Creating a Better Online Experience: Attracting New eCommerce Customers & Keeping Existing Ones

Are you struggling to attract consumers to your eCommerce site? Or perhaps having trouble getting customers to return to your site? It’s normal for eCommerce sites to struggle at times as there are always a magnitude of competitors that consumers can choose from. In order to stand out amongst your competitors, it is necessary to offer the best experience possible to your website’s visitors. Start by understanding any problems that people have with your site, and use this information to better tailor your site to your core customer base. When it comes to eCommerce, there should be a large focus on ease of navigation, offering different buying platforms and offering incentives to position yourself as a competitive force in your industry.

 

Understand the Problem

The first step in improving your eCommerce customers’ online experience is understanding how you can improve. In order to do so, you have to do your research. The best way to understand how to further satisfy your customers is to directly ask them how you can improve.  To do so, create a short survey that asks detailed, easy to understand questions about visitors’ experiences with your website. Ask questions that will allow you to take the answers and use them to your advantage. For example, ask respondents how easy they found it to navigate your site. If you find that a lot of respondents found it hard to use your site efficiently, use this knowledge to redesign your site and create better user interface. Also read any reviews of your business that may be posted online, and look for any criticisms that may have been made. It is also helpful to visit competitor sites in order to see what they might be doing better than you, in order to learn how to develop your website.

Optimizing User Experience

There is always a way that you can improve your website. The world of eCommerce is constantly changing and offering new opportunities and innovations for business owners to utilize. A key area to focus on as an eCommerce site owner is bettering the user experience that your customers have when visiting your store. Consider cleaning up your site’s homepage to look more organized. If the first page of your store is cluttered with products and information, visitors may be overwhelmed and leave your site to go to a competitor.

Man using computer and mobile payments online shopping and icon customer network connection on screen on city background, m-banking and omni channeAnother large focus of yours should be your mobile site. It is important to have a mobile version of your eCommerce store as the number of consumers making purchases through their mobile devices is increasing rapidly. In fact, Amazon reported that during their last holiday season, more almost 70% of customers made a purchase on a mobile device. Clearly it is very important to offer the option of mobile purchases as so many consumers are choosing this method as their go-to. If you do not have a mobile site, users will be brought to the desktop site on their mobile device which will be hard to navigate on the mobile platform which is not designed for desktop site navigation. Visitors will be much more likely to stay if they are presented with a sleek, easy to use mobile platform.

Adapting to Customer Needs

Use the aforementioned survey to also learn about what the majority of your eCommerce customers are looking for on your website. Whatever these products may be, make them easily accessible for visitors. Have them featured on your homepage in order to save your customers from having to search through your site to get to them. If a lot of people are visiting your site for a specific product, having it be one of the first things that they see upon entering your webstore will be very beneficial to both them and your business.

It is also very important to offer fast and efficient customer service. If there is a question, problem or concern that a customer has about your site or products, allow them to communicate with you at any time of day. To accomplish such a feat, install a chatbot on your site that can assist customers 24/7. Chatbots are programmed with a set of rules that create a response that is based on customer input. It is important to offer people interaction with business owners as well as human interaction is much more reliable and trusted among consumers. But, realistically, you will be unable to be available 24/7 to answer your customers’ inquiries on the spot. Therefore, chatbots will be very helpful to your eCommerce customers and business.

 

Incentives & Other Reasons to Return

In order to encourage more purchases from existing customers, offer product suggestions based on the products they have viewed or purchased in the past. These suggestions may introduce consumers to products that they did not see or that they overlooked upon searching your website. Product recommendation technology will be a great help in raising your sales as it can really encourage more purchases. Even if someone comes to your site with one thing in mind, they might leave after buying more than they expected.

Another way to keep your eCommerce customers interested in your site is by offering incentives and special deals. For example, you can send an email to an existing customer that says something along the lines of the following: “It was great doing business with you! As a thank you, here’s 20% off your next purchase on our site.” Attach a virtual coupon with redemption code and expiration date that the customer will be encouraged to use.

 

Looking Ahead

Once you have solved the issues that customers have with your site, made the user experience simpler, and offered reasons for people to return, you will surely see a surge in your site’s traffic. But remember, there is always something that you can improve or upgrade about your site to further satisfy your eCommerce customers. Always stay up to date on what your customers want from your business and, better yet, try to be one step ahead of them.

Why You Should Create an eCommerce Business Today

Are you one of the many people who dream of owning their own business? Stop dreaming and start doing! The time is now to capitalize on your ambitions of venturing into the world of entrepreneurship. In today’s world, the best option that you have is to create an eCommerce business. This will be the most efficient business model, with the largest opportunity for success. eCommerce sites offer vast opportunities that are not found with brick-and-mortar stores. A website is easier to create, run, and expose than a physical store location. Here’s why you should create an eCommerce business today.

 

eCommerce Growth

Now, more than ever, is the right time to start your eCommerce website. The eCommerce business has been booming. It has been reported that the United States’ total eCommerce sales surpassed the 100 billion dollar mark in the third quarter of 2016, with sales of $101 billion. eCommerce has been growing consistently over the years, and has shown no signs of slowing down. More and more brick-and-mortar stores are being closed as many new online stores are being created. Of course this does create a good amount of competition, which is a downside. But competition is to be expected with any kind of business. Overlook the downsides of heightened competition, and focus on the positives of owning an eCommerce business. The number of opportunities presented to you by starting an eCommerce business is high.

Greater Opportunity

Choosing to create an eCommerce store will also give you a larger potential customer base. In comparison to a brick-and-mortar store, an eCommerce site will be open to so many more people. A physical location limits your business, as not everyone can get to your business, only people in the vicinity of your store location. Having an online store is like having a physical store in every city in the entire world, because everyone lives close to your eCommerce store. It is in their pockets, on their desks, and in their homes.

To reach a larger number of customers with brick-and-mortar stores, you would have to open many more locations, which would cost you a ton of money. With a webstore, you theoretically have every single internet user as a potential customer since they all have access to your store. I say theoretically, because not every internet user is going to know about your store. But still, it is easily accessible to them once they do know about it. It is also possible for many people to come across your store just by chance. But to really increase the number of people who view your site, consider investing in a good SEO marketing campaign with an established company. Once you create an eCommerce business, its opportunities with customers stretch further into the aspect of convenience in both operating and analyzing your company.

 

Heightened Convenience

Another thing you can’t do with a brick-and-mortar store is make money while you are asleep and while you are in the comfort of your own home. eCommerce sites are up and running 24/7 so you do not have to worry about setting opening and closing hours for your store. Your store is open and running while you are asleep! You could wake up one morning with a bunch of sales through your website that occurred while you were in bed the night before. It won’t be nearly that easy if you’re running a physical store location!

eCommerce business also offers the opportunity to quickly learn a lot of information about your customers. Implementing an analytical software such as Google Analytics will allow you to learn about your customers at the click of your mouse. Google Analytics offers in-depth insight into both the demographics and psychographics of your eCommerce customers. This information will prove to be of great importance to you as you can take it and use it to your advantage when it comes to advertising and trying to better appeal to your customers.

 

Maximizing Potential Success

To maximize the potential success of your business, you should open an eCommerce store as opposed to a brick & mortar one. This will increase your potential growth, customers, and sales, as well as allow you to better understand who your customers are. It also offers new ways to advertise your business, such as through a SEO (Search Engine Optimization) marketing campaign. If you do decide to create an eCommerce business, the best way to get new visitors to your site is through such a marketing tactic. So what are you waiting for? Go start the business you’ve always wanted to!

Innovations That Will Lead to the Future of eCommerce

With each day that passes, technology continues to evolve, and become more innovative, slowly changing the landscape of human life. These technological advances also have certain implications for the world of eCommerce. As we look toward the future of the online business world, there are a few practices that are rising in popularity and ideas that are moving closer to becoming a reality. It is quite possible that the future of eCommerce is heading in the direction of artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality. Some businesses have already taken steps toward such practices, but the future may very likely go on to prove that this technology can be integrated into all of the most popular eCommerce businesses. The most innovative practices occurring today prove how the eCommerce landscape is changing greatly and offers a glimpse at the future.

 

Virtual and Augmented Reality

In today’s world, virtual reality is mostly discussed in the world of gaming and video viewing. But virtual reality is becoming a possibility in the world of eCommerce as well. eBay partnered with the Australian retailer Myer to create the world’s first “virtual reality department store.” This VR store allowed users to shop through Myer’s products from anywhere, while viewing the products and their information right before their eyes. Powered by headsets, the VR experience sets up products on a map with connecting lines. Consumers can then reject products that they don’t like so that the technology better understands their product preferences, and offers better suggestions. More than just a “cool” innovation, this technology will be able to help businesses better understand how their customers think, while offering a technologically advanced experience. It is likely that many follow in eBay’s footsteps. And if virtual reality can be utilized in eCommerce, why not augmented reality too?

The world of eCommerce is becoming more interested in increasing customer experiences through virtual reality.

Augmented reality differs from virtual reality as it offers a live view of a physical setting with it’s elements augmented thanks to the help of computer-generated sensory input. Augmented reality will play a role in the future of eCommerce, and has already been integrated into it thanks to companies like Amazon. Amazon has included some AR techniques into their mobile application that allows users to test products virtually against the physical view of their home. Although the current state of the AR technology on the app is very basic, it is clear that this is only the first step in a potentially huge future for AR in eCommerce. It is said that people will be able to try on clothing in an augmented reality setting, which would greatly change consumers’ outlook on eCommerce.

 

Visual Search Technology

A big innovation in eCommerce as of late has been the introduction of visual search technology. This technology allows consumers to hold their smartphone up to a product in order to be linked to the product’s purchase page instantaneously. This is another feature that is included on Amazon’s mobile app. Users can point their phone’s camera at an object and the app will identify it in seconds. This makes product searching much easier for consumers. Further innovations to this technology have been utilized recently.

Tommy Hilfiger took this technology and made it even more useful. At a recent fashion show, he employed the technology to identify not only certain pieces of clothing, but entire outfits at once. Developed by Slyce, a recognition software company, the Tommy Hilfiger partnership technology allowed guests at his show to use an app to quickly identify and purchase outfits seen right in front of them on the runway.

 

Vocal Recognition Software

Customers are now able to buy products simply by talking. Amazon’s “Echo,” the home of a personal home assistant called Alexa, allows it’s users to make purchases directly through Amazon just by using their voice. People can tell Alexa to purchase a specific item for them. The device will then repeat the item’s name and give you a price and delivery information. You can then confirm or cancel the order. To prevent anyone in your home from buying, you can protect vocal purchases with a password. This technology is changing the way people buy products and will continue to expand beyond just Amazon.

Voice recognition technology is on the rise and has become a player in the world of eCommerce.

The Future is Now

All of these technologies of the “future” are being utilized right now by eCommerce companies. But the current uses imply a greater involvement of them in the future, with large improvements and advances in how the technologies can be used. The larger eCommerce companies will continue to lead and innovate, while smaller businesses will have the chance to incorporate the current advancements that have been discussed. The future of eCommerce will be exciting and will offer consumers new ways to shop.

 

What You Can Do

Are you interested in implementing one of these technologies into your eCommerce website? It’s easier than you may think. In fact, you can include voice recognition technology into your website with a few lines of code. Just copy the following code into your eCommerce site:

<html>
<form method=”get” action=”http://www.google.com/search”>
<input type=”text” name=”q” size=”30″ x-webkit-speech />
<input type=”submit” value=”Google Search” />
</form>
</html>

That’s it! Now you have vocal search capabilities on your eCommerce site and you are one step closer to the future of eCommerce.

eCommerce Customers: Real People With Real Valuable Thoughts

When trying to create a successful eCommerce business, you may be focusing on website speed, competitive pricing, and exposure of your website. But one very important element that some eCommerce business owners may overlook, is getting to know customers. When selling to people in a physical environment, it is easy to learn a lot of information about your customers quickly. You can do so by observing them, and asking them questions. But how do you learn about your customers from behind a screen? Surprisingly, you can do so by observing them and asking them questions in this format too. Why does it matter, though? Doesn’t the internet just transform every site visitor into a mere name, number, or sale? In a way it does, but each name belongs to a real person who has a reason as to why they purchased your products, or why they did not. Knowing the logic behind this reasoning, as well as additional information about your eCommerce customers, can improve your business greatly.

 

Conducting Surveys

It is important to learn from your eCommerce customers to better understand your own business. One key way to discover what your customers are thinking is by conducting a survey. You can use a free online service, such as SurveyMonkey, to create a survey that pertains to what you want to learn from your website’s visitors. Ask well-constructed, specific questions that are easy to understand in order to obtain the best results. If questions are unclear, respondents may be confused and answer them incorrectly. Refrain from using complicated words to further reduce potential confusion. Also, only ask the most important questions to prevent the survey from dragging on for too long. Surveys that have too many questions will often be abandoned by respondents before they complete and submit the survey.

Creating a proper customer survey will allow you to understand what your eCommerce customers think about your business.

In terms of distributing the survey, you can do so through a variety of different methods. These include embedding it into your website, sharing it on your social media platforms, and sending it out to your e-mailing list. Often times, customers are not interested in filling out surveys unless they have very strong feelings about your business that they want to be known. To maximize your number of respondents and boost enthusiasm, consider offering incentives to customers who complete the survey. These incentives may include discount codes, free shipping, or the chance to win a gift card to use on your site. Once you receive a large number of responses, take this newfound data and transform it into an understanding of how to change your business to better satisfy visitors.

 

Customer Analytics

In order for you to learn about the demographics of your eCommerce customers, Google Analytics is one of the best outlets available. It comes with an eCommerce tracking feature that will be of great importance to you. Reports under the “Audience” section offers the age, gender, language, and location of each customer. Analytics will also if they are accessing your site via desktop or mobile. All of this data is very important to your business as you can take it and use it to your advantage. For example, you can better tailor your site to a certain demographic that you notice have taken an interest to your site.

Utilizing Google Analytics will benefit your business greatly, allowing you to learn about customer demographics.

Other features of Google Analytics include the ability to see what customers are doing on your site. Found under the “Behavior” section, this data gives you an idea of what customers are searching for on your site and how they interact with certain site elements. This data will help you improve your user interface. The “Acquisition” section can tell you how customers found your site. With this information, you can focus on bringing in more customers through the methods that have proven most popular. Overall, Google Analytics provides it’s users with priceless customer data that business owners can use to their advantage. Analytics data allows merchants to improve their business and better understand who they are selling to.

 

Overall Benefits

In a brick and mortar setting, you can physically see your customers, and get to know returning buyers by talking to them each time they come into your store. Now you know that you can do the same online. Remember that eCommerce customers are real people with real thoughts and feelings about your store. And learning about these people and their opinions will propel your business further toward success. Perhaps you learn through a survey that site visitors think it’s hard to navigate your webstore. Take advantage of this new information and redesign your site to have a better user interface that makes it easier for visitors to find what they’re looking for. Maybe you didn’t realize how many teenagers were buying from your site. Now you can use that information that you discovered through Google Analytics to start working on a marketing campaign geared toward teens. Start learning more about your eCommerce customers and your business will start to improve.

Platform Review: Is BigCommerce Right for Your Store?

During my time as an eCommerce professional, I’ve worked with clients in all types of industries, running stores on every eCommerce platform available. Often people will call my office and ask, “What platform do you recommend? Which one is the best?” The truth is, I can’t give a really good answer to that question, at least not at first. I need to get to know what kind of business the person on the other end of the phone is running. Each eCommerce platform on the market has different strengths and weaknesses that make them a better match for one type of business or another.

In this article I aim to talk about what kind of business is right for the extremely popular eCommerce platform, BigCommerce. Please bear in mind that you don’t have to fit into all of these categories perfectly to work well with BigCommerce. These are the triggers that I would look for when deciding if BigCommerce would be a good platform to recommend to you.

 

You Are An Established Mid-Market Business

By mid-market, I mean that your business earns somewhere between one and 20 million dollars per year. That’s not to say that businesses bigger and smaller don’t run perfectly well on the platform, but BigCommerce is developing their platform with the goal of becoming the leading eCommerce platform for mid-market businesses. Many of the changes and improvements being made to the BigCommerce platform are being made with this goal, and these customers, in mind.

 

You Don’t Have an IT Professional on Staff

BigCommerce is a SaaS (Software as a Service) platform, also called a hosted platform. SaaS is defined as a software that is owned and provided remotely. In BigCommerce’s case, from the cloud. As opposed to Magento, BigCommerce’s biggest competitor among mid-market businesses, which is an on premise platform, also known as an open source platform.

The reason SaaS is better for businesses without permanent IT help, is that much of the messiness of running a website day to day has been taken off of your hands. BigCommerce takes care of hosting, security for the site, as well as updates. They also back their platform up with a support team, just in case you do run into trouble. Hosted platforms are also designed to be easier to edit without working in HTML or CSS. SaaS platforms are quicker to launch, and less complex to manage day to day. With an on premise solution, like Magento, you will need someone on hand, who is familiar with coding, to fix bugs and make updates as necessary.

BigCommerce Review

There is, however, a double edge to this sword. Because a SaaS platform has to be as generally usable as possible, there are limitations to what a merchant can do with SaaS that don’t exist for open source platforms. On open source, you’re responsible for your own hosting and your own security, but that means you have a lot more free reign to customize your own store. SaaS platforms, like BigCommerce, need to restrict what their merchants can change, because they have more skin in the game. When BigCommerce merchants need customization, they have the option to seek out help from third party development partners. That’s where people like me come in. However, we will never be able to customize a hosted site as much as an open source site. Also, once you do customize your site on a hosted platform, you give up some of your freedom to make updates and changes at will. A platform update, made without consulting your developer, could end up wiping out all the customization work you just paid thousands of dollars for.

If you’re running a fairly straightforward eCommerce store, BigCommerce can reduce your cost by taking much of the day to day work of an on staff IT professional off your hands. This does not mean, however, that you will have zero maintenance costs. You will most likely need to reach out to a third party development partner from time to time to keep the store running smoothly. If you’re in need of unique customization, reach out to a development partner to make sure your requirements are possible before deciding on any hosted platform.

   

You Expect Your Business to Grow

Who doesn’t? Otherwise you wouldn’t be doing this. But scalability is a concern for serious eCommerce merchants, and I think that BigCommerce has attacked this issue in a particularly interesting way.

Each hosted platform has a different way of charging bigger merchants more. Shopify charges transaction fees, so the more sales you make, the more you pay them. Volusion enforces bandwidth limits, so the more traffic you get, the more you pay. BigCommerce prices their plans based on gross merchandise sales. In short, if you make over a certain revenue ceiling they will have you upgrade to the next level. You can see those ceilings here:

  • BigCommerce Standard: $50,000
  • BigCommerce Plus: $150,000
  • BigCommerce Pro: between $400,000 and $1 Million

Anything above 1 million dollars qualifies for BigCommerce’s Enterprise plan. The Enterprise plan has no annual sales limit, and the price is discussed with the business’s BigCommerce representative.

The reason I like this method more than the other two hosted platforms, is because this is the most direct way of charging based on value. While the other two platforms attach their price increases to common indicators of value, BigCommerce has developed their price structure around value, and based it on mutual success.

 

You’re Willing to Pay More for More Features

BigCommerce plans are more expensive than their hosted platform competitors, but they come with more functionality. This is perfect for businesses who are already established, can afford a slightly higher price point, and might appreciate having a store with a more robust set of features.

BigCommerce Review

One great feature, is BigCommerce’s abandon cart emails. They are probably the best in the business at the moment. This tool allows you to create up to 3 automated emails that will fire off to a customer who gets a portion of the way though the sales process, but does not complete their purchase. Abandon cart emails have been shown to dramatically increase conversion rates, and require very little extra effort.

Another feature advantage of BigCommerce is product reviews. Though it may seem hard to believe, not every eCommerce hosted platform comes with the ability for your customers to leave reviews. Instead, they require you to purchase a third party application to enable reviews. All BigCommerce plans come with review functionality.

BigCommerce’s feature set also shows it’s merit in it’s ability to set product variants. Shopify stops you at 3 product variants, before you need to purchase a plugin or find a workaround. If you know how to use BigCommerce’s product rules and product options correctly, you can set up a nearly endless number of product configurations.

I could go on about other features in which BigCommerce is stronger than it’s competitors, but that would be the entire article. When doing a price comparison, I think you’ll find that if you need anything more robust than a simple eCommerce store, the price of BigCommerce is worth paying for the extra features it buys you.  

 

You Sell on Multiple Channels

Each eCommerce platform offers different levels of integration with the web’s biggest eCommerce marketplaces. Some will have a natural integration with one channel, but require a third party integration to sync with another. If multi channel selling is a particular concern of yours, BigCommerce has options, and limitations as well.

BigCommerce offers BigCommerce Channel Manager, which merchants can use to list products, and monitor sales on Facebook, Pintrest, Ebay, and Amazon. However, because many of these integrations are new, there are limitations which you should be aware of. For example, as of now, BigCommerce merchants can only list their products in a limited number of Amazon categories through Channel Manager. They are:

  • Arts, Crafts & Sewing
  • Beauty & Personal Care
  • Health & Household
  • Home & Kitchen
  • Toys & Games

We expect this integration to grow, and include more categories, as time goes on.

Interestingly, BigCommerce is one of the few eCommerce platforms that can currently boast an integration with the Chinese eCommerce giant, Alibaba, but for buying not for listing. Currently BigCommerce merchants can browse and buy products wholesale from Alibaba’s 300 Gold Suppliers (vetted suppliers) for resale. The BigCommerce merchant is still responsible for arranging and paying for the shipping from China. As of now, this is not true drop shipping.

If multi channel selling is your priority, you’ll want to grill your platform’s sales rep on the particulars of their platform’s integration. BigCommerce, like all eCommerce platforms, has strengths and weaknesses in this area. You’ll need to assess how strong they are in your high priority channels.

 

 

If you’ve recognized your own business in any of the descriptions above, BigCommerce might be the right system for you. Of course, your business is unique, and this doesn’t cover everything you might need out of your eCommerce platform. Not by a long shot. You can start doing more in depth research by:

Signing up for a free trial: Each of the hosted eCommerce platforms have two week free trials that allow you to get used to that platforms admin area. Sign up for more than one, and perform a head to head test.

Ask for a demo: Sales reps at BigCommerce, and its competitors, are often more than happy to set up a time to go through their platform with you, and show you what it can do.

Call a professional: If you have specific and unique requirements, I would recommend that you get in touch with a 3rd party eCommerce professional, like myself. We may be easily able to endorse, or eliminate, some of your options.

 

More info on BigCommerce can be found on the BigCommerce community forums, and you can sign up for a free trial on their homepage. Every online business is different, but each business has one thing in common: with a little research and a lot of elbow grease, your eCommerce store can succeed.