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