Facebook to shake up eCommerce

Whether you ‘like’ it or not, Facebook could be about to introduce one of the biggest changes to eCommerce since the introduction of the Amazon Marketplace.

A few days ago, Facebook published a short news item on the Facebook for business blog telling the world that they are testing a new way for people to buy products directly on Facebook.

Today we’re beginning to test a new feature to help businesses drive sales through Facebook in News Feed and on Pages.
With this feature, people on desktop or mobile can click the “Buy” call-to-action button on ads and Page posts to purchase a product directly from a business, without leaving Facebook.

Let me get one thing straight – I’m no fan of Facebook. I think Zuck and Co. have created the world’s most intelligent photo album and birthday reminder app and somehow convinced the entire world that Facebook is just about as important as your left ventricle. And thats before we even talk about the subject of privacy or how they intentionally set out to make some people sad. C’mon Facebook stop making people feel shitty!
Lets discard those ‘ethical’ objections for a moment and consider the what a Buy button in Facebook means for eCommerce.

It’s huge. Absolutely, monstrously huge.

Facebook has a level of influence and reach which few others can equal on the planet. Facebook along with Google, Amazon and Apple have a huge amount of leverage over how people spend their money online. Until this announcement, Facebook’s influence was mainly indirect. It looks like that’s all about to change and very soon we’ll see Facebook go head to head to compete with Amazon in consumer eCommerce.

The concept of a Buy button appearing in a Facebook news feed is clearly an irresistible concept to the Facebook top brass. And with good reason too. Like it or loath it, for many people, Facebook is the web. Once you start to blend personal recommendations from your Facebook friends and nudge a little Buy button in there next to them you have a very compelling win-win proposition for just about everyone involved in the selling process. Friends get to do what the do best on Facebook – shout about what they like. You in turn get to purchase things you know your friends like from a trusted source. Sellers get a brand new and potentially massive channel for new sales. Let’s also assume Facebook are going to take a healthy % of the sales price for their trouble too. The only one who should be worried here at all should be Amazon and what this might do to their sales.

I’ve always felt that Amazon have neglected the social aspect of the online shopping experience. Product reviews look pretty much the same as they did a decade ago. One might argue that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I don’t think thats the case here. I think Amazon are afraid to make any major innovations in how they present product reviews and recommendations simply because they don’t really understand social. Which is no surprise really considering they’re first and foremost an eCommerce business. But think about what a huge lost opportunity that is. As a group of buyers, Amazon customers must be one of the biggest networks in the world. Just about anyone who has ever purchased anything online has purchased something from Amazon. Amazon could have developed and nurtured a social aspect to the shopping experience directly on amazon.com by letting customers connect with each other through Amazon.com.

I’m much more likely to buy that Star Wars Directors Cut if I can see that my Star Wars nerd friends have purchased it and given it a glowing review. It might now be too late for Amazon to even embark down this road as Facebook look to be just about there.

I suspect it’s only a matter of time before we hear about Facebook’s latest experiment to make us click the buy button.

And you think I’m joking.

Why so serious? 10 examples of crafting a humorous identity

It has become more and more of a challenge for companies to form a distinctive voice online amongst competitors and peers.

Frequently they are turning to humor, employing wit and surprise to engage with customers and shedding a stuffier image in favor of one which is more human.

It helps increase a customer’s relationship with the brand and can make your site more memorable compared to the rest.

From smart copy to small details here are 10 examples of companies and individuals employing humor online.

1. PayPal

Paypal

With good copy, personalized language and a concentration on “you” PayPal does a good job of connecting with the user while the photo employed presents a humorous tone.

2. RJ Metrics

RJ Metrics

Some firms do a good job of displaying their staff personalities. On RJ Metric’s about page, rolling over an image reveals a funny face.

3. Mint.com

Mint 404

Mint.com has a clever 404 page. The concept is simple but they make sure to direct you to potential solutions underneath.

4. Louis CK

Louis CK

If you forget your password you’re presented with a message in a typically Louis CK sarcastic tone. Obviously we wouldn’t recommend you call your users idiots, Louis gets away with it though.

5. Mailchimp

Mailchimp username

If you enter a username that already exists Mailchimp suggests that you might have an evil twin.

6. Ben & Jerry’s

Ben & Jerrys

Ben & Jerry’s brought some humor when tweeting about the legalization of marijuana in the State of Colorado.

 7. Projecteo

projecteo

When shipping to a UK address Projecteo presents an “English gentleman” style prose for the heading.

8. Turntable.fm

turntable.fm

On adjusting the slider setting on Turntable.fm the monkey icon gets happier as the value rises.

9. Zapier

Zapier

Zapier’s sign up form uses humorous placeholders on the first and last name fields.

10. Modcloth

modcloth

This page is not only cute, but it has a strong call to action and can direct you to all of the best places to find the clothes you’re looking for on Modcloth’s site.

 

4 Great Customer Service Ideas

eCommerce is one of the most unforgiving areas if you fail to meet basic requirements and customer service is high on the list. How many times has a story gone viral after a customer interaction goes horribly wrong?

But lets focus on the positive. Stories abound on the insane lengths the retailer zappos.com go to for their customers. Examples include:

  • A 10 hour customer service call to resolve an issue
  • Sending flowers to a woman who ordered 6 different pairs of shoes due to medical issues
  • Overnighting a free pair of shoes for the best man who had arrived at a wedding shoeless.

Now zappos is an enormous business, with a turnover in excess of $2.2 billion. What about small businesses, what can you do to improve customer support?

1. Fast email response times

Email Response

Many large companies are painfully slow at responding to customer emails. For an eCommerce site slow responses equal frustrated users and a cancellation of orders.

Since small merchants cannot afford a call center they rely on email as the primary form of communication. This is fine as long as the response is rapid.

Draft an internal response rate time for your company. For some medium sized businesses it might be ten minutes for others an hour. Review monthly your response rates and if you’re hitting the target set.

Consider having an email tab open all day, when a query comes in treat it like an alarm and deal with the problem right away.

2. Consider live chat

Live Chat

Live chat is an increasingly popular method for customer engagement, the overall experience is quick and simple. Customers can enter order numbers into the chat box and continue to browse the store while speaking to the representative.

It provides immediate access to help and means you can resolve problems far quicker than conventional email.

We’ve even added the  Screens Live Chat Plugin (see pic above) to our Captiva WooCommerce theme so you can see we hold this form of customer interaction in very high regard.

3. Really good FAQs

Zappos breaks the questions down into convenient headings.

Zappos breaks the questions down into convenient headings.

You can prevent a host of issues by spending time on a really strong questions and answers page. Firstly, it reduces the load on your support team. A good FAQ page can solve a host of simple question asked by customers daily such as:

  • What is your returns policy?
  • What are the delivery costs?
  • Do you deliver internationally?
  • Do you offer overnight delivery?
  • What is the after sales service?
  • Is there a warranty included?

Also, an oft overlooked aspect is that a strong FAQ page can provide rich SEO content that is unique to your store.

Make sure that it’s easy to access these FAQs from every product page – the answers may be crucial before the all important ‘Buy Now’ button is clicked.

4. Treat good customers well

American Airlines sometimes include a discount code after booking

Another simple technique that works well for small online retailers is the idea of treating loyal or new customers well. Zappos for example often upgrades frequent customers to next day shipping.

Including a discount code in the confirmation email that can be used on subsequent visits rewards first time users and encourages them to visit again.

(Main image ref: The Connected Company)

Weekly Gurulinks

Kicking off a new weekly feature, we’ll round up some links that caught our attention that you might find interesting.

Improve WooCommerce Google Feed Products Title with YOAST SEO – Great little post from Remi about how to enrich your WooCommerce search results with Yoast SEO.

How to Add a WooCommerce Settings Tab – If you’re dabbling in creating plugins/addons for WooCommerce you must read this.

How to Create a Pricing Table for WooCommerce – Another great post from Patrick about how to create cool pricing tables in WooCommerce. This is really cool. Patricks WooCommerce book should be super if this is a sign of things to come.

Why Instagram is the Online Retailer’s Social Network of Choice – Instagram continues it’s emergence as a great social network for ecommerce. WooThemes dish out the goods with some good tips about how to get the best out of Instagram.

 

 

Migrating from Magento Go to WooCommerce

As some of you may already know, eBay is shutting down both Magento Go and Prostores in early 2015. For those of you currently running your online store on Magento Go this presents a major dilemma as to where you move your online store.

Moving eCommerce platforms is just like moving house – it’s bloody stressful. Your first instinct might be to move to Magento Community Edition which came in at Number 2 in our most popular eCommerce platforms list. My advice would be to not switch to Magento Community Edition purely just because it’s a much more complex beast than you might think.

The imminent closure of Magento Go highlights one of the biggest risks of using a hosted eCommerce platform – the complete lack of control over the most critical aspect of your online operations. If this news has left a sour taste in your mouth and you now want to consider a self hosted eCommerce platform then you should think about using WooCommerce as your new eCommerce platform. WooCommerce came in at number 1 in our top eCommerce platforms list and is 100% open source and self hosted running as a WordPress plugin.

Migrating from Magento Go to WooCommerce

Right now, there’s no official migration process documented by WooCommerce for migrating from Magento Go to WooCommerce. I think that’s something that the Woo team should jump on quickly. In the meantime, Shopping Cart Migration do have a migration wizard which allows you to migrate from Magento Go to WooCommerce. Inmotion hosting have also created a detailed migration guide walking you through the process. For those with some basic technical skills the migration process is reasonably painless. But remember, the migration process will not migrate your Magento theme or the general look and feel of your online store. The good news is that there is an even better selection of themes available for WooCommerce than there ever was for Magento Go. ( including our very own Captiva theme which will be launching in the next few weeks 🙂 )

My advice would be to start the migration process now. Set yourself up with a hosting provider and get WordPress and WooCommerce installed and take it for a spin to see if you like it as an alternative to Magento Go. If you do, my next bit of advice would be to formulate a detailed migration plan which considers every aspect of the switch from Magento Go to WooCommerce. Something like this might work as a general guide.

Magento Go to WooCommerce Migration Checklist

  • Identify low impact migration window. Study your order history. When do you receive the fewest orders  online? What time zone are your most lucrative customers in?
  • Identify where your domain name is hosted. Most likely your platform switch will require a DNS change which is the biggest point of failure in the migration process. Find out where your domain name is hosted and ensure you get up to speed on how to switch A records for your domain name. If you do not control your domain name hosting then I suggest you get control back before moving forward with your migration planning. I have used dozens of domain name registrars over the years and there’s only 3 that I trust to do things right; Namecheap, Hover and Gandi.
  • Setup your new live hosting environment. This should be done well in advance. In fact, this guide also assumes you’ve already become very familiar with how both WordPress and WooCommerce work. If you haven’t yet then stop reading this checklist and go learn WooCommerce! For rock solid, super fast WordPress hosting with top notch customer support I recommend WPEngine. If you’re not super technical and depend on your eCommerce platform for your business then don’t waste your time with low cost shared hosting providers as you’ll suffer – trust me.
  • Backup your Magento Go data. Before you start any migration tasks, make sure you backup as much data as possible. I tend to be a bit paranoid when it comes to data backups and I think it is a good trait when it comes to platform migrations.
  • Complete a dress rehearsal migration. Even the best laid migration plans fail when they’ve not been tested. It might seem like overkill but my advice you would be to complete a full dry run of the Magento Go to WooCommerce migration process well in advance of your planning live migration date.
  • Tweak your migration plan. Observe where the problems occured during your test migration and if needs be, conduct another dry run. Only once this process is 100% seamless should you consider yourself ready for a live migration.
  • Inform your customers. There is a very good chance that your customers will notice a small amount of downtime during the migration process as your domain name propagates from Magento’s servers to your WooCommerce server. My advice would be to send your customers a simple message informing them of the migration process to minimize confusion and lost confidence. If you have a high volume of orders it’s likely you might receive orders to both your Magento Go and WooCommerce sites as your domain propagates unless you shut your Magento Go store just before you switch the domain name. It’s up to you as to whether this is something you’ll be able to manage.
  • Monitor the migration. Keep an eye on your DNS change as it propagates around the internet. This site can help you with that.
  • Confirm the migration is complete. Once the migration has been completed I recommend you run a full series of live tests on your WooCommerce store. Complete even obvious things like Product search, add to cart and checkout processes to confirm everything is in order.

Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that migration from one eCommerce platform is simple. It’s not. Even with tools which help us automate parts of the process, it’s got to be meticulously planned to ensure minimal disruption to your business. Hopefully this guide will help ease the stress and pain involved in the migration process.

 

5 Fundamentals to a Great eCommerce Site.

So you’re thinking about launching an online business. You’ve seen others do it and you’re wondering about what you need to do to make your store a success.

Well we’ve compiled these five key fundamentals on what makes a good online store a great one. Let’s get started!

1. Keep things simple.

Complexity hurts conversions. Use straightforward language when describing your key categories. Hollister for example used to use “dudes” and “bettys” as their main navigation labels. This has been since changed to guys and girls.

The navigation labels on Hollister now are limited to just guys, girls, jeans and clearance. It’s key that they are one or at most two word labels with no ambiguity about where they lead to. These open up on hover to reveal subcategories but by containing them within important top level labels it lends to a much cleaner, easier to navigate site.

Hollister

Hollister – it’s for beautiful people

2. Use great product descriptions.

We’ve already written about how important good product descriptions are to a store’s success but it’s a point worth reiterating.

The UK retailer, John Lewis does this particularly well, breaking up the technical descriptions of items such as the TV below into bite sized, descriptive morsels; Vivid display, Football mode etc. It allows for easy scanning of the page to pick out the key features.

Further down there are more technical details including delivery and returns information so you never have to leave that page.

John Lewis

John Lewis

3. Make it fast. Really fast.

We’ve talked before about optimizing images in WooCommerce to improve sales. Speed is incredibly important when selling, even a delay of a few seconds can cause customers to lose patience and abandon the process.

In addition, Google has in recent years put more and more value on fast loading websites so there are massive implications for your SEO rankings.

Some wonderful research from KissMetrics has highlighted the value of a speedy site to improve conversions.

Every Second Counts

Every Second Counts

In future blog posts we’ll be describing in detail how you can choose a super-fast host, and use a variety of caching plugins to shave seconds of your site’s loading time.

4. Work on your Search.

An oft forgotten area of the online shopping experience is that of search. A fast, precise and forgiving search tool can lead to increased conversions and happier customers.

It would be very useful to take a close look at your traffic logs and study the search terms people are entering. Are they misspelling a common item? Is the search smart enough to redirect them to the right place?

With this in mind, you can create and refine an auto-suggest system. Perhaps you need more obvious tags and the categorization of your items could be reviewed.

It’s always a good idea to look at the big players in this area. Ebay’s search is as expected, excellent.

eBay's Search Tool

eBay’s Search Tool

It helps a user spell any awkward words and you can click on suggested link before you have finished typing (I’m curious already what refrigiwear could entail).

By keeping a close look at your search logs you can garner an insight into what your customers are looking for and perhaps cannot find. A search for a cronut on a bakery website would surely have elicited no results up to very recently but might have hinted at potential demand.

5. Test and test again

A little secret that the big players use is a system called A/B Testing – this allows a store to present say two different options to each half of their visitors.

Would an orange button convert better than a green one? Would a left sidebar be more obvious to the user than a right one? We can hypothenise on which might be better from a design standpoint but by installing some basic A/B we can quickly find out and discover the metrics.

A/B Testing

A/B Testing. Image Credit from Optimizely.

A/B Testing is a very valuable tool for store owners to improve conversions. The advantages are enormous and we’ll delve deeper into this area in future posts.

What is the most popular eCommerce platform in 2014?

There’s never been a better time to get started with selling online. In 2014, it’s possible for just about anyone to get an online store up and running in a matter of minutes. As an old man in internet terms this was simply unthinkable 10 years ago. Even 5 years ago your options were quite limited. Today you have almost too many options to choose from.

Today I want to take a quick look at the most popular eCommerce platforms in use in 2014. It should be noted that any online statistics regarding platform popularity should always be taken with a large pinch of salt given how hard it is to produce reliable metrics for measuring platform popularity. They do however act as an excellent barometer for which way the wind is blowing in terms of platform trends and should help us understand which platforms store owners are moving towards.

Builtwith.com tracks the internet at a macro level to determine what platforms are in use to power websites. Thankfully they produce an eCommerce segment which is a veritable goldmine of information about what is happening in eCommerce today.

The top 10 eCommerce platforms in the world*

* The top 10 eCommerce platforms in the world are measured by builtwith.com. We’re also looking at their numbers for the “Entire Web”. Builtwith.com aslo produce stats for Top 10k, 100k and 1 million sites.

Number 10 – Amazon Webstore

It’s no surprise to find Amazon Webstore in the top 10. The only surprise is that it’s not higher up the list. For many people Amazon is eCommerce. Amazon Webstore basically allows you to leverage the massive infrastructure Amazon has built to create your own shop. Big brands like Samsonite, EA Sports, Fruit of the Loom, MTV, Black & Decker and Spalding use Amazon Webstore. At first glance one might think the whole world should be using Amazon Webstore, so why is it not more popular? I think there’s 2 key reasons. First, it’s a hosted platform, and for a lot of businesses that’s a non-runner for a myriad of reasons (hosted vs. self hosted is something we’ll come back to another day). Second, it can get quite expensive quite quickly. It’s $79 per month along with 2% of each transaction for Small businesses. One significant benefit of using Amazon Webstore is the ability to get your products seamlessly displayed on Amazon.com and offer Amazon Prime to your customers. For many store owners the costs are small compared to the benefits that come with it.

Number 9 – AspDotNetStorefront

This is one we were surprised to see in the Top 10. AspDotNetStorefront has been around a long long time. It’s a commercial piece of software written in Microsoft .NET (c#) so naturally it will appeal to those looking for a self hosted platform on the Microsoft stack. Prices start at $797 for the express version (100 product limit and a smaller feature list) and go up to $4,794  for the Enterprise version. It certainly boasts an impressive feature list but I must say I don’t like that the Express and Professional versions are seriously hobbled in terms of restricted feature lists. I also think that the visual aspect of the platform could be significantly improved compared to others on this list.

Number 8 – Magento Enterprise

Magento, the 1,000 pound gorilla of the open source eCommerce world, makes it’s first entry in the Top 10 here in it’s Enterprise form. Magento has pretty much dominated a significant chunk of the eCommerce market since it first appeared in 2007. Magento Enterprise (EE) provides an expanded and enhanced feature set from the community (free) edition and also provides the comfort of an enterprise support team which big brands demand. But that comfort comes at a price. Until very recently Magento displayed their enterprise pricing on the enterprise website but they seem to have removed them recently. As of June 2014, Magento Enterprise costed around $15,000 per annum. We’ll talk a little bit more about Magento later but suffice to say, Magento Enterprise is squarely aimed at store owners doing serious annual turnover online. On top of the $15,000 per annum license, you’re probably talking anywhere between $100,000 – $200,000 in implementation costs aswell.

Number 7 – Miva Merchant

Miva Merchant has been around nearly as long as the world wide web itself. It started life back in 1996 as the HTMLScript corporation and has undergone several acquisitions and buy outs in the intervening 18 years. Miva is a hosted eCommerce platform written in it’s own proprietary scripting language called Miva Script. Featured stores include Taylor Swift’s store, Screens.com, ScotteVest.com and  Skiphop.com. Miva Merchant pricing ranges from $49.95 per month to $129.95 per month depending on the size of your business.

Number 6 – Yahoo Store

My guess is that had I made this list 10 years ago, Yahoo Store probably would have been in the top 2. In 2014, Yahoo Store is still an incredibly popular eCommerce platform and one of the oldest eCommerce platforms still in existence today. It started life as Viaweb which was founded by the legendary Paul Graham who sold it to Yahoo in 1998 when it was renamed Yahoo Store. Having used Yahoo Store many years ago I can vouch for the platforms biggest strength – it’s simplicity. Yahoo Store pricing is quite sensible and transparent, starting at $10.95 per month for up to $12,000 per month in sales and topping out at $254.95 per month for more than $80,000 per month in sales. I suspect that with the Yahoo brand stagnating significantly over the past 10 years that we’ll continue to see Yahoo Store slip down the Top 10 over the next few years unless Yahoo breath serious new life into the Yahoo Store brand.

Number 5 – Volusion

Volusion is another of the old stalwarts of eCommerce platforms. Founded in 1999 it is unlike Yahoo Store in that it continues to rapidly grow in popularity in 2014. The company has grown from 135 employees to over 450 employees in past four years alone. In the same time, it’s customer base has grown from 18,000 stores to 40,000 stores – that’s serious growth. Flagship customers include Intel, 3M, Kingspan and Combi. Pricing ranges from $15 per month to $135 per month with staggered feature sets depending on the level of sophistication you need. Volusion do an excellent job on their website marketing and have clearly put a lot of effort into identifying where they think their platform is superior to competitors like Shopify. I’m impressed by Volusion.

Number 4 – Ubercart

Ubercart is one of the most popular eCommerce platforms that integrates directly with Drupal (one of the most popular open source Content Management Systems). Ubercart faces stiff competition from Drupal Commerce which has the backing of Commerce Guys who recently raised $7.3 million in funding. Clearly there’s a big market for Drupal based eCommerce platforms! Ubercarts high placement on the top 10 is probably a reflection of the fact that for a long time it was the best Drupal eCommerce option. I’m not so sure if that is the case today. I also think that their less polished website probably doesn’t help convince some store owners that Ubercart is the right platform for them. Nevertheless, it’s continued high placement on the top 10 means Ubercart needs to be given full consideration.

Number 3 – osCommerce

Ah osCommerce, how do I love thee? osCommerce was started back in 2000 and was my first eCommerce platform way back then. For a long time, osCommerce was pretty much the only option a web developer had in terms of open source PHP eCommerce platforms. While osCommerce is still actively being developed I think that it’s somewhat stuck in the past. Certainly from a marketing perspective and in terms of the user interface used to power both the frontend and the backend. I think osCommerce makes it into the Top 3 purely based on the fact that it’s been around for so long and I reckon every single PHP developer has at least one instance of it installed somewhere. I would not recommend using osCommerce in 2014 unfortunately. Here’s to hoping they up their game in the next year.

Number 2 – Magento (Community Edition)

Frankly it’s a big surprise to me that Magento didn’t take the number 1 position! I guess the fact that it occupies 2 of the top 10 slots should be some form of consolation! When Magento was released in 2007 it really did change the game of open source eCommerce platforms. Up to then osCommerce was what most open source eCommerce developers used. Magento was different. It was one of the first open source projects to have a really polished feel to it that simply didn’t exist with open source software up to that point. It was a real breath of fresh air for eCommerce developers. I also think that the company behind Magento, Varien Inc. were also instrumental in showing other developers how to go about commercialising an open source project. Varien was eventually fully acquired by eBay in 2011. Simply put, Magento is a monster of an eCommerce platform. It’s used by hundreds of thousands or store owners to process probably hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars of online orders every year. Yet, it’s not a platform I typically recommend anyone just getting started in eCommerce. Why? Magento is a complex beast. It’s feature set is vast. With such a vast feature set comes a lot of complexity. Moreover from a developers perspective, the process of implementing custom design and functionality on top of Magento is not a trivial one. Magento implementation projects typically run to well over $100,000 despite the fact that the Community edition is free. I generally recommend that unless you’re doing over $1 million in sales per annum online and have at least 1-2 people who know Magento very well you should avoid it for now.

Number 1 – WooCommerce

Now that was a surprise! When we started creating this list we assumed WooCommerce would feature somewhere in the top 10 but never guessed it would now be the Number 1 eCommerce platform in the world! It’s been a bit of a stellar rise for WooCommerce given the platform was only released in September 2011. For those who’ve never heard of WooCommerce before, it’s an open source plugin for WordPress (the most popular open source Content Management System in the world). WooCommerce had a bit of a baptism of fire as it’s 2 main developers at the time Mike Jolley and Jay Koster were previously the developers of Jigoshop which was forked to become WooCommerce when WooThemes hired Mike and Jay. Once under the WooThemes banner, WooCommerce rapidly emerged as a really powerful but simple eCommerce platform. As a WordPress plugin, WooCommerce inherits the principles and ethos of WordPress in terms of it’s general user interface simplicity while still providing a core feature set that competes with any of the other platfoms listed here in the Top 10. There are numerous reasons why WooCommerce has risen up the Top 10 list so rapidly, but I think the biggest reason is it’s seamless integration into WordPress. I also think the extensive marketplace of themes and plugins for WooCommerce means it can compete with the likes of Magento without the significant resource and implementation overhead.

Also rans who didn’t make the Top 10

  • Zen Cart – A very popular fork of osCommerce. A bit surprised to see no trace of Zen Cart even though it’s definitely showing it’s age a bit. 
  • Shopify – I was sure to see Shopify in the Top 10. It does appear as Number 1 in the Builtwith.com Hosted eCommerce list, but not in the overall Top 10 – while Volusion – a hosted platform – does. Weird, we’ll reach out to Builtwith.com and see if there’s an issue with their overall Top 10. If Shopify was to appear in the overall Top 10 it would be coming in around number 4 which would make much more sense 🙂
  • Prestashop – Prestashop is an incredibly popular open source PHP eCommerce platform. I can’t believe there’s no trace of it whatsoever in the Top 10.
  • BigCommerce – Another big hosted platform that’s been doing very well recently. Perhaps next year we’ll see them on the list.

 

 

Problems with eCommerce design: the lack of product information

It’s probably the biggest issue out there. You can go into a bricks-and-mortar store, pick up an item, feel it, open it, gauge the weight, the texture, the shape. You can read the labels, the manufacturer information, talk to a store owner about it.

Let’s compare that experience to what happens online. How many times has there been just a line or two of text? No detailed description? No guidelines for storage or for washing if the item is a piece of clothing?

So do something about it!

Go through your site, product by product and improve the descriptions. It won’t be easy or fast especially if you sell many items but over time you’ll see the rewards. Here are some of the details you can add:

  • Measurements: Width, height, length – overall dimensions.
  • Make sure all color and size variations are clearly displayed.
  • A size chart: Does the fit match global sizes or does it differ?
  • Care instructions: How to store it properly or what temperature to wash it in.
  • More information about the brand or the designer.
  • Links to press cuttings or reviews of the item. Don’t just take our word for it!
  • Is there a virtuous side to the brand? Does a percentage of the profits go to charity or good causes?

Study the language you use

Be sure and write according to your audience. Avoid overly technical phrases in the product description and use more descriptive terminology. You can always have more specific information in a ‘Technical Details’ tab for example.

Let’s look at how you can put more descriptive language into action.

Say you have an eCommerce store selling laptops. On one you mention the processor and graphics card in bullet points:

  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650M

But how does this differ to other graphics chips? Is it right for me?

  • NVIDIA GeForce FTX 650M – Ideal for gaming, video editing and Photoshop

But what if all those product details just don’t apply to me?

Granted we don’t all sell designer t-shirts or hipster coffee beans excreted from a Kopi Luwak so how do you improve copy if you sell say hardwood floors or seeds for the garden?

The key is to write around the customer.

For hardwood floors think about the busy professional who doesn’t have time to keep their home clean. Proclaim the advantages of being able to run a mop once a week around it compared to other flooring. Think of the family with kids that have less to worry about from dusty carpets.

For the seed company think of the environmentalists who would like to grow their own organic fruit and vegetables. Think of the flowery window boxes on display in downtown apartments.

Once you take a step back and think about the people using your products you should be buzzing with ideas on how to improve your store’s copy.

Kickstarting Potato Salad when the Chips are Down

In the past week a potato story dominated the airwaves not since freedom fries made their brief appearance over ten years ago. (A valiant attempt to rechristen Guinea pigs “Freedom pigs” unfortunately never took on).

The story made waves as the creator, Zach Brown managed to raise an extraordinary $50,000 on the eponymous kickstarter.com for such a culinarily inexpensive, simple recipe.

What this story tells us about the Internet age, where a flippant story can provoke much mirth and sharing as well as far too many copycats (bacon cupcakes anyone) is  a topic for another day.

It does raise the interesting question however of what makes a business and perhaps more critically what skills do I possess to make my own business?

And the crucial word here is skills. More and more people sell services online, from painting walls to mowing lawns to providing math help or music lessons.

These kinds of business require little or no capital to get started but the rewards can be huge.

A Real Life Example – Threadless.com

threadless

One company that started with just $1000 in a garage in the US was the (now) t-shirt giant threadless.com. Visitors would vote on a favorite design and the winning t-shirt would be printed and sold in small batches until the stock ran out.

This created exclusivity (quick, buy one before they’re all gone!) and prevented a large and costly stock overhang for the founders at the beginning.

Businesses like this interest us. At CommerceGurus we want to focus on how you can get up and running with minimal cost and avoid expensive start up mistakes.

 

Optimizing images in WooCommerce

40% of shoppers will abandon a page that takes 3 seconds or more to load.

Don’t take our word for it. Listen to the really smart performance geeks over on Radware who determined that stat to be a hardcore fact in their 2014 eCommerce performance State of the Union. In the same report, Radware also determined that unoptimized images are the single greatest source of performance leaks for eCommerce sites.

Images are the key to eCommerce success

If you’re a shop owner this is seriously important stuff folks. In my view, all other things being equal, the quality of your images and how well they’ve been optimized is one of the most important determining factors for eCommerce success. Too many shop owners use shitty, unoptimized, half assed, half cropped excuses for images on their shop and then wonder why it is that they’re not selling more online. How to source world class imagery is a whole other topic for another day. For now, let’s just focus on image optimization.

So what does that mean for us as WooCommerce users?  Thankfully, WooCommerce piggy backs on the powerful thumbnail generation capabilities of WordPress itself. When you upload your images to the WordPress Media Library, WordPress will generate optimized thumbnails based on the height and width parameters defined within WooCommerce itself.

WooCommerce Product images

An example of WooCommerce Product thumbnail sizes in our upcoming WooCommerce theme – Captiva

To access your WooCommerce Product thumbnail image sizes, go to in WooCommerce->Settings->Products and scroll down to Product image sizes.

These values were most likely set by your WordPress theme upon activation assuming you’re using a theme that has been optimized for WooCommerce. If not it’s likely you set these values yourself when WooCommerce was installed.

A really important thing to remember is that WordPress will only generate thumbnails of your products if your source images are larger than the sizes defined in your WooCommerce settings. Otherwise WordPress will just load the image you originally uploaded. I’ve seen this cause many WooCommerce users a LOT of confusion as to why their images don’t match the nice shiny dimensions on the showcase demo provided by the theme designer. This is the number one reason folks. Get to know your image size settings. If your images are poorly sized when initially uploaded, chances are you’re falling guilty to what the performance geeks in Radware found to be the biggest source of poor performing eCommerce websites.

Remember to regenerate your thumbnails!

Another really important thing to remember is that if you switch to another WordPress theme that has changed your WooCommerce product image sizes, your thumbnails won’t be automatically resized. But don’t worry, you won’t need to resize every single image automatically, you can simply install and regenerate all your thumbnails at once using the wonderful Regenerate Thumbnails plugin.

Stay tuned for lots more in the coming days and weeks about how best to optimize your WooCommerce product images.