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Why now's the time to implement your Christmas strategy

September 28, 2015 by Marketing Donut contributor

Why now's the time to implement your Christmas strategy{{}}It's time to start planning for Christmas and there are six key areas that business owners need to focus on: internal communications, audience segmentation, attribution, email targeting, display advertising, and affiliates.

Peak planning board

Set up a cross-departmental "peak planning board" so that everyone in the business understands their role in the build-up to Christmas. It is especially important for marketing and fulfilment teams to be in constant contact as seasonal campaigns and promotions must be supported to allow the supply of high-demand items. Marketing teams can also help drive stock movement by creating promotions for items that are lagging behind in sales.


Businesses need a deep understanding of shopper behaviour in the build-up to Christmas so they can segment and target their marketing effectively. Using insights from previous years, it is possible to identify the frequency and value of a customer's purchases, whether they buy from you throughout the year or only at Christmas, or whether the type of purchase they make changes at Christmas. This information will help you determine the level of personalisation and the type of marketing message to apply to different customers.


Advanced attribution takes account of every touchpoint; every device, platform or channel used by the customer during the buying journey. And it can provide valuable insight into customer behaviour. It allows you to measure return on investment for individual channels and campaigns in near to real-time, which in turn opens up opportunities to adjust campaigns and divert resources on-the-fly to support successful channels.


The upturn in online spending in the build-up to Christmas brings an increased risk of basket abandonment as customers save products they see for comparison or purchase later. It is important to have a clear strategy in place for following up on abandoned baskets and incomplete purchases – including when to start offering discounts or other perks to entice shoppers back to their basket on your site. Consider shortening your usual timeline for this follow-up, particularly as Christmas gets closer. Email-based discounting campaigns can also be useful for implementing "contingency plan" campaigns in the event that revenue targets are not being met. 


Competition for advertising space during the build-up to Christmas is intense and the early bird catches the worm. High-impact display advertising formats such as home page takeovers, billboards, pushdowns and skins get snapped up quickly – especially on sites with high prestige or traffic volumes. Seasonal campaigns should be planned and space booked in September, to run from November. This means that advert design and copywriting needs to be finalised by September.

It is important to think not only about special days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but also about the January sales period. These slots also get filled up very fast by premium publishers.


Partnering with affiliates can be an effective way to increase the reach and penetration of your marketing campaigns; something that's vital to customer acquisition at Christmas when so many voices are competing to be heard by the same audience. To ensure maximum impact from your Christmas campaigns, you should begin working on partnership agreements with affiliates from September, so that they go live from November.

The popularity of online shopping in the run-up to Christmas increases every year and Black Friday has intensified and extended this period of heightened demand. This trend isn't going anywhere; retailers must act now to ensure they are adequately prepared.

Copyright © 2015 Luke Griffiths, general manager of eBay Enterprise Marketing Solutions — EMEA.

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Three ways to outperform your online rivals

September 14, 2015 by Marketing Donut contributor

Three ways to outperform your online rivals{{}}Are you worried that your online competitors are stealing customers from your business?

If so, you're not alone. In our recent survey, 46% of businesses told us this was their greatest fear. Another 27% were worried that competitors' prices were lower; 18% reported concerns that their competitors have better marketing.

But business is competition, so how can your company gain the advantage? 

In order to outperform your competitors, you'll need to think strategically about the differences between your business and theirs. Here are three steps you can take to make it easier.

1. Get to know your brand, reputation and customers

Your business is your brand - without a strong brand and a solid reputation, you'll find it much harder to convert and retain customers.

Check out online reviews to see what customers are saying about you. When customers give you a glowing five-star review, what do they praise the most? When they're unhappy, what are the most common complaints? Many customers feel more able to voice their opinions online than in person, so this is an excellent way to learn what customers really think of you.

Understand your brand's appeal from the customer's point of view - why do they buy from you instead of your competitors? Does the customer perspective align with your company's presentation of the brand?

Once you've explored opinions of your brand, get to know your customers' needs and desires:

  • What do they want from your product or service?
  • What do they want you to start doing?
  • What do they want you to stop doing?
  • What do they want you to continue doing?

One of the simplest ways to discover this information is to conduct a consumer survey.  As the majority of consumers use mobile devices, a mobile survey lets you reach them wherever they are and provides an easy way for them to respond.

2. Get to know your competition and their customers

It's important to keep track of what advertising and marketing tactics your main competitors use, from SEO and SEM to social networking and email marketing. Notice any changes in their approach so you can gain insight into their broader strategies.

Take the time to audit your competitors' online performance:

  • Do they rank well for the search keywords that your company targets?
  • Do they publish great content online on a regular basis?
  • Do they have an active following on social media?

Subscribe to your competitors' email marketing campaigns to see how they're using this channel. Use a non-corporate email address for this, to avoid flooding your business inbox with competitor marketing campaigns or tipping off your competitors about your research activities.

Now learn more about your competitors' customers (and how they could become your customers):

  • Keep track of comments left on your competitors' social media profiles, websites, review sites and blogs. Try to get a sense of your competitors' typical customer profiles.
  • Look for gaps you can exploit. Are your competitors lacking a service or product that your company can deliver?

3. Gain insight to inform your decisions

Guesswork won't give you the insight you need to make the right decisions, but accurate data will.

To obtain data on your customers and how they interact with your brand, consider using lead conversion software. This can track key metrics including: impressions compared to click-through rates; conversion rates of different customer segments; conversion rates of different landing page designs; and how your chosen metrics change with the time of day, the day of the week or even the seasons.

Copyright © 2015 Paul Liascos, managing director of ReachLocal UK.

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Podcast: how I grew Prezzybox in a highly-competitive market

August 27, 2015 by John McGarvey

Prezzybox logo{{}}You might think that the year 2000 was a bad time to start an internet business. After all, that was the year the dot-com bubble burst, and investment in online companies dried up

But the crash didn't destroy every internet business. Take Prezzybox. This online gift retailer launched in September 2000, by founder Zak Edwards and a small team.

Initially run from a borrowed office with a bright orange wall, the company has since grown to have an annual turnover of £5m. In a highly-competitive sector, that's no mean feat.

Website eCommerce MasterPlan recently interviewed Zak for their regular podcast. During the half-hour discussion, he explains how the business got started, reveals his favourite online tools, and gives essential advice for anyone who's running - or thinking of starting - an ecommerce business. Listen now:

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Is Barclays right about online discounts and their impact on sales?

May 27, 2015 by Marketing Donut contributor

Is Barclays right about online discounts and their impact on sales?{{}}You may have seen the latest Barclays TV ad in which a woman gives shoppers a money-saving tip. She suggests that online shoppers place items in their basket but not checkout and instead wait for a coupon to arrive via email.

It is, in effect, advising cart abandonment as a way of shopping. Marketers often debate whether recovery incentives actually work. So we were very interested when an organisation that had been taking such an approach (using a 15% discount incentive) came to us with results of a 26.2% sales uplift!

But, as we discovered, this didn’t tell the whole story.

With permission, we let the existing program run for several weeks to get a baseline before removing the coupon and continuing for a further period. The sales uplift immediately plummeted from 26.2% to 6.4%. Had we made a horrific mistake?

Here's what happened:








Cost of









No incentive

















What stands out is that the recovery numbers had been boosted by the 15% incentive, so they fell when we removed it. But the value purchased hardly changed – in fact, it increased slightly when the incentive was removed. Customers were still buying at the same rate.

Clearly, when we stopped the incentive, a lot of people were buying through the normal checkout process, instead of getting diverted into abandonment recovery. The organisation had been allocating about $3,000 per month to the incentive, without increasing the value of sales at all.

What was happening?

Absolute price was never much of an issue, but nobody likes to pay over the odds. So, when presented with a 15% coupon in the cart abandonment email it changed purchasing behaviour as shoppers who would have bought immediately were diverted into becoming delayed buyers.

Instead of putting products in the cart and buying, shoppers would leave, wait until for the cart abandonment email, then return to the site and copy the coupon from the email.  But this is a much more complicated process and it’s well known that simplifying the checkout process improves sales.

Some of the would-be savers tried to save 15%, found it was all too much trouble and dropped out. Maybe the recovery email went to the spam folder, or maybe the coupons expired before they got around to using them. The precise reason doesn't really matter – what’s clear is that some potential shoppers were tempted by the offer but ultimately it actually stopped them going through with the purchase because of the added complexity.

The lesson is that you have to be very careful with incentives. Whenever you introduce a powerful reason to buy in a particular way, some customers will switch to it. But if your new way is complicated, some of those will drop out, and you could actually lose sales.

Copyright © 2015 Mike Austin, CEO of Fresh Relevance.

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Shoppers love free delivery – and you should too

December 08, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Shoppers love free delivery – and you should too{{}}Did you know that 83% of people are willing to wait an extra two days to receive an online order if they get free delivery?

According to a recent ComScore study, consumers are perfectly happy to forgo instant gratification if they don't have to pay for delivery charges.

That's how important free P&P is to online shoppers. But it's just one element of why free delivery is so important to consumers and why it can actually pay for itself several times over for an online retailer who offers it.

Don't put a roadblock in front of the shopping cart

If the products you sell are available in a store, then it doesn't make sense to charge for postage. This is especially true if your product is sold in a department store where the consumer will have more choice for competitive products and you run the risk of them buying something else there.

The last thing an online retailer wants is for a shopper to abandon their shopping cart and head down to their local retailer simply to avoid delivery charges. That's a lost sale that might have been prevented.

When a shopper is making an online purchase, they are, for the most part, already committed to a brand. But they can very easily jump ship when faced with delivery charges.

According to the Wharton School of Business, over half of shopping cart abandonment is due to delivery costs. Wharton’s Professor David Bell reveals that: "A free shipping offer that saves a customer $6.99 is more appealing to many than a discount that cuts the purchase price by $10.”

Free delivery increases average order volume

Why is free postage so important to online retail success? These compelling statistics have been gathered by Demac Media in this infographic:

  • Nearly half of all online orders currently include free delivery;
  • Free P&P increases average order volume by 30%;
  • 52% of abandoned shopping carts are due to P&P costs;
  • 58% of shoppers surveyed said they abandoned their shopping cart because postage made the purchase cost higher than expected;
  • 57% loaded up the cart to compare against competitors;
  • 50% said they abandoned the cart because their order wasn't large enough to qualify for free delivery.

Why free delivery is good for your business

Here are some of the business benefits of offering free postage:

Short-term gains. Free delivery can immediately boost online sales.

Larger orders. Free postage can lead to larger orders particularly when retailers set minimum purchase thresholds.

Long-term gains. Many online shoppers will only buy from merchants that offer free delivery, so, when it’s offered, merchants should expect to acquire new customers.

Repeat purchases. Free P&P can contribute to the lifetime value of those customers that a merchant might not otherwise have achieved had it not been for free or discounted delivery.

Staying competitive. Customers are more likely to leave a merchant and shop at a competitor site if they are offering free delivery.

How to keep your costs down

Of course, offering free delivery will add to the cost of a merchant doing business. However, you don’t have to offer free P&P on every item at all the times in order to increase sales or become more competitive.

Here’s how to manage your costs:

Offer free P&P with minimum thresholds. Setting minimum order value thresholds encourages larger orders and reduces risk. It's more realistic than free delivery on everything.

Offer free delivery on certain Items. Perhaps on products with higher margins.

Offer free delivery at certain times of the year. Target peak events such as Christmas.

Offer free delivery to certain locations. Setting geographic parameters either within country or on an international basis can help control costs.

Offer free delivery on returns. No-one wants to pay to return something that doesn't fit right or, worse, arrives damaged.

Offer flat-rate postage. While not free, shoppers will immediately come to the conclusion that larger orders are more economical.

Free delivery is something consumers expect and appreciate. When a merchant does something the consumer is happy about, they are building loyalty. So free delivery should be seen as a loyalty deliverable.

In exchange, merchants could consider asking for account registration or some other option to gather more information from the consumer or require the consumer to opt into email lists.

But what it really boils down to is removing a roadblock. The easier it is for the consumer to click the "buy" button, the more likely it is that they will go through with their purchase. And isn't that what we all want?

Copyright © 2014 Greg Shepard, ceo of AffiliateTraction.

Christmas is coming - are you ready?

September 29, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Christmas is coming — are you ready?{{}}

While the key sales period for a seasonal brand might only span three months of the year, optimising your site, securing advertising and mitigating bounce rate begins long before your customers start shopping.

With the first inklings of Christmas hype only a few weeks away, it’s not too late to implement the following suggestions and increase traffic during your key sales period.

Secure your brand advocates early

While your customers don’t want to hear about Christmas in June, advertising slots, opportunities for collaborative competitions and potential brand advocates are already primed for the festive period.

Determine your key sales period in Google Analytics and schedule coverage, advertisements and promotions which straddle these dates and overlap by a few weeks either side — it’s surprising how many people will buy a Christmas tree in the January sales.

Create specific landing pages

Custom landing pages are valuable for both organic search and increasing the relevancy of your pay-per-click (PPC) ads.

Optimise your landing page by including keywords and phrases in the title and include popular search terms within your website copy. Once your page is optimised, ensure that users have a pleasant shopping experience by making the purchasing process as simple as possible.

Allow users to sort results and provide an intuitive search function if budget permits. Highlighting your delivery terms (i.e. free delivery/next day delivery) also appeals to shoppers in a rush.

User-testing of your landing pages, your mobile site and your checkout process should be carried out before your sales period really kicks in. If you don’t have the budget for conversion rate optimisation, consider asking your own team to process test orders and highlight anything that could put customers off.

Upgrade to a Google Shopping Campaign

As of 2nd September, Product Listing Ads (PLA) on Google have been replaced by Shopping Campaigns. Google Shopping Campaigns allow you to bulk edit product groups and they offer access to your inventory and product feed information in Adwords.

While Shopping Campaigns are designed to respond to past complexities associated with PLA campaigns, users should familiarise themselves with the new features before increasing their PPC spend.

Find your fans on social media

Brands often make the mistake of posting only when it suits them (i.e. 9-5) and they forget that the majority of their target audience will be active on social media during evenings and weekends. Once you know when your fans are interacting, you can schedule your posts accordingly.

Copyright © 2014 Victoria Browne, copywriter and social campaigns manager, Fluid Creativity.

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