Author: Jessica McDonald

How presentation affects value perception – and how to use it to increase your sales.

Burger with meat and French fries in serving basket on dark background

Don’t judge a book by its cover.
The perfect example of good advice none of us can take.

The burger above looks like it would cost more than the average fast food burger served in a polystyrene box. Being wrapped in brown paper and served on a chopping block, the basket for the fries, the slate table. It is all very artisnal looking. None of these elements affect the taste or quality of the burger itself, but they absolutely affect our perception of its value.

“There is no truth. There is only perception.” – Gustave Flaubert.

When you eat at a Mcdonald’s you are expecting food that is fast, but without any real care put into it. When you eat in the Gourmet burger company, you are expecting something prepared with thought and attention. The name of the restaurant tells you to expect that, the menu descriptions and presentation of the food would tell you to expect that, the presentation of the restaurant itself and the price would tell you that too. All of these elements are key to value perception. And they are exactly the same, no matter what you are selling.

A well presented brand is perceived as a
quality brand, a trust worthy brand.

 

Apple are a brand that capitalises on our love of aesthetics. Their adverts show you beautifully stylised images of products, but tell you very little about them. Good clear product photos are one of the best ways to instantly increase your sales.

The description of your product is the second most vital factor to its selling online. Try to include as much information as you can. Be honest, and focus on the benefits of the product. Zappos are great at describing products. The image below is one of the products on their site. You can see they have lots of good clear photos of the product, in all colours, so customers can feel confident that they know how it will look. The description is set out as a bullet point list and is very short on adjectives. Instead, they focus on stating each feature and its benefit. I have highlighted the benefits. You can see that the points that are not benefits are just specification facts.

Every adjective is an unsubstantiated claim that may spark skepticism.

Instead of saying “high quality leather lined footbed” they say “leather lined footbed moulds to your foot for ultimate comfort and support.” This is because vague statements like “high quality” are opinion based. When you describe something as high quality or beautiful, you are expressing your own opinion, rather than giving the customer information they can use to make their own opinions.


Zappos shoe description

No one trusts the salesman.

Customers now are more skeptical than ever before. And winning trust is key to not just sales, but building customer loyalty. You can see that at the top of the image, right under the product name is a star rating and a link to customer reviews for the product. That is because customer reviews are the most valuable kind of social proof, and will certainly influence sales. Zappos have done something clever at the bottom of the image too, using information collected from customer reviews to answer customers most common questions about fit. They do not need to tell you about the quality of the shoe, because their customers are doing it for them.

The fact that Zappos have formatted all this information so well, that they have professional product photos and a sleek looking website which is easy to navigate, tells you that they are a professional company and that you can trust them. Using the right hand side promo area to offer free shipping and make it clear how to contact them with any further questions shows that they value customer service, and this add value. People are far more likely to trust what they perceive to be an established, professional company. Through surveying our customers, we have found that eBay stores experience between a 10-30% uplift in sales after having a professional design installed.

The majority of online purchases now involve a mobile device. You could have professional images, focused descriptions and lots of glowing reviews, but if your site is not built to be mobile responsive, it will look awful to mobile customers. Poor presentation and navigation makes customers feel distrust, and even doubt the value of your product and service. Value perception is so effected by website presentation, that all Frooition designs are mobile compatible as standard. Making sure that every customer gets the best view of your store.

Look at how you are presenting your products. Could the photos and descriptions be any better? Does your website look professional and instill trust? Does your mobile site look as trustworthy as the desktop version?

Please comment if you have any further points, or you have implemented any of the changes covered.

eBay Shop Bot – Customers new online shopping BFF?

ebay robot

Facebook messenger had zero bots in February 2016. By November it had over 34,000.

We already use bots to get an uber, to book a flight or to check the weather. In China, selling through messaging apps is already massively successful, with brands answering customer questions through conversatons, minimizing the need for searching and return rates.

In the West, AI chat bots had a baptism of fire back in 2014 with Microsoft’s Tay. Designed to learn from other’s conversations and speech patterns on Twitter, online troublemakers managed to manipulate it into tweeting racist slurs and hate speech. Microsoft quickly removed the bot, but many criticized their lack of foresight, for not including content filters.

Since then, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have all been racing to build systems that not only recognize, but truly understand natural language. Whoever can put technology that understands natural conversation not only in your living room, but in your pocket too, can become the hub of everything you do online.

This fall, Microsoft released a paper claiming that its speech recognition has reached parity with humans. Though the research comes with caveats, it represents the current state of the art, at least among publicly available work.

Debuting today on Facebook messenger is eBay’s very own shop bot, designed to help customers find the perfect gifts for their loved ones.

eBay’s shop bot is powered by AI to help it better understand the context of a shopper’s needs, and it has machine learning capabilities that will be improved over time. Like a Furby. The more people use the bot, the better it will get.
One particularly interesting feature of this bot is that you can show it a picture of a product you like, and it will find you similar products from eBay’s massive inventory. I very briefly tested this feature, by finding a picture of a product I liked on Pinterest, and asking eBay shop bot to find me ones like it.

 

eBay shop bot screen shot

 

eBay shop bot screen shot

The bot asked questions to narrow down the search, and used good conversational language, but at times obviously completely lost the thread. Asking me if I would prefer unisex costumes or men’s t shirts. I have not a clue how it got to men’s t shirts from cat ears umbrella.
Going away from the shop bot, and instead just going into the eBay app and searching “cat ears umbrella” these were the first results:

eBay app screen shot

Immediately much closer. On this occasion, it was easier to just use the search on their app, but this app is not designed as an exact match product finder, but more a way to get suggestions on alternative ideas for gifts. And in that respect, it performs well.
This is only the first day of launch and it will certainly be interesting to see how the app develops and improves with use.

Fro sellers, This is certainly a positive development, as the shop bot will introduce new customers to products they may have never considered searching for. As the shopping bot develops, it should be able to anticipate your tastes and suggest not just one product you will love, but a whole range of items to compliment it. The sales potential is huge.
If you use the eBay shop bot, please tweet us and let us know how it worked for you @frooition.

 

How to set your eBay store to holiday mode

Set eBay store to holiday mode

The holiday season is upon us. A busy time for eBay. But once the rush has died down, and the last post has gone, many sellers set eBay store to holiday mode, and relax. If you are contemplating a little eBay down time this holiday season, here is how to switch holiday mode on;

1. Log in to eBay, scroll down slightly,and go to Manage my store on the left of the screen.

manage store

2. Go to Holiday settings in the left hand side bar.

Turn On (1)

3. Opt to turn on holiday settings.

Turn On (2)

4. If you want to put buy it now items on hold, click hide and block purchase.

5. Select display a return date and enter date in the box.

Note: When you set a return date, the default holiday message on the listings tells visitors that you will be away until the day before that. It may be useful to set it to the day after your actual expected return, to give you some time to settle back in.

6. Edit text in message to display on your store front.

7. Apply. You have now set eBay store to holiday mode.

8. Relax and enjoy some time away from eBay.

Once these settings are set, it can take several days for your listings to be hidden, and then several for them to appear again after holiday mode is switched off.

The active content design solution chosen by eBay.

eBay Active Content Compliant design

In business, proper planning and preparation is often the difference between success and failure. Future proofing your eBay business, avoiding penalties and getting the best ranking for your products requires you to follow eBay policies. Currently, that means having an eBay active content compliant design before June 2017.

As an eBay certified provider, we were informed of the planned changes to active content policy before they were announced to the public. We were bound by non disclosure until eBay made the announcement, but from the moment we knew about the planned changes, creating a solution to help sellers move through smoothly was our biggest priority.

Ecommerce moves fast. So as ecommerce specialists, we don’t procrastinate.

Ebay asked us to help them with a design for their global shipping supplies page.

eBay shipping supplies page. Designed by Frooition.

Since then we have provided eBay active content compliant design  for sellers of all sizes. So far, we have converted over 20 million live listings to being active content free. No listing downtime and no loss of sales history.

“I would recommend Frooition to anyone serious about eBay business.”

– Universal Gadgets

Frooition eBay active content compliant design is supported by our unique CMS, updating live listings and automatically syncing cross promotion bars to show related items.

Using our automated system rather than hard coding cross promotion gives customers active content compliant cross promotion that can  be updated in just a few clicks. No links to irrelevant items when stock changes, and no links to dead listings.

We are trusted by some of the biggest brands on eBay, and have seen clients grow from small sellers, to eBay giants. We are currently working with top sellers such as Linda’s stuff, Universal Gadgets and World of Rare Books to ensure that their designs are active content compliant. Our UK based, in house design and development team are bringing that same high functioning level of design to countless smaller sellers too, who we are pleased to be supporting on their journey to eBay success.

Our website has more information on our eBay active content services, as well as a contact form to have an eBay specialist call and talk you through your individual options.

10 Stats that prove Black Friday is kind of a big deal.

Black friday sales

Black Friday is the day after thanksgiving in the US. In recent years, UK retailers have been following their American friends and holding black Friday sales.

Retail folk lore says that black Friday is the day retailers go out of the red and into the black. The spending is always epic. Some retailers such as Amazon have already started their Black Friday sales this year, over a week early, in an effort to draw more customers in.

  1. $4.45 billion was spent in the US on black Friday 2015.
  2. 74.2 million shoppers purchased.
  3. In the UK, £2 bilion was spent in 24 hours.
  4. 34% of black Friday purchases in 2015 were mobile.
  5. Electronics are always hot items on black Friday, and Currys PC World sold 30 televisions a minute online.
  6. Amazon sold over 7.4 billion items. – That’s 86 per second.
  7. This year UK shoppers are predicted to spend £6.77 billion over the week of 21st – 28th November.
  8. More than half of this is expected to be mobile.
  9. 88% of consumers now use retail apps.
  10. 25% of customers who installed a retail app during black Friday 2015 purchased within 24 hours.

So this years black Friday should be the biggest one ever for retail. Every year, the sale moves more online as customers look to avoid the chaos of shops and supermarkets on black Friday. This year, customers will be looking for even more simplicity and convenience, with most of them choosing to shop using a mobile device. In 2016, the success of black Friday for individual retailers will depend not just on the size of their discounts, but more on how their site functions for those shopping from mobile devices.

How hard coded categories kill eBay businesses

eBay active content

With the pending removal of active content from eBay in June 2017, sellers are removing content from their listings. Many are having their stores redesigned, so that their store is not just attractive, but also eBay active content policy compliant. Built with cross selling features that comply with the new eBay active content policy. But eBay design is more than skin deep. How listings look to the eye is just the start. Though many of these eBay stores may look attractive and be free from active content, for stores with hard coded solutions, this is just a honeymoon period.

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

A good eBay store should be easy to navigate and access for two main people; the customer, and the seller. All too often, seller functionality is forgotten. You look at your shiny new store, and the first thing you do is run through a customer journey test. The seller journey is lucky to get as much as an afterthought. But poor functionality on the seller side can damage sales just as rapidly as poor experience for the customer.

If you decide to diversify or expand, and want to add another product category, in a store with hard coded categories, this would mean taking down each product listing, and adjusting each one manually. One. By. One. This is time consuming, and potentially disruptive for an eBay business where regular sales matter. There are some sellers, small hobby businesses, selling a few items on eBay for example, who would not suffer from the down time on listings and may even enjoy the exercise of adjusting listings. For businesses with hundreds or thousands of listings though, this would be a massive undertaking.

You may be thinking that’s ok. You are due a holiday, when it comes to html and css your pretty hot, and spending a week hauled up with your laptop category coding doesn’t sound too bad.

But what about when you don’t have a week?

What about when you usually sell makeup, but spot some hair products for a good price at the wholesalers and need to quickly put up a new category to see how they sell? What about when you want to create a temporary holiday sale category? Sellers using hard coded design solutions cannot adjust their store without spending lots of time and suffering both inconvenience and probable loss of sales while listings are down. If a seller doesn’t want to adjust the coding themselves, they can pay a designer, but again, this is an additional cost and still takes time.

There comes a point where a store has too many listings to make the option of manually going through and adjusting listings a viable option.

None of our eBay designs are hard coded. Frooition designs are all  eBay active content policy compliant; supported by our unique software that syncs changes on your Frooition seller dashboard, to your eBay store. Updating categories is done in a few clicks. With zero down time or disruption to your listings. Some of eBay’s biggest sellers; World of Books, Universal Gadgets and Linda’s stuff to name just a few, use Frooition designs and software. These are all businesses that have experienced massive growth on eBay. Stores that started off small, but planned for growth. Growth that hard coding would have stunted. A hard coded solution would have made the rapid growth of these ambitious sellers unsustainable. It was Frooition software that gave them the flexibility they needed to grow.

Why this singles day is set to be the internet’s most profitable day ever.

This Friday promises to be a milestone day for ecommerce. Millions of Chinese shoppers will take to the internet, spending billions and boosting sales for online retailers worldwide. By close of play Friday, Chinese shoppers will almost certainly have spent more money online in a single day than has ever been spent before anywhere.

Why? Because of all the ones in the date.

No one is quite sure exactly who first had the idea, but it began as a student tradition in the mid-1990s. The most widely-accepted story is that it emerged from the dorms of Nanjing University in 1993, when four male students were discussing how boring it is to be single. One suggested that because of the ones in the date, November 11 would be a good day on which to organize fun activities for singles.

What started as an idea between a small group of friends spread through the university. At first it was known as bachelor’s day, but as it grew, female singles joined in the celebrations. Singles Day grew into something like the anti-Valentines day. A day China’s young singletons could use as an excuse to get together and do fun stuff like visit karaoke bars together. Traditions like eating youtiao – fried dough strips that resemble the number one – evolved as the holiday spread. By the late 2000s, singles day had become widely known among China’s youth.

The fact that singles day went from dorm room idea to national celebration in less than two decades probably has a lot to do with China’s demographics and its culture. The one child policy has created a preference for sons, and so by 2020 China will have 35 million more men than it does women. This means that there are lots of young, single men who can relate to the desire to have fun and celebrate independence without a significant other. Pressure on many young Chinese men and women to find a suitable partner and marry young, Has resulted in people of both genders embracing the holiday as a kind of release. Singles Day was about being with friends and just having fun. Nothing to do with shopping.

That is, until Alibaba got involved.

Alibaba are China’s biggest online retailer, and their singles day sales have fast become the stuff of retailing legends. Alibaba claim that the company’s intent wasn’t to link its day of sales to singles day. They say that November 11 was just a convenient date, falling during a holiday lull between sales for China’s National Day in late September and Spring Festival in the first two months of the year. While Alibaba may deny spotting commercial opportunity in this celebration of singledom, it is undeniable that their 11/11 sales have transformed singles day from a time for those without a significant other to socialise and have fun, into a national digital shopping holiday for China.

By the late 2000s, Singles Day was well known enough that most of China’s internet users were familiar with it. There might have been some small shops online and offline offering promotions on that day earlier, but Alibaba were the first major retailer to buy into the holiday, with an 11/11 sale in 2009. Not a huge sale, but a successful one.

In 2010 Alibaba offered more products with deeper discounts. Other companies had noticed the potential of the 2009 sales and decided to follow suit. Ecommerce platforms like JD had their first major Singles Day sales in 2010. Singles Day was rapidly beginning to look something like Cyber Monday. In 2011, 11/11 was known as “singles day of the century” due to the date being 11/11/11. Alibaba alone took 50m in one day. When sales quadrupled the following year, Alibaba trademarked the name eleven eleven.

Over the next few years, Alibaba, JD, and other ecommerce players all expanded their one-day discounts, and sales have increased. The holiday came at precisely the right time for Chinese consumers, who after years of uncertainty about buying things online, were finally beginning to embrace ecommerce. Singles Day savings helped to encourage that growth. For example, On Singles Day in 2012, Alibaba’s marketplaces, Taobao and Tmall, took around US$3 billion in sales. In 2013 that number nearly doubled. America’s cyber Monday spending records were dwarfed by Chinese shoppers in just the first few hours of the sale.

Last year, Alibaba shipped 468 million single’s day orders, nearly 70% of which were ordered via mobile. Alibaba competitor JD also saw its sales go mostly-mobile in 2015, marking Singles Day’s transition to a mobile-first shopping holiday. These figures mirror what we see happening on eBay, with most holiday purchases now being made via mobile.
A survey of 1,000 Chinese internet users, conducted by Nielsen, looks hopeful for retailers, finding that the average consumer plans to spend 1,761 yuan (£181) during the day, or 22pc more than last year.

“There’s no doubt that China Singles Day spend this year will be bigger than ever, illustrating the buying power of the Chinese consumer and the increasing prominence of the date in the Chinese retail calendar.”

– David McCorquodale, UK head of retail at KPMG.

This year Alibaba are aiming to hit US$20 billion. But it faces far more competition than in previous years, and economic conditions are less favourable, as this summer China devalued its currency for the first time in two decades and saw billions wiped off its stock market. China has seen its growth slow to a six-year low. Nonetheless, Singles Day this year is expected to eclipse sales of previous years. Most of this year’s sales are expected to come from mobile devices. Customer research has revealed that although Chinese people are more likely to shop online using a mobile device, they are also more easily put off by poor mobile functionality or perceived security risks. The larger and more established a brand, the more likely it is to gain the trust of Chinese shoppers. As one of the biggest online marketplaces, eBay would be a prime location for 11/11 sales. The ebay global shipping programme makes it more convenient and cost effective than ever before for sellers to ship to China, and helps to gain customer’s trust with eBay’s well established reputation.

It will be interesting to see how eBay sales play out in 2017 on 11/11. After active content has been removed, creating a more secure platform for mobile shoppers, eBay could potentially become a lot more attractive to Chinese shoppers.

How to prepare your eBay store for Black Friday & Cyber Monday

Black Friday

Black Friday and cyber Monday are approaching and customers are getting ready to do some serious shopping. But are you ready for a sudden spike in sales? Here are ten things we recommend every eBay store should do to get ready for Black Friday:

November and December will be busy. Time will be scarce. Prepare your marketing materials in advance so that you can focus on customer service and fulfilling orders during the busy holiday shopping period.

1. Write item descriptions, blog posts and advert copy. If you use social media scheduling, write social posts in advance.

2. Prepare store graphics. Graphics promoting your sale will encourage customers to explore your store. The longer they are in your store, the more likely they are to buy there. Ebay stores with our signature package can simply drag and drop their seasonal sale graphics into place, but it is still best to have the graphic prepared in advance.

3. It is much easier to sell to existing customers than to new customers. Design a mail out campaign to target people who have bought from you in the past. Some of the key emails to include are:

  • Anticipation email, teasing with some discounts that will be available
  • Announcement of the sale
  • Reminder of when sale ends

4. Sell off old stock. Any stock you have not managed to sell previously, that is just sat around taking up space and costing you money is a prime candidate for discounting.

5. One way that retailers achieve huge sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, is by offering a huge discount on one particular item. This one item with a jaw dropping discount is used to lure customers in. Once they are in your store, they will often buy other items before leaving.

6. Create bundles. Bundles are a great way to easily sell multiple items, and make great gifts. They are also a good way to create the illusion of a saving. For example, you may have a lower margin on bubble bath, and so not want to discount much, but by putting a few together with a wash cloth that cost you pennies and presenting it in an attractive way, you can make a smaller discount appear much bigger.

7. Set up a Black Friday Sale category. Sounds basic, but it helps customers to easily see any special deals you have.

8. Check that your cross promotion bars are filled with relevant items. Cross selling is the key to increased profits, and in a sale your chances of cross selling are even higher than usual.

9. Decide your sales return policy. If you are going to implement a special returns policy for sale items, make sure you have this decided and written in listings and in the small print of any promotional emails.

10. Offer free shipping. If you don’t already offer free shipping, offer it on sale items. It is a well proven fact in sales psychology, that free shipping massively increases sales. During a sale, when people are looking for a bargain, this is more important than ever.

Make eBay’s active content policy changes work hard for your business.

As the way we use the internet changes, so does the online landscape. When people started to shop online, both retail and the way we use the internet changed irreversibly.

Many large retailers ignored online shopping. Many of the biggest high street retailers disappeared as a result. The future of retail seemed uncertain and people were fearful. But where there is change, there is always opportunity.

Change is Opportunity.

Internet retail was a new frontier. People taking their stores online were taking a brave leap. More than any other platform, eBay enabled people to start selling online.

Retailers who adapted to change and sold online prospered.

A new breed of retailer was rising up in this bold new retail landscape. Many starting out through eBay. The more dynamic and flexible they were to customer demand and buying trends, the more they grew.

Over the years, eBay has massively evolved and grown. Frooition have been working with eBay as certified designers for over eight years, and we have guided our clients though many policy changes in that time. With changes being made to eBay’s active content policy, here is our advice on how to make this time of transition a profitable one for your eBay business:

Take the opportunity to present a fresh new look to your customers

When you are busy running your own business, graphic design and visual promotion is often the first thing to become neglected. Internet shopping is highly visual. A fresh new look to your store and some new promotional graphics could be just what your business needs to encourage new customers and re-ignite the interest of old ones.

Review your supporting software

If you have been focusing on sales for the past few years and not made any changes to the design or functioning of your store, chances are that you may have out grown it. As sales increase, simplicity of functionality becomes more important. Features such as dynamic categories or drag and drop promotional graphics become invaluable time savers as a store grows.

Optimise for the mobile market

The majority of all online shopping is now done via mobile devices. That is why all Frooition designs are mobile compatible. Its certain that any seller who is not optimized for mobile will be missing out on a lot of sales. If your store is not already optimised for mobile, now is a great time to look at a fully responsive design.

Review your Descriptions

Although pictures and video sell items, removing active content serves as a great reminder that there is no substitute for a good description. When competitors are using the manufacturer’s standard description, a well written piece of individual text in your store could give you the edge.

Be ready to fill gaps in the market

Chances are, some of your competitors will have buried their heads in the sand and not allowed enough time to prepare for how their store will look and function post active content changes. A listing that relies on active content will not show, and so as a seller with an active content compliant store, you should be ready for a possible sudden increase in sales.

EBay is a worldwide market place. Changes to the active content policy will only help to make eBay stores more easily accessible and encourage customers. As with every change, the sellers who acknowledge it early and move to change, will be the ones who prosper.