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On the subject of E-commerce

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Matt

February 13th, 2014.

(Another) New EU Directive: Will it Inhibit or Enhance Online UK Retail?

A new EU directive has made its way into UK law.

The purpose of this new legislation is to both increase customer rights when buying online, and make expectations of customers more consistent across the European Union, thereby increasing cross-border trade through online stores.

We all remember the cookie fiasco of 2011, the last major attempt at enhancing the rights of the internet user. The UK government not only failed to enforce it, but even to comply to their own law. Due to strong resistance and powerful arguments against the law, it was revoked in 2013.

Will this new push for user’s rights follow a similar fate?

10 Second Summary

To make customer rights more uniform across Europe via:

  • Increased minimum cancellation period

  • Obligatory refunds within this period

To increase customer rights by:

  • Forbidding auto-ticked checkboxes

  • Using clearer, less attractive language on the ‘Buy’ button

There are many other changes to be made in response to this directive, but the above represent the parts of the legislation most likely to affect online retailers in a big way.

When Will This Affect Us?

The law is set to come into effect in the UK on the 13th of June, 2014.

Some things are likely to need changing before this date rolls around. We’ll need to retrain our staff in regards to dealing with returns, cancellations, refunds, and customer service in general.

Terms and conditions will also be affected, as well as the code responsible for auto-ticked checkboxes, and the text for the ‘Buy Now’ button is going to get a little uglier, I’m afraid. Let’s get into specifics.

Shall I Click “Buy”, or “Order With Obligation To Pay”?

agt-buy-buttonWords like “buy”, “confirm” or “place order” are now apparently too vague and open to interpretation to describe the button that leads to payment.

“Order with obligation to pay” is the phrase our customers now have to read and agree to before buying from us.

One of the biggest arguments against the old cookie law was that it put other countries, particularly the US, at a significant advantage, since their websites didn’t include pop-ups which, to those that don’t know what cookies are, looked like a request to infringe on their privacy.

The buy button thankfully occurs a lot further in the buying process, and is likely to have less of an impact.

Sales may be lost, however, and they are not sales that depended on people not knowing what they were clicking on. It’s a wonder why this was deemed as a necessary change.

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Credit: Chris Lake @Lakey

If the cookie law was a reaction against the thought of websites tracking our movements, is the buy button law a reaction against the thought of the 1-Click button?

We can deviate a little from their suggested script, as long as it remains explicitly clear that by clicking the button they are entering into a contractual agreement that ends in payment. Clearly, it’s up to us to interpret this detail to a degree.

Whatever the case, the change to buy buttons is just one part of this legislation.

Say Goodbye to the Presumptuous Tick Box

When a page loads, any checkboxes that relate to a add-on service must be un-ticked.

checkboxFrom July onwards, if you want your customers to sign up to your newsletter or add some extra insurance cover to their purchase, you’ll have to make the prospect compelling enough to have them tick it themselves.

Most customers have now been trained through experience to look for checkboxes they have to opt out of before clicking confirm. No, it doesn’t build goodwill for a brand, but it still goes on. You can see how this is in the same line of thought as the buy button changes, the difference being that these checkbox changes are likely to be a genuine improvement in the buying experience.

Adopt a German Attitude Towards Refunds

The “right to cancel period” will be expanded from a minimum of 7 working days to 14.

This is to align the rights of customers buying from a UK retailer with those of customers buying from other EU countries, such as Germany, who already enforce a 14 day right to cancel period.

Refunds for products will be obligatory within the right to cancel period, on the condition that the product is returned with its value undiminished by carelessness. Even if the customer has cancelled, the retailer can withhold refund payment until the product is properly returned, which most of us will agree is fair enough.

It seems that these changes to refund policies are weighted to be fair to both parties, but they will require some attention be paid to our terms and conditions before enforcement comes into play in July.

The benefit is a consistent customer experience across Europe, which should result in more cross-trade online, and a wider reach for small UK retailers that don’t have the budget to expand operations overseas in a physical capacity.

How Do We Protect Ourselves from Prosecution?

If you’re hoping for a similarly lax enforcement practice as we saw with the cookie law, you’re in good company. Perhaps a revision to the surprising buy button policy will occur in time, but until then, any UK business owner who acquires sales online will be at risk of prosecution without making the necessary changes.

You can read the official document here (PDF), which includes model cancellation forms and detailed descriptions of policies we’ve covered here.

The most visible loose ends we will need to tie up are the buy buttons at the end of our buying sequences, the add-on checkboxes that appear at the same stage, the statements made in our terms and conditions (even if it is only the enforcers who will read them), and the wording of any relevant forms available to our customers.

Be sure to educate yourselves and your staff on all the relevant changes. There are many others included in the document above, including changes to content classification, and to information available through customer support helplines.

 

Missed boat

Martina Martina

July 13th, 2012.

When missing the boat leads to being forgotten…

Missed boat
Image Source

Online trading is a fast paced world. Whether it be in stock and shares, grants for start-ups or otherwise, there aren’t many examples to date that show the benefits of waiting around.

Let’s look at some examples of once leading technologies, that have recently or notably had to resort to publicising selling shares, or changing hands to stay (or become) relevant; which of these companies/ventures/subsidiaries do you still associate with “cool“?:


MySpace

MySpace

Known originally for: Pioneering the discovery of new music online…

Now thought of as
: A dated money leaking endeavour that has passed hands more than a hot potato.

AOL

AOL

Known originally for: The only key to dial up internet…

Now thought of as
: American acronym that we see online from time to time, mostly trying to be spammed-in as the default homepage for your browser when downloading freeware.

Yahoo!

Yahoo!

Known originally for: Groundbreaking search engine and most famous Google competitor…

Now thought of as
: Fairly annoyingly designed interface that we’re surprised is still around.

Digg

Digg

Known originally for: Quirky news discovery site…

Now thought of as: Recently sold to a company for $500, 000 (much less that it was once worth ($175, 000, 000)

Facebook

Facebook

Known originally for: The new zeitgeist and awesome brainchild of cool-techie Mark Zuckerburg…

Now thought of as: Slightly spammy/stalky connect-service offering the chance to re-establish relasionships with distant relatives & old “friends

Instagram

Instagram

Known originally for: Newbie picture service that made Twitter pics look really cool…

Now thought of as: Lovely money-maker for start-up entrapeneur Kevin Systrom (he knew when to sell)

Hotmail

Hotmail

Known originally for: Having a great customizable email service that tied closely to MSN messeger and then windows live…

Now thought of as: Uber-spammy email service that looks outdated & unsure of its design.

RIM/Blackberry

Blackberry

Known originally for: Creating the Blackberry; a respectable device for business-people…

Now thought of as
: Annoying pingy device taken over by tweens and teeny-boppers who got excited about its messaging service, which is essentially not far from a text message.

Bing

Bing

Known originally for: Competing with the big boys and girls (basically Google) and doing that respectably…

Now thought of as
: A failed Microsoft endeavour, that was close – but no cigar…

Last.FM

Lastfm

Known originally for: Clever algorithms that tailored music choices to the listener based on entering a few personalised details…

Now thought of as: Recently hacked music service that was long out-thought by competitors (Pandora, Spotify and iTunes’ “Ping“)

Kodak

Kodak

Known originally for: Pioneering photo technology as we knew it and introducing a sense of class to both the disposable and polaroid camera…

Now thought of as: A once amazing company that failed to follow technology into the world of digital and subsequently faced insolvency.


Don’t get left behind…

Martina Martina

December 13th, 2011.

Why absolutely everything bad about shopping in the real world, can make YOU money this Christmas!


Image Source

I just think that not enough people are seeing the silver lining. Sure, they see the pouring rain right before they complain about catching a cold after trawling the high street for 5 hours on a Saturday. I think it’s great, maybe even a blessing, that people grumble about the horrific conditions – for online merchants wanting to capitalise, it’s not far from terrific and I’ll tell you why:

  • Road Traffic
  • Parking Charges
  • Nowhere to actually park
  • Lack of public toilets
  • Wayward germs flying about the communal air
  • Being bombarded with enough promotion and advertising to last you a lifetime
  • There not being a basket left, or having to use that tyrant shopping trolley with wheels that have a life of their own
  • Screaming children zooming about the floorspace
  • Queuing for longer than should be legally possible
  • Having to put up with some idiot using a card for a less than £2 purchase
  • Having to deal with being classed as the idiot for using a card for a less than £2 purchase

Image Source
 

You get the idea…but, if you do get the idea, why is your site still a part of the problem, rather than the solution? The points above may highlight the things that make people more Scrooge than Santa over the holidays, but if my virtual reality mirrors my reality in terms of these horrors, you’ve just doubled my stress. Let’s explore this with equivalents:

  • Road Traffic

Overload of traffic causing your website to crash

A different kind of traffic, but even though I’m not stuck in my car in the middle of the A4, I still cant get to where I want to with your substandard server. Upgrade, to a service that doen’t fail under the pressure of more than 100 people accessing your site, or I wont be coming back.

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  • Parking Charges

Hidden charges (VAT, delivery, overseas)

After a swift parallel park into a spot so tight Hamilton would be impressed, the one thing to ruin that triumph is the £2.50 p/h charge for the space, up until 8pm (even on a Sunday these days) when I know that I’ll be at least 2 hours and when I know that the shops close at 8. I’d be happy if council understood that since I’ll be blowing my wages in this area in that time, clearly promoting the district, parking should be free, or reasonable, or well communicated. In comparison, only too many times have I bought something online, only to be faced with a tubby postman telling me I can’t have the product unless I cough up another 20 quid. Again, I won’t be shopping there again.

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  • Nowhere to park

Nowhere to be seen

If I cant park, I wont park. If I don’t park, I drive elsewhere, which means wherever I intended to go, changes. If your SEO sucks, I wont find your site. If I don’t find your site, it doesn’t exist, at least not to me. Sort that out, please.

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  • Lack of public toilets

A “timeout/start again” situation

When your bursting for the loo, in a shop, restaurant or wherever and there isn’t one, you’ll find one somewhere…else. The only thing is that, if you need to “go” before you’ve paid, eaten or whatever – and there’s a queue and you leave – you join the end of the queue and you deal with that. You might not join, if you grow annoyed at the fact that establishment doesn’t provide a toilet and the one you found sells an equivalent of what you want. If the website I am on “times-out” too quickly, and I have to keep starting again, I won’t be coming back.

_____________________

  • Wayward germs flying about the communal air

Your site looks as though it needs a disclaimer

Someone coughs into the air and does not cover their mouth. Disgusting. There’s a possibility you could catch a cold now, or the flu. Similarly, if I enter your spammy little site and it is complete with badly written (illegal) paid-for reviews where everything has a 5-star rating, something needs to be downloaded in order for the site to run, some software with techy jargon is installed onto my computer and the checkout system sends me to ‘Timbuktu’ to enter my personal details and information…I wont be coming back.

_____________________

  • Being bombarded with enough promotion and advertising to last you a lifetime

Adsense, Wordads, Adcenter…

A simple walk through Regent street at Christmas is enough to make you dizzy. Between the flashing lights and the flashing ads, its a wonder anyone  can walk in a straight line. On your site, too many ads on a page is bad for SEO. Google has already sent in the panda a few times to teach naughty webmasters a lesson on this, so why are there still pages like this?

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  • There not being a basket left, or having to use that tyrant shopping trolley with a life of it’s own

I can’t carry my goods like this!

My previous post made my feelings clear on the dodgy checkout process online – but I need to get there first. If there are problems with the process of carrying my goods; disappearing basket items, not calculating bulk goods so I lose out on a discount, only telling me there is no stock for that particular product until I am at checkout – I wont be coming back.

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  • Screaming children zooming about the floorspace

I didn’t ask for that noise, thanks

The first thing I do when I load up a site blaring any music at me I didn’t expect or ask for, is click “close.” I don’t want that. I click close for the same reason Vue have created screenings for movies that only over 18’s can attend after a certain time at night –  not because the movie is unsuitable for youngins but more because that crowd doesn’t want to share a room with said youngins. Choice. if you are going to have pop-up videos, music streaming from the site or anything, I urge you to give me a choice of stopping these streams or, I wont be coming back.

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  • Queuing for longer than should be legally possible
  • Having to put up with some idiot using a card for a less than £2 purchase

Quick and easy please

Amazon’s “1-click” is great because it’s quick. Amazon have blended so many desirable e-commerce features into one site that it’s so easy to spend money on things you wont read or use after the initial excitement of it being a bargain has passed. Sites selling me anything that boxes me into one mode of payment I am not used to, sites being badly configured so that I have to click back & forth, re-enter details or open new pages in tabs rather than a pop-up window, cause me extra hassle. You could only really get away with this before the Amazon’s and the eBay’s of the world were born. Cause me any unnecessary hassle and, I wont be coming back.

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Outrageous extra’s

  • Having to deal with being classed as the idiot for using a card for a less than £2 purchase

If I’m the person being huffed and puffed at because I don’t have the change or don’t want to split a £20 note on something that’s 49p – the huffs & puffs are as far as it goes. If online, I’m buying something for 49p and the shipping is £4.99, something is wrong with that picture. Please allow shipping to reflect the cost of the product in question. People can spot a rip-off from afar and if like me, they feel cheated – they wont be coming back.

Check out the infographic below for some interesting and helpful Christmas e-com shopping stats:

UK Christmas Shopping 2011
Infograpic by Deals.org.uk

I hope this post inspired you. Happy Holidays! :-D

 

Adam Adam

October 20th, 2011.

Google Trusted Stores

Google trusted storesTrusted Stores is an ecommerce certification program that Google launched early in October. The idea behind the program is that it will give people more assurance in buying from online retailers. At the moment the program is still in beta those ecommerce stores that attain Google qualification will be able to add a badge to their site, proclaiming them a Google trusted store. The program is backed, more interestingly, with a consumer purchase protection package worth $1,000.

Those retailers interested in applying to become a trusted store will need to furnish Google with certain consumer information as the company is of the opinion that retailer’s data is more trustworthy than customer surveys. In order to qualify for the Trusted Stores status internet retailers will need to demonstrate good customer service and a record of shipping goods on time. In terms of customer service retailers must have evidence of resolving any customer issues and disputes in a timely manner.

When customers move their mouse over the Trusted Stores badge, they will see the store’s customer service and shipping grades. Unlike the Google Checkout the company states, there is no connection between the new program and Google Adwords. Google further reiterated that the program is still in its early stages and too soon to speculate on how the program might be enhanced and expanded.

With respect to the purchase protection package mentioned earlier, it appears to work in a similar way to credit card companies that extend manufacturer’s purchase warranties. Google however, does not offer guarantees rather the $1,000 is potentially money back where retailers fail to resolve problems. The customer can only benefit from this package if they have chosen the free purchase protection option. The consumer should contact the retailer first where there is a problem, if this is not resolved, then the customer can call on Google to deal with it, or be able to claim money back. The fact is that Google is capable of getting retailers to find quick problem resolutions.

While Google have stated that their motive for introducing the program was to increase buyer confidence in online retailers, some may suspect the company of having hidden motives. Notions of a future tie in with Checkout or Adwords are at the moment, pure speculation. As yet it’s unclear precisely what data Google will be capturing, but if customers choose the personal protection, the retailer is more likely to have a record of the transactions.

Martina Martina

July 25th, 2011.

How to create the perfect return-customer!

If you take a look at what you eat, where you shop or even what you wear, you’ll discover that the most effective brands and businesses in your life are successful because of their ability to keep you trapped in their rotating doors. You’ll buy that same beverage maybe twice a week, and go to that same supermarket at the end of each month- all because you’ve convinced yourself you like the design on the plastic bags, and the staff are friendly. Actually, there’s more to it and I’m about to tell you exactly what that is…

Brand evolution…

You frequent a brand because it grows with you and becomes something that understands you. For example, after McDonalds understood the issue the population began to have with societal obesity, they reduced portion size (although I blame inflation) and boosted the nutritional value of the food through the choice of ingredients used. This became acceptable to parents, who then were more inclined eat there with their families.

An example of an industry that arguably did not readily embrace evolution and suffered greatly as a result, is the music industry. After the birth of the digital age of music, illegal downloading and iTunes, the archaic business model of selling CD’s showed a huge decline in sales. Failing to catch on quickly enough meant that some artists suffered (and the customary private jet was downsized to a regular limousine).

Whatever your line of business, you need to understand the importance of evolving with the customer, if you sell tube-socks and make a great profit in winter, introducing a pop-sock range for the warmer months would mean that you have something to offer customers all year round. Alternatively, if your business is to provide SEO services (and you are doing this well) – then perhaps you could suggest Pay Per Click (PPC) services too.

Integrating, and actually wanting customers’ opinions…

When listening to a friend or colleague talk about something they care about, you always feel that little bit of gratification when they ask you your view on the subject and genuinely care about your answer. Imagine this never happened – if people talked at you, telling you their views and never asking about yours…you would get tired of listening to them, and they would eventually emigrate to a world of bias where only their opinion matters.

Feedback is a wonderful thing, and to guarantee any kind of success you need to be engaging the people whom that success relies upon. There are many ways this can be done such as market research, comments sections and incentives.

Personally, I dislike the emails I receive asking me to ‘spend 2 minutes’ of my time filling out a feedback form, but interestingly, when shopping online – the reviews section about the product I am interested in, is the first place I look before pressing the ‘checkout’ button. If you struggle to get feedback, try using incentives in exchange for it, offering a discount or a token for free software after a few important questions are answered, is a ‘quid-pro-quo’ way to dig out helpful information that could help you better your business.

Offering alternatives…

Nestle’s chocolaty awesomeness is far from limited. Nestle offer a range of sweets and treats making them one of the most popular and wealthy brands in the world. If Nestle was limited to just one chocolate bar, sure that bar of chocolate would taste good to those that enjoy it, but after years of just a milk chocolate bar, people would stray – they’d try praline, white chocolate, plain chocolate – and so on. If Nestle weren’t the ones to provide these different types, they’d be losing out on possible revenue and brand awareness.

The power of a brand comes from its ability to churn out good ideas and give people choice. This isn’t limited to types of product or service offered, your business alternatives should extend to forms of payment, methods of contact and more. Yes this is 2011, but believe it or not, some people prefer to send a postal-order or a cheque rather than use their credit or debit card online. Similarly, some people like to mail a letter to you rather than send you an email – and some people like to call you on the phone, instead of using Skype.

Being savvy is important, but it is important to remember that you could alienate a whole market simply by not catering for it. If you sell online, offer WorldPay, PayPal and the ability to pay by card – by doing so, shows customer consideration which is exactly what you need to do!

Avoiding over-saturation…

An unexpected text message from an old friend, is often the perfect segue for reconnecting, because sometimes it’s the subtleties in life that we enjoy the most. However ‘broadcast-message’ after Facebook invite from that annoying person you’d probably cross the street to avoid, will never get the attention they want. This is because there is an important difference between the two – in the first example, you feel as though that person put thought and care into the message and in the second, you feel undervalued, someone just making up the numbers.

Your business works the exact same way, its quality over quantity. Flooding prospective customers with emails about what their missing might cause them to report you as spam, and maybe even tell others to do the same. However, providing them with worthwhile information they may not already have gathered, might prompt them to subscribe to your blog, or enquire about your business.

Acknowledging loyalty…

Many businesses have cottoned onto the positive effects of personalisation, sending out post with only your first name as the title as if they’re your buddy, addressing you with “hi” rather than the traditional “Dear” and sending out seasonal gifts and confectionary. Even if it’s slightly corny and obviously not based on some fantastic rapport you have with them, they do it in hopes that you’ll feel appreciated causing them to stand out.

Even if a thousand others receive the exact same gift, unlike the Facebook invite example above and more like the Google+ invite in its beta stages – it makes you feel all special.  Using this method is an added charm, especially if the customer is new to you; it works almost as a reminder to them of their importance to you. Consistent use of this technique might eventually convince that customer that you are important to them, because you obviously ‘care’ about them enough to remember them personally.

Customers will keep coming back if they are fully catered to. Whilst I am not suggesting that if you are not doing all of the above perfectly, you will fail – including these tips into your already operating mode of business, will help boost ROI and customer satisfaction. A ‘win-win’ outcome! :-)

Rob

September 9th, 2010.

Essential viewing for tips on keeping product pages fresh

Following Caffeine and Mayday updates to Google’s algorithm it is more essential than ever that internal pages on websites are kept as fresh as possible with new content.  It is no longer enough just to have an exciting homepage with frequently refreshed content: this now needs to be replicated throughout your site.

Google will reward fresh content

This video from our friends at SEOmoz shows you ways that you might keep your product pages more interesting to users and more “appealing” to Google through the addition of fresh updated content.

SEOmoz – SEO Software

Rob

August 25th, 2010.

Virtual online dressing rooms

The bane of every online Clothing retailer’s life is RETURNS.

On average, the return rate is 11% for t-shirts; 25-35% for casual wear; and over 40% for fitted fashions. The return rate is higher for more expensive items. In countries like Germany, the average return rate for clothing is even higher – around 60 %. Most of the returns are due to bad fit (stats from fits.me.)

The returns bear a very high cost for retailers, as the average time for the item to be placed back into the sales cycle is 1-2 months. Summer apparel, sold in August, and returned in October, is difficult to be resold at any price.

This is just the nature of things – however good clothes look on screen they sometimes just don’t look so good once on one’s own weirdly shaped body!

However, it’s crucial for online retailers to minimise return rates and some have gone the extra mile in developing online dressing rooms.  Online dressing rooms have come and gone over the years, most of them having promised a lot more than they ever delivered – it’s not exactly an easy conundrum to solve.

So I have been looking into current technology. There does not seem to be a whole lot around but here’s what I found.  If you know or any others please let me know.

I hope they give you inspiration.

1. Seventeen


Hot off the press is youth fashion retailer Seventeen’s virtual dressing room

Online shoppers can now try on clothes in a virtual dressing room using a pioneering new augmented reality application that’s being pioneered by a US magazine publisher.

The application detects users’ image through their computer webcam. Then shoppers choose the piece of clothing they want to try on and see what it looks like on them by laying the clothing image over their own image on their computer screen.

So I gave it a go…….

Well this was fun, and after a bit of trial and error I began to get the idea. It’s good to be able to try on women’s clothes in the name of research though I couldn’t get the clothes to fit me though but then maybe that’s because I’m not a Seventeen year old girl.

Seventeen

Hmmm, couldn’t quite get my laptop angled correctly…

Seventeen

Not really sure if this is going to catch on….

2. Fits me:

Next up is technology being produced by Fits me http://fits.me/.  This technology takes the old formula of the user putting in their size and the computer doing its best to recreate your build and to render the product on your body. But this time it looks much more impressive.  I gave it a go and it does a nice job as far as I can tell.

First you get your shape

Then try something on

You can see it in action on http://www.hawesandcurtis.com, though they hardly mention it on their site which surprises me.  Click on the tiny “change my size” icon.

3. Knicker Picker


This is an old favourite and has been around now for a couple of years. This is a sort of online fitting room in that it helps you imagine how a product might look on your type of body, but it’s not attempting anything clever by way of personalising it to your actual shape.

The killer app?

Whilst serving a useful function as an online fitting guide it also doubles up as a sort of online Spearmint Rhino and has become popular with men the world over achieving viral status, which is why if you type in “knickers” in Google and this site comes number one as so many people are now linking to it.  Call me cynical but I can’t help feeling that this may have been as much the objective in the first place as helping out on the fitting issue. It’s due for an update quite soon.

4. Coast Stores


This is just a glorified (or not even that) mood board. I can’t believe anyone is really using this in any serious way. Even the demo doesn’t look very interesting. There is a laborious sign up process and you can’t even get the individual items to move around. So you have shoes pointing one way and handbags the other. Nil points I’m afraid.

Seventeen

Virtual Sunglasses from Brille

This site worked nicely. A bit clunky and slow and really unless you live 100 miles from an optician you’re probably going to have more fun and less waiting going into shop.

A few more editing tools might have been good so that I could rotate my head inline with the horizontalness of the glasses.  There’s nothing technologically amazing about this site but hopefully returns are reduced by giving the user the opportunity to see how they might look once on.

The separate 360 view of each pair of glasses is useful and makes up for the fact that the site can’t quite display the arms of the glasses on my head.  I guess we need some sort of 3D version here.

Anyway, I think I look good with glasses. Any opinions?

And some more just sent in bya reader

Not exactly a fitting room but more a style guide

http://www.couturious.com/ and

http://looklet.com/create#/clothes//1010912C6F013156013A3A012C4A012C7A80F506A

OK I just saw this so thought I would add it to the mix: It’s an ad by Google. Not sure it’s the future but cant be ignored.

Fashion Show with Google from Robbin Waldemar on Vimeo.

Please let me know on rob@datadial.net if you find any other good example of online dressing rooms.

Rob

August 17th, 2010.

Increase Conversion rates – advanced techniques

I spend a lot of my time going round E-commerce conferences picking up new ideas and tidbits for improving e-commerce sites.  Nearly everyone is offering software that will increase conversion rates.  It’s tempting to think that if one were to buy into all of them that conversion rates would run at 100%!

This article is aimed at e-commerce managers who have covered the basics of increasing online conversions (read article) and now want to move it up a gear.

Advanced techniques for improving conversions rely on optimising landing pages, intelligent online merchandising and recapturing people once they have left your site.  A lot of the software being offered is cookie based – that’s to say they that user behaviour is tracked using cookies and appropriate offers and products are then presented to them based on their search, click activity.

Here are a few which stand out – where possible I have suggested the sort of company that they are most appropriate for.

Intelligent Search

Most websites just have a standard search that their web developer has implemented, usually without a whole load of thought or cleverness.  This may not be out of laziness, however, as delivering a good search tool is actually quite tricky (ask Bing/Yahoo etc).

It stands to reason that if you are able to provide users with the results best suited to what they are looking for that they are more likely to convert.

Many companies specialise in providing intelligent search solutions that learn as users search, and that give users the options for how they see results.

FACT-Finder at http://www.fact-finder.com

Celebros at http://www.celebros.com

Both these companies offer a similar service whereby they integrate their search software with your data information so that when people search they receive intelligent results.

Best explained by copy from Celebros’s website:

The search engine can easily return accurate products to any query your customer would make:

Simple queries: Salesperson understands the product searched for and returns results with precise refinements based on your catalog

Complex Query: Salesperson understands which family of products (category) is concerned, and displays products that match the attributes queried (e.g. “dry-hairshampoo”)

Spelling Mistakes: dictionary-based. Salesperson detects and understands any spelling mistake a shopper might make

Synonyms: Salesperson automatically suggests synonyms to fit your catalog and business domain

Missing brand or product: if the shopper queries for a missing product, instead of returning the usual “no results found” page, Salesperson will offer your customer the choice of similar product

Price-based queries: Salesperson is able to handle queries with price terms and price relations (e.g. “shirts under $20)

All contribute to increasing usability and the quality of results and therefore conversions.  This also includes the display of any ancillary information on the page (i.e related products) as well as just search results.

Intelligent search solutions are for retailers with large inventories of products and particularly a range of products that have a wide nomenclature, that is products that can be referred to in many different ways e.g sofa, couch, settee, suite.

Behavioural Merchandising

Avail Intelligence

Avail Intelligence is a company so confident in its ability to give you a good return on your investment that it offers an ROI guarantee. Avail offers merchandising services geared toward your target market. Products are displayed and personalised for every single customer.

Avail Behaviour Merchandising is a tool that lets retailers automatically recommend the most relevant products for each visitor. It makes the online shopping experience more personal. Every step in the buying process is identified and handled separately.

The company promises immediate increases in conversion rates as well as higher average order values as the software helps buyers find what they want (even if they didn’t know they wanted it).

Whilst better for larger retailers, Avail have solutions starting at £200/month for smaller retailers.

Hook logic at http://www.hooklogic.com

Hook logic

Let’s be honest. Consumers have too many product choices with very little differentiation between them, and as a result they’re much more adept at price comparisons and finding deals.

Based on user behaviour Hook Logic incentive programme allows you to feed in appropriate offers to users whilst  they are on your site thereby giving the user an extra incentive to add the  item to their basket.  See below

The Hook Logic Incentive manager leverages targeted incentives. The goal is to get more prospects to climb into your sales funnel.

According to their website Hook Logic will

  • Increase leads
  • Increase conversion rates
  • Increase average order value by 20 percent or more
  • Deliver personalised incentives through marketing channels

This solution is really geared for large retailers with high site traffic and where price comparison is easy.

Rich Media Merchandising

10 CMS

10 CMS integrates interactive overlays on your product imagery. These overlays feature live merchandising data. They transform home, category, and landing pages. They could transform your customers’ interest into a “must have” mentality.

This is done with mouse-over hotspots embedded within lifestyle media. These inspire customers and personalise options. It creates a sense of urgency and encourages customers to “buy now.”

This is a fairly low cost option and a great opportunity to respond to customer trends. It’s easy to use, intuitive and it integrates with catalogue and merchandising data for fast development. You don’t have to be a tech expert to deploy rich media content and interactive elements

Again with a starting price of £10-15k this is for larger retailers but is a nice add on especially for high end luxury brands.  They claim to have increased conversion rates by 100% for some clients.

Personalized Retargeting

My things media

My things media at http://mythingsmedia.com

However much traffic you get, it’s likely that 98% doesn’t convert on your site.  But what if you can catch them elsewhere and bring them back to your site.  Mythingsmedia does that by re-targeting highly personalised ads to users once they have left your site  using information based on their buying and search behaviour.

This is very simply how it works:

1.  As visitors enter your website, they are tagged with a cookie.

2. If the user leaves the site and later enters one of the thousands of network sites associated with Mythingsmedia they are delivered relevant advertising based on their previous shopping and search patterns.

3. This advertising banner is served to each individual as a personalised shopping window – enabling instant conversions.

Personalised advertising is the key phrase here. The idea is to make sure every impression for every ad is optimised with relevant content based on the consumer.

For a more detailed (and better) explanation – watch their online video.

The cost is based strictly on conversions and they claim to double your return conversions.

This service is suitable for online retailers of significant size and who receive significant traffic volumes.

MyThings Presents: Personalised Retargeting from mythings on Vimeo.

Consumer Product Reviews

Feefo at http://www.feefo.com

Product review are common place these days.  But there is often a niggling feeling that the merchant has cherry picked the good ones to put their site.  Feefo is an independent review service that the merchant cannot interfere with.

This is how it works.  When a customer buys from you:

If a supplier joins Feefo, the supplier commits to telling Feefo of every sale. When the customer has had a chance to receive the product or service, Feefo email them to ask what they think about the supplier. The customer responds with a very simple form on the site, and the feedback is displayed on the Feefo site (or on the client site via an XML feed) for all to see. It is a very transparent customer feedback tool, and users can trust it as the merchant has no way of “editing” poor reviews.

As well has helping conversion rates, product reviews can also help reduce return rates.  If a user has had the opportunity to research a product fully along with any potential problems then they are less likely to buy something and then have to return it.

Online review tools also help merchants can also track overall customer satisfaction rate over an extended period of time.

This is a good fit for small to mid-sized companies that are not household names and who need to build trust with their new users.

Other product review sites include

Shopzilla at XXXREDACTEDXXX

Revoo at www.reevoo.com

Rob

August 17th, 2010.

4 more ways to increase conversion rates

This article is aimed at people new to e-commerce. It covers some of the basics of ensuring that your website maximises conversion rates.

It should also be read alongside  12 quick ways to increase conversion rates.

For more experienced e-commerce managers please see this article on advanced techniques for increasing conversion rates.

1) Minimized Navigation on Shopping Cart/Basket Pages

There is nothing more frustrating for an online retailer than an abandoned basket. Why did the user go all that way and then lose interest??

It’s fair to assume at the check out stage that a user does want to buy something.   So our advice is to minimise the navigation available on your shopping cart pages. Keep wording short, simple, and to the point. Do not allow any distractions that could potentially pull your customer away or cause a delay.

By adding in lots of last minute deals and offers you risk diverting attention and losing the sale.  Not everyone subscribes to this method, however at Datadial we believe it to be the best option.

An example: http://www.yapp.co.uk/pages/checkout_Login.aspx

2) Clear and Upfront Notification of Delivery Charges

Tacking on fees on to a final price without notification early in the buying process is the quickest way to lose a potential sale.  Numerous surveys have revealed that hidden delivery costs are the number one reason for people to abandon a shopping cart.  Notify your customers upfront if they will be required to pay any shipping or handling fees. This is a great way to increase conversion rates and build customer loyalty.

3) Clearly Display Trust Elements for Consumer Confidence

Remember, quite often users do not know who you are, where you are or really anything about you.  Therefore it’s crucial you do everything you can to gain, nurture and keep your customer confidence in order to increase conversion rates. Here are a few ways to do this:

Clearly display “trust elements” on your website. Trust elements can include:

a. Credit card logos. Use only approved, high-quality logos representing the types of credit cards you accept. This helps customers feel more secure in knowing you are a legitimate business. It also shows the user that they can buy from your site. It may not be obvious otherwise.

b. Contact information. Whenever possible clearly display your companies contact information. Customers need to know they will be able to contact you if they have a problem, questions, or need more product details.

c. Real employee names and a company director. When people shop online they like to know with whom they are dealing. Displaying real names and titles of key company employees will help consumers feel more secure in knowing there are real people running the show and not just computerised robots or answering machines.

d. Photos of faces and places. Include photographs of the people with whom your customer is dealing. If appropriate and applicable, include very short biographies about the smiling faces on your website. Consider using photographs of your business location if applicable. This helps people understand yours is a legitimate business with a real location and that you aren’t likely to disappear in the night.

e. Visual verifications of claimed approvals, affiliations, and other credentials. If you have the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” for example, proudly display it in a prominent place. If you have earned awards for business-related, and sometimes personal accomplishments, tell your consumers with a quality image and link that leads to more information.

f. Push any special customer services you have to offer. If your customer service representatives are bi-lingual or speak multiple languages, find a way to let potential consumers know from the get go.

Multiple Payment options

Most of the time one payment option on your site is totally adequate.  But in the interests of maximising conversions you might consider adding other payment vehicles to your site.

The most popular alternative is PayPal.  Some users only ever use paypal as they are comfortable with it and trust it.  PayPal offers your customers options. They can pay with major credit cards, or can pay directly from their own PayPal account.  It also has the advantage (depending on how you look at it)  that Paypal store your credit card so that you do not have to re-enter it each time you visit a site offering Paypal.  Paypal is also great one for small and start-up businesses that have no established a financial history with their banks. It’s fast and easy to register, display on your website, and capture funds that can be transferred right to your bank account.

So why not add it as an option?

Well it’s expensive with commission rates around the 3% mark (and 20p per transaction).  Paypal also have a knack of siding with the buyer in the event of  dispute meaning that refunds are issued on request, leaving merchants frequently out of pocket.

It’s an extra administrative thing to manage but if adding Paypal helps get an extra % sales conversion on your site then maybe it is worth it.

Google Checkout also offers easy solutions for start up merchants and small businesses. Google checkout claim to increase leads and create more conversions with a fast, easy, convenient checkout process.

You can also sign for basket abandonment alerts so you can recapture customers who wander away without buying!

The main advantage that Google Checkout has over Paypal is that its icon appears in Adwords results – so naturally drawing your eye to merchants using it, resulting in a 10% uplift in conversion rates according to Google.

However, Google Checkout has many drawbacks.  Its interface and design are distinctly amateurish and this influencers trust building for users on their site.  (Having said that Paypal’s interface is not much better).  Also it’s only possible to link Google Check out to credit card accounts and not bank accounts.

Since its launch Google checkout has not taken off in anyway like Paypal before it and struggles for market penetration.

But, as above, if it means a small increase in sales conversions, and you can put up with the extra administrative hassle, then maybe it’s worth having Google Checkout as well as Paypal as well as normal Credit Card payment facilities.

Like Paypal, Google Checkout is suitable for small and larger merchants alike, though brand aware and high end merchants are unlikely to be found using either as there is undoubtedly something “cheap” looking about both!

Rob

July 22nd, 2010.

A glimpse into the future of E-tailing over and beyond traditional e-commerce

I recently went to a talk on the different forms that e-tailing is taking over and beyond the traditional e-commerce site.

Below is a distilled version of the talk with just the best bits.  A lot of these examples are only availabe in the US at the moment but by reading this  you are getting ahead of the curve!

(The talk was by the big cheese at Pod1 – Fadi – so credit to him for researching it all)

E-commerce via Apps

Squareup.com
Start accepting cash and card payments with Square. No contracts, monthly fees, or hidden costs. Effortlessly manage the money you take with an easy and intuitive interface. US only at the moment and only for payments less than $60 but one to watch for sure.

See corporate video

And a review on how it works

Google shopper (Android only)

This APP allows you to scan barcodes, the co

vers of books and media, and even search by voice – the app will tell you where you can buy the same product and at what price.  Pretty nifty if it works!

foursquare

It took 12 months for the location-based social network to attract one million users and by stark contrast; the second million only took three months. Ever since February 2010, the site has been registering over one million ‘check-ins’ a week.

See how it works:

New e-commerce software

Vendr

Vendr create POP-UP shops – They say that you can create your e-commerce site within 15 minutes.   These are basic obviously sites now but I guess they will improve. In any event they will probably do for many home based businesses.

from their site: “Works with your current website:  Add a “store” button to your blog or website, and your store will simply pop-up over your content — no more sending your customers elsewhere to make a purchase. Vendr functions as a part of your existing site. ”


Alvenda

Alvenda software allows you to create e-commerce shops within sites such as Facebook – Alvenda’s first customer, 1-800-Flowers.com, launched during the Mother’s Day holiday in 2009 and recognized a 10.5x lift in shopping activity by making it easier for people to shop.

New E-Tailing concepts

Cutting out the middle man – Harnessing the power of social media to revolutionise product manufacture and pricing.

Furniture:

http://www.made.com/
For furtniture design and manufacture: You choose what makes it into our collection. Vote for your favourites and the most popular will be made available to order.

Wine

http://www.nakedwines.com/
Buy early, pay less
The earlier you buy an air ticket, the less you pay. Now you can do the same with wine. Save £££!

Car Rental

Whipcar
WhipCar is the first service in the world where a car owner can rent out their vehicle for money, whenever they are not using it. WhipCar pairs sensible drivers with spare car time

Belles

April 22nd, 2010.

12 Quick ways to increase your conversion rate in 20 minutes

If one of your business goals for 2010 is to increase your conversion rate then here are some basic conversion tips, which amazingly so many website still fail to pay attention to.

Example of a product page

1. Include calls to action. Make sure the home page makes visitors want to move deeper into the site and that the home page reflects exactly the kind of business you are.

2. Keep your site relevant In order to gain trust and loyalty from your visitors it’s important to keep your site up to date. For example once an event is over it should be removed from your site straight away and then updated with all forthcoming events/news.

3. Know what’s visible. Your most important information should go “Above the Fold”:  Anytime a customer has to scroll down a page, they’re doing so to view content that lies “below the fold”.  I still recommend putting all your biggest selling and most profitable products above the fold so your customer doesn’t have to scroll to find it.

4.  Buy it now What happens when a visitor decides to buy a product? They add it to a shopping basket. How do they add it? They click a button or link (usually a button)and if they can’t see the button they will go elsewhere. There are still plenty of sites out there with buttons that are too subtle, or don’t say the right thing, or are hidden away at the bottom of a page. It is important to have clear buttons that also tell the customer what will happen next once they have clicked.

5. Importance of good images and design should always have visitor usability and appeal in mind.  A beautiful, funky or attractive looking web site will not help your ranking but it will help secure client interest and entice sales.

Example of a payment page

6. Keep it short make sure the checkout process is not long – if your site has a lot of pages to complete before checkout you risk the visitor giving up half way through due to time.  You only need to ask for the relevant fields to complete the purchase and follow-up with further details later.

7. Good product description should have a headline and an opening hook designed to get your reader to click on the item and find out more.  The most important elements for product description pages are:

  • Headline
  • Opening hook
  • Overview of benefits
  • Closing the sale

8. Convenience is key Visitors to the site often say how tired they are of having to open another account and having to remember another username/password.  A way around this is to offer a one page checkout process which captures customer details, but does not open an account.

9. Keep them informed When customer buys something online, they want to know when it’s going to arrive at their door. People are impatient. Giving them an estimated delivery date during the checkout process is a good start. Emailing them when their product is dispatched is great. Giving them a tracking number if using a delivery service that supports online tracking is even better. Keep the customer informed at every step of the process, before and after sale, about as much as you can.

10. Points Of Contact Many visitors to your site dislike making contact online so it’s helpful to have your phone number clearly on the contact page if that’s one of the ways you can expect to convert visitors into customers.

11. Payment options? Customers these days need a few options in order to buy online. Not everyone has a Paypal account or a credit card. You need to offer your customers as many payment options as possible, or you could risk losing potential sales. Make the user’s life easy and give them as many payment options as possible.

12. Highlighting offers and sales on your website will encourage an increase both visitors and revenue.  In your headline one should feature different benefits as this will have a huge impact on your sales.  This is often the first thing visitors to your site see so it must capture their attention and entice them to buy the product(s).

Rob

September 13th, 2009.

Avoid expensive rebuild costs and improve your existing site conversions

At business school I was taught the way to make money was to make our assets sweat. I think they meant to get the most out of everything you owned and to make sure it was being worked night and day to maximum effect.  And so at Datadial we try to do the same for our clients’ websites by making sure that they are focused on developing websites that maximise sales levels by being search engine friendly and that convert users in to buyers.

The usual reaction in squeezing more out of a website is to rush into a redevelopment exercise.  Redeveloping a website is expensive that is often undertaken on a whim and without real research into what is working and what is not on the current website. Indeed it’s often the case that the current site is perfectly capable of delivering many more sales and that it just needs refining to improve the user experience.

This doesn’t need to be an expensive exercise. The key to successful marketing is to consistently test and measure everything that you do. Delivering fantastic conversion figures is within reach for us all, no matter how small the budget.

Here are four ways that we have carried out for some of our clients to help increase their onsite conversions at virtually no cost.

1) Online surveys

What better way to really understand your customers than to ask them for direct feedback?  What is it that makes them want to buy from you rather than your competitors?  How did they hear about you?

Carrying out market research will enable you to build on what you’re doing well and make any necessary adjustments and help you to grow.  You will be surprised by how many people are willing to take the time to reply to surveys.

We recently did a survey for one of our clients Design911.co.uk which gave vital insight into user behaviour.  Coupled with Click Tracking report (see below) Design911 have been able to fine tune their website to respond to users’ expectations and behaviour.

Below is a sample of the survey results  that were produced.

des-2

des1-jpgdes3

2) Mouse tracking

Why do other sites make it so difficult to buy anything from them?  We’ve all experienced a confusing website at one point or another.  But could your site also be suffering from usability issues?  Find out where the sticking points are with Mouse tracking.

You may also find that users are trying to click on things on your site that are not designed to be clicked on.  We found this with Design911:

With design 911 we found that that very few people clicked on the middle of the page and that lots of users tried clicking on ads on the right handside of the page which were not actually clickable.  We found too that the search box was being under used as it was below the page fold and that users were taking at least 60 seconds to make a click on key navigation items.

des-click1des-click2

3) Study your analytics

It’s all too tempting to gloss over your analytics reports – these reports contain vital information which reveal where users are getting stuck, turned on or turned off.  Seems obvious to say it but unless you take the time to check what is going on on your site you will never be able to intelligently amend your site and measure the effect of your changes.

There is a mass of information to look at but here are 3 basic things to do

Check Bounce Rates: Bounce rates tell you if a visitor who has been directed to your site via a search engine or Adwords likes what they have found.  If they leave the site immediately this is called a bounce.  If this happens you need to question if you are showing the right products for the keyword search  and if you could provide better information, or if they had come via  Adwords, are your Adwords set up correctly.

Funnels: You can set up funnels to determine where people are dropping off over a series of pages (typically the shopping cart process).  Different funnels can be set up for different goals.

Compare to previous periods: There are a number of trends such as time on site, the number of keywords that you are being found for, the number of pages per visit that are good to compare from onen time period to another so that you detect trends.

4) A/B Testing

Having pawed over your analytics you can then start making intelligent changes to your site.  How will you make more people fill in your enquiry form?  How can you get them to add one more thing to their basket.  Take a look at the forms below and guess which one had the higher conversion rate.

lovefilm1

lovefilm2

This company carried out A/B testing on their sign up form and increased their conversion rate by 10%.

This is called A/B testing or Multivariate testing which we use to determine which images, copy and design most appeal to your customers and which version increases conversion.  You can have as many or as few variables as you like when creating your A/B testing.  Ideally you would set it up to automatically serve different versions of the page to alternate users but to save money you can do it on a week on/week off basis.

We helped Conference Genie increase conversions on their site by altering the sign up process.  Interestingly we did it by making their site more complicated.

Weirdly the problem on this site was that it was too easy to use.  Users could not believe that they could just dial a default number, punch in a code and start a conference call.  So we made the site appear to generate a specific telephone number and a unique code for them.  Turning a one step process into a two step process actually increased conversions.

conferencegenie2

Making small changes instead of wholesale changes was also recently backed by Peter Fitzgerald, who leads Google UK’s retail industry division.  He said that the whole area of analytics – that’s technical jargon for examining the ways that people navigate websites when they shop online – has taken on new importance to retailers.

Simple changes can make the world of difference, particularly since statistics show that 50.1% of online shoppers who place items in their shopping carts still do not buy them.

By subtly altering a website’s layout based on how people use it, websites can increase sales significantly.

“There is often a lot of unimportant information on the top of a web page. If you move this information out of the way it can make a huge difference,” said Mr Fitzgerald.

For example when Comet, the electricals retailer owned by Kesa, the listed stores group, removed two bits of text from the top of its web page (saying ‘top checkout tips’ and ‘you’re safe with us’ respectively), its conversion rates increased by 6.7pc.  “Online retailers are spending more time on analytics to see where things are going wrong,” said Mr Fitzgerald.

Department store group Debenhams recently tested the message and positioning of an online sign-up form for its Beauty Club.  Improvements to it increased the number of customers the chain signed up by over 89pc.  Little such tweaks are being made by online retailers as a means of gaining incremental sales. Experts say that the results of the small changes can be seen almost immediately.

Google’s Mr Brittin said: “By interpreting analytics data and continually testing their sites, retailers can really understand what consumers are looking for online. Often very small and seemingly obvious tweaks can boost sales significantly.”

All of the above exercises can be implemented fairly quickly and inexpensively.  However, don’t underestimate the time you need to truly get to grips with your findings.

By constantly analysing the results and carrying out appropriate changes you will be able to squeeze every last conversion out of your site without incurring expensive redevelopment costs.

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