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October 25, 2017

Tools, Technologies & Tips for Ecommerce

At a recent Vancouver Web Design Meetup event attended by over 250 people, a panel of five industry experts discussed the latest trends in the rapidly changing fields of ecommerce design and development. Here are their thoughts and recommendations.

Ecommerce Market Trends

As predicted, online shopping continues to grow with over 50% of consumers preferring to shop online. There are now a few cemented and some emerging ecommerce trends and tools that you will want to keep an eye on including:

  • Omni-channel sales.
  • Personalized shopping experience.
  • Mobile responsive design.
  • Artificial intelligence.
  • B2B strategies using advanced B2C tactics.

Omni-Channel Sales

With a multichannel approach to sales you can provide a seamless shopping experience whether the customer is shopping online, by telephone or in a brick & mortar store. For best results, the design of the website should remain consistent when viewed on a desktop or mobile device and should also compliment the physical store presence. Consumers can shop the same way through in-store, website and telephone. Regardless of the customers' location and time. The order can either be delivered to the address directly, picked up at the store, or picked up from a retail partner.

Personalized Shopping Experience

Whether in person or online, a good sale starts with a personal connection to the brand or product. There is plenty of opportunity to serve each shopper new, customizable, relevant and unique content with each visit. Using the right technology and business intelligence, companies are able to serve this content based on customers':

  • Purchase history
  • Visited products.
  • Geographic location.
  • Demographic profiles.
  • Market trends.
  • Brand interactions.

Mobile Responsive Design

There can be missed sales without attention to mobile versus desktop viewing and buying habits. Desktop and mobile devices account for just over 40% of sessions each with tablets around 20%. However 63% of revenue is from desktop with only 21% from mobile and 17% from tablets.

Some of the challenges with purchasing on mobile are:

  • Screen size.
  • Awkward navigation.
  • Concerns over privacy.

Opportunities for mobile:

  • Improve ease of use & conversion optimization on small screens.
  • Add the ability for customers to share and save products and items.
  • Optimize your site for speed.

    Artificial Intelligence

    Machines are being trained to learn and solve problems. This is changing the way customer service is being handled—moving away from real people. Most queries can now be handled by bots. According to Gartner Research, by 2020 eighty-five percent of customer interactions will be handled without human interactions. Popular AI applications now are:

    • Voice search.
    • Self-driving cars.
    • Network routing.
    • Competing at strategic games.
    • Machine learning to interpret complex data.

    Ecommerce Platforms

    One of the biggest decisions you will have to make for your ecommerce website is what platform to use. With so many options it can be difficult to figure out which option best meets your needs. While there is no such thing as “the best ecommerce platform”, we have briefly reviewed our three favorites so you can determine which is best for your business needs.

    Shopify

    Shopify is great for small to midsize B2C websites with less complex data. This is a cloud service only and therefore is easier to setup. Shopify customers typically require an average $5,000 budget to create an ecommerce website on this platform.

    WooCommerce

    Good for simple to moderately difficult B2B and B2C websites. WooCommerce is an open-source plug-in for WordPress that requires hosting and security measures. It is excellent for content marketing. It is very customizable and boasts the second largest install base. Businesses should expect to budget $10,000 on an ecommerce website built with WordPress & WooCommerce.

    Magento

    Magento is sold in two editions: Community for mid-sized businesses, and Enterprise for large businesses. It is based on open source technology and is excellent for integrations and customization. It has the largest install base and is relatively inexpeninexpensive
    compared to IBM, Oracle, SAP, etc. Budgets vary depending on edition; Community Edition requires a budget from $15,000 to $100,000, and Enterprise requires at least a $100,000 budget.

    Important Considerations

    Important considerations when choosing a CMS include: your product data and its complexity, plug-ins, integrations (POS, inventory, CMS, ERP, etc.). Other important considerations are the "multis":

    • Multi-store.
    • Multi-language.
    • Multi-currency.
    • Multi-brand.

    Live Chat

    Further reinforcing personalized shopping experiences, we have seen that Live Chat users spend on average 5% to 30% more on purchases. Conversion rates improve by 5 to 10 times following a live chat session. With the onset of machine learning and artificial intelligence, in the future, live chat will eventually be fully automated by bots.

    Digital Marketing Strategies

    Where to start? It's a never ending cycle of picking your audience, figuring out their value, messaging them accordingly, and not wasting money.

    Finding Your Best Customers

    Pick a segment that is important to your business and identify the potential future value of these segments. What stage of the sales funnel is your customer at: initial interest, browsed products, abandoned basket, or abandoned high margin basket? Think of ways to help guide your customer through the buyer journey with micro-conversions and lead nurturing. Follow the four principles of attract, convert, nurture and support.

    Focus On Your High Value Customers

    Obviously these include shoppers who purchase high value product categories. Customers that have viewed multiple products, or abandoned baskets should also be identified as they have the highest potential for future value. Watch for segments and learn which ones are performing the best. Don't forget your return customers as they signify lifetime value.

    Make the Message Match the Customer

    Remind your users why they should take the next step and move them along the buyer journey. It's easy to get distracted, so help your clients stay on track. One tip is to provide incentives to prospects who have abandoned their cart. In addition use email marketing for post sales, cross-selling and marketing opportunities. Increasingly, sales transactions are on mobile so ensure you are testing for usability, conversion optimization and speed.

    Don't Waste Your Money

    Keep profitability in mind. Of your messages, which ones did your segments respond to the most? Cut your bottom 30% and reinvest in the winning segments. Continue to mine for new segments and repeat these steps again.

    Digital Marketing Tactics

    Tips for Digital Marketing:

    • Allow your customers to use an existing social profile to log in, cutting down on necessary registration steps and therefore increasing conversions.
    • Make sure your homepage, product pages and order confirmation pages all have easy social sharing buttons.
    • Include a mixture of contests, inspiration and tips. Ask questions, encourage discussions and sharing of ideas. Don't oversell.
    • Get visually creative, quotes, photographs, infographics, motivational images and usage examples are all types of visual content that should be considered.
    • Measure, improve and experiment as the social media tools allow you to measure the most important things to help you improve your performance.

    Social Media

    Social media is now an integral part of almost every consumer's online habits. There are many great reasons to maintain profiles on sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram such as:

    • An extension of customer service.
    • A way to build brand awareness.
    • A place to improve customer engagement.
    • A way to gain insight into what your customers care about.

    Indirectly, all of these things can contribute to a rise in overall sales.

    Email Marketing

    Email marketing accounts for over 7% of all ecommerce transactions, making it the second most effective ecommerce marketing channel behind search.

    Some of the best practices for email marketing are:

    • Use an email marketing tool that includes marketing automation and event-triggered campaigns.
    • Encourage customers to review the products they have purchased.
    • Setup cart abandonment emails to identify bugs and improve your checkout conversion rate.
    • Contact your dormant customers with email offers.
    • Use email to market product seasonality and retail holidays.
    • Develop your transactional emails to improve brand perception and cross-sell relevant products as well as services.
    • Integrate your marketing with other campaigns such as social media and display advertising.
    • Further engage by asking for user's feedback using the latest survey tools.

    Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

    Organic search success with effective SEO is still considered the best digital marketing option that will produce a ROI above all other opportunities around ecommerce. As the recommended options are very dependent on your digital marketing maturity and your competition we will spend very little time on this tactic. For a refresher the basics are:

    • Keyword and competitive research.
    • On page optimization.
    • Quality links.
    • Voice search.
    • Relevant and high quality content.

    Site Speed Optimization

    According to an Aberdeen Group study, a single second of page load delay time causes an 11 percent drop in page views and a 7 percent drop in conversion. Speed is also an important consideration for how well your site ranks in SEO.

    The following five tips can boost the speed of an ecommerce site and increase sales:

    1. Ensure you have sufficient server capacity, reliability and security.
    2. Test for speed on mobile, most phones have less processing power and a far slower connection.
    3. Produce efficient code, reduce HTTP requests, implement caching and split up page content are just some of the techniques to employ.
    4. Reduce unnecessary items, such as social media widgets, animations, rotating banners, resource taxing plugins, complex designs and others that are not essential, especially on mobile.
    5. Optimize photography, to ensure download speed is reduced. We have seen load times drop in half with properly optimized imagery with no loss of quality.

    Vancouver Web Design Meetup

    The content of this blog has been adapted from a recent Vancouver Web Design Meetup.

    Join Vancouver Web Design Meetup today and gain valuable insights from experience, local industry leaders on all topics related to website design, development and digital marketing. Events are FREE and held in downtown Vancouver.

    Talk to an Ecommerce Specialist Today

    Book a free consultation and learn how Graphically Speaking can help turn your ecommerce website into a dynamic marketing tool that will grow traffic, increase revenue, and build brand trust.

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