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!
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
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!
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 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 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.
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.
Buy early, pay less
The earlier you buy an air ticket, the less you pay. Now you can do the same with wine. Save £££!
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
April 9th, 2010.
Typically my knowledge of domains, DNS settings and A-records is happily restricted to one phrase: “Sergio, can you setup a new site please?”
But recently my personal website had issues with the DNS service I was using. I needed to move it, including changing my entire hosting and email. It’s headache material, but it’s one of those things that website owners have to do sooner or later.
If you are also daunted by all of this jargon, this may help:
The small print: this is a highly simplified diagram of how all of this works, intended to only provide an introduction. There are many more connections in between the ones illustrated. This also only shows POP3 email accounts (the most common business setup), but there are other options such as webmail and IMAP.
January 5th, 2010.
This tutorial will guide you through the setup of your email account. You will need the details we provided you to setup your account on Outlook
- Startup Microsoft Outlook 2007.(a) If this is the first account you are setting up on outlook a Wizard will startup, click Next.
On the account Configuration Select yes to configure E-mail account then click Next. Go to to step 2
- Select Microsoft Exchange,POP3, IMAP, or HTTP then click Next
- Enter E-mail account details
Type your name: e.g. Joe Blogs
Type your E-mail address: e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org
Type your Password: e.g. password
Then retype your password: e.g. password
Then Select Manually Configure Server Settings or additional Server types then click Next
- Choose E-mail Service
- Enter Server Information
Account type: POP3
Incoming Mail Server : Information provided by Datadial
Outgoing Mail Server(SMTP): Information provided by Datadial
User Name: Information provided by Datadial
Password: Information provided by Datadial
Select Remember password then click More settings
- Outgoing Server Setup
Select Outgoing Server tab
Select my outgoing Server (SMTP) requires authentication and Use same settings as my incoming server then click OK
Select Test Account Settings and check if everything is completed then select Next
- Finish Setup
Select Finish. If you still have an account settings window open you can click close to return to Outlook
Select Internet E-mail then click Next
Like many of Microsoftâ€™s recent software products (Visual Studio .Net, .Net Framework or C# 3.0) SQL Server 2008 has been enhanced based previous versions by fixing bugs and adding new functionality built based on existing features. This is a welcome strategy that helps ease the transition for developers and database administrators.
In this blog post I will briefly touch on some of the database administrator functions and focus on the developer functionality, additions and upgrades.
SQL Server 2008 policy management has been updated and is now called the â€˜Declarative Management Frameworkâ€™. It is now possible to configure multiple database servers so that a standard configuration can be applied and maintained on multiple servers and databases.
Multiple Server Integration makes it possible to execute queries against multiple servers by placing them within special groups. Result can be categorised into one result per server or merged together as one set of results.
Security (Transparent Data Encryption)
A cool new feature of SQL Server 2008 is the improved flexibility of data encryption. Data encryption is now a property of the database instead of application code. This makes the database administrator and developerâ€™s lifeâ€™s easier as now they donâ€™t have to make changes to the database every time encryption functionality changes at the application level.
Database administrators can now specify how much CPU/RAM each user is allowed to use. This will help to eliminate situations where a userâ€™s mistake could potentially bring down a whole server. By imposing these limitations users are restricted to a predefined amount of CPU/RAM usage.
Developers have also been treated to some appealing updates in the latest version SQL Server. There are a number of new features that have been added to make a developerâ€™s life easier and increase their productivity.
LINQ Vs SQL
Most developers are pretty familiar with writing T-SQL queries to retrieve data for application objects. Most are also aware of the distinct syntactical differences between VB/C# and T-SQL. SQL Server 2008 provides something called the LINQ to SQL provider, which makes it possible to write LINQ commands directly within SQL Server. This lets develops use one common object centric language in the application domain and the database domain. Developers will be able to use the LINQ programming syntax on database table and application collection, XML and datasets.
DATETIME Data Type
Datetime has now been separated into two separate data types so that each one can be defined independently. These new data types will help increase performance by eliminating the need to perform certain operations to extract the date or time portion of the Datetime data type.
GEOGRAPHY and GEOMETRY
These two additions have been added to better represent location specific data. This eliminates the need to break geography and geometry data down into formats that fit other standard data types.
The SQL language has had some small additions in the shape of Inline Variable Declarations:
DECLARE @myVar int
SET @myVar = 5
DECLARE @myVar int = 5
C like math syntax
SET @i += 5
Icing on the cake
SQL Server 2008 had been blessed with Intellisense. All I can say is â€œabout time tooâ€. Gone are the days where you would have to do a Google search to remind yourself of certain T-SQL keywords, statements or syntax. Now SQL Server will give youâ€™re a full list of statements and keywords available for a particular variableâ€™s data type as well as column names for a particular table.
SQL Server offers some interesting new features that will keep developers and administrators happy. These new features integrate well with Visual Studio and the .Net framework 3.5 making SQL Server a nice finishing touch to a well rounded application development environment.
Web usability is about designing your web site so that users can achieve their desired goal quickly and easily. Taking time out during development to make sure your site meets usability standards can have a huge benefit to your business.
â€œA web usability redesign can increase the sales/conversion rate by 100%â€
– Jakob Nielson
Designers and developers must make sure they spend adequate time planning the flow of information by firstly identifying the needs of their intended users, then creating a path for site visitors to follow, which firstly, addresses a users initial concerns, then gradually takes then towards achieving their goals. This is achieved by understanding the goal the goals of you target users and then identifying the information your site needs to provide.
There are millions of web sites all competing for the same space, so it is important that you get the right information across a quickly as possible. It has never been easier for users to find a competitors web site, which may do a better job than yours. It is important that you meet the immediate needs of your site visitors as this the fundamental principle behind good web design.
Web designer must realise that if a web site is hard to use or hard to read, users will leave the site. This is because most users simply do not want to spend a large amount of time trying to figure out how to use a site as there are plenty of other sites to choose from.
Definition of Usability
- Easy to learn
- Efficient to use
- Easy to recover from errors
- Easy to remember
Navigation (Breadcrumb Trail)
Site navigation is crucial as users must know where they are and where they are going at all times. The easiest way to achieve this is to follow certain site convention, layouts and phrases (i.e. company logo should be in the top left corner with a link back to the home page, â€˜about usâ€™ links should display organisational information, shopping cart or basket should refer to items a user wishes to purchase etc).
These conventions must not be adhered to whenever possible as users have become accustomed to them. Developers and designer must use this to their advantage because sticking to them can increase the usability of the site.
How many times have you exited a web page because it has taken too long to download? As broadband speeds get faster users are becoming increasingly impatient when it comes to page download time. On average users are prepared to wait 8.6 seconds, so it is important that you pay attention to this. There is no use having a fancy web site with high resolution images if users arenâ€™t prepared to wait long enough to see them.
Many web designers fail to complete adequate usability testing due to time and budget constraints. They fail to realise that a usable web site or CMS will eliminate a lot of time spent providing technical support. It is crucial that designers and developers know that the adoption of usability testing will eventually pay for itself many times over.
The key is to start usability testing early and to involve your target demographic. If possible, use five people to complete these tests as this has been known to uncover as much as 85% of usability issues.
Usability is a hugely neglected area of web development and is an issue that needs to be addressed. We must always remember that users always come first and that if you make the user your priority then they will reward you with their loyalty.
It is not good enough using programmers and designers to do the testing either, as IT professionals do not think like the average web user. The best way to complete thorough testing is use candidate that are similar to your target audience.
Usability is an incredibly valuable tool that can save an organisation a lot of money, improve their competitive position and customer loyalty. Itâ€™s never too late, so start today.
Over recent years broadband has become the benchmark standard for internet access at home and at work and the days of dial-up speeds of 56k are a thing of the past. If you have been using the internet for long enough to remember how painfully slow this was, youâ€™ll be pleasantly surprised at what mobile broadband has to offer.
Mobile broadband relies on 3G technology, which makes it possible to access the internet using a laptop (or PC) anywhere that has mobile phone coverage. You donâ€™t even have to be in a wireless hotspot area as your broadband coverage and connection quality depends on how close you are to a mobile phone mast. The closer you are, the faster the connection speed you will be able to achieve.
Who is Mobile Broadband for?
Mobile broadband is an attractive solution for students or those living in temporary accommodation as it doesnâ€™t require a land line. In fact in most cases it doesnâ€™t require a mobile phone contract either. This has many advantages over conventional broadband access.
It is an essential tool for businessman and entrepreneurs, as it gives them the flexibility to complete their work on the move. It enables them to keep in touch with their latest emails and access important documents in a reliable way.
Hardware (3G Modems)
Setting up mobile broadband is extremely easy. Firstly you will need a 3G modem, which comes in three forms; USB Dongle, USB Key or Data card (laptop only).
- Dongles are about the size of a mobile phone and plug into your USB port.
- USB sticks are much smaller and are geared towards users who want a more portable option.
- Data cards are more discrete but are less popular as they require a laptop with a plug and play software/expansion slot.
The five main mobile broadband providers are:
- 3 Mobile
Each company offers various packages and uses their extensive mobile coverage to deliver a high quality internet connection.
Mobile broadband is made possible via 3G services, which are made possible via HSDPA (high speed download packet access) and HSUPA (high speed upload packet access). These enable broadband speeds of up to 7.2 MBPS download and 1.76MBPS upload.
3G functionality is also becoming a standard feature in modern laptops. This means users donâ€™t have to worry about using dongles, making it easy to switch from wireless broadband at home to 3G broadband on the move; all with a few mouse clicks.
Whatâ€™s the catch?
Mobile broadband is a new service and because of this there are still some limitations. Many of the current packages have quite restrictive monthly download limits depending on the package you are on. Another downside is that the higher your download requirements the longer your contract length will tend to be. Contracts lengths range from 0, 12, 18 and 24 months, which allow download limits of between 1-15GBs.
These limits have been imposed as the cost of transferring data across 3G networks is more expensive than transmitting data across home broadband networks. Providers also have to make sure that heavy users do not overload the network causing lost connections and slow services for others.
It is estimated that mobile broadband account will grow by as much as 50% by 2010. By 2009 mobile broadband can be expected by companies like BT, Virgin Media, Tiscali and AOL.
The addition of Femtocell base stations will help to boost mobile reception and advances in technologies like 4G will also bring faster connections. This will lower the cost to mobile operators, which can be passed back to the consumer.
The .Net framework 3.5 (released November 19th 2007) is the latest framework to be released by Microsoft. It has a host of new features and will be shipped as standard with the latest version of Visual Studio .Net 2008 IDE.
.Net framework 3.5 is an incremental build which means that instead of creating a completely new framework Microsoft has instead added new assemblies and fixed known bugs. This decision helped make the transition between .Net framework 2.0 and 3.0 as painless as possible. In essence .Net framework 3.5 contains the 3.0 framework which contains the 2.0 framework.
New assemblies include:
- System.Data.Linq.dll â€“ The implementation for LINQ to SQL.
- System.Xml.Linq.dll â€“ The implementation for LINQ to XML.
- System.AddIn.dll, System.AddIn.Contract.dll â€“ New AddIn (plug-in) model.
- System.Net.dll â€“ Peer to Peer APIs.
- System.DirectoryServices.AccountManagement.dll â€“ Wrapper for Active Directory APIs.
- System.Management.Instrumentation.dll â€“ WMI 2.0 managed provider (combined with
- System.Management namespace in System.Core.dll).
- System.WorkflowServices.dll and System.ServiceModel.Web.dll â€“ WF and WCF enhancements (for more on WF + WCF in v3.5 follow links from here).
- System.Web.Extensions.dll â€“ The implementation for ASP.NET AJAX
- System.Core.dll â€“ In addition to the LINQ to Objects implementation, this assembly includes the following: HashSet, TimeZoneInfo, Pipes, ReaderWriteLockSlim, System.Security.,
- System.Diagnostics.Eventing. and System.Diagnostics.PerformanceData.
- System.Data.DataSetExtensions.dll â€“ The implementation of LINQ to Dataset.
- System.Windows.Presentation.dll â€“WPF support for the System.AddIn.
- System.VisualC.STLCLR.dll â€“ STL development in the managed world.
AJAX support has been added to .Net 3.5 as standard so that server and client-centric AJAX functionality can be added to existing and future web applications.
Some additional data-controls have also been added, in the shape of â€˜ListViewâ€™ control for displaying data and the â€˜LinqDataSourceâ€™ data control that exposes LINQ data to web applications. The ListView control is highly customisable (using templates and styles) and supports edit, update and delete operations as well as paging and sorting functionality.
Support from Vista styled Windows application has been added, which will even allow developers to update the appearance of old applications written using previous frameworks. Common file dialog boxes will be automatically updated to the Vista version. (See. http://support.microsoft.com/kb/926167)
Some of the biggest language orientated changes to.Net 3.5 are the inclusion of XAML, C# 3.0 and LINQ. Link and XAML are covered within my Silverlight and Visual Studio.Net posts.
One of the most important things to realise is that current web and windows application can be easily upgraded to .Net 3.5 as it is essentially built on the back of the previous two frameworks. Developers can make the switch safe in the knowledge that it wonâ€™t break their existing applications (unless their application exploited a bug, in which case it will!).
These types of upgrades are extremely welcome as it lessen the learning curve and give .Net developers more faith in Microsoft frameworks core infrastructure.
Most businesses have to deal with a wealth of information on a daily basis, in the form of emails, office documents, meeting agendas, business plans, project milestones etc. You donâ€™t have to be a genius to realise that even the most well oiled business can find it hard to organise all of this information in a way that is centralised and accessible to the key individuals that need it. In many cases this information is stored in a number of locations including: file systems, web sites, databases, excel files or even in paper files.
Tying these pieces of information together is crucial for the success or any aspiring or enterprise level business. The best place to start is by making this information easier to find by creating a centralised location to store it in. The next step is allowing individuals and teams to have access to this information inside and outside your organisation via intranets and extranets. This is where Microsoftâ€™s SharePoint comes into play.
What is SharePoint?
SharePoint is best described as a â€œbrowser based collaboration and document management platform.â€ It can be used to host a wealth of different data storage mediums in a manner that make accessing the relevant information extremely easy.
Each individual piece of SharePoint functionality is exposed as web part, which is an individual frame or column based piece of information (similar to the way web pages are separated into section like: main-content, left-sidebar, footer etc). Each web part can represent a predefined collation of related information (i.e. monthly meetings, current projects, todayâ€™s weather, industry related blogs/RSS feeds etc). Users can view a summary of the web parts content or click through to access a more detailed view of that particular topic.
Each SharePoint site is built using ASP.Net 2.0, .Net Framework, IIS Web Server and an SQL Server database. This has huge advantages to IT companies that already use these technologies as SharePoint is fully customisable. Even if you arenâ€™t a developer or database administrator it is still possible to create impressive workspaces using SharePointâ€™s intuitive templates and drag and drop web part functionality.
Office 2007 Integration
SharePoint has tight integration with Microsoft Office and can be used to manage large amounts of documents by creating a centralised point of access. The addition of version control means that groups can ensure that they are working with the most up-to-date version of a document and that any changes they make will be reflected across an entire organisation. This integration provides a simple, familiar and consistent user interface.
Security and Authentication
Using window authentication, all users of SharePoint can be identified accurately identified. SharePoint administrators can designate specific privileges / permission so that only certain users can view, add, edit or delete certain content. Network users can be invited to view new content via email and online status can be verified via SharePointâ€™s integration with Instant Messenger.
Separate SharePoint sites can also exist, that target specific departments or topics. These sites can be as simple or as complex as necessary, restricting access to authorised members only. Each site can also have child sites (i.e., the Datadial site contains an Accounts and an IT site. The IT site can then contain an SEO sub-site and a VB.Net sub-site.).
SharePoint has a wealth of possibilities depending of the needs of an organisation, department or individual. It s ability to centralise data from a number of data sources in a manner that is both searchable and collaborative is so astounding that once adopted, many will wonder how they work without it.