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Revenue And Traffic Diversity Is Crucial For WordPress Publishers

Revenue And Traffic Diversity Is Crucial For WordPress Publishers

Revenue And Traffic Diversity Is Crucial For WordPress Publishers

Photo by Greg Sellentin on Unsplash

It’s no secret publishers are struggling to build sustainable content businesses. Advertising revenues were in decline before ad-blockers went mainstream, and since the advertising industry alienated a huge swathe of the online audience, it’s become even more difficult to make money from content.

But difficult doesn’t mean impossible — there are plenty of WordPress publishers, large and small, with thriving businesses. The secret to success is revenue and traffic diversity: not relying too much on any single platform to bring home the bacon.

It’s never a good idea to tie the fortunes of your business to someone else’s business, especially in an industry of rapid disruption where a sure thing can turn into a dud overnight. And yet, I often talk to publishers who have taken a massive hit to their bottom line because a platform they relied on for revenue or traffic has pivoted in an unhelpful direction. It happens time and again, and every time they’re surprised.

Medium has its upsides: not least the network effects associated with being on a platform with a huge audience. And so many publishers went all-in on Medium — a company that pivots faster than Excel. Soon after, Medium abandoned its planned monetization solutions and laid-off a third of its staff, leaving publishers in a pickle.

The same pattern can be seen with Facebook’s Instant Articles. Publishers have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. They’re loathe to give up the distribution of their content, but eager to get that content in front of Facebook’s billion-plus users. So everyone who is anyone started publishing Instant Articles. At the same time, Facebook was making plans that essentially rendered Instant Articles of no benefit to publishers.

Facebook thinks video is the future — and so videos get priority in the Newsfeed. Facebook thinks its users would rather see content from their family and friends, so news articles — including Instant Articles — are pushed out of the feed. Facebook thinks users want to see content they “interact” with, not content from publishers they’ve liked and followed, so publishers find it impossible to connect with their followers.

Earlier this year, Amazon announced cuts to its affiliate marketing program, decimating the revenue of publishers who had built a nice business sending customers Amazon’s way.

Any publisher that depended for a large chunk of its traffic or revenue on one of these platforms would find itself in trouble. Which is not to say that WordPress publishers shouldn’t use Facebook, Medium, and Amazon, in addition to as many other sources of traffic and revenue as possible. The point is not that these channels should be ignored, but that none of them is the savior of the publishing industry.

Smart publishers use all of these channels and more to hedge against the inevitable pivots and focus changes. People will always want high-quality content and there will always be viable publishing business models, but publishers have to move quickly and spread their bets.

WordPress hosting is a great solution for publishers who want to maintain platform and revenue independence. Control your site and content distribution, and take advantage of platforms without depending on them.

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Webmaster, WordPress

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Choosing A React Alternative For Your WordPress Themes And Plugins

Choosing A React Alternative For Your WordPress Themes And Plugins

Choosing A React Alternative For Your WordPress Themes And Plugins

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Matt Mullenweg recently announced that the WordPress project will no longer use the phenomenally popular React framework in its projects. React was being used to build the forthcoming Gutenberg editor, which will now have to be rewritten.

WordPress theme and plugin developers don’t have to follow the lead of the WordPress project. They can use whichever front-end technology they like to interact with the WordPress REST API, but if you are embarking on a new WordPress plugin or theme, it’s worth knowing about the alternatives — and there are a lot of alternatives.

If you’re interested in why WordPress is moving away from React, I discussed the nitty-gritty in an earlier post, so I won’t go into detail here. Suffice it to say that Facebook, which develops React, releases the code under a license that doesn’t sit well with many open source developers.

I’ll have a look at three alternatives to React later in this post, but the way we choose a framework is at least as interesting as the framework we choose. I’ll suggest three principles that might be useful to you:

  • Choose a framework your developer already knows.
  • Choose a framework the community is invested in.
  • Unless you have a compelling reason to move away from React, don’t.

The goal is to build things. Any of the major contenders in this space is adequate to that task. If you or the developer you hire is already familiar with a framework, there’s no real reason to switch (unless it’s so obscure you won’t be able to find anyone to maintain the code).

At the time of writing, the WordPress community hadn’t settled on a React alternative. When it does, developers will start pumping out code. They’ll ask and answer questions on Stack Exchange and WordPress developer forums. They’ll write demo themes and plugins. In short, whichever framework the community decides on is a good bet for developers.

If you have already invested in writing lots of React code for your project, think long and hard before you decide to move to a different framework or library. React is awesome: that’s why it’s so popular. Some organizations, including WordPress, have specific problems with the license. If you don’t think those problems are relevant to you, there’s no real need to change.

So, what are the alternatives to React? It really depends what you mean by “alternatives”. React uses the Virtual Dom, it mixes CSS and HTML with Javascript, and it’s a view framework, not a full MVC like some of the competition. Other front-end frameworks make different choices. Depending on your needs, you might choose from Vue, Preact, Angular, Mithril, Aurelia, Glimmer, Elm, and many more.

I’m not a betting man, but Vue is by far the most popular of the React alternatives, and it would be an obvious choice. Indeed, it seems that the WordPress folks have been in conversation with Vue’s developers. The transition from React to Vue may not be smooth sailing because the underlying principles are different (no JSX-type shenanigans), but Vue is a solid choice.

Preact is a lightweight alternative to React that, unlike Vue, uses the same API. It’s very easy to transition from React to Preact, and there is a compatibility layer that allows developers to use React code with the Preact framework. If you’re looking for a direct replacement for React, you won’t go far wrong with Preact.

Finally, Elm is a completely different kettle of fish — it’s not even Javascript. Elm is a functional programming language for building web applications that compiles to Javascript. If that sounds interesting, check out this proof-of-concept WordPress theme from Jack Lenox.

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Webmaster, WordPress

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WordPress Publishers Fail To Follow FTC Native Advertising Rules

WordPress Publishers Fail To Follow FTC Native Advertising Rules

WordPress Publishers Fail To Follow FTC Native Advertising Rules

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Traditional display advertising is set apart from editorial content. They exist on the same page, but in different worlds. In the editorial world, the measure of content is creative, factual, and reader-focused, untainted by financial considerations. In the realm of advertising, it’s all about the bottom line.

Of course, this is a fiction — although a useful fiction and an ideal to aim for. The wall between editorial and advertising has always leaked, but it’s never been more leaky than with native advertising.

Native advertising is presented within the flow of editorial content. It takes the form of editorial content. It adheres to some editorial conventions. But that’s where native advertising’s similarity to editorial content ends. Native advertising is bought and paid for; its motivations are to sell and promote. But without a clear and unambiguous signal that editorial standards of independence don’t apply to this bit of screen real estate, it’s easy to mislead the reader.

The FTC has clear guidelines about how native advertising should be distinguished from editorial content. The need for these rules is clear, especially in the blogging world, which hasn’t yet developed the traditions that cause journalists to recoil at the idea that advertising might taint editorial independence.

Unfortunately, many bloggers, new media publishers, and advertisers are unaware of the rules. It’s all too common to find native advertising without any indication that the content is paid for. This isn’t just an issue of reader confusion: the FTC has been proactive about charging publishers and advertisers that publish misleading content. Bloggers who don’t want to find themselves in legal trouble should take the time to learn how to distinguish promotional content from editorial content clearly and unambiguously.

The FTC has published a blogger and publisher friendly version of the rules, which are quite simple. Promotional content should be clearly marked as “Sponsored” or “Promoted”. The exact language is less important than that it is unambiguous and difficult-to-miss.

The notice should be placed close to the content, not behind a link, in the footer of the page, or anywhere that it would be easy for the reader to miss. Ideally, it should be above the headline of the content on both index and post pages. It should be large enough to stand out, and have sufficient contrast that it doesn’t blend into the rest of the content.

Given the prevalence of ad-blockers and declining revenue of traditional display advertising, native advertising has become a major revenue-generator for publishers. Some of the biggest media success stories of recent years, including BuzzFeed, generate all their revenue with native advertising. It’s a monetization technique well-worth exploring for any content business, but care should be taken not to mislead readers.

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WordPress

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Magento Connect Will Close In September

Magento Connect Will Close In September

Magento Connect Will Close In September

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Magento Connect, which has for many years been the official source of Magento extensions, will shut down in September. The role of Magento Connect will be taken over by the Magento Marketplace, which was introduced a year ago and will become the official Magento-sanctioned repository of extensions.

Magento’s extensions are one of the most important contributors to its power and popularity as an eCommerce application. Magento would be a fraction as flexible and functional without its extension ecosystem. While Magento Connect has served merchants well for many years, it is not without problems. The new Magento Marketplace applies the lessons learned from Magento Connect to offer an improved experience.

Magento Marketplace introduces a brand new interface, enforces stricter guidelines for extension submission, and provides a modern and approachable solution for extension management, promotion, and discovery.

Major improvements to the experience include the rationally architected site layout and enhanced search. It’s easier than ever before to find best-in-class extensions and searching produces relevant results, something that wasn’t always the case on Magento Connect. Magento Marketplace also offers a number of other store-like features, including accounts that track purchases and other information.

But one of the most important improvements introduced for the Magento Marketplace is comprehensive reviews of submitted extensions. Quality control was a problem on Magento Connect. Under the review guidelines introduced last year, all extensions are submitted to a three-phase review process.

The phases assess the business, technical, and marketing qualities of extensions, which must complete all phases before they are eligible to be part of the marketplace. The business review guidelines ensure that extensions solve a real problem, reducing the presence of extensions with trivial functionality or that exist solely to fulfill the marketing imperatives of their creator. Extensions will be removed from the marketplace if they don’t generate sufficient interest, incentivizing developers to improve and promote extensions.

The technical review checks whether the extension conforms to various standards. Automated QA testing assesses whether the extension meets minimum technical expectations, such as whether it installs cleanly and integrates well with Magento. The marketing phase is intended to ensure that accompanying marketing materials conform to the high standards expected in the marketplace, including checks for proper spelling and grammar in extension descriptions and documentation.

The overarching goal of these reviews is to provide a positive experience to merchants and developers. Merchants will be able to more easily find the extensions they need, and more importantly, they can be confident that the extensions function as advertised and won’t cause problems. A better extension marketplace can only improve the brand perception of the Magento project.

Although the reviews put more of a burden on developers, the creators of high-quality plugins will benefit from enhanced discoverability and a marketplace that establishes trust and confidence in retailers.

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Magento

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Video Is Now Vital For eCommerce Success — And It’s Easier Than Ever Before

Video Is Now Vital For eCommerce Success — And It’s Easier Than Ever Before

Video Is Now Vital For eCommerce Success — And It’s Easier Than Ever Before

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

The evidence is in: video is a vital part of the future of eCommerce. 80 percent of millennials watch videos before making a purchase decision. eCommerce stores with videos on product pages benefit from higher engagement and shoppers stay longer. The dominance of mobile and video-centric social media means that more shoppers than ever are exposed to video — Facebook has made it clear that it thinks video is the future of its platform and that videos are more likely to appear in the Newsfeed than text and images.

All of which is making some eCommerce merchants nervous. After all, video is hard, right? And hard means expensive. To create video, you need to hire a video professional or invest in expensive cameras, lenses, lighting, studio time. All of which would blow the marketing budgets of many eCommerce stores out of the water.

But, in 2017, is video really all that difficult or expensive? Feature-rich cameras that would once have cost thousands of dollars can be bought for just a few hundred dollars today. And, of course, anyone with a recent iPhone or Android phone has a high-definition camera in their pocket.

But most important, the expectations around video have changed. There will always be a place for video with high production values, and professional video will always be expensive, but much of the most effective video on social media isn’t necessarily the slickest. Many successful videos are personal, with reasonable but not fantastic production value, and are essentially ephemeral.

Where video is concerned, the perfect is the enemy of the good, and eCommerce merchants shouldn’t be discouraged from creating and distributing product and brand focused video just because they don’t have the budget of Louis Vuitton.

Instagram and SnapChat are hugely popular among their distinct demographics, and it couldn’t be easier to use them to create and distribute slick and effective videos showcasing products. There’s no reason a fashion retailer shouldn’t showcase their products in short videos. If you sell tech products, make short demonstration videos. Any retailer can create “slice of life” videos showing the day-to-day life of their company.

And it’s not just social media networks like Instagram that make building a brand with video easy. Periscope is hugely popular and makes live-streaming a doddle. As I’ve argued in other articles, to compete with large eCommerce stores, smaller stores must focus on building brands that appeal directly to their customers — live streaming can powerfully contribute to cementing the relationship between your store and its customers.

One of my favorite new developments in the mobile video space is Apple’s Clips app. Clips provides a simple intuitive interface for recording, editing, annotating, and sharing video. The major benefit of Clips is that it isn’t tied to a particular social network. You can record and edit with Clips before sending video to any social network.

Video is going to be a big part of the future of eCommerce. If you haven’t started experimenting with video yet, what’s stopping you?

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eCommerce

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Chrome 62 Will Extend “Not Secure” Warnings To All User Input

Chrome 62 Will Extend “Not Secure” Warnings To All User Input

Chrome 62 Will Extend 'Not Secure' Warnings To All User Input

Photo by MichaelGaida on Pixabay

From October, Google’s Chrome browser will warn users that all non-HTTPS pages that ask for user input are insecure. If your site has forms that accept user input and doesn’t have an SSL certificate, you may see a reduction in conversions as Chrome users are discouraged from submitting information. Google Chrome has a market share of 64%, according to W3Counter.

HTTP is the protocol used by web browsers to communicate with websites. HTTPS — note the additional “S” at the end — is a secure version of HTTP. HTTPS uses SSL certificates validated by a Certificate Authority to encrypt data as it moves between the browser and the server on which a site is hosted. Data sent over an HTTPS connection cannot be intercepted by third-parties or modified as it traverses the network. HTTPS makes sure that no-one on the network — either the local network or the Internet — can intercept or interfere with data as it travels between the browser and the server.

Until recently, browsers displayed a warning for sites that had obvious security problems. Sites that allowed users to connect with HTTPS were considered secure. Sites without HTTPS were considered neutral — no warnings were displayed. Last year, Google announced a change in the way it viewed the security of web pages: all sites without HTTPS are now considered insecure. The only secure sites are those that have a valid SSL certificate.

Google and other browser developers didn’t immediately begin to flag all non-HTTPS sites as insecure, but they have gradually increased the scope of “Not secure” warnings. Since January, Chrome has displayed “Not secure” warnings for all non-HTTPS pages with credit card or password fields. With the expected release of Google Chrome 62 in October, the range of sites Chrome considers insecure will be extended to unprotected pages that take user input.

Any HTTP page on which users submit data will be considered insecure. That includes email submission forms, comments, and any other page with a form element.

The general trend towards increased security on the web makes sense. A few years ago, implementing HTTPS was beyond the technical capability of many; it was complex, expensive, and easy to get wrong. Today, with the wide availability of free SSL certificates from Certificate Authorities like Let’s Encrypt, setting up HTTPS is a breeze and there’s no real reason not to jump in with both feet.

In addition to pages on which users submit data, Google Chrome will display warnings on all HTTP pages visited in Incognito mode. Incognito mode is intended to keep a user’s browsing private. Pages that are served over HTTP can be viewed by users on the same network, defeating the purpose of browsing with Incognito mode turned on.

Google is likely to continue to increase the scope of “Not secure” warnings. They will eventually be displayed for any web page that is not served over an HTTPS connection.

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Security, Webmaster

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What Is An API?

What Is An API?

What Is An API?

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The biggest buzz in the WordPress world is the REST API and how it will usher in a new age of freedom, flexibility, and functionality for WordPress users and developers. But the term “REST API” doesn’t mean much to anyone who isn’t a web developer, including most WordPress users. To help WordPress users understand why the REST API is a big deal for the WordPress community, I’d like to take a look at exactly what we mean by API.

First things first, API stands for Application Programming Interface. Knowing that isn’t particularly helpful unless you already know what an API is, so we’ll move swiftly on.

We’re all familiar with applications. Take a look at your phone’s home screen. It’s full of applications. Each application is a self-contained chunk of functionality. A weather application tells you what the weather will be. Your email applications lets you read email.

How does your weather application “know” what the weather will be? In most cases, the application asks a weather service on the internet, which returns the information the app needs to display a forecast. The weather application needs to know exactly what to say to the weather service to get it to send the right information. The weather service will only answer a small set of correctly formatted requests for information.

There’s a sort of contract between the weather app and the weather service: the weather app will respond with information in a format the app can understand if the app makes requests in a format the service can understand. That contract and format is an API.

In short, an API specifies how one piece of software should talk to another, and what responses it can expect. Neither piece of software cares what’s happening inside the other (the implementation). They don’t have to understand each other’s code. As long as the API remains stable, they can communicate.

The WordPress REST API specifies how other software should talk to WordPress and what WordPress will do in response to those requests. An application might use the API to ask WordPress to send a list of blog posts, and WordPress would respond with the blog posts in a format the app can understand.

You can see how useful this is for developers. Before the API, if a developer wanted to build a theme that displays blog posts, they’d have to write code that interfaces with WordPress’ internal code. With the REST API, any application that knows the API can interact with a WordPress site. A theme or front-end app, written in JavaScript or any other language, can ask a WordPress site for content or tell it to perform certain actions, like publishing a post.

The “REST” part of REST API denotes how the API should be interacted with — in the case of REST, requests are sent over HTTP. Each request is a specially formatted web address that WordPress knows how to respond to. REST implies other things too. If you want to deeper understanding of REST APIs, which are used all over the web, take a look at this excellent video.

The WordPress REST API is a standard interface that lets developers write software to use of all the content and user management functionality WordPress provides. Developers can create new themes, plugins, front-ends, back-ends, and applications that use the API, creating exciting opportunities to make the WordPress ecosystems even richer than it is already.

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Amazon’s 1-Click Patent Is About To Expire

Amazon’s 1-Click Patent Is About To Expire

Amazon's 1-Click Patent Is About To Expire

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This September, Amazon’s US patent on 1-Click payments expires. Once the patent expires, any eCommerce retailer is free to implement 1-Click payments on their store. Amazon applied for the patent in September 1997 and it was granted — in the US — in 1999. Patents last for 20 years, so come September, we’re likely to see a proliferation of 1-Click payment systems on eCommerce stores around the web.

In the 90s, 1-Click payments were thought to confer a sizable competitive advantage. Amazon certainly thought so and made a remarkable investment in court actions to protect its 1-Click exclusivity. Only one other company has the right to use 1-Click payments: Apple licensed the patent from Amazon and that’s why it is able to offer the same slick checkout experience.

It’s worth distinguishing 1-Click payments from one-page checkouts. With 1-Click payments, customers complete the entire checkout process with a single action from anywhere on the site. Credit card information and delivery details are preconfigured.

One-page checkouts, which minimize the information shoppers have to submit when they checkout, reduce friction in the shopping process, but they aren’t frictionless in the way 1-Click payments are.

If you’re anything like me, 1-Click payments can be too frictionless. I’ve accidentally pressed the 1-Click payment button on many occasions, creating orders when I hadn’t quite made up my mind whether to make a purchase. That’s one of the major benefits of 1-Click payment: it removes any interval between a tentative decision and placing an order in which the shopper might change their mind.

Some eCommerce pundits claim the expiry of the 1-Click payment patent will “change the face of eCommerce.” I’m less enthusiastic. When only one retailer has 1-Click, there’s an obvious competitive advantage. When everyone has 1-Click, it becomes part of the everyday eCommerce experience.

I don’t image Jeff Bezos is particularly sad to see the end of his company’s monopoly on 1-Click payments, but there’s no doubt it contributed to Amazon’s dominance in the early years of online retail. Compared to the clunky checkout experiences most eCommerce retailers once offered, 1-Click was an asset.

The availability of 1-Click to every eCommerce retailer will mean that those who choose not to implement frictionless payments will be at a disadvantage. The wide availability of 1-Click payments will also diminish the difference between the experience Amazon can offer and that of smaller eCommerce retailers.

The only fly in the ointment is that 1-Click payments depend on technology that isn’t implemented by all payment processors, namely credit card vaults that allow for the secure storage of credit card data. While support for credit card vaults isn’t ubiquitous, you can bet that most payment processors are on the case and they, along with Magento and Magento extension developers, are working on 1-Click solutions in time for the coming holiday season.

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General, News Releases

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Why Do Spammers Attack WordPress Sites?

Why Do Spammers Attack WordPress Sites?

Why Do Spammers Attack WordPress Sites?

Photo by Ricardo Viana on Unsplash

A WordPress site with web-facing forms will be spammed. If there’s a form to be filled in, it will be filled in by spammers, even when there is no clear motivation for doing so. Spammers register for membership of any site they find, they fill in forms for gated content, they submit fake email addresses that clutter mailing lists, they take surveys, and they bombard comment forms with gibberish and SEO spam.

Spam is more than an annoyance: it skews the data web-based businesses have available to them, lands the site’s domain on email blacklists when it sends mail to people who didn’t sign up, presents a security risk, consumes hosting resources, and makes a mess. All of which takes time and money to deal with.

I’ve discussed spam registrations and random form-filling with many WordPress users, and a common question is why do spammers do it? What benefit does the spammer get from signing up to a membership site or submitting fake addresses to a mailing list? It’s hard to work out from the point of view of site owners because often there is no real benefit to the spammers.

WordPress spammers hope to find sites that let them send spam emails, submit spam comments, publish spam posts, or to join the site as a prelude to a deeper attack. All of this web form spamming is automated. Simple bots scour the web for forms to fill in. It’s not difficult to automate the filling in of web forms: the bots are unsophisticated and the spammers aren’t skilled developers. Because bandwidth is cheap, it’s easier to spam every form than it is to be selective. So, if a form has an email field, they’ll put an email in it, a name field gets a name, and so on.

In many cases, WordPress sites are spammed as a side effect. If the site is properly secured, the spammers don’t gain anything, but they don’t lose anything either, and in the morally challenged mind of the spammer, that means building more sophisticated bots isn’t worth the effort.

All of which is interesting, but it doesn’t help WordPress site owners handle spam. The only way to stop spam data reaching databases is to implement systems that can distinguish between authentic submissions and junk — preferably without asking users to jump through hoops to demonstrate their status as a human being.

The best way to filter out spam today is Google’s most recent iteration of reCaptcha: Invisible reCaptcha. Old versions of reCaptcha asked users to carry out vision-based tasks that were easy for humans and difficult for machines. This system annoyed users and is based on an outdated assumption: in 2017, sophisticated machine vision is accessible, accurate, and inexpensive. Invisible reCaptcha uses a mixture of on-page behavior and data analysis to automatically categorize visitors as bots or humans in a way that is largely transparent to users. If you’re having WordPress spam problems, take a look at the Invisible reCaptcha for WordPress plugin.

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Security, WordPress

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How To Use Live Chat To Boost Sales On Your Ecommerce Site

How To Use Live Chat To Boost Sales On Your Ecommerce Site

How To Use Live Chat To Boost Sales On Your Ecommerce Site

Photo by Gerd Altmann

Ecommerce is now a part of everyday life. According to a Pew Research report, 79% of Americans shop online. More than 40% make online purchases several times a month, and 15% do so on a weekly basis.

So, getting people to buy online is easy these days…right?

Nope! According to the same report, fully 64% of Americans say that, all things equal, they would rather buy from a physical store. Only 14% would buy online without at least checking the price at a physical location first.

Why the stubborn love for in-store shopping? Here’s a clue: 84% of Americans say that being able to ask questions about a first-time purchase is at least somewhat important. 42% say it’s extremely important.

But that doesn’t mean physical retailers get the last word! There are plenty of tools that will allow you to talk to online shoppers human-to-human, just like you would in a physical store. The most common is live chat.

Live chat (when staffed by a helpful, genuine person) is like the salesperson we all wish worked in every physical store. It’s there when your visitors need it, without being obnoxious or hard to get rid of if they prefer to browse on their own. And for you as a retailer, it’s even better—with live chat transcripts, you always have a record of feedback and a reminder to follow up.

Read on for some tips on making the most of live chat as a sales tool, or head to this page to add learn more about adding Olark Live Chat to your Hostdedi Magento store.

Tip #1: Make live chat available!

Just adding the option to talk to a human in real time can increase conversions among visitors who would otherwise have taken their questions to a competitor’s physical store. The questions you field will also help you improve your store pages—for example, if you receive a lot of chat inquiries about sizing, you might need to add detail to your size chart or make it more visible on your site.

“But if I add a chatbox to my site, doesn’t that mean I need to be available to answer questions all the time?”

That’s one of the most common questions we get here at Olark Live Chat, and the answer is no! Most live chat products, including Olark, offer an easy option to convert your chatbox to an email form when you’re offline. You’ll also be able to limit the number of chats you receive at one time so you don’t get overwhelmed.

If you want to encourage your site visitors to start a conversation about a specific product or service, you could even set the chatbox to appear only on certain pages—or add a click-to-chat button right next to a product listing on your site. For an example, check out how Apple’s chat placement on this page.

Tip #2: Chat proactively.

While many visitors will initiate a chat as soon as they have a question, others need a little nudge or a reminder that a real live human is available to help.

If someone’s been clicking around your site for a while without making a purchase, it’s a good indication that they have unanswered questions or can’t find what they’re looking for. Live chat tools like Olark give you visibility into this kind of visitor behavior pattern, so you can send a proactive chat of the “Hi there! Can I help you find something?” variety.

You can also send automated live chat messages based on particular behaviors. For example, you could trigger an automated message to send to anyone who visits the landing page for a new product, pointing out certain features and inviting questions. If a visitor replies to the automated message, you’ll receive a notification to take over and continue the conversation.

Wondering whether your visitors will answer an unsolicited chat? We did, do—so we did a little analysis, and found that over 30% of proactive chats receive a response from the visitor! For more data on the effectiveness of proactive chat, check out this post on the Olark blog.

Tip #3: Capture leads and follow up.

You may not close every sale in a single chat interaction, and that’s okay! The important thing is to start building a relationship with the visitors you engage through chat.

Try to collect basic information, such as a first name and email address, from everyone you chat with. You can do this by asking visitors to fill out a short survey when they start a chat, or simply by asking politely for their information so you can follow up.

If you use a CRM, such as Salesforce or Hubspot, integrate it with your live chat software so you can attach chat transcripts to customer records. Transcripts are packed with information that will help you tailor sales activities and marketing campaigns. If someone mentions in chat that they’re shopping for a wedding, that they have a five year-old, or that they’re trying to eat healthier, you can make sure they recieve content and product promotions related to their specific circumstances and needs.

Thinking about giving live chat a try? We’d love to help! Start a free two-week trial to get access to all of Olark Live Chat’s premium features and integrations, and be sure to stop by our website if you have questions—we’re available five days a week on chat.

Author

Kate Urban – As Olark’s Story Sherpa, Kate is responsible for shaping and shepherding human-centric stories of sales and support (say that ten times fast). In her free time, she enjoys mountain trails, bear hugs, and chocolate everything.

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eCommerce

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