Category Archives: ecommerce

Continue. Stop. Start.

Consumed by day-to-day operations, it’s amazing sometimes just how many business people forget where the money comes from. In other words, many fail to remember that there are exactly two* ways a dollar can enter most businesses:money

  1. From a new customer
  2. From an existing customer

(*Three, if your company is engaged in its own finance and investments. But let’s assume that’s not a significant portion of income for your business.)

This means that in order to achieve top-line growth, you need to sell stuff to new customers. Or you need to sell more stuff to existing customers. Or, ideally, both. Seems pretty obvious, but yet we tend to overlook its simplicity.

Some basic roadmap questions can help add perspective to driving more sales. They break down to three components: Continue, stop, start. Here’s how that looks:

What should we continue? What’s working well? Can it be even faster, cheaper or better? Can it be expanded and applied to other areas or markets? What do our customers really like?

Conversely, what should we stop doing? What’s NOT working well? Can it be fixed at a reasonable cost? Or should it be discontinued? What are we doing with five people that could be accomplished with two? What’s outdated or unwanted?

Finally, what can we start doing? Where is there a new opportunity that might not have existed even a short time ago? Where do we need to respond to competitive threats or simple market demands? Where can we make fast improvements? Is there a new technology make sense? Where are the long-term opportunities and how do we get there?

These aren’t always easy questions to answer. But they do create a framework for action. And all three directives—continue, stop, start (in that order)—could be significant influences on the ways dollars enter your business.

As always, when it comes to things related to road-mapping, strategic action plans, ecommerce, web marketing and other essential elements of building a business, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We can help you identify and validate the things you should continue, stop and start.

Customer Experience Lessons from the Un-Online

If you haven’t had a chance to look at customer experience (CX) research from the Temkin Group, it’s pretty fascinating. While it largely focuses on big brands and major industry sectors, there’s a lot of insight you can apply directly to your own business. You can grab a free copy of the 2016 Temkin Experience Ratings here, although you will have to register to download the report.smiley

Temkin starts with 10,000 U.S. consumers and asks them basic questions about interacting with 293 different companies. Questions like, “Were you able to accomplish what you wanted to do?” And “How easy was it to interact with this company?” And “How did you feel about these interactions?”

You can probably guess the worst performers: Internet service providers, TV service providers, health plans and car rental agencies. The report doesn’t pull any punches, and it names names.

But you might be surprised to see what industry seems to dominate. In fact, companies from this sector take the top three customer experience spots overall, four of the top seven, and ten of the top 22. Can you guess?

Supermarkets. Yeah, supermarkets!

Isn’t it interesting that perhaps the most un-online sector is apparently killing it in terms of customer experience? And it’s not a fluke: Other un-online sectors like fast food chains and retailers are next in the rankings.

Think about your own shopping habits: When was the last time a technical glitch caused you to stop your grocery shopping and leave the store without a purchase? Probably never. Yet online, this experience happens more than it should.

Or when was the last time you simply abandoned your cart while shopping in a physical store because you were confused, annoyed or disrupted by something the store did? Again, probably never. But online, it’s one of the biggest challenges businesses face.

We can take three things from all this:

  1. Clarity and ease of navigation are paramount to CX. Conversely, confusion and ambiguity destroy customer experience. Period.
  2. Everything needs to work. Technical glitches are becoming increasingly unforgivable.
  3. Customers aren’t expecting a life-changing experience. Instead, they have reasonable and pragmatic hopes for a simple, conventional and straightforward encounter. Start there.

Chances are, you’ve never thought that solid customer experience should aspire to be the next Publix or Aldi. But perhaps a look at the un-online is a good place to start.

Through this lens, does your customer experience measure up?

 

 

 

 

Three Not-Trues

As marketers, it’s essential that we sometimes step back and challenge our own assumptions. In many cases, we take things for granted that are simply not true. Here are three.

  1. “Email marketing doesn’t really work.”

    Mailchimp
    Mailchimp

Not true. E-mail marketing absolutely works. In fact, over the five days from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, it continues to be the strongest channel for generating online sales. In fact, it accounted for 25.1 percent of transactions, according to Custora, which tracks e-commerce and benchmarks retailers. The key? Sending impressive and relevant offers to customers who have expressly opted in. Companies that do this well are seeing big returns.

  1. “Social media drives e-commerce sales.”

Not true. Over the same five-day shopping period, Custora also found that social media drove only 1.7 percent of online sales. So if you’re dubious about Facebook, Instagram and Twitter driving any serious sales (retail or otherwise), you’re probably right. Simply, while social media plays a role in influencing purchase decisions and search results, it doesn’t drive e-commerce sales yet. Yes, there are a few exceptions. But considering we’re past the peak of the Facebook era, social media in its current form may never establish itself as a main sales driver.

  1. “When shopping online, consumers go to Amazon first.”

google shoppingNot true. While many consumers may indeed end up making a purchase on Amazon, Google Shopping is establishing itself as the 800-pound gorilla of online deal hunting and where they start first. In other words, instead of consumers wading through lots of different deal sites (like slickdeals.net or woot.com, for example), Google Shopping provides a consolidated look, right there in the regular search results.

Since Google transitioned to Shopping campaigns last year and Product Listing Ads (PLAs) continued to explode in popularity, retailers now have access to more tools, more advanced reporting and more competitor data than ever before. The e-commerce consulting firm Channel Advisor notes that Google Shopping is even cannibalizing its own search results.

As always, we encourage our clients to challenge their assumptions, look beyond the status quo and make data-driven decisions. Not surprisingly, given the dynamic nature of online shopping and e-commerce, hard-and-fast rules usually don’t last too long.

If you’d like some help evaluating your assumptions and discovering what’s actually true for your business, drop us a line.

Now what? 5 Great Tips for Continued Online Success

now-whatLet’s say you’ve done a fantastic job of incorporating keywords into your site and you’re perfectly tweaked for efficient SEO. You’ve got a good inbound linking strategy. You’ve built a nice user experience and maybe even incorporated some video. Your reporting and analytics functions are tuned to your liking.

So is that it? Are you done?

Nope.

Certainly, SEO efforts and keyword optimization are an ongoing function of your business. But it’s also critical to make sure you’re welcoming Google with open arms. It’s as simple as this: When Google doesn’t crawl your site frequently, your ranking will likely drop.

Here are five tips to make sure Google stops by for frequent visits, courtesy of Pratik Dholakiya over at Search Engine Watch:

  1. Make sure your web server is fast. Slow load times and unreliable servers can incur SEO penalties and discourage frequent visits from Google. So whether you host your site yourself or contract for hosting services, it’s critical to optimize for better performance.
  2. Update your site. A lot. Need a good reason to have a blog? This is it, because Google likes new content. Another benefit: Google applies the SEO benefits of your blog to your entire site, so frequent updates can pay big dividends. Just make sure your blog falls inside (not outside) of your site’s core domain. In other words, it should be yoursite.com/blog, not blog.yoursite.com.
  3. Get more inbound links. Quality counts more than quantity, but links pointing to your site continue to tell Google “Hey, this is good stuff.” If you need more quality inbound links (and who doesn’t, right?) just be sure to ASK for them – don’t buy them. Ever.
  4. Ask Google to crawl your site. Using the “Fetch as Google” tool, you can tell Google to crawl any page of your site. This is especially useful for time-sensitive updates to your content.
  5. Keep your sitemap updated and error-free. An XML sitemap, when properly maintained and implemented is like a plate of warm cookies when Google shows up at the door.

Most of these things you can do yourself, but some are definitely more complex. Some require intentional effort and planning. Just know that we’re always here to help, with a combination of strategic marketing and extensive technical know-how.

8 Things You Can Do to Drive Traffic and Create a Good Experience

Yep, it’s time for a list post.

These tips are especially good because they’re time-proven. They aren’t based on flavor-of-the-day techniques to outwit Google or give you a quick temporary boost you’ll later regret. So if you’re looking for some solid traffic drivers and good experience builders, try these tips:

  1. Use good keywords in your content. Doing your homework with keyword research pays off. You’ll know what to say in your content because you’ll know what your customers are looking for.
  2. Make sure your sitemap is working hard. When done properly, your sitemap gives Google, Yahoo and Bing a list of everything you’d like them to see.  An XML sitemap is the place to start.
  3. Use simple page titles and good descriptions. Not only do humans like to see pages with appropriate and understandable titles, so do the search engines.images
  4. Fix broken links and 404 errors. Nothing kills an experience like an unexpected 404. There are lots of tools out there to scan your site and see what might be broken.
  5. Strengthen weak content. If the page contains more template content (headers, navigation, buttons, footers, etc.) than actual content, it might not provide a great experience for your customer. Fix it with more information, better product descriptions, an instructional video, product specifications, links to other resources, anything.
  6. Fix content errors. Hey, it happens. A misspelling. An incorrect price. Missing information. Take an hour with a few other sets of eyes and be as nitpicky (but objective) as possible.
  7. Decrease page loading times. While not always easy, your IT resources or web host may have suggestions to make your pages lightning-fast. And who doesn’t love that? The search engines certainly do…it’s a ranking factor!
  8. Get more backlinks. Organic backlinks to your site are precious. There’s no shame in asking for them, especially with trade associations, charities, or anything you’ve sponsored. And don’t forget to create your own backlinks using your social media accounts. The more stuff that points to you, the more valuable your web channel becomes.

For more insights or assistance with any of these, call us any time or contact us by email.

Rants of a Frustrated Shopper: What 300 Thread-Count Sheets Mean to Your Business

There’s an obvious (but often overlooked) reality associated with long-tail search:  The longer the search phrase, the more ready the customer is to buy.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? If someone is highly specific with search terms, particularly when searching retail goods, services and most B2B categories, the end of the sales funnel—the sale—isn’t too far away. For example, if you search “300 TC cotton percale sheets for 12 inch king mattress,” you’re expecting to see exactly that. And if you’re that specific, chances are pretty good your credit card is out and ready to buy.rants image

But here’s the problem: If Google doesn’t hit on that long-tail search, you’ll see something similar. Maybe the search result returns a buying opportunity for cotton sheets, but they are deep pocket and will drown your 12″ mattress. Or maybe, instead of cotton percale, you see results for great prices on polyester sheets. In other words, the results are pretty close, but not quite right. For a savvy shopper, that’s just maddening.

As a business, how do you solve this? With analytics and Google’s keyword tool. With an expanded keyword set. With good headlines, product titles and thorough product descriptions.

Bottom line? With careful planning, keyword analysis and SEO-conscious tactics, you greatly increase your chances of hitting on those long-tail searches. Which means more relevant search results, better customer experiences and more sales.

It’s also an incredible opportunity to beat the big guys.