26 Nov
19 Nov

Use GIFs to market your e-commerce store

The human eye is naturally trained to look towards things that move. This is why animated GIFs became so popular in the 90s, back when people were used to reading static stuff online.

GIFs have found their way into the online mainstream through ad banners, video screen captures, Tumblr pages and pretty much everywhere else. Although not all social networking sites have embraced GIFs as part of their features, the power of animated images to capture that attention of online onlookers cannot be denied.

If you are curious about GIFs and how they can help your online shop, here are some effective ways to use GIFs as part of your marketing campaign for your e-commerce store:

Social media marketing
Sure, Facebook’s acceptance of animated images is limited to its own private messaging stickers, but Twitter is now equipped with the ability to display animated GIFs. If you don’t have a Twitter account yet, I suggest you sign up for one today. Otherwise, you’re letting millions of potential customers that are circulating social networking sites looking for the next big thing slip away without even trying to get their attention.

Once you have your Twitter account up and ready, you can now upload a GIF. Try to create GIFs that showcase your products and services, or describe your company in a few slides.

Email marketing
Did you know that most email service websites can play animated GIFs? Make your email marketing messages stand out by using GIFs. However, you must be careful not to overdo it, otherwise your email subscribers might get a headache reading your messages. Use GIFs to convey messages faster, not to show off.

Mobile marketing
A lot of people are already using phones equipped with GIF-compatible features. You can now use GIFs for your next mobile campaign. It might be good to tell your mobile subscribers about your plans to send them images, because some mobile carriers may charge extra for receiving animated GIFs.

GIFs aren’t just for sending funny images anymore. Their ability to catch and hold people’s attention can be used to great effect. There are lots of free online services for creating GIFs. Find one today and start creating.

[Photo courtesy of Riccardo Cuppini on Flickr]
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12 Nov

E-commerce trends to watch for in 2015

This year is approaching the finish line, which means we have to prepare ourselves for another season of exciting updates to online approaches of doing business, particularly in e-commerce. This year has been great for online shops and it seems that the coming year is set to follow suit.

If you really want to hit it big next year, you need to follow the updates and trends in e-commerce. Here are some e-commerce trends that you should pay attention to in 2015:

Mobile shops

Unlike the old WAP services that have come and gone in mobile phones of yore, services on smartphones and tablets appear to be staying for the long haul. This year saw a rise in mobile shopping, and it seems to show no signs of slowing down. If you are looking for a new avenue to branch out into, going mobile is your best bet. Optimize your online store to fit mobile browsers, or create an app for your store.

Payment using wearables

Wearable devices are all the rage this year with the announcement of Apple’s iWatch, upgrades to Google Glass, and the launch of several other wearable gadgets from top tech companies. Analysts are looking at wearables as the link between e-commerce and the real world because of their portability and ease of use. Just imagine wearing a smartwatch that alerts you about current promotions in a store that you just passed by. Wearable technology is a relatively untapped market for online store owners.

Custom-fit products and services

If you have mastered the art of catching the attention of your niche market, a new trend is coming: targeted marketing based on user personal information. Many people are giving away their personal likes and interests through social media, which could be a great source of ideas for your next line of products. Customize your business so that you can capture another specific market group.

Same-day shipping

This might be difficult for small store owners, but this trend is looking to grow over the course of a few months. Same-day shipping started becoming big because of Amazon and Google, and more companies are starting to follow them. You might want to study the possibility of offering this service for your e-commerce shop.

To stay competitive, you’ve got to adapt and that means keeping track of the newest trends and knowing when to adopt them into your store. Jump on too early and a better, easier method may come along to usurp that service. Wait too long and you risk being left behind. But, by knowing what trends are on the horizon, you are in a position to make an informed decision about what to adopt for your e-commerce store.

[Photo courtesy of Sam Churchill on Flickr]
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06 Nov

Choosing the Right Social Media Platform for Your E-Commerce Business

Today’s generation of online users usually turn to social media to find what they’re looking for. In many cases, social media has evolved from being avenues for self-expression to effective platforms to stage a marketing campaign.

If you own an online store, it’s understandable that you’re skeptical about the benefits of social media marketing. After all, maintaining a social media account – let alone four accounts at the same time – can be taxing for any business owner.
E-commerce company Shopify looked into which social media platforms could best benefit any online seller in terms of customer exposure and actual sales. Here are some of the important discoveries revealed in a study conducted by Shopify early this year:

Facebook is still king

Facebook rises over other social networking sites in terms of traffic and sales. According to Shopify, almost two-thirds of all social media referrals to their users’ stores come from Facebook. In addition to this, a huge majority of orders linked to social networking sites were also from the social media giant. On top of all these, Facebook posted the highest click-to-sale conversion rate from social media.

Reddit showed the highest growth in orders

It may not look like a good bet for your next social media campaign, but check this out: Based on 2013 records, Reddit tops the list in terms of orders growth at 152%, beating out Facebook’s 129% and Pinterest’s 79%.

Polyvore wins highest average order value

Poly—what? While this community-driven social website does not belong to the top echelons of social media traffic, Polyvore makes up for lack of name recognition by providing the best bang for your buck. The Shopify study notes that orders from Polyvore had the highest average value at $66.75 per order, besting Instagram at $65 and Pinterest at $58.95.

Other social networking sites perform best in niche industries

If you are a seller of antiques and collectibles, the study says that you might be better off using Pinterest as your main medium of online marketing. Here are social media sites that posted the highest number of orders in other industries:

  • Twitter:
    • gifts and specialty,
    • home and office furnishings,
    • home and garden
  • Pinterest:
    • antiques and collectibles,
    • services,
    • books and magazines,
    • IT or computing
  • YouTube:
    • digital products,
    • merchandise,
    • services,
    • automotive

Regardless of which platform you use, you still need a comprehensive plan to follow to turn those social media friends into actual customers. Choose your platforms well!

[Photo courtesy of Jason A. Howie on Flickr]
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29 Oct

How to create a responsive version of your website

Does your e-commerce store look good on a smartphone? If you’ve been relying on old techniques, then your website may look great on a desktop but fail miserably on a mobile screen.

This generation’s answer to better website appearance on mobile is to follow a responsive design. You might say that going mobile might be a waste of time, but check this out: More than 260 million U.S. shoppers own mobile devices, and more than 25 percent of them are using their gadgets to shop online. Imagine just a fraction of that figure discovering your awesome-looking Magento store on their tablets and phones, and deciding to buy something via their devices. That sounds like big bucks to me!

The key to grabbing the attention of mobile consumers is to set up a responsive website that looks amazing on their gadgets. Here are some tips on how to create a responsive design for your online shop:

Study your mobile market reach

Before spending time and money to build a responsive design, check first if your efforts are worthwhile. Analyze your website’s potential to go big on mobile by checking your existing mobile user market. Experts say that if your website gets at least 20 percent of its traffic through mobile, it’s a good investment to go responsive.

Ensure that the responsive design does not affect your current site layout

Plan out your responsive design so that it does not destroy your current desktop interface. Before launching your site’s mobile version, test and re-test the responsive interface to check for any kinks. It may also be a good idea to know what kind of mobile devices access your site the most, so you can tailor your design to those devices.

Customize content for mobile

Mobile users usually want different things from the average desktop shopper. Check the search terms of your mobile audience and then customize your content for them.

Optimize existing images and codes for mobile use

Shoppers on mobile want things fast, and so a slow-loading website just won’t do. Make sure that your responsive design includes priority content loading with lazy load feature, exact image dimensions for mobile devices, use of open Web fonts, less server round trips, and use of CDN.

By having a responsive web design, you can capture the best of both worlds: desktop and mobile. Let your customers view your site however they are most comfortable.

[Photo courtesy of Hina on Flickr]
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22 Oct

3 Ways to Make Your User Reviews Work for You

You’ve seen them on practically every well-known online store, and you’ve probably written some yourself: reviews.

Many online shops have successfully implemented a review system for their products and services. Allowing customers to leave feedback makes them feel that their input is valuable to you. Letting customers leave comments about the products they purchase is a great way to show that your company is setting its sights on customer satisfaction.

Magento is compatible with several review system applications that you can install and implement in your own e-commerce site. A lot of Magento users have already begun enjoying this service, and are probably reaping the benefits in terms of client happiness.

If you are skeptical as to the lasting effects of this kind of service on your own shop, here are three ways that can use user reviews to your advantage:

Connect with your customers

The first immediate advantage of allowing user reviews is connection to clients. Welcoming their comments – and saying a simple “thank you” or acknowledging their feedback – will definitely tell them that you value what they have to say. When the customer sees that you have a review and feedback system in place, they will feel that you’re not just robbing them of their money. As a result, they build trust and loyalty to your brand.

Get new ideas (and possible improvements) from your customers

Many online shop owners who have installed a user review system discovered that customer feedback yields a lot of suggestions. These may come in the form of modifications to existing products or totally new concepts. These bits of information can be very useful for a company that wants to be on top. You may feed this input to your R&D team, so that they can come up with changes and new products that you can sell later.

Use reviews as new content for SEO

Are you hard-pressed to generate new content on your online store website? Let your own customers feed the content to you through their reviews. Google puts a premium on reviews, especially if you have configured rich snippets in your site.

So, give your customers their virtual soapbox and let their words work for you.

[Photo courtesy of Sascha Grant on Flickr]

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15 Oct

5 Ways to Make Your Fraud Protection Better

When running a Magento store, security should be one of your foremost priorities. If you’re asking why, the answer is simple: If your online store visitors don’t feel secure entering their payment details, how can you sell anything?

Aside from ensuring a secure online payment system for your customers, another security strength that you must focus on is fraud protection. Online fraudsters are not only scheming but also technologically skilled. Therefore, as an e-commerce store owner, you have to keep up with them.

A lot of fraud protection techniques are available in the market. While some of them have prohibitive costs, there are also cost-effective alternatives that can toughen up your online shop against these fraudulent individuals. Here are five ways to boost fraud protection in your e-commerce website:

Proxy detection
Checking for suspicious proxies is a good first step in fraud protection. While there are services available to evaluate proxies in your system in real time, you can do it for free by checking suspect proxies via a quick Google search.

Geo location
Identifying the real location of your customers will give you a sense of security that the transaction is legit. Check the endpoint of an IP address to determine which geographical location the online purchase is being made from. Free IP locator services abound online, so you only need to look them up. Of course, the results may be skewed a bit if the buyer passes through a proxy.

Address Verification Service
Similar to geo location, address verification service (AVS) evaluates the personal address of the customer and cross-checks it with the entry on the database. This service is used by credit card companies to confirm the validity of a purchase. You may also want to consider this for your Magento store.

Data Linking
Databases exist for a very important reason: archiving and filing. Past order data, for instance, can tell you if a particular customer is fraudulent – frequently changing credit cards, unusually large orders in a short period of time, or IP addresses that are not unique. Linking these data can give you an idea about the validity of a transaction.

Expert Consultation
You can always form a risk assessment and management team within your company, but a better alternative – and one that many store owners are already opting for – is to hire an external party to do the fraud evaluation and protection. Experts in Magento fraud protection are highly skilled and ensure that your business is always up and running without fear of suspicious orders and chargebacks.

Follow these five tips to help protect your Magento e-commerce store against fraud.

[Photo courtesy of Don Hankins on Flickr]
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08 Oct

10 Tips for Conversion Optimization with a Magento Store

Wouldn’t it be fantastic to turn casual site visitors into loyal customers with one flick of a switch? Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way, even in the field of e-commerce. Although it’s easy to set up a Magento store, the success of your online business depends on a lot of factors, some of which involve pleasing your store visitors enough to convince them to buy.

Because of the convenience of Magento, sprucing up your e-commerce store takes just a few modifications. If you want to see your profits grow and your customer loyalty go through the roof, here are ten tips for optimizing your Magento store to convert visits to purchases:

1. Showcase your bestselling products

Create a page – or a section on your homepage – that lists your top selling products. These items are bestsellers for a reason, and so you should tell your site visitors about these hot products.

2. Use top search keywords as categories

The most searched keywords are those that people are looking for on your website. Capitalize on that strength by using them as category terms.

3. Highlight your best features

Do you offer free shipping or a money-back guarantee? Make sure that people know this by putting the information on a conspicuous area of your website. You may use site alerts or sidebar banners to let your clients know.

4. Use the best product images

You should put up crisp, high-quality pictures on your product pages so that visitors can evaluate your item through the image. You can even up the ante and use videos to offer a 360-degree view of the product.

5. Infuse customer input into your website

A number of Magento add-ons let you put up a review system for your customers to leave feedback about the items that they bought. Give your clients an opportunity to share their story about your products.

6. Ensure your customers of a safe and secure shopping experience

Nobody wants to shop in a suspicious store, and the same is true with online shops. Remind them that your website is SSL-enabled and their privacy is intact. If you can, try to offer them various payment options to make them feel more secure.

7. Make the checkout process ultra-convenient

Checking out items for purchase should be convenient to the buyer. You can do so many things within this context: ensure that they don’t have to re-enter information when flipping through pages, show a breadcrumb-like outline of the checkout process, and put complete information on the checkout pages.

8. Strengthen shipping and returns policy

Let the item delivery be as hassle-free for the buyer as possible. This involves shortening the delivery time, telling the buyer about the expected arrival, or offering free shipping. It’s also good to draft a comprehensive return policy.

9. Use email to your advantage

Ensure the buyer receives an order confirmation email, and that it arrives properly. The latter involves the use of a good mail service provider. And please, say “thank you” to your customer through email!

10. Advertise your store within the site pages

Put up an “About” page complete with your history, mission and vision, and the people behind the company. Tell your visitors about your social media accounts. Although this may not directly result in purchases, these things can make visitors stick around longer.

These are some of the ways you can optimize your Magento e-commerce store to turn those promising site visitors into lucrative customers.

[Photo courtesy of SEOPlanter on Flickr]

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01 Oct

22 Tips to Boost E-Commerce SEO and Conversion Rates

E-commerce SEO and conversion rate optimization can double your traffic and sales. And, best of all, it’s not even that difficult to do. Follow these 22 tips and watch as your e-commerce numbers climb.

Out of stock items

  • Leave the pages up. Some people like to hide the pages of out of stock items, but if they are going to be restocked later, just leave the pages as is. You may want to put a note saying the product is currently out of stock and will be restocked later, but don’t hide them or redirect people away from the page.
  • Offer alternative items. Offer similar alternatives through widgets on the site. Not only will you be providing your customers a great service they’ll appreciate, but you’ll also help search engines find relevant pages and understand your site structure.
  • Inform users when it will return. Provide the anticipated date when the product will be in stock again so visitors will know when to check again.
  • Offer to backorder the product. Let customers order the product and send it out as soon as you’re restocked.
  • Offer an incentive to come back and buy. Provide some kind of incentive to them to wait and order from you rather than looking elsewhere for the product. This is usually best done as a discount.

Obsolete &/or Expired Products

Regardless of what you sell, you’re going to have some products that just don’t get restocked. You first instinct may be to delete these pages and leave it at that, but that’s not a good practice to get into because you lose SEO value and anyone who may have that page bookmarked is going to find an error message waiting for them next time they try to visit the page.

You can try one of the following options to deal with items that will not be restocked.

  • Permanently 301 redirect expired product URLs. If you are replacing an older model of a product with a newer one, use a 301 permanent redirect from the old page to the page with the newer model’s URL. This redirect tells Google you want this page ranked instead and you get to retain your SEO value.
  • Redirect to the parent category. If you have similar products as the expired one, you can direct visitors to the parent category.
  • Permanently delete everything to do with the expired product. If you do not have any closely related products, it may be a good idea to delete the page completely. You can do this with a 410 status code, which tells Google that the page has been permanently deleted and will not return.
  • Reuse URLs. If you are selling products where technical specifications and model numbers are not relevant, you can reuse the URLs of expired products. This will preserve the page’s authority in Google rankings.
  • Leave the pages for informational purposes. Sometimes it’s best just to leave the pages up with a note saying they’re permanently unavailable now. They can help people researching the product, or help previous buyers with information, help and service.

Product Pages with Little or No Unique Content

Running an e-commerce site is time-consuming, so many people don’t think about the importance of having unique content on their product pages. Many people pull information from databases or just post the manufacturer’s content on their site. This, obviously, can lead to duplicate content issues.

  • Add unique content for your most popular products. Use web analytics tools to identify your best-selling and most popular products and then update them manually with original content.
  • Focus on product categories. Some e-commerce sites have tens of thousands of products. Manually entering original content for all of them would be nearly impossible. So, focus your efforts on your parent categories. Improve your internal link architecture, improve your site’s breadcrumbs and add relevant products. This will help the search bots and teach them how to best crawl your site.
  • Add user generated content. Have your customers help out by allowing them to leave reviews for the products. This will help differentiate your product pages from other duplicates on the Web. Reviews from happy customers will enhance your SEO campaign and boost sales conversions.

Category Pages

Next to the home page, your category pages are the most important ones on your site.

  • Treat category pages like mini home pages. Think of  your categories as hubs that contain closely related product pages.
  • Add unique content to your category pages. This is much less work than adding it to the individual product pages.
  • Build deep-links to product categories. You can use guest blogging, content marketing, paid ads and social media to build these link networks.
  • Tag socially shared content. Share links on Google Plus, Twitter and other networks and be specific with your tags.
  • Be conscious of design. Design category pages to provide search engines and users the best possible service.
  • Use search-friendly URLs. The most effective URL structure for category pages (and product pages) is:
    • Category Page: Website.com/category/
    • Sub-category page: Website.com/category/sub-category/
    • Product page: website.com/category-sub-category/product-name/

Internal Link Building & Architecture

Internal link building helps with SEO and rankings, but to achieve the best results, you need link architecture, not just “link building.” Internal linking should focus more on user friendliness and not on making things easier for the search engine spiders. They’ll find their way. It’s your customers’ experience you need to keep in mind.

  • Offer category level navigation. This will make it easier for your users to get an overview of what they will find in the subcategories and pages.
  • Link to category-level relevant products. Take intent and needs into consideration, but also optimize for the right keywords.
  • Use breadcrumbs on all pages and category pages. This ensures that users and Google can navigate up one level to a parent category.

Following these tips can help boost your e-commerce site’s SEO power. Use them to help with site optimization and to boost traffic and, more importantly, sales.

[Photo courtesy of Paloma Gomez on Flickr.]
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24 Sep

5 Ways to Make Your e-Commerce Content Shine

Maintaining an e-commerce website takes effort. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. However, if you have powerful tools and features in your arsenal and ample website management experience to boot, you’ll find that an e-commerce business is manageable.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to learn new ideas to boost your online shop’s standing amidst other e-commerce sites. One edge that you can use to your advantage is excellent and high-quality content. Having great content on your product pages has generally two major advantages:

  • Better SEO: Search engines love to spider through websites with loads of textual content.
  • Satisfied customers: When people understand what you are selling and how the products or services work, they will probably come back for more purchases.

Ready to make content the star of the show in your e-commerce website? Here are five techniques to capitalize on the benefits of useful content on your e-commerce pages:

1. Write product descriptions that are comprehensive and unique
You may have thousands of items in your catalog, so it’s really a huge task to put detailed descriptions on each of them. However, this doesn’t give you the luxury of being lazy by putting one-sentence product descriptions. Let those creative juices flow and write descriptions that explain the product in detail. Also, try to write your own content and not rely on the manufacturer’s description.

2. Say no to duplicate content
Search engines don’t like to see the same content over and over again on a website. Try to create unique content for each of your pages.

3. Use structured data to describe your products on search engines
If you want your pages to stand out in search results, structure your content well so that search bots can index your content properly. Use breadcrumbs, product ratings (if you have a system), and pricing information. This structured data will appear in search results alongside the link to your product pages.

4. Try videos instead of images for better product visualization
Make your products come alive by using video clips instead of static images. Aside from providing your site visitors with better views of the product, adding videos makes your e-commerce website unique. (Keep the videos fairly short and small so you don’t bog down your site, though.)

5. Allow customers to review your products
Give your customers a voice on your website by allowing them to post reviews about the product that they purchased from your online store. This gives them a sense of ownership of the product. Although they may post negative comments about your product, at least they showed concern to the point of posting something for others to know and for you to improve your products and services.

Keep customers coming back with these five tips for brilliant content.

[Photo courtesy of Bram Willemse on Flickr]

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