OuterBox’s eCommerce Blog
The weather is finally getting warm again here in Akron, and not a moment too soon. It seemed as if this past winter was never going to end, although that’s how most winters in Northeast Ohio tend to feel when snow storms continue to pummel the area well into April. Spring and Summer in Akron can be gorgeous times of the year, with temperatures making it just nice enough to be able to keep windows open, but not so overwhelmingly warm that we have to close the windows back up and turn the air conditioning on. Along with this change of weather come many things that we OuterBoxers love to enjoy when we’re not busy at the office.
Spring time in downtown Akron brings with it the sights and sounds of America’s favorite pastime, baseball. The crack of the bat, the grills firing up and getting ready to cook some hot dogs, the throngs of crowds that descend upon downtown in the late afternoon. All of these sights and sounds are a clear indication that it’s time to put the snow shovels and boots away for a few months and embrace the beautiful weather that Northeast Ohio is about to bestow on us. Akron’s very own minor league baseball team, the Aeros, play right across the street from the Outerbox office, so there’s a strong possibility that we get way more excited about minor league baseball than most Rubber City residents.
If you don’t happen to find us at the OuterBox office or over at Canal Park enjoying an Aeros game, you’re likely to find most of us outside enjoying the parks and trails the greater Akron area has to offer. From golfing to running and everything in between, there’s no stopping this group from getting outside and competing. Speaking of competing, if you’re in the neighborhood sometime, you should stop on by for a game or two of table tennis. I’ve tried my hand several times at taking down some of the top notch players here and unsurprisingly it always ends in an embarrassing and sweaty defeat. That doesn’t mean the guys who wield ping pong paddles can’t be taken down though, I’m sure there are at least a few other Akronites that can defeat them.
After a long day of building custom websites and a few games of ping pong, you can also find us down at the local watering hole, enjoying the newest craft beer that Baxter’s or the Lockview has on tap. With offerings on their menus that rise above traditional pub fare, it’s not surprising that a few of us end up staying for dinner too before heading home for the evening.
This is just a brief glimpse of where you will find us when we’re out and about in Akron, if you see us, feel free to say hi and join us, we promise not to talk nerdy about the internet the whole time. Where will we see you this summer?
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!
With more and more eCommerce websites popping up on a daily basis, many of us are trying to find ways to be unique in selling our products online and creating successful online stores. Sometimes our creativity, in my opinion, gets “out of control”. What I mean by this is, no one can tell your even an online store! Whether it’s an atypical navigational format or a strange landing page, it’s probably not helping your conversion rate much. We’re creative, too, and like nothing more than to present unique ideas, but our end goal is always sales (And I think you’d like to make money, too!). With our analytic based approach to creating eCommerce websites we often work hard to figure out what is working on a website and what’s not. Oddly enough, many times the most basic sites convert best. To check a past of read 11 eCommerce Website Rules.
Whether it’s Ebay or Amazon, really, it’s nothing special. Of course this is easy for us to say because we don’t own either and we’re not billionaires like they are, but from a complexity design level, it’s nothing special. Each offers strong unique ideas and functionality which drive their success. Their strong points are ease of navigation and the ability for someone to get to the end goal. The side navigation and top navigation is what we’re all use to, so boring or not, we know how to use it already. There is no learning there. When a user is looking for a product, often they just want to find a website that looks secure and purchase quickly. If you offer them this opportunity, you’ll succeed.
Now I may seem like I’m contradicting myself, but adding some fun features may make the buying process one that has a bit of the “wow” factor as well. This can help in your website winning an award, a customer telling someone else or even your website being featured in a new article. As long as the fun feature does not interfer with a user purchasing quickly, or even better helps them to find what they need faster, it’s great to come up with creative ways to get from point A to B (buy).
SEO (search engine optimization) and Uniqueness – Anything built, if you’d like anyone to see it and you don’t have a huge brand that’s searched 1,000 time a day, should be search engine friendly and optimized. This once again can lead us to traditional navigations, breadcrumbs and some of the pieces we’re used to seeing. Never sacrifice your search engine rankings for a website that looks cool. In the end you won’t have sales and that’ll get you nowhere.
Through this post by no means do we mean to stunt your creativity, but just ask you to take our suggestions to be sure you get found and get sales! Remember, increasing profitable is the goal!
Before we begin, if you’re not sure what duplicate content is, it’s content or text that’s exactly (or for the most part) the same on multiple websites or multiple pages within a site. Google and the other search engines look down on this as you should be developing unique content that you’ve written yourself and also not be using the same content on multiple pages. Now we’ll get into the post to figure out what happens when someone copies your website.
Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but I have to admit I’m not thrilled to find the OuterBox website has been copied… multiple times. From web design companies in other countires to whole pages of content, people have stolen our design, graphics and content in various forms. I couldn’t even believe my eyes when I realized a company from across the globe stole our entire website. They used the exact design just by saving all of our graphics and code and then using Photoshop (or paint possible) to change the language on a few of the buttons. Either way, it was our site destoryed to match another language and help another company sell. As frustrating as this is due to the fact that someone stole our hard work, there may be other complications as well above and beyond being very annoying.
Duplicate content can be an issue and it’s very tough to spot other websites from copying what you’ve done. Using a duplicate content checker program we search text we’ve written to see if other website also have the same content on their page. Another easy way to do this (and free) is to go to Google and search for a line or paragraph of your text within quotes. Example: “This is the text you’re checking to see if other sites stole”. The results will bring up any other pages that have this exact text in it. If other people stole your code it means Google may not realize that your content is unique and may not realize that you wrote it. We’ve found however that Google does try hard to figure out who the unique content belong to and they realize people do steal content. Our website for example has been hijacked many times but has not had a major impact at this point. It’s still something we watch our for and we are proactive in always having duplicate content removed.
What to do: Usually contating the website that copied your content and asking them to remove the stolen content will result in them taking it off. Sometimes website in other counties are less responsive, but it’s worth a shot. Another option is to contact the hosting company the website is on and file a complaint of a copyright violation. If done properly and they rule in your favor, they should shut the website down.
I recommend on a somewhat regular basis going through and looking for other site that may have copied yours or specific content. The most important pages will be your main landing pages and the pages that rank the best in the search engines. You want to be sure that people have not copied these. Remeber, as you grow people will try to copy you. Feel flattered, but also fight back! You wrote it and you deserve for it to only be on your website.
Often when talking with potential clients they ask, “What are the main reasons eCommerce websites do not succeed?”. There are many variables, some which we (an eCommerce design company) can affect and some that are up to you, the client. Below we’ve outlined important issues you must consider.
1) Products You’re Selling
I’ve talked with people looking to build a website selling a small amount of strange products a wondered, “is there really a large enough marketing for these products”? This is the biggest decision of all when starting an online store. What should you sell? make sure you choose quality products that people want! Even if there are many other websites selling the product (like a name brand shoe), there is still a place for you if you market your website correctly. Make sure online users want to buy the products you’re selling!
Most important of all! We’ve all heard the stories and seen the websites that we know are making millions and they look very amateur. Although amateur is never good, even at times these people succeed when offering LOW prices. Of course these sites would do even better if they had better design and a solid marketing strategy, but the idea is low prices will attract customers! This is the case in the retail market outside of the web, but even more important on the web when the next store is only a click away. Be sure you’re researched your competitors (or hired us to do it) and that your prices are competitive.
3) Marketing Plan
Be sure you’ve planned how you’re going to market your website. Without a strategy developed, you’ll never make it. Map it out and take time to execute the plan. And remember, if it does not work the first time, tweak it and continue to grow your ROI.
4) Search Engine Optimization
A big part of your marketing plan and business model should be eCommerce search engine optimization. To learn more about SEO, click the “eCommerce search engine optimization” the the previous sentence. The basic idea is moving you to the top of the search engines which allows search engine users to find your website when searching keywords related to your website.
5) Design / General Feel
Of course the look of your website is probably one of the biggest factors in whether or not you’ll be successful. We’ve all pulled up a website and as soon as it loaded hit the back arrow. Why? Because the website looked sketchy. Shady. Like they’ll steal your credit card number and you’ll never get your items. Even though they may be a legitimet company we all get worried when shopping online. The goal needs to be to build a big, strong, trusing brand and look for your online business.
6) Calls to Action
If you’re trying to get someone to add an item to their cart, make sure the button stands out! If you want them to call in, make sure your number is visible! Be sure you’re always telling the user where to go, what to do next and of course, pushing them towards a sale.
A good amount of content will allow users to learn more about you and feel more comfortable shopping with you. Whether its an about us page or product details, you must inform your visitors!
8 ) Shipping
Shipping is tough to pay for. We all hate it. Who wants to buy a $35 item that cost $20 to ship? Even if $35 is a great price, it seems like you’re paying another $20 for nothing! Try your best to lower shipping prices and offer free shipping as much as possible. Let me stress that again, FREE shipping. (You’ll sell WAY more.)
Run promotions! Give someone a reason to buy today! Even if you’re not offering a great deal, make it seem like it! I know many website who always have a 15% off sale. That’s because the set their price 15% higher and now always make their items seem like they are on sale. Easy enough.
10) Product Photos
This is a big one! As the old saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words”. If a visitor does not want to read multiple paragraphs they can learn about your product by looking at detailed photos. Be sure your users can zoom and see the details. If your product warrants multiple angles or a shot of the back, show it!
11) Have an edge!
Be unique. Something must make your company different. Whether your products are organic or you’re connected to a charity, let people know!
Applying the basics to selling online
Good aesthetics and good information are two necessary components to reaching an audience that is constantly bombarded with every kind of advertisement known to man. You have heard that before, right? Do you really believe it? In today’s world of e-commerce and the continual growth of online business, I should hope that people understand the importance of a good homepage, and a good website all together. However, just in case you do not, here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Your homepage = your storefront.
Let’s pretend instead of selling things online, you have an actual brick-and-mortar location. You would first have a sign in front of that location, or in the window, or something, right? You would try and make it as nice-looking as possible, right? You would not have snapshot images of vacuum cleaners in the windows of your pet supply store, right?
Your website is the same. People tend to think that because a website is cheaper to host than having overhead costs, they can skimp on the aesthetic as well. This is a mistake if you want to make any money from your website, and if you do make money from this, you are certainly not maximizing its potential. It kills me when an ecommerce site looks outdated, sloppy, or unorganized. Your site should only look like that if you are trying to sell outdated, sloppy, or unorganized items. However, if you are trying to sell nice items worth buying, you need to look like you know what nice is! Otherwise, you will just look like an amateur trying to sell a product you know nothing about. Shoppers need to be TOLD and SOLD on what looks good and you are not sellin’ anything looking like that!
2. Your online store = your floor layout.
An online store has navigation links guiding shoppers through a site to eventually find what they want and buy. A site without good navigation is like a store with no particular sections dividing their different products, no signage to tell the shopper what they are looking at, blank boxes with white labels but no way to open the box to see what is inside, and a hidden cashier counter…just in case the shopper actually made it to the buying stage. People are busy. If they cannot find something easily, quickly, and pleasantly, they will go elsewhere….because they know they can.
3. The information you give your users on your website = your sales associates.
Bad information does not help the user buy. Good information, much like a helpful sales associate, answers all of your customer’s questions and guides them to the buying stage, instilling confidence in your customer that they know exactly what they are getting and what they are getting is great. The information includes options on how many items per page the visitor can view, good product details, product descriptions, reviews, related items, availability, shipping information, sizing information, and high-quality images with multiple views and ZOOM, for goodness sake!
Imagine a clothing company whose product display in their brick-and-mortar store is just like the bad images on their online clothing store. You walk in and want to see the shirt that they have displayed in their storefront window. The sales associate takes the shirt off of the rack, takes five large steps away from you, turns back around and holds it up for you to look at it. You aren’t allowed to come closer to look at it. You are not allowed to reach out and touch it. The sales associate will not turn the shirt around for you to see the back and she will not hold it closer to you for you to see any details. Oh, and you cannot try it on. See my point? You would never buy that shirt from them. You would go somewhere else, where you can be sure you know what you are buying.
Never underestimate the power of aesthetics and good information. You are trying to EARN business. Earning it is the only way you are going to get it. To earn it, you must be able to tell AND show them why they need it and what they are getting. An E-Commerce Website is not yo momma’s brick and mortar store, but many of the old rules still apply. Don’t forget those basic building blocks…and don’t forget to make them pretty!
Contact us at OuterBox Solutions for help and more information.