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Dynamicweb Year in Review: The Best of 2014 pt. I

*2014 was a pivotal year for ecommerce merchants, with the rise of mobile commerce, social commerce, and continued growth across industries and audiences. To celebrate the end of an exciting year of ecommerce, we’re looking back at best blog posts of 2014 in our Dynamicweb Year in Review.

 Return to the Winter Olympics: e-Commerce Site Speed

With current events involving a Ukrainian revolution and a Russian incursion into Crimea, the Sochi Winter Olympics already seem so far away.  If we return to this past Winter Olympics, however, there is much to celebrate:  feelings of global unity, humorous tweets from journalists, and the US taking home 28 total medals – 9 of them gold – in fair, fun competition.

Like the Winter Olympics, competition (not conflict), plays a huge role in e-commerce. The rules of the race are as follows: the faster your e-commerce site loads, the better off you are.

Considering the sheer amount of websites, there’s even more competition on the web than on the slopes, and every second counts.  According to e-commerce research from the Aberdeen Group, a single-second delay results in 11% fewer page views and a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction.

Visitors are impatient and freely abandon sites while they’re still loading.  Take one second too long and lose 1/10th of your potential e-commerce customers.  And if your site lags behind, your competitors are more than happy to race ahead of you to scoop up these prospects.  Customers visit slower websites less often than their competitors, even if the difference is a mere 1/4th of a second.  That’s less time than it took you to read this sentence! 

Once your guest arrives safely on your homepage or landing page, it’s still not time to celebrate.  You haven’t crossed the finish line yet.  If your pages continue to load slowly, the Aberdeen research shows that you risk a 7% loss in conversions.  These conversions could be anything, whether you want your visitors to download a whitepaper, fill out a lead form, or complete a purchase.  All are affected by a slow website.

This e-commerce race is also being contested at more than your desk.  Across tablets and other mobile devices, competitors are all going for the gold in site speed.  In fact, a survey of mobile users from Econsultancy shows that 74% of respondents abandon mobile sites after five seconds of loading.  46% say they would not return to a slow mobile site.  To the victor go the customers.

To speed up your site for your customers, first take a look at your images.  Not the images themselves, but how large they are.  Large image files load more slowly than smaller ones.  You also want to optimize any HTML code and, importantly, consider the overall design of your page.

Unfortunately, gorgeous design and tons of advanced functionality are often at odds with fast loading.  After all, a robust e-commerce page with lots of gorgeous high-quality images takes longer to load than a page with a few compressed images or even a barebones text-only website.

How do you strike the perfect balance between great design and site speed?  This is where Dynamicweb offers a great solution with A/B testing.  A/B testing allows you to compare the effectiveness of two sites against one another, no matter how minute the differences.   

Let’s say you have a landing page with larger images that loads, on average, a second slower than a nearly-identical one with smaller images.  Which is more effective to engage customers?  The pretty pictures or the faster loading?  If you want to know which one converts more, A/B testing will tell you.  And of course, A/B testing also gives you the ability to test much larger differences in design, layout, and content.

So when considering the design and layout of your e-commerce site, remember that site speed matters.  E-commerce is more like the Winter Olympics than The Tortoise and the HareLearn more about how Dynamicweb can get you set up with a speedy website and online marketing tools like A/B testing by racing on over to our own site.

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The Neverending Story: Optimizing Your Order Confirmation Page

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*Optimize for Holiday Cheer – Thanksgiving may be over, but there’s more holiday shopping to come. In this blog series, we share some tips to optimize your e-commerce site for the rush of holiday shopping.

Quick e-commerce question: What do you do when the sale ends?

Answer: It’s a trick question. There is no “end.” There doesn’t have to be an end just because a customer bought a single product from you. If both you and your customer are happy with the transaction, why not keep the relationship going?

An effective way to encourage further engagement (and further business) with your customer is to optimize your order confirmation page.

Your order confirmation page is two things: The last thing your customer sees after buying; and the first thing they see when beginning a new journey of engagement. Owned It studied 30 of the top retailers in the online space and discovered that improved confirmation pages lead to 5-15% more follow-up sales.

The first way to encourage more sales is to actually try to sell. Sure, that sounds tautological, but it’s true! Cross-selling is perfectly suited for the order confirmation page.

Promoting a bunch of similar or recommended products during the buying phase may distract your customer. But If you offer recommendations right after your customer had a positive experience buying from you, then you don’t risk pulling their attention away from the product they really wanted.

There are several ways to make your additional offers more appealing. According to Owned It’s study, 30% of the top retailers offered immediate incentives. Customers always appreciate discounts, of course, and many retailers add conditions to the discounts placed on the order confirmation page, such as “Buy this related item in the next 24 hours to get 30% off.” Free shipping is another favorite deal if you don’t already offer it standard.

Similar products, items from a customer’s wishlist, or even products that they had in an abandoned shopping cart all make excellent promotions to feature on your order confirmation page.   While we recommend personalized content, even if you have little information on your customer, offering a list of your “top sellers” is better than nothing.

Another important aspect of optimizing your order confirmation page is to encourage your customer to engage further with your brand. Adding a quick list of newsletters that your customer can subscribe to is a great way to keep in touch. Also, because the offer is post-purchase, you already have their email address saved (and integrated with your CRM, of course). If you’re really creative, you might even want to include links to content, such as a blog post, that is related to the product they bought. Put the link right there on the order confirmation page, and then ask them to follow your blog.

For your general brand page on social media, go ahead and ask for a “like” or a “+1”. But the idea of social media goes beyond personal engagement and also encourages all the friends and followers of your customer to check you out as well. Offer quick buttons on your order confirmation page for your customer to share or tweet their purchase across social media.

Social referrals drive conversions, and your social media buttons grease the wheels. As a design tip, make sure those buttons are visible and have good real estate on your confirmation page. According to Owned It’s report, while over half of the brands studied featured social media buttons, only 13% displayed these buttons prominently.

Despite all these offerings and buttons, we recommend limiting your order confirmation page to just what fits on a computer screen. Anything above the fold receives a much higher chance of grabbing the attention of a post-purchase customer. Again according to Owned It’s report, 53% of the top retailers studied kept their order confirmations to a single page.

As a final word on your confirmation page, we should say that there is no final word. Much like your customer’s journey, there is no “end” to creating the best confirmation page. Continue testing your confirmation page and variations of it with solutions such as A/B testing. Then use analytics to figure out which pages drive the most follow-up sales and engagements and keep improving. The journey is forever, but it is rewarding, for both you and your customer.

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e-Commerce Checkout: 3 Tips To Convert Your Customer

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*Optimize for Holiday Cheer – Thanksgiving may be over, but there’s more holiday shopping to come. In this blog series, we share some tips to optimize your e-commerce site for the rush of holiday shopping.

Picture a customer standing in line at the grocery store. They’ve been waiting for 10 minutes or so when suddenly, out of nowhere, they leave their shopping cart and make a mad dash for the parking lot. If a customer abandoned their physical shopping cart in this manner, it might come off as a little strange. When it comes to e-commerce checkout, however, leaving a shopping cart behind is easier, and nobody is there to give the customer an odd look.

Of course if the e-business is yours, you want to minimize the risk of the customer bailing out on a purchase at the last minute. After all, they’ve filled their cart with the products they want to buy. They just have to take that last step. To increase your odds that the customer sticks around (and, in turn, to increase your conversion rates), here are three tips to optimize your e-commerce checkout:

1. Optimize Your Forms.

Despite all the vast advances in e-commerce technology, we’re not yet at the stage where your site reads the mind of each customer. That may happen one day! In the meanwhile we still need the customer to fill out web forms with information like payment method and shipping address. The goal for you is to make your e-commerce checkout easier for your customer.

To make things easier, make it clear exactly what fields are required (i.e. “Credit Card Number” or “Zip Code”). Mark these fields with an asterisk (*) or with bold lettering, so the customer knows not to skip them. Also, if the customer hasn’t yet filled out a necessary field on your page, why not highlight that field in red or put a red “X” mark next to it? Customers dislike scouring entry forms inch-by-inch to find out which fields they forgot.

2. Limit the Number of Pages at Checkout.

You want as much information as possible. You’ve already won a gold medal in data mining. We know. But also consider that your customer’s time is precious. They do not want to enter an interminable e-commerce checkout process. For their sake, try to limit the number of pages and forms they have to fill out. A simple checkout includes the option to log in, then entry of billing info, then entry of shipping info, and finally a page to review and place their order.

For some products though, especially more complex B2B products, more information is a necessity. In this case, make sure to break up the pages and organize them into manageable and logical categories. For example, “Shipping” is an obvious category, telling the customer what type of information is required for that page.

Customers also appreciate knowing how far along they are in the journey, and how much further they have to go. Let the customer know, via page tabs or a progress bar, how far into the e-commerce checkout process they are and how much longer they have to go, even if it’s only a few pages.

3. Allow Customers To Register Afterward.

If your customer already has a login or a profile, that’s great. Existing profiles simplify the experience because your site automatically fills out pre-entered information, such as addresses. And if the customer wants to login with their favorite social network profile, that’s great too. But many of your visitors just want to buy and leave. Not every customer is looking to begin a long-term relationship with you, beginning at the e-commerce checkout stage.

If you force a registration, some customers react by just leaving your site and their shopping cart. Instead, offer your customer a chance to go through the e-commerce checkout as a “Guest”. As long as you get their email address, you are able to send them all the relevant information, such as purchase confirmations and shipping notifications. Then get their payment and shipping information. Finally, after the purchase is complete, that is the time to offer them the chance to create a password and profile. The customer is further incentivized by the fact that they’ve already entered in most of their information to that point anyway!

While shopping cart abandonment does exist in e-commerce, there are strategies to combat it. By optimizing your forms, limiting the number of pages, and not forcing registration, you improve the customer experience and make it easier for that customer to buy from you. Make the process smooth, and hopefully you won’t have to deal with tires peeling out of your virtual parking lot.

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Solving the M-Commerce Conundrum

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*Optimize for Holiday Cheer – Thanksgiving may be over, but there’s more holiday shopping to come. In this blog series, we share some tips to optimize your e-commerce site for the rush of holiday shopping.

Keys. Wallet. Smartphone. Did we just guess what’s in your pocket or purse? If so, it was more than an educated guess. Mobile devices have joined other essentials when it comes to leaving the home. And because of the sheer convenience factor, mobile devices are often used inside the home as well.

But does widespread mobile usage translate directly to e-commerce? Do m-commerce customers actually engage with businesses? Yes! And it may surprise you just how often that occurs.

According to research from Millward Brown, mobile visitors to top retailer sites engage twice as often as those visitors coming from PC. By their metrics, mobile users engage with top retailers an average of 6.2 times a month versus 2.9 times a month for desktop users.

For e-commerce sites, the impact of m-commerce is clear. This means that you have twice as much chance to convert mobile users as you do for those coming from desktop. And, as the report says, twice the chance to lose them to a competitor.

M-commerce is more than the purchase itself. In fact, 40% of mobile consumers who are in the market for a new product use their phones and/or tablets to research the potential buy. The research phase alone makes a strong case for optimizing your site for mobile.

But we need to address a common misconception: that each mobile consumer is on-the-go. Some people falsely believe that because the devices are portable that all this m-commerce is taking place outside of the home. This is untrue. The Millward Brown research shows that 60% of the mobile research actually occurs inside the home.

The numbers introduce a new conundrum. As an eBusiness, you want to present your website visitors with the best experience possible. You want to tailor the experience to each customer. Naturally, the first place you look to customize their journey is towards their device.

But while technology allows you to take away key website features for a stripped down on-the-go mobile experience, it turns out that most mobile researchers are not, in actuality, “on the go.” They’re more likely to be on the sofa.

Some businesses attempt to confiscate integral parts of the web experience for mobile users, but many customers actually want the full navigation and product options available to desktop users. M-commerce buyers don’t want to be segregated.

How do you solve The M-Commerce Conundrum? How do you give your customers a targeted experience without taking away the quality they’ve come to expect from your desktop site?

The answer is mobile personalization. With personalization and guided selling, your site uses real-time analytics and customer history to identify the interests of your web visitor. You then present them with relevant content, products, and offers.

Giving the customer targeted content and recommended products improves the likelihood that your customer finds what they’re looking for. They may even find something they didn’t know they were looking for. And while personalization is recognized as an effective tool for e-commerce sites, many companies don’t leverage it for m-commerce.

Additionally, a personalized mobile experience does allow you to identify your visitor’s device. But rather than stripping away parts of the m-commerce experience, you want to enhance it.

The specificities of a customer’s device allow you to target them more precisely, and your customers have new chances to engage. For instance, location-based services use the technology within smartphones to offer specific content based on the customer’s geographic location. Another example is the customer’s ability to scan codes or items using the cameras on a phone or tablet to engage in a new way. The key is to add to the experience, instead of taking away.

M-commerce raises a lot of questions about how customers and prospects use their devices. Some companies think they’re doing the right thing by providing a stripped down on-the-go experience, but they’re actually giving a worse experience to people on the couch. If you want to target your customers while adding value to your mobile site, personalization is the way to go. But not necessarily “on the go.”

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Holiday Rush: eCommerce Site Speed Matters

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*Optimize for Holiday Cheer – Thanksgiving may be over, but there’s more holiday shopping to come. In this blog series, we share some tips to optimize your e-commerce site for the rush of holiday shopping.

‘Tis another holiday season in the 21st Century, and what does that mean? Hundreds and thousands of Santa Clauses and desperate parents are picking up their tablets and laptops and looking to fill their shopping carts with e-commerce goodies. And one way for you to raise those holiday conversion rates is to lower your loading times.

eCommerce has done an amazing job in minimizing the hassle of finding a parking spot, fighting crowds, and waiting online. What used to take hours now takes 2 minutes. But with changing metrics come changing expectations. 

Consumers don’t want to wait around even minutes while shopping online. You might have heard that an extra two seconds to load your webstore affects your conversion rates. But how about an extra 2 milliseconds? According to Matt Cutts from Google, “Milliseconds matter.”

As if your customers’ standards couldn’t get any higher, speed is even more important for mobile. According to Econsultancy’s report on optimization for mobile websites and apps, people get even more impatient while surfing on their smartphones. Nearly 75% of users would abandon a mobile site that took longer than five seconds to load.

In a world where customers don’t have to wait around at the mall, in line at the store, or in the parking lot, the takeaway lesson is that if you want to increase your conversions or just get people to stay on your website, then you need to speed it up.

When thinking of how to optimize your site speed, it’s best to prioritize different parts of the page. What do you want to load first? One good solution is to have everything above the fold begin loading before the rest. Then as a customer reads the new information immediately in front of him, your site loads the remainder. By loading everything above the fold first, you give a great first impression of a fast-loading site.

Image file size is another huge offender, pun intended. Larger file sizes load more slowly. Simply reducing the size of your image files often speeds up your site. You want to find the right balance between compression that makes your files a manageable size, yet still maintains the high quality of your images.

Advertisements are a great way to generate revenue, but depending on the ad network code, this may be causing your site to load slowly. And speaking of code, make sure that your own HTML code is simplified. Bloated HTML code increases the amount of information sent out to users which, in turn, increases the loading time.

Implementing a tag management system may also decrease your page’s loading time. Tags are used in analytics which are necessary to track website performance. In addition to analytics, tags also exist for ads, SEO, and affiliates. E-commerce sites frequently have an abundance of tags. Unfortunately, too many of these tags, often JavaScript-based, cause loading times to take a hit.

Because consumers don’t want to suffer those interminable waits at shopping malls and overflowing parking lots during the holiday season, they are making their exodus to the greener pastures of e-commerce. Hopefully, your e-commerce. These customers are an impatient group, so make sure that your site is speedy and clear. And have a great holiday for yourself and for your business.

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