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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20 Aug

7 Important Factors for Magento Speed

Once you have set up a Magento-powered e-commerce website, the next step to focus on is how to optimize it. There are many ways to improve the performance of your Magento store, but all of them boil down to a shortlist of factors.

If you are looking to speed up your Magento online store, take note of these important factors for Magento speed:

  1. Use NGINX instead of Apache. NGINX is more lightweight than Apache, so if you’re starting with a simple store that sells a few products, you don’t need the features of the heavier Apache server. NGINX helps you save RAM resources to optimize PHP and MySQL.
  2. Take advantage of multiple CPU cores and fast engines. For this tip, I suggest you use MySQL 5.5 or Percona 5.5, while PHP-FPM 5.3 or 5.4 should address PHP engine speed.
  3. Assess unified backend implementation and site speed for multiple stores. Running many stores on a single unified Magento Backend System could take its toll on the speed of the sites, as they’ll be running on the same set of resources. If speed is being compromised, consider using separate backend systems for each of your stores.
  4. Prioritize shopping cart rules over catalog rules. Let the bulk of server processing run during the shopping cart stage instead of doing everything during catalog browsing.
  5. Don’t use unreliable Magento developers. These developers may come cheap, but don’t expect a smooth-running website. Stick to the big guns when it comes to developers.
  6. Be on top of SEO and search bot behavior. Search engine bots may index your site without rules, which can slow down your store and affect your site’s search engine ranking. If you’re not aware yet, you may customize the bot rules for your website. E-commerce web hosts such as GeeXSE can give you an advanced bot webserver configuration that can help you both prevent misbehaving bots and also create advanced fast cgi caches specifically to improve bots’ access to sites by feeding them all cached content.
  7. Test everything before going live. Always test modules on a developer version of your site before launching it online.

Keeping in mind these seven things will help your Magento-backed store run quickly and smoothly, leading to happy customers.

[Photo courtesy of Jonel Hanopol on Flickr]
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06 Aug

Choosing Correct Software for Your E-commerce Store

Starting a business online is no small feat. If you have decided to put up your own online store to sell your products or services, you should be prepared not only for the eventual sale of your items but also the deluge of preparatory requirements before setting it all up.

One of the first things that any online business owner should decide on is what software to use in running the store. A lot of applications are available for use by anyone interested in starting an online business, and each one has its benefits and pitfalls.

The three most common e-commerce applications are PrestaShop, Magento, and WordPress with an e-commerce plugin. Allow me to discuss the pros and cons of these three popular applications to help you in choosing correct software for your e-commerce store.

PrestaShop

With close to 4 million downloads and counting, PrestaShop remains one of the top e-commerce frameworks available for free download. The developers of PrestaShop assure its clients of fast, efficient, and easy-to-use software to build an online store. It’s easy to install, and its light framework will make your website fast. PrestaShop is also easy to configure and debug, especially if you’re adept at PHP development.

The bad side of PrestaShop is its poor rewrite system. Compared with the other two software applications, PrestaShop has the fewest modules and themes.

Magento

This rich and robust e-commerce platform has become a reliable go-to software for any individual or business wanting to set up an online store. Magento is highly extensible and able to handle large catalogs. Its popularity has spawned thousands of modules, so you can say there’s a module for practically anyone. On its backend, Magento can handle multiple sites in different languages.

On the down side, the rich Magento framework takes its toll on site speed. Magento has the heaviest code of the three software choices in this list, and requires more servers running. It also needs a highly skilled Magento developer to adjust the platform to your business needs. If you want to learn the software yourself, expect a steeper learning curve.

WordPress with e-commerce plugin

The number one blogging platform has evolved into a complete CMS package, thanks to the wide variety of attractive themes and plugins available for convenient installation. WordPress is now able to run an e-commerce website using ready-to-use plugins such as WooCommerce, WP e-Commerce, and Jigoshop. WordPress is also ultra-convenient as it makes content creation and editing easy, and does not need additional blogging software. It is innately SEO-ready, but you can enhance it further using SEO plugins.

Most of the e-commerce plugins running in WordPress have limitations, particularly on the number of catalogs. If you plan to increase your product list to over 20,000, then WordPress might not be the best option for you.


 

Choosing the perfect e-commerce platform for your online store will really depend on your business plans. I recommend that you research more on these three e-commerce software solutions to further cement your decision.

[Photo courtesy of Guiseppe Leto Barone on Flickr]
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15 Jul

Why Magento is a good e-commerce platform

The Internet has evolved from a simple networking medium to a universe of opportunities for communications and exchanges. In retrospect, who would have thought that websites could not only bring information but also become effective venues for business solutions?

The advent of e-commerce has changed the way people do business. With just a few keyboard strokes and mouse clicks, anyone can purchase products and services online, even on mobile devices.

Web developers are exposed to a lot of e-commerce framework options, but one of the best e-commerce platforms is Magento. Many website owners find Magento to be a complete package not only for its amazing features but also for its ease of use. Here are some of the great reasons why you should choose Magento as your e-commerce platform:

Open Source
Magento is available for free download, but it does not scrimp on features. Because of its open source nature, Magento’s source code may be modified by developers depending on what features and plugins the client or site owner wants to use on the website.

Fully Scalable
Magento’s open source capability makes it open to updates. Whatever business size the website is designed for – whether it’s a small business or a full-blown enterprise – Magento can be adjusted according to the company’s size.

User-Friendly Site Management
By default, Magento makes it easy for business owners to set up an online store, complete with a full list of products or services, as well as pricing and payment panels. If you have many stores that you need to set up, Magento has the ability to host multiple stores without skipping a beat, and provides a single Admin panel to manage all of the online stores.

For the site customer, Magento provides an easy-to-use interface equipped with efficient site navigation, zoom-in features, and product reviews. In short, Magento makes the online shopping experience pleasant for the customer.

SEO-Ready Features
What good is a great-looking e-commerce website if people cannot discover it through search? Magento makes this easy with its default SEO-friendly structure using clean URLs and keyword-rich page descriptions.

Tight Security, Effective Payment Options
While your main concern is running your business, Magento takes care of ensuring that your financial transactions are safe and secure. The e-commerce framework makes it simple for the site owner to activate dedicated IP and secure SSL for the website. In addition to this, customers are provided a good list of options for payment: PayPal, Authorize.net, credit card, and more.

There’s absolutely no question that Magento is easily one of the best e-commerce platforms available today. If you are interested to use Magento for your e-commerce plans but are unsure on how to install and manage it, we at GeeXSE can help you set up your Magento-powered online business.

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