2 Dec 2014

10 Last-minute Ways to Increase Holiday Conversions

It’s crunch time. If you procrastinated the proper planning for this now-current holiday shopping season, not all is lost. While there’s no time to completely revamp the online store itself, there are some quick-and-dirty ways to boost conversions, providing you have incoming traffic.
While some of these actions may be temporary, many can lay the foundation for a better shopping experience long term — something you can put more focus on next year.
Here are my 10 last-minute methods — plus one bonus method — to increase holiday conversions on your ecommerce site.

1. Simplify Navigation

Visitors need to clearly understand what you sell, how to locate products, and how to give you money. That’s it. Make it easy for them, and you’ll be ahead of the game.
Providing a simple set of links to key gift-giving sections, including gifts grouped by price ranges, is a great guide for both existing and potential customers. Source: Uncommongoods.com.
Providing a simple set of links to key gift-giving sections, including gifts grouped by price ranges, is a great guide for both existing and potential customers. Source: UncommonGoods.com.

2. Offer a Flexible Return Policy

A 30-day return policy in November doesn’t cut it. When buying gifts, the ability to return or exchange it in January plays an important role in the decision making process. So, even if an extended policy won’t work for your business model year-round, it is a requirement of many online shoppers during November and December.

3. Offer at Least One Shipping Method at Low or No Cost

Free is best, but if you must charge for shipping (even on large orders), a flat rate makes it easier for shoppers to know what things are going to cost up front. It eliminates frustration from having to add an item to the cart to determine total costs.
Big stores like Target.com alter shipping policies during the holiday shopping season. Smaller businesses can benefit even if free shipping requires a minimum order subtotal.
Big stores like Target.com alter shipping policies during the holiday shopping season. Smaller businesses can benefit even if free shipping requires a minimum order subtotal.

4. Hype Key Selling Points in a Prominent Place

Display free shipping notices, extended return policies, and coupons in banners or blocks near the top of every shopping page.
Top of page banners are perfect for conveying deals and money saving policies. Source: RedEnvelope.com.
Top of page banners are perfect for conveying deals and money saving policies. Source: RedEnvelope.com. 

5. Publish the Coupon Code

People love a deal, and they especially love coupons. Eliminate the practice of shoppers heading to Google to search for a discount code by publishing one right at the top of the page. Want to cut down on cart abandonments? Display the code right next to the coupon input field during checkout.
Consider offering up an instant coupon. Adagio.com, a retailer of teas, offers a generous $5 off in exchange for an email address.
Consider offering up an instant coupon. Adagio.com, a retailer of teas, offers a generous $5 off in exchange for an email address.

6. Eliminate Confusing Requirements, Like Minimum Orders and Volume Purchases

Don’t frustrate gift buyers by requiring that they spend a certain amount or buy a certain number of items to complete the checkout process. Instead, consider adjusting shipping prices on smaller orders, and offer shipping discounts on larger ones.

7. Link to Popular Gifts, Even if Just a Few

Some people want you to tell them what to buy. A category of best-selling gifts in various price ranges makes it easy for them to click and check out. If your store features customer ratings and reviews, include items that rank high and include comments that help sell the product.

8. De-clutter Landing Pages

This includes the home page, categorical directories, and gateway pages. Less can be more when trying to direct shoppers to popular gift items, and unique or personalized products.
Adagio’s landing page targets both savvy tea drinkers and those looking for a gift for the tea lover. The “get better gifts” link goes to a simple selection of stocking stuffers and gift sets.
Adagio’s landing page targets both savvy tea drinkers and those looking for a gift for the tea lover. The “get better gifts” link goes to a simple selection of stocking stuffers and gift sets.

9. Display Payment Icons

Don’t leave shoppers wondering which payment methods you accept. Acceptance of Discover and American Express, as well as Amazon Payments and BillMeLater, can help close more sales.
Discover and AmEx cardholders often prefer only those methods online, while some prefer Amazon Payments and PayPal because they’re only providing their payment information to one company. Source: Fitzulas.com.
Discover and AmEx cardholders often prefer only those methods online, while some prefer Amazon Payments and PayPal because they’re only providing their payment information to one company. Source: Fitzulas.com.
Don’t yet accept PayPal? Signing up is a quick process so there’s still time. Amazon Payments, though, can take longer.

10. Ditch Requirement for Customer Accounts

This can be a turn off for first-time (and one-time) buyers. So lend more weight to the actual information you need — not account logins and signups. While a customer account makes for quicker ordering in the future, it doesn’t streamline the checkout the first time around.
If your shopping cart supports PayPal’s Express Checkout, consider activating it now. This method grabs info (like the customer’s shipping information) from the PayPal user’s account. It’s much quicker to check out.
While this isn’t a top to bottom list, all the items listed above can be implemented relatively quickly, leaving you time to continue marketing and supporting your existing customers.
Speaking of marketing and conversions, here’s one last tip.

Implement Social Sharing

Even if you aren’t active on social media channels, people should still be able to share the products you sell. Sharing helps shoppers get feedback about products they are considering, and can also serve as reminders and wish-list entries on their own profiles. Top channels include Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. But there are many other channels that may apply, so consider an all-inclusive sharing tool as well.
Thousands of Pinterest users now use the social network to maintain their wish lists.
Thousands of Pinterest users now use the social network to maintain their wish lists.

11 Nov 2014

Top Reasons for Ecommerce Failure

Original Article from Practical Ecommerce

Starting an ecommerce business can be fast and relatively easy. But with something like an 80-percent failure rate, creating a successful online business is more challenging than some imagine.

Although each new business is unique, there are common contributors to ecommerce failures. Understanding these possible pitfalls could help you to avoid them, beat the statistics, and have a successful ecommerce business.

1. No Real Investment


It is possible to open a basic online template driven store for just a few hundred pounds. But that in no way means that a few hundred pounds is all that you will need to invest.

Like any new business, a fledgling online store may require several infusions of capital and a significant amount of labor.

Brick-and-mortar retailers are often the worst about adequately investing in an online store. If you already have a physical store and are adding an online shop, think about that new ecommerce business like a new location. It is going to need a similar investment in time and at least a portion of what you would invest in money.

Even relatively small retailers will happily invest £50,000 or £100,000 into a physical store, but decline to spend £5,000 for an online one which may actually have greater sales potential.

2. No Cash Flow


At the most basic level, cash flow is the movement of money into and out of a business. New ecommerce companies can get into trouble when they don’t have enough cash to keep operating. An example of this is when an entrepreneur invests all his cash in inventory and there is no money for marketing — so sales don’t rise and the business is stagnant.

To avoid cash-flow problems, try to spread out expenses, so that everything is not due at once. Look for the opportunity to pay for inventory on terms of 30, 60, or 90 days. Don’t over invest in advertising or would-be search-engine-optimization gurus. Also spend or reinvest based on actual revenue, not projected sales.

3. Poor Inventory Management


Depending on the business model, inventory management can be one of the most significant problems new ecommerce operations will face. Buy too much inventory, and, as mentioned above, you could cripple cash flow. Buy too little inventory and you might be missing out on sales or even disappointing customers.

What’s more, ordering products is often not as simple as you might think. Vendors may have distinctly different lead times, meaning that it might take one supplier a few days to get a reorder to you, while another supplier could take a few weeks, so that you would need to place reorders at very different times and at very different inventory levels.

If you are operating Easitill EPoS to run your business, stock control and reordering you should have no problem with any of this. With Easitill you can set minimum and maximum automatic reordering levels, seasonal levels and also view sales history to see suggested order levels and when items are most popular and need replenishing most, ensuring that you don't run out and can plan your stocking well at all times. Within Easitill you can also keeps notes on suppliers and have multiple supplier records ensuring you can switch supplier if something is not available in time from your usual supplier. Easitill Supplier Records can also have associated discounts for buying in bulk etc saved on the records so that you are aware of any possible savings on ordering.


4. Too Much Competition


The Internet is a land of opportunity for even the smallest of businesses. But almost no online startup can survive in the face of significant, established competition.

This is most often a problem when new ecommerce stores seek to sell the very same products that are offered by much larger retailers.

Walmart can be serious competition for new ecommerce businesses.

As an example, it could be very difficult for a new ecommerce store to try to sell Microsoft’s Xbox, which is already available at hundreds of online retailers, including Walmart, Amazon, Best Buy, GameSpot, Newegg, Toys”R”Us, and many more.

Simply put, it will be difficult — or at least relatively more difficult — to sell mass-market products than it will be to sell niche or unique products. So find your niche.

5. Poor Product Photography

Online shoppers cannot physically inspect the products you sell, so they will need a strong visual representation of those products to help them understand it, want it, and buy it. Thus, poor product photography is one of the cardinal sins in online retailing.

Use successful online sellers as the standard for your own product pictures. If the product photography you’re using is not as clear, focused, and clean as what you would find on sites like Marks and Spencer, John Lewis, Debenhams, Pets at Home, Monica Vinader, Argos and the likes, those photos are probably not good enough.






6. No Website Traffic


Few things will kill a retail, or even a wholesale, business as quickly as having no shoppers. In the ecommerce context, website traffic is the flow of shoppers into and out of your store. If you want to make sales, you need traffic.

A fast way to get traffic is with pay-per-click advertising. But it can be expensive, so make certain that you understand it before investing a lot.

A much slower, but ultimately more powerful, way to drive traffic is with content — i.e., content marketing, social media, or on-site product merchandising.

7. No Patience


An ecommerce business takes time to grow. Too often new business owners imagine that they will earn profits immediately. But that is not typically the case. Don’t be surprised if it takes several months to earn even meager profits.



17 Oct 2014

Are you ready for the Holiday Season & Sales this year Online?



In August 2014, Think with Google, a digital marketing publication from Google, reported that about 29 percent of shoppers would begin making Christmas purchases before Halloween this year.

John Lewis has reported that total sales were £734m for the five weeks to 28 December 2013, up 7.2% compared with last year, or 6.9% on a like-for-like basis.
Online sales for the five weeks were 22.6% up on last year with johnlewis.com accounting for 31.8% of the total John Lewis business during this period. Click & Collect orders were up 61.8% up on last year.
Black Friday (29 November) was the biggest ever day for online orders, the final pre-Christmas week (ending 21 December) broke the £160m barrier for the first time and the first day of Clearance in branches (27 December) was the biggest ever day for John Lewis shops and the business as a whole, taking £35.6m.
On Christmas Day, traffic from mobile phones and tablets made up three quarters of total traffic, overtaking that from desktops by a considerable margin.

(Statistics taken from  article "Christmas 2013 ecommerce stats round up: John Lewis, Amazon and m-commerce" at econsultancy.com)


With all this is mind are you ready to make the most of the increased number of people willing to spend and shop at your online store this holiday season? Even if you haven't started styling your website with holiday products, featured purchases and themed slideshows and graphics it's not too late if you act now!


Make sure you start campaigns such as email marketing and tie it in to relevant products and featured pages set up and styled with the holidays in mind. If you don't you are missing a trick (or treat).

Here’s some dates to think about for your calendar: Halloween (31st October), Fireworks/Bonfire Night (5th November), Black Friday (falls on 28th November in 2014), Small Business Saturday (continue your Black Friday deals on 29th), Cyber Monday (1st December), Green Monday (8th December – Usually one of the biggest shopping days in December) and most importantly Christmas, Boxing Day, New Years Day (1st January) and January Sales.

Savvy buying and some simple online marketing can go a long way toward helping Internet retailers improve Holiday Sales in 2014.

Download and print out this in depth PDF Ecommerce Holiday Guide and follow it for your Holiday Sales success.

And here are some examples of website who've already set up their content...


Black Friday & Cyber Monday Content






Christmas Content




Halloween Ads & Content
Claire's


9 Oct 2014

Google Rolls out latest Panda 4.1 Algorithmic UPdate

Google has started rolling out its latest update to the Panda algorithm, labelled ‘Panda 4.1’. The search engine has identified a number of additional signals that Panda will use to help reward websites with high quality content and depending on the location, will affect 3-5% of search queries.

The algorithmic update has been designed to understand the difference between high and low quality content on websites and in turn provide a boost to the search performance of those websites with strong content and high engagement. As a result of this particular update, Google has announced that there will be greater visibility for high quality small and medium enterprise websites.

So once again ladies and gentlemen, this just stresses again the importance and focus that Google is taking on ensuring websites have good quality and engaging content for your end users (not just optimised for search engines but useful to your website users). Make sure you update your website regularly and make sure your website has good quality content. Anyone in the eyes of Google trying to optimise sites and fill it with spammy keywords not relevant or in context purely to try and get top rankings will lose out to sites with genuinely good, relevant and engaging content.


3 Jul 2014

Shopping Basket Abandonment

Ever added something to your online shopping basket then changed your mind about buying?
Well, you’re not the only one.

In fact, you’re one of a growing audience, between 60-70%, of internet users who’re contributing to the rise in the number of abandoned online baskets.

Basket abandonments are on the rise. Internet users are getting more and more savvy with the way they use the tools at their disposal and we’re now open to much more choice than we’ve ever had before. This, coupled with the range of devices now available to purchase on, means more abandons.


WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?


It would be great if no one ever abandoned their shopping carts and every purchase was followed through until complete, but unfortunately things don’t always work that smoothly.

Being presented with greater choice and having access to more devices to buy on contribute massively to higher abandonment rates. But there are a number of other reasons consumers will leave their cart at the checkout.

THE TOP 10 MOST COMMON REASONS


  1. Being presented with unexpected or hidden costs
  2. Overall price is too expensive 
  3. Decided against buying
  4. The website navigation is too complicated
  5. The website crashed during the process
  6. The process was taking too long or was too long-winded
  7. Excessive payment security checks
  8. Concerns about payment security
  9. Unsuitable delivery options
  10. Website timed out


PREVENTING ABANDONED SHOPPING CARTS


We’ll discuss sales recovery another time, but before you think about how to recover those lost conversions you need to look at how you can minimise the number of abandons you see in the first place. Getting those all-important conversions the first time round is your priority and there are various factors you can consider to keep your abandoners at bay.

There are a number of elements you can optimise within your purchase process to discourage those unwanted drop outs, used alongside your sales recovery cycle to catch the ones who slip through the net.

HINTS & TIPS FOR KEEPING HOLD OF YOUR BUYERS

Use a guest checkout

To make the purchase process as quick and easy as possible for your customer, offer the option of a guest checkout. In an ideal world your new customer will sign-up for an account, but this could be annoying for someone wanting a quick purchase, who can’t have one because they need to set up a username etc.

Signing up for an account should never be compulsory - you can still obtain key information relevant to the order through a guest checkout. You can also use the opportunity to ask for email opt-in from your new customer so that you can request for more details or to set up an account at a later date, when they have more time.

Be upfront

According to Statistia, 56% of online shoppers cite hidden or unexpected costs as the number one reason for abandoning their shopping carts. Be upfront and honest about what you’re going to charge for delivery, credit card fees and anything else you may need to add on at the end. Make sure you state this clearly around your website and that someone browsing can access this information easily, before they get to the final transaction screen. That way, your customer will be fully aware of what to expect as a
total cost and there’ll be no nasty surprises, or abandons… win, win!

Make the payment easy

Research from Econsultancy shows us that 58% of online shoppers have concerns regarding payment security when using their cards online. A customer’s preferred payment type being unavailable is also another reason why they’ll abandon. Looking at alternative methods adds extra security to the payment process, with research indicating 83% of online retailers that implemented PayPal on their site saw an increase in sales of up to 18%. Not just Paypal, but using other payment methods, like sending an invoice in with the package, is a great way of encouraging that final push needed at the last stage of a transaction.

Be mobile friendly

This includes using mobile optimisation tips in your website’s design to ensure the optimum customer journey for someone purchasing on a mobile or tablet device. Badly designed web pages mean a lot of zooming, scrolling and pinching for your buyer to make sense of what’s on their screen, resulting in a lot of frustration and higher abandonment rates.

Website time-out

If your website has a time limit for some items, like concert tickets, then be clear in letting your buyer know that this is the case. Make sure you state that the transaction will be timed and show your countdown in a prominent place on the screen – this will encourage your buyer to go through the process at the speed needed to complete.

Keep it short and sweet

If the purchase process is lengthy and time-taking, that’s another reason your buyer will abandon. Once they’ve clicked to purchase, the following steps should be kept to a minimum. Make your purchase process straight forward and clear in order to keep your buyer focussed on what they’re doing and not to annoy them with an ill thought-out set-up.

8 May 2014

Web Week

We’re offering garden centres free advice on the tools they need so that they can, without using third parties, frequently update online content and links. This will help keep their sites fresh and encourage search engines to frequently index them.

During our Web Week from May 19 until 23 we will be happy to answer people’s queries about their own websites via social media, email and telephone.

We want to encourage garden centres to think of a middle way by just displaying offers, new featured products and product lists, catalogues with or without prices. And these can be produced using data automatically from their EPoS databases with minimal effort in comparison to maintaining a full e-commerce site.  

This way they are competing and promoting themselves in an online arena without incurring the onerous costs associated with a full-blown e-commerce site.

If you have any questions please tweet us @easitill, comment on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/easitill, email sales@easitill.co.uk or call 01604 881881 and we’ll be happy to help.

2 May 2014

The Easitill website products

With Easitill, data that is fed to the tills can be automatically fed into your website to display offers and featured or new products etc with little extra effort from you or your team. This means the site tracks your tills without anyone having to re-enter data into a second system or making pricing mistakes.

Level 1

This level is perfect for all newcomers to the virtual world or for anyone wishing to simply re-vamp their site and online offering. It includes a presence only (your shop front window if you like), optional limited product offers and featured products. Examples of our work can be seen at www.blackbrooks.co.uk  and www.horticentre.co.uk.

  


Level 2

This level includes a presence and product list, a limited number of images, optional limited product offers and featured products. An example of this level can be seen at www.cobbscountrystore.co.uk. At this level product lists can have description and/or prices and the site can show plant availability details or similar.

 

Level 3

With this level you get a presence and product catalogue (there’s no basket or online payment gateway), unlimited images, limited product offers and featured products. Here’s an example of our work at this level: www.english-gaiter.co.uk.

 


Level 4

If you are looking for full e-commerce then this is what we can do: www.hawleygardencentre.co.uk


 

It's show time!

The post summer show season kicks off with Four Oaks this September and then we’re out and about throughout the autumn so why not check out the dates and venues and pop them in your diary and drop in at our stands for a cuppa and a chat.

  • 2-3 September 2014 – Four Oaks Trade Show, Macclesfield, Cheshire
  • 14-16 September 2014 – GLEE 2014 – NEC, Birmingham
  • 1 October 2014 – South West Growers Show, Matford Center, Exeter
  • 12 November 2014 – GroSouth, Roundstone Nurseries, Chichester
  • 26 November 2014 – HortiGrow, Donnington Park, Leicestershire.



22 Apr 2014

Why we and other developers dont support old versions of Internet Explorer

In June 2011 Google officially announced that they would no longer support Internet Explorer 7 (IE7). Older browsers like IE7, they said, just don’t have the “chops” to handle today’s modern web browsing needs. Instead, they urge people to update their browsers.
As the world moves more to the web, these new browsers are more than just a modern convenience, they are a necessity for what the future holds.
A few months later, Facebook also announced that they would no longer support IE7. In fact, Facebook’s new Timeline feature doesn’t even visually render in IE7.
As of January 2014, only 0.4% of the entire world’s Internet browsing population uses IE7. Only 9.8% use IE at all–but those that do have upgraded (for free) to newer versions of the browser As of Jaunary 2014 the most popular IE browsers are versions 8 (3.1%), 9 (2.3%), 10 (1.7%) & 11 (2.5%).
The reasons IE7 is being abandoned by the biggest names on the web is because not only is it incredibly expensive to make websites and web applications work with IE7, but it is vastly flawed, does not follow industry standards, has security flaws and does not encourage the latest web progressions. Web Developers need to make sure that their products work on a myriad of browsers and devices–Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari and mobile browsers, for example. Designing for these browsers takes time. With IE7, there are so many unique quirks to the outdated, 8-year-old browser, that it takes an enormous amount of time to make a website or application support it. Due to these problems, and the very small percentage of people who even use the browser, we chose not to support Internet Explorer 7.
The labour costs to support IE7 are so high that one online store in Australia is actually charging a tax on people who make purchases from their website using IE7.As the BBC reports, CEO of Kogan.com, Ruslan Kogan, said that he decided to charge the tax because his IT team had “become pre-occupied with making adaptations to make pages display properly on IE7″.
I was constantly on the line to my web team. The amount of work and effort involved in making our website look normal on IE7 equaled the combined time of designing for Chrome, Safari and Firefox.
tax-internet-explorer-7-buuteeq
Image Credit: Kogan.com

There is a very simple solution to this problem with the 8 year old IE7–update your browser. It’s free, fast and easy. Updating your browser will increase your Internet browsing speed, allow you to use the latest web apps and, most importantly, your browsing experience will be better protected from evil people who seek to do you harm, since updated browsers have updated browsing security.
On Easitill websites we have a browser detection setting enabled, which alerts people of the risks involved in using an outdated browser and gives them linkes to easily and freely update.


11 Apr 2014

Easitill branches out with multimedia services

GARDEN centres wishing to use video to help sell their plants, products and services online are now being offered a multimedia service (April, 2014).

We have branched out to help garden centres up their exposure in increasingly competitive markets.

Managing Director, Rob Gardner said: “We have seen more and more demand for this and with our background in helping garden centres achieve the best from their businesses through IT, we felt it was a good fit for us.

“Whether it is a promotional video for a website or a video to show in-store we’re now able to help.”

The new multimedia team will be headed up by Dave Everett who has studied fine art, film and media studies and production.

Rob concluded: “Video is a great tool to help with sales as it can be used to show how a product works or how to do something like re-potting a houseplant or planting a tree.

“They are a great way of extending your customer base as these days the general public is sharing more video footage than ever via social media. You can also use them to entertain your customers and if you can do this you’re halfway to selling to them, as people still buy from those they like even if they are buying online.”

Our EPoS software is created in-house specifically for garden centres and plant nurseries.

For further details, please call Easitill on 01604 882030, email support@easitill.co.uk or visit www.easitill-horticultural.co.uk.

9 Apr 2014

News hype about 'heartbleed' security bug - Easitill Sites are safe


A bug in software used by web servers could have exposed anyone visiting sites they hosted to spying and eavesdropping, say researchers.

The Bug has been named "Heartbleed"


The bug is in a software library used in servers, operating systems and email and instant messaging systems.

Called OpenSSL the software is supposed to protect sensitive data as it travels back and forth.

The bug in OpenSSL was discovered by researchers working for Google and security firm Codenomicon.

The "serious vulnerability" allowed anyone to read chunks of memory in servers supposedly protected with the flawed version of OpenSSL. Via this route, attackers could get at the secret keys used to scramble data as it passes between a server and its users.

To help people check their systems some security researchers have produced tools that help people work out if they are running vulnerable versions of OpenSSL.

How does this affect Easitill Website Customers?
Firstly Easitill Ecommerce sites do not store, transmit or collect sensitive data such as credit card details.
These are all handled directly through the payments gateways we use.
These sites are secure and encrypted and meet PCI DSS compliance themselves.

The payment gateway providers our websites use are:
Barclays
CardSave
Paypoint
SagePay
Worldpay

We at Easitill have run the checks for vunerabilities using the available tools and can confirm that the above 5 Payment Gateway Servers are not vunerable to this flaw.

14 Mar 2014

What should small e-commerce businesses focus on?

In the ever expanding world of e-commerce it is important for small businesses to maintain their relevance to succeed. Key to this is staying ahead of the game and creating strategies that will help drive sales and customer happiness.

The following areas are particularly important for small businesses to focus on if they aren’t doing so already.

Be mobile

More and more people are using their mobile devices to access the internet and make purchases online. It is essential that small online retailers as well as larger ones incorporate mobile as part of their sales strategy.

At the very least websites should be optimised for mobile devices and have a clear purchase path across smartphones and tablets.

If your business is purely an online one then it is important to make sure you’re giving your customers a positive mobile user experience in all aspects of their visit.

Get personal

Often one of the biggest challenges for online retailers is matching the right products to the right customer. This is key for smaller online businesses in keeping them ahead of the competition.

Amazon was one of the first sites to recommend products based on what customers had previously purchased. This changed the way e-commerce sites had previously worked by making the customer experience more personal. Many other online retailers have since adopted similar strategies.

Implementing this effectively will not only encourage sales but also helps to build customer loyalty.

Create loyalty

It’s becoming increasingly easier for people to create e-commerce sites so competition is fierce and it is important to make sure you set yourself apart from the rest.

A key area for doing this is through customer service and satisfaction. It is important to focus on your processes and what can be done to enhance the customer experience and build loyalty.

Ways to do this could include free shipping, extended returns periods, order tracking, free returns and having a customer service support team available via all modern methods of communication including email, social media and phone.

12 Mar 2014

A Look at Comparison Shopping Engines for Ecommerce

There’s a lot to like about comparison shopping engines (CSEs). They increase your store’s visibility, attract new customers and best of all, boost your sales.

CSEs are effective because:
  • CSEs influence 50% of online shopping decisions.
  • 94% of online shoppers invest time to find the best price and 65% of online shoppers spend 15+ minutes comparing products on CSEs before making a purchase.*
  • CSE shoppers tend to be motivated buyers - they are more likely to make a purchase. 



*Reflects generally accepted statistics averaged from various resources as: CPC Strategy, Forrester Research, Internet Retailer, MerchantAdvantage, and Practical eCommerce


1. Google Product Listing Ads (Paid)

Google Shopping is one of the biggest and most popular shopping engines around. To utilize it, you’ll need to use two platforms: Google’s Merchant Center and Google’s AdWords. In the Merchant center, you’ll manage all of your products. In your AdWords account, you’ll manage your Product Listing Ads (PLAs), set a daily budget and adjust bids.
Once submitted, your ads can be seen both in regular search results and on Google’s shopping site. Plus, Google Shopping is available in multiple countries such as the UK, Germany, France, Japan, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Brazil, Australia and Switzerland.

Easitill's back office system has an export function we have written to export your ecommerce data in a Google Feed format to be uploaded to your Google Merchant Centre account.


Pros of Google Product Listing Ads:


  • They have a 21% higher click-through rate than text ads
  • No minimum bids, making it ideal for those with smaller budgets
  • Free to include a marketing message, such as “Next Day Delivery”

Cons of Google Product Listing Ads:


  • Must manage two platforms (Merchant Center and AdWords) to run your shopping feeds
  • Strict guidelines on data quality leading up to account suspension
  • CPCs rates have increased by 53% compared to last year

Insider tips on Google Product Listing Ads:


  • Avoid watermarked images
  • Don’t use all uppercase product titles
  • Avoid using “free shipping” in your product descriptions


2. Amazon Product Ads (Paid)

You probably know that you can sell on Amazon via Amazon Marketplace. But did you know you can also advertise with Amazon Product Ads? These product ads are shown to Amazon’s 44 million customers each month in many places, including the Detail Page, Search and Browse, Tower Ads and Buy Box. To have your ads displayed, you have to set up a Seller Central account and have a daily budget and minimum bids.



Pros of Amazon Product Ads:


  • Allows products that can’t be listed in Amazon Marketplace
  • Provides suggested bids to help you bid wisely
  • Has an easy bidding system where the products are divided based on product categories, with three different price ranges in each category

Cons of Amazon Product Ads:


  • It’s one of the most costly sites to list your products, but it is also has high traffic and could be worth the cost for the right merchant.
  • No control over which categories your products are submitted to
  • Stricter content requirements than Amazon Marketplace
  • Automatically decides the type of ad placement: All or Targeted

Insider tip on Amazon Product Ads


  • Increase visibility and reach the most relevant customer by using up to five keywords that best describes each product
  • If you’re new to Amazon Product Ads, you can get £50 in free clicks by signing up


3. Nextag (Paid)

Nextag is popular for helping shoppers find great deals on products, event tickets, real estate, travel tickets and coupons. It gets 30 million unique visitors every month and is also available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Spain.

To list your ads on Nextag, you need a monthly budget and minimum bid for all categories. It also has three traffic-driving programs you can take advantage of: Display Rank, Merchant Logo and Marketing Message.


Pros of Nextag


  • You can collect reviews from customers once the sale is completed to increase credibility
  • ROI Optimizer helps easily track sales and conversion rates on the Nextag website
  • You can create complex shipping rules using the advanced interface

Cons of Nextag


  • Uses a bid ranking program to display products – the higher the bid, the better the position
  • Monthly budget is consumed faster. Products are displayed to qualified traffic in an accelerated manner instead of being spread across a day or month
  • Promotional marketing message costs anywhere from $0.05 to $0.10 based on the category

Insider tip on Nextag


  • Set Max CPC bids on your best selling products to beat your competition and get the highest rank possible


4. Shopping.com (Paid)

Shopping.com is part of the eBay commerce network and has 8 million online purchasers every month. You can advertise your products using targeted ad placements on Shopping.com and its partner websites such as  Bing. When you do, customers will see product details such as title, price, image and shipping details along with product reviews and ratings.
Shopping.com works on a monthly budget (minimum of £100 to get started) and offers free optimization tools such as an ROI Tracker and Survey Tool. In terms of your international reach, you can advertise in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Australia.



Pros of Shopping.com


  • You can see your competitors’ top bids
  • It works on a value-based pricing model – bids are adjusted based on the quality of traffic
  • Free ROI tracker provided to measure performance and conversions

Cons of Shopping.com


  • Automatic payment plan requires linking to PayPal account; no credit cards allowed
  • No product level bidding
  • No promotional marketing messages allowed

Insider tip on Shopping.com


  • Sign up with Google AdWords to get listed in the Shopping.com “Sponsored listings” section


5. Shopzilla (Paid)

Shopzilla, known for helping shoppers find unique retailers and sales, has over 100 million products listed and 20 million unique monthly visitors.  If you advertise on Shopzilla, be sure to have a monthly budget and minimum CPCs for various categories, and be aware that it rates businesses to help consumers make their purchasing decisions.
Being on Shopzilla also means you get featured in Bizrate and Beso.com, and can advertise products in the UK, France and Germany. Plus, you’ll be able to list your coupons for free at RobotOatmeal.com.



Pros of Shopzilla


  • You can bid at three levels: Category, Sub-category and Product level
  • It uses a smart pricing model where CPC is adjusted based on the traffic quality
  • You’re charged $0.01 more than the next highest bid in a given subcategory


Cons of Shopzilla


  • Products are categorized as “Catalog” and “Non-catalog” based on manufacturer SKU availability
  • A minimum bid of $4 is required for all products
  • Product ads are shown quickly and removed once the monthly spending cap has been reached


Insider tip on Shopzilla


  • Send images that are at least 200×200 pixels and less than 1000×1000 pixels


6. Pricegrabber (Paid)

Pricegrabber compares product prices and offers weekly specials, coupons and top searches, making it easy to boost your business’ visibility. It has 26 million active users, can be used by Canadian and UK-based businesses and, as an added bonus, has partnered with Yahoo! Shopping to show its listings.
To get started on Pricegrabber, you should have a monthly budget and minimum CPCs for your products. And fun fact: Pricegrabber allows you to specifically target Spanish-speaking customers.



Pros of Pricegrabber


  • No minimum bids
  • Offers three bidding source options: bid via feed import, bidding tool, CPC rate card value
  • Has a variety of media options to garner more attention: Banner Placements, Featured Merchant, Featured Products and Category Showcase


Cons of Pricegrabber


  • Ad Spend/Budget is consumed more rapidly since ads are shown in an accelerated manner to qualified traffic
  • No daily budget to control how much you spend in a day
  • Have to pay a minimum of £.10 to display your logo on your ad, in addition to a minimum ad spend of £500


Insider tip on Pricegrabber


  • Submit the same feed file as the one created for Google Shopping


7. TheFind (Free)

TheFind is a free comparison shopping engine that requires no advertising spend. It’s primarily a discovery shopping engine that has over 500 million products and 25 million visitors. In addition to submitting your products for free, you can also submit your products to TheFind by creating a Merchant account. Plus, they have an Upfront Merchant program which can help you gain more visibility and highlight your products in their results.
10csesthefind The Top 10 Comparison Shopping Engines for Ecommerce And How To Succeed On Each

Pros of TheFind


  • This engine is free, hence no bidding or budget
  • Accepts the same feed file as the one accepted by Google Merchant Center
  • Free to upgrade to be an Upfront Merchant


Cons of TheFind

  • TheFind has to crawl your website before displaying products on its site
  • ROI tracking is not provided
  • Reporting functionality isn’t available


Insider tip on TheFind


  • Send larger images to gain better placement


Although these CSEs are great for business, you’ll want to pick the ones that best suit your needs and budget. Before you start, be sure to research which products you’re allowed to advertise on each engine and its specific feed specification requirements.


5 Mar 2014

The e-commerce economy

According to a report from WorldPay, which is a UK based payment service provider, there has been a large increase globally of online transactions. It has been estimated that by 2017 59% of all online purchases will be made via alternative methods of payment as opposed to card payments.

Alternative payment methods include direct debits, e-wallets and mobile payments. E-wallets, such as PayPal, are becoming increasingly popular methods for buying products online as they are easy for customers to use.

The report showed that in the UK 78% of British customers use cards to pay for products and services with 16.2% using e-wallets. According to data from The British Retail Consortium the use of alternative payment methods in the UK more than doubled in 2012. This has mostly been driven by the growth of new ways to pay such as PayPal and online payments

It is really important for online retailers to keep up-to-date with the latest payment trends and make changes to the payment methods they accept accordingly.

E-tailers should work with a payment provider, which has a good knowledge of alternative payment methods, as all the signs point to this becoming an increasingly popular means for consumers to purchase goods online.

Our websites offer a choice of payment gateways for online retailers using SagePay, which also has the option of an integrated Paypal wallet, PayPoint with an option of integrated Paypal or WorldPay/Cardsave.

4 Mar 2014

Guide to Ecommerce Marketing from Easitill - Checklist

So you’re a long way into building your website and have your product catalogue data almost completed, or may have already completed this part of your website process and are now ready to go live...

Now let’s consider a fundamental key to making your website successful, Website Marketing!

There are 4 main ways to attract customers to your ecommerce site:

1.      Organic Search Traffic
2.      Paid Search/Advertising
3.      Email Campaigns
4.      Social Media

Here we have written a list of tasks to guide you through the various marketing activities you need to carry out to make your website succeed. 

Stage One – Set the foundations for launch:
1.      Submit your website to google for indexing - we will do this for you upon go live.
2.      Generate a sitemap for your website - this is a tick box on import. Submit it to google web master tools - again we can assist you with this.
3.      Create your new stores launch promotion - for example offer an introductory 10% off first orders to all new visitors to your site or a voucher code which offers free delivery on first 100 orders or something similar to drum up interest in your new site and launch.
4.      Get the message out on Facebook - Create a Facebook business page (if you haven’t already got one) and make sure you use this to drum up interest about your launch and launch promotion
5.      Use Email to promote your store's upcoming launch - Try signing up to MailChimp to create e-newsletter campaigns to send out to your databases including promotions, discounts or simply news. (Promotions and discounts obviously work best to drive traffic). You can send 12,000 emails a month to a list of up to 2,000 subscribers with MailChimp’s Forever Free plan, though a few features are only available to paying users.
6.      Don’t forget to promote your new website in store if you also have a bricks and mortar store and existing customer base. – Put the web address on till receipts, on the shop carrier bags, on posters in the store and shop windows, on your shop signs. Record your answerphone message with the website address.
7.      Track your visits – You can view how many visitors you are getting to your new site through Google Analytics Reporting. Again we can help set you up with this.

Stage Two – Help those new visitors convert to sales
  1. Show off you product with great images – also include multiple images as much as possible- The more photos you display for individual products, the better chance for persuading shoppers to buy. Remember this is the customers chance to fall in love with a product. Studies show product images receive nearly 1/3 of online shoppers’ viewing time. In fact, 67% of consumers rate image quality as 'very important' when deciding to purchase — even more important than product reviews and descriptions.
  2. Increase credibility of your website with an About Us page. - Who runs your business, when and why you started your business, what’s unique about your business compared to competitors.  If you’re an online business only or also have a physical store. Add photos & videos to keep things interesting.
  3.  Provide clear shipping & returns policies – Customers should know what to expect if they purchase from you. This includes how their concerns will be addressed if there’s an order problem or request a return. You can increase sales conversions by having clear shipping and returns procedures outlining:
a.      What are the time frames and limits for accepting a return?
b.      Do time frames and limits begin on the order day or when the order is received?
c.      What condition should the product be for a full refund? What about a partial refund? Is store credit an option?
d.      Who is responsible for postage in returns and exchanges?
e.      How can customers expect to receive your products?
f.       How will your customers be able to identify their shipments? Will it be in a generic box? Will it be clearly marked from with your company’s address and logo?
g.      Will delivery require a signature?
h.      Are your products perishable and require prompt attention upon delivery?
i.       You should let people know about when orders should be complete for next day deliveries and when orders should be placed for holiday deliveries, such as Christmas

4. Display clear contact details in case of problems or queries.

Stage Three – Start getting search traffic
1.      Write great product names/titles - Try to make your products the first thing shoppers notice. High quality product titles help this happen. Product titles also help with search engine rankings and make you stand out on shopping comparison websites, such as Google Shopping. By keeping to some simple guidelines, you can create good product titles:
a.      Keep your product titles descriptive, keyword-rich (so search engines find them) and unique
b.      Try for less than 70 characters (45 to 50 is ideal)
c.      Include product characteristics such as brand and colour
d.      Place important keywords at the front of the title
e.      Avoid placing your company name at the front
Example of Good product descriptions:
“Tommy Hilfiger Men's Golf Polo Shirt”
“Plaid Red Schwinn "Winwood" Beach Cruiser 3-Gear Bicycle”
Example of Bad product description:
“Golf Polo”
“Plaid Red Schwinn Beach Cruiser”
2.      Improve SEO with great product descriptions –
a.      Keep your descriptions unique.
Search engines don’t like duplicate content. If you've taken your content from a source such as your product manufacturer, always re-write the descriptions. This also helps you put a personal spin on your descriptions, separating you from competitors.
b.      Use keywords in your product description
Keywords in the product title should also appear in the description, especially in the first 160 characters.
c.      Use varied description lengths.
Vary the length of each article from 200 words on up to over 1000 words, with a general average of 400-500 words across all the articles. Varying the length of your articles makes it less obvious that you are 'stuffing' SEO content on your site.

Stage Four – Increase social traffic
1.      Engage people through Facebook - When people like your Facebook page, it's like they're starting a conversation with you. This conversation allows you to keep them up to date about your store and what's happening with it. But like in any conversation, you need to keep people engaged. Posting relevant content is the most important thing you can do to keep your audience interested. You want to post frequently enough to maintain a connection with your audience, but not so frequently that you lose engagement. To start, try posting every day, or every other day and see what works best for your business. Try sharing photos and videos, running events and promotions to attract people to your store. Don't be afraid to experiment, it's a great way to learn more about your shoppers. Those who have liked your page are interested in your store and what it sells. To start try posting interesting information about your industry, your store and your team.
2.      Find your stores voice on twitter - Tweeting store promotions, sales or exciting new products can quickly create buzz around your brand and increase store traffic. Use Twitter to follow competitors and learn what makes them successful. Keep an eye on what generates the most interest and the type of people engaging in conversations.
3.      Ensure you link from your website to your twitter and facebook profiles.
4.      Try Pinterest – Pinterest is a visual, online pinboard for social bookmarking where 25% of visitors purchase from the pins. 75% of brand engagement on Pinterest is generated by users not brands. Interact with you customers through real life product usage and ideas.

Stage Five – Email Marketing Campaigns
1.      Speed up your email marketing with MailChimp - As your business grows it can become difficult to manage email campaigns from your personal email. Using a free or low-cost email application like MailChimp will make the process easier and save you time. Email campaigns are a powerful tool to quickly increase store traffic and sales. Here are some tips for creating effective email campaigns:
a.      Create professional emails. Applications like MailChimp help you quickly create high quality emails that make your store appear professional and reliable. You can also create newsletters and promotion templates to reuse in future campaigns.
b.      Schedule & manage multiple campaigns. As your business grows you can keep track of different marketing campaigns you're running and various email lists, such as people who have bought from you and people who signed up to your newsletter.
c.      Analyse your email statistics. Track statistics such as the number of people who opened your emails, clicked specific links and visited your store. These help you measure the campaign’s success and plan future campaigns.
2.      Get your newsletter going - When shoppers do things like sign up for your newsletter or purchase a product, you can automatically add their email to different lists. You can then email people on these lists about new products, deals etc. Over time this source of traffic can provide your store with a regular source of revenue. Here's a few other benefits of email marketing.
a.      Prequalified curiosity. Shoppers signing up for newsletters are showing they're interested in what you sell and are more open to purchasing. Those who have purchased from you already even more so.
b.      Email marketing pays for itself. Starting out will cost you nothing as smaller campaigns (<12 are="" campaigns="" can="" emails="" free="" give="" investment="" larger="" mailchimp="" month="" o:p="" of="" on="" per="" return="" returns="" spent.="" while="" with="">

c.      Email is viral, mobile - People forward on interesting emails, potentially increasing your audience. Also, given that 8 out of 10 people open emails on a daily basis your subscribers are very likely to see your emails.
3.      Create your first newsletter.

Stage Six – Showcase your products in other online places

1.      Get an industry influencer to promote your store – build up a relationship with bloggers and industry influences who talk about products within market, particularly those with large followings. Build a relationship with them by retweeting their content, replying to their questions and engaging them in conversation. If you are tweeting interesting content then you are more likely for them to follow you. Once you have a relationship with them ask them to review and write about your products and link back to your store. Run promotions in conjunction with them such as a competition or giveaway of some goodies from your shop.
2.      Get traffic from shopping comparison sites – Submit your products to sites such as Google Shopping. Easitill can help you create and upload a data feed of your products. Please note however that Google Shopping is now a paid for service in conjunction with Google Adwords.
3.      Price competitively for more sales - Competitive pricing can be the difference between a shopper ordering from you or another store. Monitor your competitors pricing and price competitively. WisePricer is a tool that can also help in this monitoring but costs $500 per month for subscription to use their comparison tools.

Stage Seven – Get more people buying with key conversion tactics
1.      Make buying easier with a mobile friendly version of the website – This is an optional extra which can be purchased separately from Easitill.
2.      Enable & Encourage customer reviews
3.      Build trust by showing your website is secure – display the payment gateway logos and explanation on secure.

Stage Eight – Use advertising to attract more shoppers
1.      Drive traffic with Google Adwords

Stage Nine – Turn marketing into a regular activity
1.      Schedule daily/48 hourly social media activity
2.      Schedule weekly/fortnightly email marketing activity


Keep up the great work!
The Easitill Web Team