Blog

A Date with Your SEO Specialist: 4 Things to Watch Out for

SEO

It’s no secret that every successful ecommerce website has a remarkable SEO partner. After all, search engine optimization plays a major role in boosting any online business. This is the reason why you need to get to know your SEO specialist better.

Just like in a real date, the getting to know stage will give you an idea if you wish to proceed with this person to the next level or find a better partner. There are certain things you need to watch out for so as to determine the true worth of your current SEO company.

1.  Background

When you go out with someone for the first time, your conversation mainly revolves around your backgrounds— where you studied, what work you do, what your family is like, etc. In the same way, you must find out how long the SEO company you work with has been in existence, how it came about, what services it offers, and what its track record is like.

2.  Quality

In trying to figure out if a person is cut out to be your partner in life, you also try to assess quality. It’s not a matter of excellence, but rather a matter of suitability. You might actually meet someone who seems to be way beyond your standards and seems to be the perfect partner. But you need to go out with that person several times to see if you guys click.

With your SEO specialist, it works the same way. There ought to be a spark, a gut feel that you can work well together and trust each other. At the same time, it’s important to check how they do their SEO. Learn the analytics and strategies they use, the reports they provide, and more. These will help you determine their actual quality and if they’re a good fit for your business.

3.  Communication

Relationships bank a lot on good communication, even if you’re just in the initial stages. Between an online entrepreneur and a SEO specialist, communication also means a whole lot. This is why you have to be clear about it from the very beginning. Ask for a well-defined communication plan that includes how often you’ll be contacted and through which channel, what types of reports you’ll receive, how long meetings will last, and how and when you can get in touch if you have concerns or questions.

4.  Length of Partnership

If you’re experienced in dating, you can tell whether someone is good for a one-night stand, a temporary fling, or a long-term relationship. Finding out where your present SEO partner stands is of great importance too. You ought to sniff around and keep your senses on edge to figure out if your SEO specialist is a scammer or a real deal, great for short-term campaigns or cut out for lengthy partnerships.

Since you’ll always be in need of SEO expertise, it’s essential to not waste your time on short-term stints. Besides, you don’t want to be a victim of fly-by-night sort of SEO companies. Hence, you need to do your background research well and take the time and effort to truly get to know the specialist you’re currently working with. This way, you can shortcut your way to a genuine keeper and not squander precious time, sweat, and money on something worthless.

 

About the author
Joe Palko is the CMO of 3dcart. Prior to joining 3dcart in 2011, Joe was a true internet pioneer co-founding his first e-commerce website in 1994 which later sold to America’s largest mail order pet supply retailer in 2007. Joe also co-founded Solid Cactus in 2001, which was later sold to the Web.com Group in 2009.

Top 5 Benefits of Off-Site Inventory Management

inventorymanagement

Inventory management can be a challenge for an e-commerce company. Many companies start out small and have limited space. They might want to offer large product lines to their customers, but it’s a challenge to store the products at their location.

If your company is taking off or you want to expand your product offerings, but you’re facing the challenge of limited space, you might be considering finding a warehouse or switching to a larger one. Off-site inventory management is the perfect solution to this problem. This method can have many benefits for an e-commerce company, including the following:

1. You can avoid the hassle of a warehouse.

When your company manages inventory itself, you have to cover the cost of the warehouse space, the overhead costs of running the warehouse and the employees for the warehouse. As your company expands and as time goes by, you have to manage all of those aspects in addition to your office and your own company’s staff.

By managing your inventory off site, your company won’t have to deal with all the work and expenses involved with a warehouse. J.M. Field Marketing explains that instead of handling the inventory management yourself, you can trust another company to take care of that work for you. You will only have to pay inventory management of the products that are ordered, instead of all those upfront costs to get started and the ongoing costs associated with running your warehouse. Plus, you can rely on a company that is experienced with inventory management.

2. Maintain control over your inventory.

You don’t have to completely hand over your inventory management to another company and have no idea what’s going on with it. Your company will still have control over your inventory, so that you can manage your business. You will be able to track the purchasing and the inventory in stock at the off-site location. This way, you can follow trends of your business and understand any changes you need to make to stay successful and to grow.

3. Your company will be able to handle ordering fluctuations.

One of the challenges of an e-commerce business is handling extra orders during busy seasons or when the business is growing quickly. A reputable, outsourced fulfillment service can handle these changes, without your company needing to worry about it. It should be a positive for your company when you are getting extra orders, not a dreaded challenge to overcome. Off-site inventory management can turn it into a profitable experience.

4. Your company can focus on other areas of the business.

When you take inventory management off the plate of your company, you are freeing up your time, resources and efforts to focus on other things. Your company can focus on retaining customers and marketing to attract new customers.

You won’t have to worry about your marketing efforts growing your company too quickly, because your off-site inventory management services will be prepared for the growth. Instead of managing both an office team and a warehouse team, your company will be able to focus its efforts on just one and rely on another company for the warehouse side.

5. Cut down on the cost of shipping.

Since inventory management is the specialty of inventory fulfillment companies, they are able to engage in bulk shipping. This can greatly reduce the shipping costs of products. Another way these companies often cut shipping costs is by choosing more affordable alternatives, such as shipping parts and assembling them on site. These shipping savings can be passed onto your company and to your customers, which can make them more likely to purchase, to become repeat customers and to be happier overall with their buying experience.

About the author
Don Amato is Vice-President, Sales of Chicago Tag & Label in Libertyville, IL. Chicago Tag & Label custom forms, labels and tags help streamline processes in many industries including retail, industrial, manufacturing, distribution and medical environments.

4 Key Trends In The eCommerce Industry

ecommerce

E-commerce is constantly changing to keep up with the needs of today’s customer as brands fight to get noticed in a sea of choices. For your business to keep up and have a chance in the market, it’s important to stay on top of current trends and figure out how to connect with your consumer. Here are a few key current and emerging trends in the e-commerce industry that can improve your business and your customer’s interaction with you.

1. Make the Process Easier on Customers

Consumers want their shopping experience to be as quick and easy as possible. That’s usually why they’re shopping online in the first place. If you make the process easier on them, you will create a better connection with the customer, help them find what they’re looking for and encourage them to continue to shop with you. To achieve this, create ways for the customer to find their product and to order as quickly and easily as possible. Part of this can include having fewer products available to choose from and getting rid of unnecessary information or features on your site. In addition, make your site run smoothly without shutdowns so nothing impedes the consumer experience. Many companies are focusing on tactics to lower latency, such as putting more important information on flash storage and the rest on hard disks.

2. Focus on Mobile Shopping and Engagement

Mobile shopping from a smartphone is increasing in popularity with consumers, so your e-commerce company should focus on mobile to keep up. To be on top of this trend, create a site that people can easily maneuver on a device. You should focus on short blocks of text and a simple ordering process. You can also create apps for mobile devices that consumers can engage with to connect with your company and to order products. Apps are not always about ordering, but also about creating a connection and an experience. For example, James Gagliardi explains in a Wired article that a fitness equipment company can create health-tracking apps to go with their equipment.

3. Use Software for a Better Customer Experience

Consumers are looking for personalization and a positive shopping experience, and software can help you with that. Configurator software can help you create custom product designs and price quotes to generate sales and production outputs. You can integrate this software with other software that will help your business, including your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. CRM helps a company manage its customer service, marketing, sales and support to control its customer interactions, while ERP can help companies track and interpret marketing, sales, inventory and other data. Software can help you figure out the “big data” to understand customers and target your business to them.

4. Personalize Your Marketing and the Shopping Experience

Personalization is the way to go with e-commerce. Customers do not have much time to focus on shopping when they are bombarded with a lot of different companies and products. When you collect information on your customers through big data analytics, you can target your ads, emails and products to them. You can target based on gender, career, lifestyle and other factors. Also, if a customer bought one of your products before, you can personalize emails and ads based on their previous purchase. For example, you could suggest when it’s time to repurchase a food or beauty product. Or you could make suggestions to your customers on products they might like that are similar to their previous purchases. Sometimes, you can even customize the products themselves. Many other current e-commerce trends tie into this, creating ways to cater to customers and facilitating a personal interaction between them and your company. That’s what customers are looking for and that’s how your business will thrive in the current e-commerce climate.

Author Bio:
Ron Mouw, VP of Business Development at Configure One, a leading provider of product configurator and CPQ (configure price quote) software for enterprises.

Four Ways to Add Value to Marketing Campaigns Using Site Search Data

search

E-commerce marketers have steadily eyed ‘Big Data’ to learn more about their customers – for example, understanding how shoppers behave, their path to purchase and what they ultimately buy (or don’t buy) so that they can do a better job of merchandising products, improving customer service, and strengthening loyalty. However, mining these stores of data can take a lot of time and effort – and it’s often hard to know what data really matters. But there’s an easier way to open a window into how your customers browse and buy, and that’s by examining the data in your site search.

Site search data yields valuable insights, but not enough online retailers take the time to delve into this gold mine of information. According to SLI Systems’ recent e-commerce survey, 57% of online retailers said they don’t use site search reports and information to enhance marketing programs, and half of the respondents said that they don’t use site search data to improve any business programs or processes.

That’s too bad, because there’s business intelligence there for the taking that can help win sales that might otherwise walk out the door. Here are our best ideas for using search data to get high value out of marketing campaigns and make them more relevant to customers.

Drive higher clicks from paid search: If you’re always looking for new keyword terms for your paid search campaigns, site search data is the place to start. The keywords that customers use on your site when searching for popular products are likely to have strong click-through rates. Party Supplies Delivered, an online party retailer, has seen great success using keyword terms from top searches on its site for its Google AdWords campaigns. In fact, the company’s bounce rate dropped 40% and page views increased by 132% once it began adding in keywords from search for its campaigns.

Create more targeted email marketing: Consumers are looking for any excuse to ignore merchant emails – unless you offer them a message that relates to products they really want. Site search data can help you determine what brands and items to highlight in personalized emails to make them more attention-getting.

For example, your emails can feature products related to the recipient’s previous search terms and top-selling items from their favorite brands. Shoe retailer Footwear etc. sends marketing emails with links to products from brands that it knows shoppers love. The result: click-through rates that are four times higher and sales revenue that’s three times higher (source: Patricia Seybold Group case study embedded below).

Sharpen search accuracy: When visitors to your site launch a search and actually find what they’re looking for, they’re more likely to convert. If they don’t find the desired item, they’re more likely to abandon your site. When you view search data regularly, you can discover which searches deliver poor results or no results and then add helpful synonyms or link products to search terms for more productive searches.

Increase conversions with merchandising banners and custom landing pages: Site search data can also help you create more compelling merchandising banners and landing pages that appear when visitors search on your site for a given product or arrive at your site after clicking on a search engine result. Motorcycle Superstore uses site search data to build custom landing pages with banners for visitors arriving from Google based on the keywords they use in their site searches. The company reports that the banners and product detail pages have generated an average conversion lift of 2-5% for the featured products.

Site search data can reveal the “secrets” of how customers shop on your site and what they want from your online storefront. Don’t miss the chance to use this information to improve your marketing programs, increase sales and ultimately get better value from your investment in search.

By Tim Callan, Chief Marketing Officer, SLI Systems

Going Green: How To Minimize Paper Consumption

The sentiment of “saving a tree” is as relevant in e-commerce as in any other type of office operation. Despite all encouragement to the contrary, paper waste continues to this day. In a typical office, each employee discards an average of 350 pounds of paper every year. For even a one-man operation, that’s a big and possibly unnecessary expense.

Going Green

Fortunately, a few policy changes can serve to cut paper waste in half. Making these changes a habit could be the biggest obstacle.

Saving Printer Paper

To cut down on the expense of printing, try to:

  • Go double-sided: There’s no real need to waste an entire side of your paper. By setting your printer to the double-sided option, you will not only lower your overhead but also cut the size of those messy document piles in half.
  • Reuse your single-sided printouts: There’s rarely a good reason to throw away your unwanted documents. Just stack those pages up, flip them over and use them to restock your fax machine or stick them in your printer for use in running drafts.
  • Rethink the settings on your word-processing software: The use of narrower margins and a smaller font could save at least one page per document.
  • Practice electronic drafting: Editing on paper just won’t cut it anymore. Instead, draft your documents on the computer. Those manuscripts should be letter-perfect before you print them out.
  • Preview, then print: If your software gives you the option, a preliminary peek at your file will tell you whether that final sentence plans to consume an entire page of its own. A few adjustments at this stage can prevent it.

Communications

Whether incoming or outgoing, information exchanges have a way of consuming far too much paper. To cut down on this means of waste, remember to:

  • Email always: Where have all the letters gone? It seems that nobody uses snail mail anymore, and probably with good reason. Emails save paper as well as the mail carrier’s back.
  • Never print an email: If you’ve just received a message that you don’t want to lose, that doesn’t mean you have to print it out. Most email apps have a “folders” option, and that’s where you should stash your missive. It will be simpler to pull up later and just as easy to read.
  • Prune your mailing lists: Don’t send out more hard copy ads than necessary. If you haven’t done business with a person in a while, be bold and strike that name from your database.
  • Use your friendly telephone: Is that fax as necessary as you think? Unless you have a particularly good reason for putting your data in writing, pick up the phone instead. You’ll be not only saving on paper but also adding the personal touch that can be so valuable in furthering the fortunes of your business.
  • Give pre-printed documents a second chance: When you’re taking extensive notes, remember that a felt-tip marker with good black ink will overwrite most printed material.

Your Office Kitchen

Although they may seem easier to use, all those paper plates, bowls and coffee cups aren’t doing you any favors. Continual restocking will cost you money, and washing the reusable kind isn’t very difficult.

Lovelier the Second Time Around

Recycled paper products work as well as the non-recycled variety, and some people prefer their appearance. A bit of research will lead you to a number of locations that sell repurposed paper for every need.

Ship Green

What’s a cup of morning Joe without the morning paper? Although most news feeds today are available online, many still prefer the hard copy newspapers. When you’ve finished reading them, however, then what? You can always put them in the recycle bin, but have you considered using old newspapers in your shipping operation? Just crumple them up to stuff those boxes and save in more ways than one.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Don Amato is Vice-President, Sales of Chicago Tag & Label in Libertyville, IL. Chicago Tag & Label custom forms, labels and tags help streamline processes in many industries including retail, industrial, manufacturing, distribution and medical environments.

Mobile Payments: What Your Consumers Are Missing

Retailers have embraced new opportunities presented by the technology that makes mobile payments possible. However, mobile payments still cause confusion for consumers. Many consumers are distrustful of the technology, and retailers will not be able to fully take advantage of the technology until consumers are more willing to use the payment option. Here is a look at some of the common ways that consumers misunderstand the mobile payment process.

mobile-wallet

Lack of Understanding of the Mobile Wallet

A general lack of understanding about the concept of a mobile wallet has prevented consumers from understanding the benefits of maintaining one. About 20 percent of consumers have never even heard of a mobile wallet before, and more than one-third believe that a mobile wallet is the same as a mobile payment platform — but wallets that are available on a mobile device offer expanded opportunities beyond making payments.

Only about one-quarter of consumers understand that a mobile wallet can be used to make payments and store personal identification and loyalty account information.

Security Concerns

Mistrust of mobile payments is a major obstacle blocking the widespread use of the payment method. Consumers know that retail giants have been targeted by identity thieves in the past. While the theft of information often involves in-store payment systems that are not used in conjunction with mobile payment platforms, consumers believe that mobile systems pose an even greater threat than wired systems. In other words, consumers feel that, if their information can be compromised on a wired system, it will inevitably be stolen through a mobile payment platform.

Consumer behavior tends to be similar in economically strong countries across the world. A study completed in the U.K. found that only about one-quarter of consumers utilized a mobile device as a payment tool when shopping. People who don’t use their mobile device for payments often have the ability to do so with an app that they have already downloaded on their device. However, approximately 80 percent of people who use a mobile device say that security concerns keep them from using their device for mobile payments.

Retailers can control fears about the safety of mobile payments by providing consumers with safety information. Using trusted apps that have a reputation for safety is the first step to using mobile payments without compromising the security of financial and personal information. Merchants can relay the tips listed below to maintain safety while encouraging the use of mobile payments.

  • Ensure that any personal information stored on a mobile device is kept safe by using a screen lock. Passwords or pattern locks keep thieves from accessing this information if they steal a device. Some devices allow users to utilize a combination of passwords and pattern locks for maximum security.
  • Opt for apps that provide proof of purchase for review. Many apps present an electronic receipt immediately following purchase. These receipts can be emailed for easy access when a consumer is reviewing their finances.
  • Apps should require a password for access to a personal account. This allows for two levels of security when used in conjunction with a screen lock.

While security breaches are rare with mobile payments, consumers should always pay close attention to their financial statements when using any type of credit card or bank account to make payments. Reporting issues within the first 48 hours of a breach gives consumers the highest chance of eliminating or limiting liability.

Consumer Apathy Regarding Payment Methods

A portion of consumers are not concerned about the security of mobile payments, but these consumers do not use their devices to make payments because of a lack of incentive to do so. Nearly one-quarter of Americans who have a mobile device say that they do not use it for payments because they would not earn the credit card rewards that they enjoy when using a traditional payment method.

The biggest issue that has blocked consumer interest is a lack of motivation from retailers. Retailers have not presented consumers with a reason to use mobile payments, but consumers may change their minds if merchants become more proactive about explaining the benefits of the method to them.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, a credit card processing firm providing mobile credit card payment, and also serves on its Board of Directors. She has more than 15 years experience in the bankcard industry in direct sales, sales management and marketing.

Single Or Multi-Page Checkout: Which One Is Right For Your Online Store?

Customer checkout—that last hurdle before the conversion is yours. You wouldn’t think it’d be such a sizable one.

A huge percentage of your shoppers may bounce before they finish the sale. They’ve already spent a lot of time browsing your site and choosing their purchase. What gives?

one-step-checkout

You’re not alone. The Baymard Institute recently looked at 19 cart abandonment studies over the last seven years, finding a 67.35% average documented online shopping cart abandonment rate. The most recent studies included are surprisingly high compared to those from past years. (In 2012 for instance, Rejoiner calculated an 80.3% abandonment rate. Yikes!)

“Price” and “shipping cost” are reasons shoppers may leave, but they’re typically factors out of your control. Your checkout page is the place to start cutting your cart abandonment rate.

Online merchants have two options for checkout: single- and multi-page. The difference between the two, however, is not so cut and dry. Which option works best for your business depends on a variety of factors. How do these two strategies compare?

Single-Page Checkout Strengths

It took some time for the eCommerce world to develop the single-page checkout. Since then, it’s become a mainstay tactic for plenty of online stores.

Single-page checkout includes billing and shipping forms on the same page. The strategy typically relies on AJAX to ensure fields are filled out correctly, notifying shoppers of mistakes on the fly.

It’s hard to deny the impact it’s had on many stores’ conversion rates. In fact, A/B testing has proven the efficacy of single-page checkout.

Of course, that proof is situational. In some cases, single-page checkout doesn’t fit the bill. In the cases it does, the store tends to favor three key advantages.

1. Speed

There’s no question that single-page checkout is quicker than multi-page. With single-page, your shopper doesn’t have to wait for a next page to load.

A quick and painless checkout process means less time for the shopper to get distracted or change his mind.

2. Interactivity

Because AJAX responds in real-time, fields are more interactive. They respond to the shopper’s activities, creating a more interactive checkout experience.

3. Navigation

Using single-page checkout simplifies navigation for the shopper by:

  • Organizing everything in one place
  • Showing a clear top-to-bottom path along the page
  • Giving the shopper fewer reasons to hit the back button

Simpler navigation encourages a user-friendly experience.

mltipgwrvw1

Multi-Page Checkout Strengths

Don’t exclude multi-page checkout from your strategy just yet. True, it can be less user-friendly in certain situations. But eCommerce software suites include multi-page functionality for a reason.

Multi-page checkouts should be as simple as you can make them. But sometimes more complex online business requires a more complex process.

You may want to use multi-page checkout if you value these three advantages more than those of single-page checkout.

1. Complex Orders

More complex orders may be easier for shoppers to place through multi-page checkout. Complex orders might include:

  • Gift orders with multiple shipping addresses
  • Bulk orders of multiple products
  • Special orders that may require special shipping or other extras

2. Customer Segmentation

Wholesale stores (or consumer stores with the option to buy wholesale) may need certain types of customer information before they can offer discounted pricing for bulk or special purchases. Shoppers may need to fill out a personal profile before they proceed.

3. Third-Party Processing

Multiple pages may be necessary when you’re working with partners for the checkout process. Third-party situations may include:

  • Using PayPal or another payment processor
  • Paying using an electronic layaway service
  • Including partner offers in the checkout process

Find Your Fit

Remember, there’s no single approach for creating the right checkout process. It depends on your business goals and your audience. Take these into account when choosing whether to go with single- or multi-page checkout.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jimmy Rodriguez is CTO and co-founder of 3DCart, developer of an e-commerce suite for businesses of all sizes. As an authority on e-commerce best practices, Jimmy combines more than 8 years as an e-commerce developer and web programmer with SEO, social marketing and business intelligence.

3 Takeaways From The Bing Ads Case Study Featuring JXT Group

BingAds_Accredited_BadgeWe recently partnered with Bing Ads to publish a case study on the benefits we’ve seen from managing client campaigns on Bing Ads. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Utilize Bing Ads great support team. You can contact them via Live Chat, Email or Phone. They are quick to help you solve any problems you may have and provide campaign advice.
  • Import your campaigns directly from Google AdWords. Bing Ads has a very simple tool where you can enter you AdWords login and import all campaigns instantly. This is a great way to get started on Bing Ads with minimal effort.
  • The new Phone Call Ad Extensions are a great way to make your phone ring and bring in more business. This is really great for lead generation.

Read the full Case Study.

Page 1 of 2412345...1020...Last »