A Primer for a Successful Digital Marketing Campaign

A Primer for a Successful Digital Marketing Campaign

Whether you are a brick-and-mortar retail store or an eCommerce store — or have both, it is crucial to implement some form of a digital marketing campaign. As you know, a digital marketing campaign is an online marketing effort that companies use to increase engagement, conversions, traffic and revenue through one or more digital channels. Digital marketing campaigns usually tie in with the brand’s overarching goals and are extensions of and complementary to other more traditional marketing efforts. Given that eCommerce webstores indeed live on the internet, it is even more important to launch and optimize a successful digital marketing campaign to not only increase sales but to reach a larger, wider and more diverse audience. In this guide, we’ll provide several recommendations for you to get started with or add to a successful digital marketing campaign to increase sales for your apparel eCommerce store.

Engage in Email Marketing

Direct mail advertising decreases more and more every year with companies opting for the less expensive and fastest advertising route — email marketing. Email marketing is where your company sends emails of sales, information, and products to existing and potential customers. As an online brand, you are most likely to stick to digital advertising, so email marketing is one of the most effective ways to increase sales. By sending emails, you can efficiently inform your customers and prospects about your promotions, products, social media pages and any other relevant information. 

However, you want to be careful not to send too many emails. About 69% of users unsubscribe to companies that send what are considered to be too many emails. So how many emails are too many? Most companies send about two to eight emails a month. That’s a wide range — you’ll need to find out what works best for your business. But, as an apparel eCommerce store, you will most likely want to send about one or two emails a week to show customers a wide variety of products and promotions. Email marketing can be a long and tedious process. That’s why we recommend working with a marketing firm that understands the ins and outs of creating, sending and measuring the results of an ongoing email campaign. Finish Line is a great example of this. They have some great, bold, email designs. 

Post on Social Media

No need to limit your brand to just email marketing, you can also expand to social media marketing. On social media, you can promote current sales and products for customers to purchase. While utilizing social media, you are opening your brand to a potentially wider and more diverse audience. A few social media platforms to post your business on includes Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Posting on social media is not for every company, but we have a few social media tactics you can keep in mind if you do consider the notion of promoting on social media. To avoid the confusion of social media requirements and to make sure that you are posting the most appropriate type of content to each platform, we recommend partnering with an experienced marketing firm that is knowledgeable in social media rules and requirements.

Promote Sales & Deals

For most businesses to have a successful digital marketing campaign, there needs to be some type of promotion to tout; whether it is a sale, deal or event. Having one or more sales during your campaign can help gain customer traction and revenue. You can promote these sales or deals in emails, on your site’s homepage and on social media. These sales do not have to be huge, complicated or even happen every week. Many brands focus on a percentage off of a full purchase sale, a buy one get one (BOGO) event or a clearance event. Including sales and deals as components of your digital marketing campaign not only helps increase revenue but also helps you to understand and improve your webstore conversion rates. ACAIS does a great job of this:

Create Compelling & Memorable Content

In the digital marketing world, messaging is the main communication between the brand and potential customers. Since users only take a few seconds to lose interest and exit a website, it is critical to capture the user’s attention with compelling, memorable and efficient messaging. At first glance, you need to entice customers to stay on the page and continue shopping. This means you need to use messaging including pictures, videos and graphics that evoke emotion, creates a connection with your audience or encourages users to browse through the webstore. There are many ways to show a compelling story through incentives like free shipping, an additional percentage off purchase or short, memorable copy. And if that is not enough of a reason to focus on creating terrific content, here’s one more: Google and the other search engines reward sites with strong, meaningful, compelling content with higher search engine rankings.

Have a Cohesive Story

An aspect of digital marketing that many companies have a hard time achieving is keeping a cohesive story. You want all your creative and graphic assets including emails, verbal and photographic content, social media and ads to structurally and creatively coincide with each other. Whether it is your brand’s overall aesthetic or the specific campaign for the month, this effort to focus will help customers distinguish your brand from others. Creating assets that do not match your brand and the specific campaign can confuse users and cause you to lose potential sales. During your planning meetings, create the story or goal that you want your brand to achieve. For example, if it is a summer event include products, design, graphics and content whether it is video or written copy that customers can associate with summer while staying true to your brand guidelines.

Schuler Shoes provides an excellent example of keeping a cohesive story during their seasonal summer sale. All digital assets including graphic elements, written copy and images focus on giving the offering a summer feel:

Conclusion

As consumers transition more into online shopping, planning and implementing a digital marketing campaign is the best way to increase sales for your apparel eCommerce store. These are just a few tips on how to start and add to a successful digital marketing campaign. For more information on how InteractOne can help your brand create a successful digital marketing campaign, contact us today.

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Slipping Sales: Six Steps to Fix your Cart and Reduce Abandonment

Slipping Sales: Six Steps to Fix your Cart and Reduce Abandonment

All eCommerce websites suffer from cart abandonment (when customers leave a website before completing their purchase), but no market segment suffers as much as apparel and accessories eCommerce sites. Online clothing & accessories sellers find their carts abandoned at an average rate of 40%—more than the rate of home, tech, and the fitness industry combined. 

We covered how to master the art of the cart abandonment email in a previous blog, but it’s important to identify why customers are abandoning their carts in the first place. Start by analyzing your web store’s checkout process, and ask shoppers why they abandoned their cart via a survey. You should also look closely at your social media comments and online reviews for valuable feedback.

There are a number of things you can do to get your customers to complete their transactions the first time they visit your web store. In this blog, you’ll learn how to minimize cart abandonment on your fashion eCommerce website and increase sales.

Don’t Have Too Many Steps to Checkout

In a study by Statista, 21% of shoppers abandoned their carts because the process took too long. With that in mind, one of your first orders of business should be ensuring your checkout process is quick and easy. One-step checkout is standard these days, and unless your web store is members only, you should always allow guest checkout. Use address auto-suggest and auto-completion to make it faster and easier for customers to input their details. Your forms should have large fields to ensure they’re mobile-friendly and specify the input format so that the proper keyboard appears on mobile when users tap into a field. More than half of shoppers make purchases using mobile devices, so it’s crucial that your web store is mobile-friendly.

Minimize Surprise Costs

Fifty-six percent of consumers surveyed by Statista abandoned their carts due to extra costs such as shipping or taxes, so it’s important to do whatever you can to avoid surprising your customers with fees later in the checkout process. Be transparent about costs and make it clear whether shipping or taxes are included in the price on the product page. If you offer free shipping, this should be communicated on all pages of your website. If you don’t offer free shipping, consider adding a shipping calculator before checkout, to allow shoppers to estimate costs early on. If you sell internationally, you should also make a note early in the checkout process that the customer may be liable for import duties and taxes. You could link to your FAQ page to provide further information about that, if appropriate.

Be Unpredictable With Your Deals

Cart abandonment is such a big concern that most online retailers now send discounts via email afterwards, to try and win back the customer. But savvy shoppers have become so accustomed to getting these deals that they’ll often deliberately delay their purchase in order to wait for the discount to be sent to them. Be mindful of not offering your deals too soon, or too often. Switch up the timing and value of your cart abandonment email offers so that you don’t do yourself a disservice.

Make Your Return Policy Clear

Online shopping is now the norm, but it can still feel risky to many. “Will it fit me?” “Will I like the fabric or color?” “What if it’s not what I’m expecting?” These are just some of the questions that come into shoppers’ heads. Give them peace of mind through your return policy. Communicate it clearly and often on your web store, and if you can, offer free returns. Whatever your return policy is, make sure it’s prominently displayed, easy to find and simple to understand and execute.

Have a Fast-loading Website

If your website is slow to load, shoppers may lose patience or lose trust that it’s stable and reliable. Either reaction could cost you the sale and see your shopper abandon their cart. Statista found that 17% of shoppers who abandoned their carts were concerned about security. Secure pages such as checkout pages are usually not cacheable, so try to ensure yours load quickly. Avoid third-party scripts and ensure shipping methods and payment forms load quickly. Also, add trust logos of all of your payment options and have a valid SSL certificate to increase faith that your website—and their data—is secure.

Provide a Variety of Delivery and Payment Options

Online shoppers have come to expect a range of options when it comes to delivery and payment. For some shoppers, when it comes to delivery, speed is more important than price, so offer a range of options to meet their needs. Your web store should also provide the option for express checkout using PayPal, Google Pay, or Apple Pay (along with standard credit card providers). A number of studies have found that younger shoppers don’t use credit cards, instead preferring “buy now, pay later” services such as Afterpay and Klarna. Enabling these options on your web store will open you up to a bigger audience and help you prevent cart abandonment.

Recover Lost Customers Via Facebook Remarketing

You can’t completely stop customers from leaving your website without making a purchase, but you can create special ads that target them and help you win them back. Facebook remarketing adds a tracking pixel to your website that allows you to capture visitor behavior and attach a cookie to each visitor. This information can be used to create custom Facebook ads that target visitors who leave your site without making a purchase. Highlight products that the individual viewed but didn’t buy, and consider offering a special discount to entice them to come back to your site and purchase.

Win Over Wary Shoppers With Social Proof

One of the most effective ways you can win over unsure shoppers is to show them proof of your other happy customers. This can come in the form of product reviews, testimonials, and third-party applications like Fomo, which alert shoppers when other people make a purchase on your website. Install capabilities on either your product pages or a dedicated reviews or testimonials page of your website so that your customers can share their thoughts, and be sure to ask them for feedback via email and social media.

These are just some of the ways you can avoid cart abandonment on your fashion eCommerce website. Talk to a member of our team to put these and more strategies in place on your web store.

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Dropshipping Primer and How Shopify and BigCommerce Perform

Dropshipping Primer and How Shopify and BigCommerce Perform

What Is Dropshipping?

Dropshipping is a method of order fulfillment that uses a third-party supplier to ship goods sold by a retailer. This means the retailer doesn’t keep the products in stock but instead transfers orders and their shipment details to either the manufacturer, a wholesaler, another retailer, or a fulfillment center/warehouse, which then ships the goods to the customer. 

Dropshipping is a great complement to a traditional eCommerce business as it allows the retailer to avoid the cost and effort associated with maintaining a warehouse and a brick-and-mortar storefront. It frees them up to focus on marketing, advertising, and managing their online presence.

How Does It Work

Dropshipping can work in the form of product reselling, where a company finds products from a variety of sources and makes them available for online purchase all in one place, on their eCommerce store. Additionally, dropshipping can be used to create an online business extension, product creation, or print on demand.

If you’re considering starting a dropshipping business or adding a dropshipping component to your existing store, it’s crucial that you first find your niche, and price your products correctly. You also need to ensure you have the technology in place for getting correct shipping estimates since you will likely be shipping from multiple locations. ShipperHQ is a popular solution that’s available across all the major platforms, but not all shipping apps are as widely supported. 

 There are a number of eCommerce platforms that you can run a dropshipping business on. Shopify and BigCommerce are two of the biggest and most popular SaaS platforms, so we’re going to focus on how they handle dropshipping. Both offer a number of plans which offer various features and services, which  are charged at different rates accordingly. 

Benefits of Dropshipping: With more automation, shipping and packaging are handled by manufactuers. 

How Does Shopify Handle Dropshipping?

Shopify has a partnership with Oberlo, which will help you find products from suppliers all over the world and add them to your own online store. If you’re currently dropshipping with AliExpress, you can connect your existing products to your Oberlo account. 

Shopify has a number of other similar and highly rated apps on their marketplace to enable drop shipping for specific niches, marketplaces, and regions. This includes apps that automatically check and update your prices, including PriceMole and Prisync so that you stay competitive. In addition to ShipperHQ, Shopify’s apps for estimating shipping costs include Shipping Rates Calculator Plus and Estimated Shipping Cost

 Shopify charges a transaction fee of 2%, 1%, or 0.5% for every purchase made on your store (depending on which plan you choose) unless you use Shopify Payments as your payment provider. This can add up quickly when you work with tight margins, as drop shippers often do.

Benefits of Dropshipping: Unlike traditional retailers, online dropshippers do not need to invest in an initial inventory stockpile. 

How Does BigCommerce Handle Dropshipping?

BigCommerce has an app marketplace, with a few great product-sourcing apps like Inventory Source, e-ProductPlug, and Modalyst, but none of them are as established and comprehensive as Oberlo.

Like Shopify, BigCommerce also has competitor price-monitoring and price-updating apps available, including Price2Spy and Repricer. As well as ShipperHQ, apps you can use with BigCommerce for estimating shipping include ShippingEasy and Advanced Shipping Manager.

BigCommerce doesn’t charge any transaction fees, no matter which of their “Essentials” plan you opt for. However, BigCommerce plans have sales caps of $50k, $150k, or $400k based on which plan you have. If you reach the sales cap on a lower plan, you’ll be automatically upgraded and billed for a higher plan from the following month, based on your sales growth. If you’re already on the top Essentials plan, you’ll be charged extra for each set amount you go over the limit, or asked to sign up for a custom solution for your needs.

Benefits of Dropshipping: Your financial risk is greatly reduced due to low initial investment and lack of excess inventory.

Conclusion

Which provider is the better option depends on your personal preferences and situation. While both platforms have apps that let you do everything from source products to set up shipping through your suppliers, many consider Shopify’s selection to have a consistently higher quality, and many prefer to use its partner Oberlo for dropshipping. 

Want to know more? For an in-depth and personalized approach to dropshipping solutions for your business, reach out to our team of experts. We’ll guide you through the best options based and provide a tailored solution for your business needs.

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eCommerce Web Design Trends We’re Noticing

eCommerce Web Design Trends We’re Noticing

To have a successful eCommerce website, your User Experience (UX) needs to be top of mind. UX is how a customer feels about a specific interaction on your website, be it your customer service, their checkout experience or simply scrolling through products.

Obviously, you want to be providing only positive experiences. New UX strategies and tactics are being pioneered every day, and it’s up to you to ensure that your brand is keeping up with the latest trends in UX and web design. Make sure that you’re aware of—and also utilizing—the best possible tools and web design trends for your business, and you’ll ensure your site has a great UX. 

With that in mind, here are 7 eCommerce user experience and web design trends we’re noticing.

Dark Mode

By any standard of measurement, everyone has seen an increase in their ‘screen time’, and with that has come the desire and need to lessen the strain on the user’s eyes. Therefore, it’s not surprising that dark mode (or night mode) is becoming an increasingly popular design trend. Dark mode is a display setting that uses light-colored text, icons, and graphical user interface elements on a dark background. Users often enjoy the aesthetic and the experience, regardless of whether they’re using their device during the day or at night. 

It’s worth mentioning that dark mode consumes as much as 90% less energy on a user’s phone than light mode, making it more battery-friendly as well. This makes dark mode a great way to meet your customers’ needs and improve your brand.

Chatbots

As opposed to live chat, which requires a human customer service person to respond to queries, chatbots are technology-driven tools for keeping your business’s lines of communication open. Now they are growing in popularity because they are proving extremely useful for meeting certain customer needs. 

From a business perspective, chatbots are great for taking care of simple tasks or answering queries during off-hours. From a customer perspective, chatbots are ideal for emergencies, with most people using them to get a quick answer or resolve a complaint or question. They’re especially popular with younger users—40% of millennials claim to use them on a daily basis, and 69% say they would rather engage with a chatbot than a person. If possible, it’s great to use both chatbots and live chat to ensure you have all your bases covered.

Voice Search

It’s been tipped as the next big thing for a few years now, but over the holidays we noticed that voice search is really on the rise. As of last year, at least 35% of all US households are now equipped with at least one smart speaker, and they’re being used to make all kinds of purchases, from food and household items to fashion.

The primary appeal of voice search, like with chatbots, is convenience, and if you can increase that, you will be sure to improve your site’s user experience. Gartner estimated that, by 2021, “brands that redesign their websites to support visual and voice search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30%.” Ultimately, the more avenues you make available to people to purchase your products, the greater your chances for increasing your conversion rate.

3D Modeling

Visuals are hugely important for ensuring a strong user experience, and so naturally, eCommerce stores are looking for ways to power up this aspect of their business. For an eye-catching, engaging way to showcase your products, 3D models are a great option to try. 

High-quality 3D visuals allow users to zoom, spin, and inspect products at every angle. This allows your customers to get a better look and feel for your products and greatly aids in their decision-making process. 3D visuals can also add dimension to the overall look and feel of your website, particularly if it has a more minimal layout. If you use Shopify, you can find an expert who can help you incorporate 3D modeling by visiting the 3D model category of the Shopify Experts Marketplace. If you use BigCommerce, the Zakeke Product Customizer app enables you to provide real-time 3D product previews like the one below, for a more immersive customer experience.

Augmented Reality

If you really want to step it up, you can enable users on mobile devices to view your 3D models in the world around them via augmented reality (AR). This allows shoppers to see what your products look like in their immediate physical environment, without having to physically engage with them. This can have a powerful effect—AR has been found to increase customer engagement by 66%. 

In recent years AR has gone from novel to increasingly viable, as brands and websites of all sizes look to engage users on a more meaningful level. Jeep is utilizing AR for its “Build & Price a Jeep” page, and fashion and accessories brands like Warby Parker are also offering virtual try-on via AR capabilities on their app. For a next-level, immersive experience, AR is the way to go.

Shopify has a whole suite of solutions for augmented reality on their platform, and BigCommerce recommends powerful AR technology provider Threekit for eCommerce on their platform. That said, all of this can be a little daunting to the uninitiated. If you’re stretched for time, reach out to our team at InteractOne for expertise and guidance, and we’ll help you find the right solution for your business.

Multimedia Content

The proliferation of faster internet speeds is enabling greater online shopping in the form of multimedia-rich websites. The best web stores nowadays combine text, images, audio, and video for an exciting, engaging user experience. 

 However, you don’t want to overwhelm your visitors, so you need to choose carefully what you implement, and where. Prioritize simplicity and combine elements where possible so that they’re not competing for your users’ attention and inadvertently making your UX worse!

It’s possible to combine a lot of multimedia elements at once without overwhelming your visitors—Redbull achieves this with their website’s clean design. On the other hand, the example on the right quite clearly shows you everything you shouldn’t do.

 

You’ll also want to ensure your website remains ADA compliant. A key to ADA compliance is keeping your multimedia elements accessible by including alt text on images, having closed captions on videos, and avoiding using autoplay on video or moving content.

Dynamic Visual CTAs

Your web store will surely already have calls to action (CTAs) encouraging people to at least “sign up,” “add to cart,” and “check out.” But there is a lot more you can do with CTAs than you might have initially thought. As we all know, an eye-catching CTA is essential for converting shoppers, but in order to do that, you need something that’s strong both verbally and visually. 

Like so much else with eCommerce websites, CTAs are becoming more dynamic and visual. Sliding CTAs are gaining popularity as a way to introduce movement and grab shoppers’ attention, and that’s just one way you can bring these important parts of your website to life. In order to find out what works best for your website, you’ll need to conduct A/B tests on your CTAs to determine exactly how big and bold to go with the copy and design.

Conclusion

If you’d like guidance on choosing and administering any of these or other UX and design trends into your eCommerce website, get in touch with us. Our team of specialists will be happy to assist you.

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Standing Out in a Crowd: How to Market Your Pharmaceuticals

Standing Out in a Crowd: How to Market Your Pharmaceuticals

When marketing pharmaceuticals, doing so online is a great strategy. In fact, in 2020, pharma marketers will spent $3 billion on digital advertising alone. Simply put, pharma companies can no longer rely on brand name recognition and print advertising to drive their sales. They must pivot to create a remarkable presence online.

However, with almost all pharma companies heading this direction—and with differentiation between existing products getting smaller—how do you ensure that your pharmaceuticals make an impact in the digital world? Keep reading to learn the top three most effective strategies for marketing your pharmaceuticals online—so they stand out from the competition.

Tap in to the biggest trends in pharma marketing.

The digital world is huge—and some pharma marketers aren’t sure where to start. Research tells us that the hottest current trends in pharma marketing strategies involve videos and social media. Posting videos on your website and on your social media channels is crucial for growing awareness of your product and therefore your sales.

However, just posting frequently isn’t enough. Once the videos and social media campaigns have launched, it’s important to keep a close eye on interactions and conversions in order to keep people engaged with your pharma brand.

Another growing trend to implement when marketing pharmaceuticals online is to go easy on the branded content. In fact, unbranded content is becoming even more powerful. For example, if you create a website about a specific condition—without even mentioning your products by name, but instead giving general information—consumers can relate to the story and facts you present on that site. Once they’re drawn in this way, pharma companies can then give a subtle nod to their product. This informs your audience about your product by pulling on their heartstrings, not shoving it in their faces.

If you can combine all three of these ideas—videos, social media and unbranded content—you have a recipe for success online.

Lead with the problem, finish with the solution.

Many pharma companies begin their online marketing with their product name and what it does. Then, they end up back pedaling to get to the problem with which their customers are struggling. Along the way, it’s easy for customers to get lost and thus lose interest.

One simple (but powerful) way to avoid this is to lead your online marketing with the problem. For example: “Does mild exercise cause you to have trouble breathing?” or “Do your legs feel tingly when you wake up?” That way, customers feel an instant connection and continue reading (or watching or clicking) to see what solution your product can offer.

Especially when marketing online, where space is small and people have limited time and small attention spans, it’s important to pique your customer’s interest right away. This problem-first approach easily lends itself to many digital mediums—banner ads, e-newsletters, videos, websites, social media posts and more.

Use specific analytics and keywords to come up first in search results.

The pharma space online is congested, to say the least. Someone searching for a pharmaceutical solution to their specific problem is faced with countless pages of search results that are all promising a great solution.

However, your pharma company can stand out simply by using a few keywords to position your solution at the top of search results. First, analyze existing search results to find commonly-searched keywords. Then, create digital content with those keywords included. Next, be sure that your unique content is published on websites that have high traffic and good reputations in the pharma world. Finally, optimize your content until search engines rank it on the first page.

Conclusion

With pharma marketers spending more and more on digital advertising each day, it’s never been more important to ensure that your pharmaceuticals stand out online. By following these top three tips, you’re on your way to successfully differentiating yourself from the competition—yielding unmatched results in your brand awareness, brand loyalty and profits.

To learn more about how InteractOne can help you improve your pharmaceutical marketing online, contact us today.

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Open Source eCommerce: Weighing the Pros & Cons

Open Source eCommerce: Weighing the Pros & Cons

When it comes to running an eCommerce business, there are two types of website software platforms you can choose to power your shop with: open source or software as a service (or SaaS). Their main differences have to do with capabilities and cost. Neither is objectively better; which platform works best for you will depend on your business needs and your budget. 

eCommerce retail sales topped 4.13 trillion USD in 2020, and they’re set to keep climbing, according to Statista. As online shopping continues to grow, more and more businesses are seeking information on these two platform types, specifically what benefits they each offer and what makes them different from one another. 

What Is Open Source?

Open source is a type of software platform that is powerful and deeply customizable because its source code can be overridden, or edited. You buy it (some instances are even free to use), install it, and host it on a server, either on the same premises as your business is located, or from a hosting company or leased in the cloud from a firm providing that service. Like anything, you get what you pay for: free versions are sometimes stripped down to the basics and don’t include all the features that you may need to run your business. 

The big differentiator with open source is that you manage everything yourself—or pay a third-party provider to. As they say, with great power comes great responsibility. So unless you have developers/programmers on staff, you’ll likely need support from a development agency with building and maintaining your open source eCommerce website.

What Open Source Platforms Are There?

Magento is one of the main open source platforms, and it’s available in three versions: Magento Open Source (formerly Magento Community Edition), which is free to download; Magento Commerce (formerly Magento Enterprise Edition), which requires you to pay licensing fees in exchange for advanced features and ticket-based support; and Magento Commerce Cloud, which is the paid version with cloud-hosting included in the license fee. Other open source platforms include WooCommerce, OpenCart, PrestaShop and Shopware.

The Pros of Open Source

Flexibility Through Complete Customization

Open source platforms are highly customizable, which means they offer a large degree of control regarding the shopping experience. This is because powerful features can be built by overriding source code, making them great for businesses with very specific, niche needs. For example, with many fashion eCommerce businesses wanting to provide advanced technologies like virtual fitting rooms, this makes open source platforms an enticing option. The only limit is your developers’ abilities, your imagination and, of course, your wallet.

Unlimited Selling Potential

There is virtually no limit to how much or what you can sell with an eCommerce site built on an open source platform. You can start at any size and keep growing. This is great for auto aftermarket websites in particular, as they tend to run their product numbers into the hundreds of thousands.

Community Support

Open source platforms are built and monitored collaboratively, by developer communities, with programmers sharing ideas freely online in blogs and forums. These supportive environments can be great for fostering creativity, solving problems and generally building amazing websites. However, the level of this collaborative access can be determined by whether or not you pay a licensing fee for your version of the platform.

The Cons of Open Source

Complexities Can Keep People Out

Generally, open source platforms are created for and by software developers and programmers, meaning that not only the initial setup and creation of the site, but also any ongoing maintenance and functional improvements requires a developer, in-house IT department, or outside agency. There is a lot of technical knowledge that’s required to begin with, and that must be kept up with, as platforms and best practices evolve. It can be difficult or at least time-consuming, and costly for a typical merchant to manage these capabilities by themselves

Higher Cost to Build and Maintain

The initial cost to build with open source also doesn’t include other software extensions and customizations you may need for the site to function exactly as you would like it to. The more overrides you make to the source code, the more complex and therefore often more expensive it can be to maintain. Plugins can often be incompatible with each other as they are built by different developers, and when they become outdated and unsupported they need to be replaced, which requires identifying, purchasing and installing new ones. This can mean you need to keep building new tools for promotions, merchandising and so on. Hosting provider fees can also fluctuate with usage and traffic spikes.

Security and Maintenance is in Your Hands

Open source platforms can be vulnerable to hackers. The software provider (ie. Magento) will probably provide patches. But the onus is on you the merchant (or any third party you hire) to install these patches, plus install any upgrades, fix bugs, and meet PCI Compliance (Payment Card Industry Data Security) standards, to be able to accept payments.

Interested in Learning More?

InteractOne has a team of highly skilled developers that are very experienced in building and maintaining open source platforms for a range of different types of online businesses. If you’re interested in learning more, reach out to us to discuss whether an open source platform could be right for your business.

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SaaS eCommerce: Weighing the Pros & Cons

SaaS eCommerce: Weighing the Pros & Cons

When it comes to starting an eCommerce business, there are two types of platforms you can choose to power your shop with: software as a service (or SaaS) or open source. Their main differences have to do with ease of customization, capabilities and cost. Neither is objectively better; which platform works best for you will depend on your business needs and your budget. 

eCommerce retail sales topped 4.13 trillion USD in 2020, and they’re set to keep climbing, according to Statista. As online shopping continues to grow, more and more people are seeking information on these two platform types, specifically what benefits they offer and what makes them different from one another. 

To shed some light on this, we’ve put together two introductory guides to these different platform types. For information about open source, check out our guide to the pros and cons of open source. Now, onto the basics of SaaS.

What is SaaS?

Software as a service, or SaaS, is software that is licensed and delivered to you by a SaaS provider. This means that the provider takes care of all of the hosting, maintenance and security that you would otherwise have to manage yourself. 

You pay for the use of the software via a monthly fee, which generally includes much of what you need to run your online business, including the eCommerce platform software itself, plus hosting, software updates and security patches. This makes SaaS a great option for businesses of a variety of sizes who may have fewer resources, but it also means constraints customizing your site from the ground up.

What SaaS Platforms Are There?

There are numerous SaaS platforms available; one of the more well-known ones is BigCommerce, which offers a more flexible, customizable type of SaaS platform popular with mid-market and enterprise brands. There’s also Shopify and Shopify Plus, which has lots of themes to choose from but limits the number of products you can sell, which can be problematic for businesses with big catalogs. Other SaaS platforms include Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Volusion and Squarespace.

The Pros of SaaS

Quick to Set Up

You don’t have to download or install anything to start a website on a SaaS platform; simply create an account and start building your store using the provider’s interface. SaaS providers usually offer many pre-built themes with drag-and-drop page-building, so no coding is required. This makes it quick and easy—depending on which software you choose and the functionality it has built in. Of course, quick and easy is a relative term. Many merchants will engage with a development agency to build their SaaS site, to take advantage of their expertise and previous success with building and maintaining other stores. Generally, stores on SaaS platforms can launch quicker than those on open source platforms, even if you work with an agency, because they’re not being built from scratch and there is generally less need for customization.

Much of the Site Maintenance Is Done For You

Most of the technical details—software updates, hosting, site maintenance and security—are managed for you by the SaaS platform provider. This is good for businesses that don’t have a lot of technical knowledge nor the budget for extra professional help. It’s all managed through cloud-based delivery for a monthly fee. This makes it user-friendly and simple to maintain. It also means that the merchant can focus on running and growing the business, as opposed to focusing on the nuts and bolts of site maintenance.

More Stability and Reliability 

Open source platforms can have issues relating to extensions or plugins, as they are built by different developers and can be incompatible with each other. They also become outdated and unsupported and need to be replaced when new versions of the platform are released, which requires identifying and installing updated extensions. With SaaS platforms, there’s less risk of update-related breakages and security breaches. This provides merchants with peace of mind, as there’s less risk of lost revenue and reputation issues due to the site being down or security-related issues.

The Cons of SaaS

Lack of Customization

Without the ability to override source code, which you can do with open source platforms, there can be limitations to customizing a SaaS platform website. Platforms such as BigCommerce do provide some openness through APIs, though these customizations, like on open course sites, do require some programming investment. It’s likely that you will still require further apps and extensions not included in the software, to get the full functionality that you need and want. For example, BigCommerce partners with a number of providers for functionality such as payments, shipping, site search, etc. Shopify’s model provides these services themselves or via a proprietary software stack. If flexibility and providing an innovative customer experience is important to you, some SaaS platforms may not offer enough capabilities for your business or you may be forced into using a functionality provider not of your choosing.

Limited process and capacity

Some SaaS platforms have limited processing and SKU capacity. They can also decide what types of products a business will or will not sell using their platform, and they can change their minds whenever they like. This means that some stores start on a SaaS platform and then find they have to migrate to open source when they get too big, or when they want to sell something that’s not permitted by their SaaS platform. Some merchants have been given only a few weeks to move their sites to other platforms after their SaaS provider decides to no longer allow the sale of their type of product (for example firearms or cannabis products).

Less Choice of Features and Products

With many SaaS alternatives, you have to work within the confines of the platform. Some platforms don’t let you choose certain apps or features, meaning you’re locked into whatever they’ve selected. For example, Shopify has a proprietary payment provider. You can choose another payment provider but Shopify will charge a transaction fee of 2% of every sale that uses gateway. They also don’t allow access to certain features like multi-currency.

Extra Cost for More Functionality

As with most things in life, when it comes to eCommerce platforms, you get what you pay for. Some SaaS platforms bundle functionalities and services, making it easier to estimate costs and capabilities. However, often a SaaS platform will appear inexpensive, but that is because it provides very limited functionality (it’s how they afford to keep the price low). This means that you often end up having to pay for and install additional apps later on, to get the full functionality you require to run your store. The upside is you can start with a basic site and add functionality as you grow and based on need. The downside is that these costs can add up over time, sometimes unexpectedly.

Want to Find Out More

InteractOne has a team of highly skilled developers, site architects and solutions specialists who are very experienced in building and maintaining SaaS platform eCommerce sites for a range of different types of businesses. If you’re interested in learning more, reach out to us to discuss whether a SaaS platform could be right for your business.

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UPDATED: Unique eCommerce Challenges Facing the Supplements Industry

UPDATED: Unique eCommerce Challenges Facing the Supplements Industry

No matter how you slice it, eCommerce is everywhere. Every day, more companies are moving their business online. This comes with some perks and some challenges. The pharmaceutical industry is no different, but the challenges for this industry are unique. Read on to discover the challenges you might face as you bring (or expand) your pharma business online — and how you can have the best chance to succeed.

Challenge 1: Heavy regulations aren’t so easy to implement online.

In doctors’ offices, hospitals and pharmacies, the world of supplements and medications is heavily regulated. But with the rise of eCommerce, many over-the-counter supplements and prescription medications can now be sold online by anyone. In fact, studies show that 66% of countries around the world have no laws in place that regulate the online sales of medicine. In the United States, authorities do have many laws and regulations in place and try to step in to make sure that the public is receiving legitimate medications from legitimate sources. Unfortunately, however, this doesn’t always happen. As a result, each month, these US regulations shut down around 1,500 websites that sell medications to consumers without appropriate safeguards.

As a retailer of supplements, vitamins or nutraceuticals, you have an obligation to stay-up-to-date with regulations and do your best to make sure your sales are legal and legitimate. If you don’t, regulatory authorities can then step in and produce a “buyers beware” message to help ensure that consumers are smart in their buying decisions. If your site runs counter to their message by selling any products with warnings attached to them you could lose credibility. 

Challenge 2: With online sales, there’s too little involvement by a healthcare professional.

Now that so many medications and supplements are available online, they’re easily accessed by anyone—whether or not there’s a doctor or pharmacist involved. This can lead to risky situations, with many people ordering supplements online without a diagnosis from a doctor or any idea of the right dosage from a pharmacist. This can easily cause supplements to be used in the wrong way or a patient taking too much of a certain supplement.

Supplements eCommerce retailers should always sell only legitimate products in recommended amounts. Failing to do so can easily land you in legal hot water. In August 2020, the FDA sent a warning letter to RX Easy Meds because they were “misbranding” their products. Before selling any supplements, vitamins or nutraceuticals online, it’s vital to check the FDA’s website so you don’t find yourself in legal hot water too.

Challenge 3: All pharma eCommerce companies must not violate HIPAA regulations.

As a supplements, vitamins or nutraceuticals retailer with an online business, you’re subject to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations, so it’s important to be aware of how to comply with them. 

HIPAA regulations can be extensive and complex. They ask companies to implement rules to protect patients’ health information, limit all sharing of confidential personal data and train all employees about security and confidentiality. As a result, you have to choose the right HIPAA-savvy eCommerce development partners so that your customers’ personal information is always secure and never exposed online or elsewhere. If you aren’t careful enough, hackers can breach your customers’ healthcare records, which can quickly send you down a road of unending legal troubles. Plus, customers are quick to abandon any company that makes them feel that their private information is at risk.

Conclusion

As your pharma company grows its eCommerce presence, you’re sure to face challenges along the way. It’s a great idea for online merchants to continually check in with legal counsel to make sure that all of their activity is above reproach. Failing to do so can quickly lead to items slipping through the cracks and then exposing a company to devastating losses. However, by knowing what’s coming and tackling those challenges in a smart way, your online sales are sure to be a success.

To find out how InteractOne can help with your supplements, vitamins or nutraceuticals eCommerce business, contact us today.

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7 Simple A/B Tests to Improve Your eCommerce Site

7 Simple A/B Tests to Improve Your eCommerce Site

No matter how much time and resources you devote to building the most modern, most user-friendly automotive eCommerce website, there are always going to be features that can be improved upon. That’s where A/B testing comes in. 

 A/B testing comes down to making small adjustments to your website until you find the combination that resonates most with your audience. This means that there are few “ah-ha!” moments; with A/B testing it’s all about baby steps. But be patient, let the testing data inform you, and you will reap serious rewards. 

 Whether this is your first attempt at A/B testing or you’re already on a never-ending quest for ways to improve your eCommerce site and increase sales conversions, here are seven simple A/B tests to try for your automotive eCommerce site.

Show Your Product Alone or In Context?

Of course you are going to feature your products with great, high-res images, but what’s the best way to display them? Do users want to see the product in action or just against a solid background? A/B testing will tell you.

Product Videos

Every single bit of research and data shows that video is the future. Even the most crisp, beautiful high-res images have limitations. Video is as close as merchants can get to bring their product to life, short of having customers physically hold the parts or products in their hands. If you haven’t yet fully committed to product videos, start with a few for some select products and see how they perform. If you already have product videos, test out an auto-play option and add captions to make it accessible and to catch the eye of customers surfing your site with their sound off.

List View vs Mosaic

It’s the job of your website to make it as easy as possible for customers to find the right product. But, what’s the best way to organize your products visually? For some, a grid view is more successful. For others, a mosaic produces better results. Try A/B testing the visual layout of your product pages and compare the user engagement for a list view versus a mosaic view. You could also ultimately provide both view options via small buttons above the product results, as CARiD does, if you find that your shoppers respond well to having the choice.

BIGGER calls to action

Customers should never have to search for what they’re looking for on your page. It should always be fairly obvious where they should go for what they need. If they can’t find where to check out or add to the cart then your site is failing. Those are the two most important elements of your store and when it comes to those CTAs, bigger is better. But what design, color scheme, and wording on your buttons work best? Test it out.

Feature Contact Information

It may seem like something small, but adding your contact information can have a big impact on your conversions. Relationships are built on trust, and customer/merchant relationships are no different. Customers want to know how to get in touch with you if something goes awry. Try prominently listing your email address, phone number, and (if applicable) physical location across the top of your site and see if your conversions are boosted.

Static Image over Carousel

Carousels have fallen out of favor in recent years. Testing has shown they can often be distracting to customers, causing them to overlook details that merchants are often trying to get noticed, such as sales and new products. Automotive eCommerce customers also crave control, which auto-carousels remove. So if you’re using a carousel (banner slider) at the top of your pages, try swapping that out for a static hero image with a single, clear proposition. You may find that one bold image and message resonates more than a flurry of images and options. CARiD’s homepage is a great example, enabling shoppers to immediately enter their vehicle’s details to find the best products for their needs.

Highlight a Price Reduction

If you’ve recently reduced the price of an item, make sure your customers know about it by showing them visually. But what’s the most effective way to show them? That’s what you need to test. Perhaps it’s a ‘slashed’ price like JEGS uses on their website, different colored text, or an icon on the product image. There’s only one way to find out which works best for your site: A/B test it.

What to Prioritize With A/B Testing

You can avoid costly mistakes with your A/B testing if you know what to prioritize. Here are some things to do and keep in mind as you begin.

Test Your Most Profitable Pages First – Start where the money is. Begin testing on the pages that bring you the most traffic and the most money to build on that success.

Assign A/B Testing to a Single Person – Give one person on your team the responsibility of A/B testing management, implementation, monitoring and reporting. The term “too many cooks in the kitchen” definitely applies to A/B testing. Keep things simple and empower a single person to handle these aspects.

Don’t Forget About Mobile – Perform A/B tests on both mobile and desktop. Results for mobile can be 180 degrees off from results you see on desktop. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for the other.

Start Big – Begin by testing the larger elements on your pages; hero images, purchase buttons, product descriptions. Don’t get bogged down with testing the smaller elements until you’ve tested the larger elements and improved those first.

Test a Single Element At a Time – Select one element at a time to test, otherwise your results are going to be skewed and you won’t be able to determine what elements that are being tested are effecting the page. 

 

Our team has a lot of experience in A/B testing to determine the most profitable outcome for automotive eCommerce websites. If you’re ready to get the absolute most out of your website, contact us and we will be happy to assist you.

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Comstar Video Case Study

Comstar Video Case Study

Comstar

Comstar is a manufacturer, developer and retailer of environmentally friendly, industrial strength chemical products for the trade professional. 

Comstar partnered with InteractOne to build a new Magento 2 website. This new website needed to have international reach, empower distributors and support B2B and B2C clients. 

In this Case Study video we’ll be taking a look how InteractOne created this new site as well as highlighting many of the back-end user-friendly functionalities that allow the Comstar team to manage and this high-end eCommerce site without the need of a developer. 

See the new Comstar’s website for yourself here.

Click here to learn more about InteractOne and how we create amazing ecommerce experiences:

Contact the certified Magento developers & their team at InteractOne here!

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