Optimising your ecommerce store for the mobile-first index

In March 2018, after a long digital drumroll of anticipation, Google announced that it was rolling out mobile-first indexing. What does this mean for your SEO? In short, if your ecommerce site isn’t optimised for mobile, you’re losing out on a huge source of traffic. Source: Google After much research into the way people are now interacting with search engines, the conclusion is that there has been a marked shift towards mobile. In typical Google fashion, what searchers want, searchers get. So, it was decided that mobile would be a top priority. But how dramatic has this turn towards mobile been? The answer is definitely substantial enough to warrant this new shift in Google’s priorities. According to this Statista report, in 2018, 52.2% of all web traffic comes through mobile channels. While that is indeed significant, it is not the most telling fact about the current state of mobile traffic. What is even more noteworthy is the steady pace with which this form of traffic is increasing. The same Statista study shows a rise from 50.3% the year before, which built on 35.1% in 2015. This is not a trend which is fly-by-night. As you already know, when it comes to eCommerce, the success of your business depends on keeping up with search engine best practices and ranking criteria. These best practices can help you boost your ecommerce search traffic. With this in mind, you simply cannot afford to ignore mobile-first. Before I tell you how to adopt this for your eCommerce store, it’s necessary to explore what mobile-first indexing entails. Let’s dive in. What is mobile-first indexing? In a nutshell, mobile-first indexing refers to a method of search engine ranking that makes use of the mobile version of websites to organize SERP items. Google looks for relevant data to decide how best to answer the questions their searchers are asking. If the army of crawling bots find relevant information on your site, you may be moved up the ranks. In the past, Google rankings were based on desktop versions of websites. With mobile-first, the move is towards crawling and indexing mobile sites, rather than their desktop companions. This means that websites must be responsive and suitable for use on mobile, or mobile versions must have the same comprehensive content as the desktop. If you are breaking into a cold sweat as the realisation dawns that all your SEO efforts have been concentrated on your desktop site, take a deep breath. As Google has said, the move is gradual, and will not happen without notification in the Search Console. If they deem your site ready for the move over to mobile-first indexing, you will receive the following notification: Source: Google It’s important to note at this point that the Mobile-first index is not a separate index. Google continues to only have one index, as it always has. The shift means that the mobile version of websites will be prioritised, rather than being a move towards an additional type of indexing system. But how can you optimise for this change? 3 key steps to mobile optimisation 1. Switch to one responsive website As Littledata recently outlined on this blog, moving to responsive web design can be a very good move. What is this responsive design I speak of? Quite simply, it refers to web design that works well across a range of platforms. It prioritises user experience to ensure that the person interacting with your site is able to navigate it with ease, regardless of which device they use. A major perk of this is that whomever is in charge of the upkeep of your store does not have to monitor two (or more) different versions of your site. They have one site to take care of which will, if intelligently-constructed, work for an optimal user experience. If you do prefer to keep things separate, make sure that you pay attention to the mobile version of your site, rather than it merely acting as a subsidiary of your desktop site. As we will look at in step 3, it’s not a given that your SEO efforts will migrate over to the mobile version without some cognisant intervention on your part. 2. Get speedy Hopefully, page loading speed has already been a major priority when it comes to your SEO efforts. Sales in the eCommerce sphere are highly dependent on being able to keep your shoppers engaged and open for conversion to a sale. If your page does not load quickly enough, your customers will not stick around. Note: Check out these case studies on HubSpot for examples of how the speed of your site can affect your profit margins. When it comes to mobile-first however, page load speed is even more integral to your success. It is most certainly a top priority for Google in terms of how they allocated their ranking positions, and should be for you too. Luckily, there are numerous methods to both test and increase your page load speed: Start by looking at what Google’s very own Search Console has to offer. Through their Webmaster Lab Tools, you’ll quickly be able to see how well your site is performing and whether you need to step up your game. Third party tools such as Think With Google can be excellent accompaniments to other Google Analytics tools when it comes to deciphering how your site is faring. Ensure that your web design is not slowing down your whole operation. If you don’t have the technical knowhow yourself, get a developer to run an audit to see if your server speed, content configuration, or baseline coding is placing any obstacles between your users and an instantly-loading page. 3. Ensure your SEO tactics are still powerful If you have spent a lot of time and energy ensuring that your desktop site is fully ”SEOd”, make sure that your efforts carry over into the mobile iteration of your eCommerce store. Here’s a very brief checklist: Is all that beautiful content you created crawlable in the mobile version of your site? Those titles and descriptions that you put so much effort into? Make sure all your metadata carries over! Is the mobile version of your site verified with Google’s Search Console? Some final tips As an eCommerce shop owner, your concerns are not only getting customers to your site, but ultimately converting them. When it comes to mobile, there are specific trends that CROs are highlighting when it comes to transforming your customers into paying ones. In this comprehensive analysis by Shopify, they take an in-depth look at a study done by inflow on Mobile Conversion Optimization Features used in Best-In-Class Retailers. What is particularly useful in this report is what they refer to as a don’t and a do in terms of what is currently leading to optimal conversion rates for eCommerce business owners. As a parting gift, I’d like to share these two insights with you as ways to bolster your own efforts. In summary: Say no to hero slider images. In-depth research into mobile conversion rates has illustrated that customers are less than moved by them. Usher in the age of the top navigation menu. A relatively unused feature in the eCommerce world, all the data is pointing towards its efficacy in terms of mobile conversion rates. The takeway... Point 1: Don’t panic. Google will notify you if they’re switching you over, and will prioritise sites they deem more ready. Point 2: Start thinking with an on-the-go mindset. Make sure your store’s UX for mobile is as streamlined as possible. Make sure that your SEO efforts have carried over. Point 3: Don’t stop at optimising your mobile site for traffic - optimise for conversions too. Understand what will compel mobile customers to a sale. Good luck!   This is a guest post by Charlie Carpenter. He is the co-founder and CEO of Kite. He is a mobile advocate with over ten years of industry experience. After working for large and small agencies for many years, he co-founded Kite; a software solution for print-on-demand, zero inventory merchandise, and personalised photo print goods. As well as an entrepreneur, Charlie is a seasoned product strategist with experience of various types of digital projects which include: Responsive and Adaptive Websites, Mobile & Tablet Apps, Hybrid Apps, Cross Platform App development. You can connect with Charlie on LinkedIn, and follow him on Twitter.

2018-12-05

Web design fails to avoid for ecommerce success

Your website is an essential tool for attracting and converting customers. Driven by the uptake in online shopping, having a well-designed ecommerce site is no longer a luxury. It’s now a necessity -- you need to regularly convert browsers into buyers. Web design has the power to really grab your customers attention and portray your messaging. But when it goes wrong, the customers you lose will rarely come back. In this post I take a look at common web design fails that drive customers away, so you can avoid them. They may be common mistakes, but they're often overlooked! Fail #1: The CMS, plugins and theme are outdated You don’t need to modernize your website every day, or even every week, but you do need to make sure it doesn’t feel outdated. That means you should regularly update your website theme, your plugins and your content. Updating your theme and plugins will ensure you have the latest features and boost your security, while regularly updating your content will improve your SEO ranking and make your website more interesting for repeat visitors. Fail #2: Your website is not mobile responsive Over 50% of online traffic is from mobile phones and tablets, so having a website that properly displays itself on those devices is essential. If your website is non-responsive, you’ll be missing out on a massive amount of potential business. Below is the website Dribble, a powerful example of a responsive website (here's a big list of mobile-responsibe web design done well). Plus, your SEO will suffer and it makes your business look unprofessional. Common issues with non-responsive websites are text being displayed too small to read, irregular formatting, un-clickable links and images not loading. How many of your customers are shopping on mobile? Where are they falling out of the checkout funnel? Use this tool to find out. Fail #3: Stock photos and generic content Building customer loyalty and trust -- both of which are vital for repeat business -- begins with establishing credibility and authenticity. Nobody wants to read the same blog they have already read 50 times on your website, or look at stock photos they have seen on other brands websites. Good writing should be original, punchy and relevant to your target audience. And copy should be matched with credible, original imagery. Stock photos are easy to spot a mile off. Using original imagery significantly helps to build a website design that stands out and wins customer trust. Fail #4: It’s slow and your bounce rate is high Speed matters. If your website loads too slowly, you can say goodbye to the impatient modern-day consumer and watch your bounce rates rise. First impressions of a website are made immediately, so if your website takes more than a few seconds to load, your content and design won’t be given the chance to see the light of day. Make sure your images are compressed, limit the amount of videos and animations published within, make sure your hosting provider can handle fluctuating amounts of traffic, and disable any plugins you aren’t actually using. Then make sure to check your speed and performance rates against other sites. Benchmarking is the most accurate way to do this, so you can see how you compare to similar sites in your industry. Fail #5: Your site is unbranded and doesn’t stand out The minute a possible customer comes to your website, they should know exactly whose website they are on. Having a nicely designed logo is, therefore, critical for making a good first impression and improving brand awareness. And best of all, it’s really easy to do. Online tools are readily available to create stunning high-resolution logos in second, such as Shopify’s logo maker. Fail #6: Face it, your site's just not that interesting There is nothing worse than going on to a website and finding it incredibly boring. Content needs to compliment design, so it’s vital you have interesting content throughout to keep your customers engaged and coming back for more. Using banners, photos and graphics, along with authentic and interesting copy is the right way to grab your customers’ attention and encourage them to make a purchase or opt-in via a form. Fail #7: It’s not made for converting If your website doesn’t have clear calls to action (CTAs), then it’s not going to have good conversion rates. Plain and simple. This 'fail' can easily be eradicated by using smart opt-in offers, having clear navigation menus ('nav menus' in designer jargon), and writing relevant, targeted content. Evernote use an excellent CTA.   Without a clear CTA, how are your customers meant to know what you want them to do? Simply put, they won’t - they will leave. Every page (including your blog posts) should have a clear CTA to guide your online visitors down the buyer journey. Fail #8: It’s not optimized for SEO Optimizing each aspect of your website begins with understanding what works well and what doesn’t. The only way of doing this accurately is by using analytics to get deeper insights into how your potential buyers are using your site. You’ll be able to see which pages perform well, which keywords attract the best traffic (SEO is an area that you should be continually optimizing), which promotions work best, and which images resonate with your customers the most. As search engines become smarter, continually optimizing for SEO is an excellent way to get a clearer view of what's working and clarify anything that isn't clear. Then you'll be on the road to becoming an SEO-driven business - an easy way to improve revenue. Fail #9: It’s cluttered and noisy If your website is too cluttered, it will create a bad customer experience for any visitor. It will also distract potential buyers away from doing what you want them to do, such as making a purchase, filling out a form or requesting more information via chat. Don’t make the mistake of cramming too much into each page, or filling your web pages with in-your-face advertising. Your website should be easy to navigate, simple and concise. Customers should be able to convert with minimal effort. Conclusion The bottom line: if your ecommerce site has many design fails that impact the user experience, your company may lose out on potential profits. Use the tactics mentioned in this article to get started on improving the design of your website today!   Michelle Deery is the content writer for Heroic Search, a digital marketing agency based in Tulsa. She specializes in writing about eCommerce and loves writing persuasive copy that both sells and educates readers.

2018-10-01

Should you outsource your ecommerce operations?

After you've created an ecommerce startup, the initial goals are all about recovering costs and expenses. As soon as the profit margins rise and you've broken even, you face some big decisions that will decide the growth of your online business. First of all, should you start outsourcing? Because many first-time entrepreneurs think it's more cost-effective to do everything on their own, it is a common mistake to pass on hiring freelancers. In this post I’ll highlight the core benefits of outsourcing your ecommerce operations. Focus & growth There are many aspects to promoting your product, and ecommerce operations is an integral component of your company's growth. By outsourcing your ecommerce operations, you have the time to focus on the goals and growth of your company. When hiring a freelancer from a reputable marketplace such as FreeeUp.com, your contract will protect both parties. The roles are clearly defined and you get expert advice in key areas. Your time is valuable, and when you free up your days to re-focus on growing sales, the sky is the limit. Short-term & long-term options First of all, this isn't an all-or-nothing decision. Hiring freelancers can be short-term or long-term depending on the needs of your business. By delegating specific tasks to various experts, your business has the opportunity to grow and flourish as you originally intended. You also have the unique opportunity to scale as needed without the commitments that traditional employment requires. And experts are exactly that - experts! Why reinvent the wheel? The need for a skillset As your company grows, your knowledge grows. Creating an ecommerce startup has a steep learning curve, however, and outsourcing for expert advice makes a lot of sense. Coaching a freelancer is not required as they are already specialized in their skillset. By hiring freelancers, your business can grow outside of your core expertise. For instance, why spend time learning about optimizing landing pages for conversions when you can just hire an Optimizely expert? Furthermore, professionalism is a must when running a business. Your company will gain a professional profile with experts at your side. Until you've gained the expertise, winging it is just bad business. If you've spent countless hours (or possibly weeks) researching ecommerce operating skills, it is time to consider hiring outside of your skillset. Freelancers are highly knowledgeable in their specific niches, and outsourcing your ecommerce operations (and other important roles such as social media and marketing), will benefit your business. Working at full capacity Being more efficient with your time is a smart business decision. When you're stretched too thin or feeling overwhelmed with all the tasks of the company, hiring a freelancer is a no-brainer. Avoiding business burnout is key. As the owner/founder/boss (and probably CMO/CEO to boot), your business needs you to be working at full capacity. Making a list of the tasks that need to be completed is a smart business move. The next step is to start outsourcing as needed. You can learn from these experts and expand your business while optimising your time in the areas you already know -- while maintaining a clear overview of your ecommerce site. Excellent customer service (doesn't necessarily start with you) There's no question that customer service is a key component for the success of your business. Platforms like Shopify have emphasized this to their merchants to help them grow. Today's consumers are demanding, and catering to your customers’ needs can quickly take all your time and energy. Remaining professional requires focus and support, which is why hiring freelancers to maintain exceptional customer service is a key component to the growth of your company. Upgrades & maintenance Ultimately, the goal is to keep everything running smoothly. When you regularly hit profit margins and your goals are being met, upgrades and maintenance will be an ongoing issue. You might want to expand your server capacity due to increased traffic, for instance, or revamp your blog. It's no surprise that the top benchmarks for growing a Shopify store include page load speeds and server response time. Even though upgrades and maintenance to support growth are positive issues, it can be time-consuming to keep everything afloat. Moreover, once you meet your goals, you’ll want to expand. Hiring freelancers allows you to make sure that everything runs smoothly as you venture out into new areas or even new businesses. The bottom line is that one person cannot do it all. Outsourcing for various skillsets will make a world of difference for your company -- and your peace of mind. Start outsourcing your ecommerce operations The benefits of outsourcing your ecommerce operations to freelancers are countless. By outsourcing your ecommerce operations, you free up valuable time to remain focused and goal-oriented. Your business started from passion -- it is important to maintain that vision and hire freelancers to help meet your targets and objectives.   This is a guest post by Connor Gillivan, CMO and co-owner of FreeeUp, a rapidly growing freelance marketplace making hiring online simpler (check out their info on hiring for ecommerce). He has sold over $30 million online and hired hundreds of freelancers himself to build his companies.

2018-08-30

10 possible reasons Facebook disapproved your ads

It happens. Every now and then, Facebook disapproves ads when they violate the platform’s terms and conditions in some way. When this happens, you, of course, want to know exactly why so you can avoid ad disapproval going forward or make appropriate adjustments to a recently disapproved ad. It’s how we learn. Most ecommerce sites have a huge Facebook presence for both branding and sales. Whether you're selling directly through Facebook with BigCommerce and advertising for those products, or running FB ads for a Shopify plus store or any other kind of website, here are 10 possible reasons Facebook disapproved your ad. This article will describe each reason in detail to help you determine why Facebook rejected the proposed ad, and how you can avoid these issues going forward. Reason #1: A non-functioning landing page There’s nothing more frustrating than clicking on an ad only to be directed to a web page that doesn’t function. How annoying would it be if you can’t click on the “Contact Us” tab because the tab wasn’t linked to the right web page? How frustrating would it be if a video in the landing page wouldn’t play? If your ad leads users to a non-functioning landing page containing poor navigation or broken links, Facebook will disapprove your ad. To prevent a non-functioning landing page, you or your web developer should conduct a thorough examination of the landing page to ensure it’s easy to navigate and to ensure it contains no broken links. Reason #2: A landing page that doesn’t match the ad content More commonly known as clickbait, ads promoting content that doesn’t match the landing page violate Facebook’s advertising policies. Clickbait is deceptive, promising users one thing but then giving them something completely different and unexpected. Facebook is especially cracking down on clickbait ads in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the prominence of “fake news.” To avoid disapproval because of clickbait, make sure your ad content accurately indicates what users will see on the landing page. If you're having trouble figuring out which ads to run, try creating user personas to understand your customers, then create and optimise ads based on those personas. Are you advertising to the right buyer personas? Reason #3: Inappropriate or offensive ad content Ads that contain profanity, sexual innuendo and discrimination are considered inappropriate or offensive and will be disapproved. Since the earliest age a user can join Facebook is 13, the network strives to foster a family friendly environment that everyone can enjoy. If your ad contains inappropriate or offensive content, consider altering the ad and the angle you want to take to deliver your message. Reason #4: Content encouraging illegal or unethical behavior Facebook is not the platform for you if your message involves promoting illegal or unethical behavior, for example, promoting spy and malware products. As previously mentioned, Facebook is focused on family friendly experiences. Ads that promote negative behaviors will be disapproved without a second thought. Reason #5: Third-party infringement Whether intentional or unintentional, sometimes ads infringe or violate a third-party’s copyright or trademark. If it does, and Facebook disapproves it as a result, you may only be required to make a slight alteration. For instance, if your ad contains a copyrighted photo, you may only need to change the photo. To avoid third-party infringement, create original content for all of your ads rather than taking, for example, an image for your ad from a stock-photo site. In addition to complying with Facebook’s policies, doing so will also make your ads unique to your brand. Reason #6: Misleading or false content Content that is false or misleading will not be tolerated, as it qualifies as “fake news.” It may be tempting to make claims about products or services that are untrue in order to build interest. But authenticity and truthfulness are essential for establishing trust and credibility with your customers. Make sure there is nothing in your ad’s text or creative that is misleading or false. For example, if your ad has the title “Kim Kardashian reveals her fitness secret,” but takes users to a landing page that only contains promotions for weight loss pills with no mention of Kim Kardashian or her fitness secret anywhere, this ad would be disapproved. Reason #7: Prohibited products or services Facebook’s Advertising Policies list all of the products or services it prohibits. Prohibited items and services include: • Surveillance equipment • Payday loans • Counterfeit documents • Tobacco • Unsafe supplements • Adult content, products, or services • Weapons • Marijuana If your business revolves around selling or promoting any products or services from this list, Facebook advertising is not for you. Reason #8: Low-quality or disruptive content If your ad contains slow loading pages, broken links, or poor grammar, Facebook will disapprove it. Yes, poor grammar is truly a reason for ad-rejection! Facebook has a standard it tries to maintain across the platform, and a big part of maintaining that standard includes putting out high-quality ads. To avoid submitting low-quality or disruptive ads, carefully review your content to make sure it looks polished and professional, as well as provides a seamless experience with no disruption. Reason #9: Disruptive animation that plays automatically Video ads that play automatically, taking away a user’s decision to click or not to click, are disruptive to the user experience. Soundless video ads that play automatically are acceptable if the quality is exceptional. But flashing animations or loud and obnoxious ads are not conducive to Facebook’s standards of quality and will be disapproved. Reason #10: Controversial content for commercial purposes This reason is especially important in light of the recent focus on misuse of the Facebook platform in political sectors. In one instance, Russian troll accounts distributed politically divisive ads, and in another, the Cambridge Analytica data firm deceptively collected information from over 80 million profiles to deliver manipulated messages during the 2016 US Presidential Election. In response, Facebook is not pulling any punches for controversial ad content. Ads highlighting issues like abortion or gun control for financial gain will be disapproved. What to do if your ad is disapproved Luckily, Facebook recognizes that no one is perfect and offers you two options if your ad is disapproved. Option 1: Edit your ad. Option 2: Appeal Facebook’s disapproval decision. There are three steps to Option 1: Step 1: Read the email your advertising account received when your ad was disapproved. Step 2: Edit your ad per the instructions in the email. For instance, you may be required to edit your ad’s text, images, or call-to-action. Step 3: Save your changes and resubmit your ad. If you choose option two, you can complete an Appeal a Decision form. By doing so, you’re requesting that Facebook review your ad once again to consider the possibility that a mistake was made in the decision to disapprove your ad. This option is appropriate if it isn’t entirely clear whether Facebook’s justification for disapproving your ad matches its Advertising Policies. Mistakes are an opportunity to learn. If your Facebook ad gets disapproved, simply use it as a growing experience and you will succeed.   This is a guest post by Anna Hubbel, staff writer at AdvertertiseMint, a Facebook advertising company. Hubbel writes on various topics, including social media, digital advertising, and current events.

2018-07-17

Abandoned cart email tactics that actually work (with steps and examples)

The number one reason for shopping cart abandonment is that online shoppers are simply not ready to complete the purchase yet. That’s something marketers have little control over. However, there is one thing you can control: the smart use of abandoned cart email flows. The average rate for documented shopping cart abandonment in 2017 is as high as 69.23%. But adjusting for technical performance and improving the checkout funnel can increase conversions for 35.26%. That’s $260 Billion worth of recoverable profit with through check-out optimization and better follow-up emails! No ecommerce owner wants to face cart abandonment. The customer has been so close to making a purchase, yet for some reason, your chance for profit slipped through your fingers. Don't worry though, the loss isn't final yet, because with the help of sales recovery tactics using email marketing automation software, you can win your customers back. SaleCycle reports that around 31% clicked abandoned cart emails proceed to finish their purchases. The series of emails after cart abandonment is substantial because some clients leave their carts unintentionally. Reasons like site time-out, complicated check-out, or a website crash may have interrupted their purchase. Here are the top three email strategies to win back abandoned carts! 1. Set up the right abandoned cart email sequence The right email sequence triggered at just the right time makes a tremendous amount of difference. Marketo recommends a series of three emails scheduled as follows. I've included some actual email examples to help illustrate the points. Send the first email within an hour of cart abandonment You have to drive your clients to continue with the purchase before they leave their computers. The first email aims to address technical glitches. Don’t sound pushy, just aim to help the client just in case the abandonment is not intentional. Below is an example of a gentle reminder for the first email. Send the second email after one day This time, you have to create a sense of urgency. The cart abandonment email below by Grove informs the client that the cart will expire soon. You may also talk about fleeting discounts or stock availability. And send the final email after 48 hours This is your last chance to win your client back so give it your best shot. You can give incentives like free shipping, bonus items or an additional discount. Here's an example of a final abandoned shopping cart email that works extremely well. It comes from the ecommerce site for Aéropostale. 2. Use catchy, personable email copy Your success in re-directing your clients to the shopping cart starts at a smart subject line. It will dictate if your client clicks on your email. So, craft subject lines that drive receivers to click on. One example is this email subject line by Helm Boots: These will look great on you The words strike empathy and curiosity. It gives a sense of compliment which will compel the receiver to click on. Not so different from what a friend would tell you in real life while actually shopping in a store!   Appeal to your clients through creative wordings and graphics. It helps to know your buyer personas so that your copy will be more fitting. Use words that your clients can easily relate too. Humor is also a great way to spice up your content. The email below by Chubbies is clever, cool, and compelling. The visuals and wordings charm their target customers who are carefree and adventurous. 3. Use multiple, eye-catching buttons and links The email above by Chubbies also aced this up. It has three active links that direct the client back to the cart. The title, the main image, and the CTA button at the end of the copy are all clickable. Notice also that all the clickable elements stand-out from the rest of the copy. This makes it easier for your client to notice and click on your CTAs. The button below is cleverly worded. It has a distinct color and size you can’t miss. The copy further explains which elements are clickable in a friendly way. The CTA button is already clear but the added explanation guides the clients on the next steps and avoids confusion. Conclusion: Even before you start these top three tactics to get your customers back, you need the data to know which of your customers have abandoned their carts. Data analytics and triggers do this for you. They provide the information as to whom and when abandoned carts happen. The first step in solving your marketing problems is to identify what the problems are. Data analytics and triggers help you identify these glitches so you’ll know what to do next. After you have accurate data about who’s abandoned their carts, set up an email marketing automation software to automatically send your email series through behavioral triggers like shopping cart abandonment. Then drill down into analytics about every ecommerce checkout step to see where you can improve. With the correct data, effective automation software, perfectly timed emails, topnotch copy, and striking CTAs, you can leverage your losses into profits. You can gain back a part of the $260 Billion worth of recoverable earnings - and start to increase your add-to-cart rate too!   This is a guest post by Kimberly Maceda, a Content Writer for ActiveTrail. Kimberly writes for some top online marketing sites and blogging advice on email marketing and marketing automation. Activetrail is a leading provider of professional-grade email marketing and automation software for growing businesses.

2018-06-21

Tips and tricks for transitioning your physical business online

Transitioning your physical business online is a good choice in the modern age of digital business. It’s all about the internet and selling online. Customers aren’t shopping in brick and mortar businesses as much as they did years ago, and it’s obvious the trend is going digital. But where should you start? In 2017, over 40% of shoppers in the US shopped online several times per month according to Statistia. That’s a big percentage, and it’s only going up! You need the best tips and tricks to stay competitive if you’re transitioning your physical business online. Here’s a guide to smoothly making your transition from in-person business to online business. Choose the right selling platform Your first step when searching for the perfect way to sell online is finding the right platform. You have two main options: sell on an existing platform or create your own. Examples of existing platforms include Etsy and eBay which already have a customer base. While it’s easier to find new customers on these existing platforms, you also lose some control when selling with them. If you do choose to build your own website, there are a lot of tools for easily integrating selling on your website. Shopify is the most common platform for e-commerce and it’s easy to get started with. It's easy to modify to fit your brand and products, and everything just works, right out of the box. Your customers don’t have a lot of time to search your website for exactly what they’re looking for. The easier your website is to navigate, the more customers you’ll convert! That said, the choice for the best ecommerce platform often comes down to Shopify vs Magento. Find a good merchant account With your selling platform comes your merchant account. This is how you’ll process payments through your website, and it can make or break the user experience. Your merchant account is one of the most important aspects of e-commerce reported ExpertSure. When choosing a merchant account, less is more. One of the biggest problems facing online sellers is abandoned carts. You can cut down on this number of people leaving before entering their credit card info by making it as quick and simple as possible to checkout on your website. If you master these basics of building an online store on a platform like Shopify, your transition to online will be as smooth as possible! Did you know that you can even use the Shopify POS for selling offline as well? Be active on social media - but not overly salesy Now that you’ve chosen the right selling platform, it’s time to take your online presence to social media. Social media is to business today what print ads were to businesses 20 years ago. Social media has a lot of power today. According to WordSteam, over 60% of Americans are active on Facebook! If you want to make a splash with your marketing, you need to be on social media. As an e-commerce business, you might think you should be selling on social media. This isn't’ the case! Instead, focus on building relationships with your audience. Create valuable content that your users actually will want to share, and you’ll convert more users into buyers! As as an online business, social media is your first line of interaction with your audience. Why move your business online? In today's market, everything is online. It’s not enough to have a brick and mortar store. People want to be able to shop 24/7 and without worrying about holidays or store hours. An online business never takes days off. It doesn’t have to hire a store clerk or a cashier. There’s a lot of upfront work when setting up the website, but once you’ve established the right platform it’s smooth sailing as long as you have the right marketing strategy with free analytics tools to make sure you're tracking sales, marketing and e-commerce checkout steps. You might need to outsource your online marketing work, and with a good reason. This free Google AdWords PPC wasted spend calculator tool by Fang Marketing shows just how much of your marketing budget you can waste away by putting it to a bad use. As you transition online, you cannot afford such wasting, so it’s a smart choice to actually find a professional to help you target buyer personas and increase ROI (Return on Investment) for those campaigns. For example, using buyer personas to adjust Facebook Ads is an art...and a science! One more reason is having your stuff out of the office and working online as a way of taking down the overhead costs. Sure, some may decide to still go to a coworking space like Spacious or WeWork, but those costs won’t come near the downtown shop with office space for all employees. Just keep in mind that some cities may observe local holidays and you should make sure to find a strategy to keep your shop open without breaking any labor laws." Succeed in the digital age It’s not enough anymore to just set up your shop online and expect to see growth! E-commerce today is all about listening to users and connecting with your audience online. It’s easier than ever to transition your business online, but once you’re there you need the right strategy to get seen. Follow these tips above to create a strategy that works today and beyond! Have you had a unique experience bring your brick-and-mortar store online? Do you have tips for other old-school stores looking for the best route to ecommere success? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.   This is a guest post by Ashley Lipman, outreach manager at Expertsure.

2018-05-30

Are niche stores the future of ecommerce?

Ecommerce blogs were once full of the stories of retailers who had built a thriving ecommerce business sitting on a beach in Thailand while doing as little work as possible. Their business model wasn’t complex: they bought cheap goods from suppliers in developing nations, dropshipped them to US and European consumers with a substantial markup, and lived off the profit. If you’re unusually smart and lucky, it’s still possible to find success walking this path, and you will have little trouble finding ecommerce bloggers happy to sell you the secret to their success (and a large dose of snake oil to wash it down with). But for today’s hopeful new ecommerce merchant, that path doesn’t lead anywhere worth going. As the ecommerce market matured, the low-hanging fruit was picked. In 2017, the most successful small ecommerce retailers are focused on niches they understand well and can build a rapport with. The suppliers relied on by the dropshippers of old got wise. They don’t need small ecommerce merchants to act as the middle-man when it’s just as easy to sell online themselves. There are suppliers who don’t want to be involved in the retail end of the business, but those are generally wholesalers who only sell in quantities that smaller retailers can’t afford. As Commerce Notebook’s Brian Krogsgard puts it: Yesterday’s dropshipping gold rush is today’s dropshipping myth factory. You should be prepared for the realities of dropshipping today in a highly competitive environment, and know that it’s not as easy as some of the stories you’ve heard. Plus, if all your store does is attempt to replicate a tiny subset of Amazon, you’re onto a losing proposition. You can’t beat Amazon at its own game. And yet, small ecommerce merchants continue to thrive. How? By doing what the Everything Store cannot: providing excellent service to a niche market whose needs they understand. I’ve seen dozens of smaller ecommerce businesses flourish by focusing with single-minded determination on a niche audience. Why niche ecommerce works Niche ecommerce works because it’s all-encompassing. Every aspect of these sites fits their particular specialism, including the passions of the target audience. When building user personas for your site, the better you know your audience, the more effective those personas will be when running PPC campaigns, improving SEO and optimising product listings! Branding, communication, product, design, service: everything is calculated to appeal to a specific and clearly identified group of people. Groups that are large and diverse enough to be worth selling to while possessing a sliver of a common identity. One of my favorite examples of this phenomenon is Dolls Kill, a fashion retailer that sidesteps the norms of the fashion industry to appeal to a clearly articulated individualism. The online store calls for shoppers to ‘navigate through the site and unleash your inner riot girl’, and they even have a brick-and-mortar pop-up shop in San Francisco right now. Towards the more mainstream end of the spectrum, Grovemade manufactures and sells wooden furniture and other products. Its branding focuses on design, craftsmanship, and the quality of its materials, with content that tells the story of each product’s genesis, from concept, to design, to manufacture. Although different in tone, audience, and product, these retailers are similar in one way: each understands the values, lifestyles, and needs of a niche market. They unapologetically sell products and build a brand that appeals to that audience. Their customers get the products they desire, but more than that, they buy from a retailer that projects an authentic image in-line with their ideal identity. What’s next for niche ecommerce? The future of ecommerce might be in a combination of these worlds, the old and the new, the big and the small. On one hand we have niche sites that combine next-gen dropshipping with the power of a platform like Shopify, WooCommerce or Magento that make it easy to scale -- as long as you choose the best reporting tools to understand revenue and customers. Littledata’s ecommerce analytics app is particularly useful for Shopify and Magento stores that want to find the right buyer personas to sell to, and to connect that marketing directly to revenue. On the other we have larger stores like MADE.com and Figleaves in the UK. These online stores are now household names, but they became that way by building best-in-class customer support teams and online customer communities with specialised, personalised tools. Two standout examples are MADE’s Unboxed customer community, where shoppers share design pics, and Figleaves’ My Perfect Fit tool, where shoppers can find their perfect lingerie fit. MADE’s story is especially worth noting because they created a niche based on the story of how their business operates, cutting out the middleman and selling directly from designers to consumers. Once they found this niche, they scaled using data-driven decisions that lead to radical increases in yearly revenue. That’s the deal with niche selling: no two stores are ever the same, but your chances for success increase many fold when you use proven tools for hosting, design and tracking -- and create ways for your customer community to share inspiration while at the same time discovering new products and trends. Niche ecommerce is a powerful force, and anyone entering the ecommerce market in 2018 should pay heed to that power.   About the author: Graeme Caldwell works as an inbound marketer for Nexcess, a leading provider of Magento and WordPress hosting. Follow Nexcess on Twitter at @nexcess, Like them on Facebook and check out their tech/hosting blog!

2018-04-12

How to drive more traffic to your ecommerce site

Are you following a strategy to increase ecommerce site traffic, or are you shooting in the dark? In this guest post, Courtney McGhee outlines proven ways to get more web visitors. So you’ve created your ecommerce site and you’ve set up your social media profiles. Why isn’t your audience flocking to your site, cash in hand? The truth is, creating your website and social presence is only the first step toward generating traffic. Your strategies on these platforms will ultimately determine the amount of traffic that lands on your pages. You need to invest time, create relationships and sometimes even invest some money if you want to boost your numbers. In this guide, I'll show you proven ways to drive ecommerce site traffic. Step 1: Decide how many daily visitors you need Setting a clear, attainable goal should be the first step if you want to increase your traffic. Marketing strategies can be overwhelming if you don’t first determine what your goal should be. First, decide how much annual revenue you are looking to earn. Let’s look at the example of $350,000. Next, divide your total annual sales by the value of your average order. Let’s say your average order costs $50. This calculation gives you the number of annual orders you will need to reach your sales goal. For our example, that number would be 7000, or about 19 orders each day. Let’s realistically assume that 19 orders per day come from a conversion rate of 2%. That means you will need around 960 daily visitors if you are going to have 19 orders each day. These numbers will show you how much time you need to spend on generating traffic and can help you set attainable and measurable goals. Once you've decided on the amount of traffic you're shooting for, make sure your Google Analytics setup is giving you accurate data about all of your websites (including microsites) and isn't duplicating visitors. You'll also want to set up goals for specific events, such as when a customer adds items to their cart, signs up for your email list or completes a checkout. It's better to set up this tracking early before launching your new strategy--otherwise you won't know whether or not your new strategy worked! Step 2: Start your search engine optimization (SEO) Search engines are (or should be) one of the biggest sources of your traffic. Now, it’s time to milk them for all they’re worth. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) should be a main focus to drive organic traffic to your site. Whether or not you have just launched your ecommerce store, you should make a habit of reviewing each page and product on your site. To do this, you need to start an SEO audit. Enter your URL on an SEO tool like WooRank, and start an Advanced Review. You can add up to three competitors here to take your SEO up a notch. Add keywords you want to track in the Keyword Tool, and choose the location where you want to focus on. In the keyword tool, you will be able to see the volume and rank for each keyword and how you are doing against your competition. There are plenty of free keyword research tools available if you aren’t sure which ones you should be targeting. Now that you have chosen your keywords to use for optimization efforts, you should make sure you are using them in a consistent and natural way. Using them in your title tags, meta descriptions and body content will help you become more visible to your target audience. To really optimize your keyword strategy, I recommend setting up site-search tracking to see what visitors are searching for on your site and also monitoring how keywords convert on your site by adding Search Console to your Google Analytics account before moving onto the next step. Step 3: Craft your content...carefully Even for an ecommerce site, it is essential to have useful, relevant and authoritative content. Of course, it is critical to have product images, but product descriptions will really help you boost your traffic. With product descriptions, you can weave in the keywords you can easily rank for that can also drive conversions. It’s actually easier to rank higher for long tail, localized keywords that will align with your visitors’ search queries. If you are selling garden supplies and you can rank highly for “planter for tomatoes”, the produce descriptions should use “planter for tomatoes”. Include that phrase in the title, as well. The product images need to be clear and representative of the actual product you are selling. Don’t forget to include the alt text with every image you use. This should go without saying, but don’t use images you downloaded from the internet that aren’t pictures of what you are actually selling. Also, you can create content like product reviews or comparisons of different brands and models that are optimized for “planter for tomatoes”. You can experiment with other types of content on social media, like videos, that can help you rank highly on search results. Videos related to the product that can also be embedded on your site is another easy way to incorporate your keywords in your content. Step 4: Tap into social media influencers In terms of brand engagement, Instagram is one of the best platforms. There is a whopping 25% more engagement on Instagram compared to other social media platforms. Also, studies show that nearly 25% of online shoppers are influenced by social media recommendations. In order to tap into the influencer market, you need to find the people who are willing to feature your products to their many followers. Finding those people, though, is easier said than done. A tool like WEBSTA can help you find the most popular Instagram hashtags and accounts. Once you find the influencer with a substantial amount of followers that aligns with your general category, you can contact him or her and ask for your product to be featured. Step 5: Entice visitors with contests Let’s be honest: everyone loves a good freebie. Does your site have a gift that your customers will find worthwhile? Use your social media profiles, your website and your influencers to get the word out that you are having a contest for free goodies. If your potential customers think your gift is valuable, they will share it with their friends and families. The only con to this strategy is attracting people who are only interested in free stuff. These users will likely never convert to customers, so use this option only when it makes sense for your brand. Step 6: Publish user reviews Search Engine Land noted that 88% of shoppers trust reviews they read online. You can encourage your users to leave reviews on your website and social media accounts. Reviews will help you rank higher in search results, and users are more likely to click on your site/social media pages. User reviews ensure fresh, relevant content - a big plus in Google’s eyes. Here are some more stats from Econsultancy on why user reviews are so valuable: Bad reviews improve conversions by 67% 63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a website with user reviews Reviews generate an average boost in sales of 18% Step 7: Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising At least 43% of ecommerce traffic, on average, comes from Google search (organic). But, more than a quarter of traffic is coming from Google AdWords, according to Wolfgang Digital. So, it’s important to have both your SEO and PPC set up correctly. As mentioned above, during your keyword research find the keyword your audience uses most, like “tomato planters”. This includes the long tail keywords, too, like “best planters for tomatoes”. Now, run a PPC campaign including both keywords. Primary keywords will generate more traffic, while long tail keywords will drive less traffic but higher conversion rates. To increase conversions even more, you can link your AdWords account to your Analytics account, then use Buyer Personas for specific marketing channels to target those users that are more likely to spend money on your site. So, are you ready for real growth? Bringing traffic to your ecommerce sites all starts with setting a clearly-defined goal. You need to know where your existing traffic is coming from, and optimize all of your platforms for your visitors and search engine bots. Incorporating other strategies, when done correctly, will help you bring more eyes to your site. Contests and PPC advertising are great ways to get your product in front of your target audience. I hope this guide helps take your online store to the next level! Courtney McGhee is on the Marketing Team at WooRank, an SEO audit tool that has helped millions of websites with their SEO efforts. A former journalist in North Carolina, Courtney shifted gears and entered the digital marketing world in Brussels, Belgium.

2018-02-08

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