OuterBox’s eCommerce Blog
OuterBox is a many headed beast when it comes to website development and mastering the art of online marketing. Several teams work within our office cohesively in order to pull of feats that would make any normal human cry at the thought of the amount of work, passion, sweat, and tears that go into any given project.
While one of our strengths as a company lies in the facts that our teams at OuterBox work so well together, many individual parts have made us the company we are today. Much like snowflakes or a dog’s nose print, each team at OuterBox is unique in the various strengths and personality traits they bring to the company. To get a good glimpse into what makes these teams tick, we decided to give you a brief overview of what each one does as well as what breakfast
cereal, game, candy, and super hero best represent their character.
The SEO team is made up of individuals who each have a background in various elements on marketing and web site development. Their daily tasks are primarily made up of making sure that client’s sites rank well for key words that are important to their particular market, and also spend a good deal of time making sure that the components of a client’s site will influence visitors to make purchases on that site. With this in mind, here’s a breakdown of the SEO team.
Skittles (So many different flavor possibilities!)
Calvin Ball (Google is constantly changing the rules on us, but we still find ways to win.)
This is the team that keeps us on the ball here at OuterBox, they make sure projects are completed on time and that sites stay up and running smoothly.
When there’s a problem, this team barely breaks a sweat, casually handling crises like they’re the John McClane of the eCommerce world.
A handful of cereal and 3-4 cups of coffee
Chess accurately reflects this team as it is a strategy filled game that requires a lot of concentration and practice.
Batman, he simply gets the job done when it needs to be done.
The design team at OuterBox is made up a group of cutting edge guys that have a knack for making anything look beautiful. They do this without sacrificing
the functionality of any given element that they create for our clients’ sites.
Eggs, sunny side up with rye toast and a grapefruit sliced in half, all arranged meticulously on a plate in order for it to provide both a beautiful
scene and a plate filled with a nutritious breakfast.
Blue M&M’s filled with peanut butter.
Settlers of Catan is a game that has a gorgeous layout and requires with plenty of strategy.
Iron Man, this guy never sacrifices how he is going to look in order for his suit to consistently function and perform well.
The Programming Team
This team of hard workers is made up of people that understand the ins and outs of how to build a website from the ground up. They are constantly staring
at screens and writing code to make sure that all of the pieces of a website, from SEO, to design, to eCommerce, as well as everything in between work
together smoothly. They are known to work around the clock just to make sure that every element works in cohesion.
The Nintendo Cereal System, a cereal that brilliantly combined both the Super Mario Brothers and the Legend of Zelda video games into one delicious meal.
Jelly Beans or Ice Cream Sandwiches.
Jenga, a game in which precise movements and a knack for balancing many components are keys to winning.
Mr. Fantastic, who is also known as Reed Richards, a prodigy in most fields of math and science, and has the ability to stretch much further than the
average human. Our programming team is made up of some really smart guys that are regularly stretching to make sure that our sites are constantly running
That’s just a brief glimpse into some of the teams here at OuterBox, there’s much more to us than just those 4 categories, keep checking our blog to find out more about us, and if you have any questions about building custom eCommerce websites, make sure you call or click today!
While one would not imagine that Otters and web development companies have a lot in common, this does not keep people from confusing us with another company that is known for its super protective cases for mobile devices. We receive roughly 2 dozen phone calls a day from individuals seeking to replace their phone case, or just calling with general questions. We do our best to lead people in the right direction and inform them that they are looking for Otterbox, not OuterBox.
If in the future you are confused about the difference between an Otter and our company, OuterBox, here are some fast facts about both groups to help you determine if you are looking for Otters (or a Otterbox phone case) or a web development firm (OuterBox)
Grooming: When it comes to grooming, otters are vigilant about maintaining a clean coat in order to keep warm. Their coat is the secret to their insulation and it allows them to be comfortable in chilly water for long periods of time. It is estimated that an otter can spend up to 48% of their days grooming themselves. Most Outerbox employees have average to above average grooming skills and probably spend 3% of their day grooming themselves. Except for our sales department, those guys probably spend close to 68% of their days grooming themselves.
Sprainting: Otters depend on their feces to mark territory and release odors in order to communicate with one another. OuterBox employees rarely do this.
Play: Some researchers have opined that when otters are sliding, they are not only traveling while using very little energy, but that they are actually playing. OuterBox once tried to build a slide in their new office; this didn’t exactly work out so we just went back to work.
Sleep: Depending on whether the otter is a fresh water otter or a sea otter, they will sleep in their environment of choice, meaning that the freshwater otters will sleep on land and sea otters will sleep in the ocean. Sea otters often cling together when sleeping in moving water, this is also true of most OuterBox employees.
Well, it turns out that there really aren’t that many differences between the average OuterBox employee and an otter. Remember though, if you are looking for an Otterbox phone case, we’re not really the people you want, but if you do want custom fully built web sites made, feel free to give us a call or email us for more info.
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.
With Google continually rolling out Panda algorithm updates we’ve seen changes in the way eCommerce websites are ranked. Panda updates seem to be focusing heavily on content and on-site optimization. Google is looking for website owners to make their website better, not just build links. Google has said their goal is to make the web a better place and this change is pushing website to become more informative and offer higher quality content.
Content: We’ve seen effects on eCommerce websites that have minimal content, especially on ranking specific product pages. Many eCommerce websites, especially sites with a large amount of products, have weak product descriptions. We’ve seen these pages begin to drop. Other issues arise when sites have a large amount of products with duplicate content. Often similar products may have an identical description as another product on their website. Not only can duplicate content on your own website effect rankings, but also copied or supplied content. For example, many manufacturers provide product databases and product descriptions are sometimes supplied. If you’re using the same product description that other websites are using your chance of ranking is greatly diminished.
To learn more about duplicate content read Google’s page http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=66359
Category Pages: Many times large amounts of products in a category will create a type of duplicate content. For example you have category A. Now category A has page 1, page 2 and page 3 as you’re showing 15 products per page. Google often ends up seeing this as 3 different pages optimized for the same keywords. This will give 3 pages a third of the weight that one page could possibly have. There are ways around this that we’re not going to get into for technical reasons, but the easiest fix is to show all products on one page. Sometimes this is easy, as in the example above with only 45 products in a category. If you have hundreds of products showing all of them on one page may not be the best option.
Link Building: We hear so much about link building, especially from clients. It’s old school SEO and everyone still wants to submit 100 articles a month and blast content out to the web with their links embedded. Remember, often these articles end up on a page rank 0 page and the incoming links probably means nothing. Our suggestion is instead of blasting large amount of content to other websites, write great content for your website. I’d rather a client post 4 great article a month on their own website instead of sending out 100 questionable pieces. The content on your website can last forever and bring direct traffic to you!
So, what is our link building strategy? Build good content and people will want to link to you. If you can get other people to link to you because they want to you can then focus on making your website better. It then becomes a circle of developing good content, building your brand and letting others link to you.
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.
When talking with potential clients about eCommerce web design it often comes up, “Why don’t we just purchase a shopping cart?” You have a problem and need a solution. Often the general problem is you’re not selling online now and would like to… but to what degree? $1,000 a month in sales or $1,000,000 a month? What is your marketing strategy going to be with your new eCommerce website? These questions all factor into the solution you’ll need, but are questions a cart alone will never answer. You need a team and not a product.
Custom eCommerce Design & Unique Layouts: When purchasing a shopping cart you’re often going to run into issues with your website looking like 100 other sites (if not thousands). This image is probably not what you’re looking for in a strong brand and will not place your company where you’d like to be. A customized solution will allow you (and us) to be creative in the way the website looks and is branded creating a customized shopping experience.
Flexibility of Functionality: Adding functionality is a given. You’ll need to at some point. Whether you need to now or not isn’t always the question, but what happen when you outgrow your eCommerce cart? Who is going to make modification for you? If you have a custom cart you’ll always have developers available, whether us or another company, that can take over your site and add additional functionality.
Search Engine Marketing & Optimization: Many eCommerce shopping carts really lack on the search engine marketing side, or they have to many clients selling the same items. What happens is 50 websites sell the same items, using the same cart and in return all end up with pretty much the same website. Google doesn’t like this. The search engines look to see how unique you are and how you stand out. If you’re just like everyone else, you won’t stand out at all. Also, custom designing the site allows us to constantly use the latest in web code trends and the latest SEO techniques. On each project we strive to implement the latest and greatest!
Controlling Your Destiny: Owning your code is huge! With many shopping cart systems you will not own the code, meaning if you’d like to move your shopping cart to another developer or hosting plan, you do not have access. It’s like renting code. You’re stuck with them!