Why Having a Mobile-First Strategy Is More Important Now Than Ever Before in eCommerce

Why Having a Mobile-First Strategy Is More Important Now Than Ever Before in eCommerce

Mobile-First Strategy in eCommerce

A decade ago, having a mobile-friendly website was considered a luxury for eCommerce sites. As more consumers bought smartphones and demanded a mobile shopping experience, it gradually became more important. Now, we’re seeing the transition from mobile-friendly to mobile-first, as eCommerce sites prioritize smartphones and tablets over laptops and desktops.

Mobile surpassed desktop years ago

These paradigm shifts always start with the user. Businesses just try to respond appropriately to browsing and searching trends.

You may have heard by now that the majority of emails are opened on mobile devices, along with 60% of searches. Consumers use their phones when they’re on the train, waiting for a friend to return from the bathroom at a restaurant, and in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. And they’re not just sending SMS messages, either. They’re opening emails, browsing sites, and checking social media.

Google’s new mobile-first index

To accommodate this wave of mobile users, Google rolled out “Mobilegeddon” a few years ago. By making mobile-friendliness an SEO factor, eCommerce sites were more or less forced to provide a mobile shopping experience.

Now, Google is rolling out a new mobile-first index. It may not have quite the same SEO impact as Mobilegeddon, but it represents a major shift in the search engine’s method. Mobile sites will now be the primary page to index, with desktop versions being secondary. The important thing is that your mobile site hits all of the major SEO criteria — content, links, title tags, meta descriptions, etc. That’s what you’ll be graded on moving forward.

The rise of Progressive Web Apps

But don’t just focus on mobile because of what Google says. Instead, listen and observe what your prospective customers want. You’ll find that Google’s move is backed by demand.

Just take a look at what developers are trying to accomplish with Progressive Web Apps. Here’s how the Google Developers page describes their function:

“Progressive Web Apps are experiences that combine the best of the web and the best of apps. They are useful to users from the very first visit in a browser tab, no install required. As the user progressively builds a relationship with the app over time, it becomes more and more powerful. It loads quickly, even on flaky networks, sends relevant push notifications, has an icon on the home screen, and loads as a top-level, full-screen experience.”

Progressive web apps have home screen icons and can even work offline. At the same time, they don’t need to be downloaded or installed. They offer a smooth mobile experience that requires minimal sacrifice (memory, data, etc.) from users. eCommerce sites, in particular, can leverage PWAs for a convenient mobile shopping UX.

In fact, Magento announced that they would be creating a Magento PWA Studio in support of the change they think PWAs will have on the future of eCommerce. Read more about the impact PWAs could have on the future of eCommerce for Magento merchants here.

It Doesn’t Stop Here

The incoming wave of PWAs is really just a continuation of the mobile experience as we know it, however. To understand where the mobile UI is headed, we need to broaden our horizons.

This CMO article explains the concept of zero UI where users are less reliant on screen interactions:

“Today everyone’s walking around with a smartphone in their pockets. But the future version of the smartphone might look very different from what we are used to today. It could be some new, improved version of smart glasses atomized experience that breaks the mobile interface into various components worn more discreetly, in different places of the body.”

Consider how far voice technology has come since Amazon released the Echo smart speaker in 2014. Marketers should already prepare for UIs that rely primarily on voice commands. eCommerce marketers should also keep an eye on AR and VR for a more visual or immersive UX.

Mobile-first isn’t just a trend. It represents what users need and where mobile UX is headed. To talk more about getting a mobile-first eCommerce strategy, contact us today.

Midsize Businesses and Brick and Mortar Merchants Can Use SEO Too

Midsize Businesses and Brick and Mortar Merchants Can Use SEO Too

brick and mortar merchants can win at SEO

Because SEO Works

All the buzz surrounding SEO should not be ignored. SEO isn’t a new fad and certainly won’t be going anywhere soon. Because it works. The power of SEO is that all businesses, of every size, can be successful with a smart organic strategy. Notably, midsize brick and mortar merchants can win at SEO too.

In eCommerce, it’s easy to be intimidated by the big guys like Amazon, Walmart, etc. But it’s important to note that midsize businesses matter and can compete alongside the juggernauts.

According to US. Small Business Administration, there are 28 million small businesses in the US employing 56 million people. Most notably, those businesses account for 99.7% of all business in the US. Those numbers translate into revenue, customers, and more business to be had. Well-run SEO is a great way to further reach your audience, prospective buyers, and repeat customers.

Customers Choose Community Over Corporations

Many Mom-and-Pop shops have had to shut down because of big box stores coming into town and eCommerce changing the landscape.  We all sense the loss when that loved brick and mortar corner grocery store closes. Sometimes it is an iconic community fixture. Sometimes it is just the absence of that familiar neighborhood face (often an actual neighbor or friend) behind the register.

It doesn’t have to happen anymore. That is the power of SEO. Instead of losing customers to these conglomerates, you can compete, and even capture, their customers looking for something more. With so many options available to customers nowadays, the price isn’t always the main factor for a purchase. Many customers note customer service, company values, accessibility, and trust as being contributing factors to new purchase decisions.

People haven’t lost their love for small and midsize businesses or even the fun and experience of walking into a physical shop. What people are doing, however, is shopping differently and spending more time online. Do you have a special store that you like to buy a special maybe handmade item? Is it clothing, food or supplies, or specialty item? There is no such thing as niche, specialty items at big box chains. For businesses with specialty items, SEO can play a large role in helping businesses grow.

Customers Like Investing in Small and Midsize Businesses

For owners and merchants, the interactions with customers and real control over the direction of the business are unparalleled. For customers, the personal attention, the opportunity to give back to their community and the fun of working with local businesses are a few of the many benefits. Locally run businesses and people who run them are key contributors to the fabric of our communities and towns.

These are just a few of the many reasons for small to midsize businesses to invest in SEO. With the shift in eCommerce and customers researching purchases online, it’s smart for business to have solid SEO strategies.

We offer a lot of resources on SEO for eCommerce merchants. If you’re interested in learning more about SEO, we highly recommend reading through some of our SEO posts:

5 Ways an Integrated SEO PPC Strategy Will Benefit Your eCommerce Business

eCommerce SEO Basics Merchants Need to Know

3 Ways Merchants can Improve SEO for eCommerce

The Value of SEO and PPC for Magento Merchants

11 SEO Trends To Increase eCommerce Sales

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Hiring an SEO Partner for eCommerce

We work with companies managing both brick and mortar and eCommerce stores. If you would like to see how we can help your business grow with SEO or if you want more information about digital marketing to improve your business, contact us.

How to Build an eCommerce Team

How to Build an eCommerce Team

By Brian Dwyer, CEO of InteractOne

Growing Your Online Business

Over our many years, I’ve taken a lot of calls from prospects and customers who are very frustrated about how to grow their online business.  Sometimes the problems are about pricing, or how they are marketing the site. Occasionally, it is because of the eCommerce platform that’s being used. But quite frankly, in most instances, it comes down to people problems. Who is behind your eCommerce initiative? Who is the staff supporting you, and helping ensure you grow? The number one issue when it comes to people is understanding the dynamics and the depth of staff that you need to make your eCommerce site succeed.

Hiring the Right People

At this point, it’s critical you understand there are three different categories of staffing. The three big categories are first, site management, second is technical staff or those that build and maintain the website, and third is a digital marketing staff.

Many CEOs I talk to are really frustrated about these staffing issues. Without even defining the task and type of people that’s needed, the most common knee-jerk reaction is, “How can we have all these people? We can’t afford this.”  Well, there are lots of resources around to make this happen and I’ll address those in a little bit.

Let’s discuss who those people are, and the jobs that need to be performed.

Website Management Staff

The absolute pinnacle of this is your website senior management team.  From what we’ve seen among our clients, this is the lynchpin. This is what differentiates your success or failure.  Merchants need to understand that the person ultimately in charge of the online initiative has to totally and fluently understand all aspect of eCommerce. From how and where you make money, to the administrative and technical aspects of the site, to merchandising and marketing.  

Knowing how and why everything works together is far and away the most important skill-set.  If whomever you hire to do this job doesn’t get it, you’re doomed. Because of your ability to hire anybody else, whether it’s a programmer or it’s a marketer, falls secondary to the role of who is in charge.

Technical Staff

The second group of hires is the technical staff. These are the people who build and maintain the website. For many merchants, this is the toughest group because you may be totally clueless from a technical perspective, and hiring someone who sounds right may be the wrong person.

Front-end and back-end Developers

There are two different skill-sets, those on the front-end, the designer and programmers that code those designs. And those on the back-end, those that can integrate the website with other systems like your order management system, warehouse system, shipping system, accounting system, and your payment processing system.  

Front-end and back-end are generally two very different skill-sets. Understand who you need to hire. Now, many programmers claim they can do both. By-in-large, they can… but they can’t. It’s like asking an orthopedic surgeon if they can help you manage your diabetes. I guess they could, but it’s generally not their thing. This is true with programmers. Understand their limitations, and if you bypass that, you’re heading down a road of hurt. “Hurt” like standing there ripping up $100 bills.

Digital Marketing Staff

The final group is your digital marketing staff. First, what’s your primary objective? Are we building a customer list or building sales? Those are two very different things. And like the other roles I’ve mentioned, there are specialists, and in today’s marketplace, you need to fully, and I mean fully, own that marketing know-how.

eMail Specialist

The person who manages the eMail marketing efforts. They need to fully own not only how the technology works in physically constructing the eMail, but needs to understand all the metrics from opens to click-throughs. They need to own the CAN-SPAM law, understanding how you build your list legally and ethically.

Paid Specialist

The person who does paid advertising. They need to fully own what affects open rates, copy and layout, what paid options are out there, and how and when you use them. And costs! Among the quickest way for you to go bankrupt.

Organic Specialist

The person who manages organic efforts and search engine optimization. They need to understand what and how the different search engines rank and respect your content. Why this page works in driving traffic and sales and another doesn’t?  

Analytic Specialist

The person who manages analytics. It’s not just understanding Google analytics, it’s understanding data mining to find that nugget of customers; it’s doing A/B testing to find out what copy or layout drives more sales.

If you can find one person that can do all this, that has all the knowledge needed for each marketing specialization and can execute it flawlessly, well then, you just found the holy grail. I can assure you, that person does not exist. If this isn’t hard enough, we add to it the difficulty of finding just that right person because the industry is still relatively new.  eCommerce has really been around for maybe 20 years, and so if you have ten years’ experience, you’re held in high esteem because there’s not a lot of people out there with that kind of skill-set.

Take Care in Who You Hire

And so all of this brings me to a final consideration. You really have to be careful of who you hire. There are a lot of people that talk the talk but cannot walk the walk. You need to fully vet these people to figure out who they are and their capabilities. If you don’t have that know-how, then hire somebody that can help you determine that, because again, this is the cornerstone and the foundation of your eCommerce business.

I hope this has been helpful for you. If you’re interested in talking with me directly, feel free to contact us with any questions. We’re always here to help.

Take Your eCommerce User Experience to The Next Level

Take Your eCommerce User Experience to The Next Level

eCommerce User Experience

Five Tips for Improving Your eCommerce User Experience

There is much more to selling online than simply creating a website and listing your products. Today’s consumers want a great shopping experience from start to finish. Starting a relationship off on the right foot with a new customer is important to convert them into a regular paying customer. Below are five tips for improving your eCommerce User Experience to create an engaging website that increases sales.  

Be an expert

Consumers today aren’t just looking for products, they’re looking for a knowledgeable resource that will help them solve a problem, optimize their time, and provide value beyond just a material possession. No matter what industry you’re in, being an expert is important. Offer reviews or testimonials from top industry professionals, or create a deep resource full of helpful content. Utilize topic clusters, a new SEO strategy that not only provides a ton of valuable content, it also can improve your rankings on Google.

Keep it real and make it personal

Honesty and authenticity are traits that many consumers look for in a brand. If you want potential customers to be excited about a product, share your own excitement! Be quick to answer customer questions, and give them real and honest answers. Personalize a user’s experience by using their first name on your website. Or, use an eCommerce -centric email platform like MailChimp or dotmailer to create personalized emails. You can also personalize a user’s experience based on where in the buying process they are. If a customer feels like they are getting individual attention and excellent customer service, they will not only be happy to buy from you, they will spread the word.

Build a community and give back

Make your product and business a part of something bigger. Show consumers what you care about and value, and encourage visitors to your site or social media pages to share their own stories. In today’s digital world, selling a product is about creating an experience that people want to be a part of. In addition, showing off that you regularly give back to the community that you’re a part of shows people that you’re socially conscious and responsible. These are highly valued traits desired in customers. Building your brand is crucial to building a successfully consistent user experience.

Provide excellent customer service

If a person signs up for your email list, makes repeat purchases, or gives a referral to a friend, let them know how much you appreciate what they’ve done. Offer them something of value that is specific to your product or industry. A promo code, coupon, ebook, or some other exclusive content is a great draw. From there, keep building happy customer. Provide a multi-channel customer service solution.  Ask them to write a review on social media or a testimonial for your website, or get them to spread the word in another way.

Rethink your web design

Imagine you’re a consumer. Track how many steps it takes for someone to find a product and purchase it. Compare your design to sites you personally love, and always keep it simple. The fewer steps it takes to make a purchase, the more sales you’ll see. In addition, you can split test two different site designs to see which one scores more conversions. Improving the path-to-purchase for your customers from search to shipment will increase sales and create repeat customers.

Even if you have an innovative product, it won’t sell if you don’t market it correctly. However, if you spend a lot of time and effort on creating a unique customer experience, you’ll see your conversion rates begin to increase. Give users what they want – valuable content, expert knowledge, and a feeling of being appreciated and belonging to something.

If you’d like to learn more about how to create a great user experience that will generate the sales your business needs, contact us.

Leverage Multichannel Customer Service

Leverage Multichannel Customer Service

Multichannel Customer Service

If you own an eCommerce business, no matter what your industry, you have a lot of competition. To succeed, you need to do things better than those competitors, like making your checkout process smooth and transparent, featuring the best products at the best prices, and offering outstanding customer service.  If you’re a small or medium-size business, the pressure is even greater to deliver stellar customer service. After all, in addition to other medium-size companies, you’re competing with industry giants like Amazon and Walmart. These are companies that have spent the time and money to do customer service right.

How do you stay competitive? You need to hit the customer service sweet spot. According to Taylor Research Group, 62% of consumers feel their customer service experiences meet their expectations (with 32% saying they don’t), but only 2% report that those experiences “exceeded” their expectations.  

If you want to beat your eCommerce competition, it’s not enough to leave your customers satisfied. You need to “wow” them with unbelievable customer service. The kind they’ll remember long after the fact, and tell their friends about.

Start with a multichannel customer service strategy. That means, among other things, that you need a multichannel customer service strategy, one that empowers customers to use their channel of preference to contact you (the goal of customer service, after all, is to give customers what they want).  Ideally, that will include eMail, social media, live chat, and phone support.

Four Ways to Enhance Your Multichannel Customer Service Efforts

Deliver Impressive eMail

Delivering customer service with eMail is relatively straightforward. You simply add an eMail contact page to your eCommerce site and wait for the questions and requests to start.  Of course, the volume of customer service eMails you receive is likely to be large, so you also need to stay organized.

Make sure you have a separate eMail account (or folder) dedicated to customer service, and nothing else.  In addition, whether you respond to eMails manually or automate the process, your responses need to be personalized and relevant to the questions you receive.  Finally, use the intelligence you gather through your eMail contacts to inform a frequently asked questions page on your site customers will often consult your FAQ before they contact you.

Reach Your Audience on Social Media

Whether you pay attention or not, your customers are already talking about your business on social media.  Spoiler alert—you need to be paying attention to those conversations, and you need to leverage them to enhance your customer service.  It’s one of the reasons that 30% of brands have a customer service account on Twitter (according to Simply Measured).

Twitter is arguably the best social media site on which to promote outstanding customer service—but you do have to respond promptly to your customer-service related tweets.  According to Convince and Convert, about 1/3 of Twitter users expect a response within the first half hour, for example—but less than 10% of businesses respond within that time frame.  Fortunately, there are services which will help you put your best foot forward, including Hootsuite, Everypost and Sprout Social.

Be More Accessible with Live Chat

According to Econsultancy, live chat has a higher average customer service rating (73%) than any other channel—but you need to do it right to exceed customer expectations.  Among the reasons consumers are so happy with live chat is the fact that they can get the answers they need quickly, and without being placed on hold (or listening to that awful hold music).

You can use tools like Bold Chat, Live Chat or Olark to deliver superior chat service.  You should also use a service with mobile functionality (so your reps can answer questions from anywhere) and integrate it with your contact form to ensure you’re able to respond to every query.

Up Your Phone Support Game

Last but certainly not least in your customer service arsenal is phone support.  For one thing, your customers (or many of them) will want to speak with a live person.  For another, employing a trained calling center staff is among the best ways to gather critical business intelligence you can use to improve your business.  Finally, there’s probably no better way to build trust than with highly-trained customer service reps who can establish the rapport and personal connection that phone support enables.

The operative word when it comes to delivering superior customer service phone support is “training.”  The reps you employ need to understand as much about your business as possible, this to obviate the need for transferring calls.  They probably also need the support of robust CRM software, so every call is informed and enhanced by the calls which preceded it.

Get Started on Your Multichannel Customer Service Efforts

Because eCommerce is so competitive, you need to be at the top of your game, delivering the kind of service which will polish your brand, build trust, establish credibility, and distinguish you and the service you provide from your competitors. Of course, customer service is just one component of a comprehensive digital marketing strategy.

To learn more about the ways our Magento eCommerce solutions and PPC, SEO, eMail and social media marketing services can help you boost sales and grow your eCommerce business, contact us today.

Magento vs Volusion: Which Platform is Best for Your Business?

Magento vs Volusion: Which Platform is Best for Your Business?

Magento vs Volusion

Has Your eCommerce Business Outgrown Volusion?

We’ve recently had merchants come to us on Volusion who were thinking of migrating to another eCommerce platform. As a certified Magento development agency, merchants want to know if Magento is the right choice. We know Magento is a great choice for eCommerce merchants. It’s fast, scalable, and comes with a community of developers ready to build. However, Magento may not be the best choice for certain types of merchants. Small businesses (less than $500K in annual revenue) may not be ready for such a robust platform like Magento. For medium to large businesses who are growing on an upward trend, Magento is the better choice. It really depends on each business’s unique situation.

We’re breaking down the differences between Magento vs Volusion to help merchants looking to migrate.

Is Magento the best choice? For some merchants, yes it is.

We recently launched TigerFitness.com on Magento 2.1 Enterprise Edition last year. For Tiger Fitness, the choice was clear. They were operating on Volusion and the site lacked the ability to properly customize the front-end and could not support their growing need for scalability. Tiger Fitness was growing fast and needed a platform that could handle major increases in traffic.

Another client that we are about to launch on Magento 2.2 Open Source came to us experiencing difficulties with limited design and control. Our client’s old site was originally built as a static site and over time had been integrated with Volusion for eCommerce. The hybrid platform was not mobile-friendly and offered limited design, control, and flexibility.

Magento vs. Volusion: Breakdown of Services

Magento

According to BuiltWith, Magento Community and Magento Enterprise editions make up a large portion of the eCommerce platform community with a combined total of 11%. In other words, out of all the many eCommerce platforms available, 11% of all eCommerce websites are on Magento. The platform is free to download for community edition, open source, powerful and scalable, it’s no surprise that Magento is one of the most used eCommerce platforms worldwide.

In addition, Magento offers an Enterprise edition which is a paid version with fees based on a merchant’s unique gross merchandise sales value (GMV). Enterprise Edition is full of out-of-the-box features not included in Magento Community edition, making Enterprise a great option. Enterprise offers several exciting marketing features including content scheduling, customer loyalty, automated eMail options, analytics and more. For more on the differences between the two versions, read this post on Magento 2 Community Edition vs Enterprise Edition.

Magento Pros:

  • Feature-rich, out-of-the-box with flexible options for nearly all languages and currencies
  • Thousands of extensions are available thanks to the flexible API architecture
  • Manage multiple stores from one admin
  • Supportive Community with a slew of developers and partners ready to build and solve problems
  • In-depth training available to help you get started
  • Two editions are available, community for small businesses and enterprise for larger merchants

Magento Cons:

  • Magento can be very complicated for a non-tech savvy merchant
  • Development can get expensive, especially for custom work and certified development
  • Self-hosted, meaning it requires a Magento hosting provider

Volusion

Volusion isn’t included in BuiltWith’s top 10 market share breakdown. In fact other data from BuiltWith suggests that Volusion powers around just 20k websites worldwide. That is drastically smaller compared to Magento’s 217k websites worldwide. In addition, Volusion is considered a middle ground platform meaning merchants have more control with a Volusion site than on eBay or Amazon. However, Volusion merchants don’t have the same flexibility and control they would have on a customizable platform like Magento. Designed for ease of use to get small merchants going, Volusion is a one-stop-shop supplying hosting, set-up and customer support, making it an easy choice for smaller or less tech savvy merchants.

Volusion Pros:

  • Easy to set up
  • Hosting provided
  • Technical support provided
  • Comes installed with many basic payment options

Volusion Cons:

  • Limited amount of extensions
  • Lack of Global support
  • Lack of b2b features
  • Performance limits b/c of shared hosting environment
  • Templates and features for small lower-complexity merchants who don’t have a need for differentiation
  • Integration with other systems limited to Volusion API

Magento vs Volusion: Are you ready to move to Magento?

Magento is a great option for medium to large business with high-volume stores. Or businesses managing multiple stores in one instance. For small merchants, Volusion can be a great option. Magento can be costly and overwhelming to merchants with limited time and resources. Further, for merchants set on moving from Volusion, Shopify or Bigcommerce can be other options to consider. However, we only specialize in Magento but will help any size merchant find the right resources.

If you are a growing business looking for an alternative solution for Volusion, Magento is a great choice. Contact us for more information about Magento and the Volusion to Magento migration process.

Four eCommerce Trends to Try in 2018

Four eCommerce Trends to Try in 2018

eCommerce Trends

The State of eCommerce Trends in 2018

Over the past few years, eCommerce has moved from a curiosity to a regular staple of life online. Business and consumer audiences alike are taking advantage of the convenience and selection benefits that online stores can offer over their more traditional brick and mortar counterparts.

Of course, that doesn’t mean eCommerce has arrived. Online sales have risen drastically, but in 2017 still only made up a little under 10% of overall retail revenue. The industry is in constant flux, which is what makes the start of 2018 a perfect time to look at the trends that will shape eCommerce in 2018 and beyond.

We’re not talking about trends as they relate to Amazon in this space. The online giant made up almost half of all online sales in the United States last year, and in many ways operates by its own rules. Instead, we are taking a closer look at the four trends that will define and shape the state of small and mid-sized eCommerce businesses as they look to compete with their larger counterparts.

1. The Barriers to Entry are Shrinking

Think about the difficulty of starting an online store five to ten years ago. A custom website needed to be coupled with a secure backend system and credit card processing system designed to accommodate everyday purchases. Increasingly, that is no longer the case. As eCommerce expert Tomas Slimas highlights on Forbes.com:

“It’s never been easier to launch your own online store, find a product to sell, or start an advertising campaign. In the near-future we’ll see even more aspiring entrepreneurs breaking through into the world of eCommerce, who may not have had the means to do so previously.

That’s great news for entrepreneurs looking to break into the eCommerce business, but not necessarily for existing companies already competing in the space. Lower barriers to entry mean increased competition. As customers have more choices on what products to choose, they will be more difficult to convince and faster to jump off.

Businesses looking to remain competitive will need to understand their current and emerging competition, and take strategic steps to highlight their brand and products. From a standout customer experience to unique differentiators, strategy is key to remain successful in this competitive environment.

2. Automation is Becoming a Reality

Gone are the days when automation was reserved for online giants like Walmart and Amazon. A trend that has already started to take shape in previous years, automation will become even more central for digital marketing. Even for smaller businesses, automation is becoming both a reality and a customer expectation.

In 2018, we expect automation to surface for small to mid-sized online merchants in two ways: marketing automation and consumer-facing artificial intelligence. Each of them requires closer consideration.

2.1. The Increasing Dominance of Marketing Automation

What if you could automate some of the most important messages you need to send to potential customers as they move down the buyer’s path to purchase? That’s the essential premise of marketing automation. It’s been in use for years among some of the world’s largest eCommerce brands, and is finally becoming a realistic opportunity for their smaller competition as well.

The essence of marketing automation consists of automated emails (Triggered and Transactional) sent at various stages in the customer buying journey. These messages can take a variety of forms, including (but not limited to):

  • Account creation welcome emails
  • Cart abandonment/recovery emails
  • Order confirmation/thank you emails
  • Subscription expiration/renewal emails
  • Birthday or anniversary emails

With the right know-how, some of these eMails can be automated in Magento. In addition, there are several eCommerce-centric eMail platforms that integrate extremely well with Magento for added automation efforts.

Notably, one study showed significantly increased open, click, and conversion rates when automating these types of campaigns. Getting the right tools installed, or properly implemented on Magento, will be increasingly critical for eCommerce businesses.

2.2. The Rising Tide of AI as a Business Opportunity

The days of artificial intelligence as a science fiction topic are long over. Today, AI-supported processes are changing the ways in which businesses operate and sell their goods online.

Perhaps the single most important development in the field of AI from an eCommerce perspective are chatbots. These response services are becoming increasingly sophisticated and intelligent, drawing on de-centralized data to offer intelligent responses to customer questions and problems in real-time.

Over the next 7 years, the use of chatbots is expected to grow at least 24% each year. Capabilities continue to increase with that growth, from voice bots to native bots integrated into regular eCommerce websites. Guess what, studies show that half of your customers would already prefer chatbots over personal interactions for all customer service inquiries.

3. Native Social Selling is Entering Mainstream

eCommerce is no longer limited to selling goods or subscriptions on your website. Instead, your customers are beginning to expect that these goods are available where they spend their time online, which just happens to be social media.

The last few years have seen the beginning of this possibility. Through Facebook and Instagram, businesses can sell their products directly without having to redirect to their website. As we enter 2018, that intriguing possibility is moving into the mainstream.

Those inroads are especially prominent in the B2B space, where social selling is already a reality. In fact, 61% of business-facing brands taking advantage of LinkedIn and other networks to augment and enhance their selling practices report a definite positive impact on their revenue. In the consumer space, we’re just getting started.

Almost 50% of consumers have purchased a product as a result of encountering it on social media. Meanwhile, 18% have actually made that purchase directly on their favorite social network. As the capabilities of Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms increase, your business should have a plan in place to meet potential customers where they spend their time.

4. Mobile Dominance Means Constant Availability

To any business already marketing their products or services online, the following should come as no surprise: mobile internet usage is beginning to dominate across audience groups. After first surpassing its desktop counterpart in late 2015, the gap has increased to the point where mobile devices are now clearly your audience’s favorite way to spend time online.

In the past few years, that usage has not necessarily translated to increased mobile transactions. However, that is beginning to change. In fact, the mobile share of eCommerce revenue was expected to be almost 70% in 2017, with an increased value per transaction compared to desktop shoppers.

In addition, it’s time to think beyond smartphones and tablets when it comes to mobile commerce. Smart home devices like Google Home and Amazon Alexa have increased drastically in revenue, and are continually expanding their eCommerce capabilities. Preparing your business for these changing buying opportunities and habits will be key to remain competitive in the new year.

This continuing growth in mobile commerce is also leading to a new reality: customer expectations have changed. They are now constantly connected, and require constant availability. From purchasing a product at 2am to reaching out to your chatbot via their smartphone, your business should be prepared to service these changing needs and expectations.

Preparing Your Online Business for 2018 and Beyond

Of course, these are only a few of the many trends that will shape the world of eCommerce in 2018 and beyond. While its rapid growth has turned it into a major business opportunity, there is still plenty of potential for growth. Preparing your eCommerce business for the coming year means not only knowing what to expect, but also remaining agile to account for any unexpected changes and adjustments in this fluid environment.

We can help you with that adjustment. InteractOne offers Magento and marketing services that ideally prepare businesses for success in the future. We are committed to helping you prepare for any coming trends, while keeping you moving in a way that braces and beats the competition in your industry. Contact us to learn more about our services, and to get started on a partnership that will help you have successful 2018.

Leverage the Customer Buying Journey to Increase eCommerce Sales

Leverage the Customer Buying Journey to Increase eCommerce Sales

Increase eCommerce sales through UX

Increase Sales Through UX and Design

eCommerce sales continue to grow exponentially, and they show no sign of slowing down anytime soon.  For example, according to data from Bigcommerce:

  • More than 50% of Americans now prefer shopping online to brick and mortar stores
  • 96% of Americans have made an online purchase in their lifetime
  • 95% of Americans shop online at least once a year, 80% at least monthly, 30% weekly, and 5% daily
  • eCommerce is growing 23% year-over-year; still, almost half of American small businesses do not have a website

How to get on top of all those sales? Jess Thoms, brand strategist and founder of the conversation design studio, Xandra, highlights the critical importance of user experience to increased sales:

“It’s well documented that user experience design increases website retention and leads to sales.  Good user experience increases conversions and avoids user frustration. Digital experiences that push a user towards a conversion goal need to be seamless and logical.”

It’s quite simple. A seamless design that pleases customers will experience excellent retention rates and increased sales.

Meet Customers Where They Are on the Buying Journey

For eCommerce marketers, the question isn’t whether to focus on improving user experience (UX) and design, but how best to do it.  To create a UX that successfully positions your eCommerce business, it’s important to segment your target audience using key demographic and psychographic data, but you also need to know where they are in the buyer’s journey.

To state the obvious, most online shoppers don’t typically decide they want a given product, search for it online, click on the first search result they see and make a purchase.  Rather, they go through a process, one which entails substantial research, comparing products, prices, warranties, shipping options, return policies, and more.  The better you can meet their needs through the process, the more likely they’ll purchase from you rather than one of your competitors.

Admittedly, that sounds a little complicated, but you can simplify the process by thinking of the buyer’s journey as comprising the following 3 principal stages, and delivering a user experience which aligns seamlessly with each:

1. The Inspiration Stage

Customers at this stage are essentially “window shoppers.”  They’re just looking at this point, trying to decide if they want to delve deeper into your website and your business.  For example, a customer might be planning on buying a home appliance at some point in the future, but hasn’t yet decided what product they want, or when they’ll sign on the dotted line. For these customers, provide content which will inspire a future purchase.  This could include things like buying guides, product showcases, educational blogs, and look books.

Your conversion goal at the inspiration stage is to ensure subsequent contacts.  This could be persuading them to provide their contact information (in exchange for valuable content) to nurture them through a series of targeted emails, or convincing them to follow your brand on social media.

2. The Information Stage

These customers are “browsing,” ready now to dive a bit deeper, looking for example product options and buying criteria.  They might have decided they want a new dishwasher, but don’t yet know what features they need or what brand or company best meets their needs.

Because they’re gathering relevant information, you need to educate the customer. Provide features that filter, sort and compare products, as well as explain payment, shipping and return policies.  Your conversion goal at this stage is (if not an outright purchase) that the customer will at least add one of your products to a wish list, share it with a friend or, again, join your mailing list if they haven’t already done so.

3. The Intention Stage

This is the stage where the rubber meets the road.  Customers have completed necessary research and are close to making a purchasing decision.  They might have decided what kind of dishwasher they want, but are looking for final reassurance that your business is the one from which they want to buy.

You can build trust and confidence at this stage by delivering a superior experience on your website, as well as stellar customer service.  You might, for example, provide advanced search tools so they can get to the right product easily and quickly.  You should also attempt to counter any potential purchasing objections and remove any barriers which stand between you and the customer.  This could include things like the option to try a product for a period before buying, customer-friendly return policies, discounts for bulk purchases and loyalty reward programs.

Needless to say, your conversion goal at this stage is a purchase.  Additionally, think about more than this single sale. Your larger goal is to create loyal customers who will return to your eCommerce site over and over again.  That means unfailingly delivering on your promises and offering outstanding customer service, particularly when customers encounter problems post-purchase.

Create meaningful experiences

As noted above, eCommerce continues to grow, but it’s also continually changing as forward-thinking eCommerce merchants find new and innovative ways to deliver the kind of UX that builds consumer confidence and drives sales.  To ensure the success of your eCommerce business, it’s important to partner with designers and developers who have deep experience creating stellar eCommerce design and UX.

To learn more about the ways our Magento eCommerce site design, development and maintenance services can help you provide your customers with the kind of UX that will optimize your online sales, contact us today.

How to Solve B2B Selling Challenges with an Inbound Marketing Strategy

How to Solve B2B Selling Challenges with an Inbound Marketing Strategy

The success of your B2B eCommerce business hinges upon your ability to anticipate and overcome B2B sales challenges. From lengthy sales cycles to complicated product lines, selling challenges can thwart purchasing activity and negatively impact your cash flow. Fortunately, you can overcome most of these challenges by enhancing your content, launching targeted eMail campaigns, and catering to the specific needs of key stakeholders.

Below are the top seven B2B selling challenges and the inbound marketing strategies that can help you solve them.

Challenge 1: Multiple decision makers have varying requirements

Solution: Develop content and eMail campaigns that address stakeholder needs. The growing number of decision-makers and influencers has complicated the B2B selling process. A article in Harvard Business Review points to the increasingly large and varied pool of decision makers as a key factor in a company’s purchasing paralysis:

“…The number of people involved in B2B solutions purchases has climbed from an average of 5.4 two years ago to 6.8 today, and these stakeholders come from a lengthening roster of roles, functions, and geographies.” – Harvard Business Review, 2017.

Because decision makers rarely share the same priorities, it is up to eCommerce merchants to understand the specific needs of key stakeholders and develop useful content that addresses those needs. Here are some content design tips that can help merchants convince multiple decision makers to approve a purchase:

  • Identify your top customers and get to know the specific needs of each decision maker
  • Create custom specification sheets for each primary stakeholder group
  • Use eMail segmentation to ensure that stakeholder groups receive customized content

Challenge 2: A lengthy sales cycle

Solution: Create a sense of urgency by offering time-sensitive promotions.
When coupled with properly planned incentives, time-sensitive promotions are an effective means of motivating customers to take action. You can create an eMail campaign to ensure that your customers receive details about your promotion as quickly as possible. The most effective time-sensitive promotions offer a specific incentive that is strong enough to compel a customer to place an order but not so costly that it is detrimental to your bottom line. Below are examples of effective and ineffective promotions:

  • Specific and effective: “Place your order by December 31st and receive a FREE $25 Visa gift card.”
  • Uninspiring, overused, and ineffective: “Place your order and receive 10% off.”

Challenge 3: Customers do not realize they have exceeded their credit limits.

Solution: Use eMail notifications to tell customers when credit limits are exceeded.
Busy purchasing agents typically procure products from a host of different vendors, including your company. Rarely will every vendor offer the exact same credit terms, which can make it difficult for purchasing agents to keep track of their credit limits for every vendor.

Fortunately, you can set up eMail notifications to ensure that your customers find out immediately if they have exceeded their credit limits. E-commerce platforms such as Magento are also useful because they allow you to hold orders for your customers until they receive your eMail notification and remit payment. When offered in conjunction with a variety of payment options, these strategies help keep customer satisfaction and sales at high levels.

Challenge 4: Past customers or once promising leads go into hiding.

Solution: Implement a lead nurturing campaign for dormant customers.
Few things are more frustrating for B2B sales representatives than the customer or promising prospect who suddenly disappears. Many representatives respond by amplifying their outreach efforts in an attempt to secure a sale. However, this type of pressure often pushes customers farther away. A lead nurturing campaign is effective because it subtly transforms you from a salesperson into an educator and supporter. Here are some strategies to incorporate into your lead nurturing campaign:

  • Use targeted content to appeal to the different segments of your customer base
  • Remember that a lead nurturing campaign should be supplemented with human intervention
  • Be prepared for the possibility that some customers simply do not want to purchase your products

Challenge 5: Your products are complicated

Solution: Create eBooks and instructional videos to facilitate learning.
Selling complicated products is a challenge for B2B sales representatives because they often possess only a general understanding of their functionality. Customers often expect sales representatives to be product experts and to be able to respond to technical questions about their operation. By creating eBooks and instructional videos, you arm your sales staff with the tools they need to educate customers. You can also supplement your eBook library and videos by following these tips:

  • Create a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) leaflet that answers common customer questions
  • Provide links to user manuals on your website
  • Feature videos of your products being used by your customers
  • Consider eMailing a copy of your instructional eBook or video to your best prospects

Challenge 6: Your products are viewed as dry or boring

Solution: Infuse life into your products with videos and case studies.
Not everyone can sell the latest groundbreaking mobile device or the latest fashion trends. Vendors are also needed to market products like car floor mats, toilet seat covers, storage bottles, and gauze. However, these products are often more challenging to sell because they are not viewed as exciting or interesting.

The key to resolving this challenge is to create a distinctive presentation that tells a story and captures the attention of consumers. You can achieve both of these goals by creating customer case studies and ideos of consumers using your products. Case studies that feature photos of products being used by customers are an especially effective means of promoting products such as sinks, lights, or monitoring devices that are often viewed as both boring and complicated.

Challenge 7: Tackling complex or high-stakes buying decisions

Solution: Enhance your website content.
High-stakes buying decisions often surface when businesses must replace capital equipment used by manufacturers or healthcare providers. High-stakes buying decisions are challenging for B2B sales organizations for two key reasons. First, they typically involve detailed analyses by multiple decision makers. Second, they often have a lengthy sales cycle because multiple stakeholders must weigh in on the decision. By enhancing your website content, you ensure that stakeholders have easy access to all the information they need to finalize their purchasing decision. You can enhance your website content in the following ways:

  • Create detailed product brochures that feature photos, specifications, and warranty information
  • Feature customer testimonials from industry experts on your website
  • Include case studies or videos of your products in operation at well-known facilities
  • Reward customers who are willing to serve as a reference or provide a testimonial

The Best Way to Resolve B2B Selling Challenges

The solutions outlined above will provide you with an excellent foundation for resolving B2B selling challenges and reducing their incidence. However, the surest way to tackle B2B selling challenges is to seek the guidance of a website development expert. For nearly 20 years, the team of professionals with InteractOne has partnered with leading technologies to help companies shorten their sales cycles and facilitate complex purchasing decisions.

Contact us to find out how our Magento-certified developers and skilled marketers can help you overcome your B2B selling hurdles. Through our superb content development and our winning eMail campaigns, we look forward to becoming your trusted solution for all of your B2B selling challenges.

11 SEO Trends To Increase eCommerce Sales

11 SEO Trends To Increase eCommerce Sales

11 SEO Trends To Increase eCommerce Sales

SEO trends to increase eCommerce sales

SEO Can Help Increase Sales in eCommerce

For something that has barely been around for two decades, eCommerce has taken the world by storm. Most people are perfectly happy to order almost everything they need online instead of braving stores, wielding shopping carts, and hauling bags around. People have many reasons to do all their holiday and household shopping through eCommerce platforms with the packages delivered straight to their door.

The big question is how can your eCommerce store get a bigger slice of the thriving online market?

One of the best ways to build your online sales is through SEO which, if used correctly, can efficiently bring customers to you who are ready to buy and want exactly what you have to sell. In addition to ensuring your site is set up properly from a structural perspective (meta tags, title tags, etc.) all you need is a list of keywords and a few clever strategies to find SEO success.

1. Do Your Keyword Research

The first place to start with any SEO project is your basic collection of keywords. These are terms that your customers might type into a search box when they want to buy your products. If, for instance, you sell decorative glass sculptures, your keywords would naturally include “glass”, “sculpture”, “interior decorating” and perhaps a few more unusual terms that fit the same bill like “paperweight” and “fishbowl”. Of course, for every keyword, there are dozens of possible variations, synonyms, and long tail (those three and four keyword phrases which are very specific to whatever you are selling) combinations that could apply. Remember when putting together your initial list of keywords that your goal is to predict the search terms of people who need your product but may not know it yet.

2. Use a Keyword Tool for Ideas

If you run out of steam brainstorming search words, turn your attention to the variety of online tools which can help you both explore possible search term variations and identify which terms are currently trending. There is a careful balance in SEO between what is popular and what is useful and your strategy should include both categories. Google has a variety of keyword research and suggestion tools and there are also several third party tools which will brainstorm keywords with you.

3.  Think Like a Customer

One of the biggest challenges for eCommerce SEO is lining up your efforts to suit the selection of product you offer. If you just sold pillows, for example, all your keywords could have to do with sleeping, pillows, or neck pain but if you sell many different kinds of items, expect to have a longer list of keywords. The key is to think like a customer who wants what you have to sell. Customers who know what they want will ask for category, product, and brand names and even specifications like size or material. Customers who aren’t sure yet will ask by typing in features like colors, texture, or function.

4. Customer-Centric Website Design

As an eCommerce business, it’s important to remember that your website is your shop. Everything about it needs to guide visitors toward becoming customers, especially the navigation. Use a very clear arrangement of navigation bars, tabs, and categories to help your customers get around and find what they’re looking for. Narrow down product searches by category and specifications for them and offer helpful tips on how to get exactly the right size or package.

5. Use Helpful Internal Links

If there’s one thing that both SEO and browsing customers appreciate, it’s a well-placed internal link. The ideal use for links is as breadcrumbs and a way to make helpful suggestions. Many eCommerce shoppers enjoy a list of similar items to help them narrow down their own search. You can also use internal links to reference things like policy, service, shipping, or sizing pages.

6.  Internal Search and SEO

When you’re a relatively large site, optimizing for searches isn’t just about Google and inbound marketing. You also want your own internal search function to come up with useful results. This means you’ll want to optimize every product page and blog to ensure that users looking for content on your website from the internal search function find what they need. Fortunately, because the search bar is on your website, you can also tweak the feature to have more helpful responses to search terms that relate to your products.

7. Add Breadcrumbs to Navigation

Customers moving around the site for the first time have a reasonable chance of getting lost or overwhelmed. Others may simply want to back-track to a page they were looking at before without searching for it all over again. This is where breadcrumbs come in handy, another feature that is greatly appreciated by search engine crawlers and is, therefore, good SEO.

Breadcrumbs are a list of links relating back to where you’ve been. In some cases, they are presented as your position in the site architecture, like “Clothes”, “Women”, “Tops” for example. Or they can be arranged based on exactly where you’ve been for the last few jumps which would look more like “Black Cardigan”, “Blue Cardigan”, “Blue Hat”. Both of these functions can help your customers get around and will improve their shopping experience.

8. Check for Technical Errors

No essay is written typo-free and no web page is written without errors, especially when you’re concerned with SEO, a topic that is more complex than it seems. While there are several options, one particular program by the surprising name of Screaming Frog is fantastic for letting you know where the errors are in your web page architecture like broken links and missing header tags. It can also be used to do a little cleanup while other errors will be yours to handle.

9. Manicure Dead Pages

Once you know where dead pages are from running a quick technical audit, it’s time to decide what to do with them. The last thing you want is a visitor browsing around thinking about buying only to hit a dead page with no convenient way back to their shopping cart. Manicuring dead pages and what your 404 page looks like can make a huge difference. Make sure to keep the browsing experience smooth and to give your customers a quick and easy way to return to the page just before they hit missing content or a closed item.

10. Write Unique Content for Every Product

Repeat text is a big no-no in SEO, but this means that if you sell many very similar items that the old copy-paste description trick simply isn’t going to fly. If you want to make it more likely that customers will be SEO-transported directly to the correct product pages, it’s best to write unique description content for each one. This doesn’t have to be difficult and it’s alright if the descriptions all look similar as long as you mix up the phrases and facts a little bit. If you do need to repeat the same details for many products, consider making a chart instead.

11. Encourage Internal Comments and Reviews

Finally, nothing kicks up website activity and improves the density of your best keywords like comments and reviews. Take a page from Amazon’s highly successful book and encourage customers to review your products right there on the page or in their delivery confirmation emails. Have places on the site for discussions, question-and-answering, and public customer service. This will increase your relevance via traffic and engage your audience to really think about and discuss what they thought of your products. The more reviews and comments, the better.

When your storefront is online, everything becomes at least tangentially related to SEO and building sales are no exception. Naturally, you need SEO to generate more search engine ‘foot traffic’ and accurately targeted SEO to ensure that your leads find exactly what they came for.

For more great tips and tricks for boosting your eCommerce business or assistance mastering the strategies described in this article, contact us today.