By Ken Levy
May 21, 2012
Product recommendations have come a long way since the beginning of online retailing. There are numerous recommendation types designed to convert browsers to buyers, increase order size and boost repeat shopping. Each type can help conversion when properly placed on the page. These high-selling tools can and should be visible from the moment a shopper lands on your home page, through to the shopping cart, and even beyond the purchase. Here are a 8 areas where recommendations can be used to engage your shoppers:
1) Product Detail Pages
This is perhaps the most common placement for product recommendations on retail sites. As shoppers look at the details of an individual item on the product page, recommendations can be used to help convert browsers to buyers with interest in similar (e.g. complimentary) products. In addition, cross-sell recommendations can help shoppers find additional products and increase order size.
2) Search Results
Search result pages represent a terrific opportunity to cross-sell and upsell merchandise.. Recommendations that are found here enable the search to be broader than the text description allowed for. For instance, if a visitor searches for sundresses, the recommendations show items similar to sundresses that may not include the term sundress, as well as products commonly bought with sundresses.
3) Shopping Cart
Don’t assume the shopping cart page means the online shopper has finished and is ready to checkout. You should always show cross-sell items, especially on quick cart views. People access this page for any number of reasons: to check the total price of their purchases, to make sure they’ve entered the correct colors, to ensure the sizes are correct, to mix and match accessories. Adding recommendations to your shopping cart adds another layer of interest for buyers and helps add dimension to their buying experience.
Conventional wisdom is to only provide check-out options in the cart. However, we’ve studied placing recommendations in the cart and found higher conversion versus shoppers that don’t have recommendations in the cart.
4) Billing and Shipping Emails:
Don’t just stop at the checkout! Billing and shipping confirmation emails are other tools you can use to cross-sell your products. For instance, if you’re sending an email to thank the buyer for purchasing a child’s swimsuit, use this opportunity to offer up specials on additional merchandise like rash guards, goggles and sunhats. This confirmation email can be used to offer recommendations for the next time they visit your store. While the buyer may be done with their shopping list for the present online session, adding recommendations to these pages ensure your retail site is top of mind when the customer is next ready to buy.
5) User Admin Pages
Recommendations should be used across and throughout the buying funnel, including after the shopper has completed their purchase and perhaps even received their order. Placing recommended items on user administration pages such as user account information, email preferences and shipping tracking pages allows you to catch them on both ends of the sales funnel. These recommendations are truly personalized and based upon the shopper’s complete purchase history and items in the cart. A note of caution – using recently viewed items or recent purchases in the cart reduces the effects of gift purchases on these recommendations.
6) Category Landing Page
For your category and sub-category landing pages, bubble up that category’s top-sellers. This gives your shoppers an easy place to start, particularly if there are a lot of products per category.
7) Home Page
For a repeat shopper, use personalized recommendations based upon their complete purchase history. If the shopper’s geo-location is known, suggest top sellers for shoppers from that location. For an anonymous shopper, show site-wide top-sellers on your home page. The goal is to get the shopper deeper into the site in order to analyze behavior and apply more personalization.
8 ) Personalized Communications
Basically, put personalized product recommendations everywhere and anywhere you engage with your customers. Software providers are now testing automated product recommendations in mobile applications, customer emails, ads, online chats and even Facebook and social media pages. Each touch point you have with a customer represents another opportunity to make a recommendation and encourage an additional sale.
By adding recommendations for customers throughout the entire sales process: from search, to cart, to purchase, to follow-up, you should see longer page visits, higher conversion and a more loyal, engaged shopper.
Ken Levy, CEO and co-founder of 4-Tell, a product recommendation service, is passionate about helping his customers give their online shoppers the best experience possible. To reach him, email Ken@4-Tell.com or visit www.4-tell.com.
April 30, 2012
By Matt Bramowicz
Business is not what it used to be.
While in the past it may have been acceptable practice for a small or medium-sized business to cater only to its native language market, it is no longer the case. From the onset, small businesses are already at a disadvantage. Whether the company relies on boot-strapping or bank loans to cover expenses, resources are extremely limited, and profits may not even be seen for years. Add on top of that a bad economy, an over-crowded marketplace, difficulty in finding local clients, rising interest and tax rates, etc., and it seems like there is no way a small business can succeed.
Since big businesses have seemingly unlimited funds, many of the problems affecting small businesses are not a huge concern for them. Besides the already established name recognition, they have the money to spend on advertising campaigns, enticing employment opportunities to hire the best workers, established business connections, investors, lawyers…the list can go on.
As the business-stage continues to expand globally, small and medium-sized businesses can easily be left out of the spotlight since bigger companies with an already established identity tend to have more experience dealing with foreign audiences. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Thanks to the rise of technology and ecommerce, a small business can have the ability to compete, even on the global scale, with their big business counterparts.
The first step to going global, however, is research. Due to the economic downturn, it’s important for businesses to choose which markets to cater to that will benefit them the most. All of the necessary data regarding a country’s Foreign Direct Investment, Gross Domestic Product, and Ease of Doing Business Ranking are available online from the World Bank (http://data.worldbank.org/).
Some countries are safer investments than others.
According to the latest ranking of top countries for overseas investment, China tops the list. As China continues to grow both economically and industrially, foreign investors are eagerly lining up to invest in its internal market. The United States ranks second, up one spot from last year, followed closely by India. India is widely known for its great nonfinancial, financial, and industrial service opportunities, but navigation of the business environment may be a bit tricky to those unfamiliar with their practices. Brazil, Germany, Poland, Australia, Mexico, Canada, and the United Kingdom round out the top ten, respectively.
But success isn’t guaranteed simply because a country is ranked high on the list. Before any company dives headfirst into any new foreign market, they must be certain they are familiar with the business environment. Without proper research, the attempt can be disastrous, as each market has its own share of localized intricacies that must be taken into account.
In China it is customary to be familiar with the country’s five-year plan which helps to understand the current and future business climate. In India, businesspeople do not usually offer their advice or even disagree if they are given instructions. For their input on how a task could be done more effectively, it is advisable to actively ask what their opinions or suggestions may be. In Japan, it is considered impolite to say ‘no’ outright. Refusals are either implied, avoided or someone might simply not reply at all.
Without prior knowledge to these different business practices, misunderstandings could ensue, which could lead to some very serious problems. Therefore, as an outsider it is even more important to show respect for a foreign market’s customs for the sake of both parties involved. Information on foreign business etiquette and culture can be found on the World Business Culture website: www.worldbusinessculture.com.
As the business paradigm shifts globally, smaller businesses can utilize new technological resources to help ease them into new markets.
For the majority of foreign business transactions, all documents, business cards, presentations, etc., should be translated into the foreign business associate’s native language, as well as English, even if they can speak it fluently. It is the standard custom, and failure to do so could be interpreted as disrespectful.
While foreign business etiquette rules can be researched and adopted fairly easily with the proper resources, translating necessary documents still require more outside assistance.
In the past, translating was done exclusively by professional translation agencies and freelance translators. In today’s tech-oriented business world, however, there are more options available to help small businesses conquer the language barrier.
In the past few years, significant attention and development has gone into machine translation tools in an effort to make them more accurate and grammatically correct.
As a result, two different systems have evolved:
· Rule-based systems, where rules of grammar and syntax along with individual language vocabulary are manually coded into a computer.
· Statistical machine translation (SMT), where computers analyze millions of existing translated documents from the web to learn vocabulary and look for patterns in language.
Yahoo Babelfish and Bing Translator both employ rule-based systems, which statistically perform better than the SMT system for short texts and Asian languages. However, Google Translate, which is based on the SMT system, outperforms rule-based systems for longer texts and has the ability to easily improve accuracy as more translated documents become available on the web.
As highly developed as machine translations have become since their inception, they still are not foolproof, and therefore are unreliable as a legitimate translation tool when professionalism is a necessity. In business, everything that is put out to the public or to associates reflects on the company as a whole. Grammatically incorrect or mis-translated texts give the impression that a company either does not care about its foreign business associates, or worse, is amateur and lacks the proper skill set to run a business.
Small businesses are seeking alternatives to machine translations and costly professional translators.
A few new companies have developed solutions to help small businesses receive quality translations without breaking the bank.
One method, known as post-editing or hybrid translation, combines machine translation and human translators. Once text initially passes through machine translation, a human translator or a group of translators review the translation, making any necessary changes. This process allows for a faster turn around time as well as lower costs.
Translation Cloud, www.translationcloud.net, is one example of a program that makes use of this method. Translation Cloud utilizes its database of over 10,000 translators who connect to the system via their Facebook accounts. Users of Translation Cloud receive more accurate translations at a much cheaper rate. This method of post-editing also takes advantage of crowdsourcing, another relatively new concept that is gaining popularity.
Websites such as Facebook and Twitter have both relied on crowdsourcing translation and localization of their websites in order to reach a broader foreign market. Crowdsourcing is specifically effective when those who are supplying the crowdsourced translation are familiar with the product or company.
Smartling, www.smartling.com, is an example of a company that relies solely on crowdsourcing for delivering fast and accurate website translations. Their software allows a group of translators who were invited to work on a specific project to easily visit the customer’s website and translate whatever text they wish, directly on the site.
While these programs are more effective than machine translators at supplying accurate translations, they still cost money. A relatively new website called Ackuna, www.ackuna.com, addresses that problem by providing a completely free and open community-based platform, specifically focused on sharing translations.
Those who are in need of translation services, as well as those who wish to volunteer their language aptitude, can create a free account to either post requests or translate other people’s requests. Translations are voted up or down by other users in the community, and translators who provide accurate translations receive badges as rewards. The concept is similar to Quora, www.quora.com, where users post questions or answers on any topic to other users.
As technology advances, solutions will continue to grow. Right now, Duolingo, www.duolingo.com, is working on developing a program where its users can learn a new language for free, while simultaneously helping to translate the web through the language lessons.
For small businesses on a strict budget, any of these solutions could certainly be of great value for tackling the language barrier issue.
In the end, it is up to the business owner to determine what he or she wishes to accomplish, research the methods needed to make it happen, and utilize the appropriate resources. While the business landscape has changed in recent years, as technology continues to grow, opportunities for small businesses to succeed will continue to grow as well. It is just a matter of learning to take advantage of them.
Matt Bramowicz grew up in New Jersey and attended Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, where he received a degree in English and minored in Fine Arts. He now works as the head of PR/Marketing and as a graphic designer for Translation Services USA, a startup translation and technology company located in New York City.
Translation Services USA has developed social networking applications such as Translationcloud.net and Ackuna.com.
April 14th, 2012
By Susan Delly
What happens when you buy something online? To the average consumer, it’s a simple process of adding an item to the virtual shopping cart and pressing the ‘buy now’ button… but what really happens? The truth is, your simple check-out process is a series of steps that go through several different processes before it’s sent back to you with an approval. The chosen eCommerce solution software of the online store that you’re purchasing through will make or break your check-out process.
When I’m ask what I do for work, I often get into a lengthy discussion of how I evaluate, review and rank eCommerce solutions software (aka shopping carts). That leads into further talk of merchant accounts, gateways, your bank, credit cards and yadahyadahyadah. At the end of my explanation, people are still confused and sometimes think I work in related areas such as SEO and online marketing because I’ve explained how SEO is an important consideration with a hosted eCommerce solution. While that’s part of what I review, it doesn’t really explain ZippyCart.com and the work I do. The truth is that most don’t understand the processes that occur after a credit card has been swiped, unless they’re in the industry.
Tonight was another one of those nights where conversation led to work and me trying to break-down the credit card approval process in a user-friendly way. When I got home from the wedding I was at, I searched out an easier way to explain the basic parts of eCommerce solution evaluations that I do. I found this awesome infographic that will help in the future!
January 3, 2012
By the ZippyCart Content Team
The 2011 holiday shopping season is officially over and retailers have shifted their focus to the heaps of holiday gift returns coming in as we begin the New Year. Holiday returns are up 8% this year from the same time last year, which is due to more confident consumers and a 15% increase in online shopping profits this holiday season. Consumers engaged in more online spending this year than ever before resulting in $35.3 billion in ecommerce sales between Nov. 1 and Dec. 25.
Along with increased confidence in ecommerce spending, this year marked the first time since the financial crisis in 2008 that consumers have been notably less price sensitive during the holiday shopping season. According to a survey released last week by ForeSee, a customer experience analytics firm, free shipping, above competitive pricing, increased consumer satisfaction. The study found that Americans were less price sensitive during the 2011 holiday shopping season. Along with finding shoppers were less price sensitive this past holiday season, the study also highlighted the benefits of increased Customer satisfaction such as increased sales, loyalty, and positive word-of-mouth recommendations.
According to ForeSee, Amazon leads the pack in customer satisfaction, which is likely due to a combination of marketing efforts, customer service, inventory and competitive prices.
Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee, commented on Amazon’s unyielding success:
“E-retailers have consistently upped their game since we first started measuring holiday satisfaction in 2005, but Amazon is still the 800-pound gorilla of retail, and it just keeps getting better. It’s tough for a smaller retailer to compete with this level of dedication to providing an excellent customer experience.”
Although Amazon is known for competitive prices, retailers should shift their focus from a price-battle to a battle for customer satisfaction through different avenues. Freed also explained, “The aggressive promotions and discounts helped sales, but consumers wanted more from retailers.”
There are several ways (excluding price) e-tailers can ensure customers are highly satisfied with their online shopping experience. There are 4 categories that are particularly prevalent when it comes to customer satisfaction on ecommerce websites. These include:
- Free Shipping. As explored in ForeSee’s study, free shipping attracted many customers to spend their money online this holiday season. Free shipping is great for ecommerce solutions because it not only initially entices shoppers, but also provides and outstanding customer experience. There can be challenges that arise with offering free shipping, but oftentimes it is an explicit expectation of shoppers.
- Experience. Sites that are easy to navigate and provide useful and accurate information provide high customer satisfaction.
- Convenience. In a face-paced and busy culture, shoppers look for ecommerce conveniences like 24/7 availability and one-click checkout. If your shopping cart is not optimized for consumer convenience, satisfaction rates decline.
- Reliability. Do items ship quickly? Are consumers getting what they expect? Website reliability increases consumer confidence in your ecommerce solution and is a primary factor leading to customer satisfaction.
December 27, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Shopify app SumAll has completed an analysis of current Shopify customers providing insight on rising prices, increasing discounts, and decreased shipping costs. The study was conducted over four years (2007-2011) and derived findings from 30 million transactions from stores powered by Shopify.
Overall the data shows retailers are making more net revenue on each unit sold, while charging less on shipping and taxes. The average total revenue per unit has risen 12.3% from 2010 to 2011, and 73.9% from 2007 to 2011. As the graphic below illustrates, consumers spent an average of $19.86 per item purchased online in 2007 compared to and average of $39.37 in 2011.
The research from SumAll suggests the factors contributing to this jump in average spending over the past four years are inflation and a shift in items. The study determined a combination of consumer confidence in purchasing expensive items online and minor price inflation have resulted in increased consumer spending on ecommerce solutions throughout the past four years. Consumers’ enthusiastic adoption of mobile technology, tablets and daily deal sites have also significantly added to the growth of ecommerce spending, particularly in the past year.
The research also included interesting facts regarding discounts and shipping. From 2007 to 2011 the average discount percentage per unit sold has increased from an average of 11% to an average of over 19%. Daily deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial have drawn in the masses by offering deep discounts. Discounts and savings appeal to shoppers who love to feel like they are getting a good deal. In 2012, ecommerce retailers can attract consumers by showing them it’s not how much you spend, it’s how much you save that constitutes a good deal. SumAll offers this advice to e-tailers looking to draw in shoppers:
“Markup, then discount–perception is everything.”
Cheap or free shipping has been a primary angle retailers have been taking in 2011 to create a perception of discounts. Although SumAll found that shipping fees have actually risen 24.3% from 2007 to 2011, relative shipping rates have fallen. Gross sales have risen significantly faster than shipping costs (73.9% from 2007 to 2011), which has caused shipping relative to the purchase to fall from 11.7% and 8.6%. According to the study, free shipping offers can decrease cart abandonment by 20%.
Below is a graphic from SumAll that represents some of the key findings of this holiday shopping analysis.
Further research on holiday shopping this year shows an increase in the amount of people who continued their online shopping on Christmas Day. Although brick-and-mortar stores may have been closed for the holiday, many people logged onto retailers’ ecommerce solutions. In fact, IBM reported yesterday a 16.4% increase in the amount of shoppers making purchases and the dollar amount of those purchases made on mobile devices was up 179.2% from 2010. We’ll see if this crop of consumer confidence continues to rise or levels out as we ring in the new year.
December 16, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Ecommerce solution eBay coined the term “Green Monday” in 2007 to describe the second Monday in December, which for the past six years has marked the most (or second-most in 2005 and 2007) profitable shopping day of the year for online retailers. “Green Monday” has been exceptionally profitable for the past several years, but this holiday shopping season has blown previous season’s out of the water and merits the more appropriate name of “Manic Mondays.”
According to a study released by ComScore, the past 3 Mondays have all seen ecommerce profits exceeding $1 billion. Cyber Monday saw record breaking sales amounting to $1.25 billion, which, according to ComScore’s report, was followed by $1.17 billion in sales on Monday December 5, and sales of $1.13 billion this past Monday, December 12. This year’s string of “Manic Monday” sales mark the three most profitable online shopping days of 2011 and the continuing holiday success for ecommerce solutions.
In total, holiday shopping (from Nov. 1 to Dec. 12) has so far reached nearly $25 billion, up 15 percent from the same period last year. ComScore also reported a record of $6.1 billion spent in just last week ending December 11.
The most profitable product category this holiday season has been digital content and subscriptions, with a growth rate double that of the online sector as a whole. Jewelry and watches is the second-fastest growing category and consumer electronics led by flat screen TV’s and tablets rounds out the third.
Holiday ecommerce in the U.S. is expected to remain steady and increase 15 percent this year compared to the same time in 2010. The gains in online commerce significantly shadows the 2 to 3 percent gains predicted for overall retail sales this holiday season.
ComScore chairman Gian Fulgoni commented on this year’s holiday spending:
“These highlights represent another very positive sign for the holiday shopping season, as the week following ‘Cyber Week’ often experiences relative softness in spending momentum due to retailers pulling back on their promotional activity. As we enter what will be the heaviest week of the season for online retailers – beginning with ‘Green Monday’ on December 12 – all signs are now pointing to a strong finish to the season.”
Ecommerce accounts for less 5 percent of consumer spending, leaving ecommerce solutions like eBay and Amazon to vie for shopper’s business by offering discounts and daily promotions. eBay opened up several pop-up stores for shoppers who want to check out products in-person before making purchase and shoppers have seen more free shipping offers than ever from Amazon this year.
December 13, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Ecommerce campaigns are more effective at driving more sales in brick and mortar stores than online store fronts. According to a two year long study recently completed by RevTrax, paid search and display ads generate $6 of offline retail spending for every $1 of ecommerce spending. Although revenue in any channel is great, the results from RevTrax’s study raises the issue of ecommerce campaigns failing to receive compensation for offline revenue generated by online advertising.
Currently ecommerce campaigns are only getting acknowledged for the online spending they generate. Because paid search ads have historically been focused on ecommerce spending, the revenue they are generating offline gets overlooked.
Also, the effectiveness of paid search for local sales is difficult to track. However, with the increasing presence of smartphones online to offline tracking is made more possible.
In order to effectively track cross-channel buying behaviors and their relationship to paid search and display ads, RevTrax conducted a involved study lasting 2 full years. Between August 2009 and August 2011, RevTrax tracked millions of paid search ads and the offline sales they generated for retailers. RevTrax conducted the study by displaying a paid search ad to shoppers, which led to a landing page with either a printable or mobile coupon with a unique bar code. The use of these coupons in brick and mortar retail locations was then tracked and traced back to the online search and specific keyword used. The average transaction size for participants in the report was less than $200. At the conclusion of the study, it is apparent that consumers are comfortable with both ecommerce and brick and mortar shopping, but still indicate a strong preference of shopping in-store.
The most significant finding was that paid search and display ads leads offline sales 6:1 compared to ecommerce sales. Some other interesting results include:
- Paid search campaigns on average generated $15 of in-store revenue
- 40% to 50% of customers were new, indicating it wasn’t preexisting customers simply searching for a deal
- 9% of paid search clicks result in an in-store purchase
Results from this study indicate that retailers with on and offline sales channels must begin include paid search ROI into calculations. Many companies fail to incorporate this data which significantly undervalues the paid search channel’s contribution to revenue.
All in all, this study indicates the cross channel success of ecommerce campaigns for retailers and the need for companies to redesign their business models to fairly compensate marketers for the revenue brought into brick and mortar stores through paid search and display ads.
November 23, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Shopcade founder and CEO, Nathalie Gavaeu explained the application:
“Shopcade leverages the power of Facebook to the benefit of consumers and brands alike. It turns the ‘social network’ into the ‘social shopping network,’ allowing 800 million socially-connected people to shop, share and be rewarded all in one place. Rather than brands dictating what people should buy, Shopcade empowers people to share products that actually matter with each other. Now the customers are in control.”
Retailers are increasingly trying their hand at tapping into the growing social media population by creating effective “social” shopping experiences. In a survey conducted by Shopcade and YouGov 60% of social media users in the United States between the ages of 18 and 54 admitted their shopping decisions are, to some extent, influenced by their friends activity on their social networks. However, social media users usually don’t look to social networking websites to satisfy their shopping needs.
Harish Abbott, co-founder of social shopping platform Sneakpeeq had this to say regarding the difficulty of tapping into Facebook commerce:
“People don’t go to Facebook to shop. They never have.”
In order to reach social media users in a way that changes this trend, a social shopping application must be creative. Abbott suggests using “Facebook norms” and making applications game-like to spark user curiosity and interest. Sneakpeeq, which recently moved out of beta, offers an innovative social shopping experience by combining components of flash sales, gaming, and social networking. By leveraging game-like features, Sneakpeeq has captivated users and found success much success in Facebook commerce.
Shopcade attempts to produce a creative social shopping experience of their own by offering users several unique features including: Top-trending products, top-trending Shopcades, easy browsing and filtering, mutual rewards when a product is purchased from a friend’s Shopcade, personalized recommendations, and a personal URL, which allows users to add their Shopcade to blogs and other social media websites.
Launched just in time for the holiday shopping season, Shopcade is optimistic about the role social media will play in consumer spending.
November 16, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
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.
November 14, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Online holiday spending, aided by mobile and tablet commerce, is expected to grow 15 percent this year.
Forrester released a report predicting that online sales during the 2011 holiday shopping season will amount to $59.5 billion, compared to $51.7 billion last year. Although consumers are more deal-conscious than ever this year, 12 percent of the 15 percent total growth is projected to come from increased spending by shoppers.
There has been a significant rise in online retail traffic this year, in large part due to consumers accessing ecommerce solutions from their smartphones and tablets. Forrester reported that 30 percent of shoppers who own a smartphone use it to research purchases monthly and 50 percent of people who own a tablet use their device to research purchases. Retailers need to take this into account this holiday season and make sure that their websites are fully ready for mobile commerce.
Some brick-and-mortar stores are even embracing tablets to aid the shopping experience. Sears is apparently beginning to provide tablets in their stores for shoppers to look up products and order items that are out-of-stock. Shoppers may not necessarily be using their smartphones and tablets to actually make purchases but they are using them more than ever to hunt for deals and compare products.
Online deals are more influential than ever this year in determining what items consumers are putting in their shopping carts. Forrester noted that 50 percent of shoppers surveyed stated that they had found the best deals online and 30 percent of those surveyed had used a daily deal site like Groupon at one point. With holiday shopping at brick-and-mortar retailers getting crazier every year on days like Black Friday, many consumers are opting to avoid the mayhem and shop from the comfort of home. Besides finding the best prices and deals, consumers indicate that the perks of online shopping also include better inventory and selection, no lines, and avoiding spending money on gas.
Cyber Monday is the biggest day of the year for online sales, last year online spending on Cyber Monday surpassed $1 billion which was a 16 percent increase from 2009. Thanksgiving day is another huge day for online spending. Online sales on Thanksgiving last year amounted to $407 million, a 28 percent increase from the previous year.
Retailers should be expecting a lot more online traffic this year and keep in mind that a significant portion of visitors will be using a smartphone or tablet browser. If merchants have been paying attention to the trends this holiday season and prepared their ecommerce solutions accordingly it could be the most profitable year ever for online sales.
November 1, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
November is here and if you haven’t started already, now is the time to optimize your ecommerce solution and marketing plan for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This Thanksgiving weekend is predicted to be more profitable than last year, but there will also be more competition for consumer dollars than ever before. The online sphere is particularly competitive with e-tailers trying to compete with ecommerce giants like eBay and Amazon. In order to attract consumers, many businesses have already begun advertising and promotions for the holiday shopping season.
If you have not yet begun holiday promotions (or even if you have), ecommerce software provider Volusion has released their “2011 Ecommerce Survival Guide for Black Friday Weekend“. We have outlined 4 of the most notable tips from their guide:
1. Increase Average Order Value
The easiest and most obvious way to boost AOV is to simply increase the price of merchandise. Increasing prices may be a good way to go if your merchandise is already priced lower than competitors or if you are planning on offering deep discounts. However, raising prices is risky business because shoppers will be especially sensitive to prices during Thanksgiving weekend due to the amount of discounts and promotions offered by a wide range of retailers.
Another approach to increasing AOV is by offering free shipping for orders over a certain amount. Consumers are attracted to free shipping and e-tailers can leverage this by offering free shipping on orders that exceed a specified amount such as $50. This will encourage consumers to fill up their shopping carts and increase the value of their order.
An alternative to offering free shipping is giving away gift cards with orders that exceed a specified amount. For example, retailers could offer a $10 gift card with a $100 purchase. This draws in consumers and also benefits merchants because consumers will more than likely spend more than the gift card amount when they decide to redeem it.
2. Decrease Bounce Rates
To decrease bounce rates it is important to make your best holiday deals known. Consumers often move onto the next website because they aren’t finding the right product or a convincing deal. Make your best holiday deals known by prominently displaying them on your homepage. Let consumers know about the promotions you’re running during Thanksgiving weekend by announcing them front and center on your webpage. Another way to decrease bounce rates is highlighting featured deals and/or popular products with banners or icons.
3. Optimize Use of Email
Throughout the holiday season shoppers will be looking for gift ideas and special offers in their email inbox. Last year there was an average of 17.3 retailer emails sent during the months of November and December, in order to increase the chances of your email being seen you may need to up the frequency in which emails are sent. However, you must pay careful attention to avoid sending too many emails and spamming your customers. Another way to optimize the use of email is to start sending promotions out early. Many retailers have already been sending out holiday promotions for the past couple weeks.
4. Employ a Smart Coupon Strategy
70% of consumers expect retailers to offer better prices and promotions this year versus 2010 due to the state of the current economy. In addition, 38% of adult consumers will spend between 1 and 3 hours researching coupons on the Internet. Many ecommerce solutions will be offering great deals this Thanksgiving weekend and in order to compete you will need to employ a unique coupon strategy. When deciding on a coupon strategy, it is important to consider whether you are offering too much or perhaps too little. Whatever coupon or discount strategy you decide to employ, make sure you aren’t stretching your profits too thin. It is important that your business can support whatever deal you choose to promote.
October 27, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Millions of Internet users are members of social websites. In order to access that growing market, more and more retailers are utilizing social shopping platforms in addition to their ecommerce solutions. Just this week, Sociable Labs, a popular social ecommerce software provider, announced the $7 million success of their Series B funding round. There’s no doubt the social shopping sphere is expanding, but how important is it for retailers to invest in social shopping platforms for their ecommerce solution?
A social shopping survey conducted by Performics revealed the necessity of retailers’ acknowledgment of the opportunities to be had through the optimization of social ecommerce. The 2011 Social Shopping Study released by Performics on Thursday examined the usage of shopping sites, social networks, and deal sites in several different aspects of the shopping experience.
Some of the most notable results included those about how many people are using social shopping sites daily and what they are using them for. Between 17% and 19% of respondents use daily deal sites, shopping sites, and social networks every day to find coupons, deals, and specials. Also, 10-12% use these sites every day to read product reviews.
The survey also showed the gaining popularity of people using online networks while shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. A significant amount of respondents said they occasionally or frequently engage in in-store social or search activities. A few interesting figures include:
- 65% responded that they compare prices online while in a retail location
- 45% “check-in” at brick-and-mortar store locations
- 41% look for information using a search engine on their mobile phone
- 30% use a barcode scanner on their mobile phone to shop for prices
In addition, twenty-five percent of those surveyed will take the time while at a physical store location to seek information on a social network prior to finalizing a purchase. Immediately before consumers make a purchase is a vital moment for retailers. The fact that 1 in 4 customers may be conducting last minute research and seeking validation of their purchase through social networks deserves attention from retailers. People are also willing to wait for information longer than you would expect. Results showed 41% of respondents are willing to wait between 5 and 10 minutes to obtain information about products online while physically present in store.
Not only are social sites being used as part of both the online and brick-and-mortar shopping experience, but they are also breaking gender stereotypes. When it comes to social network usage, people assume that women are more active than men. However, as revealed by Performics’ survey, men engage social networks more frequently than women in five of six online shopping activities. Men research product information, read reviews, compare products, find product availability and get store information using social networks, shopping and deal sites more often than women. Women trump men when it comes to how often they look for deals and coupons.
Although “social shopping” is still a fairly new idea, its popularity is undoubtedly increasing. Retailers may want to consider their social presence on the web before the holiday shopping season is upon us to avoid missing precious sales.
October 25, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Ecommerce solutions are the preferred method of shopping for many consumers due to the convenience of 24/7 availability. Some consumers enjoy the one-stop-shop the Internet provides, and others appreciate free shipping and other incentives online retailers offer. Whatever their reasons, more shoppers than previously expected will be turning to ecommerce solutions to complete their holiday shopping this year.
According to new data from the National Retail Federation, the average shopper plans to complete 36% of their holiday gift-buying online this year (up from 32.7% last year). In light of the increase of shoppers planning to use ecommerce solutions this holiday season, e-tailers have become more optimistic than ever before about their holiday sales. Revealed in Shop.org’s eHoliday survey conducted by BIGresearch, 68% of retailers anticipate their online sales to increase by at least 15% or more compared to last holiday season. This expectation is up from 63.8% who felt the same last year.
Shoppers will also be able to take advantage of holiday deals earlier this year. Along with their brick-and-mortar counterparts, some online retailers are planning to begin their 2011 holiday promotions by Halloween. 52.9% of retailers plan to start their Holiday marketing and promotions by next Monday (Halloween), which is up from just 40% who did the same last year. Approximately 37% of retailers are planning to start by mid-November. Thus, shoppers may not have to wait until Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving and Black Friday) to snag the best deals of the season.
Shop.org’s head of research, Fiona Swerdlow, suggested companies are taking steps to prepare for the increase in online shoppers. In her own words:
“There’s no question consumers are eager to hit the Web this holiday season, and online retailers are prepping by optimizing their sites, beginning their marketing and promotions early, and planning plenty of free shipping promotions as they aim to provide value and convenience for their shoppers. Online retailers will also leverage their social media and mobile platforms for savvy shoppers on the go, knowing how important customer reviews and comparison shopping applications are to holiday shoppers.”
Specifically, the survey concluded that 51% of retailers have invested in optimizing their mobile commerce solutions and many have also invested in tablet device apps. Companies have also been working on their Facebook and Twitter pages in preparation for the holiday season.
The survey also outlined the primary reasons why shoppers plan to spend more time shopping online:
- 24-hour availability and convenience are the primary considerations for 43.2% of shoppers surveyed
- 36.3% admitted they will spend more online this year if shipping comes free
- The annoyance of fighting crowds at brick-and-mortar store locations is a factor for 37.2%
- 29.6% of shoppers will turn to ecommerce solutions due to the ease of comparing prices
With this new data, e-tailers are becoming more optimistic about upcoming online sales and re-evaluating their holiday promotions.
October 14, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Domain Name Service (DNS) issues may be more of a concern this holiday shopping season than expected, according to a recent study commissioned by VeriSign, Inc. Ecommerce solutions of all sizes could be at risk of experiencing the devastating effects of DNS failure and website downtime.
The main finding of the study was that sites with internally managed DNS had a minimum availability of 95.05%, while sites using DNS managed by a third-party averaged a minimum availability of 97.35%. Although these numbers only differ by 2.3%, that small variance accounts for about 40 more minutes of downtime daily for the internally managed sites. Complete DNS failure, which results in website downtime, is more costly than you can imagine- for every hour of downtime, a business could potentially lose $50,000 to $100,000. This statistic shows how detrimental 40 minutes of downtime can actually become.
If you think only smaller ecommerce solutions should be concerned about DNS failure, think again. Even mega-retailer Target suffered from downtime when their server crashed during the Missoni brand launch. DNS failure significantly affects customer loyalty to a brand and its ecommerce solution. A 2010 study showed that most shoppers will abandon a website if it take 3 seconds or longer to load- 3 seconds! Even if your DNS avoids complete failure, you can still lose potential profits from impatient consumers.
Whether you own a chain of brick-and-mortar stores along with your online store, or you rely solely on an ecommerce solution, the cost of DNS failure and website downtime is unaffordable. Not even the largest e-tailers can reconcile a loss in profits of potentially $100,000, which is why it is vital to evaluate your DNS management tool before the holiday shopping season kicks into gear.
Here are several tips on how to prepare your DNS to avoid downtime during this holiday season:
1. Invest in an alternative DNS management tool, especially if your primary DNS is internal. With an internally managed DNS, an ecommerce solution is significantly more at risk to experience total outages. Sites who took advantage of third-party DNS management services never faced total outages.
2. Avoid self-managed DNS. The study showed that sites with self-managed DNS experience 40 more minutes of downtime than those sites managed by a third-party.
3. Prepare for peak usage. Peter Merelud, VP of Product management at Kemp Technologies, was recently interviewed by InformationWeek and gave this advice:
“Plan for peak usage. [Whenever] online vendors experience their absolute peak usage, that’s what they have to be prepared to support. Otherwise they can experience a crash and will have lost all of this business.”
Identify peak traffic patterns and then prepare for them. Don’t just plan for average usage during this year’s busy season.
4. “Plan for more traffic than you can handle”. Merelud also suggests to not only plan for peak usage, but also plan for more shoppers than you can handle. It would be a shame for any ecommerce solution to lose potential business because they weren’t expecting the amount of traffic. Anticipate an extreme holiday rush, especially if you are planning to offer extra deals during on Cyber Monday or any other big holiday shopping times. Don’t repeat Target’s Missoni launch situation.
5. Consider where your servers are located. Think about having servers in different locations. In case one site becomes slow or unavailable, the traffic from the failed site can be taken on by the other site, which will allow your ecommerce solution to continue functioning.
With all the other competitive factors ecommerce solutions are already going to face during the upcoming holiday season, DNS failures should not be one of them.
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