For every retail loser there's a retail winner

Today PwC's retail survey found the British high street is being reshaped as shoppers shift online - especially in fashion, where a net 100 high street stores closed. This misses the positive side of the story: all those shoppers are buying from independent UK brands online instead, which is one of the fastest growing area of the UK economy. We looked at 30 mid-sized online fashion retailers (with average sales of £1m per month) who get a majority of their traffic from the UK. This collection had grown their sales by an aggregate 21% from October 2017 to October 2018 (year on year). Fashion shoppers love to browse unique designs on Instagram and Pinterest, compare prices and get easy home deliveries. Independent ecommerce brands are bringing original designs to the British wardrobe, and we should celebrate their success.   Behind the research Littledata gathers benchmark data from Google Analytics on over 12,000 websites, including many types of ecommerce businesses. Our customers get insights into their performance and recommendations on how to improve online conversion. [subscribe]

2018-11-09

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 Fail #1: The CMS, plugins and theme are outdated You don’t need to modernize your website every day, or even every week, but you do need to make sure it doesn’t feel outdated.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. [subscribe] 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. [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

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

Retailers traded 2.4 times normal volumes during Black Friday week 2017

The results are in, and this year's Black Friday sales prove that things are continuing to look up for ecommerce. Across 570 online stores, the average store did 2.4 times their normal sales in Black Friday week 2017, compared with only 2.2 times in 2016 – and a greater proportion of stores participated in the sales. Following our post on pre-Black Friday trends, Littledata looked again at what happened from Thanksgiving Thursday 2017 through to the following Wednesday (the week including Black Friday and Cyber Monday) – versus a control period of November & December in 2016. Compared with 2016, we found a bigger number of stores participating in Black Friday sales this year: 53% of stores were trading more than 1.5 times their normal volumes, compared with only 49% in the equivalent week in 2016. [subscribe] For those stores which promoted heavily in 2016, the median boost was 2.5 times normal. And those in the bottom quartile of sales in 2016 still traded 108% their normal volumes. How did Black Friday promotions work for your store? Use our industry benchmarks to find out how your online store is performing against the competition.

2017-11-30

How to improve your landing pages

With the How to improve your landing pages using Google Analytics blog post, I wanted to help answer the question, why users are clicking a call-to-action but are not converting? Now I will give you some basic tips on how to improve your landing pages, overall. Do what you say and say what you do There is nothing more frustrating for a client than to hope for honey and receive salt. Donʼt promise one thing and then deliver something else .. or even worse nothing at all (a 404 page). For example, if you are giving away an ebook, and your CTA says “Get your free ebook”, donʼt provide a PayPal form on the next screen asking for $2.95 for the product you said would be free, or merely say “thanks for registering” without a link to the product you are offering. Yes, you will have gained a lead, but the customer is now worthless and will tell others about your unfair tactics. In order to get the answer to "Why don't they convert" check this checklist: Do you respect the above? If not this is your biggest business issue. Do you track how many clicks your call-to-action have? If not, see the previous blog post about tracking CTAs What is your conversion rate? Depending on your business model, a conversion rate of 5% to 20% is be normal. (Calculate users that finished the call-to-action divided by users that clicked the call-to-action button.) With these answers, you can figure out what your problem is. This will either be that the users are not clicking or the users are not converting. If the users are not converting you can: A/B test the layout of next page after they click the call-to-action button A/B test the text of the next page after they click the call-to-action button Provide online support on that page offering customers the option to ask direct questions Create a survey for the segment of users that clicked the call-to-action but didn't convert to find out why they didn't Have any questions? Comment below or get in touch!   Get Social! Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook and keep up-to-date with our Google Analytics insights.

2017-03-16

The Freemium business model revisited

After I concluded that freemium is not the best business model for all, the continued rise of ‘free’ software has led me to revisit the same question. In a fascinating piece of research by Price Intelligently, over 10,000 technology executives were surveyed over 5 years. Their willingness to pay for core features of B2B software has declined from 100% in 2013 to just over 50% today – as a whole wave of VC-funded SaaS companies has flooded the market with free product. For add-ons like analytics, this drops to less than 30% willing to pay. “The relative value of features is declining. All software is going to $0” – Patrick Campbell, Price Intelligently Patrick sees this as an extension of the trend in physical products, where offshoring, global scale and cheaper routes to market online have led to relentless price depreciation (in real terms). I’m not so sure. Software is not free to manufacture, although the marginal cost is close to zero – since cloud hosting costs are so cheap. The fixed cost is the people-time to design and build the components, and the opportunities for lowering that cost – through offshoring the work or more productive software frameworks - have already been exploited by most SaaS companies. To pile on the pain, a survey of software executives also found that the average number of competitors in any given niche has increased from 10 to 15 over those 3 years. Even if software build costs are falling, those costs are being spread over a small number of customers – making the chance of breaking even lower. And the other big cost – Customer Acquisition (CAC) – is actually rising with the volume of competition. To sum up the depressing news so far: 1. Buyers have been conditioned to expect free software, which means you’ll have to give major features away for free 2. But you’ll have to pay more to acquire these non-paying users 3. And next year another competitor will be offering even more for free What is the route of this economic hole? Focussing on monetising a few existing customers for one. Most SaaS executives were focussed on acquiring new customers (more logos), probably because with a free product they expected to sweep up the market and worry about monetization later. But this turns out to be the least effective route to building revenue. For every 1% increment, Price Intelligently calculated how much this would increase revenue. i.e. If I signed up 101 users over the year, rather than 100, that would increase revenue by 2.3%. Monetization – increasing the Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) – has by far the larger impact, mainly because many customers don’t pay anything currently. In contrast, the impact of customer acquisition has fallen over 3 years, since the average customer is less likely to pay. Monetization is not about increasing prices for everyone – or charging for previously free features – but rather finding the small number who are willing to pay, and charging them appropriately. My company, Littledata, has many parallels to Profit Well (launched by Price Intelligently). We both offer analytics and insights on top of existing customer data – Littledata for Google Analytics behavioural data, and Profit Well for recurring revenue data from billing systems. And we have both had similar customer feedback: that the perceived value of the reporting is low, but the perceived value of the changes which the reporting spurs (better customer acquisition, increased retention etc) is high. So the value of our software is that it creates a requirement – which can then be filled by consulting work or ‘actionable’ modules. For myself, I can say that while focusing on new customer acquisition has been depressing, we have grown revenues once a trusted relationship is in place – and the customer really believes in Littledata’s reporting. For Littledata, as with many B2B software companies, we are increasingly content that 80% of our revenue comes from a tiny handful of loyal and satisfied users. In conclusion, while the cover price of software subscriptions is going to zero, it is still possible to generate profits as a niche SaaS business – if you understand the necessity of charging more to a few customers if the many are unwilling to pay. Freemium may be here to stay, but if customers want the software companies they rely on to stay they need to pay for the benefits. Would you like to further discuss? Comment below or get in touch!

2017-03-10
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