How to Create Meaningful Customer Experiences in eCommerce

How to Create Meaningful Customer Experiences in eCommerce

Create Meaningful Customer Experiences in eCommerce

As eCommerce continues to grow, discovering new ways to stand out to potential customers is more critical now than ever before. In the process of generating new customers, an age-old marketing truth continues to ring true; never compete on price alone. Some merchants tend to believe that price is the determining factor. In some cases, that probably is true. However, consumer research shows that when comparing products customers rate price as the third-most important factor. So if the price tag is only a small piece of the puzzle, what matters more?

Adobe CEO, Shantanu Narayen provides an answer for what matters more than price to customers: “Consumers are seeking phenomenal experiences. Successful companies recognize that customer experience rises above everything else.” At first, Narayen’s answer might sound counterintuitive. Most people shop online for convenience, and price plays a crucial role in product search and accessibility. However, don’t underestimate the importance of excellent user experience. For example, online retailer, Zappos focused on customer experience above all else which led to a billion-dollar acquisition by Amazon. Business schools around the world teach Zappos case as an example of good business.

It’s clear that delivering a superior customer experience is the best way to stand out and sustain growth even in a competitive environment. But, that may be easier said than done. How can merchants construct a plan to create a digital presence that inspires meaningful customer experiences for eCommerce?

To help answer that question, below are eight ways to create meaningful customer experiences in eCommerce.

1. Build Comprehensive and Interactive Product Page Content

Hopefully, merchants are already aware of the importance of a quality product page. But good means more than just a simple description of product descriptions, price, and product add-on opportunities. Good product pages engage customers and help them build a connection with products.

Merchants can add engagement elements in many ways:

  • Exceptional photography that showcases the product from many angles.
  • Product videos which by the way, are known to increase conversions by up to 85%.
  • User reviews and testimonials that highlight other customers’ positive experiences.

The elements listed above are essential for building a product page designed not just to convert, but engage customers. With the right resources, merchants can even take engagement a step farther. Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR), for example, can help create an immersive shopping experience that is sure to outpace the competition.

2. Optimize The Path to Purchase Process for All Types of Customers

Focusing on the full path to purchase user experience is an opportunity to maximize the impact on all customers. One aspect to take into account is accessibility. Never underestimate, or neglect, customers with disabilities. For example, 285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide. Providing an equal shopping opportunity to customers shouldn’t be ignored. Target learned an eye-opening lesson when they settled a $6 million class-action lawsuit by blind customers who’d struggled to use the website. Target then agreed to have the site compliant within six months. As is so often the case, merchants end up spending more to modify a website – and in Target’s case, deal with the financial consequences and PR nightmare of a lawsuit – than they would have paid to design it to be accessible from the beginning.

Also, it’s important to note that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) now applies to eCommerce too. The National Law Review issued a warning that “website accessibility lawsuits under ADA are on the rise.” It would be prudent for eCommerce merchants to begin a plan for ADA compliance not only to create a happy user experience for everyone but to avoid painful lawsuits and brand damage.

Another implementation point should be simplicity. Make sure that the website allows customers to find what they’re looking for quickly. Throughout the path to purchase process, subtle design choices from whitespace to call to action buttons should nudge the customer toward the final “complete purchase“ button.

3. Go Beyond the Product Page For In-Depth Content

Don’t assume that the customer’s interest begins or ends with just the product pages. Instead, ensure that the entire website is built to help customers delight in the brand experience, and imagine themselves using the products.

That might include an active company blog to show real-life cases of products. The same space could also be useful for behind-the-scenes footage that lets customers share in the product creation process. The emphasis should be on storytelling, building an emotional connection with customers that will ultimately pay off in more purchases.

4. Create a Feeling of Authenticity

The goal is to generate sales. In the interest of that goal, it’s tempting to cross the line between authentic brand experience and naked salesmanship. Avoid that temptation by emphasizing authenticity as a core brand value. Above all, consistent communication is critical. From the moment customers first hear the brand name to and even after the first conversion, focus on the same brand mantra and message pillars. Relate each message point back to the customer, and their needs and pain points.

The product page optimization tactics mentioned above, such as product stories and testimonials, can build authenticity by creating a consistent account that allows customers to imagine themselves becoming part of it.

5. Streamline the Checkout Process

The checkout process plays a crucial role in offering a superior customer experience. Here, merchants can either make or break a long-term relationship with potential buyers. Customers have noted abandoning carts for many reasons and according to Baynard, “28% of US online shoppers have abandoned an order in the past solely due to a “too long/complicated checkout process.” A study conducted by Barilliance concluded that over 3/4 of shoppers choose to leave the site without completing a purchase. High cart abandonment rates show just how difficult it is to keep customers engaged.

Fortunately, there are ways to combat cart abandonment. With the right steps, merchants can make sure that the checkout process becomes a positive part of the customer experience by implementing the following shopping cart options:

  • Integrate easy payment options, such as Amazon Pay and Klarna delayed payments.
  • Include instant tax calculations based on zip codes, which avoid confusion and dissatisfaction over pricing.
  • Offer a range of shipping options that allow the customer to choose between speed and value.
  • Build a fast-loading shopping cart that loads quickly, without long wait times on mobile or desktop devices.

6. Personalize Communications

Personalization is key to a superior online shopping experience. Almost 90% of consumers say they’re more likely to shop with retailers that deliver personalized experiences. Less than 10% of top-tier retailers say they effectively provide that type of experience.

That doesn’t have to be the case. All communications should be both segmented and customized. As soon as customer information is available, use it to build a more relevant message. That might be as simple as including a first name, or as complex as sending a customized email specifically to a customer segment who has recently purchased a specific product or from a product category.

It’s also advisable to look for ways to go beyond the norm. For example, Zappos regularly upgrades customers from regular to priority shipping. That upgrade is built into the Zappos budget but creates loyalty among consumers who feel like VIPs rather than a number in a CRM.

7. Build a Post-Purchase Relationship

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that when a customer makes a purchase, the end goal has been met. The reality is that the customer journey is really just beginning. The majority of revenue likely comes from repeat customers, which means they deserve special treatment. When merchants deliver excellent post-purchase communications, they optimize their customer loyalty.

Customer relationships should begin when the customer creates an account. After that, customize everything available to fit the customers’ likes and preferences. Custom content allows merchants to greet customers by name, offer personalized promotions, and recommend products based on past purchases.

Put effort into building a relationship, and revenue will begin to maximize. Consider creating custom content such as blog post and tutorials, available only to current customers. The more merchants do to bind customers to their brand emotionally, the more customers will delight in their experience when shopping.

8. Measure Expectations – Then Surpass Them

Finally, never underestimate the power of useful data. Always measure efforts, especially as it relates to creating meaningful relationships. Set a baseline before implementing the measures above to understand the current customer’s expectations.

The key, of course, is not just meeting these expectations but surpassing them. Anytime that merchants can create a wow moment in which they deliver exceptional value for a customer, it is almost a guarantee to build a relationship that ultimately leads to a sale. By exceeding expectations, merchants set themselves apart from the competition.

Getting Started on the Road to Better eCommerce Experiences

In isolation, all of the above are effective tactics for creating meaningful experiences in eCommerce. But to surpass customer expectations and create a superior experience, consider building a combination of them.  In-depth, interactive product pages work great with a streamlined checkout process. Add conscious efforts to build a post-purchase relationship, and build strong emotional connections with customers.

Of course, these efforts requires both a strategic approach and the right tools. We can help in both areas. Our experience in designing beautiful and successful eCommerce websites is perfect for building more meaningful customer relationships. Contact us to start talking about a potential partnership.

Four Reasons Why an eCommerce Blog Increases Sales

Four Reasons Why an eCommerce Blog Increases Sales

eCommerce Blog

Blogs work for businesses of all kinds, mainly when they contain valuable information which helps customers make more informed buying decisions. When done right, blogs increase customer engagement, build trust, and generate leads by driving more traffic to the merchant website. In fact, in a recent post from HubSpot, it was found that businesses that blog 16 or more times a month generate 3.5 times more traffic than those which post 4 or fewer blogs.

The uptick in traffic for B2C businesses is even higher. Specifically, B2C companies that blog 11 or more times a month generate four times as many leads as those that blog 4 or fewer times. Blogs are also a great way to engage with customers beyond the selling and buying relationship. In the same post from HubSpot, almost half of customers say they read blog posts from companies they frequently visited.

An eCommerce Blog Helps Customers Make Critical Purchasing Decisions

A common misconception is that customers do not care about a company blogs. However, a well-constructed blog will humanize a business, engage customers and give them valuable information they need to make a purchase. For example, Inc. points out the perks of an eCommerce blog:

“It is no secret that business blogs do a lot for increasing online traffic to standard website platforms, but they also have several other benefits that specifically benefit e-commerce sites. What is even better is the fact that because many e-commerce sites are not taking advantage of having a business blog, this can be the one aspect that sets a site away from the rest.”

A blog gets the attention of search engines and then by new customers. A new blog might even catch the attention of competitors. If competing merchants haven’t caught on to the value of blogging, now’s a good time to get ahead and create a new valuable space for customers.

An eCommerce blog, that delivers valuable information, helps eCommerce businesses to increase sales in four ways.

Search Engine Optimization

Search engines like Google rank websites based on the value those sites provide to internet users. Because blogs typically contain useful information, they tend to rank well in search engines and therefore improve organic search rankings. Search engines also base rank on the number of pages they can index on a site.  A blog, because it adds more pages, attracts the attention of search engines which results in higher rankings and more site traffic.

Build trust with customers  

Product descriptions and reviews help shoppers decide what products to buy.  However, a blog, goes one step further, by providing valuable information to help customers make more prudent buying decisions.  Because a well-crafted blog emphasizes help rather than sales, it increases the trust customers feel about a company. In other words, the more merchants help customers, the more customers trust companies, and the more likely they’ll be to make purchases.

Be the go-to site to solve problems

Once customers start to realize the value in an eCommerce blog, they’ll be more likely to go back to it the next time they need help. Engagement increases the so-called “stickiness” of a website. The more blog posts, the more problems solved or questions answered will continually attract new and repeat customers. When blogs are well-organized, customers quickly learn they can use it to get the answers they need. That means more repeat traffic and more sales.

Humanize Business

Customers are noting more that they don’t like to buy from businesses. Instead, they want to buy from people.  The more an eCommerce site resembles a trusted friend, the more likely it is that customers will trust a company and want to do business with them. A blog is an excellent way to build trust and humanize a business. Blogs are a great way to create an alternative platform to be creative and add personality to a brand. For example, when companies write in a colloquial, conversational style that customers can easily relate to, the tone can humanize a company. However, the tone of voice will, of course, differ slightly depending on the nature of a business and brand. Simply put, blogs increase the “human factor” by telling relatable stories, offering advice, and bringing customers into the site.

A Blog Shows Companies Care about Their Customers

Lastly, a thoughtful blog shows customers that companies care about more than just profits. With helpful content, companies show they care enough to help customers solve their most pressing problems, save money, and make informed buying decisions. For the merchant, an eCommerce blog drives more site traffic, increases consumer trust, builds loyalty and repeat traffic, and puts a human face on a business.

To learn more about integrating a blog into Magento or more about how SEO marketing services can help boost sales and grow business, contact us today.

The Right Price Model For Your Next Development Project: Fixed-Price vs Time and Material

The Right Price Model For Your Next Development Project: Fixed-Price vs Time and Material

fixed-price vs time and material

When outsourcing web development, choosing the right contractual arrangement is essential. A wrong decision can lead to tough consequences such as a major issue with project budget, quality, and timeline. Many merchants end up experiencing headache after headache without getting their projects completed.

Most development partners offer one of two pricing model options: fixed-price or time and materials. Both models have their pros and cons, and depending on the project, one may make better sense over the other.

The following compares the two pricing models so merchants can better understand the difference between fixed-price vs time and material and why each has their time and place.

The Fixed-Price Model

A fixed-price agreement sets an agreed upon price for the completion of an entire project. There are two characteristics of this project type necessary for it to work. First, the parameters and requirements for the project are clear from the beginning. Second, the process for making scope (requirement) adjustments is very clear. Small or very repeatable projects work well with this model.

Fixed-Price Model Advantages

Organized

Due to fixed-price projects being completed under clear requirements and set deadlines, projects are more organized and easily manageable. Generally, project payment timing is agreed upon ahead of time and based on the percentage of work completed, which requires minimal management from the merchants perspective when expectations are laid out. Further, day-to-day tasks are set from the beginning to ensure delivery and to meet deadlines.

No Surprises

Perhaps the best part of fixed-price budgets is that there is little to no guesswork for pricing. Fixed-price contracts are predictable. With a fixed-price contract, requirements and set deadlines leave little room for surprises. Further, fixed-price contracts are generally budget-friendly. For many smaller eCommerce businesses, knowing the cost ahead of time makes it much easier to complete projects on budget.

Fixed-Price Model Disadvantages

Inflexible

A fixed-price model leaves little room for flexibility which is essential for successful eCommerce development.  Merchants may realize the original plan needs to be revised and edited. With a fixed-price agreement, scope changes can be complicated and costly to manage since they require much more time to review and process.

Quality

Fixed-price development projects, by definition, are done on a budget. The developer or partner must complete the project within a specific timeframe. But even if the project does not have a strict time frame, it still benefits the developer to finish the project quickly to be profitable. Some developers may rush, take shortcuts or agree to projects without understanding the full scope and complexity.

Lastly, if the final result is of subpar quality, business owners will need to pay additional fees to the current developer to fix the project, settle for the current state of the website, or hire a new developer. In fact, many fixed-price projects end up in a state of “abandoned in design.” Often, the scope of work turns out to be much greater than initially estimated and the developer is forced to walk away from the project. Generally, due to not having the resources to fix all the bugs resulting from the shortcuts taken to deliver the agreed-upon scope.

The Time and Materials Model

A time and materials agreement generally involves an estimate from a developer or agency. The budget is not agreed upon ahead of time. Instead, the merchant receives a bill for an hourly rate for the duration scheduled by the developer. The final cost of the project is for how many hours it took the developer to do the work and the cost of any additional materials that were needed.

There are many more advantages associated with the time and material model when building eCommerce websites. Time and material projects are still very custom and the template is not as repeatable as say, for example, building a house.

Time and Material Advantages

Flexibility

Many would agree that a significant advantage of the time and materials model would be the flexibility of the process. As projects progress, objectives and needs often change. Further, when a merchant changes their mind during development, additional features can be improved. In other words, as the scope of the project changes and evolves, the development work can shift with it. For example, features can be added or removed halfway through a project. In general, the developer’s goal is to ensure the client is happy and the project is complete. With time and materials contracts, developers tend to not rush to the finish line hoping the job comes together.

Timeliness

With time and material pricing, merchants do not have to go through an RFP or bidding process. Business owners can quickly interview a developer or agency to discover hourly rates, certifications, and experience. The time and materials approach will help save time and allow most merchants to begin immediately. Further, time and materials contracts should provide detail to include the time spent on each feature. Transparency allows both the merchant and the development partner to stay on the same page and working towards the final goal.  

Cost Savings

Time and material projects tend to deliver more value per feature than fixed-price projects. Due to the enhanced efficiency of the time and materials development process since the change order process does not hinder it.  Also, the quality of the initial code build is often higher on a time and materials project since the development team is not being pushed to cut corners. High quality leads to cost savings over time since there are less bug and performance issues to resolve.

Time and Material Disadvantages

Time Commitment

With a time and materials pricing model, merchants must be willing to be an active participant in the development process. At the beginning of the project, it is crucial to lay out necessary features, the vision of the project and any business issues that will need to be resolving in the final project.

This type of communication provides the developer with a deep understanding of what the client needs to have at least a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) at the end of the project and allows the developer to provide feedback and suggestions for optimizations and functionality that the project could, or should, have. Then, over the course of the project, the developer will send regular updates about the progress of the project and require feedback from the merchant. While this aspect allows for flexibility and transparency, there will be a significant input and commitment expected from the merchant or client.

Budget Changes

With a time and materials pricing model it can be difficult to estimate what the final cost of the development project will be. In some cases, a merchant will require easily implemented features. For others, the project may be much more involved than initially anticipated. Initial estimates may change as additional features need extra development hours.  

Which is the Best Choice or Which Seems Like the Less Risky Option?

Experience has shown us that for many Magento development projects that the time and material pricing model is often the best choice. Many times, fixed-rate contracts lead to a low quality finished product which creates a lower ROI and long-term bug and performance fix costs (technical debt). During the development phase of a project, the client is generally responsible for resolving any unexpected issues that arise that weren’t part of the original scope of work. Further, with a fixed-rate model, the developer makes a more substantial profit with fast completion. Quick completion undoubtedly causes a rushed job and cut corners.

An unknown budget or even one with an investment range may seem daunting. However, if merchants partner with a trustworthy and experienced developer, the developer will provide regular budget updates and even agree to put a hold on work at the end of an hourly limit before project completion. Additionally, the lack of fixed-time constraints means that the developer can provide the best job possible given the agreed upon budget constraints.
 
And then there is the time commitment. It is true that a time and material pricing model does require business owners to be heavily involved. This should be considered a good thing. Involved merchants can be sure that when the final product is complete, it will be exactly as required.

While each pricing model for website development has its pros and cons, the best way to decide between the two is to base it on which one will best suit the needs of the merchant company and the format of the project.

Contact us to learn more about our development processes and how we work with our clients.

Allocating Digital Marketing Budget Funds for Optimal ROI

Allocating Digital Marketing Budget Funds for Optimal ROI

Digital Marketing Budget Allocation

With ever-changing developments in technology, digital marketing is always evolving. Knowing where to allocate marketing funds while proving ROI is a challenge for many merchants. When planning a digital marketing budget for the future, it’s important to examine which strategies will create the best return on investment.  

A challenge that merchants and business owners face is choosing the right people for the job, allocating the right amount of resources for each area, sticking with the plan over the course of its lifespan, and determining whether or not the strategies were successful.

We’ve cultivated some helpful advice for planning a digital marketing budget with tips on how to start planning, ways to start building a budget, how to measure performance, and when to ask for help.

Analyze and Create a Plan

An ROI focused marketing plan should always center around business goals. Make sure these goals are clear-cut and actionable. Further, It’s important to make sure that everyone is on the same page for determining business goals and objectives. As objectives are defined, start to plan specific approaches for each area. Analyze percentages, statistics, and dollar amounts on previous marketing spend, to help visualize what is needed to achieve those goals. Consider what resources are required for each activity to be successful. Keep in mind that in-house efforts still require an investment of time, research, and other resources that may not be immediately clear.

During the planning phase, be realistic about goals and what can be accomplished to achieve them. Create a timeline and break certain aspects of the initiative into manageable stages. For example, decide what needs to be completed for the next quarter, or by the second month of the fiscal year. Take into account the size of business, and the amount of work that can be accomplished in-house.

Measuring Efforts

ROI is an essential metric used to figure out which campaigns and strategies were most successful. By tracking ROI, it is possible to see which areas of marketing are working and which aren’t. When crafting a plan for the next few months, think about which strategies have been most successful in the past. Analyzing past efforts is an excellent opportunity to learn from past mistakes. Using tools like Google Analytics can be helpful to examine trends over a specified time, whether it’s a month, a quarter, or year over year.

Traffic and conversion rates are measurable but how is branding measured? Companies with healthy traffic and hearty conversions over an extended period can likely conclude that branding is doing well also.

Traffic, conversions, and branding all influence one another, and none of them exist well on their own

There are several additional tests and areas for optimization to measure. For example, analyzing the best time to post on social media. Are there certain times of the day or days of the week where customers are more active on social? eMail is another area to monitor. It’s essential to research industry benchmarks and learn when is the best time and day to send eMails. Analyzing key landing pages and performance is necessary as well. Try split-testing landing pages and product pages. While there are plenty of sources out there that claim to know the best answers for these areas, sometimes it just comes down to what works best for a particular business.

Create a Marketing Budget – A Formula For Success

When planning a budget, think about the current size of the company, and its growth trajectory for the future. Look to create a marketing strategy that can be flexible with the growth of the company. Next, scope out competitors in the industry. Think about what is needed to compete, or stay on top. Establish the top priority for the business at the moment.

Keep the target customer top of mind. Different audiences respond differently to marketing efforts, and there is no “one size fits all” marketing plan that will work for every business. There are, however, specific areas that can better structure a marketing plan to make sense in today’s digital world.

Three main categories drive a marketing plan and budget: branding, traffic, and conversions. In an article from The Good on marketing budget allocation, they describe the three critical factors and how they work together. Stating that “If one fails, they all fail, but branding is where the process begins. The more people know and like about you, the easier the rest of the marketing flow will be.” All three are essential when it comes to creating a plan that will accomplish the end goal.

Branding

Branding creates a distinctive style that is apparent throughout all aspects of a digital presence – social media, websites, and advertising. When people mention an industry, well-known brands come to mind first. It’s essential to establish an audience and customer following by providing informative, helpful content, and a deep well of useful resources.

Traffic

Traffic, both paid and organic, is measurable with Google Analytics but can be difficult to increase. An SEO strategy is vital for attracting a steady stream of organic visitors.  While paid traffic requires upfront costs, organic traffic has hidden costs as well. Creating attractive SEO friendly content requires expert care, creativity, and some tech-savvy.

Conversion Rate Optimization

Companies with measurable branding and a steady traffic flow who are unable to turn visitors into conversions are experiencing a problem. It is essential to make the path to purchase or ecommerce shopping experience easy, intuitive, user-friendly, and fast.  Customers require exceptional customer service and reliable products that solve problems.

When To Seek Outside Resources

Even for merchants with digital media pros already on the team, remember they’ll have to take time out of their already-busy work days to invest in a new marketing plan or strategy. To see real, measurable success across the board for digital marketing, merely doing SEO or PPC “on the side” isn’t going to cut it.

Analyze the current team to assist with efforts. Are there enough hands on deck to carry out a marketing plan to its full extent? If not, consider outsourcing efforts to the pros. An experienced digital marketing partner can help in both the planning of a strategy, the execution, and will offer different levels of services depending on what’s required.

Also, there are plenty of tools available to help marketing teams with their efforts. Tools like SEMrush allow merchants to perform competitor analysis. SEMrush can show which keywords competitors are using to drive both paid and organic traffic. A competitor analysis is a great way to learn what others in a particular industry are using and then offers ideas to get ahead. Tools can be helpful, but only if utilized to their full potential. In an article from Neil Patel on marketing budget spend, he discussed how he has seen clients spend a small fortune on tools that weren’t being used to their full potential or not used at all. While marketing tools are great, some are costly. It’s important not to throw money at the problem and hope tools work. Many services offer free trial versions or free versions for small businesses that can grow with a team. Be sure to monitor all tools used and remove any that aren’t helpful or productive.

Another plus for outsourcing marketing efforts to a partner is that they will usually have the knowledge, access to and experience with an array of tools to assist clients. A marketing partner and even third-party tools can help spend time and resources more effectively while automating a lot of marketing efforts.

Contact us to learn more about optimizing a marketing budget or on how to create a new marketing strategy for Search Engine Optimization, Pay-per-click, or Conversion Rate Optimization.

Preventing eMail Unsubscribes

Preventing eMail Unsubscribes

Preventing eMail unsubscribes

Cultivating a robust eMail database is key to successful eMail marketing efforts. In eCommerce, eMail is one of the highest converting marketing channels. In fact, according to the Direct Marketing Association, the ROI of eMail is 3,800%. Further, 72% of customers say they would rather receive promotional material via eMail than any other channel. eMail continues to be valuable for generating sales while delivering strong ROI.   

Monitoring and preventing unsubscribes is critical for continued success for conversions and sales in general. With 38% of customers reporting that receiving special offers is the top reason, they subscribe to an eMail list, keeping subscribers engaged is critical for business.

While some eMail unsubscribers are inevitable, there are proactive methods for preventing eMail unsubscribes to keep customers coming back for more.

Re-think Strategy

When unsubscribe rates are on the rise it’s time to re-think strategy. Generally, there are two main reasons for high unsubscribes rates – frequency and irrelevancy. Consider the frequency of email sends. How often are emails sent?. Is there a dedicated employee on staff managing an eMail campaign calendar? Do they know how many transactional and triggered eMails are currently set up? Has a strategy been put in place for automated eMails? How often are offer eMails sent out? When do new product eMails go out? Are customers receiving multiple eMails per day?

Sending too many eMails will quickly frustrate customers and leave them reluctant to open any eMails. It’s likely that even if they do not unsubscribe, they’ll select all and delete. Cart reminder eMails, special offers or company updates are great to send. However, multiple eMails a day can quickly turn off customers. Re-think strategy on timing and why.

In addition to frequency, relevancy is critical to preventing eMail unsubscribes. Customers join eMail lists because they made a purchase or because they wanted to receive promo offers, discount codes, and awesome content. Target customers with information relevant to their past purchases and interests. Understanding the customer’s needs and interests isn’t just important for eMail, it’s important for branding and growing a customer following in general. Make sure content is relevant to subscribers and remember that they signed up to get more information about sales or to receive a discount code. They did not sign up to have their inbox inundated with several eMails a day with irrelevant content.

Keep Subscribers Engaged

It’s natural for some customers to unsubscribe over time as interests and needs change. It’s nearly impossible to keep every subscriber long-term. There are, however, several strategies to improve eMail retention rates to keep subscribers as long as possible.

Personalized content is vital for eMail marketing. However, that doesn’t just mean making sure to use the subscriber’s first name. One element of personalization, for example, is allowing customer behaviors to trigger specific eMails. For example, when a customer engages with a particular product, they are sent an eMail with a discount offer for that product. Another example could be cart abandonment eMails. When a customer leaves a cart, they should receive a timely reminder eMail to finish the purchase.

Send every eMail for a reason. Try not to send mass quantities of blast type eMails, which are three to four times less effective than personalized eMails. Instead, make sure that each eMail serves a clear purpose tailored to the customer.

Track Unsubscribe Rates

Monitoring analytics is critical for proactive eMail management. If a sudden spike in unsubscribes does happen, having a solid handle on historical data can be extremely valuable. Proactive managers should know what type of content does well with customers, what may fall flat, and how to keep customers engaged. Most importantly, never ignore any unsubscribe rates. Unsubscribe rates can have a massive impact on sales and negatively impact business in several ways.

Why unsubscribe rates matter:

  • High unsubscribe rates can hurt sender reputation
  • They can even impact the ability to hit other customers inboxes
  • Unsubscribes can cause future eMails to hit spam filters
  • They can impact the bottom line since fewer customers are receiving special offers

When merchants have a solid handle on the types of eMail campaigns that are successful, it’s easier to avoid unsubscribes in the first place. By carefully tracking unsubscribe rates, merchants can do something about it before it becomes a problem. Analyzing the type of content sent out, the frequency as well as unsubscribe rates will give a good idea of what content is going to impact subscribers. It’s important to note that unsubscribes do happen. However, merchants can decrease unsubscribe rates and increase the number of long-term subscribers by being proactive and regularly monitoring eMail performance.

Be Proactive and Thoughtful with eMail

Sending genuinely useful and beneficial content is crucial.  Track the types of content that are most interesting to customers. Be sure to monitor which eMails increase open rates. Especially open rates above the industry average. Analyze what topics or offers increase click-through rates. Regular data collection and analysis will help to determine what content is genuinely beneficial to eMail subscribers.

Need assistance with eMail campaign and strategy? Contact us today to learn more about how we can transform your eMail marketing efforts and help you keep your subscribers engaged and converting.

To RFP or Not to RFP?

To RFP or Not to RFP?

Pros and cons for an RFP Process

Finding a new website development agency is never an easy task. Merchants are often running on limited resources, limited employees experienced in web development, and limited time. For those with a lack of knowledge in the field, the procurement process can be particularly daunting. Sometimes It can be a struggle to articulate what technically is required for the project or know what a realistic budget is. Therefore, merchants that put out Requests For Proposals (RFP) often do not fully understand what it is they need. Thus, the request for information in the first place.

The other option is to hire a partner or agency without engaging in a formal RFP process. Merchants who tend to go this route may feel comfortable explaining or requesting technical requirements needed for a new project without engaging in a formal RFP process. Perhaps they’ve worked with a partner before or are heavily involved in the day-to-day management of the website.  Regardless of the method used to hire a new partner and why, the process is essential. A new partner is likely going to play a significant role in the planning, building, and strategy required for a new project. Hiring the best partner for the job is vital.

There are pros and cons for an RFP process vs directly hiring an agency or partner. Understanding each will make it easier to decide what’s best for your business.

The RFP Process

Typically, the RFP process is time-consuming and regimented. When creating an RFP, merchants must request information in a specific, formal format. Meaning that businesses who respond to the RFP are limited in the information they can offer. Responses generally only provide the information requested. In other words, merchants will likely not receive alternative solutions. A lack of guidance can be challenging as frequently, the companies seeking RFPs in the first place are the very businesses who need the extra insight that would come from a scoping, or a get-to-know-your-needs call typical in a non-formal RFP situation.

Further, with an RFP process, it’s difficult for responders to sufficiently explain alternative solutions or offer creative, experienced input for optimizations. As the merchant, hiring an experienced partner that can not only fulfill needs but also provide alternative solutions that could simplify or enhance the project should be the end goal.

Pros of an RFP Process:

  • Receive multiple bids from a variety of partners
  • Learn more about what’s available in the industry
  • Easily review pricing

Cons of an RFP Process:

  • Often a time-consuming process (more responses is not necessarily a good thing)
  • Requires a significant amount of work and planning for the merchant
  • A formal process that often lacks creativity
  • Room for misunderstandings and communication breakdowns
  • Responders may not be technically capable
  • The process can put an exaggerated focus on price (Winner chosen may be based on price alone)

The RFP process often wastes a lot of valuable time for the merchant and rarely generates reliable information. Inexperienced developers win RFPs due to low price quotes alone. For complex eCommerce website development, particularly for large websites, bottom dollar isn’t always the best answer. No matter how tempting it may seem. Merchants end up paying for those decisions in the long run when things break, cost more than expected, or go unfinished due to inexperience.

A Non-Formal Approach

Merchants who already have technical experience or familiarity with eCommerce development often choose to write down their project requirements and skip the formalities of the RFP process. This approach still requires diligent research of the various development partner options. Merchants will need to review the types of services offered as well as particular strengths for each partner and case studies; ensuring they are confident in the agencies ability to perform the work needed.

It’s important not only to review technical capabilities, certifications, and price but also to decide if they’re people who feel like a good personality match. Personality and getting a good feel for how the partner will work is one of the advantages that the non-formal approach has over the RFP process. A large part of hiring a partner is creating a good working business relationship. A great development partner will have your back and be honest when it’s required.   

Pros of Directly Hiring an Agency or Partner:

  • Get the experience required
  • Generates reliable and valuable information
  • A more efficient focus on project requirements
  • Get started on a project faster

Cons of Directly Hiring an Agency or Partner:

  • Seeking new agencies requires a proactive approach
  • Potentially more costly due to experience

The non-formal approach requires a more hands-on approach from merchants vs. an RFP process. Researching and contacting various agencies will require some upfront effort and time. However, the process of getting to know different agencies will offer plenty of value. A new project will often require a certain amount of thoughtful brainstorming and planning. With a direct hire approach, partners will be able to advise and guide merchants through the process while offering solutions that may not have been previously considered.

Making a decision

Regardless of the approach to hiring a partner, it’s critical to do some due diligence when it comes to researching agencies and developers. Merchants often send out RFPs thinking they will gain free knowledge and a very objective view from bidders but don’t realize that the RFP process often hinders agencies in doing good discovery and to quickly focuses management on making a price based decision. For many industries such as non-profit organizations, competitive pricing is an economic necessity. Such is not the case however for Magento eCommerce development. Your agency partner needs to be able to provide a solution that requires a thorough understanding of business requirements. In addition to price, both knowledge and experience need factoring into a final decision.

Experience has shown us that there is often a lack of understanding and communication within the RFP process. Both parties experience wasted time, energy, and resources. Further, agencies regularly win due to pre-existing relationships with the merchant or because of emphasis placed on the final cost instead of the quality and integrity of the project.

While RFPs may seem like a good idea to receive similarly scoped information and quotes, the better solution is to take a highly communicative approach focused on the long-term quality and reliability of the potential partner.

If you are interested in learning more about our Magento eCommerce experience, or how we can help with your project, contact us today!

What The European Union General Data Protection Regulation Means For eCommerce Merchants

What The European Union General Data Protection Regulation Means For eCommerce Merchants

General Data Protection Regulation

The European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) seems to be the latest buzzword in data protection. The new law went into effect on May 25, 2018, and affects anyone in the European Union. Meaning that even if you’re business is not physically located in Europe, your customers may be. While this new law was put in place to protect citizens of the European Union, the law is having a very global impact. With GDPR, it is required for any eCommerce business doing business overseas to be compliant.

It’s imperative that eCommerce merchants understand what the new GDPR law is and how to be compliant.

What the GDPR is All About

GDPR is all about empowering individuals to maintain control of their data. Explicitly, the law enforces better protection of citizen data in the European Union. GDPR offers transparency for any saved data. With GDPR, customers have ownership of their data and control how and when merchants can use their data. Further, there are three major components to GDPR to understand: consent, transparency, and data security.

Consent involves a more explicit opt-in than what many eCommerce websites offer currently. Pre-checked boxes are not a form of consent when it comes to the GDPR. Further, merchants need an explicit opt-in for all electronic marketing channels including email. Notably, customers can withdraw their consent at any time.

Transparency involves sharing with customers the type of data stored in their name. Customers can submit a subject access request (SAR) at any time to receive this information.

In regards to data security, the goal is to mitigate any data breach. To help mitigate data breach issues, merchants need to take appropriate technical and organizational measures to encrypt data.How GDPR Will Affect Your Magento Store

As a Magento merchant, mainly if you’re located in a country that is apart of the European Union or have customers overseas, GDPR compliance is critical. Notably, non-compliance can lead to fines ranging from 4% of your worldwide annual revenue from the prior year up to 20 Million Euros.

IP Tracking

IP tracking is a component that needs to be a part of GDPR compliance. IP tracking takes the IP address of a visitor to motivate specific actions. IP tracking allows merchants to identify a customer’s location as well as their geographic preferences. Merchants can also tailor specific rules, including the way to provide calls to action and price modifications.

Under GDPR guidelines, before merchants can utilize IP addresses, they need to ask for customer’s permission to do so explicitly. Including permission to collect and store their IP address. Notably, It doesn’t matter what type of web address is used including .co, .de, or .com. Any EU site visitor should be able to accept or reject your IP tracking and checking module.

Personalized Content

Personalized content is another aspect that is going to change. Studies show that customers are more likely to make a purchase when influenced by personalization marketing techniques. For example, if a merchant uses a customer’s name in emails, or the customer receives recommendations based on previous purchases. To provide personalized content, merchants store specific data about customers with tracking cookies. However, GDPR compliance requires merchants to give EU customers a choice of accepting cookies or not. If they choose not to accept the cookies, it prevents the merchant from providing personalizing content to them.

It’s important to examine all of the data collected on your website. If any data is considered irrelevant, don’t ask for it. Fortunately, there are Magento 2 GDPR extensions available that allow merchants to make additional changes to enhance the overall privacy of customer’s data.

Support from Magento on GDPR

Magento currently offers features to assist merchants with GDPR compliance. Magento has made data mappings available for the Magento software so that merchants can identify the location of stored information in Magento. These mappings are available for Magento 1.x and Magento 2.x and cover Magento Commerce cloud, on-premise as well as Magento Open Source.

Also, Magento created a list of third-party subprocessors detailing those service providers that Magento utilizes in the provision of Services to Magento merchants.

For a detailed list of commonly asked questions and answers concerning Magento and GDPR read through this FAQ reference sheet from Magento.

Contact us to learn more about GDPR compliance and changes. Although Magento is complicated, we can assist you every step of the way.

6 Things Merchants Need to Know About Re-Platforming in eCommerce

6 Things Merchants Need to Know About Re-Platforming in eCommerce

re-platforming in eCommerce

There are many reasons why merchants consider re-platforming. Perhaps the business has outgrown the current platform. Maybe it’s a struggle to keep up with the platform financially. Alternatively, the platform is cumbersome to manage from the admin. Regardless of the scenario, making a switch isn’t an easy decision.

Put simply, re-platforming describes the process of moving a website, the online product catalog, shopping cart, and payment system from one eCommerce platform to another. We say simple, but in reality, the process can be complicated.

The word “re-platform” tends to generate very different reactions from eCommerce merchants. Some merchants shutter because of the complexities, budget, and potential problems of the entire process. Other merchants are excited about the opportunity of leveraging a new platform to fuel growth. Whether it’s an exciting opportunity or a necessary evil, when re-platforming in eCommerce, preparation is vital.

Here are six tips merchants need to know about re-platforming in eCommerce.

1. The Strategy Should Guide Your Process

In the early stages of re-platforming, doing preliminary legwork and planning is critical. It’s important to not only think of the here and now issues, but also goals and needs for the future of the website and business.  Consider why the re-platform needs to happen.

Is the product catalog or sales volume outgrowing the current platform?
Is there a need for more flexibility or security?
Is there a need for more out of the box features and functionality?
Does the current platform not have all the tools needed to best serve mobile customers?

Plan out what needs to be accomplished from doing the transition. Rather than going for a catch-all solution, choose a platform that best meets the end goal. For example, a website design refresh will require a very different process than a complete migration to an entirely new system. A failing legacy system may call for a condensed timeline, while a full expansion may require more strategic forethought.

An actual re-platform project will generally involve complexity, time, and monetary resources. Only a carefully crafted migration plan will ensure the project is completed on time and budget. In the early stages of re-platforming, doing preliminary legwork and planning is critical. It’s important to not only think of the here and now issues, but also goals and needs for the future of the website and business. Consider why the re-platform needs to happen. 

2. The Potential Advantages Are Transformational

Given the complexities involved, many merchants are hesitant to go through with a migration. They recognize the time and budget it takes for success, and look to maximize the legacy system for as long as possible. In reality, it’s important to recognize just how transformational the advantages of a new system can be. A platform suited to the current and future eCommerce needs can quite literally transform a business. The right eCommerce platform will integrate well with marketing efforts, better serve customers, and will increase the efficiency of the team running it and ultimately fuel growth.

The complexity of the process is not always apparent at the beginning of a migration project. Experience, planning, and research will help avoid surprises as much as possible. However, when executed successfully, re-platforming will make the process well worth the effort. If the upside is a positive transformation of current business operations, then pushing through even the most difficult stages will become more palatable.

3. The Disadvantages Can Be Significant

Despite all of the advantages listed with re-platforming, it’s important to balance those with potential drawbacks. Preparedness is especially true if the project goes wrong. When a migration effort goes south, merchants could lose significant revenue, audience trust, and efficiency. Being realistic about possible disadvantages can help to prevent issues and setbacks from happening.

An article from Forbes.com outlines some of the most common re-platforming risks, along with valuable suggestions on how to prepare for and overcome them. 

Detailed below are several common re-platforming risks

Delays and Budget Overruns can kill a project if not careful. Fortunately, careful planning, regular benchmark reports that measure progress and current budget spend can help to avoid this issue.

Incomplete Product Features occur either due to overpromise on behalf of the developer or partner, or a tight timeline that pushes previously in-scope implementations out of scope. Merchants can overcome this risk by carefully vetting individual partners and agencies, while strictly focusing on the minimum viable product (MVP) for phase 1 of development.

Indecision can become fatal if it begins to impede project timelines. A previously streamlined process can get out of whack quick if a lack of decisions halts progress. Assigning defined decision makers within the implementation team and determining communication/decision standards ahead of time can help.

Perfectionism is a valuable business trait. However, taken to the extreme, it can become dangerous. The goal of the initial re-platforming project should be improving the current situation, not getting everything right the first time. Avoid this risk by keeping a list of desired features for the future, and setting expectations on what the first new iteration will provide, again focusing on MVP.

Knowledge Gaps tend to manifest themselves between a legacy platform and the new platform, primarily if the new platform depends on the organizational buy-in. Manage them by training staff on the new platform, and keeping a representative from each affected area of the business involved in the implementation.

4. The Timeline Tends to be Extensive

A complete re-platforming of an eCommerce website will take time. Part of that is evident from the points discussed above; the planning itself should be done carefully, instead of rushed or ignored.

Comprised of six phases, a complete migration or re-platform project will include:

  1. Planning and Strategy
  2. Data Migration
  3. Platform Integrations
  4. User Design and Experience
  5. Launch
  6. Post-Launch Evaluation

These phases are not always linear.  Data migration can occur even as a development team begins to work on the user-facing design of the new platform. Still, each of these steps comes with time commitments that are important to bear in mind.

At the very least, that process can take a few months. In many cases, the entire project (including pre-project planning and post-launch evaluation) can take much longer.  Either way, never go into a project without at least some realistic idea of the timeline required for successful completion.

5. The Budget Can Make or Break the Re-Platforming

Like time constraints, budget tends to be among the most critical variables in the process. Simply put, not being careful could mean exploding the project or seeing it fail to come to fruition. At best, the project goes over budget. At worst, the entire business is at risk of survival.

Consider the case of the U.S. Air Force, which spent more than $1 billion on moving to a new ERP platform before scrapping it because of a lack of progress. This case study has become a cautionary tale for any merchants looking to engage in a similar process, even on a smaller scale.

That doesn’t mean every project is doomed to fail. It does, however, suggest that merchants need to be both careful and strategic in the budgeting process. In the earliest planning stage, determine how much is willing to be spent while still getting a positive return on investment for the migration. Then, stick to that number as an upper limit, even in the face of anything bar exceptional circumstances.

That means evaluating all options according to their price and opportunity cost. Don’t forget that it’s possible to experience some downtime and lost revenue. In the initial budget evaluation, include hidden or continual costs that may incur after the initial migration. The more planning done early, the less likely it will be to break the set budget.

6. The Right Partner Can Make All the Difference

Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of a reliable development partner that can guide the team through the re-platforming process. The platform options will be immense; in addition to individual platforms, merchants will have the choice to go with cloud-based SaaS or on-premise hosted solutions. Each comes with challenges and benefits, all worthy of consideration based on the situation.

The complexity of the project calls for a development partner. Almost by definition, most merchants don’t go through the process of migrating to a new eCommerce platform frequently. As such, recognize the value in a partner with the experience in the individual steps involved and required, along with the best practices outlined above. Even one step in the wrong direction, particularly if it comes early in the planning and direction-setting stage, can go south quick.

For this type of project, it is essential to choose a reliable partner. Not a quick-fix developer with a fundamental goal of getting the business at all costs, but a partner who has your best interests in mind. This partner can help guide throughout the process, and help educate why re-platforming is necessary in the first place. The result will be a more goal-driven, strategic process with a significantly higher chance of success.

Finding that partner, of course, can be tough. Merchants need professionals who are certified and experienced in this area, while also being willing and able to accommodate every unique situation. After all, no two eCommerce merchants are alike.

InteractOne has significant experience in eCommerce migrations, re-platforming and data migrations, and we can apply that experience. Contact us to get to learn more about migrating or re-platforming to Magento, and to discuss potential first steps in a future partnership.

An Introduction to Magento Commerce (Cloud)

An Introduction to Magento Commerce (Cloud)

Magento Commerce Cloud

Magento Commerce (Cloud), formerly known as Magento Enterprise Cloud Edition, was introduced in early 2016 as Magento’s third platform option, alongside Magento Commerce and Magento OpenSource. For more information on the differences between Magento Open Source and Magento Commerce, reference this comparison. Magento Commerce (Cloud) is a managed, and automated hosting platform for Magento specifically created for Cloud infrastructures. Magento Commerce (Cloud) combines the power of Magento Commerce, Cloud infrastructure hosting, along with a few differences and added features.

Magento Commerce (Cloud) offers several features and advantages that set it apart from Magento Commerce and Magento Open Source.

The Difference Between Commerce (Cloud) and Magento Commerce

Although much of Magento Commerce (Cloud) and Magento Commerce are the same, there are a few fundamental differences. For one, Magento Commerce (Cloud) offers all the benefits of modern cloud computing: scalability, high resilience, PCI compliance, availability, automated patching – but also with the advantage of Magento’s successful and established architecture.  

Cloud computing is possible because Magento Commerce (Cloud) runs on Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is known for its reliability, scalability, and low cost. Notably, with AWS powering Magento Commerce (Cloud), merchants can eliminate the need for self-hosting. Further, 30% of Magento Commerce merchants already utilize AWS for hosting. Therefore, Magento Commerce (Cloud) offers a natural hosting option for Magento Commerce merchants.

Also, Magento Commerce (Cloud) offers B2B features designed to boost B2B market capabilities. These capabilities help reduce the high implementation costs that can occur with multi-tenant Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions, such as Magento Commerce.  Specifically, there is generally less customization required with the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) cloud system. The Cloud flexibility allows merchants to tailor their technology quickly to what works best for their eCommerce business.

Magento Commerce (Cloud) Features

Magento Commerce (Cloud) comes with a variety of additional features that help set it apart from the other Magento platforms. A significant advantage for merchants using Magento Commerce (Cloud) is that it features fully customizable, secure and scalable Web storefronts. Scalable storefronts give merchants an opportunity to develop highly differentiated customer experiences.

Mark Lavelle, CEO of Magento, explained the importance of the scalability Magento Commerce (Cloud). Lavelle states, “With Magento Commerce (Cloud) merchants have the agility to respond to a rapidly changing environment, can continuously deploy innovations, easily scale to meet unexpected demand and don’t have to worry about the day-to-day management of infrastructure.”

Magento Commerce (Cloud) Features Overview

  • Plans include an integration environment for development, testing, and integrating services
  • All environments run with active Git branches of code
  • Unlimited number of inactive Git branches available
  • Add fully managed services like MySQL, Elasticsearch, Redis, RabbitMQ, without requiring external add-ons
  • Increase the amount of memory and CPU as needed

Cloud Hosting with Magento Commerce (Cloud)

With cloud hosting, websites are lightning fast and optimized 24/7 for customers. Magento Commerce (Cloud) combines all of the functionality that Magento Commerce offers plus bonuses such as Git integration and key environments for development, staging, and live production. Specifically, merchants can code, test, and deploy across Integration, Staging, and Production environment for continuous integration in stores.

Magento Commerce (Cloud) hosting plans bring support and cloud-based hosting on a subscription basis. Currently, Magento offers the Magento Commerce Starter plan or Magento Commerce Pro plan. Merchants can choose the subscription that best fits their business while also enjoying the benefits of Magento Commerce.

Want to get started on Cloud or learn more? Contact us for more information on Magento Commerce (Cloud) and what sets it apart from other eCommerce platforms.

How to Improve PPC Campaign Performance

How to Improve PPC Campaign Performance

Improve PPC Campaign Performance

By Joe Williams, Magento Solution Specialist

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns are the most popular advertising method for merchants looking to market a brand new site, a new product line or specific sales or offers. Google AdWords PPC campaigns have become a staple in most marketing strategies. But, unfortunately, they are also the biggest culprit for wasted ad spend. There are several mistakes that merchants sometimes make when trying to promote a product with PPC campaigns that significantly detract from the ads’ efficiency. The good news is that there are several methods merchants can implement to improve PPC campaign performance.

Six methods to improve PPC campaign performance.

1. Increase Trust and Brand Recognition

The primary reason why PPC campaigns fail is that nobody knows who you are! Window shoppers notoriously click on the most opportune ads to browse and educate themselves on a product. In the end, they go with a trusted brand to make their purchase. So merchants often end up paying to educate a customer on a product that they will end up buying from a competitor. We are all creatures of habit, and although we enjoy entertaining other options and researching a new purchase, there has to be enough trust to go with a new merchant, as opposed to a familiar experience.

The solution to converting window shoppers is to build trust in your brand. Start by marketing to existing customers through remarketing ads, targeting custom audiences, or offering exclusive products. Exclusive products can be either specialized products or private label brands at a lower price than mainstream name brands. Merchants should also place more value on the word-of-mouth referral method. Referrals are generated by focusing on merchant reviews over product reviews and implementing social campaigns to help build an audience and brand recognition.

2. Improve Targeting

Identifying the right customers via personas is critical to the success of an entire marketing campaign. Understanding what the target audience needs to start a relationship and what motivates them to purchase is vital in targeting PPC campaigns to the right audience. As well as, ensuring that a customer has a consistent user experience from the ad copy to the website (more on that later in the post).

Ask yourself the following questions to establish what will attract the right audience

  • Who are your current customers? What do they have in common?
  • Which of your audience’s problems/needs does your product solve?
  • What events need to happen before a customer makes their final decision?
  • What forms of media does your target customers consume most efficiently?
  • Who is your competition targeting?
  • Do customers in specific regions convert higher than others?

The above list is just the beginning, but it will help to get going in the right direction to start creating and utilizing personas effectively for marketing campaigns.

3. Pay Attention to Campaign Settings

Campaign settings in AdWords are often overlooked and left set to default, or merchants select canned settings available without fine-tuning the details. Campaigns settings need to be continually optimized and organized so campaigns can take advantage of testing different configurations to maximize each ad’s capabilities. Below are five campaign settings that can affect ad performance.

Type

The type of ad determines where the ads will display, what kind of ads need to be created, and other customizable ad elements.

  • Search Network with Display Select shows the ad in both search results and on sites around the web.
  • Search Network only puts the ads in search results.
  • Display Network only shows the ads on websites.

For beginners, it’s best to start with Search Network Only ads. When using these types of ads, customers will see the ads when actively looking for products.

Location

It might seem to be a great idea to target a broad geographic area, but it does more harm than good. Especially on newer campaigns. Targeting customers with a defined location will not only improve an ad’s performance, but it will also enable you to track how well the PPC ad is doing in specific areas. For example, if you are targeting the entire United States, Andrew Lolk from Search Engine Journal recommends adding each state individually to monitor the performance for each state.

Bid Strategy

For budget strategy, there are three options available to select in AdWords: manual cost-per-click (CPC) bidding, enhanced CPC bidding, and automated bidding. Which option to choose depends on budget and goals.

  • Manual bidding provides more control, but it can be quite tricky for beginners.
  • Enhanced bidding is somewhat like manual bidding, but Google will set a new bid for searches that convert better.
  • With automated bidding, Google will try to get the most out of the budget. It maximizes clicks or conversions, and this is the best bidding option for beginners.

Ad Rotation

Merchants can choose the frequency of when to display ads to customers by utilizing ad rotation. You can select the “optimized setting” or the “rotate-indefinitely” option. The optimized setting will prioritize the best-performing ads based on keyword, search term, device, and location. Or go with the rotate-indefinitely option. The rotate-indefinitely option will distribute ads into the ad auction without an indication of time. One caveat is that there is no chance to rotate the ad to best optimize it.

Ad Schedules/Day Parting

Ad Schedules allow you to set bid adjustments on certain days of the week and times of the day to better control the budget based on site usage or business hours. The default setting is set to show ads at all times of the day, all days of the week. Meaning ads can be showing at low traffic times or days ineffectively using the budget.

4. Create an Awesome Ad-to-Page Experience

The message you’re promoting in ad copy helps get attention and clicks, but you also need that same message to resonate on the landing page to ensure a consistent user experience. The wording that attracted the customer to click on the ad should also entice them to stay on your site. The message should be relevant to the audience, be specific, prudent, contain pertinent keywords as should the ad’s coordinating destination page.

Always review the final destination page when creating and fine-tuning ad copy. Optimize the messaging to work together with the ad copy based on what’s worked in the past.

5. Use Ad Extensions Correctly

Ad extensions and callouts expand the ad with additional information about your business and can help build trust with a more visual real estate. Extensions can help increase click-through-rates and are available in the form of sitelink extensions, callouts, structured snippet extensions, price extensions, location extensions, affiliate location extensions, phone call extensions and app extensions.

For example, sitelink extensions include additional links to the search ad, and callout extensions append further details to the ads. Use sitelink extensions deliberately by setting them up to cater to the ad copy instead of using a library across the entire account.

6. Manage Negative Keywords

Negative keywords prevent an ad from displaying on irrelevant queries.  For example, if you sell swimsuits for toddlers, you could exclude winter clothes for infants. The best way to find negative keywords is to use the Adwords Search Terms report or a third party utility such as Wordstream’s Query Stream tool. Examine the search queries that generate traffic to the site and add any negative keywords that aren’t relevant to the business, or adjust the keyword type for better matching.

While there are many reasons why PPC campaigns might not be reaping maximum rewards, there are many ways to ignite and boost those stagnant metrics. Contact us today to get advice on maximizing PPC campaigns.