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
Just in time for the holiday shopping season, Shopcade has introduced a new social shopping application for Facebook users. Launched yesterday, Shopcade attempts to offer the millions of users on Facebook a true social shopping experience. The app allows users to browse, buy, and share products while earning cash rewards.
Shopcade has a catalog of over 40 million products from 20,000 brands in categories like fashion, electronics, books and movies, home decor, beauty and more. Users set up “Shopcades,” or personalized lists of products they want to share with friends through their social network. To assist users in finding desirable products, the application collects product data and displays trending products in real-time. Another unique feature is the product recommendation feed, which provides suggestions of products users may be interested in based on their activity and “likes” on Facebook. Also on the Shopcade home page, shoppers can stay up-to-date with information about what their friends are adding and buying.
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.
September 23, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Offering the right online deals to shoppers will be critical for retailers to attract customers this holiday shopping season.
A recent survey by SteelHouse revealed that 82 percent of respondents will change the way they shop this year. Of those respondents, 62 percent plan to spend less money on holiday shopping in a variety of ways. That number doesn’t bode well for retailers but with the right offers customers may still flock to ecommerce solutions. Almost one third of those surveyed said that they plan to spend more time browsing products online rather than going to the mall and that they will not buy anything without a discount or at least free shipping.
Retailers should consider the option of using daily deal sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial to attract customers who will be using the Internet to do their holiday shopping more than ever this season. 12 percent of survey respondents said that they will use social media such as Twitter to find deals or let their friends know about deals. Word of mouth about discounts and offers may have a big influence on what items customers are putting in their shopping carts throughout the remaining months of 2011.
Coupons will also be a bigger factor this year, 11 percent of respondents said that they will use coupons for the first time. Retailers should consider sending out coupons by email to get an edge over the competition. 50 percent of respondents said that they will comparison shop more than usual in order to find the best price, an e-coupon could determine what ecommerce solution shoppers will turn to for desired items.
Women and shoppers with families will be the ones making the most changes to their shopping habits and looking harder for deals over the holidays. Women are more likely than men to both spend more time shopping online and to require a discount or free shipping before making a purchase. Interestingly, men are more likely to use coupons for the first time this holiday season, perhaps because women are traditionally more likely to use coupons on a regular basis. Respondents with families also plan to change their shopping habits more drastically and are more likely to comparison shop and browse items online instead of at brick-and-mortar stores.
Although the survey results don’t look good for retailers when it comes to overall holiday spending, ecommerce sales have been going up steadily over the past two years and are expected to at least remain the same and likely to increase further. Retailers just need to keep in mind the types of things that shoppers are on the lookout for and provide the right offers on ecommerce solutions. A little flexibility when it comes to shipping and pricing this holiday shopping season could go a long way.
August 30, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Near Field Communication (NFC) is widely considered the next frontier in the mobile payment world. Multiple tech heavyweights are preparing their NFC solutions, including Google. Eventually, even online purchases may be possible via NFC scanners. Today, the three major US wireless carriers announced their plan to invest $100 million in a joint NFC solution, called ISIS. Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile also say they are willing to invest more money in the technology if it gains momentum in the near future.
ISIS is not the trailblazer in this scenario, however, and will face some stiff competition from companies that have had a bit of a head start. Isis will have to catch up with Google Wallet, an open NFC platform launched by Google, with the backing of MasterCard and Citibank. Google’s payment system was announced in May and is set to enter the public arena very soon. Google Wallet allows consumers to add items to their shopping carts, and pay for them by waving their NFC-enabled Android phone at point-of-sale terminals that are equipped to handle MasterCard Paypass purchases. You’ve likely seen this technology embedded in MasterCard and some Visa credit cards in the past few years. You just wave your card in front of the scanner, and go on with your purchase. However, Google’s NFC offering is limited in supported hardware. Right now, only the Nexus S from Sprint is supported, and Google hasn’t announced new credit card or banking partners apart from MasterCard and Citibank.
ISIS, meanwhile, is backed by credit card companies MasterCard, Visa , American Express and Discover. The fact that Visa is supported gives ISIS a bit of a leg up on the competition. The first trial runs for the new technology won’t begin until next year in Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas. That timing will, however, put it behind Google Wallet. But with few NFC-enabled devices available so far, it may not be that much of a disadvantage.
The question on investors’ minds seems to be just how popular the NFC technology will be amongst the consuming public. The technology has been around for a while, embedded in selected credit cards for years. People could of paid for items in their shopping carts with their NFC enabled MasterCard or Visa. A lack of retailer participation, expensive necessary hardware, new Point of Sale programming, and general consumer apathy limited the success of NFC technology back then. So what’s so different now?
For all NFC suppliers, including Google Wallet and ISIS, the key to attracting consumer attention appears to be in enabling digital offers and discounts via smartphone devices. Google isn’t taking a cut of transactions made through its service, and is looking to instead link up Google Wallet with its recently released Google Offers program. Google will then make money from offers made to consumers. ISIS is looking to make its digital wallet a platform for delivering targeted mobile offers to users based on their preferences and behavior. Both platforms hope that by offering deals to consumers, it will not only get more items and deals into shopping carts but will also promote the use of NFC technology and potentially replace physical purchases altogether.
According to Juniper Research, NFC technology is ramping up for an explosion in popularity. By 2015, 1 in 5 consumers adding a new phone to their shopping cart will be getting an NFC enabled device. Mobile payments are expected to be worth $670 billion dollars by 2015. The market seems to be there, and the investments from major backers are not lacking.
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