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 spring clean your small business website with 7 top tips to optimise your online presence

website spring cleanTime to spring clean your website?

When was the last time you put specific time aside to review and improve your website?  When first setting up a website a huge amount of time and effort goes into its design and function. However, once up and running smoothly we tend to breathe a sigh of relief and get on with all the other demands associated with a small business. It’s all too easy to get complacent and before you realise a significant amount of time has lapsed without any proper review taking place.

In the world of business nothing stands still for long so it is essential your website evolves and develops to accurately reflect the current environment.  It is essential you put proper time aside to take a fresh, objective look at your website, rid yourself of out-of-date content and implement any necessary improvements.

Revisit the core principles of a successful website

Creating a positive and engaging online experience for your customer is at the heart of a successful website. So when you are giving your site an overview it is a good idea to revisit some of the key elements of good website design. You probably considered most of these when you initially set up your website however they provide a solid base from which to start your review.  As it currently stands does your website tick all of the following boxes?

Navigation. Is it easy for visitors to navigate your website?  Are they able to find the information they are looking for within a few simple clicks?

Design and layout. Does your website make a good first impression? Are your pages simple, clear and visually appealing?

Usability.  How quickly does your website load? Can a customer to complete a specific action easily?

Credibility. Does your website have enough trust signposts to make a visitor feel secure about completing a transaction or imparting personal information?

Accessibility. Can your website be viewed equally well from a mobile, tablet or desktop? Is your website accessible to everyone irrespective of any disabilities they may have?

Content. Is you content up-to-date, relevant and engaging to your target audience and does it accurately reflect your business?

 7 topID-10031660 tips to make the most of your online presence

75% of users admit to making judgments about a company’s credibility based on their website’s design

1. Out with the old. Nothing is more off-putting to a visitor than information that is out-of-date. It shrieks unprofessional and does little to enhance the credibility of your site. Have a thorough read through of all your content and check everything is current and correct. For example check for:

  • Broken links
  • Pricing
  • Policies – such as terms and conditions or delivery and returns
  • Expired discount codes and vouchers

Update or get rid of any information that is out of date or no longer relevant.

2. Focus on content. As we’ve said many-a-time content is central to the success of your website and critical to how you are viewed by search engines. So it is important to objectively review yContent Imageour existing content:

  • Is your content still relevant to your target audience and will it engage them?
  • Have you included a good mix of relevant and natural keywords and key-phrases (absolutely do not keyword or key phrase stuff – neither visitors or search engines will appreciate it)
  • Is it concise, clear and to the point?
  • Does it accurately reflect your business?
  • What needs updating and what could be improved?
  • Look for any gaps in content. For example do you have enough visual content such as images and videos? 

3. Is your website search engine optimised? Make sure you are doing all you can to make your website inviting to search engines. If you have lots of pages it can be easy to forget to add-in search engine friendly information on each page. So it’s worth going through and checking any pages you’ve missed or that could be improved.  Part of Search Engine Optimisation involves making lots of small adjustments to individual pages to make it easier for search engines to understand the content of your website. We mentioned keywords and key phrases earlier, but also look at:

Page Titles. These usually appears in the first line of  a search engine’s results page. Ensure your title tags accurately reflect the content of each individual page. Try to keep them short, relevant and to the point.

Description Meta Tags. These give the search engines and users an overview of your page. They are usually a short paragraph containing one or two sentences. Have a unique description for each page and try to make them informative and interesting.

URL’s. Your URL’s should be relevant to the content of each page and should be simple for search engines and users to understand.

For further reading on SEO checkout these two excellent free resources:

4. What are your analytics telling you? Web analytics are there to help you so use them. For example you may notice some pages may have a significantly higher bounce rate than expected. This may indicate a problem so it needs to be investigated. It could be that the content may not be relevant, the page may be confusing or there is no obvious call to action. You can then address the problem and implement the necessary changes.

visual content on social media5. Is your website multi-device friendly? You may have a fantastic website but does it view equally well on any device? Remember 80% of internet users now own a smartphone. A successful online presence includes being able to offer a positive user experience so ensure your small business website is accessible to everyone no matter the device they are using.

If you’re not already set up consider responsive design. This essentially adapts your website to fit the device on which it is being viewed without having to create a numerous device specific websites.

6. Curb appeal.  Make your website as visually appealing as possible to users. Go through each page and check that the layout is straightforward and the page looks clean and clutter free. Research indicates that white space is good and relevant supporting visuals are essential.

7. In with the new. Having reviewed your online offering and implemented any of the necessary changes, have a think about what else you can add to further enhance your small business’ online presence. Are there any obvious gaps in content?  For example try:

  • Setting up a blog
  • Adding in customer reviews and testimonials
  • Growing your visual content such as including more video’s and infographics

Check out other successful websites, both competitors and non-competitors, it’s a great way to get ideas and inspiration.

These are just a few ways to help ensure your small business website remains successful in terms of both user experience and search engine optimisation. Do try to put specific time aside for giving your website a review and remember regular checking really will help you keep on top of things.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on reviewing your online presence, so do please leave a comment.

Success image courtesy of scottchan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 security tips to protect your credit card when shopping online

5 security tips to protect your credit card when shopping online

Shopping online can be a real breeze. Just choose what you want to buy, enter your credit card details and voila, you’ll have your chosen item at your doorstep in a matter of days (or hours, if Amazon and its drone delivery plans take wing). No long queues, no driving all over town hunting for that perfect pair of shoes.

While online shopping is fun, addictive and a lot of things besides that, what sometimes kills the joy of online shopping is the sheer terror of credit card fraud and identity theft. And no, you cannot cower under a pillow and pretend that this will go away. If you shop online, you need to read the following security tips. If you own an online retail store you need to read this even more.

1. Get the Basics Right

Being safe while shopping online is not rocket science. Millions of users successfully shop for their hearts’ desire and more online without ever getting into trouble. Here are a few basics that every online shopper MUST keep in mind.

  • Never make the mistake of assigning the same passwords for all your accounts and cards. Use different passwords for each account, make sure your passwords are not easily hackable. With one password, you run the risk of compromising all your accounts with just one crack in your armor. An easy to guess password like your name or date of birth make breaking into your accounts easy as pie. Make passwords a combination of alpha-numeric characters that have nothing to do with any of your personal details like your family members’ names, your wedding anniversary etc. Another key aspect to always remember is to never share your passwords with anyone.
  • Be aware of your surroundings when swiping your card. When you hand your card over to the cashier at a store, keep an eye on the cashier while they swipe your card. In case you see the cashier swiping your card on a machine that is not a POS machine, raise the alarms. Chances are the second machine is a dip card reader that steals user information from the magnetic strip of the card. Fraudsters use this data to make duplicates of your card and run up giant shopping bills at your expense.
  • Avoid using your credit card on public Wi-Fi networks. Public Wi-Fi networks are accessible with or without a password to anyone who is within range of the network. With people peeping over your shoulder figuratively and literally, it is not a smart idea to carry out credit card transactions in public Wi-Fi zones where your data can be easily intercepted by an unscrupulous stranger.
  • Choose only secure sites to carry out credit card transactions. Avoid shopping on sites that look shoddily made – poor selection of images, a very high text to image ratio, spelling errors all over the place etc. Chances are, these are dummy sites set up by credit card fraudsters to capture your payment details and misuse them.

When making any payment online, check if the address bar in the browser shows HTTPS and not HTTP. On the payments page look out for a Verisign logo or a McAfee Security logo that tell you that the site is safe to use. Just a tip, the green lock icon on your browser address bar is a sign that the site you’re browsing is protected by SSL security and your data is being transmitted on a secure connection. Sites powered by ShopIntegrator have this worry of keeping payment details safe taken off their shoulders. ShopIntegrator directly transfers the customer to the payment processor’s site, thus making PCI compliance easier for merchants.

2. Protect Your PC

Playing it safe is sound advice in nearly all walks of life, if you know what I mean 😉

  • Secure Your Home WiFi. To begin with protect your home internet from outside users by setting up a strong password for it. Data like your credit card details can be easily hacked into while you transmit them over the internet. A secure home Wi-Fi connection avoids this mess. Another critical thing to do right away is to remove Autofill settings from your browser. The browser tends to store data that you use to fill in forms regularly like your name, address, telephone number, sometimes even credit card details in its memory. Removing this autofill data from your browser’s memory eliminates the possibility of someone else accessing your machine and misusing this data. It also thwarts hacking attempts by not offering identity thieves any rewards for their efforts. Different browsers have different procedures for doing this. Check out the settings section of your respective browser and reset this right away.
  • Updated Operating System. Software makers like Microsoft and Apple keep scouring their software for security holes on a continuous basis and release updates and patches to counter any gaps that they find. So the next time your computer asks to restart itself to install some new operating system updates don’t irritatedly postpone the update. Go ahead and keep your operating system updated to avoid falling prey to potential identity thieves on the World Wide Web.
  • Updated Browser. Most browsers these days release updates on a regular basis. Either set your browser to automatically update itself when there’s a new release or do it yourself manually without fail. Chrome’s ‘Safe Browsing API List’ is but one example of the many precautions that browsers employ to keep users safe online.
  • Strong Antivirus. Another smart, but essential investment for your financial and data security is a good antivirus software. It does not have to be an expensive one. As long it detects and removes spyware or keystroke logging malware from your personal computer and protects your computer from third party attacks, it will do just fine. As with all your other software, keep your virus definitions on your unit up to date to avoid online mishaps.

3. Don’t Fall for Phishing Scams

The Nigerian Prince story has been done to death on email by fraudsters around the world. It’s gotten so stale that even my Dad knows that it’s all just a scam. But not all scamsters are so naive. Phishing for bank account and credit card details has reached sophisticated levels with many fraudsters posing as your bank representatives asking you for your personal financial details as a matter of routine maintenance. There have been cases of people receiving links inside perfectly innocent looking emails which if clicked can download a malicious keystroke logging malware into your machine.

Large scale scammers even go to the extent of building replicas of bank websites that end up stealing your passwords and other personal details as you access the site. Some easy pointers to avoid being phished:

  • Do not open emails from unknown or suspicious looking email IDs
  • Avoid opening or downloading any suspicious looking attachments even from known contacts
  • Never click on links without verifying where the link leads to. You can easily do this by hovering your mouse over the link in the email for a few seconds. The browser will automatically reveal the destination URL in a separate box.
  • Double check logos of banks, spellings and other minor tell-tale signs in emails that deal with financial data.
  • No bank or credit card company will ask you for your passwords or other personally identifying information over email. Never pass this information on without double checking with the bank over the phone or in person.

4. Activate Two Factor Authentication for your card

With the number of financial frauds rising by the day, banks and card issuers are becoming wiser and thinking two steps ahead. Many banks now offer users the option of adding an extra level of security to their cards while they carry out online transactions.

Many banks make it a point to call users personally when their card is swiped for a larger than normal amount. This ‘average’ amount is presumably arrived at by taking a median of all the different amounts swiped on the card till date. Banks also tend to call users when transactions are made outside the country of issue of the card.

Two factor authentication takes these basic precautions a notch higher. Instead of relying on just a username and password for a transaction, two factor authentication requires card users to enter a second identifier which they typically carry on their person like a fingerprint scan or a password sent via SMS to a mobile phone, a personal PIN number not stored anywhere else and so on.

Besides banks many other online services too have realized the importance of two factor authentication and actively encourage users to set it up like; Twitter, Yahoo Mail, Facebook etc.

5. Use digital wallets for online transactions

Swiping a credit card can now be replaced by a slew of ingenious payment mechanisms that do not even reveal your card details to the online merchant, thus keeping your identity and financial data safe and sound.

PayPal was the trailblazer in digital wallets which allowed users to transfer money into a seller’s PayPal account from a prepaid PayPal account for any online transactions. It also helped reverse transactions in case of complaints regarding fraud.

The biggest benefit of digital wallets is that you have the option of transferring only as much money you need for your online purchase into your digital wallet. This avoids the scenario of miscreants breaking into your account and emptying it of all its cash.

Now the digital wallet has gone mobile with the introduction of the Google Wallet about four years ago and Apple Pay coming in last year. There are also a bunch of social media payment mechanisms like SnapCash that are gaining in popularity for their sheer convenience and novelty. However the security levels of these social payment mechanisms are yet to be tested and one would do well to tread cautiously in these choppy waters.

Conclusion

Online security during your e-commerce binges is not just the responsibility of the merchant site where you carry out your transactions. It is equally yours. Whether you choose to check users reviews about site’s security online before using a website or use a security app to protect your credit card or activate two factor authentication for your card or even switch to a digital wallet; the idea is to be proactive and work towards avoiding a situation where your financial data is at risk.

By following simple guidelines that typically don’t take much time or resources, one can ensure that one’s hard earned money remains safe and sound without any external threats. Stay safe and happy shopping!

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12 Tips to Master mCommerce

Mobile technology can do stuff today what science fiction didn’t even dream up just a decade ago. From being able to print 3D objects straight from your mobile to detonating IEDs to designing outfits for yourself for that special date night, there seems to be virtually nothing mobile apps cannot do.

Shopping seems to be almost child’s play in comparison. However, since we all love to shop and since many of us love to sell even more, why not figure out what makes shoppers go crazy when they browse through a mobile site?

Without further ado, let’s get down to understanding a mobile commerce site drool worthy for a shopaholic like me. 🙂

1. Responsive Website

Responsive Design

A website can be accessed by users on their mobile phones in a readable, user friendly manner if the website owner adopts one of these three forms of serving up the site:

a. Responsive design, where the same HTML and CSS adapt themselves for different screen sizes based on the type of device used to access the site. The URLs for mobile and desktop sites remain the same.
b. Dynamic Serving of URLs based on device type. In this case, there exists a desktop version of the site and a completely different mobile version of  the site. Depending on the device being used, the appropriate version of HTML is served up. Here again, the URLs remain the same for both mobile and desktop sites.
c. Exclusive Mobile-Only URLs are created that follow the format of “m.websitename.com” which are completely different from the pages hosted on www.websitename.com.

By its own admission, Google favors responsive web design as it is more user friendly, scalable and easier to SEO than two different sets of URLs. If Google wants it, give it to them. You’ll only stand to gain from it.

2. Build Your Own Mobile App and Nurture it

Over 80% of users spend their time inside mobile apps when they access the internet on their smartphones. According to TheNextWeb, retail apps account for 27% of a user’s time on a smartphone.

The writing on the wall is clear. Users are going mobile first today. The web is accessed more often via mobile than via desktops. Finally, mobile apps is where all the real action is. Get yourself a slice of this action by building a mobile app for your e-commerce brand. Grow it and make it popular by investing in advertising, mobile SEO and social media.

3. Promote Mobile Commerce to Online Customers

Promote Mobile Commerce to Online Customers
We all know that it is easier to sell something to an existing customer than to convert a brand new visitor to our site into a customer. The whole idea of customer retention is based on this single undeniable insight.

Use this profound insight to drive traffic to your mCommerce site (site or app, as the case may be). Inform your existing online customers about your new mCommerce site via emails, social media or your site itself. Encourage them to look around and offer them incentives to shop via mobile. No need to spend big monies on getting traffic to your mCommerce site, when your e-commerce customers will happily oblige!

4. Simple Layout

A small screen comes with its inherent set of limitations. Besides the obvious lack of real estate, the touch functionality in all smartphones is not comparable and bad touchscreens can be a deterrent to users against exploring a complicated looking mCommerce site. Besides, the more complicated your site design is, the heavier your site will end up being.

Try and drop the fluff and stick to a simple and intuitive layout for your mobile site. This means no moving carousels, minimize the banners that dot your website and keep the clickable elements per page to as low as possible.

Make sure your Call to Action is prominent and the buttons are adequately large to prevent fat-finger syndrome from striking users cold.

5. White Space

Continuing the thought we just discussed, space on a mobile device screen is at a premium. However, this does not mean cramming as many features as possible into this tiny space so your users can enjoy everything.

The answer to a small screen is to simplify (as discussed above) and to offer enough breathing space for users to navigate freely around your site. More white space could mean toning down the features of your site. If it comes to that, sacrifice some of the bells and whistles from your desktop site in favor of usability.

Nagaraj Nagabhushanam offers some sage advice on mobile commerce layouts. He recommends keeping the touch elements at 7×7 mm size visually, while maintaining the separators between touch elements at 2×2 mm size.

6. Minimal Fields in Forms, Keep Checkout Processes Short

Minimal Fields in Forms, Keep Checkout Processes Short

If fat fingers are a problem while clicking buttons, imagine how much tougher it would be to fill out an endless form that leads to your checkout page.

Minimize your users’ misery by making your forms short and to the point. Ask only that information which you will reasonably be using. Data collection and knowing your customer inside out will happen over a period of time. A mind-numbingly long checkout form is not the answer.

Another point to keep in mind when optimizing your mCommerce site is to ensure there are no pop ups, ads or any other kind of distraction to take the customer away from the checkout process. Your checkout process is your flypaper. Make sure you don’t allow random sawdust to minimize the stickiness of this step.

7. Avoid Dropdown Menus

Your website may have extensive product categories and sub categories to pick from. Chances are, they are laid out in the form of a menu bar across the length of your site with each product categories opening up into a drop down menu of its own with dozens of sub—categories.

This may be possible to pull off – aesthetically and from a conversions perspective – on desktop sites. However, when it comes to a mobile site, you don’t have the luxury of multiple drop down menus that expand into further sub categories. Instead go with a sandwich icon in place of your horizontal menu bar. Let the categories open up when the user hovers over the sandwich menu icon. Instead of dropdown menus from each product category, opt to hide the sub categories in nested sections that will reveal themselves when individual categories are expanded. Why not dropdown menus? Because a number of dropdown menus go ‘beyond’ the screen on small mobile devices, making the entire experience of scrolling up and down while keeping the drop down menu open a real pain in the wrong place.

8. Ditch Flash, Not Just on Mobile

Mobile users are already under a lot of stress just being able to read the font on your website and find their way around various product categories and sub categories. By adding flash elements to our mCommerce sites, we are inadvertently upping the ante from a usability perspective.

The problem is not faced by iPhone users alone. Users who access your site from a Mac don’t get to see your fancy flash animations either. Talk about wasted effort and time.

In Google’s own words, HTML5 is a far better tool to create and showcase your interactive designs on your website. “For animated content rendered using Flash or other multimedia players, consider using HTML5 animations that work across all web browsers. Google Web Designer makes it easy to create these animations in HTML5.”

9. Prominent Search Function

Nearly every e-commerce site is defined by the large variety of products that they have on offer. As we saw in the last section, navigating through various product categories and sub-categories can be quite a challenge on a mobile device.

To overcome this basic issue of usability, introduce a clearly visible and easily locate-able search function on your mCommerce site. This way, even if your navigation is the pits, users will still be able to find what they came looking for. Make sure you enable autocomplete and autosuggest options in your search function. With a keyboard as tiny as smartphones have, it’s far easier to tap than type.

Offer your users the option of paying by a variety of payment modes – PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Venmo, payments via QR codes etc. – which minimize the user’s exposure to your mobile app. These mobile wallets have heightened security standards (SSL ) that are at par with banking websites. They are linked to a user’s credit card or bank account from which they debit the exact amount that the user owes an mCommerce site like yours and transfers the money directly into your account without revealing any financial information belonging to the user.

10. Set up the Option Allowing Guest Checkouts

If there’s one characteristic that runs across the entire smartphone generation, it’s the fact that they all seem to be in a huge hurry. By forcing users to register themselves on your site by filling out lengthy forms and answering umpteen questions, all you really succeed in doing is putting a big hurdle between the user and completion of your sale. A large chunk of users drop off right at this juncture on being asked to register before completing the checkout process.

Do yourself a favor and allow your users the option of guest checkout. It’s not just quicker, it’s also a lot less painful for your users.

11. Mobile Social Ads

Mobile Social Ads

Over two-thirds of all social media users access their social media accounts via mobile devices on a regular basis. This figure, combined with the impressive number of mobile web users in the world, and you have a recipe perfect for mobile ads on social media.

Studies show the growing contribution of social media to overall site traffic in the last one year. Facebook, the Big Daddy of social media made more revenues from mobile ads than from its regular desktop ads. All of these data points mean the same thing – invest your marketing budget in mobile social media ads to reach your users exactly where they like to spend time.

12. Geo-Targeted Offers

A mobile phone goes to the ends of the world and back with its user. mCommerce needs to understand and harness the unique mobility of the mCommerce user and target them with communication based on where they are and what they are doing, in order to maximize message effectiveness.

Use the geo-targeting option in your mobile site to identify where a user is logged in from. Based on the user’s current location, serve him limited period offers and discounts that can only be used in the geographical location that he is in. This way, your communication is more relevant and the user’s interest is stoked by a simple, yet effective marketing tactic.

Conclusion

The mobile juggernaut is on the move with no signs of slowing down any time soon. Mobile accounted for 21% of e-commerce sales in 2014, according to the Internet Retailer Mobile 500 report. Larger retailers enjoy an even bigger chunk of mobile sales – clocking in at an average of 23%.

In the case of technology behemoths like Apple and Google Pay, the mobile effect is even more pronounced with mobile sales stood at over 56% and 80% respectively in the previous year.

If the biggest and the best have already embraced mobile commerce wholeheartedly, isn’t it time your site took the plunge as well?

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10 Types of Emails that You Need to Start Sending Out Now

Email marketing is one of the oldest internet marketing techniques. It’s been around for ages. If you think, sending emails to promote your products/services is an anachronism of a bygone era, you couldn’t be more wrong. Emails are still a very effective way to attract and retain customers.

I know this will come as a surprise to you, but emails still deliver tremendous ROI. According to a Gigaom research report, ‘Workhorses and Dark Horses – Digital Tactics for Customer Acquisition’:

Types of Emails that You Need to Start Sending Out Now56% of respondents say email marketing is very effective for customer retention.

Marketers also believe emails are the most effective model for revenue generation.

These figures leave very little room for doubt that the “humble” email, for long considered to be the old marketing workhorse, is as effective today as it was a few years ago. The efficiency and deliverability of email marketing hasn’t dulled one little bit in spite of the arrival of other tactics like content and social media marketing.

But there is a problem. With over a 100 billion emails being sent and received every day, the construct of your email assumes tremendous importance. You can’t just send any email to your target customers. You need to send an actionable email that makes people want to buy your products or services. As can be imagined, this is easier said than done. But, if you want to leverage the immense potential of email marketing, you can’t just send any email to your target customers; you need to send emails that work.

Let’s take a closer look at the kind of emails you need to start sending out, if you want to capitalize on your email marketing efforts:

1. The ‘We’ve Got Something Good for You’ Mail

We’ve Got Something Good for You

Send a mail if you really have something important to say to your target customers, for e.g. you’ve got a new product you want to introduce, a fantastic video chat lined up or something else.

The Inc. mail is talking about an amazing event that has been planned. It is a video chat with the founder of Quirky, and it’s free! The mail makes its point brilliantly, without going overboard. Its design is clean and professional looking and has an understated appeal about it.

The key here is to make your point in a manner that encourages recipients to take action. The focus must be on ‘conversion’. If you take a look at the example of the Inc. email, you will find that readers will want to ‘sign up’ for the video chat. The text and use of images is right on the ball. Its design and wording is absolutely perfect.

2. The ‘Offers’ Mail

Offers

If you are sending an email about special offers, make sure the best offers are clearly displayed in the mail. This is the kind of actionable email that has a higher chance of bringing customers to your website or even physical store. You will do well to remember that your target customers don’t have all the time in the world to go through your mail; what’s more, you are not the only seller sending them emails about product offers and discounts. So, it’s important you are able to make your point quickly and effectively.

3. The ‘Reminder’ Mail

Reminder

A no-nonsense reminder email about a special offer that is about to end should be sent to people on your email list. Reinforce the USP of the offer without beating about the bush and end the mail with a link to the offer. Such mails are simple, straightforward and make their point quickly.

You don’t have to make a song and dance about a reminder. The Copyblogger mail makes its point in three lines. All one needs to do is glance at the mail to find out what it wants to say. It’s a text book example of a reminder mail.

4. The ‘Don’t Miss Out’ Mail

Did You Miss It This email illustrates the importance of an email subject line. The words ‘Last Chance to Register’ create a sense of urgency and a fear of missing out on a great offer. The email copy talks about the offer (chance to attend a webinar) and what’s it all about. The idea is to make sure the recipient gives your mail a reading if he/she hasn’t done so earlier.

Never stop trying to sell a product/ service to somebody who you feel will be interested in it. But how do you make sure your emails don’t put the recipient off? You can do this by ensuring your emails reinforce the point made in the earlier emails. Think of it as progressive reinforcement. This makes it easy for your mails to make a degree of sense to the recipient.

5. The ‘Leverage Holidays’ Mail

Leverage Holidays

One of the best times to send an email is during the holiday season, when your customers are looking for products that could be gifted to friends or family. If you are selling products/services specifically designed for the holiday season, send a mail like the one ‘Leaders in Heels’ sent its target customers. The mail includes an image of the product, a description that says why it’s a perfect pick for the holiday season and a link that takes readers to the ‘buy’ page.

As a business, you need to continuously explore new avenues that help you sell your products and services; the holiday season is a recurring avenue that shouldn’t be missed at all costs. If you are a products-based business, you could sell products that make for ideal gifts; on the other hand, if you are selling specific services then a special holiday discount on some or all your services will be a very good idea.

How you go about making the most of your holiday season is your call, but do it you must. And in email, you have a potent medium that will successfully put your holiday products/services offerings in front of your customers.

6. The ‘Welcome’ Mail

Welcome

If somebody is showing interest in your products and services, send a welcome mail. It should include links to the download page (or products page) and also a ‘how-to’ page that offers detailed information about product functionality.

Evernote follows up the welcome mail with a series of ‘tip mails’ that help first time users create their first Note and also optimize the use of this suite of software and services. The idea here is to help users become more conversant with the functionality of your products. You don’t want a scenario wherein a target user’s interest in your product turns into frustration, just because he/she is unable to optimize its use.

7. The ‘Freebie’ Mail that Doesn’t Come Across as Such

Freebie

A business needs to engage with its existing and potential customers regularly. If you are running a business, it’s difficult to come up with new product/services or send a personalized discount offer all the time.

The next best thing is to send useful, actionable niche centric information in the form of a freebie. It could take the form of free eBook, guide, video or podcast. Such freebies can boost your reputation and increase the trust factor in your brand.

The more such freebies land up in your customers’ inbox, the better it will be for your brand’s awareness and reputation. What you are also doing by sending such mails is telling your customers that you are not only interested in selling to them but also want to help improve their knowledge base; you are also interested in helping them take better business decisions.

At the end of the day, it is trust and reputation that will help in customer acquisition and retention.

8. The ‘Newsletter’ Mail

Newsletter

One of the ways you can use emails to regularly engage with your business’s target audience is by sending a weekly/monthly newsletter. This newsletter can include information about the latest product launches, discount offers and also the latest happenings in your niche. The key is to make your newsletters as interesting as possible. You want them to be read and the stories in them to be shared. You don’t want them to be ignored.

Coming up with an interesting and extremely readable newsletter every week, or month, isn’t easy. You need to think of it strategically and cannot afford to take this task lightly. Your marketing team needs to sit down with your content writers to brainstorm ideas. These ideas need to be worked out keeping the needs of your target audience in mind. Think of your newsletters as ‘solutions providers’; thinking of them as marketing material will just make them one dimensional. Try and make your newsletters as multidimensional as possible.

This will ensure your target audience looks forward to your newsletters.

9. The ‘Did You Miss It’ Mail

Did You Miss It

Don’t confuse this with a reminder mail. This one starts off with the assumption that the recipient must have missed out on signing up for a particular service (read solution) or buying a particular product.

Now, one of the reasons why this happens is they were not interested in your product or service in the first place. But that was then and there is a good chance that circumstances have changed; your product/services can make more sense to them now than they did earlier. There is no harm in sending a mail talking about the recipient having missed an opportunity to use your product/service and the fact that it is still available to them.

Such mails make a great deal of sense if they are backed by solid evidence that the recipients are actually interested in using your product/service.

10. The ‘Give it a Rethink’ Mail

Give it a Rethink

Think of a scenario where a potential customer has signed up for a free service, but you want to get him to sign on for its paid version. You need to keep reminding that person the paid version is a sound investment and can deliver high ROI. The fact is that your target customers will sign up for different free services they believe will help their business in some form or other.

If you don’t remind them to try the paid version of your service, they might continue to use the free version; and if and when they do decide to try out a paid version of a service, that particular service might not be yours; some other provider might have beaten you to the finishing line because he might have sent those ‘rethink’ emails, which you hadn’t.

It’s important to remember that when a customer finally makes a decision to sign up for a paid service he chooses the service provider who’s been making a solid case for the paid service.

Your Turn

If you are not sending in these emails to your existing and potential customers, you are missing out on a huge opportunity to grow your sales. If you belong to a school of thought that sending emails is an outdated marketing tactic, its time you rethink and start implementing a well-defined email marketing strategy. You will soon realize that emails are a great way of adding new customers and retaining old ones.

The great part about using emails is that their scope is not limited. You can craft them the way they fit and in a way that you believe will deliver maximum returns. This is what makes email marketing so special and is a big reason why it has stood the test of time as a marketing tactic.

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To Drop or Not to Drop: The Pros & Cons of Dropshipping

To Drop or Not to Drop
Who would not like to be their own boss? Decide your own hours, choose your own salary, work from wherever you please and best of all, do exactly what makes you happiest while getting paid for it. What’s not to like?

This leads us to the next logical question.

If being your own boss and running your own business is so awesome, why doesn’t everyone do it? Why do we have millions of unemployed folks hunting for jobs working for other people, when running your own business is next to professional nirvana?

Because running a business is not easy.

Besides a huge helping of sheer guts, starting and running your own business is a 24x7x365 day job. Your business is your baby – a constantly crying and wailing baby that you can’t afford to set down for even a minute. Even with businesses moving online, the demands on a typical entrepreneur’s time can be brutal to say the least.

Setting up a retail business online

Retail is a popular route to market for a lot of wannabe entrepreneurs. It’s easily understandable, most of us have experience about the ‘shopping’ aspect of retail. Besides, setting up an e-commerce store does not take longer than half a day. What’s more, if you already have an existing website that’s live, a shopping cart plug-in like ShopIntegrator lets you set up shop in a matter of minutes. It’ll take care of your store layout and design, your checkout flows, order management, inventory management, accepting and processing payments.

But that is the easy part, the part that can be automated. The tough bit in e-commerce is the part that still needs human intervention – product sourcing and fulfilment.

You can source the products that you want to sell either by manufacturing them yourself, outsourcing the manufacture to someone else or buying a ready item from a reseller. Then there’s the whole fulfilment process, where the item goes from your supplier to you to your shipping partner to finally your buyer’s doorstep.

That’s a lot of work for someone to handle all by themselves. Even the smallest e-commerce companies typically have at least a couple of employees to help with the logistics of procurement and dispatch of the physical goods.

Now, what if you decided that you don’t want to spend any money on getting employees to help with your logistics? What if you wanted to go it all by yourself? What would you do?

Dropship of course.

What is Dropshipping?

Dropshipping is a retail model where the online retailer does not own any inventory directly. When a customer places an order, this order is forwarded by the retailer to a manufacturer, distributor or wholesaler who then packages and ships the item to the customer directly.

In other words, a retail business built on a drop ship model is pretty much a front-end store that takes and processes customer orders, with the backend fulfilment operations being handled entirely by a third party.

This model offers budding entrepreneurs that chance to experience running a business first hand with very little sunk costs. The only things that the retailer would really spend on upfront are:

a. Site design and maintenance
b. Marketing and Demand Generation
c. Order processing
d. Managing the business’ finances
e. Employee costs (if any)

The retailer typically has a re-seller account with the dropship partner. When the retailer receives a customer order, he passes on the order to the dropshipper and rests easy. The dropshipper now swings into action.

He locates the ordered item in his inventory and packages the order with the retailer’s branding on it based on the invoice received. He then prints shipping labels with the end user’s name, address and order details on them and puts the right labels on the right products. Once packaged and labelled, the products are shipped off to customers directly from the dropshipper’s warehouse.

As you can see, the retailer’s degree of involvement in an arrangement like this is minimal, at best. Seemingly, the retailer gets all the benefits of running an online retail business, with none of the real hassles. While dropshipping may seem like a silver bullet for any online retailer, it comes with its fair share of pluses and minuses.

Let’s take an unbiased look at both sides of the tale.

The Benefits of Drop Shipping

1. Hassle-free way of starting a new business

As we discussed in the previous sections, dropshipping is as hands-off a method of conducting a retail business as any. A newbie entrepreneur can go into business in a matter of days once the agreements with the dropship partner are set up. In this sense, dropshipping offers a turn-key solution to starting an online retail store.

2. No Need to Hold Inventory

With a third party taking care of manufacturing, storing and transporting the goods, the retailer doesn’t have to worry about how much stock to hold or where to store the items. All they need to do is raise a procurement order for the dropship partner as and when they receive a customer order and leave the rest to the dropshipper to handle.

3. No Overheads from Warehousing

Storing products in a warehouse or any other storage facility comes with inherent overhead costs. There is rent to be considered, electricity and other utility bills to take care of, cost of manpower to run the warehouse facility and so on. If you choose to lease a portion of a larger warehouse, some of the costs are reduced but there’s still the question of rent and insurance at the very least.

4. Potential to Offer Wider Variety of Products

When a manufacturer starts selling a product directly to consumers, they are restrained by the variety of products that they can manufacture at any given point of time. A distributor or wholesaler is limited by the amount of warehousing space he has and the access to different types of products, when it comes to selling direct to consumer.

The fact that the retailer holds no inventory, means he is free to approach multiple dropship providers if need be, to create a wide range of products to be sold via his online store. This unlimited product variety provides a great win-win situation for both the retailer and the customer in a dropship setup.

5. Lesser Manpower Needed

With all the key manual activities involved in the fulfillment process outsourced to a third party, the retailer does not need too many people to run his business. Most e-commerce software or shopping cart plugins automate of a large chunk of the transaction process, leaving very little to be managed by the retailer. A high degree of automation translates into huge cost savings in terms of paying for employees, their benefits, training costs, administrative costs etc.

6. More Time to Focus on Marketing, Demand Generation and Customer Service

One of the biggest benefits of dropshipping, is the gift of time that it gives to a retailer – time that can be used to focus on more complex and productive activities like creating awareness for the brand, generating demand for the products, building a relationship with users and offering world-class customer service to new and existing customers.

7. Flexibility

Dropshipping means you can now own a business sitting anywhere on the planet as long as the dropshipper ships your products to where your customers are located. Since you don’t need to hold any inventory or request any minimum number of units per order, your customers can order whatever quantity they desire and it will be shipped to them, no questions asked. When your business grows in size, scaling up your supply side is as simple as placing larger orders with your dropshipper or supplementing your existing dropship partner with another one.

The best part? With dropshipping taking away a whole bunch of manual tasks away from your plate, as an entrepreneur you finally have some much desired me-time!

The Problems with Drop Shipping

1. Uncertain Service Levels

One of the most important aspects of e-commerce is shipping, handling and delivery. If a customer does not receive the right product, in the right condition, within the right time frame; it results in a terrible shopping experience. A slip up in even one of these different factors can have disastrous consequences on the customer’s satisfaction and the possibility of a repeat purchase.

In a dropshipping scenario, a retailer can only have service level agreements (SLA) with dropshippers detailing out their expectations in terms of product quality, packaging, shipping and delivery timelines. It is eventually upto the dropshipper to live up to their end of the bargain and fulfill all the promises made to the retailer. While generally a dropshipper would try his best to complete an order as per the SLA, there can be unforeseen circumstances where he is unable to do so. In such cases, the retailer is completely at the mercy of the dropshipper and has no control over when and how the customer will be serviced.

2. More Expensive Than D.I.Y.

That the entire process of warehousing products, sorting through them, packaging, labelling and shipping them to the customer is challenging, is an undoubted fact. However, the cost of doing so in-house is often cheaper than outsourcing the entire process lock, stock and barrel to a third party. The reason for this is simple.

If you carry out your own order fulfillment, you are likely to negotiate the lowest rates possible for each step in the process. However, when a dropshipper offers his services to you, he tacks on a generous markup to each step of the process to ensure that he makes his profit out of the transaction. These markups at every step of the way, add up and raise the landed cost of goods substantially. This in turn results in more expensive prices for the customer, which might run the risk of making the products uncompetitive in the market.

3. Unscrupulous Dropshippers

On paper, the dropshipping process seems like a great idea for both retailers and wholesalers. While the retailer gets rid of the trouble of warehousing and product fulfilment, the wholesaler gets an assured demand for his products with an extra margin tacked on to compensate for the services that he provides.

However, the rising demand for dropshipping services has not gone unnoticed by unscrupulous characters out to make a quick buck any way they can. Horror stories of retailers being duped by so-called dropshippers who take their money and their order but never fulfill the order at the customer’s end are stuff of e-commerce legend. The fact that retailers seldom meet with the dropshippers face to face and all they have to go by is the online reputation of a dropshipper, this scenario makes it a fertile ground for scam artists galore.

The Final Verdict

As we just saw, dropshipping offers this exciting opportunity to start an e-commerce business on the fly, but it also comes with its own share of risks and loopholes. So, is it worth putting your money and time into a dropshipping venture?

I would say, definitely.

Dropshipping is a low risk, low cost method of entering the world of e-commerce. Be extra cautious about picking the right dropshipping partner. Hunt far and wide for the right supplier who offers the products that you intend to sell. Check out their product range and quality. Confirm that they deliver to the locations that your users are located. Compare the pricing of different dropshippers and deeply research their past performance reviews before zeroing in on a dropshipping partner.

Even if you don’t start your own store, you can wet your feet by using dropship services and selling your products on eBay or Amazon to begin with. Once you learn the ropes of the business, become more confident of how to run the business and scale up your eBay store sufficiently; starting your own online store will be the next logical step.

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6 Things That Take Your E-commerce Store from ‘Good’ to ‘Great’

Starting an e-commerce store today is not a huge deal. Topped with a good idea, even a basic website can transform into an e-commerce store in no time with a simple shopping cart plugin like ours.

Trouble is, there are millions of such e-commerce stores out there on the internet that set up shop and hope to win wallet-share on a wing and a prayer. My bet is that your store is a lot more valuable to you to leave outcomes like success, failure or mind-blowing popularity in the hands of pure chance.

So what would you do to take that e-commerce store of yours from good to great? Here’s what.

1. A Pleasure to Use, Not Easy to Use

Don’t you hate having to hunt through umpteen different aisles to get that one thing you came to pick up at your local supermarket? The feeling of being completely at sea when hunting for your desired products is by no means restricted to the physical world.

I can recount numerous instances where sifting through an e-commerce store in pursuit of that elusive item has left me tearing my hair out.

Spare your users this agony by building an online store that is easy to use. Why easy, build one that is a pleasure to use. Some key aspects to cover when working on improving usability are:

  • Simple and intuitive product categories
  • Navigation that is easy to follow and follows from the product categories
  • Appealing, yet not overwhelming website design with ample white space
  • Beautiful images that help users experience the product even when they’re unable to touch and feel it
  • Support multiple languages, currencies based on the geographical areas that your site services
  • Pages that load fast and are compatible with various browser types to make the entire shopping experience smooth flowing

Invest some time and effort into A/B testing every feature of your website that your user interacts with – the product categories, site navigation, the checkout process, post purchase service levels. A disappointment in even a single aspect of usability has the potential to ruin the overall user experience – something that a great e-commerce store will never tolerate.

2. Being House-Proud

Classical romance demands grand gestures that sweep ones partner off their feet to establish your affection for them. Many brands go ahead and implement such grand gestures every now and then to remind customers how important they are to them.

The WestJet Christmas MiracleThe WestJet Christmas Miracle

However, everyday lives cannot be filled with grand gestures. Everyday special demands paying attention to the little things. Turn to the oft-ignored but strangely powerful little things that populate your website and turn them into unexpected spots of joy that leave customers coming back for more.

Work on your web copy. Instead of writing your own website copy or getting it done in-house to cut costs; get a real professional to write your copy. Smart, sharp copy doesn’t simply tell customers about your business; it holds a conversation with them.

If copy is important, micro copy is equally vital. Micro copy refers to those little instructions in tiny font that you see on web pages that offer you real-time advice on what to do next. Microcopy tends to be contextual and often witty. Thoughtful, well written microcopy not just saves a customer time when they’re filling up a web form, it also offers a wonderful piece of whimsy that brings out your brand’s personality.

Download Music
Choose to go ad less across the site to improve your users’ experience? Highlight this benefit to your users so they are aware of your gesture on their behalf. Is users’ privacy a driving concern for you? Are you taking all possible measure to protect it? Inform them about it and win them over with your user friendly policies.

Small things are remembered long after the initial excitement of those grand gestures wears off. Aim at being spectacularly memorable, mere spectacular is for also-rans.

3. Giving Customers a Voice

User generated content like product reviews on e-commerce sites, helps in making the content on each product page richer and more useful to other readers. Top online retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Old Navy, and others actively solicit user reviews and include them in their product pages.

This practice has the added benefit of having Google’s blessing. You see, user generated content like reviews are correlated with increase in click-through rates. Further, Google’s local updates are known to factor these in while ranking pages in their search results. So content about your brand by third parties that you did not have to pay for, pretty much translates into a vote of confidence for your brand, hence improving your SEO ratings. This comes as no surprise if you think of it, but it has to be mentioned as a key reason to promote user generated content, nonetheless.

Understandably, users tend to give more credence to the real experiences of fellow consumers to the advertising magic that brands try to pull off. This explains the popularity of social review apps like Yelp or TripAdvisor.

Giving Customers a Voice

According to a study by Bazaar Voice, 51% of Americans trust user generated content over other sources of brand information. This need for validation from other users is even stronger for certain types of purchases like major electronics purchases (44%), cars (40%) and hotel bookings (39%).

4. Being a Part of Something Bigger Than You

It’s easy to offer users a couple of coupons or special discounts and buy their loyalty, however fleeting that will be. A great brand on the other hand, inspires customers to buy from them whether or not there are discounts thrown in. What’s more, these are brands that make customers feel good for buying from them.

They do this by aligning themselves with goals that are loftier than mere bottom line numbers. When users know that your brand stands for something that is altruistic and close to their hearts, they’re not just loyal to you, they become brand evangelists for you.

A great example for this is TOMS Shoes.

TOMS Shoes was founded on the principle of ‘One for One’ where each pair of shoes bought by a customer would be matched by another pair of shoes donated to a needy child in developing countries like Argentina, Ethiopia, Haiti and others.

TOMS Shoes

This ‘business with a purpose’ was lapped up eagerly by young consumers who looked at shopping from TOMS as their contribution to a better world. It also helped that TOMS has some pretty cool shoes to go with the promise of doing good for the needy.

The support from their users is amply demonstrated by their annual ‘One Day Without Shoes’ event where millions of TOMS customers from around the world spend a day without shoes to raise awareness for the millions of under privileged children who live without shoes every day of their lives.

5. Staying Top of Mind, without Stalking Customers

No brand can hope to have a loyal fan following if their users don’t even remember them after one purchase. Most brands spend millions of dollars in advertising, sales promotions, one-on-one events with customers, celebrity endorsements and more; to remain relevant and memorable to their target audience.

Spending pots of money is not a problem if you are a Coke or Samsung or McDonald’s. Smaller folks like you and I need to get creative to stay on top of users’ minds. Digital media and big data have combined to ensure that we don’t have reason to despair.

Use the biggest asset that your website generates on a daily basis – big data – to help you build brand recall and brand preference among your users. Based on users’ actions on your site, create segments and target each user segment with communication that is relevant to them. Email marketing is a perfect tool for reaching out to various customer segments with tailored messages at zero cost. The great thing about email marketing is, that it offers the highest conversion rates among all other digital marketing tools available – paid or otherwise.

Another tool that you can employ easily without burning a huge hole in your pockets is social media. Pick social networks that matter to your target audience and post content on these networks that your users will appreciate. Top of mind recall does not mean salesy content that pushes your product down people’s throats and timelines. It is content that they willingly seek out.

The same goes for your website blog. Make your readers actually seek out content on your blog, instead of force feeding them promotional content that they’re naturally blind to anyway. Here are some great examples of content marketing by brands that manage superb top of mind brand recall without talking about their business much.

6. Remembering Customers without Sales on Your Mind

Just as it is important to maintain top of mind brand recall among your target audience, it is even more critical to let your customers know that they mean more to you than mere sales.

Building a real relationship with your customers helps in sales not just today or tomorrow, but for years to come.

Invest in building a relationship marketing program where the basic aim of your communication is to become your customer’s friend and not con them into buying your next product. People trust their friends, not pushy salesmen out to close a deal.

Reach out to customers when they least expect it. Birthday greetings are standard by now. Keep in touch with your customers for events like their first anniversary of shopping on your site or celebrate the 5th purchase made by them on your site with a special gesture and so on.

Even a simple ‘Missing You’ note tells the user that you’re thinking of them and they’re not just another customer for you.

Remembering customers without sales

Another way of reaching out without being promotional, is by being actually useful to your customers. Remind them of things that matter to them, for example if a customer has bought one pack of sanitary napkins from your store, you obviously know that she will be needing another pack around the same time, next month. Proactively send out an email reminding your user that she might be out of stock and might want to stock up in time.

Over to You

Thankfully, by now the clunky websites of the nineties have been left behind in the last century and most websites are decent, if not pretty good in terms of their usability. But then again, how many of us remember every single site that we shopped on, ever? Unless it offered something truly outstanding, most e-commerce sites just blend into each other.

Don’t let your online store be yet another statistic. Invest in some (if not every single one) of these little gestures and ensure that your brand remains memorable long after that first purchase.

Image Source: (1,2, 3, 4, 5)