How Social Media Affects SEO

How Social Media Affects SEO

Social Media SEO

We’ll get straight to the point—social media does affect SEO. More interestingly, though, is the question of “How?” Business owners are told over and over again that having a social media presence is key, but sometimes it can be hard to see the benefits. Social media is a great asset for businesses for a lot of reasons: it’s a great customer service tool and a convenient place for customers to get information about a business.

Beyond those incentives, one of the best benefits of social media is the way it works in sync with an SEO strategy. Though social media does not directly impact website rankings, it is still a very powerful tool used to leverage SEO.

Read on to take a closer look at how social media affects SEO by increasing visibility, brand recognition, and more.

Increase Your Online Visibility and Traffic to Your Site

The simple truth is that the more a business puts itself out there, the more people will see it. The main driving force behind any marketing effort is to increase leads and sales—in order to convert potential customers, they must be coming to your site in the first place.

When searching for a company online, social profiles will most likely appear in the first page of search results, usually right under their website. This means that if your company has social media accounts like a Facebook page or Twitter profile, it will serve as another opportunity for potential customers to see you when they make a Google search.

Check out the example below:

Social Media SEO

A simple google search for the word “Magento” has the company’s Twitter account appearing second in the search listing. This may seem minor, but it does increase the chances that they will end up on one of the pages that you control. Remember: the bigger the net, the more fish you catch.

Boost Your Brand Recognition

Brand recognition is important for any company; when an audience can recognize a company by its logos, slogan, or brand colors, you’ve done something right. In order to further increase brand authority, utilize your various social media profiles to encourage social sharing. But, despite the common misconception, “popularity metrics” (like the number of followers or likes) do not cause higher rankings.

What does cause higher rankings, though, is the chance that someone on social media will share your link and increase the number of inbound links to your site. Content will gain popularity—as well as credibility—and this can improve your rankings. Check out this infographic below:

Social Media SEO

As you can see, a couple of things must go right in order to affect rankings in a positive way. In order to help this process, it benefits you to actively build relationships with content creators so they consistently cite your content.

In addition, social sites give customers a chance to review businesses. Reviews can be a huge factor in SEO, especially when it comes to local businesses. Search engine algorithms love reviews, and they make up 13% of ranking factors when it comes to local searches, and 7% for general searches. Be sure to encourage reviews with incentives or gentle reminders through social media; they can make a big difference with customer trust and SEO.  

Extend the Life of Your Content

There are over one billion active daily users on Facebook. That’s a lot of likes, comments, and shares for you to tap into. With a blog, once you publish a post, it can get buried underneath pages and pages of other posts and seem lost forever.

But with social media, you can repost old content when it’s relevant to do so, or blast out messages whenever you want so you know your word is getting out there in a more controlled way. In addition, you can target content towards the audiences you know will benefit most from your messages. That may mean reposting an older blog on Twitter when a similar topic is trending or referencing an older, more-detailed blog in a Facebook post depending on what followers have been most engaged with recently.

Get A Leg Up On Local Rankings

We’ve already discussed the importance of reviews for SEO, but it’s also important to be consistent with business listings and NAP (name-address-phone number) citations. This consistency in how your business is listed across the web (including social media) is essential for local SEO. Social media profiles need to have keyword-rich descriptions, clear indications of services, hours, phone number, and an address that is identical to the one on your Google My Business profile.

When you are consistent with your NAP (meaning the same information shows up on all profiles and directories) search engines understand who you are, what you do, and how users can find your business.

Good Rankings Take Hard Work

Recognize that rankings are an outcome, not an action. The best search optimizers understand the importance of indirect benefits that come from social media. Many aspects of modern marketing are based on relationships—including search. And relationships are created on social media.

If you need any more information on SEO or social media, feel free to contact us today.

Death by Magento Customization

Death by Magento Customization

Death by magento customization

The dream website for many eCommerce merchants contains every feature they can imagine, plus any customizations required to make growing and running their eCommerce business a breeze.  

For many retailers, Magento has been that dream. A feature-rich, low-cost, easy-to-customize solution. Unfortunately, we’ve seen that dream morphed into a nightmare for many poor souls who over-extended themselves by adding too many features and customizations to their Magento site.

Upon initial build, it may seem feasible to clear up the outstanding bugs of an overbuilt site. But as time goes on, issues can pile on top of one another, potentially leading to your entire site going down and many customers being lost (along with the corresponding sales revenue).

So — How Much is Too Much?

That question has a unique answer for every individual business. There is a certain limit to the number of features and customization that can reasonably be created and maintained by any organization. Companies with great budgets and technical acumen can support incredibly complex software (ie. Google and Amazon). But every company must understand what their limits are and how to operate and grow within the confines of their capabilities. First, let’s discuss what kind of issues over-customization can cause:

  • Rising Costs – Not only do you have high costs of maintaining and upgrading the customizations, but you also have costs of maintaining documentation and know-how for them.
  • Security Risks – Sometimes extensions can contain code that opens a backdoor breach into your website. Third party extensions can offer some great functionalities for your eCommerce store but they should be thoroughly vetted for quality and security by an experienced developer before being installed.
  • Sluggish Speed – It goes without saying that in a competitive environment today, an eCommerce company must place website speed as one of their top priorities. Most extensions make HTTP requests to load assets like CSS, scripts, images, etc. If coded incorrectly, extensions can cause many different types of performance issues, some of which can be difficult to troubleshoot. Page speed should always be critically evaluated when a new extension or customization is being tested in a staging environment.
  • Website Continuity (or lack thereof) – Due to Magento’s vast and complex architecture, difficulty with code can cause extensions to conflict with one another. This can cause pages to crash unless the code has been fixed. Nothing is more unnerving than a “Page not Found Error,” except for when a customer sees that error. Per the following statistic: “Around 74% of visitors leave and never visit a website again after just one instance of a ‘Page Not Found’ error.” Those aren’t great odds.

I’m sure we’ve spooked you by now. So, how do you prevent these unfortunate consequences? Ultimately, we have to take a look at your company size, revenue, and resources.

Smaller Merchants – Is Magento Right for You?

With the onset of Magento 2, we’ve received migration quote requests from many smaller merchants running Magento 1 Community Edition that would be much better served by instead using a software as a service (SaaS) platform like BigCommerce or Shopify. These companies may have been lured into running Magento because of its many features and flexibility, but the cost to maintain Magento is way beyond what these SMBs are capable of. Instead of Magento working as an engine for growth, it becomes a liability, forcing these merchants to spend precious resources they should be dedicating to marketing on upgrades, patches, and support. In addition to the maintenance costs being (commonly) too steep, these merchants lack the resources in-house to properly administer Magento which further lowers their ROI.

In our opinion, it is usually best for small to midsize merchants with less than $5 million in annual online sales to try and limit their use of custom modules for Magento to 10 or fewer. While this number is somewhat arbitrary, it is a good benchmark for merchants wishing to mitigate the risk of getting into more customization than they can safely handle.  

Most merchants selling less than $1 million online will likely be best served by a SaaS solution like Shopify or BigCommerce. If these merchants using a Saas are looking to safely mitigate any risk of performance issues or compatibility bugs, they should likely look to leverage existing templated themes and fewer than 5 apps.

Larger Merchants – You Aren’t Immune to the Bugs of Over-Customization

While larger online merchants have the budgets and technical acumen to properly run a website platform like Magento, they are not impervious to serious harm from adding too many features and customizations. We’ve unfortunately witnessed large merchants greatly reduce the effectiveness of Magento with too many features and customizations.  Many times in these situations, bullish executives (in an attempt to make a big splash with the launch of a new and better site) demanded the addition of excessive amounts of features and customizations while building a new site on Magento.

For larger merchants needing a large number of complex features on their website, we recommend ensuring that their customizations are loosely coupled and operating by interfacing with the Magento API to minimize performance and code compatibility issues. For example, a merchant wishing to solve complex shipping quote requirements can mitigate the risk of over-customization by using the 3rd party app ShipperHQ. ShipperHQ is a SaaS solution that integrates to Magento via a small bit of extension code and APIs.  Hence the app is very loosely coupled and thus has minimal risk of causing code conflicts or performance degradation.

Customization Doesn’t Have to be Scary

Customization can become overbearing, but it doesn’t have to. Don’t fear Magento extensions — but don’t trust them blindly either. Not all extensions are created equal. As long as you follow these guidelines and are strict about having a senior developer vet and test extensions before using, you can proceed with caution. As always, if you have any questions about this or are in over your head with customizations, call us today to speak with a Magento Developer.

How to Simplify an Overly Complicated Site

How to Simplify an Overly Complicated Site

simple site design

By Tom Deutsch, VP Creative Services at InteractOne

The word “simple” can be a little deceptive. For eCommerce sites, conversion is the ruling metric. So, simplification is a tactic that you HOPE will give you better conversion.

Often, what we describe as simplification is not achieved by removing content from the page. Instead, site simplification uses UI design principles to focus and compartmentalize shopper activity.

Google is not strictly an eCommerce site, but it is the most-offered example of simplicity.

On the first impression, this baby is zen. You know exactly what to do here, not only because you’ve seen it a million times, but because it is obvious the first time you see it.

Really though – just like on your site – there is a lot going on here.

Given these requirements, Google could easily have looked something like this:

Simple looks easy, but it’s obviously not. As the illustration shows, how a given set of content is formatted and arranged can result in brilliance or an uninspired mess. Obviously, you and I don’t have Google’s resources, but we can take some lessons from the example.

Conquer the impulse to decorate

Communicating your visual brand doesn’t require elbowing aside the eCommerce path to purchase. For example, Magento’s default theme provides for an image at the top of each category. Key to remember – it is optional.

Designers can and do use banners to display beautiful and inspirational images and promotion reminders. In most cases, they are a distraction or an obstacle. They push the products down the page and are literally in the way, whether the user landed here directly or via navigation. Category pages are high-shopping intent; let the people shop! One innovative idea is to package small promotional blocks within the product grid, as seen on Lush:

Another source of clutter included in most eCommerce themes is the sidebar, which often says to the shopper: “you probably don’t want what is on this page; here’s another thought.” Think carefully before including sidebar elements, which do not translate readily to mobile, anyway.

Background textures, colored text, underlining, too many control elements (arrows, buttons and open fields) can stress out your page visitor, often evidenced as increased bounce rates. Use control elements extremely selectively and they’ll provide prominent and effective visual direction for your visitors.

Don’t fear the click

In your home, clothes would be easier to pick out if they were carefully arranged by color on the floor. Will you stop wearing clothes if they are put in a drawer instead? On your website, there are many categories, tools, features, and benefits all competing for attention. It is tempting to use the flexibility of a web page to find places to display all of them. That is designing by fear – thinking the shopper will not click to explore. Instead, set filters to closed by default. Place content in collapsing divs, dropdowns or tabs.

Matsonline.com has a complex product configuration and extensive product documentation, but with a well-managed UI, the goal of the page is still clear.

Think of your shopping pages not as billboards or directories, but as a neatly organized and well-labeled closet. Present a confident, simple and intuitive experience and trust the shopper to shop – that’s what they came to do!

Plan to succeed

To get simple, think integrated. Focus heavily on the things that spur conversion in eCommerce: Blazing fast page load, intuitive user interface, high-quality product images, authentic reviews, high-authority links. When those essential elements are in place, then your site will have the freedom to shed or reduce the emphasis on promotional content, memberships, forums and offers better suited to ads and social media.

The primary technique for maximizing simplicity is something you’ve often heard but is not often practiced: Mobile first design. Designing for desktop usually means you are starting with a grand and polished vision of a home page – that usually gets marked up and appended by numerous well-meaning hands. Designing for mobile forces discipline on your requirements. The best mobile sites behave like a guided tour – with each landing page focused on one thing and branching out from there, presenting choices in clear and manageable chunks. A desktop site that looks and functions like a mobile site is far preferable to a mobile site that looks like a squished and peeled version of a desktop site.

Your website will reflect the state of your business. Clutter within the business will produce clutter on the website. Simplicity breaks down when complex features are tacked on to the middle or end of a project, or if internal buy-in of the requirements was not secured up front. Whether embarking on a new eCommerce site build or revamping an existing one, have a specific plan. Know your requirements and make sure your platform can fill them without major customization. Pick designers and programmers you trust, then let them guide you to achieving a simple, user-friendly, high-converting site.

If you would like assistance with streamlining or otherwise improving the user interface of your eCommerce site, please feel to connect with our team. We’d be happy to lend a hand.

The Complete Magento Commerce Migration Checklist

The Complete Magento Commerce Migration Checklist

magento commerce migration

After spending countless hours researching whether or not to upgrade to Magento Commerce or keep with your existing platform, you’ve finally decided to make the jump. If you haven’t decided yet, read our recent blog to help inform your decision-making.

Before you can bask in the success you’re sure to see from making the upgrade, there are a few things you’ll need to do to ready your eCommerce business for it. Make sure to check off the following boxes before actually upgrading to ensure a smooth and successful process:

Take Inventory of Your Current Implementation ☑

Upgrading your eCommerce website is a long, ongoing process that never really feels completed if your business is looking to stay ahead of the next trend. If your website features this kind of next-level functionality and capabilities, chances are the complexity of implementing a new platform will be greater. This is why it’s essential to review the current state of your website through the lens of user experience, configuration, and customization. For more information on how to best review these components on your website, take a look at this Magento article.

Check Extension Compatibility ☑

Another component to review before making the upgrade is what extensions your website currently has installed. Most eCommerce websites feature a variety of extensions, some that are useful and some that seemed important but don’t have much functionality. The extensions that you plan to keep should be reviewed and tested to make sure they run properly or will need to be upgraded on the new platform before making the switch, otherwise you could run into a slew of functionality issues. If making the jump from M1 to M2, every extension must be updated to the M2 version in order for them to function properly. If you aren’t sure what other extensions will need attention when you make the upgrade, be sure to ask a Magento-certified developer. This is also an opportunity to clean up your website from unnecessary or non-functional extensions that you may have installed in the past, which could end up helping your website run faster.

Jumpstart UX Design ☑

Whether you’re upgrading from a different version of Magento or another platform altogether, design is something you should consider right out of the gate. Though there are many third party templates out there, we recommend skipping those and reaching out to Magento-certified developers (like us) instead. We can tailor Magento’s template to fit your needs and ultimately avoid any headaches shabby templates can create.

If you do decide to go with a third party theme, reach out to a reputable Magento expert before you purchase. Though the most popular themes are usually the most well built, that’s not always the case. Be sure to check with an expert first.

Test Your Website—Extensively ☑

When you make the upgrade, it’s important to test out your website before you publish it. Put your website in ‘maintenance mode,’ a Magento feature that allows you to test your website without it being live. To do so, create a maintenance.flag file in the root of your site. Once completed, many Magento Specialists use this 3-step process to see if their eCommerce website is ready to roll:

  1. Start at the homepage, navigate to a category page, then a product page. Add a product to your cart. Repeat these steps by choosing all the different possible paths to find that and other products. 
  2. Run a full checkout to test the various payment and shipping methods. 
  3. Test other functionalities such as price rules.

After extensively testing your website and checking all of the other boxes listed above, it’s time for the big moment: going live with your new, upgraded website. 

Be sure to continue running tests after publishing your website to ensure everything is working smoothly. To do so, consider running analytics and comparing the results to your old website. If you find any glaring differences in traffic or conversion rates, there could be an issue as a result of upgrading.

Making the upgrade to a new platform is a long process, but one that can pay large dividends to a growing eCommerce business. If you need any help along the way, be sure to contact our team of Magento-certified experts.

Why B2B Companies That Embrace eCommerce Perform Better

Why B2B Companies That Embrace eCommerce Perform Better

B2B companies have traditionally sold their products via a long sales process with multiple stakeholders and purchase influencers culminating with a handshake and a written contract. These days, that just doesn’t cut it. Buyers want to take care of business quickly, with one or two clicks, rather than back and forth calling or emailing.

B2B commerce has evolved – and in order to keep customers happy and maintain revenue growth – you must too.

Now, we know that B2B eCommerce can often be more complex than B2C eCommerce. B2C sales usually entail fixed prices and straightforward information. With B2B, that’s not necessarily the case. Some companies sell products that are too complex to be sold online, and that’s ok. eCommerce websites can do more than complete a sale. They serve as sources of information (about both the products and the company) and can help walk buyers down the purchase path.

Whether a B2B eCommerce site serves as a purely informational tool or contains multiple catalogs of products, it still benefits B2B companies overall. Here’s why:

Increased Customer Satisfaction

It’s no surprise: B2B buyer preferences have changed in recent years. The rise of online shopping and technology usage continues to grow at a rapid pace and people seem to be in agreement: B2C retail practices have influenced customer expectations. Those practices, namely personalization, online catalogs, and SEO continue to be the top three B2C practices that influence revenue for B2B companies. So if the buyer preferences have changed, why hasn’t your B2B company adapted?

SAP Customer Experience states that business buyers are planning to make 55% of their work purchases online within the next two years. If buyers need a product, they expect to be able to compare prices or information quickly. eCommerce sites allow this information to be shared immediately, and (if feasible for that specific company) allow for an order to be processed shortly after.

An article from Magento indicates that “almost 80% of ‘digitally-mature’ companies surveyed report that their current set of B2B eCommerce technologies have been ‘very’ or ‘extremely helpful’ in improving their overall customer satisfaction and revenue.”

In order to stay relevant in the ever-changing sphere of commerce, you have to stay up to date on what the customer wants. In this case, they want company and product information at their disposal at all times.

It’s Efficient

Traditional purchasing methods simply aren’t as efficient as eCommerce. Technology eliminates the need for informational pamphlets or booklets, and in doing so, simplifies the buying process. When customers are able to visit a website and get almost all of the information they need,  it speeds up the purchase process.

Plus, if orders can be completed completely online, then errors from handling multiple orders are reduced. It’s convenient to complete a purchase at the snap of a finger, and even more convenient to be able to track a purchase instantaneously.

Development Has Been Simplified

In the past, upgrading to an e-commerce business was a long and arduous process. Now days, platforms have been updated to make the switch more palatable. There are agencies, such as InteractOne, whose sole purpose is to migrate clients onto the best possible platform for their mission and products. Though a significant project (like a new site build) will take a fair amount of time and be a financial investment, it’s worth it when taking into account the boosted revenue and satisfied customers.

Outsourcing help for a big project like a migration or site build is usually a good idea. It grants the customer the flexibility and focus to keep their company the main priority while allowing them to get the help they need from trained and experienced developers.

It Gives You A Competitive Advantage

Take a look at your competitors. Have they already launched an eCommerce store? If so, you probably already know the answer to this one.

Companies who have already launched on an eCommerce platform are likely capturing some of your business. Buyers are using their knowledge and experience with eCommerce and have begun incorporating it into their work lives, welcoming the simplicity it brings them.

And if they haven’t, get ahead of the game! Don’t be afraid to trail blaze – competitors will most likely follow in your footsteps shortly or immediately after.

How Should You Proceed?

Explore your options and do your research. But, as Magento Certified Developers, we certainly recommend looking into Magento Commerce 2.2 for the many core capabilities it provides. Namely:

  • Company account management: Supports sales for companies with multiple buyers or differing organizational structures. Self-service tools allow customers to track their quotes, orders, and credit without having to fax or phone you.
  • Custom catalogs and pricing: Allows for custom catalogs and price lists to ensure unique contract terms are supported online.
  • Quick ordering: Quick order forms, requisition lists, and easy reordering make online purchasing easy and efficient.
  • Mobile-ready sites: A mobile-first strategy is obviously important. With a fully responsive Magento site, orders can be taken on the go at any time.

If you are a B2B company looking into the possibilities that eCommerce can provide for your company, feel free to contact us today or feel free to check out some of our experience working with B2B companies.

Are You Ready to Upgrade to Magento Commerce?

Are You Ready to Upgrade to Magento Commerce?

magento commerce upgrade

Whatever eCommerce platform your website is currently running on, it’s important to have a set of metrics you can continuously monitor to make sure you’re still benefiting from a well-tuned, right-sized solution. These metrics will help you determine if the platform you use is still viable or if you would be better off upgrading to a new one, like Magento Commerce. Whether your site is currently powered by Magento Open Source or a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform such as Shopify, these are the signs you should upgrade to a more high-powered and advanced platform like Magento Commerce:

Sign #1: Visitors Are Overloading Your Current Site

Lower cost SaaS platforms and open source solutions are great for smaller eCommerce merchants looking for support and reliability. While these platforms work wonders for many businesses, a significant increase in traffic can push the limits and overload them, leading to slower load times, broken pages, and even total website crashes. Considering that a staggering 79% of shoppers reported they wouldn’t return to make a purchase from a website with slow load speeds, it’s critical to make sure the platform you’re using can handle spikes in traffic.

Magento Commerce is built with enhanced caching and databasing capabilities that deliver the extra-needed muscle during high traffic times to keep your website running speedily.

Sign #2: You Want to Expand Your Customer Base

Even if your website is currently doing a good job of handling a significant increase in traffic, there may come a point in time where you want to start selling your product to new customers in new markets. Magento Commerce has more than enough capabilities to ensure successful growth and scalability in any area, including expansions from B2B to B2C, the introduction of a new vertical, and even jumping into a new geographical area for business. Additionally, the platform offers target content and promotion, Google tag management, Enterprise business analytics, and integration with best in class third-party marketing technologies. If your business is growing in any of these directions, it’s important to consider upgrading to a platform such as Magento Commerce to ensure you’ll be ready.

Sign #3: Fulfillment is Challenging

If your website has been seeing a steady increase in purchases, fulfillment can start to become challenging. The fulfillment process may already complicated, with a number of factors outside of your eCommerce platform like warehousing and carriers that can influence your ability to deliver. This makes it all the more important to ensure your website can handle an increased capacity and is able to push orders to internal and external fulfillment models.

Magento Commerce has a number of features that can accommodate an increase in demand:

  • Improved database support: Create both a faster front and back-end experience with Magento’s multiple databases.
  • Streamlined admin experience: Manage orders more effectively with the upgraded Magento admin interface.
  • Customer-initiated returns: Free up admin time by allowing customers to begin their own returns process.
  • Broadened Magento Marketplace: Access exclusive extensions available only to Magento Commerce merchants.

Sign #4: You Haven’t Updated Your Website in Years

The average lifespan of a website is less than 3 years. This means that in order to keep up with the latest design trends and technologies, eCommerce merchants must redesign their website frequently. If your business hasn’t updated their website in a number of years, it might be smartest to pair your redesign with an upgrade to your platform too.

Magento Commerce is one of the most advanced platforms available to merchants, ensuring that your website will be ahead of the next trend. If you need an expert opinion on whether or not your eCommerce business should upgrade to Magento Commerce, contact us today.

Digital Marketing Trends That Are Crushing it in 2018

Digital Marketing Trends That Are Crushing it in 2018

Digital Marketing Trends

Great marketing requires fluidity; you must be able to adapt to different trends, implement new tactics, and test out new powerful tools in order to stay ahead of the game. Consumers are constantly shifting and changing, so no matter what industry you work in or whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, you have to be continually looking towards the future.

Whether you’re crushing it with your current strategy or you need some new ideas to spice things up, you should consider these latest trends when implementing your marketing strategy.

General Marketing Trends

Marketing is a pretty broad term; there is brand marketing, content marketing, product marketing, search marketing, the list goes on and on… That’s why we decided to split the different trends into their respective categories.

Despite the many sectors of marketing, there are some trends that apply to every aspect of the marketing process. Whether you’re a social media marketer, a content marketer, or you work exclusively with SEO, these trends are something you should be paying attention to.

Customers as Marketers

Word-of-mouth is now, without a doubt, the single most valuable marketing tool in a merchant’s utility belt. That means the name of the game is no longer just acquiring customers – it’s creating a wonderful customer experience that influences them to be an advocate for your brand. Implement some strategies that ensure an enjoyable customer experience for all of your consumers.

  • Focus on customer service – both online and in-person (if applicable)
  • Engage with customers on social media and address any complaints as soon as they arise (be sure to avoid these common social media mistakes)
  • Reward loyal customers with discount codes or free shipping to incentivize consumers to continue shopping with the company

Content Marketing Trends

As the year progresses, all kinds of businesses are rolling out new blogs or investing in content-related advertisements. Why? Because statistics don’t lie: 47% of buyers viewed 3-5 pieces of content before reaching out to a sales rep and 70% of people would rather learn about new products through content rather than ads.

Starting a blog is a great way to begin producing content, but in order to successfully engage with your audience, you must curate content that your audience interacts with and enjoys.

Two specific types of content have reigned superior this year (so far): personalized content and bite-sized content.

Personalized Content

As machine learning capabilities increase, customers are becoming more used to one-on-one experiences. Customers want to feel singled out; they enjoy when their buying experience is customized to fit their needs and wants. Statistics back up that theory: 78% of customers say that personalized content increases their purchase intentions and studies show that personalization can increase profits by 500%.

When personalizing content, follow these tips:

  • Engage customers personally at every level. Include their first and last name in emails, curate your website experience to them personally using cookies, and try to respond to them in a personal manner on social media.
  • Collect more data. More data equals more personalization. So ask for the first and last name before they download your guide or subscribe to your monthly newsletter. That way, you have at least the beginning of a leg to stand on when it comes to curating a customer experience.

Bite-sized Content

Did you know that Microsoft published a study showing that people’s average attention span is 8 seconds? You need to be keying in on customer’s critical issues, questions, and concerns with bite-sized content.

  • GIFs, tweets, and short videos are all valuable content types that grab a user’s attention quickly.
  • Try to convey the most important information during this short time. Also, even though the content length is short, you still need to brand. Get your brand in their brains in a repetitive, consistent way.

Social Media Marketing Trends

Social media has been rapidly changing this year. Instagram stories, IGTV, Facebook Stories, the list goes on and on. Social media marketing is crucial for eCommerce and can even increase sales, so make sure your platforms are up to date. Let’s take a look at where 2018 is heading when it comes to social media.

Permanent vs. Ephemeral Content

Instagram stories have really changed the game when it comes to content. There is now permanent content and temporary content to pay attention to. You need to be juggling both and coming out with fresh content both ways.

  • Ephemeral content gives you a good chance to experiment and get a little raw. It’s temporary, so don’t funnel a bunch of funds into it. Keep it light-hearted and engaging.
  • Remember: don’t lose focus on permanent content because you are experimenting with Snapchat or stories. Permanent content is just that: permanent. That content will be out there forever, so make sure it’s engaging and successfully branding your company.

Micro-influencers

Influencers have become a popular trend in modern day marketing. The process usually involves sending your products or services to an influencer, having them test out the products, and then featuring your company or products to their followers depending on the agreement.

Influencers as a whole have really risen this year, but micro-influencers, in particular, have been killing it.

A micro-influencer is a social media promoter with a smaller following – they aren’t technically celebrities, but many have die-hard fan bases that trust their judgment.

  • Find people who would seem like a natural fit with your buyer’s persona. Don’t put your herbal products on the page of a competitive eater – it doesn’t make sense. The whole reason micro-influencers work is that their engagement levels are much higher than celebrities. People trust them. Make sure your products are naturally placed for the best ROI’s.

Search Marketing Trends

SEO marketers should be used to changing up their tactics on the fly. Google’s consistent shifting of algorithm patterns has forced many merchants to learn to adapt quickly. For 2018, one of the most significant SEO trends is the growth of Voice Search.

Voice Search

(We’ve already written an article on this topic, but in order to stress its importance, we’ll put the highlights in this article as well.)

When is the last time you used Siri? Or Alexa? Or Cortana? The list of voice-based assistants continues to grow and it is now predicted that by 2020, over 50% of searches will be voice searches. SEO marketers need to adapt to the way that voice queries search, and continue building a framework that adapts to voice while being consistent on Google search.

  • A good first step is to start doing your research on voice trends. Voice search usually uses queries that are posed as a question. Keep that in mind.

GDPR’s Impact on Marketing

This year we all saw tons of privacy rules and regulations coming out of both North America and Europe. For us in the United States, GDPR required us to adapt to new policies regarding privacy.

General Data Protection Regulation

GDPR significantly changed the nature of how we deal with online privacy. We all use data to market, so make sure that you are compliant with GDPR (even if you don’t think you sell in Europe) because the fines are high and the negative publicity that comes with it can be even worse.

Those are a few of the many marketing trends we are tracking this year. If you are looking for more ways to market your eCommerce store or have questions regarding staying up to date with the latest regulations and marketing strategies, contact us today.

Magento 2.3: What to Expect and When

Magento 2.3: What to Expect and When

Magento 2.3

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

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

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

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

Progressive Web Application Studio

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

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

Page Builder (GraphQL)

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

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

Multi-Source Inventory

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

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

Declarative Database Schema

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

Two-Factor Authentication and Google reCAPTCHA

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

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

Additional Features

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

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

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

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

Hiring vs. Outsourcing for Building and Maintaining an eCommerce Storefront

Hiring vs. Outsourcing for Building and Maintaining an eCommerce Storefront

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

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

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

Hiring Permanent Staff

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

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

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

Outsourcing eCommerce Professionals

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

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

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

Permanent Staff vs. Outsourcing

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

Hire permanent staff when:

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

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

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

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

Choosing the Right eCommerce Team for the Job

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

The best development teams are:

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

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

Our Thoughts on the Evolution of Magento 2

Our Thoughts on the Evolution of Magento 2

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

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

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

Complaint #1: The Investment Can Be Substantial

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

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

Complaint #2: The Stability is Questionable

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

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

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

Complaint #3: It Doesn’t Seem Any Different

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

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

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

Our Final Thoughts

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