Ecommerce websites make the buying process easy. Your customers can browse your entire catalogue of products from the comfort of their living room. That is, of course, provided your website works as it should.
Here are four ecommerce website post-launch checks you should make right away:
1. Create a sitemap.xml and robots.txt file
If you want your new site to be indexed by the search engines, you need to submit a sitemap. You should upload this file via Google Webmaster Tools or Bing Webmaster Tools. Savvy e-tailers should also set up a robots.txt file to tell the search engines the pages you don’t want indexing. This should be used for pages like your shopping cart and order confirmation pages.
2. Set up Google Analytics
Right after launch, you should be setting up Google Analytics. Free to set up and easy to use, this tracking and monitoring software helps you keep a close eye on the success of your website. Simply set up with a Gmail email address and place the code on your website — it is as simple as that.
Some top tips for making the most of analytics software is to make sure you’re not tracking website visits from your IP address. This will give you an accurate figure of real visits to the ecommerce site. You should also make use of the goals, conversions, and social funnels.
3. Check out your checkout
Ask someone who has no previous knowledge of your ecommerce site to make a test purchase. This is the easiest way to check that your checkout is working and that the buying process is easy. After all, if people struggle to buy from your ecommerce site, they won’t hang around for long.
4. Is it mobile and tablet ready?
Is your ecommerce store built to be responsive? With more and more people surfing the web from a smart phone or a tablet computer, responsive design is more important than ever. Test your newly launched website across a whole host of devices and screen resolutions.
Does the design adapt and does everything work as it should? If not, now is your chance to make the appropriate changes.
In order to thrive in 2013 and beyond, an ecommerce website is a necessity. The sooner you start following this checklist, the sooner you can drive traffic to your site and boost your sales. What are you waiting for?
Clare Evans is a copywriter at Superdream, a digital agency in the Midlands, specialising in ecommerce website design.
Any company with an ecommerce website knows that order fulfillment is a big issue. And the main challenge for companies is trying to pinpoint specific reasons that customers are abandoning their online shopping carts.
Some service providers have created software that targets each customer who has incomplete orders. The management software will most likely send an automated email that remarkets the product or makes a special pricing offer. However, before employing one of these services it is advantageous to understand the process your customers go through when considering a purchase. It is also important to know why they choose not to fulfill their orders.
The first step would be to understand the flow of Internet commerce. Many customers choose to shop online because they can pick the best-priced item after comparing costs on various sites. When going back and forth between sites, clients will also take into account the added cost to pack and ship the item. Others shop online because of a time-consuming job or they like the convenience of not having to leave their house.
There are two main solutions when trying to avoid web comparison-shopping. The first is to build brand loyalty — which of course is beneficial to any business. The other option is create a unique product that cannot be found on other sites, such as Amazon.
The other reason orders are not fulfilled by customers may be the complexity of your processing page. Your checkout form should be as simple as possible. It should be written in the most direct and simple manner possible. You may also want to have a sales specialist write a detailed FAQ page about your checkout for those looking for a step-by-step description.
This infographic gives a quick overview of the most important factors that affect the checkout process.
For the past few years our focus on getting up close and personal with our customers has increased. With the development of CRM systems and improved analytics we have gained a deeper understanding of who our customers are and how they shop.
Largely led by big brands with expensive systems we have learnt that the customer buying process is complex, usually involving several channels and multiple influencing factors. As this step change has taken place, smaller brands have had to sit on the sidelines and watch the big players reap the rewards of greater insight and functionality.
Thankfully the market has moved on and the playing field is now even. Plug and play technology has emerged onto the market that allows brands of all sizes to create intelligent, personalised marketing. For the first time ever, even the smallest of companies can build a personal dialogue with their customers.
So what does it mean in practice? Brought down to its most basic level, it’s all about listening to the consumer and delivering a tailored service based on what you know about each customer. I always like to use the shop analogy — if someone walked into your shop, the conversation would probably go something like this:
Owner: Hi, Can I help you with anything?
Customer: Yes, I’m looking for a pair of brown boots in a size 6
Owner: Certainly, let me show you what we have in stock
It’s a simple analogy but it illustrates a point. In face-to-face situations or on the telephone we would always find out what the customer wants and then aim to deliver it.
In an online situation we tend to just throw everything that we have at the customer regardless of what we know about them. We expect them to trawl through everything, even items that are not in stock.
There is no excuse for this “one size fits all” targeting, we now have the ability to personalise our marketing with ease and on many different levels including personalising a home page on a website, personalising the product selections shown to the customer when they visit our website, re-engaging with browsers who have left a website without completing a purchase and even sharing this information across channels.
So how do you go about this?
Collect customer data
Website browsing data, transactional data and demographic data can all be collected by placing code on your website. You can also encourage customers and visitors to register with you via sales order forms, newsletters and promotions. This customer insight will form the lifeblood of your campaign as it will allow you to target the most relevant products, messages and promotions to each customer.
Identify your opportunities
This data can tell you when and how to connect with your customers and provide them with relevant content. A good place to start is abandoned basket campaigns that re-engage customers who have left the site without purchasing. This is an easy way to make an impact on your sales as you are targeting customers who have already expressed an interest in a product by putting it in their basket or even going to the checkout. By sending a triggered email you can re-engage with the customer and capture this lost revenue. This sort of activity can gives you a revenue uplift of 8%.
Other levels of personalisation involve showing the customer their own unique web page, displaying personalised images, messages and even incentives based on what you know about them. Taking this a step further you can personalise product searches so that the products they are most likely to buy appear at the top of the search results.
It’s important to keep in mind what you are trying to achieve — it’s not just about finding ways to personalise, ultimately it’s about improving the experience for the customer to increase their responsiveness. Although it may seem like a daunting prospect, view it is as a process of gradually getting to know your customers and building a service as personal as if they had walked into your shop.
Expanding your business abroad is no mere afterthought despite the ease of reaching people in different languages and markets across the world thanks to the internet.
Rarely is it necessary these days to set up local offices or physical branches on the high street to sell your wares or services. People simply search for your product and buy from you even if your business isn’t based in their country — most customers will trust worldwide shipping to make purchases online.
So how do we take advantage of this phenomenon? How do we reach audiences in the same language but a different country like Australia or the USA? How do we reach audiences in a different language and a different country altogether? How do we avoid embarrassing mistakes to keep our credibility intact when people do eventually find us?
The key issue that most business forget in the rush to maximise the opportunity is not to get lost in translation.
Acting local with content
The first thing you need is web content. Whether you’re an ecommerce site selling your unique brand of clothes or a firm selling professional services or an online product such as a video game — you need copy that is written in the customer’s language.
But before you log onto Google translate, remember that people are not that forgiving of businesses with poorly written copy. So it makes sense to hire a professional writer that has native level language skills in the country of choice — even Australian English for instance.
A professional writer will not only write using the idioms and wordplay, they will also understand the culture of how people buy into what it is you do. This will also help prevent costly branding mistakes such as the time Opel named their car Nova for the Spanish market which means “no-go”.
They will write web copy for your product or service that sounds right and thus will make your business appear more persuasive and trustworthy.
Beyond the website
The professional writer will not only write copy for your website, but equally important, will write unique content for other websites discussing the issues that your business’ products or services resolve.
This not only allows you to reach out to new audiences in France but also helps build your reputation in Google France. This happens in a number of ways:
If the budget stretches, you may wish to consider getting coverage in the target country. This will require a public relations (PR) specialist with the right media contacts in the countries you’re marketing to.
The PR will help you build your profile with the media and create news hooks that will help your press releases get picked up by the press your customers read. These news hooks could be original research or surveys or whitepapers that will help your brand get noticed and stand out from all other local and global competitors vying for your customers’ money.
Although Rome wasn’t built in a day, just imagine what the Romans would have given to have the technology we have to reach millions of people across the world — all powered by search.
Ecommerce businesses come in all shapes and sizes and unless you know, with clarity, which type you are, you’ll find your business struggling to succeed.
Some have shops as well as websites, some sell on Amazon or eBay, others send out catalogues. The type of ecommerce business you are in affects everything you do with that business — from stock control to finance to marketing.
Once you know your type, you can more easily work out what to do next. Every single ecommerce business fits into one of these seven types. Understanding the nature of your own business will fundamentally change the way you run and market it.
What are the seven types of ecommerce business?
1. Online only
2. Mail order
3. Big bricks and clicks
4. Boutique bricks and clicks
5. Mainstream piggyback
6. Niche piggyback
Where sellers of similar products come together to market more easily, usually retaining their own blog or ecommerce site elsewhere too. Examples include: the craft world (Etsy, Folksy), hotels (hotels.com, laterooms.com), jewellery (Boticca), and Books (abebooks.co.uk).
7. Full multichannel
Mail order is very different to online only because a catalogue exists for a long time which puts restrictions on your merchandising — you’ve got to keep products in stock for longer, and you are very likely to have to deal with backorders.
Bricks and clicks are different to other types because you’ve got all the overheads of stores to deal with, but also the opportunity to use those stores to drive traffic to your website — and you can create a pick-up-in-store delivery option.
The piggyback types are a whole new way to do business online — no more struggling to get your website right, just use someone else’s and let them bring you business. Then there’s full multichannel — encompassing it all, and the most heavily reliant on good integrated systems.
How the different models work
Your ecommerce business structure influences everything you do in your business, from your USP to your team structure, to your finances. But in particular it has a big impact on how you market your business; if you’re a piggyback then the person you piggy back on is driving your traffic, so you don’t need to worry so much about marketing, you need to focus on product and price. Whereas if you’re an online only you have to drive your own traffic — so you’ve got be busy with your marketing.
Certain marketing methods suit certain types of ecommerce business and this is just one reason why it’s important to know what you are!
For example a full multi-channel business should have social media low on its priority list, and will seriously miss out if it ignores email. A mail order ecommerce business must focus on email, offline promotions, search engine optimisation and remarketing.
By working out what type of ecommerce business you are, you can determine where your effort should be focused in order to get the best return on investment and ensure your business is a success.
Chloe Thomas is an eCommerce expert and the author of eCommerce Masterplan.
I’ve just finished an extensive tour of some of my company’s most successful online retailers. One common theme has been that they aim to provide excellent customer service. But I’ve droned on about that many times before, so I’ll not bore you again.
However, one of the other themes that came out is how clear they are on what they are doing. The benefit of this is illustrated by the classic saying, “those that aim at nothing are lucky - they always hit their target.”
If you’re aiming at something in particular, by definition you also know what you’re not aiming at. To put it another way, if you’re not sometimes politely telling customers that “we don’t do that”, you’re not really clear on just what you are doing.
Here are a couple of examples from my tour. Kettlewell Colours (www.kettlewellcolours.co.uk) sell women’s T-shirts in a rainbow of colours. But it doesn’t do any search engine optimisation, or pay-per-click advertising, because it doesn’t compete on price. PPC and SEO won’t yield much of the demographic that buys from the site. Instead Kettlewell markets exclusively through image consultants who recommend its wares. This is easy for the simple reason that it really meets the needs of its clients, by providing clothes in a vast range of colours. It doesn’t do anything else, and being clear on what it does, means it doesn’t waste money on ineffective marketing.
In contrast, Cult Pens (www.cultpens.com), another customer, specialises in pens. It is much more niche than just stationery, so if you want a fax machine from them, you’re out of luck. However, it does consistently achieve first or second rank on Google UK for “Pens”. That’s out of nearly two and a half million entries. It’s a fantastic achievement and it’s heavily driven by the fact that the business has around 8,000 pen-related products. Not surprisingly, Google seems to conclude that it knows quite a bit about pens. That works to such an extent that it doesn’t need to spend out on pay-per-click advertising.
To be successful in business, you have to be focused. And when you are focused, it’s easy to know what to do and what not to do. The results will nearly always speak for themselves. It’s not just the marketing that works at these two companies, they are both growing like crazy. One of the reasons for their success? They know what they don’t do.