Email Marketing is a powerful tool that, when used right, can be an easily affordable way to keep in touch with your clients and create a loyal fan base. There are many different strategies associated with email marketing however so we’ve gotten in touch with some experts at Listrak to answer some basic questions and share information that was gathered by their recent study.
Q&A with Ross Kramer, CEO of Listrak
ZippyCart: Hello Ross, welcome to ZippyCart’s eCommerce News. We love the new study you’ve put out about email marketing and were hoping you could give us some insight on the ways it can benefit the eMerchants who come to our blog for the latest eCom news.
Ross: The main takeaway from the study is that consumers are engaging with emails from online retailers, so email marketing is still extremely effective. The study found that emails that had very targeted subject lines prompted the consumer to open the email. Case in point, if you’re an eMerchant, one of the most cost-effective ways to engage your consumer is by launching email marketing campaigns that have targeted subject lines, call-to-action messages, effective landing pages, and are consistent across channels. It’s also more effective when eMerchants segment their audience by purchase habits and lastly, remind shoppers to purchase.
ZippyCart: With your deep understanding of email marketing, in what ways do you feel it benefits the small to medium online business owner?
Ross: Email marketing is beneficial to any kind of business, large or small, given that it is a cost-effective way to reach and engage consumers. For an SMB, email marketing is a solid solution for engaging consumers with your e-commerce site given that it saves employees time from having to push marketing campaigns across channels manually. One person can manage an email marketing campaign easily across an automated platform, which works in favor of SMBs looking for a cost and time effective way to get consumers to visit their sites.
ZippyCart: What are the different types of email marketing available for today’s eMerchants?
Ross: There are various types of email marketing strategies for today’s eMerchants. Some of the most well-known and effective strategies and solutions include acquisition, re-engagement series, behavioral targeting, shopping cart abandonment, transactional, welcome series, mobile engagement, post purchase and modal acquisition.
ZippyCart: Because re-engagement is more cost effective than acquisition, what strategy would you recommend for eMerchants who are looking to reconnect with inactive customers and increase sales thru their existing client base?
Ross: eMerchants that are looking to reconnect with inactive customers should look into launching a win-back campaign. These campaigns will typically have a headline similar to “we miss you” and will then include some sort of deal or discount, or product recommendations based on past order history. At Listrak, we’ve found that these win-back campaigns have a 50 percent high click-through rate than batch-and-blast email campaigns. Additionally, they average a 5 percent conversion rate.
ZippyCart: Could you go over some of the key results from your study?
Ross: The study surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18+ on how they react to email marketing. The study found that email marketing remains one of the best ways to communicate with and convert online shoppers with 97 percent of consumers receiving emails from retailers, and more 80 percent open those emails. Additionally, we found that consumers are more likely to open an email that is targeted to them specifically, than generic emails. For instance, more than half (53%) of consumers who open emails from retailers indicated that they open emails with subject lines showcasing a special offer.
Since it’s clear that email marketing is an eCom trend that has been growing steadily and is here to stay, start looking into your business model to discover which strategy would best help you retain customers and increase revenue for your online business.
Are you already using email marketing? If so… we’d love to hear your experience in the comments below!
We recently got in touch with Thibaud Clement to find out more about his year-long ecommerce focused tour of the world that he has dubbed the DODEQA project.
The DODEQA project is a 12 month, 12 city, 12 objective journey during which Clement will focus on gaining a deeper understanding of innovation, technologies, business models, and best practices in ecommerce around the world. He will spend roughly one month in each of the 12 cities: Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Sydney, Melbourne, San Francisco, New York City, Santiago, Buenos Aires, and Sao Paulo. The name DODEQA is inspired by the Greek Dodekathlon, the mythological 12 labors of Hercules.
As Clement was coming to the end of his MBA program in Ottawa, Canada, and getting ready to head back to his home in France, he wanted to start his own ecommerce business but felt that he needed some more inspiration before he could fully develop a great business model. That’s when he decided to start the DODEQA project in order to learn as much as possible during one year and prepare to build a strong entrepreneurship project. Clement said he hopes to develop a dynamic network by getting in touch with merchants, ecommerce solution providers, consultants, and other professionals from the ecommerce business world. He also plans to capitalize on the experience by opening an online store associated with the DODEQA project to try what he learns in a concrete way.
A main objective of the project is to blog about the experience on DODEQA.com. Clement just recently started his journey but throughout the next year he will be posting regular news and photos from his travels on the blog. He is currently living in Beijing learning about Chinese ecommerce solutions. He had the following to say about his experience so far:
“I only left two weeks ago but I already had the chance to interview 8 professionals from the ecommerce industry and I have to say it is very inspiring. In addition, living in China is a tremendous experience that fosters open-mindedness and gives me creative ideas for the future. However, I truly believe the best is still to happen, since I have 50 more weeks of adventure upcoming.”
One of the 12 objectives of the project is to learn how to program and to understand more about how websites are built which will aid Clement in developing his own ecommerce solution. To complete this objective he will develop a fully functional iPhone app that gets approved by the Apple Store by the end of the project. Another objective is to choose an entrepreneurship project in a developing country to invest in and promote until it becomes a reality, Clement then plans to visit the entrepreneur of the project to check up on how the business is doing.
You can follow the DODEQA project, see a full list of the objectives, and eventually browse the DODEQA store on the blog. ZippyCart wishes Thibaud the best in his travels and we can’t wait to see what he learns!
A recent survey of retail CEOs revealed that retailers are currently increasing their investments in a variety of multi-channel growth strategies including ecommerce and international expansion.
The study, conducted by PwC Canada Retail Consulting Services, surveyed CEOs of 21 U.S. and Canadian specialty and department national retail chains. The study asked questions regarding five key areas: growth strategies, ecommerce, international sales, industry game changers, and economic environment.
90 percent of CEOs surveyed stated that they will increase their use of ecommerce solutions as part of their multi-channel growth strategies. Online sales are expected to significantly increase during the 2011 holiday shopping season, CEOs expected their ecommerce business to grow 5 to 20 times more than their brick-and-mortar business. 62 percent of CEOs interviewed said that they plan to increase their use of social media as part of their online marketing strategies.
57 percent of respondents also plan to focus on tapping into international markets as a growth strategy. This expansion could take place directly in some cases or through license or franchise partners. 24 percent of respondents expected that within five years more than 15 percent of their sales will be international. Antony Karabus, PnW Canada Retail Consulting Services Leader, said the following:
“Among retailers expanding internationally, there was a shift towards franchise or licensee models rather than employing their own capital internationally.”
All retail CEOs surveyed agreed that seamless cross-channel integration is the top industry game changer right now and for the future. This includes the integration of all things digital, especially ecommerce solutions and smartphone and tablet mobile commerce. 47 percent of respondents believed that in five years ecommerce could account for up to 10 percent of sales. Karabus had this to say:
“Retailers are increasingly focused on growth strategies that differentiate them and provide new, exclusive and differentiated value, thus providing a more compelling proposition to keep customers coming back.”
In addition to expanding online growth, 76 percent of CEOs said that they plan to introduce new brick-and-mortar stores, undergo major renovations of existing stores, or introduce new store concepts as part of a multi-channel growth strategy. The majority of retailers in the study are growing organically, with only 20 percent stating that they will grow through acquisition. Of those who do plan to grow by acquisition, many plan to do so opportunistically by buying stores out of bankruptcy from other retailers.
Despite continuing economic uncertainty, CEOs are taking note of trends in the changing retail industry and investing accordingly. Major integration of cross-channel platforms will both propel and be propelled by a continued increase in online sales.
Dropbox announced Tuesday that it has secured $250 million in a Series B round of funding led by Index Ventures.
Dropbox is a company that uses cloud storage technology to provide a place where users can store and share files on the Internet. The service boasts 50 million users and is valued at an estimated $4 billion. Its main competitors in the cloud storage business include Box.net, which recently secured a $162 million round of funding, and Apple’s iCloud storage service that was unveiled last June.
The San Francisco-based company could have become part of iCloud; Steve Jobs offered to buy Dropbox from founders Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi back in December 2009. They turned down a nine figure offer to continue to grow the company into something bigger on their own.
Dropbox offers users 2 gigabytes of storage for free; after they have used that up customers can add 50 gigabytes to their shopping cart for $10 a month or 100 gigs for $20 a month. In comparison, iCloud offers 5 gigabytes of free storage up front, 15 gigs for $20 per year, 25 gigs for $40 per year, or 55 gigs for $100 per year. There are more than 220 million users of iOS devices to whom Apple will be heavily marketing its iCloud storage service.
The new financing for Dropbox will allow the company to grow from 70 employees to 200 during the next year. Back in 2008 Dropbox had just 9 employees and 200,000 users. The company’s revenue is projected to reach $240 million by the end of 2011. Houston had this to say:
“Our goal has always been to build a service that hundreds of millions of people would love and trust. We’re inspired by the consumers and businesses who depend on Dropbox, and we will continue to make sure that the world’s devices, services, and apps work together seamlessly.”
The idea behind Dropbox is that in today’s world full of smartphones, tablets, and laptops, people rarely have all their files stored in one place. Houston realized the need for a service that allowed people to upload their files to a “cloud” that could be accessed from any of these devices. Users can also invite others to share their files, making it convenient for people in different locations to collaborate on anything from music or artistic projects to business documents.
Houston said in an interview that he gets emails all the time from people claiming that Dropbox has saved their files in some life-changing way, and added that the best part of getting the company to where it is today is simply being in a Starbucks and seeing someone sitting there using Dropbox. The company is growing rapidly and users are adding storage space to their shopping carts on a constant basis. Houston recently made a deal with HTC, the makers of Android phones, that will make Dropbox the default cloud storage option for those devices.
As the world gears up for Q4, ecommerce solution managers have bigger things on their minds than managing backlogged accounting work. It’s a time to look at the present and forward, focus on marketing, and daydream about the holiday feasts to come. (Okay, that should be restricted to your break time… but who can help themselves, really?) You don’t want to get stuck wallowing through QuickBooks, worrying about human error and the cost of the time it takes. But how can you get around that obligation? Webgility has a few ideas. We talked to Marketing Manager Brenda Le to get some insight on the possibilities.
So what exactly does Webgility do for online stores?
Webgility provides eCommerce and QuickBooks integration software for online businesses. Our flagship product, eCommerceConnector (eCC), is a desktop app that integrates your online store with QuickBooks, shipping processors, payment processors, etc. so you can manage your entire online business from one central application. We also have a mobile app, eCC Mobile, that connects with your online store so you can manage your store activity and performance on the go. We’re QuickBooks Gold certified, and work with numerous shopping carts and marketplaces and major shipping providers. So instead of being caught up in the day-to-day tasks, online sellers can use eCC and eCC Mobile to increase their operational efficiency, giving them time to focus on other aspects of their business.
What is eCC, and what makes it so great?
eCC streamlines and automates your business operations by connecting your online store, QuickBooks, shipping and payment processors.
Many online businesses face these challenges, which involves a lot of man hours and incur costs:
Processing shipping involves manually transferring data back and forth between your online store and shipping processor.
Entering orders into QuickBooks is done manually, so for larger orders, this could take a long time to complete.
Keeping track of inventory is challenging, especially when you have multiple stores.
eCC eliminates the redundant work that could lead to data entry errors. With eCC, you can sync your orders, customers, products and inventory between your eCommerce management systems. eCC automatically downloads your online orders, generates shipping labels, creates sales receipts, invoices, etc. in QuickBooks, and updates the order status on your online store. eCC will also update your inventory and customer details. For a full list of our features, visit http://www.webgility.com/quickbooks-integration-feature-list.php
How did you guys get started?
Webgility was founded in 2007 by Parag Mamnani, who has over 11 years of experience in the technology and eCommerce industry. Working closely with many eCommerce companies at his previous jobs at Gate6 (a web design and interactive company) and Amazon.com, he noticed that many of them were taking a long time manually entering their store data between multiple software. A strong believer in eliminating redundancy through software, Parag started Webgility and developed eCC. During the first year, he put together a team of developers to build eCC to be QuickBooks-certified, and partnered with top eCommerce software providers including Intuit, X-Cart, Magento, Endicia and Stamps.com. Today, Webgility has thousands of customers worldwide.
What size stores best fit the service you offer?
We work with a broad range of customers, from startups to large eCommerce companies that process thousands of orders a month across multiple online channels.
How has the explosion in mobile web and apps affected your business?
The explosion of the mobile web and apps has given us an opportunity to provide mobile services to online merchants. We provide a free iPhone app, eCC Mobile, for eCommerce merchants to manage their online store on the go. Our website is also optimized for mobile visitors.
Technology is constantly changing. What’s the future look like for Webgility and eCC?
We’ve more than doubled our customer base and staff in the last 12 months, and the growth is only accelerating. We’ve formed partnerships with leaders in the space, including Intuit, Magento, BigCommerce, Pinnacle Cart, Endicia, FedEx and UPS, and continue to expand the product feature set. We see tremendous growth in our core products and have lots of exciting new technology integrations on our roadmap.
What’s a typical day like in the Webgility office?
Webgility is a close-knit, cross-regional family. We’re headquartered in San Francisco, CA and have a Development and Support Center in Indore, India. Even though we’re separated by regions and time zones, we’re able to work effectively and maintain a clear communication line. It’s an open-door policy here: if you have any questions, you can always directly ping the person for help.
A typical day at Webgility:
The Sales and Support team is always online and on the phone helping customers.
The Marketing team is busy with creative ideas for our website, emails and social channels.
The Tech team is launching new features to our products and all our internal systems constantly.
We have frequent team meetings where we bounce around ideas and come up with creative business strategies. These are open forums: every idea and any comment is taken into consideration.
We work hard and play hard. There are movie events showing the latest blockbusters from Bollywood and Hollywood. There are karaoke parties, where some members showcase their vocal talent. You can challenge some to a game of miniature golf in the office, and hang out at the bean bag lounge area during our regular happy hour.
One of the most common reasons for shopping cart abandonment is that people fear high shipping costs. Customers are often tempted to look up where they can get the same product in a retail store, and consequently overlook the additional costs implicit in in-person purchasing. They don’t often consider how much gas they will use, or even have a way of properly estimating that cost. Visible Delivery calculates the distance between a shopper’s home address and the nearest store where their products are available for purchase, and contrasts the shipping cost with the total cost of driving (right down to the MPG of their vehicle). The idea is that when people see how much they’ll really be spending on their own “delivery costs,” the shipping charge seems the better option. We talked to Visible Delivery’s founder, Dave Bell, to find out more about this smartly unique service.
What is Visible Delivery?
Visible Delivery offers an eCommerce solution to increase website conversions by reducing cart abandonment rates. It’s the world’s first & only eCommerce Real Delivery Price Calculator, reducing shopping cart abandonment. And it drastically increases visitor conversion rates.
How does it work?
Our application runs in the background of a website and queries the end-customer delivery address & basket items, then makes a real time virtual route map, which displays directly in the cart. This map displays a time & cost comparison between buying those same items in person from local retailers, and the delivery price charged by the website.
What gave you the idea for the company? What was your motivation?
Visible Delivery was founded by technology entrepreneur, Dave Bell. After running several successful eCommerce websites and becoming increasingly familiar with streamlined operations & time-management, he set out to see if there was a way to visualise the true cost of customer delivery charges using mapping data. The benefits of such a solution would be that online stores could provide a valid comparison to retail outlets when selling the same goods. Using simple mathematics combining factors such as travel time, fuel prices and shortest route finders, it became clear that such a calculation could help offset the one main inhibitor to online sales vs. retail sales – delivery costs.
How do retailers and ecommerce solutions incorporate your service into their site?
We currently support three carts (Volusion, X-Cart & Magento), with details on how to install each here: http://www.visibledelivery.com/carts.html. [We’re] also actively developing other cart support and listening to customer requests in order to prioritise.
Any current clients?
Yes, since our recent launch we’ve had over 200 online stores sign up.
Is your service available for clients worldwide?
At present we support UK & USA addresses, with other countries following shortly.
How many people are working on Visible Delivery? What’s your office atmosphere like?
There’s currently 6 people in our office, with 3 other remote developers located in other countries. The atmosphere is great! We’ve had a really positive launch response and websites seem to like our idea.
It’s exciting to see your ecommerce solution grow into a profitable success. Admittedly, though, all that money and all those orders can be difficult to manage, especially when you want to continue growing your business. You’d rather put energy into marketing and bettering your services than fumbling around with messy financial records, order histories and business purchases. Ordoro provides services to help you organize these aspects of your business so that you can get back to working on your brand. We chatted with Ordoro’s CEO and Co-Founder Jagath Narayan to find out more.
What does Ordoro do for ecommerce solutions? Ordoro streamlines the backoffice tasks for small and medium sized ecommerce retailers. Our customers use Ordoro to keep track of their orders, to print shipping labels, manage dropshipping, manage inventory and manage suppliers. Ordoro integrates well with ecommerce platforms like BigCommerce, Amazon, Interspire, 3dcart, Shopsite etc. where our customers typically set up their webstores.
When an order comes in on any of those storefronts, the order automatically flows through into Ordoro. Next, Ordoro can automatically create a shipping label from Fedex, UPS, or USPS. Ordoro can keep track of inventory level across different store fronts and alert the merchant when they are running low on stock on a product. And Ordoro can automatically create a Purchase Order and notify the supplier to restock the merchant’s warehouse.
Is Ordoro a good fit for any size online store?
Ordoro is designed for small to medium sized stores – merchants who process under 500 orders every day. Our focus is on automation and ease of use. Merchants typically sign up for our service when they outgrow their spreadsheet-based order fulfillment processes and are ready to streamline their operations. The biggest benefit we have heard from our customers is that Ordoro frees up so much of their time and lets them focus all their energy on sales, marketing and growing their business.
We’ve seen ecommerce solutions have issues with inventory tracking (the HP TouchPad, for example). What does Ordoro do to make sure customers aren’t disappointed when they order from your clients?
Ordoro’s goal is to ensure that every order is getting tracked and fulfilled on time. Particularly for those retailers who rely on dropshipping, it is very easy to have orders fall through the cracks. With Ordoro, every order goes through certain steps and checkpoints, and merchants will get to know when something is delayed. When a customer calls enquiring the status of an order, the merchant can search for that order in Ordoro in just one click – no more searching through emails or spreadsheets. Many of our clients use dedicated customer support staff, and with Ordoro they have real-time access to the order status. This level of visibility boosts the customer service level of our clients many fold.
Is it difficult for an ecommerce solution to integrate Ordoro if they are already using another order management utility? Basically, how hard is it to switch?
One of the things we are very proud of is how easy it is to get started with Ordoro. You can get started and be processing your first order in under 5 minutes. All of this works so smoothly for us because we are fully integrated to the webstore systems. During the sign up process, we ask you for the connection details to your webstore. Then we automatically import all your products, your inventory, and your orders from the webstore. We have put a lot of thought into designing the user experience from the very first step onwards, and all that effort has really paid off.
How did you guys get started?
Ordoro really started off as a side project. I worked as a supply chain consultant for 8 years and my experience is in solving supply chain problems at large corporations. Three years ago, I had a chance to help out a small business owner who was selling toys online, as a side project, to help him solve his order fulfillment problems. While helping him out, I realized that even small businesses face some of the very same problems that big companies face. So I got together with some friends and we started talking to many more online retailers to understand their problems. We quickly realized that the options for these small businesses were very limited, and we launched Ordoro to address some of the opportunities that we identified.
What makes you so different from your competition?
Ease-of-use and world-class support. Those are our corner stones and the big differentiators of Ordoro.
We have taken a design-oriented approach from the very beginning, and as a result Ordoro is the easiest, most intuitive order management application available. We keep hearing this feedback from our users every day. The fact that Ordoro is web-based is a bonus, because there is nothing to install, no data to backup. It just works!
And, we firmly believe in fanatical support. We don’t charge anything additional for phone support, and our phone number is listed right on the front page. Our focus is to build a product that makes it so easy that users don’t have to call our support line. But if they do, then we are there to help. And this has resulted in many happy customers who love our service.
BookRenter is a unique ecommerce solution for textbook savings. One book for one college course can easily be over $100 (or even $200), and students don’t find every textbook useful for their future. Prices for selling books back are extremely volatile, and often a new edition comes out in the mean time that renders the edition you possess obsolete and unsellable. Who wants to be out an extra few hundred dollars every quarter, in addition to tuition and all the other expenses of life? BookRenter has your back: rent for cheap, ship back for free. We spoke with co-founder Chris Williams to get the inside information on this service.
So, you’re a co-founder. That puts you in a unique position to tell us about how BookRenter’s tech needs have changed and evolved over the years. Can you take us briefly through the history? What was the initial system like? When did you realize that you were “on to something” and it was time to change, upgrade, and improve?
Sure. We had only a couple of servers when we first started. However, we always made sure to have more servers than we needed. In our case, it was beneficial to overprovision since it meant we could focus on building our core product instead of spending precious time babysitting the system and solving performance issues. As our business grew, we purchased more servers in order to meet demand and increase redundancy. With the increase in number of servers, the day to day management becomes more complex. Once you get about 5-10 servers, it starts to become a time consuming and error prone process to maintain the servers without some automation. So we started to look at solutions that would help us maintain our growing set of servers. Since our team already had a Ruby background, it was natural to choose Opscode Chef.
What does the teamup with Opscode mean to you personally and to BookRenter?
Personally, I’m a big fan of their product since it makes my life a lot easier from two perspectives: 1) I spend a lot less time managing the servers since so much of the maintenance and deployment is automated, and 2) I can sleep better at night knowing our application will perform consistently on all of the servers, and that there aren’t some servers where I accidentally forgot to make a critical configuration change, etc. This is both a win for me and BookRenter.
“The Cloud” is everywhere. What made it so attractive for you and your team? Was it a hard decision? What can our readers learn from your experiences with the cloud when adapting it to their own online businesses?
Currently, we utilize Amazon EC2 for our staging and testing environment. We built a self-serve system for engineers to spin up servers with the click of a button that run an identical stack to our production servers. Not only does this give obvious benefits, such as teams can quickly show their work to product stakeholders, but it also helps in surfacing any potential problems before they ever get into production. One of the great things about Opscode Chef is that we are able to build these staging servers in the cloud the same exact way that we setup our real production servers by reusing the same recipes. There’s peace of mind in knowing you can test your project on a system that will behave identically to the production environment before it ever goes live.
They say “change is the only constant.” How do you and your team get breathing space for yourselves when trying to outpace growth and the changing needs of your company?
Well, one thing that comes to mind is automation. Since the beginning of the company, we’ve always invested heavily in automating pieces of our business. Once you start doing too many things manually, you get bogged down and aren’t able to get any breathing space. You never get a chance to think about the big picture if you’re always focused on the minutia. Opscode Chef is one way that we are able to automate our infrastructure.
How big is your “tech team” (however you want to describe them)? Can you take us through the journey of how you’ve grown the team, what you look for in a teammate, etc?
We started with two engineers, spent about a year developing the initial product, and then have spent the remaining years improving on that product and building the team. Year after year, we’ve been blessed with phenomenal growth and are always looking for more people to join our team. Right now, we’re especially looking for engineers who have a background in Ruby on Rails and/or Opscode Chef.
As a textbook-rental company, I feel the need to ask you about learning: what’s your learning process been like, both in your professional life as a whole, and with BookRenter – what are some lessons our readers can take with them?
First, we’ve always had a “best idea wins” culture in our team. We listen to all options and try our best to learn from and make decisions based on sound data instead of our own biases. Secondly, an important quality is to stay humble and not be afraid to challenge your ideas and assumptions constantly. Lastly, I’d say don’t be afraid to take chances on learning new technologies and methodologies. When we first started, we chose Ruby on Rails as our development framework, which at the time didn’t have a big following, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions we made early on due to its agility.
What’s the coolest non-BookRenter thing that you’ve learned recently?
Lately, I’ve been learning about espresso and purchased a manual level espresso machine. As an engineer, it’s fun to learn about all the different variables that go into making the perfect cup of espresso: beans, grind, dose, temperature, tamp, preinfusion time, etc.
Locayta is one of the leading online merchandising and search solution providers. The company serves more than one hundred customers in the USA, Europe and Asia and allows eCommerce solutions to take control over their online sales performance. They feature some of the most advanced behavioral and search driven merchandising technology available, called Locayta ESP. Locayta ESP is a highly customizable, real-time merchandising platform that is easy to integrate with eCommerce sites. Locayta ESP covers the complete range of merchandising disciplines on a single platform, providing a dynamic, robust and scalable merchandising solution that delivers increased online revenue and reduced costs.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Locayta’s Head of Sales, Mark Turner. We had a few questions for him, and hopefully you find them helpful in establishing your online store.
What is Locayta in a nutshell?
In a nutshell Locayta ESP is a merchandising platform comprising Site Search, Product Recommendations & Visual Merchandising.
Why are your services important to businesses?
Locayta ESP is important to businesses because it will maximize conversion rates and increase average order values. It does this in two ways; 1. The user experience is greatly enhanced by a full featured search, guided navigation and product recommendation process that ensures they find what they are looking for quickly and easily. 2. The retailer is able to take complete control of how and where products are presented on search results pages and category pages.
What sets you guys apart from your competitors?
Each of our three core components is a world class solution available as a stand alone product. When deployed together they encompass the full range of merchandising/sales driving functionality in a unique single interface environment.
How difficult is it for a small business to use Locayta’s services?
What is Locayta currently working on to help expand the company and its services?
We are expanding our platform to include a full mobile functionality, cart abandonment and shopping widgets to enhance 3rd party advertising.
Any recent news or developments, from Locayta or from clients?
Locayta is now trusted by TESCO, Boohoo, Fat Face, Superdry and Paperchase to deliver an improved customer experience and to drive sales on their ecommerce sites. In the USA www.toolplanet.com has recently switched to Locayta for Site Search.
Locayta.com has offices in the US and the UK. Are there any cultural differences between the offices?
WePay, an independent, smaller-scale alternative to larger transaction services like PayPal, has been creating a buzz since 2008 when the company was founded. Their claims of “real customer service by real people,” and super-easy-to-use interface help intensify this buzz when they officially launched to the public in March 2010.
The fourth quarter of last year saw their notoriety jump even more. The holiday season is when people look to sell items, accept donations to charities, or sell tickets to events – all things that WePay excels at. Individual consumers and businesses of all sizes have been using their platform to serve a variety of different needs. Now it’s likely that even more will use their product thanks to the release of an enhanced API for developers and merchants.
There are a number of different reasons why the new API should be well received, but in speaking with WePay co-founder and CEO Bill Clerico last week about the release of the upgraded API, it seems that their are two things attracting people. The first is that the API brings small businesses the ability to use the expedited WePay platform experience, with a lightning-fast approval process that only takes 2 clicks.
WePay’s website boldly proclaims: “Start accepting money in less than a minute!” Now that’s a claim that we can all get behind. The smooth, streamlined process helps ensure that people do not abandon in the middle, so that they can quickly get set up. We talk about “shopping cart abandonment” all the time on this site – the situation where people put something in their shopping cart but don’t complete the transaction. Well, apparently, even when users are trying to get set up with a service to allow them to accept incoming sums of cash, they still want the service to be easy to access and not take too long,
Some small businesses may compare WePay to PayPal, but one of the ways in which WePay looks to differentiate their company from the competition is by providing attentive and quick customer service. Merchants running small businesses have a lot of things they need to deal with on a daily basis, and having a simple way to collect payments online, with the support of solid customer service can be a big benefit.
As part of their API-upgrade announcement today, WePay also announced that they have established a ticketing partnership with Attendstar, who were previously using PayPal. This win for WePay could be a sign of things to come, as more businesses look to work with a smaller more nimble company to support their payment collection needs.
Last week we covered BookRenter.com, the latest ecommerce solution for textbooks for the college student looking to save a little money. We were lucky enough to get some time with Mehdi Maghsoodnia, CEO of BookRenter. Check it out:
Let’s get right into it: I love that BookRenter works with campus bookstores – tell me about how that came about:
It was about what was best for the students: convenience, selection and best prices on textbooks. Independent college stores are uniquely positioned to help students, but they lack the scale to compete with national companies. They have also had difficulty retaining customers who are opting to rent online through larger retailers. We decided to give college stores access to the same intelligent technology we use to run BookRenter.com, affording them the ability to compete on a level with any textbook retailer and thereby providing incentive for students to rent books through their local bookstore. We’ve seen bookstores increase sales and foot traffic since partnering with BookRenter and we now work with over 600 stores. Be sure to ask your store manager if they work with BookRenter so you know you’re getting the real thing.
I see on your LinkedIn profile that you describe yourself as “a voracious learner.” What’s one new thing you’ve learned in the past twenty four hours that surprised you and/or that you want to share with our readers? There is no “wrong” answer!
There is a belt of anti-matter particles trapped in the earth’s magnetic field at the North Pole. Researchers say there may be enough to implement a scheme using anti-matter to fuel future spacecraft. The BBC covered it here if you are interested.
I also saw on your LinkedIn profile that you went to Berkeley and Stanford. Did your own textbook experiences in college shape the course you took/are taking with BookRenter?
Our founder, Colin Barceloux, primarily led BookRenter’s course and his persistence about this business model and its value to students is what lead to me joining BookRenter. The credit belongs to him. I actually told him it was a bad idea at first. Then I realized how big the textbook rental industry could truly be.
What’s one important thing that entrepreneurs can keep in mind to help them introduce the kind of industry changing potential that BookRenter has?
Do what is right for the customer. Industry disruption comes when you find business models where the customer is not being well served. In this case, all the big players in the textbook market are making huge profits on the backs of students. We found something that customers wanted – affordable access to the best selection textbooks – and we are delivering it.
What are your thoughts on electronic textbook renting, like the kind being implemented by Amazon? What is the relationship, as you see it, of electronic textbook renting and physical book renting services like yours?
The Amazon digital textbook rental program validates what we’ve been saying – that access trumps ownership. Students are starting think more along the lines of, “I want access to this book,” as opposed to, “I want to own this book.” Studies have found that, given the choice between an e-textbook and a physical textbook, students still prefer the physical copy. The digital experience is still young and growing and as it continues to improve, BookRenter will certainly provide affordable access to that content as well.
Again, according to LinkedIn (man, that place is useful!), early on when you were installed at BookRenter, you needed to grow from 10 people to 45 within a year. Now I see that BookRenter is up to 83 people. Take me through that growth process, please.
You really lurked me! Every decision we make about hiring is focused on creating more scale in our business. Most of our growth came in the area of engineering and marketing and most of the hiring was done through references within our own network. We have built a core team and then extended it through their networks of trusted people they wanted to work with again.
I did my homework! Follow-up to that: What is some advice you have for entrepreneurs and start ups who want/need to grow their staffs (quickly or otherwise)?
You always need a very good in-house recruiter. You need someone who has been at that early stage and can attract talent to a younger venture. Find someone who specializes in early stage companies and can recruit developers, marketing and sales as well as support staff. You need to have someone who is passionate and can be a true evangelist. Once you get larger, and each department has their own needs, you need to move on to working with specialized recruiters.
As a lifelong learner whose company deals with the education world, do you employ interns in-house? Why or why not? And if yes, can you describe the internship process?
We do. We have interns in every department. They share their skills, their perspective, and their enthusiasm for helping their fellow students. It’s very invigorating, and we rely on them heavily to give us honest feedback. Plus, we really value providing an authentic work experience for students that helps them understand how a business like ours works. We choose interns for different programs in different ways. This year, we chose our marketing interns using a vote on Facebook.
If the Internet is a jungle, what animal is BookRenter? You can be as specific or as cryptic as you want.
If we’re limiting ourselves to jungle animals, the most apt analogy might be some of the groups of animals commonly described as ecosystem engineers, but sadly these animals don’t tend to be crowd pleasers – I mean you probably aren’t looking for “leaf litter fungus” or “termite” as an answer. I’ll go with cheetah – we’re fast and we adapt to change quickly.
If you want to run a successful ecommerce solution, one of the most important things that you can do is interact with your customers in a friendly, effective, efficient way. One technological advancement that can help with this is online live chat. Live chat has become a regular feature for some of the best ecommerce solutions, and it can be extremely useful for handling customer service complaints, or proactively to help counsel people when making purchases. Effective use of live chat software can help drive conversions. We scored some time with the VeriShow team to chat with them about their own unique product:
1. So, live chat functionality has become a staple of a lot of ecommerce solutions. What makes VeriShow different from the other live chat options out there?
VeriShow builds on the broad use of chat and enhances it with real-time multimedia applications that help businesses engage more effectively with prospects. When a website visitor engages via chat and shows signs of needing more support in order to convert, VeriShow users can offer a host of collaborative apps, such as document and screen sharing, interactive whiteboard and drawing tools, image and video viewing, order form completion and more. This is the only platform on the market that incorporates all of these capabilities, enabling e-tailers to greatly enhance chat offerings and boost conversion rates.
2. What’s one thing about VeriShow that a lot of potential users might not know about that you think would influence them to use the service?
It’s routinely reported that visitors who engage with an e-sales representative are three times more likely to convert to a sale and place higher-value orders. However, live engagement – particularly for high-value prospects – has far more potential than e-businesses have yet realized. Beyond chat, multimedia engagement offers businesses the opportunity to show the product, share the task of completing order forms, and even collaborate in a PayPal application, so that the touch point with the customer is sustained right through the closing of a sale.
3. Why did you decide to partner with LivePerson? What new options and functionality are you delivering to users? How has it impacted things in the day-to-day world of VeriShow?
LivePerson, like VeriShow, is dedicated to deeper customer connections through real-time Web-based support. The company’s LiveEngage Platform is well known for creating more personal, relevant and meaningful customer connections through chat. It was a natural fit for VeriShow, since the functionality we deliver starts with chat and adds numerous other collaborative applications to meet the needs of individual, high-value customers.
Although we only recently announced our partnership with LivePerson, we’re already seeing tremendous interest in the joint VeriShow solution built on the LiveEngage Platform.
Overall, LivePerson has great chat capabilities along with a strong rule engine that helps to engage with the most valuable customers. VeriShow enriches that interaction with multimedia and sharing capabilities that were not present before with LivePerson.
4. How closely do you work with users to track how well they are using all of VeriShow’s various features? I’m guessing that customer service reps use VeriShow to work with customers.
We help our customers to simply place the VeriShow button on their site and educate them throughout the deployment. However, most customers do not really need this education and assistance, as it’s quite easy and intuitive to use VeriShow.
5. Is there any primary market sector (luxury goods, design services, etc.) where you are noticing a lot of your customers are coming from, or is VeriShow pretty well represented across different business types?
Our customers are coming from e-commerce, travel, financial services, telecom, bioinformatics and other industries.
6. Any particularly interesting users or stories you would like our readers to know about VeriShow that really showcase its capabilities?
At LivePerson’s recent eCommerce Developer’s Day, we demonstrated what a joint customer such as security firm Protect America can offer website visitors with our combined solution. The video of this demo shows exactly how a prospect could escalate from chat to image sharing and drawing tools, collaborative form fill, payment completion and other apps.
Protect America is a compelling but common user story. In any number of industries, a consumer might scan a website and seek out personalized service via a live chat option. The shopper asks a few questions about a product of interest, and the customer service rep. sees an opportunity to close a sale. The rep. answers the questions in chat, then draws on numerous apps in the VeriShow platform to supplement those answers. He provides photos of the product and a video that shows how it is used. Drawn in by these demonstrations, the consumer decides to buy. At this point, the company rep. offers a purchase order within the chat session and helps the shopper fill it out. Together, they complete a PayPal form to secure payment. What stars out as a chat session ends in a sale. This is where live engagement is moving, and VeriShow is helping e-businesses get there.
Check out this video for more information about VeriShow:
Market live is a fully-loaded, feature-rich ecommerce software package designed to make selling online easy and efficient. For over 15 years, they’ve made their mark on the ecommerce landscape, working with some of the top brands in a diverse range of markets. Progress is the name of the game in ecommerce, so MarketLive works closely with its retail clients to incorporate upgrades and enhancements to keep them competitive. We had a unique opportunity to get a few questions answered by chairman and founder Ken Burke.
Q: Based on what we’ve heard, it looks like this is a pretty major upgrade. How long have you been working on this?
A: MarketLive is unique in that we work very closely with our retailers on an ongoing basis to monitor features and trends that positively affect their businesses. These new selling solutions represent the aggregate experience across our base of retailers. What retailers need now are sophisticated ways to merchandise products, simplify the purchase process, and to engage and delight customers along the way. The upgrade to the MarketLive platform, with special focus on the new selling features, represents a significant step forward for retailers.
Q. Can you tell us about the team that put this all together?
A. MarketLive has a very talented set of engineers. Not only do they deliver elegant code that meets the needs of retailers, they really understand eCommerce. They are led by our newly-hired CTO, Barry Coleman. But at the heart of the MarketLive Intelligent Commerce platform is a vast library of retail best practices. Our Commerce Strategy team, headed by a talented expert, Jaye Alba-Sullivan, works with our retailers to track eCommerce trends and best practices that work for retail. Examples include our new Social Selling Solution for transactions on Facebook, and our unique Product Carousel. These technologies allow retailers to showcase more products, and do so in ways that are relevant and convenient for the shopper. The result is better conversion rates and happier shoppers.
Q: What kind of research did you conduct to figure out what kind of features you were going to add?
A: MarketLive tracks the performance of our retailers using Google Analytics and Omniture. With this level of detail we can see what tactics are positively affecting their bottom line. We track these elements and publish them in our quarterly MarketLive Performance Index. Then, as we observe successful tactics or important retail trends, we work with our retailers to implement them on their sites. These best-practices find their way into the core of the product and our recommendations over time.
Q. What’s one feature that users were really vocal about wanting you to add? Follow up: What’s one feature that you are really excited about adding?
A: One of the most important new capabilities that we are adding is the ability to sell on Facebook. The MarketLive Social Store for Facebook allows retailers to extend their ecommerce capabilities to Facebook. As shoppers interact with their social network friends, “like” products or share looks, we find that ecommerce business grows virally. This new capability will be a really important component as retailers build their businesses.
Q. We often say that the fewer clicks between landing on an ecommerce solution and check out, the better your chances of conversion are. Do you agree? How do these upgrades help make that happen?
A: We totally agree! Our new Dynamic Single Page Checkout provides all the shipping, tax, security and checkout information that shoppers need on one page, in one single process. It is the latest in features that are designed to streamline the path to purchase for shoppers, and make their shopping experience rich and rewarding.
Q. Consumers are extremely visual. How do these new features use visual media to drive conversions? Is video in there somewhere?
A: We absolutely see an increase in conversions when shoppers are able to experience products in rich, visually engaging environments. The MarketLive platform helps retailers add multi-media to their sites, showcase product details from different angles, and to build rich experiences. One of our retailers uses a unique online dressing room that allows the shopper to not only get all the detail they need from the site, but to match outfits and share them with friends. This rich experience has resulted in larger average order value and a noticeable increase in engagement (cart to purchase).
Q. I see you are including all these new features in your existing packages at no additional cost. I’m running my online store through a competing ecommerce solution – change my mind in 3 sentences or less. A: MarketLive is a platform-as-a-service offering, meaning that retailers can take advantage of all of the rich functionality on the MarketLive platform, customize it to meet their specific needs, and be assured that our hosted environment is secure, scalable, and stable. In addition, MarketLive delivers out-of-the-box, industry proven solutions for better acquisition, conversion and retention. Finally, only MarketLive really understands retail—we’re not a software company, we’re a retail partner who works closely with our retailers to implement proven best practices and technologies for greatest success.
Every ecommerce solution wants you to think that they are secure. Some of them are even PCI compliant like BigCommerce. But finding great security combined with a powerful shopping cart for a good price can be hard. Here are Zippycart, we pride ourselves on bringing you unbiased inside information that you can count on to help make your own decision. We sat down with BigCommerce co-founder and CTO Mitchell Harper to discuss BigCommerce and what it brings to the ecommerce solution table in terms of security and functionality for 2011 and beyond.
Has PCI compliance helped increase business for BigCommerce in 2011?
Yes. Because we’re one of only a handful of truly PCI compliant e-commerce platforms, it’s helped increase our conversion rates. My advice to business owners regarding PCI compliance is to really check if the vendor you’re interested in is PCI compliant. Being PCI compliance takes months of hard work and costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. All PCI compliant vendors have an Attestation of Compliance (AoC), which is a document stating they have been verified as compliant by a third party assessor. Take a look at ours. Beware of vendors who simply show a McAfee ScanAlert badge – this is NOT PCI compliant and could result in hefty fines from the banks for using their services.
How did you decide on the oLark and Ordoro integrations? Were those customer driven requests?
Actually we were speaking with the founders of both Ordoro and Olark and realized we got along well. The Ordoro team had already built the integration, so it was a matter of formalizing a partnership while we built the Olark integration in a few hours. Ordoro was client driven because they help make dropshipping easier and we decided to integrate with Olark because it takes live chat to the next level.
How do you think the Visual Website Optimizer will help elevate merchants ability to sell more online?
Anything you can test can be improved, and your online store is no different. We already had the most robust integration with Google Website Optimizer before version 7, but Visual Website Optimizer is a lot easier to use. You can test single page versus multi-page checkout and see which improves you conversion rate. You can test different product names, photos, etc. It’s a great way to sky rocket your conversion rate.
Can you tell us a bit more about the new and improve control panel? Does it make it easier for first time merchants to run an online store?
It does. The whole idea here was to simplify the interface as much as we could. To strip back unnecessary links, buttons, borders, etc and just help our clients focus on getting in, getting the job done, and getting out. We also wanted to bring the look of the control panel up to modern standards. It wasn’t old, but it hadn’t been updated in about 2 years, so we did that with subtle rounded corners, a few gradients and some improved visual enhancements to buttons and dialogs.
Overall BC7 seems packed with features. Is there anything that didn’t make the release, that we should look forward to later in 2011 or 2012?
Our roadmap for 2011 is huge. We’re about to release a new bulk import/export wizard that lets you mass update products, SKUs, options and rules in a single spreadsheet, as well as more features around product options and merchandising. After that we’ve got a lot more features planned, including heavily customizable URL formats for products, categories, web pages and news.
What are some of your favorite features to BC7 that we have not already discussed?
My favorite features all revolve around product options. If you sell products that are reliant on options, such as apparel, then BigCommerce is now the most flexible platform for accommodating the needs of sophisticated merchants who want extreme flexibility when it comes to their products and stock. Our goal with product options was to give our merchants all of the functionality you’d find on Amazon.com or Zappos.com and we’ve done that. The level of control you have over product configuration, SKU and inventory management and on-site merchandising is really impressive.
Can you tell us a bit more about the growth of BigCommerce staff in 2011, and how new employees are helping to offer merchants the best ecommerce tools possible?
We grew our client count 680% last year and we’ll double the size of our team by the end of the year. We’re about to move our Austin, TX team into a new office that’s twice the size of our existing one (from 40 people to 90) and we’ll outgrow our Sydney, Australia office by this time next year, so we’re growing very fast in all aspects. The most important thing we can do is continue to list to our clients, continue to improve our product at a rapid pace and continue to look at support as a function of marketing, which helps drive word of mouth referrals and builds trust in us as a company