ADA Applies to eCommerce Businesses Too

ADA Applies to eCommerce Businesses Too

ADA Compliance for eCommerce

When we think of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), we automatically think of companies with physical storefronts. Is the store wheelchair accessible? Is there adequate parking for the disabled? Are service animals welcome?

However, barriers can also exist in the digital world. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one in five Americans live with some type of disability. That ratio represents the buying power of about 56.7 million people, including 8.1 million that have difficulty seeing and 7.6 million that have a hearing disability. Are you losing business by not making your website or mobile app accessible to people with disabilities? Are you at risk of receiving an ADA penalty?

What you need to know about ADA Compliance for eCommerce and how to ensure your website is compliant.

What does the ADA actually say?

The National Law Review issued a warning that “website accessibility lawsuits under ADA are on the rise.” The first step in getting compliant is to understand exactly what the ADA is. Below are the five main areas the legislation covers.

  • Title I applies to employers. They must provide “reasonable accommodations” for applicants and employees with disabilities, and are prohibited from discriminating based on a person’s disability in all aspects of employment.
  • Title II protects the rights of disabled persons to participate and use any government services, both state and local. For example, public transit buses must be accessible.
  • Title III requires businesses that serve the public to make “reasonable modifications” to policies, procedures and infrastructure in order to accommodate persons with disabilities. For the majority of lawsuits involving eCommerce, Title III is the provision in question.  
  • Title IV applies specifically to telecommunications companies. They must provide telephone relay services and applicable devices for deaf persons.
  • Title V prevents a person from threatening or retaliating against someone asserting their ADA rights.

Some confusion over rules

The ADA does not specifically mention eCommerce businesses. However, most courts agree that websites are accountable under Title III. The confusion occurs, though, because no clear rules have been established that outline exactly how websites can avoid violations. For example, there is some debate over whether the ADA applies to only companies that have brick and mortar stores as well as eCommerce websites, and not to eCommerce only companies. Further clarification on these rules is expected to come later this year, according to National Law Review.

What to do now

With 260 website accessibility lawsuits filed in 2016 alone, eCommerce businesses should be anxiously awaiting further clarification. In the mean time, the best plan of action is to get busy now. As we discussed at the outset, it’s not just about compliance. It’s also about the buying power of millions of Americans. Here are just two areas you should consider.

Accommodate the blind

Visually impaired individuals are able to navigate websites through the use of a screen reader, software that reads the text and converts it to audio for the visitor. However, websites must use code that is understood by screen readers. Alternative text must be embedded behind images and proper headers must be used. The alternative text should clearly describe the image. Otherwise, the screen reader will interpret it as “blank” or simply “image.” Ensure labels on forms are clearly identified. Imagine how difficult check-out would be if you didn’t know what to fill in where. As a customer, you would most likely move on to a site that was easier to navigate.

Additionally, make sure the site supports the latest browser versions since most issues with screen readers occur because of browser compatibility issues. Lastly, take simple steps like using high-contrast color schemes. Low-contrast colors make it hard for visually impaired customers to identify critical buttons or even differentiate between the foreground and the background.

Reach the deaf

Think about including sign-language videos for key parts of your site. Many deaf persons that have been hearing impaired since birth cannot read written words. They “read” only sign language. If sign-language videos are not possible, consider including captions or subtitles with videos on your site for those that can read.

There are numerous areas to think about when discussing ADA Compliance for eCommerce. Can the elderly easily navigate the site? What if customers lack fine motor skills? Can a colorblind customer find a product and make a purchase without hindrance?

To learn more about ADA Compliance for eCommerce, talk to the eCommerce experts at InteractOne about creative design that works for all potential customers.

eCommerce Fundamentals for Small to Medium-Sized Merchants

eCommerce Fundamentals for Small to Medium-Sized Merchants

ecommerce fundamentals

We often are sought out for eCommerce advice from small to medium-sized eCommerce businesses. Many merchants are overwhelmed with workloads and creative ideas they seem to never get to. Many ask us where their time and efforts should be best spent. There’s not enough time in the day (or budget hours) for these types of businesses to do it all.

So, what matters most for success and growth? Where should these businesses start? We advise that an effective strategy for small to medium-sized merchants is comprised of three key eCommerce fundamentals, which are mastering customer experience, channel visibility, and focused marketing efforts.

Customer Experience

Creating a seamless shopping experience for your customers should always be at the top of your priority list. If there are hang-ups at any point in the customer’s path to purchase experience, such as poor search results or limited shipping options, money is being left on the table. Customer expectations continue to grow at a rapid rate due to eCommerce giants providing top-notch eCommerce experiences.

Customer Experience and The Amazon Effect

Amazon is changing the eCommerce landscape while continuing to increase the expectations of the customer.

An article from Forbes on this topic reinforces this statement, “Merely meeting expectations is a myth. No one just ‘meets expectations’ anymore. You either exceed expectations, or you fall short.” It’s no secret that Amazon has always put a strong focus on what the customer wants and will do what it takes to exceed those expectations.

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon says, “We’re not competitor obsessed, we’re customer obsessed. We start with the customer and we work backward…We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient.”

In order to be competitive in the eCommerce space, merchants of all size need to shift their focus on the customer experience while exceeding expectations.

Customer Experience and the Path-to-Purchase

The full customer experience, or the path-to-purchase, from search to shipment needs to rival that of the big players. As customers spend more time shopping online, they will continue to expect more and more from merchants. The graph below from GetElastic shows some notable trends about customer expectations:

Unsurprisingly, 95% of customers say that shipping plays a significant role in conversions.  Shipping can add several dollars to a purchase. When customers are hit with unexpected shipping costs, it can send them looking at competitors.

Trust is also a key component with 76% of customers saying that trustworthiness plays a key role in their purchases. There is some uncertainty when it comes to online shopping. We live in a day and age when customers worry about the information being taken. If a website seems outdated or is lacking trust-building measures such as reviews or familiar payment options, it can send customers away.

Products displayed on the homepage comes in as the third most influential for making an online purchase with 70% noting its importance. People shop online quickly. When a customer lands on your homepage, they want to see what they’re looking for immediately. That’s why excellent site search functionality has become increasingly important.

Creating a seamless customer experience is one of the most basic fundamentals of eCommerce. Without a solid path-to-purchase focus in place, merchants are losing customers and money.

Customer Experience and The Right eCommerce Platform

A key part of your customer experience is, or will be, choosing the right eCommerce platform to support your business needs. Merchants must maximize the benefit of features vs cost. Your eCommerce platform and what you can and can’t do with it will have an impact on your online store.

Smaller merchants typically lack the budget to overspend on technology or hosting. Therefore, they must choose wisely between open source flexibility and features (Magento Open Source, WooCommerce) vs. lower cost and efficient SAAS (BigCommerce, Shopify).

Merchants must decide when it comes to features and performance on what will help fuel growth and conversions. For the right size merchant, features and performance may be best served by a powerful, scalable, and flexible platform like Magento. For smaller merchants, power and scalability may not be as important as price and ease of management. And a platform like Shopify would be the better choice.

Channel Visibility

Merchants must be proactive about new ways to get in front of customers. It’s no longer good enough to rely on being found organically via a Google search or even from a PPC ad. Data from 2017 shows that 72% of shoppers start their initial search on Amazon – not Google. What does this mean for small to medium-sized merchants?  It’s now time to think of Amazon more like how we used to think of Google. And that may mean selling products on Amazon even though margins will suffer. And if a merchant can maintain control of the shipping functionality, the remarketing opportunities are many.

Customers are also utilizing social media platforms for research also. As shown in the graph above, 27% of shoppers noted that they would use Facebook as a tool for their buying decision. And merchants are experimenting with extending their brand by offering shopping options on Instagram and Pinterest.

All this tells us that merchants need more than just a well-run website to be successful. Merchants must consider 3rd party marketplaces as a way to get more views and increase sales. Merchants can sell through top marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart, eBay, and Rakuten.

While there has been a shift to Amazon for researching products, Google and Bing are still key players. It could also benefit merchants to consider other key social and shopping engines like Facebook, Instagram, and Ebates.

Focused Digital Marketing Efforts

Merchants need to ensure their digital marketing dollars are focused on the right channels and efforts that will convert. Typically, small to medium-sized businesses lack the financial capabilities to invest in all forms of digital marketing. Knowing what efforts work best for your business is key to success.

Learning what works, and what won’t, will be different for each business. But, it’s key to focus and spend wisely between PPC, SEO, eMail and social. Not all marketing channels will provide each business with equal ROI. PPC can be a quick fix, to drive immediate traffic, but it can also be too costly, long-term for smaller merchants.  SEO can be a powerful tool if done well, but SEO success takes patience, sometimes a difficult “ask” given the costs involved.

The standard approach in eCommerce used to be some PPC mixed with SEO followed up with eMail. While that method still works for some, for others based on industry or available marketing budget, it could make perfect sense for a merchant such as a fashion retailer to surgically increase ROI via social media channels such as Facebook and/or Instagram.

And speaking of email, merchants who aren’t utilizing their customer email database to engage, build their brand and yes, provide offers are likely missing out on the lowest hanging marketing-to-revenue fruit of all.

Choose a partner to help you succeed

In order to survive and grow in today’s eCommerce ecosystem, small to medium-sized merchants must be savvy in the way they prioritize investment in the customer experience, channel visibility, and digital marketing.

It’s also important to note that without an in-house team, many of these efforts will be too much to handle, both from a complexity and bandwidth perspective. Choosing an eCommerce partner experienced in these key areas can have a huge benefit on business. InteractOne has the experience and expertise to help merchants of all sizes understand where best to prioritize their efforts. Notably, a great partner will have the resources to help merchants execute these priorities.

Contact us to learn more about optimizing path-to-purchase journey for your customers or more information on the right digital marketing efforts for your business.


5 Tips for Mastering eCommerce eMail

5 Tips for Mastering eCommerce eMail

Mastering eCommerce eMail

When leveraged correctly, eMail is one of the most powerful marketing tools for eCommerce businesses. Personalized, timely eMails move leads through the sales funnel at the right time. eMail doesn’t have to be a chore, but it does require a well-thought strategy that is executed seamlessly.

Here are five tips to help merchants with mastering eCommerce eMail for better sales and ROI.

1. Send transactional eMails

The transactional eMail is key to any eCommerce eMail campaign. It takes care of several jobs all at once, including thanking a customer for their business, confirming the order, and continuing the customer experience post-sale.

Here’s how HubSpot defines what a transactional eMail is and what it should accomplish:

“One-to-one eMails that contain information that completes a transaction or process the recipient has started with you. A common example is in eCommerce, after purchasing an item you receive a eMail receipt that has information about the item, price, and shipment. Transactional eMail is sent to individuals rather than a large list of recipients.”

The key takeaway is to make it personal. You already have a customer’s name from the sales order, so address them personally at the top of the message. It’s the eMail equivalent of thanking someone and wishing them a nice day before they leave the store.

2. Segment your list

One of the first things to do with respect to mastering eCommerce eMail marketing is to segment your list. This will allow you to create targeted eMails for certain demographics while focusing more on qualified leads. It’s one of the easiest ways to make your eMails more targeted, relevant, and engaging.

3. Retarget leads with eMails

Retargeting is a form of eMail marketing to entice leads who have already visited your site to come back. You can either do this with paid displayed ads or with automated eMails. With just a single line of code, merchants can remind their customers of products they looked at on their site. According to this Forbes article, it’s strategic to sweeten the deal by offering free shipping or a limited time discount:

“Suggest to your customers that they will receive certain benefits by returning to their shopping cart, such as free shipping or limited time offers, etc. This is especially powerful when used with targeted eMail marketing campaigns and has been shown to increase engagement and sales.”

Amazon is the king of eMail retargeting, and there’s a reason why the company invested so much in it. Retargeting is so effective because you already know that the lead is interested in a specific product. At this point, you just have to nudge them in the right direction with an eMail.

4. Automate what you can

It’s unrealistic to think that someone will be able to send welcome eMails, transactional eMails, and retargeting eMails individually. The more leads you generate, the more you’ll stand to benefit from automation. Magento offers basic automated eMails from the admin. Learn how to set them up here. eMail automation doesn’t just save you time, it makes sure you get in touch with leads at the right moment. You can set certain triggers to make sure they get the right eMail based on their position in the customer journey.

5. Send quality content that establishes brand awareness

Finally, content is what separates the good eCommerce campaigns from the great ones. This is your chance to drop the promotional talk and just inform leads about relevant topics to grow your customer following.

For example, a clothing retailer could write about upcoming seasonal fashion trends. The key is to create content that provides relatable value to the reader. The better the content, the more reason customers will go to your site. And it’s not even just about immediate sales, either. Creating quality content is one of the best ways to build brand awareness. It’s a positive thing to be known as the company that creates helpful guides, tips, and lists.

With the right strategy, eMail can dominate in eCommerce

eMail is the perfect marketing tool for eCommerce merchants. With the right strategy, merchants can advance leads in the sales funnel and bring them straight to relevant product pages and on to a purchase.

To learn more about mastering eCommerce eMail for better sales, contact us today.

7 Tips to Create eCommerce Product Images That Drive Sales

7 Tips to Create eCommerce Product Images That Drive Sales

eCommerce Product Images

If you think your eCommerce products sell themselves because they have great features, or because lots of people buy them in your brick and mortar store, think again.  But first, keep in mind that there’s a big difference between what you offer consumers in a physical store and what you offer them online.

In your physical store, people can pick up your product, check it out from every angle, and see if it looks like it’s worth whatever you’re charging for it.   They can’t do that on your eCommerce site, and that means product content, including product images and descriptions, need to do the heavy lifting for you.

How important is strong product content?  Consider this assessment from OneSpace:

“…in addition to its numerous SEO benefits, high-quality product content also plays a critical role in the purchasing decisions of today’s online consumers. According to Salsify’s 2017 “Cracking the Consumer Code” report, 87% of shoppers rate product content extremely or very important when deciding to buy, and 50% have returned an item they bought online because it didn’t match the product description.”

7 Ways to Create Killer Product Images

A great product image (one that showcases your product in the best possible light) can mean the difference between that product taking off, and that product gathering dust on your shelves.  The question for eCommerce marketers isn’t whether they need strong, consumer-friendly product images, but how best to create them.  Here are 7 tips to create the strongest possible product images:

1. Invest in strong photography

First, unless you have the in-house talent, work with a professional photographer, one who will use the best lighting and a tripod to steady the camera, this to produce the best possible focus and highest resolution.  A pro will also take multiple shots of the same image, this so he has a pool sufficiently large to pull the image which best sells your product.

2. Use multiple images of the same product

Remember that online shoppers can’t pick up and examine your products.  One way to replicate the experience shoppers have in brick and mortar stores is to post multiple images, preferably showing your product from several angles.  This also increases trust, because shoppers will conclude that you’re not trying to hide anything from them.

3. Show your product being used

Showing your product in isolation doesn’t create much of a connection with prospective buyers.  To create that connection, let consumers see your product as they would use it.  For example, if it’s an appliance, show it with a human model operating it.  If it’s a clothing item, show someone wearing it.  Consumers can’t easily identify with “things;” they can identify with people using those things.

4. Keep the background clean and simple

You don’t want anything to distract from the products you’re trying to sell—backgrounds that are cluttered or rendered in colors that conflict with the color of your product, can unnecessarily distract from your product, and that can drive down sales.

5. Test load time

Internet users are nothing if not impatient.  Even a one or two-second delay in the loading of a product image will make some portion of consumers abandon a product page or abandon your eCommerce site altogether.  One way to speed up load time is to correctly size images, ensuring the width and height are accurate (if they’re not, browsers might need to resize them, and that slows download time).  Be sure to test load times before you launch new product images.

6. Consider using video

Video is among the most effective marketing tools at your disposal, but most eCommerce marketers aren’t using it, which is unfortunate.  According to Shopify, online shoppers are as much as 85% more likely to buy your products if you use a product video vs. a static photograph.  In addition, because search engines love video, strong product videos can give you better search engine rankings.

7. Maintain consistency

Online shoppers are likely to view multiple product pages on your site.  If the aesthetic shifts from one page to another, they’ll become confused and potentially conclude you don’t know what you’re doing.  Make sure the images on all your product pages use similar lighting, sizing and spacing.

Quality and consistency matter

The quality and consistency of your product images are critical components of your eCommerce success—but they’re not the only ones.  To drive conversions and sales, every aspect of your site needs to work, guaranteeing an exceptional user experience, and inspiring the kind trust and credibility that brings online shoppers back, again and again.

To ensure your site is doing everything you want it to, you should be working with experienced eCommerce site designers who have a track record of success. To learn more about the ways our Magento eCommerce site design, development and maintenance services can help you optimize your online sales, contact us today.

Six eCommerce eMail KPIs Merchants Need to Measure for Success

Six eCommerce eMail KPIs Merchants Need to Measure for Success

eMail KPIs

How To Tell if Your eCommerce eMail Efforts are Working

You hear it everywhere: eMail marketing has the potential for immense success. Especially in eCommerce, it can make or break your efforts to engage, convince, and retain your customers. But how do you know it actually works toward these goals?

Saying that you need to evaluate your eCommerce eMail KPIs might sound simplistic. Of course, you would want to track how your individual messages and overall strategy are performing in order to prioritize and make adjustments as needed. The more you know, the more easily you can build eMails that actually build your order value and result in more online purchases.

Unfortunately, that process is often easier said than done. In fact, 55 percent of eMail marketers think that they cannot calculate the ROI of their efforts.

Put differently, the majority of marketers today have no idea whether or not their eMail strategy is actually working. General statements like the fact that this channel has a 4400 percent ROI matters little if you don’t know whether your own efforts are actually seeing the same or a similar success rate.

To turn the corner, you need to know what to measure. Because as it turns out, the statement that eMail marketing has the potential for immense success is actually true. Can you say the same for your efforts? Here are the 6 top eCommerce eMail KPIs merchants should focus on to measure true eMail success.

1. Sales Conversion Rate

Without a doubt, the single most metric any eCommerce merchant should track is the sales conversion rate of their eMails. Put simply, this KPI measures the percentage of eMail recipients who become customers as a result of reading the eMail and clicking on its link.

The formula is simple: take the number of people who purchased a product on your website as a result of reading your eMail, and divide it by the total number of recipients for that eMail. Multiply the result by 100, and you get the exact conversion rate for each message.

Use Conversion Rate to Track: eMail Impact on Sales

Tracking your conversion rate makes sense both for individual messages and your overall eMail strategy. In fact, both variants a core part in measuring your actual return on investment. Through this metric, you can determine exactly how many sales result from your eMail efforts, allowing you to prioritize your future efforts.

For example, you might find that the third eMail in a lead nurturing sequence generates the most sales. In that case, consider moving it up in priority or using similar content for other messages in the sequence, as well.

2. Earnings Per eMail

Tracking the number of sales resulting from an average eMail is an important start. However, even two eMails that result in the exact same amount of sales can still have a very different return on investment, based on the order value of those customers who convert on your website.

That’s where earnings per eMail comes into play. This KPI takes conversion rate to another level, assigning a monetary value to each sale. Calculate it by taking the number of conversions for a single eMail, and multiply them by their average order value.

Use Earnings per eMail to Track: True eMail ROI

Earnings per eMail can be complex to calculate, which is why it might not be quite as important to your success analysis as the easier to track conversion rate. Still, it should play a core role in helping you evaluate the success of your overall strategy.

Perhaps better than any other metric, this metric helps you track the true ROI of your efforts. Calculation and analysis can be complicated. But when you get it right, you will know exactly how much revenue a given message generated for your eCommerce business.

3. Click-Through Rate

Every eMail marketer probably has at least some idea of their average click-through rate (CTR). Put simply, this is the metric that allows you to understand what percentage of your recipients actually clicked on a link in your eMail that leads them closer toward conversion on your website.

In addition to the basic metric, it also makes sense to calculate how many of the recipients who opened your eMail actually clicked on one of its link. Neither of these variants are enough to truly calculate success, but they can help you understand just where your eMails work well and where improvements might be needed.

Use Click-Through-Rate to Track: eMail Content Success

Naturally, your click-through rate is only a piece of the puzzle. Clicks matter little if they don’t actually lead to sales conversions on your website. At the same time, they can help you evaluate a core piece of your eMail marketing efforts: the actual content of your messages.

Recipients only click to take action if they’re interested by the message itself. From personalization to engaging graphics, it’s important to build your content specifically to encourage that click. Look to achieve an average CTR at or above the eCommerce industry average of 2.32 percent.

4. Open Rate

Open rate is perhaps the most widely-used success KPI for eMail marketers, but it’s also far removed from the action. Put simply, it helps you track how many of your recipients actually open your eMails.

Naturally, tracking this metric is important as a baseline for your efforts; if no one opens your eMails, you cannot expect to gain clicks, conversions, or actual revenue. At the same time, it’s a relatively limited metric that isn’t necessarily directly connected with your ROI. Still, it can be crucial to track a couple of elements within your eMail marketing strategy.

Use Open Rate to Track: Subject Line and Sender Credibility

Why do your recipients open your eMails? Two factors answer that question: your subject line and your sender information. The subject line has to communicate actual value and relevance to your audience, while your sender needs to be credible enough to encourage the read.

As a result, many advanced eMail marketers use their open rate to compare individual messages and subject lines against each other. As your first opportunity to communicate with your audience, this metric helps you get the relationship with your recipients started off on the right foot.

5. Deliverability Rate

None of the above metrics matters if the eMail never even makes it into your audience’s inbox. Your deliverability rate lets you know exactly how many contacts on your eMail list actually receive your messages instead of resulting in soft or hard bounces.

Any delivery rate below 99 percent becomes problematic because eMail clients like Gmail and Yahoo begin to trust you less. In other words, your delivery rate is not so much a success metric as it is a necessary baseline you need to achieve in order to continue marketing through this channel.

Use Delivery Rate to Track: eMail List Health

How accurate is the contact information you have about each member of your eMail list? Your delivery rate can provide a definite answer to that question. The more wrong eMails you have, the higher your bounces and the lower your delivery rate.

In fact, you can use your delivery rate to regularly ‘scrub’ your contact list in order to improve its health. To stay above the above-mentioned 99 percent threshold, take regular initiatives to keep your list intact and make sure that you only send eMails to contacts you know will receive them.

6. Abuse/Complaint Rate

Even among actual recipients with accurate eMail addresses, not everyone will appreciate getting your messages. Particularly if you reach out without securing prior consent, or your messages have nothing to do with your audience’s interests and pain points, your abuse and complaint rate will rise.

Recipients who no longer want to hear from you generally take one of two actions: they mark your eMail as spam or unsubscribe from your list. The latter is unfortunate but keeps your active list relevant. The former is problematic: once your reports reach critical mass, eMail clients will become less likely to actually deliver your messages.

Use Abuse/Complaint Rate to Track: Message Relevance and Quality

Actively tracking your abuse and complaint (or spam) rate helps you do one thing above all: track the quality and relevance of your messages, in the eyes of your audience. A key goal has to be keeping spam reports low. You can only achieve that if you make sure that every eMail you send is actually appreciated by your audience.

When the abuse report rate spikes on a message, it’s time to investigate why. Then, you need to make the adjustments necessary to make sure it doesn’t happen again. For the sake of lasting eMail marketing success, depressing this metric as much as possible is absolutely essential.

Building a Better eCommerce eMail Strategy

Each of these eCommerce eMail KPIs offers a crucial piece of information about your messaging, targeting, and strategic efforts. But they are most powerful when taken as a whole. Combined, they provide the framework you need for successful eCommerce eMail marketing.

Understanding your top eCommerce eMail KPIs is the first step. Next, you need to put a system in place that helps you actually track them in order to maximize your eMail marketing success. That’s where we come in.

InteractOne offers eMail marketing services that are specifically optimized for eCommerce merchants. We can help you gain more customers, retarget shoppers who have abandoned their carts, and re-engage past customers for future purchases. We can also help you track your ROI to ensure the success of your eMail marketing efforts. Contact us to learn more, and discuss the details of a potential partnership.

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.