6 Resolutions eCommerce Store Owners Should Make for 2016

New Year Resolutions

It’s that time of year again! New Year’s resolutions and promises and working through them. In fact, it is the perfect time to wipe the slate clean and start afresh. And it applies for eCommerce store owners too. Reflect on what you did last year – the good and the bad both and then think where you can improve in 2016 and start creating a strategic plan to implement those changes.

Here is 6 resolutions that eCommerce stores should make in 2016.

1. Commit to Quality Content

When it comes to digital marketing, content is king and marketing your eCommerce store is no exception. In fact, you need to be more careful with your eCommerce store content as it not just help search engines crawlers discover and rank your website but also convince your visitors to make a purchase decision. Besides, it your content that your visitors/customers share with their social followers. You will also need content to email your prospect lists, to develop your brand identity and ultimately build your business. The relationship between an eCommerce store and content is therefore a match made in heaven.

There is real financial value in content marketing that eCommerce store owners have started leveraging since the past few years. According to a study conducted by Econsultancy and EPiServer, almost all online retailers accept that revenue is one of the commercial benefits of eCommerce content marketing. The study further indicated that 60 percent of the participating companies saw content engagement increasing while 30 percent of them plan to create more number of original and unique content to improve SEO and stay ahead of the fierce market competition.

You can take inspirations from some of the leading eCommerce brands when it comes to content marketing. Betabrand, for example, uses their content to establish a character and personality to their brand. They place themselves as “as 99% fiction, 1% fashion” and their content (especially their product descriptions) reflect it perfectly. Intelligent listing and through humorous are their secret weapon to create a likeable personality that drives conversions.

Etsy too has a killer content marketing strategy. They are the kings when it comes to communicating with their audience. Esty has a great blog that features interesting stories and interviews from top sellers and leading artisans to tell the story behind their work. This gives more character and soul to the brand.

So this year, commit to invest on quality content if you really want to improve your online marketing efforts.

2. Get Social while Leveraging Mobile

More and more consumers are using their smartphones and tablets to shop online. Just consider the following mobile eCommerce statistics before we discuss further on this topic:

Get Social while Leveraging Mobile

You therefore need a proper mobile strategy for your eCommerce store. Begin with a responsive eCommerce website; make sure your website provides a seamless user experience across various devices and browsers. But that’s not enough. You need to get social as well.

You probably have some social media accounts by now; start strengthening them using the power of mobile. In short, we are asking you to combine social with mobile to engage your users. If you are wondering how to combine your social mobile offering, Foursquare is a great example. But to implement this in real life you need to first understand the three basic mindsets mobile users: They generally seek local information, they are always microtasking, and they are usually bored.

Now consider the social media integration theory by Isra Garcia.

Social Media Integration Theory

It points out four interactions that you need to manage and each of them can be combined with mobile mindsets. For example, connecting can always be combined with researching for a product/item whereas exposure signifies viewing information within the users’ network. Likewise, sharing occurs when a user reports something great on an ad-hoc basis or in a structured manner in order to reach out to other people and feedback is all about reviews and social recommendations.

Now how to implement this to your eCommerce strategy?

The answer is a mobile app. Today people are always on the go. So what could be a better way to reach out to them and remain connected apart from having a mobile app? Don’t use your eCommerce app to just generate leads and sales’ use it in different new ways. Allow users to write, view and share reviews and rating through the app, to recommend deals and invite others in their network to get a special deal. There are countless possibilities; all you need is to get creative and provide a great user experience by combining social and mobile.

3. Invest in eCommerce SEO

SEO has always been a big thing. You want your eStore to show up in front of millions of potential customers, so you need to work for that as well. You really need to get serious about it. Don’t just stop at finding keywords for your homepage, find highly relevant keywords for your product pages as well. Consider factors like local search volume and keyword ranking difficulty. Google’s AdWords Keyword tool is a good resource for this.

AdWords Keyword tool

Avoid keywords that are too competitive or too broad as they usually result in low conversion rate and higher bounce rate. You will also need to find the right keywords for your blog topics, especially the long-tail keywords which (although relevant) hardly find a place in your main eCommerce website.

In addition, find site errors (if any) and address them at the earliest especially if it is related to your website’s speed. Users often tend to abandon a website that take more than 2 seconds to load. Even delay by 1 second in page response can cause 7 percent reduction in conversions.

This year, focus on both on-page and off-page optimization to better rank in search engine result pages.

4. Access Better Data

To create a killer marketing strategy you need the most accurate data. Google analytics, although a reliable source, is not enough at times. It only provides data but you need actionable insights as well. Besides, you need your competitors’ data as well to gain an edge in the market. In 2016, make it a resolution to meet this need of your eCommerce store.

If you are sweating over the prospect, be assured there are several competitive analysis tools available on the market. The following are some of the tools you can use:

  • Moz, the industry favourite that allows you track your competitors’ activities and how you can match them
  • SEM Rush is another option that helps you track every activity of your competitors in paid search landscape as well as provide detailed and accurate insights about their organic search efforts
  • Bright Edge is a comprehensive web-based tool featuring a complete enterprise SEO marketing platform

5. Get New Customers and Retain Old Ones

Of course you need new customers to sustain your business. But at the same time your existing customers can add more value to your business than you possible think of. For one thing, it is more expensive to get a new customer than keeping an existing one. Besides, if you can increase your customer retention rates by 5 percent can boost your profits by 25 to 95 percent. KISSmetrics finds that the “the average value of a lost customer is $243.”

You should therefore implement an effective customer retention program to show your appreciation for your existing buyers. Small steps can help you gain a competitive edge here. For example, adding a ‘wow factor’ to your packaging will not only surprize your buyers but also delight them and they will always come back to you for more. Similarly faster delivery options, special discounts and offers to repeat buyers etc. are some of the best ways to gain their loyalty.

The secret lies in beating your customer expectations, every time. And convert them to your ardent fans who not only come back to your eStore for more but also recommend your products to their peers. Happy customers always spread the good words and bring you direct referrals even without any monetary rewards.

6. Relax and Recharge

Last but not the least, you need to make a resolution to relax and recharge yourself this year. You need to balance your work and personal life. According to Hiscox’s DNA of an Entrepreneur study, around 20 percent of small business owners in the U.S. take zero vacation days at present. However, research shows that vacations and time off from work help in relieving stress, allowing you to work better in the long run.

In addition, you need to do things you enjoy on a regular basis apart from work on a regular basis. It can be anything, from DYI projects and gardening to cooking, starting a blog to getting fit. Even Mark Zuckerberg is taking up a running challenge this year, planning to run 365 miles in 2016 after celebrating 2015 as “A Year of Books”. So what are you waiting for?

Conclusion

A new year brings in endless opportunities along with it. It is therefore the perfect time to make your eCommerce marketing dreams come true. If you can take your resolutions seriously and work through them, nothing can stop you from attaining what you desire. The only thing you need to do, however, is to commit yourself to constant improvement.

Happy New Year!

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The Risky Business of Mobile Security and Holiday Shopping

Secure credit card processing

E-Commerce has seen continuous growth for over a decade now and 2013 worldwide business to customer sales amounted to more than $1 trillion. Same as regular shopping, e-commerce sales record a huge increase during holiday season. Other than holidays that boost brick and mortar retail stores’ sales, like Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Black Friday, bigger e-commerce stores also create special offers for a few unique online shopping holidays. These include:

  • Cyber Monday– this is the first Monday after Black Friday and it’s coming with the same shopping fuss all around the internet. Some retail chains continue offering discounts, even after this day and extend their offers to the whole week (Cyber Week).
  • Single’s Day – last year we witnessed new shopping phenomenon when one of the biggest Chinese online stores decided to turn minor Chinese holiday into the biggest shopping day in the world.

E-commerce entrepreneurs have a lot of work during these holidays, mainly due to increased traffic on their websites. Since smartphones are becoming more popular than ever, holiday sales growth is the most visible in mobile shopping statistics. Comparing to last year, number of mobile purchases doubled, while purchases from tablet devices quadrupled during this year. Some predictions even say that in the end of 2015, number of mobile and tablet purchases will reach 18 million. High holiday traffic means more security risks. In this article we presented several effective ways for e-commerce website administrators to protect their and their customer’s sensitive data from cyber criminals.

Identify Fraudulent Visitors

E-commerce administrators should take precaution measures before the holiday season starts. They should:

  • Spoofers – They should search for visitors who are trying to spoof mobile devices. These are more likely to have malicious intent
  • Jail broken iOS devices – these phones are either stolen or hacked so they can download paid AppStore apps. Users with jail-broken iOS, are also much more likely to commit acts of cyber crime
  • Android users with mini browser alternative – these are often used by the hackers to show a US based IP address, while communicating from elsewhere
  • Track consumers – Use advanced tracking and keep all data, in order to recognize and block users who try to apply malware software, like: man-in-the-browser and man-in-the-mobile Trojans

Apply Security Measures

Security should be tightened while waiting for the holiday season. These are some of the measures e-commerce administrators should apply:

  • Mobile app security testing – security should be the highest priority during all app building cycles. Apps should be customized to come with security strategies that are able to answer the latest mobile security challenges, rather than having generic and outdated solutions
  • SSL and PCI compliancy– admins should use strong Secure Socket Layer authentication and run frequent PCI scans
  • Don’t store sensitive data – customers’ credit card and personal data shouldn’t be stored on company servers. Data breach doesn’t happen when there’s no data
  • Address and Card verification systems – these systems should be applied in order to reduce fraudulent attempts
  • Set up alerts– alerts should turn on in case several suspicious transactions or data breach attempts are coming from the same IP address. These alerts should be connected with admin’s smartphone
  • Introduce remote software systems– when cyber-attack occurs, website and app administrators need to react fast, which is why remote server monitoring systems are very useful
  • Patch regularly– security systems should be patched, the moment new versions are released

Educate Customers and Employees

Both customers and employees should be educated about safety measures and precaution. This education should include:

  • Employee’s security training – all company employees should be introduced to cyber security, especially if the company is working on BYOD bases. They should know about safe use of e mail, text messengers and social media accounts
  • Require strong passwords from customers – strong passwords, especially passphrases are harder to break
  • Customer education– add mobile shopping security articles to company’s blog, send them over newsletter and provide links to them on product pages.

With e-commerce being such a competitive niche, only companies that enable customers to shop freely and without fear can stay competitive, especially during those shop-till-you-drop holidays.

 

Guest Author: Nate M. Vickery

Nate M. Vickery is a business consultant from Sydney, Australia. He is mostly engaged in providing entrepreneurs and small business owners with management and marketing advice. He is also the editor in chief on Bizzmarkblog.com.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this post. Please do leave a comment.

 

* Secure credit card image sourced from Perspecsys Photos licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

 

 

7 Solid Reasons Why You Should Pay Attention to Customer Reviews

Online commerce and the popularity of social media have truly made customer the king. Customer reviews are shaping consumer decisions to a great extent, and this influence is expected to rise further. Shopper experiences and preferences are being shared widely and enthusiastically, impacting the bottomlines of many businesses.

Smart businesses have long since realized this shift in power in the favor of the consumer and have started tweaking their marketing strategies to accommodate growing reviews and customer engagement in general.

As a business you need these reviews if you want to stay competitive and grow. Here are only seven reasons why customer reviews are important and what paying attention to them will achieve for you.

1. Reviews Build Credibility for Your Business

In this day and age businesses are dealing with very smart and knowledgeable consumers. It’s very unlikely anyone is going to take you at face value. It’s also very unlikely they will buy what you have to say via paid advertisements.

Instead, your target buyers will research your background and will pay particular attention to the user reviews you have received. Positive or negative, all reviews are being read and mulled over. As per one survey, positive customer reviews influence the buying decisions of 90% of shoppers, while negative reviews influence the purchase decisions of 86% of shoppers. That’s a big number that no business can or should ignore.

If a quick search on you does not turn up an adequate number of positive reviews, your target shoppers will very likely not proceed with doing any business with you because you have not done enough to come across as a bankable option to them.

On the other hand, if a search on you returns a high number of negative reviews, you will lose many potential customers, as well as some of the existing ones.

Customer reviews mean a lot to shoppers today and here’s why:

  • User reviews are reassuring for people who have never done business with you. Customer reviews have a human touch about them which makes them believable.
  • Detailed reviews can remove doubts in the minds of shoppers about certain products or services, making them more likely to go ahead with their purchase decision.
  • People feel better about their decision when they see many others have taken a similar one too.
  • Many of the shoppers are avid reviewers themselves and are instinctively wary of an ecommerce site or any business that is lacking in this aspect.

Reviews Build Credibility for Your Business
More and more people are basing their purchase decisions on the social presence and credibility garnered by businesses. It’s no longer enough to be good at what you do, you need your customers to say as much about you, and you need them to do this in big numbers.

2. Reviews Help Increase Your Sales

A glowing review is always good to read but it can do a lot more than make you happy. More people finding you credible and giving you the thumbs-up leads to many more giving you a chance and shopping with you. If you do a good job of satisfying your customers, expect to see a rise in sales figures for your business on the back of a considerable number of good user reviews.

3. Reviews Tell You If Your Marketing Is Working

So you have been pumping your heart and soul into marketing your business but are not sure whether it is reaching the target audience or whether it is having the desired effect on your target audience?

Invite them to leave a review with you and you will know exactly where you stand. Pay attention to the tone of the reviews, whether it is positive, negative or lukewarm: “Lukewarm reviews are gentle indicators that something–your strategy, customer service, quality assurance, even your product–is off. Like miners in the dark, it’s imperative to pay attention to these online chirps–and course-correct before it’s too late.
How Online Reviews Make (or Break) Your Business

Every review tells you something. Be attuned into them to glean precious information out of them.

4. Reviews Help you Improve Customer Experience

Reviews Help you Improve Customer Experience
Reviews many a time contain detailed feedback. Anyone who has compared products online would know this. Some reviewers go to great extents to put their point across.

That is pure gold for a business. If you want to improve user experience, which you should if you value customer service, here are your customers telling you in no uncertain terms exactly what they like and/or dislike about your products and services. Many of them take out the time to pen in detail how you have helped them and also delineate areas where you have been found wanting.

People telling you exactly what you need to do to improve should be immediately taken into consideration, though whether you act on it or not may depend on a number of factors. Many companies, big and small, take customer feedback into account and release updated versions of their products that aim at improving the user experience. People like being listened to. So encourage shoppers to leave detailed reviews on your website or via social media so that you can improve customer experience and boost your chances of customer retention as well as customer acquisition.

5. Reviews Allow You to Shape Your Narrative about Yourself

A lot is being written about businesses on various websites all over the world. Some of it is positive, a lot of it is negative. But all this dependence on customer reviews does not mean businesses are helpless; in fact, far from it.

It is true that your customers are now calling the shots. However, they only do so based on what you provide them with (or as in this case, don’t provide them with) in the first place.

So that you are not caught napping by a string of harmful reviews or deliberate misinformation circulating around the Internet about your business, become proactive and start collecting positive reviews.

Also, find negative reviews about yourself and address them. An indifference to user reviews may prove costly to your business but a smart handling of them will allow you to shape your desired narrative about yourself.

6. Reviews Help You Rise in Google Search Rankings

Your competitors who have been doing their bit in collecting positive reviews and combatting negative ones are likely to feature higher up than you in search results as well as inspire more confidence in shoppers.

In stark contrast, the indifferent presence of your business on the Web, accompanied by negative or a low amount of reviews, will harm your online reputation and lose you many potential customers.

If you have been engaging in local SEO efforts but have not been paying equal attention to reviews and recommendations, then you have been selling yourself short.

So instead of tumbling down Google search rankings because you couldn’t be bothered about user reviews, approach this matter as an opportunity to rise through the ranks and gain more customers in the process.

7. Reviews Keep You in Touch with Times

Technology is forcing businesses to keep up with the pace of innovation to stay relevant.

The consumer base is increasingly aware of the options available to them. They are always scouting for the best deals and services they can buy for their money. If there’s anybody out there offering even a slightly better service than you, chances are your customers will find them and flock to them.

When people find a better deal, they are also very eager to inform their social circles about it. Information like this spreads fast via word of mouth on social media and on review sites. Somebody mentioning another business on your Twitter feed should ideally make you want to check them out soon as you can to ascertain what they are doing better or if there’s something you can learn from them.

Customer reviews and sundry comments are thus an excellent source of market intelligence. Newer businesses are dynamic and the social media is a vibrant place. People love to share and exchange information. As an alert business you can be a direct beneficiary of this by tapping into the consumer sentiment and evolving strategies and policies to keep up with the changing times, expectations, and demands.

Conclusion

We have stated here seven reasons for you to take user reviews seriously, but rest assured there are many more. These, however, should make you want to sit up and take stock of how you have been approaching your online marketing efforts.

Overall, you lose customers and fall behind times when you take an indifferent approach to user reviews. But when you are convinced of the power of customer reviews and devise an active strategy to collect them, you gain greater business credibility, higher sales, and at times enhanced customer loyalty as well.

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10 Tips To Boost Revenue With Upsell And Cross Sell

Broadly speaking both upselling and cross-selling deliver the same effect i.e. increased profit.

Generally people require a genuine second person review or suggestion while shopping. And what if the seller himself performs this, in that case the customer would want to entrust even his future shopping assignments to him. A website cannot manifest a human touch, but if a site escorts a customer in his online shopping journey it would profit both sides.

And hence the entire objective of this operation should not just be manifold profit but to make the user’s experience expedient and comfortable.

To understand it better let’s take an illustration: Recommending accessories to pair up with your jeans might not just help you earn more profit by selling more products to the same customer. It will also resolve few hassles in advance which would spring up in the future.

10 Tips To Boost Revenue With Upsell And Cross Sell

What is Upselling?

Upselling is inducing a customer to purchase a product for which he had not shown any prior buying inclination. However it should not be taken as needless buying. As sometimes consumers do have a need which they do not acknowledge until they are made to.

You can upsell anything – a product, a service or an extended warranty contract (Terms and conditions as they are mostly provided in case of automobiles and electronic goods – it is nothing but an advanced coverage for repairs and periodic service).

Example: Amazon.com. Their persuasive course doesn’t end on completion of a purchase, it actually starts there. And it comprises regular mails with alluring offers and product images to customers. As the customers have already established a trade relation, making a new purchase all the more smooth (only if they had a positive experience).

Companies into direct retail associate bonuses with upselling and cross selling to employees in order to increase their revenue margins.

A few upsell tips that will swell your revenue figures

  1. A high end product which gets rejected for its high pricing can fetch a profitable sale if well promoted. The basic trick to upsell is learning about your customer and his background. This will help you figure out the utility-void for your product. If a customer comes looking for a smartphone and you suggest him a television, this foolhardy would not just irritate the customer but demonstrate ruthlessness at the same time. And this will also impact customer’s perception of your brand. A brand that is just bent upon selling products irrespective of its applicableness to the person concerned holds less value. And it would rarely bother about customer concerns after the sale is completed.  On the contrary a brand that takes account of customer clicks and search criteria before making a recommendation is perceived to be smart and stands to gain on account of relevant suggestions. Additionally, knowing customers purpose behind the buying decision will enable you to make more helping recommendations.
  2. Do not spin the customer amongst pages. Most of the time customers compare products before buying, and comparison rule implies that comparable products with their specifications share the same screen space. Therefore a customer should be provisioned to view other products alongside his current selection. And this can be worked up by presenting other products from the same category on the same page. Insert either a horizontal or vertical frame to carouse similar products without losing the sight of the selected product.
  3. Your suggestion frame should neither be flashy to project a nasty objective nor impede the current selection process. There can be two ways to go about it:

    1. Keep product suggestions at the bottom of the page (above the footer). Here the frame is noticeable even at a glance and at the same time does not obstruct a user in his selection process.
    2. Place the product recommendation after the first conversion step, which happens to be before cart confirmation. This would ensure the first sale and give user a last moment insight into other product range offered.

  4. Ecommerce sites usually suggest similar complimentary product options from different brands, that customer did not know existed. Nobody has the time to run over the entire product range displayed by a website. A customer always trims the product list according to his preference criteria. A productive way of recommending products would be – Displaying only the products that fulfill the chosen criteria and explicitly mention it in words. For example if a person comes looking for smartphones having 13 megapixel primary camera.  Additional product recommendations to him should be made based on the same criteria and be worded so – “Other smartphones having 13 mp camera”.
  5. Lastly, the only way to convince a customer for buying a more expensive product over his selection is by proving higher returns of the product. Invade the customer’s qualm about durability; nobody would want to buy a product that is irreparable and high maintenance. A refrigerator which is higher in cost but consumes less power being eco-friendly will fetch more savings in the long run than its economic counterpart. Effectively conveying this message to the consumer will coerce him into buying a product that is heavy on the pocket now but will alleviate the burden later. Such deals benefit both the vendor and customer, provided you deliver what you guarantee.

What is Cross selling?

A man goes to a restaurant for lunch. After noting the order waitress asks him politely “Sir would you like to have something to drink with it, we have some fresh seasonal juice you will like”. Cross selling is nothing but proposing additional products from different categories to the customer to up your sale amount.

Effective tips to smartly implement cross selling

  1. Couple one product to another for making more sales; most cosmetic companies cross sell using this criteria. A consumer intending to buy a hair shampoo is sold an after-shampoo conditioner emphasizing the need to condition hair after washing them. And since washing is a regular routine activity people do, the profit margin doubles for the manufacturer and retailer.
  2. There is a new product people are not aware about. Unless marketed people will never come to know about it. Simply asking the people to buy a new product is not enough for cracking a sale. It requires attractive embellishment to draw visitor attention. For this you can ascribe eye catching discounts to such products. This will fetch it sufficient recognition nearing purchase. You must have seen retail stores flaunting “Buy two and get 40% off”; clubbing discounts can also earn you more. And you can extend it to varied product quantities to provide an offer for everyone. Godfather’s famous lines “Make them an offer they cannot refuse” make the most sense when it comes to devising discount schemes. Various kinds of people visit online stores, some are thrifty while some are ready to spend lavishly. And then there are those that carry a flexible budget, and are ready to stretch it if they are getting a good deal. Consider all these types of people when you plan out your discount options.
    Overstock
  3. The recommendations you make should be well within the confines of relevance. The products could be from different categories but complementing the selection. If customer adds a pair of formal shoes to his shopping cart he might require extra laces, a shoe polish, or insoles. Suggesting such items which don’t literally but superficially fall into the category will induce the customer to add more stuff into the shopping cart to pair up with his purchase.
    Amazon
  4. This is possible when all the products follow at least 2-3 level categorizations. A high level view may categorize a shoe into footwear category, but it can be broadly classified into Men and Women’s shoe category, going further this shoe can fall into a formal or a casual shoe category. Therefore a detailed categorization of all the products that encompass your range should be done. So that the algorithms that regulate product displays on the webpage are fed in advance. And hence whenever customer selects a product, algorithm picks recommendatory products from its sub-categories. On the other hand, another retailer Costco.com posts other product recommendations based on previous user searches.
    level categorizations
  5. Never team a cross-sell that costs higher than the original selection. Probability of it being selected is dim. If customer takes a leap to buy an extra commodity, it should be well within his buying budget. And that budget is definitely not double the price of his purchase. In fact it approximates to 25% of the initial product price. Recommendations that bear a small price tag stand a chance in the shopping cart, as accommodating them does not distinctly inflate the cart amount. If you are suggesting accessories make sure they are not expensive enough to scare a user away as this might lead to cart abandonment, especially if the customer finds a similar pair at lesser price on another store. Although this might require you to apply more than one algorithms and a strong knowledgeable staff at the backside for suggesting relevant product. Price is the most important criteria that influence buying decisions.
  6. Bundle up free delivery with carts exceeding a particular amount. Sometimes paying for the delivery takes a toll on customers, which causes them to shrink their cart total. Incentivizing their purchase order by free shipping can relieve them of the pressure and induce them to increase their purchase limit. Just to waive off the shipping costs, sometimes friends join their wish lists and make a single bill. This can also be done by clubbing products from the same retailer. This would not just ease off the shipping issues, but will also smooth the return and exchange process.

Track the progress of every marketing campaign after its implementation. Conduct webpage analysis to monitor the most frequented area of the page, keywords, etc. If your strategy combines both cross sell and up sell techniques, it would be tough to identify which technique generated more sales. If you contemplate the outcome based on user clicks, there could be many unknown factors that influenced the result. Maybe the customer just clicked to check product specifications or maybe it was a joint order by two people.

Often retailer use an amalgamation of Cross selling and Upselling, adopting any one of the two will be losing a revenue opportunity. Well this also depends on your articulation at these coercive techniques. Ultimately the intention is to maximize profit margins.

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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.

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

Talking someone’s language will increase your international sales

Globe covered in country flagesGoing global – reach, engage and convert an international audience

The Internet opened a whole world of global opportunities for the small business owner.  For the first time, SME’s were able to compete on a level playing field to reach markets once only accessible to big multi-national corporations. Suddenly a small cottage business could sell its products to customers from all over the globe.

With annual global e-commerce sales now over the $1 trillion mark, growth looks set to continue. Research statistics estimate that by 2016 there will be  1321 million digital buyers worldwide with an average digital spend of $1,439 per annum by 2016.

If you can successfully tap into this lucrative global market, a whole international audience awaits. The key issue however is, now that you’ve reached this new global audience how do you then engage them and convert them into paying customers?

Offering a multilingual online shop can increase international sales

We know that the more welcoming and straightforward your website is, the more chance you have of engaging your customer and converting them to a sale. Well, the same applies to an international customer. The more welcoming you make your website, the more likely it is that they will convert to a purchase. One of the most effective ways of doing this is by enabling your website to speak their language.

Why should you adapt your perfectly functional English language website to include a multi-lingual online store? In an  J.P. Morgan report for the Department of Commerce, it is estimated that only 27% of global online shoppers are English-speaking – that leaves a whopping 73% you are not able to communicate with through your website.  Offering a multi-language online store will help you:

  • Attract more overseas customers
  • Grow your global sales with increased conversions from international customers
  • Reduce shopping cart abandonment rate from overseas customers
  • Encourage more repeat visits from international customers

Merry chrismtmas in different languagesOffer a multilingual storefront

If your website offers  international shipping you are probably already receiving interest from international customers. As an SME you can better cater for an international audience by providing an online shopping experience in their own language. You may have a single English-speaking website or wish to create several multi-language versions of your site. Either scenario will benefit from introducing shopping cart software with multi-language capabilities.

1. Single English language website: The checkout process is often the most complicated element for an international customer. Terminology can be technical and trying to negotiate the payment element can make a customer unfamiliar with the language nervous – often resulting in shopping cart abandonment midway through the purchasing process. Offering customers a choice of languages in which to progress through your online store can make all the difference in whether your engaged customer converts to an actual sale.

2. Separate multi-lingual websites:  Alternatively, you wish to build several separate language versions of your website for audiences from different countries. Choose a shopping cart where you can use the same shopping cart account for all your multi-language versions. Having a shopping cart account that can be set to display the matching language of each specific website will eliminate the need for the shopper to make a language selection and for you to operate a different online store account for each language.

ShopIntegrator offers a multi-lingual storefront in 7 languages which compliments its multi-currency capabilities. And impressively, if you totted up the combined total of these seven key languages, you’d have a total audience of 1.7 billion people.

ShopIntegrator’s seven key language options:

  1. English
  2. French / Français
  3. German / Deutsch
  4. Italian / Italiano
  5. Portuguese (Brasil) / Português (Brasil)
  6. Spanish / Español
  7. Swedish / Svenska

Keep the shopping experience seamless for international customers

Keeping the language consistent across all a customer facing aspects of your online store is important, from basket right through the third-party payment processing. Using the customers preferred language from start to finish provides  a welcoming environment and seamless process for international customers. From:

Online store text

e-commerce buttons

Shopping cart checkout

Payment processing

Customer order email receipts

Customer order invoices

Order completed web page

Essentially, the success of converting an interested international audience into actual purchasers lies in removing as many obstacles as possible. And, language has to be one of the biggest – remove it and you are on the way to growing your international customer base.

We’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences on this subject, so please do leave a comment.

Advantages an Online Store Brings to Brick-and-Mortar Businesses

Guest Author: Gina Smith
 

Gina Smith writes freelance articles for magazines, online outlets and publications on behalf of a number of companies, including Global Response.  Smith covers the latest topics in the business, golf, tourism, technology and entertainment industries.

Online shopping Smartphone with ProductsMany brick-and-mortar businesses struggle with whether or not they should incorporate an online store.  This is an especially conflicting proposition for businesses that have been operating for several years.  Some business owners are simply just comfortable with their walk-in customer base. They have established a loyal following and prefer to remain status quo.  While this may work for awhile, it is not a sound long term strategy.

Change is scary, and not too many of us enjoy it.  However, for a business to keep moving forward, they must embrace change and be willing to incorporate new strategies into their marketing mix.  Whether we want to accept it or not, in today’s society, the Internet is king.  If you don’t have an online presence, sooner or later you will be isolating a portion of your customer base.  Let’s examine some advantages an online store brings to brick-and-mortar businesses. 

Computer Mouse wrapped around globeYou’re Now Global

A website can transform a local business into a global enterprise.  People from literally anywhere in the world now have access to your store and products.  This is especially beneficial for boutiques and specialty shops who carry hard to find products, handmade items or local artwork.  For example, when my husband is in need of a rare part or fixture, he visits the online store for a local hardware store he use to shop at when we lived in another state.  They always carried items he had difficulty finding.  Even though we now live hundreds of miles away, he is still one of their best customers! 

Clock, 24 hours, 7 days a weekOpen 24/7

An online store allows customers to shop 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.  This is especially convenient for people who work restrictive hours which prevent them from coming to the store during regular business hours.  Then, there are others who prefer to shop or browse from the convenience of their own home.

Seasonal Customers Can Make Purchases Year Round

I see this all the time living in Florida.  Business tends to be slower during warmer months, then picks up during the winter.  This is primarily because of the growing population of people who spend summer up north and head to their second homes in the south when the cool weather starts to set in.  Establishing an online store means customers have access to your products, whether they are “in town” or not.  I frequently visit the North Carolina mountains and can always count on discovering a new, unique shop with interesting and eclectic merchandise.  Those who have websites generally earn my business year round because I have ready access to them all the time.  I even share my favorites with my friends and promote them across social sites.  One customer armed with your online store can generate an impressive amount of residual business!

So, while taking the step incorporate an online store can be intimidating, it is very manageable and can open up new opportunities. Browse the Internet to get an idea of the types of online stores out there. Once you know what general style you like and function(s) you want, a qualified website design and marketing professional can help develop the best option for your business.  Be sure to do your research and choose a firm with a good track record and excellent references.  There are even some website design and marketing companies who specialize in small business, offering customized services at affordable prices.  Good luck!

We’d really love to hear your thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment.

Images Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net: Smartphone and products: Naypong, Globe and Mouse: Master Isolated Images, 24/7: David Castillo Dominici