2017 Black Friday – Cyber Monday Recap

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

As many others have noted, Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM) was kind of insane (in a good way) this year. Adobe reports $2.87 billion on Thanksgiving Day, $5.03 billion on Black Friday, and a whopping $6.59 billion on Cyber Monday.

And this year, sales actually started as early as the Monday before Thanksgiving, turning BFCM into a true Cyber Week. Here are some quick stats that I found most compelling:

  • Digital Commerce 360 reports, “mobile devices accounted for more than 61% of traffic to retail sites Black Friday morning and more than 46% of sales.”
    • Next time a client tries to tell me that no one wants to shop on mobile, I’m going to remind them of this metric.
  • According to Adweek, retailers sent nearly three billion emails on Black Friday alone, along with 82 million SMS push notifications.
    • Shopify reports a 4.29% average conversion rate for email during BFCM, with the next best channel coming in at 3.04%.

  • Retention Science states, “48% of the entire U.S. online apparel retail market was discounted by an average of 45% off. This is compared to 44% of the market with an average of 36% off last year.
    • This year, I personally noticed better, deeper discounts offered by luxury brands. Matt Benson, MatchesFashion, The Outnet, and SAKS OFF 5th all offered up to 50% off over BFCM.

 

SD CLIENTS

Looking specifically at SD’s clients, I noticed some general trends worth noting. Here are a few of the biggest takeaways:

  • Thanksgiving was the biggest YoY growth day this year. Last year, many clients waited until Black Friday to kick off deals; this year, sales started as early as November 20 and ran as late as December 5. Only a small handful of our clients opted to wait until Black Friday to kick off sales in 2017.
  • This year, I saw more specific deals – i.e., discounts on designated Cyber Week categories and tiered promotions. Clients that offered a flat % off deal with no strings attached saw nearly 50% more YoY growth than clients that didn’t.
  • Triggered emails saw average conversion rates in the double digits over BFCM. Email in general (including transactional, marketing, and triggered emails) was the best performing channel for most clients.

 

COOLEST STRATEGIES

Digital campaigns didn’t wow me this year, but there were a few that stood out:

  • For the third year in a row, REI pushed customers to #optoutside (and give them great, user generated content) on the biggest shopping day of the year. They closed brick and mortar locations and encouraged customers to shop sales before and after BF.

 

  • Brands like Everlane and Catbird donated proceeds from sales to charity. Everlane had a stated donation goal for the day and their website included a countdown meter:

 

  • Sephora’s model is also genius. Every year, they mark many items down to $10 or $15 and release a preview of the sale beforehand to create hype. Free shipping at Sephora starts at $50, so they ensure users spend at least that much (and likely significantly more). This isn’t Sephora’s first time at the rodeo.

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES
  • Respond to customers on social media! If someone complains, reach out to them directly and on your social feed and do your best to rectify the situation. BFCM likely drives many new users to your site and it’s important to retain them instead of making an enemy for life. Over BFCM, I saw many brands that just couldn’t keep up with feedback on social. Consider hiring a community manager or freelancer to help with the workload over the holidays.
  • Offer additional incentives to top customers. If you have these customers segmented out in your email list, offer them an additional discount, free gift, or store gift card as a thank you (and an incentive to buy more). Several brands used to do this (I’m looking at you, Madewell) but didn’t this year.
  • Increase your email sign-up discount or offer additional promos (like free gifts or gift cards with purchase) during BFCM for users that opt-in to marketing emails for the first time. I can’t think of a single brand that offered this type of incentive and it feels like a real miss. As we previously stated, email had the highest average conversion rate over all channels for our clients and building that list throughout the year is absolutely crucial to long-term success.
  • Create more Instagram stories. If you’re still struggling with the algorithm change, this is the best way to increase engagement and ensure that your posts don’t get buried. If you have a verified account, utilize stories to tout specific deals with links. Oh, and please don’t just post static product images. Be creative! If your content sucks, it doesn’t matter how great the deal is… users aren’t going to click.

 

If BCFM wasn’t great for you this year and you’re looking to make some changes in 2018, get in touch with us. For more marketing ideas and ecommerce strategy tips, check out these previous blog posts:

A Checklist for Uncovering Ranking Issues in SERPs

Dark Social Webinar Recap

Magento BI and Why You Need It

The Case for Email Marketing

Written by: Lindsay Pugh, Digital Strategist

7 Must-Have Extensions for Your Magento eCommerce Site

Getting ready to launch a Magento store? Congratulations! With 2 billion online shoppers worldwide, online commerce is a great way to build or expand your business.

Succeeding in the online space requires more than building a nicely branded Magento store. You’ll need to map out the entire selling cycle, so that customers can find what they need or get new ideas, and you can create a positive experience for all involved.

That lifecycle includes:

  • Merchandising your store and populating your catalog with product descriptions and images
  • Building your pages and managing content
  • Integrating products and sales into your ERP system so they can be invoiced, tracked and delivered, and keeping tabs on your inventory so you don’t accidentally sell products you don’t actually have in stock.
  • Creating a robust search tool to help customers find relevant products
  • Nurturing your customers through email campaigns and sales promotions
    Paying your taxes

 

We like building sites in Magento Commerce Cloud because the company bundles a lot of features into it, which means you ultimately pay less than with a traditional web-hosting route. That said, there are seven extensions you’ll still need to support the full customer life cycle.

Merchandising: Unirgy uRapidflow Pro

This extension makes quick work of merchandising your store, especially if you have a large product catalog. It provides advanced cataloging and high-speed data import and export, so you can upload and manage product descriptions and product images on your site. We’ve been working with it for years, and can attest to its power.

Building Pages: BlueFoot

BlueFoot is a page builder tool, now owned by Magento, that offers a robust set of tools for creating and managing content on your Magento store. You can use it for your product descriptions as well as your blog. Featuring a drag-and-drop approach, it  makes it easy to design and create web pages according to your vision.

ERP Integration: Xtento Tracking Import

This extension makes it easy to import orders from a CSV or XML files into Magento and process it from end to end. It captures the payment (charges the credit card), notifies your customer when an order is received, ships the order, adds the tracking number, notifies the customer when his or her order has been shipped, as well as changes the order status after the order has been imported. All of this happens automatically.

ERP Integration: Xtento Order Export

This extension provides a fast and convenient way to export your orders, invoices, shipments, credit memos, customers to any third-party system. You can export all sales related data in any file format (Text/TXT, Tabbed, CSV, XML, ASCII/Fixed-Length-Files) and connect your Magento store to almost any ERP, CRM, warehouse, drop-shipping or shipping system.

Elastic Search

Magento Commerce Cloud offers elastic search capabilities, and makes it easy for you to adjust keyword priority and manage word exclusions. We highly recommend it, but it does require some infrastructure set-up and ongoing maintenance. It’s worth the effort, however, because a bad search is worse than no search at all.

Customer Communications: Email Service Provider

An email service provider (ESP) is essential for sending marketing emails and sales promotions, and to allow customers and prospects to sign up for your promotions directly from your website.

There are four we work with frequently and feel confident in recommending:

Enterprise Level

  • Listrak – Offers email and SMS capabilities on one platform. We like it because it allows you to send transactional messages, as well as newsletters.
  • Bronto – A fully fledged marketing automation suite, allowing you to manage email, as well as your Google Adwords campaigns and social media engagements. It’s more complex, which means it’s also more expensive.

 

Mid-Tier

  • Dotmailer – Dotmailer offers the best integration with Magento, which means you can access a lot of its features from within your Magento store. It offers a nice feature in which it can generate an email to a customer with product recommendations based on searches they’ve performed on your site.

 

Small Sites

  • MailChimp – MailChimp is extremely powerful, and is a ubiquitous product for marketing. It’s also free for users who have up to 2,000 subscribers. You can also manage a handful of Google Adwords and Facebook campaigns from within MailChimp.

 

Calculating Taxes

There are two extensions we recommend, based on the size of your ecommerce operations and tax liability:

TaxJar is well suited for SMB customers, and like MailChimp, offers a free tier for smaller users. It prepares your state taxes, and can autofile them for you if you choose.

Avalara is an enterprise tax solution, and can do the tax nexus calculation for your and your accountants. In fact, Avalara has a professional services team that help you determine all of the jurisdictions in which you have a tax liability. Like TaxJar, it will prepare and autofile state taxes.

Bringing it All Together: Something Digital Commerce Accelerator

If this sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. Something Digital’s Commerce Accelerator offering for Magento Commerce Cloud lets merchants to go live with an operational online store faster and at a lower cost to market. Our standard offering includes all of the integrations described in this post.

Customer Lifetime Value: What is it and Why Can’t Google Analytics Offer it?

Not all customers offer the same level of value to your business. Some may purchase once, never to return to your site again. Others will purchase intermittently, but only if prompted with an ad. Still others may be quite loyal, returning to your site regularly to purchase.

Now, you might be inclined to say, a sale is a sale, and in that respect, all sales deliver equal value. But it is rare for consumers to find your site and make purchases without any effort (read: expense) on your part. In all likelihood they arrive on your site as a result of a Google Adwords, Facebook, display or affiliate campaigns you run. Since it costs you real money to attract visitors to your site, it makes sense to hone in on customers who are most likely to return to your site regularly.

In other words, you’ll want to focus on customers who offer the highest lifetime value (LTV) to your business.

You can use your LTV to drive ROI in your marketing initiatives. Take Google Adwords as an example. Google offers a bidding option that lets you target by the cost of acquisition. If you know the amount of revenue a consumer will deliver over his or her lifetime, then you can calculate how much you can afford to pay for that consumer and still be profitable.

Calculating LTV

So what is lifetime value exactly? It is the projected revenue a particular customer will generate for your business over the course of their lifetime. Calculating LTV requires you to pull together a set of variables and constants — KPIs that are specific to your business.

Variables

  • Customer expenditures per visit
  • Number of visits per purchase cycle
  • Average customer value per week

 

Constants

  • Average customer lifespan
  • Customer retention rate
  • Profit margin
  • Rate of discount
  • Average gross margin per customer lifespan

 

+ Source: Kissmetrics How to Calculate Lifetime Value

Once you have those two datasets in hand, you can calculate your LTV in multiple ways, which Kissmetrics shows nicely in this Starbucks case study infographic.

Why it’s Difficult to Calculate LTV with Google Analytics

There are several challenges to calculating LTV with Google Analytics. The first is that Google Analytics doesn’t tie specific data to specific customers, which means you can’t create customer segments very easily. In other words, you can’t identify customers who come to your site X number of times during a purchase cycle, and tie those visits to purchase frequency and purchase value.

That means you will have little choice but to organize the data manually so that you can identify all of the constants and variables (see above) you’ll need to calculate your LTV. This is inherently a time-consuming and error-prone process. And it requires a lot of guesswork on your part.

These challenges are compounded in that LTV can be iterative, as new competitors enter or leave the market, making customers more (or less) loyal to your store.

LTV Made Easy

But there’s good news to merchants with a Magento store: Magento BI makes quick work of calculating your LTV, because all of the data and insight you need for variables and constants are already in the platform (which means it’s also error free). Getting your LTV is simply a matter of setting up your dashboard correctly.

Magento BI lets you see your LTV from many different viewpoints with minimal effort on your part:

Need more information? Check out Magento’s webinars on calculating LTV with its BI tool.

Ranking poorly in SERPs? A Checklist for Uncovering the Underlying Issues

There’s nothing more frustrating than creating great content that’s never read by the people you wrote it for. How do you find more readers? The best strategy is to make it easier for people to find, and that means focusing on the search engine results page (SERP).

The science of SEO is designed to do just that by reverse engineering how people look for answers on the web (i.e. “search”). It encompasses:

  • Content analysis, and persona development to ensure you write for the person most likely to search for and read your content
  • Keywords and related keywords that will raise your content higher in the search engine results page
  • Site taxonomy, to ensure your pages don’t compete against one another, and preventing your content from “surfacing” (i.e. get a high ranking in the search engine results)

 

Why Content Ranks Poorly

If you’re not getting the traffic you hoped for, begin by pinpointing the problem areas.

1. Identify the problems – Begin by understanding how your pages actually perform using your website analytics tool. Are they getting good traffic? Do visitors spend time on them, or do they leave just as soon as they land? Prioritize the specific pages that are underperforming.

2. Perform a keyword analysis – Once you’ve identified the pages with the best performance identify the keywords that are driving prospects to it. A keyword analytics platform, such as the Magento SEO extension, or SEO Centro, will streamline this process, allowing you to compare the performance of two pages with the same keyword in a single view. Consider deleting the page with the weaker performance.  If you want to keep pages with weaker performance, consider using a related keyword or LSI term in its URL, title tag or H1 tag.

3. Look for duplicate content – Duplicate content is the enemy of SEO. The goal of a search engine is to identify the page that is most relevant to the user who performed the query, and search engines don’t respond well when multiple pages target the same keyword. How does they know which is the most important, and should be served up to the user? In many cases, the search engine responds to that confusion by lowering your site in the search results rankings. To combat this challenge, identify pages that compete with one another by using the same keyword in the URL, title tag or H1 tag.

4. Use Backlinking – Search engines need to look at a variety of signals to determine if a how a page should rank. Backlinks, which occur when another website references your webpage via a hyperlink, is an important metric for Google. In a sense, they’re popularity signals for the search engine, so you should try to get as many backlinks from as many quality sources or related bloggers from within your industry as possible. Social sharing will boost your backlinking profile, so be sure to make it easy for your users to share your webpages on social media.

Fixing Underperforming Pages

1. Republish content for freshness – Your web page may have great content, but if it hasn’t been updated in a few years, search engines will see it as old.

2. Add new content, or update your page – It’s a good idea to review your content on a regular basis and update as needed. For instance, your industry may have adopted new business terms, and refreshing your page to reflect them will boost your rankings.

3. Quick fixes – If you truly have nothing new to add, consider turning headers into questions searchers ask (e.g. When is Tom Brady’s birthday)?

Tips for Getting Your Content Found: Before You Write

1. Research Keywords & Latent Semantic Indexing – The first step is to gain a better understand the current level of interest (or demand) for that topic in the market. Keywords help you gain that understanding. Let’s say your company has introduced a line of meal kits. The first step is to assess the demand (i.e. or number of times) people enter “meal kits” into a search engine.

If the keyword generates a lot of volume, you’ll know it’s a hot topic. The same holds true for latent semantic indexing (LSI) terms. LSI terms are keywords that are semantically related to your primary keyword (e.g. vegetarian meal kits, farm-to-table meal kits, etc.).

LSI terms provide important insight into the direction the market is going. If they’re popular enough, you’ll want to include them in the content you create. You can also use these terms for future blog posts or other content, as well as to inform your company’s product roadmap.

2. Create a Taxonomy and Keyword Strategy Before You Write – Taxonomy refers to how your company classifies the main topics that relate to your business, products and services, so that users can easily find them via a search. For instance, let’s say you have many styles of mobile phones on your site. Your taxonomy will include  mobile phones, and within that folder you may have separate pages for Samsung, Motorola and so on. This is taxonomy.

The trick to successful taxonomy lies in identifying the main topics to emphasize, as well as the relevant sub-topics for each main topic. If your site only sells mobile phones, then “Samsung Galaxy” and “Google Pixel” may be appropriate main topics. If your site offers a broad range of devices, than these terms will be better suited as sub-topics to “smartphones.”

From a URL standpoint, it’s important to give each page a name that describes the content it contains. For instance, if you create a page about portable smartphone charges, don’t simply call it “smartphone.” Doing so will result in attracting traffic that isn’t relevant to your products.

3. Use Buying-Journey Personas to Drive Content – What do keyword searches reveal about the consumer’s intent? Some keywords are used when people are just beginning to research a topic; others indicate a more mature understanding of the topic. By continuously tracking keywords and user online behavior, the SEO industry has learned how to use keywords to develop buying journey personas.

Once you’ve created a list of appropriate keywords and LSI terms for your company, you will be in a position to assess where likely readers of your content are in their buying journeys. This insight will help you craft highly relevant content for the reader.

For instance, if the keyword indicates the consumer is in the early stages of the buying journey, you will want to cover basic information on the topic. If they’re later in the later stages, you can assume they have a solid grounding, and can dive straight into the nuances or complexities they’ll need to consider.

Content marketing is a great way to attract new prospects to your brand — as well as establish your company as a leader in your space. But it only works if people who are important to you can find it. This isn’t a matter of luck, it’s straightforward science. With a bit of upfront planning and thought into the taxonomy, keywords and LSIs you use, you can turbocharge your content marketing.

Me, You, & Everyone

Designing with Users in Mind

At Something Digital (SD), we prioritize designing best-in-class User Experiences (UX). During our project discovery phase, we invite clients to tell us who they believe their users are — and who they want their ideal customers to be. Then we validate that perspective against quantifiable data. We start by zeroing in on two user types, and review analytics to determine their general demographics, like age range, socio-economic background, and geolocation.

However, we get that users aren’t numerical statistics; they are humans with real-life concerns, independent of what we tell them they want and need. We can’t know everything about each lifetime value (LTV) customer — it would be invasive to dig that deep — but based on their shopping patterns, we can glean their attitudes toward ecommerce, identify their habits, and anticipate how to best meet them where they are.

So, we create personas: illustrations of specific users, describing their daily routines, behaviors, values, hopes, and even anxieties. We paint a slice of life.

If we start out empathizing with well-defined primary and secondary personas, we design interactions that work for many people. Then, we track engagement over time, continually A/B test, and iterate on the experience so that ultimately, our designs work for as close to everyone as possible.

Having empathy means being vulnerable: opening ourselves up to possibilities outside of our own limited understanding and letting go of attachment to our personal preferences. We don’t have to completely abandon the design trends we’re into, typefaces we worship, and slick page transition animations we’re crushing on, but we do need to holistically consider how our design choices impact people who aren’t us.

Our job is to think big: we don’t design User Interfaces (UI) and interactions for only our clients, their stakeholders, or ourselves; we design for a sum of people who want to be heard, welcomed, and respected.

SD follows a strategic process when including and excluding design features.

Before proposing a feature, the answer must be ‘yes’ to at least one of the following questions:

1. Is it necessary?

2. Do we believe it will measurably improve the overall experience (and can we back that claim up in advance with research)?

If the feature passes this litmus test, we ask a series of questions guiding us to make conscientious decisions about how best to present and implement it.

To put our checklist into practice, let’s create a case study around a design feature. And to convey how even a simple feature can be controversial when it comes to user-centric design, we’ll refer to a no-frills homepage content block. The example we’ll asses is a static promotional block featuring three product categories.

Desktop Content Block Visual

Who does it serve (and does it, really)?

If we were to draw a Venn Diagram asking, ‘Who does a design serve?’, there would likely be three circles of varying size: ‘Stakeholders and Administrators’, ‘Designers and Developers’, and, finally, ‘End Users’. Initially, it probably looks something like this:

Venn Diagram Example 1
Our job is to radically reshape those circles, giving precedence to users and finding the sweet spot where our design expertise intersects client and user requirements. Practically, it should look more like this:

Venn Diagram Example 2

In the case study example:

— The block directly nods at the stakeholders — we see the parent company announced in the headline, subsidiary brand logos on product images, and buttons featuring those brand names.

— But it speaks to users, too. The headline copy purposefully welcomes users to ‘meet’ the subsidiary brands, the subheadlines casually address users with the familiar ‘you’, and the photography shows users what to expect.

— The content block follows the client’s brand guidelines and sparks the user’s curiosity.

check iconCheck!

 

What do we want the feature to do? What do users want the feature to do?

When I design a homepage, I personally want to be proud of it. I also want it to knock both the client’s socks off. I wonder, ‘what elements of this can I animate?’ and then scour inspiration and photography sites for the perfect image to perfectly crop and perfectly color-correct to account for any text that displays over top. But that’s ego getting in the way of business. We’re not designing sites for stakeholders or ourselves; we’re designing for everyone.

Take pesky pronouns out of the equation, let go of subjective ideas of perfection, and get to the bare bones. Our most basic objective is to design something useful and user-friendly. Even if we know, like us, our clients want magic, what users need matters first.

In the case study example:

— Target presumably required a straightforward content block that efficiently drives users to specific categories, and therefore drives conversions.

— As for users, let’s divide them into two types — new and returning — and ask, ‘what do they need?’ New users visiting a homepage might look for a range of the products or services being offered. Returning users might look for fresh content from a brand they trust. ALL users want to navigate to the content they need as quickly and frictionless as possible.

— The designer introduces customers to new products and directs them shoppable categories not too far below the header navigation.

check iconCheck!

Think of a site that oozes ‘wow factor’. Sure, the designer eventually added the bells and whistles that make it exceptional, but they likely first aligned their clients’ and their users’ goals before asserting their own aspirations and inserting their own assumptions.

 

What does the feature do in practice?

Break the feature down into its fundamental ingredients. How does each UI element work within the design?

Mobile Content Block Visual

In the case study example, we see:

1. A Headline, which provides context.

2. Images with brand logos, which in addition to being contextual, help to distinguish the different categories.

3. Subheadlines, microcopy that expresses the voice of each subsidiary brand and specifies what kind of products the categories contain.

4. Buttons, which take users to the next phase of their journey.

— While the headline and subheadlines use persuasive marketing copy, these buttons would arguably benefit from actionable language (e.g., ‘Shop the Collection’ instead of ‘A New Day’).

— On the other hand, many bases are covered here. Because the brand logos are embedded in the images, they are large enough to be legible on small screens.

— Additionally, the buttons repeat the brand name in plain text for users with visual impairments who may not be able to see the images at all.

check minus iconCheck minus.

Now, let’s repeat this exercise, but with UI attributes like colors, fonts, and photo art direction. How do our design choices work for the design?

In the case study example, we see:

1. A gray background, which separates this content block from the ones surrounding it. Visually compartmentalizing the content makes it easier for users to digest.

2. A light-weight headline, which conveys elegance and doesn’t compete with the subsidiary brand logos.

3. Single-subject images with pastel backgrounds, which contribute to an approachable look-and-feel. While the compositions vary (left-aligned, centered, right-aligned) and the subjects differ, the selection feels intentional, unified, and balanced. The soft backgrounds make the products pop.

4. Rounded corner buttons, which, alongside the gray borders identify the content as clickable. The size is large enough that it can be easily tapped on a small device.

— Overall, the UI attributes grab attention, establish a content hierarchy, and express the brand. Our color, typography, and imagery choices work hard and often unperceptively to make it easier for users to accomplish tasks.

— We could further improve the design by assigning buttons a color background or border, instead of the gray and white, to better contrast with the gray outer container.

— Also, more closely pairing the buttons with their related content would help users select the correct category when shopping on a mobile device.

check minus iconCheck minus.

The more we assess the design choices we make, we are more likely to make thoughtful decisions over short-sighted ones, and the better equipped we are to defend our designs to clients and stakeholders.

 

Is it ready to ship? Is it ready to iterate on?

Are we ever really ready for anything? Is anything really ever finished? Continuously evaluating how a design performs for users — and tailoring it to their evolving needs — sets a good design on the path of becoming a design paradigm.

Have real people test a working prototype. Observe them and ask:

1. Is it intuitive?

2. Is it memorable?

3. Does it integrate with the overall experience?

If the answer is ‘no’ to any of the above, take a step back. Sometimes we fail to think of ways a design could be potentially harmful to users or, after multiple rounds of client feedback, we trim out something that made the design stand out in the first place.

When we design with empathy, we try to look at our work through many different lenses and if necessary, dismantle our hypotheses, however well-researched they were. Ask if a design can be simplified without stripping its personality and push back if a design decision negatively impacts the UX. Through deep inquiry, we can find meaningful solutions to the cracks in our design before they become craters.

Once we’ve workshopped a design and it meets the required criteria, we test it. SD recommends A/B testing, via experimentation platforms like Optimizely. Alongside usability testing, we compare A/B test results with analytics data over a controlled time to figure out if our target users understand what a feature does and they follow where our design choices are guiding them. Whether we decide the design is effective or defective, we incrementally test solutions to improve it.

Designing with users in mind is a job that is never over. User’s tastes, habits, and needs change over time, not unlike an ecommerce store’s inventory, branding, and profit goals. Being empathetic, critical, and flexible is essential. We weigh the variables, we wireframe the possibilities, we audit our work, and we test it over and over. Because the true testament of success is that we’ve done our due diligence to create user experiences that serve as many real people as possible.

Written by: Gina Angelotti, Interactive Designer

Why Every Ecommerce Team Should Be A/B Testing

Most people would never commit to a winter coat or a pair of slacks without trying them on first. Why wouldn’t website managers and ecommerce teams apply the same rigor to website changes?

To Lindsay Pugh, Digital Marketing Analyst here at Something Digital, it’s a question of good website stewardship. A/B testing is the best way to ensure the changes you make will achieve your goals. Foregoing the exercise can needlessly cost you money over the long haul.

Still, for many people A/B testing is intimidating, which is why we sat down with Lindsay for a frank talk on A/B testing.

Q: Why is A/B testing important?

A: A lot of people act on hunches. They’ll say: I think we’ll get more conversions if we change this button from black to pink. They may ask around and their colleagues will tell them it’s a great idea. But it’s all just speculation. What if your site visitors don’t respond to that change? Or ignore that button because it’s pink?

A/B testing validates these things with statistically significant numbers. It stops you from essentially implementing your opinion by letting you know quantifiably whether the change is good, or if it will cost you more money in the long run.

Q: Let’s say you want to deploy A/B testing this quarter…where should you begin?

A: Start by assessing your site and identifying problems. For instance, are there sections of your site where engagement is disappointing? Areas or functions you suspect are problematic?

I worked with a client who was disappointed that visitors just weren’t engaging with their social media icons. So we tested adding the icons to the header as well as the footer and got important insight. These are really smart applications for A/B testing.

Q: Why doesn’t everybody A/B test?

A: It’s a combination of not enough bandwidth, money, or a good handle on how to use the technologies. Someone may install a free copy of Optimizely and then feel overwhelmed at the prospect of learning a new platform. So they decide to not bother with A/B testing.

Q: That brings up a good question: Is A/B testing difficult, time-consuming and expensive?

A: Not at all! First, I really want to emphasize that A/B testing is very easy to do, especially after you’ve set up your system and learned how the platform works. It’s not the daunting, time-consuming task people assume it will be.

And as for expense, there are definitely some costs involved, especially if your site traffic volumes exceed the free versions of A/B testing solutions. But what you really need to consider is the ROI. No site owner wants to make changes that confuse or dissuade potential customers. You want to put your best foot forward, and A/B testing helps you do just that.

Q: How do you know when a change you’re testing is statistically significant?

A: That’s the benefit of using Optimizely or any of the A/B testing tools out there. These tools will only stop a test when they deem you’ve reached a statistically significant result. They use algorithms to automate the process, and can determine whether the change under consideration accomplished your business goal.

Q: That’s the second time you  mentioned Optimizely, which begs the question: Are A/B testing tools a requirement?

A: They certainly make the process efficient and reliable, which is why we recommend them.  There are a lot of options on the market. At Something Digital we tend to use Optimizely, which at this point is synonymous with A/B testing. But Google Optimize, a newer product, is also good, and we’re happy to use that if the client prefers it.

The reason why these tools are helpful is that they’ll split your traffic randomly, allowing you to test a change in scenarios where all variables are equal. Let’s say you want to test a button-color change yourself, with no help from a software solution. You’ll probably change the color for one day, collect the data, then change it back the next day and collect the data again. Next you’ll compare the two datasets.

The problem is that a lot can change from one day to the next. You might have different promotions running, you might have a different composition of visitors to your site due to an affiliate partner’s promotion. It’s difficult to sync up all of the different variables so that you actually test the data in the same environment.

A software solution like Optimizely will ensure your A and B test elements are running concurrently, using all of the same variables. These programs ensure traffic is sent randomly to test the change. This leads to truer, more reliable results.

Q: Let’s say you want to make that button-color change…do you need to change that button in your site?

A: No. With Optimizely you receive a pixel which you implement on your site, and all changes are made via that pixel. Within the platform you have access to screens that let you preview the changes to your site. You can create multiple versions of what you want to test. There’s no need to hardcode the text elements into your site.

Q: Is Optimizely user-friendly?

A: It’s not too bad, especially if you have an understanding of how HTML and CSS works (or you’re good at Googling!). For complex tests you may need the help of a developer.

Q: Are there things that shouldn’t be A/B tested?

A: There are some complex process changes that are difficult to A/B test. If you plan to re-architect your site navigation A/B testing will be difficult, because there are too many elements changing all at once. We recommend A/B or multivariate testing when you have a few, isolated elements to test.

Q: Google has been making changes to its browsers, and plans to block website elements it believes are bothersome to users. Can A/B testing help site owners prepare for that?

A: Companies that rely on a pop-up to solicit email sign-ups should definitely plan to A/B test some alternatives. They can start now by testing an email drop down.

It’s not clear at this point if Google will completely ban pop-ups. They may just ban ones that take over the entire page, or don’t allow the user to close it. A/B testing allows companies to prepare for that eventuality and have a fully-tested alternative in place.

 

Looking for help with A/B Testing on your site? Or have questions for us? Contact us now.

Looking for Insane ROI? Invest in Email Marketing

If you run an ecommerce site and aren’t currently investing in email marketing, you need to rethink your digital strategy ASAP. Of all marketing channels, email typically has the best ROI and is an essential component to any good, comprehensive digital plan. Don’t believe me? Maybe these metrics will convince you:

– 89% of marketers say that email is their primary channel for lead generation (Mailigen)
– 80% of retail professionalsindicate that email marketing is their greatest driver of customer retention (eMarketer)
– Across every demographic, email was the most popular channel. 64% prefer email to communicate with companies (MarketingSherpa)

Email is a powerful marketing tool – for both retention and acquisition, B2B and B2C –  and learning how to use it correctly is essential for success in 2017.

When clients come to us for email marketing advice or services, here are some questions they typically ask, along with the SD team’s answers:

Q: I want to invest in a new ESP, but how do I figure out which one is best for me?

A: We’ll help you figure out which ESP makes the most sense after reviewing some of the following metrics: email list size, email marketing budget, current email metrics (open rate, click-through rate, segments), and overall content strategy. If you have a small budget and limited team members to handle design, strategy, and execution, we might recommend an ESP like MailChimp (with an add-on like Windsor Circle) to get you started. If you’re already on MailChimp and looking to increase your budget and develop a more complex, layered strategy, we might recommend an ESP like Dotmailer, Listrak, or Bronto. We won’t know for sure until we do some analysis and learn more about your brand.

Q: I’m currently using a sophisticated ESP, but I’m not seeing the results I expected. What am I doing wrong?

A: There could be a number of issues with your current ESP (maybe technical, maybe strategy-based), but here are some common ones we’ve seen in the past:

– You’re not sending enough emails. Brands often worry about inundating customers with too many messages and shy away from a daily send schedule.
– You’re not segmenting. The ability to segment email lists and individualize email campaign messaging are the most effective personalization tactics for 51% and 50% of marketing influencers respectively. (Hubspot)
– You haven’t kept up with list maintenance. If your list is full of customers who clearly aren’t interested in what you’re offering, it’s no wonder you’re not getting the engagement you need.
– You’re not utilizing your ESP for transactional emails. Transactional emails have 8x more opens and clicks than any other type of email, and can generate 6x more revenue. (Experian)
– You’re dealing with an undiagnosed technical issue that’s preventing you from properly utilizing your ESP.

Q: I have an internal design and content marketing team, but I really need help with strategy. Can I hire SD to help with segmentation, planning, and execution?

A: Yes! We’re available to help in any capacity. If you already have a team who handles content creation, hire us for just strategy. If you need full service, we offer that, too. If we haven’t worked with you before, we would suggest beginning any engagement with complimentary design and strategy email audits. Once we have a better idea of what you’re currently doing, we can formulate a plan to help you best utilize our services. Shoot us an email and we’ll get back to you with next steps.

With an ROI of around 4,300%, email practically pays for itself (Copyblogger). Ensure that your company is taking full advantage of everything email marketing has to offer.

Written by: Lindsay Pugh, Digital Marketing Analyst

 

*Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC3.0 BY

 

 

Ecommerce Holiday 2017: Performance is a Must

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

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

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

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

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

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

To address performance, ask the following:

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

Then, consider the following basic steps:

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

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

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

Written by: Jon Klonsky, Principal and Founder

Webinar: Increase ecommerce conversions this holiday season

A webinar sponsored by Addressy, Yotpo, and Something Digital.

Each year the holiday season starts earlier, lasts for longer and grows exponentially. According to eMarketer, retail ecommerce sales rose by 17.8% over the 2016 holiday season, and this year it is expected to increase by another 15.8%.

The festive season can attribute up to 20-40% of your annual revenue, so it’s critical to get it right. Is your site ready to cash in on this opportunity?

In this webinar, you’ll learn key yet simple-to-implement actions to improve checkout user experience and form conversion rates:

– Hardware and software performance checks to make now

– How to use product reviews to improve conversions

– Top tips for conversion rate optimization

Don’t miss out on this webinar, September 6, 3PM EST! Register now.

Rolling Out MasterCard 2-Series Compatibility at SD – Part 1

Starting in June 2017, MasterCard 2-Series credit cards will start to appear in the wild.

This is a new line of MasterCard credit cards that start with the number “2” (previously MasterCard’s had started with the number “5”).

Some versions of Magento 1 and 2 contain credit card validation logic that will flag these credit cards as invalid, preventing users with 2-Series cards from completing checkout.

Here, we’ll take a look at how Something Digital is rolling out these types of fixes across its SEG client base.

Research

Whenever an update affecting SD’s entire client base is announced, the first step is to research the issue. A few questions always need to be answered:

– Which versions of Magento are affected?
– What options are available to remediate the issue?
– What are the potential pitfalls developers will encounter when applying the required fix to the code base?
– How can we QA the fix to confirm it has been correctly incorporated into the code base?
– How quickly does this change need to be deployed?

The Patch Assessment

Once SD has thoroughly researched the issue, a patch assessment is prepared. The intention of the patch assessment is two-fold:

– Collect relevant details on the change into a document that can be circulated to SEG clients.
– Document technical implementation process so that it can be executed on by developers and QA.

Execution

Next, we circulate the patch assessment to our client base. Our Strategic Engagement Managers are of course available to answer any questions as needed.

Once the information has been circulated, SD moves forward with implementation, following the plan documented in the patch assessment.

Conclusion

From a high level, that sums up SD’s general process for rolling out updates like MasterCard 2-Series compatibility that impact its entire Magento client base.

In part two of this series we’ll look at how this process is implemented specifically using the example of the Mastercard 2-Series compatibility changes.

Talk to Us

We’d love to tell you more or answer any questions you have about Mastercard 2-Series compatibility, or our process in general. Contact us if you’d like to hear more. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Written by: Max Chadwick, Senior Programmer