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. [subscribe] 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. [subscribe] 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! [subscribe] 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?   [subscribe] 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. [subscribe] 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! [subscribe] 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

Shopify vs Magento: How to choose an ecommerce platform

How do you choose between Shopify and Magento? Hostinger's Laura Ramonaitytė breaks down the differences between these popular ecommerce platforms. Taking your offline business online, or starting a new online business from scratch, can be overwhelming. However, if you take time to do research and choose the right ecommerce platform for your particular business, you'll alleviate stress and have a much greater chance of success. With so many options in the market, it can be difficult to know that you're making the right decision. Nevertheless, your first preference should be choosing a platform that can fulfil not just current but also future requirements of your online store, at least as much as you can estimate those future needs. To help you make this difficult decision, we've compared the two most popular ecommerce platforms: Shopify and Magento. We look at a number of different categories and performance areas, so make sure to read through the entire post to help you make the best decision for your business. Core differences Before starting the detailed comparison, let’s take a look at some core differences between Shopify and Magento. Shopify is a complete ecommerce platform, while Magento is free and open-source software. For Shopify, secure web hosting is included in all main subscription plans, whereas for Magento you need to set up your own hosting. Both platforms have technology ecosystems with apps and themes to help you customise your site and track online sales and marketing, but Shopify's app store is much more robust and developed, with over 2,000 apps available since they opened to third-party developers in 2009! Let's dive deeper into differences between the platforms. [subscribe] Pricing These platforms handle setup and operating costs differently. Shopify provides a 14-day free trial. After that, users need to purchase a monthly subscription (you can start the trial and then decide on a plan, which is a nice touch). Users can choose from 3 main subscription plans, currently ranging from $29-299 per month, plus lite (for basic selling via Facebook and  'buy' buttons) and enterprise (Shopify Plus) options. Shopify is a fully hosted platform, which means you pay a flat fee per month for a plan that includes hosting. It's worth mentioning that credit card charges and transaction fees can be extra. On the other hand, Magento offers two pricing options: Magento CE and Magento EE. Magento CE (Community Edition) is free for download and use, and you are not required to buy any monthly subscription. It can be a perfect option for small and mid-sized businesses. Magento EE (Enterprise Edition) is another option, ideal for larger online stores and established businesses. The price depends on the size of your business. You can find the exact pricing by contacting Magento specialists and requesting a quote. Startups.co.uk estimates that the costs for setting up and maintaining a Magento EE site are a good fit only for larger ecommerce sites and enterprises: To give some indication, a very basic Magento shop selling less than 6,000 products, that uses pre-made Magento themes, will cost you in the region of £20,000 to £40,000. On the other hand, if you have cheap web hosting, a Magento CE site using a free theme could be quite affordable, as long as you have the expertise to maintain it. Conclusion: Shopify has fixed pricing while the cost of Magento depends on different factors such as the costs of hosting plans, technical support and plugins. If you're an experience ecommerce developer, Magento probably gives the best cost-benefit. Otherwise, Shopify is a better deal. [subscribe] Templates and Designs Elegant templates and designs are a crucial part of any online store. The template which looks and feels good can attract more people and eventually earn more revenue. Screenshots from the Seaside style of the Providence theme for Shopify Shopify has it own theme store, where users can look for beautifully designed, highly-responsive templates and themes. However, since Shopify is a hosted shopping cart, users get limited options for customizations. That said, Shopify's themes are awesome for plug-and-play. The themes are organized by industry, such as Furniture or Clothing, and also by type of store, such as themes optimised for stores with very small (or very large) inventories. Shopify themes generally cost over $100 but include useful features like Instagram product feeds. Screenshots from the free Absolute Theme for Magento Since Magento is open source and has been supported by a large developer community from the start, it has a range of template options. There are free and paid themes available in the Magento Marketplace, and most are mobile responsive, but there is also a huge variety of free and paid themes available from independent front end developers around the world. It's worth noting that some  Magento stores with solid coding experience do create custom themes on their own as well. Here's a guide to theme development if you're running Magento 2. Conclusion If you're looking for more theme options and customization, Magento is the winner. On the other hand, why start from scratch? Whatever you're looking for, it probably already exists in a Shopify theme! SEO Optimization If you are starting your online store from the ground up, it is necessary for you to pick the ecommerce platform that has SEO capabilities as well. Nowadays, more than half of all online purchases begin with an online search in search engines like Google and Bing. Therefore, it is crucial that ecommerce platform you have chosen supports various search optimization techniques. In our analysis, the overall SEO score for Magento is 95 out of 100 whereas Shopify's SEO score is 98 out of 100. Shopify is a highly SEO-optimized platform that has all the basic and advanced SEO features in all its plans. You can easily edit your title tags, meta description, page URLs, according to your requirement. Besides this, you can also customize your image file name and also edit alt tags as per SEO requirements. Like Shopify, Magento is also a fully SEO-optimized ecommerce platform that supports extensive SEO functionality. Along with basic SEO settings, it also provides some advanced SEO options, including canonical tags for separate categories and products, robot.txt files, image optimization, meta tags for products and home page. Conclusion Both platforms seem equally competent in terms of SEO optimization. As long as you have an organized content strategy, you can take advantage of the SEO capabilities of either platform to get more traffic. Customer Support Reliable support is more important than anything else. As a newbie, you may need to access customer support many times in a day. Consequently, invest in the company that has better technical support and back up based on what your needs might be. Shopify provides 24/7 technical support, which means that you can access support day and night whenever needed. There are three ways you can access their customer support team: Email Support Phone Support Live Chat Magento’s customer support does not include any official service. However, you can look for answers to your queries in its extensive developer community, Magento Forums, and in their documentation. Almost all platform-related queries are already answered there. Conclusion: This is the category where Shopify is definitely the winner. Ecommerce Performance For a detailed performance , check out this post on how Shopify and Magento perform for large ecommerce brands. In the post, Littledata's CEO looks at data from 1,600 Shopify and Magento stores to see where the platforms typically perform best, from technical performance essentials like site speed, to ecommerce essentials like conversion rate and average order value. Final Thoughts In conclusion, both Shopify and Magento have various stunning features and they can manage your online store efficiently and help to boost your revenue. Magento is an open source platform and is more flexible, but you need to have the staff and knowledge to develop it. Features, customer support and ease of use probably make Shopify a better ecommerce platform for a standard ecommerce business. Whichever you choose, I recommend getting Littledata's Shopify connection, Shopify Plus connection or Magento connection earlier rather than later - otherwise you will likely be missing essential data about sales and marketing! I hope this post inspires you to dig deeper and make an informed choice before launching your online store, whichever platform you choose. There are other platforms available as well, such as WooCommerce (Shopify vs WooCommerce), so don't just pick one randomly! Hostinger is a leading worldwide cheap web hosting provider.

2018-01-17

How to dramatically increase revenue with Refersion and affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing consistently outperforms other channels for ecommerce businesses. In this special guest post, Refersion's Robert Woo shares essential tips about how Littledata customers can get a piece of the action. Affiliate marketing is a powerful channel to drive sales, but is surprisingly overlooked by many small and medium-sized businesses. In a 2016 report by Heinz Marketing, referrals made the most positive impact on revenue for businesses, by far. As business owners know, the easiest sales come from customer recommendations to their friends and family. Especially for SMBs, word-of-mouth is often the backbone of how they acquire new customers. Now here’s another statistic: when customers come through affiliate channels, their average customer revenue is 58% higher than other channels. In other words, not only is it easier to get more customers via word-of-mouth, if they are referrals, but those customers also spend more. As you can see, getting into affiliate marketing is a double win for your business. But it can seem tricky to get started. The traditional way of doing affiliate marketing Online affiliate, or referral, marketing is as old as the internet. Here’s how it traditionally works: Research various affiliate networks that are accepting new merchants (that’s you). Pay a fee to join one (as high as $5000). Use this network to find affiliate partners to market your product/service. Pay out a commission to these partners. Pay out a monthly fee, and a portion of these commissions (15 to 25%) to the affiliate network. In this traditional way, you can see a clear trade-off for the benefit of joining an existing network. While you’ll have immediate access to many publishers waiting to market your product, there are a lot of fees for this privilege. So much so that for smaller businesses often find it hard to make a good profit from this model. On the other hand, you could start your own program up from scratch. But while you’d save a fortune in fees, the big trade off is your time investment. It takes time to put an affiliate marketing program in place. From creating a portal for your affiliates to use, to finding these influencers in the first place, to getting the hang of the metrics you need to monitor; it can all be a lot, especially for SMBs with a small team devoted to marketing. [subscribe] The better way, for Littledata customers Luckily, we here at Refersion have made it easy and affordable to forego joining an existing affiliate network and start your own. What we do is help businesses take a 'hybrid approach', taking the best of both worlds, making running a program cheap and simple. The best part? We’ve now integrated with Littledata to make data analysis even more insightful, so your business can easily maximize the ROI of your in-house affiliate marketing program. Used together, Littledata and Refersion are a supercharged toolbox for ecommerce entrepreneurs who have always wanted to launch a referral program, but was afraid to commit the time and energy. With Refersion, you can set up your business to start taking advantage of affiliate marketing in less than ten minutes. Connect your online shopping cart, create custom affiliate emails and coupon codes, and quickly find the right publishers to work with in the Refersion Marketplace. And if you’re already a Littledata customer, you’ll know that you can get all your affiliate marketing metrics and analysis in your dashboard and reporting. Don’t leave money on the table With the rise of ad blockers, many types of online marketing have taken big hits. But affiliate marketing isn’t subject to this limitation. Don’t ignore one of the best channels of getting new customers and higher sales! If you want to learn more about Refersion, watch this short intro video on how it all works. Ready to take the plunge? Here’s a special signup page for Littledata customers. Get a 14 day free trial today! Robert Woo is a Marketing Manager at Refersion.

2017-11-06

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