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On the subject of E-commerce



December 19th, 2014.

Trends That Will Dominate eCommerce in 2015

Due to the increased use of technology, particularly mobile devices, such as smartphones, eCommerce is expanding and evolving at an exponential rate. eCommerce sites are having to adapt and evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of technology. From the emergence of responsiveness optimised web design to the increased use of video content, eCommerce has changed a great deal in the past decade. These changes are set to continue in 2015. Next, year here’s what trends we expect to dominate eCommerce in the coming year.

Mobile Payments will be in Demand

People are using their phones for everything from sending text messages, to making purchases online, and often, they don’t want to use a card, because they worry about security, and because it’s inconvenient to enter card details. Mobile payment systems make paying from your phone a simple process, and no card details are necessary.

13618923175698510597464_9bcd47278a_bPayments made using mobile phone payment systems are increasing. By 2017, it is predicated that mobile payments will account for 3% of the international eCommerce market. This means that websites that allow consumers to pay using a mobile payment system, like Zong, will have an edge over their competition. In 2015, mobile payment systems will likely become much more prevalent among eCommerce websites. Mobile payments systems will likely become more refined and easier to use in the coming year too.

Quality Content will be even more Important

According to statistics, content marketing methods are 62% less expensive than traditional marketing methods are. While content marketing is much less expensive, in gets three times as many leads as traditional marketing does. In 2015, creating high quality content will be even more important for eCommerce websites. Nowadays, consumers are exposed to more advertising than ever. From television adverts to pay per click adverts on Google, consumers see advertising everywhere. This means that consumers tend to tune out advertisements and other things that they don’t perceive to be useful, valuable or relevant to them. This is why content marketing is one of the most effective methods for engaging customers, establishing trust and building a loyal brand following.

Content marketing methods, like social media, articles, blog posts, newsletters, and videos are more effective than television advertisements, and other traditional marketing methods, according to marketing trends. In 2015, if eCommerce websites want to compete in the market, they need to produce valuable, relevant, and informative content that customers will find useful.

Mobile Optimisation will be Essential

According to statistics, 15% of physical goods purchases were made from a mobile device and 32% of all online purchases are made from a mobile device. Optimizing your website, advertisements, and emails for mobile devices will become even more important by 2015. Next year, eCommerce sites will need to make their stores mobile responsive. Stores need to be convenient and accessible for mobile users. If an eCommerce store isn’t mobile responsive, it will lose out on a large percent of the market, and it will struggle to compete with competitors.

Social Media Marketing will become more Diverse

Social Media Marketing will become even more important in 2015. As mentioned earlier, outbound marketing methods, like television adverts, are losing their effectiveness, whereas content marketing is maintaining its effectiveness. Social media is an important part of the content marketing process. Next year, however, it won’t just be Facebook or Twitter that the eCommerce sites will be utilizing. More well-rounded social media platforms, and image-based sites, like Pinterest, will also be utilised more predominantly. Ultimately, in 2015, eCommerce sites will have to diversify their social media marketing efforts to suit their audiences.

Flat-Design will Dominate

Flat-design for websites will dominate in 2015. It’s already becoming increasingly prevalent, with large corporations like Google and Microsoft implementing it. A flat web design is clean, features neat lines and crisp edges, and utilizes flat, two dimensional graphics. Unlike other web design trends, which feature, shadows, gradients, garish graphics and other bold design elements, flat-design is minimalist, and uses a less is more approach. A famous example of a flat design user interface is the Microsoft Windows 8 interface.  Flat-design is becoming popular because it looks clean and neat to the user, it’s easy to read and navigate and this type of design is easy to make responsive.


Retargeting Ads will become more Prevalent

Retargeting ads are incredibly effective, and will likely become more prevalent in 2015. According to statistics, retargeting can increase your ad response by up to 400% and three out of five consumers say that they notice adverts for products they have already viewed. Using browser cookies, an eCommerce site can track the sites, products and pages that their customers visit. After these customers have left the site, and are viewing other websites, the items they viewed will be advertised.

Fashion retailer New Look is a prime example of a large company that utilises retargeting ads. For example, if you view a pair of shoes on New Look, when you leave the site to look at a news website, for example, you will see adverts for the shoes and anything else you may have viewed the New Look site. Statistics have shown that just 2% of first visits to a site result in a sale. Ad retargeting can significantly increase your conversion rate.



November 5th, 2014.

Great Examples of Linkbait used on eCommerce Sites

Content is an important part of any eCommerce site’s marketing strategy. Driving traffic to your website, generating links, increasing your websites search engine rankings and branding and PR are important factors for eCommerce sites. Linkbait is a very useful method for influencing all of these factors. Whether it’s a quirky video or a humorous infographic, linkbait can be very useful.

What is Linkbait?

link_baitingLinkbait refers to content, like a blog post or a video, which is designed to get people to link to (or share) that content. Search engines, like Google and Bing, take into account incoming links, and the quality of those links, when ranking a website. Organic, unpaid, won on merit links to a website are highly valued, so using linkbait is a very effective way for a site to increase its search engine rankings.

There are many different types of linkbait, but the most popular, and arguably most effective are:

  • Humour: Humour-based linkbait is very effective. People like things that make them smile or laugh, so funny content, whether it’s a video or a fake product page for an outrageous product will likely be shared with others.
  • News: If you provide updates on breaking news, or offer a news feed, or the latest news on one industry, this is called news linkbait. Using news stories is an effective method for getting more traffic, and repeat visits to your site.
  • Contrary: Content that is controversial or offers a viewpoint on a subject that is contrary to popular opinion is an effective type of linkbait. While a little risker, controversial content can draw in high numbers of traffic and it can generate a buzz about your website.
  • Resource: A long article, blog post, guide or eBook can act as an informational resource for visitors. Resource linkbait is one of the most successful forms of linkbait, because visitors are very likely to share it with others, and return to the resource themselves frequently. For example, a blog selling bridal veils may offer a guide to choosing a wedding venue.

How can eCommerce Sites Implement a Linkbait Campaign?

 Free Guides

Posting an extensive guide, walkthrough, or how-to, on your site is a fantastic way to drive traffic to your website. A perfect example of using a free guide as linkbait is, Moz.com. Moz.com offers a “Beginners Guide to SEO”, which has proven incredibly popular. People have shared this guide with others, and have revisited it many times themselves too. It’s a good example of resource link bait. Think about what information would be truly useful, relevant and valuable to your customers. For example, if you sell supplements, fitness and nutrition based guides would be ideal. Don’t be scared of giving away too much here. The better and more extensive your resource, then the more successful it will be. Branding yourself as an expert or authority on a topic will pay dividends in the long-run.

Use a Constant Promotional Page

Create a page that has a static URL, and keyword optimise it. Then, place your offers and deals on that page. This is your incentive linkbait page. On this page, also highlight give-aways or contests. Keep this page for each and every deal, giveaway or promotion that your site hosts. Eventually, with each deal, you will get more and more links to that page, and therefore increase your website’s rankings.

Video content

Video content is a highly effective form of linkbait. Statistics show that after watching a video, website visitors are 64% more likely to make a purchase, and that if a webpage includes a video, it is fifty times more likely to rank in the first page of the search engine results. Video links can also generate a great deal of traffic on social media sites.


As infographics combine images and information, they are becoming an increasingly popular form of content for websites. Infographics are very diverse in that while they deliver statistics, facts and information, they are also aesthetically pleasing, making them ideal for sharing on image based sites like Pinterest and also being referenced and republished in blog posts.

Blog Posts

From controversial opinion based posts to top ten style posts, done well blog posts are a very effective form of linkbait. When creating blog posts, think about what your target audience wants. What content would they find useful, and interesting enough to share? If you sell hiking equipment, you could write a post on the top ten hiking spots in the UK. Make it extensive, make it evergreen, focus again on being a resource, keep it updated and it will attract links over time.

Examples of Effective Linkbait Strategies

13 Essential Tools for Surviving a Zombie Outbreak

REI sells hiking and camping equipment. Its 13 Essential Tools for Surviving a Zombie Outbreak infographic, is the perfect example of linkbait. Combining the elements of humour and resource linkbait, this guide garnered REI a great deal of attention. It also leverages the popularity of zombie shows and movies, like the Waking Dead, to create a piece of content that is truly share-worthy.


Tactical Duty Kilt from 5.11

5.11 Tactical is an eCommerce store that sells a wide range of clothing items, accessories and equipment for law enforcement, tactical operators, first responders and recreational enthusiasts. As an April Fool’s joke, the company announced its “Tactical Duty Kilt”. This joke product garnered the company a great deal of attention, so much so that 5.11 Tactical actually decided to really make the Tactical Duty Kilt. It’s the perfect example of how humorous linkbait, and fake product pages can really help an eCommerce website.

Blendtec Will It Blend? – iPad Video

Blendtec is a company that sells blenders. It has managed to not only increase traffic to its site through linkbait, but also differentiate itself from other similar companies on the Internet. The company has done this through its Will it Blend video campaign.

These videos show the founder of the company, Tom Dickson, blending odd items, from credit cards to mobile phones, in order to demonstrate how powerful the company’s blenders are. These videos have proved incredibly popular, but the Blentec Will it Blend iPad video is one of the most viewed.

Volkswagon Fast Lane – The Slide Video

Volkswagon had the ingenious idea to put a slide on the stairs of the Alexanderplatz subway station in Berlin. The company named the slide the Fast Lane. The subsequent video showing the slide in use asks the question, “Are you Ready for the Fast Lane?” Fun and thought-provoking, this video is the perfect example of how, when done well, video content can be an ideal form of linkbait.




October 17th, 2014.

The Growth of Mobile eCommerce Payments

From cash to credit cards, the way consumers pay for their purchases has significantly evolved over the past few decades. Now, however, the evolution of payment methods is accelerating, thanks mostly to the prevalence of technology in society.

According to statistics, there are currently six billion mobile phones in use throughout the world, and 88% of Europeans own one. Many consumers now browse eCommerce websites from their phones.

Research-gives-insight-in-the-mobile-payment-user-base-and-penetration-worldwideIn 2012 alone, people spent $25 billion on purchases that they made from their mobile phones. Now, 32% of all purchases online are made from mobile phones. As a result of the growth of mobile platforms, by 2018, according to Goldman Sachs, international e-Commerce will see a growth of $638 billion. By 2020, it is estimated that the majority of people will make purchases using their mobile phone.

The popularity of mobile phones is changing the way consumers shop. Often, people don’t feel that using their credit card or debit card to pay for purchases is safe or secure. The need for a more convenient and secure way to pay for purchases has led to an increase in mobile payment systems.

What is a Mobile Payment System?

Mobile payments require a mobile payment processing platform.  Many companies, from PayPal to Amazon now offer such options to their customers. There are four types of mobile payments:

  • Contactless Near Field Communication
  • Premium SMS Based Transactional Payments
  • WAP Billing/Mobile Web Payments
  • Direct Mobile Billing

Popular Mobile Payment Systems

All of these mobile payment platforms vary in the models they use. However, they all eliminate the need for registration details, passwords and credit cards or debit cards.


Zong is a mobile payment organisation, which allows its customers to make payments online, via their mobile phones. The company, which was acquired by eBay in 2011, operates in forty countries, including the UK. Zong now has 60 million users in the UK. Customers in the UK can use Zong if they are on the Vodaphone, Orange, O2, T-Mobile, 3 or the Virgin network.

To use Zong, you simply click on the red Zong symbol, and a box will appear. You need to enter your mobile phone number into this box. Then, you will be sent a secure pin code, which you will enter online to make your purchase. With Zong, a consumer’s purchase is charged through their mobile phone bill, by their mobile network.

PayPal Mobile Payments

PayPal is a well-known digital wallet and online payment system, which has been making it easier for consumers to shop online. Now, the company is offering a mobile payments system, called PayPal Mobile Payments. The company first tried the NFC payments model, but found it too complex and limiting. The system now is very simple.

First, you have to activate your mobile phone number and pin number. These will be your mobile login details. Then, either online, or through apps, you can shop using this payment system. You simply select PayPal as your payment option, and then enter your mobile number and pin number to make your purchase. This payment system is compatible with iOS and Android apps, and it allows you to pay via phone, tablet, and many other mobile devices.

Amazon Payments/Amazon Mobile Payments Service

Through the Amazon Payments system, consumers can make purchases online, in a way that is more secure and more convenient. Through the Amazon Payments system, Amazon is offering the Amazon Mobile Payment Service (MPS). With this system, customers can make purchases with their mobile phones.

To make a purchase using the Amazon Mobile Payment Service, first click on the “Pay with Amazon” button. You will then be taken to page hosted by Amazon Payments, where you will use your Amazon login details to sign in. From there, you can select a payment method that you already have on file with Amazon. Once you’ve selected a payment option, you’ll return to the merchant’s site, where you can make your purchase. You can use the Amazon Mobile Payment Service to make purchase from any mobile device.


Netsize is a payment platform, which allows its users to make purchases from their phones and other mobile devices. The company works with over 160 mobile networks in more than 50 countries. Netsize offers many mobile payment models, including WAP billing, in-app billing, and operator billing.


Text2Pay is a mobile payment system, which makes purchasing products online, much easier. The payment system operates in over fifty countries. To make a purchase on Text2Pay, you need to click on the “Pay by Fone” button. Then you will need to enter your mobile phone number. You will then be asked to enter your post code, so that Text2Pay can verify that it matches the details for your mobile phone number. After this, you will be sent a pin number, which you will need to enter to complete the transaction.


One of the largest mobile payment programs, Boku operates in 66 countries, and is partnered with over two hundred mobile phone networks. Boku is a very safe, and convenient mobile payment system, and it offers excellent customer services.

To use Boku to make a purchase, you need to select the “Pay by Mobile” option. You will need to enter your mobile phone number. Then, you need to click “Yes” to confirm your purchase. Purchases that you make using Boku will be charged directly to your mobile phone bill. This means that you don’t need to use credit cards, debit cards or bank accounts to make your purchase.

With the rise in smartphones, apps and tablets, mobile payment systems are becoming an integral part of eCommerce. As the amount of purchases made from mobile devices continues to grow, more and more eCommerce sites are sure to begin offering mobile payments.



October 1st, 2014.

Google Trusted Stores Now Open In The UK

In 2012, Google launched its Trusted Stores program in the USA. Now, the search engine has opened the program to UK retailers, aimed at creating a better shopping experience for both consumers and eCommerce websites.

What is Google Trusted Stores?

Google Trusted Stores is a program that is beneficial to both consumers and eCommerce sites. With the Google Trusted Stores program, retailers that meet certain criteria get a Trusted Stores badge, which displays on their site, and on paid search engine results. This badge allows stores to show they offer fantastic customer service and consistent, on-time deliveries.



Benefits to Consumers

The Trusted Stores Program benefits consumers in a number of ways. As online stores have to meet strict criteria to join the program, consumers are able to shop with more confidence. Online, there are thousands of stores for consumers to choose from, and often, consumers don’t know which ones are going to provide them with the best shopping experience.

When a consumer sees the trusted stores symbol on a store, it differentiates that site from others. It allows shoppers to more easily identify stores that offer a high quality shopping experience. Merchants with the badge will also offer free purchase protection from Google.

Benefits to Businesses

For retailers, the program can be highly beneficial. It provides merchants with the chance to differentiate themselves from their competitors. The Trusted Stores badge immediately makes a store stand out.

For example, a person searching for a floor lamp on Google will see an abundance of stores. However, if they see one store is displaying a badge, they are most likely to visit that particular store.  This increased level of visibility will attract more customers, and therefore, increase sales and conversion rates.

Most importantly, however, the objective data offered to consumers through the program can drastically increase a store’s customer base. When a consumer places an order with a site, they want to know that it offers a good shopping experience. The Trusted Stores Badge provides consumers with more objective information on a store’s quality level.

When a consumer hovers their mouse over the badge, they will see a report card. This card offers information on a store’s customer services and shipping reliability. Also, it will display overall data on the store, such as returns, delivery times, email response times and the overall shopping experience. This data is collected through an independent shopping evaluation company called StellaService. With this symbol, the consumer is given an objective review of the site, and will be more likely to purchase with that store.

Applying: Who should Apply and How to Apply

Stores can apply to the Google Trusted Stores program, only if they meet certain eligibility criteria.

  • Process a Certain Number of Orders: Your site must consistently process at least two- hundred orders, over twenty-eight days to be eligible.
  • Use Shipping Tracking Numbers: On the majority of the orders your site ships, you must use shipment tracking numbers. This is so Google is able to see how quickly your shipments were delivered, and how many were delivered.
  • Cannot Sell Restricted Items: If your website sells any restricted items, such as tobacco, weapons, and certain pharmaceuticals, it won’t be eligible for the Google Trusted Stores Program
  • Must Offer Reasons for CancellationsIf your site becomes part of the Trusted Stores program, it must provide reasons for cancellations. When an order status changes to cancelled, you will be taken to a pop-up screen. On this screen, you will have to state the reason for the cancellation. In order to keep your Google cancellation feed up to date, you have to enter this data.
  • Deal with Customer Escalations Promptly: If a customer is not happy with one of your employees, and wants to talk to someone in a higher position, this issue must be resolved within one working day.
  • Use a Custom Domain and Have an SSL Certificate: Your website must have its own custom domain, and have an SSL certificate to participate in the Google Trusted Stores program.

Launching in the UK, the Google Trusted Stores program is sure to have a big impact on eCommerce and paid search, and  may helpincrease conversion rates for many stores.



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.


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“?:



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.



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.



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.



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)



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



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)



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.



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.



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…



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“)



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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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?


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


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! :-)


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


Revoo at www.reevoo.com

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