Category : Magento
Is it worth attending that ecommerce conference?
Ecommerce conference season is upon us. In the past few weeks, the Littledata team was at Shop.org in Las Vegas, Paris Retail Week, and the Google Expert Summit in Waterloo, Canada -- three very different events in three rather different countries. Then we also hit up Agile Cambridge and Technology for Marketing in the UK, the UPRISE fest in Dublin, TechDay LA in sunny Los Angeles and the BigCommerce partner summit in Austin. And while we unfortunately couldn't make ReCharge's Recur event for the subscription industry, or Hawke Media's Hawkefest, the ultimate anti-conference, many of our partners and merchants were there and had awesome things to say. But wait a second. Slow down! With so many exciting events to potentially attend during what is already one of the busiest times of year for those of us in the industry (Black Friday is just around the corner from a marketer's perspective), how do you choose? Is that conference you've been debating attending really worth it? If we've learned anything... Over the years I've had a mixed experience with conferences. But with Littledata we've found a good rhythm. Of course it helps that we're on the cutting edge of new technology, actually using AI and machine learning as opposed to just talking about it, and that we already have major customers around the world, even though we're technically still a 'startup'. This gives us a wide range of high-quality speaking and learning opportunities. But at the same time our productive conference experiences haven't happened by accident, whether for ecommerce or general tech events. We've found such a good conference rhythm -- a dance that produces a consistently high ROI on in-person events -- by looking closely at our own data on a quarterly and yearly basis. Our strategy is always evolving, but some stats have been consistent. For example, we discovered that at the right events: Though we don't necessarily have a higher win rate for enterprise leads from conferences, the sales cycle is condensed, on average 3x faster from meeting to close. This saves our sales team valuable time chasing down leads, and also helps us improve our product, pitches and processes at a faster rate. Agencies we meet in person are 4x more likely to refer us a customer within the next 30 days -- even if we never did a formal product demo. What's your company's take on conferences? Here are a few insights that might help you get more out of the conference experience, whether that means big tech industry events or smaller, focused meetups. There is no such thing as a must-attend conference The great irony with ecommerce conferences is that they tend to be scheduled at what are already busy times for those of us in the industry. Whether it's the shows we attended these past 6 weeks that overlapped with everyone getting back to work after summer holidays, or European standbys like NetComm Suisse's later fall events and One to One in Monaco every March, right after SXSW in Austin, it's either an embarrassment of riches or -- depending on your perspective -- a really confusing hodge podge of hard-to-classify opportunities. There are simply too many choices, and it's especially hard to decide whether to attend a tech conference or meetup if your company has never attended that particular show before. One thing I love about our industry is that merchants (stores and ecommerce managers) and vendors (apps, platforms, consultants, designers and agencies) are all in the same boat. In short, we have no time for BS. We want events that focus on real information, emerging technologies and human connection. So how do you decide? First things first, make your own list. There are a ton of blog posts out there about 'must attend' conferences, those 'not to miss'. Give me a break! Every business is unique, and you're only as viable as your buyer personas. So make a list of conferences, events and meetups that might help connect you with your prime customers and best partners. Brainstorm, look online, ask around. Make your own list and plan to review every quarter. Then once you've made that list, on paper or Trello or however you work best, go through the following checklist with as many members of your team as possible, especially if you can bring in decision makers from both Product and Marketing. A simple checklist When deciding if you should attend a conference for the first or second time, it's useful to have a checklist for quick, consistent analysis. The checklist I use is deceptively simple. It has only 5 indicators. Would one significant sale pay for itself in terms of customer acquisition cost (CAC)? If the conference did work out, is it something you would attend every year? Would it be the right place for you to speak, either now or in the future? Is this your scene, your community? Are there companies, merchants, agencies, vendors etc. attending whom you wouldn't see any other time this year? (Even just one counts, if sufficiently high-value.) In short, if you can tick all five boxes then you should attend the conference. If you can only tick four, it's probably worth attending but needs more debate. If this is the case, then considering point number one in detail -- looking at your current LTV/CAC ratio and considering how the conference could help improve or at least maintain it -- is essential. For ecommerce tech companies like our own, this generally means one big sale or partnership. For ecommerce sites it can also take the form of discovering new tech (like Littledata, Klickly or ReCharge) that will help increase sales and marketing ROI. If you can tick all five boxes then you should definitely attend the conference The checklist works even if you've already attended the conference in the past. Just consider point two already covered and proven! If you're in the ecommerce space, definitely consider platform-specific conferences. Shopify and Magento have regular events and meetups around the world, and word on the street is that BigCommerce will be really ramping up their local partner events in 2019. Shopify Unite has consistently been that rare conference that ticks all the boxes for us here at Littledata, but that doesn't mean we're ignoring others that only tick four. We've cast our net wide (using the checklist of course) and are still seeing results. If you want to get a head start on conference browsing for next year, Veeqo has created a calendar of best worldwide ecommerce conferences for 2019. Across the board remember this: success at a conference almost never comes in the form of expected outcomes. Yes, the best outcomes will be aligned with your sales and marketing goals, but sometime the biggest benefits will not be clear for 3, 6 or even 12 months down the line. That's why we do quarterly and yearly reviews of all in-person activities, from networking events to large conferences. I suggest you do the same. Most importantly, have fun! Gone are the days of boring trade shows. Show up. Make connections. And if we're there too, come say hi! Maybe nobody can make analytics sexy, but we at least promise to make them useful. And usefulness is a good place to start...
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!
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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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