Ecommerce manager measuring success and drinking coffee

How to Measure E-Commerce Success with Conversion Rate Optimisation (with Infographic)

Posted by | Digital Strategy | No Comments

How much do you know about your customers and about their interactions with you? If you have a physical store or rely heavily on the face-to-face interactions of salespeople, then you probably have some metrics by which to gauge your customer interactions – who is happy, who is upset, what sales of products or services look like compared to past months and past years.

Online vs. Offline Insight

But for those businesses that rely primarily on online interactions with customers, those interactions can be more difficult to measure. For example, how many people open an email newsletter – and how many people read articles in that newsletter?

When you set a goal for what a customer will do on your website, the number of customers who actually perform that desired action is called conversion, and the ability of you to maximize that is called conversion rate optimisation. And it’s not just about online sales; it’s about your website and other “touches” or points of marketing with those customers.

What many people also don’t understand is that gaining new customers is great, but retaining and converting existing customers to do repeat actions or new actions with you costs you much less—just a single dollar compared to $92 for the former.

Measure More Than Just Sales

That conversion rate optimisation, or CRO, doesn’t have to actually be a sale; that’s a misconception. It can simply be an action – signing up for a secondary newsletter, for example. And the thing about CRO is that it affects and needs input from a variety of departments in your company, including marketing (of course), development and customer service.

So how do you pay more attention to your CRO and make it work harder for you, adding stability to your online sales and store presence? One essential action is testing. All the time, and of everything. If you want the surest, simplest way to improve your CRO, testing is the way to go.

It’s also helpful to figure out what’s worked in the past. Is there a section of your website that always sees the most conversions, or an email template that never fails – no matter the message? All of that can help guide you to make more informed future decisions.

Keep Critically Reviewing Your Efforts

However, you should never be satisfied. You should always work to improve your conversions and improve your optimization rate. You can do that in a number of ways, one being including content that always prompts action, for example. You should always look at your materials and forms from the point of view of the user – do they work in a convenient, efficient manner?

And, of course, you have to learn about your customers by collecting data on them. What do they like and what do they dislike? Are their interactions with your website and marketing campaigns based on a frequency, and if so, what do you know about that frequency? And when they interact with you, even on an automated basis, is it trouble free? If not, how can you improve it?

There’s much to figure out for your conversion rate optimisation strategy, and with this simple graphic we can help you understand it better:

Step Up Your Conversion Game: Is Your Website Properly Optimized?

Infographic contributed by Salesforce.

Kelsey Jones from Six StoriesAuthor: Kelsey Jones
Author Bio: Kelsey Jones is a marketing consultant and writer under Six Stories, her marketing agency. She has been working in digital marketing since 2007 and journalism since 2004, gaining proficiency in social media, SEO, content marketing, PR, and web design. Kelsey was the head editor at Search Engine Journal for three years and has worked with Yelp, Contour Living, Bounty, Gazelle, and many more. Based in Kansas City, she enjoys writing and consuming all kinds of content, both in digital and tattered paperback form.

E-commerce owner shaking hands with CRO expert

Conversion Rate Optimisation: What it is, and how to know if your expert is the real deal

Posted by | Digital Strategy | One Comment

Imagine increasing your annual turnover by 10% within 3 months – without hiring new staff or spending more money on advertising. It’s not unheard of for businesses to triple their site conversion rates within a year of beginning CRO programmes. 

That’s why Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) has become somewhat of a hot topic in the e-commerce community lately. But what are the risks of taking on a CRO consultant without understanding the concept and its process? 

 

What is conversion rate optimisation?

Let’s start by defining the basics. If you use Shopify as the platform for your online store, you may have spotted a section on the dashboard called the ‘conversion funnel’. This tracks interactions with the pages in your conversion funnel and displays the percentage of visitors who have taken a desired action. For example, this can be adding a product to cart.

Shopify dashboard showing conversion funnel metrics

Conversion Rate Optimisation as-a-service covers a lot of areas in e-commerce. Broadly, it can be described as critically evaluating your customers’ journey and finding ways to improve it. It identifies steps to increase the number of visitors who take the desired action on your website; your ‘conversion rate’. 

What does this mean? If you have 1 sale for every 100 visitors to your site, your conversion rate is 1%. With Conversion Rate Optimisation, you find ways to make 2 sales per every 100 visitors – increasing your conversion rate to 2%. This may sound like a small number, but it would double your revenue. CRO is basically an effective way for you to turn website traffic into turnover.

However, the effectiveness of your CRO is dependent on good quality data. Firstly, it is essential to analyse data to identify which problems to solve on your website. Secondly, only the correct testing process will result in reliable data to base your website changes on. Otherwise, all you are doing is making changes to your site based on nothing but educated guessing. This could instead cost your business its profits.

You have probably come across the phrase ‘A/B testing’, which is a vital part of CRO. It is the process of scientifically testing your existing web page (the ‘baseline’) to a version where the design has been tweaked slightly (a ‘variant’). By evenly diverting traffic between the two versions, you can establish which is the better performer for conversion.

A tip! Before you commence testing, comparing your visitor’s buyer-intent with your conversion rate will shed a light on the potential profit slipping through your fingers.

Stay out of risky business

With that in mind, the heap of buzz for this service doesn’t come without risk. When looking into hiring someone to assist you, there will be several unscrupulous consultants who consider themselves experts. They can be making promises without using proven techniques, and without basing their recommendations on reliable data.

A CRO expert reaching out his hand for an introduction

We have therefore developed a series of educational articles to ensure you understand the fundamentals of CRO. This will let you grasp how testing is planned, structured, actioned and analysed. Most importantly, it will help you get the real deal when signing a contract.

Although this service comes with the potential for truly massive rewards, conversion rate optimisation is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. There is simply no best practice for e-commerce. But, there are a few tips to make you wiser when choosing the right consultants to work with.

Let’s be realistic; between the cost of analytics setup, consulting charges, testing software, design and development services, good-quality CRO is not cheap. But choosing price over quality may cost your business in the long-run. Going for the wrong expert means you are not reaching your highest potential conversion rate. Investing in quality services will increase your long-term profits and maximise your return on investment. So, when preparing to invest in a CRO programme, how can you weed out the fake experts from the real deal?

#1 They are realistic with traffic and timelines

If the expert you are talking to doesn’t consider your monthly traffic when making recommendations, there is reason to be wary.

E-commerce owner who is looking at her website and thinking of traffic

The speed at which a test can be a statistically proven a ‘winner’ (the result to base your website changes on) all comes down to traffic levels on the tested page. If you have less than 100,000 monthly visitors, there is not enough traffic to receive fast and reliable test results. You can still do it, but you will be running expensive tests for a long time in order to reach the correct level of data reliability. You should also consider that not all tests are going to be winners.

If you’ve got high volumes of traffic, new tests can be run weekly. If every second test results in a 2% increase in conversion rate, your stores’ revenue can improve rapidly.

However, be wary if agencies are approaching you with pie-in-the-sky forecasts and guarantees. They may be hoping to cash-in on your lack of understanding for CRO. At the same time, don’t dismiss agencies out of hand. Some may contact you because they see unrealised potential to grow your business with CRO. Just make sure they are transparent and realistic when it comes to targets, timelines and traffic needs.

#2 They have the correct approach

What should the approach look like when a team of genuine experts come to the table? The best way to assess consultants is by judging the amount and quality of questions asked.

Consultants should ask questions to paint a clear picture of your strategic position. This should cover goals, unique selling points, annual turnover, monthly site traffic, return rates, bounce rates, down time, cost-to-serve and inventory levels. They will then run an analytics programme for 2-3 months to uncover the following:

  • Where visitors ‘fall out’ of your sales funnel
  • Your sites average cart value
  • Your cart abandonment rate, and its reasons
  • Which channels and activities drive the highest amount of traffic to your site
  • Which channels generate traffic with a buyer-intent
  • Which geographic segments make up the majority of your traffic
  • Your customers’ intentions when arriving at your site
  • What is preventing customers from making a purchase
  • Your return rate and the reasons for it
  • Your conversion rate per device, e.g. phone or desktop

What true experts will appreciate is that there is no certain answer to any of these questions. To quote popular culture; “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”

Every website comes with a different brand, proposition, layout and conversion rate. What works for one website will not work for another. Applying ‘best practice’ CRO testing is like flinging expensive mud at a wall, hoping it sticks. So if your expert lacks the right approach, show them the door (and make sure they take their mud with them).

#3 They follow the right process

The real work begins once your consultant has an overview and understanding of your strategic position. A good process will then look like the following:

Analytics dashboard for e-commerce owner to do CRO

1. They analyse data

This phase is all about collecting granular data. As mentioned, the consultant will analyse your site traffic and map out key user journeys. They should then analyse your pages through heat and scroll-maps, set up exit surveys, record customer interactions and conduct interviews. Doing this will identify numerous issues that may prevent your visitors from converting.

2. They identify common issues

It’s important to validate the issue(s) by looking at multiple data sources. This allows you to establish how often an issue impacts your visitors and with what level of severity. For example, you may have a low add-to-cart rate from your product pages and a heat map showing low clicks on the add-to-cart button. On top of this, your scroll map data may be indicating that visitors aren’t scrolling to interact with the add-to-cart button. Hence, we have several data sources pointing towards a common issue.

3. They prioritise issues based on commercial value

Once your constant have identified your issues, they will prioritise them in a priority matrix. This matrix takes into account the commercial value of each issue and the expected ease with which it can be resolved. The issue with the highest commercial value and ease of solution will be prioritised in your ‘testing roadmap’. A testing roadmap is basically a schedule of tests that your consultant will work through in 3-month blocks. After this point, they will review and prioritise your next tests.

4. They develop hypotheses and goal metrics

After establishing your testing roadmap, they will develop a hypothesis for their first test. They will also decide on a goal metric to measure the success of your test, which should be confirmed by you prior to commencing. A single test may have multiple goals, but should always have a primary objective.

5. They begin testing

The next step is to create tests that address the hypothesis to the utmost degree. For instance, if your hypothesis is that people are being distracted during the check-out process, your test should include removing as many distracting elements from the check-out page as possible. After following these steps, your tests are ready to ‘go live’ on your website.

#4 They understand and learn from failure

If a test is over and it hasn’t made much of a difference to your conversion rate, does that make it a failure?

Not necessarily. Often a test will convert well with a particular market segment, but poorly overall. For instance, it may show a 20% uplift in conversion rate for men under 30 years old. However, because your test isn’t resonating with the other segments, it will be a failed test for all traffic segments combined. Taking the time to fully analyse your results before declaring a failed test, prevents throwing good results and learnings in the bin. You can learn just as much from a failing test as a successful one.

There are other factors that may contribute to a failing test. These can include changes in stock availability, payment gateway failures, changes to your store layout or changes to traffic levels and composition. For example, a change in traffic level may happen due to you running a seasonal marketing campaign. Be careful with making assumptions on what can skew your data, but be transparent and contribute to the conversation with your consultant.

#5 They are frank with what type of problems they can address

There are many areas where CRO can help you. To help ensure you are approaching a consultant for the right reasons, we’ve listed some common problems they can address:

  • They can identify ways of building trust for your brand. For example, you could run tests on how to make your store look more secure at check-out.
  • Your consultant should be familiar with tactics for increasing your average order value. For example, a test that can make customers add extra products to their cart by offering an increasing discount per item added to cart.
  • Tests can help you generate sign-ups to newsletters by optimising the way you are communicating its benefits. The same applies to reward programmes; perhaps your website isn’t effectively promoting motivations for customers to stay loyal?

However, keep in mind that good testing starts with identifying the problem – not the solution. It is vital to hire a consultant who uses data to identify your problems. Solutions, like the ones listed above, can then be brainstormed with your CRO expert.

With these considerations in mind, you have encountered the basics of CRO. We hope you will enjoy our blog series, in which we strive to provide you with the knowledge necessary to make confident decisions for your e-commerce store.

 

Picture of man sitting by laptop with bank card

Optimise eCommerce UX: 7 Things Shoppers Find Annoying on Your Website

Posted by | Blog | No Comments

Developing and launching your own website using an eCommerce platform like Shopify allows you to build repeat customers, generate value through brand recognition, and protect your revenue by owning the channel. While online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay might drive more sales, your own website enables you to invest in your brand, because you own 100% of the sales and platform.

However, the advantages of your own site can be disadvantages as well. You own the website, which means that every problem on the site reflects on your brand. Unlike Amazon, you don’t have millions to invest in creating a positive customer experience, but you need to invest in creating a positive user experience (UX) for your consumers.

Identifying and addressing consumer pain points makes it easier for customers to buy products. Good UX makes your site more trustworthy, improves your customer service, and build good relationships.

UX points will change depending on your store, but experience affects conversion, willingness to buy, and how much money is spent by the consumer. For example, Kissmetrics showed that 74% of website visitors who had a problem with speed were not willing to go back to the site.

If you can afford it, pay beta testers to review your site. If not, spend a little extra time analysing and performing an internal audit.

The following list includes a few things shoppers find annoying on most websites. Take a look and see if you have a problem with any on your own eCommerce site.

7 Things That Annoy Online Shoppers

1. No Mobile Optimisation

Picture of person holding their mobile phone scrolling on website

More than 54% of all Internet searches are conducted on mobile. Shoppers still spend more money on computers, but they often spend time researching products from their phones and tablets during lunch or during a commute.

Data shows that nearly 60% of shoppers research products on mobile before purchasing it. Your site must be optimised for mobile to catch this traffic. If your site is too large, buttons aren’t optimised for mobile, or it’s too slow to load on 3G or weak 4G connections, you will lose these visitors.

2. “Off-The-Wall” Product Layouts

Creative store layouts with oversized feature images or highlighted products can look nice, but they might be hurting your sales. Most consumers have a certain idea of what your website should look like and why, and if it doesn’t meet that, you will make fewer sales.

The largest consideration for most is that large featured products or creative layouts are distracting and they might actually make it more difficult for some users to find your products.

For example, ShopWool saw a 17% increase in conversion when they switched from a highlighted product layout to an organised grid layout. Review your pages and check for product visibility, ease of scanning, and distractions. If your store pages look more like art than an Amazon results page, your design could be hurting your sales.

3. Low Quality Product Pages

Multiple studies have shown that bigger images increase conversion rates. The easier, clearer, and more comprehensive the information, the happier the consumer will be.

Review your product pages to ensure that:

  • You have unique product photos, ideally with product lifestyle or use images
  • Images are high-quality and include text or other descriptors to make browsing easy
  • Product descriptions are unique and informative. Write for the customer, not Google
  • You have a FAQ section with questions asked by consumers
  • Reviews are visible on the page where possible
  • Video or product demonstrations are on the page where possible

Investing in high-quality product pages can be expensive, but it will pay off. A good product page will leave the average customer with all their questions answered, so that they know exactly what to expect from the product.

4. Search Functions That Don’t Work

Man sitting by laptop searching for something on website

A search function on your eCommerce website could be vital in helping your customers find what they want in a sea of products. The customers who know exactly what they’re looking for are also more likely to convert than someone who is just browsing, so it’s important to offer a search function that works well.

Test your search function to see how well it works. If you have problems, either invest in a better search solution or review your products to ensure that they are tagged properly to come up in search.

5. Long Signup and Login forms

Most web shops need some type of signup or login forms, but many sellers make the mistake of asking for too much data. While it can be nice to have all this information, the longer your forms, the more annoyed the customer will get.

In fact, when presented with too many forms or fields, some customers might just hit the back button or abandon their shopping cart altogether. Less than 50% of people finish filling out forms to complete a purchase, often because the forms are too time consuming.

  • Check your analytics. Are users abandoning the shopping cart on form pages?
  • How can you shorten forms? What information do you really need?
  • Make sure all forms work correctly and offer a “Thank you” or follow up notification to confirm that it has been submitted.

Most web shops only need the user’s full name, their full address, and their payment information. While additional data can be nice to have, it’s not worth it to collect at the expensive of your conversion rate.

6. No Information in Checkout

The average eCommerce store has a shopping cart abandonment rate of 69.23%. Shopping cart abandonment can be reduced with UX, but that means understanding why it happens in the first place.

One of the most common reasons for abandonment is lack of information before the shopping cart. Users who follow through only to find that shipping is more than they want to pay, they can’t utilise their favourite payment method, or aren’t satisfied with secure checkout will probably abandon.  

To counter cart abandonment, work to make your shopping cart and information pages transparent and easy to understand. Shoppers should be able to see shipping, payment methods, security, total cost including shipping, itemisation in the shopping cart, and other data at a glance before hitting ‘Purchase’ or ‘Checkout’.

You can also consider creating an auto-update and refresh function, so that your cart total updates when consumers delete or add products to the cart.

7. No Purchase Confirmation

While it won’t affect your conversions, purchase confirmations are important for customer satisfaction. If your customer clicks through and spends money, but doesn’t receive an email notification that you have received their purchase, they could worry that you didn’t receive the order.

Creating a simple, automated “Thank you for your purchase” email with a custom purchase order and a confirmation is a one-time investment that will make your customers happier. It can also prevent costly messages to customer service to confirm the order, and issues like double purchases if the customer doesn’t realise that their order went through. Plus, if the customer ordered the wrong products, this email is an easy way to allow them to fix the problem before you process the order – which will save you time and money.

Taking the time to review your website, or use it yourself, to look for problems, possible annoyances, and areas for improvement will improve your conversion and customer satisfaction. By improving your user experience you make shopping easier, reduce trust issues and ensure your customer is happier when they go to make a purchase, as well as after checkout. If you don’t have the technical skill or time to handle it yourself, hiring experts like the Swanky Apple team for your design and branding will give your site the boost it needs.

 

Picture of blog author and Skubana founder Chad RubinCrucial Vacuum and Skubana Founder Chad Rubin grew his e-commerce business to an 8-figure business in 7 years. He is a Top 250 Amazon Seller, and co-founded Skubana as an all-in-one ERP system and operations platform designed for high volume sellers to run and automate their business. It integrates with most e-commerce marketplaces, 3PLs, and warehouses, provides profitability and multi-channel inventory management, and compiles all your marketplaces on a single convenient dashboard. Learn more at info@skubana.com or sign up here.

Follow Chad on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram @ecommrenegade or connect with Linkedin.com/in/ecommercerenegade.

 

Backlinks for Beginners: How to Build Links to Drive Traffic to Your Website

Posted by | Blog | No Comments

backlinks for beginnersIf you’re involved in running a website, you’re probably aware that one of the best ways to improve your online presence is to gain referring links (or backlinks) to your website from other sites.

Building back links is one of the trickiest yet most effective forms of SEO. Consequently, it’s one of the most valuable ways to increase traffic to your store, and well-worth investing the time and effort to build a healthy link profile. That’s why we’ve put together this guide on how to build links to drive traffic to your website.

But first, why are backlinks such an essential part of SEO?

Search Engines use links as an indication of the quality and popularity of a website. They use complex algorithms to evaluate sites and pages based on the number of external pages linking to them. And they don’t just measure quantity; search engines look at the quality of these links as well. The more popular and trustworthy a site is, the more valuable links from that site are.

Building a back link profile isn’t the be-all and end-all of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), but SEO experts are all agreed that link building is critical to the success of a website.

Backlinks for beginners: Our Top tips

Beginning a back link campaign isn’t easy. Of course, you can list your website in free directories, and comment on forums – there are a few pretty easy, low-effort ways to get links to your website.

But the links that really boost your SEO are the ones that come from high-quality, relevant content published on high-quality, relevant websites. There’s no quick, easy way to get these links, but there are a few things you can do to get started…

1. Produce OUTSTANDING content

backlinks for beginners

This really should be your number one focus if you want to drive organic traffic towards your website. Quite simply, if you want people to link to your website, you need to create unique, interesting, well-written content. And there’s a lot of clutter on the internet; a lot of competition. To stand out, you need to publish content that shows you to be an expert in your field.

Rather than focussing on selling your product, think about how you can solve a problem, answer a question or share some trade secrets. This quote pretty much sums it up:

Share or solve; don’t shill. Good content doesn’t try to sell. Rather, it creates value by positioning you as a reliable and valuable source of vendor-agnostic information. Your content shares a resource, solves a problem, helps your customers do their jobs better…” – Handley & Chapman, “Content Rules

That’s it in a nutshell. Forget the sales pitch, set yourself up as a reliable and valuable source of information for your customers. That’s what drives traffic to your website, and that’s the kind of content that people will link to.

Imagine you run a website selling outdoor active wear. Rather than writing a blog post gushing about the latest hi-spec Gortex-adorned, diamond-encrusted hiking boots you just got in stock (save it for the product description), write a post about how to look after your hiking boots. Or what kit you need to start hillwalking. Or even the top 10 mistakes winter walkers make – and how to avoid them

In an ideal world, you’d create an amazing piece of unique content and the internet would welcome it with open-arms. You’d be viral in 20 minutes. But as you may have already experienced, it doesn’t always work like that.

No matter how good the content, it can be tricky to make an impression, particularly if your website’s fairly new. There are occasions where you’ll need to pursue links more actively. However, having brilliant content that people will want to link to makes it easier. It’s the best place to start.

2. Ensure existing mentions include a link to your site

A quick win on the back linking front is to make sure any existing mentions of you or your brand include a link through to your website. So, if someone’s mentioned you in a review or a blog post but hasn’t included a link, get in touch and ask them to add one.

There are lots of free tools available to help you trawl through the internet in search of mentions. Moz’s Opensite Explore or SEM Rush are great places to start.

3. Make the most of existing relationships

backlinks for beginners

Do you know someone who writes for an influential blog or owns a high authority website? Perhaps you have partners you’ve worked with who might be willing to link to your website, or loyal customers who would be happy to write a review on their blog. Use your existing networks to make the most of any opportunities to gain links to your website.

Share your content on social media. Tag clients and partners that are relevant to the content, as well as anyone that you’ve referenced in your content. Better yet, get hold of their email address and tell them that you’ve mentioned them in your blog. If they like what they see they might share your post on social media or link to your article on their own website.

 4. Guest posts and link exchanging

If you’re an expert in your industry or field, there are many bloggers that would be glad to accept a guest post from you. They don’t have to link back to your website, but they generally will publish your bio alongside your article, containing a link back to your blog or website.

You’d be tempted to save all your best content for your own website. But sometimes a link from a high-profile, quality website can be worth sacrificing your own web content for.

Check out this useful article about guest posting for some tips to get you started.

 5. Use free tools to create new networks

There’s a lot of clutter on the internet, and it can be time-consuming to sift through all the noise to find the websites or people that might be interested in linking to your site. But there are some short-cuts you can take.

Link Assistant is a free tool that trawls through the web to find websites that might help you build links. It’ll use your chosen keywords to find websites that allow guest posting, or forums and posts for you to comment on, as well as people who review products and opportunities to join giveaways.

Another quick short-cut is to find out who your competitors are getting links from by using Opensite Explorer. Knowing who has linked to your competitors gives you an indication of which websites might be interested in linking through to your site.

6. Be careful about buying back links.

If you’re really desperate, you can buy back links. But be careful to buy them from reputable companies. My mum always says that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So if you find someone promising you a link from a high authority website for pennies, run for the hills.

Buying links is expensive and it may well be worth spending your time on link building strategies that focus on building links to your site naturally. Search engines put a lot of time and resource into weeding out those links that haven’t been acquired naturally. And whilst they can’t detect all paid links, you’re more likely to have success with genuine links that have not been bought.

And so we come back full circle…

The main aim of Search Engines is to provide users with a list of the best, most relevant websites according to their search query. As Search Engine algorithms become more and more intelligent, it’ll become harder and harder to use SEO tricks and shortcuts to rank highly on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

To perform well on search engines, you need to play their game. It all comes back to producing outstanding, unique and relevant content. However, the real winners are those who know how to market that great content so that search engines can find it. Use your contacts, make new contacts and keep thinking of creative ways to get your content seen.

I’d love to hear about your experiences around building back links for your website. What’s worked for you? What blockers have you come-up against? Have you got any tips for newbies to the world of back linking? Comment below or get in touch on Twitter @swankyapple

 

Dan chatting to Matt from Brightpearl at the Shopify Retail Tour

Shopify Retail Tour: Bristol

Posted by | Uncategorized | No Comments

The Shopify Retail Tour is an event which Shopify has been running in various cities across the US for a while now, and last week it launched in the UK. We naturally had to be a part of the action and signed up to support the tour as a sponsor.

We had a fantastic time at the tour and have written up a guest post over at ecommercervw.com with pictures and highlights from the day and evening sessions.

The London event is due next week (full dates on the ecommercervw.com blog) so if you’re in the area and run or are thinking of running an ecommerce business then you should absolutely sign-up.

search optimisation for ecommerce sites

The Right Way To Do Search Optimisation For eCommerce Sites

Posted by | Blog | No Comments

As Shopify Experts, we’re often asked if search engine optimisation for eCommerce sites is somehow special? Does it require a different approach from SEO for other website types? While it’s true that experts in search engine optimisation for ecommerce consider it to be more difficult than traditional SEO, this is primarily due to the sheer number of pages that need to be optimised. This makes it largely a question of effort rather than special requirements. Since it’s common for eCommerce sites to have hundreds or even thousands of product pages it is definitely advisable to take a methodical, step-by-step approach. Making a technical mistake on a few article pages in a non-ecommece site is one thing – extending a mistake to hundreds or thousands of products may be far harder to rectify. Here are some search optimisation tips tailored to ecommerce store owners to help increase traffic to your eCommerce site keyword rankings and improve conversion rates at the same time.

Keyword Research

Every SEO campaign must begin with proper keyword research. One of the biggest takeaways when learning eCommerce SEO is that you need to understand buyer intent. As you may already know, targeting high search volume keywords might prove useless if the traffic you receive does not convert. When researching keywords, find ones that have high buyer intent. These are keywords that indicate an interest on the part of the user in buying a product or service.

For instance, keywords with the words “best” and “cheap” have high buyer intent. These are the keywords that you want to include in your content. You can use your keyword tool of choice to get a list of relevant keywords. It only takes a little common sense and some trial and error to choose which ones you should target.

Check For Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is the bane of all eCommerce sites. It is so easy to trigger duplicate content detectors due to the number of product and category pages. The first thing to keep in mind is to avoid using the manufacturers description. Simply copying and pasting all the technical details would make your site appear spammy in the eyes of search engines. It is tedious to write unique product descriptions, but this is an important step if you want to improve your search visibility.

Use Sitemaps

Shopify includes a fairly robust auto sitemap generator (it does this for you without you needing to do anything) which creates a sitemap readable just by search engines. This is useful for everyone but a big benefit to sites with loads of collection pages that feature largely identical product content. Why? Because it ensures that those search engines find their way through to your primary collections without getting overwhelmed (or confused!) by the vast number of possible collection pages. You should learn how to submit your shopify sitemap to Google Search Console to harness the significant benefits of your auto-generated sitemap.

Improve Your On Page SEO

Make it a point that you are employing effective on page SEO tactics. Internal links are very underrated in terms of helping boost rankings, but they are a great way to improve the usability and functionality of your site. Navigation and breadcrumb links must also be used to help search engine crawlers and online visitors jump from one page to another.

Your URL structure must be organised, as well. You don’t want URLs that look like http://ecommercesite.com/123321=product1. It should show the category page and the name of the product. Similarly, you want your entire site structure to make sense to search engine spiders. Make sure that subcategories are placed under their respective parent categories.

Shopify store owners will find this largely handled automatically. Shopify will automatically set page titles and meta descriptions, and it forces a logical url structure. Your collections are organised like so: youstore.com/collection/collection-name and your products like this: yourstore.com/products/product-title.

Use Responsive Web Design

If your eCommerce site still is not optimised for mobile devices, then you are probably missing out on a ton of sales. Plenty of studies show that more and more people use mobile devices when purchasing products online. What’s more, Google released an update last year that pushed websites with a responsive design higher in their search index.

By using responsive web design, you can guarantee that your site can be viewed and used without any problems regardless of the device used by your visitors. Google offers a mobile-friendly test to help webmasters identify potential problems with regards to their responsive website.

Craft Content That Converts

When creating the content for your eCommerce websites, be sure that it compels readers to follow through with a purchase without appearing forceful. A genuine review of a product is an effective way to earn the trust of customers and buy your products. In addition, it pays to add a “Reviews” section in which visitors can see what others have to say about the product. Other elements, such as, star ratings and call-to-action buttons can also make a measurable difference for your conversion rates.

Off Page SEO

Off page SEO primarily involves building high quality links. This can be a difficult process, but by building connections with other webmasters in your niche, you can get relevant and contextual links to your eCommerce website. While guest posts usually come in the form of an informative article, you can offer other kinds of content as well such as an educational infographic, an entertaining video or in-depth case studies.

There are plenty of things to do in order to make an eCommerce SEO campaign successful. It might take a significant time commitment, but it is a worthwhile investment once you see your eCommerce site dominating the competition in the results pages.

Jonathan Leger has been a successful Internet Marketer for over 11 years. He owns an SEO Tools suite at KeywordCanine.com

How to Increase Website Traffic by 153% in 6 Months

6 Month Case Study: How to Increase Website Traffic by 153%

Posted by | Uncategorized | No Comments

In September 2014 we were approached by a client who was looking into how to increase website traffic visiting his site. He had been running a tech blog for around 3 years, and was now generating significant traffic, with up to 1,000 visitors/day. However, due to increased work commitments the client had significantly reduced the amount of time and effort he was spending generating new content for the blog. The blog had plateaued and he wanted to prevent it from going into decline. He commissioned us to get things moving again. The site was also generating a healthy AdSense revenue (by displaying third-party adverts through Google’s AdSense scheme) which helped to cover hosting costs and generate a small income. As the website’s traffic had plateaued the client had experienced a corresponding drop in his AdSense revenue. The client therefore had two primary goals:

  • Increase the amount of traffic visiting the site
  • Increase the AdSense revenue

6 Months Later: The Results We’ve just passed the 6-month mark and we’re delighted with the results that we’ve been able to achieve. Here are some of the headlines:

  • An early blog post that we wrote has generated over 100,000 hits
  • AdSense revenue has increased 504%, from $16.05/week to $97.00/week
  • The site has received 309,745 pageviews at an average of 51,624/month
  • We’ve seen a 153% increase in sessions, from 851/day in October 2014 to 2,155/day in April 2015

In this article we’ll share how we’ve achieved these results. We’ll let you know what’s worked, what hasn’t and how we’ve refined our strategy over time. This has been a fairly unique project – for reasons that we’ll explain below – with some fairly significant restraints. It’s a good case study because we were unable to use a more conventional SEO strategy and had to think creatively about the best way to achieve the client’s objectives. If you’d like to find out how to increase website traffic for your website then why not check out our search and social marketing services or contact us using the form below.

Our Strategy: How to Increase Website Traffic

1. We Developed a Content Strategy

One of the distinguishing features of this project is that it’s been a pure, content-driven campaign. There’s been no link building, no directory entries and no blogger outreach. We don’t believe in black hat techniques, so there have been no dark arts. We also had a reasonably limited social media following of c.400 Facebook likes and 200 Twitter followers. What do we mean by “content-driven campaign”? We mean, quite simply, that by creating high-quality, valuable content we would be able to increase website traffic generated through search engines. This meant that we needed to think very carefully about content. The success of the project would rise and fall on the quality and engagement of our blog posts. Whilst developing our content strategy we spoke at length with the client. He explained that, having found a niche in the market, he had become an authority both in product/news reviews and providing ‘how to’ tutorials. He was keen to continue in this vein. This gave us the initial direction for our content strategy. Because the client had been blogging for 3 years we had significant archives of blog posts to use for inspiration. We also had access to 36 months worth of Google Analytics data (more on that later). In other words, we had a good idea of what would work. Next, we set about implementing our content strategy. This involved researching prospective ideas and titles for articles. We used tools like Google Keyword Planner and KeywordTool to find the most relevant, engaging keywords for each subject area. One of the hardest things about blogging – even for a seasoned digital marketer – is making sure that you’re creating enough content. We therefore scheduled when each post would go live, thinking carefully about giving readers the right content diet. This has helped us to keep things fresh whilst delivering regular, routine updates. Another key issue in the tech world is timing. There’s little point in writing about a product launch 2-3 months after your competitors. With this in mind, we thought carefully about how to synchronise our content schedule with product launches. We achieved this by keeping a close eye on press releases, events and product news.

2. We Meticulously Optimised Content

We knew at the outset that this project was all about generating organic search traffic. Knowing how competitive SEO is, we resolved to leave no stone unturned in optimising our content. We wanted to produce high quality content, but we also wanted to ensure that we’d feature more highly than our competitors. Like many leading bloggers, we used the WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast. This is an incredibly helpful editing tool that helps you to make sure that every blog post is properly optimised. We decided to try and hit as many green lights as we possibly could before publishing a blog post. This meant integrating the keyword into the copy, blog title, subheadings, images, metadescription and URL. We reasoned that this would give us the very best chance of generating large volumes of organic search traffic. Wordpress SEO Plugin by Yoast Case StudyWe were also meticulous about optimising images. Image searches are an incredibly valuable source of traffic, particularly in the tech sector which is very visual. We noticed that competitor blogs weren’t very good at this and realised that this was an area where we could outperform the competition.

3. We Rewrote Old Blog Posts

It might sound like a strange thing to do, but rewriting old blog posts was one of the most important steps that we’ve taken on the client’s site. We’re heavily influenced by Neil Patel who is a keen proponent of refreshing and re-optimising old content. His article on “how to make your most popular content more popular” is a great starting point when thinking about rewriting old blog posts. Rewriting old blog posts involved two key strategies. The first was to find popular blog posts that were featuring highly in the search engine results pages. We then compared them to rival articles/pages and made sure that our content was better optimised for those keywords. We were already on page 1 for these search terms, but by moving from number #5 to number #2, for example, we managed to significantly increase the traffic that those posts were generating. The second step was to look at old content that was poorly optimised. A lot has changed in the last 3 years, and whilst some of the client’s articles were well optimised, others wew missing key SEO features. This small change helped us to start driving traffic to blog posts that had almost dried up. We also took the opportunity to link through to newer blog posts. This had the combined effect of encouraging readers to stay on the site and view more of our content and delivering a more relevant, up-to-date message.

4. We Crunched Data and Applied Our Findings

Throughout the project we’ve been tracking our progress with Google Analytics and Moz Pro. This data has given us an incredible amount of insight into what’s working and what’s not. It’s given us a perfect feedback loop for experimenting with new ideas and techniques, and enabled us to tell the client exactly how well the campaign is going. Google Analytics has been an incredibly helpful tool for us. Here are just a few of the ways in which it’s helped us to improve the quality and effectiveness of our content generation:

  • Behaviour: this tells us which blog posts our readers are visiting, how long they spend on the site and what they do next. By identifying the most popular posts (with the longest engagement time and lowest bounce rate) we’ve been able to see what our readers are looking for. We’ve fed this data back into our content strategy and focused on creating more of the content that’s worked in the past.
  • AdSense: this has shown us how many people are clicking on adverts and how much each blog post is generating in revenue. Whilst this is a subsidiary goal, it’s nevertheless an important part of what our client has asked us to achieve. We’ve used this information to make some development changes (see below) and repositioned adverts so that they’re generating the most clicks and creating the least nuisance for readers.
  • Acquisition: this shows us where our readers come from. We know that around 80% of all traffic is generated by organic search. We’ve also used the Search Engine Optimisation tab (activated in Google Webmaster) to show which keywords are driving traffic to the site. Again, this has helped us to rewrite old content and target the keywords/articles which are generating the most successful outcomes.
  • Geography: our client is British, but around 30,000 pageviews/month are coming from North America. This is very significant for a tech blog, because product names and release dates often differ when you head across the Atlantic. We’ve therefore ensured that all of our articles are written with consideration for our American and Canadian readers.

Almost every change that we’ve made to our content strategy has been a direct result of learning new things from our data. We spotted pretty early on that a huge percentage of our traffic was coming from people looking for the ‘how’ and ‘why’ answers relating to certain tech devices. We also found that many of our readers were looking for alternatives to Apple products and services. By factoring this into new blog posts we were able to create new content which has outperformed the old. Our best performing “how to” blog post has generated 100,000+ views in the last 6 months (reaching 27,000 pageviews/month). The most successful “alternative to Apple” post has generated 40,000. Without seeing the data we probably wouldn’t have written these articles. We’ve also found that longer articles have performed much better than short articles. This makes a lot of sense – a more extensive, authoritative article is going to give readers a much better answer to their question than a 400-500 blog post. This in turn carries greater weight with search engines. We’ve therefore decreased the frequency of our articles and increased the length of each blog post to around 1,200-1,500 words. Adding in videos, photos, screenshots and subheadings has helped to break up the content and give people a definitive answer. Having such accurate data to hand has also given us the freedom to experiment and see what works. We’ve shared articles with different hashtags and at different times of day. We’ve tried different styles of blog posts. We even had a go at creating 60 second promo videos for blog posts to target traffic from a different kind of search. We’ll continue looking at different ways to drive traffic to the site.

5. We Did Development Work on the Site

SEO isn’t just about choosing keywords and optimising content. Search engine algorithms take a large number of factors into consideration when choosing how to rank pages. With this in mind, we wheeled out the developers and did some serious work on speeding the site up. This has delivered a much better experience for mobile and desktop users. It also tells Google that we’re serious about user experience, which in turn has improved our performance in the search rankings. We also had some duplicate content caused by the tags on the blog. This was very quick and easy to fix but meant that we stopped sending negative signals to the search engines. Duplicate content is usually indicative that a site is unoriginal and failing to generate new, useful content. As the opposite was true, we needed to make sure that this was corrected.

What Will We Do Next?

Whilst we’re really pleased with our results, we’re now looking at how we can take the project to the next level. The tech sector is such an innovative, growing sector and there’s plenty of scope for the client’s blog to be punching with even greater weight. We’ll be continuing to apply the lessons that we’ve shared above, particularly around content strategy and rewriting old content to make it as relevant as possible. As new products and devices are launched there are constant opportunities to carve out new niches and become an authority in those areas. We’re also planning to start rolling out some sponsored posts on Facebook and Twitter to see how this compares to our organic traffic generation. If it doesn’t work then we’ll move on to something new, but with access to such good data we’ll be able to see exactly what’s going on.

Conclusion

This has been our most successful SEO project to date, but with several new clients on our books we’re excited about helping more businesses to increase organic traffic and generate more business. We’ll be growing this area of the business over the next few months, with several existing clients bringing their SEO and digital marketing work to us. We hope that this case study has inspired you to think about ways to increase organic traffic for your website. Yes, SEO takes a lot of hard work, but with the right strategy and tools it’s a powerful way to grow your business online. If you’ve got further questions or would like to find out more about working together then please don’t hesitate to contact us for a free initial consultation.

Should you worry about Google's mobile friendly update? We dymystify the latest update...

Should You Worry about Google’s Mobile Friendly Update?

Posted by | Uncategorized | No Comments

If you own or administrate a website there’s a good chance you’ve heard about Google’s mobile friendly update. Over the last few weeks we have fielded a lot of questions from clients and seen a significant increase in work as a result of this update. That’s great of course, but we’ve also received numerous cold-emails from web individuals, teams and automated bots talking up the impacts of the change to the extreme – and, of course, claiming they can resolve any issues overnight.

We’ve had clients forward quite scarily worded marketing emails to us, rightfully concerned that their site is about to vanish from search rankings to never return – unless they get the quick fix being sold.

With all these warnings, sensationalist ‘mobilegeddon‘ style articles, and cold-contacts from teams claiming critical flaws and urgent fixes, it’s easy to be swept up in the hysteria and make the wrong decision for your website.

In light of all this, we’ve decided to put together a fact-based article explaining exactly what the mobile update will mean for your site, how to identify issues for yourself using Google’s own tools (rather than trust the assertion of a third party), and detail how to get any issues addressed. We’ve divided this into four easy chunks.

Should you worry about Google’s mobile friendly update? No, provided that you’re properly informed and understand what it will and won’t mean for your business.

1. What is the Google Mobile Friendly Update?

You don’t need to go far to find out exactly what Google’s mobile update involves, which came into effect on the 21st April.

The mega-corp have been very careful to provide in-depth information and resources to help webmasters understand what the update is, what it does, and how to benefit from it. Their latest blog post on the update describes it like so:

We’re boosting the ranking of mobile-friendly pages on mobile search results.

That’s it in a nut-shell. It is not a penalty and you can benefit from it by making your site mobile friendly.

The blog expands on that a little though:

Now searchers can more easily find high-quality and relevant results where text is readable without tapping or zooming, tap targets are spaced appropriately, and the page avoids unplayable content or horizontal scrolling.

In other words: This update should result in sites which are mobile-friendly being ranked more favorably than sites which are not – this only affects mobile search results, not normal desktop search results. Mobile currently accounts for roughly 40% of searches.

2. Who Will the Mobile Update Affect, and How Significantly?

Google has made it clear that the update will be applicable to every website. Whether that translates into an appreciable change in rankings or profit/loss for your organization is another matter which we will address in a moment. The update roll out will happen over several weeks, starting from today.

We can go straight to Google for our our first (big!) clue on how significantly the update will affect search engine rankings:

While the mobile-friendly change is important, we still use a variety of signals to rank search results. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal — so even if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank high if it has great content for the query.

In other words, mobile friendliness is important, but not critical; Google uses several hundred metrics to position a page in seach results and mobile-friendliness is about to be added to that mix of metrics. It will be important for mobile search results, but is just one of a few hundred metrics measured when ranking search results for a particular keyword. Until we begin seeing new results, we can’t say for sure quite how much impact it will have, but this guidance suggests a balanced view is sensible.

Based on the guidance that this update will only affect mobile search (which accounts for roughly 40% of total search volume) we can imagine some impact scenarios:

Let’s imagine for a moment that SwankyApple.com isn’t mobile optimised.

This means our search engine page results will not benefit from being mobile. In an extreme case we could imagine our keyword “shopify design devon“, for which we rank 5th, moving to 15th position.

The simplest explanation of this event is that all 10 closest competitors below 5th place all have mobile optimised sites when our 5th position result does not, and that all the hundreds of other ranking metrics are only minorly distinguishable.

Dropping from 5th to 15th would mean our results total click-share on mobiles would drop from around 2% to 0.2% (based on this total search CTR study) for a given keyword. That’s disappointing of course, but considered in light of the extreme nature of the scenario, the unaffected 60% of search results for desktop searches, and varying relevance for hundreds of other mobile keywords, the overall visitor drop for the vast majority of non-mobile friendly sites will be measured in 1’s, rather than 10’s of percentage points. This scenario is true for the vast majority of potential keyword searches.

Our message then resonates with Google’s own: While this update is significant and important for the shape of the web and the end-user experience, the impact to the majority of sites will be a net positive or negative of a few percentage points.

Of course that matters – there will be winners and losers – but it’s not the doomsday scenario being talked-up by so many news sources and marketing emails.

3. How Can You Check Your Site for Mobile Friendliness?

So, having put the real impact in perspective, let’s look at how to gain back those few percent of visitors and perhaps gain a few positions on our competitors!

Firstly, you can visit Google’s own mobile checking tool. Enter your main domain name (for example swankyapple.com) and click the Analyze button. The result given here will tell you whether Google considers your homepage to be mobile friendly or not. If your homepage is mobile friendly then it’s unlikely you’ll need to do anything else.

Google Mobile Friendly Tool

If you feel that some internal pages of your site are not mobile friendly, then you can test those specific page URLs or contact us for a full test of all pages. Rankings will be calculated on a per-page basis, so if your site is generally mobile optimised, but one or two pages are not, the mobile update will only negatively impact the rankings of those specific pages.

4. Should You Worry About Google’s Mobile Friendly Update if  Your Site Isn’t Mobile Friendly?

You’ll need the help of a web development expert to either modify your sites code architecture to make it responsive or, if you are on Shopify, in some instances we can provide our own custom app which generates a mobile only version of your site. This is less preferable but has a much lower upfront cost than the re-architecting. Do feel free to contact us to talk about our services in either area.

Soon after your site is mobile friendly Google will re-index it and it will be re-ranked in mobile search accordingly. There is no permanent impact as a result of not being mobile ready immediately.

Should you worry about Google’s mobile friendly update? We hope that this article has helped to demystify recent changes and help you identify what action you need to take next…

We take an in-depth look at the advantages of Concrete5 website design with a particular focus on the benefits for larger organisations...

What are the Advantages of Concrete5 Website Design?

Posted by | Uncategorized | No Comments

In this article we’ll be looking in depth at some of the advantages of Concrete5 website design. If you’re in a hurry you can follow the links to read more about our Concrete5 web design services or contact us today for more information.

We specialise in the development of three particular types of website platform: Shopify, WordPress and Concrete 5. Whilst WordPress and Shopify are two of the most popular content management systems (CMS) on the market, Concrete 5 is less well-known. In this article we’ll be looking at the advantages of Concrete5 website design and considering the circumstances in which this would be the right CMS for your business.

What is Concrete 5?

Concrete5 is an open source CMS that powers over 500,000 websites. That might sound like a relatively small number of sites. However, the majority of Concrete5 websites are extremely powerful.

The beauty of anything “open source” is that it’s normally free and backed up by a community of highly-skilled, committed practitioners. In this case, an open source CMS such as Concrete 5 or WordPress benefits from the ongoing work of an online community of web developers. This means that it’s constantly improving and being updated. When we think about key website criteria such as speed, security and cross-device compatibility this is a very important benefit.

One of the unique features of Concrete5 is that it offers in-context editing. Unlike other CMS options, which tend to have a “back end” that you must log into in order to make changes, you simply edit your content by clicking on the relevant section of the page. The idea is that Concrete5 is completely intuitive, making website maintenance as efficient as possible.

There have traditionally been two common objections to content management systems:

  1. More powerful CMS packages have tended to be seen as too complex, keeping control in the hands of the web developer and not the end user.
  2. User-friendly blogging platforms such as WordPress frequently reach their natural limitation. This is one of the reasons why we have so many WordPress plugins which help us to continue developing WordPress’ capability.

Part of the thinking behind Concrete5 is that we should re-think the traditional CMS altogether. If you can manage and maintain the website on the site itself then confusing back-end systems become far less important. This in turn has a range of advantages which we’ll discuss in a moment.

So, then, Concrete5 is a powerful and user-friendly CMS. We’ll now look at the advantages of Concrete5 website design and apply this into an everyday business context.

What are the Advantages of Concrete5 Website Design?

In our experience, Concrete5 is a very attractive CMS for certain businesses in certain circumstances. We’ll look at some of the biggest advantages of Concrete5 website design and explain how this might affect a business using this system.

1. Concrete5 is Totally Customisable

The first big advantage of Concrete5 website design is that it’s totally customisable and extremely powerful. In other words, it’s a developer’s playground.

Some CMS options start with a clearly defined framework. This can then be adapted in order to build a site which meets the client’s specifications and objectives. Concrete5 doesn’t limit you in this way.

This gives web designers and developers the freedom to find completely bespoke solutions and then implement them freely. If a client has a unique requirement then Concrete5 gives us the tools to turn it into a fully functional, powerful website.

Our biggest Concrete5 project to date was working on a community site for the US Army. The site is designed to provide a hub for soldiers stationed in Europe, providing local information and events to help troops make the most of their leave and explore the wider area that they’re stationed in. With a dedicated team of staff managing the website, we were contracted to provide a range of support and infrastructure services as part of the redevelopment of the site.

Concrete5 Website Design that was developed for the US Army

We developed a range of new features, optimised the site and ironed out various teething issues. However, the most notable feature of the site is the completely custom database administration that allows staff to share content in various parts of the site. It’s completely bespoke and highly complex. The calendar and event functionality is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. From a development perspective it’s highly technical and very awkward. The site is still very easy to use, but the functionality required wouldn’t be possible through a plugin or conventional CMS.

If you’re looking to develop a website that is completely unique then Concrete5 might be a CMS worth considering. It gives you the freedom to throw convention out the window and develop exactly what you need. Yes, it tends to be a more expensive, time-consuming process from a development perspective, but if there’s no alternative then this is a very exciting proposition.

2. Concrete5 Requires Less Training that Other CMS Options

The big strength of a CMS like WordPress is that it’s incredibly straightforward to use. If you’ve used one WordPress website then you’ll have little trouble getting to grips with another. You can normally get your staff up to speed with operating a WordPress website within a relatively short period of time.

The perception of a CMS like Concrete5 is that it’s going to be more complex to use. However, this really isn’t the case.

Because Concrete5 allows what’s called ‘in-context editing’ (essentially, editing content from the page itself, not a back-end system) it’s actually incredibly easy to use.

This can have a significant long-term impact on the value proposition that Concrete5 offers. At a development stage, it’s free to get hold of but tends to be more expensive in terms of development hours. However, because Concrete5 requires less training than other CMS options it can actually save you time and money in the long-run.

Whether this is an advantage will depend upon your particularly organisation. Broadly speaking, if you’ve got enough active users that training is an issue (and ongoing cost) then an up-front investment in a Concrete5 website is likely to offer a long-term saving and make you more efficient in the process.

Ultimately, the end user loves the interface and the ease of use. You’ll love that it saves you money and time!” Lucas Anderson

3. Concrete5 Allows Multiple Contributors

Of course, every CMS allows multiple contributors with individually assigned editing privileges. However, the beauty of Concrete5 is the way that it allows multiple contributors.

You can be extremely particular about the editing privileges that you give to users. This can be defined using almost any criteria whatsoever. It might be that you only want users to be able to make changes during work hours. Maybe you want to give individual departments a range of privileges for pages relating to their part of the organisation. With Concrete5, it’s completely possible.

The fact that Concrete5 allows in-context editing also helps to make the whole process work better. If you’ve got large numbers of contributors adding content across the site, you want to make sure that they’re improving the website and not leaving a trail of destruction!

Whilst other CMS options allow multiple contributors, Concrete5 offers a quality and consistency that is very attractive.

4. …Whilst Maintaining Custom Editing Privileges and Security

The perceived risk in allowing large numbers of contributors is that you won’t have control over what’s being published. However, in reality this really isn’t a problem. Concrete5 is a particularly good option if you need a system which allows you to implement a range of checks and restraints on how content is published.

This would be very attractive, for example, in a professional services firm. The likes of lawyers and accountants are seeing the huge marketing benefits of mobilising their professionals to create regular content relating to their practice area. It’s a great way to do business development, demonstrate your authority in key areas and boost your organic SEO results.

The challenge, then, is editing and maintaining this content. You’ll want your marketing department to be able to work through each article to optimise content and ensure that each article carries the same tone and flavour. You might want department heads to be able to check the accuracy of content being produced by junior members of the team. You might even want directors, partners or members of the board to have some control over what is ultimately published on the organisation’s website.

With Concrete5, this is very possible. We can simultaneously allow huge numbers of contributors and maintain tight editing controls. If you work in an environment where various systems are necessary to ensure consistency of quality, this is probably one of the biggest advantages of Concrete5 website design.

This kind of functionality is also very attractive from a security perspective. In the event that a former employee tries to publish critical content, for example, they will only be able to create content; they won’t be able to broadcast it.

Equally, if a hacker gains access to an employee’s account, they are still 2 or 3 steps away from actually being able to make changes to your site. In an industry where reputation is everything this is very reassuring.

5. Conclusion: Concrete5 is Perfect for Larger Organisations

Concrete5 is a complex and extremely powerful system. It’s capable of delivering bespoke functionality for even the most difficult of development objectives. However, it’s also incredibly simple to use, requires little training and provides outstanding security and editing safeguards.

In other words, Concrete5 is perfect for larger organisations.

If you’re running a small business or charity, WordPress is an outstanding CMS that will almost certainly be the best option for you. In an organisation where cashflow is tight, spending extra developing a bespoke Concrete5 site is unlikely to be the right approach.

However, if you’re looking to bring simplicity and accessibility to a powerful, large website then Concrete5 is an excellent option. Whether you’ve got web developers in-house or you’re outsourcing, it’s a CMS that gives you exceptional control and allows you to achieve the unique functionality needed by your organisation. It’s safe, secure, accessible and gives you the tools that you need to mobilise an army of regular contributors.

To find out more about Concrete 5 you can check out the Concrete5 website. If you’ve got any questions about the suitability of Concrete5 website design for your organisation then please don’t hesitate to contact us for a free consultation. We promise to answer your question – or point you in the direction of somebody who will be able to.

We take a look at how to link online and physical stores using various apps for eCommerce retailers

How to Link Online and Physical Stores

Posted by | Uncategorized | No Comments

One of the big questions facing eCommerce businesses at the moment is how to link physical and online stores. Until now, the primary challenge has been working out how to sell online, but the success of eCommerce has created an unexpected new retail landscape.

Two types of business have particularly benefited.

High Street retailers who have successfully migrated to eCommerce have managed to combine the best of both worlds; customers can browse their products and prices online, before heading into town to pick up the product on the same day. These businesses tend to have complex transactional systems and can cope with the administration demands that this brings.

The other beneficiary has been the small retailer whose business is now done primarily online. However, these businesses tend not to have such advanced systems for managing stock and communicating inventories. This can result in all sorts of problems when you try to simultaneously sell online and in a physical store, particularly if you have high volumes of stock.

Before we look at the best ways to link online and physical stores, it’s important to understand the kinds of business that are most in need of these types of solution.

History: The Birth of eCommerce Retail

Once upon a time, just over a decade ago, retailers took the bold step to start selling their products online. There were numerous challenges to be overcome, from designing websites and photographing inventories to writing product descriptions and developing processes to help make transactions as quick and efficient as possible. Early concerns about the security of online transactions quickly dissipated and by 2015 eCommerce transactions reached an estimated $1.5 Trillion worldwide. The eCommerce revolution radically changed the retail landscape, with a handful of companies tending to dominate the market.

Today we face an altogether different challenge. Internet-only ventures have become incredibly popular, enabling new businesses to establish themselves without the significant overheads traditionally associated with retail businesses. Many start-ups begin life as an online store, enabling their owners to gradually increase turnover within the relative security of full-time employment.

Today, anybody can start a retail business and quickly develop a significant, international customer-base. Like a modern-day American Dream, eCommerce has opened up a world of opportunity for the ambitious entrepreneurs of tomorrow. You don’t need huge resources to start a successful business; you need a good product, an online store and a lot of hard work.

Surprisingly, perhaps, the oft-quoted death of the High Street has thus far failed to materialise, despite the enormous success of eCommerce retailers. Yes, many High Streets have experienced a decline in the number of retailers as online rivals increase the competition. However, the appeal of the High Street remains as strong as ever.

The majority of customers still want to try before they buy, even if they subsequently make the purchase through an online retailer or website. There is a slightly nostalgic quality to High Street shopping that has captured the imagination of a generation of customers who have grown up with eCommerce. The greater range of information available to customers improved the High Street shopping experience, not kill it.

This is having a profound impact on the new, online retail businesses that have been birthed in the last 5 years. Whilst their origins were online, many eCommerce retailers are now looking to establish physical stores in response to demand from their customers. A physical, bricks-and-mortar High Street store is a real status symbol for a younger retailer.

We’ve also seen a huge increase in the number of pop-up shops as fledgling online retailers take their products to the High Street to connect with customers and gauge the feasibility of a physical store.

Today’s online retailers are becoming increasingly interested in having a physical store. This has exposed the limitations of traditional retail hardware and systems, creating a wave of demand for innovative solutions. Furthermore, many traditional retailers have successful embraced online retail and are now having to radically overhaul the way that they manage their business from the top down.

These are some of the questions facing retailers who need to link online and physical stores:

  • How do I manage my stock inventory when I have both online and physical stores?
  • What’s the easiest way to manage physical transactions, take payments, give receipts and keep track of my sales?
  • What’s the most streamlined way to run a physical retail store?
  • How can I let customers know which products are available in store?

Here are some of the solutions for businesses who want to link online and physical stores as seamlessly and efficiently as possible:

How to Link Online and Physical Stores

Fortunately for online retailers, eCommerce isn’t the only big technology change of the last 10 years. The introduction of smartphones and tablets has opened up a wide range of payment solutions for retailers looking to link online and physical stores. Most customers are perfectly happy to process their payment using an iPad; in fact, for many of us the novelty simply adds to the experience. It also makes it much easier for the retailer to get the customer’s email address to keep them up-to-date with news, offers and more.

There are already several apps that help customers to make payments, including Apple Pay and Google Wallet. However, we’re interested in apps that help businesses to link online and physical stores, not just facilitate payment.

Here are some of the most popular point-of-sale systems that can be used with an iPad, iPhone or equivalent:

1. Shopify POS

Shopify POS App for mobile transactions

Shopify POS (‘Point of Sale’) is an app that allows the user to process transactions using an iPhone or iPad. In a nutshell, you can process transactions, print receipts, accept card and cash payments, process refunds and more. It enables online retailers to bring all the functionality of an online store to their physical store. It’s designed to be affordable and lightweight enough for retailers to take with them wherever they go. Shopify POS comes with a range of hardware accessories, including receipt printers, cash registers and credit card readers. You can also use your existing point-of-sale hardware with Shopify POS.

Why is Shopify POS so good? Well, it’s designed to give you complete control over your transactions, managing your inventory from wherever you are. If you’re already using Shopify then Shopify POS will be very familiar, with a consistent back-end system. Like all things Shopify, it’s completely scaleable, allowing you to simultaneously run separate POS systems in different locations.

Oh, and you can now get a free 14 day trial.

You do, however, need to be using Shopify in order to benefit from Shopify POS. Whilst we strongly recommend Shopify as our eCommerce platform of choice, there are several other alternative systems on the market…

2. Vend HQ

Vend HQ Solution to Link Online and Physical Stores

Much like Shopify POS, Vend HQ is a point-of-sale solution for businesses looking to link online and physical stores. The features are almost identical to Shopify, although you would need to export your product inventory and customer database via an Excel spreadsheet, which isn’t the easiest of jobs for the tech-averse. It also has a slightly higher monthly subscription than Shopify, although with a 30-day free trial you might be tempted to have an in-depth look at Vend HQ and see if it works for you.

We really like the look of Vend HQ – it’s beautifully presented, and they’ve clearly done their homework. Their FAQ page, for example, is evidence that they really take customer service seriously. Having high-quality support when you need it most is so important.

3. Phone Swipe

Phone Swipe Mobile Payment Solution

Phone Swipe gives retailers the ability to process credit card transactions from their iPad, iPhone or Android phone. Much like Shopify POS, you can synchronise it with your inventory to help monitor stock levels, and it’s quick and easy to send receipts to customers.

However, Phone Swipe is currently only available in the US, with no indication of when it will be launched internationally. It doesn’t appear to have the range of hardware that Shopify POS offers, meaning that you can only process card payments, not cash. Whilst physical receipts are expected to become less common as we move towards a more eco-friendly paper free system, the greater range of options provided by the likes of Shopify POS and Vend HQ mean that it’s currently a more accomplished product.

4. Intuit Quickbooks Mobile

Intuit Quickbooks Mobile Apps Solution for Online Retailers

Intuit Quickbooks Mobile is a free card reader and app for iPhone, iPad and Android. There is no monthly charge; you only pay for the transactions that you actually complete, with a typical charge of $0.25. There are several neat touches, including the option to photograph a customer’s credit card in order to enter the details, making the transaction as quick and easy as possible.

Intuit Quickbooks Mobile is a very attractive option for smaller retailers who don’t require the more complex inventory management functionality offered by Shopify POS and simply want to complete transactions quickly and easily.

5. iZettle

iZettle Mobile Payment System for eCommerce Retailers

iZettle was an early leader in the mobile payment market. Their point-of-sale card and cash payment system is simple, free and has received good reviews from users. With no monthly fees and a “smart fee” that reduces with higher numbers of transactions, it’s an excellent option for startups who don’t want to over-commit.

However, unlike Shopify POS you have to manually enter your inventory to the iZettle system. Once you’ve done this you will get a great range of metrics and statistics, all presented in an attractive and intuitive interface.

If you have a relatively small inventory of stock and don’t need a minute-by-minute update on stock levels, iZettle might be the solution for you. If you’re currently writing hand-written receipts, for example, iZettle is an extremely way to improve the quality of your transactions with minimum hassle.

6. AirPOS

Air POS Mobile Payment System App for Online Stores

AirPOS is a very similar service to Shopify POS, offering a wide range of features and hardware. As you’d expect, it has excellent security features and will continue working even when you haven’t got a wireless or mobile connection. It can be used with iPhone, iPad and Android. AirPOS also give you the ability to get a store up and running in a matter of minutes.

However, AirPOS is realistically only going to be of interest if you haven’t yet got an eCommerce store, which isn’t really what we’re looking for at this point. We also think that it looks like a slightly lightweight version of Shopify, lacking the user base and expert resources that come with 100,000+ users.

How Will We Link Online and Physical Stores in the Future?

We’re really excited about the way that eCommerce is developing. Remarkably, it’s helping to make retail even more personable, bringing a greater variety and accessibility to small retailers than ever before. At the moment, the big challenge is to link online and physical stores with mobile point-of-sale and inventory systems. We’re particularly impressed by Shopify POS, Vend HQ and iZettle, which all offer good value payment systems and access to that all-important sales data to help you reach more customers.

We’ve looked in detail at the options available to online retailers who want to sell their products from a physical store. However, there are various challenges that remain to be solved.

What if, for example, you are shopping on your local High Street and want to buy a pair of black jeans.

Traditionally you would have had to walk in and out of every store until you found the product that you were looking for.

Today you can pull out your smartphone to find the nearest clothes shops. You can search individual retailers to check their prices and see if they’ve got the right product and size in stock. You can even complete the transaction online and collect the product in-store, helping to avoid the Saturday-afternoon queues.

What you can’t do is search all of the retailers on the High Street to compare all of the black jeans that are available in your size.

Until now.

bnkle is an innovative app that gives users an overview of all the products that are available in their geographical location, along with price and style. In other words, if you’re shopping on the High Street you’ll be able to make informed decisions before you even enter the store, without having to trawl through the individual eCommerce websites of all the retailers.

The premise is very simple. Essentially, retailers install the bnkle app which shares their current inventory and prices with users. It’s cross-platform compatible and really easy to use.

Currently only available in the US, bnkle is currently being rolled out in the UK. However, we like the idea and think that this could provide some insight into the future of eCommerce, particularly with the overlap with the High Street. This looks like an exciting next step in terms of trying to link physical and online stores, helping customers to make informed choices about their shopping.

These are very exciting times for online retailers and customers alike, with loads of great apps currently on the market.

If you’d like to link online and physical stores or want to work out how this might look for your eCommerce business then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Image by Giacomo Carena on Flickr (Creative Commons)

Contact us for a free, informal chat Let's talk!