Author: Jessica McDonald

Cassini eBay search engine guide

cassini

Cassini is eBay’s internal search engine. Rolled out in 2013, Cassini has been programmed to gather data regarding human search, engagement, and purchasing behavior.

When a person visits eBay and searches for “running shoes” the eBay search engine tracks behavior including                           (but not limited to):

  • What is your return policy
  • What is your response time to customer questions
  • Do you have complete product info
  • Do you have quality pictures of your products
  • What is your feedback quality score
  • What are your shipping policies, prices, and delivery times
  • Do you have valuable and accurate product descriptions
  • What prices are you asking for products
  • At what price point are you starting bidding
  • What are your click-through and sell-through ratios

Based on the data gathered, Cassini is programmed assign scores to each listing based on how well a listing meets the customer’s search criteria and preferences based on their own previous behavior.

In the past, it was easy to cheat search engines (eBay’s included) by “stuffing” keywords all over the place. Search engines are now incredibly sophisticated and it’s pretty much impossible to fool them. Nobody outside of the programmers who create Cassini’s algorithm even knows exactly how it works.

What we do know is that eBay strives to create what they call “customer-centered commerce.” This means that they make the customers wants and needs the focus of all their decisions. Your goal as an eBay seller should be no different, and the Cassini search engine helps you achieve that goal.

The Cassini search engine is completely modeled around customer behavior. When a customer comes to eBay and types a keyword into the search box, eBay will show them every listing with that keyword in the title. This could be hundreds of thousands of listings, so the Cassini engine sorts them to try and show the most relevant results first.

Listings are “scored” based upon 4 key metrics:

  1. Item title
  2. Item specifics
  3. Category
  4. Catalogues

Each of these metrics has a whole host of best practices which must be followed to ensure that your product ranks well.

There is no golden rule for how to rank well with Cassini, but by understanding how it works, you can tailor listings to better meet Cassini’s requirements for a top result.

The first and most important thing to understand is that eBay wants to show customers results that are relevant to them, and that they will want to buy from. There is no point in showing laptops to someone who is only looking for a case. That said, eBay has studied buyer behavior and know that most customers want lots of results from a primary broad search, which they can then narrow down. Some customers will filter by adding keywords to their search, others will use the filters in the left-hand column. Either way, results will be determined by title and item specifics.

It is important to have full and correct category and item-specific information, as these really drive the filter engine in search results. Often, you may filter and see a list of brands, colors or sizes on the left-hand side, and then at the bottom will be ‘unspecified’. If you do not fill in item specifics, then your item will be in with the ‘unspecified’ and go unseen.

The importance of a good title

A good item title uses core product key words that describe the item.

Ebay gives you 80 characters to write your product title. Many people advise to try and fill these 80 characters with as many key words as possible. This is not always a good idea though, as Cassini bases your ranking not only on your listing, but also on how customers engage with it.

Every time a customer searches a key word which brings up your listing, Cassini counts this as an impression. Even if you are result twenty-two on a page where the customer only looks at the first two results, if you are on the page, it is counted as an impression. If the customer then adds another key word or uses the category filters, and your listing is a result again, that would be a second impression. The number of impressions your listing has is compared to the level of engagement your listing has, and this determines how relevant your listing is, and where it ranks.

If you pad out your item description with broader search terms, you increase exposure but dilute customer engagement, so damage your ranking.

One of the very best ways to find those specific keywords and keyword phrases that customers use to search for an item is to use the eBay keyword research tool –Terapeak.

Titles should be written for buyers. Writing in a smooth, readable way will get you a better engagement rate than a pile of keywords thrown together.

Qualifiers such as designer, material or color are helpful to a customer and search. But using other brand names with phrases such as “just like” breaches eBay rules and will result in your listings being taken down by eBay. Even if eBay did not remove them, this weakens customer engagement and so would damage your ranking.

Special characters are still sometimes seen in eBay titles. This outdated technique for catching customer attention only irritates modern customers and is seen by Cassini as a bad practice, so will not help your ranking at all.

Engagement

Engagement is what Cassini values over everything else. It’s a broad term, but for Cassini it means how much time customers spend on your listings, and how many of them engage with is by watching or bidding. High buyer engagement will improve the ranking of your listings. There are many things which are proven to increase buyer engagement. Some key areas are:

    • High-quality photographs
    • Well written product description
    • Free delivery
    • Free returns

By creating listings that are more attractive to customers, you will increase the time customers spend looking at your listings, as well as how many choose to watch or bid. This in itself can only be a positive thing, but it will also increase the ranking of your listings.

The format of listings can also influence engagement. Single quantity fixed price presents one item to appeal to the millions of eBay customers. If you consolidate listings, incorporating multiple sizes and colors into one listing, you increase the amount of buyer engagement on that one listing.

Driving traffic from social media is one way to increase engagement on your listings. Froo apps smart social is a free app which allows you to automatically promote items on Facebook and Twitter, and keeps to set popular times to avoid spamming.

The bottom line

Cassini is a sophisticated search engine, designed to reward sellers who strive to answer the needs of their customers with integrity and an earnest desire to engage in transactions that are good for all parties involved. Honest and clear, informative listings, categorized correctly and supported with excellent customer service, will always rank well.

Rare Wonder Woman Comics (Including Issue #1) To Be Sold On eBay.

Wonder Woman issue 1

Three of the oldest and most historically important Wonder Woman comic books —including issue No. 1- are being auctioned off on eBay.

The comics being auctioned (separately) are Wonder Woman No. 1Sensational Comics No. 1, and All Star Comics No. 8, all featuring some of the earliest representations of Wonder Woman.

For this one of a kind, historic auction, Frooition designed a unique custom listing design. The listing design is inspired by the DC comic’s artwork and their iconic depiction of the progressive heroine.

Wonder Woman eBay

The copy of the first issue of Wonder Woman was originally sent to Harper’s Magazine. The magazine was filed away in a cabinet and forgotten, preserving it in pristine condition. The other two comics in the auction were bought from a collector.

The comics, all of them more than 75 years old, are in exceptionally good condition. The copies featured in this sale are the highest-rated editions ever found according to CGC, a vintage comic assessment organization. (They got ratings of 9.0 or higher out of 10, meaning very fine or near-mint condition.)

Interest in Wonder Woman-related items on eBay has spiked since the character’s recently released feature film. According to a news release, sales of Wonder Woman related items have increased by 50 per cent over the past year and include comics, Lego sets, costumes and even Wonder Woman-branded fidget spinners.

Wonder Woman is one of the most widely known and loved characters of all time, so these extremely rare comics would likely fetch high prices regardless of the timing. The Wonder Woman comics are on sale from comics shop owner Darren Adams. Adams sold a 1338, 9.0 rated copy of the first Superman comic in 2014 for a historic $3.2 million on eBay, and the Wonder Woman comics are expected to achieve a similar price. A portion of the proceeds will go to Trafficking Hope, an organization that works to combat human trafficking.

Watch the video below to hear more about the origins of Wonder Woman, and the story of this incredibly rare find.

 

Why load speed is crucial to your e-commerce – and ten ways to improve it.

load speed

Two-thirds of people now own a smart phone. The average smart phone user checks their phone 40 times a day. As smart phone use spreads and the majority think of the internet as an everyday necessity, our expectation of instant access to information increases, and our patience levels drop. Load speed is only getting more important.

Google evaluates your website landing pages to determine your website’s Quality Score and Ad Rank. If your landing page experience is slow, you get a lower Quality Score from Google. Which means your ads will likely rank lower in paid search results, and you’ll have a harder time climbing rank for organic search terms.

Slower sites have to bid super high to compete with faster, better quality ads and landing pages. That’s because your Quality Score is tied to the cost-per-click (CPC). So, a faster load speed can also indirectly help to drive down your advertising costs.

Google even went on record back in 2010 saying site speed was used as a ranking factor, saying;

“…faster sites don’t just improve user experience; improving site speed also reduces operating costs. Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed — that’s why we’ve decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings”

If you have been struggling to get certain pages to climb the search rankings, or are trying to drive down your advertising costs, you might want to factor in page load speed as part of a great landing page user experience.

People like fast sites. Search engines like fast sites. If your site is slow to load, now is time to do something about it.

For e-commerce sites, load speed can be directly related to sales. Amazon analyzed their ratio of sales to website performance in 2016, and discovered that for every 100ms of page load time there was a 1% decrease in sales. 40% of customers will abandon a website and not return after two seconds of waiting for a page to load. E-commerce designers are dealing with rapidly decreasing margins for load times to not result in cart abandonment.

Clearly, speeding up your website is critical—not just to ranking well with Google, but to keep your conversion rate high. Frooition sites are all created to load in one second or less across all devices, but for those of you who have non Frooition sites, we are sharing 10 things you can do to shave seconds off your site load speed and enjoy higher profits.

1. Use a Content Delivery Network

One benefit of being online is that you can sell to customers around the world. A content delivery network caches the content on servers located in different parts of the world, which reduces load times. This would help, say, a customer in Hong Kong, who could load a page from a server in China, versus hitting the master server in U.S.

2. Optimize Your Images

With images, you need to focus on three things: size, format, and the src attribute.

Image size

Oversized images take longer to load, so it’s important that you keep your images as small as possible. In Photoshop or Fireworks, you can use the “Save for Web” option to drastically reduce image size. Also:

  • Crop your images to the correct size. For instance, if your page is 570px wide, resize the image to that width. Don’t just upload a 2000px-wide image and set the width parameter (width=”570”). This slows your page load time and creates a bad user experience.
  • Reduce colour depth to the lowest acceptable level.
  • Remove image comments.

Image fromat

  • JPEG is your best option.
  • PNG is also good, though older browsers may not fully support it.
  • GIFs should only be used for small or simple graphics (less than 10×10 pixels, or a colour palette of 3 or fewer colours) and for animated images.
  • Do not use BMPs or TIFFs.

SRC attribute

Once you’ve got the size and format right, make sure the code is right too. Avoid empty image src codes.

In HTML, the code for an image includes this:

<img src=””>

When there’s no source in the quotation marks, the browser makes a request to the directory of the page or to the actual page itself. This can add unnecessary traffic to your servers and even corrupt user data.

Pro tip: Never Rely on HTML to Resize Images – HTML (and by extension, WordPress blogs), make it easy to create a smaller version of a larger graphic. But just because you load that smaller size, doesn’t mean it’s taking up any less room on the server. The browser still has to load the full image, then check the width and height you want and then resize it accordingly.

3. Minimize HTTP Requests

According to Yahoo, 80% of a Web page’s load time is spent downloading the different pieces-parts of the page: images, stylesheets, scripts, Flash, etc. An HTTP request is made for each one of these elements, so the more on-page components, the longer it takes for the page to render.
That being the case, the quickest way to improve site speed is to simplify your design.

    • Streamline the number of elements on your page.
    • Use CSS instead of images whenever possible.
    • Combine multiple style sheets into one.
    • Reduce scripts and put them at the bottom of the page.

Always remember, when it comes to your website, leaner is better.

Pro tip: BigCommerce sites made on the new stencil platform and coded in the handlebars language JavaScript and CSS are minified and combined, reducing file size and web requests.

4. Optimize CSS delivery

CSS holds the style requirements for your page. Generally, your website accesses this information in one of two ways: in an external file, which loads before your page renders, and inline, which is inserted in the HTML document itself.

The external CSS is loaded in the head of your HTML with code that looks something like this:

<!—Your styles –>

<link rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css” media=”all” href=http://yourURL/style.css />

In general, an external style sheet is preferable, because it reduces the size of your code and creates fewer code duplications.

5. Reduce server response time

Your target is a server response time of less than 200ms (milliseconds). Google recommends using a web application monitoring solution and checking for bottlenecks in performance.

Big Commerce runs handlebars on the store’s server, which means there’s less strain on the browser and less Javascript is needed.

6. Enable browser caching

When you visit a website, the elements on the page you visit are stored on your hard drive in a cache or temporary storage, so the next time you visit the site, your browser can load the page without having to send another HTTP request to the server.

So the first time someone comes to your website, they have to download the HTML document, stylesheets, javascript files and images before being able to use your page. That may be as many as 30 components and 2.4 seconds.

Once the page has been loaded and the different components stored in the user’s cache, only a few components needs to be downloaded for subsequent visits. This can take an average of two seconds off load time for returning visitors.

Depending on your individual traffic, around 40-60% of daily visitors to your site will be arriving with an empty cache, so it’s critical that you make your page fast for these first-time visitors. But you also need to enable caching to shave time off subsequent visits.

7. Prioritize above-the-fold content

You can improve user experience by having your above-the-fold (top of the page) load faster—even if the rest of the page takes a few seconds to load.

Pro tip: New BigCommerce sites coded in Handlebars offers lazy-loading, which means product images will only load as the user scrolls down the page, reducing the initial load time.

8. Reduce the number of plugins you use on your site

Too many plugins slow your site, create security issues, and often cause crashes and other technical difficulties.

Pro tip: Deactivate and delete any unnecessary plugins. Then weed out any plugins that slow your load speed.

Try selectively disabling plugins, then measuring server performance. This way you can identify any plugins that harm your site speed.

9. Compress data

Large pages are bulky and slow to download. The best way to improve their load speed is to zip them—a technique called compression. Compression reduces the bandwidth of your pages, reducing HTTP response time.

BigCommerce stencil sites bundle information into a zip file for fast deployment and optimal load speed.

10. Reduce redirects

Redirects create additional HTTP requests and increase load time. So should be kept to a minimum.

If you have a responsive website, it’s more than likely that you have redirects in place to take mobile users from your main website to the responsive version.

Pro tip: Google recommends these two actions to make sure a responsive redirect doesn’t slow your site:

Use a HTTP redirect to send users with mobile user agents directly to the mobile equivalent URL without any intermediate redirects, and include the markup in your desktop pages to identify the mobile equivalent URL so Googlebot can discover your mobile pages.

The Bottom Line

Some of these tips are easy to implement, but a few are advanced tactics that can be difficult if you aren’t the most confident with web development.

If you like the idea of digging in and doing it yourself, Google Developers has useful information that can help you improve site performance.

If you know what you need, but want an expert to create it, speak to one of our e-commerce design experts.

Essential e-commerce email campaigns

e-commerce

According to MailChimp, the average e-commerce email open rate is 16.75% and the average e-commerce email click rate is 2.32% as of February 2017.

According to Campaign Monitor, email marketing generates 174% more conversions than social media does.

Unsurprisingly, email use on mobile is growing rapidly. According to the Campaign Monitor report, 21% opened emails on mobile in 2012. In 2016, just four years later, that number grew to 68%.

And email marketing is profitable. Campaign Monitor claims email marketing generated $44 ROI for every dollar spent in 2016, compared to $38 in 2015.

On top of that, 320% more revenue is generated with automated emails vs. non-automated emails. 39% more automated journeys created in 2016 than in 2015.

Email marketing is thriving. Especially in the e-commerce industry.

There are endless campaign ideas out there, but over contacting your prospects or customers will only get your mail relegated to spam. Over contacting customers with constant offers is most probably the reason for e-commerce’s low average open and average click rates. To keep customers opening your mail and get maximum return from your campaigns, you should change things up and send a variety of informative and engaging mails. At a minimum, you should have one email campaign per stage of the life cycle:

New Customers

Something to encourage or welcome new, first time customers.

    • Browse abandonment
    • New subscriber
    • Cart abandonment
    • First purchase welcome

This cart abandonment email from Emma Bridgewater is particularly strong, with an engaging image and clear call to action in the header. It offers a customer support number, which could save any sales which were lost because the customer did not want to email their questions. It also offers a free delivery code, and includes easy links to products that the customer browsed.

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Existing

Something to encourage or reward repeat buyers.

    • Feedback request
    • Cross sell

This feedback request from Boden is short and sweet, written in their brand voice, and uses pictures to encourage engagement. This email works hard to show customers that leaving feedback is easy.

ecommerce-email-guide-img51

Again, Boden keeps it short and sweet, but make use of eye catching images to engage, along with the incentive of both money off, free delivery, and free returns.

contextual-marketing-at-boden

Lapsed

Something to win back customers who haven’t purchased in a while.

    • Replenishment
    • Loyal customer offer
    • Offer notificationWin back

This win back email from Boden offers customers simple options, in a fun and engaging way. They tempt with an offer of a sale, but it’s the friendly tone of this email that secures the user engagement.

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Keeping in regular contact with customers keeps your store and products in their mind. Be sure to use lots of engaging visuals to maximize this. Clear product photos and bold graphic text in exciting colours. Try to create emails that are visually interesting, and ask very little of the customer’s concentration. Ask too much, or too often, and you lose your customers to the unsubscribe button.

The summer will soon be over, and the busiest shopping season of the year will be upon us. Good mail campaigns can drastically improve sales during the competitive holiday season, and now is the perfect time to start planning your campaigns. To help you get started with planning, we have written a list of ten points to help you prepare your e-commerce for the holidays.

Managing multichannel eCommerce delivery – Expert guest post from Parcelhub

e-commerce delivery

Retail is a multi channel business and shoppers now have more choice than ever in terms of goods and services than ever before. At present shoppers can buy your goods through your website, your store, perhaps your app, your mobile website, and a dizzying array of marketplaces, from the mighty Amazon and eBay through to niche ones such as Tophatter and OnBuy.

This is changing how people shop, and how people actually want to get their hands on what they have bought.

According to IMRG, total sales on mobile and tablets now account for 40% of UK e-retail sales – and figures from the IMRG Capgemini Index in 2014 also shows that 25% of e-retail sales are now reserve/buy online and collect in- store, although for some retailers this is already much higher.

This shift to click and collect is just part of a cultural shift in how consumers shop that this multi channel world has brought about. And delivery is becoming the leading differentiator for any retailer, governing everything from its ranking on Google through to how it undertakes its marketing strategy. This is according to various studies, which found that SMEs see delivery as the key to business growth and taking on the majors in 2018.

This places a huge new onus on retailers – and the marketplaces that retailers also use – to be creative with the delivery options they offer. As a result, when it comes to fulfilling orders, retailers face a head-spinning problem of how to keep these channels stocked and deliveries flowing. So how do you do it?

At the ground level, the problem comes down to having an excellent warehouse management system (WMS) in place and understanding where your stock is held. An array of carrier partners also ensures that you can leverage this knowledge to deliver the goods to where they need to go. This works well for your own website and even your store.

But what happens when you start to work with a range of marketplaces and other third parties that sell your goods for you? How do you manage that too?

The B2C conundrum

The problem centres around having to manage the whole process of incoming goods from suppliers and then managing how they are distributed. The wealth of channels through which your customers can buy leads to a bigger inventory, which can also impact the management of incoming goods but is mainly a problem in terms of trying to understand where orders are coming from.

Where eCommerce shipping gets more complicated is if you are also using click and collect, lockers and marketplaces. Marketplaces will often handle inventory management and distribution for you – and if you want to offer click and collect, Amazon does that too – but working all this together in your office, so you know where everything is at any given time, is the real challenge with multi channel selling from a logistics point of view.

Click and collect

The other area where multichannel retailers and marketplace sellers increasingly struggle is in fulfilling the demands from consumers for click and collect. Of course, retailers with a physical store footprint can, of course, use these shops for click and collect fulfilment, but for those that are online only entities, how do they manage this?

Here pure-play retailers need to collaborate with partners that do offer a physical presence to deliver this. In the mainstream retail world we have seen the likes of Sainsbury’s and Argos tie up has given Argos a much bigger physical footprint for click and collect thanks to Sainsbury’s stores. There are also a number of other more odd-couple partnerships, with Amazon working with Transport for London to allow consumers to collect goods at certain tube stations on their way home.

This model is going to be something that even the smallest pure-play retailer is going to have to leverage. Some carriers offer locker services and some locker service companies offer carriage – but between these and a range of physical retailers out there, there is going to be a shift towards retailers, carriers and other working together to fulfill click and collect.

What it means in practice

The key thing to remember across all of this is that you have to make sure that you are offering the consumer what they want. Your whole multi channel strategy will be dictated by how your customers choose to shop. This will, as we have seen, affect how you look to manage your B2C supplies, but it will also impact how you approach logistics management companies and carriers. Talk to your carriers and carrier management companies and see what they can do to help meet the challenges of click and collect and other delivery models that are increasingly prevalent.

If you customers want same day, find how best to do it; if they want to click and collect, find the sort of locations that they might consider and then look at how to partner to make this happen.

However you do it you also have to constantly test and tweak how you do it and, perhaps the most important thing to remember is to not over promise. This is perhaps the hardest and most important part of the whole multi channel delivery paradigm: you have to meet the expectations of your customers if you are to keep them, while also not over promising what you can do.

The solution

The ideal way to manage the vast array of delivery and stock issues associated with selling across channels is to use a multi-carrier shipping and customer service solution that can integrate with all major e-commerce platforms and all major parcel carriers and associated logistics firms to let the retailer manage their multi channel distribution from one ‘screen’.

Parcelhub does just this. It easily integrates with most multi channel e-commerce platforms and dedicated proactive parcel management comes as standard across a wide range of carriers. Distributing more than 4.5 million parcels on its own carrier contracts every year, Parcelhub’s free multi-carrier shipping software grants hundreds of national and global businesses access to ‘pooled volume’ discounted rates from its carefully selected range of carrier partners.

In essence, it offers a ‘single point of control’ for logistics for multi channel retailers. Simple.

It has already worked well for a number of different clients that have all had very specific multi-channel shipping issues.

The Amazing Chocolate Workshop sells finely crafted items made of chocolate – tools, toys, the works – and typically sold on market stalls and in stores. Increasing custom from the web presented the company with a unique challenge: how to ship very delicate items often for next day delivery and at weekends.

It took advantage of Parcelhub’s recent integration with eCommerce platform WooCommerce to sort it out.

“Parcelhub offered us the opportunity to use one system to select loads of different carriers for next day, early morning and weekend deliveries,” explains company co-founder, Ed Starr. “It gives us the power to utilize the appropriate carrier depending on the level of urgency, dimensions, and destination.”

He continues: “Parcelhub has made the online side of the business a lot easier to manage. The E-commerce Customer Support team is unbelievably helpful and is surely the best thing about Parcelhub. Any parcel tracking queries go straight to the CS team who deal with everything really quickly and professionally; we don’t hear from customers unless they need a refund. It saves us time and makes us a more professional business. Not only does Parcelhub save us time and money, it also adds value to our business offering.”

The advantages of having a ‘single point of control’ for managing complex warehousing and distribution is clear. With the right tools in place, multi-channel retailing should be a boon to companies, not a burden. Managing logistics in a simplified way takes much of the pain out of joining the multichannel revolution. What are you waiting for?

About Parcelhub

Parcelhub is a multi-carrier shipping and customer services solution. Flexible and scalable, it integrates seamlessly with order management systems, providing hundreds of eCommerce and wholesale businesses with one access point to many of the largest UK and international parcel carriers.

Multi-channel eCommerce platforms are easily integrated and dedicated pro-active parcel management comes as standard.

Distributing more than 4.5 million parcels on its own carrier contracts every year, Parcelhub’s free
multi-carrier shipping software grants hundreds of national and global businesses access to ‘pooled volume’ discounted rates from its carefully selected range of carrier partners, including Yodel, Hermes, DPD, UK Mail, DHL, Whistl, UPS, DX, Parcelforce, CollectPlus, SkyNet, Panther Logistics, Direct Link and Palletforce.