So if you’re familiar with the web, there’s about a million different tools you can use for a variety of purposes. E-commerce is no exception.
The problem is…which ones are actually worth your time?
Because, if you take the time to test out a certain type of tool, you’re going to spend a significant amount of time trying to figure out which one does it best and justifies its cost.
Instead of doing that, check out this brief list of essential e-commerce tools that are definitely worth your time and money:
1. Worldwide Brands
Need drop-shipping info? You won’t anymore after you use Worldwide Brands. You pay a single lifetime membership fee that gives you access to one of the world’s largest databases of dropshipping companies.
It also works awesome for researching niche business ideas.
Managing customer service issues is a difficult task, but not now that ZenDesk has come along. You can track all of the communications you have with your customers. And you can even assign automated responses to specific queries.
Remember, e-mail marketing campaigns have one of the highest ROIs available. They have awesome customer service, good features and usability, and a reasonable price as well.
Time to grow your business? This outsourcing service hooks you up with Filipinos who can’t wait to help. Many consider it THE best place to outsource, if that’s something you’re comfortable with.
It works best for hiring people who you plan on having around for a long time.
This is another great place to outsource, but it works better for short-term projects and highly specialized skillsets. You can hire almost anyone from across the globe to perform just about any task you need.
If you need payment processing, Authorize.net is one of the top payment gateways around. It works with every major shopping cart available, and there’s very rarely any problems.
7. Fee Fighters
So if you need to reduce those obnoxious credit card fees, this is the service that does it for you. They analyze your statements, identify your needs, and then bid out what services you need to many different providers.
For just a one-time fee, you get to save thousands over the long run.
As you can see, these tools all have their proper times and places. But now, at least Â you know who’s the cream of the crop so you don’t waste hours of your own time trying to figure out.
Enter an extra “0″ somewhere in Adwords, and you could be in for a big surprise when you see your ad spend at the end of the month!
That’s tip number one, and even experienced PPC professionals have made it.
Besides monitoring for typos, you can also do the following to keep your PPC costs down (which can skyrocket out of control if left unchecked):
1. Shoot for Long-Tail Keywords
There’s arguments as to which keywords are in fact “long-tail,” but generally they start with key phrases that have 3 words or more. If you target terms with less words than that, the competition stiffens immensely, and your cost-per-click and ROI take a huge negative impact.
Aim for terms like “buy men’s basketball shoes online,” rather than “mens shoes.”
2. Keep It Simple, Stupid
You don’t need a massive number of keywords to generate a healthy amount of business. For starters, choose 5 keywords, and also target some of their variations. Once you have mastered PPC for a small number of terms, expand your business as much as you want.
3. Create a Custom Landing Page for Each Keyword
If you send everyone to a generic home page, you leak conversions like crazy. If the home page is fully optimized for a certain term, then by all means drive people to it. Otherwise, create a unique page for each keyword.
Don’t do something like copying and pasting the content and switching the keyword – that harms the user experience as people browse your website. You can, however, drive similarly-related terms to a single page targeted at the primary keyword.
4. Track Your Data Carefully
And you should do this especially so if you’re running your first campaign. Using a combination of Google Analytics and Adwords, you can precisely track how many clicks you’ve gotten, and the sales you’ve generated for each product.
Check things every day for the first week, weekly for the first 3 months, and then monthly thereafter.
5. Keep Quality Score High
Your click-through rate, bounce rate, and the relevancy of your landing page make up your quality score. And what Google charges you per click is based on that.
The better you can meet your visitor’s expectations with your landing page, the lower your PPC costs.
6. Use Negative Keywords
These keywords are ones you do not want to have your ad display for at all. When you first run it, Google will display it for a number of different searches, and some of those will be completely irrelevant to your keyword.
So, review that information within Adwords and add negative keywords so people who are searching for your product can actually find it.
If you do that when running your PPC campaign, you’ll do just fine. It’ll never be perfect from the start, so be prepared for some money to be used for learning what doesn’t work.
Is your e-commerce site a resounding success, or do you have some work to do? How do you tell?
It’s not as hard as you think, and especially so if you follow these tips to help you get started tracking your success:
1. Bounce Rate
Conversion VooDoo cites a study that found the best bounce rate in e-commerce is an astounding 14.3%! The average was 33.9%, while the maximum was 68%.
Getting to 14.3% is almost impossible for most sites, so don’t stress too much about hitting that mark. But if you’re a ways over 33.9%, here are a couple quick tactics for decreasing your bounce rate:
1. Use engaging product descriptions. Most are written by manufacturers, and they don’t do a good job of selling at all. You know your market – tell them about the benefits your product offers.
2. Include high-quality photos. Let your visitors see the product from all angles so they know exactly how it looks and works.
3. Write regular, in-depth content. The key term here is “in-depth.” Whatever you write, go into excruciating detail – your visitors will reward you with much lower bounce rates.
2. Conversion Rate
This study by Marketing Sherpa of 2,912 e-commerce companies found that conversion rate was most commonly below 15%. About 55% of all companies were below 5%.
If you’re below that threshold, there’s a few things you can do to improve your conversion rate:
1. Use product videos when you can
2. Allow your customers to customize their items
3. Offer FREE shipping with a minimum purchase amount (half of all online retailers do this)
3. Cart Abandonment Rate
Baymard found an average cart abandonment rate of 67.91% among many popular e-commerce sites. Imagine how much your numbers would improve if you recouped 25% of those sales or so.
What can you do to reduce your cart abandonment rate? A few things:
1. Show estimated shipping fees on product pages – Customers do not like to find out their shipping charges are too high on their checkout pages
2. Let customers purchase without creating an account or signing in – You can give them the option though if you want to
3. Make your pages load as quickly as possible – We already advised you to use images and videos as much as possible. Make sure those images are both high-quality and compressed. There’s a fine balance between the two that you can achieve.
4. Send an e-mail reminder to those that do abandon their carts. Of course you only collect their e-mail with their permission, and you never force them to give it to you. But, some will give their information, and those are the sales you may be able to recoup.
E-Commerce Testing Never Ends…
The web constantly changes, and so does the psychology of your market. Continue testing all of these factors (and several others), and you’ll stay competitive for the long haul.
It’s probably pretty clear to you why it’s important to know how people use your website. So it makes sense to use Google Analytics.
But if you’re new to Google Analytics, the amount of data you can track is overwhelming. Which numbers are most important to look at, and what do they mean?
Here’s a few starting tips:
1. Percent of New Visits
Really, with most e-commerce stores, most of your customers will be one-and-dones. They’ll come back to purchase sometime in the future (especially if you have a good offer), but for the most part you can’t count on repeat purchases too much.
So one of the biggest metrics you want to track, especially if you are a new startup, is the percentage of visitors which are new. You want to aim for around 75% or so (according to Moz).
Fortunately, you don’t have to do anything to find this number. As soon as login and click on your website, the front page contains a number of metrics. Scroll down the page halfway and you’ll see “% New Sessions” at the bottom left.
Check it out below:
2. Bounce Rate
Your bounce rate is the number of people who visit just one page on your website and leave (they’re “bouncing” off your website). This metric is again easy to find – it’s right by the “% New Sessions” metric on the first page of Google Analytics.
ConversionVooDoo says the average bounce rate for e-commerce sites is 33.9%. The minimum they found is 14.8%, while the maximum is 68.3%.
Bounce rate measures the engagement people have when visiting your website. If it falls on the higher end, you need to make some changes to get their interest. It’s also a huge rankings factor – the lower it is the better you rank.
These are more complicated to set up, but they give you very important information (we’ll have a future blog post on them). Goals can be found in “Admin –> All Website Data –> Goals.”
You won’t see any data there, and that’s because you have to set up goals to get them working. What they track is the steps your visitors take.
So, you can track how many people visit a particular product page, and what percentage of them order. Then, you can make changes to various product changes to see how that affects sales.
4. Landing Pages
You can find this one under “Behavior –> Site Content –> Landing Pages.” One important thing you learn here is what keywords people use to find your website. You can’t tell the exact keyword, but it’s pretty clear based on the page’s name what some of the variations will be.
Those are some key metrics for beginning e-commerce website owners. What does your data tell you?
If you’re thinking about getting into e-commerce, or if you’re just starting, you’ll come in with your own preconceived notions about how it goes. Some of those might be based on what you’ve heard from others, and some from your own thinking.
While we want you to succeed, we also want to make sure you have a realistic understanding of how e-commerce works.
Here are some of the top myths we’ve found:
1. It’s Easy to Succeed
Winning in e-commerce is not easy – it actually involves a ton of hard work. And the competition’s only getting more intense because the stores that are online already have a solid understanding of what works and what doesn’t.
Plus, the rule of any business is that the unexpected always happens. There’s going to be good times and hard times. But if you stick with it, it’ll be a rewarding experience.
2. Customer Service is Easier Online
It’s not easier, but it is different. For example, many people love to use the “Live Chat” feature and get help with their questions right away. Are you going to be the one managing that at 7 AM and 9 PM?
Plus, experience is still a huge part of online shopping. People want it to be easy, fun, and they want right answers to their questions right away.
It takes a ton of testing and trial-and-error to design the experience your online shoppers want.
3. The Traffic Just Rolls In…
You have to market your website, and you have to do it aggressively. How you choose to do that is up to you. But one thing you’re going to want to get is lots and lots of links. And you want those links to go directly to your product pages (harder to get than you think).
You’ll also need to build a social media marketing plan, create a newsletter, and get into blogging and content development. It takes a lot of time, making mistakes, and learning what to do from them.
4. Customers Automatically Assume You Have a Legitimate Website
Just because you’re on the web, that doesn’t mean people believe you’re running a viable business. You still have to spend time earning customer trust and showing you belong with other web-based businesses.
If you can get in with the BBB, that’s great. Social media profiles with enough followers and regular sharing also go a long way in earning trust.
A clean layout, lots of content and pages, and good search engine rankings also communicate you are an established online business. Simple things like a business logo also build your credibility.
Good Luck in Your E-Commerce Pursuits!
Hopefully, knowing these realities helps better prepare you for your e-commerce journey. Good luck, and feel free to let us know any questions you have in the comments below:
Color has so much more to do with marketing than you think. So it only makes sense you should know as much about it as possible before you begin designing (or rebranding your website).
Check out these interesting facts about colors and how they affect consumer psychology (much of this data comes from KISSmetrics):
This color is very calming. Customers experience feelings of trust and security when they see this color. Banks often use it. We use it. Facebook also uses blue. It’s a great color if security is a major pain point your customers might need to have addressed.
It’s associated with wealth, and also feelings of growth, abundance, joy, nature, and freshness. It’s a “cool” color – very easy for your eyes to view, and physical stores use it to help people relax.
This color is energizing and increases your heart rate. It draws attention immediately. If you have a clearance or special offer, red is the way to go.
This is the most cheerful color, and it also can communicate youthfulness. Like red, it’s a great way to quickly attract shopper attention.
If you cater to an exclusive customer base, black is the color for it. Luxury products are often marketed with black as their associated color. It communicates feelings of elegance and power.
Color psychology often isn’t too obvious, but pink makes a ton of sense. It’s very feminine and markets well towards women. If you need to communicate a sense of security, or softness and sweetness, pink’s the right color to do it.
No color is as bold and aggressive as orange. It’s also playful, warm, and vibrant. It works well for calls to action.
It’s the color of royalty, but it also works well for selling beauty and anti-aging products because it communicates a soothing, calm nature.
Just like black, it works well for selling high-end products because of its association with prestige and luxury.
What Colors Communicate is Often Subjective
It’s hard to know what a color says to a certain person. But, take this food for thought: you never see any pink power tools!
No “manly man” would buy pink power tools. But, he will buy orange, red, gray, black, and green power tools. That’s why it’s so important to know exactly who buys your product and why.
You want to show them that you understand them, and color is a great way to do that.
There are so many methods of communication, and color is among the most powerful.
Take this into account when building your next e-commerce store.
Forrester recently released a new report analyzing the state of e-commerce. You can purchase the report here, but it is $499.
According to their statistics:
â€˘ E-commerce sales will account for 11% of all retail sales in 2018
â€˘ Sales will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 9.5%
What will be driving that growth is increased consumer use of mobile devices, tablet PCs, and stronger offers from online retailers.
How to Create a Compelling Offer
What you have to offer is one of the biggest differentiators in the e-commerce space. So, let’s check out some ideas for offers:
1. Product Quality – So this isn’t a specific offer, but really it’s why people buy from you. The best thing you can do is to give them the products they want at the right price.
2. Free Shipping – Who doesn’t love this? A compelling free shipping offer would allow your customers to ship free both ways. Zappos has this policy, and it works great for them because they sell high-end clothes. The offer takes all the risk off of customers because if they don’t like the clothes or they don’t fit, they don’t lose any money.
3. Coupons – They’re always nice for your customers to get, but you’ll have to test them a lot. You never know which coupon or offer will work the best.
4. Rewards/Loyalty Points – “Gamification,” as it is officially called, is a great way to get customer interest. Some businesses have been completely transformed with this. That doesn’t mean yours should do it, but it’s an idea to consider.
5. Limited-Time Offers – For most SMBs, this is honestly one of the areas where big mistakes are made. It’s important to specifically state the limited time period. If you just say “limited time,” customers don’t take it all that seriously. But if they know the offer ends tonight, they get antsy and have to decide whether to act. More people act when you specify a time frame
6. FREE Gift When You Purchase – This one falls lower on your customer’s interest level. They’ll love the FREE shipping both ways more. But, it can still work and be helpful for your sales.
7. Save More When You Buy More – You don’t see this promotion too often, but you can use it. To be truthful, it’s not one of those promotions people tend to respond to. But every business is different, so it may be worth a try.
Remember, on the web, the sky is the limit. If Â you can think creatively of a better offer than these, go ahead and run it and see what happens.
At least now, though, you have some ideas to start with.
So this week we have something a little different for you. VoucherCloud recently approached us with this infographic regarding the modern mobile consumer:
What Do You Think About this Information?
There are a number of interesting points this infographic makes:
â€˘ 90% of mobile traffic will come from cloud applications by 2018
â€˘Â QR codes are being used more often for gamification purposes (accumulating points, for example)
â€˘ More than half of all of Amazon’s customers purchased on a mobile device in Q4 of 2013
â€˘Â By 2018, mobile video will be responsible for 69% of all mobile data traffic
â€˘Â Brands will make their e-commerce store experiences more personal and immersive
â€˘Â You’ll have to learn how to respond more rapidly to market demand because consumers have access to more information and can make better purchase decisions for their unique needs
â€˘Â Consumers are more likely to purchase on ethically manufactured and environmentally-friendly products
So armed with that information, what do you think of those trends? How do they affect your store? How could they affect your store? Is your store ready for these changes?
It will be interesting to see how all these potential changes play out in the future.
Why do some blog articles seem to just hoard attention while others get practically none at all? A little bit of it is luck (let’s be honest), but a lot of it is skill too.
First, let’s be clear: a single blog article very rarely ever sells by itself. People do not stumble about online, see your blog article, and then think, “Wow, this is incredible! How do I buy from this company?”
Instead, they really read your blog article, think, “Wow, this is great information. I’ll bookmark it for later. Maybe I’ll subscribe to this company’s newsletter too if they consistently offer this kind of info.” Then, when they’re actually ready to buy, they buy from you months down the road.
With an accumulation of awesome information, you look like an expert in the eyes of others. Here are some tips for writing blog articles that help you achieve this:
1. Write the Most In-Depth Post of Its Kind on the Web
If someone else writes a post that has “7 Tips for…,” make yours “57 Tips for…” That indicates much more value than the first post idea. Yours doesn’t have to be 57 tips long, but Â you get the idea. You can go even longer if you want.
2. Use an Engaging, Conversational Style
It takes more experience than you think to write in a “conversational” style. You’ll hear this tip all over the web, but what does it mean in actual practice?
All you have to do is write like you’re talking to someone standing right next to you. If you wouldn’t say that word during the normal course of conversation, don’t write it either.
And visualize someone who doesn’t know very much about what you’re discussing. Avoid jargon and slang because that only causes confusion.
3. Research Your Competitors
This is the easiest way to get topic ideas right from the start. Go to their blogs and see which posts get the most social shares because that tells you how useful the post was to their audience.
Then, write on the same topic, giving your own opinion on it so you don’t plagiarize.
4. Use an Interesting Lead Paragraph
Start with a fact, story, quote, question, joke, or any other creative way you can think of to be interesting. This post started off with a provocative question.
What you want to make sure not to do is to start with one of the same old techniques many writers use, like:
- When it comes to…
- Let’s face it…
- There are…
If you take the time to be more interesting, you’ll build a larger and more loyal following. Remember, though, that it’s extremely difficult and takes lots of work over a long period of time.
Have you ever seen those blogs, or bigger stores, like Zappos, that have thousands of followers on their social profiles? Other companies blog regularly, and they seem to get 5-10 comments without a problem.
At Fortune3, we can’t claim incredible success, but we do have more than 2,000 Facebook followers – which is pretty good for a niche-based business. And here’s the thing, you don’t need 30,000 social media followers to have a successful community that buys from you time and again.
So how do you create a cozy community of customers who love you? Follow these tips:
1. Provide an Awesome Product and Even Better Customer Service
The whole reason anyone talks about any business is that you do something truly exceptional for them. Most businesses do not put their customers first, so start by doing that.
After you’ve built something truly exceptional, or even while you’re doing it, make sure you create original and truly awesome content. It’s kind of cliche, but it’s true.
However, what you can do to stand out with content is write incredibly in-depth blog posts that can’t be found anywhere else online. That gives people a reason to check out your content and visit your website instead of your competitor’s.
3. Design Every Page for Sharing
Get those social sharing buttons on every page of your website. Use incredible titles on your blog, and benefits-oriented titles on your product pages.
These things all sound simple, but you’d be surprised how many businesses never do them.
4. Respond to Every Comment
Whenever someone does post a comment on your blog or social media profiles, respond to it directly. Sometimes, you’ll earn business from the person making the comment. In most cases, though, you’ll end up making a good impression on other followers, eventually earning their business down the road.
5. Post Frequently
You don’t need to go nuts with this. However, one thing is that the more you post on Twitter, the more followers you get. People love frequent posting on that site. With all the rest, you’ll want to post around 4-7 times per week.
Most of the posts should be questions or valuable information. About 20% should advertise your products or services, and Â you’re safe going with even less than that. Over time, you’ll learn which posts your audience loves the most, and you’ll become their favorite resource if you give them the content which educates them the most.
6. Use Guest Posts & Press Releases to Spread the Word
You can build a brand strictly by ranking in organic search. But that takes a ton of time. Bloggers are now social media powerhouses – try to guest post on the A-list blogs for your niche.
You can get an explosion of traffic and sales literally overnight if you do.
Have Realistic Expectations…
Building a community rarely happens quickly. And if you hear about someone building one in less than year, generally they had a lot of luck, or they had an existing site they could use to launch another.
In most cases, it takes several years to build a real, thriving community. But it helps your bottom line a ton when you do.