Monthly Archives: September 2014

  • Marketing 360 Reviews 10 Key Points

     

    marketing 360

    Upon release of the infographic, JB Kellogg, Co-CEO at Marketing 360, explained, “One of the challenges we face is moving people who are new to eCommerce from the personal vision they have of their website, to design elements that we know from experience, will convert sales.”

    “The best eCommerce website designs are based on user-experience data. When it comes to online selling, simplicity and communicating value beat fancy, complicated design.”

    Marketing 360 collects and reviews millions of data points on eCommerce websites, including Bigcommerce templates and Shopify themes. Based on their experience, they recommend these 10 elements to be a part of every eCommerce website:

    1. The 2.5 second rule. A website has 2.5 seconds to make a first impression and convince people they are in the right place. Products, promotions, and call-to-actions that funnel buyers to checkout must be crystal clear on the homepage or landing page.
    2. Incentive to take action. This is no place to be shy. Demand people take action with an irresistible offer. Make calls-to-action stand out, and use a video to get a big jump in conversions. Try to get 3 calls-to-action above the fold.
    3. Value creation. Why should consumers buy from a particular website? How is this website better than the competition? Price, service, quality, selection–strong value propositions are essential to motivate buyers.
    4. Make it easy to convert. High-performing eCommerce sites are both eye-catching and utilitarian. Confusion equals lost sales. Make it easy for consumers to find what they’re looking for. Highlight contact information and encourage questions.
    5. Directional cues. Great design can guide eyes. Use arrows, stars, bright colors, and images of people looking towards the the call to action.
    6. Trust builders. Perceived risk kills sales. Maintain a modern, clean design that says “we are real and professional”. Display trust badges including credit card logos, BBB, SSL certificates, and verified reviews.
    7. Location and shipping. Let people know where the location of the business, and shipping options. Offer free shipping or use it periodically as a promotional tool. Have a clear, easy to understand shipping and returns policy page.
    8. SEO text. Websites won’t sell much if no one can find the website. Have an area to add keyword optimized text so search engines properly index the site.
    9. Flow and colors. There are certain color schemes and design layouts that work well for particular product lines. Defer personal preference for design that is proven to convert.
    10. Design all pages for conversion. The above rules apply to every page on a website. Contact information should always be visible. Category and product pages also need value creation and strong calls-to-action.

    “At first people might want to hold on to their personal vision” JB says. “But then we discuss the competitive battle eCommerce can be and ask: ‘Do want a site you can show-off to friends, or one that makes money?’”

    That’s an easy question for business owners to answer.

  • ERP Implementation

    ERP Implementation

     

    Enterprise Resource Planning—or ERP—is a business management software that a company can use to collect, store, manage and interpret data from many business activities, including shopping and payment, inventory management, and marketing and sales.

    The role of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Implementation in managing business processes has expanded significantly over the past decade from a focus on specific business areas such as manufacturing, procurement, or human resources, to broader use throughout the company. Although IT has traditionally been responsible for specifying and implementing technology within an organization, successful ERP implementations require involvement
    from stakeholders at all levels, from executives to end users. For many companies, the transition from existing traditional systems to a new ERP one can consume significant corporate resources, including time, expense, and risk to business operations. However, as we’ll explore below, this need not be the case.

    But which EPR Implementation is right for your business? When choosing an approach, be sure to consider the cost of taking on a huge project. You have the option of purchasing on-premise ERP software and installing it on your own company’s computers and servers.

    Given the range of functions that enterprise resource planning encompasses, it should come as no surprise that there are multiple types of ERP implementations. You can choose to build your own custom ERP and program it from the bottom up, though the cost and complexity of taking on such a huge project can make a do-it-yourself approach a poor one.

    A great alternative is a cloud-based ERP solution like NetSuite. The system is cloud-based and managed entirely off site by the ERP provider. This allows for customizations to automatically update with each system upgrade.

    Keeping these best practices in mind will help you launch your deployment on the right track. Make sure you research the best ERP Implementation option for your business, and set realistic expectations while giving your staff the support they need. These steps will lead to a more effective ERP experience and a better-run business for the long-term.

  • traffic

    5 Tips to Increase Traffic to Your E-Commerce Site

    When the stats begin to show your e-commerce site’s traffic dropping, you may feel like you’ve disappeared from the online selling scene entirely. You had customers and browsers before … where did they go? How can you get them back?

    Here are 5 tips to help bring back – and keep – shoppers on your site.

    1. Let social media bring in the visitors. If you have at least one social media account, it can be the easiest and cheapest way to drive traffic quickly. Set up your account and create your store’s profile, then be sure to add interesting and appropriate content regularly – product promotions, sales, and links to articles your shoppers may find interesting. To appeal to users of different social media outlets, have your accounts set to automatically cross-post between platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
    2. Make full use of content marketing. Our next tip is also inexpensive, but it will cost you a bit of time. Successful content marketing requires attention to writing, design and keywords that will drive traffic to your site and to specific products. Put thought into your content; think about what your customers may like to hear from you, whether it’s about your own products or the overall industry. Having trouble coming up with ideas? Ten to fifteen minutes of focused brainstorming may yield enough content for several entries! Learn what makes a good blog entry and how to leverage your blog content for traffic and sales. Don’t just say you sell jewelry online … add relevant keywords such as silver, gemstone, handmade and other descriptors that will drive visitors to your shop.
    3. Make connections with customers. Your customers can tell you why your site works – or doesn’t work. Contact them directly via email for feedback and suggestions. You can also create surveys with sites like SurveyMonkey.com, which require only a few clicks vs. written replies. Make sure you ask specific questions that are easy to answer, such as “What would make you decide to return to my store?” or “Is there anything about your shopping experience we could improve?” Also, always mention how much you truly value their input and advice.
    4. Search engine optimization can make all the difference. SEO can be your site’s best friend – but if Google’s search algorithms can’t find you, SEO can quickly turn into your worst enemy. Submit a reconsideration request if you’re a victim of an SEO error, and make sure to add your URL to other popular search engines to bring in more traffic. Update your Meta descriptions to both accurately reflect your store and to attract customers. Finally, a new site map outlining your layout can go a long way toward SEO optimization.
    5. Give Pay Per Click advertising a try. This option requires a commitment of both time and money, but the payoffs can be huge. First, do your homework regarding your daily and overall budget, analytics and location targeting. Then consider an online campaign on search engine-affiliated advertising networks, such as Yahoo Bing Ads and Google AdWords. Be sure to carefully consider keywords and terms, because ultimately they are what get those needed clicks; in addition, keep in mind that both popular keywords and keywords that aren’t relevant will end up costing you more.
  • internationalIf you are doing business in more than one country or targeting different languages, we recommend having separate sites or sections with specific content on each URLs targeted for individual countries or languages (for instance one page for U.S. and English-speaking visitors, and a different page for France and french-speaking users).

    While we have information on handling multi-regional and multilingual sites, the homepage can be a bit special. This post will help you create the right homepage on your website to serve the appropriate content to users depending on their language and location.

    There are three ways to configure your homepage/landing page when your users access it:

  • Show everyone the same content.
  • Let users choose.
  • Serve content depending on users’ localization and language.
  • Let you have a look at each in detail.
  •  

    Show users worldwide the same content

    In this scenario, you decide to serve specific content for one given country and language on your homepage / generic URL (http://www.example.com). This content will be available to anyone who accesses that URL directly in their browser or those who search for that URL specifically. As mentioned above, all country & language versions should also be accessible on their own unique URLs.

     

    Let users choose which local version and which language they want

    In this configuration, you decide to serve a country selector page on your homepage / generic URL and to let users choose which content they want to see depending on country and language. All users who type in that URL can access the same page.

    If you implement this scenario on your international site, remember to use the x-default rel-alternate-hreflang annotation for the country selector page, which was specifically created for these kinds of pages. The x-default value helps us recognize pages that are not specific to one language or region.

    yahoo-language

    Automatically redirect users or dynamically serve the appropriate HTML content depending on users’ location and language settings

    A third scenario would be to automatically serve the appropriate HTML content to your users depending on their location and language settings. You will either do that by using server-side 302 redirects or by dynamically serving the right HTML content.

    Remember to use x-default rel-alternate-hreflang annotation on the homepage / generic page even if the latter is a redirect page that is not accessible directly for users.

    Whatever configuration you decide to go with, you should make sure all the pages – including country and language selector pages:

  • Have rel-alternate-hreflang annotations.
  • Are accessible for Googlebot's crawling and indexing: do not block the crawling or indexing of your localized pages.
  • Always allow users to switch local version or language: you can do that using a drop down menu for instance.
  •  

    About rel-alternate-hreflang annotations

    Remember to annotate all your pages - whatever method you choose. This will greatly help search engines to show the right results to your users.

    Country selector pages and redirecting or dynamically serving homepages should all use the x-default hreflang, which was specifically designed for auto-redirecting homepages and country selectors.

    Finally, here are a few useful reminders about rel-alternate-hreflang annotations in general:

  • Your annotations must be confirmed from the other pages. If page A links to page B, page B must link back to page A, otherwise, your annotations may not be interpreted correctly.
  • Your annotations should be self-referential. Page A should use rel-alternate-hreflang annotation linking to itself.
  • You can specify the rel-alternate-hreflang annotations in the HTTP header, in the head section of the HTML, or in a sitemap file. We strongly recommend that you choose only one way to implement the annotations, in order to avoid inconsistent signals and errors.
  • The value of the hreflang attribute must be in ISO 639-1 format for the language, and in ISO 3166-1 Alpha 2 format for the region. Specifying only the region is not supported. If you wish to configure your site only for a country, use the geotargeting feature in Webmaster Tools.
  • Following these recommendations will help us better understand your localized content and serve more relevant results to your users in our search results. As always, if you have any questions or feedback, please tell us in theinternationalization Webmaster Help Forum.

  • brand

    Why Looks Matter

    When you’re selling an item, you’re also selling a brand. Packages that arrive at customers’ doorsteps will serve as indicators of what you’re offering to them overall. If you can capture them with one product, you can potentially earn their business for much more.

    The smallest details can be the difference between a recurring customer and a lost client. There are four basic aspects of packing that you need to get right if you want to deliver your brand consistently and impressively to the customer’s doorstep. We’re going to go over a few of them below.

     

    Build a Better Box

    As we previously suggested, the quality of the item can be determined just by the box alone. Here, the old saying, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover,’ doesn’t quite apply so readily to marketing. Great box quality of the product says that that the customer is going to receive something really special, even before that box is opened.

    And, of course, it’s not always about the cost: the most important thing is that the look of the box conveys your company’s brand and message.

    Although you want an attractive box, you certainly don’t want to attract burglars. To prevent having your products stolen off the customer’s doorstep, you might want to consider using a plainer box. In terms of delivering your box, size does matter; two or three products together are oftentimes going to need a bigger box than one item being sent off by itself.

    The Packing Slip – More Than the Basics

    The first thing that your customers will see when they open the box is the packing slip. The slip includes critical information about the order, such as which items were purchased, plus information about the returns requirement and process. With this in mind, the packing slip should reflect your brand aesthetic as adequately as any other component of the package.

    For each item purchased, the packing slip should include the following: item number and/or SKU, product description, size, color, and quantity. Listing items in a clear, grid-like fashion is ideal.

    When shipping the package, also be sure to consider the brand’s values. If simplicity is what you would like to convey, a single sheet might be the better choice. If not, think about what message you would like to convey for your brand.

     

    Insertsbrand

    Sometimes, adding something a little extra can go a long way towards enticing the customer. That something can be a sample, a coupon, or a thank-you note.

    Customers love coupons because they can ensure a great deal. Make sure that the coupon should be designed as thoughtfully as the rest of the packaging material.

    With marketing collateral, you can let customers know about your latest products, best-sellers, or the top trends for the seasons with a piece of marketing collateral. A sleek look book or a postcard can certainly do the trick.

     

    Tissue Paper – Wrap It Up Right

    After you’ve already chosen the box, packing slip, and inserts that you’re most proud of, next comes the garment.

    Make sure to use the tissue paper sparingly. Too much tissue paper will make it harder to find your clothes. One or two sheets will get the message across. Keep it simple. There’s no need to over-experiment. One color of tissue paper is sufficient.

    Remember that since tissue paper is the last component of building your delivery, that makes it the base of your eCommerce order presentation palette. By giving the garments the special treatment, you’re telling the customer that they’re also getting something valuable and unique.

     

    Conclusion

    Delivering the brand is all about conveying the look of the product to market what’s inside. By focusing on these four crucial areas—the box, the packing slip, insert and tissue paper—while also delivering a fantastic product, you’ll make sure that ‘what they see is what they’ll get.’

  • e-commerce security

    Whereas security in brick-and-mortar stores is essential, it’s even more important in e-Commerce. Customers who lose assurance in their security could potentially stop buying. This is why IT security should be a fundamental design principle in every company.

     

    User authentication and authorisation of roles are another vital component of e-Commerce security. With various levels of servers and users, a centralized way of managing user access is ideal.

    Many IT security breaches occur because of sloppy, or malicious behaviour. It can be difficult to guard against an insider physically taking for example customer information, but e-Commerce operations can take precautions to ensure their customer data is well protected. Process governance, audit trails and restricting employees’ use of external data storage all reduce risk. In e-Commerce environments it is essential to restrict the commands that users can run and record exactly which actions have been performed.

    Remember that security breaches are a real threat to e-Commerce businesses, leaving them at risk for fines and other related damages to their reputation. IT security should be implemented and designed to minimize risk by strictly controlling user access.

    Organisations should also have a Standard Operating Environment (SOE) with a Management Platform designed and configured to include ‘security by default’.

    Another way to maintain good security is to use strong SSL authentication for Web and data protection. It can be a leap of faith for customers to trust that your e-commerce site is safe, particularly when Web-based attacks increased 30 percent last year. Nonetheless, it's important to use SSL certificates to authenticate the identity of your business and encrypt the data in transit. SSL certificates are also a must for transactions. To validate credit cards we use a payment gateway that uses live address verification services right on our checkout. This prevents fraudulent purchases by comparing the address entered online to the address they have on file with their credit card company.

  •  

    omnichannelWith the rapid growth of digital consumption and what seems like daily proliferation of social media channels, marketers are faced with more choices than ever when considering how they want to reach the consumer.

    With each choice comes a certain amount of risk as marketers choosing to put a heavy investment in one channel may miss the untapped potential of another. This leaves a smaller margin for error as highly informed consumers have become acutely aware of how to seek out information, poll their networks and complete transactions across a plethora of interactive channels.

    With this transformation has come a new set of rules, breeding marketers with a hybrid capability to not be just focused on one type of marketing whether it be direct, digital or retail, but rather a marketer that understands experience, and how consumers are seeking ubiquity. From their cell phone to the desktop to an in store visit; we are entering an omni-channel world, where consumers seek an omni-channel experience.

    What Is Omnichannel

     

    Besides just being another marketing term or dare I say "Buzzword," omni-channel is a reflection of the choice that consumers have in how they engage a brand, and therefore is best represented as how brands enable their clients and consumers to use these channels to engage with them.

    Whether the purchase experience starts online or via a catalogue, the customer has a plethora of options as to how they may want to move through the buyer's journey with the brand.

    Omni-Channel and The Multi-Path Purchase Experience

     

    According to MIT's report, "Beyond the Checkout Cart," more than 80 percent of store shoppers check prices online.

    If you think about the above data point, this shows the rapid evolution of omni-channel. Customers are going from screen to store and store to screen as they engage in buying behavior and for many consumers it doesn't start and stop there.

  • crm

     

    Klenzoid is an industrial water treatment company offering programs that substantially reduce energy, water and chemical costs for steam boilers and cooling water systems.

    The company recently decided to use Netsuite CRM to develop, customize, and host specific applications. According to Michael Cairns, this decision has allowed Klenzoid to improve their operational efficiencies by more than 40 per cent.

    Klenzoid now has live access to customer data, and in a big data world is able to run lots of calculations. This is clearly helping to support the organic growth that Klenzoid is experiencing.

    Not stopping there, Klenzoid plans to bring in further data acquisition streamlining to be even quicker in their response to customers.

    In the cloud, Klenzoid saw an opportunity to serve their customers more effectively not so much by increasing their field staff but more so by investing in a system customization that would improve the quality and timeliness of the services that they deliver.

    The customization of the NetSuite platform has had a huge payoff for both Klenzoid and its customers. As a golden rule of business, Cairns aptly stated, “If you do the right thing – eventually the market will reward you as well.”

    Prior to the transition to NetSuite, Cairns describes how there were many different branches of information in Klenzoid, and none talked to the other. Now, with its innovative approaches, the NetSuite system provides information for key decision making; it highlights sales issues, opportunities, from beginning to end; there is one stream of data – from sales, to accounting to data on energy – all on one system.

    crm

    Klenzoid’s use of NetSuite has also allowed them to optimize their own operations and develop innovations with customers in mind. The new design and capability that comes with NetSuite allows Klenzoid to use customization that forged greater connectivity than had ever been previously possible. As a golden rule of business, Cairns aptly stated, “If you do the right thing – eventually the market will reward you as well.”

  • As online sales market share continues to soar – according to current estimates online sales will make up 10% of all US retail sales – perhaps it’s time to consider supplementing your B&M (“brick and mortar”, refers to physical store) with an e-commerce site. For the uninitiated though, the idea is quite daunting, sounds expensive, and for all they know, may not even genNow is the time to open an e-commerce site.erate any income. So, how is one to know when the time is right to make the move to online sales?

    Making the move to an e-Commerce site:

    Does your product fit the bill?

    Before even considering an e-commerce site you need to determine whether it’s even a possibility. The issue here is shipping. While there is a means of shipping any product, some items - perishable goods, bulky or heavy items, and the very fragile- present difficulties and increased costs that may make the move online less feasible, or even possible.

    An E-commerce site will increase your presence

    How do current customers discover your store? Is your main draw through word of mouth, through the yellow pages, “local search sites” like Google local and yelp, or simply passers-by stopping in? Having an e-commerce site extends your presence, not only to the global market, but even within your local marketplace. Globally, your base of potential customers will increase exponentially. This is true locally too, albeit on a much smaller scale. Most people these days use search engines the same way people in the past used the phone book – to find local places to shop. Having an e-commerce site means those people can find you. Additionally, by showing up in search you’ll not only be seen by potential customers, you’ll even have the opportunity to show why they should choose you over the competition.

    E-commerce sites never close

    Websites, unlike physical stores, never need to shut down. And staying open 24/7 won’t even cost you a cent because an e-commerce site doesn’t require anyone to be there to work. You’ll now be able to capture sales that you’d have missed in the past.

    While not every company can make the move online, those that can should grasp the opportunity to do so. The increased presence and lack of down time make this a no-brainer.

    Convinced? Check out Hara Partner’s top five tips for choosing the e-commerce site that’s right for you.

  • choosing an e-commerce platform

    So, you wanna be an e-commerce superstar?

    Opening an e-tail operation is no easy feat, with so many variables to consider it’s no wonder so many online retail businesses never get off the ground. The first step, and perhaps the most daunting, in starting your online business is choosing an e-commerce platform. Check out Hara Partner’s 10 factors to consider when choosing the platform that’s right for you.

    Choosing an e-Commerce Platform:

    1: Thinking big, or starting small?

    At the most basic level e-commerce platforms can be broken into two categories: non-scalable and scalable. Scalability refers to a program’s capability to expand to meet growing demand. In plain English, will you platform be able to accommodate the increased needs as your business grows.

    Often, when choosing an e-commerce platform e-tailers will opt for the non-scalable platform simply because it is cheaper only to find themselves at a crossroads later. And migrating a business from one e-commerce platform to another has the potential for disaster. For example, bugs or errors can crop up during the migration process causing downtime. And in some cases migration has led to a precipitous drop in search engine ranking.

    The flip side of the coin is that choosing a scalable e-commerce platform can be costly. And research has shown that one of the largest contributors to e-tail failure is overspending at startup.

    2: Open Source vs Closed Source

    Thousands of pages have been written extolling the virtues of one model over the other, but here’s a look at a couple of basic points as they pertain to each.

    Security:

    Closed Source - The general belief is that software vendor will invest the time and money needed to extensively test the code before its release to find and fix all possible security breaches. Of course, since no one can “see” the code there is only the vendor’s word that this has been done, not to mention that all the time and money spent on testing done will factor into the price of the software.

    Open Source – Though OS products are not tested as rigorously as their CS counterparts, the fact that so many users have access to the code means that breaches, once found, will have an army of engineers tackling them and quickly, patches will become readily available.

    Support:

    Closed Source - The logic here is much the same as for security - a commercial vendor “should” have the resources to respond rapidly to and permanently fix any issues that crop up. However, bear in mind that with most CS programs you will be limited to using their in-house tech support.

    Open Source – Again, the thinking here mirrors the above. Should an issue arise, there will be many attempting to fix it, and often a solution will be available in only a matter of hours.

    Two corollaries: With a OS platform finding the solution to an issue can take a significant amount of searching through forums, not something every business owner has time for. And when a solution can’t be located it would fall upon the owner to hire an outside expert to fix the issue. Neither of these possibilities exist for CS platforms.

    3: Customizability

    For some businesses their chosen e-commerce platform will be good right out of the box. But for most this isn’t the case. When choosing an e-commerce platform you’ll want to consider the possibility that you’ll need to make modifications.

    All programs can be modified the difference lies in the difficulty and thus, cost of doing so. This is another benefit of open source software. Platforms like Magento have their own community stores, where users can purchase (though many are free) extensions, add-ons and themes pre-made to work with the program.

    4. Features and Pricing
    Pricing for various ecommerce platforms may seem competitive, but you have to really have to examine the features different price ranges include. For example, you may be comparing one platform that starts at $29 per month, and another that starts at $19. The $19 one on the surface may seem like a good deal, but it may only include the ability to sell 10 products whereas the $29 per month platform may include the ability to sell 100. One platform may allow you to offer discount codes at a certain price point, while another won’t. One may offer support, while another sells that separately. Thoroughly comparing features vs. pricing can help you choose a platform that fits your needs at the best price possible.

    5. To the Cloud!

    Many e-commerce platforms are offered as a SaaS (Software as a Service) which means they are hosted by the provider. Choosing a cloud-based platform means you’ll be able to access your data at any time, from anywhere. The other option is self-hosted, which means you need to choose a host for the program. Be sure to take great care when finding a hosting partner as any server issue will lead to downtime on the site.

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