Monthly Archives: June 2013

  • e-commerce analytics credit:

    Get ready for another brand-spanking-new Google release! This time, it’s their Content Experiments API, an e-commerce analytics tool which should prove tremendously useful for Magentians, especially early adopters. Thanks go to Frederic Lardinois at TechCrunch for his writeup on the hot topic.


    Redefining E-Commerce Analytics

    So what’s the big idea? Basically, the new API builds heavily on (and is thoroughly integrated with) Google Analytics, a marketing toolbox used daily by millions of online retailers, entrepreneurs, developers, administrators, and web professionals of every stripe. This enables developers to take advantage of Analytics’ horsepower actionably as they compare optimizations in real time. As Google puts it, Google Analytics is now “a full-blown A/B testing platform.” Not bad!

    To be sure, Content Experiments itself has been around for about a year, and they haven’t been idle; new features and tweaks to its algorithms have been steady and well-received. It’s renowned for its “multi-armed bandit approach,” an A/B testing model which intelligently adjusts experiment output based on variant performance. Now, developers can not only adopt these time-tested approaches—they can even design and implement their own! The extended functionality allows a wide array of selection logic on the path from raw Analytics data to categorized results.

    Moreover, the new API offers additional improvements over the basic Content Experiments JavaScript snippet, the only item offered by the company until now. Developers will no longer have to use redirects in order to test changes, for example, which is a major plus for user experience. And with the recent inclusion of server-side testing (a feature which goes above and beyond your typical A/B testing array), developers will be able to “try things like implementing different recommendation or search algorithms to determine what works best for your site.” And finally, Google made sure to point out non-web potential: think retail store kiosks with responsive applications in several different variants, producing weekly reports based on predetermined layouts, content, and features. Optimize away!


  • Harapartners YOTPO partnership

    Hara Partners, leading provider of Magento-based design and development services for online retailers, officially announced a strategic alliance with Yotpo, a plug-and-play social reviews provider for the e-commerce ecosystem. Together, the companies endeavor to outfit each other’s’ clients with best-in-class, fully optimized e-commerce solutions.

    Hara Partners contributes expertise rooted in years of high-caliber Magento development, leveraging superior resources to implement flexible, feature-rich online retail platforms. Paired with Yotpo’s innovative approach to authentic web presence, this equates to greater empowerment for users and a wealth of actionable data for entrepreneurs and administrators.

    “We’re very excited to inaugurate this new relationship with Yotpo,” said Sam Baron, Hara Partners Marketing Director. “We anticipate their social review model setting a new standard for engagement, authenticity, and informed purchasing for online retail and beyond.”

    Hara Partners, founded in 2006, provides industry-leading, innovative, and cost-effective web solutions based on Magento, the e-commerce platform trusted by the world's leading brands. From concept to execution to ongoing support, Hara Partners secures clients’ bottom-line revenue growth and profitability via customized website development and design. As of mid-2012, HP has served 250+ Magento-based stores in a variety of capacities—content, photography, video, development, consulting, IT services, hosting, etc.—all out of one hand.

    Based in NYC and entirely in-house, Hara Partners crafts a growth strategy with each client to refine the brand, look, and feel. Specialties include custom modules, integrations, and customized digital identity-building. They adhere to industry best practices and open standards, minimizing costs to facilitate future enhancements. Whether it’s online stores or complex database solutions, their experts translate business needs into a powerful, flexible web presence.

    Yotpo helps store owners generate a ton of reviews for their products and then helps them use these reviews to drive new traffic to their stores. Yotpo is completely free and can be integrated within minutes into Shopify, Magento, Bigcommerce, Prestashop, and five other e-commerce platforms. Over 9,000 store owners use Yotpo already, with that number growing daily.

  • mobile e-commerce credit:

    Armando Roggio put together some great observations on the state of mobile e-commerce—namely, three important recent trends that may change your outlook on the playing field. As the fastest-growing retail segment, mobile e-commerce (m-commerce) represents tremendous opportunity for business owners with the resources and foresight to use it to their advantage.

    Tablet Sales

    ComScore’s analysis of Q4 2012 statistics indicates that around 12% of U.S. e-commerce purchases originated from smartphones or tablets. What’s the reason? Ease of use and novel user experience, mainly. Things have really taken off since general consumer adoption exhibited an uptick in 2011. Since then, tablets in particular have hosted a number of apps designed to replicate the desktop buying experience in a bid to appropriate consumer preference. And it’s working: in 2011, Google found that 43% of tablet users spent more time there than on their desktops, not to mention the 33% who preferred their tablet to their TV.

    As tablet use eases further and further into the limelight, eMarketer predicts that tablet-based purchases will capture up to 9.4% of all retail e-commerce sales this year and eventually 16.9% by 2016. It’s especially interesting to compare these figures with smartphones, which despite an early lead have fallen somewhat by the wayside, accounting for just 5.3% of this year’s retail e-commerce sales. This could generate more specialized marketing efforts down the line. For example, actual offers and clickable banners could show up more on tablets, while price comparison and similar auxiliary shopping applications could be relegated to smartphones.

    Tablet Video

    Meanwhile, in slightly more predictable fashion, mobile video consumption is on the rise, with Adobe reporting 10% growth in Q4 2012. Though it may be too early for definitive answers, experts say that this reflects the general tablet user demographic: early adopters with more substantial discretionary income, greater capacity for travel, and tech fluency as evidenced by multiple media subscriptions across several channels. And these studies would be remiss in omitting a central fact of tableteering: more screen real estate equals a more pleasurable viewing experience when it comes to video. Business Insider Australia points to video consumption as a primary driver for tablet usage as of late. With this in mind, it would behoove marketers to invest more into mobile video for their tablet audiences, where higher production value for explanatory animations, product demonstrations, and testimonials will be more likely to be appreciated.

    The Male Gaze

    This one may come as a shock: turns out that men are more likely to make online purchases via mobile than women, according to a recent report by Kantar Media Global TGI. This holds true for the U.S., U.K., and Australia, where mobile shopping affinity consistently shows up to a 2.6% lead among men in comparison with the fairer sex. Hard to say why as of right now—more opportunities for conspicuous consumption? Downtime during the commute? In any case, it could be a self-fulfilling prophecy: recognizing this, marketers may utilize male-targeted advertisements and media properties to reinforce these behaviors by depicting even more widespread male mobilization. Whether the metrics even out with time remains to be seen.

  • What Magento Rich Merchandising Suite is

    Magento Rich Merchandising Suite allows online retailers to put their customers into groups, so you can pitch directly to them and their interests. As a store owner, you will know exactly what your customer has bought or is thinking of buying, and you can see exactly what they are searching for; to this end, you will then be able to show them related products – for example, if a customer is searching for ‘laptops’, you will be able to show them specific products such as peripherals (external hard drives or mice). Continue reading

  • e-commerce analytics credit:

    It’s common practice by now to employ Google Analytics in your e-commerce arsenal to get the upper-hand in an e-commerce analytics/marketing campaign. But sometimes we need a little guidance to squeeze the most juice out of these reports; how do we use them best, where do we find the most pertinent information, and what can we safely ignore? Feras Alhlou put together an informative survey for Practical Ecommerce on this very topic. Basically, it all boils down to segmentation, or the willingness to parse aggregate numbers according to certain schematics or populations. Let’s see which insights prove the most useful!


    #1: Segment by Traffic Channel

    Here, you want to gauge each channel’s worth in terms of traffic generation and conversion rate. How? Start by looking at “Traffic Sources” in Google Analytics, which separates results into organic (unpaid) sources, referrals (outside sources directing visitors to your site’s URL), and direct traffic (visitors typing your web address or utilizing a bookmark). Segmenting by Traffic Channel gives you a crystal-clear picture of all the points of access to your e-commerce site, thereby enabling you to make important campaign decisions. This information is valuable because it lets you concentrate on sources that work and pull resources from those that don’t.

    For example, if you saw that 70% or so of your traffic was generated via email, you might set a target of 85% in the next three months and divert a larger portion of your marketing budget to expanding your company’s email list in order to achieve that goal. On the other side of the coin, if you notice that social media drives hardly any traffic, you should make a point of analyzing why your tweets, posts, and social ads aren’t getting a response. Maybe you would need to focus on blog visibility, launch a social media contest, or look into guest posts to reach previously isolated audiences.

    By presenting the data in a matrix, segmentation by traffic channel lets you correlate findings across media (email, social, etc.), transaction volume, average transaction value, and more. One of the most useful parameters is conversion rate, a measure of successful purchases by visitors. You can use Google Analytics to pinpoint your conversion MVPS—affiliate networks, say—as well as weakest links; this data is much more actionable than an average conversion rate, which won’t highlight performance outliers in real time. Your attention is better spent troubleshooting problem areas (e.g., why did the holiday sale flop? Confusing content? Buried links? Navigation woes?).


    #2: Segment by Day of Week

    While some variance between industries is to be expected, this can be extremely useful for gleaning customer habits. In this tool, you can compare visits, conversion rate, and revenue against a calendar week to settle issues of timing. It’s particularly useful in combination with segmentation by traffic. To continue our earlier example, let’s say that you’ve found Friday to be your site’s busiest day in terms of both traffic and revenue. It might be a great idea to take advantage of this by scheduling email blasts on Thursday night or Friday morning, boosting email conversion rates in tandem with proven traffic metrics. This ability to manipulate scheduling is a boon in any e-commerce analytics toolbox!

    And it doesn’t stop there. Further segmentation permits granular control by hour, so that you might learn that lunch breaks are peak conversion points, or that traffic dips heavily during the morning rush hour. As with all Google Analytics campaigns, you can even set up custom reports to alert you to unusual activity or to confirm your findings over a predetermined window of time.


    #3: Funnel Segments

    E-commerce analytics have truly come a long way; going beyond channels and times, you can also learn quite a bit from your shopping cart funnels. While many might be content with a simple conversion ratio comparing the “Add to Cart” step to the “Checkout Complete” step, Google Analytics does you one better by (again) separating results by channel and providing results from each and every step of the sales funnel. Simply navigate to Conversions -> Goal Flow Reports and select “Medium” in the dimension drop-down menu. This data is provided as a completion percentage (e.g., “28% of 5.09K total visitors completed this step”).

    Here’s where it gets good: you can instruct Google Analytics to alert you to “micro-conversions” of your choosing. Using the same example from before, you might have to present a report comparing user response across several campaigns; you’d easily be able to set up a weekly alert on how many visitors were interested enough to add a product to their cart. If a large portion stopped there, you’re that much closer to the root of the problem, and you’d know exactly where to look in tooling around with future campaign variants.

    What else? How about tracking repeat buyers right from Google Analytics? This valuable customer subset can provide excellent data on the long-term success of “tried-and-true” campaigns, including conversion rate, average order value, and the same funnel habits mentioned above. Once this report is established, you can then compare first-time and repeat buyers as a benchmark for informed decision-making down the line. The possibilities widen even further when you track the page from which users add products to their carts—the homepage, a promotion, and a banner might all have this capability—and/or whether guests opt to log in on the way to their first purchase.

  • According to a report from Forrester Research, 89% of marketers said email marketing was their primary channel for lead generation. A thoughtful piece from Carolyn Nye, posted on the practical ecommerce blog dissects email marketing, highlighting 5 areas of email marketing you can A/B test to improve your overall conversions from the campaign.

    Email Marketing: 5 test to improve your results.

    Subject Line Testing

    The subject line has long been considered a way to get your email opened and nothing more. Recently, however, some industry tests and research has shown that your subject line can have an impact all the way through the channel – even affecting conversions. Use A/B testing to determine which subject line has the best results.

    From Line Testing

    The from line is generally the most emphasized line in an email interface, this is especially so on mobile platforms, so take advantage of the space with your name or company name or some combination of both. Avoid using the reply email address as that looks unpolished and impersonal. Again take advantage of A/B testing to determine which format produces the most conversions.

    Offer Testing

    This one is obvious: customize the offerings to fit specific fit customer segments. For example, a restaurant offering free kids meals to customer without kids is just a waste of time, use A/B testing for different offers, like dollar off vs. percent off, to find out which offers garner the most interest.

    Landing Page Testing

    Once your emails are opened there should be a strong “call-to-action’ in the body that leads customers to “click-thru” to the landing page for the offer, how you structure your landing page can make all the difference when it comes to conversions.  Since there are so many variables present on your landing page lots of testing may be needed to really drill down to usable data, but remember to only change one variable per test so you know which specific elements add to conversions and which detract.

    Testing for Deliverability

    This is the forgotten test, many email marketers neglect to assess deliverability, probably because it’s more complicated than straight A/B splits – which is a mistake. If your emails aren't getting to their intended targets you certainly won’t get any conversions from them. Test all the customer addresses in your company database, across the various email providers to ensure that your customers are hearing your message.

    Remember, the goal here is conversions, don’t let ancillary data, like open or unsubscribe rates, distract you from that focus. A/B testing of your email marketing program will lead to more potent campaigns and ultimately higher conversion rates.

    Hara Partners can revolutionize your SEO and Marketing - find out more.

  • magento mistakes credit:

    Magento can be a fickle beast indeed. It’s a fair guess that most entrepreneurs and developers would position themselves as perfectionists, and it can seem unduly difficult to wrangle a Magento build to perfection. To that end, it behooves us Magentians to look around at all the ways Magento platforms can go wrong, and—more importantly—how to correct a glitchy system. Thanks to Maria at Magento Store Manager Blog, we've got some great insights into the usual culprits.

    What causes most Magento mistakes? At the big-picture level, tampering with design and structure. Many values in the database or core folders are precariously balanced with one another, such that a seemingly simple tweak can have confusing and long-lasting consequences. One accidental click here, another random confirmation dialogue there, and suddenly you’re ticking up support hours just to get back where you started.

    So, ground rules: think before applying changes, document any of these changes, and always double-check with developers, either in-house or on web support forums. Remember, Magento isn’t very forgiving of click-happy users without thorough system familiarity. Let’s examine some common Magento mistakes:


    Upgrading a Customized or Module-Enhanced Shopping Cart

    This is a big one. Because it’s open source by nature, Magento offers up its code to any enterprising coder with an idea for an extension, and thus the perennial compatibility problems once Magento itself issues an upgrade. Furthermore, damage can occur on both sides—your store might suddenly malfunction in key areas, or the extensions themselves may get very sick. Sadly, you can’t just take someone at their word when they say their module is compatible with the latest Magento version, either.

    What to do? Firstly, don’t fix what isn't broken; there’s no need to jump on the brand-new upgrade bandwagon if you’re already running a stable version that fits your needs. You worked hard to get it that way, enjoy it as long as possible! If the upgrade is critical for your continued success, be sure to set up a new Magento installation on your server. Only then should you install necessary extensions, test them redundantly, and open your new store to the public.


    Restoring an Older Shopping Cart Backup over a New Installation

    This is kind of the last Magento mistake in reverse. Let’s say you’ve recently bumped up from Magento version 1.2 to 1.5, implementing massive system changes in the process, but then find that you’d like to restore a backup of your previous shopping cart. In this case, you’ll be trying to create a restore using files from the newer Magento version while pulling from the database corresponding to the older Magento version. That breaks Magento, plain and simple.

    Here, the regular upgrade process will not work. You’ll have to make piecemeal renovations using Magento Import/Export instead of standard Backup and Restore procedures, and you should only restore backups that correspond with your current database.


    Updating the ID Field to Varchar

    A little more on the technical side, this hiccup arises when you want to modify fields with restrictions. For example, you might want to alter Product ID numeration or add extra values. Often, users will access the database via the control panel and manually set a field to varchar or any other type. Problem is, in the database the field ID must be set to “integer type with auto increment” in order to retain database integrity. Moreover, due to the Magento database’s complex structure (Entity Attribute Value (EAV) with all values mapped by ID), this then break s all database relationships.

    Basically, you should avoid changing type for any ID field. Once a change is made, you’ll have to restore to pre-change backups in order to preserve functionality.


    Deleting or Updating System Magento Attributes

    Now, you may need to input some special value that doesn’t precisely fit a certain attribute or field, but it bears repeating: find some other means to do so. Messing with system Magento attributes can seriously hamper important tools, up to and including product creation/editing, order processing, and even frontend product visibility. Don’t do it, you will regret it.

    Instead, search for the solution in default Magento functionality. You could, for example, create a new Magento attribute for the necessary data.


    Changing Database Access Details

    This can occur via the hosting control panel and is compounded when users forget to change said details in Magento itself. Should that be the case, products in the site will become unavailable and the following error message will display:

    Access denied for user ‘your_magento_user’@’localhost’ (using password: YES)

    The solution, as you may have guessed, involves inputting the same access details in the local.xml file (app/etc/local.xml, the Magento configuration file) as those in the control panel. Be extra cautious, because this procedure could cause serious damage if done incorrectly. We do not recommend updating or deleting users from the control panel.

    Things can get pretty hairy if you try to change details during a Magento import or re-index. For example, if you’re using outside developers for certain services and you want to give them access as soon as possible, you may accidentally change access details while an important operation is running. It’s hard to tell what exactly will happen, but this Magento mistake often results in incomplete table alterations and/or missing data. Ergo: wait for all active processes to finish before attempting to change access details.


    Forgetting to Disable Shopping Cart Maintenance Mode

    Like leaving the parking brake on, this Magento mistake can show up even for otherwise diligent Magentians. If you’re dealing with extension installation or operations and forget to disable maintenance mode, the following error message will display:

    Fatal error: Class ‘TBT_Common_Model_Resource_Mysql4_Setup’ not found in /var/www/html/includes/src/Mage_Core_Model_Resource_Setup.php on line 234

    So disable maintenance mode and rest easy! Alternatively, you can work around this by manually deleting the maintenance.flag file from the root of your Magento directory. We don’t recommend this—it’s only applicable to rare fringe cases.

  • With the advent of eCommerce, and the current ecommerce trends at play, doing business overseas is as easy as getting a payment gateway and a reliable shipping partner. This informative infographic from the folks over at Alibaba about Chinese spending habits shows just how much there is to gain from pursuing foreign markets.

    • 242,ooo,ooo Chinese shoppers are expected to spend $264 billion online in 2013
    • 2013 is the first year the Chinese online spending is expected to outpace US online spending.
    • By 2015 Chinese consumers are expected to spend $445 billion online almost $200 million more than the projected US figures.
    • Only 40% of Chinese people shop online making growth almost certain.

    China Online Shopping Infographic

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