In the nineteen years we’ve been in the hosting industry, we’ve seen a lot of different sites grow and prosper. Over the last few years, however, we’ve started to see a shift in the way that sites are doing so. New technology and infrastructure options, combined with industry changes to security and privacy, have seen development and hosting take on a whole new meaning.
Released today, the State of Hosting 2019 marks the first annual deep dive into the hosting solutions site owners and merchants are choosing, along with their hopes and concerns for the future. The aim of this report is to help make business owners aware of how hosting solutions are changing for the better, and how they can keep up.
Below you’ll find a quick look at some of the most compelling takeaways from this year’s report. Alternatively, you can download the full report now.
Magento Continues to Dominate the eCommerce Market
eCommerce applications have long been in competition over top spot. Each offers its own experience with unique selling points that appeal to specific merchants. Coming into 2019, Magento continues to lead the charge, being the application of choice for 64% of hosting solutions and dominating over competitor WooCommerce.
There are several reasons for this, with one being the functionality and flexibility offered by Magento solutions. Magento also seems to line up with site owners’ top issue of development. However, a new competitor has entered the market in 2019 and with it a potentially new candidate for top eCommerce spot. Read the report to find out who and what it may mean for your eCommerce store.
PWA Is the Future
PWA took the world by storm in 2018, and it’s only going to continue to see an increase. We found that 67% of store owners plan to adopt PWA development in the future. The reasons are many, with development capabilities standing at top spot.
However, PWA development will likely lead to a number of organizational changes with regards to how websites and online properties are manages. Many agencies are still working on what this will look like, and trying to decide which clients will really benefit from PWA. Download the report to see what else merchants and developers have to say about PWA.
Uptime Remains a Primary Concern for Content Producers
Site outages and downtime can lead to huge losses in revenue. Just a 1-second delay in load time can lead to a 7% decrease in conversions. For content producers, that number can have a huge effect on conversion goals and is a very real threat to the success of a website.
Consequently, uptime remains a primary concern for content application owners. However, price is still the top value. This means that while site owners are looking for reliable hosting solutions, they are still aiming to keep the price down. However, finding the right balance between the two is integral, with many site owners claiming that their move to Hostdedi came after reliability concerns with cheaper providers.
A Significant Number of Websites Run On WordPress
Automattic place the number of sites that use WordPress as making up 32.5% of all websites globally. Internally, we have found that number to be closer to 24% across all solutions, and 67% across content solutions. That is still no small number.
Site owners choose WordPress due to its ease of use and the sheer amount of content it allows for owners to create and publish easily. Read the report to find out why WordPress was also 2018’s fastest adopter of cloud technology.
We invite you to learn more about hosting in 2018 and the decisions other merchants and site owners made throughout the year. Download the report now.
Your eCommerce business needs feedback almost as much as it needs sales.
According to a UPS study, 55% of online shoppers will share a dissatisfying experience with friends and family while eCommerce Digest reports that free returns earned Zappos 75% more customer loyalty and repeat purchases compared to competitors.
Honest feedback, when received promptly and acted upon, can help discover such customer insights, helping avert abandoned carts, customer churn, and negative reviews and ratings.
But how do you collect honest feedback from your eCommerce customers? How do you gather actionable insights that help you improve your business and make your customers happier?
In this guide, we look at four broad areas you can focus on to help you get honest feedback from your eCommerce customers.
Strong relationships are a big incentive for honest feedback. The nature of eCommerce, however, makes building relationships difficult.
Various factors such as automation, drop-shipping, third-party vendors and others conspire to make it difficult to cultivate strong relationships with customers.
However, if you want more customers to give you honest feedback, you’ll need to make extra effort to cultivate relationships. Here are some ways you can do this:
Community building: Whether a forum or a Facebook group, building a community around your eCommerce business can create a source of high-quality, honest feedback. Companies like Google and Microsoft have built thriving communities around products where customers post feedback in the form of questions, suggestions, inquiries and so on.
Start or join a cause — If your customers see you stand for something they believe in, they will rally around your business, and be more willing to give you honest feedback.
Humanize your brand — Does your eCommerce business have a human touch? When your customers think about your brand, do they see a brand that cares, has empathy and can connect with people? Humanizing your brand can help you build strong relationships that result in better and more honest feedback.
Run interactive promotions — “Send in a selfie and stand to win a gift card.” Such promotions loop in customers to engage with your business, creating deeper relationships.
And no, just putting a contact form or a feedback widget will not do. To catch your customers’ attention, consider being more intentional in how you reach out to them for feedback.
Try these four approaches as a start:
There’s nothing quite as personal as a phone call. Whether you run a small boutique, eCommerce shop or a massive eCommerce operation, the value of speaking directly with customers over the phone cannot be understated.
By calling them up, you show you care enough to take the time to call and, in most cases, customers will be willing to share honest feedback.
Blasting off a generic email with no personalization is a sure way to get no feedback. Instead, personalize your email, segment the audience, and ask customers to reply directly to the email instead of sending them to a feedback form.
When people feel like their feedback email will be read and replied to, they are more willing to share honest feedback.
Amazon, Yelp, Better Business Bureau, Foursquare and others are all places people leave honest feedback. The sense that their feedback will help others drives many eCommerce customers to leave detailed, honest feedback on such sites.
To encourage this, add links to such sites and encourage your customers to leave feedback.
When your customers have a great or less-than-great experience, they will most likely post their sentiments on social media.
Encouraging your customers to share reviews and feedback via social channels like Twitter and Facebook allows them to use channels they feel safe using to share feedback with you. A win-win scenario.
Responding to good feedback is easy, yet you would be surprised at how few eCommerce businesses do so. When you take good feedback for granted, you communicate to your customers that you are not that interested in their feedback.
However, communicating appreciation, not just for the positive feedback, but also for the act of leaving feedback, encourages customers to leave further feedback in the future.
Most eCommerce businesses see negative feedback as fires to fight. By assuming a fire-fighting stance, they miss a golden opportunity to validate and encourage more instances of such honest feedback.
Instead of looking at negative feedback as a problem to fix (yes, it may very well be a problem to fix,) also see it as an opportunity to encourage and continue honest dialogue with valued customers.
Sometimes customers give you honest feedback through their actions — they vote with their (digital) feet. In such instances, you can get honest, unbiased feedback by capturing and analyzing customer data (be aware of data collection laws like GDPR.)
Here are four of the top metrics you should measure to get valuable and honest passive feedback from customers and site visitors:
How many customers add items to the cart and then abandon it? Do they return? What is the average value of an abandoned cart?
Understanding this metric will offer you valuable feedback and insights into customer behavior and how you can adapt accordingly.
Average Session Duration
How long do visitors spend on your website? How much time is spent on which sections of your site? How does this relate to purchases?
For example, long sessions that result in no purchases may indicate a lack of clarity or some other hindrance to purchasing.
Do visitors exit your site at the shipping calculator page? Your shipping rate may be too high or unclear.
Do they exit at certain product pages? The prices may be too high or the value proposition poorly communicated.
A high bounce rate could give you feedback that your site is not relevant or useful to most people who visit it.
Such feedback could lead to a website redesign or further investigation into the high bounce rate.
Getting honest feedback from your eCommerce customers will not always be straightforward. It will also be difficult to determine which feedback is honest and which is not. However, this does not mean that the quest for honest feedback is futile.
It means, instead, that getting honest feedback will be a major achievement and competitive edge that you get over your competition. It also means that you’ll be tapping into your customers’ emotions, the most important factor at the heart of every purchasing decision they make.
So you’ve set up your eCommerce store, you’ve found excellent products, and now you’re sitting back and enjoying the profits. Only you’re not, because no one is visiting your site. Just like with brick and mortar stores, eCommerce stores need to attract new customers in order to make a profit and maintain growth.
Luckily, attracting new customers to your eCommerce store isn’t that hard, especially if you happen to have a handy guide for how to do so.
This article covers 10 tactics for increasing the number of visitors to your site; covering on-site content, email, social media, and more.
1. Personalize Your Home page
For many new customers, your home page will be one of the first places they visit after they “enter” your store. Because of this, it’s vital that it leaves a good first impression. The best impression can be made by appealing directly to a customer’s needs.
A great example of this is Amazon, whose home page displays products based on a customer’s shopping history and relevant holidays or events. Something similar can be done on your site by implementing a machine learning extension that displays dynamic content.
Unfortunately, this requires access to information about a customer. For first-time visitors to your site, you probably won’t have information on what products they’ve looked at previously. However, this doesn’t mean you have no data.
Customers can end up on your home page through a number of different avenues. It’s possible a customer has navigated to your home page by clicking on a personalized email you sent. They could also have been directed through a specific social campaign. All of these methods provide you with data that allows you to implement a personalized shopping experience.
2. Increase Your Search Visibility
Increasing search visibility means optimizing your site’s SEO for long tail search traffic. This means optimizing content to match long tail keywords and phrases that new customers are interested in.
For example, if you’re a clothing store, you would create content that matches and answers questions asked by those interested in clothing. You would likely tailor (excuse the pun) that content to specific audiences (e.g., men’s shoes, women’s coats, etc.).
If we take bed linens as an example and perform a Google search for “How to care for your linens”, multiple vendors appear in the search results. These vendors have taken the time to increase their search visibility by appealing to long tail keywords and phrases. You can read more on this in tip #9.
Increasing search visibility does not happen overnight. As almost any respectable SEO strategist will tell you, building authority on the web is a time-consuming process; one that you’ll also likely have to invest money into. This being said, there are some simple methods for improving your site’s authority and search ranking quickly. This includes improving your site’s speed and reliability.
In a study of those who migrated to Hostdedi cloud solutions in 2018, we found that the main reason for migrating was reliability. A reliable site means faster, guaranteed load times and so a better first impression for new customers.
3. Use High-Quality Images and Product Descriptions
Images and product descriptions are the crux of an eCommerce store. The better a product looks, the more likely a new customer is to purchase it, correct?
The ability to see a product in detail and understand what exactly is being sold gives buyers a power previously reserved exclusively for brick and mortar shoppers. More than 70% of potential customers place the ability to zoom on images as one of the highest priority factors when deciding whether to make a purchase.
If you’re a smaller store with limited available funds, we recommend investing in a cheap lightbox and learning some basic lighting skills. The ability to take photos that demonstrate your product in a positive light can do wonders for a store’s sales and ability to attract new customers. Compare the images below: which product would you be more likely to purchase?
Not only do high-quality images help you to attract new customers, but they also allow you to foster trust. According to research, customers believe that eCommerce stores that invest in better images and content are more trustworthy, and therefore are more likely to make a purchase from them.
4. Use Email Lists (Sparingly)
Well designed and delivered email campaigns are a powerful tool for attracting new buyers to your store. They offer you the chance to send new customers personalized product recommendations that leverage unique selling points. The problem is, where do you get a list of names and emails from?
There a few tried and tested techniques for gaining email lists. Techniques that appear like spam to new customers. We recommend that you start to:
Use sign-up forms on your site and integrate with other marketing campaigns
Leverage events as locations for gaining sign-ups
Organize a giveaway in which you collect information
What you should not do, never, ever, ever… is purchase an email list. Purchased lists are the fastest way to the spam box and never having your emails read (even by new customers with a genuine interest in your products).
Once you’ve got a list (no matter how small), it’s time to start using your emails to draw in new customers and encourage them to make a purchase. Some of the most effective email campaigns:
Are cart abandonment emails (40% click-through rate Hubspot)
Welcome new customers (320% revenue increase on promotional emails)
Include coupon codes (the reason 85% of email subscribers sign up in the first place Adestra).
Remember, too many emails and those new customers are likely to unsubscribe. 78% of consumers unsubscribe from an email list if they receive too many.
5. Run a Sales Promotion
Emails with coupon codes receive 2.5x higher transaction rates than those without. If this isn’t a reason for giving promotions a go, we don’t know what is. Yet a truly effective sale is about more than just creating and sending coupons.
When running a sales promotion, introducing limits can help to generate an air of exclusivity. If you decide to integrate social media and promotions, Facebook has a great tool that allows you to attach coupon codes and discounts to an ad, while also introducing limits.
Implementing Coupon codes on Facebook will let you set the discount amount, any details, where people can redeem the discount, and how many discounts are available. It will also let users save your coupon code and use it in the future – in case they’re still undecided on whether to make a purchase or not.
6. Implement PPC Advertising
PPC is pay-per-click advertising. It is where you pay for each click your advert receives – and so for each new potential customer to your site. For high purchase intent searches, paid advertising nets 65% of all clicks, making it one of the best techniques for attracting new customers.
The most common PPC advertising is search engine advertising, such as Google Adwords or Bing Ads. AdWords and Bing Ads let you bid on specific keywords with advertising campaigns and content you create. They also allow you to easily compare the results of these campaigns to see which performs best and which can be improved.
Many PPC experts state that good PPC campaigns are the product of continuous testing. These tests can include:
It’s important to note that these attributes can change as your target audience does; in line with industry and social developments. It’s important to keep an eye on what your industry’s “atmosphere” is and then build PPC campaigns around this.
Of course, no business should base their visibility on paid advertising alone. PPC should be part of a more complex strategy that encompasses a range of different technique outlined in this article. A properly implemented PPC advertising campaign should be based on what you’ve already found successful and help to build out further success.
7. Take Advantage of Social Media
Social media includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and other online social platforms. It’s a great way to connect with customers both through organic and paid strategies. In the last two years, content consumption on Facebook has increased by 57%, with it estimated that roughly 75% of online users are either on Facebook or Twitter.
With such a huge user base, social media provides eCommerce stores with a perfect way to reach out to new customers and make themselves known. This can either be done through social media paid ads, or through organic posting that engages.
If you choose to predominantly use organic social media, one of the best ways to engage with audiences is through the images you choose. According to Ofcom, images were the biggest contributor to social media content success in 2017.
Of course, there is one contribution bigger than images made by a company internally: images made by customers. To make the most out of organic social media, we highly recommend getting involved in and promoting user-generated content.
8. User-Generated Content
Once you’ve taken advantage of social media and built up a loyal customer base, you can start to employ user-generated content in your marketing strategy.
…And employ it you will. The benefits of UGC start almost immediately. As we talked about previously, 92% of people lean towards trusting another person’s recommendation over content created by a brand. UGC will give your brand an edge, with data showing that customers that engage with user-generated content are 97% more likely to convert than those who don’t.
In addition to nurturing customer trust, User-Generated Content is a great way to increase the amount of content you’re capable of creating in a short time span. Some of the content types you can share include:
A great way to encourage user-generated content is by using branded hashtags. This allows for users on social networks to tag you in content they create. A good branded hashtag appeals to your users’ ideals and isn’t just your company name. We use #WeLiveBeyond.
9. Create a Blog
Creating a blog links to #2 in this list: increasing search visibility. It’s an integral piece of a successful content-first strategy. Blog content can provide a versatile content-core with answers to new customer questions, along with information they can’t find elsewhere.
Sole Bicycles offer an interesting take on the blog, and one that appeals specifically to their customer base. Each of their articles provides a series of pictures and information on exploring a city on two wheels. They have articles on Omaha, Seattle, Miami, Boise, New York, Chicago, San Fransisco, Los Angeles, and more.
Not only does this strategy allow them to rank on Google searches for relevant searches, it also allows for them to provide content that appeals to new customers; content that positions their product as unique and valuable.
Sole Bicycles blogging strategy also allows them to share user-generated content. This again feeds into an integrated and successful content strategy.
10. Incentivize Customer Purchases
This links to the sales promotion tip #5 above, but can be expanded to mean so much more. Think what new customers want from your site… and then give it to them. Incentivization can take on several different forms: discounts, free shipping, free gifts, and more.
These techniques allow you to draw in new customers for first-time purchases and can improve retention and customer loyalty for the future. This means that while you may be accepting a lower profit for the first item they purchase, they will go on to purchase many of your products at full price.
And you may not even have to accept a lower profit. Several surveys have shown that when free shipping is offered, customers are more likely to spend more on the same product – simply because of the incentivization.
In 2017, global online crime generated $1.5 trillion. To put that statistic in context, global eCommerce sales in 2016 totaled around $1.8 trillion. Both of those figures can be challenged and neither is likely to be entirely accurate, but it is clear that online crime is a huge, sophisticated, and professional industry. Much of that industry’s attention is focused on eCommerce retailers.
Anyone who runs an online retail store will find themselves a target sooner or later. By some estimates, 90% of login attempts to eCommerce stores are fraudulent. According to a recent study, about half of all website visitors are bots and around a third are there to attack your site. ThreatMetrix reported a billion bot attacks and 210 million attempted fraud attacks in the first quarter of this year.
But what do criminals gain from their focus on eCommerce stores? In reality, it’s much the same as they get from any site – resources, data, and traffic – but the specifics of eCommerce mean that online stores have a richer vein of those assets to mine.
Online retail stores have access to a lot of data about their customers. That includes names, addresses, and other data that can be used for identity theft.
Of course, the most valuable data is credit card numbers, and those are not often stored in eCommerce databases. One of the reasons retailers use payment processors is so that they don’t have to deal with the burdensome standards and risks associated with credit card data.
But, if an attacker can compromise a site and inject code of their own, sensitive data can be transmitted to a server under their control. This is called credit card skimming. We have recently seen a massive series of skimming campaigns against Magento and other eCommerce stores.
Traffic is valuable
Retailers spend a lot of money on marketing to bring people to their store. That traffic is a valuable resource that a criminal would otherwise have to generate themselves. We’ve already discussed credit card skimming, but criminals also want access to traffic so that they can redirect visitors to phishing websites, malware websites, spam pages, and a variety of other malicious content.
Server resources and bandwidth
No legitimate hosting provider wants to sell bandwidth and server resources to criminals, so they have to get them elsewhere. eCommerce stores are often hosted on high-end servers with a decent chunk of low-latency bandwidth at their disposal. That makes them a good target for spammers and botnet operators who need the bandwidth.
Another resource criminals are interested in is less tangible: your reputation. This can be exploited in a number of ways. For instance, SEO spammers embed links to malicious sites they want to boost in search engine results. It’s your reputation that causes shoppers to entrust their data to you in the first place. And it’s your reputation that will be destroyed if your store leaks sensitive data, hosts credit card skimmers, or infects shoppers with ransomware.
Combating Online Crime
Online security for eCommerce stores is a complex topic, but there are several things you can do to reduce the likelihood that your store will be victimized.
Update your store and its extensions regularly. The importance of this is hard to overstate. Out-of-date stores are vulnerable.
Make sure all plugins and extensions are downloaded from reputable sources.
Use two-factor authentication. This will help prevent successful brute-force attacks.
Choose your hosting wisely. If you don’t choose a competent hosting provider that cares about security, there’s little you can do to ensure that your store stays safe.
There is no silver bullet for eCommerce security, but these four simple tips will keep your store safe from opportunistic attacks by criminals in search of weaker sites to exploit.
Email is a powerful sales tool. It’s at least 40x more effective than social media, and has a much bigger reach than events. Because of this, it’s important that the emails your sending are done right.
Personalization ranks as one of the most critical email campaign factors. It draws the reader in, fosters a relationship, and encourages trust. Using a person’s name is a significant first step, but there are many ways to personalize an email and let a customer know that you care.
If your email campaigns aren’t bringing the results you want, perhaps it’s time you incorporated our six email personalization techniques. These methods will make your emails stand out from the others fighting for attention in a customer’s inbox.
1. Mention the Recipient Directly
“A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
The most well-used and well-known method of email personalization, and a perfect technique for building an initial connection. Imagine going to your favorite restaurant, but no one ever seems to remember you. It’s always a better experience when the head waiter recognizes you.
When it comes to digital, the data doesn’t lie. Using a customer’s name makes it more likely that they’ll journey further down the sales funnel and trust the research you present them with. Studies have shown that 63% of Millennials, 58% of Gen Xers, and 46% of Baby Boomers are more likely to click on emails that mentioned them by name.
However, resist the urge to pepper your entire email with their name. Too many mentions and the email will sound contrived. “Barry, this solutions is going to solve all your needs, Barry” – avoid sentences like this, you’ll push Barry away instead of drawing him closer.
2. Segment Your Email Lists
It’s unlikely that all your customers need to receive each and every email you send.
Stand out by only sending relevant emails to relevant parties. If you sell a variety of products, you don’t need to alert gizmo owners to a big sale for add-ons that only fit widgets. You only need to inform widget owners.
You can handle this process easily by segmenting your email list. A well-segmented email list is going to look different depending on your products, company, and customer base. However, at its core, it should seek to reflect a customer benefit analysis – I.e., what emails will most benefit what groups?
It would help if you also segmented your email lists based on where each person is on their buyer’s journey. Those who are just becoming aware that they have a problem that needs solving should receive a different email than those ready to purchase.
Creating a simple and easy to follow chart for customer progression is a great way to visualize how this segmentation process would work. We’ve put together a simple map to chart a buyer’s journey to cart abandonment.
3. Personalize Email Content
Personalization involves more than using a customer’s name.
Moreover, these emails helped to encourage and foster a community around the table booking service. Customers weren’t just finding a table, they were leaving reviews, building up a history, and contributing to something.
Emails that invite customers to be a part of something help to build trust and loyalty. For brands that rely on repeat purchases, emails that draw attention to community can lead to much higher customer retention rates.
4. Deliver Personalized Information
Don’t just deliver personalized product recommendations, deliver personalized information too. The buyer’s journey isn’t a single purchasing stage, it’s a model for funneling customers towards making a purchase. Before a customer makes it to the purchasing stage, they first weight up their options. This is where great, personalized content comes in.
Line up your website content with your email segments. Send those interested in tennis shoes articles about tennis shoes and those interested in bowler hats, articles on bowler hats. Contributing to a buyer’s consideration stage in this way doesn’t only help to improve retention, but can also lead to your becoming an influencer.
5. Use Location and Time
Everyone has a time of the day for checking their emails. It’s not always a time of day that you would have considered.
Busted Tees, a humorous tee shirt company, optimized their email campaigns by looking at the best times for sending emails and saw their click-through rate rise by 11%.
Email monitoring tools are useful for logging the open times for emails you send. Typically, a distinct pattern will emerge. Once you’ve learned your customer’s favorite email times, you can then send your emails at precisely that time – maybe even a little before.
6. A/B Test Content and Segment Techniques
For Busted Tees, the first step toward personalization was to segment its customers. The company grouped them by the time zone in which they lived.
Previously, all emails were sent at the same time — 10am EST. The new email segments aimed to target each customer at 10am, regardless of what time zone they were in. The company saw a significant email response rate increase.
They then tried different times of the day, to see if there were better times than 10am. A/B tests, where two variables are pitted against each other to determine the more effective way of doing something, were implemented and led to the discovery of several effective sending times. Overall, they managed to increase their response rate by 17%.
Email personalization best practices aren’t difficult to execute, but they do involve more than blasting generic greetings and cut-and-paste messages. It’s important to target your customers with content they care about.
A relevant email is more likely to draw attention, clicks, and ultimately purchases. By combining relevancy with testing, it won’t take long before you’re sending interesting email campaigns that promote your brand and help you to build a community.
Personalization takes a little extra work, but there’s a reason more successful marketers insist on doing it. It works.
Learn more about eCommerce hosting in the Hostdedi Cloud. We’re a PCI compliant provider that can offer unmatched performance, security, and reliability.
Chargebacks are a safeguard for shoppers, and from that perspective they are good for eCommerce. They reassure shoppers that when they give their credit card details to a merchant or payment processor, their money will be returned if they aren’t satisfied. But chargebacks put strain on eCommerce retailers, who have occasionally been driven out of business by excessive chargebacks.
A chargeback is the forced return of money from the retailer’s account to the shopper. They can be initiated by the retailer to make a refund, but it is shopper-initiated chargebacks that are problematic for retailers. Many chargebacks are fraudulent, but I want to focus on reducing “genuine” chargebacks. Shoppers initiate chargebacks for several reasons:
They didn’t receive the goods they ordered.
They received the goods but they were defective or otherwise unsatisfactory.
Buyers remorse — they changed their mind about the purchase.
So-called “friendly fraud”, in which the shopper agreed to make a payment, but has forgotten about it or didn’t understand what they were agreeing to.
The immediate impact of a chargeback is the loss of a sale, and possibly of the goods that have been delivered. But that isn’t the most onerous impact of chargebacks: retailers have to pay a fee for every chargeback they didn’t initiate, so in addition to losing a sale, retailers lose revenue from other sales too.
The credit card industry expects chargeback rates to be less than one percent of total transactions. If an eCommerce business even approaches a one percent chargeback rate, the credit card providers may decline to accept payments, which can be devastating to the business.
It is in the interest of all eCommerce businesses to keep chargeback rates low.
Make it easy for customers to request a refund.
A chargeback should be the option of last resort. Customers are often happy to deal with the retailer directly if the process of requesting a refund is obvious and not too onerous — don’t make people wait on hold for hours, for example.
No one likes to lose a sale, but the shopper has the power here, and it is better to lose the sale and make a refund than to risk a chargeback.
Have a customer-friendly return policy.
Free returns are a financial drain on an eCommerce business too, but that may be a better option than suffering a chargeback. A customer who knows they will have to pay a large shipping fee to return an item may be tempted to use a chargeback instead.
Make sure shoppers can get in touch with you.
Provide a channel by which customers can get in touch and don’t make them wait for support. It is often possible to work out a satisfactory resolution to a dispute.
Describe goods accurately.
Chargebacks often occur because the goods the shopper receives are not what they expected. It is not possible to force customers to read copy and think about what they are buying, but clear product descriptions with images and video help to get the message across.
Make charges with a name customers recognize
One of the most common causes of chargebacks is shoppers failing to recognize the transaction on their credit card bill. This might be because the retailer makes the charge under a different name than the brand the shopper is familiar with, or that the shopper has forgotten making the purchase.
To reduce the likelihood of this type of friendly fraud chargeback, use a familiar brand name for charges or make it clear to the customer that the name will be different on their bill.
Chargebacks are an irritation to eCommerce retailers, and sometimes a disaster, but it is possible to keep chargebacks under control by giving shoppers clear alternatives and a way to get in touch.
Today’s buyer has access to an incredible amount of information. They are able to create a clear picture of the product they are looking to purchase by leveraging information from search engines, social media, and word of mouth.
This changing information landscape means that merchants now have to work harder than ever to make products and their attributes as accessible as possible to buyers.
Worried you’re not doing it right? Follow our four tips for optimizing a buyer’s journey and help guide your site visitors towards making a purchase and not clicking away.
What is the Buyer’s Journey?
Before delving any deeper, it’s important to define what a Buyer’s Journey actually looks like.
A simple and commonly used representation of the buyer’s journey is the sales funnel. It’s useful as it embodies the three primary stages a buyer goes through.
Awareness – Aware of a need for something new
Consideration – Analyzing the different options available to them
Decision – Final purchasing decision (a conversion)
As buyer’s progress down the funnel, they get closer to making a purchase. Awareness of where a buyer is at, lends you the ability to target them with more relevant content. Gone are the days of blanket content marketing.
There are several ways to target those in your sales funnel effectively. We’ve collected four of the most effective.
1. Create Awesome Content
Great content does better in almost every single way. Not only will it rank better organically by being a ‘cut above the rest’, it will also attract more shares and reads. If done right, great content can also turn you into an authority or thought leader — capable of a greater degree of influence over customers’ buying decisions.
Conversely, publishing not-so-awesome content can have the opposite effect. 49% of B2B buyers said their opinion of a company decreased after reading poor quality content. Something you definitely want to avoid!
Where to Put Great Content?
Great content belongs in your blog
Great content tends to exist on your internal blog. Blogs are a great resource for improving search visibility and providing your customers with useful information. Many eCommerce stories use their blog to post company updates, but they have much greater potential when aligned with content marketing efforts.
There are a number of ways to present your blog but, at a minimum, creating several relevant categories to aid in navigation is important. Visitors need to be able to find your awesome content.
Guest posting can also be an incredibly effective method for increasing the number of customers that visit your site. Depending on the websites you are able to guest post on, this can help you to both rank authoritatively in search engine results and expand your influence.
2. Create an Awesome Experience
There are eCommerce stores that make the buyer’s journey confusing and difficult. Either the buyer can’t find the item they are looking for, or the information they need to make an informed purchasing decision is missing.
You don’t enter a shopping mall or supermarket and find a new set of obstacles every time you turn the corner. Stores and aisles are appropriately labeled and relevant merchandise is either placed at the storefront or along the aisle. Buying online should be no different. Buyers should be able to easily find a product by following the right signs.
Creating a great user experience undoubtedly deserves an article of its own, but for the purpose for brevity, three areas you should be paying attention to at all times are:
Optimize your eCommerce store for speed and performance easily. Learn how.
3. Help Buyer’s Find You
While creating awesome content, you should be targeting words and phrases surrounding that content. These are what are known as keywords. Keywords come in both long tail and short tail form. Short tail keywords target large, general terms. Long tail keywords target specific search phrases.
As an example, think of a buyer looking for a pair of men’s tennis shoes. A short tail keyword would be “Men’s tennis shoes”: it’s direct and to the point. A long tail keyword would be “best tennis shoes for men” or “best tennis shoes for men on astroturf”. Long tail keywords form the basis for content that draws customers towards your store while in the consideration stage of the funnel.
Finding Long Tails
An example Google Trends result
So where can you find long tail keywords? Google Trends is a great resource for getting started. Simply searching for products you are selling can reveal a list of terms buyers are searching for.
Once you’ve discovered trends, you can also try using SEO tools like MOZ or SEMRush. Inputting the trend phrases you identified previously will give you a list of specific keywords with information on difficulty, search volume, and more.
With this information, you can map out your content to match the different stages of your buyer’s journey and start to create a great content map.
Product (what are you selling)
Intent (What does the buyer want?)
Actionable (Will they buy?)
where to buy a bowler hat
men’s bowler hat
4. Reach Out Personally
Reaching out to consumers directly is a great way to increase conversions… if done right.
This year (2018), 89% of marketers said that email was their primary channel for lead generation, despite many feeling that their email marketing could do with improvement. The issue? Less than perfect open rates.
As a result, 54% of email marketers work to improve open rates, not reach. They do this by A/B testing content, finding what works, and removing what doesn’t. The results are not surprising. General, forceful emails are a good way to encourage unsubscribes or have customers report you as spam. Needless to say, they’re not so great for making sales.
Emails were thought to have more inherent value when they acknowledged the customer directly. 63% of Millennials, 58% of Gen Xers, and 46% of Baby Boomers were more likely to click through and share personal information with companies when the email mentioned them by name.
We’ve got four quick tips to help you get started with email personalization.
Mention the recipient directly:
Whether it’s in the subject of the email, the header, the body, or a mix of all three, mentioning the recipient by name is a surefire way to get started with personalization: “Dear John” always sounds better than “Dear Customer”.
Personalize email content:
Are all of your customers the same? If your answer is yes, you may need to engage in some persona research. Your audience should not be a single, homogenous body, but a series of smaller groups defined by mutual lifestyles and demographics.
Refer to their buyer’s journey:
Take this to the next level and send your customers emails that include products they added to their shopping cart and abandoned. More than 40% of cart abandonment emails are opened, 50% of which are clicked on. Of these, 50% make a purchase. That’s 10% of customers you send a cart abandonment email to that will make a purchase.
Use location and time:
Don’t send emails to international customers at 1 am. Use segmented lists to send emails when they’re most likely to be opened. This may take a little work to perfect, but finding the golden hour for email opens can make a big difference.
Host your email and website with the same provider. Find out more.
Optimizing the buyer’s journey is a tricky process because of how personal it can be. It’s highly unlikely your buyers are all the same, and it’s important to target each appropriately.
The tips above provide an easy way to identify those differences and the types of content that works best for each group. Don’t forget that it’s important to run A/B tests on each of the elements you enlist in your campaigns to find which works best and continue improving.
When you opened your eCommerce store, where did you see yourself in five years? As a small and consistent merchant providing an excellent, personal service, or a global supplier of high-quality products?
For many merchants, the goal is sales growth. Achieving this is a mix of reputation, product, and service. Unfortunately, you can’t control any of these things 100%, but you can proactively keep them in check by paying attention to some of the main eCommerce issues buyer’s encounter. this may include:
Slow loading pages
Hard to find products
An unintuitive use experience (UX)
Before we take a look at how to keep these things in check, let’s see how your store’s conversion rate compares to the competition.
What Constitutes an eCommerce Success?
For the purposes of this article, eCommerce success can be measured by conversions. A conversion is when someone completes a goal you have set. For eCommerce stores (and the purposes of this article), this is typically a sale.
Taking a look at historical data, eCommerce conversion rates have actually decreased in 2018. In Q4 2018, the average rate across all industries in the US was 2.96%. That means that 2.96% of visitors to the average eCommerce store would make a purchase. In Q2 2018, that number was 2.63%. A small, but significant drop.
One report by ComScore suggests that increased concerns regarding security, a lack of easily accessible information, inefficient UX, and hard to find products are some of the main reasons for this decline. Other sources suggest that a shift in the market has lead to this change.
Looking at conversion rates across industries, the difference is stark. Arts and Crafts, for instance, manages to a conversion rate nearing 4.0%, while the Baby and Child sector remains below 1.0%. Before deciding how much your store needs to improve, check the average conversion rate in your industry. If you feel your number is still too low, continue reading.
1. Increase Conversion Speed
Speed is king in the world of eCommerce. Multiple studies have confirmed slow loading eCommerce stores have lower conversion rates.
A 1-second page delay results in:
16% less customer satisfaction
11% fewer page views
7% conversion decrease
What can you do to avoid this?
Check Your Hosting
The first step is to check your hosting. If you’re an eCommerce store, you don’t want to opt for the cheapest provider. You should be looking for performance and support, not a low monthly fee.
There are two primary periods of concern you should prepare for: traffic spikes, and downtime
Traffic spikes can easily be managed in modern hosting with an auto scaling feature. True auto scaling allows for an automatic increase to site capacity when it’s required. This is perfect for sales events or when one of your products goes viral and saves you from having to upgrade your entire solution for an extended period of time.
Downtime can be more of a problem. Support is your solution. You’ll want a team that’s available 24/7/365 and with physical access to the data center your site is stored in. That means hosting with a provider that owns their own data center. This way, if something does happen to your eCommerce store, you’ll know that you’ll be back up and be converting potential buyers as soon as possible.
In addition to the points above, your hosting solution should be optimized for your application; especially if you’re running the caching heavy Magento. Check with your provider as to what is a good
Find out what questions you should be asking your hosting provider. Learn more.
Once you’ve checked that your hosting provider is optimized for eCommerce, the next step is to see if your server is bogged down with bloat.
Begin by removing all unnecessary plugins and extensions from your CMS.
If you’re using Magento, go to System -> Magento Connect -> Magento Connect Manager. Scroll through the list of installed extensions and select the ones you no longer need. On the drop-down menu, select uninstall and then click Commit Changes.
If you’re using WooCommerce with WordPress, head to your admin panel, then Plugins -> Installed Plugins. From here you’ll be able to see all the plugins you currently have installed and remove those you don’t need.
We recommend committing these changes to a dev site before doing so with a production environment. This allows you to see how they will affect your site from a buyer’s perspective.
Basic Website Optimization
There are optimizations non-specific to eCommerce but that will help to increase speed and keep conversions up. These are simple website optimizations that anyone can do – regardless of whether they have any technical knowledge.
2. Plugins & Extensions
Modern CMSs know that the functionality required for different sites is, well, different. One store may be perfectly happy using what’s available by default, while the next needs an extra something. With plugins and extensions, that something can easily be found and added.
There are a number of plugins and extensions perfect for boosting conversions. We highly recommend looking into tools to:
Run A/B tests
Manage opt-in forms
Promote your content on social
Deliver high-quality, non-invasive Calls to Action
Before installing a new plugin or extension, ask yourself: Will it boost conversions? If that answer to that question is yes or maybe, install away. If it’s no, find something else.
We’ve created our own Magento extension designed to increase load times in Magento. We’ve called it Turpentine and it works by improving the already efficient Varnish with noticeable improvements to the cache hit rate.
3. Optimize the Buyer’s Journey
As we looked at earlier, one of the main reasons for an industry-wide decline in conversion rate is hard to find products.
To combat this, you want to make it as easy as possible for a buyer to find what they are looking for. This means more than simply directing them to your sales page; it means placing them on a journey.
The buyer’s journey as a sales funnel.
A traditional buyer’s journey consists of three main stages:
Awareness – Aware of a need for something new
Consideration – Analyzing the different options available to them
Decision – Final purchasing decision (a conversion)
These stages are often embodied as a funnel. This funnel mimics how the number of people decreases as they journey down the funnel. No store has a 100% conversion rate.
A buyer’s journey is often unique and forcing a myriad of different audiences down only a handful of funnels will mean fewer sales and lower retention. As a store owner, it is important for you to manage these stages in accordance with the data you collect from successes and wins.
Yet creating content that keeps visitors engaged can be a tricky process. Where do you start? Here are three methods that we’ve seen work incredibly well in the modern digitally-driven buyer’s journey.
Create Stand Out Content
Create content that does more than just duplicate what the competition is doing. Try to find what type of content your audience wants. Look beyond the data if you have to.
Create Longtail Content
Perform a long tail keyword analysis to see where you should be directing some of your content and SEO efforts. Short tails are great for sales pages, but optimizing for long tails is the best way to target your audience – especially if they’re niche.
Nurture Leads With Personalized Outreach
Do more than just personalize the “To” field in emails. Reach out to your audience directly. Finding influencers and people who already do this effectively is a great shortcut. You can also optimize on-page content. Check out these WordPress AI and machine learning plugins for delivering personalized content at the right stage of the funnel.
4. Create a Story With Emotion
One of the most effective ways to optimize eCommerce conversions is to change the fundamental way in which you are selling your products.
Buyers want an experience when they buy from you, not just a list of technical specifications (most of the time). This directly addressed one of the reasons for a decline in conversions: a lack of interest in products.
Hubspot has created a really useful article on how to use emotion to sell. They’ve gone with six different emotions (to start). Depending on your audience and the product you’re trying to sell, you appeal to a different emotion.
For instance, if you’re working for a non-profit and trying to boost eCommerce conversions for a donations package, altruism is likely your best option (unless that donation package comes packed with chocolate). If you’re trying to increase conversions on the latest Mercedes though, you’re probably better off going to envy and a sense of keeping up with the Joneses.
All of this leads into our final method for optimizing eCommerce store conversions:
5. Test, Test, Test
Testing should be the bedrock of your conversion optimization strategy.
It’s unlikely you’re going to hit a jackpot every time. Even after years of working with the same audience and products, there are going to be times where your tests misfire or miss the mark. Trial and error let you refine your conversion strategy and improve.
There is always room for improvement, regardless of how well you’re already doing.
A functional eCommerce store is made up of two components: a feature-rich eCommerce application and a fast, scalable hosting solution. Once you have settled on an eCommerce application for your online retail store, it’s time to decide on a hosting solution. Hosting provides the bandwidth, storage, compute, and database resources an eCommerce store needs.
In this article, we’re going to look at the qualities of a great eCommerce hosting provider and at the types of hosting suitable for online retail.
Cheap Shared Hosting Is Not The Best Option
Modern eCommerce applications like Magento and WooCommerce are built on standard technology like MySQL and PHP. Any web hosting platform can run an eCommerce store, but not all provide the resources, support, and eCommerce-specific optimizations that a great online retail experience requires.
For very low traffic eCommerce stores, a standard shared hosting account or virtual private server might be adequate, but you will soon run into resource, performance, scaling, and security problems as your business grows.
Choosing a specialist managed eCommerce hosting provider with expertise in your chosen application will be slightly more expensive, but you’ll save time and money throughout the life of your business.
The Qualities Of An Excellent eCommerce Hosting Provider
A good eCommerce hosting provider understands the hosting requirements of eCommerce applications and the needs of eCommerce businesses. An eCommerce store isn’t an ordinary website.
Performance-optimized hosting: Speed and responsiveness are vital. Slow stores make less money. Look for a web hosting provider with the technical ability to optimize their networks, servers, and software stack for the best possible performance.
Managed Services: A world-class eCommerce host will provide managed services that help retailers make the most of the hosting platform. Managed services should include performance optimization, security hardening, and comprehensive backup services.
Support: Responsive support is vital. You don’t want to be left twiddling your thumbs if an issue arises with your store during a busy shopping period. Look for an eCommerce host who is prepared to work with you and your team to secure, scale, and optimize the reliability of your store.
A reputation for security: Security is vital at all levels of eCommerce hosting, from the data center to the application itself. Make sure your eCommerce host can demonstrate the quality of its security controls with third-party certifications like SSAE 16 and PCI DSS. Additionally, verify that the provider’s platform runs the most recent software versions and that the software stack is regularly updated — you’d be surprised how many hosting providers use outdated and vulnerable software.
Choosing The Right Hosting
There are three main types of eCommerce hosting suitable for applications like Magento and WooCommerce: shared hosting, dedicated server hosting, and clusters of dedicated servers.
Shared eCommerce hosting: With shared hosting, the resources of a server are shared between several eCommerce stores. Unlike standard shared web hosting, a reputable eCommerce hosting provider strictly limits the number of stores each server supports. eCommerce-optimized shared hosting is ideal for smaller stores.
Dedicated Server eCommerce hosting: Each store has access to the resources of an enterprise-grade dedicated server. Dedicated servers are the most powerful single-server hosting option available. Dedicated servers are suitable for medium to large eCommerce stores.
Dedicated Server Clusters: The most powerful eCommerce hosting option, clusters combine the resources of several dedicated servers, with each server taking responsibility for a different aspect of the store’s functionality, including web servers, file servers, and database servers. Clusters are capable of supporting the largest eCommerce stores and can be scaled indefinitely.
As an eCommerce store grows, its hosting should be able to grow with it. By choosing a provider that offers hosting options suitable for stores from the smallest to the largest, eCommerce merchants establish a long-term relationship with a host who can support their business throughout its life.
eCommerce is the future of retail, but what will the eCommerce store of the future look like? Will eCommerce businesses sell their products via third-party channels like eBay or Amazon, or will they invest in an eCommerce website they control? Will eCommerce apps take the place of traditional eCommerce stores on the web platform?
It’s hard to predict what will happen in an era of rapidly evolving technology and consumer behavior, but we think the web-based eCommerce store is here to stay. Retailers will invest in mobile eCommerce apps and they will sell via many channels, but at the center there will be an eCommerce website designed, managed, marketed, and controlled by the retailer.
A web eCommerce store supported by an application like Magento or WooCommerce offers two advantages that other channels do not: it’s on the web and it doesn’t depend on third-party platforms.
Why Does The Web Matter?
The web matters because it’s where people find your store: Google sends a massive amount of traffic to eCommerce stores, and most consumers search on the web. The web is everywhere, whereas persuading shoppers to install native applications is challenging.
Evidence shows that many consumers prefer to shop on the web, and while mobile eCommerce can’t be ignored, nor can the significant proportion of purchases that are made from non-mobile browsers. Retailers without a web presence are at a disadvantage.
Five years ago, native mobile apps offered the best eCommerce experience, but today’s web is different. In 2018, the web platform is competitive with the native app experience, and with the introduction of Progressive Web Apps, the distance between web and native is even narrower.
Why Does Control Matter?
Third-party retail channels like Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and others generate a lot of revenue for eCommerce retailers. Social eCommerce and instant messaging eCommerce are an important part of the future of retail. But third-party channels have a drawback: they force retailers to cede control to the platform.
Retailers with a hosted web eCommerce store don’t face that risk. They don’t have to worry about “pivots” and “platform sunsetting” pulling the rug out from under them. They don’t have to align their business model to the business model of the platform owner. Independent web stores can access more data than retailers constrained to third-party platforms — data they don’t have to share.
Another important freedom is the ability to move an eCommerce business to a different platform or hosting provider. It’s straightforward to migrate a Magento or WooCommerce store to a different web hosting provider. It’s only a little more difficult to move from a Magento store to a WooCommerce store or vice versa. It’s almost impossible to move lock, stock, and barrel from a third-party marketplace when you depend on it and its audience for all of your revenue.
One Home, Many Channels
Omni-channel eCommerce doesn’t mean abandoning the control provided by a central web-based eCommerce store. Magento offers excellent integration with multiples channels: the Sellbrite extension is just one example of a tool that can integrate an existing eBay, Amazon, and Etsy retail with a Magento web presence.