B2B Business Company Commerce Technology Marketing

6 Growing Trends in B2B eCommerce Solutions

B2B Business Company Commerce Technology Marketing

B2B ecommerce is an extremely dynamic field. It continues to change, year-after-year.

Companies that are able to anticipate the growing trends are also able to leverage the best possible B2B ecommerce solutions before their competitors have a chance – a major advantage.

On the other hand, those that don’t adapt to the dynamic changes of this industry are left vulnerable. No matter how helpful their products or services are, they lack the tools to let their market know about them.

The 6 Most Important Trends in B2B eCommerce Solutions

Handshake on a business meeting

That’s why you cannot afford to let your B2B ecommerce strategy stagnate. At least once a year, you must check in on the most important trends that are evolving among B2B ecommerce solutions. Otherwise, you’re relinquishing a major advantage to your competitors.

Fortunately, the following six trends in B2B ecommerce solutions cover everything you need to know to start seeing more conversions.

1. Influencer Marketing Is Working for B2B Companies

The growth of B2B marketing isn’t just an important trend at the moment. Years from now, it may prove to be one of the most important B2B ecommerce solutions for an entire decade or more.

In short, this B2B ecommerce strategy involves identifying those people in your industry who stand out as an authority – or “influencer.”

Obviously, you can’t choose a competitor, but most industries – even B2B industries – have at least a handful of thought leaders. Your goal is to pick one and convince them to endorse your product to their audience.

Here are some important traits to consider before deciding which influencer to go after:

  • Reach: How many people within your industry see their published opinions? Do they have a large LinkedIn following? Do they have a popular blog?
  • Relevance: How are often are they “on topic” in terms of your industry. Someone may be seen as an authority in your field. However, if the same goes for other fields, you may want to pick someone else. Ideally, your influencer should be someone who publishes the majority of their content on subjects relevant to your market.
  • Resonance: How far does their content “travel”? Comments are a good sign of their ability to engage, but check how many social shares they tend to get, as well. Being a subject-matter expert is great. Having someone who’s support for your company will resonate throughout your market is much better.
  • Reference: How often do other influencers or companies in your industry reference this person? The more references, the more likely they’ll be to move the needle for your business.

Once you’ve identified this individual, connect with them to see what it would take to gain their endorsement. It’s good to research a number of different influencers in case the first one isn’t in your budget.

After you’ve secured their endorsement, get to work using their influence across as many of your B2B ecommerce solutions as possible. You can have them guest post on your site, mention your brand on their blogs, mention your brand on other blogs, and even use them to help drive paid search.

There’s no doubt that securing the help of influencer can be a lot of work. Still, consider some of the following benefits of working with influencers:

  • Content created and shared by influencers creates ROIs 11x higher than the average display ad produced in a year
  • In 2017, more than 90% of marketers that leveraged influencers described the strategy as “effective”
  • 71% of marketers view brand ambassadors as the most effective type of influencer marketing

If all you take from this list of B2B ecommerce solutions is to secure the support of an influencer, you can expect to see a better bottom line this year.

2. Adopt Some B2C Tactics

Most experts would probably agree that, in general, B2B ecommerce solutions have lagged behind their B2C counterparts.

There are a number of reasons why this shouldn’t be too surprising.

The first is that most B2C companies don’t have B2B options for securing customers. They don’t have tradeshows, for example. They can’t realistically call a prospect directly and ask for a meeting.

B2C companies have had to adopt just about every online marketing opportunity available.That’s why some of the most powerful B2B ecommerce solutions in the coming years will resemble those that have already been proven in the B2C world.

Here are five online shopping capabilities that B2B companies need to adopt:

  • Enhanced Search
  • Ratings and Reviews
  • Personalized Recommendations (We’ll cover this in greater detail later on)
  • Promotions and Specials
  • Mobile-Optimized Website

That’s not to say that all of these can be transformed into B2B ecommerce solutions for your particular company. If you sell an especially expensive item, “promotions and specials” probably aren’t an option.

However, a mobile-optimized website should be. The same goes for providing ratings, reviews, and other feedback about your products and services.

3. Embrace Vendor-Agnostic Content Marketing

Another example of a page your company can take out of the B2C marketing handbook is to leverage the power of content marketing.

This may seem like an odd suggestion. Content marketing has been one of the most popular B2B ecommerce solutions since the beginning of the Internet.

The problem is that B2B companies tend to rely on content that openly favors their services or products. This includes whitepapers and case studies – which makes sense – but there are also plenty of B2B companies with entire blogs dedicated only to what they have to offer.

In Forrester’s now-famous report, “Death of a (B2B) Salesman”, it’s shown that three times as many B2B buyers prefer to self-educate over learning about a company’s products and services from a salesperson.

That’s why you need to invest in content that a prospect can use to become a more informed buyer – and not necessarily of your company’s product or service.

Furthermore, 86% of B2B buyers prefer it when companies offer them self-service tools to use instead of going through a representative.

So, while some of your B2B ecommerce solutions can directly pitch your company – influencer marketing being a perfect example – don’t forget to become a valuable resource to your market, as well. This has become essential for attracting leads.

4. Invest in an Actual Live Chat Experience

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Once you are able to bring leads to your website, the next step is to engage them – something chat boxes are great at doing.

Chances are that you have visited a site where a chat box pops up, prompting you to ask the “operator” any questions you have.

Even if you’ve never complied, you probably won’t be shocked to learn that, a lot of the time, there’s actually no one on the other end. After you ask your question, the bot will ask you for your contact information, so someone can respond “in a timely manner.”

Chatbots can be extremely successful at helping you fill your funnel with leads. That’s why they have become one of the most popular B2B ecommerce solutions in recent years.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that this approach is best, though.

Instead, you’ll be far better off by ensuring someone is always available to engage with prospects who visit your site.

For one thing, many people simply disregard the chat box altogether because they (rightfully) assume it’s a bot that’s not designed to actually help – just to secure their vital information.

Those that do ask questions will be pleasantly surprised to learn that your company cares enough to make someone available during normal business hours.

Of course, it also makes it much easier to keep someone from leaving your site and visiting that of a competitor. Moreover, you can take the opportunity to not just secure their contact information but offer them something that will bring them further into your funnel.

If, for example, you make corporate accounting software and they had questions about handling state taxes when you have sites in numerous states, your employee doesn’t have to just answer that one question. They can also offer to email the prospect a blog post or eBook you may have done on the subject. Now you have their contact information and have taken another step toward conversion.

5. Take Social Media Marketing Seriously

For years, a stigma has existed around social media marketing among most B2B companies. While it’s generally seen as a viable option for B2C companies, it’s been declared “obvious” that social media is no place for marketing to B2B prospects.

If this ever was true, it’s definitely not anymore.

For example, the average decision-maker visits Facebook roughly 18 days out of every month. So, while that’s not to say that you’ll receive their buy-in from a Facebook ad, it should be clear that you’re at a distinct disadvantage if a competitor is using the platform to build greater mindshare with this kind of exposure.

Just like with SEO, social media marketing gives you the option to scale up your ability to attract leads through either organic or paid search. You also have a number of metrics for measuring the success of your campaigns. These include impressions, engagement, and follower count.

Social media marketing is also a great vehicle for making the most of the influencers with whom you’ve partnered. If they have massive followings, you’ll definitely want them to share information about your company with their audience.

Just remember that, on your own account, keep most of the content vendor-agnostic. No one will follow you if all you do is talk about how great your company is. Provide plenty of truly helpful information to the reader.

Finally, start small with which platforms you choose. Each of these B2B ecommerce solutions are not necessarily equal in terms of their impact with your market. As we already covered, Facebook is probably quite popular with your prospects, but you may find that Twitter or LinkedIn is actually much better.

Once you do that, you can even create different target audiences, using a different b2b ecommerce strategy for each. Due to the helpful metrics we mentioned earlier, you’ll also find it very easy to decide which strategies are working and which need to be adjusted for better results.

6. Personalization Is Becoming King

The stiffer competition gets, the more your prospects expect from companies like yours that want their business.

That’s why you need to invest in vendor-agnostic content – it’s why you should have a chat box, so you can give them immediate assistance.

It’s also why you should strongly consider implementing personalization on your website. This would mean giving your prospects a digital experience that conforms to their unique preferences. In other words, no two prospects would have the same experience when visiting your website.

This is no passing trend, either. By the end of 2018, Gartner predicts that 40% of B2B sites will use price optimization to personalize prices and quotes based on their prospects’ unique traits. That same report predicts that using personalization to recognize prospects’ intentions will give companies a 15% boost in profits, as well.

Fortunately, this isn’t nearly as difficult to do as it might sound. Like so many B2B ecommerce solutions, personalization can be accomplished with any of a number of different software platforms.

This ease-of-implementation is also another reason why you should make personalization a priority as part of your b2b ecommerce strategy ASAP.

While you may have a few more years to enjoy it as a competitive advantage, personalization is a trend that will soon be a standard across all B2B industries.

Making the Most of These B2B Ecommerce Solutions

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As we touched on when we covered social media marketing, don’t rush in to utilizing every one of these B2B ecommerce solutions right away. While they’re all very powerful, you’ll most likely find yourself spread too thin, which is never good for the success of a B2B ecommerce strategy.

Instead, look at where your company is currently weakest. If its inbound leads, you may want to find a social media platform and start creating content for your target audiences.

If you have plenty of inbound leads but a huge bounce rate, a chat box or personalization would probably make the most sense.

Take some time considering the six B2B ecommerce solutions described above – but be sure you begin implementing at least one in the very near future. Just because they’re trends doesn’t mean they don’t have the potential to take your company to new heights.

Things To Check Before Launching Your Online Store

So you’re ready to launch your online store soon, but you want to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. We handle a lot of these launches and migrations, and have come up with this checklist to help you make sure you’ve covered all the bases.

Make Sure Your Data Is In Place

You would be surprised at how many stores will get a good portion of the way through the launch process without having products on the site. Does your store have your products entered into the system and properly categorized into categories? If not, take a little time to make sure that you have that in place. It will also help you get a feel for the system if you’re not already familiar with it.

Do you have any information pages on your site? You should, and here’s why it’s important. Even if you aren’t ready to be worrying about Search Engine Optimization and driving additional traffic to your site in the very beginning, you probably want to tell a little bit of your story. Your business is something to be proud of, and your site is a great place to tell the world about it. An “About Us” page is almost standard for websites these days, and people do actually read them. It’s important for establishing trust and professionalism for your brand.

Customers and Orders

 

If you are starting a brand new business online for the first time, this may apply only partly to you. Many businesses, however, go online after a period of doing business in person either via brick-and-mortar storefronts or face-to-face sales to consumers directly. If you’ve already got a customer base and other types of records that you’d like to have in one central place, it’s a good idea to migrate that date into your new system.

Many times this can be as easy as a properly formatted spreadsheet file, while in other cases you may wish to get some help from a team with experience in doing data conversions. Whichever situation you find yourself in, you’ll be glad you got all the data in one place when you need it.

Shipping and Restrictions

Your business may ship all over the world, but that still means you will want to come up with some shipping settings and restrictions. Some stores only ship to their local areas, particularly if they carry perishable goods. Others will only ship to carriers in North America, or have different rates and availability for shipping methods depending on the destination.

Maybe your business offers free shipping with a coupon or over a certain total – but does that hold true with every location on the planet? If you are planning to only ship to US addresses, does that include overseas territories and military bases? Shipping is a hard problem, but thankfully a lot of people have already solved most of the truly difficult parts. It’s best to start with a few simple rules in place and expand your shipping settings as you need to.

Payment Gateway

If you’re an already established business, you probably already have a way to take credit and debit card payments. If so, it’s always a good idea to check and make sure that your platform works with the Payment Gateway that you have an existing relationship with. Sometimes this will not be the case, particularly if you use an unusual payment provider. In cases like this it can be a good idea to check with your platform and find out what they recommend, as they often have good suggestions.


If you’re just starting out, you will likely want something simple but flexible to start off with before determining what your business’ specific needs are. Many people choose to set up two or three simple methods, for example PayPal and a credit card processor. For many small to medium sized businesses, this may be all that is needed indefinitely. Spend some time looking at your options and deciding, however. It can be important to every aspect of your site’s daily functioning.

Taxes

One of the two certainties in the world, according to some. If there’s any part of this process you don’t want to make any large mistakes in, it is of course setting up taxes. Every major ecommerce platform has the systems in place to make this a little bit easier for you, and in some cases even partner with apps that automate large amounts of the process so that you don’t have to worry about incorrectly creating a setting somewhere important.

If you already have a platform in mind, and you haven’t set up taxes yet, we definitely recommend you discuss this with your platform so that they can walk you through the usual risks and pitfalls. They often have a lot of experience with this, and sometimes have good suggestions you might not have otherwise considered.

Promotional Offers

Everybody loves a bargain! If you’re running sales, you want to feature that prominently on your homepage. Setting up deals like “buy one, get one” or bulk discounts is a great way to carry over your existing policies if you are starting from an established business. If you’re brand-new, it’s a great way to entice customers to make additional purchases.


There are also coupon codes to consider. Coupons are so versatile that they’re used in all kinds of ways. Sending them out as part of your email marketing campaign is one popular use. You could also have ones that you give out to special groups, like members of a forum for enthusiasts of your type of product, or organizations you want to support and develop a relationship with. Versatile and powerful, making sure you’ve got your coupons ready for launch is a great idea.

Contact Information

You’d be surprised how often people will launch their site, but forget to add the necessary contact information to the page. This is an important part of establishing trust and seeming professional. It can make a difference in other ways, as well. Say a customer is ordering something from you in Georgia and they want the product quickly, so they take a look and see that your store is located in Alaska. This tells them that if they want to get the product as fast as possible, they’d better spring for a premium type of shipping rather than simply choosing standard shipping and hoping for the best.

Adding clickable phone numbers, full address, and email contact information in the footer is a part of your design that you don’t want to neglect. If anything goes wrong with an order, customers want to know that they will have a way to reach you to resolve these issues. Help ease their concerns in advance by making this information available to them from the beginning.

Reminders and Notifications

When your customer places an order with your site, there are a number of things you want to have happen from this. First, you want your customer to be notified that their order is received. You will, of course, want to notify them with shipping and tracking information once their parcel is on its way. Then, of course, there’s the other side of this you want to consider which is notifying you and your team that an order has come in so that you can get it processed and out the door as quickly as possible.


Most ecommerce systems have the capability to do this built in to their platforms, but it’s always a good idea to place a few test orders to make sure that everything is working the way you know it should be.

Connecting to the Rest Of Your Online Presence

If your business has a Facebook page, or a Twitter or Instagram account, you will definitely want to make sure that everything is connected. That way your outreach to your customers will send them to your store, and you can encourage them to like and follow you on social media, expanding your reach.


Additionally, if you also sell your products on eBay or through Amazon Marketplace, the right platform will help you integrate all of these sales channels allowing you to keep track of everything from a central location. If you need help with these integrations, you can talk to your ecommerce platform or talk to our team of dedicated professionals – we’re always happy to help!

Make Sure Your Apps Are Connected

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If you are moving from another platform, or if you’ve been doing your business online manually, there’s a good chance that you’ve already got a few apps that you rely on to make things run smoothly. Getting these integrated into your new site will be very helpful, to say the least!


It’s a good idea to check out your platform’s app integrations to see if you can easily include the apps you already use in your new site’s functions. Usually, this is fairly simple or only involves a few steps. In some cases, it can require design help to make a few minor adjustments.

Check Your Design

Make sure that all the elements are lining up in more than one browser. Check it on some mobile devices, as well, to make sure everything is behaving properly. Can you navigate categories properly in all of them?

Be sure to check your text, as well. Any typos or errors can make people have second thoughts about your site. If you are concerned about this, you can call in some experts to check everything over and make sure there are no problems with grammar or spelling.

Content

We’ve covered the importance of user-generated content before. Content is what makes your site popular with search engines and leads new people to discover your site for the first time. It’s an essential part of having a modern online business. If you don’t have time to make content yourself, consider hiring a professional team to create some for you.

Set Up Users

If you’re a one-person operation, you’re already set. If you’ve got a team working with you, however, you’ll want to set up a login for each of them. This way you can see who has made what changes, and be able to set permissions so that your salesperson doesn’t accidentally alter your homepage!


Having these in place before you launch will save you a lot of headaches later, when you’re up and running and have a lot on your plate already.

Test Everything

Test your site! Check out the design, place a few test orders. Create a real product for $1 and purchase it using a card, to make sure that everything is actually working at every step of the way. Make sure your payment gateway is set to “live” and not “test” – the last thing you want is to be shipping people orders only to realize that you haven’t actually been getting paid!

Announce Launch!

Launch time! Let your friends and family know. Reach out on your business’ social media accounts, and consider offering a limited-time Grand Opening coupon or discount. Get that traffic coming to your online store, and then sit back and rest for a little while. You’re going to be busy for the foreseeable future, so this might be your last chance to take pride in your accomplishments for a while. And remember, you can always reach out to your platform or a team of designers and developers if you run into trouble.

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Content And Why It’s Important For Your Online Business

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The Importance of Content

You’ll hear a lot about “content” these days, if you keep up with any sort of business news, and how it’s important for your business. But what does that mean for you, and what do people mean by content? The dictionary definition says that content in this instance means “information made available by a website or other electronic medium”, and that’s a good place to start because information is key, here. But what makes it so important that people talk about it as being “king” in the modern Internet landscape?

Content in this context means engaging, consumable media. Basically, it’s the real substance of any website – information, as we said earlier. It’s what keeps you on a website, instead of simply clicking away to another page immediately, or getting up and doing something else altogether. Content is what makes people keep looking at your site, and ultimately one of the reasons they make a purchase from you.

An online store might have a blog, or a lot of details in their product descriptions and categories, or even information rich pages on the site giving customers resources they might need for the products and their uses. A news site will have news articles, infographics, opinion pieces, focus pieces, etc. There are a lot of different ways to increase the overall amount of content your website has, but for this article, we’re going to focus the details most important to an online business.

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Why Search Engines Like Content

Search engines like Google and Bing have gotten increasingly sophisticated about picking out sites that people will want to visit – among all of the empty sites full of spam and advertisements that used to be so common in the early days of the Internet. They use a number of ways to determine this, but one powerfully simple one is engagement. Engagement is basically answering a few questions about search results:

  1. How often do people go to this site?
  2. How much time do they actually spend there before going somewhere else?

Sites that people click to hoping to find what they’re looking for is important, but if they’re immediately backing out and looking somewhere else then you can be pretty sure that’s not a useful resource. If it’s a pattern search engines see develop, that website starts dropping off of the search results. On the other hand, if it’s a site that people really seem to find useful and spend time on, you can see a slow but steady upwards increase in search rankings. That means more shoppers, which means more purchases for your business.

It’s helpful to note that social media companies also pay very close attention to this same thing. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all paying attention to how to give people the content they want to find. They determine this via engagement in just the same way that search engines do, and in fact sometimes spend even more effort to determine which content pieces are most useful to specific groups of people.

For those who are running an online business, at first you may think that all you have to do is put up a list of products with their names and a couple of photographs, then set up the backend system and you’re ready to go! While this is technically true, it’s important to realize that your website isn’t an online inventory list. Your website isn’t a catalog, it’s your store.

Now, it’s true that some businesses get a lot of their traffic from somewhere besides search engines. Social media, a strong existing customer base, brand recognition or advertising via other means – all of these are fantastic ways to have customer outreach! But in the end, your potential customers will tend to behave a lot like search engines in a way. They want to use a website that feels fleshed-out and useful to them far more than one that doesn’t, which brings us to…

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Why Site Visitors Appreciate Content

It’s important to keep in mind the your website is your entire store to your online customer. In a brick and mortar store, you can pick up the product, read the packaging, feel the weight, see about how big it is, maybe even use a demo model. If you have questions, you can ask a salesperson nearby in an instant. Also, a quick look around and you’ve seen an entire section of the store’s inventory.

An online store isn’t going to have all of these. You want people to want to spend time on your site. If you sell clothing, for example, you might want to have information on sizing, styles, brands, any number of questions a customer might have. You might want to keep people updated on the latest trends and fashions, or remind them when you’re having sales or new inventory. Give them another reason to visit, other than purely to shop.

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When you go to make a purchase offline, you typically go to a store with a nice building and well-maintained space. You’re probably not going to be as comfortable making a transaction with someone who has a hand-painted sign and a card table set up showing off their wares – unless it’s something like a child’s lemonade stand.

The same can be said for your website. Have you ever walked into a new store and felt like it just wasn’t finished? There were too few products on the shelves, or everything wasn’t labeled properly? Did you make a purchase – or just leave and continue shopping? If you did, it probably wasn’t a substantial purchase – and definitely less hefty of a dollar spend than a store with an impressive store display. You can get the same feeling from an online store if it’s just a handful of products and nothing else to see.

Customers appreciate a site with depth. The more there is to get out of your site, the more people will spend time on it, or come back to it again and again. Customers appreciate this kind of attention to the details of your site. They notice that you’ve thought about their needs, and it helps elicits a positive impression of your business.

The rise of “conscious consumers” has also given reasons for providing increased details about your business and your products. People like to know if your products are made domestically, or what materials they are made from. If you have a service, people want to know your hours of availability, and in some cases what to expect from hiring you. If you or your business contribute to or assist with charities, this is a great opportunity to showcase that to the world.

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Ways to Increase Your Site’s Content

First and foremost, look at what you already have. Can you expand on it, do your products have enough description and important information available? If you’ve got a Frequently Asked Questions page (and you should), spend some time seeing if you can add more detail and more questions to it. Your “About Us” page should be more than just the date your business was founded and what time you close – this is your chance to tell people the story of your business and hopefully get them to feel invested in you a little bit. A personal story can go a long way in building customer confidence for your brand.

Product categories and brands are also great places to have more information. Some pictures and a few paragraphs about the products or services you carry can help customers have a little peace of mind about giving you their credit card information. You will also want a trust seal from a service verifying that your site meets all the security and safety standards consumers have come to expect from a reputable online business. If your site has had some effort put into it, you’re planning to be available to them in the future, not disappear into the night with their money or information.

Information pages are another useful tool for online businesses. A store that sells art supplies, for example, might have some tutorials on how to use various products or introductions to techniques. An automotive parts store may have writeups about trade shows, how-to guides, showcases of builds, or reviews. Many businesses have pages dedicated to helping customers choose between different products depending on what they need to use it for.

For a store owner, the blog is the most underused tool for increasing visits to your website. This can hold even more true if your blog is actually useful to people. An article or infographic good enough to be shared can mean an increase in traffic many times your everyday visitor count.

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What If I Don’t Have Time?

We get it – you’re busy, running a small business or department. Maybe you’ve got time to do a few things, but the kind of upgrade we’re talking about looks like it might take a good chunk of your valuable time. Or perhaps you’re just not that technical/don’t like writing very much. If you’ve got employees, they might be able to assist you with some of this assuming you can spare them. Writing might not be their specialty either, however.

Hiring a professional team to beef up your site’s content can really improve your site’s quality and help increase your traffic. It can even generate repeat business sometimes! The quality and proofreading that goes into such work can make a world of difference, and is less expensive than you would often expect.

Professionals know how to gear the text both to your customers’ needs and the attention of search engines. They can make your page look professional and well-informed without being intrusive. If you can establish yourself as a useful resource in the minds of consumers, your reputation with them will grow right along with that. And as your reputation grows, so does your site’s traffic and your bottom line.

Conclusion

Since your website is your entire online presence, it’s a representative of your brand. It’s more than just a catalog, it’s how you represent yourself to the world. Your website is almost always the beginning and end of each customer interaction with you, so it’s a good idea to put your best foot forward.

In addition, you want people to visit in the first place! Giving the search engines proof that your site is worth listing can be worth its weight in gold, and one of the absolute best ways to do that is by giving search engines what they want – information. Their entire goal is to give users links to sites with lots of information. Customers want links to sites with lots of information when you get right down to it.

Remember, every single new page your site is another potential starting point for someone to find themselves on your website. The more you have, the more chances someone will come to your site. If you can make sure that people are engaged in your site and getting value from their experience, then you’ve already established a tiny fragment of a relationship with them. It’s far easier to grow a small relationship into a larger one than it is to try and start from scratch.

Customers who have everything they need to make an informed decision at the moment they’re ready to make a purchase are customers who aren’t going to leave halfway through shopping and go to some other site to make a purchase. User-provided reviews can provide you with additional content once you start getting more visitors. Having quality content is one of the easiest ways to make your site useful and beneficial to both you and your customers.

A Satisfied Customer Is The Best Business Strategy of All

15 Ways to Improve Your Ecommerce Customer’s Experience

A Satisfied Customer Is The Best Business Strategy of All

Once you’ve got your business up and running online, it’s time to start getting more people to your site. If you don’t have people visiting, after all, you won’t have sales. Usually this is something people understand intuitively, however there are some other factors that are equally important to your business success. Once you’ve got people coming to your store, you want to make sure they stay there and shop. You also want them to actually make purchases from your store. It’s important to make sure that your customer experience is smooth and seamless.

“But my business is different!”

It’s true that there is no one-size-fits-all secret to improving the customer experience for every type of online business, but if your business model is selling retail goods – or even selling wholesale – on your ecommerce site, here are a some points to consider to ensure your customers have a pleasant time on your online store.

 

1 – Have Great Photography

Creating Quality Product Photography

When it comes to online shopping, photographs are at the heart of the process. Without the ability to see the product in a good quality photograph, your prospective customer may decide they’d rather buy from somewhere else – or even pick it up locally so they can hold it in their hands and examine it. Here [ http://bit.ly/2ExaoZg ] is a good infographic that helps cover some of the basics.

If you don’t already have great product photographs, you might want to consider hiring a professional photographer. While it does cost more than taking the photographs yourself, the skill and training that they have will definitely make a difference in your final result. So now that you’ve got quality product photographs, what about the rest of the images on your site? Do you have banners, or promotions prominently featured? Does your homepage have a carousel or slider that displays selected products or specials? If you’re working with a design team, they can often help you clean up your product photos or select stock photography for these purposes. For example, adjusting the color balance, and removing the background from a photo can make the image really “pop”, and draw the emphasis to what you’re wanting the customer to see.

 

2 – Make Sure Your Site Has A Clear Interface

Does your page have a lot of visual clutter? When someone goes to your site, what catches their eye first? What about second? After that? People are going to look over a site fairly quickly when they come to it, to decide whether or not they want to continue to look over the site or move on. If you have an eye-catching graphic or image, it should be a call to action. “Shop Now” or “Learn More”, or even “Check Out” or “Add to Cart” are good examples.

The parts of the page you want your customers to interact with should be obvious and prominent. If you’ve got too many elements cluttering their at-a-glance view of the page, your design is competing with itself and working against your goals. This can be easy to do even without meaning to, so it never hurts to consult someone or get a fresh pair of eyes to look things over.

 

3 – Simple Category Structure

This is going to be easier for some businesses than others, of course. When someone comes to your store, there’s a good chance they’re looking for something. They may not be looking to make a purchase right this second, but if they can’t even find the item they’re looking for then the chances they’ll buy something are zero.

Making your categories easy to navigate helps your customers tremendously. Most online clothing stores, for example, tend to organize into a just a few top-level categories: Men’s, Women’s, Kids’, Accessories, etc. For most clothing stores, this is the best way to make sure people find what they’re looking for. That way your customers know which category is going to have the clothes they’re looking to find.

Another way to organize your categories would be by material or by brand. For example if you were selling countertops you might choose “Marble”, “Granite”, “Stainless Steel”, and “Tile” as your top categories. If you were selling computer accessories the brand might be the obvious choice, “Samsung”, “Apple”, “Dell”, etc.

 

4 – User-generated Content

User Generated Content Model

We’ve gone into this in depth here [ http://bit.ly/2BvRAuJ ] but it is important enough to give a brief refresher. Do your customers give you reviews? Feature them on the site. That’s additional information for future customers, and extra content for your site that’s original and free. Do you have customer testimonials or tips? Find a way to feature those as well! The more content your site has, the more likely it will be considered a useful resource, both by search engines and by your site’s visitors.

 

5 – Showcase Positive Reviews

We’ve covered before [http://bit.ly/2BvRAuJ ] why it’s important to not delete all negative reviews. After all, you want customers to recognize that you’re honest! That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t feature the positive reviews. As long as they’re not the majority of reviews, it balances out in the favor of more free “user-generated content”.

Does your site have a carousel/slideshow on the home page? If so, you can use a positive review to promote one of your popular products. Alternatively, you could add a few stellar reviews to the bottom of the page, or your category pages. If you do email marketing you could even add them to your next round of emails. This can be just the thing to help someone who is on the fence about making a purchase decide to go ahead with their decision.

 

6 – Consistent Branding

Make sure your look is professional and consistent. Is your page’s color scheme compatible with your company’s logo? It needs to be the same on every page unless you’ve got a really specific reason why there needs to be an exception Make certain that you can easily determine what site you’re on no matter what page you’re viewing. Your text should be the same font across all pages or your site will look messy and unprofessional. What about sizes and colors, are they consistently the same? This reassures the customer that you’re a professional retailer who will reliably fill their orders and provide good customer service if needed.

 

7 – Live Chat

Women's hand typing on keyboard laptop with mobile smartphone

Many retailers will benefit from having this on their store, in fact many stores have found it invaluable. It can give you the ability to answer customer questions as soon as they have them. The personal touch this can provide makes a huge difference to your customers’ decision to purchase in your store instead of waiting.

If you’re using Bigcommerce [ https://www.bigcommerce.com/ ] as your shopping cart platform, there are a number of chat apps you can integrate into your store, or include in your next site design request if you’re using a design and development service.

 

8 – Let Customers Know How to Reach You

It is surprising how many online stores still don’t have basic contact information available on their site. One can find sites that lack any sort of contact information, not even an email address or phone number! If your customer has a reason to reach out to you about a past or future order and they are unable to find a way to reach you, it’s a sure bet they won’t be making their next purchase through you.

Adding clickable phone numbers, full address, and email contact information in the footer is crucial to assisting customers to engage with you. Even if a customer doesn’t need to contact you, seeing that they can is a confidence booster in your brand.

 

9 – Keep Them Coming Back

Do you reach out to former customers with sales or specials? Maybe offer seasonal coupon codes, or tell them about upcoming specials on popular products? A good email marketing setup can help you with that.

Apart from getting your emails to be automatic and match your branding, you can also add the ability to save wishlists, or loyalty programs where people can earn points with each purchase towards some sort of reward.

 

10 – Keep Them Updated

Make sure to let customers know when their package has shipped. Try to give tracking information, when available. If they email with a question about shipping, reply promptly. Sure, this is basic customer service advice – but we have all experienced what happens when something goes wrong and one of the links in this chain breaks. It can sour your relationship with a customer quickly.

 

11 – Feature Sales and Promotions Prominently

Are you having a sale, or just want to feature some of your products? Holiday special deals, new items, or having a clearance on backstocked items are all deals that customers love to shop for – but they’ve got to know about it! If you’ve got a homepage carousel or slideshow, that’s a great place to feature your deals and promotions. Or perhaps you’d rather have a banner across the top or bottom of a page, or all of your pages, to let people know about the deals they could be getting for a limited time only.


An eye-catching graphic to promote your specials will go a long way toward helping increase the average number of items per purchase. If you do email marketing, you can also include your specials in your targeted sales emails.

 

12 – Offer Targeted Upsells and Promotions

Great Discounts

Have you ever added an item to your cart when shopping online only to have it provide you with a list of suggestions? “You may also like” or “People who bought this also bought” are a couple of examples of this. These are built-in features of BigCommerce.

Similarly, upsell suggestions are common with many online retailers. Buy an air freshener and get 10% off a pack of refills, or buy a coffee maker and get a free sample of a premium house blend of coffee, these are all targeted to the specific purchase or display of interest on the customer’s part. With the right platform, implementing something like this into your store can be easy and effective. oBundle can help with adding these types of customizations to your cart page.

 

13 – Establish Trust

Does your site have a dedicated SSL certificate or other form of secure checkout? Do you have a badge from your payment providers and security certificate issuers visible at the bottom of your page?

Websites that have these things tend to have much higher conversion from visitors to actual sales than sites that do not have these displayed. In some cases up to 70% more! The more you can do to ease people’s fears of making purchases through your business online, the more likely they are to shop with you.

 

14 – Spellcheck and Grammar Check

Sure, this one seems like a really obvious one to most people, but there are still many ecommerce businesses out there with noticeable misspellings or errors that can really stand out to your customer. Even if you’ve gone over everything carefully and double-checked every bit of text on every part of your site, it’s a good idea to have a few other people look over it and point out any spelling or grammar mistakes you might have missed. It can take a little time and maybe even be a little embarrassing, but remember that this is your business – you can’t afford to have potential customers getting a negative impression right from the start! A simple wrong “your” can lead to a customer leaving the store.

 

15 – Content

One phrase you’ll often hear on the Internet when talking about marketing or having a successful website of any kind is “Content is King”. You might not think this matters as much for an online storefront as it would for, say, a popular gossip blog or news site, but make no mistake – content is important to any website that wants visitors to go to it!

The range of things you can do to increase your content is very wide. You can do something as simple as expanding your product descriptions and category or brand information. You can increase the related information about your business and what differentiates you from your competition using your “About Us” page or have a Frequently Asked Questions page for common questions that you receive about some of your products or services. You could even go the extra step of having a blog on your store for providing information, advice, and announcements about specials or new products.

This can be a lot of effort to go through if you’re doing it by yourself, if it seems to daunting there are professionals out there who can find specialists in your industry to handle the tedious writing process. In addition this means that you can also use that text in your email marketing mailers. Having content is a great way to attract people to your site who weren’t otherwise going to visit it.

 

Conclusion

An online business can be tough to manage sometimes, but you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting by yourself. If you’re like many small to medium businesses you are limited on time, money, or both. Many times, updating your website or improving the customer experience while shopping is something that you know is important, but you just don’t know where to get started with only a limited amount of time and money to spend on the project, for more of the latest tips on ecommerce, check out this guide to IRCE 2018.

Some of the points mentioned in this article are quick and easy enough that you can probably tackle them on your own without much fuss. Some tasks may be better to delegate or hire someone to take care of for you. Either way, streamlining your customer experience is always going to make a difference in your bottom line.

User Generated Content Model

Why User-Generated Content is Important to eCommerce Success

User Generated Content

If your eCommerce website isn’t using user-generated content, you may be missing out on sales.

User-generated content (UGC) refers to any sort of content that a site user or visitor generates. It could be a comment, a review, an uploaded photo, or even a video. UGC can turn a boring, dead website that people forget to visit into a daily go-to destination.

People love reading what other people have to say. Back before the internet, newspapers were the main source of daily news. Many people would open up their newspaper and skip right to the editorial page just to read the Letters to the Editor. The enduring popularity of advice columns even into the digital age speaks to the compelling nature of relatable stories from real people.

By adding user-generated content to your website, you can add tremendous value to your customers, improve the rate of return visits, and increase sales. In order to fully benefit from user-generated content, you should understand some of the different ways it can be utilized, as well as the pros and cons.

2 Main Types of User-Generated Content

While there are many different ways to categorize user-generated content, it might help to look at it in two very broad categories:

1. User Contributions (Curated and Non-Curated)

User contributions are any sort of content that users contribute directly to the website, without much direct interaction with other users. This type of user-generated content is generally one-way between the user and the business.

A good example of this would be a testimonial. The user sends the testimonial to the business, which selects it, possibly edits it, and then posts the testimonial. This would also be an example of curated content, where the business vets and edits everything that users post. A great way to gather, curate, and display dynamic user generated content is through an app, like Rivet.

Rivet features customizable post-purchase questions, enables multi-page, configurable display of UCG, and gather data on customer submissions , which enables store owners to learn how to improve their business through direct feedback.

User contributions don’t all have to be hand-selected and curated as testimonials tend to be. Product reviews are also examples of user contributions, and they may be fully curated or partially moderated depending on the business. Users might also post photos of products, write blog posts, or share success stories.

2. Online Community (User-to-User)

User Taking a Selfie

Online community refers to two-way content in which users interact with each other through the website. At first, online community came in two main forms: online bulletin boards (or forums) and email discussion lists. With the advent of social media, online community might extend beyond a company’s website to Facebook groups. Comment sections are also examples of an online community.

Online community can be very powerful, but be forewarned, it can also become a destructive force and a PR nightmare if a company is having issues. Moderation of online communities is important to maintain civility, keep discussions on track, and stop spam.

On a positive note, online communities can help with brand loyalty, and for technical products, can serve as a place where users can connect with one another on technical advice, reducing the need of hired technical support staff.

Considerations on Applying User-Generated Content

User Submitted Review

How and when you use user-generated content on your website will depend on a lot of factors: the products you sell, the demographics of your customers, and the type of brand you have.

For example, a clothing company that appeals primarily to millennials will probably have a lot more success with user-generated photos than a law firm trying to market to victims of insurance fraud. Here are a few things to take into consideration when planning your user-generated content:

1. Audience

Is your target audience more likely to use social media, take selfies, or chat online? Or are they business professionals who don’t want to waste time and prefer practical information?

2. Brand

Do you have a brand with the potential to have a “following”? For example, a craft beer might develop a loyal following, but a company that sells office supplies probably would not generate the same type of enthusiasm.

3. Resources

If you are considering implementing a user community such as a Facebook group or a support bulletin board, do you have the staff and/or expertise to moderate and/or manage volunteer moderators, to make sure the community doesn’t go off the rails? Fortunately, more and more technology solutions are available to help with moderation, and some services like Disqus can help screen comments for you.

4. Comfort Level

Having user-generated content sometimes means your users are going to say bad things about your product or business. Are you comfortable with allowing some criticism of your company, or do you prefer having complete control over your messaging?

Depending on the unique needs of your business, you might choose to have only a small amount of curated user content that you tightly control, or you could establish a free-for-all online community and let the chips fall where they may.

5 Ways to Use User-Generated Content

With the above considerations in mind, here are just a few ways to insert user-generated content into your eCommerce website. You can also be creative and come up with new ways to engage your users.

1. Product Reviews

It’s up to you whether you allow all product reviews (even the bad ones) or just hand-select positive reviews that you curate in advance. Product reviews can also have the additional community element of user comments.

2. Blog Posts

Your users can contribute blog posts. You can select and edit them, or you can have a section where users post in real time, with some moderation to remove spam and anything offensive.

3. Community Groups

Whether in the form of a bulletin board, a Facebook group, or a Slack channel, you can use community groups to connect users with one another and keep them engaged with your brand. An example might be an outdoor equipment company offering a community group for hikers to connect with one another.

4. Photos

Especially if you have a product that is highly visual, such as clothing or accessories, you can encourage your customers to post photos of themselves with your product.

5. Tips and Suggestions

Your users can be a great source of information on how to use your product. People also like to be helpful.

Whatever you decide to incorporate, remember: You can always make adjustments and try something different. Don’t forget to ask for user feedback. Often, your customers will have some great ideas that you might have never considered.

Boost Your eCommerce with User-Generated Content

Upgrade your “dead” eCommerce site from just a catalog to a thriving community of users by incorporating fresh and engaging user-generated content. Our expert team at oBundle can help you determine which user-content strategies might be best for your business, and then we can help you implement them.

eCommerce Product Descriptions

How and Why You Should Write Great Product Descriptions

eCommerce Product Descriptions

You could have the best products in the world in your online store, but poorly written product descriptions could mean losing your customers.

Product descriptions are absolutely critical in online shopping. Remember: Customers cannot touch your product online. They can’t step back and look at it in person, nor can they sample it. If they have never handled your product in real life, all they might know about it is what you put in your product description.

If you already have your online store up and running, take some time to objectively review the product descriptions. Are they interesting? Accurate? Easy to read? If you haven’t built your online shop yet, you are in luck, because you can do your product descriptions right the first time.

Do Your Homework First

Before you get started writing or improving your product descriptions, you need to do some homework and planning. Here are a few things to consider before writing product descriptions:

1. Can You Write?

This applies more to the solo entrepreneur or small company, as bigger companies will often have marketing staff with some background in copywriting. But even large companies will farm out copywriting to qualified professionals if they need to.

Please be objective and consider whether you or your staff has the writing capabilities to handle your product descriptions. If not, consider hiring out to a qualified copywriter or content agency. Or at least, you might want to hire a copyeditor to review and improve your work before it is posted.

2. Consider Your Audience

Who are you selling your products to? You need to answer this question first before tackling your product descriptions, as it will impact how they are written.

If you are part of a marketing department at an established company, you might have already done the job of creating “user personas” to represent the visitors to your website. If you are with a smaller company, or are a solopreneur, and you don’t know what personas are, now is a good time to learn.

A user persona is a profile of an ideal customer. It is not a real person but a representation of a person, or even a group of people merged into one “persona.” You can have multiple personas per online shop. Each persona has a (fake) name and attributes. You can determine which attributes are important to your shop. For example, an online store selling fishing gear might have the following personas:

Persona: Jerry James
Age: 51
Sex: Male
Hobbies: Fishing, Boating, Golf
Occupation: Lawyer
Story: Jerry is a stressed-out lawyer who likes to go fishing with his friends when he can, but he is often busy and unable to get away to the lake as much as he likes. He does like to buy the latest high-quality fishing gear, but he doesn’t want to waste a lot of time shopping.

Persona: Tim Jones
Age: 65
Sex: Male
Hobbies: Fishing, Gardening
Occupation: Retired
Story: Tim is recently retired and tries to go fishing every day. He has lots of free time and enjoys collecting fishing lures. He loves reading about fishing and learning new tips about the sport.

Based on these two personas, the first user (Jerry) might want a product description that is to the point and easy to scan. Tim, on the other hand, might really enjoy a lot of in-depth information about a product. You can cater to both types of users by writing a short introductory description then providing a link to more in-depth information for people like Tim.

3. What eCommerce Platform Are You Using?

Different online stores have different options for product descriptions, including length and ability to add features such as colors and sizes. Additionally, you might also talk to your developer (if you have one) about what options are available with your current shop theme.

BigCommerce has built in SEO features which automatically create meta descriptions from your product descriptions and also allow for manual overridding, should you wish to insert an optimized meta description, not based on the product’s main description (good for longer descriptions).

8 Tips on Writing Snazzy Product Descriptions

eCommerce Product Description Paper Tag

Now that you have determined whether you will do the writing in-house, what your audience is, and how your platform will impact your products, you are ready to work on the product descriptions. Follow these tips to develop some great product descriptions and watch your sales increase.

1. Keep it Simple

The introductory paragraph of your product description should mostly be a straightforward description of the product. Don’t worry about including every little technical detail or measurement, as those can usually be added in a “product details” area below.

2. Be Creative

Depending on your audience, you should try to use interesting and descriptive language that should be informative if not entertaining to read. Once again, know your audience. Millennials might respond well to very casual, personal language, whereas business professionals or scientists might want “just the facts.” Keep in mind that a product description does not have to be dry. It can even tell a story, as long as you don’t waste too much time getting to the core idea of what the product is.

3. Explain the Why

Give the potential customer a tangible reason.Why should a customer buy your product vs. another one? Does it use superior materials? Is it using advanced technology? Remember, you are trying to sell the product. Now is not the time to be modest or shy.

4. Use Direct Language

Regardless of the type of audience, you don’t want your product description to read like a college term paper. It should use direct, straightforward language. Avoid fluff and jargon. Sentences should be short and to the point.

A great free online tool to use to make your writing more streamlined is the Hemingway App. Just paste your copy in there to see how your copy compares.

5. Be Truthful

Being truthful is always better in the long run. If you lie in your product descriptions to try to make the sale, you risk permanently alienating customers. And if you are farming out your product writing to a professional agency or writer, make sure they understand the product.

Remember to include accurate information about the little “extras” that might come with a product. If these items change, then the description should be updated. You might notice (with a quick perusal of many reviews on leading eCommerce websites like Amazon) that often a top complaint is that a certain “extra” wasn’t included with an item as “promised.”

In other words, don’t display a photo a guitar that advertises a carrying case and then neglect to include the carrying case.

Note that this problem is often due to pictures that include extra items that aren’t shipped along with a basic package. If your pictures aren’t quite accurate, then you need to note that clearly with your product copy.

6. Add Quality Pictures and Video

Speaking of pictures, make sure your product description comes with a high-quality photo, or better yet, photos. Once again, the photograph should be an accurate depiction of the product, along with any accessories that are included.

If it is appropriate, including a video demonstration of the product can go a long way in reassuring a customer that your product is the real deal. These videos should be professionally shot and edited – no shaky cam for a product video, please.

7. Choose the Appropriate Length for Your Product and Audience

Product descriptions should be long enough to give a full description of the product without being so wordy they bury the important data in a wall of text. A good average length for a product description is approximately 350-400 words, and no more than 600 words. Even longer product descriptions should have a concise, main paragraph that covers the product basics, with an option to scroll down and learn more for those interested in additional information.

8. Look at Product Descriptions You Like

Take a look at some shops that might appeal to the same customers you are targeting and notice how they display their products. Find some product descriptions you really like as inspiration. Of course, you won’t be copying them outright, as that would be a violation of copyright. But you can use them to give you some guidance on how to do a product description well.

Your Product Description is Your Online Sales Tool

With a virtual shop, what you need to make the sale is your product description along with accompanying media. Skimping on product descriptions equals skimpy sales figures. Hire a writer or editor if you need to, and make sure you have quality descriptions that will inspire your customers. Our expert consultants at oBundle can also help you with designing your product strategy.

Trust Seal Example

The Importance of Trust Seals for E-Commerce Conversions

The concept of buying a product online is a risky one. Any successful transaction relies on an impressive number of expectations.

To make a purchase, you need to send money to an essentially anonymous individual who may be in a completely different country. You then expect that store operator to act in good faith and ship out your product.

At the same time, you expect that your personal data is protected from prying eyes. You expect that the shipping carrier is going to act in good faith and deliver the goods on-time. You expect the website administrator to take measures against accidentally exposing your data to hackers.

However, the Internet is decentralized. There is no single, all-powerful authority capable of establishing trust between you and some distribution warehouse in Shenzhen, China. For this reason, e-commerce store owners go to great lengths to establish trust with customers – and you should too.

What is a Trust Seal?

Trust Seal Example

If you have spent any time on the Internet, you have seen trust seals. They grace most professional webpages and make specific, branded promises. Major security firms like Norton and McAfee are some of the most readily identifiable – because they’re the most popular.

These seals tell website visitors that your website is legitimate – that a reputable third-party has verified that your business is authentic and your website is not leaking data to hackers and cybercriminals. Importantly, this message is implicit – it’s something that website visitors feel when they visit your site, even if they don’t know exactly what the trust seal means or does.

How Do Trust Seals Affect Conversion?

Interestingly, trust seals have been found to affect conversion rates. CrazyEgg carried out several case studies using A/B comparisons on websites to find out just how much of a difference trust seals can make.

  • Blue Fountain Media replaced a generic privacy policy reminder with a branded Verisign trust seal and saw a 42% increase in sales for the trust seal-containing page.
  • Virtual Sheet Music experienced a significant drop in sales when its trust seal provider removed the seal due to a contractual disagreement. Upon reinstating the seal, the website saw a 31% increase in conversions.
  • Clean Energy Experts found that adding a trust seal increased conversions by 137%.

The statistics clearly show that online customers prefer websites that offer a branded security guarantee to website users. 65% of online shoppers feel that Norton’s Secured Seal is a reliable indicator that a website is safe to browse.

How to Obtain a Trust Seal

Trust Seal Example

Obtaining a trust seal is easy – so long as you meet the requirements of trust seal providers. Generally, if you have an SSL certificate and an EV code signing certificate for your site, you qualify for a trust seal.

Your provider will ask you to implement some code on your site. This code will take care of the verification process, ensuring that your site meets the standards set forth by that provider. Once your site is verified, the provider will give you the code for implementing the site seal, and you are free to place it anywhere on your site.

You may notice that some sites have multiple seals. This is because specific seals assure website visitors of specific security concerns. For instance, the McAfee Hacker Safe seals makes a different promise than the BBBonline Business Trust seal. The three main types of seals are:

Privacy Trust Seals

These seals verify and certify your website’s privacy policy and regularly check up on your site to ensure that you follow your privacy policy.

Security Trust Seals

These seals ensure that your website is reasonably well-defended against cybercriminal activity and malware. Generally, you receive a security trust seal upon buying an SSL certificate.

Business Trust Seals

These seals verify the identity of your business and assure web users that you authentically represent your business and try to keep customers satisfied. If your web reputation is too low, you may not be able to get this seal.

Importantly, e-commerce store owners follow the same basic process to implement these seals. The provider’s code takes care of managing and verifying your website’s data, and they contact you to either approve or reject the application for the seal.

Ensure Compliance

Since the trust seals offer rely entirely on compliance with industry standards, you must ensure that your site is compliant with these standards. In most cases, professionally designed websites hosted on reputable platforms pass verification – if your site doesn’t, the trust seal provider will walk you through the process of achieving compliancy.

The entire process is beneficial for all parties involved. Your customers want to be confident in your website, you want inspire greater customer confidence, and your seal provider has a clear incentive to sell meaningful trust seals.

 

Responsive web design

Why is Responsive Design Important for SEO?

As the owner of an online store, you’re deeply aware of the effect that SEO can have on your visibility. You may also know that responsive design is a competitive advantage in a world where 62% of smartphone users make purchases on their mobile device.

But how does responsive design interact with SEO? More importantly, can errors in responsive design create SEO problems?

Responsive Designs Are Good for SEO

Responsive web design

A responsive design is any website theme that changes based on the browser or device using it. On a fundamental level, responsive design is good for SEO. The search engine indexes one page using one theme, rather than having to deal with a different URL or an entirely different HTML structure for the same content.

A mobile theme is different from a responsive design. BigCommerce offers both responsive and mobile themes, however, they recommend using a responsive theme if possible. Some of their older themes are not responsive, so they suggest turning on their mobile theme or upgrading to a responsive theme.

Some mobile themes create problems for search engines that can result in lowered rankings, but the worst scenario is not having a mobile-friendly website at all. A truly modern mobile-friendly site uses responsive design to achieve six goals, according to Yoast. Sites should:

• Load properly on smartphones and tablets.

• Load quickly regardless of the device used.

• Present content readably without requiring users to zoom in or out.

• Be spacious enough for users to navigate by touch.

• Offer added value to mobile users.

• Be understandable by search engines.

It takes an experienced web developer to achieve all of these characteristics – and that’s what search engines want.

The Effect of Responsive Design on Bounce Rates

To really get into why responsive design helps produce SEO results, we must cover bounce rates. As Rosy Strategies points out, Google measures the difference between mobile and non-mobile bounce rates. It uses this data to determine whether a particular site is mobile-friendly or not.

Google has made it clear that it favors mobile-friendly sites, so it will compare your mobile bounce rate to your desktop bounce rate to determine just how responsive your site really is. If mobile users are leaving your page faster and more frequently than desktop users, you can expect Google to downgrade your ranking.

This demonstrates an important point about responsive design – to produce results, it must be done right. The simple fact that a website changes shape to accommodate mobile devices isn’t enough – the site needs to be legitimately mobile-friendly.

How to Plan for Smart Responsive Design

Building Responsive Design

Think about the structure of your website. Rather than designing the site in a top-down manner – beginning with a presentation and moving down the funnel to conversion – you (or your designer) should establish a mobile-friendly architecture first.

The generic pattern for one-off sales pages goes like this: Build awareness at the top of your page, move downward to product information and demonstrations, then build on reviews and testimonials to land a conversion at the bottom.

However, if your mobile page has the same structure, you can be almost completely certain that you’ll lose the majority of leads before they hit the bottom of your page. Since you only have a few seconds (and a tiny screen) to grab their attention, you will need to plan for responsive design by editing out some content.

  • Only leave introductions and demonstrations that are short, punchy attention-grabbers.
  • Remove reviews, testimonials, user guides, tutorials and FAQs – or simply move them to another part of the site.
  • Don’t crowd the screen with multiple blog post titles – just your latest. Either use infinite scrolling or incorporate a simple sliding carousel to display multiple posts in a clean, organized manner.
  • Place touch elements far apart from one another. Even if you find your website easy to navigate, you can increase conversions by designing for fat fingers.
  • Remove full-screen pop-ups. Yes, they can pad your email newsletter, but users hate them, Google hates them, and chances are you hate them too.
  • Incorporate video. This can have a great effect on your conversion rates by combining multiple elements of your page in place – an all-in-one introduction, demonstration, and tutorial, for instance. Hubspot encourages this, yet stipulates that video content must be short enough to load quickly. Videos should not autostart. Allow the user the option to start the video.

Don’t Forget About Load Speed

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One advantage to cutting out all the superfluous information crowding out your mobile site’s display is that your load time is likely to decrease. Most mobile conversion losses occur during site loading, so you should pay close attention to how your responsive site design elements affect load speed – especially if you incorporate video (remember, don’t have it autostart!).

Fortunately, Google lets you test your mobile speed using a web application. Type your website’s URL into Google’s mobile site tester and find out how you measure up to your competitors. Google will give you feedback on your site and tell you how you can improve it.

Instagram Icons

Use Instagram to Help Drive E-Commerce Sales

You probably already know that Instagram is one of the largest social media networks around – with 500 million monthly active users as of 2016, it represents one of the most powerful platforms for promotion on audience size alone.
There’s more to Instagram than pure audience numbers, though – especially if you run an e-commerce store.

The major benefit Instagram offers is that it humanizes brands: 68% of Instagram users engage regularly with brands on the platform – more than double the number who do so on Facebook.

If your e-commerce store sells items that cater to the visual format – fashion, home goods, or tech gadgets, for example – then Instagram marketing can be a highly lucrative activity for your brand.

How to Promote on Instagram

First off, you should know that promoting on Instagram is different than promoting on any other social networking platform. Since the platform is primarily visual, you’ll need to invest some time or money in getting quality images. Which means you’ll need to:

1. Make Your Own Images

Taking Food Photos

Taking Food Photos

Making your own images is not that hard. Use a tool like Canva to make or modify simple, attractive images that play into the culture and attitude of your target demographic. These images should illustrate some characteristic of your brand’s value statement. Original quotes and inspiring imagery represent a cheap, easy way to get the content mill running.

The main drawback here is that quotes and inspirational imagery are indirect. You can never really establish yourself as a serious brand using only generic imagery.

2. Hire Professionals

Although you can get your Instagram presence started using generic imagery that appeals to your target audience, the time will come when you have to invest. This could mean hiring a professional photographer to set up a photo shoot that advertises your products, or having a graphic designer create high quality, branded imagery that showcases your online store’s value.

Newcomers to the Instagram marketing machine may balk at the prices professional photographers charge, but it’s important to remember that although Instagram is free for users, investment pays off for brands.

Fortunately, you can get great deals by working with aspiring photographers at the beginning of their careers – look for local photography students willing to develop a professional portfolio. Many will work for between $5 and $10 per image. Lifestyle photography works particularly well on Instagram, where users typically look for imagery that reinforces their culture and attitude – they follow brands who “get” them.

Use a tool like GramFeed to determine what your closest and most successful competitors are doing. This will give you an idea of the type of lifestyle content that works best for your niche.

3. Use Hashtags

Instagram Hashtag

Instagram Hashtag

Using hashtags effectively maybe one of the largest gray areas for newcomers to Instagram – and a reason why some users get frustrated and leave the platform. These users never cracked the power of the hashtag. The most basic utilization of the hashtag is Instagram’s Search tab. Think of hashtags as search keywords in a normal search engine. This allows users to browse all the posts that have the same tag they searched for. The most basic hashtag that should be applied to your posts is your company’s name, without spaces.

Some brands we have worked with didn’t even know their hashtag was already being used on Instagram – they had a head start! Other useful tags are areas of interest that revolve around your business. Last, add tags that are specific to that particular post. These three levels of tag sourcing gives users the various avenues to discover your posts and thus profile when browsing tags.

Achieving Worthwhile Growth on Instagram

Instagram Icons

If you have any experience with Facebook ads, you know that you can also incorporate Instagram advertisements into your campaigns. Facebook makes this a one-click affair on the Ads Manager screen.

The question is – should you do it?

For most e-commerce stores, the answer is yes. But there’s a caveat – to advertise selectively to niches based on layers of interest data collected by the platform, you need to link your Facebook account and run a synchronized ad campaign.

Otherwise, you run the risk of running a campaign too broad and too general to be effective. Instagram is the most global of all social networks – the platform makes no meaningful differentiation between users who come from different countries or speak different languages. For this reason, incorporating Facebook’s gender, location, and interest data into your campaign is a must.

For the same reason, using carefully selected lifestyle photography lets you address a specific group of people – ideally, a group that other brands are not meaningfully addressing.

Another thing you may notice about Instagram’s sponsored posts is that they do not necessarily result in a bigger presence on the platform. This is because users can’t follow you directly from their newsfeed. They need to actually type in your username, visit your profile, and follow you – even when introduced to your brand through a sponsored post.

A Word on Influencers

Another important way to achieve quick growth on Instagram is by leveraging deals with Instagram celebrities. If a very popular influencer in your niche promotes your brand, you can expect to generate a great deal of interest out of the arrangement.

While you may find that big-name influencers charge for this, you can also develop relationships with influencers who are happy to promote your products for free, or in exchange for product discounts. Influencers live off of great content, and are always happy to collaborate with brands that can provide that content.

In both cases, you can get a better deal working with established digital marketers like our team at oBundle – we can help you craft useful strategies for your Instagram audience.

LifestylePhotography_2

How E-Commerce Retailers Use Lifestyle Photography to Generate Brand Value

Previously the exclusive tool of the world’s largest luxury brands, lifestyle photography has become the obsession of the Internet generation. The availability of high quality camera and image editing technology made this style a dominating element of digital marketing campaigns, which now can be harnessed by the e-commerce store owner.

Lifestyle vs. Product

Almost every online retailer with an e-commerce store selling physical products is deeply familiar with product photography. The need to accurately show consumers the product being sold is an integral part of the online shopping experience – without it, most Internet retailers of this kind could not exist.

Product photos favor clinical detail over showiness and pizzazz. Typically, they feature the product in question over a neutral or full white background. Alternately, they can feature the product in an attractive setting that speaks to the brand’s value proposition.

Lifestyle photos, however, are all about telling stories. These are the photos that not only describe what the vendor is selling, but also showing what kind of customer buys the product being sold. That extra layer of meaning is what makes all the difference in the world of online shopping.

How Lookbooks Work in the Context of E-commerce

The storytelling element that separates lifestyle photography from generic product photos is what gives it its unique power. Fashion designers have been using this type of photography for decades – incorporating narratives into fashion photography fashion statements called lookbooks for decades.

A lookbook is a collection of images showing an ensemble of products grouped together. Typically, they involve models and take place in exotic locations. Ideal for fashion editorials, they use photographs to illustrate the lifestyle a product’s consumer desires.

In the Internet-era, fashion is not the only industry that can benefit from a lookbook. Nearly any physical product retailer can use this medium to describe the type of customer it serves. That includes tech start-ups and kitchenware designers to furniture sellers and hygiene product manufacturers.

The lookbook gives consumers the information they need to distinguish between the products they would shop for and the ones that simply don’t interest them. It is a highly visual marketing tool that uses an environment, model, and narrative to describe the person who would buy the main product being advertised.

Use Lookbooks to Sell Online Products

By appealing to consumer emotion and imagination through lookbooks, online retailers can develop loyal brand followings. Social media users – especially on Pinterest – interact with and share lookbook content far more often than regular product photos.

Any product that addresses the need of a specific demographic can benefit from using lifestyle photography to drive home its value in the eyes of consumers. The more specific the demographic, the greater the potential benefits of incorporating lookbook photography on the website.

Follow these steps to make the most of your lifestyle photography campaign:

Step One: Use Demographics to Tell Stories

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Lifestyle photography needs to tell a story. Find out how customers find your products and what they do with those products to determine the personality of the customer. Once you hone in on a specific customer lifestyle demographic, you can create a story that matches.

In many cases, stories can come from real customers. This is the case for products that meet specific needs, such as sports equipment or technology products. Regardless of where the narrative comes from, it needs to address the specific demographic that the product targets.

Step Two: Don’t Skimp on Photography

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Since lifestyle photography has a completely different goal than product photography, it requires a different set of conditions for successful execution. Not only do e-commerce merchants need to hire a professional photographer, but they must also consider the location of the shoot and the specific model or models hired.

Good lighting and a professional make-up artist can mean the difference between a magazine editorial-quality shoot and a generic no-name lookbook. Faces tell stories and drive engagement on Instagram – and they’ll make or break your lifestyle campaign’s success.

Step Three: Ensure Website Compatibility

The simplest way to use high quality lookbook photos is by posting them on social media. If your website has a blog, you’re encouraged to ensure that it is compatible with the imagery in question.

For instance, if your website is based on BigCommerce, you can choose from a broad range of themes that support lookbook imagery. Themes are customizable templates that can profoundly change the look and feel of your site. The theme Lookbook lets e-commerce retailers tell their customers a story through mosaic-styled imagery.

However, the most enterprising online retailers take product photography a step further by offering user interactivity – custom-coded lookbook photography can be designed to link website visitors to specific product pages when they click on the products featured. The fact that lookbooks combine products from different sources offers opportunities for valuable cross-promotion, as well.