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cPanel Pricing Changes: A Powerful Alternative

cPanel Pricing Changes: A Powerful Alternative

2020 has seen a big change for hosting clients. cPanel, a hosting admin panel that allows site owners to make changes to their hosting plans, has changed its pricing structure. As a result, the cost of hosting will likely increase for most hosting clients. 

But it doesn’t need to. There are a number of cPanel alternatives available to site owners that are just as powerful (if not more powerful). Here, we’ll talk through one of those alternatives.

What Is cPanel?

When you host a site with any hosting provider, you’re able to make a number of changes to your hosting infrastructure. cPanel is a graphical interface that allows you to do this without having to work through the command line. 

cPanel is a powerful tool for site administrators. It not only allows you to make changes to your hosting plan, it also allows you to:

  • Add and change SSL certificates
  • Create backups
  • View access logs
  • Access database administration
  • Configure FTP settings
  • Manage files

Unfortunately, cPanel is not owned by your hosting provider. As a result, cPanel manages its own pricing structure. As of January 1, 2020, they have adopted an account-based pricing structure. 

What Does the cPanel Pricing Change Mean for You?

The new cost for users depends on the server and plan types they use. However, on average the cost for end-users (you) will increase by 25%-50%. Since the cost is calculated on a per-account basis, in some cases you may see costs rise by more than 100%. 

This price change has come as a shock to much of the hosting community, with many users unsure of how to now keep costs low. 

Luckily, we offer an alternative to cPanel, one which is just as powerful and that comes bundled with all of our hosting plans: The Hostdedi Client Portal. 

The Hostdedi Client Portal is a custom hosting admin panel created for use by Hostdedi customers. As it stands, The Hostdedi Client Portal has thousands of licenses in production and as we continue to grow with our clients, we expect to increase that number by thousands more in the coming months. 

cPanel Alternatives

The Hostdedi Client Portal is similar to cPanel. It offers all the same features your find with cPanel in a slightly different interface. In addition, you’ll be able to access and configure the technology options you find with Hostdedi that you won’t find anywhere else. This includes Hostdedi Auto Scaling, Elasticsearch, and the Cloud Accelerator. 

The Nexess Control Panel

The Hostdedi Client Portal makes site management easy. 

You’ll immediately be given access to the Hostdedi Client Portal as soon as you sign up for an account. The screenshot above provides a basic overview of the Client Portal for Managed WooCommerce plans. 

Depending on the application you choose for your hosting service, you’ll have access to different features. Each of these is tailored to your specific setup and is designed to make developing your site as simple as possible. 

A number of tutorials for how to use the Hostdedi Client Portal can be found in the Knowledge Base

Moving to the Hostdedi Client Portal

If you’re not a Hostdedi client yet and are interested in making the move to Hostdedi services, you can get started by visiting our cloud hosting page and selecting the right plan for your requirements. 

Alternatively, get in touch with a Hostdedi support team member to discuss your options and how the Hostdedi Client Portal can help you. 

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Welcome Our Newest Expert, Patrick Rauland

Welcome Our Newest Expert, Patrick Rauland

Hostdedi is pleased to welcome Patrick Rauland as our new Product Marketing Manager for managed WooCommerce. Patrick is a known WooCommerce expert with experience in development, configuration, and client-based consulting. 

Before joining Hostdedi, Patrick was a Woo Product Manager at WooThemes and Automattic, as well as an industry trainer and author. Patrick has experience developing core functionality in WooCommerce itself, leading technology releases, and helping run ecommerce conferences.

In his new role, Patrick will focus on increasing Hostdedi’s WooCommerce presence in the market.

“I’m excited to join Hostdedi. They have the hands-down best plan for WooCommerce customers and I’m excited to articulate exactly why that is and what you can get out of it.”

Patrick will work out of Denver, and we can’t wait to see his impact on the WooCommerce market and our own Hostdedi team. 

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Welcome our Newest Expert, Jessica Mott

Welcome our Newest Expert, Jessica Mott



We’re happy to welcome Jessica Mott to the Hostdedi team as our new Southeast Regional Channel Executive. Jessica will be based out of Atlanta and brings years of experience building and nurturing relationships with Magento development partners. 

Before Hostdedi, Jessica served as the Ecommerce Partner Manager for Total Server Solutions, where she was responsible for direct and channel sales, as well as marketing for ecommerce and enterprise clients.

Jessica’s focus at Hostdedi will be to grow Magento agencies and partnerships, for which she will leverage her sales leadership experience and Magento expertise. 

“I deeply value partnerships. When companies work well together, common goals are not only met, but in my experience, exceeded. I am proud and excited to join the Hostdedi team!”

We can’t wait to see all that Jessica accomplishes at Hostdedi.

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Hostdedi Welcomes David Eblen

Hostdedi Welcomes David Eblen

We are excited to welcome David Eblen to the Hostdedi team as our new Vice President of Strategy & Analytics. With nearly 20 years experience in technology services and solutions, David brings a proficiency in business development and strong technical expertise in creating vision and business-focused strategies. 

David is joining us from Rackspace where he served for nearly 9 years. As the Senior Product Director at Rackspace, he managed a team of 85 employees across four global focus areas, led their applications business unit, and drove double-digit growth. He also served as the Director of Products and Senior Manager of Cloud Operations while with Rackspace.

David’s main focus at Hostdedi will be driving performance through constant focus and analysis of our Key Performance Metrics. 

“I believe strongly in an intense focus on customer outcomes and solutions. As a leader in the ecommerce space with those same values, I believe Hostdedi is a great fit for me.  I’m excited to join the team!”

David will be based in our San Antonio office and we look forward to his outstanding contributions to the Hostdedi team.

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7 Ecommerce Blueprint Considerations You May Be Overlooking

7 Ecommerce Blueprint Considerations You May Be Overlooking

An ecommerce blueprint is your agency’s lifeline. As a vital foundational document, it helps you create a clear strategy for delivering results to a client; results that go beyond just KPIs and metrics. 

A well-executed blueprint should not just be a list of requirements and solutions. Instead, it should be seen as an evolving guide that ensures a client’s store will continue to be performant, secure, and scalable. 

Your agency is undoubtedly paying attention to every facet of a client’s business – from goals to structure, to deployment and beyond. No area should be left untouched if it will affect the technology and solution choices your client makes. Making individual recommendations for every client can be challenging, but it’s also vital. 

Our managed ecommerce solutions offer merchants and agencies a solid foundation to begin working from. Key infrastructure optimizations, security safeguards, and expandable features are inherent, enabling your agency to actively drive growth for each client. However, taking a single approach to multiple projects can only help so much. For a project to truly thrive, it’s important to nuance solutions.

Let’s take a look at seven considerations you may be rushing through when putting together the technology aspect of your ecommerce blueprint. We’ll explore some key options available to you and provide actionable advice on how to get started.

Bare Metal Server

1. Hosting Size Matters (But That’s Not the Whole Story)

The first area to address is plan size.

We know, smaller plan sizes can be appealing. Not only do they provide impressive traffic resources and a lot of the same great integrations we pack into our larger plans, but they are also available at competitive price points.

However, the more popular a store, the more traffic it’s going to get. By choosing a plan that doesn’t meet a store’s requirements, you’re – at best – bottlenecking the checkout, and – at worst – causing site slowdowns and crashes.

Stores cannot afford this. A 1-second delay in load time means a 7% decrease in conversions. To truly drive growth, stores must build in enough capacity to allow for additional resources when needed. 

Choosing the right plan size allows you to create the best foundation for building on client expectations. 

But selecting the right hosting plan isn’t as simple as just understanding traffic and resource requirements. With our managed ecommerce plans, you’re able to take advantage of additional resources to help improve ecommerce website performance and scalability. 

The first of these is auto scaling. This feature allows for a site to increase capacity as and when it needs to. This means more concurrent users (up to the next plan size) and more customers being able to proceed through checkout at the same time.

Another option is the Cloud Accelerator. Available with all cloud plans, this allows ecommerce websites to manage more concurrent users with a single click in your client portal. 

We also offer several container-based services that are run outside of a store’s core account. If you’re looking to improve product search and are interested in using Elasticsearch to do so, you can without having to worry about how that will affect your store’s performance. 

2. Platform Choice Is More Complex Than You Think

The right ecommerce platform for each client isn’t always the most obvious. What appears to be a performant and scalable choice on day one, can become a nightmare as a client’s store grows and requires more flexibility.

Despite this, serious platform considerations often find themselves forgotten about in favor of standard workflow templates; ease of use often surpassing functionality and performance requirements.

As you begin to build out an ecommerce blueprint, consider more than just the here and now. Great ecommerce website design includes a consideration of a client’s growth goals.

This couldn’t be more important than it is right now. According to research by the Content Marketing Institute, 93% of the most successful organizations in 2019 were extremely committed to content marketing. 

What that means is that successful ecommerce businesses need to start integrating content into their ecommerce blueprint. Beyond just delivering product descriptions, consumers are now looking for research sources where they can explore gift guides, read background information, and delve through reviews. 

In 2019, 93% of the most successful organizations were extremely committed to content marketing. (Content Marketing Institute)

Applications like WooCommerce, a plugin for WordPress, are perfect here as they provide excellent content management features. The platform has also become a leading standard for SEO, with over 3 million sites currently running on it along with 22% of the top 1 million sites worldwide. That means more traffic to the content you’re clients are looking to create and more conversions. 

3. Ecommerce Security Shouldn’t Be Overlooked

Security never seems like it’s going to be a problem… until it is.

Attacks can range from taking a store offline and preventing visitors from accessing it, to finding and stealing customer PII (personally identifiable information). In both cases, one security breach can have a serious and long-term impact on an ecommerce business.

According to Gartner, by 2020 100% of large enterprises will have to report on cybersecurity and technology risk to their board of directors. This isn’t because security is a template statistic, but because security breaches have increased by 67% since 2014, with damages estimated to total $6 trillion by 2021.

As we move into 2020, it’s vital – now more than ever – that merchants have a plan for handling vulnerabilities and protecting against attacks.

By 2020, 100% of large enterprises will have to report on cybersecurity and technology risk to their board of directors. (Gartner)

But security is a fickle thing. Like many of the items on this list, template solutions can do more harm than good. The right security measures should consider both a client’s consumers and their organization’s structure. 

The first line of defense is a well-maintained Web Application Firewall (WAF). This software-based firewall protects stores from known threats by blocking suspicious connection requests and preventing attackers from even getting a foot in the door. 

We block over 3.5 million attacks daily. However, To block attacks effectively with a WAF, we need to know where they are coming from. 

Understanding a client’s target geographies and known dangerous sources, and sharing these with our support team, can help us to build stronger rulesets that keep your client’s store protected. 

Beyond this, managed ecommerce helps to tighten security with automated processes that make your agency’s job easier. We provide automatic daily backups, nightly malware scans, PCI compliance assistance, and the popular iThemes security plugin on all WooCommerce and WordPress solutions.  

4. Containers Are Powerful Integrations That Don’t Draw From Core Resources

Robust functionality drives ecommerce growth and moves the needle. Consumers now expect certain functionality as standard and merchants expect your agency to be able to deliver on those by default. 

Yet as we mentioned above, feature integrations can take a sizable share of a server’s resources. Instead of providing an incredible user experience, they cause slowdowns and crashes. 

Containers are a pivotal solution, allowing you to avoid infrastructure and performance pitfalls without needing to increase your client’s plan size prematurely. 

This is because they run outside of your primary hosting account and so have their own set of dedicated resources. Currently, the container integrations available for all Hostdedi solutions include:

  • Elasticsearch
  • Varnish
  • RabbitMQ
  • SOLR

Hostdedi container solutions offer innovative capabilities to the key ecommerce business problems of product search and performance, and help take the guesswork out of the technology recommendations your agency needs to provide. 

5. Ecommerce Integrations Can Help in Areas You Don’t Expect

We offer over $2,000 in integrations for smaller WooCommerce stores and over $6,000 in integrations for larger ones. These integrations add vital functionality to stores of any size and take the complexity out of optimization.

Simply put, as stores get larger, so too do their requirements. The integrations we provide help stores to meet those requirements by offering a turnkey solution nuanced to client requirements. 

Take, for example, data analysis. Modern technology has seen data become a central part of the ecommerce industry. Now, product and content decisions are informed not by whim but by data. By 2020, Forrester predicts that businesses will double their data strategy budget. 

Businesses will double their data strategy budget in 2020. (Forrester)

To make the work of agencies and merchants easier, we’ve partnered with Glew.io. Glew.io helps merchants to better understand both their business and their consumers by providing ecommerce analytics and business intelligence insights quickly and easily. 

We’ve also included other integrations, such as abandoned cart emails from Jilt, the Beaver Builder page builder, and more. Each of these integrations has been provided with your agency’s role in mind. 

Before reverting to the standard integrations you’ve always used, explore the options we’ve bundled with our solutions first. You may find something that allows you to deliver in areas you never thought you could.  

6. Development Is More Than Staging Sites

Development processes vary by agency. Being locked into one particular process can be both frustrating and time-consuming. 

At Hostdedi, we believe in supporting agency and merchant development practices, whatever they may be. Our managed ecommerce solutions have been engineered to provide development teams with maximum flexibility, while also incorporating optimized solutions to foundational development problems. They bring together a set of unified tools capable of bringing cohesion to an otherwise uneven development process.

Our development sites are a clear example of this. With Hostdedi, you can easily spin up a development site with optional 1:1 data duplication and PII (Personally Identifiable Information) scrubbing to ensure the security of customer data – all with only one click in your client portal.

But development processes are more than just environments to work in. A good development process considers how teams are managed, who approves changes and alterations, and how issues are reported on. As you work through the ecommerce blueprint with your client, assigning roles for different players can make development a lot easier and smoother down the road. 

7. Managed Hosting Makes Ecommerce Blueprint Decisions Easier

Managed ecommerce makes all the decisions above, and more, easier. 

Our solutions have been designed to provide agencies with a comprehensive toolset that lets you realize your client’s vision and actively accelerate growth. Beyond just hosting infrastructure, we consider platform requirements, integration opportunities, and potential. 

By hosting your clients’ stores with Hostdedi, you’ll have access to an experienced technology partner that knows how to manage the most critical of infrastructure and platform choices. We can help you translate your client’s requirements into the right technology. 

Just remember, the right option isn’t always the default. Sometimes it’s worth exploring alternatives and the benefits they can provide both short and long term. 

To see how managed ecommerce solutions can help your agency to create better ecommerce websites, talk to a Hostdedi team member and explore your options.

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Website Speed Optimization for 2020

Website Speed Optimization for 2020

From SEO to conversions, to user experience and beyond, page speed has a direct correlation to the success of your website. The investment of time and resources into developing a well thought through website speed optimization plan is worth the effort – because when done right, the actions you take can expand your reach, increase click-through, and ultimately lead to revenue. 

Page speed first came to prominence in 2010, when Google officially announced that it would be involved in search ranking calculations. SEO experts quickly began optimizing on-page elements to maintain and improve page rankings. Those that didn’t fell behind.

Before this, speed was significant for one particular reason: conversions. Today, many users expect pages to load in 2 seconds or less, abandoning visits if load times take too long. A 1 second delay in page response can lead to a 7% reduction in conversions

Let’s take a look at website optimizations that anyone can do. We’ll explore the tools, techniques, and technology available to site owners, and provide actionable strategies for implementing speed improvements. This way, you’re able to create the user experience you want and drive towards the site growth you’re looking for. 

Optimize Images

Too often web designers create and upload image files with high resolutions. High-resolution images mean bigger file sizes. Bigger file sizes mean longer loading times. 

A 1 second delay in page response can lead to a 7% reduction in conversions.

One of the fastest (and easiest) website speed optimization techniques is image compression. It’s important to consider two core attributes during the optimization process: 

  • size 
  • quality 

Image Sizes for Page Optimization

If images are over-optimized, their quality suffers. According to ConversionXL, users spend an average of 5.94 seconds looking at a site’s main image. If that image isn’t high-quality, those users are going to instantly look elsewhere. Poor-quality images and design can be just as problematic in terms of bounce rate as them not loading in the first place. 

Image optimization is simple with managed hosting. All WordPress and WooCommerce plans come with an image optimization plugin that automatically initiates every time you upload a new asset. This optimizes your time and allows you to work on what you want to, instead of having to focus on how best to optimize an image. 

If you want to manage image files manually: 

  • PNG files are good for graphics and illustrations as they are designed to compress images as much as possible without quality loss. 
  • JPEG files are best for photographs. JPEG compression works well with complex images —  just make sure to check that they remain a suitable quality.
  • Measure how much space an image requires beforehand. If it’s going to sit in a 100×100 pixel space, use a canvas of that size when building it.
  • If possible, SVGs are effective for minimizing file size and maintaining quality due to being code. 

Simplify Web Design

When it comes to website speed optimization, less is almost always more. Instead of adding additional functionality where it’s not needed, consider how features will affect site delivery to users. 

That being said, simple website design doesn’t mean featureless. Rather, it means considering where you want a user to go and how you can make their journey to that point as simple and relevant as possible. 

Visually complex sites are judged as being less beautiful than their simpler counterparts.

It’s also better if website design isn’t complex. In an early UX study conducted by Google, which has set the scene for UX design in the last several years, it was found that users tend to judge a website’s aesthetics within 1/50th – 1/20th of a second. Visually complex sites were almost always judged as being less beautiful than their simpler counterparts.

Simple Web Design Faster Pages

We fundamentally believe that making simple websites should be easy. To that end, we’ve bundled the Beaver Builder plugin with all of our WordPress and WooCommerce managed hosting plans. Beaver Builder helps site designers with a simple and easy to use drag and drop page builder, along with customization options site owners need.

As you simplify your website’s design, pay attention to these things:

  • What is the goal of your website? Where do you want users to land? Considering how to get them from point A to point B is critical, not only for simplifying a site, but also for optimizing the user experience. 
  • Earlier this year, we found that 85% of enterprise stores do not use hero images. This is a core component of their website speed optimization strategy. How important are your hero images?  Can they be simpler? 
  • Javascript code often works behind the scenes on modern websites. Is the JavaScript code on your site relevant and needed?

 

Enable Caching

Caching is site speed’s silver bullet. It helps website owners automatically deliver content to more users at faster speeds.It works by storing page elements on a visitor’s computer the first time they visit a site. During subsequent visits, instead of having to re-download them from the server, the user will be able to use the copy stored on their computer. 

However, there are limits to what caching can and can’t do. Traditional caching only affects static elements. This includes images and some types of code. It does not help with dynamic elements like shopping carts.

There are dynamic caching options available for ecommerce stores, but these tend to require more in-depth customization and set up. 

Enable caching for website speed

Hostdedi solutions come with caching options enabled and optimized by default. The Hostdedi Cloud Accelerator allows for our advanced Nginx caching system to be activated with one click in your client portal, significantly improving website speed.

As you’re considering caching tools for you website, think about the following elements: 

  • Which caching tools are available to you and which is right for your site? If you’re unsure, talk with your hosting provider. Our tech experts are always happy to explain your options to help you make a good decision.
  • Should you also be caching dynamic assets? This is often a good idea for ecommerce stores. Varnish is a good option for Magento storefronts. 
  • Equally as important as caching is the number of PHP workers supporting your site (it’s more important for ecommerce stores). Check how many your solution offers and see if you need to upgrade. 

Explore Different Integration Options

Integrations and functionality add-ons can be just as detrimental to site speed as on-page elements. A well-executed optimization strategy considers to what effect any integrations are utilized and whether they have been implemented suitaby. 

Integrations can include plugins, extensions or add-ons, and they may live on the same server as your site, or they may exist in an external container. Regardless of where they exist, it’s important to consider two things:

  • What are an integration’s resource requirements?
  • What effect does an integration have on the user experience?

Hostdedi solutions come with two options for optimizing your integrations. The first of these is container add-ons. These are designed to run outside of your core hosting account, saving resources for site visitors and website speed. 

Integrations, when employed effectively, can provide solid functionality without sacrificing much-needed resources. 

The second of these is specific to WordPress and WooCommerce solutions – plugin packages optimized for site speed. From Glew.io (analytics that runs outside of a server) to automatic image optimization, each plugin has been selected based on its ability to improve site speed and the user experience. 

When choosing which integrations to add to a site, consider:

  • What are its resource requirements? Analytics software can be particularly resource heavy.
  • Scheduling tools like RabbitMQ. These can help reduce strain from resource heavy integrations by scheduling them to run during off-peak times. 
  • Container-based integrations that run outside of your main hosting account. Explore the different container options offered by Hostdedi

Use a CDN

Have you ever visited an international site and been faced with a homepage that crawls? Chances are that the site is delivering content to you from somewhere else in the world. It’s the time it takes to reach you that’s causing the longer load times. 

The answer is to implement a CDN (Content Delivery Network). A CDN caches static elements (like images) in locations around the world, so visitors to your site can download them from their nearest location. This can increase speed significantly. 

A CDN allows for localized delivery of assets to site visitors based anywhere in the world. 

Hostdedi offers a CDN service with all of our hosting solutions. Depending on your base plan, this may cost extra. If you’re uncertain which plan is right for your site, talk to a Hostdedi team member.

When choosing a CDN, pay attention to:

  • How many locations does it offer? Are they locations near your target audience?
  • What bandwidth does the CDN have? If you’re unsure what you need, talk with one of our experts who can help determine what’s optimal for your business.
  • Does the CDN include an SSL? An SSL certificate will help ensure  your site is secure. 

Prioritizing Website Speed Optimization

Effective website speed optimization strategies are targeted. Optimization is often done with a core objective in mind. To that end, think about which pages are the most important to your site experience and focus on those as a top priority. 

In most cases, homepages are vital. They often function as a starting point for visitors. Ensuring they load efficiently can engage a visitor when they first arrive at your site, and significantly reduce your bounce rate. 

If you’re running an ecommerce store, product pages are also important. They serve as solid, bottom of funnel touchpoints for conversion. If they load slowly, you are going to see a higher than expected bounce rate. 

Optimization should have an effect on your site as a whole. However, focusing on core pages will help you to improve specific, high-value user experiences quickly and effectively. 

Website speed optimization is core to delivering the right user experience. There are numerous methods for optimizing a site, each of which can be adjusted to align with your core objective. Working through each and testing your site speed is key to securing the best results. 

Get started with a managed hosting solution that provides optimizations by default. Learn more.

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Special Considerations for Streamlining Mobile Checkout on WooCommerce

Special Considerations for Streamlining Mobile Checkout on WooCommerce

While the data tells us that many sites are seeing more mobile traffic than desktop traffic, conversions on mobile devices still lag far behind.

Today we’re going to look at some things you can do to make it easy for mobile users to convert to paying customers on your WooCommerce store. As you try these suggestions, remember to A/B test them for your site. Just because they worked for others doesn’t mean that they’ll have a positive impact on your particular checkout process.

Make Form Fields Easy

Mobile devices have this great thing called a software keyboard. That means that if we accurately identify our form fields, mobile users will be presented with a keyboard that’s appropriate to the data that needs to be entered.

Streamlining mobile checkout by making form fields easy

As you can see above, WooCommerce does this by default when it identifies an email field. To make it easier to enter my email, the @ symbol readily accessible, rather than being hidden behind another set of keys.

Other fields to review are the Zip/Postal Code fields and phone number fields. If you want these fields in a particular format, it’s best to pre-program the format, rather than leave it up to the user. More than once, my checkout has been denied because one of the fields was incorrectly formatted. It’s already annoying having to switch back and forth between letters and numbers on a phone keyboard. So, don’t frustrate your users further by forcing them to enter the data you want in an exact format.

Your users should never have to deal with this. Take the time to write some JavaScript to format the field how you want after their done typing, or handle the formatting server side. Any other option is putting an extra burden on your user, making them less likely to purchase.

Format Field Errors Well

Have you ever clicked “checkout” after wading through form fields only to be greeted a stack of errors the site says you made? WooCommerce is just as guilty of making users hunt for issues with their checkout information just as any other platform out there. Sure, they provide that little red * beside required fields, but if you miss one, all you’re going to get is a big red box at the top of the page. You’re on your own to hunt down the issue with the notification provided.

mobile checkout by formatting field errors well

There are a couple of better approaches to this system, with my favorite being validating the fields as you enter them. Don’t make the user wait, show them right away if the field is right or not.

The second option I like is showing the field errors directly inline. That means when you have an error, highlight the field in red and explain what the issue is in the same view. If you want the implement this, Business Bloomer has a great tutorial on adding errors inline with WooCommerce fields. I’ve used this on a few client sites and have been very happy with the results.

Don’t Hide your Checkout with Notifications

While you may be able to get away with some upsell tactics on a desktop checkout experience, it’s far too easy to ruin a mobile checkout experience. Touch targets are often far too small, and sometimes even off-screen when popups display on mobile devices.

smart offers for mobile checkout

Instead of popups or other visual clutter, look at Smart Offers to increase your total order value. Rather than asking a user to add something to their cart before they’ve made a purchase, Smart Offers asks them after they’ve completed their initial checkout action.

Check Reachability

Research exists on how users interact with their phones, but I have yet to find anything on how gender affects phone interaction. This is a critical gap in research since women, in general, have smaller hands than men, potentially affecting reachability. Since programmers are overwhelmingly male, this means that the people building online stores aren’t testing the reachability of their interfaces for 50% of the population.

Testing how people interact with your checkout form is crucial to ensuring that you have solid conversions. But, don’t fall into the trap of only testing with those that are convenient. Make sure that you put effort into testing across a broad spectrum of hand size and device size.

With one client, there was pushback on tweaking the checkout for smaller hands because they didn’t have a broad base female customers that purchased on mobile. I convinced them to make a few small tweaks to help make the checkout process better for smaller hands, and within a few weeks, we saw an increase in the purchasing by female customers from their mobile devices. We didn’t see female customers before, because the checkout wasn’t built with them in mind.

Site Speed

Another consideration you need to take into account for mobile checkout is understanding site speed in the context of where your target market is. While users in cities will get 4G speeds, rural users may only have 3G connections and severely limited data plans.

Even looking at the countries you are targeting can mean you need to think about different things in terms of site speed. In Canada, we have decent speeds, but anemic data plans compared to many other places in the world.

When you’re developing your mobile checkout experience, make sure you test it on throttled internet connections. It’s fairly easy in Firefox and Chrome.

wifi and mobile checkout

 

If you’re testing on Safari, then you’re going to have to look at a 3rd party tool like Charles Proxy or install the Network Link Conditioner tool for xCode to simulate slower connections. You can even use this tool in conjunction with your iOS test device to throttle the live connection as you test your site on a properly mobile device instead of a simulated one in the browser.

Make sure you test your site against the slow connections that your users may have, instead of checking only against the connection you have at work.

Visible Trust Marks

A trust mark is an image from your SSL provider or some other icon that shows you have a secure and trustworthy payment provider. Often these are relegated to the bottom of a site for desktop users, but it’s worth reevaluating where you put them for your mobile layout.

For one client I worked with, we experimented with putting them small right at the top of the checkout. That way, when the user came to the checkout on their phone, the first thing they saw was the small marks that said we had a secure site without malware on it. This small change produced a 1 – 2% increase in conversions, which adds up to a bunch of extra earnings over the year.

Password Filling Applications

One of the final ways to help increase users completing your mobile checkout process is to make sure that any user account fields work with tools like 1Password, Dashlane, and LastPass. Passwords are enough of a pain sitting in front of a full keyboard, but they get even worse when you enforce secure passwords that require switching back and forth between the different keyboards.

auto fill password with a password application

Testing this is fairly easy; Grab a free copy of all the above tools and put your password into them. Then, try to checkout using them to fill in any passwords or user fields that are in your checkout form. Don’t forget to use each of these applications to create an account at checkout as well.

Possibly the worst mistake you can make here is blocking the ability to copy and paste passwords into your account fields. This is how password applications work, and any user that is creating secure passwords is highly likely to leave once they see they can’t add their nice long random password in without manually typing it.

Building a good checkout process is crucial to having a profitable eCommerce site. And, with the rise in mobile purchasing, it’s even more important to make sure that you provide a top-notch experience to mobile purchasers. By working through the steps here, you can make sure that you do provide an excellent experience for your mobile users. They’ll be happy, and you’ll convert more purchases, which makes you happy.

Build a High-Performing WooCommerce Store

Create a store that converts traffic with Hostdedi Managed WooCommerce Hosting solutions. They come standard with Jilt to help you recover abandoned carts, performance tests whenever you need them, and the platform reduces query loads by 95%, leading to a faster store.

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What are PHP Workers and Why You Should Care

What are PHP Workers and Why You Should Care

Have you ever browsed through your favorite coffee shop’s website and as you check out with that new order of coffee, you end up getting a 504 error after a delay?

Or maybe you were browsing your favorite sports website and as you try to load the next page, it takes a while to load and comes back with a timeout error?

These situations are frustrating, and not what we expect when we look at a site. In both cases, the cause may be not having enough PHP workers allocated to a site. Without enough PHP workers, a site can’t process all site requests that come in if there are a higher number of them. It’s not a good situation, as site speed is incredibly important for converting visitors to sales leads and customers.

What is a PHP Worker?

A PHP worker is essentially a mechanism that handles requests for a website that require back-end processing. Generally, any non-static or cached files that require processing are handled by PHP workers.

This is usually active tasks like an inventory check on a specific item or it could be something as complex as viewing and listing all prior orders for a customer. When a PHP worker is started, it remains persistent until processes are completed or certain conditions are met.

Think of PHP workers as a check-out line at a grocery store where each item that is to be scanned is a PHP process.

If you only have one PHP worker (one checkout line) then everything must go through that single checkout lane, and the cashier can only work through one order at the time. PHP workers can limit the number of concurrent, or simultaneous, transactions on a site. As previously mentioned, if you have only four PHP workers (four checkout lines) the site can only process four transactions at once.

However, this does not mean that the fifth customer (PHP process) or beyond does not get processed. PHP processes are placed in a queue for the worker which means it processes the first request in line then moves onto the next PHP process in the queue. In other words, a long line forms and people start waiting.

Luckily, PHP workers process the information faster than grocery store cashiers. They work very quickly and can clear many and most processes within milliseconds. By having only a few additional PHP workers, you are able to have many more concurrent processes that can be run at one time, meaning more customer orders can be processed at once.

What Happens When You Have Too Few PHP Workers

Let’s say you have only two PHP workers on a site and you have several plugins and a heavy theme. Those two PHP workers will constantly be used only to process plugins and theme processes leaving a queue to build up immediately for new page requests from visitors to your site.

If you are running an ecommerce site on top of this, it will only increase the queue amount. Much like customers waiting in line, some PHP processes will abandon the line. Processes that are not written to abandon the line, or time out, and will sit and wait. Then, they will begin to put a much higher load on server resources. It’s like the checkout line is now wrapping around the block!

PHP processes on a WordPress website can be as simple as the submission of a contact form or a request to geolocate a visitor based upon their IP or zip code.

For eCommerce websites, this can look a little different. Items such as new orders being processed, carts, and customer logins would all utilize PHP workers. The products or descriptions will usually be cached so that generally would not require a PHP process for viewing. Having only three to five PHP workers means that you can only have that many simultaneous transactions on the website and that the PHP workers will process requests in the order they were triggered (just like a shopping line).

How To Lighten The Load For Your PHP Workers

A common problem area to start with for PHP workers is having too many plugins and heavy themes. You can generally help alleviate issues caused by a bloated website with these tips:

  1. Add site caching with a plugin
  2. Reduce external calls to remote sites
  3. General site optimization

Site optimization can get complicated, especially with sites that experience heavier traffic which requires more attention to detail. Generally, the larger the site, the more efficient the site must be in the way it requests its styles, products, orders, and customers. This way, you utilize the PHP workers for general site functionality less and PHP workers can process what matters – your traffic – effectively.

Hostdedi plans come with enough concurrent users for even the largest of sites to manage traffic.

With Hostdedi, you already have 20 concurrent users as part of an XS plan. This increases in increments of 20 as you move up to the XXL plan (which has 120).

Other managed application platforms offer anywhere from two to four PHP workers in introductory offerings. Hostdedi Managed WordPress and WooCommerce also have server-side caching built-in which helps minimize the use of PHP workers to process static content, allowing the PHP workers to process requests from the people who matter most: your customers.

Maintain a Faster Site with More PHP Workers

PHP workers can manage thousands of processes each, however; many factors come into play, including:

  • How many exterior calls are they making?
  • How many plugins are competing with inquiries to the database?

Additionally, adding PHP workers to a site will also increase the resource allocation being used from the server. The more PHP processes running, the more RAM and CPU allocations will be needed, thus creating heavier loads on the server and having as much optimization as possible can reduce that server load. PHP workers are key, but they are not magic, one-size-fits-all solution.

The more plugins (even inactive ones), the more PHP workers are utilized to process non-static requests. The same applies to heavily featured themes. For this reason, it is always a good idea to use caching and a CDN to help reduce the task load for PHP workers. This will optimize your site to process customer requests in the fastest manner possible.

  Start your WooCommerce store knowing that it’s ready to handle traffic requirements. Learn more.

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How Can Ecommerce Help Reduce Transaction Costs?

How Can Ecommerce Help Reduce Transaction Costs?

While ecommerce stores can reduce transaction costs, and so the overhead of running a business, transaction costs still have enough of a presence to chip away at your profits.

Transaction costs traditionally refer to any cost incurred by an entity that maintains or processes the exchange of currency for goods and services. It is not necessarily synonymous with business overhead, defined as the sum of all expenses attached to the day-to-day operations of your business, though transaction costs contribute to it. 

What is Transaction Cost in Ecommerce?

The big pro of ecommerce is reduced transaction costs and overhead for both merchants and consumers. Merchants without a physical storefront need not bother with cashiers, warehousing, rent, or the limitations of their geographic location. Consumers, too, enjoy less overhead because online purchases require less time spent browsing and no need to bother with crowds, traffic, or gas. 

However, ecommerce stores are not immune to overhead, and a sizeable portion of this overhead comes from transaction costs. 

In online stores, transaction costs include fees and expenses associated with the following :

  • Credit cards Customer using credit card online
  • Payment gateways
  • Ecommerce platforms
  • Returns and exchanges
  • Shipping

Let’s take a closer look at each.

Credit Cards

Credit cards are a creature of convenience for many consumers, which is why merchants accept the fees. In theory, the cost of not providing a credit card payment option—lost revenue—exceeds the cost of processing fees.

These fees represent the cost of the infrastructure making such transactions possible, and involve numerous parties. The credit card processor, credit card association and the issuing bank all look to get paid for the effort.

These fees are determined by your risk profile, interchange rates, and various other factors. You pay a percentage of each transaction, a per-transaction dollar amount, or a combination of both (for example, 1.80% + $0.10). In addition, some cards may incur a flat monthly charge. 

Typical Cost Breakdown by Card Type

Card typePer-transaction fee
American Express2.5% to 3.5%
Discover1.5% to 2.3 %
Mastercard1.5% to 2.6%
Visa1.43% to 2.4%

Many online retailers accept these fees as part of the cost of doing business, but some choose to disallow credit cards in their stores and avoid the fee. 

Payment Gateways

PayPal, Stripe, Square, Authorize.net, and the like are payment gateways that handle your customers’ credit card payments. paypal logoFor a fee, they transmit the card data from their payment portal to the credit card processor.paypal logo

It is somewhat less convenient than a credit card because it requires the customer to 1) create an account for that payment gateway if they don’t already have one, and 2) log in to that account during checkout. Both prolong the process, and long checkout times tend to produce abandoned shopping carts. These represent a constant source of irritation in an industry where the worldwide cart abandonment rate in 2018 was at 75 percent (Statista). 

PayPal, a popular choice, is one of the more expensive options. PayPal charges a flat base rate of 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction (4.4% plus fixed fee for international). While numerous other options are available, PayPal offers brand recognition that other options may not. As with credit cards, payment gateways charge a mix of percentage, per-transaction flat rates, and monthly fees.

Ecommerce Platforms

Ecommerce platforms are the lowest-hanging fruit of store-creation. Relatively simple to deploy and customize, they remove multiple barriers to entry that would otherwise require a developer. Inventory tracking, payment, coupons, shipping, and countless other features are easily made available to your shoppers.

As you might expect, Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, and other platforms want to get paid, and these fees are in addition to fees incurred by credit cards and payment gateways.

WooCommerceShopifyBigCommerce
Transaction feesNone0.5% to 2% unless using Shopify PaymentsNone
Account feesFree, plus hosting (upwards of $7 per month)$29 to $299 per month$29.95 to $249.95 per month
Payment OptionsManyManyMany
CustomizationUnlimited themes; may require dev assistance10 free themes; others require $7 free themes; others require $

Returns and Exchanges

Although this is outside of the initial transaction, the threat of chargebacks involves the same payment entities and therefore warrants inclusion.

A refund is a voluntary return agreement between the customer and the merchant. A chargeback occurs after a customer asks a bank or payment processor to forcibly undo the purchase. If that bank or processor investigates the complaint and deems it valid, they forcibly withdraw money from the merchant’s account.

It is designed as a failsafe against dishonest merchants, but any customer dissatisfied with your product and return policy can make use of it. Merchants can dispute the claim, but if the claim sticks, they often pay an additional and expensive fee.

Shipping

Although shipping falls outside of the direct purview of “payment processors,” it’s essential enough for ecommerce to be Semi in transitconsidered a transaction cost. Complicating the matter is the general expectation of rapid time-to-delivery. Gone are the days of “please allow 6 to 8 weeks of shipping, and good riddance. 

You may be tempted to simply pass these costs along to your customers, but exercise caution. Most customers expect to pay shipping, if reasonable. Even so, if you can find a way to offer free shipping, it will encourage customers to spend more at your store.

How to Reduce Transaction Costs

While transaction costs are unavoidable, here are some measures to take beyond just throwing up your hands and taking your lumps.

Know your needs, then shop around for non-credit card payment providers 

As noted above, you have multiple options. The time you spend learning about your options will save you money. If your store uses a specific application like Magento, WooCommerce, or something similar, engage the community, and even consider attending a larger expo like MagentoLive or WordCamp. If your store does considerable volume, you also may be able to negotiate lower rates with banks and credit card companies.

Look for options, but remember the cheapest service may not be the best solution. Investigate the service’s reputation for support, security, and reliability before committing.

Once again, however, removing the in-store option to pay via credit card will likely irritate some customers. 

Pay respect to customer service

Brand loyalty lives and dies on the hill of customer service. Taking extra steps to keep your customers happy. It will helpprevent costly chargebacks and provide the organic, cost-free marketing otherwise known as positive word-of-mouth. 

support scrabble tiles

The definition of “good customer” service has risen in the age of ecommerce. It need not necessarily be “24/7/365,” but most customers expect:

  • A prompt response, usually within 1 business day
  • A response that doesn’t sound like a script
  • An honest effort to remedy the issue
  • An apology in some shape or form
  • Reasonable transparency

If you’re unable to consistently provide all of the above, it may be time to hire someone that can. It’s a “symptom” of growth and a good problem to have. Embrace it. Resist the urge to outsource the cheapest option available, as you want your representatives to know your product and the fundamentals of customer service.

And if you’re unwilling to provide all of the above… good luck. You’re gonna need it.

Ship smart

Shipping is arguably the biggest cause of transaction cost in ecommerce, as every transaction demands it. As noted earlier, free shipping is a powerful incentive. Even reduced shipping will help your conversion rate. Try some of these tactics to reduce shipping for yourself and your customers:

  • Negotiate with your carrier. The more you ship, the more you save. 
  • Use third party insurance. Carriers generally charge first-rate prices for second-rate coverage. Stick with third party insurance companies, who tend to provide much better value. 
  • Watch for fees. Don’t let yourself be surprised by charges for Saturday delivery, delivery signature, and fuel surcharges. Know before you ship.
  • Use online shipping. Order and print your postage online and it’s almost always cheaper and quicker than doing it all over the counter.
  • Use size-appropriate packaging. Use the smallest you can without compromising the integrity of the product.
  • Buy shipping supplies in bulk. Buy in bulk online. That one-time expense translates to long-term savings.

 

Need other ways to prep for the holiday season? See our Black Friday Ecommerce prep Guide.

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20 Ways to Get Your Store Ready for Black Friday

20 Ways to Get Your Store Ready for Black Friday

It’s not too late to start circling the wagons the holiday season. Here’s 20 ways to make the most of your Black Friday that don’t involve new code or massive retooling. Use one, or all, or mix and match for maximum effect.

#1 Enable Hostdedi Cloud Auto Scaling

One of the main arguments to go cloud is flexible, on-demand scaling. Auto Scaling temporarily assigns more resources to your site when there’sHostdedi Auto Scaling an unexpected uptick in concurrent users, defined as users actively engaging with your content (as opposed to “idling” on your site). 

How much does it cost? Not much, unless your site suddenly experiences a prolonged surge in traffic. All Hostdedi Cloud accounts get 12 free hours of Auto Scaling. Beyond that, you’re billed only for what you use in 10-minute increments. The cost depends according to your plan, but range between $0.03–$0.16 cents per increment. 

To put it into perspective, a store with a plan charging $0.10 per increment, using 24 hours of Auto Scaling, would incur an additional charge of $14.40 ($0.60 per hour X 24 hours). This makes it a cost-effective stopgap measure against unexpected surges in traffic, though extensive use usually points to a need for a service upgrade.

#2 Add Product Bundles to Your Store

Package complementary projects together and offer a small discount. As noted by a Harvard Business School study, customers are quick to perceive value in bundles, IF the business in question continues to offer “standalone” units. In the study, Nintendo reported a massive increase in sales when they added bundles (video game + console) to their store, but reported a 20 percent decrease if they sold only bundles.

How much does it cost? Only the “cost” of the discount, but if a 20 percent discount adds 40 percent sales, then it’s a win.

#3 Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)CDN icon

Shopping is a visual experience. At least 90 percent of all site data transfers involve images, video, and other content that take seconds to load in a browser. A wait of 3 seconds or longer tends to send a shopper elsewhere, never to return. While nearly every ecommerce site can benefit from a CDN, shops with international appeal stand to benefit most. 

How much does it cost? No, but it’s definitely affordable even before calculating the potential cost of lost business. Plans start at $25 per month.

#4 Creating Some Solid Long-Form Content

Yes, attention spans are short, but shoppers are motivated when they’re researching possible purchases. These shoppers tend to be hungry for deeper content, provided it’s free of fluff and filler. The benchmark for “long-form” varies, but generally in the 1200–1800 word range. 

The idea is to give potential buyers a reason to visit and remember your site. The topic can be anything, provided the author’s an expert on the topic and it doesn’t sound like 1500-word infomercial. 

How much does it cost? It ranges between “free” (if you write it yourself) and “more than a few beans” (if you outsource). Outsource with caution. Despite the long-form label, the emphasis should be on quality content, not quantity of content. In either case, having a clear goal and knowing your audience will do much for your cause. 

#5 Check Your SSL CertificateSSL certtificate icon

Don’t wait until zero-hour to discover problems with your SSL certificate. Browsers notify visitors about sites without them, and the warning sends them packing. In most cases, a standard SSL certificate will be more than adequate, and whether or not Extended Validation (EV) certificates provide value is a matter of some debate.

How much does it cost? The annual charge ranges between about $40–$300 per year, depending on the type of certificate. Standard SSL certificates are often adequate, but offer a substantially lower warranty than other, more expensive options. However, Let’s Encrypt is free and will work in a pinch for some websites. Such certificates have various limitations, but they meet the minimum standard of assigning your website the “Secure” browser label and preceding the address with “https://”. 

#6 Implement Live Chat

A properly implemented live chat system can increase sales, customer loyalty, and even reveal flaws in your site design or user experience. If you’re using Magento, WooCommerce, or another popular ecommerce platform, several plug-ins are available and relatively easy to deploy. 

If you’re instead relying on your own platform, it may be best to table starting development until after the holiday at this point.

How much does it cost? Per-month licenses range between roughly $15 to several hundred dollars, with variances for number of “seats,” types of features, and other trimmings. Some, like Livechat for Magento 1, offer a 2-week free trial.  

#7 Kick off a social media campaign

If you’re not already tapping social media for a boost, then you’re missing out. One need not be a Social Media Manager to reap the benefits of

social media examples

Facebook, Twitter, and friends. Run a contest, or otherwise give people a reason to share your product. Showcase your best products and services. Tie in with a discount (see #11) and let digital word-of-mouth do the rest. 

How much does it cost? It’s free for starters, but you’ll reach more eyes by paying for promotion status. On Twitter, these are “Promoted Tweets. On Facebook, they’re ads. Both can pay for themselves, provided you’re willing to put a little time and effort into it. 

#8. Showcase User-Generated Content

Designating a space on your site for honest reviews is a good start, but this really refers to engaging with and showing off your customers’ stories about your product or service. These are authentic testimonials and consumers are 2.4 times more likely to view them than marketing content

It takes a little time, but as shown by the below example, it’s not hard. Combine with a giveaway to give it extra traction.

Share your favorite (YOUR_STORE) products with us and you could be featured on our social and website! 

  1. Follow @YOUR_STORE
  2. Post a photo of your favorite YOUR_STORE product
  3. Tag @YOUR_STORE and #YOUR_STORE

How much does it cost? Like all social media campaigns, it can be free, but consider paying for promotional fees to cast a much wider net. 

#9 Create a Cart-Abandonment Email Campaign

The bad news is about 70 percent of all shopping carts never see conversion. The good news is you have a way to bring some of those shoppers back. An effective Black Friday cart-abandonment email campaign is all about timing and presentation. Timing means sending 2–3 emails from Black Friday through Cyber Monday. Presentation means branding that sets you apart from the other marketing emails flooding mailboxes.

Find a perfect subject line, perhaps offer a 10% discount, provide a visual of the item, and include a strong call-to-action, like a BUY button.

How much does it cost? This is more feasible if you already have a graphic designer available, since raw text isn’t a good option. Hiring one just for your campaign might be worthwhile, but if you already have one available, consider making this a priority if you haven’t already.

#10 Use Hostdedi DNSHostdedi DNS icon

If you’re already our client, using our DNS streamlines support efforts and gives your customers a reliable and fast way to find your site. Repointing your domain name to our nameservers is relatively quick and easy, and our support team is more than happy to help.

How much does it cost? If you’re a Hostdedi client, it’s free!

#11 Create Discount Codes

Nearly every major ecommerce platform provides the means to create discount codes. Combined with other options from this list, they encourage sharing between friends and acquaintances, otherwise known as free marketing.

Concerned about overuse? Link the discount to a minimum-spending trigger, as in “spend $75, Get 15% Off” or something similar. Remember you’re not limited to sharing on social media. Also consider email, catalogs, and advertisements.

How much does it cost? Again, it depends on how you view the “cost” of a discount. Most shoppers expect to find discounts on Black Friday, so consider the cost of ignoring discounts. 

#12 Make Sure Your Site is Optimized for Mobile

When was the last time you visited your store on a phone or tablet? Over half of all Black Friday shopping occurs from a mobile device. Most

mobile phone

modern ecommerce applications were built with mobile in mind, but don’t forget about emails, checkout, and any other late-season change pushed by your developer. Even if you’re using Magento 2, avoid surprises and explore the common paths for your visitors, from item-selection to checkout. 

How much does it cost? If you’re using a credible ecommerce solution, your storefront is likely ahead of the game. If your site is a trainwreck on mobile, then it’s time to hustle, and hustling usually means taking a financial hit. Still, it may be better than frustrating over 50 percent of all visitors to your site on Black Friday.

#13 Expand Your Store’s Search Function

Your store’s search function is the equivalent of a store clerk. The less time it takes a customer to find what they want, the more time they’ll spend in your store and the better things they’ll have to say about it afterward.

While many options exist, current Hostdedi Cloud clients using Magento 2 can take full advantage of Elasticsearch, a flexible search engine capable of handling large amounts of both structured and unstructured data. 

How much does it cost? If you’re currently a Hostdedi Cloud client, we provide Elasticsearch for no additional charge. It does, however, require some knowledge of MySQL and the command line interface, so take proper care or contact our support team for assistance.

#14 (Magento 2 Only) Follow Our Optimization Guide

magento 2 icon

Our team sensed a shortage of concrete optimizations for Magento 2 developers, and our Definitive Guide to Magento 2 Optimization was theresult. Filled-to-the-brim with how to get the most from your Magento 2 store, the guide includes proven optimizations for PHP, PHP-FPM, Apache, MySQL, Varnish, as well as benchmarks to back up our conclusions.

How much does it cost? It’s free!

#15 Consider Upsells and Cross-sells for Your Products

Consider implementing up-sells and cross-sells for your products. Upselling is encouraging customers to buy a higher-end variant of their current selection. Cross-selling means making the most of opportunities to sell related products. Most popular ecommerce platforms offer out-of-the-box ways to achieve both, though extensions grant additional functionality.

For cross-selling, borrow a page from Amazon’s book and find a way to present a variant of “Customers who bought this product also bought” to buyers. 

How much does it cost? Similar to #6, the cost of applicable extensions ranges between roughly $10 to hundreds. Ask the community surrounding your ecommerce platform to suggest extensions, which can provide exceptional value for their cost. 

#16 Create Banner Ads for Your Site and Social

One need not be a graphic designer to design attractive visuals. It’s not too early to start promoting Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and many free templates are available online, like Canva, Bannersnack, and many others. A few hours’ work can generate buzz and get you ahead of the game. Consider combining with discounts and promoted social media posts for extra effect.

How much does it cost? Free to less free, depending on whether you enlist the services of a graphic designer, provide discounts, or pay for promotional placement in social media.

#17 Load-Test Your Store

It’s best to know the limits of your site before Black Friday, not during. The results can give you some idea of whether or not to pursue an upgrade, or just rely on something like Hostdedi Auto Scale (see #1). If possible, prioritize the specific URLs of your homepage and checkout page.

If you’re a Hostdedi client and are unsure to do with this information, try contacting our support team first. While some of your issues may require a developer’s touch, you may have other options to help optimize site performance.

How much does it cost? Many free options are available. However, prioritize ones that test for “concurrent users,” which refers to the number of users on your site that are actively engaging with your content. Possible candidates include Load Impact, Flood IO, and Loader, among many others.

#18 Make Returns Easy 

Provide a clear return policy. Try to keep “no hassle” at the forefront, though reasonable restrictions on timelines are usually acceptable. Your policy should give answers to:

  • What items can be returned
  • What items can be exchanged
  • Which items are non-returnable and non-exchangeable
  • What options are available for reimbursement (refund, exchange, store credit)
  • How to ask for a return or exchange
  • Whether customers will pay for return-shipping
  • What condition returns and exchanges can be in to qualify (tags, worn, so on)
  • How long customers from the date of purchase to ask for returns or exchanges 

How much does it cost? Returns are arguably the cost of doing business, so we’re marking this one “free.”

#19 Track Everything

Chances are, your store already has tracking tools in place, though most platforms also provide  various plug-ins available to expand these tools.

web tracking on monitor

The right tool gives you invaluable data about how customers interact with your site: what they buy, where they spend their time, and how long they visit each page. Like any data, it requires analysis to be useful, but even an hour or two can provide actionable information for 2020 and beyond.

How much does it cost? It depends on your platform and how deep down the rabbithole you want to go. Start with what’s already available in your store and go from there.

#20 Check Out Your Competition

Spy on your competition so you can outdo them! We’re not recommending anything illegal or unethical. The easiest way to do so is to subscribe to their mailing lists and social media feeds. Fair warning: resist the urge to take too many queues from them, or you risk the “cookie cutter” effect of being too similar to your competition. Finding the balance between “inspired by” and differentiation will spell success for your store.

How much does it cost? Unless you’re buying from your competitors, it’s free!

 

 

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