Author: Jessica McDonald

10 Points to help you prepare your e-commerce for the holidays.

Prepare e-commerce for Christmas

According to Yes mail Interactive, 38.1% of people start their Christmas shopping before November which jumps up to 69.8% of people starting their Christmas shopping before the 1st December. Merchants must act now to get their inventory, processes, and protocols in place if they hope to see good performance come November.

Here are ten key actions that retailers can action now to prepare for making the 2017 holiday period their most profitable yet:

1. Curate your lists

Clean your marketing lists. Make sure you have the right contact information for all your customers and prospects. Then segment them. Segmenting by gender, location, or category products they purchase from you will help you to target campaigns. Look at ways to market different messages to your lists, based on who they are and how they buy.

2. Re-engage with existing customers

Focus on your loyal customers. Yes, spend time getting new customers. But spend more time on the customers who already buy from you. Create campaigns to get them to become loyal, repeat customers.

3. Learn from the past

Look back at your analytics and sales figures from last year. Look at the offers you ran and the marketing you put out. Remind yourself of what worked and what didn’t work, and use that information to plan for this year.

4. Plan inventory

After looking at peak points in last year’s sales, you will be able to plan your stock ordering. Consider how you will cope with the logistics of increased sales from last year, and look at how a fulfilment partner could work with your business to help you cope with increased inventory and deliveries.

5. Brainstorm

Brainstorm on what marketing campaigns you should do to attract the right prospects to your website. Think about images, themes, and offers for marketing; as well as the design of your website.

6. Have a strict third-party apps policy

The same way retailers decorate heavily their high street store windows, they tend to do the same for their e-commerce site by investing in additional content, such as third-party tags, SEO and videos. Many of these apps and plugins, including marketing analytics tools, are designed to create powerful online experiences. However, they can significantly affect how fast a page loads and contribute to a poor consumer experience that leads to a consumer clicking off a retail site early. Rich media like embedded videos, social media and other interactive features can help retailers to create compelling online experiences but should be placed into a page in the most streamlined way, to ensure optimum load speeds.

Over the lunchtime on Black Friday 2016 itself, analysis from IT reseller magazine showed that the websites of two of the UK’s biggest department stores took over 4 seconds to load. Upon investigation, this was attributed to poorly performing 3rd Party elements. When there are traffic surges, this can mean the site slows down to a crawl or there are minor or major outages. All Frooition custom designs and Froo Apps are tested to deliver feature rich eBay designs that load in a second or less.

Retailers should analyze the additional content they invest in and ask themselves the question “What is the value of this service?”

7. Check mobile performance

Looking at total e-commerce traffic from the holiday period of 2016, Mobile traffic volume was very close to that of desktop (41% vs 50%). However, there was a much bigger difference in sales volume. 69% of sales came via desktop but just 21% from mobile (31% if you include tablet devices). This suggests that while people like to browse or compare via mobile, they still prefer to complete transactions via desktop.

Mobile usability has improved a lot over the last few years, but on many sites, it is still much easier to transact on a desktop site than mobile. Both BigCommerce and Shopify designs from Frooition are mobile responsive, with optimized checkout pages to turn more mobile browsers into buyers.

Looking specifically at eBay, 2016 was the first year where sales from mobile devices during the holiday period overtook sales from desktop.  Ebay had made many improvements to mobile user experience, and their increased sales from mobile devices reflected that. Frooition eBay designs are all made to be mobile responsive as standard, with speed, usability, and security being a focus for our designers.

8. Make updates

Update your website and eBay store. Make sure that all of your branding is up to date, and think about holiday graphics. Work with an expert to ensure the navigation of your website is well designed and easy to navigate. Ensure that your eBay listings are active content free and that your eBay listings contain cross-promotion for other related items.  Make sure your website is fast and secure. Customers will not tolerate slow websites, and security concerns are one of the main reasons for sales being abandoned.

9. Tackle cart abandonment

Retailers bring out their strongest offers and biggest discounts during the holiday period, customers are comparison shopping, and cart abandonment rates are at their highest at this time of year. Make sure you save as many of these sales as possible by taking a little time to put together a strong cart abandonment strategy. Here is our advice on creating a cart abandonment strategy.

10. partner up

Partnerships can be important. Do you know complimentary businesses you can consider joint marketing campaigns with? For example; if you sold chocolates, you could create a discount offer for customers of a mail order florist. If they featured that in their newsletter, they would be offering their customers something of value, and you would be reaching their customers for free.

Social Media For Small Businesses

social media for e-commerce

Being a small business in a market dominated by huge brands can at times feel daunting. Big brands have big budgets, and teams of marketing people. But for many small brands, social media has been the marketing weapon capable of bringing down Goliath competition.

Here are five key things that all small brands and retailers who make it big on social media do:

1. Know your Customer

To save you wasting time and money marketing to people who don’t want your product, first you need to identify your target market. Identifying your target market is probably the most important step in marketing any business. People who grow their business out of a personal passion or hobby have a great advantage here.

The better you know your target customer, the easier you will be able to connect with them. Know what they like and don’t like. Know what they dream of. Find out how they speak amongst their peers, hashtags they use and look at any brands they currently interact with.

2. Don’t try to sell

Social media platforms like Facebook and social media management software like Hootsuite have great targeting tools, but we are all so used to seeing adverts and sponsored posts, reading brand’s tweets. It’s just white noise. The only way to stand out, to connect with your customer in an overcrowded environment, is to speak to them about something they are interested in.

If you are selling plant pots, talk about what should be planted at this time of year, post garden inspiration images or tips on growing an indoor kitchen garden. Offer advice and inspiration, link to useful content on your blog. Offer your customers something of value. Although it may sound counter-intuitive to focus on giving when you want to sell, the saying that people buy from people still remains true, and no one wants to buy from a pushy salesman. They want to buy from someone they have a good rapport with. Social media is a great place to build that.

3. Keep it real

Don’t be scared to speak out about trends and topics related to your brand. You will never appeal to all of the people all of the time. Don’t be scared to be controversial. Speak your truth, and that way keeping a consistent approach will be easy. As long as you stay on brand message, your target audience will only love you more. For example, a brand selling feeding covers could speak out in support of mothers nursing babies in public. The brand may attract some negative feedback from these comments, but not from their target market. Their target market (mothers) would appreciate the support and feel more positive towards the brand.

4. Keep it positive

Lots of big companies have been open with their political opinions in recent times. There will undoubtedly have been backlash for them with this, but they are big and can weather it out. For small businesses, neutrality is always best. Personal social media accounts are the place for political tweets, social commentary or criticism of people’s behavior. These things may offend a customer, and even if they don’t, they are negative and non-relevant to your customer’s experience of your store.

Being consistently positive can be difficult at times, especially when dealing with complaints via social media, but a brand should always be positive and professional. For customers, these two things are directly linked; and although passion is good, angry ranting is always bad.

5. Engage with individuals

This is where smaller, owner lead businesses have a real advantage over the big boys. Noticing people who are customers, or who have an interest in your product or industry and engaging with them in a friendly way via social media gives a brand real credibility. The smaller the business, the more nimble and responsive. If someone I regularly interact with tweets that they just bought from your online store, you could perhaps add a little handwritten note to their package, or a sample of something else even. That customer would more than likely talk about the good service and be loyal to the brand.

Being different is positive. Being different is your business’ biggest strength.

It is better for your business to be the first choice of some than the second choice of all. Identify what you are really good at, what you offer that other brands can’t, and shout about that. In an online world where it is so easy to be fake, or hide behind polished corporate spiel, going out there being unapologetically small and authentic makes your business a breath of fresh air. People connect with people. So don’t ever be afraid to let people know that there is a human team behind your business.

What to expect from a fulfilment partner – guest post from James & James e-commerce fulfilment.

e-commerce fulfilment

Whether or not to outsource your order fulfilment can be a difficult decision if you don’t have any knowledge of the services. So to help out, we’ve come up with a beginner’s guide of what to expect from an order fulfilment partner. Below is a basic, easy to understand introduction to each feature they’ll provide and just how your eCommerce business will benefit.

By the end of this article, hopefully you’ll feel confident in your knowledge and ready to decide whether or not outsourced order fulfilment is for you!

Order Fulfilment Services

ECOMMERCE INTEGRATION

eCommerce integration is the first step toward merging your business with your chosen 3PL (third party logistics) partner. An exceptional fulfilment service will offer software that will easily integrate with your chosen shopping cart (Shopify, Magento etc.). This enables online orders to move straight from your online store, to a warehouse. It provides seamless communication between your cart and the warehouse team, allowing your orders to be fulfilled in a timely manner.

STORAGE

As well as integrating with your online store, your eCommerce fulfillment partner will also start taking your stock into storage in their warehouse. Shelving, racking and pallet storage will ensure your stock is safely and securely stored. Products will be organised by SKU (stock keeping unit) and staggered to ensure similar looking stock does not get mixed up. 54% of warehouses expect to expand the number of SKUs over the next five years, allowing more storage for growing businesses.

The best fulfilment services will have control of multiple warehouses, often all over the world, allowing you access to many more customers. No longer will you have to store (and potentially trip over) your own products; this will free up your time and allow you to focus on your eCommerce business.

INVENTORY MANAGEMENT

Now that you’re all set with your chosen partner, you will be able to benefit from their management systems. An IMS ( inventory management system) will be available to you, allowing you to accurately monitor and manage your stock wherever you are. The IMS will also help you to track stock movement, orders, forecasting and other data, such as most popular order.

The best warehouses use Cloud-based, real-time fulfilment software which gives you the power to access your inventory anytime, anywhere and retain up to the minute control of your orders.

PICK AND PACK

Every element of your order fulfilment has been set up. Now your first orders are coming in, they will enter the pick and pack process. Pick and pack is the method of ‘picking’ an item from its place of storage, taking it to a ‘packing station’ and packaging it for shipping. Using a WMS (warehouse management system) staff will be set on the most effective pick route and be able to locate the correct products with ease.

By having a professional, dedicated, and enthusiastic team handling all your operations, you never need to worry about fulfiling orders again. With a 99.998% accuracy rate in the best warehouses, you can place your trust in your order fulfillment service.

DELIVERY

Now that your item has been packed to your requirements, it will be labeled with the customer’s address and using previously set delivery options (which will be chosen by the customer, such as ‘economy’ or ‘urgent’). 72% of customers would spend more if they could be sure of same day delivery and you’ll be able to deliver. You’ll also be able to sell your products all over the world and not have to worry about the logistics of it.

The best fulfilment services will choose the cheapest courier option for your deliveries, but also will ensure that you have the fastest service available for the price.

RETURNS

92% of consumers will buy something again if returns are easy and any successful business needs to properly be able to handle returns. Your eCommerce fulfilment partner will expertly handle any returned goods. They will be taken and assessed for resale, but if they don’t pass inspection, they will communicate with you and decide what should be done. According to your decision, they will resell, destroy or return the products to you, allowing full control over the process and to ensure no stock loss, whilst sending out a replacement product by your wishes.

CUSTOMER SATISFACTION

Your customers will make or break your business and how your fulfilment is handled will decide whether or not they are satisfied with their order. By outsourcing your order fulfilment, it will be handled by an expert team, who will do everything within their power to grant an exceptional customer experience. The orders, in excellent condition, will be sent out as fast as possible to ensure they end up at the correct address at the correct time. This will lead to grateful and satisfied customers.

Happy customers become repeat customers, leading to additional custom that will begin the order fulfilment process all over again.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

We hope that this article has proven both interesting and informative and that you now feel confident that you have a basic knowledge of fulfilment. If this article has helped you decide whether to outsource your fulfilment, even better! Remember to research your 3PL partner and ensure that they provide a service that will suit your needs and requirements so that your business has room to develop and grow.

The author of this article, Hannah, is a Marketer for James and James Fulfilment.

About James and James:

Here at James and James, we’re passionate about technology-driven order fulfilment. We make it easy for eCommerce brands like you to delight customers, service international markets, scale quickly and gain a competitive advantage.

Our clients love the game-changing combination of control and visibility we provide, through market-leading technology across a seamless global presence – all expertly supported with dedicated customer care.

That’s why our clients love us, and their customers love them!

Visit us at www.ecommercefulfilment.com

How BigCommerce Stencil has improved e-commerce for merchants

BigCommerce Stencil

BigCommerce Stencil is the latest e-commerce development platform from BigCommerce. It offers greater versatility, speed and convenience for merchants than BigCommerce’s previous development platform, Blueprint.

Stencil uses the “Handlebars” templating language. As a merchant, you may not be using the stencil platform or the handlebars language yourself, but it does improve things for you. Here’s how –

With stencil, JavaScript and CSS is minified and combined, reducing file size and web requests. Streamlining the use of JavaScript and web requests makes super-fast e-commerce sites. BigCommerce sites now also feature lazy-loading, which means product images only load as the user scrolls down the page, reducing the initial load time.

Handlebars also runs on the store’s server, which means there’s less strain on the browser and less Javascript is needed to achieve the same goal compared to the Blueprint platform.

Soon BigCommerce will fully introduce Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). These are streamlined versions of category and product pages for mobile users which allow merchants to display product information to people searching on mobile devices, even in locations that have a poor data signal.

BigCommerce Stencil was developed with mobile responsiveness in mind, allowing mobile devices to see the same page in a display format that is suitable for a mobile device or for smaller screens, this means customers will experience a consistently designed website, with optimum functionality on all devices.

All of these features improve the speed of the load time, which leads to a more favorable ranking on search engines, and lower bills from Google AdWords campaigns. Combined, this leads to more website views, providing a better customer experience, and increased sales.

How to increase sales with user focused e-commerce design

user experience focused e-commerce design

Socrates said, “Know thyself.”

We say, “Know thy customers.”

And guess what? They don’t think like you do. You know your product and your website inside and out. You knew it when it was just a few sketches on a napkin. You have been using it in every form and iteration it has been through in its entire life-cycle. Your actions, decisions and preferences have been imprinted into everything from inventory to imagery and organisation.

However, many of your customers are coming to your site for the very first time. Many of them have a goal in mind and whether that goal is to buy a product, or simply to research, they are using your site because they believe it will help them achieve that goal. Others are cautiously poking around, a little unsure due to previous experiences that left them confused and dissatisfied.

“Knowing how people will use something is essential.”—Donald Norman

It is essential because it is a paradigm that you do not share. It is essential because it forces you to be objective and make decisions based on what the user needs and not a subjective preference. It is also essential because it can reveal fundamental flaws in the users assumptions and give you the insight to create something that both delights and engages the user.

User experience focused design aims to understand the reason a customer would be coming to your site and what they may want from it, then tries to lead them to that goal in as few clicks as possible. Here are a few points that all good user focused e-commerce sites have in common;

Give Answers

The best websites answer a binary question immediately. A binary question is a yes or no, and in e-commerce, the primary question will most often be “Is this of interest to me?”

We take information from pictures and videos faster than from text, and so the imagery on your website should make it instantly clear to a customer what kind of products you sell.

Encourage Trust

If you walked into a store and it was a mess, you would probably decide that it was not very well managed. It is the same in e-commerce. A site with poorly sized images, broken links and inconsistent fonts will immediately give customers the impression of a disorganised business. Customers are less likely to trust a company to protect their details, or deliver their purchases quickly, if they appear to be a disorganised mess. Continuity of images, text and brand colours, all tell a customer that the site they are looking at is professional and trust worthy.

Security is always the number one reason for buyer hesitation. Security logos should be displayed clearly. Customer testimonials are a strong way to increase trust, and should be used throughout an e-commerce website. Use testimonials to highlight how great products are, how quick your delivery is and what great service you provide. Under no circumstances should testimonials be hidden away on their own page.

The second most common cause of customer hesitation is returns. In a survey by comScore and UPS, 63% of American consumers check the return policy before making a purchase and 48% would shop more with retailers that offer hassle-free returns. These policies can have an even greater impact on international consumers, most notably in Germany where 72% of consumers would give more business to stores with hassle-free returns. Make sure that your returns policy, or a link to it, is clearly displayed on your homepage and on product pages too. This BigCommerce homepage designed by Frooition for oemassive.com is a perfect example.

e-commerce design

Be Mobile

Mobile commerce is the fastest growing sector of e-commerce, and there is no excuse for any retailer not having a mobile compatible site anymore. Be sure that your mobile design has adequate white space for finger navigation, with large buttons and fonts that read well on small screens.

Be Omni Channel

With people becoming increasingly confident shopping online, and mobile commerce growing, increasing numbers of customers are searching marketplace websites before using search engines to research items. It makes sense that merchants should be present on major marketplace sites for this exposure, and also have their own e-commerce site for increased control and profit retention. Strong, consistent branding across all platforms allows customers to recognise you instantly, and also increases trust.

This eBay design created by Frooition for Dyson mirrors their own website within the eBay marketplace, keeping brand continuity and ensuring that customers feel confident that they are shopping with the brand, even when they are not on the brand’s own website.dyson-ebay

Make Buying Easy

96% of customers reporting high-effort experiences do not become repeat purchasers, compared with only 9% of those with low-effort experiences.

Survay by Comscore and UPS

Even an item offered at the most perfect price will never sell if customers struggle to checkout. Your entire E-Commerce site should be relatively easy to navigate. A rewarding user experience keeps visitors on your site, and also keeps them coming back.

Think about who your customer is and what they are coming to your website for. Make sure everything is they want easy to find, that their questions are answered easily.

This BigCommerce design for ExpoAv.Rent has a hire now button in the central image, and three step description breakdown of the buying process to make it clear how easy it is. There is even a live chat function box in the footer, incase customers have questions.website navigation

 

The best e-commerce designs consider the customer journey, and present information gradually, at the stages where the customer would want it. Put menus or links to product categories in a prominent place, and make sure categories and the products that are in each category are properly named. The last thing you want is for a customer to go on your website only to not know where they are going and have to search for it. The BigCommerce one page checkout was created because the payment page is where most sales are abandoned. A payment must be fast loading, super secure, and filled with minimal effort to maximise sales.

Consider The Cart

Most cart abandonment happens on the checkout page. Aside from displaying information clearly, a good shopping cart layout should be simple, effectively display company branding (colours, company logo), and include prominent checkout buttons.

A shopping cart page should also include all the important elements your customers need, such as the ability to change quantities, select shipping options (shipping prices should be displayed), enter promo codes, select a payment option, or continue shopping and/or adding more products to the cart. Also important: don’t limit customers to only one or two payment options, such as PayPal only, or only Visa and Mastercard but not American Express. You are only hurting yourself by not making as many payment options as possible available to your customers.

BigCommerce payment pages can be branded with your company logo, but are managed by BigCommerce to ensure premium performance and optimum security.

Contact Frooition to discuss creating an e-commerce store that drives sales through user experience focus for your brand.