You Me and Amazon Graphic

Is Amazon Your Competitor? Not if You Have the Right Strategy in Place

It’s hard to talk about online retail without the conversation winding its way back to Amazon. With 44% of all online sales (and an incredible 4% of total retail sales) in the US1, Amazon is the elephant in the room. But that doesn’t mean online retailers are at a disadvantage; it simply means you need to make Amazon’s existence work to your advantage. In fact, Amazon has several programs to help you do just that, and more than 40% of Amazon’s total unit sales come from third-parties2.

Product Discovery on Amazon

There’s a certain kind of Amazon shopper. She’s someone who prefers to shop at a big marketplace so she can order her favorite pair of jeans, shoes for the kids, a dog bed, Tupperware, batteries, fish food and electronics all in one order, have it shipped free of charge and receive it in a few days. Fortunately, she can be your customer as well.

For the diehard Amazon shopper, product discovery begins on Amazon. It’s the first place she will go whenever she needs something. And that, in turn, means Amazon is a great way to grow your business by getting your brand in front of millions of consumers. When the Amazon shopper looks for a new pair of hiking shoes, why not have your best-selling ones included in the search results?

You don’t need to offer your entire catalog on Amazon. Many brands offer their evergreen and classic styles there in order to build brand awareness, but reserve their complete catalog and newest styles for their ecommerce site. For these retailers, Amazon serves as the first point of contact, and they use that sale to promote their own ecommerce sites by inserting marketing materials or special onsite offers in the packaging (more on packaging later).

Tip: Something to keep in mind – Amazon wants to be the place where consumers get a wide selections at lower prices. You can prevent a race to the bottom by establishing a minimum advertised price (MAP), which bars any outlet (including Amazon) from selling your products below that minimum.

From Product Discovery to a Holistic Strategy

Let’s start by defining what an Amazon holistic strategy actually is. It’s strategy in which you offer a portion of your products on Amazon. In other words, you’re managing a marketplace channel, just as you would a reseller, wholesaler or brick-and-mortar channel. If you’re new to the Amazon marketplace, you probably fulfill your orders yourself.

Once you begin to gain some traction in Amazon and are reaching new customers, it may be time to consider the Amazon customer’s expectations. In the US alone, there are 90 million Amazon Prime subscribers — people who are accustomed to fast delivery of orders. Slow delivery can affect your Amazon Seller Rating, a metric that measures overall customer satisfaction of your buyers, and help you identify customer service improves that can lead to more satisfied buyers. A straightforward way to improve your Seller Rating is to join the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) program. This program means that Amazon will warehouse your products and fulfill them on your behalf. There are fees, of course, but you get a lot of advantages. For instance, your products are eligible for Amazon Prime free two-day shipping, and your product listings are displayed with the Prime logo, telling all those diehard Amazon shoppers that Amazon will handle all packing, delivery, customer service and returns.

If you sell products that are common or widely available, you can opt into Multi Channel Fulfillment by FBA – a program where  in which Amazon already warehouses those products, but you serve as the merchant of record. Because the products are already in the Amazon warehouse, this arrangement is a de facto dropshipper relationship. Dropshipping is a retail fulfillment method in which you don’t keep any of the products you sell in stock. When you sell a product, you buy it from a third party — in this case, Amazon — who then ships it directly to the customer. As a result, the merchant on record, you never see or handle the product. This program is intriguing because you can build your store’s brand, get sales, and boost your Seller Rating by relying on Amazon’s incredible fulfillment operations.

Amazon Exclusives Program

As I noted in the beginning of this post, Amazon is keenly interested in promoting product discovery in its marketplace (a self-serving goal, to be sure, but one that also benefits third-parties like you). The Amazon Exclusives Program is one way the marketplace helps you win new eyeballs. Amazon describes it as, “best destination for innovators to launch and build a brand by providing increased brand discoverability, marketing opportunities, and self-serve brand tools.”

Don’t let the word “exclusive” scare you. Participating in Amazon Exclusives doesn’t mean you need to abandon your existing ecommerce site. Amazon defines “exclusivity” as “selling through Amazon, your own websites, and your own physical stores.” In other words, the only secondary-channel outside of your direct-to-consumers is Amazon Exclusives.

Mind you, don’t have to expose your entire product catalog; you can sell just one product. What’s interesting about Amazon Exclusives is that Amazon will actively market your products on your behalf. It’s marketing channel is robust, encompassing onsite marketing, email campaigns that include your products, deals, giveaways, branded content and video. It’s very difficult to get your products included in the marketplace email and on-site Deals of the Day recommendation channel because there’s many people playing in there, but this program increases your chances.

Engagement Opportunities

When you sell via the Exclusives or Marketplace programs, you have one opportunity to engage directly with the end consumer, and that’s to request feedback from the customer. This email is your opportunity “to close the deal” and make them loyal to your brand (from a digital perspective).

Asking for Seller Feedback is essentially asking for an Amazon Review, and the amount of positive feedback you receive will have a direct impact on your products appearing in the product recommendation areas and winning the Buy Box (the display on a product detail page with the Add to Cart button that customers can use to add items to their shopping carts).

This means that feedback is important and you should ask for it, but you should also email the customer to introduce them to other areas of your product line. Just take care how you word that introduction, as Amazon frowns on selling products offsite in that feedback message. Think long and hard on the best way to initiate a direct relationship with a consumer who is likely to be a faithful Amazon shopper.

Sellers who do their own fulfillment have a second opportunity to touch the customer: the product packaging. The box your product arrives in is an opportunity to put your brand in a good light, which means you should really consider upping your packaging game.

You can buy short-run custom packaging from numerous suppliers, or at the very least, use a branded packaging tape with your logo, so there’s no reason to throw your product in a USPS box. (I’ve received products in packages the sellers created out of USPS boxes all duct-taped together. It took me a long time to access my product. Never again!)  Remember, first impressions count and effect your seller rating. Amazon shoppers are different from your other customers, and you need to approach them differently. They’re accustomed to an Amazon out-of-box experience, and it’s worth an investment to replicate that.

Finally, offering an in-box incentive is a great way to entice Amazon shoppers to your website and to establish a direct relationship with them. Offering a best-in-class, exclusive to Amazon shoppers, is even better. In other words, don’t offer the same promotion you offer to your affiliate channels. Your Amazon customer is already your customer, thank them for it.

Once that Amazon customer arrives on your website the world of marketing opens up to you. You can engage them via email marketing, retargeting, and make them profitable through the lifetime value of that customer.

1 https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/03/amazon-grabbed-4-percent-of-all-us-retail-sales-in-2017-new-study.html
2 https://services.amazon.com/selling/benefits.htm/ref=asus_soa_hnav

Something Digital UX Blog Series

5 UX Optimizations to Improve Smartphone Conversions (Part 1)

Those of you satisfied with your ecommerce smartphone conversion rate, say Y-E-A-H! (chirp, chirp, cricket, cricket) No, seriously though, if you are satisfied you might want to quit being basic and keep reading—there is always room for improvement.

Adobe’s 2016 mobile retail report stated, “while 26% of shopping carts on desktop turn into an order, smartphone carts only see a 16% success rate— conversion rates are nearly 3x higher on a desktop than on a smartphone.”1

adobe analytics conversion trend by device

adobe analytics conversion by deviceWhen it comes to improving your ecommerce site’s smartphone conversion rate the first thing you’ll want to examine is the user experience. You’re probably thinking, “our site is responsive, isn’t that a good thing?”.

Well, yes and no.

“Responsive design is a tool, not a cure-all. While using responsive design has many perks when designing across devices, using the technique does not ensure a usable experience (just as using a gourmet recipe does not ensure the creation of a magnificent meal.) Teams must focus on the details of content, design, and performance in order to support users across all devices.”2

At the minimum every ecommerce site should utilize a responsive design, however if you really want to improve your conversion rate custom optimizations to the mobile experience can make all the difference.

Users spend 20x more time on apps than the mobile web3 because apps tend to be more focused and optimized for a smartphone users’ needs.

app vs web usage

Clearly all this data shows that something’s amiss on the smartphone experience front and that tailoring the experience is key.

Therefore, this post series covers a high-level set of user experience (UX) best practices that can help improve smartphone conversion.

Best practices aren’t the end-all be-all of optimization. In fact, they’re best used as a baseline. Start here, but don’t end here – because best practices don’t work for everybody, and best practices are rarely actually the optimal solution.”4

That being said, follow these 5 optimization tips and you’re sure to see some conversion improvement.

1 Focus on what’s important.
2 Think about content.
3 Pay attention to layout.
4 Make it scan-able.
5 Design for speed.

1 Focus on What’s Important

Smartphones naturally have much less screen real estate to work with then desktops. The average desktop view port is 1024×768 pixels or higher5, while a smartphone is closer to 360×640 pixels6. While a couple pixels here and there might not seem like a big deal, they are. And the vertical nature of a smartphone only adds to the challenge.

This is why it very important to consider your customers’ needs when it comes to their shopping experience on a smartphone and prioritize your content and functionality accordingly.

Below are several ways you can optimize your the limited real estate available on a smartphone.

Condense the Header

Reduce the height of the site header a much as possible. You can do this by using an alternative logo treatment, implementing a hamburger menu, and labeled icons.

Header before and after

Before / After

Expose the Search Box

“Shoppers who use internal site search converted at a 216% higher rate than those who do not.”7

This is HUGE. Exposing the search field at all times helps bring it to top-of-mind. If exposing the field on all pages isn’t practical for your site, consider doing it for just the homepage and be sure to display a search icon in the header.

Mobile UX search field

 

Highlight Location Specific Information

Is your brand available at brick and mortar stores? If so, prioritize your location information so that it is easily found on a smartphone.

You can do this by featuring a store locator on the homepage or within the header. Also, provide your customers with useful location content such as the store address, hours or operation, one-click link to directions, and if possible wait-times. Both Atheleta and T-Mobile do a good job of this.

Examples of mobile UX - location information

 

Support Navigation in Spite of the Hamburger

The hamburger menu has become the go to solution for mobile navigation because it is a fantastic space saver. However, it has its share of shortcomings.

“On mobile, people were 15% slower when the navigation was hidden.”8

There are several reasons for this, but for the most part customers have to do extra work to figure out what your brand is selling and it’s not a common UX pattern that a typical desktop user is familiar with.

The good news is that you can counter the negative effects of a hamburger menu by including additional navigational links. Old Navy and Sephora do this well by featuring top selling categories either as links of buttons on the homepage.

 

Examples of alternative mobile navigation

 

Optimizing a smartphone user’s experience by focusing on what is important to your customers can help reduce the time they spend looking, ease friction and frustration and in turn improve their path to conversion.

Stay tuned for Part 2 – Think About Content

 


 

1. Source: Adobe 2016 Mobile Retail Report  2. Source: Responsive Web Design  3. Source: Comscore 2016 US Mobile App Report  4. Source: Conversionxl Ecommerce UX  5. Source: W3 Schools Browsers Display  6. Source: Device Atlas Mobile Viewport Size Statistics 2017  7. Source: WebLinc – Boost Conversion and AOV with Site Search  8. Source: NNGroup.com Hamburger Menus

Ecommerce Footwear Guide: A Something Digital Ebook

U.S. consumers spend nearly $30 billion each year in footwear; globally revenue tops $52 billion. Over the past five years, online footwear sales have soared, a trend that is expected to continue. Research firm IBISWorld predicts that online revenue will increase 6.3% year-over-year, reaching $19 billion by 2023.

No doubt it is a good time to be in the footwear business. Venture capitalists are funding niche brands, such as Allbirds, M.Gemi, GREATS, and many others. Reaching broad swaths of consumers out of the gate is now possible, thanks to global marketplaces such as Amazon, Rakuten, and Alibaba.

Over the past 9 years, Something Digital has designed, built and maintained ecommerce sites for numerous footwear companies, including Fuzzy Babba, VILLA, Jack Rogers, Insole Store, Soludos, Marc Fisher, Aetrex and many others. The objective of this ebook is to share our wealth of knowledge around the challenges that are incumbent to delivering a high-performing direct-to-consumer ecommerce site in the footwear space. Our goal is to provide an overview of the challenges, requirements, competitive landscape, and how to define a successful ecommerce strategy.

Pop your email in the box below to get the rest of our Ecommerce Footwear Guide sent straight to your inbox (it’s like magic).

If you run into any issues downloading the ebook let us know so we can help you out.

 

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How to Build a Digital Commerce Team: Job Roles Needed as Your Company Matures

Is your goal to improve your ecommerce team? Are you considering adding additional resources to your dedicated team? If so, this blog post is for you.

We’ve found that for many companies, the ecommerce channel has too few resources and outsized expectations in terms of performance compared to other channels. In a typical scenario, a company will hire an ecommerce director who must also take on the role of marketer, merchandiser and brand manager, with the help of some outside consultants (perhaps). This isn’t a sustainable model, and is a key reason why sales and performance may stagnate.

As an ecommerce business matures, it needs to be staffed similarly to other channels, such as offline in-store retailing, meaning you need concrete roles defined. In the online world, a maturing company needs an ecommerce director, merchandising manager, brand manager and a data-driven marketer. Let’s look at the each plays in detail.

Director of Ecommerce

The first person all ecommerce operations need is someone who understands how all the various pieces discussed below come together for the benefit of the customer. This person is the director of ecommerce (AKA retail management director).

The director of ecommerce is someone who understands that ecommerce is one channel among many opportunities for a customer to engage with the brand, and that it must fit work in concert with all of the brand’s touch points. In other words, the the ecommerce director can’t engage in tactics that siphon sales from other channels or interfere with their success.

That said, the director is responsible for the platform’s viability and profitability in the marketplace. To accomplish these goals, the director must have a clear understanding of who his or her online shoppers are. Customers who prefer to purchase via an online store have specific needs and wants, and they must have a clear idea of the value they get from buying  from your direct-to-consumer store.

Merchandising Manager

The next role to fill is that of a merchandising manager. This is someone who can populate your store products that are relevant to the consumer, organize your product categories in such a way that it’s easy to find, and priced so that customers opt to purchase them.

Let’s take fashion as an example. Customers who shop online may not know exactly what they’re looking for, and so go on a journey of discovery. The merchandising manager needs to understand how to select the right products to communicate your brand, and to evoke emotions, in the same manner as mannequins do in a physical store.

Although few people walk into a store and buy off the mannequin, mannequins are still critical in that it communicates lifestyle messages to the consumer — messages that draw people in. The online merchandising manager understands how to translate the mannequin to the ecommerce channel.

Because your site will sell to many types of people, product categorization is critical. Categories must be organized in such a way that there is both the element of discovery (enabling customers to find products they didn’t know they wanted), as well as the element of predictability (helping customers find exactly they’re looking for). This is no small task for a merchandising manager!

Brand Manager

A brand manager isn’t always dedicated to the ecommerce channel, but every ecommerce channel needs a brand manager resource. This is someone who has expertise in the user experience or is a brand designer. Such people understand the value of the visuals in the ecommerce experience; specifically what those visuals communicate and the emotions they evoke.

Of course, the feelings and emotions felt by an online shopper don’t need to be identical to those evoked in brick-and-mortar customers (after all, they’re likely to be very different types of customers!). This means that your brand manager must go beyond enforcing colors and logos and think long and hard about how to best position your store so that it evokes the right emotions, regardless of the channel.

For instance, let’s say you’re a sneaker brand with a brick-and-mortar retail presence, factory outlets, an online store with high-end items and a deep product category, and network of wholesalers and marketplaces through which you sell a subset of products. A customer in your factory outlet is probably a bargain hunter, and is quite different from someone who purchases a higher price point product from your online store. Meanwhile, marketplace customers are often greater fans of the marketplace (and the conveniences of adding a wide array of products in a single shopping cart) than they are of your brand. Each customer has a set of motivations, and the brand manager must know how to meet their expectations.

Marketer

The fourth key role is that of a marketer; someone who understands and is focused on the ecommerce funnel. The marketer’s overarching goal is to get traffic to your site, and once there, allow the efforts described (merchandising, branding, etc) to work their magic.

The marketer has many tools to build the funnel: paid search, organic search, social media, paid social and so on. Each tactic requires data and skill. For instance, if the goal to get traffic via organic search, the marketer must ensure that your website copy has SEO value.

Further down the funnel, the marketer must have the ability to price products that are both competitive and begins to build customer loyalty. Here’s why: each visitor to a site represents an investment, and it’s the marketer’s job to ensure that investment pays off.

Speaking of investments, marketers must strategically decide how best to spend to acquire new customers. For instance, they can offer a discount (give up margin), free shipping or purchase traffic via paid search or paid social. Each comes at a cost that must be weighed against the customer’s total lifetime value (LTV). For instance, paid search for high-end sneakers can top $50 per click; a high cost to be sure, but one that may be worth it for customers who have a LTV in excess of $1,500.

Your marketer must have a keen understanding of product margins and customer profitability so he or she can spend the budget wisely, focusing on customers who have the potential to be long lasting. Spending money to acquire bargain hunters can hurt profitability, unless the marketer has a sound plan to earn repeat business.

Data is important for all four roles described here, but it’s especially important for marketers.

Final Thoughts

The number of people on your ecommerce team will depend on your channel’s maturity. You might not need a brand manager dedicated to your ecommerce site if you’re small. Conversely, a mature site may have several marketing people, each dedicated to a specific function, such as managing paid search or social media campaigns. The number isn’t set in stone, but you need to ensure that all functions are covered.

Looking for help building your ecommerce team? Reach out to SD for strategic advice on how to grow your team and business.

 

Practical Artificial Intelligence for Ecommerce  

Everybody is talking about artificial intelligence (AI). But is it real, or just the buzzword of the moment? More importantly, can ecommerce managers actually put it to use today?

Let’s start with the basics: what is AI? AI is a broad category of technologies within the field of computer science that seeks to train machines to act intelligently. In other words, data scientists work to train machines to plan, learn, reason, and solve problems, as well take on a wide variety of tasks traditionally done by humans (e.g. self-driving cars, build Ikea furniture).

Although there are many ways to achieve artificial intelligence, machine learning is particularly prevalent in the ecommerce and digital marketing and advertising advertising spaces. Machine learning is an approach to AI in which data is used to train machines. In a classic case, data scientists feed a machine the right answer to a question, and the machine learns to find right answers on its own.

For instance, let’s say you want to train a machine to find consumers who are new to your brand and have the potential to become high-value customers. The machine can look at your existing high-value customers to in order to assess relevant attributes and online behaviors that are common among them. Once it identifies patterns of behaviors that indicate someone has a propensity to purchase your high-value products, you can then target them with ads to bring them to your site.

Although AI sounds as if it’s the stuff of science fiction, it’s actually widely used today, in a wide variety of use cases:

  • Programmatic Advertising: Most digital ad campaigns are executed programmatically, meaning media is purchased on an impression-by-impression basis, based on the consumer who will see the ads. Most programmatic platforms leverage algorithms that are trained to learn which consumers, in which channels, are most likely to respond to ad ad.
  • Customer Profile: Big data analysis of customer purchase behavior is used to proactively identify important milestones (as Target famously did).
  • Product Merchandising: Content-filtering and collaborative filtering recommendations Engine can help ecommerce sites determine which products consumers are likely to be interested in, even if they’re first-time visitors to a site.
  • Pricing Strategies: AI can help identify the optimal selling point on a product-by-product basis in competitive marketplaces, such as Amazon. Algorithms examine a host of attributes, including popularity of a product, current competition, profitability and so on, to recommend a price to offer a customer.
  • 1:1 Messages and Website Experiences: Algorithms update product recommendations and website pages based on what real-time browsing data says about customer interest. For instance, if a website visitor is looking at a fancy red dress, the recommendations engine may recommend appropriate red shoes to match.
  • Front-Line Sales Support: Chatbots are becoming increasingly common. Chatbots are software that can simulate human-like conversations, allowing website visitors to ask questions like, “where’s my order” and receive a plain English response, such as “Let me check on that. Can I have your order number?” By analyzing questions and topics, chatbots have the ability to learn, which means the more they interact with website visitors, the better they become at helping them.

 

Benefits of AI

Although many people fear for a variety of reasons, it’s really quite helpful to ecommerce sites. To begin, it can do things that are impossible for a human to do. It can crunch through massive datasets to make smart decisions in real time and look at numerous attributes that affect the cost of a product, and recommend the optimal cost to offer a consumer in order to win the business AND drive profitability.

It can also plough through data to find insights that are otherwise unknowable. For instance, Dstillery, an AI company, used unsupervised machine learning to help a yogurt manufacturer discover a lucrative, but surprising, customer base: junk food addicts! This is critical: marketers assume they know their audience, AI forces us to test those assumptions.

AI also adds incredible efficiency to operations, as evidenced in numerous use cases, from focusing ad spend on the consumers most likely to respond to an ad, to chatbots providing instant customer service to any website visitor who has a question.

Best of all: you don’t need to fill your ranks with mathematicians, data and computer scientists in order to reap the benefits of AI. Most technology companies have built AI directly into their platforms and services, which means you can leverage it in your merchandising, pricing, personalization and other efforts today.

What is Dark Social and How Can You Make it Work for Your Site?

If the term “dark social” sounds ominous to you, especially in these days of massive Facebook data breaches, don’t be alarmed. It’s actually quite innocuous. Coined by Alexis Madrigal, a senior editor at The Atlantic, in his 2012 article, “Dark Social: We Have The Whole History of the Web Wrong,” dark social refers to users who share content (i.e. links) with one another via channels that can’t be tracked by Google Analytics or other web tracking platforms.

So when your mom emails you a link for a sweater she’s thinking of getting you for your birthday, she’s doing so via dark social. Ditto for your friend who texts you a link to the restaurant to meet up at.

A good bit of the traffic that shows up in your Google Analytics as “direct channel” comes from dark social, and if you’re responsible for managing the user experience on your website, you’ll need to shed some light on it ASAP. To begin, you’ve no doubt noticed that dark social represents a sizeable (and still growing) way for people to arrive on sites and to discover content. And according to RadiumOne’s research, 46% of consumers age 55 and older share via dark social exclusively.

Of course, not all of your direct channel traffic can be classified as dark social. Visitors may have a specific section of your site bookmarked, or their browsers may complete the URLs of pages they’ve previously visited. Dark social applies only to the portion of your direct channel traffic that stems from social referrals you can’t track.

There are a few ways you can get a handle on your site’s dark social channel, which is to say, get a better understanding of the user behavior of people who arrive on your site via links they’ve received from friends, families or colleagues. Keep in mind, none of these strategies are 100%, but combined they can help provide a roadmap to better engage people on your site whose origins are a complete mystery to you.

Begin by looking at your direct channel by landing page, and weed out any pages that are so specific that you can safely assume no one typed it in directly. For instance, it’s not unreasonable for a consumer to type “zappos.com/frye” into a search bar, but it’s highly unlikely they’d type in the specific URL for, Frye Ally 2 band Sling sandals, which is: https://www.zappos.com/p/frye-ally-2-band-sling-white-multi/product/9010107/color/2927.

Once you create and apply the segment, you can then begin to look at it by user type. Specifically, separate first-time visitors from returning ones, which you can do by going to Audience Type/Behavior/new vs. returning user in Google Analytics.

Of your returning customers, it’s safe to assume that 10 – 15% originated from a saved link or via a link they’ve previously visited and that their browser automatically completed. The rest should be considered dark social, and should be watched over time. To do that, either create a custom channel grouping in Google Analytics, or build out another segment to use whenever you perform a channel-based analysis.

How to make dark social work for your site

Whether you manage an ecommerce or a straight content site, it’s important for you to understand which content resonates with your visitors, and what they’re willing to share. If, for instance, you’re an ecommerce brand and you notice a sizable number dark social shares for the same landing page, then you’ll know to optimize that landing page for people who share it via dark social.

BuzzFeed has embraced dark social sharing in a big way. The site’s editors view the URL as a tool to pique interest in the articles its readers might share. At times the URL bares little resemblance to the article itself. For instance, this article:

“It’s Raining So Hard In New York City It’s Pouring Into The Subways And People Are More Miserable Than Ever”

Had this URL:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/tanyachen/where-concrete-jungle-dreams-are-made-of?utm_term=.fvZQrXPgO#.kb5P7Grdj

Another tactic is to create content that’s designed to be shared, such as the BuzzFeed story, “18 Exhaustingly Funny Tweets From Parents With A LOT Of Kids” (URL: https://www.buzzfeed.com/mikespohr/tweets-for-parents-with-a-lot-of-kids?utm_term=.erBadl6g8#.ubVoGRVLl).

If you notice that a large portion of your users share your content, use the opportunity to identify why it appeals to specific users, or to optimize it for more shares based on other behavior insights you may have about your site. At the end of the day, optimizing your site for dark social is all about discovering who your users and how you can better target to them. It’s about identifying, creating and serving your visitors with content they’ll find relevant and shareable.

If you want to learn more about dark social check out our dark social webinar or contact us.

Written by: Lindsay Pugh, Digital Strategist

How to Increase Conversions from Mobile Traffic

In Q4 2017, 24% of all ecommerce sales stemmed from mobile devices, but that percentage is likely to grow. Why? According to a report from ​Verto Analytics, 35% of online shoppers now prefer to shop only on smartphones or tablets. Moreover, they use their mobiles to shop all day long.

Now more than ever it’s critical to ensure your ecommerce site is optimized to take advantage of the consumer’s enthusiasm for mobile shopping. Broadly speaking, there are two barriers that get in the way of mobile conversions: data entry burdens and product discovery challenges.

We’ve worked with numerous ecommerce sites spanning a range of consumer segments to to overcome these challenges. In our experience, these six tactics will go a long way towards helping you increase your mobile conversions. Each of tactics will deliver results, but when taken together, will make more of a significant impact.

#1: Make mobile payment options available

Consumers don’t like entering their payment information on their mobile devices, especially when they’re out and about in public places. Mobile payment options, such as PayPal One Touch, Apple Pay, and Amazon Pay are moving the dial for ecommerce sites by allowing the consumers to complete a purchase with the touch of a button straight from the product details page. All of these services offer an “always logged-in” experience, for maximum convenience to the consumer. In fact, it’s fair to say PayPal One Touch and Apple Pay are now table stakes.

Implementing a mobile payment option on your site is relatively straightforward. PayPal One Touch is supported by both Magento and Shopify.

Amazon Pay, in addition to offering a true, always-logged-in experience, offers a more robust ecosystem for sellers.

#2: Support social sign-on

Data entry requirements in the mobile checkout process can be quite onerous for consumers. Mobile payment options mentioned above eliminate some of this burden, but can introduce new complications.

Specifically, placing turnkey payment options on product details pages means the consumer is immediately taken to the checkout process, preventing further browsing or product discovery and resulting in lower average order values (AOVs). Some ecommerce managers opt to conceal these mobile payment options until the consumer arrives at the payment section of the checkout process, but that can lead to avoidable cart abandonments.

If product discovery is a goal, supporting social sign-ons is a good strategy. Social sign-ons inform the customer upfront that they will be spared the burden of entering a lot of address and payment details, yet still promotes browsing and product discovery.

Social sign ons allow consumers to access websites using their existing social account IDs – such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. In our experience, ones in highest demand at the moment are Google (gmail), followed by Facebook.

#3: Deploy auto-fill technology

There are plenty of consumers who choose not to use social sign on, or a mobile payment option. Fortunately you still have the ability to convert by helping them to prefill some information. Google and other third-party services, such as Addressy, provide address auto-completion in all countries in which a sizeable number of consumers shop online.

Here’s how it works: when consumers begin to enter their address, these services use the first few keystrokes and device location data to suggest relevant addresses near the consumer, which can help them complete address information.

Or you can deploy a one-page checkout that supports the Google Maps API, which has auto-completion built into the app. There is Google Maps plug-in for Magento; Shopify links to Google Maps by default.

#4: Support social engagement

Mobile shoppers who visit a site are typically motivated to purchase a product. They’ve seen something that’s captured their attention, and are on a mission to buy it. This is an important and interesting trend we see more and more: Customers who are willing to make purchases upon first visit to a site because they’ve been inspired through some other channel, almost always social.

We work with a lot of brands, particularly in fashion and footwear, that report a lot of high-converting traffic from Instagram. For all intents and purposes, these customers appear as first-time visitors, but in truth, they’ve been engaged with the brands on social for a long time.

For this reason we’ve found it quite beneficial to invest in social channels, such as subscribing to Instagram for Business, as well as developing shoppable stories and posts that highlight specific products with direct links to the product detail page on your website.

If you deploy this strategy (and we think that you should), take care that your website reinforces the social experience. In other words, ensure that the images consumers see on your social posts appear on your website, either in a product gallery or carousel that’s featured on the product page. This tells the customers that they’ve found the same products or brands that caught their attention in a social channel.

There’s an interesting product to keep your eye on: it’s called Curalate. It offers a “shop the look” feature, and makes product recommendations that are very Instagram-like.

#5: Prioritize Search/Use Search to Enhance Your Product Descriptions

Many ecommerce sites opt to downplay search on their mobile sites in order to make more screen real estate available to highlight products. While understandable, it’s an approach that can frustrate consumers and lose sales. We’ve found that drawing additional attention to search — and making it easy to use — pays lots of dividends.

Here’s why: Onsite search is the only place where customers tell you in plain English what they’re looking for. Moreover, as noted earlier, consumers visit mobile sites because they are motivated to make a purchase, and are frustrated if a search feature isn’t available to help them find it. It’s hard to browse categories on an iPhone, so search is the first place consumers look. When we’ve drawn additional attention to a customer’s onsite search, we’ve seen as much as 20% improvement in conversions.

Google Search Console lets you see all of the search terms used on your site, and if you set up Google Analytics the right way, you can segregate the ones entered via mobile devices. It’s well worth your time to do so. Search terms entered into mobile devices are surprisingly lengthy and detailed, which is counterintuitive. But the truth is, natural language is used more on mobile devices more than any other platform. Why? People rely on voice typing, which makes it easy for consumers to search on, say “red long-sleeve tee shirt with elephant image on the front.”

This trend is so significant that we now recommend all ecommerce managers mine their search console for data to incorporate into their product descriptions.

#6: Develop an Amazon Strategy

The last tactic isn’t related to your mobile website, per se, but it is relevant to the way in which people now shop. The fact is, in 2017, 4% of all retail transactions — online and off — occured on Amazon. And the e-tailer accounted for 53% of all online sales. It’s hard to get around the fact that Amazon plays a role in all online shopping experiences.

In fact, Amazon, not Google, is the first step in the purchasing funnel. When a consumer wants to purchase a particular item, he or she begins on Amazon, and if your brand isn’t on that site, you no longer have a seat at the table. This is why it’s imperative that you develop an Amazon strategy that allows you to stay relevant with the consumer.

You don’t need to offer your entire catalog on Amazon; a select number will do to ensure your brand shows up when consumers searches for it on the Amazon mobile app.

Keep in mind that all consumers have been trained to understand what Amazon is. If they search for your brand on Amazon and come up empty handed, they’ll certainly see your competitor and you will likely lose the sale. Conversely, if they find your brand but see a very shallow product catalog, they’ll immediately conclude that your offering is bigger and will seek out your website or search for your products elsewhere on the web.

In conclusion, there are many ways to increase conversions from your mobile traffic but combine them and the impact can be significant. If you have questions about mobile traffic to your site be sure to reach out to SD.

Transactional Emails

Brand and Deliver: Unpacking the benefits of custom transactional emails

Imagine you’re shopping at Bloomingdales, and instead of stepping out onto 5th Avenue with their iconic ‘Brown Bag’ in hand, you’re toting a thousand-dollar watch in a plastic sack with ‘Thank You’ printed on it in garish red letters. Bloomingdale’s would never let happen; they’re proud of their proprietary branding and managing how they’re perceived at all stages of the consumer lifecycle. Even if your online store isn’t quite at their scale, would you risk sending your customers home with a lack-luster takeaway? It feels cheap, and they’ll notice it, too.

That’s a lot like sending generic transactional emails.

The online shopping story doesn’t end when a customer taps the ‘Place Order’ button or scans their thumbprint to buy with ApplePay. As a retailer, if you’re tracking completing checkout as your primary conversion, you’re missing the big picture. Refocus on the follow-through: What are you doing between checkout and fulfillment to keep customers coming back?

Don’t’ be basic!

Instead, close the loop: A quality post-purchase exchange creates the illusion of seamlessness between ordering and fulfillment.

Before you hit send, brand your transactional emails.

Plan for multiple touch points

Bridge the virtual experience of shopping via touch-screen with the actual experience of physically touching an object (in to 2-3 business days, anyway). The steps that come between — transactional emails like order confirmations, shipment and tracking details, arrival notifications, and satisfaction surveys — have the potential to excite and engage your customers. But only if you treat these emails like extensions of the storefront.

Reassure and inform your customers, while also rewarding them with VIP treatment.

Build suspense

While they anxiously await shredding open the box and popping the bubble wrap when their package arrives, remind your customers that they can order almost anything they want…in their pajamas; it’s practically magic! Branding your transactional emails makes their experience memorable from start to finish — and back again. Of course, that means incorporating your site’s User Interface (UI) elements, like logos, colors, buttons, and link styles. But it also means stripping out any scripted language and replacing it with your brand’s unique tone-of-voice.

Look for patterns

Although for ecommerce, amazon.com may not be renowned for visually-stunning page designs, the company is THE customer service trailblazer. And branded transactional emails are a cornerstone of their digital strategy. Within each email, Amazon sets customer expectations by identifying milestones in linear steps, linking to the order details on the site, providing terms and conditions, and even offering related products. Essentially, they teach us the three main reasons you should be branding your emails, too. Branded transactional emails:

1. Show your customers that they can trust you.

2. Increase customer loyalty by reinforcing your brand voice and mission.

3. Give your customers not just the information they need, but also the information they didn’t even know they needed.

…But always be yourself

Unless you’re uncharacteristically ambitious, you didn’t plan for your ecommerce site to compete with the likes of Amazon. Your brand has an online presence first and foremost to generate awareness. Even though Amazon’s transactional emails boast cool features like the ability to dynamically pull in recently-viewed products, they are designed to appeal to every demographic, everywhere. So, while these emails are effective and have a broad reach, they lack flavor.

However, because you likely have a narrower audience, it’s easier to determine their personas and use language and features that really speak to them. No one wants to feel like they’re the average customer. So why be the average retailer?

Stand out by doing what big marketplaces can’t do: Curate transactional emails for your specific customers.

To show how implementing custom branded transactional emails leads to satisfied return customers, let’s look at examples by brands that are bringing their A-game.

Show you are trustworthy

Something Digital recently launched an ecommerce site for Riley Home, a startup luxury lifestyle brand that specializes in high-quality, affordable sheets, duvets, comforters, pillows, towels, robes, and gifts. Recognizing the challenge for new brands to generate buzz and build credibility, our digital marketing strategy included customizing transactional email templates.

Riley’s emails go with the flow.

They share the same UI characteristics as the website, incorporating the color palette, icons, and web-safe versions of the headline and body fonts, so text renders virtually the same across email clients. The emails also scale responsively and can be easily accessed from smartphones, tablets, and laptops alike. This seamlessness gives customers confidence that they’ve made a good investment.

Riley Email Example

Riley delivers a guarantee that customer’s personal information is safe because they look, feel, and read like the ecommerce site. Instead of relying on generic subject lines and filler copy, Riley adds their personal touch. Remember that default language doesn’t represent you. Messages that do what they promise to do, in a familiar tone of voice, are more likely to be delivered to your inbox and less likely to be mistaken for marketing ploys or phishing scams.

Riley also makes the fulfillment process transparent, notifying customers when their orders are placed, invoiced, and shipped and what they can expect when the package arrives. Setting expectations at regular intervals leads to fewer customer service calls, headaches, and follow-ups.

Riley shows accountability by getting it right the first time.

Reinforce your brand voice.

If you wanted transactions to be cut and dry, you wouldn’t have made the effort to design a beautiful ecommerce store. Transactional emails supplement that rich experience. Thank customers for their purchase on the site, while drawing them back to shop again through the words you use in your communications.

Take Native, for example. Native is website dedicated to a single product — natural deodorant — in a variety of scent and strength options. The company’s success is up against two big limitations: a uniform inventory and demand. Do customers buy deodorant in a pinch or are they able to wait for an online order to ship? Are they willing to buy their personal hygiene products from different stores? Are they likely to buy more than one bar at a time? How likely are customers to send personal hygiene products as gifts?

Judging by Native’s transactional emails, they have master-minded a strategy to keep customers coming back for more, even if their medicine cabinets are fully stocked with sweet-scented, non-toxic freshness.

Native Email Example

From a design perspective, Native’s order and shipping confirmation emails are clean and understated, much like the ecommerce site. But the enthusiastic subject lines and bold, personalized headlines are loud and proud. The marketing copy empowers the customer and gives positive reinforcement. Plus, light-hearted, colorful, if fictional, narratives describe how your order was warmly received by the customer service team and how they carefully handled the order to fulfillment.

You might think, “Five paragraphs before the order review table? TL;DR”, but it’s so charming that you get hooked after just one sentence. Personalization brings a kind of intimacy to the buyer-seller relationship. Customers feel cared for and important.

By controlling the content of the email, you can choose what matters to your customers, rather than making concessions for the average consumer. Customers value real interactions, not automations; They want to feel seen. The proof that authenticity works is in Native’s site reviews. Nearly 5,000 customers have rated the shopping experience with 5-stars and they even campaign for the brand on social media.

Engage your customers.

Transactional emails are the gateway drug for marketing engagement. An order confirmation email isn’t just a receipt if it also links to a referral program, cross-sells, or provides coupons for future use.

Third Love, a body-positive lingerie brand, uses inclusivity to its advantage. Their transactional emails welcome customers into a community and offer incentives to return to the site. Essentially, Third Love closes the loop, and from there on out, they invest in maintaining meaningful customer relationships. They appeal to their customers’ needs, reducing subscription fallout.

Third Love Email Example

Within its post-purchase emails, Third Love encourages customers to refer friends for mutual savings, take a quiz to discover their fit for their body, and shop for complimentary products recommended based on their personal tastes. Third Love even reminds customers to show their appreciation by leaving product reviews, which are overwhelmingly stellar.

If your products tell a story, gear up your customers by linking to related blog or social media posts in the order confirmation email. Anticipate that they might not know how to care for or use your products, so include a mini FAQ or demo video in the shipment confirmation email. Keep in mind that not everyone is home to receive their packages, so send a shipment arrival notification to allay delivery fears.

Although not everyone uses gmail, if most of your customers do, consider giving Google’s amp feature a test run. Adding cross-sells and up-sells to transactional emails is a no-brainer, but with amp, they dynamically update to show products that your gmail recipients recently viewed on your site.

And, as always, monitor and A/B test your special-sauce over time to see what resonates with your loyal fan base.

Ship it!

Loyalty is long-game. Regardless if you’re starting up or just getting rebooted, branding your transactional emails can build trust, reward customers, and drive repeat conversions. It is one of the least-expensive customer retention methods with the greatest potential for return on investment. The upfront cost is worth it, because if your customers feel both safe, special, and satisfied, their loyalty lasts a lifetime.

Are your transactional emails missing the mark? If so, we can help! Give us a holla ›

Written by: Gina Angelotti, Interactive Designer

5 Promotions You Should Be Offering On Your Ecommerce Site

Every business needs to attract customers to its ecommerce site, and paid search campaigns are their go-to tool. But they’re expensive. The average company spends $10,000 or more each month competing for customers who are actively shopping for products. But winning the bid is no guarantee those customers buy.

How do you maximize those investments? Promotions provide site visitors with an incentive to make a first time purchase, become a loyal customer and even refer their friends and family to your site.

Here are five promotion strategies to help you building your customer base and sales:

Coupon Codes Emailed to Subscriber List

Coupon codes are a great way to wake up your mailing list subscribers. Who can resist an exclusive promotion? And you can build your own mailing list by offering your coupon code to partners, affiliates and even brand-fan bloggers who send it their mailing list.

Coupons are a good strategy if you know you lose customers to competitors for a particular product. But choose your discount wisely. You may not want to offer it across your entire catalog, especially if you have a suite of products with low profit margins.

You’ll need to make some decisions about your coupon upfront, such as who can redeem it, whether or not it will expire, and how to apply it (e.g. by product, total order, or shipping cost).

Magento makes coupon code promos particularly easy. Just go to Promotions/Shopping Cart Price Rules and add a new rule for your promotion. You can control who can access the promotion — your mailing list subscribers, your partner’s subscribers, or the general public. Magento then prompts you for the details of your promotion and you’re ready to go live.

Free or Discounted Shipping

In its “Ultimate Guide to Increasing Conversions,” the ConversionXL blog calls shipping costs a “conversion killer.” Baymard Institute  research supports this assertion: over 60% of consumers cite high shipping costs as the top reason for abandoning a shopping cart.

Free or discounted shipping is quickly becoming table stakes for online sales, which is why nearly half of all retailers now offer it. Amazon Prime shoppers enjoy free shipping on all of their products, and if you don’t want your site to be a showroom for Amazon you’ll need to make your shipping competitive.

Although free shipping is expensive, it offers benefits that can offset those costs. For instance,

93% of shoppers say free shipping is a strong incentive to buy more products. And keep in mind that you don’t need to offer free overnight shipping: Data from ComScore shows that 83% of shoppers are willing to wait for delivery.

Customer Referrals

Customer referrals are a great way to reward your existing customers and gain new ones at the same time. According to Nielsen, 84% of consumers say they trust recommendations from family, colleagues, and friends, and that 67% of people are more likely to purchase a product that’s been recommended by someone they know.

The most basic type of referral system is a direct referral program, where you explicitly offer your customers something of value (exclusive first-look at new products, free shipping over a set period of time, discounts on particular items, $10 off their next purchase) in exchange for referrals.

Referral programs are effective, which is why PayPal, Dropbox, Airbnb and many other giants rely on them to grow their businesses. For instance, Dropbox offers 16 GB of free space to users who invited their friends to the service.

Spending Thresholds

Spending thresholds — e.g. “get free shipping on all orders over $100” — are another great way to offer an incentive to buy, without breaking the bank.

Threshold promotions are a proven way to increase average order value: A Harris Interactive study found that 39% of shoppers are willing to spend more in order to meet the threshold. It’s a useful strategy for sites with low-margin products.

You can create spending thresholds using Magento Shopping Cart Prices Rules.

Multi-Buy Discounts

Once you gain a first-time customer, your next goal is to get earn their loyalty. That’s where multi-buy discounts come in. These discounts reward customers for buying from you frequently, and are particularly attractive for products that consumers need to replenish regularly (diapers, bottled water, socks). They’re also a way to peel customers away from competitors like Amazon.

Multi-tiered pricing in Magento isn’t standard, but you can find a number of great extensions like Amasty that let you offer these kinds of discounts .

Conclusion

Overall, promotions are a great way to provide incentives to new customers visiting your site and your existing customer base. If you have questions or want to learn more about what promotions your site should be offering reach out to us.

 

How a Branded UI Can Improve Conversion

An ecommerce site first and foremost needs to be useable. You certainly can’t checkout if it isn’t clear where the checkout button is. Design details can seem trivial to merchants, especially with the monumental checklist of features and technical integrations needed for launch. But the customer’s perspective might differ.

I recently came upon a beauty brand ecommerce site in search for the perfect skincare product. As I was browsing, I noticed all of the UI elements were gray and basic-looking, the product images were poor quality, and the checkout form was buggy. I ended up purchasing a different product on Amazon instead, simply because I didn’t trust the outdated site.

This is where a branded UI truly matters. As designers, it’s our job to portray the credible voice of a brand, both subtly and overtly throughout the experience, all while keeping UX best practices top of mind.

You’re being judged

First impressions matter. Think of your site as being judged up and down by a scrutinizing interviewer. The interviewer wants to know they can trust you and wants to be sure you’re genuine. The same mentality goes for your ecommerce store. When a customer lands on your site, they will be able to get some sense of your brand persona within one second. And in this one second, customers will subconsciously form an opinion about your brand, good or bad.

A hue difference

Choosing colors wisely for the web can make your site not only stand out from the rest, but also ensure no customer is left behind. There are several different types of colorblindness, and at SD we ensure color contrast is compliant for AA accessibility standards. Ensuring all customers, including those with visual impairments, can read your Calls-to-Action (CTAs) will help them convert. Color can also be used strategically. For instance, using brighter CTAs or specific sale messaging, to further guide the customer through checkout.

Just the right type

It’s not only what your messaging is saying that’s important, but it’s the feel of the letterforms themselves. You might literally be telling customers your brand is trustworthy and credible, but your typography choices could be saying the opposite. Your fonts should match your brand’s voice. At SD we typically suggest using one typeface for <h> tags and another for body copy. This is to give the typography on the page a little more depth and contrast, which improves legibility overall.

Hummel’s typography matches the brand’s voice and provides a clear hierarchy with the use of multiple font weights.

 

Better legibility ultimately proves for a better experience and a quicker workflow for the customer.

Please click here

Without buttons and links there are no actions. Now, how can we make those buttons so cool that they’re practically irresistible? Enter a cool hover effect that’s relevant to your brand.

Blonde Salad’s header delights with adorable hover animations in their utility navigation.

 

What if they were even informative to boot? A button with a loading animation built in informs the customer that something is happening.

Villa features an add to cart button combined with a loading animation when clicked.

 

A fancy hover animation isn’t appropriate for every brand, but with a little thought your buttons can visually stand out and drive customers to click.

The subtle power of animation

Think of animation as finishing touches on a site that give the brand a boost. They can significantly enhance the feel of a brand when implemented subtly and smoothly.

All Birds incorporates playful animations throughout their homepage that gives a playful yet credible feel to the customer.

 

Movement on a page will automatically draw the customer’s eye, so it’s best to incorporate animations subtly, or allow the customer to initiate larger aminations on hover or on click. Reconsider including any animation that slows down the speed of the main workflow. Frustrated customers won’t care that your lazy load looks awesome if it’s slowing down their purchase speed.

Paintbox’s logo moves together as the customer scrolls down on the homepage.

 

Consistency is crucial

At SD, designers place all their branded UI elements into a web pattern library that is referenced by developers when building the site. Keeping these elements consistent provides customers with the confidence they need to quickly and easily achieve their objectives. Anything that looks out of place could be viewed as a bug, which lowers credibility. Patterns in layout and UI elements improve efficiencies, leaving your customers feeling they’ve spent their time wisely.

Brand recall

It’s important to remember conventions exist for a reason. Not every convention should be or needs to be changed to achieve a successful, unique branded customer interface (UI). For instance, studies have shown customers are 89% more likely to remember your brand when your logo is placed in the top left of the page.1 It may be tempting to try to be unique, but in this case, customers are so used to seeing the logo placed here, that it only makes sense to follow tradition.

Think through everything

The tips above are only the beginning. There are other details such as the styling of the header, loading animations, icon styling, 404 error page styling, and modal styling that should be considered when thinking about designing a successful branded ecommerce experience. The designer has done her job when the customer leaves your store with a positive feeling and a desire to shop again.

There are many nuances to a branded UI, and when implemented thoughtfully and consistently your shopping experience will shine. Many brands today have dedicated time and resources to perfecting their UI, as they should. When the customer’s impression is one of confidence, it’s certainly time well spent.

Did you like this blog? Check out out Part 1 and Part 2 of ‘Why Attention to Detail Matters’ or contact us if you have UX, UI, or design Q’s.

Written by: Lindsay Stork, Interactive Designer

1. Whitenton, K  (2016, February) Website Logo Placement for Maximum Brand Recall. Retreived from
https://www.nngroup.com/articles/logo-placement-brand-recall/