How User Intent Can Impact Website Traffic

How User Intent Can Impact Website Traffic

user intent

Getting visitors to a website requires work, and that’s only half the battle. No matter how  good your SEO strategy and tactics, visitors won’t stay around long if they don’t easily find what they’re looking for. A successful site anticipates user intent—the reasons behind the search—and provides content that will satisfy it.

Types of Searches

When a user goes online to conduct a search, sometimes they are looking for general information on a topic. Other times they want something specific. These specific searches are most valuable because they are more likely to turn into business transactions. In order to understand why visitors are coming to your website, try classifying the searches they conduct that ultimately lead them there.

Most internet searches can be classified into 3 different forms of intent:

  • Topical: Searches for information about a topic may be general or specific. If the searcher is looking for an answer to a particular question and finds it on a site, that can lead to bookmarking the site and coming back again.
  • Website-specific: Searches aimed at finding a particular website are very specific and demonstrate prior interest. These will often lead to a business transaction.
  • Transactional: Searches aimed at a transaction, such as a purchase or subscription, are specific and promise a quick conversion—if the site handles them properly.

How Intent Affects Content

As the internet has developed and evolved, search engines have become much better at understanding intent. As a result, strategies to increase website traffic have changed too. For example, crude SEO tactics like keyword stuffing haven’t been effective for some time (in fact, they will often result in lowering your SEO ranking). This is why matching content to what the user wants and expects to see produces better results than trying to game the system. And when a user sees what they were looking for on your website, the opportunity to do business with them is that much greater.

To achieve the best results, website creators should design each page with a clear knowledge of its end purpose. Is it to provide a general introduction to the business, to answer questions about it, or to sell a product? Creators need to put themselves into the user’s shoes. What are people going to search for, and what kind of content will satisfy them?

Pages designed specifically to optimize SEO can fail when it comes to giving the user the information they are actually searching for. For example, a business could lose potential customers if their website visitors have to look extensively for the address of a nearby store but find only testimonials about how great the company is. Instead, website creators should provide a store locator with a conspicuous link to it on the homepage. This same strategy comes to play when searchers are looking for a certain product, only to land on a page that displays it but doesn’t even say if it is available for purchase or not. Product searches should yield product-specific results.

The bottom line is that sales will be much harder to make if the user can’t get to where they want to go and fast. A page should make it clear from a quick glance that it has the information relevant to the searcher’s intent. If the information is buried too deep within the page, chances are it won’t be very effective.

How to Understand Intent

Several techniques will help you understand what the intent is of your website visitors.

Searching social media and forums for mentions of the site will provide valuable information about what people want to know. Your site can also add an FAQ page directed at answering common questions and facilitating sales.

One of the best ways to understand user intent is by trying out search terms and looking at the list of related searches. For example, a search for “socket wrench” on Google reveals that related searches include “socket wrench sizes” and “ratchet socket wrench.” This simple example search reveals that most people searching for these keywords need information on the size and types of wrenches available. Use this technique to tailor your website’s content to make sure people can find the information they need.

Online tools such as KeywordTool.io give lists of words and phrases related to a given keyword. They help provide clues about what people are searching for, as well as unrelated intents that offer no value. People searching for “a wrenching experience” probably aren’t immediately interested in buying socket wrenches.

To get the most out of every visit, a website needs to have content that mirrors the intent of its visitors. Research and planning are the keys to accomplishing this. If you’d like help, please contact us.

How to Re-Engage Dormant Email Subscribers

How to Re-Engage Dormant Email Subscribers

dormant subscribers

Dormant subscribers are among the biggest challenges an email marketer must face.

In the modern digital world, email subscribers are a significant part of your success. These are people who are interested in your newsletters, excited by seasonal deals, and more likely to come back as repeat buyers time and time again. But what happens when one (or more) of your subscribers stop opening emails or clicking on links?

It’s incredibly difficult to understand exactly why a subscriber has chosen to stop opening your emails. Perhaps they are bored with what they may view as repetitive offers, assuming they already know what’s inside the message. Or their email service started sorting your messages into the spam folder. Or they have just been super-busy, so have been skipping lots of emails, including yours. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to effectively re-engage your dormant subscribers or determine if they’re out for good.

Change Up Your Subject Lines

The first and easiest step to re-engage subscribers is simply to change the way you write subject lines. Over time, subscribers may begin to skim over your emails, noting that they have seen that subject line previously and assume they already know what’s inside. To break that pattern, step out of your rigid subject structure and try something new.

If you regularly focus your subject lines on discount percent (ex: “September 20% discount opportunities!”), try focusing on seasonal specials (ex: Our famous holiday desserts are on the menu!”) or even speaking to the subscribers directly (“Your favorite ice cream is on sale this week at LocalStore!”). The key is to significantly change the way you address your subscribers. Surprise them, or better yet, offer them something new. Inspire them to take a second look at your content.

Send ‘From’ a Different Email Address

Although it often goes unnoticed, the “from” address is an important aspect of subscriber response. The ‘from’ line of an email is how we judge who is sending us a message. Is it a robot or a person? A stranger or someone we already know? Especially on mobile, the “from” address is big and bold – and when scrolling through dozens of emails, it’s easy to filter through content based on the sender. By changing “who” your email appears to be from, you can inspire subscribers to subtly or even completely re-think how they look at your emails.

Additionally, certain “from” fields can trigger automatic spam filtration – which is detrimental to open rates. If a subscriber has stopped reading your emails because they always land in the spam bin, a new source email and ‘from’ address can get you back in the main inbox.

Incentivizing the Click

Incentivizing the click is all about offering something new. Make a big splash with a significant or personal offer. Or offer content that isn’t sale or discount focused, but that simply helps lift your brand or makes a connection with or provides value to your subscribers. Make sure it is out-of-sync with your normal marketing schedule and offers something your subscribers aren’t expecting to see. This one-time out-of-the-ordinary communication and more surprises like it in the future may be enough to re-engage customers who just haven’t felt like engaging lately.

Reviewing Your Contact Data

Take a closer look at the data available about your dormant subscribers. Before investing too much in re-engagement, it’s important to know what you’re working with. For example, someone may have changed jobs and no longer uses that particular email address at all. Or maybe they moved away from your physical store location and, therefore, have stopped looking for local deals.

A little bit of research and certain industry tools can help you identify some clear reasons why someone no longer reads your content. Some of the reasons may indicate a subscriber who is recoverable, while others may lead you to let them go permanently.

Remove Truly Unengaged Subscribers

This last tip brings us to our final point: if a subscriber is genuinely no longer interested or if all engagement strategies fail, cut them loose. You don’t need inactive names cluttering your mailing lists and reducing your email “engagement scores”, when there are real, engaged customers to work with. You can significantly improve your overall results by knowing when it’s time to scratch a name off your list. Not only is this good for your efficiency, but it will increase open rate percentage and decreases your chance of being flagged as a spam IP.

Address the Problem Quickly

If you have a mailing list that is starting to wane, don’t let the problem continue as-is. Do everything you can to re-engage interest with your subscribers by following these tips and attempting something new. If you need assistance, feel free to contact us today.

The Factors Impacting Email Deliverability

The Factors Impacting Email Deliverability

Email Deliverability

Email marketing is a great tool for establishing relationships with potential customers, current customers, and even past customers because it gives you the opportunity to reach out to them directly through their inbox. But in order for email marketing to be to be an effective tool of communication, the email must get to the mailbox and must be read. Service providers and end users filter aggressively against spam, and you need to make sure your messages don’t get caught by those spam filters.

There are four main factors which affect deliverability; three of them are directly under your control, while the other is a matter of user behavior (which is still a directly connected to what you send).

Subject Lines and Content

An obvious factor affecting email deliverability is the subject line and actual content of the messages. Using “spam words” can get a message blocked, even if they serve legitimate business purposes. Avoid overusing expressions like “free,” “must respond today,” and “urgent.” This is especially crucial when crafting a subject line. Anything that looks too good to be true is likely to be flagged – a straightforward description is more likely to get through.

Also, don’t overload the message with images. Having a message that consists of one big image may look great when you compose it, but the odds of it being flagged as spam are high. A good rule of thumb: email content should contain around 40% images and 60%  text.

Additionally, here are a couple of content tips that affect deliverability:

  • Be careful with your links. A link to a website with a bad reputation will land your messages in a black hole.
  • Always include a clear unsubscribe link and the sender’s physical mailing address.
  • Do not use excessive capitalization or punctuation.

Domain Usage

Your sending domain or Email Service Provider (ESP) carries a reputation that affects deliverability. If your domain has a good reputation, your chances of successful delivery are good. If you are blacklisted because you made a mistake or someone started a campaign of malicious complaints, make fixing your reputation a priority.

The “From” address should always use a domain which your business controls. Using Hotmail or Gmail addresses for business mail looks unprofessional and is likely to get your messages blocked. Further, periodically run your domains through a blacklist checker, like MX Toolbox. That way you know if you’ve been flagged for spam or other complaints that could lead to blacklisting.

Additional tip: Consider having different domains for marketing emails vs transactional, that way if one becomes compromised or receives complaints, you can continue sending from the other.

IP Addresses

The Internet Protocol address is a numerical identifier of the sender’s server. All devices connected to a computer network have an IP address and thus every email is sent from one. As long as you keep it secure, no one else can send mail from it.

An IP address reflects the reputation of the sender, which is based on several factors.

  • Send volume: the number of emails sent.
  • Send frequency: the number of campaigns that are deployed per week or month.
  • User interaction: individuals who open and click — and complain or unsubscribe.
  • Quality: percentages of bounces or undeliverable emails.

IP reputation affects how an Internet Service provider will treat an email. Many companies utilize an ESP to send marketing emails. There are two types of IP addresses that ESP’s use:

  • Shared: More than one company or brand is sending from one IP address
  • Dedicated: The company or brand has one unique IP address

Some service providers issue a pool of IP addresses that all their customers share. If your sending volumes are small and you can benefit from the pooling volume (with other senders), make sure you educate yourself on their best practices and look into their efforts on ensuring a good IP reputation.

If your sending volume grows and you need to use a dedicated IP address, remember that it has no previous history – meaning that its reputation, good or bad, is up to you. Start small and gradually increase the number of emails you are sending. Begin by sending to your most engaged audience – this sends good signals to the mailbox regarding your reputation. As mailboxes begin to regard you as a responsible sender, you can increase the number of emails you are sending.

Recipient Behavior

The way recipients treat your messages can affect the likelihood that they’ll receive your future ones. If they delete your messages without reading them, then smart filters will take that into account. If they do it consistently, the filters will start marking everything you send as spam. If they file reports, their providers will take note. Enough complaints will result in your mail being blocked.

So how do you avoid this? Be strategic with your content. Follow an opt-in policy, make it easy to unsubscribe, and keep the amount of mail within reasonable bounds. The quality of your mail, not the quantity, is what will get engagement.

Follow good email practices, and you’ll get people reading it. Be sure to keep your content fresh and interesting, and analyze data to understand what readers want to read, and what they commonly ignore.

If you need help with your email marketing or want to get started with an ongoing email marketing program, contact us today.

How Social Media Affects SEO

How Social Media Affects SEO

Social Media SEO

We’ll get straight to the point—social media does affect SEO. More interestingly, though, is the question of “How?” Business owners are told over and over again that having a social media presence is key, but sometimes it can be hard to see the benefits. Social media is a great asset for businesses for a lot of reasons: it’s a great customer service tool and a convenient place for customers to get information about a business.

Beyond those incentives, one of the best benefits of social media is the way it works in sync with an SEO strategy. Though social media does not directly impact website rankings, it is still a very powerful tool used to leverage SEO.

Read on to take a closer look at how social media affects SEO by increasing visibility, brand recognition, and more.

Increase Your Online Visibility and Traffic to Your Site

The simple truth is that the more a business puts itself out there, the more people will see it. The main driving force behind any marketing effort is to increase leads and sales—in order to convert potential customers, they must be coming to your site in the first place.

When searching for a company online, social profiles will most likely appear in the first page of search results, usually right under their website. This means that if your company has social media accounts like a Facebook page or Twitter profile, it will serve as another opportunity for potential customers to see you when they make a Google search.

Check out the example below:

Social Media SEO

A simple google search for the word “Magento” has the company’s Twitter account appearing second in the search listing. This may seem minor, but it does increase the chances that they will end up on one of the pages that you control. Remember: the bigger the net, the more fish you catch.

Boost Your Brand Recognition

Brand recognition is important for any company; when an audience can recognize a company by its logos, slogan, or brand colors, you’ve done something right. In order to further increase brand authority, utilize your various social media profiles to encourage social sharing. But, despite the common misconception, “popularity metrics” (like the number of followers or likes) do not cause higher rankings.

What does cause higher rankings, though, is the chance that someone on social media will share your link and increase the number of inbound links to your site. Content will gain popularity—as well as credibility—and this can improve your rankings. Check out this infographic below:

Social Media SEO

As you can see, a couple of things must go right in order to affect rankings in a positive way. In order to help this process, it benefits you to actively build relationships with content creators so they consistently cite your content.

In addition, social sites give customers a chance to review businesses. Reviews can be a huge factor in SEO, especially when it comes to local businesses. Search engine algorithms love reviews, and they make up 13% of ranking factors when it comes to local searches, and 7% for general searches. Be sure to encourage reviews with incentives or gentle reminders through social media; they can make a big difference with customer trust and SEO.  

Extend the Life of Your Content

There are over one billion active daily users on Facebook. That’s a lot of likes, comments, and shares for you to tap into. With a blog, once you publish a post, it can get buried underneath pages and pages of other posts and seem lost forever.

But with social media, you can repost old content when it’s relevant to do so, or blast out messages whenever you want so you know your word is getting out there in a more controlled way. In addition, you can target content towards the audiences you know will benefit most from your messages. That may mean reposting an older blog on Twitter when a similar topic is trending or referencing an older, more-detailed blog in a Facebook post depending on what followers have been most engaged with recently.

Get A Leg Up On Local Rankings

We’ve already discussed the importance of reviews for SEO, but it’s also important to be consistent with business listings and NAP (name-address-phone number) citations. This consistency in how your business is listed across the web (including social media) is essential for local SEO. Social media profiles need to have keyword-rich descriptions, clear indications of services, hours, phone number, and an address that is identical to the one on your Google My Business profile.

When you are consistent with your NAP (meaning the same information shows up on all profiles and directories) search engines understand who you are, what you do, and how users can find your business.

Good Rankings Take Hard Work

Recognize that rankings are an outcome, not an action. The best search optimizers understand the importance of indirect benefits that come from social media. Many aspects of modern marketing are based on relationships—including search. And relationships are created on social media.

If you need any more information on SEO or social media, feel free to contact us today.

Death by Magento Customization

Death by Magento Customization

Death by magento customization

The dream website for many eCommerce merchants contains every feature they can imagine, plus any customizations required to make growing and running their eCommerce business a breeze.  

For many retailers, Magento has been that dream. A feature-rich, low-cost, easy-to-customize solution. Unfortunately, we’ve seen that dream morphed into a nightmare for many poor souls who over-extended themselves by adding too many features and customizations to their Magento site.

Upon initial build, it may seem feasible to clear up the outstanding bugs of an overbuilt site. But as time goes on, issues can pile on top of one another, potentially leading to your entire site going down and many customers being lost (along with the corresponding sales revenue).

So — How Much is Too Much?

That question has a unique answer for every individual business. There is a certain limit to the number of features and customization that can reasonably be created and maintained by any organization. Companies with great budgets and technical acumen can support incredibly complex software (ie. Google and Amazon). But every company must understand what their limits are and how to operate and grow within the confines of their capabilities. First, let’s discuss what kind of issues over-customization can cause:

  • Rising Costs – Not only do you have high costs of maintaining and upgrading the customizations, but you also have costs of maintaining documentation and know-how for them.
  • Security Risks – Sometimes extensions can contain code that opens a backdoor breach into your website. Third party extensions can offer some great functionalities for your eCommerce store but they should be thoroughly vetted for quality and security by an experienced developer before being installed.
  • Sluggish Speed – It goes without saying that in a competitive environment today, an eCommerce company must place website speed as one of their top priorities. Most extensions make HTTP requests to load assets like CSS, scripts, images, etc. If coded incorrectly, extensions can cause many different types of performance issues, some of which can be difficult to troubleshoot. Page speed should always be critically evaluated when a new extension or customization is being tested in a staging environment.
  • Website Continuity (or lack thereof) – Due to Magento’s vast and complex architecture, difficulty with code can cause extensions to conflict with one another. This can cause pages to crash unless the code has been fixed. Nothing is more unnerving than a “Page not Found Error,” except for when a customer sees that error. Per the following statistic: “Around 74% of visitors leave and never visit a website again after just one instance of a ‘Page Not Found’ error.” Those aren’t great odds.

I’m sure we’ve spooked you by now. So, how do you prevent these unfortunate consequences? Ultimately, we have to take a look at your company size, revenue, and resources.

Smaller Merchants – Is Magento Right for You?

With the onset of Magento 2, we’ve received migration quote requests from many smaller merchants running Magento 1 Community Edition that would be much better served by instead using a software as a service (SaaS) platform like BigCommerce or Shopify. These companies may have been lured into running Magento because of its many features and flexibility, but the cost to maintain Magento is way beyond what these SMBs are capable of. Instead of Magento working as an engine for growth, it becomes a liability, forcing these merchants to spend precious resources they should be dedicating to marketing on upgrades, patches, and support. In addition to the maintenance costs being (commonly) too steep, these merchants lack the resources in-house to properly administer Magento which further lowers their ROI.

In our opinion, it is usually best for small to midsize merchants with less than $5 million in annual online sales to try and limit their use of custom modules for Magento to 10 or fewer. While this number is somewhat arbitrary, it is a good benchmark for merchants wishing to mitigate the risk of getting into more customization than they can safely handle.  

Most merchants selling less than $1 million online will likely be best served by a SaaS solution like Shopify or BigCommerce. If these merchants using a Saas are looking to safely mitigate any risk of performance issues or compatibility bugs, they should likely look to leverage existing templated themes and fewer than 5 apps.

Larger Merchants – You Aren’t Immune to the Bugs of Over-Customization

While larger online merchants have the budgets and technical acumen to properly run a website platform like Magento, they are not impervious to serious harm from adding too many features and customizations. We’ve unfortunately witnessed large merchants greatly reduce the effectiveness of Magento with too many features and customizations.  Many times in these situations, bullish executives (in an attempt to make a big splash with the launch of a new and better site) demanded the addition of excessive amounts of features and customizations while building a new site on Magento.

For larger merchants needing a large number of complex features on their website, we recommend ensuring that their customizations are loosely coupled and operating by interfacing with the Magento API to minimize performance and code compatibility issues. For example, a merchant wishing to solve complex shipping quote requirements can mitigate the risk of over-customization by using the 3rd party app ShipperHQ. ShipperHQ is a SaaS solution that integrates to Magento via a small bit of extension code and APIs.  Hence the app is very loosely coupled and thus has minimal risk of causing code conflicts or performance degradation.

Customization Doesn’t Have to be Scary

Customization can become overbearing, but it doesn’t have to. Don’t fear Magento extensions — but don’t trust them blindly either. Not all extensions are created equal. As long as you follow these guidelines and are strict about having a senior developer vet and test extensions before using, you can proceed with caution. As always, if you have any questions about this or are in over your head with customizations, call us today to speak with a Magento Developer.

How to Simplify an Overly Complicated Site

How to Simplify an Overly Complicated Site

simple site design

By Tom Deutsch, VP Creative Services at InteractOne

The word “simple” can be a little deceptive. For eCommerce sites, conversion is the ruling metric. So, simplification is a tactic that you HOPE will give you better conversion.

Often, what we describe as simplification is not achieved by removing content from the page. Instead, site simplification uses UI design principles to focus and compartmentalize shopper activity.

Google is not strictly an eCommerce site, but it is the most-offered example of simplicity.

On the first impression, this baby is zen. You know exactly what to do here, not only because you’ve seen it a million times, but because it is obvious the first time you see it.

Really though – just like on your site – there is a lot going on here.

Given these requirements, Google could easily have looked something like this:

Simple looks easy, but it’s obviously not. As the illustration shows, how a given set of content is formatted and arranged can result in brilliance or an uninspired mess. Obviously, you and I don’t have Google’s resources, but we can take some lessons from the example.

Conquer the impulse to decorate

Communicating your visual brand doesn’t require elbowing aside the eCommerce path to purchase. For example, Magento’s default theme provides for an image at the top of each category. Key to remember – it is optional.

Designers can and do use banners to display beautiful and inspirational images and promotion reminders. In most cases, they are a distraction or an obstacle. They push the products down the page and are literally in the way, whether the user landed here directly or via navigation. Category pages are high-shopping intent; let the people shop! One innovative idea is to package small promotional blocks within the product grid, as seen on Lush:

Another source of clutter included in most eCommerce themes is the sidebar, which often says to the shopper: “you probably don’t want what is on this page; here’s another thought.” Think carefully before including sidebar elements, which do not translate readily to mobile, anyway.

Background textures, colored text, underlining, too many control elements (arrows, buttons and open fields) can stress out your page visitor, often evidenced as increased bounce rates. Use control elements extremely selectively and they’ll provide prominent and effective visual direction for your visitors.

Don’t fear the click

In your home, clothes would be easier to pick out if they were carefully arranged by color on the floor. Will you stop wearing clothes if they are put in a drawer instead? On your website, there are many categories, tools, features, and benefits all competing for attention. It is tempting to use the flexibility of a web page to find places to display all of them. That is designing by fear – thinking the shopper will not click to explore. Instead, set filters to closed by default. Place content in collapsing divs, dropdowns or tabs.

Matsonline.com has a complex product configuration and extensive product documentation, but with a well-managed UI, the goal of the page is still clear.

Think of your shopping pages not as billboards or directories, but as a neatly organized and well-labeled closet. Present a confident, simple and intuitive experience and trust the shopper to shop – that’s what they came to do!

Plan to succeed

To get simple, think integrated. Focus heavily on the things that spur conversion in eCommerce: Blazing fast page load, intuitive user interface, high-quality product images, authentic reviews, high-authority links. When those essential elements are in place, then your site will have the freedom to shed or reduce the emphasis on promotional content, memberships, forums and offers better suited to ads and social media.

The primary technique for maximizing simplicity is something you’ve often heard but is not often practiced: Mobile first design. Designing for desktop usually means you are starting with a grand and polished vision of a home page – that usually gets marked up and appended by numerous well-meaning hands. Designing for mobile forces discipline on your requirements. The best mobile sites behave like a guided tour – with each landing page focused on one thing and branching out from there, presenting choices in clear and manageable chunks. A desktop site that looks and functions like a mobile site is far preferable to a mobile site that looks like a squished and peeled version of a desktop site.

Your website will reflect the state of your business. Clutter within the business will produce clutter on the website. Simplicity breaks down when complex features are tacked on to the middle or end of a project, or if internal buy-in of the requirements was not secured up front. Whether embarking on a new eCommerce site build or revamping an existing one, have a specific plan. Know your requirements and make sure your platform can fill them without major customization. Pick designers and programmers you trust, then let them guide you to achieving a simple, user-friendly, high-converting site.

If you would like assistance with streamlining or otherwise improving the user interface of your eCommerce site, please feel to connect with our team. We’d be happy to lend a hand.

The Complete Magento Commerce Migration Checklist

The Complete Magento Commerce Migration Checklist

magento commerce migration

After spending countless hours researching whether or not to upgrade to Magento Commerce or keep with your existing platform, you’ve finally decided to make the jump. If you haven’t decided yet, read our recent blog to help inform your decision-making.

Before you can bask in the success you’re sure to see from making the upgrade, there are a few things you’ll need to do to ready your eCommerce business for it. Make sure to check off the following boxes before actually upgrading to ensure a smooth and successful process:

Take Inventory of Your Current Implementation ☑

Upgrading your eCommerce website is a long, ongoing process that never really feels completed if your business is looking to stay ahead of the next trend. If your website features this kind of next-level functionality and capabilities, chances are the complexity of implementing a new platform will be greater. This is why it’s essential to review the current state of your website through the lens of user experience, configuration, and customization. For more information on how to best review these components on your website, take a look at this Magento article.

Check Extension Compatibility ☑

Another component to review before making the upgrade is what extensions your website currently has installed. Most eCommerce websites feature a variety of extensions, some that are useful and some that seemed important but don’t have much functionality. The extensions that you plan to keep should be reviewed and tested to make sure they run properly or will need to be upgraded on the new platform before making the switch, otherwise you could run into a slew of functionality issues. If making the jump from M1 to M2, every extension must be updated to the M2 version in order for them to function properly. If you aren’t sure what other extensions will need attention when you make the upgrade, be sure to ask a Magento-certified developer. This is also an opportunity to clean up your website from unnecessary or non-functional extensions that you may have installed in the past, which could end up helping your website run faster.

Jumpstart UX Design ☑

Whether you’re upgrading from a different version of Magento or another platform altogether, design is something you should consider right out of the gate. Though there are many third party templates out there, we recommend skipping those and reaching out to Magento-certified developers (like us) instead. We can tailor Magento’s template to fit your needs and ultimately avoid any headaches shabby templates can create.

If you do decide to go with a third party theme, reach out to a reputable Magento expert before you purchase. Though the most popular themes are usually the most well built, that’s not always the case. Be sure to check with an expert first.

Test Your Website—Extensively ☑

When you make the upgrade, it’s important to test out your website before you publish it. Put your website in ‘maintenance mode,’ a Magento feature that allows you to test your website without it being live. To do so, create a maintenance.flag file in the root of your site. Once completed, many Magento Specialists use this 3-step process to see if their eCommerce website is ready to roll:

  1. Start at the homepage, navigate to a category page, then a product page. Add a product to your cart. Repeat these steps by choosing all the different possible paths to find that and other products. 
  2. Run a full checkout to test the various payment and shipping methods. 
  3. Test other functionalities such as price rules.

After extensively testing your website and checking all of the other boxes listed above, it’s time for the big moment: going live with your new, upgraded website. 

Be sure to continue running tests after publishing your website to ensure everything is working smoothly. To do so, consider running analytics and comparing the results to your old website. If you find any glaring differences in traffic or conversion rates, there could be an issue as a result of upgrading.

Making the upgrade to a new platform is a long process, but one that can pay large dividends to a growing eCommerce business. If you need any help along the way, be sure to contact our team of Magento-certified experts.

Why B2B Companies That Embrace eCommerce Perform Better

Why B2B Companies That Embrace eCommerce Perform Better

B2B companies have traditionally sold their products via a long sales process with multiple stakeholders and purchase influencers culminating with a handshake and a written contract. These days, that just doesn’t cut it. Buyers want to take care of business quickly, with one or two clicks, rather than back and forth calling or emailing.

B2B commerce has evolved – and in order to keep customers happy and maintain revenue growth – you must too.

Now, we know that B2B eCommerce can often be more complex than B2B eCommerce. B2C sales usually entail fixed prices and straightforward information. With B2B, that’s not necessarily the case. Some companies sell products that are too complex to be sold online, and that’s ok. eCommerce websites can do more than complete a sale. They serve as sources of information (about both the products and the company) and can help walk buyers down the purchase path.

Whether a B2B eCommerce site serves as a purely informational tool or contains multiple catalogs of products, it still benefits B2B companies overall. Here’s why:

Increased Customer Satisfaction

It’s no surprise: B2B buyer preferences have changed in recent years. The rise of online shopping and technology usage continues to grow at a rapid pace and people seem to be in agreement: B2C retail practices have influenced customer expectations. Those practices, namely personalization, online catalogs, and SEO continue to be the top three B2C practices that influence revenue for B2B companies. So if the buyer preferences have changed, why hasn’t your B2B company adapted?

SAP Customer Experience states that business buyers are planning to make 55% of their work purchases online within the next two years. If buyers need a product, they expect to be able to compare prices or information quickly. eCommerce sites allow this information to be shared immediately, and (if feasible for that specific company) allow for an order to be processed shortly after.

An article from Magento indicates that “almost 80% of ‘digitally-mature’ companies surveyed report that their current set of B2B eCommerce technologies have been ‘very’ or ‘extremely helpful’ in improving their overall customer satisfaction and revenue.”

In order to stay relevant in the ever-changing sphere of commerce, you have to stay up to date on what the customer wants. In this case, they want company and product information at their disposal at all times.

It’s Efficient

Traditional purchasing methods simply aren’t as efficient as eCommerce. Technology eliminates the need for informational pamphlets or booklets, and in doing so, simplifies the buying process. When customers are able to visit a website and get almost all of the information they need,  it speeds up the purchase process.

Plus, if orders can be completed completely online, then errors from handling multiple orders are reduced. It’s convenient to complete a purchase at the snap of a finger, and even more convenient to be able to track a purchase instantaneously.

Development Has Been Simplified

In the past, upgrading to an e-commerce business was a long and arduous process. Now days, platforms have been updated to make the switch more palatable. There are agencies, such as InteractOne, whose sole purpose is to migrate clients onto the best possible platform for their mission and products. Though a significant project (like a new site build) will take a fair amount of time and be a financial investment, it’s worth it when taking into account the boosted revenue and satisfied customers.

Outsourcing help for a big project like a migration or site build is usually a good idea. It grants the customer the flexibility and focus to keep their company the main priority while allowing them to get the help they need from trained and experienced developers.

It Gives You A Competitive Advantage

Take a look at your competitors. Have they already launched an eCommerce store? If so, you probably already know the answer to this one.

Companies who have already launched on an eCommerce platform are likely capturing some of your business. Buyers are using their knowledge and experience with eCommerce and have begun incorporating it into their work lives, welcoming the simplicity it brings them.

And if they haven’t, get ahead of the game! Don’t be afraid to trail blaze – competitors will most likely follow in your footsteps shortly or immediately after.

How Should You Proceed?

Explore your options and do your research. But, as Magento Certified Developers, we certainly recommend looking into Magento Commerce 2.2 for the many core capabilities it provides. Namely:

  • Company account management: Supports sales for companies with multiple buyers or differing organizational structures. Self-service tools allow customers to track their quotes, orders, and credit without having to fax or phone you.
  • Custom catalogs and pricing: Allows for custom catalogs and price lists to ensure unique contract terms are supported online.
  • Quick ordering: Quick order forms, requisition lists, and easy reordering make online purchasing easy and efficient.
  • Mobile-ready sites: A mobile-first strategy is obviously important. With a fully responsive Magento site, orders can be taken on the go at any time.

If you are a B2B company looking into the possibilities that eCommerce can provide for your company, feel free to contact us today or feel free to check out some of our experience working with B2B companies.

Are You Ready to Upgrade to Magento Commerce?

Are You Ready to Upgrade to Magento Commerce?

magento commerce upgrade

Whatever eCommerce platform your website is currently running on, it’s important to have a set of metrics you can continuously monitor to make sure you’re still benefiting from a well-tuned, right-sized solution. These metrics will help you determine if the platform you use is still viable or if you would be better off upgrading to a new one, like Magento Commerce. Whether your site is currently powered by Magento Open Source or a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform such as Shopify, these are the signs you should upgrade to a more high-powered and advanced platform like Magento Commerce:

Sign #1: Visitors Are Overloading Your Current Site

Lower cost SaaS platforms and open source solutions are great for smaller eCommerce merchants looking for support and reliability. While these platforms work wonders for many businesses, a significant increase in traffic can push the limits and overload them, leading to slower load times, broken pages, and even total website crashes. Considering that a staggering 79% of shoppers reported they wouldn’t return to make a purchase from a website with slow load speeds, it’s critical to make sure the platform you’re using can handle spikes in traffic.

Magento Commerce is built with enhanced caching and databasing capabilities that deliver the extra-needed muscle during high traffic times to keep your website running speedily.

Sign #2: You Want to Expand Your Customer Base

Even if your website is currently doing a good job of handling a significant increase in traffic, there may come a point in time where you want to start selling your product to new customers in new markets. Magento Commerce has more than enough capabilities to ensure successful growth and scalability in any area, including expansions from B2B to B2C, the introduction of a new vertical, and even jumping into a new geographical area for business. Additionally, the platform offers target content and promotion, Google tag management, Enterprise business analytics, and integration with best in class third-party marketing technologies. If your business is growing in any of these directions, it’s important to consider upgrading to a platform such as Magento Commerce to ensure you’ll be ready.

Sign #3: Fulfillment is Challenging

If your website has been seeing a steady increase in purchases, fulfillment can start to become challenging. The fulfillment process may already complicated, with a number of factors outside of your eCommerce platform like warehousing and carriers that can influence your ability to deliver. This makes it all the more important to ensure your website can handle an increased capacity and is able to push orders to internal and external fulfillment models.

Magento Commerce has a number of features that can accommodate an increase in demand:

  • Improved database support: Create both a faster front and back-end experience with Magento’s multiple databases.
  • Streamlined admin experience: Manage orders more effectively with the upgraded Magento admin interface.
  • Customer-initiated returns: Free up admin time by allowing customers to begin their own returns process.
  • Broadened Magento Marketplace: Access exclusive extensions available only to Magento Commerce merchants.

Sign #4: You Haven’t Updated Your Website in Years

The average lifespan of a website is less than 3 years. This means that in order to keep up with the latest design trends and technologies, eCommerce merchants must redesign their website frequently. If your business hasn’t updated their website in a number of years, it might be smartest to pair your redesign with an upgrade to your platform too.

Magento Commerce is one of the most advanced platforms available to merchants, ensuring that your website will be ahead of the next trend. If you need an expert opinion on whether or not your eCommerce business should upgrade to Magento Commerce, contact us today.

Digital Marketing Trends That Are Crushing it in 2018

Digital Marketing Trends That Are Crushing it in 2018

Digital Marketing Trends

Great marketing requires fluidity; you must be able to adapt to different trends, implement new tactics, and test out new powerful tools in order to stay ahead of the game. Consumers are constantly shifting and changing, so no matter what industry you work in or whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, you have to be continually looking towards the future.

Whether you’re crushing it with your current strategy or you need some new ideas to spice things up, you should consider these latest trends when implementing your marketing strategy.

General Marketing Trends

Marketing is a pretty broad term; there is brand marketing, content marketing, product marketing, search marketing, the list goes on and on… That’s why we decided to split the different trends into their respective categories.

Despite the many sectors of marketing, there are some trends that apply to every aspect of the marketing process. Whether you’re a social media marketer, a content marketer, or you work exclusively with SEO, these trends are something you should be paying attention to.

Customers as Marketers

Word-of-mouth is now, without a doubt, the single most valuable marketing tool in a merchant’s utility belt. That means the name of the game is no longer just acquiring customers – it’s creating a wonderful customer experience that influences them to be an advocate for your brand. Implement some strategies that ensure an enjoyable customer experience for all of your consumers.

  • Focus on customer service – both online and in-person (if applicable)
  • Engage with customers on social media and address any complaints as soon as they arise (be sure to avoid these common social media mistakes)
  • Reward loyal customers with discount codes or free shipping to incentivize consumers to continue shopping with the company

Content Marketing Trends

As the year progresses, all kinds of businesses are rolling out new blogs or investing in content-related advertisements. Why? Because statistics don’t lie: 47% of buyers viewed 3-5 pieces of content before reaching out to a sales rep and 70% of people would rather learn about new products through content rather than ads.

Starting a blog is a great way to begin producing content, but in order to successfully engage with your audience, you must curate content that your audience interacts with and enjoys.

Two specific types of content have reigned superior this year (so far): personalized content and bite-sized content.

Personalized Content

As machine learning capabilities increase, customers are becoming more used to one-on-one experiences. Customers want to feel singled out; they enjoy when their buying experience is customized to fit their needs and wants. Statistics back up that theory: 78% of customers say that personalized content increases their purchase intentions and studies show that personalization can increase profits by 500%.

When personalizing content, follow these tips:

  • Engage customers personally at every level. Include their first and last name in emails, curate your website experience to them personally using cookies, and try to respond to them in a personal manner on social media.
  • Collect more data. More data equals more personalization. So ask for the first and last name before they download your guide or subscribe to your monthly newsletter. That way, you have at least the beginning of a leg to stand on when it comes to curating a customer experience.

Bite-sized Content

Did you know that Microsoft published a study showing that people’s average attention span is 8 seconds? You need to be keying in on customer’s critical issues, questions, and concerns with bite-sized content.

  • GIFs, tweets, and short videos are all valuable content types that grab a user’s attention quickly.
  • Try to convey the most important information during this short time. Also, even though the content length is short, you still need to brand. Get your brand in their brains in a repetitive, consistent way.

Social Media Marketing Trends

Social media has been rapidly changing this year. Instagram stories, IGTV, Facebook Stories, the list goes on and on. Social media marketing is crucial for eCommerce and can even increase sales, so make sure your platforms are up to date. Let’s take a look at where 2018 is heading when it comes to social media.

Permanent vs. Ephemeral Content

Instagram stories have really changed the game when it comes to content. There is now permanent content and temporary content to pay attention to. You need to be juggling both and coming out with fresh content both ways.

  • Ephemeral content gives you a good chance to experiment and get a little raw. It’s temporary, so don’t funnel a bunch of funds into it. Keep it light-hearted and engaging.
  • Remember: don’t lose focus on permanent content because you are experimenting with Snapchat or stories. Permanent content is just that: permanent. That content will be out there forever, so make sure it’s engaging and successfully branding your company.

Micro-influencers

Influencers have become a popular trend in modern day marketing. The process usually involves sending your products or services to an influencer, having them test out the products, and then featuring your company or products to their followers depending on the agreement.

Influencers as a whole have really risen this year, but micro-influencers, in particular, have been killing it.

A micro-influencer is a social media promoter with a smaller following – they aren’t technically celebrities, but many have die-hard fan bases that trust their judgment.

  • Find people who would seem like a natural fit with your buyer’s persona. Don’t put your herbal products on the page of a competitive eater – it doesn’t make sense. The whole reason micro-influencers work is that their engagement levels are much higher than celebrities. People trust them. Make sure your products are naturally placed for the best ROI’s.

Search Marketing Trends

SEO marketers should be used to changing up their tactics on the fly. Google’s consistent shifting of algorithm patterns has forced many merchants to learn to adapt quickly. For 2018, one of the most significant SEO trends is the growth of Voice Search.

Voice Search

(We’ve already written an article on this topic, but in order to stress its importance, we’ll put the highlights in this article as well.)

When is the last time you used Siri? Or Alexa? Or Cortana? The list of voice-based assistants continues to grow and it is now predicted that by 2020, over 50% of searches will be voice searches. SEO marketers need to adapt to the way that voice queries search, and continue building a framework that adapts to voice while being consistent on Google search.

  • A good first step is to start doing your research on voice trends. Voice search usually uses queries that are posed as a question. Keep that in mind.

GDPR’s Impact on Marketing

This year we all saw tons of privacy rules and regulations coming out of both North America and Europe. For us in the United States, GDPR required us to adapt to new policies regarding privacy.

General Data Protection Regulation

GDPR significantly changed the nature of how we deal with online privacy. We all use data to market, so make sure that you are compliant with GDPR (even if you don’t think you sell in Europe) because the fines are high and the negative publicity that comes with it can be even worse.

Those are a few of the many marketing trends we are tracking this year. If you are looking for more ways to market your eCommerce store or have questions regarding staying up to date with the latest regulations and marketing strategies, contact us today.