OuterBox’s eCommerce Blog
When your email box starts filling up with spam from robots filling out your online forms, such as a contact form, the first thing you’ll think to do is add a captcha to the page. Well I think that’s rude! So now when a visitor wants to contact you, or fill out a form for an estimate, they also have to strain to figure out 6 random swirling numbers and letters. Whatever happened to good usability and the best customer service? A captcha seems to me like some of the worst usability ever invented.
Research has been done to see how a forms conversion rate is affected when a captcha is on and when a captcha is off. Based on the article Captchas’ Affect on Conversion Rates by SEOmoz.org, they suggest having a captcha will result in 3.2% less leads. These stats are not surprising to me and if the form is a lead generations form it could end up in your company’s revenue down by 3+%. That’s not a chance I’d be willing to take them there are other options out there.
What are other options?
On our website we’ve had issues with spam form submission via our free website estimate form, but we’ve found unique ways to stop the spam without using a captcha. I feel that should be the absolute last resort and not the first thing thought of. One way to counteract spam is to think about how the spam robots work. Spam robots look to fill out all of your form fields with fake content and then will submit the form. Often they’ll fill out all of the form fields because they are not sure which are mandatory and which are not. Sometimes certain fields like “name” and “phone” can have fake names and phone numbers, but for the most part is nonsense that is being submitted. What we did to fix the problem was add a form field that is hidden, but robots don’t know that it is hidden. Humans cannot see the form field and do not fill it out, but robots always will. If the form field is filled out we then write a script for that email to not be sent to us. Pretty simple and it still makes the form very easy for our potential clients to fill out.
All in all, whether a captcha or something else that might save your business time, I think it is always beneficial to think about alternatives that would best serve your website visitor. When doing SEO and online marketing, it’s very important to be sure usability to thought of first to keep leads and sales coming in! Make the most of your website visitors and give them the best experience possible!
We all love free shipping. We all know we’re more likely to buy if we get free shipping. Yet, when most of us start an eCommerce website we don’t want to offer free shipping. Let’s face it, we’re cheap. We don’t want to give something away for free!
These days competition online, especially in the new era of services such as Amazon Prime, offering free shipping on most items is almost mandatory. Research shows that 93% of online shoppers say free shipping would encourage them to buy. Two out of the three shoppers said they would buy more online if they knew they could return items with free shipping (credit Econsultancy.com). Of course, if order to offer these services free, you’ll need to set your pricing and business model appropriately.
Let me give an example of success: A client of ours sold a product for $200. This was a unique product and was their brand. There were some sizes and color options, but on average it was around $200. Sales were around $400,000 the first year. Shipping on their product was around $50 a pop. People hated paying $50 and we saw a lot of people leaving their checkout process when choosing shipping. So what did we suggest? Offer free shipping and make the base price around $250. Their sales were in the million the year after. The illusion of free shipping! This is a great option and works well for many clients. Remember, the higher your product price the more perceived value there is. No one sees value is paying for shipping, but they do when paying for a product.
Offering free shipping is also a way to up-sell and cross sell other products. On many website you must spend $100, or another amount, before free shipping kicks in. How many times have you ordered one more book to get free shipping? I know research shows it happens all the time. The more you’re shipping to one address the less your shipping charges will be in relation to your profit on what you’re selling, so it makes financial sense, too. Look at your business, your numbers and see what free shipping is best for you. It will make a difference in your bottom line. Consider your eCommerce features and be sure your eCommerce website solution offers what you need to make it happen.
Raise that conversion rate!
Schema.org has created a standard in website coding to allow developers to include code that the search engines are looking for. Of course this is the most basic description, but it allows you to include certain snippets such as reviews, pricing, etc. that can then be displayed in a unique format by Google. In June 2011 Google officially introduced schema.org and began using schema in their result displays. There are many different elements that can be used on a website but for this article we’re covering mainly elements that benefit an eCommerce website.
The most used eCommerce schema item types for eCommerce include product rating (AgrregateRating), brands, model, product ID, offers and reviews. All of these schema “Product” tags can be found on the schema.org product information page. To include schema microdata into a website is fairly easy as certain tags or html elements are included are specific text or code. For example a tag of itemprop=”reviews” would be included on the section of the website code for your reviews. There is a little more to it than this and certain more detailed tags such as “worstRating”, “ratingValue” and others can be included on detailed elements.
So, what does this get you and why is it important? Below is an example of how search engine results can appear when using these tags. These tags allow Google to identity a product pages important elements and easily display those within the search results. These details create an eye-catching search engine results and typically increase your click-through rate thus increasing your website traffic. If you have products rated 5 stars and you’re showing that within the search results it makes sense that more people would want to look at your product.
Whether you’re developing a new website or already have an existing website these Schema elements can be integrated into your website. For more information and details on this top visit SEO Moz’s article on Schema.org and Why You Need to Use It.
Getting visitors to your website is one thing, but turning them into customers is another. This is called your conversion rate (learn more about eCommerce conversion optimization ). A solid product details page is often where the customer is making the final decision (as long as you have a solid checkout) on whether or not they want to buy from you. There are some basics in eCommerce website design and development that should be taken into consideration. Remember, if your web design company makes these type of recommendations, do you best to see how they can apply to your business. Often we make suggestions that are shot down simply because “oh, we can’t do that”.
Pricing: The basics of pricing is always have the best, or at least a competitive price. But what about how your display your pricing? Having the MSRP and showing what the customer can save with your price will let them see that they are getting a deal. Even showing a percent saved figure isn’t a bad idea.
Product Photos: No one wants to buy something if they’re not sure what they are getting. Having professional product photos will go a long way. Remember, you don’t want to look like you’re shipping this stuff out of your basement (whether you are or not). Also, pay attention to where multiple photos of a product could be beneficial. A lot of items warrant close-ups or multiple angles.
Reviews: We all look at reviews when purchasing online. Not having a reviews section, or have “0 reviews” is not going to help that conversion rate. Try hard to encourage reviews and even get some via email or over the phone and post them for your customers. Everyone wants to know what someone else who went through the same purchasing experience thought about it.
Discount Codes: If you’re running promotions and offering discount codes, make sure these are prominent on the product page. Too often these are only displayed on the homepage or within the checkout. If no one adds your product to their cart, they’ll never see the checkout!
Videos: If you have videos, or the manufacturer does, make sure you show them! Video will allow a visitor to learn a lot about a product in a small amount of time.
Warranty & Returns: Make sure these are somewhere that can be found. Before purchasing, customers want to know what they’ll need to do if something breaks or they are unsatisfied.
Shipping: If you can show a flat rate shipping price on the product page, do it! Visitors love to know the shipping before adding to the cart. Also, tell them when the product will ship. Saying “Ships in 24 Hours” or “Ships Now” will get people buying!
Phone Number: When they have questions make sure they can call. There is nothing worse than shopping online and not being able to find a phone number. Without a phone number, you’re going to lose a lot of business. And oh yea… make sure someone picks it up!
Trust Seals: If you have an authorize.net account or your own SSL, make sure you display your seals. Other seals such as Verisign or McAffe can also instill confidence.
In a word: everything.
It’s an immense undertaking to define, catalog, interpret, and tend to all the factors that may influence your typical online shopper; anything about a user’s experience (design, navigation, colors, logos, steps-to-checkout, etc.) may be interpreted as an influence on their buying behavior, for better or worse. For the sake of efficiency, we’re looking today at the lowest-hanging fruit – several factors of an ecommerce site that are easily changed to help boost user experience, and, yes, conversions.
This list originates from Adam Audette’s article 3 Important Ecommerce Trends to Watch, which solidly explains how the following three factors may impact an ecommerce site’s success.
When EVER has price not been an influencing factor in buying trends? And it’s not always the lowest price consumers seek; propelled by the adage “You get what you pay for,” many shoppers are perfectly happy, willing, and able to spend more to hit their standard of quality or remain loyal to a brand.
Yet, over the past few years, the brand bias has slipped as consumers adopt a more frugal attitude. Yes, the economic fall-down is a contributing factor to consumers’ spend-thrift ways, but couple this with the popularity of CSEs, or Comparison Shopping Engines. Searching a CSE as compared to, for instance, a store’s site, a searching shopper is reminded not only of brand, but also of price. According to comScore, from July of 2008 to July of 2010,
shopping across more diverse brands (including generic) increased by 10% to 62%
unique visitors to comparison shopping sites increased by 30%
Dovetailed into the influence of price points are shipping rates, which can push a shopper to abandon their purchase at the last crucial step. Some interesting statistics from comScore, July 2010, in regards to online shopping:
23% of shoppers will make purchases only if they receive free shipping
47% of shoppers expect to pay between $0.01 and $4.99 for shipping
70% of shoppers will only pay $4.99 or less for shipping
You want to buy a shirt.
Consider the shopping experience provided by a catalog: you have a picture, a little description, a smattering of color swatches, and a handy size chart stapled in the center.
Now, consider the shopping experience provided by a typical ecommerce site: you have a picture (or 12) with a magnifying glass and click-and-drag functionality to view your item at each and every 360 degree angle; you have a little description with text links, user reviews, and ratings; you have a smattering of swatches and the ability to view your product in each available color; there’s a size chart there, too, sometimes with testimonials regarding an item’s true fit. Moreover, there is a handy list of similar items you may be interested in; a pair of pants that match that shirt, or a coordinating sweater.
Taking it one step further, studies show enhancing the online shopping experience with video can increase conversions and time-on-site. To be more specific, comScore data shows that on sites that incorporate video into the shopping experience
shoppers are 64% more likely to make a purchase
shoppers will spend an additional 2 minutes on the site
What Should You Do?
PRICE POINTS – Research your completion, research CSEs, determine where your product line falls into the price point spectrum, and ensure your prices will compel potential shoppers to buy from you. With brand loyalty fading for want of lower prices, there is a golden opportunity for many online retailers to snag an attentive audience’s attention with savings.
SHIPPING RATES – Make sure your shipping rates don’t push away a converting customer on their last shopping step. Shoppers like to feel that they’ve found a sweet deal, and nothing is sweeter than free, or even flat, shipping rates.
VISUAL SEARCH – Enhancing the shopping experience is vital, especially as more and more online retailers adopt the same product listing techniques (think images, reviews, ratings, and the like). Incorporating video into the shopping experience shows a tremendous leap in conversions and longer on-site visit. What’s more, it makes your product listing viable for placement within YouTube (arguably the second largest search engine.
It’s almost time. The biggest online retail day of the year (or at least supposedly the best deals). Historically we’ve seen sales around 300% higher on Cyber Monday compared to the previous Monday. Being an eCommerce web design company, it’s also one of our busiest day of the year getting ready. It takes planning and a well executed online marketing campaign to make it happen. From running the correct promotion to PPC ad text, it’s important to get the message across.
Create an Enticing Promotion
First things first, you must create a promotion or sales that makes visitors want to buy. Your competitors will have sales, too, so be sure you create something that you feel will be unique. Watch your competitors and write down what they do each year. In the following years this can be useful information. A few ideas are free gift cards with a purchase, a percentage off, discount codes, next day shipping special and a free gift or product with the purchase of another item.
Getting Your Website Ready
Creating an aesthetically pleasing ad and placing it appropriately on the website is important. This will allow your visitors to see your promotion right away. Make sure to not only place this ad on your homepage, but in a spot where visitors can see it on all pages. Also, you may want to set up a special discount code. For example, “enter CYBERMONDAY to save 40% on your order”. With most eCommerce website platforms and administrations you will have the ability to set the code to activate and de-activate on dates and times. Set it up and let it run!
When watching PPC ads on Google this Black Friday, we noticed about 20% of ads had the word “Black Friday” in them or “Ends Today!”. It’s important to update your ad text in your PPC ads to display your sale and let people know that your website is participating in the Cyber Monday (or whatever day it is) sale. If you don’t make this update, you run a good chance that your competitors ads will be clicked before yours.
A well designed newsletter blast should always be sent out letting all of your current customers know about the sales coming up. Make sure they remember to shop with you and possibly give them an extra 5% off for already being a customer. I feel repeat customers should always get a little something more to keep them coming back. Chance are, they’ll end up telling someone else how awesome your website is and you’ll get even more business.
Social Media & Press
Be sure to update your Facebook status, send of a tweet and pass around the discount codes. Many coupon website will give you the ability to post codes. You may also want to consider a press release. Remember, whenever sending out a press release it needs to be interesting! You have to turn the release into a story, not just a straight promotion. If done correctly, you may end up getting some visitors and even potentially spots in other media outlets.
As we’ve been analyzing our most successful clients and working on marketing plans, we’ve seen a pattern…. Pay per click advertising. It’s true. If you can optimize your pay per click campaign it can be very successful and sometimes the results are exponential. Spend a dollar and make two I often say. Who wouldn’t take that? That’s a much better return on investment than I’ve seen on any of my stocks in the last few years! Pay Per Click advertising can be scary, so we really do need to take a good look to understand what it’s all about and how we can reduce risk. It’s all about stats and numbers. It’s not a guessing game and if you make it one you’re setting yourself up to potentially lose a significant chuck of cash. Spending $5,000 a month or $200,000 a month can seem out of the question, but it’s not when the ROI (return on investment) is there. In this article we’ll look more in depth on whether PPC (pay per click) is a method of advertising you may be interested in and if you feel it’s a method that’ll work in your business model.
Will PPC work for me? This depends on a few factors. I’ve listed the main factors below:
1) Conversion Rate (what percent of users purchase after visiting) – A typical conversion rate is 1.5% on the low end. We usually use this number.
2) CPC (cost per click) – How much will it cost for each visit
3) Average Sale – How much is the average sale
4) Profit Margin – How much do you make on each dollar purchased
4) Potential Visitors – How many visitors do your keywords allow you to receive. Each market and industry has a certain amount of searches per day.
These 3 variables can usually tell you if you’ll make money. An example is a client’s marketing plan we’ve been working on.
We’ll do this based on 10,000 visitors purchased.
20,000 visitors @ $.50 (CPC) = $10,000.
20,000 visits at 1.5% conversion rate = 300 orders.
300 orders X $340 (average order) = $102,000 in sales.
$102,000 (total sales) X .30 (30% profit margin) = $30,600 profit.
Well, the numbers don’t lie. That’s a lot of money to make. Yes, it was a $10,000 investment but it was a 300% return! This is how you make money. The saying “you have to spend money to make money” is the first thing ever business man and business woman knows. PPC is the perfect example.
The biggest thing to look at is whether or not you have a product with a decent profit margin. If you don’t, any advertising is tough. The next variable we need to take into consideration is the CPC. The cost per click is going to let us know if this is possible. If the most per click was $3 for the industry in the example above, PPC wouldn’t be profitable. As you see, it’s a science and not a guessing game. Guessing is expensive. Guessing loses our clients money.
The next step in pay per click optimization is looking at the conversation rate. A 3% conversion rate in the example above would yield results that would be out of the world. Huge numbers. The numbers we’d all like to see. The way to achieve a conversion rate above and beyond the industry average is to optimize the pay per click campaign. The way this is done is to remove keyword that are not converting, run ads move often during times that visitors purchase the most and be sure clients are being driven to the page on the website that converts on the highest level for the keyword. This is done through constantly monitoring and updating the campaign. Creating powerful landing page for specific keywords that have clear calls of action (COA) is also a very important step.
Remember, spending money to make money is necessary, but spend wisely. If you’d like help in creating a successful PPC campaign, contact us.
As eCommerce progresses and grows into one of the largest mediums for selling products, web designers are faced with creating ideas on producing higher quality eCommerce websites. The question lies between the effectiveness of witty ideas or clean-cut standard eCommerce development. When taking a look at some of the most effective eCommerce website today, it seems the second has established itself as the winner.
Usability is key in for a successful eCommerce website when a visitor already “knows” how to use your website. There are certain elements, in certain places, that visitors look for, utilize and expect that will always be available.
Following the guidelines below will help your eCommerce website sell at a higher conversion rate and give you the calls of action needed to be successful.
Using a top or standard side navigation will give the best results. Even though most people would think this is true, not everyone decided to design this way.
#2: Search – Let Them Find It Easily
When a user is on your site don’t make them work too hard. If they want to find something, be sure a search box is always available. Also, add a link to “advanced” or “detailed” search. A basic search bar doesn’t always bring up everything needed. Allow them to search by price range, category and any other specifications that may be relevant to your industry
#3:Cart Preview – What’s In It?
Be sure to make your cart preview visible from all pages of the website. No one wants to click “view cart” every time they forget what’s been added already or what their total is.
#4:Calls To Action – Make Them Visible
Whether it be your “Add to Cart” button or Phone Number (or both), but sure they stand out. Direct people what to do and how to complete their transaction.
#5:Breadcrumbs – Tell Them Where They Are
It’s much easier for a visitor to navigate when they know where they’re at.
#6:Product Photos – Let Them Zoom!
Usually it’s tough to see the details in product photos. Utilize different zoom features and make the details pop. You know what they say… a photo is worth a 1000 words. Spend the time, and money if necessary, to get photos that will sell.
#7:Payment Options – Offer them!
Having multiple payment options makes a huge difference! Always have an integrated merchant account, such as Authorize.net, but also offer PayPal and Google Checkout. When offering PayPal as an option we’ve seen sales jump by 40% in a month.
#8:Our Price vs. List Price
Be sure to show the difference between your prices and the list price. Hopefully your prices are low (important online) and it’ll give the visitor more incentive to buy from you.
#9: Shipping – Offer Flat Rate ( & Free If Possible)
Offering flat rate shipping makes the checkout process a bit easier and you’ll find you’ll convert better as well. If you have set prices for shipping (ex. $7.99 for orders under $50) you can then show the shipping price on the cart page without the user having to enter in their zip code! The less information someone needs to provide in order to get all of their order details the better. Also, if you can offer free shipping, even if this means adding a bit of cost into the products, this can often increase sales dramatically.
#10:Tabs for Product Details
#11: Sales & Promotions
It might seem basic but we’ve seen time and time again sites jump 100% + in sales by running a simple promotion. Whether it’s free shipping, a discount code or basic spring sale, always be running some type of promotion. This brings in the “buy it now” factor and gets users to pull out the plastic!
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When designing websites and talking marketing with certain clients or prospects, often they will mention “Word of mouth is the only advertising we do.” This may be in response to the question, “Are you interested in search engine marketing”, “Do rankings matter to you” or “What is your general business marketing strategy”.
We all know that word of mouth works and a referral is much more beneficial than someone finding you in the Yellow Pages (any one use that anymore?). Word of mouth converts because it is a direct referral and someone saying, “This company is good”. So, what if you can only grow your business to a certain point on word of mouth referrals? This strategy may hit a pinnacle at some point and you’ll need to look into other advertising methods to continue on-going growth. What we need to think is “Who else could refer potential customers to me?” At this point you may think, “Let’s hire another salesman”… and guess what, I’ve got the best salesman you could ever ask for.
His (maybe her?) name is Google. If someone is looking for a Home Builder, for example, they may go to Google and search “Home Builder Cleveland Ohio”. You’ll get results on the left hand side (Google picks these) and results on the right, called “Sponsored Listings”. What we’re focusing on are the listings on the left hand side, and we should focus on them considering nearly 80% of people visit those listings only.
The websites that appear on the left hand side of Google are the sites that Google feels are best. You cannot pay to be there and you cannot beg to be there (I’ve seen people try). The only way for Google to list your website is for your website to have the qualities that Google is looking for. These qualities, from a basic standpoint include:
- Content relevant to your business and the keywords related to your business
- A decent amount of content (1 paragraph or a few pages usually won’t cut it)
- Other websites linking to yours
- A website that is built properly and coded correctly
Of course there is more that goes into search engine optimization, but right now we’re dealing with why it’s important, not how to make it happen.
OK. Why does this matter?
If you haven’t put together the title of this post yet and figured out why ranking in Google is important, let me tell you. Google is your new salesman. The new guy saying, “You need someone? I know the perfect person!”. All Google does is refer new potential customers and clients to your website, 24 hours a day. We’ve built our business on it and it works. We have clients all the time saying, “We found you at the top of the search engines” and they trust us because Google has referred them. No one wants to work with a company that is not trusted and this is why PPC (pay-per-click) and sponsored listings can only take you so far. Not everyone wants to chose a company based on an ad. They want a referral and Google will provide it.
Google has a big mouth and is screaming from the rooftop. Is it yelling your name?