The Retailer with the Highest Showrooming Risk Is…


The momentum of mobile has made showrooming a growing threat to brick-and-mortar retailers. A new study, however, reveals that some retailers are at higher risk than others.

The Aisle to Amazon study from location analytics company Placed unsurprisingly identified Best Buy and Target as high-risk retailers when it comes to consumers viewing products offline and then making purchases online. That being said, Best Buy and Target are actually not the most at risk when it comes to showrooming. In fact, Bed Bath & Beyond, PetSmart and Toys ‘R’ Us all face greater risk, with Amazon shoppers being 27 percent more likely to visit Bed Bath & Beyond, 25 percent more likely to visit PetSmart and 21 percent more likely to visit Toys ‘R’ Us before making a purchase online. 

“Amazon was the clear winner in e-commerce 1.0, and unless brick-and-mortar retailers shift from reactive to proactive, Amazon will win e-commerce 2.0 on the backs of offline retailers,” said David Shim, Founder and CEO at Placed. "All the attention to date has been on Target and Best Buy as the early victims of showrooming, but significantly more retailers are at risk. Retailers need to know that it’s not a question of if or when showrooming will impact their business, as an aisle to Amazon is already in their store.”

In an attempt to combat showrooming, both Best Buy and Target recently announced Amazon price-matching policies, but this isn’t the only way that brick-and-mortar retailers can combat Amazon shoppers. Other strategies include:

1. Selling exclusive products – retailers can take Amazon out of the equation by selling customizable products or products that are exclusive to their brand or a brick-and-mortar location. 

2. Integrating online features offline – If consumers are already shopping in-stores with their mobile phones, why not make the process easier? One way merchants can do this is by posting QR codes next to items that will take consumers to product reviews when scanned. Moreover, merchants can launch location-based promotions on platforms like Foursquare, such as a coupon for 25 percent off an in-store purchase when someone checks-in. This allows consumers to participate with mobile, while also giving them an incentive to make an immediate purchase.

3. Maintaining great service – One of the biggest advantages brick-and-mortar merchants have over online retailers is their ability to provide excellent service to any customer that walks through the door. This is why merchants should make sure that every member on their staff has a good attitude and is educated about the products and services that are being sold.

5 Video Strategies for Merchants


A strong video strategy can provide merchants with many benefits – from an increase in engagement and conversion rates to better placement within the SERPs.

The biggest challenge with video, however, is creating content that will engage consumers and entice them to hit the play button. While many merchants implement video on their sites, often times their video strategies are limited to product videos and demonstrations for specific items. Although these types of videos are definitely helpful, they aren’t very engaging and are rarely available for every product on an e-commerce website. 

In order to harness the true power of video, merchants need to create a more robust and innovative strategy that not only showcases their products, but is also interactive and makes consumers want to hit play. Luckily, Website Magazine has compiled a list of five tactics that can help merchants revamp their current video strategy to get better results, check them out below:

Go Live

Brands that want to stay a step ahead of the competition should consider implementing a live video strategy. One way this can be done is with the Your BrandLive platform, which is a video communication software that uses live video and chat to create a unique customer to brand experience. In fact, brands can use the service to broadcast live video from any location and participate in real-time interactions with customers. Moreover, merchants can sell products during video sessions by uploading items into the Brandlive dashboard. By doing this, products are displayed across the bottom of the live video with titles, descriptions, images, prices and a call-to-action button for making a purchase.

That being said, merchants can also go live on Google+ with Google Hangouts. This feature can be used to video conference with up to ten people at a time, as well as live-stream a broadcast publicly onto Google+, YouTube and websites. This could come in handy when revealing a highly-anticipated product for the first time.

Start Advertising

According to comScore, U.S. consumers watched 11.3 billion online videos in December 2012, which proves that video advertising is a big business. Furthermore, video ads tend to be successful because consumers typically either have to choose to hit play in order to view the advertisement or have already decided to watch a video (meaning they are alert) when the advertisement is shown. Merchants can launch video advertisements through Google, as well as on video ad networks like BrightRoll, Live Rail or Adap.TV. Additionally, LinkedIn recently announced video ads on its self-serve platform, which could be a good place for B2B merchants to display their advertisements.

Promote User-Generated Reviews

Most merchants know how influential consumer reviews can be, so why not feature them in a unique way? Yes, we are talking about video reviews. In fact, there are a variety of platforms available that allow merchants to include user-generated video content on their site, including Bravo, Authntk and EXPO TV. These videos could even prove to be more valuable than written reviews, because it is easier to tell someone’s sentiment when you can watch them speak, which makes this type of user-generated content more personable, relatable and believable.

Get Social

It is important to use a multi-channel approach when implementing a video strategy. By maintaining a YouTube channel and cross-promoting that content on other social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest, merchants have the ability to show their products to a wider audience. Moreover, merchants can use their social videos to create a variety of content outside of tutorials and demonstrations, such as entertaining spoofs or a behind the scenes look at a company.

Videos for Every Item

Just because you have updated your current video strategy to include some of the aforementioned tactics, doesn’t mean you should neglect adding or updating product videos/demonstrations on your site. After all, product videos are helpful to consumers who are on the verge of making a purchasing decision, which means having a video on every product page could potentially have a dramatic influence on conversion rates. That being said, creating videos is time consuming, which is why platforms like Treepodia can be very helpful to merchants. This is because Treepodia can be used to turn entire product catalogs into product videos. The platform does this with Image Reviving Technology, which brings still photos to life. Moreover, the videos are always kept up-to-date as the platform automatically generates new video versions to reflect changes in inventory and all videos are based on existing product images, descriptions, prices, user reviews and merchandising rules.

Start Promoting: Holiday Guide for Merchants


The term “holiday” is defined as a day of festivity or recreation when no work is done. For merchants, however, holidays tend to increase the workload and (hopefully) sales, because holidays typically give consumers more free time (and a reason) to shop for themselves, for others and for festive products, in general. 

In order to receive the benefits that holidays can bring in, merchants must first spend time creating a marketing plan for each special day. For example, popular holidays, such as Thanksgiving or Independence Day, require months of planning and robust marketing, including search advertisements, an email campaign and a social strategy. On the other hand, merchants may decide that email and social are suitable channels for promoting smaller holidays, like Grandparents’ Day or Groundhog Day.

To prepare the appropriate type of campaign for each holiday, merchants must first choose which special dates to acknowledge. Luckily, Website Magazine has compiled a list of holidays, complete with some strategic tips, to help merchants plan out their marketing initiatives. Check out the month-by-month breakdown of important dates below:

(Note: the dates are based on the 2013 calendar)

January

Merchants should use January not only to recuperate from last year’s busiest shopping season, but also as a time to start preparing for next year’s holiday shopping season. This is because December’s holiday campaigns are still top-of-mind, and should provide merchants with insights into what worked and what didn’t work. That being said, January also has some pretty important holidays that merchants can use to promote sales, such as New Year’s Day and Martin Luther King Day.

January 1 – New Year’s Day

January 20 – Inauguration Day (Once every four years after the presidential election)

January 21 – Martin Luther King Day (third Monday in January)

February

February hosts both popular holidays that require strong marketing, such as Valentine’s Day, as well as some quirky holidays, like Groundhog Day and Mardi Gras, that can be promoted with a strategic email and social campaign. Additionally, Leap Day occurs in February about every four years, which presents merchants with a unique opportunity to offer some exclusive sales. Lent also provides some clever marketing tactics, as those who observe Lent typically give up a personal vice during this time (from Feb. 13 through March 30). Perhaps you can encourage them through their journey by offering replacements. 

February 2 – Groundhog Day

February 10 – Chinese New Year (The first day of the Chinese calendar)

February 12 – Lincoln’s Birthday

February 12 – Mardi Gras (The last day before Lent)

February 14 – Valentine’s Day

February 18 – Presidents’ Day (third Monday in February)

February 29 (2016) – Leap Day (typically every four years)

March

The most popular holiday in March is typically St. Patrick’s Day, however, in 2013, Easter also falls in this month, which means that merchants should plan their campaigns accordingly. Furthermore, March 20 is the first day of spring, which merchants can use as a way to promote new spring/summer items.

March 17 – St. Patrick’s Day

March 20 – First Day of Spring (Spring Equinox)

March 25 – Passover Begins (starts on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nissan)

March 31 – Easter (first Sunday after or on the first full moon, after the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere)

April

April might start out as a joke, but merchants should take marketing campaigns during this month seriously. This is because Tax Day is April 15, which means that a good majority of consumers are going to have some extra spending money.

April 1 – April Fool's Day

April 2 – Passover Ends

April 15 – Tax Day

April 22 – Earth Day

May

Before the flowers begin to bloom in May, merchants should have their Mother’s Day campaigns running in full force – as this is one of the busiest shopping times of the season. 

May 5 – Cinco de Mayo

May 12 – Mother’s Day (second Sunday of May)

May 27 – Memorial Day (last Monday in May)

June

With summer on everyone's mind, June is a great time to launch some “hot” Father’s Day deals.

June 16 – Father’s Day (third Sunday of June)

June 21 – First Day of Summer (Summer Solstice)

July

Independence Day is summer’s biggest holiday, which means that merchants should start launching their marketing campaigns for Fourth of July shortly after Father’s Day in order to receive the best results.

July 4 – Independence Day

August

Although August may be lacking big-name holidays, merchants should use this month to promote end-of-summer and back-to-school sales. 

August 21 – Senior Citizens Day

September

Back-to-school sales typically run through the end of September, but there are a few notable holidays in this month that merchants can use within promotions, such as Labor Day and Patriot Day.

September 2 – Labor Day (first Monday in September)

September 8 – National Grandparents’ Day (first Sunday after Labor Day)

September 11 – Patriot Day

September 22 – First Day of Fall (Fall Equinox)

October

October is a time when merchants can launch spooky sales to capitalize on Halloween. They should also use this time to start preparing for the busiest shopping season of the year, which is right around the corner.

October 6 – Boss's Day

October 14 – Columbus Day (second Monday in October)

October 31 – Halloween

November

The busiest shopping season of the year officially kicks off on Thanksgiving every year, which means that merchants should start launching holiday-related search advertisements at the beginning of this month in order to see sales skyrocket on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.

November 11 – Veterans’ Day

November 28 – Thanksgiving Day (fourth Thursday in November)

November 28 – First Day of Hanukkah (25th day of Kislev, according to the Hebrew calendar)

November 29 – Black Friday (first Friday after Thanksgiving)

November 30 – Small Business Saturday (first Saturday after Thanksgiving)

December

Holiday sales should be in full force by December 1, but merchants should continue their holiday marketing initiatives through Christmas, before switching to year-end sale campaigns.

December 2 – Cyber Monday (first Monday after Thanksgiving)

December 5 – Last Day of Hanukkah (Eight days after the start of Hanukkah)

December 7 – Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

December 21 – First Day of Winter (Winter Solstice) 

December 24 – Christmas Eve

December 25 – Christmas

December 26 – Kwanzaa (until January 1st)

December 31 (New Year’s Eve)

Other Important Dates

While this list has more than 40 important dates on it, there are undoubtedly many other holidays that merchants can create marketing campaigns around – like National Hug Day (January 21), National Pancake Day (February 28) and Sweetest Day (the third Saturday in October). Moreover, merchants can create sales and promotions around dates that are special to their company, like an anniversary or founder’s birthday. By creating sales around specific dates, merchants can help increase traffic and conversions as it provides consumers with a sense of urgency. That being said, it is also important to not overdo or promote holidays too close together, because consumers won't pay attention to a "special holiday sale" if it occurs too frequently.

Humanizing E-Commerce with a Conversation Engine from Loopit

Social shopping was all the rage several years ago. The digital dream was that like-minded consumers (shoppers) would organize themselves, discover products and shop online together, engaging with each other in the context of the merchant’s brand and exposing its products to an infinitely larger audience in the process.

While it definitely had its appeal for both merchants and consumers, the available technologies were pretty weak at the time and it never really worked as imagined. As a result, the industry somewhat lost their collective interest over time. Or did they? Merchants still want users to have an positive experience and so do shoppers (nothing really new there). But virtual change is afoot - some vendors are actually aiming to relive the social shopping dream (at least in part) by putting a greater emphasis on enabling consumers to engage in conversations more seamlessly. 

RedStart Ventures (a venture foundry) last week launched LoopIt, a platform that enables users to poll specific members of their email address book or by posting their queries to Facebook in the hopes that their friends will join the conversation and lead them to better buying decisions. LoopIt essentially hopes to restore the human element to online shopping. Whether users are interested in publicizing their purchase considerations remains the big question. 

One of the first retailers to deploy LoopIt is popular high-end fashion rental site Rent the Runway, which now offers the LoopIt conversation button for items available on its site, allowing members to poll their friends or fellow Rent the Runway style enthusiasts.

"LoopIt is the perfect resource for Rent the Runway members who have already organically formed a community that seeks outfit and styling tips from one another," said Jenn Hyman, CEO & Co-Founder of Rent The Runway. "With LoopIt, they will have an extended group of virtual stylists, including their own friends, as well as other fashion-forward members who also love to experiment with designer fashion. As a company that puts customer experience first, it is monumentally important for us to offer our members tools that will help create the most seamless and enjoyable experience possible."

10 Platforms for Obtaining Customer Feedback


To keep an e-commerce store running at peak-performance, merchants need to pay attention not only to analytics, but also to customer feedback.

While analytics are a good starting point for figuring out which site elements need to be revamped or tested, customer feedback gets straight to the point by telling merchants exactly what a site visitor liked or disliked about their shopping experience. This type of insight can be used to quickly implement adjustments to a Web store in order to optimize the user experience.

There are many ways that merchants can obtain feedback from their customers, from social media to surveys and forums, which is why Website Magazine has compiled a list of platforms that merchants can leverage to gain insights into their customers’ shopping experiences.

Get Satisfaction

Merchants can use the Get Satisfaction platform to implement a more social shopping experience into their Web stores. This is because the platform can be used to obtain and respond to customer feedback regarding questions, problems, ideas and praise. Get Satisfaction can also be integrated directly into product pages with the E-Commerce Communities solution, which can help answer common customer questions and reduce shopping cart abandonment rates.

SuggestionBox

SuggestionBox enables merchants to put a virtual suggestion box on their website. Merchants simply need to add a few lines of code to their site in order to start capturing feedback in real-time. The platform offers the ability to organize feedback as well as group similar suggestions together so that one response can reach multiple customers. It is also important to note that merchants have the ability to choose which suggestions stay private or become public.

OpinionLab

This popular Voice of the Customer (VoC) platform is leveraged by more than half of the Fortune 50. It allows merchants to gain real-time feedback for a variety of channels, including websites, mobile sites, products and even brick-and-mortar stores. The platform’s opt-in, page-specific model helps capture feedback from consumers who are already engaged with a brand, which can help organizations pinpoint issues in real-time and take action quickly.

Kampyle

Merchants can use the Kampyle platform to learn which areas of their website customers are likely to run into trouble. This is because site visitors can submit feedback on a variety of issues – from broken links to reporting competitive prices seen on other websites. Additionally, the platform's feedback forms automatically prompt visitors to include their contact details and also provide a newsletter opt-in area, which enables visitors to easily subscribe to a merchant's email campaign.

UserVoice

Merchants can leverage the UserVoice Feedback solution to collect and manage their customers' input. The solution provides merchants with a forum where customer can both submit and vote on feedback and allows people to submit feedback without signing up for an account. Moreover, UserVoice’s search-as-you type functionality ensures that customers are able to find similar feedback to vote on instead of creating a duplicate entry on the same topic. The solution moderates content so that forums aren’t littered with spam or profanity, however, merchants also have the ability to turn on manual moderation in order to have complete control of content.

Zoho Discussions

Merchants can create their own customer support community with the Zoho Discussions platform, which offers rebranding tools so that users can customize their support community to stay consistent with a brand’s look and feel. Additionally, the platform enables merchants to set moderation guidelines, export data, use widgets to capture feedback from across the Web and organize discussions.

Usabilla

The Usabilla platform is unique because it not only provides merchants with consumer feedback, but also measures customer emotions. Merchants simply need to add a snippet of code to their site so that the feedback button is visible to visitors. The platform enables consumers to select and rate any item of a Web page by choosing one out of five emotions. Site visitors can also add comments to provide additional feedback if desired. Moreover, the platform provides merchants with a dashboard that includes a visual trendline in order to keep track of collected feedback over time.

Google Moderator

Google has a tool for everything, including obtaining feedback. The Google Moderator tool is free and allows users to create a forum about anything (e.g. site usability) and open it up for people to submit questions, votes, ideas or suggestions. For the best results, merchants should embed their Moderator page to their website.

iPerceptions

Merchants can leverage this platform to gain insights from customers through surveys and comment cards. Users can design their own surveys and control who receives the surveys. iPerceptions collects data such as location, IP address, operating system and browser type for each respondent, which makes it easy for merchants to analyze specific customer segments. Furthermore, the platform has the ability to collect feedback in more than 32 languages.

IdeaScale

IdeaScale enables merchants to foster a community by allowing customers to submit feedback, discuss and vote on ideas. The platform also offers a Facebook App so that the IdeaScale community can be integrated directly onto a merchant’s Facebook Page. Moreover, the platform comes with a profanity filter, a polling tool and a plethora of customizable features, including custom development, CSS and URL, as well as the ability to customize status tabs.

These are just a few of the 'Net's many available platforms for obtaining customer feedback. Let us know what platform or strategies your enterprise leverages in the comment section below.

Key Q4 ’12 Insights for Merchants

Data is continually emerging about the performance of online retailers in the final quarter of 2012. Monetate's latest release of its ECommerce Quarterly Report (EQ4 2012) for example, reveals several important trends and includes analysis of key performance indicators including conversion rates and average order value by both device and inbound referrers.

Some of the more noteworthy insights include:

: The Expanding Ecommerce Window :
During the last holiday season, ecommerce conversion rates plummeted after “Free Shipping Day” (Dec. 17) even though retailers continued free shipping promotions beyond the date. Monetate suggests that a consumer “doubt gap” on shipping has emerged, presenting an opportunity for retailers to prove to consumers they can deliver the goods in a shorter window, extending shopping opportunities.

: The Mobile Issue Remains :
On Christmas Day 2012, according to Monetate's data, almost one-third of all ecommerce traffic came from smartphones (16%) and tablets (15.6%). Just a year earlier, less than half of that amount of traffic (14.5%) came from smartphones (6.4%) and tablets (8%). Monetate suggets that online business which do not tailor their web experience for smartphones and tablets run the risk of alienating (or losing) customers.

: Smartphone Conversions Rise :
Conversion rates on smartphone devices remain low (1.2% compared with 4% for tablets), yet smartphone traffic hovered over 10%. These numbers point to consumers using smartphones primarily as “retailer prompted research” tools; this sets the stage for retailers to get more creative in driving the smartphone experience through to conversion.

“One of the most telling insights from the EQ4 2012 is the Christmas Day device data,” said Kurt Heinemann, CMO, Monetate. “On Dec. 25th, 15 percent of all ecommerce traffic came from tablets, whereas the average tablet traffic percentage in December was about 10 percent. This reveals the mobile is increasingly the device of choice. When consumers have leisure time and any device at their disposal, they reach for the tablet or smartphone. Ecommerce had better be paying attention to this trend.”

E-Commerce Retail Breaks Records Again

For the final three months of 2012, comScore is reporting that sales increased 14 percent to $56.8 billion, marking the ninth straight quarter of double-digit growth.

U.S. retail e-commerce sales grew 15 percent to $186 billion for the full year, the strongest annual growth rate since before the recession.

"With e-commerce growth rates consistently in the mid-teens throughout the year, it is clear that the online channel has won over the American consumer and will increasingly be relied upon to deliver on the dimensions of lower price, convenience and selection," said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni.

Also worthy of note from the Comscore report is that the number of buyers rose 6 percent and spending per buyer increased 8 percent for the fourth quarter.

The Impact of the Return Experience


A new study sheds some light on the reasons why consumers return their online or by-phone purchases and how their experiences with the return process influences their future purchasing habits with online merchants.

The study, which collected responses from 600 consumers and was conducted by voice solutions provider Voxware, reveals that 64 percent of respondents make returns because their purchased items are the incorrect size or color. While that stat isn’t that surprising, this one could be – 84 percent of respondents claim that the return process is extremely or very important to their future intentions of shopping with a retailer. That being said, 57 percent of respondents find the return process moderately easy, yet annoying, while 16 percent find it difficult.

Another surprising statistic, however, reveals that many times the cause of return is the fault of the merchant and not the consumer. In fact, 65 percent of respondents claim that more often, they return items due to retailer error. Furthermore, one-third of respondents claim that they have received an incorrect item for a second time after making a return.

It is important to note that the respondents also said that they tend to experience return issues with specific retailers – with 31 percent stating that they have more issues with large retailers compared to small. Moreover, these types of experiences result in 25 percent of the respondents shopping limitedly with the retailer both online and offline, while 15 percent stop shopping with the retailer altogether. Additionally, after returning an incorrect item to a retailer, almost 20 percent of respondents said that they expect the correct item to be shipped back to them within one to two days, while 43 percent expect the correct item in three to four days.

“This research proves that the clear majority of product returns are due to retailer error,” said Keith Philips, president and CEO, Voxware. “Mistakes are happening too frequently, both in the initial delivery and in the return process. This not only increases supply chain costs, but it also severely impacts customer satisfaction. As online shopping increases, the time to optimize supply chains for omni-channel delivery is now. Most errors occur in distribution centers at the moment orders are picked off of the shelves. Hands-free voice software can dramatically decrease these picking errors, so retailers can get it right the first time, cut returns and boost shopper loyalty.”

Brand Inspiration for Video-Focused Web Retailers in 2013

In 2013, Web Retailers will focus on many things to achieve success - mobile design, search engine optimization, and the customer experience in general to name but a few. It's important to prioritize those digital efforts accordingly based on the needs of your organization as they are fundamental to generating buzz and profits, but another channel should also be capturing retailers attention in 2013 as well as greater financial investment: it's Video, and the top brands are well aware of the channel's importance.

It's not uncommon however for ecommerce merchants to drag their virtual feet when it comes to video. Sometimes that's because of the associated cost (it's not easy to produce high-quality, share-worthy information or entertainment focused video content) so many just don't try. Fortunately, there are an increasing number of powerful software solutions available which make the process of creation, distribution and analysis far simpler (Side note: Website Magazine Associate Editor Michael Garrity is developing a video editor comparison for the March 2013 issue - Subsribe now and make sure you have access).

Video is a powerful marketing mechanism to propel merchants' online retail efforts to new heights - but the time to get started is now. Often, fortunately, all that's really needed initially is a little inspiration. Take a look at ten of the top ecommerce brands and how they're using video today. 

Some things that stood out in our analysis was the use of custom profiles, featured playlists, and the integration of social sharing onto the brand's YouTube pages (the only video destination examined).

Not using Video yet? Check out Website Magazine's YouTube Video Basics for Beginners

 

 

Nordstrom

 

Eddie Bauer

 

Coldwater Creek

 

Victoria's Secret

 

 

Gap

 

 

HSN

 

 

American Eagle

 

 

Express

 

 

Sears

 

 

Lands End

 

Use Data Feeds to Reach More Customers


A new partnership is helping merchants reach more shoppers both on the traditional Web and on mobile devices.

This is because SingleFeed and mShopper are offering a combined service that helps merchants deliver products to leading comparison shopping websites and to the mobile Web – all with a single data feed. The partnership not only helps merchants increase their products’ digital visibility, but also allows merchants to maintain a presence and acquire customers in the emerging channel of mobile.

“Many SMBs realize they are missing a huge opportunity but do nothing because they think they can’t afford a mobile solution,” said SingleFeed CEO, Mike Effle. “Now they can be mobile ready in just a couple of days using the same data feed they send to SingleFeed for optimization across our other marketing channels. From SingleFeed’s data, mShopper automatically generates a conversion-focused, mobile-friendly mStore. We’ve taken a huge ‘to-do’ for e-retailers in 2013—the need to optimize their site for phones and drive more mobile sales—and simplified it considerably.”

Through the partnership, SingleFeed optimizes a merchant’s data feed and distributes it daily to more than 35 comparison shopping websites, including Google Shopping and PriceGrabber. Additionally, the feed creates a mobile-optimized store that can be integrated with any e-commerce site, as well as powers a SMS program that merchants can leverage to promote products to mobile shoppers.

"SingleFeed is perfect for us since mShopper is the only m-commerce solution powered by data feeds, and SingleFeed is a certified Google Shopping partner,” said mShopper CEO David Gould. “Our mStores are only as good as the data that powers them, and SingleFeed is expert at getting the best product information to the most interested shoppers across the Web. Like SingleFeed, we strive to increase revenue for our clients. Now, not only can we improve their mobile conversion rate immediately when they launch an mStore, we can also help them expand their reach with the most sophisticated online shoppers. All in one easy step.”

Currently, merchants who are interested in leveraging this combined service will only need to pay for one platform if they sign up before the end of January 2013.

Best Online Holiday Ever for Merchants

Comscore has released its analysis of online holiday spending in the U.S., and as every digital media maven in the virtual world predicted, it was a very merry season indeed.

Online shoppers purchased a whopping $42.3 billion worth of goods in November and December – up 14 percent from what Comscore reported just last year.

There were several standout days according to Comscore including Thanksgiving Day (which was up 32 percent year-over-year), Black Friday (up 28 percent) and Free Shipping Day which fell on December 17th (up 76 percent year over year to over $1 billion).

 

E-Commerce’s 2012 Shake-Up


As merchants gather their bearings from 2012’s busiest shopping season, they must also get prepared for the new trends, technologies and channels that will undoubtedly impact their digital stores in 2013.

In 2012, for example, merchants not only had to revamp their Facebook profiles due to the Timeline layout, but many also built a social presence on emerging networks like Google+ and Pinterest. Moreover, mobile, localization and targeting consumers based on their behaviors were also among 2012's top e-commerce trends. Discover more about these topics and other important events that impacted e-commerce this year below:

January – Social Advertising Gains Momentum

At the very beginning of 2012, a comScore study revealed that social networking sites reach 82 percent of the world’s online population, which means that these sites have become more than just a way to communicate with customers. In fact, the study named Facebook as the largest publisher of U.S. display ad impressions. This is most likely because Facebook advertising is not only easy to use, but also affordable for all sizes of businesses.

February – Commerce Gets Personal

Data made a huge impact in 2012 and is expected to continue gaining momentum in 2013. This is because merchants can use customer data to better target and segment consumers. For example, Hats in the Belfry's e-commerce site leveraged behavioral commerce platform Steelhouse to target customers browsing on their site in real time, and saw average order values increase 95 percent. Additionally, email solutions provider Listrak also launched a Post Purchase Solution, which helps merchants create behavioral targeted email campaigns based on customer purchase history data.

March – Facebook Timeline Launches

Although most of the general public was not thrilled about Facebook’s Timeline design, the change proved fruitful for businesses. In fact, the new layout increased fan engagement by an average of 46 percent, according to Simply Measured. The new design required Business Pages to add a cover photo to their profile, as well as gave Page managers the options of customizing their app section, pinning posts and highlighting content.

April – Magento Merchants Go Mobile

The Imagine eCommerce Conference brought a host of new updates to Magento merchants that focused on improving the mobile shopping experience. One of the biggest updates was the integration of HTML5 into Magento Mobile, which includes gesture-based controls, multi-touch and image scaling, as well as device-specific audio and video capabilities. Other features, such as improved search functionality and the ability for consumers to drag and drop products into the shopping cart, also help merchants build a user-friendly mobile shopping experience.

May – Google+ Goes Local

Google not only made waves in 2012 by launching a massive redesign of Google+ in April, but by also integrating local features into the social network the following month. The local update allows users to discover information about nearby places, including scores and reviews from Zagat. Furthermore, the update makes is easier for businesses on Google+ to gain additional visibility on the Web.

June – Google Launches Product Listing Ads

In 2012, Google was busy not only revamping its social network but also dabbling in the commerce industry. In fact, the search engine giant launched a beta version of Google Shopping, which allows merchants to pay to list products within the search engine results pages. These Product Listing Ads (PLA) include a photo and description of an item and are only featured when someone conducts a specific product-related search.

July – Pinterest Proves its Profitability

Pinterest has remained controversial in regards to how much it actually influences consumers and their purchasing decisions, however, a study from Shareaholic shows that Pinterest directs more referral traffic than Twitter, Google, StumbleUpon and Bing. This proves that merchants can gain traffic by maintaining a presence and promoting their products on this visually driven social network. Moreover, Pinterest proved its commitment to merchants in late November, when it finally launched verified Business Pages.

August – Consumers Ask for Social Login

Social login was a hot topic in 2012 because many consumers suffer from Password Fatigue, meaning they have too many passwords to remember daily. Password Fatigue can result in consumers choosing to not become a member of a site because of the simple fact that they will need to remember an additional username and password. In fact, a Janrain and Harris Interactive study revealed that 38 percent of respondents would rather undertake household chores than have to create another online identity. Luckily, merchants can integrate social login functionality, which enables consumers to login with existing social profile credentials, into their sites from providers like Janrain, AddThis or Gigya.

September – Facebook Offers Opens to Everyone

Facebook took aim at the daily deals industry earlier this year with the test launch of Facebook Offers, which the world’s largest social network made available to all Facebook Pages in September. This feature enables merchants to create and promote a limited-time sale that fans can redeem online or at brick-and-mortar stores. It is important to note that merchants have the ability to customize their Offers with details like headlines, images and bar codes.

October – eBay's Redesign is Picture Perfect

One of the Web’s most popular marketplaces, eBay, launched a robust redesign along with a few other updates to help improve user-engagement metrics on the site. The most noticeable update was the eBay Feed, which provides users with a personalized page of items displayed in a Pinterest-style layout of image tiles. Additionally, the company also launched a new daily deal section, called Lifestyle Deal, which offers service-based deals to customers.

November – Merchants Get Found with Amazon Business Pages

The ’Net’s largest retailer unveiled Amazon Pages last month, which is a self-serve, brand-specific Web page at Amazon.com that functions as a custom landing page. This service could prove to be very profitable for merchants, because it promotes their products to millions of Amazon viewers and buyers.

December – Facebook Jumps into Local Search

Facebook updated its “Nearby” feature right before Christmas, which makes it easier for iOS and Android users to discover places while on the go. This feature should prove to be very valuable to merchants because it can help them gain visibility and increase foot traffic in local brick-and-mortar locations.

 

Amazon Remains King of E-Commerce


Consumers once again crowned Amazon the king of e-commerce, according to a recent holiday survey from analytics firm ForeSee.

In fact, ForeSee’s eighth annual Holiday E-Retail Satisfaction Index, which is based on more than 24,000 customer surveys collected from 100 top retailers during the 2012 holiday shopping season, reveals that Amazon remains the top online retailer for the eighth year in a row, with a customer satisfaction score of 88. Amazon’s high score can partially be attributed to the retailer’s variety of merchandise available on the site.

“At this point, Amazon has been dominant for so long and has such a history of focusing on the customer, its hard to imagine anyone else coming close,” said Larry Freed, ForeSee president and CEO. “Companies should emulate Amazon’s focus on the customer, which is clearly linked to superior revenues over the years.”

One of the study’s most surprising statistics shows that Apple’s online retail store received its lowest customer satisfaction rating in four years, with a score of 80. However, Apple’s rating is still better than the Index’s average customer satisfaction score of 78, which some top retailers, such as Dell, failed to reach. In fact, Dell.com’s rating fell four percent from last year and the company received a customer satisfaction score of 77. Furthermore, JCPenney.com’s rating declined 6 percent to a score of 78, which was the biggest year-over-year decline of all companies.

“This year, we’re seeing that even some of the largest companies in the country are at risk if they lose sight of customer satisfaction,” said Freed. “Satisfaction with the customer experience, when measured correctly, is the most important predictor of future success, and while Amazon clearly gets it, Apple stumbles from their usual focus on the customer experience. Dell and J.C. Penney seem to be struggling to find their way, which could make them extremely vulnerable to competitors.”

ForeSee’s report indicates that online retailers should focus on improving merchandise factors, such as appeal, variety and availability of products, in the next year in order to increase customer satisfaction scores. This is because 67 percent of satisfied customers are more likely to return to a company the next time they need to purchase a similar product. Moreover, satisfied consumers are more likely to recommend sites to their friends and stay loyal to brands.

Top Ecommerce Posts of 2012

Internet retailers will start 2013 with one of the best years in recorded digital history immediately behind them.

2012 brought many new and exciting developments to the e-commerce industry yet many Web merchants are still struggling with the basics.

Let's take a look back at the most popular E-commerce related posts and articles (as defined by our audience of Internet retail readers) made available here at WebsiteMagazine.com over the past year by our talented staff of editors (and contributors).

As you can see in the list below, Website Magazine readers were this year quite intrigued with Pinterest, focused on strategy and ways in which they can more efficiently and effectively operate the digital arm of their retail business. We've only included 10 of the most popular E-Commerce-related content items from this year below but hundreds of other posts and articles - both online and in the print magazine - are available that deserve (if not demand) your attention.

Subscribe now to receive a free subscription to Website Magazine and never miss any of the information you need to ensure your Internet retail succcess.

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Top E-Commerce Related Articles Of 2012 at Website Magazine

Get Started Selling With Amazon
Marketplaces are becoming the go-to Web destination for consumers. Familiar shopping interfaces, more balanced reviews, one-stop shopping and comparison functionality are just a couple of reasons why some consumers prefer marketplace shopping over shopping on a brand’s website. But marketplaces aren’t only valuable for consumers; they are also valuable for merchants because they provide businesses with more visibility and therefore a better opportunity to sell products.

Pinterest Optimization for Internet Retailers
Virtual pinboard Pinterest is the hottest thing on the Web right now. That means that it deserves the attention of merchants and marketers as well as the millions of users who have made it one of the fastest-growing websites in history

The Hidden Costs of E-Commerce Platforms
An online store can only be as successful as the e-commerce platform that is running it, which is why it is vital for merchants to map out their business’s needs, goals and budget before they make a commitment to a solution.

These 15 Search Boxes Deserve Another Look
No matter what the end goal of your Web property may be, it is imperative that you provide visitors with every opportunity to find your products, understand your services and consume your content.

Blogging for E-Commerce (Never Too Late) – Part One
With less than 50 days remaining in 2012's online shopping season, Internet retailers will need to dig deep into their virtual bag of tricks to make a positive impact on sales. While you could increase your advertising budget, accelerate your email sends, and ramp up your social media participation, another way is to start blogging.

Top PPC Landing Pages by Industry
When you’re paying good money for clicks from a search engine to drive traffic to your site, it only makes sense that you would want the landing page that users arrive at to be engaging and informative, right?

Juice Up Your Online Sales
In the early days of e-tailing, you could just sit back and wait for the money to roll in. But in today’s advanced e-commerce climate, notable for intense competition in practically every product category and bots that comb the web to find consumers the best deals, you need to be more proactive to generate sales.

Pinterest is Not Influencing Purchasing Decisions
It is no secret that Pinterest has taken the Internet by storm, reaching the elevated status of a top 30 site according to Hitwise. A new study, however, reveals that the social sharing site is not actually influencing consumer purchasing decisions - at leaset not directly.

Holiday Checklist for Web Success
Santa called, and he wanted to make sure you were ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year. He decided to leave an early present for Web professionals, business owners and retailers everywhere.

Price it Right and Prepare for Profit
There is no doubt that today’s consumers are spending more money on the Web than any other time in history, but the online retail landscape continues to be a challenging one for merchants. More so than ever before, Internet shoppers have come to expect daily deals, deep discounts and big promotions that make it increasingly more difficult for retailers to build their profits.

Is Your Site Tablet-Optimized?


Merchants that don’t want to be behind the competition optimize their websites for mobile, however, merchants that want to be ahead of the competition also optimize for tablets.

In fact, a recent study from multi-touch point retail technology provider Skava reveals that tablet shoppers are four times more likely to make an online purchase compared to those who shop on a smartphone. Moreover, the average order value (AOV) of a tablet purchase is $123 compared to $108 on a desktop.

That being said, the study also notes that only seven percent of the top 100 U.S. online retailers have optimized their websites for tablet devices. This means that merchants who put the time and resources into optimizing their sites for tablet devices, such as gifting retailer Harry & David, will surely be a step ahead of the competition.

“The number of customers accessing our website from tablets has grown exponentially in 2012 and a tablet shopper has a far higher conversion rate than a smartphone shopper - so we wanted to create a much more engaging and pleasing shopping experience for them,” said Sue Eagan, Director of Mobile and Tablet eCommerce, Harry & David. “Our tablet traffic has more than doubled over the last year and it continues to trends upwards. We want to create a visually rich, tablet optimized, seamless and engaging experience from start to checkout for our affluent tablet shoppers and Skava has been a terrific partner in helping us achieve these goals.”

Harry & David and Skava worked together to keep a consistent experience across platforms while also improving the overall website usability for tablet shoppers. The companies focused on building a tablet-optimized site that features better navigation and an easier checkout, as well as better leverages the high resolution capabilities for images on tablets.

“The vast majority of retailers are relying on their desktop website to serve as their tablet website and this can often become a frustrating experience for the tablet user who rely on fingers to navigate the site as opposed to a mouse,” said Dan Kowta, Creative Director at Skava. “Some frequent problems encountered by users are that certain links do not work, flash causes serious issues and checking-out can be a more difficult and time consuming experience. Tablet commerce is still in its infancy, but Harry & David is leading the way in creating an easy to use and more engaging tablet experience for their customers.”

Harry & David's Mobile Site:

                          

Harry & David's Tablet Site:

Harry & David's Desktop Site:

Use Progress Indicators for a Standout, Multi-Page Checkout

As you read this, consumers are filling their virtual shopping carts and the industry, as a whole, is on pace to shatter all previous e-commerce records this holiday season. Even so, there are merchants that won’t benefit at all from the increased seasonal buying activity. The reason is their checkout process, of course. It’s been proven time and again to either influence (negatively or positively) the success of retailers depending on how well it is thought out, monitored and measured.

Website Magazine has written extensively in previous issues on the essential elements of the checkout process – those elements that every e-merchant must address in order to stand out in the hyper-competitive retail landscape. But the checkout process, at each and every online store is unique.

For retailers using multi-page checkout or single-page checkout, there is simply no right or wrong, just what results in a conversion for your online retail enterprise. That being said, if you’re using a multi-page checkout, progress indicators can save the day. It seems like such a basic approach – let users know just how many steps remain until their order is completed - but is widely underused. 

Progress Indicators for Multi-Page Checkout
Progress indicators often have a bad reputation. They can be seen as an incentive for users not to complete what they set out to do (e.g. “there are too many steps in the checkout process – forget it!”). In reality, including progress indicators within a multi-step checkout process is important to implement because the mind (that of the consumer) automatically breaks down complex purchase process into smaller, simpler parts for understanding and comprehension. When merchants opt to visually lay out the multi-step process, users are as likely to complete their order as they would be on a single-page checkout.

Another interesting consideration to make is a retailer's audience. In the case of a retailer selling higher-priced items, or items designed for an audience that does not buy online regularly, multi-page checkouts make more sense. The consumer may feel safer in a slower process, where it's possible to double-check their order before completing it. This may also prevent the checkout process from seeming overwhelming. For this audience specifically, this is often the case when they are forced to interact with longer, one-page checkouts. These pages typically require address and billing information immediately for order completion.

Progress Indicator Best Practices
There are several things to keep in mind when developing a progress bar. An Internet retailer should number the steps, provide action visuals, such as arrows to suggest a sense of action is possible, should always highlight the user's current page and should include a “review order” step in the process.

A merchant’s responsibility also extends to the form functionality itself, regardless of whether it is a single- or multi-page checkout. Online retailers should make every effort to “carry” information, such as billing address to shipping address fields to reduce repetition by users. They’ll also need to remove distractions so the user can focus exclusively on the transaction – although there is something said for introducing a last-minute offer or product suggestion.

Progress Indicator Showcase
There are myriad uses of progress indicators on websites – and it’s not necessarily exclusive to retailers. Progress indicators can be used for multi-step forms, product tours, and, of course (and for our purposes here), online ordering. Let’s showcase a few progress indicators in action during this holiday 2012 shopping season: 

Amazon.com: Amazon takes a rather minimalist approach to its checkout process. It includes a progress indicator, but deemphasizing it by placing it at the top of the page, nearly out of direct view of the shopper.
 


DrugStore.com: The point of including a progress indicator is so users can see in a near instant where they are in the checkout process. Drugstore.com does this well by using bright colors in its checkout progress indicator.

  

Macys.com: The use of color is an important consideration in relation to progress indicators, but not so important that retailers should sacrifice brand recognition. Macy’s does a good job by highlighting the active step by using its familiar red color and greying out the other steps.


  

LLBean.com: The best progress indicators leave no doubt about the reason for their presence and can quickly indicate to users through a variety of means (e.g. color, highlighting, etc.) where the user is in the checkout process. LLBean does well to present its checkout progress indicator predominantly and forcefully. 
 

 

Magento Rules Ecommerce Community

An October 2012 survey of the top one million sites (in Alexa) puts into perspective just how popular Magento, the ecommerce platform within Ebay's X.Commerce platform), has become. 

Magento captured 23% of the market according to research conducted by Tom Robert Shaw, a UK Magento developer at Meanbee. That equates to just over 8,000 sites of the top one million (Magento also lead in the top 100,000 sites). Magento has seen growth in every edition of the that particular survey since it began 2 years ago, experiencing a 20 percent growth rate since the last survey in February 2012. 

Ecommerce platform ZenCart also seemed to fare pretty well, capturing 12 percent of the market. Both Magento and ZenCart both released new versions since the previous survey. Also noteworthy were that VirtueMart and OSCommerce experienced a dip in market share, while PrestaShop and OpenCart saw significant increases. 

Selling (More) Digital Products (Better)

Digital product retailers, perk up your virtual ears! Omni-channel commerce software provider hybris has announced new features that enable publishers of books, magazines, games and software to sell digital goods, content and services online.

“Digital products are different from physical products. They’re alive,” said Ariel Ludi, CEO of hybris. “Using the internet to stay connected after the initial sale, offering related or next-in-series products in context, gives publishers of any digital goods or content the ability to have high-value perpetual digital relationships with their customers. hybris helps them create – and grow – those relationships.”

The new features at hybris enable sellers to offer a variety of flexible pricing models, construct complex bundles of products, and set up sophisticated rule-based discounts. By giving customers the ability to create their own “packages” with a guided-selling user-experience, higher conversion rates, average order values and lifetime value may result. Book and magazine publishers for example can sell individual chapters or articles, while software and game publishers can use the system to sell add-ons, upgrades and subscription renewals as well as downloadable content.

“As the shift from paper and CDs to downloaded or streaming content accelerates, companies are increasingly experimenting with innovative selling models,” said Moritz Zimmerman, chief technology officer at hybris. “hybris supports these initiatives with an agile selling platform that is engineered for extension, expansion, and innovation. With these new capabilities, publishers selling to consumers, professionals, academics or industry will get much faster time to innovation and a much better total cost of ownership.”

Store Setup is a Wiz with CoreCommerce


Selling products on the Web can be intimidating for traditional brick-and-mortar merchants, especially for the ones without previous digital experience.

Luckily, e-commerce shopping cart solutions provider CoreCommerce has launched “Setup Wizard,” which aims to make the process of setting up an online storefront easier than ever before – especially for new merchants.

The Setup Wizard features a conversational guide that helps merchants build their online store. For example, it offers a simpler way for adding products and also helps merchants retrieve tax rates automatically. Moreover, the feature enables merchants to view changes made to their store’s design in real time.

“The new Setup Wizard is a great addition to CoreCommerce and is just the beginning in our efforts to create an extremely easy interface to compliment our highly robust e-commerce platform,” said CoreCommerce team member Brandon Wanamaker. “The idea is that we are a shopping cart for life: Simple enough for a brand new merchant, but powerful enough you'll never have to go anywhere else as your business grows.”

It is important to note that the Setup Wizard’s final update will include a redesign of the shipping process and is expected to be launched in early 2013.

Stellar Shipping Solidifies Customers


Although not always top of mind, logistics are among the most important aspects of e-commerce – especially during the holiday season.

In fact, a recent Voxware study reveals that late or inaccurate deliveries drastically impact consumers’ future decisions to shop with a retailer, with 29 percent of the study’s respondents stating that they will abandon shopping with a retailer if they receive an incorrect delivery. Furthermore, the study found that 68 percent of respondents say their expectations for correct and on-time delivery is higher during the holiday season.

“For a retailer to be successful, it is absolutely essential to get the right product to the right customer in a timely manner – delays and inaccuracies will have a disastrous impact on customer satisfaction, brand image, and bottom lines,” said Keith Phillips, President and CEO, Voxware. “With this survey, we wanted to better understand consumer expectations for correct and on-time deliveries. The results prove that with just one error or delay, many consumers will abandon shopping with that retailer not only online, but in-store as well. Efficiency and accuracy are more critical than ever as consumer expectations rise in parallel with their increase in online shopping.”

It is also important to note that the 43 percent of the survey respondents expect retailers who use standard shipping to deliver packages within 3-4 days, while 40 percent expect their packages to arrive in 5-6 days. And retailers who repeatedly don’t meet these expectations will undoubtedly lose customers, because 55 percent of respondents claim that they will abandon shopping with a retailer altogether after receiving a late delivery two to three times.

However, late deliveries are better than incorrect deliveries, because the study shows that 59 percent of respondents won’t shop with a retailer if they receive two to three incorrect deliveries. And with 30 percent of respondents stating that they intend to have more or significantly more holiday gifts delivered directly to them this year compared to last holiday season, it is more important than ever for merchants to ensure that their deliveries are efficient and correct.

“As the popularity of online shopping has exploded, retailers have not given enough attention to optimizing their supply chain for multi-channel distribution,” said Phillips. “Many still have an out-dated distribution center infrastructure in place and as a result, order fulfillment is often suboptimal. Most inefficiencies and errors occur in the distribution center at the moment of order selection, which has the largest impact on ensuring timely, accurate customer fulfillment. This is why voice technology can bring tremendous benefits to a retail organization. Because voice software lets retail warehouse workers remain hands-free, they can move more quickly, process more orders, and easily scale to address seasonal demands.”

The Hidden Costs of E-Commerce Platforms


An online store can only be as successful as the e-commerce platform that is running it, which is why it is vital for merchants to map out their business’s needs, goals and budget before they make a commitment to a solution.

But despite this preparation, a new Demandware study reveals that 43 percent of all e-commerce platforms end up having a higher total cost of ownership (TCO) than predicted. In fact, the “Understanding TCO When Evaluating E-Commerce Solutions” study, which was conducted by Forrester Consulting, found that online retailers spend an average of 7 percent of their total online revenue to support their e-commerce platforms, however, 74 percent of merchants don’t believe that their current solutions will scale to support their planned growth. 

 

Hidden Costs and Limitations

Merchants using homegrown or a licensed on-premise e-commerce platform may end up paying a higher TCO because they usually need to purchase additional licenses to grow their business. For example, 67 percent of retailers using a licensed on-premise solution report that they are contractually obligated to acquire additional licenses when reaching a certain threshold of online traffic, while 78 percent of online retailers report that their vendor contract restricts them from using the technology into new markets. This means that many e-commerce platforms are restricting online stores' growth initiatives, such as international and multichannel expansion.

Not only is the TCO for many e-commerce platforms higher than expected, but one of the study's most surprising metrics reveals that due to the complexities associated with upgrading an e-commerce platform, 39 percent of retailers only upgrade their platform to the latest version once every two to three years. This could be attributed to the long amount of time that it typically takes to complete an upgrade, but regardless, it means that these retailers risk falling behind their competitors by not staying up-to-date with basic functionality and usability features.

 

The Cloud is Gaining Trust

The complexities and lack of support of current e-commerce platforms has led 25 percent of retailers to plan on re-platformming within the next two years, and a further 29 percent will re-platform within four years. According to the report, these merchants will seek a platform that supports their business’s multichannel and global expansion goals, as well as one that caters to digitally connected consumers. Although 81 percent of online retailers currently use a homegrown or licensed on-premise e-commerce solution, some retailers are looking to the cloud for better performance despite the uncertainties that still surround cloud-based solutions.

“In the first generation of e-commerce, when CIOs had to build everything from scratch, retailers took on major new costs to develop and operate platforms, which over time became assumed – and sometimes forgotten – in the P&L (profits and loss),” said Jamus Driscoll, senior VP of marketing for Demandware. “We believe the study clearly shows that as retailers move forward into a new digital world, they also need to pause and challenge yesterday’s assumptions regarding the costs of ecommerce. It’s time to think differently.” 

Cloud-based platforms can be beneficial because they tend to offer upgrades that are easy to implement and also don’t restrain growth possibilities. While 44 percent of the survey respondents state that they still perceive cloud-based solutions as lacking maturity, 41 percent are also now including cloud solutions in their selection process.

Regardless of a merchant's preference for cloud or homegrown solutions, they should remember that selecting an e-commerce platform is a long-term decision. This means that they need to take hidden costs, features and functionality into consideration when researching solutions. And most importantly, merchants should choose a platform that has the ability to grow with their online business.

The Mobile Impact; Stats, States, & Data


Mobile traffic is valuable traffic.

In fact, a recent Monetate study reveals that nearly one out of every five consumers has made an online purchase with a mobile device. Furthermore, over the last year, tablet shopping traffic increased 161 percent while smartphone traffic increased 119 percent.

However, only merchants and marketers who have a strong mobile presence are reaping these benefits. Luckily, Monetate’s Ecommerce Quarterly study contains a plethora of mobile shopping insights, which Web workers can use to better improve their mobile-optimized websites and marketing strategies.

The Stats

Some of the most intriguing metrics from the study show that even though traditional desktop traffic still makes up 81.6 percent of the market share, these shoppers actually have the lowest average order value (AOV) at $91.76. Conversely, tablet shoppers only make up 8.37 percent of the website traffic market share, yet have a higher AOV of $96.84, while smartphone shoppers make up 10.03 percent of traffic and have the highest AOV of $97.82.

This data proves that even though desktops still drive the most traffic, mobile customers tend to spend more when they actually make a purchase. Yet, it is important to note that smartphone shoppers have the lowest conversion rate at 1.01 percent followed by tablets at 3.12 percent, while traditional desktop traffic has the highest conversion rate of 3.28 percent.

In order to get the best return on investment (ROI) from mobile, merchants shouldn’t only create a mobile-optimized site, but instead build smartphone and tablet specific sites. This is because Monetate’s statistics show that tablet shoppers are much more likely to convert than smartphone shoppers, despite the fact that smartphones drive more traffic. This is most likely the result of consumers who leverage their smartphones to comparison shop while inside brick-and-mortar stores. For this reason, merchants should create smartphone sites that prominently display product ratings and reviews, and tablet sites that feature easy-to-use navigational elements and high-quality product images.

The States

While it is clear that mobile is worth the investment, there are still many uncertainties when it comes to mobile marketing. That being said, marketers should be aware of the geographic locations that contain the highest number of mobile savvy shoppers. According to Monetate’s report, Maryland drives the most mobile traffic, followed by South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas. 

               

By leveraging this geographical data, marketers can build mobile campaigns that target shoppers in these states. For example, marketers can create location-specific campaigns that include incentives to buy, as well as display geotargeted customer testimonials to consumers in a specific area. Additionally, marketers can combine geotargeted messages with in-store inventory data, which can help drive sales both in-stores and online. For instance, marketers can promote in-store returns for online shoppers or launch a geotargeted banner that features an item that is out-of-stock online, but is available at a nearby store.

Your Data

While all of the aforementioned data can be used as a good starting point for optimizing mobile sites and marketing campaigns, merchants and marketers should rely on their own analytics for optimizing their mobile strategies. For example, even though Maryland is overall the top state for mobile traffic, your analytics may reveal that your business receives most of its mobile traffic from Wyoming or Hawaii, which would make it a better idea for your campaigns to center around those areas.

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that mobile is still an emerging channel, so testing a variety of elements and analyzing the results (for mobile sites and marketing campaigns), is the only way to ensure that you're receiving the best ROI for your company's mobile initiatives.

Wix’ Ecommerce Inspirations and Aspirations

Web-publishing platform Wix has announced a partnership with ecommerce solution Shopify which enables the Wix user base to integrate the popular ecommerce solution from Shopify into their websites.

“Together Wix and Shopify will propel entrepreneurs and small businesses to new levels,” said Wix Co-founder and CEO, Avishai Abrahami. “The web enables small business owners to play in the same field as huge corporations. By adding a Shopify ecommerce solution into our App Market and thereby into Wix websites we set out to bridge the gap even more. Through this partnership, we’re providing small businesses with advanced, affordable and professional tools that heighten their competitive edge.”

A Shopify ecommerce App is now available through the Wix App Market. Combining the two solutions is a good fit for those with limited coding experience, but an active interest in building a basic ecommerce web presence. Wix currently serves 27 million users worldwide while Shopify counts 35,000 online retailers as its own.

“This partnership is a great example of how technology is helping to democratize small business and retail,” said Harley Finkelstein, Chief Platform Officer, Shopify.com. “Combining Wix’ industry-leading HTML5 website builder with Shopify’s best-in-class ecommerce platform will give entrepreneurs and SMB’s the most seamless, easy-to-use and scalable website and ecommerce package imaginable. The partnership of Shopify and Wix is an absolute game changer for small businesses."

Holiday Shoppers In a Mobile State of Mind


The official start to the busiest shopping season of the year is just a week away, and e-commerce solutions provider Shopatron is forecasting that mobile will impact this season more than ever before.

In fact, Shopatron predicts that mobile online shopping will double this year compared to last year – accounting for 25 percent of 2012’s website holiday traffic. This is because mobile devices accounted for 19 percent of all traffic on Shopatron client sites so far is 2012, and this number is expected to increase as the shopping season hits its peak in November and December. These stats further prove that merchants who don’t yet have a mobile-optimized website are undoubtedly losing valuable traffic.

“Manufacturers shouldn’t underestimate the importance that mobile devices play in purchase decisions,” said Shaun Moores, Shopatron VP of Traffic and Conversion. “Consumers want accurate and up-to-date information on the products they’re looking for, even using mobile devices to check for a specific color or size they don’t see on store shelves. For brands who want to ensure that shoppers purchase their product and not a competitors’, understanding and serving these consumers is critical.”

Merchants should focus on creating a rich mobile shopping experience with a website that includes the same type of features available on the traditional Web, such as a full product inventory, product reviews and a simple transaction process. Furthermore, it is important to include a store locator or map on mobile sites, so that consumers can easily find a nearby brick-and-mortar location to shop at if desired.

“Brands that don’t provide a mobile shopping experience will lose sales this year,” said Moores. “And brands that offer rich mobile options will not only satisfy mobile shoppers, but will see the difference in their bottom line.”

Customers Go Wild for Customization


One of the best ways for a business to gain brand advocates is by providing their customers with personalized experiences, and one way that retailers can do this is by offering product customization technology.

For example, outerwear retailer Wild Things recently implemented Fluid’s product configuration platform onto WildThingsGear.com. This technology enables consumers to design and visualize personalized sweatshirts and jackets directly from the retailer’s website, and according to Wild Things CEO Edward Schmults, this gives customers complete control over their purchasing decision.

“The customer can determine the performance level of the product, the look and feel of the product and the price of the product to arrive at the configured product that best meets their need,” said Schmults. “This completely redefines the nature of a technical outdoor product because is let's the customer determine what is best for them.”

In fact, Fluid’s technology enables consumers to customize features such as fabric type, coloring, insulation, pocket placement, logo and ID. Previous retailers who have implemented this type of technology have garnered higher customer engagement metrics, as well as increased conversion rates and average order values. Additionally, the technology allows merchants to compete on product offerings instead of price, according to Fluid’s chief product officer Neil Patil. This is because the platform provides merchants with more unique items than their competitors.

It is also important to note that Fluid's product configurator is decoupled from the Wild Things site, which makes it simple to implement on partner retail sites, such as sports merchandise provider Moosejaw. Furthermore, Wild Thing's "Share Your Design" feature assists the company in spreading the word about their new offering, because it enables consumers to share their newly designed clothing creations via email, phone and social networks.

“The distinctive imagery, user-friendly 3D modeling and wide range of intuitive customizations provides our customers with a new way to connect with our brand, while enabling them to share their designs with friends and family via social networks like Pinterest and Facebook,” said Schmults. “This initiative, that uses Fluid’s easy-to-use software, will change how consumers buy outdoor apparel.”

Helium Lifts Shopping Cart Woes


A new shopping cart solution is taking the transaction process to new heights.

Helium, which was just launched by e-commerce analytics provider Freshplum, is a shopping cart that is built for small businesses. By using the Stripe Connect platform, websites can perform direct transactions without waiting for approval by a payments processor.

While an online store traditionally requires a website, shopping cart, gateway, merchant account, an SSL certificate, and an understanding of PCI compliance and Web development, Helium enables site owners to start collecting online payments with only a website and a Stripe account. In an effort to simplify the process further, Helium handles credit card transactions, file hosting, order management and can be leveraged to sell a variety of digital and physical goods – all with no programming experience or server-side code required.

“Creating a simple way to collect payments is a step toward our larger vision of making it easier to sell things online,” said Freshplum CEO Sam Odio. “We’ve been working with larger merchants over the last year to help them learn from their data and optimize their sales process. We’ve found that with our smaller clients, the problem often lies in the simple mechanics of their shopping cart.”

Website owners without a dedicated programming staff will be happy to know that Helium can be integrated into a website by pasting a line of code, selecting the checkout options and adding a “Buy Now” button to transaction pages. Then, customers have the ability to purchase products without being redirected to another page. For these services, Helium charges a flat rate of 2 percent per transaction in addition to Stripe’s fees.

          

Google Predicts a “Nonline” Holiday Shopping Season


As October is ending and November is quickly approaching, it is safe to say that retailers have one thing on their minds – the holidays.

However, merchants should be aware that the 2012 holiday season is going to be different than years past, at least according to Google. This is because the search engine giant is predicting that this year will be the first “Nonline” holiday season, which, according to Google’s blog, means that this year’s online and offline shopping experiences are going to be more seamless than ever before.

This is partly due to the rising popularity of mobile devices, which are increasingly being leveraged as shopping tools for consumers on the go. In fact, according to recent research from Google and Ipsos OTX, 4 in 5 mobile phone and tablet owners will use their devices to aid in holiday shopping. For example, 56 percent of tablet users will use their device to compare prices, while 44 percent of smartphone users will use their device to discover a nearby store based on location. This means that retailer’s with a mobile optimized website or an app are already a step ahead of their competition.

This multi-channel approach to shopping further proves that the lines between offline and online shopping experiences are blurring. This is especially true considering that the research also shows that 51 percent of shoppers will look up products online and then visit a store to make a purchase, while 32 percent will research online, visit a store to view the product and then return online to make the purchase. Conversely, 17 percent of consumers will first visit a store to view a product and then make the purchase online. This is why it is vital for retailers to maintain a consistent brand experience across all channels.

Another key take away from the study found that merchants should be prepared for early shoppers. This is because 54 percent of consumers are expected to start their shopping before Black Friday and 77 percent will start by the end of Black Friday weekend. The best way that merchants can capture the attention of early shoppers is by promoting their holiday deals before the shopping season officially kicks off on Black Friday.

All of this being said, the real take away from this study is that consumers are shopping anywhere and everywhere this holiday season, which is why merchant's should focus on providing their customers with a consistent experience across devices and platforms. By doing this, merchants have the ability to collect revenue and connect with their customers through more channels than ever before.

Downtime the Focus of Holiday Prep


Have you started preparing your website for the holidays? If not, you may be a step behind of your competition.

This is because a new study from cloud hosting company Rackspace reveals that 81 percent of e-commerce decision makers (CIOs, CTOs and IT chiefs) are taking steps to improve the online shopping experience for the 2012 holiday season, such as increasing computing capacity, redesigning websites and addressing security concerns.

In fact, the survey found that one of the biggest challenges that retailers are taking precautions against is website downtime, with 77 percent taking steps to reduce or eliminate this problem during the holiday season. Perhaps the reason this issue is top of mind is because downtown posed a problem for 18 percent of survey respondents last year, with losses ranging from hundreds of thousands of dollars to tens of millions. Furthermore, 45 percent of the respondents estimate they would lose between $500,000 and $5 million if their company’s site went down for a single day during the holiday season, which could be the reason why 28 percent of respondents are working with their third-party hosting provider to make sure customers can keep shopping online during high-traffic periods. 

“Many online retailers have found out the hard way in 2011 that their internal IT systems and resources weren’t ready to handle large spikes in holiday sales,” said Adrianna Bustamante, who works in commerce channel development for Rackspace. “With 45 percent of retailers expecting holiday sales to grow this year, it is important that retailers take steps to improve the online shopping experience and reduce or eliminate downtime during the all-important holiday season.” 

Taking steps to improve site performance is very important, especially with the expectation that this year’s holiday sales will be better than last year. Other findings from the study reveal that 29 percent of retailers are preparing for the season by hiring more IT staff, while 37 percent will use load testing, 33 percent will build up website redundancy and 48 percent will increase computing capacity to improve their site’s shopping experience.

Social Plugins Keep Consumers Connected


For merchants, keeping consumers connected to their brand on the ’Net is a top priority, which is why e-commerce solutions provider Demandware has launched some new social plugins that aim to make this a much easier task.

The new social plugins help accelerate the integration of an e-commerce site with two of the Webs most popular social networks – Facebook and Google+. This is because the integrations allow merchants to leverage the capabilities of Facebook Open Graph, Facebook Check-In and the Google +1 button as part of their e-commerce strategy. Learn more about the new capabilities below:

• Facebook Open GraphRetailers can leverage this plugin to enable social action buttons on product pages, such as “Want”, “Own” or “Purchased”. Additionally, this plugin allows retailers to maintain control over brand expressions , more seamlessly integrate into Facebook search and target advertising to Facebook members.

• Facebook Check-InRetailers integrating Facebook Check-Ins with their sites can create personalized and engaging cross-channel experiences for consumers both in-stores and online. This plugin enables retailers to customize check-in experiences, as well as use check-ins in combination with loyalty or reward programs.

• The Google +1 Button  This plugin allows retailers to add the Google +1 button to their product detail pages. When a consumer clicks the +1 button, members of his or her circles will see the recommendation in their Google search results, which gives the retailer free word-of-mouth advertising while also improving the retailer's overall SEO.

"Facebook and Google+ are becoming ever more important components of a retailer's social commerce strategy, but many are still trying to figure out how to best leverage and tap into its millions of members," said Jamus Driscoll, senior vice president of marketing at Demandware. "These innovations from Demandware Labs provide our clients with easy access to the tools that will help them reach consumers on their social networks, creating a foundation for ongoing social commerce growth."

E-Commerce For Every Size of Business


All online stores aren’t the same – which is why e-commerce software provider X-Cart has expanded and revamped its entire product line.

The X-Cart platform, which is used by more than 25,000 merchants, has introduced new entry-level and enterprise e-commerce packages, as well as revamped its previous offerings to include new features.

Learn more about the new product line below:

X-Cart Gold – This starter package includes integration with Facebook and other social networks, as well as features like cross-sell suggestion pop-ups and a more refined order management system.

X-Cart Gold Plus – In addition to the features of the Gold package, this offering also includes social site login, the ability to show prices in multiple currencies, banners that can flag current or upcoming sales, expanded customer reviews and a choice of additional X-Cart Modules for extra functionality. 

X-Cart Platinum – The Platinum package is designed for medium to large businesses and includes all of the Gold Plus features, plus the ability to work with multiple vendors, separate back-end access for vendors, as well as multiple vendor-defined shipping and tax options. Additionally, this package comes with an installation service and one year of customer support.

X-Cart Enterprise with dedicated staff – This package is X-Cart’s first turnkey offering built for large businesses. It offers training and technical support, as well as personal service to every customer from an in-house X-Cart team that includes a developer, project manager, UI designer and QA specialist. This platform comes with all of the Platinum package features in addition to hosting, store customization, an enhanced Facebook integration, as-you-type search suggestions and more.

Existing X-Cart merchants can learn about upgrading their current packages here. It is also important to note that many of the features built into X-Cart’s new packages can be purchased individually as X-Cart Modules or X-Cart Extra extensions.

“X-Cart is the choice of professional merchants who need a powerful and flexible e-commerce platform,” said Maxim Vydrin, CEO of X-Cart. “We’ve spent much time listening to our customers and refining our offerings so they suit the needs of any sized company, and provide the customized features and support that will grow along with their business.” 

Hip to be Square with $200 Million

Payment technology and service provider Square has raised $200 million as part of a Series D round (bringing its total to an estimated $325 million) that included $25 million from Starbucks. 

While backed by some big names including Visa and Chase, it will need much of that $200 million to quell the inevitable grand marketing push made by its equally well-funded competitors - we're looking at you Ebay and Google. 

The funding, according to insiders, comes from Citi Ventures, Rizvi Traverse Management and the previously mentioned Starbucks. Square has seen incredibly rapid growth - 300 new employees - and accelerated use in the past year, powering over 8 billion in transactions. 

Square is most certainly a disruptive force in the payments market. The company offers a reasonable 2.75% swipe fee, no additional fees, next-day deposits and the best part, a free card reader. 

Cash in On Payments Data


Business success often hinges on your ability to better understand your customers.

Even as the digital era brings a growing number of faceless transactions, there are many ways that businesses can easily learn more about their customers’ interests, brand loyalties and lifestyles. While online marketers may utilize more traditional outlets like social media, Google and marketing analytics to learn about customers, many are overlooking one valuable resourcepayments data.

Rooted in the data, which is gleaned from every card transaction, is the basis of “payments intelligence”, which provides underutilized and valuable data about customers and the payment choices they make. Payments data is often left unstructured and never acted upon, let alone optimized. But a new way of thinking allows merchants to get around that trove of payments data. No longer should there be a commodity-driven approach to payments, rather, you should look at payments more intelligently – as fingerprints left behind by your customers allowing you to better know and understand them.  

For example, the card type a customer uses reveals a lot about that person. Just knowing whether he or she is using an American Express or a store card can reveal their level of affluence or degree of loyalty to a brand or store. Additionally, the type of card used can reveal insights into a consumer’s geographical location. Are a lot of your customers using prepaid Visa cards? Which states are driving what forms of payment? Perhaps MasterCard is your customers’ preferred choice of payment method. This information can be overlaid with other data points and interpreted by your business to make more informed marketing, service or general business decisions.  

The payments engine of the future will be filled with intelligence that will allow businesses to calculate a customer's lifetime value, predict the propensity for a customer to make the next purchase and even personalize offers to individual customers. These actionable insights serve online merchants in two ways:

1. They can be factored into CRM and marketing activities that are part of your total customer experience.

2. They can help you avoid billing cycle disruptions and/or avoid certain transactions all together.

As disruption occurs in the traditional provision of payments services, payments intelligence is becoming more realistic. While much of the data involved in payments intelligence has been available for years, a new generation of developers and systems is approaching transaction processing with the mindset of app-driven SaaS developers – where intelligence drives new action.

Gathering payments data and turning it into actionable payments intelligence is easier than it sounds. Every retailer or service provider that processes payments is sitting on increadibly valuable data, if they know where to look and which questions to ask. Questions like “Is this a repeat customer?” and “What card brand does this customer use?” can reveal more than you might think and can help you realize payments intelligence fluency. 

With only a couple of months left until the busy holiday shopping season, businesses have a lot to gain if they simply look at the data that they are already collecting. Understanding who your customers are through their payment data can ultimately have a large and positive impact on marketing and customer relationship management. The countdown is on – will you know who your customers are by Thanksgiving?


About the Author: Sayid Shabeer is the director of customer success at Litle & Co. His team focuses on value delivery to clients across their Litle experience – from sales to on-boarding, continuing through to merchant services.

Sync Inventory to Save Time and Money


The holidays are quickly approaching, which is why Vendio just launched new software to help merchants increase efficiency and profitability during the year's most popular shopping season.

According to the Vendio Spring 2012 Survey, merchants would like to save money, save time and have added control over their items on the two biggest marketplaces – eBay and Amazon. This is why Vendio’s Fall Seller Release 2012 aims to help merchants save money with discounted USPS postage, save time with Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) and catalog match and publish, and improve control with enhanced inventory sharing across marketplaces and online stores.

The Vendio Fall 2012 Seller Release includes:

Enhanced Inventory Sharing – Inventory quantity is automatically adjusted across selling channels when an item is purchased.

FBA Support – This enables merchants to manage inventory simultaneously from the Vendio interface wherever items are listed.

Enhanced Amazon Match and Publish – Merchants can match items from eBay, an online store, or from a spreadsheet to the Amazon catalog in bulk and publish them to the Amazon marketplace.

Discounted USPS Postage and Integrated Label Printing – Merchants can purchase discounted postage, print labels, insure packages, communicate tracking numbers to buyers and automatically sync information with eBay and Amazon.

Mobile Optimized Scrolling Gallery – This scrolling gallery is automatically optimized to render on mobile phones, hand-held devices and tablets.

"Today's most successful merchants ensure they promote their products to consumers wherever and whenever they shop online,” said Mike Effle, CEO of Vendio. “Vendio's fall release enhances seller profitability by simultaneously offering products across a seller's website, eBay, Amazon and Facebook. Further, our Rules Engine takes product offers down automatically when no more quantity is available to prevent unintentional overselling, thereby increasing buyer satisfaction and improving buyer feedback."

WeGoLook Brings Item Verification to Proxibid


A new partnership between online marketplace Proxibid and online verification company WeGoLook is offering Proxibid’s online community access to WeGoLook’s network of more than 7,000 inspectors.

Sellers in Proxibid's marketplace can leverage this partnership to improve buyer confidence by providing certified inspections conducted by WeGoLook representatives. Additionally, through Proxibid, buyers can use WeGoLook’s services to ensure that items without a certified inspection are verified, in order to put their minds at ease prior to making a purchase.

“For buyers, purchasing online can be a source of stress and frustration when they are unsure of where items are coming from,” says Robin Smith, co-founder of WeGoLook.com. “WeGoLook provides thousands of nationwide agents who make it easy for buyers to trust who they are buying from. We know this will help buyers who use Proxibid to make important purchases and we look forward to working with Proxibid to continue to strengthen the marketplace.”

WeGoLook's inspectors are stationed throughout the United States and will inspect any item – from a small antique coin to a six ton bulldozer. For smaller items, inspectors travel to view the items and will provide a complete personal report, including photos, video and anything else the client requests. For heavy equipment, WeGoLook sends an ACI Certified inspector to provide a complete report including photos, video and an overall physical inspection of the piece.

Mobile & Video Influencing Apparel Purchases


A new Google study reveals that mobile and video are the keys to success for apparel merchants.

The study found that many apparel consumers are shopping on mobile devices and using online videos as tools in their purchasing decisions. In fact, 4 in 10 shoppers visit a store online or in-person as a direct result of watching a video online, while more than 1 in 5 apparel consumers are using their tablets or mobile devices for shopping on a daily basis.

An increasingly number of consumers are also using mobile at home. According to the study, 69 percent of consumers shop on their phone or tablet while at home, proving that if your website isn't optimized for mobile yet, you are likely missing out on valuable traffic. Another 28 percent shop on their mobile device while waiting in line, 31 percent do so in a store and 27 percent do so while at work.

However, it is important for businesses to know how consumers are leveraging these devices for online shopping. The study found that 56 percent of people who shop on their mobile devices do so to compare prices and look for promotions, 42 percent do so to read reviews, 38 percent use their devices to search inventory, 16 percent scan bar codes while shopping in stores and 13 percent leverage their mobile device to contact a retailer.

The study also emphasizes the importance of videos, which according to Google’s Blog, “has now filled the role as the virtual fitting room, enabling shoppers to hear personal opinions and reviews, and see the product in motion.” 

According to the study, nearly 1 in 3 shoppers use YouTube to shop for apparel, which doesn’t make it a surprise that video ads top traditional media in encouraging purchases. For example, 34 percent of apparel shoppers are more likely to make a purchase after viewing an online video ad, compared to 16 percent who will do so after watching a TV ad.

It is also important to note that digital shoppers are valuable customers, because not only do these consumers typically spend more on purchases, but they also make purchases more frequently. The study reveals that 1 in 4 mobile researchers purchased apparel more than six times in the past six months, while 28 percent of video researchers spent more than $500 on apparel in the past six months. Comparatively, only 16 percent of non-mobile researchers purchased apparel more than six times within the last six months, while only 2 percent of non-video researchers spent more than $500 on apparel in the same time frame.

Merchants with millennials as a target audience should especially rev up their video strategies, because this age group is twice as likely to rely on videos to make purchasing decisions – particularly YouTube videos. In addition, Google expects to see more shopping reviews coming to YouTube – currently the site has nearly 600,000 shopping videos, with more than 35,000 of those videos being uploaded within the last month.

Discover the Social Web’s Hottest Products


New social commerce site Lish.com is enabling consumers to discover and purchase the hottest products on the social Web.

The product discovery site is currently in beta, and was recently launched by popular F-commerce platform Payvment. Lish features a real-time feed of items that are trending on Facebook and Twitter in order to help boost discovery for Payvment’s 175,000 sellers and their products. 

Consumers also have the ability provide feedback for each product, which influences the items that are featured on Lish.com amongst the 4 million products that are available on Payvment’s seller network. Additionally, the social commerce site offers one-click purchasing in order to make the transaction process quick for consumers on both mobile devices and the traditional Web. 

“Lish.com recreates the serendipitous discovery and impulse buying experience that makes shopping in the real world so much fun,” says Jim Stoneham, CEO of Payvment. “Our vision is to create a place where sellers and shoppers connect in a meaningful way beyond just a transaction.”

                 

Merchants Ready To Profit with Back to School Promotions


It's time to focus on beating the bell for back-to-school sales if you’re an e-commerce merchant.

According to a recent infographic from AdRoll, 44 percent of parents start their back-to-school shopping in August. And many of these parents are looking toward digital shopping, because the infographic also reveals that online school shopping is expected to increase by 10 percent this year – meaning that 79 percent of back-to-school shoppers are buying supplies online.

Although there are many reasons why parents prefer shopping online over traditional brick and mortar shopping, the most popular reasons why parents are turning to the Web is because it offers an easier way to save money and find discounts as well as research products and pricing.

In order to grab some of the back to school traffic, merchants must be prepared to entice customers to not only visit their online shopping destinations, but also provide them with incentives to make purchases. So let’s learn from the experts – take a look at these big-named retailers back to school selling strategies:


Apple

Most college students know all about Apple’s special pricing and promotions for back to school. In fact, when I was in college I received a free iPod Touch with the purchase of a Macbook, and I am still receiving Apple’s emails regarding back to school promotions (good use of email retargeting, Apple).

However, Apple’s commitment to education hasn’t faltered, because the company is currently offering even more promotions than they have in the past. For example, qualified students receive a $100 gift card that can be used on apps, books, music and movies with the purchase of a Mac, as well as a $50 gift card with the purchase of an iPad. Additionally, students also receive special education pricing on Apple computers, software and select third party products.


Target

Target is one of the most popular locations for traditional brick and mortar back-to-school shoppers, however the company’s website is also looking to attract digital shoppers as well. In fact, the retail giant’s landing page boldly features back to school sales for college students, while the top of the site promotes free shipping and the left side of the site features a 20 percent savings promotion for back-to-school shopping.


Office Depot

I can almost smell the brand new crayon box aroma upon arrival at Office Depot’s website. Not only does this office supply retailer boldly feature back to school at the top of its website, but the company also makes it easy for consumers to shop for age-specific supplies by splitting the materials into grade categories. Additionally, Office Depot features a dollar deal section for shoppers on a budget, and also promotes free shipping with purchases that are more than $50.


Old Navy

Paper and pens aren’t the only supplies needed for back to school, especially since everyone knows the most anticipated part of the first day of school is the first outfit. This is why Old Navy has prominently featured a one day sale promotion for back-to-school clothes on its landing page. However, don’t be disappointed if your shopping for school uniforms, because the retailer is also promoting a sale for uniform clothing – including solid color polos and khakis.


Macy’s

Not only is Macy’s landing page solely dedicated to back-to-school, but the retailer also offers digital consumers an innovative way to shop for clothes. The back-to-school style mixer enables users to mix and match clothing items and accessories in order to build the perfect back-to-school outfits. This technology not only makes it fun for consumers to shop online, but it can also help minimize consumer returns since outfits can be viewed together before purchases are made.

Volusion Prime Time Ready with v13

Internet retail platform Volusion has unveiled its thirteenth version. Ecommerce merchants looking to make a switch should pay close attention to what’s inside – namely Ebay integration and Improved ratings and review features. .

Ebay Integration

Merchants on Gold, Platinum and custom plans will now be able to submit fixed price listings on Ebay from the backend of their Volusion store. All products, shipping and payments information can be viewed, and as items are sold on Ebay they appear will as orders within Volusion.

Ratings & Reviews

One of the best new features of the platform is related to ratings and reviews. Merchant products “review stars” will now automatically display in Google search results (see below) as well as across their site; the star ratings and reviews will be featured on categories, search results and featured product pages.

Admin Enhancements

Version 13 from Volusion also brings several improvements to the store administration area. The navigation and styling of the admin area have been enhanced, but Volusion managed to keep the same workflows which will prove important to those transitioning to the upgraded system. Merchants will likely also be excited by the ability to manage their store from tablet devices – from managing inventory, processing orders and accepting payments.

Screenshot of how rating data will appear in Google SERPs with the new Volusion v13 feature: 

 

 

The Top Shopping Apps Are…


Mobile has changed the way we live.

From video games to photography, and even shopping – mobile devices have become an intricate part of every day life for many people.

In fact, a recent Nielsen study shows that 47 percent of American smartphone owners used shopping apps in June 2012. This is why it is important for Web workers to put a focus on mobile if they haven’t already – especially merchants. This is particularly true because consumers aren’t only using shopping apps as an alternate channel to make purchases, but are also using these applications as tools for researching products and locating items at local stores.

“Retailers are finding that consumers are willing to use smartphone apps to enhance their shopping experience, and this data shows usage of shopping apps is growing,” says Don Kellogg, Director of Telecom Insights at Nielsen. “As more Americans use their smartphones while shopping and making purchases directly through apps, retailers should consider personalizing their targeted offerings around the needs of individual consumers.” 

And while major e-commerce retailers, like eBay and Amazon, are also behind some of the most used smartphone shopping apps, this doesn’t mean that other merchants can’t learn from these retail-giants’ mobile strategies. For example, eBay’s app features daily deals on its homescreen, which is a good attention grabber for the deal-seeking consumer, while traditional retailers, like Target and Walgreens, drive consumers in stores with their apps by featuring tools that help consumers locate products at a nearby store.

For some more application inspiration, check out Nielsen’s list of top 10 shopping apps from June 2012 below:

Order Dynamics Merchant Lets Users Shops Socially

Ecommerce platform provider Order Dynamics announced last week that social media platform ShopSocially is now available within its integration network H.I.V.E (Highly Integrated Virtual Environment). For one multi-channel retailer (Walking on a Cloud) the results have been quite impressive.

ShopSocially allows online shoppers to either share a brand on Facebook prior to a purchase, or share recently-purchased items for entry into contests, or to receive discounts on future purchases. The results for merchants of course is an increase in web traffic, increased revenue and optimized exposure.

As an OrderDynamics merchant, Walking on a Cloud ran several campaign promotions through their weekly email newsletters offering a 20 percent discount off all products for the day. The result? The retailer grew their social media fanbase by more than 70% in under two weeks. But that’s not all - 47.8 percent of email recipients actually used the coupon code from “Liking” the retailers Facebook page.

“Growing our online fanbase has been a big priority for us over the past few months,” said Mark Zuckier, President of Walking on a Cloud’s eCommerce division. “We’ve tried several strategies in the past, but nothing has generated the kind of results ShopSocially has for us. Having the pre-built integration into the OrderDynamics platform made turning on ShopSocially fast and extremely seamless. We need this kind of flexibility to keep pace with our evolving customers,” he added.

Five Hyperlocal Marketing Strategies


Ever been hungry in an unfamiliar city? 

Although the nearby fast food joint may be a tempting choice, nowadays most people will leverage their mobile device to find local restaurants through a simple search. And while this technology can be very helpful in bringing traffic to local businesses, it can also be harmful to merchants who haven’t yet left a digital footprint that will allow consumers to find their business in the endless abyss of the World Wide Web.

Visibility is one of the most important factors when it comes to running a successful business – both on and off of the Web. In fact, 20 percent of all searches on Google are related to location, while 97 percent of consumers search online to find local businesses, according to Google. This is why merchants must make sure that their business can easily be found on the 'Net – but aside from maintaining a website, there are many other ways merchants can increase their local visibility in order to obtain more traffic, both online and in-stores.

Check out this list of five hyperlocal marketing strategies below:

1. Listing Sites

One of the best ways to obtain visibility is by managing your business’s listing on online directories, such as Google Places, Yelp and Foursquare. This is because many times these are the first sites that pop up when someone conducts a local search. However, even if your business shows up in the results, it is important for merchants to claim their business and customize their listing – with photos, store hours, a telephone number, website URL and even promotions. This not only makes it easier for someone to find your business, but a customized listing will also make your business seem more legitimate, and can therefore improve trust among potential customers.

2. Social Media

Obtaining a presence on some of the most popular social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, can help consumers not only discover your business during searches on Google and Bing, but also help them discover your business in their newsfeed or through social network searches. However, while it is important to only bite off as much as you can chew when it comes to social networks (don’t try to manage more social networks than you can handle), it is valuable for all merchants to create a Google+ page. Although this network doesn’t have as large of a user base as Facebook yet, it still unsurprisingly ranks high in the search results. Additionally, the new Google+ Local feature enables merchants to manage and customize their business’s listing on the social network.

3. Daily Deals

Daily Deals may be a more rogue way to enhance visibility, but they definitely offer a great way to grab the attention of new customers – at least for merchants who don’t mind taking risks. Once a daily deal is launched, the promotion is sent out to local customers via email, and can also be found on the vendor’s website. This can be perfect for bringing in consumers who only happened to find your venue while browsing the local deals on websites like Yipit or DealsMagazine.

4. Advertisements

Targeting local customers can easily be done by launching a paid search campaign on advertising platforms like Facebook and Google. For example, Google AdWords Express enables merchants to promote their business when consumers conduct local searches for related products or services in a specific area. Most importantly, these advertisements show up during regular Web searches and during searches on mobile devices, so that your ads can target consumers who are on the go and more likely to make a conversion.

5. Website Localization

It is important for every retailer to include basic information, such as telephone number and address, on their website. However, merchants can take this a step further by adding other local elements, including maps and local ads, on their sites. For example, Sears recently added local ads to their websites, which enable consumers to find deals and specials at the brick-and-mortar location nearest them. Although this type of feature is more valuable to a merchant who is running multiple locations, merchants can also add other local elements to their websites, such as maps and in-store pick up promotions. While featuring a map on your site can help consumers pinpoint the exact location of your brick-and-mortar store, offering in-store pickup allows customers to purchase a product online and pick it up in-stores – so they can avoid long lines and shipping fees.

PayLane Payment Processing comes to WordPress


E-commerce merchants on a multitude of platforms can now leverage payment processing provider PayLane to accept payments from consumers all over the world.

PayLane enables merchants to accept payments in 160 different currencies from more than 50 countries, as well as process a variety of payment methods, including credit and debit cards, PayPal and Giropay. In addition to the company’s current plugins for Magento and osCommerce merchants, PayLane has released four new plugins – for Wordpress, OpenCart, Zen Cart and PrestaShop merchants.

The Wordpress extension differs from the other e-commerce platform plugins because it enables merchants to create an easy-to-use system that allows consumers to make payments for a fixed-price service, product, access to website content or to make a donation. For example, merchants can create custom buttons with call-to-action terms such as “Donate” or “Pay”.

The various payment processing plugins can be found on the company’s website – where merchants can download their platform-specific extension, extract and copy the files to the root folder and configure basic settings in the admin panel.

Free Shipping Incentives for the Upcoming Back-to-School Rush

If you’re looking for a digital leg up for the rapidly approaching back-to-school season – here’s the answer: offer free shipping.

A recent PriceGrabber survey reveals that while consumers are intending to spend more money this year, they will continue to look for ways to save and stretch their dollars by taking advantage of retailer incentives to save – the most common way of course being ‘free shipping.’

According to the PriceGrabber survey, 74 percent of consumers chose free shipping as the top retailer tactic that would entice them to make a back-to-school purchase this year. There were other tactics that can be employed to encourage shoppers to visit and buy from merchants including sales, price cuts, coupons, online promotions, and price-matching.

"Whether shopping in stores or online during this back-to-school season, consumers should leverage the multitude of money saving tools and retailer incentives that are available," said Graham Jones, general manager of PriceGrabber. "We can deduce from our survey that free shipping will be a huge deciding factor when consumers purchase online. Savvy shoppers will get the most for their money by searching for coupons and actively using comparison shopping websites to ensure they are getting the best deal."

BrandCaster Retail from Coupons.com


Coupons.com just announced the launch of Brandcaster Retail, a free, self-service platform for Internet retailers to offer a digital coupon gallery on their website.

Retailers will, without any programming knowledge required, have the ability to showcase a full Coupons.com coupon gallery, or publish coupons exclusively for only those products they have in stock.

Brandcaster Retail could help merchants reach an attractive demographic in digital coupon users. The audience demographic is proven to shop more (with 23 percent more trips) and buy more each trip, resulting in a 50 percent larger annual spend than the average shopper.

“More and more retailers are embracing digital coupons as a means to engage with their shoppers, and we’ve successfully created coupon galleries for grocery, drug and mass chains that span more than 52,000 store locations. But, we’ve only been able to do this for the largest retailers,” said Steven Boal, CEO of Coupons.com Incorporated. “Brandcaster Retail automates the process, so now retailers of any size can launch coupon galleries on their websites and can do so without programming knowledge and without any cost whatsoever.”

See the coupon gallery from Coupons.com below:

Protecting Special Audience Discounts

Does your e-commerce property offer military or student discounts? How can you confirm these buyers qualify? Well, if you’re a Magento powered platform, you’ll now be able to use SheerID’s verification plugin to protect your most special, targeted discounts.

SheerID’s recently announced integration with Magento™ enables e-commerce retailers to create and promote codes and discounts on the Web that can only be redeemed by qualified customers who belong to “select” customer groups such as veterans, active-duty military, teachers, college students, or members of preferred non-profit associations.

The integration for Internet retailers seems straightforward. SheerID now provides a plugin that uses the SheerID API to provide the instant verification capabilities. The actual verification can happen at any point within a Magento™ site, including targeted landing pages (using CMS template tags) or by adding the SheerID Verify block to a layout. SheerID indicated that in the future capabilities will include the addition of catalog items that require verification and verified account registration for creating preferred customer accounts.

“SheerID is excited to provide a solution for Magento™ platform users who want to offer targeted discounts without risking their ROI or margins,” said SheerID CEO, Jake Weatherly. “SheerID has changed the face of online discounts. With SheerID, retailers can manage and track their special offers, expand their marketing, and deepen their discounts, all while eliminating fraud."

In-Store Shopping Motivates Digital Interactions


More mobile phones are making their way into brick and mortar stores to aid consumers in making decisions during their shopping experiences.

In fact, according to Empathica’s Consumer Insights Panel survey, at least half of consumers who own a smartphone use the device to look up product reviews while shopping in-stores, while the same is true for 10 percent of consumers who don’t even own a smartphone.

This data shows business owners that their mobile and social experience strategies are more important than ever, especially because consumers are using these channels to make decisions – even while inside retail stores and restaurants.

According to the survey results, price comparisons are the most frequent in-store mobile action with 55 percent of smartphone owners reporting that they have used their devices to check prices while shopping, while other popular mobile actions include scanning a QR code (34%) and writing a review (9%).

“Today’s consumers routinely perform a variety of in-store activities on smartphones and mobile devices,” says Dr. Gary Edwards, chief customer officer, Empathica. “Whether it’s comparing prices or scanning a QR code for a discount, brands that ignore the use of mobile technology in customer and guest experiences will miss key opportunities to connect with a large pool of potential brand advocates.”

However, mobile isn't the only channel that is being leveraged for making purchasing decisions, because consumers are also relying on social media as an important decision-making tool. According to the study, almost three-quarters of consumers use Facebook to make retail or restaurant decisions, while half of consumers have tried a new brand due to a social media recommendation.

But this shouldn't deter retailers and restaurant owners from posting all user-generated content online in fear that consumers won’t forgive negative reviews, because the survey results show that negative reviews don’t necessarily discourage consumers from trying a brand – especially if the business has a generally positive online presence. In fact, only 26 percent of consumers claimed that they would avoid shopping at a store if they first read a negative online review.

“One of the key takeaways from our latest research is that brands need to proactively engage with their customers transparently through mobile and social channels – and even encourage negative reviews to be made public,” says Edwards. “The credibility brands gain from publishing all reviews far exceeds the amount of damage that can be inflicted by the occasional negative comment. Negative user reviews is not necessarily a brand destroyer.”

Additional data reveals further insights into the complex online relationships consumers have with retail and restaurant brands. For example, 82 percent of consumers are willing to engage retail and restaurant brands in online conversations if they believe it will improve future experiences, but only 62 percent believe that brands monitor online conversations and just 30 percent think that brands act on customer feedback.

“Clearly, if brands go through the trouble of asking for their customers’ opinions and feedback, it’s incumbent on retailers to make those results transparent. Publically disclosing that feedback shows brands’ efforts to go above and beyond their customers’ needs,” added Edwards.

 

Merchant’s Marketing Guide to Christmas in July


Typically, the month of July makes people think of sunshine, pools and fireworks. However, for e-commerce merchants, this warm summer month should bring one thing to mind – the holidays.

Although still six months away, the countdown has already begun for the year’s busiest shopping season. This means that merchants need to start their preparations now, in order to stay ahead of their competition and avoid the stress of last minute planning. 

So even though it’s not time to dust off the ornaments and drink hot chocolate yet, it is time to think about holiday marketing strategies. Here are five tips to help merchants start preparing for Christmas in July:

Promotions

In 2011, more than half of online retailers started their holiday promotions by Halloween, and that trend is expected to grow during the 2012 season. So when should you start planning? According to Diane Buzzeo, CEO of Ability Commerce, August is a good time to start planning holiday email campaigns, promotional campaigns and sales. However, this doesn’t mean that merchants should start promoting Christmas in October.

“You could certainly be doing winter promotions without necessarily having Christmas graphics, because it does turn a lot of people off,” says Buzzeo.

Another tip is to make sure site promotions can be seen on multiple pages. This is because many consumers don’t visit a merchant’s homepage when they are using search to find products. For example, if a consumer searches for the word “shoes” on Google, the search results may take them to the shoe page of a merchant’s website rather then the merchant's homepage. So by not carrying a promotion, such as free shipping, throughout an entire website, merchants may actually be doing themselves a disservice.

Keywords

Keywords are not only important for PPC campaigns. In fact, merchants should use keywords as a recurring theme for all aspects of their brand and website. For example, using words such as “New Arrivals” as a category header on a website is a bad idea, because consumers will rarely (if ever) search for the phrase “new arrivals” when they are surfing the Web with intent to purchase.

This is another reason why merchants should start thinking about what their holiday theme will be, so that specific keywords can strategically be placed throughout promotions, advertisements, emails, and even in some cases, throughout the website itself.

Email

Although merchants may not be aware of the holiday season’s hot products yet, it doesn’t mean that they can’t start planning their email marketing strategy.

“You’re going to change your product selection, but you’re not going to change the fact that you’re going to be sending an email out,” says Buzzeo.

This means that merchants should be checking the calendar to see when the best time is to send out email promotions, such as a message on the eve before Black Friday that includes information on mega deals, or a reminder for the last day to purchase products in order to receive shipments before the holidays.

Social Media

From running location-based deals to incentivizing social purchases – it is clear that the marketing opportunities from social media are vast. And while it probably isn’t the first time that merchants are leveraging social networks for promotions during the holidays, there is a fairly new social network that is perfect for “wishlist” season – yes, we are talking about you, Pinterest.

“Pinterest is a really great way to have wishlists,” says Buzzeo. “It’s also a great way to see what people are pinning to determine what you should make your promotions out of.”

Additionally, many companies and social networks are providing merchants with new social tools, such as Facebook Offers, which can be leveraged in order to obtain and retain a strong social presence throughout the holiday season.

Mobile

Maintaining a mobile optimized site is a must for merchants, and this is especially important for the holidays. Since more and more consumers are leveraging their mobile devices to discover products and brick-and-mortar locations while on the go, having a mobile-optimized site puts merchants a step ahead of their competition.

However, being optimized for mobile doesn’t mean just creating a website that can be accessed on mobile devices. It also means having a mobile site that is fully functional on mobile devices – meaning that consumers are able to see promotions, view products and even make purchases from the palms of their hands. Furthermore, merchants should also test their promotional emails on mobile devices, especially since many consumers open their emails while on the move.

Juice Up Your Online Sales

Congratulations.  You’ve finally taken the plunge and set up an online store to sell the Next Big Thing, your line of fashion accessories or your household widgets.  In the early days of e-tailing, you could just sit back and wait for the money to roll in. But in today’s advanced e-commerce climate, notable for intense competition in practically every product category and bots that comb the web to find consumers the best deals, you need to be more proactive to generate sales.

Besides the daily tasks of keeping your store running, you need to advertise, promote and merchandise. Like any brick-and-mortar store, you need to constantly keep your online storefront up to date with new products, specials and offers to attract new customers and bring back existing ones.  

We live in an age where customer loyalty is an ephemeral concept, however the same technology that gives consumers the freedom to graze the Internet in search of the best deal also makes it easier than ever to stay in front of truly interested buyers and to entice them with highly targeted offers.  Whether they are at your site ready to buy or just researching their next purchase, the better you can match your offerings to their needs – and the better you can communicate that – the more likely you are to complete the sale.

Here are five things you can do right now to increase your online store revenue:

1. Cross-sell Merchandising and Promotions

In brick-and-mortar stores, those impulse items close to the cash register are huge revenue generators.  Capture online impulse buys with cross-selling (eg: “Other customers have purchased” or “You might also like”) using related products displayed with single items or categories.

2. Use Modal Pop-Ups

Modal pop-ups, those windows that require visitor interaction in order to continue browsing, are very effective in capturing e-mail addresses from potential buyers.  And as you know, selling online is all about the mailing list.  Just be sure the pop-up isn’t overly oppressive.  Make it easy for customers to move on without entering their e-mail by simply clicking elsewhere on the page.

3. Integrate E-mail Sign-Ups within the Checkout

Another creative way to capture e-mail addresses is by offering buyers the option to sign-up for your e-mail list from within the checkout page.  By this time, they’ve already decided to purchase from you, so they may be predisposed to receiving other offers and updates. 

4. Pay Attention to “Cart Abandonment” Issues

Industry research reveals a startling fact: seven out of 10 online shopping carts are abandoned before checkout, for a number of reasons ranging from running out of time to shipping cost sticker shock.  Unfortunately, this is par for the course for the online shopping experience. Wise e-tailers can implement ways to recapture these lost sales, including:

• Keeping shopping carts active for 60 days;

• Making support and phone information more prominent to aid indecisive shoppers;

• Making sure the returning shopper sees the filled cart when returning;

• E-mailing the shopper within hours of the abandonment. The e-mail could contain a one-time or time-sensitive discount, or simply ask whether the buyer had a problem with the transaction.  Even if that shopper can’t be reclaimed, they might be able to provide useful intelligence.

5. Flash Sales and Promotions

Promotions are a must-have for an online store. Again, think along the lines of a brick-and-mortar store and set up a promotional calendar for the year. Include not only major holidays, but other dates of interest that appeal to your particular customer niche.  If you’re a purveyor of sporting goods, for example, you might want to herald the start of the Olympics, or the World Cup soccer tournament.

Generating visits to your website, and resulting sales, may feel like an uphill battle, but with some forethought, and by applying some of the basics of marketing, you’ll be able to substantially increase your site’s income.  

About the Author: Bart Mroz is CEO and head of brand experience for SUMO Heavy Industries, a Philadelphia e-commerce website developer.  To contact him, e-mail bart@sumoheavy.com.  For more information, visit www.sumoheavy.com. 

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Social Sharing, Faster Checkouts


Offer consumers faster checkouts and better social sharing options with a new version of Ecwid.

Ecwid, producer of the platform-neutral, drop-in store builder widget, has launched version 11 of its e-commerce software that works for Web, mobile and social sites. The new version extends on the platform’s current feature set by offering enhanced social sharing tools, expanded shipping options and faster checkouts.

"Ecwid has advanced to the point where our feature set is comparable to the best online stores,” says Ruslan R. Fazlyev, Ecwid’s founder and CEO. “Yet our installation is still as simple as embedding a YouTube video, with ongoing management as easy as maintaining a Facebook page. This makes Ecwid an ideal, drop-in e-commerce solution that hosting companies and affiliate partners can easily offer their customers.”

The new features have already been updated for all members, and include:

  • Social sharing – The new "Share your purchase" option encourages consumers to share their purchases on Facebook or Twitter after an order is placed.
  • Revamped shipping module – this feature has been completely rebuilt and includes a shipping wizard that makes it easier for merchants to add new shipping methods, as well as the ability to limit carrier-calculated shipping rates by region and customize shipping rates based on order subtotals.
  • Promotional pricing features – these new features now include bulk pricing discounts via an algorithm that offers suggestions to shoppers on how to secure better discounts, as well as a "Compare to" sales price feature that highlights how much better your store's price is vs. the competition.
  • Faster checkout – Although this feature is only available for customers who use Google Chrome, it is definitely worth noting. Version 11 supports an experimental Google API that allows Chrome users to complete Ecwid checkout forms quickly – with just a click. This experimental “autocomplete type” enables Chrome to pre-populate a checkout form with the consumer’s appropriate information.

Five Tips for Magnificent Merchant Mobile Apps


Mobile commerce is forecasted to reach $31 billion in the U.S. by 2016, which means that merchants have little time to perfect their mobile strategies.

In order to grow a successful retail business, merchants nowadays must create and maintain a strong mobile Web presence. However, not only should traditional websites be optimized for mobile, but merchants should also take advantage of the vast money making opportunities mobile presents by also offering mobile applications to their consumers.

Mobile applications should act as an extension of a retailer’s website, and be a viable channel for consumers to leverage in order to make purchases, search for stores and browse for products.

And while most retailers haven’t fully implemented a mobile strategy yet, some of the biggest names in the industry have, and in doing so they have already set a standard of best practices. Check them out below:


Smartphone and Tablet Optimized

Although having one spectacular app is better than having two mediocre apps, the goal of all merchants should be to offer device specific applications that provide consumers with the best possible user experience. For example, Walgreens offers apps for Blackberry, Android and iOS devices – including an optimized app for both the iPhone and iPad. The iPhone app has a clean and easy to use interface that features 12 options for users to navigate through, while the iPad app offers many of the same features and options but displays them in a different way. With the iPad app, consumers can scroll through three different welcome screens that each feature a different Walgreens service – from refilling prescriptions at the pharmacy to printing out photos or viewing the latest local ad.

                              


Personalization

Creating a personalized shopping experience has always been a best practice within the retail industry, both on and off the Web – and mobile apps aren’t any different. Many big name retailers, such as Target, Walmart and Amazon, enable consumers to sign in and create a profile so that the check out process is a faster and easier task, and so that consumers can maintain a consistent user experience regardless of the device that they are shopping with. For example, consumers that leverage the Target app on their iPad can customize the app’s background once they sign into their account, as well as create “TargetLists”, which is a feature that enables consumers to create lists of things they need. Additionally, these lists can be viewed offline as well as on any other device once the user is signed into their account.

                              


Simple User Interface

Apps should improve on a company’s mobile website and offer an easier to use and more customizable user experience. If this is not the case, merchants will not obtain as many conversions because most consumers won’t take the time to figure out how a complicated app works. Lowe’s offers a simple yet feature-full iPhone app, which prominently displays a search bar and QR scanner for convenience at the top of the app’s homescreen. The remainder of the homescreen features a July 4th promotion, the ability for users to find a nearby store, an idea gallery and videos – which just so happen to be a proven best practice for boosting engagement and conversions. 

                              


Nice Navigation 

Navigation is always important, whether for a traditional or mobile website, or even a mobile application. Not only should merchants feature a fully functional search bar in their app, but they should also offer easy to find buttons for consumers to navigate with. Walmart’s iPad app is very similar to the retail giant’s traditional website. It features an intuitive search bar in the upper right hand corner, as well as offers a list of all departments for users to browse through on the left hand side. Once a department is selected, it is broken down even further into additional categories for consumers to choose from. For instance, once the “Jewelry” department is selected, seven more options under jewelry appear to make locating a desired product, such as a ring, as easy as possible.

  


Unique Features

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is to not create a cookie cutter app. Every e-commerce store has its own unique features and offerings, so mobile apps should be created with the same strategy in mind. Whether its featuring a deal of the day on the homepage of your app, or enabling your users to customize the background of the app, unique features are key when trying to implement a mobile application that will truly resonate with consumers. After all, you want an app that will encourage consumers to come back and shop while they are on the bus, waiting for an airplane or even watching TV at home. A few innovative strategies include the ability to track a pizza order via Domino's app, an idea gallery within Lowe’s app that offers home improvement suggestions, and a deals section within the Amazon app that helps consumers who are looking to save a little money.

                               

                                         

Valuing Consumer Input Makes All the Difference


A new study from Customer Experience Management (CEM) solutions provider Empathica Inc. reveals that despite a strong desire to provide feedback, consumers are disappointed by brands’ lack of responsiveness.

The Consumer Insight Panel study shows that although 85 percent of consumers have provided some form of feedback to big box retailers, only 46 percent of respondents believe that brands actually use their feedback to make changes to the customer experience. Additionally, only 52 percent believe that their feedback is shared with individual locations – despite 81 percent of consumers claiming that feedback should not only be shared with local managers, but also with all of the brand’s employees.

This lack of consumer confidence should be a serious concern for retailers, especially because 83 percent of consumers agree or strongly agree that they would be more loyal to a brand if they knew the brand would act on their feedback. 

“Our research proves that consumers really do want to provide feedback and engage in conversations with brands,” says Dr. Gary Edwards, chief customer officer, Empathica. “But at the same time, they are clearly disappointed by not having any visibility into what happens afterwards. Feedback remains a one-way street and what consumers are yearning for is two-way dialogue. They want to know that their feedback is being acted upon in ways that will drive meaningful changes to the customer experience at the locations they frequent.”

The study also reveals insights into the  delivery methods that drive customer feedback – with two-thirds of consumers preferring to share feedback online, and only 13 percent of consumers preferring to deliver feedback in person. 

And when it comes to the motivations that consumers have for engaging with brands, approximately half of respondents have provided feedback in exchange for an incentive or coupon – which is actually not necessary. In fact, a larger amount of respondents offered feedback to simple provide either a positive (31%) or negative (25%) experience. 

Another motivating factor of customer engagement is distance, with 82 percent of local customers indicating that they are more willing to offer feedback to locations that they visit frequently. Furthermore, three out of four survey respondents are interested in seeing other customer feedback in regards to brand experiences.

“Unfortunately, a lot of retailers fail at creating the transparency that customers desire. Admitting some areas of the business require more attention builds credibility and helps retailers realize the huge potential for brand advocacy,” added Edwards. “There are large numbers of customers out there who are motivated to provide feedback for the brand. The challenge is identifying them and making it easy to share their experiences not only with the brand, but also with other local consumers.”

Five Powerful Pinterest Promotions for Merchants


If you are an e-commerce merchant who hasn’t jumped on the pinboarding bandwagon yet, you should know that Pinterest has the capability to be a promotional powerhouse for your business. 

In fact, a recent study revealed that Pinterest users are 79 percent more likely to purchase pinned products compared to the purchasing behavior of Facebook users. Another study revealed that some merchants are obtaining an average order value of $80 from Pinterest shoppers, which also happens to be double the average order value of Facebook shoppers.

Moreover, the image-based social network is growing at a rapid pace, with new statistics from comScore stating that the company's Latin American audience has grown eightfold – from 153,000 members at the start of 2012 to 1.3 million members as of April.

But aside from just signing your company up for the social network and pinning a few products to some pinboards, there are many other ways that merchants can leverage the site to create an engaging and profitable profile.

Here are some examples of retailers who have already done so:


Nine West Offers Sweepstakes

This well-known shoe retailer has more than 20 themed boards that not only display some of the company’s best products, but are also interactive with consumers. For example, the company launched a Mother’s Day promotion in which consumers could enter to win free products by repinning and commenting on images, as well as initiated a “Downtown with Sally” campaign, in which followers can interact with live pins that are tagged with #SallySays, which the board promises will become part of a future sweepstakes promotion.


GAP is Engaging

Gap is definitely using Pinterest the right way. Not only does this retailer update its boards so they stay relevant (even offering a Bonnaroo styleguide), but it also keeps the pinboards engaging by presenting do-it-yourself arts and crafts ideas – including a series for how to take an old t-shirt and turn it into a new item like sandals, a beach tote, laptop sleeve or necklace.


Sephora Supplies Tutorials

One of the best ways to sell makeup is with visual photos, which is why this company has leveraged Pinterest as a marketing channel that currently reaches more than 29,000 followers. The company has created a board for videos, which includes product demonstration and tutorials, as well as a created a “Trending Now” board that includes close-up photos of models, followed by a list of products users can purchase and create the same look at home.


Home Depot’s Ready for the Holidays

Many Pinterest users love the site because they can do things like plan their dream home or get ideas for projects in their current home, which is why it is a very valuable tool for companies like The Home Depot. This company offers many boards for followers to explore and discover spring and summer project ideas, as well as holiday-themed boards for gift ideas – including Mother’s Day and Memorial Day. But we have got to ask, where is the Father’s Day board?


Nordstrom Loves Weddings

Aside from creating themed boards for project ideas, many Pinterest users also love to plan their dream wedding (yes, we are talking about the ladies). Nordstrom’s Pinterest profile, which has more than 20,000 followers and 30 themed-boards, dedicates ten boards solely to weddings, which receive a lot of attention from consumers – including comments, likes and many repins.

 

Three’s a Charm for This Social Platform


A new social commerce platform helps merchants leverage the power of social networks to obtain more conversions, higher average order values, increased engagement and better word-of-mouth advertising.

The ShopSocially platform embeds social experiences, such as rule-based targeting, incentive management and social analytics into the merchant’s buying workflow to help improve discovery, engagement, decisions and conversions. Additionally, the platform offers a Social App Library with extensions that include viral offer sharing for better email promoting, incentivized share-a-promotion and share-a-purchase technology, ask-a-friend functionality, a Facebook fan aquisition tool and a shopping community feature, which allows merchants to create a social online shopping community.

“There are three key elements to a successful social commerce strategy,” says Jai Rawat, CEO and co-founder of ShopSocially. “One, focus on generating authentic word-of-mouth, consumer-to-consumer (C2C) recommendations. Two, embed rich, targeted social experiences in the entire buying workflow to create a better user experience. Revenue uplift will follow automatically. And three, experiment a lot. While there are certain best practices, social experiences have to be fine tuned for every site.”

According to ShopSocially, merchants that have leveraged the platform have reported up to three times an increase in sales from email promotions, a 12-percent average increase in site conversions, a larger social media audience through converting 2 to 5 percent of site traffic into fans, as well as an increase average of 95 percent for onsite and fanpage engagement.

Increase Sales with Retail-Integrated E-Commerce


A new study from e-commerce solutions provider Shopatron has found that 73 percent of brands increased their overall sales – both online and in stores through retail-integrated e-commerce.

A retail-integrated e-commerce model allows branded manufacturers to sell directly to consumers on their websites and then pass those orders to their authorized, local retailers for delivery to the customer. According to the survey results, the model strengthens retailer relationships, boosts retailer stocking and increases sales.

Over half of the 200 surveyed branded manufacturers said their online sales increased since launching retail-integrated e-commerce, with 10 percent stating that their online sales more than doubled.

The benefits of the model are also mutual, as over 65 percent of the 1,300 retailers surveyed noted improved profit numbers and customer acquisition, and 23 percent of them said that the model actually increased both statistics.

Furthermore, 59 percent said that they now stock more brands that send them sales using retail-integrated e-commerce, and 70 percent are prepared to or have already stopped buying from brands that continue to sell direct-to-consumer.

The full results of the survey can be found here.

Merchants are Optimistic about the Future of E-Commerce


The confidence levels of e-commerce merchants are running high according to a recent survey that was recently published by multi-channel e-commerce solution provider Vendio.

The 2012 Spring Survey reveals insights about merchant’s outlooks in regards to the future of e-commerce, as well as the satisfaction levels of merchants that sell on eBay and Amazon. 

The Future of E-commerce

The study reveals that most merchants are hopeful about the future of online shopping.  In fact, 84 percent of respondents claim to be optimistic about their online growth potential, while 16 percent say that brick and mortar stores are the method that they currently use to sell their goods. Additionally, only 11 percent of respondents are considering brick and mortar locations for future sales compared to 33 percent who are considering opening their own web store and 26 percent who are considering selling goods on Amazon.com.

The survey also revealed that many of the respondents have a long-term history of selling goods online. Twenty-six percent of the respondents say that they have been an e-commerce seller for more than 10 years, while 30 percent claim to have been in business for 1-4 years. Further statistics show that 20 percent of merchants are newcomers on the Web – only being in business for less than a year, while 15 percent have been in business for 4-7 years and 9 percent have been using e-commerce platforms for 7-10 years.

“We continue to see amazing growth with e-commerce as more sellers are moving online to grow their revenue stream,” says Mike Effle, Chief Executive Officer of Vendio. “Since our inception in 1999, we have seen consistent growth in entrepreneurs and small businesses looking to the Internet to sell their goods. It’s not surprising that those vendors, based on significant success, see a positive future for e-commerce.”

Selling on eBay and Amazon

The survey findings also reveal that the majority of merchants who sell products on Amazon and/or eBay are satisfied with their overall experience and sales – with 80 percent claiming to be satisfied with the overall experience of Amazon compared to 76 percent who are satisfied with eBay.

However, the survey showed that eBay and Amazon differ slightly when it comes to ease of use, with 93 percent of eBay users rating the process of listing on eBay as either “Very Easy”, “Somewhat Easy” or “Easy”, compared to 80 percent of Amazon users who gave the same ratings.

Further statistics disclose that the fees sellers pay to eBay (and PayPal, its primary payment source) and Amazon appear to be similar, with 42 percent of respondents claiming that less than 15 percent of their sales are taken by eBay/PayPal fees compared to 36 percent who pay less than 15 percent to Amazon. Furthermore, 88 percent of merchants say they pay less than 25 percent of sales to eBay/PayPal compared to 91 percent who pay less than 25 percent to Amazon.com.

“It is good to see that sellers are having positive experiences with both eBay and Amazon,” says Effle. “It is important that sellers feel the two major online marketplaces are an effective use of their time. Thus, Amazon could close the gap between the two by improving the overall ease of use for their merchants.”

Catching the E-Commerce Counterfeiters


Online brand protection and enforcement service CitizenHawk has introduced a tool that enables companies to detect unauthorized product sales, including counterfeit goods, on the Internet.

HawkAuctions™ allows its users to monitor their brands’ presence on online auction platforms, exchanges and classified advertising sites, and detect sales of counterfeit products to determine if legitimate products are being marketed without the manufacturer’s permission.

What is interesting about the solution is that it detects sales patterns and identifies the offending sellers (including those operating under various aliases), delivering information on a real-time basis so merchants can respond quickly. The solution currently supports eBay’s VeRO (Verified Rights Owner) and NOCI (Notice of Claimed Infringement) programs.

“Counterfeiting costs the U.S. economy an estimated $215 billion a year and is a particularly serious problem prestigious, high profile brands,” said David Duckwitz, CitizenHawk’s president and chief executive officer. “Major brands also must contend with products being sold in the so-called gray market, i.e., unauthorized product sales outside of approved distribution channels. The Internet has been a powerful vehicle for counterfeiters and gray marketers, who often use legitimate sites like eBay or Craigslist to move their goods. With HawkAuctions, brands now have an effective way to uncover such activity and fight back.”

 

Can E-Commerce Merchants be Trusted?


Despite all the benefits of online shopping (e.g. convenience and speed) many Web shoppers are still hesitant to click the buy button.

Google is aiming to ease their anxiety with the release of Google Trusted Stores, a program (free by the way) for merchants that shows Web shoppers that they are dealing with a reputable retailer and can "feel confident making an informed purchase."

Google has been testing the program (which was released to all U.S. merchants today) with 50 online merchants since late 2011 on more than 10 million orders and the results sound promising. Home goods retailer Wayfair increased sales on its site by 2.3 percent with the Google Trusted Stores badge and gifts retailer Beau-coup saw an 8.6 percent increase.

The Google Merchant Trusted Store badge indicates to users (see the image below) the overall experience that other shoppers have had as related to shipping and customer service. Plus, when consumers buy from a Google Trusted Store, they can opt in to get up to $1,000 lifetime purchase protection.

Merchants can display their badge on their websites, but it will soon make its way onto Google.com ads and in Google Shopping results (see below).

Sample of the Google Trusted Stores report card: 

Google Trusted Stores Badge within Adwords:

 

hybris Launches New Online Marketplace


Multichannel commerce software provider hybris has launched a new online marketplace designed to give merchants instant access to certified partner applications, value-add services and complementary business solutions, all optimized to work with the hybris commerce platform.

The launch of hybris Extend, the new portal-style application repository, means that customers can fine-tune and optimize their hybris solutions to increase revenue, enhance the customer experience or instigate innovative multichannel commerce and communication initiatives. Currently, hybris Extend covers applications in areas such as analytics, channels, community and social, content, fulfillment, infrastructure, marketing and communications, payments and tax, personalization, and search and navigation.

Using the hybris Extend app-style distribution portal, customers can also configure add-on solutions that best suit their needs or vertical industry, and instantly discover all the additional features and functions hybris’ partners can bring to their businesses.

“hybris Extend is an important development for our customers, partners and ourselves,” says hybris CEO Ariel Lüdi. “It offers customers direct access to pre-integrated solutions, enabling them to view and select from an array of additional applications best suited to their needs. Partners maximize the benefits of their relationship with hybris with added value beyond our partner program.”

Merchants and system integrators can search a list of recommended partners to view details of integrations and applications or common integration experience. This helps reduce project costs, cut implementation times and enhance the hybris commerce solution. In the coming months, the applications catalog will grow as hybris continues to expand its partnerships.

Recent additions to the hybris ecosystem include Bazaarvoice, dynaTrace and Jirafe. hybris Extend can be accessed online here.

Miva Merchant Adds Payment and Checkout Options


E-commerce software and hosting provider Miva Merchant has released a major core software update that includes several new features and modules.

Current customers will notice the following new options as part of the immediate availability of Miva Merchant 5.5 PR8 Update 6:

Template Import/Export: Imports your store’s category tree and title images quickly and easily.

Generated Inventory Variants: Automatically adds default prices, weights and costs when generating category variants.

PayPal Payments Advanced/Payflow Gateway Module: Provides integration with PayPal Payments, Payflow Link and Payflow Pro.

Checkout by Amazon Updates: Inventory variant options and more.

“With this latest update to our core software, our customers can take advantage of expanded payment gateway and checkout options,” says Rick Wilson, president and COO of Miva Merchant. “We are happy to have the opportunity to help store owners simplify and improve the ways in which they do business and to help them provide a better online shopping experience for their own customers as a result.”

More information about the Miva Merchant 5.5 PR8 Update 6 can be found here. Miva Merchant offers a complete e-commerce solution consisting of PA-DSS validated shopping cart software, PCI compliant ecommerce hosting, credit card processing services and custom website design & development used by more than 50,000 merchants.

The True Tablet Era is (Almost) Here


More than 60 million Americans are predicted to own a tablet by the end of this year, which makes it no surprise that merchants have already noticed tablets driving a larger amount of their Web revenue. 

In fact, a recent survey from Shop.org and Forrester Research reveals that 49 percent of retailers claim that their average order value from a tablet is now higher than traditional Web sales, while 28 percent of retailers claim that they are seeing about the same average order value from tablets as their website.

According to the survey, many smartphone and tablet users are discovering their websites because of search and email – with 8 in 10 retailers claiming that search and email are the top two drivers of a company’s Web traffic from smartphone and tablet devices. Additionally, retailers report that, on average, 20 percent of emails opened in a campaign are opened on a mobile device. 

The survey also shows that merchants have become more comfortable with QR codes, with three-quarters of retailers offering their customers some type of barcode scanning option.

“Retailers have been apprehensive about committing to bigger mobile commerce and advertising budgets because consumer behavior and the device landscape are changing so quickly,” says Forrester Research Vice President and Principal Analyst Sucharita Mulpuru. “E-Commerce on desktops and laptops took time, too. But eventually, we expect that retailers will grow their mobile marketing budgets to address the fact that the mobile channel has unique aspects, like location-triggered messaging, that can be compelling ways for brands to connect with shoppers.”

Shopify Merchants Posting Profits from Pinterest


Pinterest has quickly become the third most popular social network on the Web and, in doing so, the pinboarding social network has turned out to be a whole lot more than pretty photos and themed boards.

Instead, it has become a very valuable tool for e-commerce merchants.

A recent study reveals that referral traffic from Pinterest to e-commerce solutions provider Shopify stores is equal to the amount of traffic that comes from Twitter, and more than the amount that comes from Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn combined. 

And not only is more traffic coming from Pinterest than most other social networks, but the traffic is also more valuable. The study reveals that these consumers are 10 percent more likely to make a purchase compared to those who arrive from other social sites, and are also spending an average of $80 on their purchases – double the average order value of Facebook shoppers.

Merchants who are leveraging the social pinboarding site should also know that the study found that pins with prices receive 36 percent more likes than those without prices. 

And it’s not too late for retailers to jump on the Pinterest bandwagon because the conversion rates for e-commerce sites are still growing. In fact, the number of Shopify orders generated from pins has more than quadrupled during the last six months – from 75 orders in September 2011 to 320 orders in April 2012.

Expand Your Digital Reach to Multichannel Shoppers


According to research conducted by Forrester Consulting, 68 percent of U.S. multichannel shoppers are more likely to purchase from brands whose products are readily available through a variety of physical and virtual touchpoints.

To help retailers achieve this goal, e-commerce solutions provider Demandware has expanded its Multichannel Commerce offering with a prescriptive framework that extends their digital commerce efforts to smartphones, tablets, in-store kiosks and other Web-enabled devices. The Multichannel Commerce solution combines Demandware’s cloud-based digital commerce platform, multichannel accelerators, pre-built integrations from Demandware LINK technology partners, education, implementation services and solution support to provide a cohesive framework for extending digital commerce capabilities to wherever and whenever multichannel consumers interact with a brand.

The expanded solution includes a set of accelerators – technology and strategy tools – that help deliver a consistent consumer experience across traditional Web, mobile, social, call center and in-store silos. Key accelerators are Open Commerce APIs to syndicate and synchronize commerce capabilities and content across channels; a mobile reference application with store locator functionality, and multichannel impact assessment tool and reference architecture for prioritizing, depicting and enabling key multichannel capabilities.

Demandware’s Multichannel Commerce solution is part of a suite of solutions that also includes Global Commerce, End-to-End Commerce, Emerging Commerce, Mobile Commerce and Web Commerce.

What a Process: Payment Platforms for Merchants


There are a few necessities that e-commerce merchants need to set in place before they can run their stores, including a business plan, merchandise and, of course, a secure payment processing solution.

Companies are now bridging the payment gap between consumer and merchant by offering more versatile and innovative payment options such as mobile payment wallets. However, not all of these solutions are created the same. While some offer more features, others may offer lower rates -- which is why merchants should be fully aware of what they are committing to before making a decision. 

Take a look at these innovative payment processing solutions below:

Square

Although Square isn’t the newest mobile payment processing solution, it doesn’t mean that it is outdated. This solution can be used to accept payments from mobile devices through a square-shaped reader. Retailers simply need to sign up for the free reader, which is compatible with iOS and Android devices, as well as install the free Square app in order to leverage this platform. Merchants are charged a rate of 2.75 percent per swipe for Visa, MasterCard, Discover and AmEx credit cards.

This solution can also be leveraged to create a loyalty program or even turn an iPad into a register, which enables merchants to add inventory, quickly process payments and wirelessly print receipts.

PayPal Here

Created by arguably the most popular online payment provider, PayPal Here uses a triangular card reader to accept credit card payments from mobile devices. And aside from accepting credit and debit cards, the platform can also be used to issue invoices, track cash payments, process checks and, of course, accept PayPal payments.

Processing checks and issuing invoices are free, but PayPal Here charges merchants a rate of 2.7 percent for card swipes. Merchants can download the app and apply to obtain the card reader for free, and also have the ability to access live customer support through the platform.

Intuit GoPayment

Similar to Square or PayPal Here, Intuit GoPayment enables merchants to accept payments from mobile devices. The solution’s app and credit card reader are free, with credit card transaction fees for Visa, Mastercard, Discover and AmEx charging merchants 2.7 percent.

This platform provides retailers with the ability to text or email receipts to consumers, sync GoPayment transactions with QuickBooks software and manage transactions from the Merchant Service Center.

PayAnywhere

The PayAnywhere payment processing solution can also turn mobile devices into credit card readers. Merchants must download the free app and sign up for the free card reader in order to start accepting credit cards on their iOS and Android devices.

PayAnywhere charges merchants a 2.69 percent fee for swiped credit cards, offers real-time and heat map reporting for credit card and cash transactions, as well as a free merchant portal for deeper consumer insights. Retailers can also earn money by referring PayAnywhere to other merchants.

VeriFone

VeriFone offers a couple of different payment processing options. The company's PAYware Connect platform is a hosted payment processing solution that is cloud-based, and enables merchants to conduct transactions on mobile devices and online.

However, merchants who are looking for a mobile payment solution more similar to Square can also choose to leverage the Sail platform that works on both iOS and Android devices. VeriFone offers a Sail Pro and Sail Go plan, both of which come with a free card reader. The Pro plan comes with a low swipe rate of 1.95 percent, as well as a monthly fee of $9.95, while the Go plan has no monthly fee but comes with a 2.7 swipe rate. 

LevelUp

Retailers can use LevelUp to accept payments and set up a loyalty program through a mobile device. LevelUp is an app that works on both iOS and Android devices and enables consumers to link a credit or debit card to their account, in which they receive a unique QR code that can be used to make purchases.

Merchants can accept payments by downloading the LevelUp merchant app or obtaining the LevelUp dock for their counter, and are charged a 2-percent transaction fee per purchase. This solution can also be used to set up a loyalty program, view consumer purchasing analytics, send email receipts, obtain weekly reports and more.

Google Wallet

This mobile application can be used to accept payments at brick-and-mortar stores as well as online. Google Wallet enables consumers to store their credit card information inside their mobile devices and make payments by tapping their phones on readers at physical store locations or by clicking a button on participating sites while surfing the Web.

Merchants can make their businesses Google Wallet-ready by offering contactless payment terminals within brick-and-mortar stores or by adding the Google Wallet button to their websites. Retailers can also utilize this platform to drive traffic by pushing offers that customers can save and redeem with Google Wallet in-stores, or partner Google Wallet with an existing loyalty program to retain more customers.

Dwolla

This payment solution is a little different from those previously mentioned because the focus is on low cost and not mobile. With Dwolla, all transactions less than $10 are free, with all other transactions costing only 25 cents.

Dwolla users can make payments online or in brick-and-mortar locations by connecting their bank accounts to their Dwolla accounts. Merchants can leverage this platform by utilizing the company’s free online, mobile and social tools.

This platform basically cuts out the middle man (or becomes the middle man -- depending on how you look at it) by transferring a customer's money through the Dwolla network directly into the merchant's bank account, so that no plastic cards are required and therefore no credit card fees are charged.

 

Three New Additions to the Adobe Marketing Suite


At this week's Adobe Digital Marketing Summit in London, hot on the heels of the release of Creative Suite 6 and the Creative Cloud, the software company announced three new products.

Each release is aimed at helping marketers “Build compelling personalized experiences that address complex digital marketing problems,” says Kevin Cochrane, Adobe's vice president of enterprise marketing.

Content management on the Web is fundamentally changing and it was with that in mind, Cochrane explained, that Adobe crafted a set of new products to help digital marketers focus on creating not only compelling content but also compelling user experiences. He identified three primary issues that digital marketers face in the current environment.

The first is, obviously, driving revenue growth, especially with consumers who seem to become increasingly indifferent toward online advertising. On today’s Web, users are interested in targeted, personalized experiences, or they’re not interested at all.

The second consideration Adobe made was with regards to marketing budgets, specifically ensuring that every dollar spent on a digital marketing campaign is spent wisely. Thus, Adobe's solution is designed to help marketers optimize their spending by measuring and analyzing the impact of their efforts to determine the most efficient places in which they spend.

Finally, Adobe wanted to find ways to monetize a marketer’s audience by making each user they reach a valuable asset in driving conversions.

The resulting products were Adobe CQ 5.5 Social Communities, CQ eCommerce and CQ Cloud Manager.

Cloud Manager
A Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) app for businesses to quickly launch marketing initiatives in the cloud, providing access to an integrated set of Web Experience Management (WEM) services for the creation, management, measurement and optimization of user-personalized experiences on websites, mobile devices and social media.

After starting a marketing campaign, Cloud Manager lets users remotely control a complete digital marketing solution from the cloud, leverage capabilities available through a rich partner ecosystem and monitor Adobe CQ and cloud infrastructure using real-time metering capabilities, among other handy features.

E-Commerce
An integrated solution that also leverages Adobe’s WEM platform. eCommerce manages and optimizes the buying process for websites, mobile devices and social media by delivering a branded, personalized experience incorporating the hybris multichannel commerce software.

Extending the reach of personalized digital marketing campaigns across these channels allows marketers to present a targeted experience to consumers from the point-of-engagement to the point-of-sale, regardless of the device they’re using. In addition, e-commerce sites and apps can be delivered on-premises or from the cloud, and using eCommerce in tandem with Cloud Manager lets marketers speed the creation of branded, personalized e-commerce sites that continuously scale to meet demands across all channels.

Social Communities
Marketers can better leverage social engagement across owned digital properties to build loyalty and drive conversions. Information from leading social networks (gathered, again, over multiple channels) helps organizations make a social connection with users by allowing them to log into their Facebook or Twitter accounts, and then use their profile information to personalize the consumer’s experience.

This product can also be used with other sources, like a CRM or website profile, to create a more comprehensive view of each unique customer.

Plus, new social plugins make it possible for customers to share content with their friends, making every new customer a potential brand advocate, and immediately increasing each consumer’s value. Using this solution with eCommerce lets businesses embed social elements into the product selection and purchasing processes of their owned properties.

This new suite of digital marketing products has been built to appeal to each unique consumer’s interests from the beginning, and then maintain that personalized experience throughout the purchasing process to increase the chances of conversion, maximize the value of the money spent and, with any luck, create a lifelong customer and brand advocate.

 

 

Mother’s Day Marketing Tips for Merchants


The mother of all holidays is quickly approaching, which means that merchants should be focusing their marketing initiatives on all of their gift-giving customers. 

Mother’s Day madness is in full force because the big day is less than a week away, which means that there is related content floating all over the Web – from sales and promotions to inspirational photos and videos. Let this act as your wake-up call! Although merchants should have already started their marketing campaigns, it’s not too late to get started or to step it up a few notches.

Here are three tips for implementing a Mother’s Day marketing campaign onto your website:

A Mom-optimized Website
If you haven’t already, it is time to optimize the customer experience of your website for Mother’s Day. This means featuring the best-selling and most appropriate gifts on your landing page, as well as adding a special Mother’s Day section to the top of your menu bar.

By doing this, you will cut out the guesswork for your customers and enable them to find exactly what they want. Merchants can also provide special coupon codes or free gifts for purchases that exceed a specified amount.

Nordstrom’s provides a great example of a Mom-optimized website by prominently featuring a “Gifts For Mom” section in the menu bar, as well as featuring  “Mother’s Day Gifts Under $100” on its landing page. Look through your analytics data from last year at this time to see just what was driving traffic and generating sales. 

Email Marketing
This is an especially good week to put your email list to good use. Merchants should be promoting last-minute gift ideas for the big day via a series of email suggestions. Remember to use catchy subject lines that convey both the immediacy and importance of finding the perfect gift.

I have been the recent recipient of many Mother’s Day-themed emails, including this Smashbox message, which reinforces the limited amount of shopping days left and prominently features free shipping – which could be the determining factor of a sale.

                

Social Media Marketing
Social Media is a marketer’s best friend, especially for pushing sales when there is limited time left to make purchases in time for a holiday. If you are lucky enough to be one of the first businesses with the Facebook Offer feature at your disposal, waste no time in taking advantage of it this week by offering a coupon that will push them to your website and/or brick-and-mortar store.

Additionally, aside from normal promotions on social sites like Facebook and Twitter, merchants can leverage newer sites to step up their social game. For example, merchants can create a Mother’s Day pinboard on Pinterest to keep consumers thinking about the holiday and encourage gift ideas.

Nine West not only used this strategy for Mother’s Day, but also made a contest out of it by enabling website visitors to win gifts after they have followed the company on Pinterest and re-pinned images from the “Nine West Hearts Mom” board.

             

Wrapp Presents a New Facebook Marketing Platform


There is a new way for your business to increase its social media visibility – and it just might come with a big (virtual) bow on top.

Social gift-giving service Wrapp is a Swedish startup that enables consumers to socially and virtually send their friends gift cards. For example, instead of writing the same generic happy birthday message or other greeting on your friends’ Facebook walls, Wrapp enables users to send free or paid gift cards to friends within their social networks.

However, consumers aren't the only ones that benefit from this platform because the service can also help increase a brand's Facebook visibility, drive sales and generate in-person and online traffic for participating merchants. In fact, during the last four months almost 180,000 people gifted more than 1.5 million free promotional giftcards to their friends with the Wrapp service, and participating merchants reported that each sale averaged a four to six times increased value of the free promotional gift card that was being redeemed.

“Wrapp is the ultimate win, win, win app,” says Hjalmar Winbladh, Wrapp’s CEO. “You and I get to give our friends free gifts and promotional gift cards from great retailers, the gifts we give are stored in our friends’ phones so they’re always with them when they want to buy something they really want, and the merchants get a proven customer acquisition and retention platform built on Wrapp’s friend-to-friend marketing for conducting performance-based campaigns.”

Wrapp was previously only available in Europe, however this week marks the company’s U.S. launch with retail partnerships from some big-name retailers including Gap, H&M, Sephora, Angry Birds, and the Wall Street Journal.

Merchants who would like to partner with Wrapp can sign up on the company’s website.

 

Imagine This: Major Moves for Magento Merchants


It looks like e-commerce platform Magento is running at full-speed ahead.

Magento, which is a division of eBay’s X.commerce initiative, was the recipient of a bundle of new updates this week at the Imagine eCommerce Conference that took place in Las Vegas.

The new updates offer merchants and developers the ability to create more customized and easier shopping experiences for consumers, and are available in the latest versions of the Magento Community and Magento Enterprise software. The biggest updates include the integration of HTML5 for Magento Mobile and PayPal Payments.

Since smartphones are becoming one of the most popular channels for consumers, Magento is now offering its merchants a simple way to create a more compelling mobile shopping experience.

Magento’s new mobile offerings include gesture-based controls, multi-touch and image scaling, device-specific audio and video capabilities. Other new features aim at creating a user-friendly experience for consumers, including an easy-to-use search and results display, the ability to drag and drop products to the shopping cart, the capability to zoom and easily swipe between product images, as well as the inclusion of cross- and up-sell features.

The customizable HTML5 theme also supports iPhone, Android and Mobile Opera browsers.

“From research to checkout and beyond, merchants can now drive conversions more effectively, increase order size and build customer loyalty,” says Roy Rubin, general manager of Magento and chief product and customer officer of X.commerce. 

The other major Magento announcement is the integration of the PayPal small-business product suite, which helps merchants compete in multi-channel retail environments. PayPal Payments offers merchants one solution that makes it simple to accept payments online, from a mobile device or in-person.

PayPal Payments is available in three tiers, with every tier offering a full suite of payment solutions. Magento users can select PayPal Standard, Advanced, Pro or Express Checkout directly from the Magento platform -- based on which solution best meets their business' needs.

Additional updates to the Magento platform include advanced visitor segmentation capabilities, the ability to enable consumers to create multiple wish lists and an improved content management system for Magento Enterprise users, as well as the automatic generation of coupon codes for both Magento Enterprise and Community merchants.

Magento has been gaining a lot of momentum recently. Prior to the Imagine Conference, the company announced partnerships with VisiStat, Bronto Software and 500friends. The X.commerce open ecosystem that Magento is a part of provides users with a large selection of end-to-end commerce technologies, including shopping carts, payment services, inventory management, marketplace integration, SEO and more.

 

A Clear Case for the Commerce Cloud


Consumer demands continue to drive technology innovation while e-commerce managers and Internet professionals try to keep pace with their evolving behavior and growing number of touch points.

Whether accessed through a tablet, a mobile application or a computer, the website must ultimately deliver a unified experience and maintain a consistent look and feel of the brand. Combining this challenge with the need to anticipate the “next big thing” in technology to enhance the cross-channel shopping experience, and keeping your digital backbone in optimum shape, might seem downright daunting.

So, how can retailers deliver a digital experience that attracts and retains consumers?

Simply stated, consider a scalable and flexible cloud-based commerce platform that enables innovation. If your commerce site is frozen in time, bound to on-premise infrastructure that limits growth and necessitates the involvement of outside IT teams for major overhauls, you cannot continually enhance brand interactions. The accelerated pace of consumer control, access and knowledge requires that retailers ready themselves for frequent change.

This cannot be done easily or quickly on an on-premise platform.

Having a digital commerce management (DCM) strategy in place can help retailers better manage all digital interactions with consumers across devices, applications and channels. There are several important facets to DCM, but success is predicated on a cloud delivery model.

Here is why is a commerce cloud is essential?

Innovation is seamless: Commerce in the cloud enables brands and retailers to continuously develop new and innovative digital experiences. New enhancements are frequently and quietly introduced to the commerce environment. Unlike on-premise software, capabilities are automatically delivered without a potential laborious and costly upgrade cycle.

Site is open: Openness is key to a successful digital strategy. The commerce cloud enables organizations to invite partners and developers to complement core functionality. Because of the common code base, integration and developer customization is not point-in-time that must be maintained over time.

Merchandising control: Cloud platforms also encourage user empowerment that allow experts to drive all aspects of the user experience – from cross-channel merchandising, to unique innovation and quick reaction to market opportunities. Merchants and marketers have complete control of the consumer shopping experience.

So, while competitors’ requests are waiting in a queue or hampered by an older version of software, the commerce cloud delivers capabilities to drive brand loyalty and advocacy.

Enjoy the "Ah Ha" moment: Every retailer dreams of that magic moment when their business changes forever and consumers bust down their virtual doors, but most cringe when they contemplate how their infrastructure will react to a deluge of traffic. Those occurrences can be overwhelmingly exciting and incredibly stressful at the same time, but cloud platforms should provide peace of mind.

A scalable, secure, and stable foundation ensures an efficient response to heightened traffic and effective allocation of additional capacity when required. An on-premise or merely hosted commerce product might need weeks – and costly hardware – to manage this possible surge in traffic. The commerce cloud is already built and ready to plug into.

Retailers often find themselves in reactive modes, working furiously to respond to new customer demands. Commerce that leverages proven cloud environments allows retailers to streamline operations providing more time for merchandising, innovation and the creation of new brand experiences.

This model offers more control of the customer experience and enables faster response to new consumer trends like multichannel, mobile and social commerce. In this digital world in which we live, why invest in anything other than a digital backbone in the cloud?

About the Author: As vice president of product and solutions marketing for Demandware, Rob Garf taps into his more than 20 years of retail industry experience. Prior to Demandware, Garf served as the global retail strategy leader of IBM Global Business Services and was vice president of Retail Strategies Service at AMR Research, where he led coverage of customer intelligence and multichannel operations.

Different Strokes: Design Preferences in U.S. and China


Digital marketing agency Acquity Group has released its Global Usability Study that surveyed American and Chinese consumers on their website preferences to better understand online shopping behaviors of consumers in China.

The findings revealed that both groups of consumers favored the American-style Web design over the Chinese-style design, especially on the homepage. American consumers gave the American style a 78-percent approval rating while Chinese consumers gave it an approval rating of 72 percent.

Different Web Experiences
Three Web page layouts were shown in both American-style and Chinese-style designs. Separate versions of a hypothetical e-commerce apparel site were created based on a set of generally accepted design principles for each market. Participants were asked to evaluate the three pages from each style of site – a homepage, a category landing page and an individual product detail and order page.

The American-style design featured a clean homepage with a large, branded image, limited selection of promotions and information, with little or no scrolling capabilities, and similarly structured product category landing and detail pages.

The Chinese-style site was much more information-heavy, characteristic of that market's typical retail website. Product images, descriptions and promotions were all included upfront on the homepage, with long pages and opportunities for continuous scrolling. This was consistent with the category landing and product detail pages.

American audiences tended to rate both design styles an average of 5 to 10 percent higher than Chinese audiences (75-80 percent, versus 70-75 percent), indicating that the Chinese respondents had a slightly more critical perception of Web design styles. Chinese respondents pointed out the American-style design's use of “Big pictures can drive attention, but the information was not enough”, and that the Chinese-style had “Too many product pictures on the homepage.”

Chinese respondents also noted a lack of advertised promotions more readily than Americans did, and were more frequently affected by price points.

“Creating a positive and rewarding Web experience is a complex formula of design best practices coupled with cultural preferences,” says Dominic Lee, Acquity Group’s creative director. “Although we went into the study with general cultural assumptions, the insights we collected about consumer preferences in both countries were unexpected. The cultural styles were not as easily categorized as we initially believed. This tells us that it is time to cross-pollinate the international e-commerce space.”

Entry into Foreign Markets
The point of the study was to generate analytics for marketing and IT officers as they continue to evaluate their digital channels in foreign markets. It revealed that consumers in the Chinese and U.S. markets have distinct tastes when it comes to interacting with digital channels, suggesting that marketers will need to explore new ways to merchandise a site and display product information when moving their brands into foreign markets.

“U.S. companies can save on costs by re-using designs and functionality from domestic-style home pages and landing pages, but winning over the Chinese consumer will require a product-page redesign to enhance both the quality and quantity of product information, which will likely prove beneficial to their home market as well,” says Lee. “Most Chinese companies launching in the U.S. should start from scratch with a new U.S.-style home page, but also keep in mind that U.S. consumers value the enhanced information featured in Chinese-style designs.”

The entire Global Usability Study can be downloaded here.

 

The King of Mobile Shopping Devices


A new report from RichRelevance reveals insights about mobile shoppers – including iPad users, who are driving most of the shopping, browsing and purchasing behaviors within the mobile channel.

"Twenty years later, Apple's ground-breaking 'Think Different' ad campaign can be recast as 'Shop Different' for the iPad," said RichRelevance CEO David Selinger. "To succeed in this quickly evolving landscape, retailers need to understand how shopping behavior changes as consumers hop between devices, and be prepared to tailor the shopping experience in every channel, ensuring continuity and seamlessness regardless of choice of access.”

According to the study, iPad users spend significantly more time and money on retailer sites than other mobile users, accounting for 68 percent of shoppers. Additionally, iPad also has the greatest conversion rates (1.5 percent), and accounts for 90 percent of all mobile revenue. 

Another noteworthy statistic shows that iPad users purchase more expensive items than mobile phone users and spend more on orders.  According to the study, the iPad has the highest average order value (AOV) at $158, ahead of other mobile devices ($105) and even more than desktop users ($153). However, even though the purchases are more expensive, iPad shoppers purchase fewer items per order than other shoppers.

One way retailers can create a better brand experience on the iPad is by collaborating with catalog apps such as Catalogue from The Find and Google Catalogs, which feature products and catalogs from retailers, and provide an interactive shopping experience for consumers.

Using Pinterest for Affiliate Profit


Looking for a few extra bucks from your affiliate marketing efforts this month? Look no further than Pinterest, the social pinboard that at this point presents what amounts to one of the best possibilities for driving revenue in the performance marketing space today.

Much of the conversation related to Pinterest often centers around e-commerce (and social media, of course) and for many that will signal a terrific opportunity for affiliates to get in on the action. If merchants are posting their products and driving traffic to their websites (making sales and increasing brand awareness in the process) then why not affiliates?

Affiliates marketers are the middlemen of the Web. They connect users interested in something with a merchant/vendor providing it. I’ve said it time and again – affiliate marketers are marketers (and, in most cases, they are the best marketers in the world); they just get a percentage of the profit instead of the whole kit and kaboodle. As such, affiliates need to work harder and smarter, finding any available channels/platforms/destinations that might result in more activity on their affiliate links.

With Pinterest now reaching millions of users each day and being a top 30 site according to Comscore, if you’re not looking at Pinterest with an eye on generating profit as an affiliate you’re about to be left behind. This post is going to be brief because once you get the idea about how to use Pinterest as an affiliate marketer, I am confident you’re going to be off and running.

Keep in mind that what I will suggest in the next few paragraphs is about as gray hat as it gets. I don’t really recommend that you do what I’ve done with any regularity (maybe just mix the strategy in to your existing use of the site), but it does work. I believe that you’ll have better results in the long run if you take Pinterest participation seriously (using it as designed), sharing the best content/products you find and re-pinning and commenting on what is shared by others.

All right, enough hedging already! How do you spam Pinterest? I mean, use Pinterest as a channel for marketing affiliate-based offers – wink, wink?

The first is to become an affiliate of a merchant that has been slow to adopt marketing their products on Pinterest. This tactic also could prove useful as fewer pins from that particular merchant will be on Pinterest, raising the likelihood that your pins will be repinned. It also proves useful to find a merchant whose products cater to women (primarily) of a mostly younger demographic. For the most part, however, anything will work as long as efforts are made to ensure pins are categorized and grouped appropriately. For example, I recently pinned ten different books about the stock market and received quite a few repins – something I didn’t expect.

Ideally what you will want to do next is select Internet retailers with lots of products. In my own efforts, I aimed to identify merchants that provided XML feeds (although if you are affiliated with a shopping portal which offers an affiliate program this will work as well) as this can speed up the entire process.

While there are a few software solutions on the market which automate the Pinterest submission process, in my own efforts I opted to do this manually as it offered more control and better listings – which I found resulted in more clicks over time. My method is to take the RSS or XML feed, subscribe to it within a feed reader, identify the posts and start pinning. I tend not to post more than twenty items a day so as not to trigger any alarms at Pinterest.

If you really want to make some money fast (before Pinterest catches on and kicks you to the curb), then look around for some cost-per-click programs. Ebay, for example, offers “quality-click pricing” and that is certainly one option – particularly as it enables you to generate RSS feeds of products that could be submitted to Pinterest on nearly every product available in the world.

Another option, and if you follow the Website Magazine blog you already know this, is the recently released ChaCha affiliate program which has a huge repository of interesting information perfect for sharing on Pinterest. Of course, CPC programs exist but they are typically a little harder to find.

There’s no real trick to using Pinterest to generate some revenue as an affiliate outside of looking for merchants whose products fit the Pinterest demographic, repinning items found within their XML feeds, and opting for CPC programs (although cost per acquisition deals would work, too).

Pinterest will likely be the next billion dollar acquisition target, but in the meantime while the oversight team at the pinboard is busy focusing on the most aggressive spammers, you’ll fly under the radar and straight to greater profits as an affiliate.

Five Ways Retailers Can Compete with Summer


As the days get longer and the temperatures get hotter, retailers on the Web must be prepared for the stiff competition that the next five months will bring – Summer.

Summer, although a wonderful thing for those of us with vacation and sick days stored up, is also a slow time for many merchants, both on and off the Web. However, with a well thought out and sizzling-hot strategy, merchants can sweat out the slow summer months by encouraging customers to make purchases and engage with their online properties. Check out these five tips below:

Competitive Pricing

Not only do merchants need to keep their pricing lower than competitors all year long, but pushing pricing down during the summer months can give consumers the extra bit of incentive that they need to frequent your e-commerce site daily. Additionally, adding a summer clearance section on your site will not only boost sales, but also help clean out your inventory for the holiday season that is right around the corner (yes, already).

Local Social

Since consumers will be checking their social feeds in-between their trips to the beach and summer night get-togethers, it is important to utilize social media to not only promote your brand and products, but also to bring people out of the hot sun and onto your website or into your brick-and-mortar store. For example, use Foursquare and Yelp to promote deals and specials for local customers, use Facebook and Twitter to create customer loyalty by engaging and interacting with consumers, use YouTube to provide consumers with informative product tutorials, and use Pinterest to feature your business’s newest products and summer trends.

Email Strategy

Many consumers are looking at their inboxes on-the-go, therefore it is important to make sure emails are mobile-ready so that consumers can read and interact with them easily from wherever they are. Furthermore, marketers should retest the time-of-day that emails are sent out, because many times the change in seasons brings a change of schedule, which could effect the optimal time for emails to be sent out for a specific audience. Merchants should also have fun with summer emails – create a summer product list, summer tips or summer sales email and always use a sizzling hot subject line, because the subject line alone will influence whether your audience will want to read the mail from the pool, or send it straight to the spam folder.

Promotions and Events

Ever heard of Christmas in July? Although summer time is full of holidays that retailers can create marketing sales and events around (Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day), this doesn’t mean that merchants can't come up with other unique events and holidays to promote their products around. For example, create a Christmas in July sale to let consumers know that they only have six months left before the biggest holiday of the year, promote a rainy day sale if the forecast in your local area calls for some wet weather (which every brick-and-mortar retailer knows is great shopping weather), or give away a summer themed product for purchases that exceed a certain amount, for example, any purchase more than $50 will receive a free bottle of sunscreen or a visor.

Maximizing Online Time

Because the time your customers spend online this summer may be limited, it is important to get the most out of every minute that they are engaging with your brand. If your site doesn’t already include recommended product functionality, this is a good time to implement it because consumers will be inclined to look at more products if your site is taking some of the research work away. Augmented Reality is another feature that will surely increase your consumers' average time on site, because they will want to virtually try products on. And of course, great product videos, photos, promotions and sales (as mentioned above) will also intrigue visitors to spend more time on your site, as well as follow-up coupons, surveys and even gamification features.

Got more summer marketing tips? Leave them in the Comments section below!

Gain Consumer Confidence with Product Videos


Have you added video to your website yet?

If not, it's time to seriously consider it because a new study reveals that consumers are captivated by videos 60 percent of the time.

The report, from video solution provider Invodo, shows that educational and demonstration videos are the most popular among consumers, often being watched multiple times prior to a purchase. In fact, product videos may even cut down on returns, with 52 percent of surveyed consumers claiming that they are more confident when they watch a product video and less likely to return the product.

Product videos also boost consumer confidence, engagement, loyalty and conversions. According to the study, a product demonstration video makes it easier for 66 percent of consumers to understand how the product works, and it enables 61 percent of consumers to imagine themselves using the product. Additionally, 51 percent of consumers in a “ready to buy” state claim that product videos give them more confidence in their potential purchases, and 45 percent said they would spend more time on the website with higher engagement.

And while most consumers view videos on a business’s website, that doesn’t mean marketers can’t promote the videos on other channels – including email, social media and mobile. The study reveals that within the past three months, 67 percent of consumers viewed a product video by clicking through an email. Social media can also create buzz around videos, with Google sites (driven by YouTube) ranking as the top online video content property in October 2011 with 20.9 billion videos viewed, followed by Facebook with more than 346 million videos viewed.

Lastly, mobile devices, which now reach 29 percent of the population, is a growing market that should not to be overlooked – especially since almost half of the US population is expected to be using the mobile Internet by 2015.

“Video is rising quickly as an investment priority among retailers and product manufacturers, and our findings validate the huge impact product videos are having on shoppers of all ages,” says Craig Wax, CEO of Invodo. “In looking at real feedback from our study, it is crystal clear that consumers expect video as part of their shopping experience, and rely on it when making purchase decisions. The insights from this report will help brands make smarter investments in video that will pay off in a big way.”

 

Email Remarketing Solution from Magento


A new partnership between customer recovery solutions provider UpSellit and open-source e-commerce platform Magento provides merchants with a solution for bringing abandoned consumers back.

The partnership integrates UpSellit’s DataHound Email ReMarketing solution into the Magento platform, allowing Magento merchants to capture pre-submit contact information in real time. By capturing abandoned leads and session data, merchants have the ability to automatically send targeted customer recovery emails to consumers that don’t complete their purchases.

According to the company, marketers using DataHound Email ReMarketing tend to see a 5 to 15 percent overall lift in online conversions and collect up to 40 percent more leads.

"We are very pleased to be a part of Magento's rapidly growing community of online merchants," says Tom Kogler, UpSellit Co-Founder and CEO. "Having recently surpassed 4 million downloads, we think Magento's diverse list of clients will benefit greatly from our unique answer to site abandonment. With the addition of UpSellit to the Magento Extension Marketplace, merchants can now quickly and easily implement our hosted and managed email remarketing solution."

PPC Ad Management Comes to Magento Connect


AdWords bid management application WordWatch announced an interesting integration with Ebay-owned e-commerce solution Magento.

The application, which is designed for small business advertisers, is the first such PPC management application in the Magento Connect store – Magento’s repository for third-party application extensions. WordWatch will have dibs on more than 110,000 Magento users. The application will enable merchants to automate their AdWords management and optimize spend through a process of monitoring, analyzing and adjusting keyword bids.

“We’re very happy to get our app into the Magento Connect store. Magento is one of the largest and most respected storefront companies on the Web and we’re sure that our WordWatch app will be helpful to their merchants,” says Todd Wilkinson, CEO of WordWatch.

View of WordWatch dashboard within Magento:

Price it Right and Prepare for Profit


There is no doubt that today’s consumers are spending more money on the Web than any other time in history, but the online retail landscape continues to be a challenging one for merchants. More so than ever before, Internet shoppers have come to expect daily deals, deep discounts and big promotions that make it increasingly more difficult for retailers to build their profits.

A sound but competitive pricing strategy is essential for a retailer’s success on the Web today, but it is surprising how many merchants suffer as a result of their lack of preparation and follow-up. Below are some basic guidelines for establishing pricing that will keep your customers coming back and your competitors at bay, as well as a handful of solutions devoted to helping retailers do exactly that.

Know your own situation first
Many online retailers become so caught up with the competition that they actually lose sight of what is most important to their own bottom lines. To prevent this requires an intimate knowledge of your own product lines and profit margins. For instance, what – if anything – makes a product unique? What are the potential shipping costs? What additional costs such as taxes, website hosting, e-commerce software, payment processing fees and customer-support services will come into play? What product warranties and policies on damaged goods are in place, and how might they affect potential profits on each specific product? Going forward without a deep analysis of these and many other areas makes pricing your products a virtually fruitless exercise.

Know your competitors better than they know themselves
If you are thorough in following the first step – extremely thorough – then the chances are already good that you have a leg up on at least some of your direct competitors. Many online retailers are reluctant or somehow unable to perform this type of due diligence, and they wind up leaving profits on the table or, much worse, suffering financial losses. By benchmarking the competition on the most granular level – which means not only by niche or category, but on a product-by-product basis across the entire Web – you will then be able to ultimately narrow the field and have a much clearer picture of where to price your products, when to put items on sale and how to attain the highest possible profits.

Analyze your strengths and weaknesses
Now that you have a deep understanding of your own inventory as well as that of the competitive environment, you can make an honest assessment of where you stand comparatively. Surely, there will be some of your own products that stand out to you, and not only should they be considered for premium pricing but their strengths should also be expressed to your community of followers. Take advantage of social media to share the news that you have a high-quality product or service for sale, and ask your customers to do the same in the form of reviews and testimonials. How you price these items may have a significant impact on your bottom line, so carefully choose the appropriate times (i.e. based on seasonal supply and demand) to alter their prices one way or the other. The same principle holds true for those products that your analysis may have deemed inferior in the competitive landscape – follow the supply and demand of the competition and price those items accordingly.

Be flexible, dynamic . . . even generous
As just stated above, remaining fluid in your pricing based on the needs of your customers and the proficiency of your competitors will reap the highest profits in today’s online retail market. Gauging the level of competition has already been addressed, but how will you most effectively understand the specific needs of your customers? Through social media and analytics, for one, and also through customer service if that is a viable option for your enterprise. Seek feedback from customers through social media and email campaigns, not only about the quality of your products and services but also about pricing, availability, service, delivery, etc. Make it an important point in the overall process to consider this feedback when pricing your products and let your customers know that their voice has been heard, and that your pricing strategies are dynamic rather than static. Also, for certain products, consider the increasingly popular freemium model: no charge for a limited time/trial basis, and/or no charge until some premium features are added to the basic package.

Become a student of psychology
If you are operating a Web retail business, the chances are decent that you have logged a fair amount of hours in business classes and been educated in some form of website development, sales and marketing. To gain higher profits through pricing strategies, however, requires at least some basic knowledge of human psychology. Some tactics are as old as the hills and others sound downright counterintuitive, but only by educating yourself will you know how much money you stand to gain – or lose – by pricing something at $4.99 rather than $5. The Web is filled with opinions on the subject, many of them from renowned experts who have studied the psychology of pricing for decades.

Research the market
There are also numerous companies that provide dedicated solutions to the science of pricing intelligence, including BlackLocus, JDA Software, Upstream Commerce, Competitor Monitor, Gazaro and others. If you are serious about taking your e-commerce business to the next level, research and education is always a wise course to follow.

2016 Ecommerce Forecast


Market research firm Forrester Research released a report estimating that US online shopping will reach $327 billion in 2016, up 45 percent from $226 billion this year and 62 percent from $202 billion in 2011. By 2016, online retaill will account for 9 percent of total retail sales according to Forrestor.

Much of the ecommerce sales will come as a result of the steady growth of online shoppers. The number of consumers who will shop online will reach 192 million by 2016; that's up 15 percent from the expected 167 million in 2012. Perhaps more interesting however is that the average spend per shopper will also increase, The Forrester report indicates that U.S. consumers will spend spend an average of $1,738 online in 2016, up 44 percent from $1,207 in 2012.

Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru suggests that the growth in US ecommerce sales will comes from online retailers improving their websites and services, suggesting, “This is particularly true of categories such as apparel and jewelry, which have integrated rich selling tools such as zoom, color swatching, and configurators, as well as office supply stores, which have broader payment options (e.g., small business purchase orders online) and subscription plans for their buyers.”

More Detailed Data in Google Product Search


Google announced a series of improvements to its Google Product Search offering (formerly Google Base).

According to a post on the Google Commerce blog, the enhancement aims to make data on “product performance and consumer buying habits” more accessible to retailers.

In addition to aggregate click reporting on all products in an account which was previously available, E-commerce merchants who submit product feeds to Google Product Search will now be able to view much more detailed product performance data, including click metrics for specific product categories, brands, condition and country.

For many it will be hard to believe that it’s taken this long for Google to provide such even this level of reporting; but something is better than nothing, right?

 

Optimize for Tablet Commerce with Mobify


As the mobile market diversifies and expands, unified access across all popular devices will be of increasing importance for e-commerce and multi-channel sellers’ mobile commerce strategies.

Mobify is a Web platform that powers over 20,000 mobile websites, and the company has just launched an integrated optimization product designed to leverage existing sites from any device. These include tablets, smartphones, kiosks, TVs and all other Web-connected devices.

Mobify's tablet product enables brands to take advantage of the rapidly growing tablet economy by delivering high-performing sites for their tablet visitors. Tablet ownership nearly doubled this past holiday season, reaching 19 percent of U.S. adults.

Optimizing for tablets allows online merchants to provide users with faster load times, customized text and page sizes, and a swipe-friendly interface that takes full advantage of touch-based navigation with tactile image carousels and other widgets. This will likely translate into lower bounce rates, increased conversions and more community participation across the growing number of tablet users.

The JavaScript-based Mobify platform powers some of the largest sites on the mobile Web, serving millions of pages a day and reaching 20 percent of global smartphone subscribers. Customers include Starbucks, Ideeli, Threadless, LuluLemon, Wired, Men's Health, Teen Vogue and more.

MerchantCircle Relaunch Offers Enhanced Local Features


Reply! Inc., a marketplace for the acquisition of locally targeted consumer traffic, has announced the relaunch of its MerchantCircle.com property as a destination that gives merchants more effective tools for servicing their local markets.

The new MerchantCircle allows consumers to find and engage with qualified providers in their local areas while giving merchants the ability to cost-effectively market their businesses and acquire new customers. Key features for merchants include the following:

•    LeadStore: a Twitter-like feed for leads, LeadsStore allows merchants to pick and choose leads from a real-time list of relevant consumers directly from their merchant dashboard.  
•    DealStore: a new service that increases the visibility of merchants’ deals, coupons and other promotions with premium placement on City pages, emails and the MerchantCircle.com category page.
•    Local sponsorships: offers merchants premium placement of their listing in city/category-specific search results.
•    Preferred badges: provides an exclusive opportunity to post an official MerchantCircle Preferred business badge to merchant listing pages to provide transparency to searching customers.
•    Lead management: allows merchants to review and manage all customers via the dashboard, or set up the system to deliver new customer leads directly to their inbox or mobile device.

MerchantCircle complements these features by allowing consumers to seamlessly move from search to transaction. For example, consumers searching for "roof repair" in their local area will be presented with the option to connect to the best local roofers and/or "request quotes" from multiple local providers.

These inquiries are serviced by the relevant subset of member service providers within the extended Reply! network. MerchantCircle will also introduce new functionality in the coming months that will let consumers see which vendors have received their requests and manage their responses.

 

Pinterest Optimization for Internet Retailers


Virtual pinboard Pinterest is the hottest thing on the Web right now. That means that it deserves the attention of merchants and marketers as well as the millions of users who have made it one of the fastest-growing websites in history.

Some of the most recent numbers indicate that Pinterest currently drives more referral traffic than YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn combined, and that 9 percent of the top 300 online retailers are offering “Pin it” buttons on their own sites. That’s compared to about 60 percent who have Facebook Like buttons and 20 percent who have Google+ buttons – and Pinterest was a relatively unknown commodity until just recently.

The point is that an enormous opportunity awaits e-commerce merchants who understand how to leverage the popularity of Pinterest by utilizing the service itself as well as the rising number of ancillary tools. Here are some tips on how to do exactly that:

Get initiated
If you’re still unsure of what all the buzz is about, here’s a quick review of what Pinterest is, followed by how it can generate revenue for Web retailers. It is a social “pinboarding” site on which users share images with one another by “pinning” them onto their “boards”. Users can create multiple boards and give them specific themes, and other users can follow the boards in which they are most interested, sharing their favorite pins with still others by “repinning” them, liking them and adding comments.

The actual images or pins on each board can link back to a retailer’s online store, which is why many of today’s top brands are using Pinterest to display their products, create awareness and build communities of targeted, qualified users. That last part is of critical importance for merchants – visitors who land on retail websites by way of Pinterest are generally highly targeted potential customers who have already shown an interest in a specific product, category or brand; more so, in fact, than most users who share products on Facebook and Twitter.

This is what makes Pinterest such a potential gold mine for merchants, and here is how to optimize for the best results.

Add “Pin it” buttons to your online store
As mentioned above, about 28 of the top 300 Internet retailers have already done this, but expect that number to rise dramatically in the very near future. Pinterest users will have Pin it bookmarks on their own computers’ browsers, but this simple step is a must for merchants who want to get the best results out of the Pinterest experience. One more reminder to visitors of your online store that your product images are available for pinning can go a long way toward attracting and converting new customers.

Get creative with your use of images
If you have been delaying that update to your product catalog or website design, do not put them off any longer. Pinterest offers a rapidly growing community with which to share your images, but not just any images or use of imagery will do. Poor-quality, outdated or uninteresting product photos may even have the opposite effect and drive users away from your store rather than to it. Make sure that you offer a wide selection of photos that properly illustrates the different styles in which your products are available (see example).

And product images are hardly all we’re talking about, so start getting creative and generous with your overall use of imagery. Add compelling photos to each and every blog post and pin the images to Pinterest; update the “About” section of your website with photos of staff members and pin them to Pinterest; involve your customers in the process and ask them to submit their own photos of themselves with your products, perhaps as part of a contest, and pin them to Pinterest; take photos at industry events and your own company events and pin those to Pinterest, too. These are just a few ideas for how to get more serious about images and video than you may have been up to this point.

Take advantage of your tracking and referral data
Through Google Analytics, merchants can easily determine what referral traffic is arriving via Pinterest as well as keeping track of individual pins. This information can be used to determine the most popular items on your board that are receiving the most pins and how many actual conversions are resulting in each case. Based on this data, retailers can experiment with time-sensitive sales for Pinterest users or offer discounts for the products that users are pinning the most – and/or rewards for the most active pinners among your Pinterest community.

Don’t be a stranger
The most successful merchants on Pinterest are going to be the ones who actually use it the way other users do, and not strictly as a marketing vehicle. So have fun with it and interact with the community, and don’t be a stranger who drops in every once in a while. Get in the habit of spending some part of every day on the site, and also in the habit of pinning every interesting, fun and/or engaging photo or video that you come across. You won’t really be a part of the community if your only interactions are dropping by every other week to pin a new product photo. One way to ensure that you have a community of users from the start is by encouraging your existing customers to take the Pinterest plunge along with you, and build out from there. Another way to increase your Pinterest street cred is by playing on both sides of the ball, i.e. make sure that you are helping other users by pinning their photos and videos rather than just idly sitting by and waiting for users to pin your content.

Don’t stop at Pinterest
Just as the daily deals craze began with Groupon but then grew exponentially larger than the company behind it, the pinboarding craze has more than a good chance to outgrow just Pinterest. In fact, that process has already begun with sites such as Chill, a pinboarding site for video only, and tools such as this one for Joomla users and these WordPress plugins. Many retailers went this route at the height of the daily deals buzz and have enjoyed great success by running their own versions of deals sites, but at the very least you should keep an eye on the increasing number of Pinterest clones out there and give some of them a try as well.

 

ShopIgniter Fires Up for the Retail Enterprise


There has been some serious discussion lately about the viability of Facebook-related commerce. To get caught up, read WM's post Solving the Facebook Merchant Exodus.

Whether you're a believer now in f-commerce or not, it's hard to imagine the social network without an e-commerce component in the future. One of the reasons many larger retailers and brands have been hesitant (and which may be preventing broader adoption) is related to the issue of security. Gradually, merchants are seeing solutions emerge that slowly address the issue. Case in point, social commerce software ShopIgniter announced the availability of an enterprise-scale platform last week designed specifically for Internet retailers. 

The social commerce platform from ShopIgniter is one of the first solutions to deliver an "integrated" set of e-commerce experiences, including Group Gifting and seamless Facebook purchases, but it doesn't stop there. The offering is wrapped in a technology infrastructure that offers full integration with existing retail software systems and more importantly addresses the rigorous security requirements of businesses. Retailers including Levi's, Target, Nike Golf, Kaenon and others have sophisticated technology requirements for their commerce operations, particularly PCI Level 1 certification.

"Customers expect, and brands demand, the same level of security and confidence when buying through social channels as they do on their eCommerce stores," says Matt Compton, CEO of ShopIgniter. "By adding PCI Level 1 certification to our Social Commerce Platform, we're proud to offer brands and retailers the most complete social commerce offering on the market, with peace of mind that their transactions and data are completely secure."

Security is certainly important to big name retailers, but it’s the features that will likely drive usage long term. The highlight of the platform for many merchants is sure to be the group gifting capabilities. The system uses Facebook's built-in friend lists and messages to coordinate a unique, social purchasing flow -- and then processes multiple contributions for a single transaction. What will separate f-commerce solution providers from one another is in the ability to create a variety of experiences for their users. In addition to group gifting, SI clients can create programs for new product launches, special offers for key customers, flash/private sales and even seasonal and holiday collections.

Payvment Launches Social IQ for Facebook Sellers


Facebook e-commerce platform Payvment has introduced a new tool that guides sellers towards the optimal social media activities to boost sales and engagement in their Facebook stores.

Based on analysis of over two years of data from thousands of successful sellers, Payvment Social IQ technology delivers a daily set of customized actions to help sellers who are new to social commerce drive fan-base growth, traffic and sales. The technology is embedded in a new release of Payvment’s Social Commerce Dashboard, which has an added set of tools to monitor key social commerce metrics and track the impact of new campaigns.

Payvment’s Social IQ is also designed to make it easy for sellers to try new social marketing tactics such as running a Twitter promotion or offering a “Like” discount for fans, while being able to measure exactly how those actions improve product discovery and sales.

Key features of Social IQ include the following:

•    Things You Did: Tallies the deals, promotions and polls a seller has run in the past week
•    Shopper Reactions: Shows how shoppers engaged based on the social actions
•    Your Bottom Line: Tallies Fans, product views and revenue earned based on social activity, while showing whether those totals are trending up or down over time
•    Social IQ Booster: Suggests simple ways to grow your Social IQ score and increase engagement and sales
•    Social IQ Leaderboard: Shows the other sellers who are most active and socially engaged with shoppers and how they compare

Visit Payvment’s Seller Spotlight section for profiles of merchants who have achieved success with Facebook commerce.

Solving the Facebook Merchant Exodus


There seems to be a merchant exodus occurring on Facebook recently. Bloomberg’s Ashely Lutz wrote recently on the troubles of Gamestop, which opened a store in April 2010 only to shutter their f-commerce initiatives six months later.

Gamestop isn’t alone, however – Gap, JC Penny, and Nordstrom have also jumped ship. So what’s going on here? Has the community of Internet retailers invested too hastily into f-commerce? Can it ever work?

The rise in number of social commerce platforms on the market today may be causing the problem – at least in part. A multitude of vendors fill the f-commerce landscape including Payvment, ShopIgniter and startups like Moluku, and they are all clamoring for some attention from retailers. But these offerings may just be solutions without an actual problem.

The real problem, at least as I see it, is that consumers aren’t really in “buying mode” when they’re on Facebook. Not that it doesn’t happen, but is it happening enough to warrant the investment? In my opinion, it is but not in the way that most merchants have their e-commerce/f-commerce platforms aligned.

There are a few strategies which may just right the ship, however. Instead of porting all of your existing products into Facebook and dropping them on a tab, another way might be to use the functionality offered by many of the f-commerce platforms to showcase products and drive interest, rather than drive sales.

For example, since we know that saturating social media feeds has the opposite effect and causes brand disengagement, a better idea might simply be to use Facebook to profile individual items and make the social participation around that product the sole focus of the day.

Just one way I think to showcase products on Facebook and drive sales. Do you have some ideas? Please share them in the comments section below!

Here’s What’s Hot – 13 Super Startups to Watch


The Web world moves at a furious pace, and digital workers can miss the next big thing in the blink of an eye. Some emerging services such as Pinterest are fortunate enough to take center stage while other solutions of seemingly equal value to Web pros wallow in relative obscurity.

When WM covered this week’s launch of Chirpify, a new retail sales platform for Twitter users, it made us realize that we were due for a look at some of the hottest new products, services and startup companies on the Web. Some you may have already heard of (some we’ve even mentioned before), and some you may actually be using, in which case we would like your honest input in the comments section below. Please free to also use that section to add your own selections to the following list.

AdClarity
A newly launched product from Israeli company BIScience, AdClarity aims to give online advertisers the most detailed analysis yet about their competitors’ advertising campaigns. The product has been designed to show users where on the Web a competing advertiser’s campaign has run, which ad networks, agencies and affiliate networks were used, and exactly what was included in the campaign’s ad creative.

CrowdVi.be
Peanut Labs has launched a new iteration of its crowd-sampling tool that allows businesses and brands to receive real-time insights about products or procedures from the Web community. The online surveys go out to more than 50 million Internet users on 200 social networks around the world, who participate in order to earn Facebook credits or other forms of virtual currency. Users can target specific segments of consumers based on their attributes and the types of questions a company wants answered. The new service costs a dollar or less per user and results are returned within seconds.

Dwolla
This new payment network was created to eliminate credit card fees and make it quicker and easier for online businesses to receive payments. The platform offers free micro-transactions for purchases less than $10, and a flat rate of 25 cents for all other transactions. Dwolla offers many plug-ins to enable its services to work with e-commerce platforms such as Shopify, Magento and creLoaded.

Gremln
Similar to HootSuite, Gremln is a social media toolset for small businesses. The service enables users to schedule tweets on popular social media sites including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. It comes with four packages that start out free and range up to $500 a month. The Basic (free) package enables users to sign up for five social network accounts, provides an engagement dashboard, allows for five scheduled messages per hour and recurring scheduled massages, translation, goal tracking, two RSS feeds, social analytics and integrates with Bit.ly.

Jun Group
This startup’s embedded video platform gives users a way to deliver video to targeted audiences in the channels they consider most important, such as social games, mobile devices and YouTube. The Jun Group already generates millions of opt-in video views each month and reaches over 101 million active users, as well as providing built-in analytics tracking and pinpoint targeting based on factors such as age, gender, location, mobile device and content category.

LaunchBit
Former Google marketing manager Elizabeth has just launched an email advertising network she describes as providing an experience similar to AdWords. LaunchBit users create their ads, identify the demographics of the audience they want to reach via email, then choose the cost-per-click (CPC) price they will be willing to pay. The ads win a certain number of impressions in multiple newsletters, ensuring that users reach their target demographic while getting their campaigns in multiple newsletters.

LiveIntent
Another email advertising platform that caters to publishers, advertisers and agencies, LiveIntent comes fully compatible with all ESPs and delivers its LiveTag display ads in real-time via email newsletters. LiveTags can be delivered on any type of device the moment a recipient opens his or her email message. Advertisers can target audiences based on a variety of factors, and all ads are optimized for location and device. Publishers can use the platform to maximize the value of their email inventory while keeping control over ad ops. So far, the company has partnered with major brands such as MSNBC, Verizon, The Weather Channel, Maxim and more.

MiNeeds
With more than 50,000 registered professionals and services providers, MiNeeds is quickly becoming an online marketing tool of choice for smart, social businesses. By offering consumers a highly efficient way to shop for services, the startup has become a consistent lead and revenue generator for local vendors and small businesses. Users post their needs online and then receive competitive proposals from local professionals without having to initiate contact, negotiate costs or waste time on the phone.

Nimble
Startup social relationship manager Nimble has been around for a few years and is earning the reputation as a revolutionary online business solution. Named to ZDNet’s 2012 CRM Watch List, the startup enables small businesses to engage customers in a two-way dialogue by leveraging the power of traditional CRM and social media with its Web-based social CRM platform.

Profitero
This startup provides pricing intelligence solutions for retailers and manufacturers, meaning it helps you answer questions about how much your competitors charge for similar products; how many they have in stock; what new products they’ve started selling; which of your products are more expensive; if you’re missing sales, and which products you don’t price high enough. Profitero will help users sell their products at the most accurate price-point possible in line with the rest of the market, and it does so by providing up-to-date competitor pricing information and answering the aforementioned questions in minutes.

Retailigence
Retailigence is a startup company that powers location-based shopping solutions, mostly mobile apps and websites, by providing specific information about a retailer’s products by location. The platform helps brick-and-mortar retailers reach local shoppers, and promises to do so at the height of their intent to purchase. Retailers use Retailigence by providing their product-specific (such as in-store availability) and location information, and then Retailigence shares that information with its developer and publisher partners to include on their sites, apps, etc.

SinglePlatform
Launched in 2010, SinglePlatform helps local businesses get discovered online. The platform helps small businesses extend their storefront to millions of customers through publisher networks of hotels, city guides, review sites and mobile apps. It also helps local businesses promote their menus, specials, photos and services, as well as manage social media pages, websites, mobile sites and more. Most recently, SinglePlatform partnered up with Foursquare in order to provide menus for restaurants on the location-based social network.

Selling on Twitter with Chirpify


Most Web workers will consider Twitter more of a social network than an e-commerce platform, but that’s exactly what Twitter might become as Chirpify launches this week.

Once known as Sell Simply, Chirpify enables merchants (or anyone processing an order really) to conduct direct, person-to-person payments and donations over Twitter through its retail sales platform.

While a relatively new concept to say the least, it’s definitely being hyped as a way to “turn Tweets into transactions.” To determine whether or not that will ultimately be the case on a larger scale you’ll need a crystal ball far more accurate than my own, but a peak into how the platform actually works provides a good look into what you might expect.

Chirpify essentially just integrates with PayPal, but what makes the platform interesting is its ease of use - making a purchase or donation requires the user to only reply to a Tweet with something akin to @username BUY or @username DONATE. No fees are charged to the user for purchasing/donating.

Likely what will give Chirpify a boost, at least initially, is that it offers integration with existing e-commerce storefronts, including Magento (perhaps a nod in exchange for using PayPal as a payment platform. Integrating with popular e-commerce storefronts – the only others listed being Shopify and SAP – is a smart move out of the gate particularly as many likely to use the service aren’t familiar with tasks such as back-end fulfillment, listing and transaction management.

To use Chirpify, merchants simply click the “list on Twitter” button when drafting an item listing for sale in their e-commerce dashboard. Inbound sales information appears as either an email or as part of the retailer’s back-end system, as well as via a DM on Twitter. There are three Chirpify pricing plans (Basic, Pro, and Enterprise).

Chirpify receives a flat 4 percent commission on basic accounts and a flat 4 percent commission for Pro accounts, which start at $49.00 per month. For those merchants interested in going the route of the enterprise-level, Chirpify won’t take any commission at all but expect a hefty monthly or annual fee in exchange.

“Brands, retailers, politicians, celebrities and individuals have spent the past six years using Twitter to build communities and brand affinity, so why not allow them to sell on Twitter directly?” says Chris Teso, founder of Chirpify. “Customers don’t have to leave Twitter to make a purchase or donation. Chirpify removes the frictions of traditional e-commerce check-out processes.”

 

360 Degree Analytics Come to Digital River Dashboards


It's a trend you're likely familiar with first hand - software vendors are increasingly (and rapidly) rolling out much more sophisticated analytics tools within their solutions. Digital River for example has just released 360 Dashboards, a reporting analytics system for its Global Commerce and Commerce Express solutions which is designed to give merchans more detailed metrics on store performance and lifetime value of their customers.

The dashboards are designed to display business related metrics including online store sales, close, rates, shopper recency and frequency, revenue per visitor and more. While most, if not all, e-commerce solutions have some variation of analytics within their dashboards, what makes the Digital River offering interesting is that it puts customer lifetime value front and center.
The system allows merchants to monitor a customers activity based on recency, freqnecy and monetary value (often called RFM metrics). Perhaps more than anything else, these insights provide businesses with a better ability to map and predict shopper engagement. And in today's highly competitive retail environment, that's increasingly important. Digital also makes it possible to analyze and compare the success of several online marketing camapgins and engagements, including bid management, behavioral merchandising and other promotional activities.

“Gaining access to the right e-business metrics and acting on them can tremendously boost incremental revenue. The challenge is that while most online merchants have access to a good standard set of performance metrics they lack the full-picture view of their business at the customer level,” said Joel Ronning, Digital River’s CEO. “Merchants that can operate at this deeper level are at a competitive advantage when it comes to transforming and accelerating growth across an online business.”

Drupal Commerce Module Hits 10K Milestone


Commerce Guys, an eCommerce company specializing in Drupal, announced that its ecommerce module Drupal Commerce is now in use in over 10,000 websites.

The module was released in August of 2011 and since then it has been adopted by a range of online retailers that sell shippable products, digital content, tickets, and even donations. The module offers a range of capabilities, including the ability to upload catalogs of merchandise, accept payments online, integrate with shipping services and interact with customers.

“Reaching 10,000 is a tremendous benchmark. It means the community and leading e-retailers around the world are increasingly turning to Drupal for more than content management and social publishing,” said Mike O’Connor, co-founder of Commerce Guys. “We created Drupal Commerce with the vision that it would one day become the standard in online commerce. We are excited to be getting closer to that vision with this important milestone.”

Related Reading from Website Magazine:

- Master List of Content Management Systems

- Softaculous Version 4.0 Hits the Shelves

- Drupal-driven Sites Fare Well in New Report

Web Analytics Trends in Retail Commerce


How many analytics solutions do you use? While many will assume the total will not be more than one, according to iPerception’s recently released Retail Web Analytics Report for 2011, the use of more than one Web analytics tool nearly doubled in the last year – from 33 percent in 2012 to 62 percent in 2011.

"Until this year, the use of more than one web analytics tool was unusual, with the majority of retailers making decisions based on a single source of information," says Claude Guay, president and CEO of iPerceptions. "But in 2011, using multiple tools became the norm and retailers began allotting more resources to the collection and analysis of website data."

There is quite a bit of interesting information in the report. For example, the use of clickstream analytics in now nearly universal among retail websites with 98 percent penetration. The dominant vendors in the clickstream analytic sspace are Google (68 percent), Omniture (40 percent) and IBM (Coremetrics, Unica).

iPerceptions also saw notable increases for other categories of Web analytics. In 2011, more than half of all retail websites used advertising network tools, and SEM tools double to 20 percent. Voice of cstuomer tools, such as those provided by iPerceptions solutions included the webValidator Continued Listening Solutionand 4Q Suite gained market share as well.

There was also an increase in the share of retailers who were using at least four web analytics tools, from just 1 percent in 2010 to a noteworthy 15 percent in 2011 according to the report, which also pointed to an increase in the use of other, lesser-known web analytics tools as part of retailers' online measurement toolkit.

Elemental Product Page Design


Once an Internet retailer gets a prospective buyer on their product page, there are quite a few design elements and functions that must be present for today's savvy shopper. Product pages can be complex and require ongoing testing, but starting out with some basics will ensure that the conversion opportunities earned (or bought) won’t be wasted.

In today’s E-commerce Express newsletter, we looked at some essential and elemental product-page designs, identifying some patterns and exploring the norm as it stands today.

Product Titles and Descriptions: It is unlikely that you will have a product page that is devoid of any product title or description, but their presence cannot be emphasized enough. What is most important about product titles and descriptions is how unique they are in identifying the differences between other products. Product titles and descriptions must also be unique as they play a fundamental role in search engine optimization. Basing product title-naming based on keyword volume and buying-intent levels is Step One in elemental product page design.

Price and the Buy Button: If there is one area of focus for e-commerce product page designers, it is the intricacies of layout of price indicators and buy-now buttons. Website Magazine has written extensively on the topic of buy-now buttons, but remember that size, color, text and position of these two elements (which ideally should be located near one another to support eye-gaze flow) is of paramount importance.

High-quality Images: The Web is a visual medium and those merchants who optimize the image experience for users will be those ringing the cash register at the end of the day. Today, users expect product images for two reasons – to confirm that what they are looking for is in fact what attracted them to the page in the first place, and of course to evaluate quality of those products. To satisfy users, merchants must ensure that image use is consistent across their sites (and marketing/advertising), and that they are sized in a way so that users can examine the product in more detail.

Options and Functions: While images engage, it is the options and functions within product pages that initiate a commitment from users to continue through the sales funnel. The aim with these general design elements is to give the user some control over the specifications – from colors, sizes/dimensions, styles, etc. The integration of these elements can be technically challenging and present some design layout issues, but their presence is of increasing importance.

Well-built product pages do several things well. They provide a descriptive title that matches the query of the user; they provide information that shoppers need; they indicate product availability; they provide information on warranties and policy, and yes, they must feature a means to actually proceed through the sales funnel (the buy button). These are basic or elemental requirements of product-page design, but remember that testing these elements (placement, style, etc.) is the only way to know for sure what is appealing to users.

Keep in mind that the elemental design components of a well-built e-commerce product page address herein is only a start. There are quite a few others and Website Magazine will explore additional elements such as the inclusion of video, customer reviews, bulk ordering, available stock, wish lists, delivery details, trust signals and social media integrations in the next edition of the E-commerce Express newsletter. Make sure to sign up so you don’t miss out!

 

E-Commerce & The Quality of Life


As a consumer, has e-commerce improved the quality of your life? According to a new study conducted by Deutsche Post DHL, e-commerce both simplifies the lives of shoppers and significantly improves the quality - at least for those in Germany.

Amongst online shoppers in Germany, 44 percent reported improvements in their quality of life, reasoning that it is more fun (41 percent), less stressful (63 percent) and allows them to better manage their time (81 percent). Of the respondents a whopping 75 percent were certain that online shopping had a positive impact on quality of life for those with only limited access to brick-and-mortar retail establishments.

Perhaps most interesting was that Web shopping was perceived as being an “emotional experience”. Two-thirds of those surveyed look forward to their package being delivered. Over 50 percent of respondents said the experience was akin to "receiving a gift," and that they experience an emotional high when their online purchase is delivered.

"The core finding of the study is that e-commerce has become part of mainstream society. Increasing numbers of people of all ages are using this convenient alternative to the stressful obstacle course of physical shopping. E-commerce is simplifying our professional and our personal lives,” says Jürgen Gerdes, member of the management board and responsible for the MAIL Division at Deutsche Post DHL.

“E-commerce has to be convenient for everyone involved – both for sellers and for buyers. For us, the result is a clear mandate from our customers: We need to guide our customers in the digital world as well and enable them to have convenient and safe access to the internet.”

Doubling AOV with Behavioral Commerce

The more you know about your customers, the better positioned you are to sell them products - and sell more in general. Online hat retailer Hats in the Belfry can apparently attest to that. 

The internet retailer selected retargeting and behavioral commerce platform Steelhouse, an Ad-Tech Innovation award winner, and saw its average order values increase a whopping 95 percent. Steelhouse enabled the retailer to segment shoppers based on their buying habits and then engage them in a 1-on-1 dialogue (go ahead, call it what it is - live chat) with those customers in real time on the site. 

As a test, Hats in the Belfry targeted the “Toe-in-the-Water Shopper,” – one who places relatively low dollar item(s) in their cart and then purchases the item(s). The retailer offered a 15-percent discount on orders of more than $75 to Toe-in-the-Water shoppers, and in doing so, increased their average order values from $53.67 to $104.16.

“With the SteelHouse platform, we can deploy real-time offers to dozens of segments of shoppers in order to maximize our average order value and revenue by shopper type,” says James Sackar, ecommerce general manager of Hats in the Belfry. “We’re able to see the results immediately hit our bottom line.”

Introduction to Opencart – eCommerce Shopping Cart Starlet

It is hard to call OpenCart a new player in the shopping carts bandwagon because this software was in the shade of more mature and better-promoted online platforms for a long time. Analyzing the past two years of the development of OpenCart we can state the fact that it was a period of great changes for the whole OpenCart community. Huge work has been done by developers and now regular users have a great opportunity to try out this reliable and powerful software for online store maintenance. This PHP-written online store platform uses MySQL databases which is the most popular type of databases for eCommerce projects, so nothing uncommon here.

Our team is preparing the launch of design layouts powered by OpenCart eCommerce engine so if you are interested in being informed about this very release feel free to sign up for the notification on our pre-launch OpenCart templates page. We are extremely excited about this forthcoming event and sincerely hope that you’ll appreciate our efforts in expanding the range of eCommerce products. In the meantime let’s return to learning more about Opencart.

Introduction to Opencart   eCommerce Shopping Cart Starlet

Key Options

First stable release of OpenCart was in October 2008. It took several years to put this software on the rails of wide online store-management software road. I have a personal experience in installing OpenCart software on the hosting and I must confess that even a 6-year old kid can handle this task. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to praise this software because as many similar platforms it has its own peculiarities. Before we start discussing them I’ll share some information about the major functional features of the OpenCart.

  • Multi-Language
  • Multi-Currency
  • Product Reviews
  • Product Ratings
  • Related Products
  • SEO Capabilities
  • Guest Checkout
  • Shipping Weight Calculation
  • Discount Coupon System
  • Module System
  • Backup & Restore Tools
  • Printable Invoices
  • Sales Reports

OpenCart developers have done their best to create a fully functional online store in one box. Basically you almost don’t need any special or additional software to maintain your online store after installing. It is well thought-out software aimed at simplifying the store management process and making it very comfortable.

Introduction to Opencart   eCommerce Shopping Cart Starlet

Modules

Also you can enhance your webstore’s functionality with the help of default modules that are built into the core features. Besides default modules there are some premium modules that would help you to solve some custom tasks. Here is the list of default modules that would be available right after installation.

  • Bestsellers
  • Cart
  • Category
  • Featured
  • Latest
  • Specials
  • Manufactures
  • Information
  • Google Analytics

It is also worth mentioning that OpenCart has a great administration user interface. Even if you are a newbie in eCommerce sphere it would take you 10-20 minutes to figure it out, understand everything and find all important sections in the dashboard. Besides, you can always ask for help in the OpenCart community forum. We do believe that you, our dear readers, and the whole Template Monster’s community will love OpenCart shopping cart software and will start using it in your future projects. This is only the first post from our series devoted to OpenCart software and OpenCart templates so stay tuned – there is more fun ahead!

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

Does it pay off when you play with a visual narrative in eCommerce designs? As you are withdrawing from conventional views on a standard eCommerce website and import a spark of creativeness into a generic clear-cut form. This is where the question of usability comes in – the obvious thing is that true creativity should result in something useful to others. Further we offer you only the dashing looking eCommerce website templates that meet the demand of the current web retail world. It is just that they guide the customer to the point of purchase with some creative means. Having new forms of expression inherent and unleashed in any page element, these eCommerce website designs are sure to have as much success as usual online stores we got accustomed to see. The technique common on these particular eshops is to offer a first-time visitor effective concepts from the start. Check out how a way they expose products can forward your sales performances. You can purchase any template out of this list.

If you enjoyed this, why not see our initial post with creative eCommerce templates backed with a seamless user experience across the whole website.

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Bike Store Zen-Cart 1.3.9 Template

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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T-Shirts Store Magento Theme

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Shoes Store PrestaShop Template

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Antique Store PrestaShop Template

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Books Store Magento Theme

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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CD & DVD Store VirtueMart Template

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Men’s Underwear Store Magento Theme

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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T-Shirts Shop OsCommerce 2.3 Template

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Business Cards Store PrestaShop Template

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Pets Store Magento Theme

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Underwear Store Zen-Cart 1.3.9 Template

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Window Decor OsCommerce 2.3 Template

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Furniture Zen-Cart 1.3.9 Template

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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T-Shirts Store PrestaShop Template

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Mobile Store OsCommerce 2.3 Template

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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DVD Store PrestaShop Template

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Clothes Store PrestaShop Template

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Fashion Magento Theme

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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CD & DVD Store OsCommerce 2.3 Template

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Furniture Magento Theme

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Shoesy Online Store VirtueMart Template

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Accessories Store Zen-Cart 1.3.9 Template

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Kitchen Supplies PrestaShop Template

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Pets Store PrestaShop Template

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Images Bank Magento Theme

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Toys Store Zen-Cart 1.3.9 Template

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Spare Parts PrestaShop Template

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Bedding Store VirtueMart Template

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Sunglasses Online Store OsCommerce 2.3 Template

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Food Store Zen-Cart 1.3.9 Template

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Coffee Store Magento Theme

Creative Homepages in eCommerce Templates [Part 2]

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Getting Started Selling on Amazon


Marketplaces are becoming the go-to Web destination for consumers. 

Familiar shopping interfaces, more balanced reviews, one-stop shopping and comparison functionality are just a couple of reasons why some consumers prefer marketplace shopping over shopping on a brand’s website. But marketplaces aren’t only valuable for consumers; they are also valuable for merchants because they provide businesses with more visibility and therefore a better opportunity to sell products.

For example, selling products on Amazon.com can help a merchant reach millions of customers that flock to the leading ecommerce site every day. So stop wasting time, and start creating another revenue avenue by putting your products in the Amazon Marketplace.

Existing Ecommerce Merchants

Merchants who already have their own ecommerce stores can start selling products through Amazon by signing up for the professional solution for $39.99 per month. To get started, merchants must list products and set up their seller profiles.

First, merchants should prepare product information for the items that they wish to sell. Every product on Amazon has its own Product Detail Page, so in order to start selling, merchants should prepare product identification information, product attributes such as title and description, product images and search terms. Once this information is prepared, it can be entered into the Product Detail Page. If the item being sold already has a Product Detail Page, merchants need only type in the price, quantity and condition of the item in order to list it.

Merchants have four different options for listing their products:

Add a Product – This tool is inside of Seller Central and is the best option for merchants that are selling less than 50 products.

Listings Loader – A great option for merchants who are selling many products that are already in the Amazon catalog. The template is an Excel format and can be downloaded from Seller Central.

Inventory File – This template is also in Excel and can be downloaded from Seller Central. It is best for merchants who are selling multiple products that are not in the Amazon catalog.

Amazon Seller Desktop – An application that allows merchants to work offline to list products.

Before merchants can start selling, they must set up their accounts. This includes entering basic information such as a business name, contact information, shipping and payment information. Merchants can also add things like a logo, explain return policies and tell customers why they should purchase from them in the Seller Profile Page. This is the merchant’s opportunity to create trust and persuade customers to purchase their products.

Merchants Completely New to Ecommerce

For merchants who are just starting out in the ecommerce world, Amazon also offers a complete ecommerce Webstore solution that allows them to set up customized websites to start selling online. 

The Amazon Webstore provides merchants with template design tools, the option to create custom navigation and product categories, merchandising widgets for promoting products, the ability to monitor customer reviews, a shopping cart that can be branded to reflect your business, credit card processing, inventory management features and more.

Merchants can choose the Amazon Webstore solution that includes selling on Amazon, which is free for the first two years, with a $14.99 monthly rate after that. Additionally, the fee for selling on Amazon is $39.99 per month after the first three free months. This solution allows retailers to sell an unlimited number of products and use an unlimted amount of bandwidth and storage. It also includes Fullfillment by Amazon, which is a packing and shipping service.

Marketplace Selling Tips

There are many best practices for becoming a real player in the Amazon Marketplace community. Merchants should always remember the basics, such as checking orders daily, confirming shipping, keeping up with inventory (especially if you have multiple channels) and keeping pricing accurate.

However, there are also best practices for getting your products to the top of the marketplace search feeds over time, such as obtaining positive feedback from consumers, minimizing order cancellations, increasing inventory availability and maintaining competitive pricing.

Whether you are just starting out or you have been in the ecommerce game for a long time, becoming visible on Amazon – the largest ecommerce site on the Web – will provide merchants with the ability to reach more consumers and better improve their overall ecommerce business.

 

Studying the Business of Ecommerce


While it may not be the most optimistic news for brick-and-mortar stores, ecommerce companies and businesses with an ecommerce solution are, on average, doing very well. But in an industry pretty much dominated by a single company (guess who?), while also presenting a seemingly endless number of potential competitors, it can be hard to get started and find immediate success.

It can be easier, though, if you look at some of the most accomplished ecommerce brands and study their secrets. What have we learned so far?

Product Pages Take Precedent
I hope you didn’t spend a lot of time fretting over your home page, because studying ecommerce site analytics shows that the truth is that many visitors, even paying customers, will never see it.

The biggest reason is that Google and other search engines have become especially adept at finding the products most relevant to a user’s query. Consequently, users will usually just click on a result that leads them directly to a product page, where they will make their decision to purchase (or not). The site’s home page is never a factor.

Because of this, the design of product pages is significant. Consider including important information on these pages (and shopping cart pages) that would otherwise only appear on the home page, such as promotions/deals, company info, support, navigation, alternative product options and anything else you feel is valuable.

Button Design and Placement
When running an ecommerce site, one important but oft-overlooked key to success is the “Add to Cart” button and surrounding space. This little guy can make or break a sale, although the customer may not even realize it.

And unfortunately, there’s only one way to know just how effective your “Add to Cart” button actually is; by testing, testing and testing. Look at Amazon, whose buttons have been radically altered over the years as the company tries to determine what options drive the most conversions. Over the years, the Amazon button has evolved from a single button to a pair (for some time now, it has included a one-click shopping option, the bane of my bank account) and changed its position on the product page numerous times.

The changes are a result of rigorous testing to determine the button’s best location for visibility and ease-of-use for customers. Successful companies such as Amazon realize that even the most subtle differences such as “Add to Cart” button placement and design can have a huge impact on an ecommerce site’s effectiveness.

Everything is Social
Social is transforming the Web, and that goes for ecommerce as well. The newest trend is a combination of the two known as social commerce. This is kind of an all-encompassing term, covering both the idea of sharing reviews, ratings and general opinions about a brand, product or service on social media sites and the actual act of shopping on these social networks as in f-commerce (the buying and selling of goods through Facebook).

However, actually using social networks as a platform for transactions isn’t anywhere near fully conceived yet, and most social commerce still focuses on using the medium to monitor a brand’s online reputation and interact with consumers to help shape it. Studies have shown that many consumers (74 percent) rely on social networks to help them make purchasing decisions, and that products with higher ratings are 55 percent more likely to be purchased. Clearly, consumers put a lot of stock in the opinions of social media users when it comes to making shopping decisions, so the most successful ecommerce companies will be leveraging various social platforms.

The Importance of Retention
In the world of ecommerce, where a customer can switch “stores” with literally the click of a button, customer service and providing an exceptional experience are crucial to running a successful business. In this day and age, especially with the significance that consumers place on social media reviews and opinions, finding customers is a difficult job, so once you do get someone on board with your products or services, you need to work very hard to keep them. After all, the marketing cost required to find one new customer is six to seven times more than retaining a customer.

Customer retention is as easy as providing a great product/service, excellent customer experiences and helpful, relevant customer support. Ecommerce businesses who have retained as few as five percent of their customers have seen profit increases as high as 95 percent; probably because 61 percent of Americans have said that quality customer service is important to them in today’s economic environment, and they’ll spend up to nine percent more on companies that have provided them with such service.

Using advanced customer service solutions, such as a live chat feature, are great ways to provide such support and maintain a satisfied customer base. Brands can also take to social media, like Twitter, to hear customer issues and deal with them in an effective, timely manner.

A Globalized Industry
We live on a big planet, but thanks to the Internet, it’s getting a little smaller every day. Ecommerce, possibly more than any other e-industry, has seen and will see the most dramatic changes thanks to this newfound globalization.

Success in ecommerce will soon mean being able to reach and work with an audience that spans the world, which isn’t an easy feat. Among the many problems a company might have to deal with are the ability to provide a product/service internationally, language/currency barriers and customer support issues, specifically returns and refunds. This, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Globalizing an entire business is obviously more than an overnight project; it will take years, at best, for even an enterprise-level ecommerce company to be truly global. That being said, trends show an increasingly globalized economy in the near future, spurred largely by the growth of the Internet, and ecommerce will definitely play a major part.

 

Tablets More Important Than Social to Merchants


The idea that social networks will revolutionize the ecommerce experience has yet to materialize. But tablets? That’s another story.

Baynote’s 2011 Online Holiday Shopping Experience report, which surveyed 1000 consumers between Cyber Monday and Christmas Eve, revealed that 80.2 percent of shoppers said that personal connections on Facebook or another social networking site did not influence their shopping decision. Just 9 percent of consumers purchased something from a retailers Facebook fan page. Keep in mind however that it is not always easy to measure "influence" as the sales cycle can in some cases be exceedingly long for social media.  

For merchants that have optimized for the tablet experience however,  Baynote's data looks very promising. 48.6 percent of tablet owners made a purchase through their device. And it's not just applications; responsive design presents a low-cost, high impact means to optimize for tablets. 

One of the most interesting data points in the Baynote study was the relevance of personalized product recommendations by channel, and the usefulness of promotions. In both cases, email was the channel cited most frequently, beating out both search and social for the top spot.

Additional findings from the study, as it relates to retail websites in particular, include:
- 59% of all consumers purchased a product on a retail website.
- 93% of all consumers researched a product online and then purchased in a store. 

Related content on Baynote from Website Magazine:
- A Perfect Pair: Personalization and Conversion
- Personalization in Daily Deals & Flash Sales 
- Baynote and Monetate Announce Partnership 

Webgility Ups its Shipping Game


Webgility, which provides Quickbooks integrations for merchants, announced it is now part of the UPS Ready Program – completing the certification for its product eCommerceConnector (eCC). Merchants are continually looking for ways to make the shipping process more efficient (and less expensive) but there seems to be little in the way of development for the most part from the platform side.

Webgility previously supported UPS WorldShip, an application for PC’s that gave merchants the ability to access UPS services and generate UPS shipping labels. There were some limitations however, so as a certified UPS Ready software, eCC can integrate directly with UPS web services and provide shopping services directly from eCC.

"Our previous integration with UPS was dependent on the WorldShip software and the XML interface was limited. With UPS Direct, we can now provide a seamless integrated shipping experience for our customers and the feedback since launch has been tremendous. We're also able to provide multi-package, bulk shipping, tracking and address validation features which are essential for increasing fulfillment efficiency and reducing shipping errors," says Parag Mamnani, Founder and CEO of Webgility.

eCC enables eCommerce merchants to automate order fulfillment, inventory management and accounting process. The QuickBooks Gold certified software integrates with QuickBooks and QuickBooks Point of Sales, online shopping cart and marketplace platforms including BigCommerce, Magento, Pinnacle Cart, Amazon, and eBay to name a few, as well as payment processors like Authorize.net, PayPal, and QuickBooks Merchant Service) and major shipping processors (UPS, UPS WorldShip, etc.).

Store Manager Extensions for eCommerce Templates – New Special Offer

In a rush to find a drive candidate qualified for the job of store manager? Well, sure enough this position requires specific job duties and not everyone is capable of performing them well. Everything could be much more convenient and faster with the tools we’re about to suggest you. TemplateMonster now offers store manager solutions as an upsell offer to your Magento templates, PrestaShop templates, osCommerce templates, or Zen Cart templates purchase. You simply add the appropriate store manager extension in the shopping cart and pay for it along with a template payment (in this case the price will be cheaper).

So what these store managers will bring you? With these utilities you get a great opportunity to administer categories, products and attributes, customers, orders, and a lot of other things. Their functionality actually differs depending on the type of the eCommerce platform each store manager is made for. What’s for sure they will all manage multiple priorities to guarantee maximum sales and profitability in your store. Now let’s make out what these store managers actually do.

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Store Manager Extensions for eCommerce Templates   New Special Offer

Having all-in-one store manager solution for Magento, you get a great opportunity to create and manage your categories, products, attributes, manufacturers; change product properties in bulk for multiple products at once; analyze your sales using multiple reports, add or manage customers, track customers’ orders, send instant e-mails to your customers, and provide discounts.

Store manager for Magento features:

  • direct connection to the MySQL database (no additional php modules or server changes needed);
  • instant changes – all changes you made are applied to your store immediately, no synchronization, no delayed updates;
  • PHP MySQL bridge – work with your store without direct MySQL connection;
  • embedded MySQL server – work locally with your data and apply changes to remote database after they are done;
  • SSH support – for secure connections;
  • Magento database backup/restore – keep your data safe;
  • store configuration to edit all store settings in one window;
  • encrypted passwords for increased security.

In case you already have a Magento template that you want to add this store manager functionality to, you can buy Magento store manager separately – its price would be $249. If you buy it with a new Magento template it will cost $199.

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Store Manager Extensions for eCommerce Templates   New Special Offer

With store manager for PrestaShop you will be able to import and export a big amount of items; manage products, categories, attributes, orders, employees and a lot of other things much easier and faster than in usual native Back-End of online store. There is an ability to track product popularity, define best-seller products, orders totals, and do many other things.

Store manager for PrestaShop features:

  • direct connection to the MySQL database;
  • database backup/Restore to keep your data safe;
  • store configuration to edit all store settings in one window;
  • instant Changes – all changes you made applied to your store immediately;
  • offline Mode – use PHP MySQL bridge to create offline connection that does not require persistent connection;
  • user friendly interface;
  • simple and quick installation. Just run installer and click Next several timer, no unintelligible options and parameters;
  • supports latest MySQL versions including MySQL5. MySQL compressed protocol support for better speed.

In case you already have a PrestaSHop template that you want to add this store manager functionality to, you can buy PrestaShop store manager separately – its price would be $199. If you buy it with a new PrestaShop template it will cost $149.

* * *

Store Manager Extensions for eCommerce Templates   New Special Offer

Store manager for osCommerce was made to help you create and manage your categories, products, attributes, manufacturers; analyze your sales using multiple reports, add or manage customers, track customers’ orders, send instant e-mails to your customers, and provide discounts. Convenient and fast import/export of categories, products, customers, orders is available too.

Store manager for osCommerce features:

  • multiple stores management (store your configuration data and quickly switch between stores);
  • direct connection to the MySQL database;
  • database backup/Restore to keep your data safe;
  • instant Changes – all changes you made applied to your store immediately;
  • offline Mode – use PHP MySQL bridge to create offline connection that does not require persistent connection;
  • user friendly interface, simple and quick installation;
  • encrypted passwords for increased security.

In case you already have a osCommerce template that you want to add this store manager functionality to, you can buy osCommerce store manager separately – its price would be $149. If you buy it with a new osCommerce template it will cost $98.

* * *

Store Manager Extensions for eCommerce Templates   New Special Offer

Using Store Manager for Zen Cart in your online business will essentially widen your default admin web interface functionality. The store manager can be easily installed with the help of user-friendly Wizard. Then it will not only enable you to create and manage your categories, products, attributes and manufacturers more effectively, but also will help to make your sales analysis more profound using multiple reports.

Store manager for Zen Cart features:

  • manage multiple stores, store your configuration data and switch quickly between stores;
  • copy, paste and clone products using corresponding buttons, context menu options or drag-and-drop technology;
  • manage product attributes, category tree and category images, quickly manage product attributes using extended attribute editor;
  • track customers’ orders;
  • add, delete or modify orders easily: change quantity, add or delete items, adjust shipping charges or sales tax, etc.;
  • analyze your customers’ activity using Coupon redeem track;
  • add, edit or remove countries, zones, tax zones, tax classes and tax rates in one place, thus saving you time;
  • export categories, products, customers, orders into Excel file or .csv file, edit it and then import it back into your store.

In case you already have a PrestaSHop template that you want to add this store manager functionality to, you can buy Zen Cart store manager separately – its price would be $149. If you buy it with a new Zen Cart template it will cost $98.

* * *

L’Oreal USA Selects PFSweb for More eCommerce Sites


Ecommerce solution provider PFSweb has signed an agreement with L'Oreal USA to develop and manage multiple end-to-end ecommerce solutions for some of L'Oreal's key brands.

PFSweb launched several ecommerce sites in 2010 for four L'Oreal brands including Kiehl's, Lancome, Yves St. Laurent Beaute and Giorgio Armani Beauty. Two more are expected this year.

The solutions according to the announcement include customer care functionality, branded order fulfillment, financial transaction management and interactive marketing services.

"We chose PFSweb because of their expertise in beauty and cosmetics. With their help we can provide considerably more flexible, functional and effective solutions to our customers," said Daren Hull, Vice President of Luxury Direct, L'Oreal USA. "By utilizing PFSweb, we are able to give each of our brands unique consideration, while also providing our consumers the same high quality service that they find anytime they experience our brands in stores. We also expect to leverage PFSweb's expertise to provide each brand with innovative programs that connect directly with our customers."

Best of 2011 – Ecommerce Landing Pages


You only get one first impression, and a landing page is the first impression of every successful website. Therefore, it is imperative to create a good one.

Successful ecommerce landing pages include aspects such as bold titles, eye-grabbing call-to-action buttons, easy navigational links and prominently featured promotions.

As the end of 2011 draws near, let’s view some of the best examples of ecommerce landing pages from the past 12 months:

Old Navy

The best part of this landing page is the brightly and prominently displayed prices, which are perfect for consumers shopping for a good deal (who isn’t?). Additionally, the gift guide and “Holi-deals” are highlighted in red for easy visibility. And conveniently, consumers have the option to visit sister stores by clicking on tabs at the top of the landing page.

The North Face

No matter who or what a consumer is shopping for (men, women, kids, equipment or holiday gifts), this landing page features multiple eye-catching links on which to click. Not only does the main photo at the top of the page include links for different departments, but the departments are also featured directly underneath the image in a row of individual smaller photos. The landing page is direct, simple and sleek for easy end-user navigation.

Urban Decay

This landing page includes many best practices, such as the large title of the brand and inclusion of the brand’s slogan. Other best practices include a large call-to-action button that says “Buy It Now,” as well as the word “FREE” in the upper right-hand corner and bottom left-hand corner – which, without a doubt, grabs the attention of consumers. Furthermore, the featured picture box changes about every 10 seconds, and the second featured box features a call-to-action button that enables consumers to view videos from the brand.

Lush

Although a bit busier than the previous examples, one of the best aspects of this page is the gift-finder, which is featured with bright colors on the left-hand side of the page. Not only does it allow consumers to choose who the gift is for, but it also allows them to choose a price range. Other best practices of this landing page include the golden ticket promotion that is featured next to the company’s name, as well as the “New” and “Christmas” tabs at the top of the page, which are highlighted in Green and Yellow.

Ugg

This landing page notably features the Ugg’s Gift Boutique, which is an effective tactic during the holidays. Furthermore, on the right-hand side of the page, boots for both men and women are featured with call-to-action buttons. Lastly, the upper right corner prominently features the company’s shipping and return policy (free), which is an important factor for consumers.

 

Digital River Offers B2B Ecommerce Solution


Selling directly to business buyers has increased margin efficiency and produced renewal rates of 30 percent for many ecommerce companies. The new cloud-based, business-to-business solution from Digital River enables merchants to sell directly to business buyers by tailoring their services and using authenticated portals, segmented pricing, preferred payment methods, private reseller networks and more.

“Today’s business buyers are demanding more from their online purchases,” says Joel Ronning, Digital River’s CEO. “They are demanding unprecedented levels of self-service, content, flexibility, and integration across channels and locales. Our enhanced B2B solution helps online merchants answer this call in a way that no other solution can.”

Digital River’s B2B solution offers online merchants the ability to do the following:

•    Streamline system integrations – expand and enhance current online capabilities by integrating Digital River’s commerce solutions with traditional business platforms and systems, including ERP, CRM or partner management systems.
•    Reach new global markets – secure access to markets across the globe and reach underserved channels with flexible solutions and an international resource network of local tax professionals, payment specialists and regional marketing experts.
•    Launch channel-specific sites – customize the B2B shopping experience by offering authenticated portals, and segmented and tiered pricing for specific channel partners or key accounts.
•    Streamline the transaction process – tailor the purchasing process to meet company requirements with multiple seller- and merchant-of-record model options.
•    Secure ownership of the customer lifecycle – drive reccurring revenue by maintaining access to valuable channel customer data and establishing direct customer relationships.

“According to forecasts, the global ecommerce market is poised for tremendous growth – and we expect that B2B will be an important driving force behind it,” says Ronning. “Companies can not only take advantage of this increasing revenue opportunity, but also deliver a world-class user experience that drives operational efficiencies and reduces conflict across their sales channels.”

 

Eighty Percent of Consumers Want Payment Alternatives


Online and mobile credit card payments just can’t seem to shake the stigma of being somewhat risky propositions. No matter how many security advancements are developed, many consumers still can’t fully get on board with the idea.

Javelin Strategy and Research recently conducted a consumer survey that highlights these still-prevalent fears. In fact, 80 percent of consumers said they “would spend more money online if they considered credit cards safer and had payment alternatives.” As a result, Javelin estimates that customers would spend as much as $109.8 billion more than they currently do online if there were a “no credit card required” method of payment.

The survey, commissioned by PaymentOne, was conducted in fall 2011 and polled over 2,000 U.S. adults. Most of the concerns they expressed about credit card usage were related to privacy, such as their personal data being acquired by advertisers, marketers or hackers.

Some other notable findings in the survey include:

-    95 percent of the respondents owned mobile phones, but just 36 percent had ever used the devices to purchase something -- including apps, games, music and media streaming.
-    55 percent of consumers fear merchants or websites will send them junk mail.
-    54 percent fear their information is being sold to other merchants.
-    51 percent worry that their credit card information will be intercepted online.
-    41 percent fear that merchants will misuse their credit card information.

 

In-Store Mobile Apps Coming to a Retailer Near You


Mobile isn’t going away any time soon, which poses a lot of questions for retailers looking to optimize their brand's mobile experience for consumers.

While options such as geo-location apps or mobile compatible websites are good ones, a different possibility is rising in popularity among retailers – in-store apps.

According to a recent survey of retail executives that was commissioned by mobile commerce solution provider AisleBuyer, only 14 percent of respondents currently have a mobile app. However, 50 percent of those that don’t have a mobile app are planning on introducing a shopping app in 2012.

Among the group of retailers planning on introducing a shopping app, 54 percent plan to include promotion functionality as part of the app, while 24 percent plan to add mobile self-checkout, and 46 percent plan to introduce a tablet-based mobile store associate app for employees.

“Retailers clearly view mobile as the key to enhancing the in-store experience,” says Andrew Paradise, AisleBuyer’s CEO. "From mobile self-checkout to equipping store associates with tablets, the survey data validates the major shift we are seeing in the use of mobile in stores. Mobile apps provide retailers with a wealth of previously unavailable information on in-store shopper behavior that will ultimately improve revenue, profitability and customer loyalty.” 

RetailMeNot.com Likes Facebook


Social media commerce continues to grow, and many ecommerce companies are slowly starting to focus more of their efforts on moving into the market. Whether or not this is the future of online shopping is yet to be seen, but many online properties certainly seem to think that it might.

The latest convert is the online coupon site RetailMeNot, which recently launched its “Today’s Top Deals” Facebook application “to help consumers shop smart and save money during the 2011 holiday shopping season.” The app includes coupons, promotional codes and special deals from some of the company’s merchants, allowing customers to save an average of almost $20 on products and services. Some of the more notable merchants with “Today’s Top Deals” listings are Overstock.com, The Gap, Cooking.com, Dell and PetCo.

“Social media continues to play a more heightened role in how we communicate to consumers. The ‘Today’s Top Deals’ app will help us get the best deals to our fans on Facebook,” says RetailMeNot’s Senior Vice President, Jag Bath.

Customer Recovery Calculator from UpSellit


For many ecommerce merchants, reviewing analytics such as conversion and shopping cart abandonment rates is a necessary, but tedious process.

However, a new tool from site and cart abandonment solutions provider UpSellit, helps merchants review and predict some of their website analytics through a simple process. The UpSellit Customer Recovery Calculator identifies site and cart abandonment rates as well as compares specific websites to other sites in the same industry.

By using the Customer Recovery Calculator, merchants can not only obtain their site and cart abandonment rates, but also view their site's projectected potential lift in conversions - which is estimated through a history of performance data from UpSellit’s partners.

According to UpSellit's Marketing Director Bryan Gudmundson, the calculator compares the user's site performance with baseline performance metrics in order to predict a merchant's possible increase in conversions.

Intuit’s F-Commerce Offering SimpleStore Arrives


Intuit, best known for its business and financial management software solutions for SMB’s, announced the release of SimpleStore for Facebook, an f-commerce solution which enables merchants to sync their website and Facebook page.

Perhaps the single biggest benefit of SimpleStore for Facebook is the one-page checkout which is made possible by Intuit’s Web Payment services. Small business owners can accept credit or debit card payments directly on Facebook with no added log-ins required for the customer. Since Intuit Web Payment is already tied to a users’ merchant account, small businesses receive payment directly (and quickly) from Intuit, whether a sale is made on their website or Facebook page.

There is currently a 30-day free trial of the service, costing roughly $35/mo thereafter.

“In today’s online world, it is more important than ever for small businesses to be where their customers are and this holiday season they have the ability to sell to Facebook’s 800 million users,” said Barry Saik, vice president and general manager of Intuit's Grow Your Business division. “This tool will allow small businesses to be everywhere at once, capturing online shopping traffic through both their website and Facebook page.”

There’s a lot of interest in Facebook commerce (f-commerce) today but the verdict is still out for merchants in relation to how well it is performing. Got an opinion on f-commerce? Share with the Website Magazine community by commenting below. 

Related F-Commerce Content on at WebsiteMagazine:
- Facebook Commerce for the Socially Challenged 
- Master List of Facebook Commerce platforms 
- In-Stream Checkout with ShopIgniter 
- The Socialization of Online Commerce 
- Wishpond F-Commerce for the Brick & Mortar Set 

Master List of Multivariate Testing Tools


If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.

Although this inspirational motto can be applied to many aspects of life, merchants should definitely apply it when optimizing their e-commerce sites. However, keep in mind that “trying and trying again” is simply guesswork unless there is data backing up the testing – this is where multivariate tools come into play.

By using testing tools, merchants can analyze elements of an e-commerce site, such as page layout, call-to-action buttons, product pages and more. And unlike A/B testing, multivariate testing allows many different elements to be combined and tested at the same time – so that websites can be optimized to best fit consumer needs and increase conversions.

Therefore, it is time to find a method to your madness – check out these ten top multivariate testing tools:

Adobe Test&Target

Part of the Adobe Digital Marketing Suite and powered by Omniture, this tool allows merchants to continually make their online content and offers more relevant to their customers – which increases conversions. In fact, Reader's Digest had a 47-percent increase in conversions after conducting and evaluating testing using this solution. Furthermore, the Test&Target interface allows merchants to design and execute tests, create audience segments and target content.

Amadesa

This solution allows merchants to test several elements on a page and identify the winning combination within each element. Amadesa features “Pick the Winner” technology, which ensures that underperforming combinations are quickly eliminated. Amadesa also identifies the contribution that each element makes to the overall success of a particular combination, as well as helps determine which creative elements should be used across product or article pages.

Globalmaxer

The multivariate testing tool from GlobalMaxer allows merchants to test multiple variations of page elements in a live environment so that successful page combinations can be found. Testing helps merchants find combinations that provide greater uplift in conversions, better access to certain areas of a site, as well as better dwell time. Commonly tested elements include fonts, colors, logos, body copy, images and navigation. This solution also provides cultural multivariate testing, which isolates factors that have the biggest cultural impact on Web conversions.

Google Website Optimizer

With this free website testing and optimization tool, merchants can increase the value of existing Web traffic, which leads to the question – what doesn’t Google do? The Site Optimizer helps merchants test site content and design, while monitoring which combinations lead to the highest conversion rates. By taking advantage of this tool, merchants can increase ROI, visitor satisfaction and eliminate guesswork.

Maxymiser

Merchants can optimize customer experiences through A/B and multivariate testing from Maxymiser’s MaxTEST. Instead of "gut feelings" and guessing games, website optimization is based on data that is derived from online traffic feedback. With this customer feedback, merchants can increase their revenue and ROI through higher conversion rates, provide an enhanced site experience and decrease risks associated with design changes.

Monetate

Monetate automatically creates a control group for every campaign so that merchants can view the impact that a campaign has on key metrics such as conversion, average order value, cart abandonment and more. Merchants can gather data and run advanced tests through A/B and multivariate testing. Furthermore, the platform offers targeting options for making better connections with customers, which equals better conversion rates, more returning customers and higher average order values.

OfferMaxima

With OfferMaxima, merchants can test and optimize different website designs, email or direct marketing campaigns and printed ads. OfferMaxima’s technology can be used to target specific marketing offers, products and content to different segments of visitors. Benefits include reduced likelihood of false positives, validation results by audience and decisions that can be based on reliable samples.

Sitecore

Sitecore’s solution allows merchants to create A/B and multivariate tests from the in-line editing interface. Testing can include page components or entire site items. By optimizing everything from content on the homepage to call-to-action button appearance, merchants can increase conversion quantity and quality. Furthermore, Sitecore provides continuous feedback on site performance and customer engagement through Web-based reports.

SiteSpect

Test many changes simultaneously and evaluate the impact of combinations on conversion goals with multivariate testing from SiteSpect. This solution allows merchants to set up and test within minutes, as well as quickly determine the impact from each variation. Additionally, merchants can evaluate results during and after each test campaign.

Vertster

This solution provides merchants with fast results from Vertster’s multivariate testing algorithm. Merchants can stop guessing about site design because Vertster allows them to measure the effectiveness of thousands of page design possibilities simultaneously. Furthermore, the site testing is SEO safe and enables merchants to conduct anything from simple A/B testing to powerful Taguchi testing.

Webtrends

Webtrends Optimize combines testing and targeting platforms with optimization expertise. The solution’s recommended approach starts with general testing against all traffic, which is followed by testing optimal content against key segments (returning vs. new visitor, time of day, geo-targeting etc). After determining the optimals by segment, content can be used to target, which allows merchants to personalize content based on insights.

 

Feel Good About the Holidays with GoodShop


Some of the top retail companies on the Web are teaming up to help those in need this holiday season.

GoodShop.com specializes in partnering with online retailers for charitable causes. When consumers make a purchase on a participating ecommerce site, a portion of the proceeds go to the charity or school of the shopper's choice.

Over 2,500 retailers have jumped on board with GoodShop, including Target, Amazon, Apple, Best Buy, Gap, Barnes & Noble, Hot Topic and many more. Well over 103,000 non-profit organizations such as Unicef and The American Red Cross have also joined up to receive benefits from the program.

Goodshop works in conjunction with GoodSearch, a Yahoo-powered search engine that pays a penny to a non-profit organization every time a user conducts a search, and GoodDining, which pays out a percentage of the bill to a charity or school every time a customer eats at one of more than 10,000 participating restaurants.

So far, the combined efforts of the GoodSearch companies have helped raise over $43,000 for animals in need through ASPCA and over $15,000 for the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, among a great many other charitable and educational causes they support.

Miva Merchant Now UPS Ready


Right in time for the holiday shopping - and shipping - season, ecommerce software provider Miva Merchant has become a UPS Ready® Provider through an integration with UPS services. UPS’s services and functionalities are now included in the Miva Merchant 5.5 PR8 Update 4 Release.

“Being a UPS Ready partner is very important to us, because approximately two-thirds of our customers use UPS and this update will make their lives much easier,” says Miva Merchant President and COO, Rick Wilson.

The integration of UPS services is designed to improve the process of picking, packing and shipping for Miva Merchant e-commerce store owners.

Miva merchant users will have access to rate information for UPS domestic and international shipments, UPS label generation from the administration area, ability to customize shipping rules (based on order totals, quantities, weights and geographical restrictions), and more including support for dimensional shipping requirements, and fallback shipping controls.

Demandware Deal Kicks Up Ecommerce Sales


Digital marketing agency Acquity Group has announced a new partnership with on-demand ecommerce solutions provider Demandware. The collaboration aims to empower retailers to deliver a higher-quality, customized online shopping experience for their customers.

Acquity Group’s client base will have access to Demandware’s ecommerce platform, which provides retailers with the merchandising flexibility to better serve the demands of their customers. Similarly, current and future Demandware clients can leverage Acquity Group’s award-winning digital marketing expertise to complement the platform’s technology.

“Our solution partners are extremely valuable, as they have specialized training to implement our technology in a way that drives the most business value for our clients,” says Demandware CEO Tom Ebling. “Acquity Group is a very well-respected leader in brand ecommerce and we look forward to growing our relationship from here.”

The new alliance could prove to be an important one for retailers looking to enhance their online presence. Boot Barn – the world’s largest western wear retailer – has already seen positive results from the partnership.

Boot Barn turned to Acquity Group to impact growth, customer satisfaction, user experience and brand recognition. In combination with Demandware’s ecommerce platform, Boot Barn emerged with a completely rebranded digital presence and new design for Bootbarn.com. The initiative has thus far won an Interactive Media Award and a Horizon Interactive Award for Boot Barn.

Black Friday Spending Does Not Disappoint


Online research firm comScore has reported that U.S. retail ecommerce spending for the first 25 days of the November – December 2011 holiday season has reached $12.7 billion so far, marking a 15-percent increase versus the corresponding days last year.

Black Friday saw $816 million in online sales, making it the heaviest online spending day to date in 2011 and representing a 26-percent increase versus Black Friday 2010. Thanksgiving Day, while traditionally a lighter day for online holiday spending, achieved a strong 18-percent increase to $479 million.

“Despite some analysts’ predictions that the flurry of brick-and-mortar retailers opening their doors early for Black Friday would pull dollars from online retail, we still saw a banner day for ecommerce with more than $800 million in spending,” says comScore chairman, Gian Fulgoni. “With brick-and-mortar retail also reporting strong gains on Black Friday, it’s clear that the heavy promotional activity had a positive impact on both channels. We now turn our attention to Cyber Monday, a day that Shop.org says will see 8-in-10 retailers running special online promotions. Last year, Cyber Monday was the heaviest day of online spending ever, with sales exceeding $1 billion, and we fully expect to see another record set this year.”

Fifty million Americans visited online retail sites on Black Friday, representing an increase of 35 percent versus year ago. Each of the top five retail sites achieved double-digit gains in visitors vs. last year, led by Amazon. Walmart ranked second, followed by Best Buy, Target and Apple.