The Year in Ecommerce: Trends and Predictions

Black Friday/Cyber Monday 2017 came and went, signaling that the year is almost over. Did we handle what occurred in 2017, and will we be ready for 2018? As we ask this, it’s the opportune moment to reflect on the trends we just saw and offer some predictions for next year.

I randomly asked a few colleagues for their perspectives, and here’s what they said:

Mickey Winter, Creative Director:

  • 2017 Top Trend(s): The rise of Niche brands (Casper, Brooklinen, AllBirds)
  • 2018 Predicted Top Trend(s): Paid Social and Social Commerce!! No doubt!

 

Leland Clemmons, Front-End Developer:

  • 2017 Top Trend(s): Ad blockers and ensuing ad innovation. Ad-blocking technology continued to saturate the market, and the ad tech world paid attention. Advertising had to become craftier and more engaging.
  • 2018 Predicted Top Trend(s): A rise in machine-driven/AI-based A/B testing. There are many micro-optimizations sites can use, but they are too small to reasonably discover. Tests driven by machines can resolve the difficulty and improve the digital space.

 

Greg Steinberg, Principal & Founder:

  • 2017 Top Trend(s): Influence of paid social advertising.
  • 2018 Predicted Top Trend(s): Deeper personalization and segmentation in advertising, niche (almost micro) products and markets, greater ownership of customer relationship (B2C v wholesale/marketplace).

 

Ethan Messenger, Project Manager:

  • 2017 Top Trend(s): The mobile wallet (Apple Pay, Paypal, etc.). I think brands are recognized the value of the mobile wallet to help create more seamless shopping experiences for customers.
  • 2018 Predicted Top Trend(s): New development kits like ARCore and ARKit will enable more than 600 million phones to render interactive augmented reality experiences. Mobile AR technology allows consumers to understand how a product will mesh with their physical spatial surroundings.

 

Phillip Jackson, Ecommerce Evangelist:

  • 2017 Top Trend(s): A growing awareness that “omnichannel” means we must keep evolving. It’s not enough to be present in every customer channel. We must adapt our operations and brand voice to legitimize why we’re on that channel.
  • 2018 Predicted Top Trend(s):  We’ll be rethinking marketplace partnerships. Wal-Mart is cool, and Amazon is no longer our enemy. As organic search continues losing to marketplace-direct searches, we’ll create clear strategies to meet customers where they are.

 

We don’t claim to read the tea leaves at Something Digital, but we live ecommerce every day.  Hopefully, you’ll find this insight helpful.

Let us know!

Ecommerce Holiday 2017: Performance is a Must

Time to gear up for the holidays.  According to eMarketer, the holiday season will see retail growth slow to 2% overall, while ecommerce sales climb 15.8%.  That means you have opportunities to sell more to existing customers and gain new ones. Will your site perform when it needs to?  Now is the time to ensure it does.

First, you need to understand what you might face.  Identify the percentage of overall revenue earned during holiday last year. It’s generally good to use that number for your initial modeling.  Then, grab your funnel metrics (traffic, AOV, conversion rate) and play out some contingencies.  If you saw the same percentage increase for holiday revenue this year, what would that mean for your traffic spike.  And if the prognosticators anticipate 15.8% growth, how does that compare with your number?  What else in your world is influencing your holiday sales?

Be prepared to handle a traffic spike that falls within a certain range. As you should realize by now, sites can only accommodate a certain amount of traffic before you see degradation in page load, cart performance, etc. Your code needs optimization, and your infrastructure needs to be either:

1. substantial enough to handle your largest spike (old school thinking, but sometimes the only option for older sites), or
2. flexible enough to tune up and down on demand.

You also need to deliver an experience in line with your audience’s expectations.  They need to be able to find the product(s) at a price they would expect.  Can you deliver that?  If there is something special about your product that makes it more difficult to acquire, are you making it obvious to your customers?  Review your analytics to understand where visitors bounce, and become familiar with what they search for.  Make sure you’ve tweaked your search to optimize results for the products your visitors want, and make sure you surface the more popular items through techniques like Featured Products, Custom Landing Pages, or Most Popular categories.

Additionally, you need to practice and convey adherence to secure transaction practices. There have been too many public breaches of reputable websites, so people are now less trusting.  Aesthetics, site speed, and payment options (particularly offsite options like PayPal, Amazon Pay, Apple Pay) typically engender more trust.  Sites that don’t conform to people’s expectations for secure shopping will not convert as well as sites that do.

To address performance, ask the following:

– Can you handle the increased traffic?
– Will your pages load reasonably for your customers?
– Is the user experience meeting the standard that your customers (or you) would expect?
– When considering your responses, were you thinking about your desktop or your mobile experience?
– Will/should your audience trust you to deliver a secure transaction?

Then, consider the following basic steps:

– Code Review/Profiling and Remediation
– Pre-Holiday Load Tests and Infrastructure Adjustments (think about ways to handle short bursts)
– Full Page Cache
– Image Optimization
– Mobile Experience Enhancements
– Improved Navigation
– Search Optimization
– Offsite Payments

It’s a simple calculus. What can you offer your customers this season that will convince them to buy your product instead of someone else’s?  Part of the equation needs to be site performance.

Want to discuss this further? Have questions or comments? Contact us.

SD Partnership Profile: Logic Broker

SD Partnership Profiles: Logicbroker

The Logicbroker relationship started in early 2013 when our Director of Interactive Software, Jon Tudhope, needed to identify a Magento extension that delivered EDI translation. We were pitching to a large, multi-national apparel brand, and of course they needed a quick proposal. We started to look at Logicbroker, which was the leading technology in the space. They were immediately responsive and helpful, so we took a deeper look into forming a partnership.

Could we check the boxes for characteristics of a quality partnership (see original post)? Here’s what we found:

Quality of product or service

They had an easy-to-implement Magento extension with a history and an intuitive architecture.

Flexibility of engagement structures

They were willing to work with us on a POC, and they offered multiple, transparent pricing objects.

Trust between the organizations

This had to develop over time, but we started dealing with individuals who could commit the company, so their word was more powerful than in other instances when we dealt lower-level salespeople.

Availability and quality of the client-service team

We were given direct access to their developers and collaborated with them to craft a solution.

Access to leadership for escalation

Within weeks, I was meeting the CEO for pizza at a conference in Chicago and playing in his foursome at a local golf outing. Suffice it to say, I was at the top of the organization.

Understanding that good services businesses serve their clients, not their vendor partners

This philosophy has been tested multiple times, and—like trust—it can’t be validated in the short-term. But these guys exemplify the client-first perspective.

So yes, check the boxes for Logicbroker. Not only are they the the kings of the EDI and drop-ship automation space for Magento, NetSuite, and others, but they would make for a great SD partnership. They started with a small, niche play, and they’ve grown their product through hard work and faith in their vision.

In short, we love these guys. Just completed some roundtable Q&A between Logicbroker’s CEO Peyman Zamani, their VP of Digital Commerce George Heudorfer, and me. Here’s the transcript of our conversation.



Jon Klonsky: Peyman, what inspired you to start Logicbroker

Peyman Zamani: About 6 or 7 years ago, I was still at Office Depot running ecommerce and doing some other things. I saw these powerful platforms bursting on to the scene—Magento, BigCommerce, Demandware. It was getting easy for people to set up their own web shop and process orders. They could go from 0 to 10 to 100 million dollars a year pretty quickly. But then I realized that everyone was neglecting the middle part—what was happening on the backend. Connecting to suppliers, fulfillment centers, drop-shippers, and order processing.

Everyone was thinking that the customer experience was about a great looking website and a great product assortment, which it is—but only in part. Ultimately when you attract those customers and sell to them, you still want to make sure the products are delivering on time, and the tracking and delivery notification happen properly. That’s also a part of it. And for the merchants, they need to ensure orders don’t short-ship or overship.

So I thought, wouldn’t it be great to create a platform that does all that. It would have to account for the older technologies like EDI or flat file data transfer that companies are still using in their warehouses and 3PLs. But it would need to modernize the supply chain data integration. That was the vision.

And also I was turning 40 (laughs). It was time to leave the Fortune 500 company, do my own thing and have a great story to tell my grandchildren. So that was the inspiration.

 

JK: So George, over to you. What role does Logicbroker serve in the ecommerce ecosystem?

George Heudorfer: With Logicbroker our Tag line—if you look at our logo—it’s “connecting your ecommerce ecosystem.” And I believe that’s where we present the most value. It’s providing the connectivity for the fragmented systems that play a role in ecommerce. Everyone is striving to launch a great ecommerce presence. But often behind the scenes, the systems are disparate, and it becomes very expensive to do these one-off integrations at any type of scale. With Logicbroker it’s very easy to onboard new spokes to that hub and leverage the now existing infrastructure to quickly add additional spokes: a drop-ship supplier, a big-box retailer, a marketplace, or a pure-play e-tailer. And it’s not just the connectivity, but it’s some of the performance management. It’s the overall enrichment that Logicbroker brings to that order lifecycle.

 

JK: What type of merchant should want to incorporate your technology? Obviously you’re not for everyone.

PZ: Correct. Any merchant that is serious about growing their online business could essentially take advantage of our technology. If they want to grow it by offering product to drop-shippers, if they want to simplify their warehouse integration, if they need to improve their 3PL integration, or if they need to automate to accommodate a growing order volume. Those are great merchants for us.

 

JK: Can you describe your most unique implementation?

GH: Part of the uniqueness of Logicbroker as a platform is that although each integration is slightly different. We’re using the same infrastructure for every implementation, but configurations are unique to each client.

If I can think of a specific example, we’re working with one of the world’s leading brands in the apparel space. They happen to run SAP as their ERP system. We started integrating with their Magento store for ecommerce, and they’re a pure EDI play. It was an acquisition they had made. They needed to be up and running very quickly. With Logicbroker, they could feed order information to their ERP as EDI. As strange as that is—they sent EDI to themselves and then back to themselves to close out shipments and keep inventory in synch.

From there, we grew that integration to connect not only the Magento store, but also ecommerce properties around the world. So APAC was a big play for them—to be able to bring in order information. But that didn’t come across as EDI, they went with an XML interface. It was very simple for the SAP side to be able to consume information in a simplified, standardized format, and then Logicbroker to organize the spaghetti for each of the ecommerce properties and their details.

 

JK: That’s very interesting. Were all of the properties on Magento?

GH: They were not.

 

JK: So Logicbroker integrates cross-platform also.

GH: It’s cross-platform. There’s a Shopify connection—which we haven’t released just yet. And there are marketplaces and big box stores sending orders via EDI, XML, and CSV for the B2B division. But to SAP, it comes in the same format every time with a different ID, based on the originating order.

 

JK: So George, what distinguishes your approach to client service?

GH: At Logicbroker, attitude is a reflection of leadership. There are lots of great technology solutions out there. We differentiate ourselves on the operations-plus-technology model.

We’re dPaaS (Data Platform as a Service), and we offer that white glove model, so we invest very heavily on our resources. They’re not only up to date on technology in our sector, but also have training and roots in supply chain automation.

Our clients don’t just get a username and password to our software along with a “best of luck.” That’s not the way it works, and it’s not the way we’ve seen clients be successful. It’s dedicating a point of contact who owns all things with that client and becomes the liaison with our development resources here at Logicbroker, our communications experts, our EDI mappers, our business team. All that flows through the dedicated point of contact. And that really is unique in our space. We size our company in a way that makes sense. We can scale that because our software scales, and ultimately deliver our customers not only a faster, but a more pleasant implementation.

 

JK: Do things ever go badly? How do you respond in those instances? Because from my perspective, that’s what people really want to know.

GH: I would love to say that everything always goes perfectly–but things do go wrong. And when they go wrong, the first thing from our side is we want to be an organization that lets all parties involved know that things have gone wrong.

Responsiveness is key. We have monitoring in place to alert us and ultimately our clients and trade partners. Even if we don’t have the answer, we want to at least raise the flag and say, “we’re looking into this. This may be something small or a symptom of something larger.” And then we get the right people engaged from our side. We not only provide the data, but also the tools and services to remedy things swiftly.

PZ: And just to add–Things go wrong, like George was saying. But luckily, over the years, we’ve been exposed to the ways things can trip us up. Maybe an FTP connection is down, or something happened with a certificate on the other side, or something else is going on. We can now anticipate where the problems might be, and we have field monitoring that alerts us immediately. I always told my product folks that if we have a problem, I want us to know first—before the customer. And we built our monitoring tools with this philosophy.

 

JK: How about both of you tell me something about your corporate values?

PZ: We’re very good at balancing work and life. We work really hard. Everyone here puts in maximum effort—not because I tell them to, but because they love what they do. We do cool stuff, and the team is responding even during the nights and weekends. If the customer asks for something, we’re responding.

But we also value the personal time that people need. If someone leaves early to go to a kid’s recital, or they volunteer for the robotic team, or they’re sponsoring a charity event; they’re encouraged to do those sorts of things. And the personal seems to extend to the client relationships—where clients tell us about going to a kid’s swim meet or to a fundraiser. We’re a relationship company, which is key for our success and corporate values.

GH: Everybody is very much invested. People here are great teammates. We care about each other; we care about the platform. We OWN the car. We’re not renting it, and it’s not a punch-the-clock type organization, where you come in from 9 to 5 and you hide in a cube. There are a lot of great organizations where you can do that, but the people that we bring on want to ensure that they get a taste. We move fast here. We’re nimble, and we have big goals. We’ve got a clear vision on where we want to be in 6 months or a year from now. We want to make sure we have the right people; we have the right seat on the bus for them that can help us all execute on that vision.

 

JK: Peyman, care to talk about your vision for growth? Keep it high-level.

PZ: I want people to think about Logicbroker when they think about supply chain data integration or data management or EDI in a digital commerce world. I want the them to just say Logicbroker—like “let’s just Logicbroker it.” The same way people use the term “Google” instead of “online search.” Did you Google that idea? We want to become a verb.

The market is very fragmented, very large. Some our competitors are generating lots of revenue from old technology. So we’re going after business with newer and better technology and better people. We can move faster and do more with what we have, and the industry is starting to recognize.

 

JK: What’s the strangest thing you ever purchased online?

PZ: Racks to set up my wine cellar.

GH: I was in a bar in Chicago, and I saw this amazing picture. It was black and white, and it just struck me. It was this giant science building at what could have been a university. It was completely engulfed in flames. And at the front of the building, in the snow, there was a football game being played. It was actually at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts. The AP caught it in 1967, and I just had to have this picture. And this is early on in Internet commerce, but I tracked it down online, and I have it in my house.

 

JK: What’s the one technology that’s about to inspire change in retail?

GH: Personalization combined with artificial intelligence. In our business with drop-ship and extended aisle, the digital shelf where you’re not warehousing and you want to upload products quickly, how do you connect with your client—the brand customer, the retail customer—to make that happen? Personalization with artificial intelligence starts to break down barriers.

PZ: I’m going to say the same thing. Artificial Intelligence—around predictive behavior. We can be using it to help merchants predict what they need from suppliers. And even our support team is starting to incorporate AI in beta—so when a client question comes in, we will already know how to categorize and respond to the issue.

 

JK: Is there one company in online retail that you each admire? And why?

PZ: I admire Amazon.

I think these guys are solid, and all the competitors hate them. They have an impact in everything they go after. For them, it’s efficiency. When they pursue something, it’s all about automation. They think through what’s happening end to end, and they don’t cut corners.

GH: Zebit. They’re disrupting the underserved credit space, and I know the owners. They’re an incredible company with a tremendous idea.

 

JK: And one finale question: with conference season coming up, where are you planning to have a presence?

PZ: Shoptalk, Imagine, IRCE, Imagine and Shop.org

 

I so appreciate your time here, guys. Thanks for indulging me.

For more information on Logicbroker, visit their site www.logicbroker.com.

Will be sharing another profile in the coming weeks, so be sure to check back. Have a comment? Send one now ›

Summer Hires- Culture

SD Partner Profiles

Business can be cold and dispassionate. The rules of engagement tend to focus on bottom line and the removal of emotion. But that can’t be the only focus when you deliver professional services. Like it or not, quality professional services need to be delivered with emotional awareness also. And when you work in dispersed ecosystem, like ecommerce, it helps to identify like-minded partners, who support—or even complement—your service model.

I used to play poker with my high school buddies, and one of them would start every game by saying, “I’m not here to make friends,” which meant I don’t need to be doing friend stuff when I’m trying to make money. In my early twenties, I thought this perspective was correct for doing business. But I learned that in a services business this philosophy leads to failure.

We’ve shaped SD to build lasting, valuable relationships with our clients that transcend the daily grind and focus on long-term. And in ecommerce, your partners often become extensions of your offering. Therefore, we need our partners to ascribe to the same focus.

On occasion, you develop a partnership that transcends financial transactions, go-to-market strategies, and the typical rules of business engagement. At SD, we have several of these, and it’s interesting to call out what characterizes them:

1. Quality of product or service
2. Flexibility of engagement structures
3. Trust between the organizations
4. Availability and quality of the client-service team
5. Access to leadership for escalation
6. Understanding that good services businesses serve their clients,
not their vendor partners

The common idea here is that a high-quality partner is someone who aligns with your approach to each client. The effective handoff of an account between partners incorporates an implied trust between those partners. We’re confident that each party can stay on point and put the client interest first. Neither side takes advantage and—in the end—all parties are better served.  To make this work, you must be willing to take the long view: it’s not about a single engagement for a single client. These partnerships are long-term, spanning multiple engagements for multiple shared clients.

This series focuses on companies and people we hold in high regard. We’ve likely had multiple successes with them, and they fulfill the six characteristics above. Additionally, like us, they ARE here to make friends.

ecommerce data

Ecomm’s Dog Days of March: Where to Focus During the Inevitable Slow-down

We’ve officially come down from the holiday spikes and whatever extra revenue came from Valentine’s Day. Predictably, we’re waiting for spring to kick in, determining how to move the remains of last season’s inventory, and seeking ways to be productive with our time. Where should we focus?

Here are the projects SD clients have us working on:

Payments – Are you looking for an edge—maybe something to boost conversion rate? PayPal has always been a consideration, but we’re now seeing lots of merchants successfully implement Apple Pay and Pay with Amazon to get those quick conversion enhancements. These services MUST be considered, particularly for keeping up with the needs of your mobile consumer.

Email Service Provider Upgrades – Now is the time. Don’t delay this decision any more than necessary. Email is generally the best marketing tool you have and will deliver the greatest ROI. Setup fees are the expense no one wants to incur, but email will more than pay for itself pretty quickly, and it’s the key to growth. Additionally, March is generally the ideal time for this type of shift.

Fraud Protection – The war on fraud continues and has become a costly endeavor for most ecommerce merchants. Fraud itself has a cost, and the investments in security, compliance, and risk management also have a cost. Third-party services and their technologies can now integrate with stores to help them comply and manage risk. Like everything else on the list, March is a great time to focus on Fraud.

Custom Landing Pages – We never shut up about these. And maybe for good reason! There is no better way to tailor a message for a specific campaign. Build lots of ‘em, and build ‘em often. If executed correctly, you’ll see the conversion boost. It also teaches you to be disciplined about your campaigns—to spend time determining your audience and what you want them to do.

Traffic Analytics Configuration – Spend time in Q1 ensuring your analytics are configured to deliver the data you need. Create dashboards, standard reports, and conversion funnels. Take time to mark the start and end of all campaigns, so you can track and make inferences about effects on traffic. Plot your actual revenue and compare to plan. Get things positioned correctly now, so you end the year with a full awareness of how you performed and what affected you.

User Testing – More and more, clients are starting to realize that it’s simply not practical to infer cause or attribution. A/B tests are the best way (often the only way) to know whether features are delivering the desired outcome. We’re doing more testing each month, and we realize the importance. Trying to get more of our clients on board. A well-conceived testing program helps make hard decisions and maximizes a merchant’s ROI.

Internationalization – Seems to be the holy grail for some. We’re not convinced, but many are looking to test the waters. My advice? Start with a low-rent solution. You simply need to determine whether demand for your product extends beyond the US. Spend a year sacrificing some margin for a new channel, new customers, and expanding markets. If you like the results, you can make larger investments next year. However, you MUST enter this domain with realistic expectations.

We’re hoping that some of these ideas resonate with you and your planning. It’s so difficult to be proactive during our busy periods, so the aim here is to focus on fundamental considerations. These are the first initiatives to consider when business slows for those few weeks. Just pick one or two and proceed!

Let us know what you’re working on, and be sure to contact us if you need some help.

Women in Tech

Introducing the Strategic Engagement Group

Something Digital no longer delivers Interactive Managed Services (IMS). Instead, we now provide ongoing Strategic Engagement Services (SES).

The name change became official in January of 2017. It represents the growth of our team and a significant change in both philosophy and process. After years of delivering post-launch solution support (as a more traditional managed service), we wanted to improve.

We realized that clients didn’t want to pay for a reactive block of hours to use as “things came up.” Instead, they wanted a proactive partner to deliver ongoing value. And we realized we only added value when we aligned the effort with a client’s business objectives. We were motivated to act, so in 2015 we started changing our service model to what exists to today.

The following list captures our approach:

– Business Review Meetings (semi-annually or quarterly)
– Maintenance of the Client Roadmap (changes, new features, technical debt, etc.)
– Regular Allocation of Development and Creative Resources
– Code Management (source control, code review, frequency of releases, etc.)
– Quality Assurance (regression testing)
– A/B Testing
– Digital Marketing and Strategy (analytics, email, SEO, PPC, etc.)
– Business Planning (Impact Analysis, Total Cost of Ownership, ROI, etc.)
– Downtime and Performance Monitoring
– Security Patch Management
– Emergency Support
– Regular Traffic and KPI Analysis
– Annual UX and Performance Audits

Each client is assigned a Strategic Engagement Manager (SEM), who serves as the point of contact, and a Primary Engineer, who develops expertise in the client’s codebase and the needs outlined in their roadmap. Additionally, clients are served by the larger SD resource pool, comprised of programmers, designers, digital marketing analysts, and other members of the SD team as needed.

Over a 12-month Strategic Engagement contract, we deliver all of these services as either value-based or hours-based agreements. Timing can vary, but we try to align with the seasonality of the client business.

We preach collaboration. The goal is to have regular interaction and align on how SD support complements client activity. We can deliver the service post-launch (for a solution SD produces) or post-rescue (for a solution SD takes over from another vendor). We’ve had success in both paradigms. In all cases, SD aims for long-term engagement, which leads to strong collaboration and trust.

We’ve become pretty good at delivering this service and have received recognition from our clients, trade partners, and peers. We’re striving for continuous improvement, but the results—as illustrated in the growth of our clients—are outstanding. So if you want some of the SD mojo, get in touch. We want to be your partner in success!

Planning Graphic

Hey Ecommerce Merchants, What’s Your Plan for Next Year?

Congratulations on a terrific Cyber Week! It was another banner year for most ecommerce merchants. So much goes into ensuring, managing, and taking advantage of holiday traffic spikes that the natural inclination is to look at the numbers, take a victory lap, and go on vacation. However, we urge you to consider this: our most successful clients have already been planning for next year and are in the throes of finalizing their 2017 initiatives.

If you’re behind, or don’t even know where to start, here are some ideas:

Think about your traditional funnel KPIs (traffic, average order value, and conversion rate).

Planning discussions should start with the store’s key performance indicators (KPIs). These variables are a part of every conversation, and—coming off the holidays—you can probably recite them on demand.  Assuming you want to do better next year, set aside time and money for the RIGHT initiatives that increase these metrics.

Review your conversion rates at different points in the funnel.

Sometimes you have to look beneath the surface and beyond site wide conversion rate. Set up analytics to review rates in specific locations, and the data will offer insight. First, differentiate between desktop and mobile and ask yourself how the rates compare. Then, look at different points along the customer journey.  Look at email, organic search, paid search, and retargeting to see how conversion rates compare by referral channel. Look further into specific campaigns, pages, or days to determine what might have happened to affect things. How is your search conversion, cart conversion, even checkout conversion? If you want to be smart about where to focus, conversion rate comparisons can make you feel like a genius.

Take an objective look at your email strategy.

Even the savviest email marketers regularly scrutinize their campaigns.

– Are you using the right email service provider (ESP)?
– Have you tightened the messaging and triggers for your transactional emails?

Assess the headlines, frequency, styles, and content of your campaigns over the last year. Identify which efforts generated the most revenue, and fit more like them into your marketing calendar.

Take an objective look at your acquisition campaigns.

No doubt, you’ve engaged in several initiatives to increase traffic—search engine optimization (SEO), AdWords, social campaigns, affiliate marketing, and even traditional advertising.

– Are you clear on attribution and how to track?
– Which campaigns were most effective and why?
– Do you know your ROI for individual campaigns?

No two merchants are the same, but all require a mix of efforts to be successful. Like any investment, your campaigns should have some diversity. Consider that preferences and habits of your customers constantly evolve, so if one type of ad works well one year, it doesn’t mean the success continues forever. Adjust your acquisition marketing mix like you would your stock portfolio.

Don’t neglect your pricing. 

Pricing can be tricky and should be evaluated with some regularity.

– Are your customers willing to pay your price?
– Where are your prices relative to your competitors?
– What REALLY differentiates your products and justifies your price point in the marketplace?

Ask yourself these questions, then consider whether you might increase revenue (and maintain profitability) if you adjust prices or offer more promotions. Remember, online shoppers are strategic and have lots of choices. We now see a whole new set of pricing rules that merchants must accept.

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Your ecommerce store is a fluid—often delicate–piece of technology. There will always be bugs, performance issues, content errors, and customer service problems. Resist the urge to make all things equal. There isn’t enough time or money to expect perfection. Instead, consider the impact of your moves. If your KPIs are healthy, maybe focus on some technical debt. If certain customers are experiencing an issue, understand the magnitude and impact of the issue before you throw resources at a fix. If an issue occurs sporadically and has little to no effect on revenue, you may want to focus on a new revenue-generating campaign instead. These choices can be tough, but you will be successful if you stay disciplined about making them.

Don’t get sucked into spending where you have no business doing so.

‘Tis the season–every product or service that targets merchants knows this is your budget season. They amp up their sales efforts to convince you how much you NEED their product. But there are no magic beans that grow your revenue. Be smart about your approach. Most merchants have no business being early adopters. Make sure all products and services come with a track record for success in your industry.  Also, consider your own limitations. Do you have the money or the people? Many products are terrific, but they come with a high cost for integration, or they require staff to operate.

It all comes down to a plan. Culturally, we understand that no two organizations are alike, but the common thread among our clients is that some advanced effort yields better results. For all suggestions—whether you take mine or anyone else’s—we recommend you do some cost-benefit analysis before diving into any initiative. But don’t take too long to complete—your 2017 planning is happening now.

Let us know how you do your planning by sharing thoughts with info@somethingdigital.com. We’re always looking for anecdotes, data, and new ideas.

Compete Amazon

Creating an Effective Ecommerce Landing Page for Maximum Conversion

One of the best ways to optimize your ecommerce store’s conversion funnel is to create content-specific landing pages that deliver clear messages and persuade your target audience to purchase. Sharpen the design elements, the content, and the call to action (CTA) to take advantage of this focused opportunity to engage a willing customer and compel them to purchase. Read on to learn strategies for creating effective landing pages that maximize conversions.

Satisfy Your Customers’ Query

Many times, a customer has limited tolerance for distraction when they’ve initiated a keyword search, clicked through an ad that promises something specific, and get to an ecommerce landing page. To ensure that your audience stays on your page, follow these guidelines:

1. Similar language. To deliver an easy to follow landing page, couple the page’s language with the ad’s content. Companies achieve higher conversion rates when the page delivers what the ad suggests. Also, try sending traffic to product-specific pages on your e-commerce site instead of general category pages. 

2. Similar landing page messaging and design. The page’s content must reflect the clear goal you have for your audience, which should end with your CTA.

3. Similar interaction. Visitors often click and scroll before buying. Put the “know-like-trust” factor to the test by encouraging interaction. If your ad is interactive, chances are your landing page will guide your audience to read the rest of the content on your landing page. 

This experience should not be hit or miss. Regularly test your audience to identify which landing page type engages them. As your brand evolves, you’ll know which campaigns and associated landing pages convert the best.

Create Compelling and Innovative Content

Before creating a landing page, decide on a clear goal. What is the marketing purpose of the landing page and how will it be used? Will it appear as a Facebook landing page within a paid advertising campaign? Will you be promoting a specific product? If you aren’t sure, start a test by sending traffic to specific product pages and track their browsing to gain insight into traffic, your customers’ buying behaviors, and their preferences.

Start the landing page with an attractive headline that informs users what the page will deliver. Make sure page content addresses the benefits of your product, but also be sure to address ecommerce concerns such as safe and secure shopping, trusting your business, or getting the best possible price

There are several ways to structure landing pages, and the type will frame the content. Here are some examples:

 – Long landing pages. Although they require additional copy, they offer the opportunity to tell a story that appeals to a buyer.

 – Product detail pages. They contain specific information about targeted products that you believe this particular audience wants to purchase.

 – Facebook landing pages. Facebook’s paid ads, organic posts, or boosted posts can send lots of traffic to your landing page, which can either be your Facebook page, or a page on your site.

Producing exceptional content attracts and converts prospects into loyal, repeat customers. The key is to focus your page on a targeted audience and deliver content strategically. Always measure the return on investment (ROI), so you know which campaigns and pages are worth repeating or emulating.

Create a Sense of Urgency with Strong Calls to Action

Landing pages also create a sense of urgency, which should be accentuated by visuals and design elements. The kind of CTA you use depends on the landing page’s purpose and the type of product you promote.

Here are some ways to create urgency:

– Position the CTA in prominent places (e.g., terminal areas) on the upper portions of your page.
– Encourage conversion by delivering the CTA in the form of a button with actionable copy, such as “Buy Now,” “Learn More,” and “Add to Cart”
– Offset the button in eye-catching colors, like red or blue, which doesn’t distract users from other design elements.
– Avoid competing CTAs on the same page. As a rule, either make one that is clear to your online customer, or, if more than one exists, be sure to visually distinguish them.

Minimize Distractions

Your customers want to easily find the content you are delivering. If they encounter a crowded landing page, they can be distracted from a decision, and you can lose a purchase.

To avoid this issue, remember the following:

– Create a balance between text and visual elements. Offset chunks of information with bullet points, compelling headlines, and numbered lists.
– Use visuals such as tables, graphs, and videos that simplify the customer experience.
– Consolidate information and organize content so customers can scan quickly.  Use headings for organization, minimize space between your tool bar and the rest of your site, disable pop-ups, and resist the need to collect information. Remember, your landing page is about quick conversions—not information gathering.
– Deliver an error-free experience. Check your site regularly for erroneous content, links, cluttered and crowded webpages and broken links.

If you follow our guidance, you can create more compelling landing pages and gain a conversion lift each time you deploy them. Remember, a successfully-designed landing page delivers a clear message and persuades your target audience to purchase. Use these pages often and in different contexts. Once you find a few types that work effectively, repeat them. You’ll be happy you did.

If you have any questions please reach out to us. We’d love to hear from you.

 

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A Friend’s Insight into Engagement

My old friend Danny Flamberg (@Flamster) published a terrific piece about engagement last week, which can be viewed here.

Insightful as always, Danny’s thesis is simple.  He suggests that “tactics” and “channels” can only enter the discussion AFTER we’ve made an effort to understand how our audience feels in response to what we might give them.

He advises us to focus on five factors:

Creature Cycles – predictable audience behavior
Standing – positioning in the minds of our audience
Posture – approach to delivery
Timing – when we deliver
User Experience Design – the way our delivery is experienced

For Danny, the endgame is genuine human connection.

This message resonates with me.  Conventions tell us where to place a navigation bar or how to best create hover states for buttons.  However, these practices don’t automatically deliver success.  Quality engagement requires rigor—an effort to understand an audience and tailor the experience to them.

We continue to integrate the audience definition into our own engagements with well-defined creative briefs, the development of personas, etc.  The process only works, however, when all stakeholders are aligned on who the audience is and what we expect them to do.

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Big Week for Ecommerce Data

Ecommerce Analysis Grphic

As we prep and brace ourselves for the holidays, recent indicators suggest another growth year for online shopping.  Here are some highlights from the early returns:

According to IBM (derived from the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark and published here, last week’s online shopping data indicates the following:

Thanksgiving Online Sales Up 14.3 Percent, Mobile Sales Up 25.4 percent

Black Friday Online Sales Up 9.5 Percent, Mobile Sales Up 28.2 percent

New York City Claims Top Spot among U.S. Cities for Online Shopping (a plug for my city!)

While the news suggests growth, it should be tempered by the National Retail Federation survey results.  According to the NRF, “the average person who shopped over the weekend spent $159.55 online, approximately 41.9 percent of their total average budget, down 10.2 percent from $177.67 last year.”  The NRF’s analysis attributes the decrease in consumer spending to the prevalence of early online promotions.  To me, the news suggest a more longitudinal trend.  As merchants spread out there promotions, purchasers are more inclined to spread out their shopping.

When you add the EARLY results from Cyber Monday, however, the activity continues to trend upward.  According to the Washington Post, “(Adobe’s) analysis of Cyber Monday shopping that found that overall sales hit $2.65 billion, a 16 percent increase over last year.”  And interestingly, “as has been the case in previous years, shopping peaked between 9 and 10 PM.” (Nice to know when that peak server is most critical!)

As the national picture becomes more apparent, we have benchmarks on which to judge ourselves.  We can slice and dice the data to compare our own performances.  Clearly, the trend for online purchases continues to climb.  Subjectively, it seems that the promotions, the product assortments, and the buying experiences improve, as merchants become more attuned to the needs of their customers.  Additionally, more people seem to enter the online buying community.

I look forward to seeing how the rest of the season goes, how our clients perform, and what other merchants are doing across the industry.  There is lots to learn.

Happy shopping!