’t Forget Comparison Shopping Engines

“You’ve got a great ecommerce website. But is it hard to get traffic? Comparison shopping engines (CSEs) — like Google Shopping, Shopzilla, NexTag, Pronto, and Bing — deliver millions of shoppers to product pages every day. You list your items on the CSEs where purchase-ready shoppers will see them and click through to your site to complete the transaction. CSEs typically have a pay-per-click pricing model, and many merchants find it’s worth the cost.”
Liam Supple
Product Marketing
SingleFeed

Think Like a Shopper

“Keep your site’s design simple and clean, make calls-to-action clear, and focus on the product. Go through the flows of your site: search, browse, and buy a product, or have a friend do it and watch him without helping. Pay attention to areas where anything is confusing, doesn’t work the way it should, or takes too many steps. Then make adjustments.”
Jeff Schlicht
CEO
Auctiva

Emphasize Product Photography

“Whether you use high-quality renderings or actual product photography, make sure you take the time to present your products in the best possible manner. With the proliferation of product and photo sharing sites like Pinterest, The Fancy, Instagram, and OpenSky, having a beautiful product shot is imperative. Lifestyle shots of your product in use could also significantly increase conversion rates.”
TJ Scimone
Founder
Slice

Take the ‘E’ out of ‘Ecommerce’

“Retailers need to realize that the lines of commerce have been, as John Donahoe, CEO of eBay, said, ‘obliterated.’ It’s no longer a world of online and offline commerce. It’s just commerce. Retailers are competing on a global scale with everyone, everywhere. You need to give shoppers a compelling reason to buy from you. Find a way to differentiate and make sure you can grab shoppers’ attention and keep them coming back.”
Jake Gasaway
Co-Founder
Stitch Labs

Address Commonly-asked Questions

“One of the quickest ways to lose shoppers and sales is to make it difficult for them to do business with you. Instead of hiding commonly asked questions on an FAQ page somewhere on your site, display these answers in plain sight. Include your service agreement on every page, and provide frequent updates on orders in the mail.”
Ashley Verrill
CRM Analyst
Software Advice

Connect with Pinterest Influencers

“Connect with the Pinterest influencers — accounts or boards with large followings — that relate to your product category. Ask for a pin here and there for a product you believe they would like. You’ll get large amounts of traffic, sales, and repins from their large followings. This method is repeatable and much quicker and cheaper than building a large following yourself.”
Mitchell Abdullah
Content Strategist
AddShoppers

Mimic the Brick-and-mortar Experience

“Regardless of what channel they may be using to shop, online consumers are demanding the quality of the brick-and-mortar experience. They want to zoom in on a product, rotate it, change its colors — in short, they want to interact with the item as though they were physically in the same room with it. Retailers with rich interactive media that can offer this in omnichannel have a significant competitive advantage during the holiday season and can convert at rates of 30 percent higher than those that don’t.”
Rory Dennis
General Manager, North America
Amplience

31 Jul 2013

5 Key Day-to-day Ecommerce Functions


Original Article courtesy of  DALE TRAXLER www.practicalecommerce.com


As ecommerce owners, we frequently look for something new to help our businesses grow. This could be a magical analytical tool that deciphers why conversion rates are lower this year than last. Or, it could be a new, exclusive product that becomes a worldwide best seller.

Certainly new discoveries are important. But, we should also execute the basic day-to-day functions that it takes to be successful. Here are five key examples.

1. Search Engine Optimization


I’ve had a few SEO discussions in recent months with ecommerce merchants. I was reminded how much SEO is about content. One of the discussions was about the negative impact of Google search algorithm changes last year on a merchant’s business. Another was with a client who launched a new online store and then suffered a hit on search rankings. Both of them are now looking for the instant solution to fix their problems. The reality is there is no quick fix. Both merchants need to focus on their content and on building relationships with authority sites that will link back to it.

For example, I just wrote a lot of content on a website that did not have any real SEO strategy and was not visible for relevant searches. I researched keywords, ensured that the page structure included H1 and H2 tags, and put in optimized titles and descriptions. I linked related content throughout the site. I bolded key phrases and tried to optimize the keyword density on pages. We republished and prioritized the site map. The results? A week later, we had climbed to the first page on Google for most of the keywords we were targeting. In several cases, we captured the fourth through seventh ranking for different pages on the site.

Was this because I wrote brilliant content? Not really. It’s because I did the basics with SEO to create original content that was optimized separately for each page.

2. Selecting New Products


A key to the success of new products includes trends, price, quality — for the right target audience. Too many ecommerce businesses invest in new products without aligning them to their customers.

When purchasing a new product line, be sure that your customers will buy it. If they are value focused, is it a good strategy to add a high-end product? It may work, but more often than not, you’ll end up selling it on clearance.

Most small ecommerce stores develop a niche. You may not think of yourself as a niche store, but it’s likely that you sell consistently to a similar demographic. Check that for yourself. Ask your customers why they buy from you. Find out what other products they would like to see you sell. Learn as much about them as you can and sell them what they are looking for. You will be less likely to add a dud to your product mix if you really understand your customers.

3. Merchandising New Products


Now that you have invested in new products you are sure your customers will buy, it’s time to sell them. Be sure to write good product descriptions and use compelling photos. Feature your new products prominently on your website. Promote the new items in your newsletter, on your home page, and on Facebook or Pinterest.

Review your sales history and search for customers who have purchased similar items. Send them an email, stating you have a new product that may interest them.

This is basic selling. But all too frequently, new products get buried at the bottom of a new or existing product category.


4. Customer Service


In my previous ecommerce business — selling jewelry and bead products — we emphasized fulfillment accuracy. We made mistakes, for sure. But we took great pains to ensure that what was shipped matched the pick list.

We also learned not to question a customer. If a customer said a product was missing or incorrect, we might ask him to recheck the packing materials, or confirm the quantity. But, regardless, we would refund or reship the missing parts. Likewise, if a customer said she did not receive a package, we would reship or refund — even if we had a delivery confirmation from the shipper.

Why did we do this? It’s basic customer service. Think about your own experience as a consumer, when you experienced problems with an order. You likely wanted it fixed and did not want to discuss it, or argue. When the supplier corrected the mistake, you likely were inclined to reorder. If the supplier disputed your claim, you likely moved on to a new source.

5. Monitor Your KPIs


In “21 Key Performance Indicators for Ecommerce Businesses,” I addressed key metrics to focus on, to improve your business. At a minimum, monitor sales, average order value, cost of goods sold, traffic, conversion rates, abandonment rates, and your cash position.

1 Jul 2013

21 Key Performance Indicators for Ecommerce Businesses

Key performance indicators are becoming common in large corporations as a way to measure and monitor the success of key activities. But they can also play an important role in any sized ecommerce business.

A KPI — key performance indicator — is simply a measure of some process, event, or activity. An example is checkout abandonment, when shoppers exit before completing an order. This KPI should be monitored closely by all ecommerce businesses. If it is typically 10 percent and suddenly goes to 15 percent, that may be an indicator that something is broken on your website, like your SSL or your credit card authorization. By monitoring that KPI daily, you will mitigate the risk of losing business if something breaks.

Establishing KPIs


KPIs differ among businesses. For example, large corporations monitor the time between orders and final payment, striving to reduce that cycle. For an ecommerce business, checkout abandonment is an important KPI and lowering that percentage generally leads to higher revenue.

For strategic and operational planning, KPIs are also used for SMART goals — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound. As an example, you may want to set a goal to improve your checkout abandonment from 10 to 7 percent in six months. Or, you may want to set customer service goals to reduce the average number of open cases from 10 to 5 in three months.

All businesses should regularly monitor their revenue, cash position, receivables, payables, and basic accounting reports. If you have an inventory and higher-end accounting system, you can also monitor your cost-of-goods sold and gross-profit margins daily. Beyond that, you should monitor pay-per-click advertising performance, social media metrics, email marketing results, and marketplace sales (such as Amazon, eBay) to identify areas of improvement. Virtually any measurement can become a KPI as long as you have a means of capturing the data in a consistent method.

21 KPIs for Ecommerce


Baseline KPIs should always be monitored, and acted on if they deviate from their normal range. KPIs used for goal setting may change, as may the target range of those KPIs.

In my experience, the important KPIs that ecommerce merchants should monitor are as follows.

  1. Unique visitors
  2. Total visits
  3. Page views
  4. New visitors
  5. New customers
  6. Total orders per day, week, month
  7. Time on site per visit
  8. Page views per visit
  9. Checkout abandonment
  10. Cart abandonment
  11. Return rate
  12. Gross margin
  13. Customer service open cases
  14. Pay-per-click cost per acquisition
  15. Pay-per-click total conversions
  16. Average order value
  17. Facebook “talking about this” and new Likes
  18. Twitter retweets and new followers
  19. Amazon ratings, response and order turnaround time, and open cases
  20. Email open, click, and conversion rates
  21. Referral sources: percent from search, direct, email, pay-per-click, other

Your business may have many more than this if you outsource fulfillment, have a high percentage of call-in orders, and so forth.



What’s a Normal KPI?


You may be wondering what the normal range is for these types of KPIs. In general, there is no answer, as every business is different. Develop your baseline over time and become aware of your typical operating ranges.

Once you have established your standard ranges, you can begin to use KPIs to set goals and measure improvement. More than likely you already do that with PPC advertising — with targets for click throughs, cost per acquisition, and cost per click. Perhaps you set targets regularly to improve those metrics. You can do the same thing with all the KPIs listed above.

Make Monitoring Easy


If you don’t have a dashboard that is capable of displaying most of your KPIs — this usually requires a higher-end, highly integrated system — then pull KPIs from all your various monitoring tools and dashboards into a spreadsheet on a weekly or monthly basis. This will provide you with a snapshot of your historical performance that identifies seasonal trends and necessary troubleshooting if KPIs deviate from their normal ranges.

Monitoring Peaks and Valleys


KPIs are also useful to check your normal cycles. In a simplified example, if you suddenly get a bump of new customers and don’t really understand why, you may want to look at your social media activity or referral KPIs to identify new traffic sources. Perhaps your “talking about you” KPI in Facebook is high because of a new product someone is talking up. Likewise, if your gross margins are suddenly much lower, it may be because your cost of goods sold has increased or because more customers are taking advantage of free shipping. In short, use your dashboards or any other tools you can to monitor your KPIs on a daily basis if possible.

Summary


Seasoned ecommerce managers can often predict revenue based on the number of visitors, checkout abandonment, cart abandonment, and other factors. More importantly, they can flag problems immediately.

Use your KPIs for setting SMART goals for your business improvement. KPIs can be identified for almost every operational area — from shipping to traffic to conversions. Work with your staff to identify areas for improvement, choose your baseline KPI, and set a target for improvement in a specific timeframe. Then you have a measurable goal.

14 May 2013

Google Shopping Feed: Easitill's Guide to listing products in Google Shopping from Easitill Back Office

Introduction

One of the best-kept “secrets” for creating incremental traffic to online retail sites is actually Google Shopping. The conversion rates are often higher than the more widely used channels.

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. Google uses the data feed product information you send to the Google Merchant Center to populate Google Shopping listing information.

People searching in google for a product can use google shopping results to search for specific products and order by price and other criteria.

They appear in general google search page results as below (often ahead of organic search page results):

For further explanation of Google Shopping and getting your products listed watch this Google Video
http://www.google.com/ads/shopping

Google Adwords linking with Google Shopping

Previously listing your product's on Google Shopping used to be free, however Google has now phased out free listings on its comparison shopping engine, Google Product Search, and transitioning to paid listings built on Product Listing Ads (Google Adwords) for its new initiative, Google Shopping. Google explained its shift in "Building a better shopping experience," a May 31 2012 blog post.

Google’s stance as stated in the announcement is that "having a commercial relationship with merchants will encourage them to keep their product information fresh and up to date" which "should mean better shopping results for users, which in turn should create higher quality traffic for merchants."

Google Shopping results  merchant rankings will be based on both bid price and relevance, with a ranking algorithm similar to paid search.

Data Quality is key

One of the most important things to rember about embarking on listing your products in google through the data feed, is that the listings will only be accepted by Google if they meet their Data Guidelines.
If you do not meet these, your products may not be listed, repeated ignorance and trying to upload regardless may also result in you being blocked.

Easitill enables you to create a Google Data Feed export from Easitill Back Office for Google Shopping, however it will only be as good as the product data you have input. Easitill cannot be held responsible for incorrect data exported from your system, so it is key that you make sure that all products meet the following criteria:


All products to be exported to Google Shopping must:

·         Have been exported to your website
·         Have a brand assigned
·         Have a description (Product or Internet Description) with more than 3 characters
·         Have an Internet Text 1 Field with more than 3 characters
·         Have a Main Product Image attached
·         Have a retail Sell Price greater than zero

Products must also have:
Either:
·         A valid supplier/manufacturer barcode (not beginning with 399 or 20) stored in the Product record or its associated Supplier Data
Or:
·         A Preferred Supplier whose Supplier Type includes Manufacturer (not Supplier Only), in which case the Preferred Supplier's Product Code MUST be the Manufacturer's Part Number (MPN)

Items will not be included in the Data Feed if:

·         The item is Discontinued and out of stock
·         The item is Not Available and out of stock
·         The item is flagged as ‘Do not show if out of stock’ and is out of stock

Products in the Data Feed will be rejected on importing to Google if:

·         The image path(s) contain any unusual characters such as [ ]


Other Google specifications you should also be aware of:

Descriptions and Internet Text

Block capitals and promotional material, such as offering free delivery, should not be included in Descriptions or the Internet Text 1 field. Bear in mind that at the time of export you have the option of whether to use the Product or Internet Description for your Google Export and we have a function to ‘Convert Internet Descriptions to Title Case’. However the routine will not recognise brand names or acronyms and will convert them to Title Case regardless e.g. NAF will become Naf.

The Google product title is generated automatically for you, but is limited to 70 characters. We take the Product or Internet Description (depending on the option selected at the time of export) truncated, with colour/size descriptions appended automatically. To ensure the best results, limit your descriptions so that when Itemcode A and B are appended, it will not exceed 70 characters.


Availability

·        Availability is dependent upon stock units for the Internet Site at the time of export. For this reason, fresh data should be exported to Google regularly. Note that with the Real-Time stock option on Easi-Web, the item may no longer be available on your website and the appropriate actions will be taken on the webpages and the checkout page depending on the option chosen.

Sell Prices

·        Sell Price is Gross Sell Price in GBP. If you have queued up Special Prices, those prices and their effective dates will also be exported to Google and will be implemented for the selected timescale only. Note that Google can only handle offers where the unit price is reduced and cannot process Mix & Match or Multi-Buy offers.
·       It is imperative that the sell prices and offer prices in your Google Data Feeds match those on your website. For this reason, fresh data should be exported to Google regularly.


Merchants must also adhere to all Google Shopping policies.



Exporting a Google Data Feed from Easitill

Easitill will need to help set up the export process settings the first time you wish to start using this facility. Once this is done you will then simply need to go to export internet data> export google data feed.

You will need to export a new data feed every time you upload new data to your website for google to pick up. This will ensure your website and Google Shopping listings match.






 

 


 

Ecommerce Trends Point to Bright Future

Over the past five years, ecommerce has grown at a pace at least twice as fast as total retail sales and that trend will continue over the next five years, according to published reports. In 2012, ecommerce had a healthy 14.8 percent growth rate over 2011, easily eclipsing the total retail sales growth rate of 5.3 percent. By 2017, the Internet will account for ten percent of all U.S. retail sales when online sales will reach $370 billion, up from $231 billion this year, according to Forrester Research. Growth is coming mainly from existing customers, who are spending more money online, rather than from new shoppers.

What's Driving Growth?

Brick and mortar retailers are getting better at multi-channel offerings. In-store pickup and store returns for items purchased online are examples of how these merchants are accommodating customer wishes. Those with good online execution are seeing their online growth outpace their store sales growth.
For online-only merchants, publishing customer reviews and presenting 360-degree product views make shoppers feel more comfortable about buying online. Personalization helps to increase sales to existing customers.

Tablets Rule M-commerce

The increased penetration of web-enabled smartphones and tablets increases the amount of time consumers spend online. While the rapid growth in purchases from mobile devices has caught both analysts and some merchants off guard, it's clear that customers feel comfortable buying via mobile devices, especially tablets, which provide better visual experiences. Twenty percent of visits to leading ecommerce websites originate on mobile devices according to Monetate, a provider of personalization technology.
Research firm eMarketer reports that this year, 62.5 percent of all mobile commerce will come from tablets, despite the fact that they have a lower penetration rate than smartphones. That figure will rise to 71.5 percent in 2017. Mobile users’ share of U.S. retail ecommerce sales will rise from 15 percent in 2013 to 25 percent in 2017. And people purchasing via mobile devices tend to make higher average orders.

Overseas Sales

Ecommerce sales are booming in Asia-Pacific with China, India, and Indonesia setting the pace, according to eMarketer. Business-to-consumer sales will grow more than 30 percent this year and China will replace Japan as the region's largest ecommerce market. In 2012, online retail sales in China totaled $179 billion, up 42.2 percent from $126 billion in the previous year, according to the China Ministry of Commerce. Forrester Research estimated Chinese ecommerce sales even higher, at $219 billion. The largest ecommerce company in the world — Alibaba — is based in China. The privately held company facilitated $173 billion in sales in 2012. That's more than eBay and Amazon combined.
Total Asia-Pacific direct-to-consumer ecommerce sales totaled $378 billion in 2012. Amazon alone had $8.8 billion in sales in Asia in 2012. This year Asia-Pacific is expected to overtake North America as the region with the most business-to-consumer ecommerce sales.
In the U.S., computer and consumer electronics is the category with the most online sales, with expected 2013 revenues of $56.8 billion, according to eMarketer. However, by 2016, apparel and fashion accessories will catch up, with each pulling in about $88 billion. Between 2012 and 2017, apparel and fashion accessories along with food and beverage will have the highest compound growth rates, at 17.2 percent and 17.0 percent respectively. What's driving growth in the apparel sector? Social media opinion sharing and better visuals such as body scanning technology, online runway videos, and 360-degree product views.

Trends that Have Cooled

Daily deals from companies such as Groupon and Living Social have lost their luster. Celebrity curation has also waned. Shoppers seem to trust recommendations from family and friends more than those from paid celebrities.
Subscription ecommerce is still raking in venture capital investments but there is a belief that consumers may be tiring of this business model as well and some online merchants have abandoned it.

Takeaway for Ecommerce Merchants

Most people who feel comfortable purchasing online are already doing so and Forrester Research predicts only 4 million new ecommerce customers this year. Therefore merchants should focus marketing efforts on retaining existing customers rather than trying to lure new customers. Implementing loyalty programs is a good way to minimize customer churn.
Making sure that the customer has a good mobile shopping experience is more important than ever. Merchants should consider responsive web design, a technique that renders content in a visually pleasing, usable format on any device.


Taken from: http://www.practicalecommerce.com