9 Ways to Create Trustworthy Online Store

9 Ways to Create Trustworthy Online Store
Trades and businesses flourish on trustworthiness be it B2B or B2C. Customer confidence and credibility are not acquired overnight; it takes consistent perseverant years of service to appease your customers and flag out your name.

Ensure your business entails all those ingredients that engender trust in your brand. Drawn from my experience as a consumer and marketer I share 9 upshots that will help you construct a trustworthy online store.

1. Fathom audience needs

Let your audience propensity take the center stage position in web store design. Site’s interface and interaction should orbit around visitor behavior – the navigation styles they prefer, shopping cart features that delight them, designs that instill confidence, page clicks and duration of visits. Audiences must perpetually feel elated coming to your site. Their interaction with the site should generate trust that eventually translates into revenue. And to attain this even if you have to inject bespoke elements into the foyer of site development, don’t dither. As a rule consumers share a fascination for extensive product information. Serving extra details on your store can take you extra miles in spawning customer’s interest for your site.

Another unspoken expectation from your website is effortless accessibility. It should have clear navigation links and an in place search functionality. Carousel format to showcase products is an intelligible method. Besides drawing user attention to product this style enables visual perception to grasp other recommended products with equal concentration.

2. Carefully word your sale

Never in your marketing campaigns criticize a competitor. Your ethics and values are substantially important in carving your image amidst customers. People don’t via for brands that demonstrate a callous image. Condemning other brands can be perceived as your brands incompetence.

Another way is to support social causes to enjoin your establishment with society’s concern. You can integrate some cause marketing program with your campaign. Toms Marketplace is one such eCommerce site that has enjoined diverse humane causes to every product purchase. The site navigation is clean and versatile to the extent that shoppers can make purchases affiliating to a cause of their choice through ‘Shop by Cause’ option.

Carefully word your sale
Your brand projects a personality. You need to get it just right enough to strike a chord at the right place; neither a subdued design nor a flashy one can make a mark. Unless you merchandise children’s items don’t select comic sans font. A font that matches your genre compliments your motive. Not all customers are discrete about a site’s appeal, but readability matters to everyone.

Every copy that floats on web needs to be exhaustively proofread, because a single grammatical glitch or an overlooked spell error can mortify you in front of your customers. And mind you, such lapses are not expected of responsible firms.

Few sites even sport user testimonials, popular magazine reviews and followership counts to trumpet their renown. And this is by no way against the rules. In fact fusing your social presence with the site will unlock the gates for traffic coming from social media. This idea provides us cues on significance of user reviews in shaping consumer confidence. As the customers get a real life account of products from people who have already used your services, their decision making is facilitated.

3. Product quality makes a difference

In a retail business, nothing except a good quality product holds the power to gratify consumers. Delivering what you promise begets trust in return. Although seasonal sales witness intensified conversions due to price disruptions, but this revenue upsurge mostly confines to discount periods and does not sustain longer. Apart from price cut another reason being the inferior quality of products that do not deliver their value for money. If you sell low quality products to get rid of that old inventory however much you succeed in disburdening yourself, you will end up disappointing a loyal customer, who will never contemplate returning to your site again. State honest product grade information on your site; refrain from deceiving tactics of optimizing products appearance by visual effects. Even sharing user reviews alongside products will be useful in purchase decisions. Some sites also use rating algorithms instead of direct user feedbacks.

Just like the neighbors in your new neighborhood coming to your home, people coming to your site for the first time are unmindful of your strengths. Acquaint them to your flagship products, latest stock additions and discount schemes. Moreover tool tip and field level response messages in forms also boost the user experience on site.

Sometimes people explore online stores with a specific product image in mind, but are not always fortunate to find it. And this inability can greatly benefit your competitors who are just an opportunity away to grab your customers. To avert customers’ migration plans to another site, register their item requests, this would also demonstrate your responsiveness towards needs of a customer.

4. About Us Page

Apparently people who desire to trade with you would want to know about your existence so far and the need that drove you to launch this venture. How long have you been in this business makes a difference when it comes to making buying decisions. People comfortably relate to long-standing brands compared to newbies. Old brands boast of their experience by mentioning their age in their taglines. For example, a popular tomato ketchup brand projects its age of establishment in the logo.

About Us Page

Further, a map showing your company’s geographic location also adds to your credibility certifying your existence. Also include a small contact-us section in your site. Allowing the customers to communicate with you manifests your accountability.

5. Managing product returns

The only spot where online retail lags behind a physical sale is the absence of a physical handshake. Here the trading parties cannot see each other face-to-face, which is a primary aspect of any relationship. But this deficiency can be overcome by modestly serving your customers. While bargain and negotiation cannot be allowed here implementing an exchange and return functionality can do the needful.

A clean trade policy endorses product exchange as an instrument to channel customer trust. Retailers with a friendly retail policy find themselves in consumer’s good books. However difficult it might be to manage returns, this encourages customers to connect with you often. In fact consumer behavior surveys predict consumers select sites with smooth return policy over sites providing higher discount margins. Therefore employing a convenient return of goods policy will win you loyal customers.

6. Be neat with money

Money is a crucial trust determining factor in trade relations. Quote clear prices. Use legible font size and style in displaying numbers. Coming to financial transactions, adoption of a transparent policy as far as product pricing is concerned wins you customer adulations. All the payment steps should furnish appropriate messages to prevent checkout errors.

Sites that ascribe hidden charges into customer bills lose out on customers, eventually falling into oblivion within a span of years. Throwing surprise charges at customers on grounds of shipping costs leads to cart abandonment in future. In fact moving a step ahead in this direction¬ – sites should show an upfront cost bifurcation chart displaying product charges, delivery charges, warranty charges, etc. before urging the customer for payments.

Be neat with money

The best way to cater a large number of buyers is to include varied price range products in your stores. Selling only expensive products may not get you those thrifty shoppers which throng e-stores initially to window shop but encountering a modestly priced commodity, end up buying. Ensure a certified shopping cart transaction that maintains customers’ data privacy. Also provide multiple payment options.

7. Offer detailed product information

There is no exception to people wanting value for money from their purchases. This is the reason people surf more than one eCommerce site before making that purchase. Comparisons are an essential ingredient of purchase decision. Rather than customer opening multiple tabs to compare, it would be very cooperative of the eCommerce site to incorporate product comparisons on the same page.

Offer detailed product information

Comparisons can only transpire between similar objects who have furnished similar information. For instance a consumer looking for 15’ laptop screen will compare only those products who have furnished their screen width. Products that reveal incomplete information stand to lose in competition.

Let the images be shot in-house rather than an online purchased image of the same product. Include real life images into your site that speak of your work culture and people behind the scenes that they could see and believe.

8. Allow a product search feature

Not finding what they want users leave the site and move ahead, but worse is when the product exists on the site, and the customer was unable to locate it. To bring the product to customers table equip your website with a notable search box (preferably at the top of the webpage). A search function brings the required product to users table. E-commerce websites enclose multiple commodities which are spread across numerous pages, scanning all those pages to find one particular product is impractical and time consuming.

There exist two types of search functions: 1. Simple Search and 2. Advanced Search.

Simple Search: Basic search functionality can serve your purpose if you are unable to provide an advanced level search. This type of search is ideally suited for sites that sell lesser items with less variety.

Advanced Search: E-commerce giants like Amazon, who sell almost everything from books to automotive parts, use this search type in their apps and websites. As the products range is diverse, for a customer to reach his desired item requires to cross multiple category filters.

A site that adapts itself to consumers and offers maximum convenience enjoys a privileged stature with consumers.

9. Ensure a speedy response

Monitor your website speed incessantly. If the site’s loading time crosses the accepted duration perimeter it makes your website appear flippant. This is almost like going to a shop where the shopkeeper is very slow to respond. What most people will do in such a scenario is move to another nearby store.

This is the first thing visitors notice on your site. Even the site’s look and feel follows next. And due to its high importance, page ranking algorithms take into account a site’s loading speed. Therefore it is advisable to parsimoniously deflate the size and weight of all those components that add to site load and inhibit response time:

1. Use compressed images as far as possible and optimize them before uploading.
2. Style your text using light weight fonts that are less cumbersome on server.
3. Store bulky scripts and stylesheet separately from the webpage. So that every time a page is refreshed, browser doesn’t have to refresh the css and scripts.
4. If you have a large number of visitors thronging your site everyday, using a Content Delivery Network may help you resolve your problem as it allocates the request to users nearest geographical sever location.

Even websites that include plenteous input parameters considerably ruin user experience. A clean and speedy cart checkout which is secure at the same time, leads the user to the end of the conversion funnel.

Finally

Remember, the faith that customers bestow in your store is your ultimate profit. Be true to your word. Speaking alone will not help you will have to deliver to build trust.

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How to generate leads with 5 essential in-bound marketing techniques for small online businesses

Small business ecommerce lead generationInbound marketing is essentially about attracting people to your website using techniques such as SEO, content marketing, social media and email. For small businesses and ecommerce start-ups it can be particularly appealing as it doesn’t come with the hefty budget required by more traditional outbound marketing approaches like advertising or direct mail.

Inbound marketing delivers 54% more leads than traditional outbound marketing.

Small business and start-ups are unlikely to have an established customer base or a ready-to-use database at their fingertips.  In-bound marketing tactics can build awareness, create interest and consequently attract prospects to your website ready for you to nurture into leads and ultimately loyal customers.

Content ImageThe crux of successful inbound marketing is content. It is through the creation of valuable and engaging content that you can draw visitors to your website and showcase all that your business has to offer.

71% of B2B marketers are using content marketing to generate marketing leads

To get the content right for your business it is essential to do some background work first. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who are you trying to target – who is your key audience? What sector or industry are they in?
  • What information is going to be of interest to them – what kind of content would they find helpful, useful, entertaining or engaging?
  • Where do they look for information – where are they currently getting their industry knowledge (e.g. competitors, organisations, social networks) and what places could you engage with them?

5 Key inbound marketing tactics

There are all-sorts of inbound-tactics you can use to generate leads and grow your business. In this article we just focusing on a few key in-bound techniques that will get you up and running and help attract visitors to your site. It is important to take a long-term approach to in-bound marketing. The benefits may take some time to come to fruition, but will be well worth the time and effort you put in.

1.SEO

Audiences use search engines to discover information and as a consequence search engines can bring a sizeable percentage of traffic to your website. Optimising your online presence to reflect the keywords and phrases relevant to your business and industry is essential if you want to move up the search engine rankings and be found by your target audience. I don’t for one minute suggest the practice of keyword stuffing, rather use keyword research to find the keywords and phrases that are meaningful to your prospective customers.  It is those keywords and phrases that should form the basis of creating engaging, relevant content for your target audience.

blogging2.Blogging

B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads than those that don’t. 

Creating original, fresh, relevant blog posts for your site not only supports your SEO efforts, it draws new visitors to your site, helps build your brand personality, is highly sharable and provides added-value content for established customers.

Think too about guest blogging on other relevant industry sites. This opens your business up to a wider audience and creates links back to your site.

3. Visual content

The last few years have seen visual content literally explode in popularity. Introducing more visuals to your site is a great way to entice your target audience to your ecommerce business. We humans are naturally visual learners so it is no surprise that using visual content can have a greater impact that text alone.

  • Use inspiring and interesting photos and images to support your content.
  • Infographics.  People are 30 times more likely to read an infographic than a text-based piece of content. Infographics are a great way to convey ‘drier’ content such as research and statistics in an engaging format. There are a number of online tools such as Easel.ly and Piktochart that make it simple for you to create your own infographics using ready-made templates that won’t cost the earth to produce,
  • Video. People are naturally drawn to other people so videos are a great way to build a brand personality and put a face to your business. Implement an ‘ About Us’ or ‘Meet the Team’ video or try video blogging. You can also use video to help your convey complex information in a digestible format though Video Tutorials or How to Guides. And, interestingly, using videos on landing pages increase conversion by 86%

4. Email Marketing

Email is an essential part of the in-bound marketers’ toolkit. The added benefits for small businesses is that it is cost-effective, easy to measure and offers a healthy ROI. Use email marketing to communicate to your audience on a regular basis such as through a weekly or fortnightly newsletter. Email is a great way to build relationships and keep your business at the forefront of your audience’s mind. Offer links back to the valuable content on your site such as latest industry news, videos or your latest blog post.


Social media5. Social Media

Utilise your social media platforms to drive your prospects to your online content such as your blog, news articles, video tutorials – in fact all the compelling content you have created.

Rather than taking a scatter gun approach to social media, focus your efforts on the key social media platforms where you customers are. For example if you own a craft store you are probably likely to find Facebook or Pinterest relevant.  Whereas B2B’s may generate more leads through platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter. Indeed,  44% of B2B marketers have generated leads through LinkedIn.

Converting visitors to prospects

Of course once you have enticed your target audience to your website and sparked their interest with all your compelling content, you need to try to convert them into leads by encouraging them to impart their contact information.

  • Optimise your website to make it simple for people to sign-up. Don’t ask for unnecessary information and ensure any forms they may have to complete are quick and straightforward. In the first case of getting people to sign up to your newsletter, a first name and email address will suffice.
  • Offer incentives. Valuable, desirable content such as white papers, eBooks, special offers and giveaways are a great way to get visitors to pass you their details. Rule of thumb – the more valuable the reward the more information you can gather.

Of course the next part of the journey is turning those leads into paying customers…!

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences using in-bound marketing techniques, so please do leave a comment. 

 

 

 

 

 

11 Tactics to Improve Checkout Conversions and Reduce Abandoned Carts

11 Tactics to Improve Checkout Conversions and Reduce Abandoned Carts
What’s worse than not getting enough users to your e-commerce site? Losing out the ones that do visit your site thanks to a slew of abandoned shopping carts.

Abandoned shopping carts cost e-commerce companies trillions in lost sales every single year. The fact remains that nearly 69% of all shopping carts are abandoned by would be shoppers. While the reasons for shopping cart abandonment are many and varied, the solution is simple. Think like a customer when building your checkout process. The lower the easier it is to shop on your site, the lower will be the likelihood of vanishing would-be customers. Here are a few tips on getting those users to stick around longer and buy more.

1. Shorter, Quicker Checkout

Going by the attention span figures we saw earlier, another key takeaway is that your checkout process needs to be short and snappy. Research shows that the average number of steps in the checkout process of the top 100 e-commerce sites came in at 5.08 steps. Try and stay under that number – the shorter, the better.

Data proves this. Online travel giant Expedia grew their profits by an incremental $12 million in 2011 by simply deleting one single field in their checkout process. Sounds tempting now, doesn’t it?

2. Allow Guest Checkouts

Among the many reasons that make me such an Amazon junkie, is how much I hate creating a new profile on new e-commerce sites and remember the new username and password for each new site. It’s just easier to stick with the first profile I ever made – my Amazon one. I’m confident there are definitely tons of people like me out there who do not bother shopping on new e-commerce sites for identical reasons.

Don’t let your shoppers’ inherent laziness prevent you from bagging more conversions. Allow users to check out as guests on your site and save them the torture of compulsory registration. You can always email your users an auto-generated password to go with their email ID after they complete the transaction, if you must have a registered account for every user.

3. Collect Only Necessary Data Via Forms

Collect Only Necessary Data Via FormsSome businesses need more user data than others as a matter of fact. Buying an insurance policy online will obviously entail giving a lot more information regarding your health as compared to buying a digital camera. However, many e-commerce businesses do not realize how cumbersome it is for users to provide answers to endless questions on their forms and go ahead with monster sized online forms anyway.

Avoid this fundamental mistake. Ask only for information that is absolutely essential for you to process the transaction. Asking users to part with unnecessary data only makes them part with your site at double speed.

4. Autofill in Forms

Steve Krug’s iconic tome on usability ‘Don’t Make Me Think’, talks about reducing the effort a user needs to put in to complete any task on your website. The lesser the effort needed, the higher are the resulting conversion rates.

Apply Mr. Krug’s advice to your checkout forms. Autofill content wherever possible to make the process quicker and smoother for the user. If the user is signed in, autofill his name, address, phone number, even credit card details if you have them on record. That is not to say that you do not allow users to modify these details for each transaction if they choose so.

5. Checkout Completion Bar

Have you noticed that it is easier to complete tasks when you have the end in sight than those where you have no clue how much more time or effort you’ll need to put in? Yes, the anticipation of a result makes us move quicker and distances seem shorter.

Incorporate a task completion bar near the top of your checkout process indicating the user’s progress. As the user gets closer to completing the purchase, the progress bar lights up accordingly showing the user that the destination is just a step or two away.

6. No Hidden Costs

The single biggest reason why online shoppers abandon their shopping carts is when they are faced with sudden unexpected costs at the payment stage. This could be shipping fees, taxes, services charges or the like that make a user stop short in their tracks.

Avoid unpleasant surprises by displaying clearly all the involved costs upfront within the shopping cart at the very beginning. Leaving a user feeling cheated is the worst thing you can do for your brand.

7. Product Reviews and Ratings

Research by Nielsen has shown that word of mouth advice stands out as the biggest factor that convinces a user to buy a product or service. Buyers tend to believe the words of other buyers like themselves instead of believing the marketing spiel from the brand itself, as they see through the vested interests involved there. Factor in this insight when you design your product pages on your e-commerce site.

Users don’t have the luxury of touch and feel when they buy a product online. All they have to go on are product descriptions from the manufacturer (which they would normally discount) and reviews by other users. A product that has multiple reviews from existing users has a far higher chance of being bought than one that has none. Actively solicit product reviews and ratings from past customers. They will help you reel in new ones in the future.

8. Free Shipping

Free Shipping
E-commerce has a huge edge over brick and mortar stores in that they save on rent, utilities, overheads, warehousing and more, thanks to the absence of a real storefront. Conversely, the absence of a storefront means, users have no choice but to pay extra for shipping the products they buy online to their doorsteps. As a shopper yourself, you obviously know how much any shopper hates paying extra for anything in their purchase process. In fact, expensive shipping is among the biggest reasons for shoppers abandoning their carts before completing a purchase.

Get over this bump by offering your users free shipping wherever you can. Amazon has recently started offering free shipping for small, lightweight items with no minimum purchase requirement. This is a smart step to fend off competition from the online versions of Walmart and Target, which allow users to pick up items bought online from their physical locations for no fee at all. You may not be Amazon, but working out at least a free shipping option above a certain minimum purchase amount will not only benefit users; it will also push your average order value higher as users try and qualify for the free shipping offer.

9. Editable Shopping Cart

How many times have you gone back to the rack where you picked up an item in a store and exchanged it for another one before heading to the cash register? If you’re an indecisive shopper like me, multiple times would be my bet.

Not every shopper knows exactly what they want. Sometimes they’re just browsing and might change their minds halfway through the shopping process. Recognize this fickle nature of the average shopper and allow them to go back and edit the contents of their cart without having to redo the entire purchase from the beginning. A shopping cart that allows edits till right before the payments stage is one that loses much fewer shoppers than one that does not. Opt for the sticky version for your online shopping cart.

10. Multiple Payment Options

Multiple Payment Options
Imagine going into a candy store, picking out your favorite bits of candy, handing over your cash to the nice lady at the register, only to be told that your cash is no good. You need to pay for your candy in cowrie shells.

That’s kind of what happens to a shopper when your online store does not support the payment option that your user would like to use. In spite of wanting to complete the purchase, the user has no choice but to leave their shopping incomplete thanks to restrictive payment conditions. Stop frustrating potential shoppers and extend your payment options to include the most popular payment methods. Not only will your customers thank you for it, your bottom line will too. A shopping cart like ShopIntegrator allows you to offer users a variety of payment options ranging from debit card, credit card, bank transfers to PayPal and offline payments.

11. Security Labels

It is not enough to merely accept a variety of payment options on your website to convince users to buy from you. It’s equally important to assure them of the security of your site and the fact that their payment details and personal information are a 100% safe with you. This has become even more critical in the last few years thanks to all the cases of data theft that have come to light with large retailers like Target and eBay.

Besides displaying your returns and refund policy prominently in your checkout process, also make it a point to display security labels like VeriSign or McAfee Secure on your payments page. Familiar and trusted security symbols reassure users that they are shopping on a safe site and there’s no danger to their financial information. Making sure that your checkout process is hosted on an HTTPS protocol is another important step in this direction.

Conclusion

Improving checkout conversions is not a quick fix that you implement in one go. It’s a process that evolves with your website and changes based on your audience’s preferences. From helping users with live chat to displaying customer care numbers prominently, to even rewarding users for a completed purchase, there are multiple steps that you can take based on your reading of your users’ behavior on your site.

Remember, reducing cart abandonment is no one-size-fits-all formula. Once you get the basics described here in place on your site, incremental growth comes from understanding your users and modifying your approach accordingly.

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How to use online video to improve your content marketing

online video marketingThe last few years have seen online video literally explode onto the scene and its popularity doesn’t look like it is going to wane any time soon. Indeed somewhat mind-bogglingly, researchers predict that by 2019 it would take an individual 5 million years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks each month.

Online video has become an increasingly important component of successful content marketing and as such it is something that all small online businesses should be thinking about incorporating into their online presence.

Interesting video statistics include:

  •  Website visitors are 64% more likely to buy a product after watching a video about it.
  • 7 billion videos are watched each and every day on Facebook and YouTube.
  • 4 times as many consumers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it.
  • 56% of consumers believe that if a company has a website, it should have video.
  • Posts with videos attract three times as many inbound links as plain text posts.
  • Globally, consumer internet video traffic will be 80% of all consumer internet traffic by 2019.
  • 55% of people watch videos online everyday.

Benefits for small businesses

At a time when we are drowning in online information, video can convey a message in a format that is easily digestible and naturally engaging. As a small business this can help you stand out from the crowd and get your message heard. In addition:

Low production costs. You no longer need a hefty budget or in-depth technical knowledge to produce high-quality videos. Some excellent videos have been put together using just a Smartphone.  Online video creation services such as Animoto, GoAnimate and Stupeflix offer reasonably priced business packages that enable even a complete beginner to quickly and easily put together professional-quality videos with their pictures and video clips.

Helps with SEO. Search engines love fresh relevant and original content as Video. Research has shown that websites with video content are 53 times more likely to rank on page one of Google.

Made for sharing. Videos are more likely to get shared than other content. Indeed, 92% of mobile video viewers share videos with others.

Build your brand personality.  Clever use of video can help bring personality to your business.  You can use it to develop an image of how you’d like your business to be perceived.

5 tips to improve online video content5 ways to enhance your online video content

To help improve your content marketing efforts we’ve come up with a few online video ideas to get you started.

1. Showcasing. Use video to showcase your products in real-life scenarios or situations. Your audience will get a better feel for a product which in turn gives them the added reassurance that what they see is what they will receive upon delivery. Many online clothing retailers use video to help reassure customers. For example take a look at how Boden uses video.

2. Demonstrating. Video is a great way to demonstrate how a particular product or service works. ‘How to Guides’ and tutorials can impart complex information in an easily digestible manner. Indeed 4 in 5 consumers say a video showing how a product or service works is important. Here at ShopIntegrator we use online video tutorials to help clients set up their online shops.

3. Personality building. Meet the team’ or ‘about us’ videos, are a great way to build brand personality. Take a look at Stella & Dot’s ‘Our Story’ video. They successfully use video to give their audience a real feel for the people behind the business and its brand values. A short 60 second video about what makes your business unique can be a really powerful sales tool.

4. Customer testimonials. Customer testimonials are a helpful tool in the sales conversion process, they add credibility to your business and offer customer added reassurance about potential purchasing decisions. Whilst text only testimonials are fine, think about capturing some testimonials from your customers on video. Videos are more engaging and visitors will get a better understanding of the kind of business you are from your customer community.

5. Online advertising. Don’t forget about using video in your online advertising. Online display advertising is rapidly on the up with Forrester predicting spending will nearly double by 2019. This rise will be primarily driven by video advertising. Research indicates that consumers are very receptive to video advertising and are 27 times more likely to click-through on online video ads than standard banner advertisements.

share videos on social media
Top tips for successful online videos

And finally, we’ll leave you with a few helpful tips to ensure successful online video content.

  • Try to keep your videos as short and sweet  as possible. Nearly 2/3 of people prefer videos of under 60 seconds so aim to keep them as short and as informative as you can.
  • Always go for quality over quantity. It is better to produce fewer, relevant and well executed videos than churning out lots of unprofessional, immaterial offerings
  • The beauty of video is its shareability.  People like sharing videos so make sure you make it easy for people to do so by including social sharing buttons. Try also including  a clear call to action such as ‘If you enjoyed this video please share it with your friends’.
  • Post and promote your videos content on a variety of platforms. Social media is the perfect environment for video sharing. Indeed, since June 2014 Facebook has averaged more than 1 billion video views every day. And, from January this year iPhone and Android Twitter users can actually capture, edit and share videos of up to 30 seconds duration on Twitter.
  • Use video links in your email communications. Not only are you promoting your videos, your emails are more likely to get opened if they include a video. In fact, customers are nearly 50% more likely to read email newsletters that include links to video.
  • Spend time on your title. Your video title is important. In the same way you would take time to craft a good headline, create a strong, relevant title for your video using appropriate keywords.
  • Always keep you audience in mind. When you are creating your video content, just like any other content marketing, remember your audience. Think about what information will be of interest to them. What would they like to see?
  • Include your URL. Use your video to drive traffic to your site by including your business’ URL in both the video and your video’s description. . Remember people will be viewing your video on a multitude of different screens so make sure it can be viewed equally well no matter the device. In fact, are now on mobile devices
  • Multi-device friendly. Remember people will be viewing your video on a multitude of different screens so make sure it can be viewed equally well no matter the device. In fact, half of all YouTube views are now on mobile devices.

As a small business owner, you really can’t afford not to include video in your content marketing in some shape or form. It is far more accessible now and doesn’t cost the earth to produce professional, high quality video.  Hopefully we’ve given you a bit of inspiration and some helpful tips to get you started.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on using online video content, so please do feel free to leave a comment. 

 

 

15 Tips to Master mCommerce

15 Tips to Master mCommerceThe march of mobile devices on the humble desktop computer has been happening for the last few years. With smartphone penetration now standing at over half the adult population of both the US and the UK, the first world is finally keeping pace with the rapidly ‘mobifying’ developing economies of the world.

The Branding Brand Mobile Commerce Index compares mCommerce figures for January 2015 with those from last year. Desktop revenues fell from 81% to 76% of the total online revenues, while smartphone revenues grew by 50% to account for 12% of total online revenues.

The writing on the wall is clear. Users are shifting to mobile. They’re spending progressively larger amounts of time and money on mobile devices. If businesses plan to remain in business, it follows that they go where the consumers are. Welcome mCommerce.

mCommerce is essentially eCommerce transported to the mobile platform. While the basic idea is the same, the details differ greatly. Here’s a rundown of the top 15 things you need to fix on your website to master your mCommerce plans.

1. Responsive Design

This is the same advice that prescient web gurus have been touting for the last half decade. No, there’s no more debate on whether we need responsive design. We most definitely do. While responsive design is not the only way for your e-commerce site to be mobile friendly, it definitely is the most convenient from a site maintenance and marketing perspective.

Moreover, Google too prefers responsive design over mobile only websites or adaptive designs. When the big G has spoken, how dare we not comply?

2. No Flash

This one’s a no brainer by now. The Apple juggernaut and the ‘flash blindness’ of all its assorted i-devices means that Flash started to fade away from desktop sites over the last few years. The fact that mobile browsing has now overtaken desktop browsing means that the mobile web will have no room for Flash enabled sites.

Steer clear of flash. If you do have to have animation on your mobile site, opt for HTML5 instead.

3. Full featured Site, not ‘Desktop-Lite’

Too many mobile sites that you see are built as a bonus or add-on to the ‘main’ desktop site. The mobile site typically offers access to the key sections of the site, but a large part of the site’s functionality is often restricted on mobile devices.

No more. Stop viewing your mobile sites as ‘good to have’ add-ons. Soon, they’ll be your primary breadwinners. Equip them with the full range of features and functionality that your main site would provide, but remember to keep them light and easy to move around in.

4. Optimize for Search Engines

The largest chunk of users (48%) begin their product research on search engines on their mobile devices. This means all that effort that you’ve been putting in on your website SEO now needs to be doubled and applied to your mobile site as well.

So what if your pages are tiny? Your keywords still matter on mobile. The fact that you have a mobile optimized site goes a long way in helping your mobile SEO. Quality inbound links to your mobile pages help identify your site as authoritative and contributes to a better ranking.

5. Consistent Look and Feel

Consumers are creatures of habit. Once a customer is familiar with your brand or your website, they tend to expect a similar experience each time they visit your site or store. A sudden change in the UX can cause friction in the user’s purchase journey – something that leads to abandoned shopping carts.

Avoid a jarring change in user experience by designing your mobile and desktop sites in a similar style. The colors, layouts, page elements and transitions should be kept consistent to build a strong brand recall across all devices.

6. Short, Prefilled Forms

Mobile devices typically have screens that are too tiny for typing in long bits of data. E-commerce sites are notorious for the umpteen forms that they expect customers to fill out to complete the sale.

Don’t fall prey to this rookie mistake on your mobile site. Keep the forms short and ask for only as much information as you really, truly need. Wherever possible pre-fill forms e.g. state, country or zip code can be pre-filled on mobile using the mobile’s IP address and GPS location tracking.

7. Personalized Content

As mentioned earlier, mobile devices have much smaller screens than laptops or desktops. While personalization is a given for e-commerce sites; your mCommerce site needs the same TLC from a personalization perspective. In fact, offering users suggestions proactively, makes it easier for a user to see and select relevant options for their purchases on mobile.

It’s a well-documented fact that personalization enhances that user’s experience on your site and helps them buy more as well as buy easily. By offering personalized product suggestions on mobile devices, you’re aiding your users’ product search. You’re also sending a gentle reminder that your users’ preferences matter to you and you take the extra effort to show them what you think they’ll like. Double win.

8. Don’t Skimp on Images, but Keep Them Light

As an e-commerce site, product images are a must have on your website. Expecting users to convert without an image is like expecting your dog to recite Shakespeare after he rips a play to pieces. It goes without saying that your mobile site needs those product images just as much as your desktop site does. There’s just one problem.

The better is your image, the higher is the space it will occupy on the server, leading to higher load times. A way out of this conundrum is to use image optimizers that will resize as well as compress images and make them perfect for being shared on your website whether online or on mobile. Don’t penalize your users by costing them extra in data charges with your heavy image files. Keep ‘em light.

9. Large Buttons, More White Space

How many of us have not experienced the frustration of typing stuff into a mobile screen and pushing teeny tiny buttons only to mix them up and have to redo what we were doing all over again? A sizeable number, is my bet. Fat-finger syndrome is quite universal and overcoming it is often a mobile UX designer’s biggest challenge.

Give your users a break from their fat-finger fumblings by offering larger buttons so they don’t push the wrong one. Reduce the clutter on your pages and keep enough breathing room or white space around your main content. This not only helps your main message stand out in a small space, it also makes it easier for users to avoid mistakes when accessing your site.

10. No Sliders

Automated slideshows that showcased a different offer on each slide were all the rage about five years ago. Nearly every website was designed with a slideshow that had at least four different ‘hero banners’ that rotated on a click or automatically. Most took over the lion’s share of the screen above the fold. When websites started being adapted for mobile, the same design carried on to tiny mobile screens.

Imagine trying to click on a banner that’s in constant motion on a tiny screen. Tough. Besides, the sliders were proven to be a bad idea from a conversion perspective even on a desktop site long ago. You don’t want yesterday’s badly performing technology on your spanking new mobile site.

11. No Drop Down Menus

I am going back to the same argument of small screen sizes and fat fingers to justify this one. Drop down menus typically have five or six different navigation options that a user would then have to pick from to proceed on your site. Trouble is, most drop down menus open in a way that not all options are even visible on the mobile screen as they end up below the fold. By scrolling lower, the drop down menu retract into themselves, thus making the task of navigation pretty well frustrating.

Have easily clickable category buttons that drill down deep into sub categories instead of impossible to handle drop down menus.

12. Search

Desktop sites see about 30% of their users heading straight for the search bar to locate what they want on your site. With navigation on mobile sites not really a walk in the park, I’m going to bet that even more users are search buffs on mobile sites than they are on the desktop versions.

Don’t take search away from your mobile experience in a quest to keep the site light and quick to load. Search is an integral component of the online experience. Let’s not spoil it for our users. You may not be able to offer images of searched items on autocomplete, but you definitely can provide a well-designed search function to your mobile audience.

13. Reduce Checkout Steps

The longer your checkout process is, the higher are the chances that a user gets distracted and / or bored and leaves the purchase process. This is true on desktop sites. It’s doubly true for mobile sites. The reason is simple. There are only so many tiny pages your users have the patience to navigate through before they complete the transaction.

The average length of the checkout process across the 100 top grossing websites is 5.08 steps. That’s for desktop checkouts. Try and keep under that number of 5 steps and you’ll be on the right track. If nothing else, take a cue from Amazon. Their one-click shopping patent was way ahead of the times when it was launched and will continue to be the gold standard for e-commerce checkouts at least for the foreseeable future.

14. Save for Later Option

Mobile users spend inordinate amounts of time browsing online via their smartphones. This means, a lot of visits to your site can be mere window shopping, and not visits with a real purchase intent behind them. But hey, that does not mean we waste the visit that a window shopper makes to your site.

Give your window shoppers a reason to come back by offering a ‘save for later’ option on your mobile site. The constant proximity of the mobile phone, the large amounts of time users spend on them, the ease of retrieving a bookmarked item and the speed with which payments can be processed on mobile all come together to make ‘save for later’ fertile grounds for stepping up your conversions.

15. Allow Social Logins

Very few e-commerce sites allow users to make purchases on a consistent basis without creating a user profile. While some force users to create a new user ID before making even their first purchase, most smart sites create an ID for the user themselves after the initial guest purchase. Even in this more strategically thought out scenario, the user still needs to create and remember a brand new password for all future transactions. Quite a hassle, when you take into account all the various sites an average online shopper shops on.

That’s where social login steps in. Most users are permanently signed in on social media apps on their smartphones. By offering social login on your mobile site, you allow users to sign in with the Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or similar social credentials making the process seamless and quick for them. Your users are saved the hassle of remembering yet another password. In the process, you get access to your users’ social information – something that can be used to personalize their experience on your site even better.

Parting Thoughts

Mobile internet outstripped PC based access already last year. Clearly, it’s not a matter of should your business be mobile ready, but more of is it ready yet. Share with us what steps you have taken to step into the era of device agnostic commerce. We’d love to hear from you!

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How to build a successful Twitter presence for your small online business

twitter for small businessWith 302 million monthly active users, Twitter still has plenty to offer small businesses. It’s a great tool for promoting awareness, driving traffic to your site, generating sales, engaging with customers and building your brand personality. Of course, as with any social media platform, in order to be successful you need to be following best practice and have set yourself clear goals. Otherwise you could be investing valuable time and effort with little to show in return.

What do you want to achieve?

Twitter can successfully work as part of a wider integrated marketing strategy. According to small business research, 60% of respondents have purchased from small and medium businesses because of Twitter.

But to be successful it is important that you define and prioritise your goals.  If you’re busily tweeting away with no clear sense of purpose the benefits are unlikely to match the time and effort you may be putting in.

So think about what your key business objectives are. For example are you looking to:

  • Build followers.
  • Increase engagement amongst target audience.
  • Grow awareness of your brand.
  • Generate sales leads.
  • Drive traffic to your site.

The clearer your are about what it is you want to achieve the more focused you can be in your approach to your Twitter activities.

We’ve put together some easy to implement best practice tips to help you make the most of your Twitter presence.

Getting off to a good start

If you’re not already using Twitter then getting off to a good start is important. Once you’ve signed up you’ll need to create your username (also known as your Twitter handle). For example ours is @shopintegrator. Then you’ll create a profile bio, add a profile pic – these should succinctly reflect your business. Next its time to start looking for the right people to follow – which of course will be dependent upon the industry and business you are in.

Check out Twitter’s own business resource Twitter For Business. You’ll find plenty of useful advice to get you off to a confident start.

Tweeting essentials

  • Include the Twitter ‘Follow Us’ button on your website.
  • Tweet regularly but ensure it is something worth sharing.
  • Keep your brand’s personality and voice consistent in your Tweets.
  • Don’t make it all about you. Share links and retweet anything that will be of interest to your followers.
  • Don’t use up all your 140 characters. You’ll want to leave enough room for people retweet.
  • Use hashtags but don’t go mad. One or two per tweet is probably about right.
  • Recycle your best tweets with some re-wording. Research shows that a repeated tweet can get as much as 86% performance as the original tweet.
  • Promote your Twitter username online and offline

visual contant on TwitterIncrease your visual content

As visual content becomes increasingly important within social media, try to include more images and photos in your Tweets. According to HubSpotTweets with images receive 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites and 150% more retweets – so it’s definitely one to think about. Remember though, when you are posting images they count as a link and so will automatically use up 22 characters.  Keep your tweets extra concise to allow for re-tweeting.

Videos are also a great way to capture and engage an audience. Since January this year iPhone and Android Twitter users can actually capture, edit and share videos of up to 30 seconds duration on Twitter.

Share interesting and varied content

Twitter isn’t just about relentlessly pushing your own agenda. You need to mix up your content so it is varied and interesting. If you’re stuck here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Eye-catching images and videos.
  • Links to your blog articles.
  • Latest industry news and titbits.
  • Behind the scenes peeks at your business photos.
  • Funny and inspiring quotes.
  • Start conversations by posing questions.
  • Product launches.
  • Industry statistics.
  • Latest trends.
  • Ask advice.
  • Share tips and recommendations.

Social on TwitterBe social

“80% of your Tweets should focus on driving interactions with your followers, such as retweets, replies, and favourites.” Twitter for Business

Central to your Twitter success is building a genuine rapport with your followers. Try using Twitter’s 80/20 ratio. Don’t just bombard your followers with tweets that push your businesses products and services. 80% of your tweets should be sharing links, retweeting and joining conversations.

You are trying to show the person behind  your business so always take a friendly and positive approach to your interactions.

Measure your performance

Don’t just tweet merrily away without taking a step back to analyse your performance. Twitter Analytics is worth spending some time getting familiar with. The Twitter dashboard can give you all sorts of interesting information about how you are doing. For example:

  • At a glance 28 day summary: Tweets sent, profile visit, mentions, new followers, top tweet, top mention and top followers.
  • Tweets: Impressions, engagement, retweets, replies and link clicks.
  • Follower insights. Interests, location, gender and who your followers are following.

Digging a bit deeper into how you are performing and getting to know who is following you will enable you to better focus your Twitter efforts.

Following best practice and implementing even just some of the tips we’ve talked about will help your business get more out of Twitter. We’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences on Twitter so please do leave a comment.

8 Tips to Select a Payment Processor for Your Online Store

8 Tips to Select a Payment Processor for Your Online Store
Setting up a business these days does not require nearly as much legwork as it did just five years ago. Even a blog or a plain website can be transformed into a full blown commercial site, capable of handling e-commerce transactions with a simple shopping cart plugin like ShopIntegrator. However, that’s the easy part.

To a layman payment happens in either cash or on-cash modes. In cash payments mode, you need to have physical outlets that can collect payments before releasing the items purchased. In a non-cash system, users swipe credit or debit cards on your site to transfer cash from their bank accounts to yours. Alternately, they pay via a service like PayPal where no cash changes hands, no cards are swiped, instead the user’s bank account is charged for a product they bought and transferred into PayPal’s account. Till the product gets delivered to the buyer, the amount does not get transferred to your bank account.

By and large, e-commerce stores in the developed world, only accept non-cash payments. Even after you pick your e-commerce template or shopping cart plugin, you still need to make one final choice before the money can start rolling in – choosing your payments processor. Here we shall go a little further in depth on how to pick the perfect payment processing service for your new store.

Processing an Online Payment

A non-cash payment online requires three basic entities to be processed.

a. The payment gateway
b. The payment processors
c. The merchant accounts

The payment gateway is like a fact checker that sits between your site and the customer. It verifies the authenticity of a user’s payment method and allows the transaction to proceed.

The payment processor does the actual transfer of money from the user’s account into the merchant account.

The merchant account holds cash that is transferred from the user’s account before it is moved into your bank account.

Typically, payment processors and merchant accounts come bundled together, while payment gateways are separate. However, lately there has been the emergence of three-in-one accounts that bundle all three entities into a single consolidated service. Services like Stripe or PayPal are examples of consolidated payment services. However, this convenience comes at a cost. These consolidated payment services typically charge the merchant a much higher per transaction fee, which can add up to a lot once you outgrow your startup status and start having some real good transaction volumes.

Once your business starts growing bigger and bigger in terms of revenues and transaction volume, it makes financial sense to switch to having your own merchant account and payment processor combination separate from the payment gateway.

Considerations While Selecting a Payment Processor

So you decided to go the route of a separate payment processor and merchant account to save some much needed extra cash. But what do you look for in a good payment processor before you make the final call? Here are the key factors that you ought to consider.

1. Security

With the spate of data breaches that online retailers have suffered in the last couple of years, your number one concern while picking a payment processor has to be security.

a. Data encryption is a basic must have for a payment processor, where user data is encrypted into uncrackable codes before it is transferred from one party to the other.
b. PCI Standards compliance or Payment Card Industry Security Standards compliance is a must have to be able to compete effectively in the modern e-commerce space.
c. Verisign SSL certificate tells you that the payment processor offers your users SSL security for payment transactions. In other words, payments sent over an SSL connection are doubly secure than regular connections.
d. Address Verification – Payment processors ask for billing address for a credit or debit card from a user to verify it against the actual billing address listed against said card. This minimizes the risk of fraudulent transactions and protects user data.
e. CVV2 verification refers to the three digits that appear alongside the signature panel at the back of a credit or debit card. Asking for this number ensures that the user actually has physically with him / her and is not misusing a credit card number found accidentally on a credit card statement or other such correspondence.
f. Reputation – Finally, check for the reputation of a payment processor before you commit to one. A quick online search with keywords like ‘data breach’ or ‘security lapse’ accompanied by the payment processor’s name will give you a wealth of information about whichever processor you may be considering.

2. User Friendliness

When a user is mid-transaction on your website, even a small hitch in payments or page load time or even unexpected shipping charges is enough to scare them away into abandoning the cart altogether. Hence, the best e-commerce sites seek to minimize friction in a user’s experience, especially in the checkout stage. Having a payment processor that handles the transaction as smoothly as possible plays a huge role in ensuring that the user experience remains exemplary.

a. Onsite vs. offsite processing – When payment data is collected and processed in a single flow without the user ever having to leave your website, you have onsite seamless processing. While this may be great from a UX perspective, it puts the liability of data security, firewalls and more squarely on your shoulders.

The other option is offsite processing, where the user is taken to the payment processor’s site and any financial data is handled directly by the payment processor, thus vastly reducing liability on you as a website owner. The other benefit of offsite processing is the fact that users are usually familiar with processing companies like PayPal and trust them implicitly. So even if you are a new startup, by offering processors that are reputed and trusted, you earn some of that user faith by association.

Incidentally, ShopIntegrator offers offsite processing to ensure peace of mind for all its users.

b. Analytics – Many payment processors offer customer data to the websites that they service. Detailed analytics like purchase frequency, average order value and more can be available without you running a single report in your own analytics software. An added bonus that verifies your numbers is always welcome.

c. Multiple cards supported – Look out for processors that can support multiple types of cards and payment modes. A potential customer who does not see his preferred payment mode supported is bound to drop off your site leading to a lost opportunity. Check whether your payment processor covers the entire gamut from Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, Diner’s Club to digital wallets like PayPal.

d. Mobile Payments Supported – With more users now accessing the internet via their mobile phones than PCs, it is imperative that your payment processor support mobile payments. Top e-commerce sites in emerging markets like India have over 50% of their total transactions coming from mobile platforms. The growing popularity of Apple Pay and consequently the renewed focus on Google Wallet and other mobile wallets like Venmo, make mobile payments support even more critical.

3. Fees

A payment processor will let your users transact via their existing infrastructure, but these services come at a cost. Many e-commerce sites make the mistake of picking the processor with the lowest fee, without balancing those out against the services that they render. Avoid this trap of opting for the cheapest service out there, but simultaneously don’t forget to keep close tabs on the cost of associating with your chosen payment processor. I say this, because it’s not one, but a host of fees that a typical payment processor will charge you. These include:

a. Setup Fees – Usually a one-time fee at the time of registration.
b. Variable Fees – These are fees that depend on the transaction volumes on your site as well as the types of services you opt for from the processor, e.g. per transaction fees, authorization fees, address verification fees, and more.
c. Recurring monthly / annual fees – Recurring monthly or annual fees are levied when you’re not charged a per transaction fee. This works well for larger e-commerce sites where the transaction volume is high and a per-transaction fee would not be cost effective.
d. Extras – These are fees that pop up, often unexpectedly. They’re rarely advertised on a payment processor’s website, usually finding their home in the fine print of some contract that you click ‘I agree’ on. Make sure you check upfront with your payment processor about these very specifically, as many processors attempt to make a quick buck out of these vague fees like cancellation fees for transactions that were cancelled by a customer. When a user’s details entered during the transaction do not match their real details, a transaction can be labelled ‘disqualified’ and your site gets charged an ‘unqualified transaction fee’.

4. Currency Support

The USP of having an e-commerce business is having the ability to sell to any one, located anywhere in the world. Most leading payment processors like FirstData, PayPal and Stripe tend to offer support for multiple currency types. This ensures that your user does not have to face the complication of currency conversions at the time of payment, leading to a lower chance of cart abandonment. However, multi-currency support comes at a price. Many processors (not all) charge a currency conversion fee for cross border transactions.

But offering multiple currencies on your site has more upsides to it than downsides. Multiple currency support means your site can even cater to visiting foreigners who might only have credit cards in their home currency. Moreover, the fact that your site already supports multiple currencies makes it easier for you to officially make a foray into new countries, opening up new avenues for your business and its revenue generating potential. Always a great thing to have!

5. Country Support

You might think I’m being repetitive here, but I’m actually not.

While people can pay with multiple currencies while still within the geographical boundaries of your home country, having multi-country support is a completely different ballgame. Most payment processors allow users to pay from different geographical locations as long as they pay in just a handful of supported currencies. While having limited currency support can be a limiting factor, not having multi-country support means your loyal customers can’t use your services anymore if they decide to travel or move away from home base.

6. Platform Support

Is your payment processor compatible with your e-commerce platform? However awesome a payment processor maybe, if their technology does not match up to that of your platform’s there’s not much you can do about it. Since both payment processing and overall design, layout and functionality are key factors that affect the success of any e-commerce site, it makes sense to first do your research about all the various e-commerce platforms you like and match them up against the payment processors that these can work with, before you make the big decision of building your site with any one platform.

I’m going to make your life easier by offering you a handy peek at the various payment processors that ShopIntegrator works with, just in case you’re shopping around for a reliable and functional e-commerce platform!

7. Business Support

So you’ve finally narrowed down your payment processors to a handful. These are not too expensive, are secure, are easy to use, are compatible with your e-commerce platform and more. You’re all set, right? Wrong.

Even if a payment processor ticks off all the boxes in the list above, it still needs to fulfill one critical condition – whether it supports your business or not. Confused? Allow me to explain. Many e-commerce sites deal with products that may or may not be endorsed by all payment processors for various factors ranging from moral reasons, to health reasons, to riskiness of the venture. If your e-commerce site sells items like tobacco, arms and ammunitions, adult toys or content etc. there is a good chance that you may either get rejected by the payment processor you approach or may be stuck paying much higher fees than businesses that operate in less ‘risky’ sectors.

8. Customer Service

Just as your users expect great customer service from you, you have a right to receive professional customer service from your payment processor. Check whether the processor you’ve shortlisted offers round the clock customer service. What languages do they offer support in? Are they at least available during the time the majority of your users are online? How proactive are they at fixing potential problems? Do they need to be chased continuously and hounded down for basic troubleshooting services? All these are legitimate questions that you ought to have answers to before making such a large commitment. Remember, a failure on the payment processor’s part can result in a negative user experience for your own customer, usually for no fault of yours at all. You don’t want to lose customers or be constantly on the backfoot with a payment processor who is highly unreliable.

As before, you can either Google this info or visit forums that offer inside news about individual payment processor. Better still, if you personally know someone who has used their services in the past, it’s a good idea to pick their brains before embarking on a partnership with a new payment processor.

In Closing

These pieces of advice are just an aggregation of my personal knowledge about the payment processing industry, its players and their relationships with their merchant partners. By no means is this an exhaustive list. However, it does give you an idea of what to expect once the deed is done. Choosing a payment processor is like choosing a spouse – preferably a once in a lifetime event that has a whole lot riding on it. Don’t hurry this decision. Weigh all your options carefully and then go with what makes most sense taking all possible aspects into consideration.

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