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.

Magento 2.3: What to Expect and When

Magento 2.3: What to Expect and When

Magento 2.3

While this year’s Magento Imagine Conference happened months ago, the buzz surrounding the release of Magento 2.3 has only gotten stronger since. Magento initially introduced version 2.3 at Imagine back in April, where it was promised to come “by the end of the year.”

So, when will the update finally hit? Magento has been mum on giving an exact release date, but we still expect it to come by the end of 2018, especially since it’s been over a year since the last major Magento release (2.2).

Magento 2.3 is anticipated to make an even bigger splash than 2.2, which focused mostly on smaller bug fixes and refinements. 2.3 promises an exciting mix of new core features paired with smaller optimizations and back-end efficiencies.

These are the expected features we’re most excited to see from Magento 2.3.

Progressive Web Application Studio

Progressive Web Applications (PWA’s) utilize the latest technology to combine the best of web and mobile applications. PWA’s essentially load like any other webpage but offer the user the functionality to work offline, receive push notifications, and much more.

Magento 2.3 is expected to capitalize on the many benefits of PWA’s by releasing a ‘studio’ which will contain the tools developers need in order to design their own PWA in Magento’s front-end. Additionally, the Magento PWA Studio will have a demo site feature that will make testing its features much easier for developers. Read more about Magento’s PWA Studio here.

Page Builder (GraphQL)

GraphQL is a query language for API’s, as well as a server-side runtime for executing queries by using a type system defined by a user’s data. Magento 2.3 will introduce the new GraphQL API language, which will make data retrieval possible for PWA’s. By optimizing these queries, developers will see a much speedier front-end experience with Magento 2.3.

Currently, Magento supports only REST and SOAP API requests. In order to also offer support for GraphQL, Magento 2.3 will include an all-new layer that interfaces directly to the query API and could provide even greater functionality in the future by supporting mutations to checkout and payment processes. These mutations would impact storefronts through checkout, order, and my account functionality.

Multi-Source Inventory

The Magento community is helping bring the much-requested Multi-Source Inventory (MSI) functionality to Magento 2.3. This new core feature will allow merchants to natively manage their inventory and tap into separate warehouses for order fulfillment.

Additionally, Magento’s MSI system will feature a reservation system for inventory that will replace the direct decrementing of stock. This will virtually eliminate re-indexing and performance issues during peak order times.

Declarative Database Schema

Currently, altering the schema of a Magento database is done by writing code with InstallSchema and UpgradeSchema. With Magento 2.3, developers will be able to make this change by using a declarative database schema. This will allow developers to define database structures and changes in XML, making it possible to roll back a module or functionality to an earlier version.

Two-Factor Authentication and Google reCAPTCHA

In an effort to enhance the security of the platform, Magento 2.3 will implement two-factor authentication. This will require users to verify their credentials to sign in by sending a security code to their phone or email. Although two-factor authentication is already used by many companies, the feature is surely a welcome extra layer of security for members of the Magento community.

Magento 2.3 will also implement Google reCAPTCHA, a security service that protects websites against spam and harmful bots. In addition to the new two-factor authentication system, reCAPTCHA will help ensure that Magento 2.3 is the most secure version of the platform to date.

Additional Features

In addition to the impactful new core features already mentioned, Magento 2.3 will include many more key refinements and optimizations:

  • Instant Purchase
  • Cache Management ACL
  • Import/Export improvements
  • Package Versioning
  • WYSIWYG Update
  • Message queue moved to Open Source
  • Elasticsearch Updates
  • Upgrade Patches
  • Asynchronous Web API
  • PHP 7.2 Support

Magento 2.3 promises to bring significant changes to the platform that will greatly improve the experience for developers. Although a specific release date has yet to be announced, expect it to arrive before the end of the year. Click here for more information on the update.

InteractOne can help with your Magento site build or upgrade. Contact us for help with getting your site updated. Or, call us to talk with a Magento expert at 513-469-3345.

Hiring vs. Outsourcing for Building and Maintaining an eCommerce Storefront

Hiring vs. Outsourcing for Building and Maintaining an eCommerce Storefront

How do you decide whether to hire staff or outsource resources for your eCommerce project? Getting the right talent in the right place is pivotal to the success of the project. It is also important to make sure your hiring decisions are being made strategically, instead of by convenience or based on faulty assumptions around need and cost.

Staffing for a project that will net you a controlled and stable site build is the goal. You will want a clean and intuitive User Interface (UI) to keep new customers engaged, and ongoing maintenance to keep everything running smoothly long-term.

And this is where your decision-making process can run into the first – and arguably most crucial – decision: Should the team be in-house hires? Or is outsourcing the right move?

Hiring Permanent Staff

The most intuitive option is hiring permanent staff. Salaried or full-time employees will generally cost less than hiring a freelance or agency resource for 2080 hours per year. So, of course, the first question is: does your business need this particular skill-set applied for 40 hours per week? If the need is greater than the cost of outsourcing on an as-needed basis, then that’s one hurdle cleared.

Keeping permanent eCommerce staff is a substantial ongoing commitment. Factor in the cost of initial and ongoing training requirements, along with salary and benefits. Some employees will come to you with skills in place but might demand a higher salary, while others may require a longer learning curve at a lower price. Make sure you are making this decision before interviewing candidates.

Thirdly, ask yourself if this role is core to your business or is, instead, an exotic appendage on your team. For instance, a generalist who has a flair for marketing and design will have the flexibility to adapt to changing projects and circumstances. A super-specialized programmer might not (unless that specialization is a core activity of your business). The point is to avoid letting current, urgent needs dictate the shape of your organization on a semi-permanent basis.

Outsourcing eCommerce Professionals

Especially for more complex eCommerce projects, outsourcing design, management, and development (or all three) is an increasingly common option. Collaboration with eCommerce-focused developers is a safer choice in most circumstances. Why?

Essentially, outsourcing allows flexibility and focus. Plus the outsource organization is working on projects like this all the time, so they develop strong institutional knowledge and experience. As the merchant, you contract the type and number of developers required to build and launch your eCommerce storefront. Rarely does a business need to keep a project-level capacity of technical staff on hand, even for installations that require ongoing customization and maintenance. It can be perilous to do soall of a sudden you find yourself running a two-headed business: one retail and one IT support & development.

Instead, you can focus staffing on supply, customer service, and operations centered around the goods and/or services you’re trying to sell. Train permanent staff on managing orders and consider opting for intermittent services from less staff in the future.

Permanent Staff vs. Outsourcing

Hiring and outsourcing each have their positives and negatives; the trick to choosing between the two is in taking a closer look at what the current status of the business is, and where it appears to be going in the future.

Hire permanent staff when:

  • There is substantial early investment; so, rather than going with a smooth growth curve, you intend to launch aggressively and grow quickly
  • Your eCommerce niche is extremely specific and requires a very particular kind of specialist to create an appropriate storefront
  • You intend to implement a consistent stream of new features

However, outsourcing is the most common option for establishing a new eCommerce storefront when:

  • You won’t have justification to keep a full development team on staff
  • The project is front-loaded. Simpler storefronts (or powerful storefronts) that don’t continuously add new features or integrations
  • Your focus is sharp. You’re not a development business and you don’t want to learn to lead an IT firm

Hiring certain permanent staff roles is appropriate in many situations. For the majority of eCommerce projects, though, it’s safer and financially prudent to instead outsource to a team of established professionals. While thoroughly established merchants sometimes transition to a permanent staff once the business reaches a certain size, plenty of businesses stick to the streamlined outsourcing plan.

Choosing the Right eCommerce Team for the Job

Once the decision is made to outsource, what is the next step in contracting with the right team to handle the job?

The best development teams are:

  • Established, with a long track record of great customer feedback
  • Capable of developing a scoping document that communicates requirements and clearly outlines deliverables
  • Experts on the platform not just the language on which the platform is built
  • Available for ongoing maintenance when needed
  • Able to integrate an advisory role into the project. Great development agencies aren’t afraid to tell you when they see an opportunity to improve or streamline a process
  • Transparent about daily progress, quick to involve you in decision-making along the way and responsive to shifts in priorities

Every one of the above points, as well as a wealth of further expertise in the eCommerce space, is met by the team of professionals at InteractOne. Contact us to learn more about our industry-leading eCommerce storefront services.

Our Thoughts on the Evolution of Magento 2

Our Thoughts on the Evolution of Magento 2

It’s no secret that feelings about Magento 2 range from utter delight to hair-pulling frustration. It can be downright confusing. Should you upgrade? Should you get off Magento?

While the answers to those questions are always on a case to case basis, we thought we would share our perspective on the topic.

The first point to make is: each platform has its own issues. While Magento is a powerful platform, it is NOT for every business. Smaller merchants may not be able to take advantage of many of the customizations available and may be frustrated with the investments required to keep their site upgraded and patched. But for merchants with sufficient sales to support the upgrading requirements, there are still many advantages to Magento 2, like the size of the community, the amount of extensions available, and the number of developers.

Complaint #1: The Investment Can Be Substantial

We won’t deny this. What we will say is the cost of building a Magento store can vary greatly depending on what your business requires, who you hire, and the desired results. Designing, building and configuring a Magento website requires time and advanced PHP development knowledge. Don’t believe someone that says they can get it up in a week. It won’t happen. And firms like ours who choose to staff certified developers and solutions strategists will charge more than some guy in his garage who kinda knows PHP.

It’s also worth noting that although it may be costly, if your eCommerce store is on Magento 1 you will need to consider that it will not be around forever. Its end-of-life may not be set in stone, but it will happen eventually. Don’t get caught off guard; even if you aren’t ready to move to M2  now, consider it as an investment in your future eCommerce store.

Complaint #2: The Stability is Questionable

At first, M2 did have some hiccups. But, M2 was released almost 3 years ago (November 2015) and since then much of the technology has been stabilized and continues to get better every day.

Magento addressed these stability concerns at the beginning of the launch and stated that they were “going to continue investing in addressing issues in what is already out there, with a lower priority on new features.”

M2 is continually being updated, actively developed, and improved upon. The bugs have been worked out, the platform has matured, and the question of stability has since been put to rest.

Complaint #3: It Doesn’t Seem Any Different

M1 and M2, although maybe not at first glance, are significantly different. For one, M2 is faster. Faster site speed encourages more sales and encourages better search engine optimization. Full-page caching built into the platform means pages load a lot faster, 1-2 seconds compared to the 5-10 seconds for non-caching pages. M2 can also handle a large product catalog with many multi-variant options per product (ie. apparel like scrubs with 7 size and 30 color options per product) without slowing down which makes it scalable for large stores looking to grow in eCommerce.

Another added bonus is the new, streamlined checkout process in M2. It’s sleeker and highly customizable which eliminates steps and reduces rates of abandoned carts.

Those are just two of the many advantages M2 brings to the table. If you want to learn more, we have an entire blog dedicated to the differences here.

Our Final Thoughts

Here at InteractOne, we believe in transparency. We aren’t going to sugarcoat M2 or tell you that any and all circumstances require Magento. The reality is that Magento isn’t for everyone. If you’re unsure, give us a call today and we can help you decide. It’s that simple.

Magento 1 End of Life: When is it? What Does it Mean?

Magento 1 End of Life: When is it? What Does it Mean?

Update September 2018: Magento has announced that support will continue for both Open Souce and Commerce 1 through June 2020. Although the EOL was initially speculated to be at the year’s end, Magento extended the date to ensure their customers have enough time and confidence to upgrade when they feel the need to. Note: Magento software support only applies to Magento software and not any third-party extensions or customizations.

At first, the only emotions surrounding the arrival of Magento 2 were excitement, interest, and curiosity. An upgraded version that promised enhanced performance and scalability was all anyone could talk about.

After that initial enthusiasm wore off, people began to wonder: “What will happen to Magento 1?” The question about Magento 1 end of life is not so much a question of if, but of when. As many can acknowledge, the birth of a newer, more enhanced platform ultimately leads to the retirement of its former edition.

In our search for the answer to this popular question, we first need to define what Magento 1 end of life truly entails.

What Happens After EOL?

Don’t worry Magento Community Edition 1.x will continue to work even after its end of life date. M1 eCommerce stores will continue to function as they do now and businesses don’t need to worry about Magento 1 disappearing altogether.

*This may not be the case for the paid commerce edition since there may be contractual regulations restricting the use of the M1 commerce edition post EOL.

But, it does mean that Magento will not release any more security patches or updates for Magento 1.x once EOL occurs. Essentially, there will no longer be support for the platform and merchants should consider migrating to M2 when this happens.

So when will this occur? Speculations began popping up after a specific Magento Conference in April 2017.

The Start of Speculation: Meet Magento Conference in Prague

On April 27th, 2017, at the Meet Magento Conference in Prague, a screenshot surfaced showing a presentation slide that read: “Magento 1 End of Life: 17 November 2018.”

Articles began popping up left and right, all claiming that this was the official EOL date. Social media was buzzing with chatter about Magento 1 and many businesses feared that they would soon be kicked off the platform they needed to stay in business.

Magento 1 End of life screenshot

Soon enough, even more articles were emerging with a different EOL date: November 18th, 2018, just one day after the “original” EOL date was stated in Prague the month prior.

Much of this theory was backed by information given out prior to Magento 2’s release. Magento executives circulated the idea that Magento 1 would reach its end of life three years after the release of Magento 2. Magento 2 was released on November 17, 2015, which meant Magento 1’s end of life would be November 18, 2018.

People began to support their theories by citing the presentation screenshot from Prague as well as a screenshot of a twitter conversation between two Magento employees:

Magento 1 end of life twitter conversation

It seemed to be decided: 11/18/2018 was its EOL.  

And then Magento spoke up.

When is the “Real” End of Life for Magento 1?

Our honest answer: we aren’t sure.

We aren’t sure because, as of right now, no one is sure. After speculations began circling, Magento addressed the issue head-on in a blog post published on May 30th, 2017. Magento stated: “Magento 1 has been and will continue to be supported for the foreseeable future.” They also promised to give “a minimum 18-month notice” before making any changes to their support levels. The full post can be seen below.

As for now, we will be waiting for an OFFICIAL end of life date for Magento 1 just like the rest of the Magento community. And when it is announced, we will be here to help any businesses that need assistance migrating to the Magento 2.

Contact us if you want to get the ball rolling today or if you have any questions about the transition. We have the experience you need to get your Magento 2 site up and running.

Signs Your eCommerce Technology Needs an Upgrade

Signs Your eCommerce Technology Needs an Upgrade

Top 4 Signs You Have Outdated eCommerce Technology

Is it time for an upgrade? Maybe a new theme? A new integration? Patches? How do you know? Are you just bored with your site or is something about to break? Or maybe the things that are already broken have you feeling fed up.

This isn’t just about slow page loadsalthough that would be a red flag. Upgrade signals come in many different varieties, from code conflicts to broken UI to operational crutches you’ve gotten used to. Unfortunately, with the pace at which technology is moving, it can be difficult to know when business technology is outdated and needs to be replaced.

Here are the 4 most-often-overlooked signs that it is time to make an upgrade.

1. Stunted Growth

Facing stagnant growth can be the most difficult challenge businesses face. First is the difficulty in knowing at what rate the business should be growing; if you are unaware, you might not recognize a slowdown. You may still be growing, but you might also be missing opportunities for accelerated growth that will keep you relevant in your market long-term.

Perhaps the simplest way to avoid growth killers is to look outward. Unless you are the category leader, it pays to keep close tabs on your competitors: what channels have they adopted and which have they dropped? How have they changed the technologies they use as they have grown?

As you grow, inventory, shipping, and operations will become more complex, as will tax considerations. Be willing to shift your processes to fit technologies that give you room to grow. The reverseheavily modifying technologies to fit your current operational modelcan stop growth completely. Make sure you have current and flexible tools in place to adjust for growth, all while getting products to customers efficiently and competitively.

Expand the definition of growth to include more than channel participation and raw audience numbers. That can mean growth within a market, including developing new products and broadening the target audience. Looking at this kind of growth, you can then make an honest assessment of your technology and its readiness (or its need for an upgrade).

2. System Segregation

The larger and older your business is, the more likely you are to experience system segregation. Since technologies are usually created in silos, they work best in isolation. While eCommerce businesses may have adopted platforms with open APIs (like Magento), many stand-alone legacy systems remain. The software may do a fine job on its own, but it can end up creating redundancy and extra work where it connects (or doesn’t) with the rest of the business.

Merchants who still have segregated systems need to upgrade. There are plenty of cloud-based and legacy applications that offer excellent integration. This means that most business processes can be completed from a single dashboard, as well as providing an aggregation of all data from every aspect of the business. To ensure that this can happen, merchants should find CRMs, eMail marketing, help desks, ERPs, and accounting software that can all communicate and be integrated.

3. Weak Business Intelligence

Out-of-date systems can further mask their own inefficiency. You need laser-sharp internal analysis and cool-headed leadership to get over the sunk-cost fallacy (“… we paid a lot for this system 6 years ago! It works fine!”). Being able to evaluate the potential value of a key system upgrade needs to include potential gains in operational efficiency, reduction in maintenance, new or restored functionality, capacity for new business methods (e.g. a more refined dealer or reseller program) and the potential of those avenues.

When you have obsolete or disabled systems, your ability to properly set up basic on-site metrics like traffic, performance, and buyer behavior is compromised. This has a ripple effect; since you can’t trust the analysis, you can’t rely on it when you are making decisions.

It’s not just the software, either. Your business is unique and you need someone who really understands what metrics are important and how to measure what’s actually important. Sometimes the best technology upgrade is the right person (or agency … cough cough).

4. Needy Technology

The goal of technology is to provide a better, faster, and more accurate method for completing various business processes. It should reduce the amount of low-value, repetitive tasks that employees must complete. Your technology may do this to a certain extent, but does it do it as effectively as it could?

When employees find themselves having to manually enter or alter information, it is generally time to upgrade. The best technology for eCommerce is the kind that can automate as much as possible and remove the need for human intervention. Supply chain, inventory, shipping and logistics, marketing, accounting, and much more can be automated and streamlined. You may not need to upgrade all of these systems at once, but you do have to be fully aware of its current cost. Set upper limits on time you will allow your business to invest in manual tasks. When those limits are reached, it’s time.

Ask yourself: have you over-invested in a platform that was once an upgrade? If you have an employed crew of technicians dedicated to specific knowledge about a platform, you might need some perspective. Could you be more competitive with a platform that offers more capabilities and requires less arcane knowledge, support, and maintenance?

How To Spot Outdated eCommerce Technology

Understanding which software is outmoded and knowing exactly when it is time to upgrade can be two separate battles. Sometimes a technology may not be ideal, but it is sufficient for the medium term. Businesses need to know when the investment in new software will provide a worthwhile return on investment and when upgrading could lead nowhere.

Set Metrics

Ideally, a business should run like a well-oiled machine. However, even the most well-oiled machines still have their off days. You need to be able to sort glitches from serious problems. Decide on metrics that will regularly measure the effectiveness of every piece of technology. Decide on the tipping point for each metric. At what point will it be time to upgrade technologies?

Ask People

The best way to feel out how well a technology is working for a business is to check in with employees and customers. The employees that use the technology every single day know it inside and out. They understand how well it helps them to complete tasks and how well it has transitioned with them as eCommerce needs have changed. Additionally, these employees are likely specialized in specific fields. They have been working in accounting, marketing, or customer service for years. They know their industry and have insights into any new potential technology. Customers can give you insights into broken features, unintentionally hidden features, gaps between their preferences and your systems, and competitor observations.

Track Time Spend

While some technologies will inherently be more heavily used than others, tracking the amount of time employees spend on each piece of software can help merchants identify whether the technology is inhibiting processes or optimizing them. When employees spend an inordinate amount of time and labor accomplishing tasks that can be automated, this is a clear sign that the technology is not working for the business.

Compare ROIs

Just about every business technology comes with an expense. However, it should also come with benefits. When these differences are weighed against each other, the benefit should outweigh the expense. Identify the benefits that each technology offers and turn this into quantifiable dollars. Then, compare it to how much it costs to run the technology, in terms of monthly labor, initial cost, and any yearly licensing fees.

An upgrade, when necessary, can provide a tremendous advantage for eCommerce businesses. One minor change in software has the potential to enhance efficiency, increase profitability, and minimize time to market. To chat with us about upgrading your eCommerce technology, contact us today.

3 Types of eMails That Keep Customers Coming Back Again and Again

3 Types of eMails That Keep Customers Coming Back Again and Again

3 Types of eMails to Send

For eCommerce businesses, eMails are still one of the primary methods of consumer engagement. Emails generate leads, pull in potential customers, create customer satisfaction pre and post-sale and create a buffer for potential customer loss.

Today, there are far too many eCommerce businesses who are ignoring eMail campaigns in favor of aggressive social media strategies. We get it: social media is engaging. It’s modern, it’s sleek, but don’t let that drive to engage millennials cloud your overall sales strategy.

After all, people are twice as likely to sign up for an eMail list than they are to interact with a business on Facebook. Email has higher conversion rates than search and social media combined, and to this day, email has a $44 return for every $1 spent. At the outset, here are a few key things that every successful eMail campaign should include:

  • Segmentation: Not everyone should be receiving the same eMail. This is hyper-critical, both in terms of pushing users through the sales funnel as well as generating happy customers. Poorly segmented eMails can sour customers and drive them away.
  • Automation: Merchants cannot run a successful eMail campaign using manual eMails it just doesn’t work. Automation services vary, but at the very least businesses need something that can send eMails out rapidly, target specific groups, and segment eMails based on dynamic data.
  • Free ebooks and courses are still a hot commodity; they draw users in and provide value.
  • Always make eMails personal and targeted.
  • Finally, make sure to send eMails from the merchant’s eMail address, not a generic marketing eMail address.

Now let’s analyze some of the best eMail campaigns, run some numbers, and discuss how merchants can benefit from eMail as a sales and brand-building tool.

The Welcome eMail

Welcome eMails aren’t just important brand-building, they are powerful sales tools. In fact, welcome eMails lead to 320% more sales than any other eMail type.

Some great examples have popped up in recent years and three overall successful trends have emerged: urgency, personalization, and humor.

When signing up for an eMail list, consumers expect personalization. Usually, this is done through dynamic content using the other information gathered during the eMail list sign-up. If an email list only collects eMail addresses, we would recommend using the welcoming eMail as a way to generate more data (as in, ask for more information).

Here are some general rules to follow when it comes to crafting a welcome eMail:

  • Only use one call-to-action
  • Link to social media at the bottom
  • Always use a kind welcoming tone, not an aggressive or overly assertive tone
  • Remember to personalize the eMail. Try to go beyond “Welcome [Insert Name]!”
  • Send the eMail immediately
  • Feel free to use an emoji or GIF (Since 2015 the number of emojis in marketing emails has increased by 775%, while over 10% of current marketing emails use GIFs)

Abandoned Cart

Over $4 trillion (yes trillion!) worth of merchandise will be abandoned this year. But don’t fret yet, Business Insider estimates that marketers could save as much as 63% of this loss through positive marketing campaigns. In fact, eMails sent only 3 or 4 hours after a customer abandons a cart see a massive 40% click-through rate.

In other words, abandoned cart eMails are a great way to increase profits. Not just a small amount of gain either, we are talking about potential millions for small to medium-sized businesses.

Let’s go over the sequence that produces results when it comes to abandoned cart eMail campaigns.

  • First, remind the customer they left without completing their purchase. Consider providing an incentive such as free shipping to get them back to your site. That being said, be careful not to train the customer to always expect an incentive. You’ll teach them that it is smart to always abandon the cart.
  • Second, if the customer has still not purchased the item, send an eMail asking why. Ask them to reply to the eMail. After all, data is knowledge and knowledge is power. The more data you have, the more successful your future marketing campaigns will be.
  • Third, consider a discount eMail. There are positives and negatives to this campaign. It could lead to a potential sale, but it could also lead to system abuse if it’s fully automated and universal. This is a tricky one. Discounts can work successfully but they can also fail miserably and can diminish the value of a merchant’s brand. Consider the buyer’s persona and your product before deciding to send discount eMails on abandoned carts.

The Story Series

Story series eMails are eMails that build upon and humanize the merchant’s brand. It’s unfortunate that although eMail is such a powerful marketing tool, only 7% of eMail marketers consider it part of their brand-building strategy.

For customers, it can be a nice change of pace to receive eMails that aren’t just marketing related. The eMail story series is precisely what it sounds like. It’s a series of eMails that introduces the user to the story of your brand.

There isn’t a “trick” to this one. The entire eMail series is dependent upon your story. The tone needs to reflect your identity, purpose, and company ethos.

The key to creating engaging story eMails is to leave the reader craving more. End on a cliff-hanger. Make them want to read the next eMail in the series.

Recognize the Power Behind an eMail

Email is a powerful tool that every eCommerce business should be using. In order to engage users and push them down your funnel, you must be using it wisely.

If you have any questions relating to eMail strategies in eCommerce or you would like to see how our eMail campaigns, SEO strategies, and eCommerce solutions can help you craft your perfect marketing strategy, contact us.

5 Tips for Writing Clickable Adwords Copy for eCommerce Websites

5 Tips for Writing Clickable Adwords Copy for eCommerce Websites

Better Google Adwords Copy

One way to improve the performance of a PPC campaign is to create intriguing Adwords copy that motivates searchers to learn more. Below we discuss five useful tips for creating better, more clickable copy.

1. Add Value

Don’t just focus on keywords. Speak to the user’s objective or pain point. Offer an answer to their search.

For example, consider an ad for lice treatment. Which one of the following speaks to the user? “Dealing With Lice?” or “Five Steps to Get Rid of Lice for Good.” The first one simply repeats what the user already knows while the second offers an actionable solution to their problem. Remember to always ask this question upon completing copy: “Does this ad offer an answer to their question or does it just restate the problem without adding value?”

2. Use Space Wisely

Think strategically about how to use the space provided in the headline, ad copy, and display URL. Be sure to appeal to the searcher’s emotions and make it is clear that clicking on the ad will answer whatever question they’re asking. Put the most important information in the headlines and remember that ads display differently on mobile vs. desktop preview ads on both device types to ensure the headliners read as desired on both views.

Nearly 60 percent of all searches are made via mobile devices. Merchant ads must clearly speak to the user whether he or she is on their desktop, smartphone or tablet. Previously, advertisers could create specific mobile ads for mobile searchers. However, the new expanded text ads have no device preference. That means the same message is displayed across all types of devices. Advertisers must ensure their ads and call-to-action promos make sense and function properly regardless of the device.

3. Use Keywords in the URL

Google Adwords allows up to two 15-character path fields to their display URL. Include keywords in the display URL field that portray confidence the landing page will answer their question. This technique reassures the user that clicking through will get them exactly where they want to be. For example, let’s go back to the lice product illustration. In that case, the merchant might include a URL like “how-to/remove-lice” to reinforce the product promise. Additionally, include the same keywords in the actual landing page URL and page title to improve the quality score of the ad. The landing page experience needs to coincide with the ad copy, otherwise quality scores will suffer and the ad will be ineffective.

4. Use Dynamic Copy

One of the most powerful components of search ads is the ability to easily change them. Adwords is not a “set it and forget it” type of advertising tactic, so use the ad copy to create urgency, build social proof, or advertise best prices. For example:

  • Create urgency: “Only 2 shirts left at this price. Order now before they are gone.”
  • Build social proof: “9 out of 10 buyers gave these shoes 5 stars. Find out why.”
  • Advertise prices: “Regularly $120. Now only $59.99. Sales end at midnight.”

5. Test and Monitor

Each time an ad is changed, test it out to see what’s working. Set specific goals, such as improving sales conversions or simply the click-through rate. Test and track each part of the ad’s anatomy including the headline, display URL, and description. Test one change at a time to determine what is having the most impact. The Google Adwords dashboard makes this easy by tracking clicks, impressions, cost per click (CPC), conversions, cost per conversion and user engagement.

Learn more about maximizing Google Adwords by talking to the experts at InteractOne. Contact us before getting started on your next campaign.