Magento 2.3: What to Expect and When

Magento 2.3: What to Expect and When

Magento 2.3

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

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

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

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

Progressive Web Application Studio

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

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

Page Builder (GraphQL)

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

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

Multi-Source Inventory

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

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

Declarative Database Schema

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

Two-Factor Authentication and Google reCAPTCHA

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

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

Additional Features

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

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

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

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

Hiring vs. Outsourcing for Building and Maintaining an eCommerce Storefront

Hiring vs. Outsourcing for Building and Maintaining an eCommerce Storefront

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

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

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

Hiring Permanent Staff

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

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

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

Outsourcing eCommerce Professionals

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

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

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

Permanent Staff vs. Outsourcing

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

Hire permanent staff when:

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

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

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

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

Choosing the Right eCommerce Team for the Job

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

The best development teams are:

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

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

Our Thoughts on the Evolution of Magento 2

Our Thoughts on the Evolution of Magento 2

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

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

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

Complaint #1: The Investment Can Be Substantial

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

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

Complaint #2: The Stability is Questionable

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

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

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

Complaint #3: It Doesn’t Seem Any Different

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

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

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

Our Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Happens After EOL?

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

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

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

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

The Start of Speculation: Meet Magento Conference in Prague

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

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

Magento 1 End of life screenshot

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

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

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

Magento 1 end of life twitter conversation

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

And then Magento spoke up.

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

Our honest answer: we aren’t sure.

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

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

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

Signs Your eCommerce Technology Needs an Upgrade

Signs Your eCommerce Technology Needs an Upgrade

Top 4 Signs You Have Outdated eCommerce Technology

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

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

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

1. Stunted Growth

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

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

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

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

2. System Segregation

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

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

3. Weak Business Intelligence

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

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

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

4. Needy Technology

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

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

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

How To Spot Outdated eCommerce Technology

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

Set Metrics

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

Ask People

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

Track Time Spend

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

Compare ROIs

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

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

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

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

3 Types of eMails to Send

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

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

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

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

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

The Welcome eMail

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

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

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

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

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

Abandoned Cart

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

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

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

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

The Story Series

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

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

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

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

Recognize the Power Behind an eMail

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

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

5 Tips for Writing Clickable Adwords Copy for eCommerce Websites

5 Tips for Writing Clickable Adwords Copy for eCommerce Websites

Better Google Adwords Copy

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

1. Add Value

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

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

2. Use Space Wisely

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

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

3. Use Keywords in the URL

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

4. Use Dynamic Copy

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

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

5. Test and Monitor

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

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

 

Offline Tips for Generating Online Sales

Offline Tips for Generating Online Sales

Offline Marketing Tips

As consumers spend more and more of their time making purchasing decisions online, business owners are more focused than ever on strengthening their marketing strategy to increase their sales. Naturally, much of the emphasis is on digital marketing efforts to drive qualified visitors directly to their sites.

Although the world wide web presents a massive opportunity for eCommerce growth, offline strategies shouldn’t be factored out of the equation just yet. Learning to market to all people, even those without an extensive internet presence, allows businesses to maximize marketing efforts.

With that said, below are some offline marketing tips that inspire online sales.

Text Messaging Campaigns

While not as old school as billboards or print ads, text messaging campaigns have become extremely important for eCommerce merchants. With the number of mobile phone users expected to surpass five billion in 2019, and with Gen X’ers, Gen Y’ers and Millennials being quite comfortable texting as a mainstream communications tool, it makes sense that text messaging has become an effective way to connect with customers.

Texting campaigns allow business owners to create fully customizable calls-to-action in their campaigns and advertise to customers on-the-go. Merchants can highlight a new product or service, introduce new deals, or remind customers that a sale is about to end. This makes it easier for business owners to stay in front of their customers as they can keep them updated on their business and promote more sales online.

Pop-up Shops

It can be difficult for eCommerce businesses to generate online sales simply because potential customers don’t know you exist. These temporary stores are the perfect opportunity for eCommerce businesses to gain traction and increase visibility. Not only do merchants gain exposure, but they are able to connect with loyal customers and form new relationships face-to-face as well. 

Printed Coupons

Providing customers with coupons is another effective strategy to generate sales online simply because consumers are almost always looking for a deal.

Additionally, people feel more urged to purchase a product or service when they know deals are only available for a limited time. Sending customers coupons creates a deadline for which they must purchase by which in turn inspires sales. Merchants can send customers coupons in the mail or via text to encourage customers to purchase from their eCommerce business.

Sticker Marketing

Gone are the days where sticker marketing solely meant long, rectangular bumper stickers. Now, promotional stickers encompass all shapes and sizes for all different surfaces: water bottles, phones, laptops, and many more.

This low-cost, offline tool allows merchants to brand their company and amplify word-of-mouth marketing to drive sales. Recent studies even show that 90% of people trust word-of-mouth recommendations from people they know.

Consider including a sticker or two in each package- they will be considered “a free gift” that engage recipients while also promoting your business. Plus, they are cute and collectible. Take a look at ours:

Branded Merchandise

Merchants should always strive to increase the visibility of their brand. In order to generate online sales, business owners need to stay on the mind of their customers and branded merchandise is certainly a great way to do this. Business merchandise can include items such as shirts, pens, and sticky notes, but can also to more innovative items that may be connected to the brand.

Workshops

Workshops are similar to hosting a pop-up shop in that eCommerce business owners can attract more people to their business. Additionally, workshops create the perfect opportunity to offer knowledge and practical experience. Merchants can use their office or rent a space to educate people on what their eCommerce business offers.

For instance, if a merchant sells skin care products, they can educate individuals on the importance of maintaining a good skincare routine. This may spark the interest of potential customers and lead to more online sales.

Promote Your eCommerce Business to Everyone

There are still customers out there that are not as tech-savvy as some might expect. Don’t forget about them- use some of these low-cost offline marketing tips to entice new customers and bring about enhanced brand awareness.  

InteractOne helps merchants build, maintain, and market their business for a better eCommerce experience. If merchants would like to know more about how to generate online sales via offline strategies or need additional marketing assistance, please contact us here.

 

4 Reasons to Include Chatboxes on eCommerce Websites

4 Reasons to Include Chatboxes on eCommerce Websites

Chatboxes for eCommerce

A chatbox, or site chat, is a huge opportunity for visitors to interact with sales and service staff directly through the website instead of having to call or email. Chatbots can be triggered by rules and sometimes artificial intelligence in which the system can generate a response to many basic questions. Chatboxes can also be used to gather customer feedback, complete purchases, and build customer profiles. Here are four reasons why eCommerce websites are starting to rely more on chatboxes, and some ways not to use them:

#1 – They Can Improve Customer Experience

Merchants want site visitors to have a positive experience. Happy customers are more likely to complete a purchase, become a repeat customer, and recommend the site to others. Allowing visitors to receive instant feedback or interact with a merchant directly on the site, or via social media through FB Messenger, generates a more positive shopping experience that is not only easier but less intrusive and time-consuming than waiting on the phone or for an email reply.

That being said, don’t add instant pop-ups on the initial page load or place chat boxes on pages with strong calls to action to potentially confuse customers. The purpose is to facilitate the buying experience. Chatboxes can be overbearing- for example, on mobile devices, we have found increases in conversion rate by removing chatboxes in the checkout process as opposed to having it appear on every page on every device. Improving an eCommerce website is all about creating meaningful customer experiences, and a chatbox is just one way to do this.

#2 – They Help Give Instant Feedback

When someone is frustrated with a site or their question is left unanswered, they are more likely to resort to something that responds instantly rather than waiting on the phone. Site surveys and chat boxes triggered to display after some stagnant time on a page or repeated visits to the same page can allow customers to share their experience, either positive or negative, and ask questions. This gives your team valuable information instantly. Many site improvements, A/B testing concepts, content ideas and even different product offerings come from feedback collected directly from customers.

#3 – Chatboxes Can Cut Costs

Rather than having a dedicated team of customer support on hand at all times, a merchant can save some money by going with a chatbot. Chatbots are able to answer the most common questions that customers are likely to have and do so at any time of day. When a customer has a very specific or uncommon question that can’t be answered by a Chatbot system, they can be directed to the customer service team for further help. This reduces the team’s workload, meaning they can get back to customers quicker, and won’t require as large a staff as would be needed without the Chatbot system. Not to mention that customer service reps are able to multi-task on chat more than over the phone, which can help increase productivity.

#4 – They Can Help Build Your Brand

Superior customer service and improved interaction with customers are two things every merchant strives for as a competitive advantage. Chatboxes make that goal more achievable in a few ways:

  • Site chats are commonly used these days, but there are creative ways to utilize automated triggers or chatbots to differentiate yourself from the competition. Insert some humor or communicate your core values in the chat pop-up to help build a connection to site visitors.
  • They create an opportunity to educate visitors. Customers will remember a brand where they learned more about products while researching before making a purchase.
  • Use different chat invitations on product pages or different devices to cater to the types of questions or experience the visitor has at that specific time. A more personalized experience will cause visitors to remember your brand over a generic or unsubstantial interaction.

Don’t be just another run of the mill site chat implementor – there are too many tools and features available today to just use default settings. By gathering more information merchants can better decide if this piece of technology is right for their eCommerce website, and if so, how to get started with it.

Hopefully this quick guide was able to shed some light on the advantages of using a chatbox on an eCommerce website. Please feel free to contact us at any time to learn more.

 

6 Smart Strategies to Boost Sales to Repeat Customers

6 Smart Strategies to Boost Sales to Repeat Customers

Boost Repeat Customers

It’s no secret that eCommerce merchants spend a lot of time (and money) on generating new leads and nurturing them through the buyer’s journey. Of course, that’s important—after all, those new leads fuel business—but getting and converting new leads is only part of the battle. It’s also imperative that merchants effectively market to existing customers because as studies have pointed out, that’s where the real revenue comes from. Consider these metrics from Business Insider:

  • In 2015, returning eCommerce customers made up half of all sessions, but they spent almost twice as much as new customers (about $2.7 billion)
  • Returning customers are about twice as likely to add items to their cart (14.8% and 7.6%, respectively)
  • The bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who leave a site after viewing just 1 page) is substantially higher for new customers, almost 35% vs. less than 25%)
  • Returning customers also have higher conversion rates on average: 4.5% vs. 2.4% for new customers

Returning Customers Are Special—Treat Them That Way

If someone does you a favor, it’s always a good idea to thank them—after all, you might want their help again in the future.  When someone makes a purchase on an eCommerce site, they’re doing that merchant a favor in a way (by adding to their bottom line). So, did they receive a thank you?

There are many ways to show existing customers gratitude for their patronage. Of course, every business is different, and it’s important for each merchant to research what their customers value most. That being said, the following are 6 of the best ways to show returning customers they are valued—and to generate repeat purchases:

Offer Discounts on Subsequent Purchases

Every time a customer purchases something from Schwan’s (an online grocer), they get a certain number of points which they can redeem in savings off their next purchase. Schwan’s will also send occasional emails to remind every customer how much those points are worth and urge them to return to their site to take advantage of the savings. In addition to loyalty points, discounts are a great way to thank repeat customers. Offering a percentage off the next purchase or other amenities like free or reduced charges for shipping are discounts customers will appreciate.

Send Targeted Emails Suggesting Appropriate Products

Contrary to popular belief, consumers like promotional emailsespecially when they come from companies they trust and whom they’ve given permission to email them. In fact, email marketing is a great way to boost revenue. When customers receive a promotional email suggesting products they need, they feel like the company remembers them. It’s as simple as reminding a customer they are due to reorder a certain item or suggesting products related to the one they just bought (for example, people who buy a battery-powered device might need batteries).

Leverage Offline Strategies (Like Direct Mail)

As powerful as email marketing is, some consumers prefer to get information from companies in other ways. For example, a recent study by Epsilon found that almost 75% of consumers like getting direct mail more than any other communications channel. Be sure to follow best practices for direct mail design (like keeping text to a minimum and restricting a communication to a single message).

Don’t Forget to Say “Thank You”

This one is a no-brainer. People like it when their favorite companies tell them, directly and plainly, that they’re grateful for the purchases they’ve made. Emails or personally-signed cards are both great options. Either way, repeat customers will appreciate that a company took the time to say “thanks.”

Ask Customers for Feedback

Even if an eCommerce site is well-designed, there are bound to be occasional mistakes. Don’t wait until repeat customers register a complaint—send them an email which links to a page where they can state what they thought of their shopping experience. That way, customers can voice their opinion while also ensuring the continual improvement of an eCommerce site and its customer service.

Focus on Abandoned Shopping Carts

According to Baymard, almost 70% of all shopping carts are abandoned before a purchase is made—that’s a lot of lost revenue for businesses. There are many reasons for cart abandonment, from unexpected costs (usually those for taxes and shipping) to lack of trust. A smart tactic for turning abandoned carts into sales is to send emails reminding customers they didn’t complete their purchase and offer special discounts (like free shipping) for extra motivation.

Communication is Key

You can’t expect eCommerce customers to keep coming back solely because of good products and good prices. Those things help of course, but it’s still necessary to communicate with repeat customers and make it clear that you value them and will do what it takes to make sure they are satisfied.

Fortunately, there are companies that have the expertise to effectively target existing customers. To learn more about the ways our email and social media marketing services can help you drive sales and grow your eCommerce business, contact us today.