Optimizing Cross Navigation on PDPs for Up-Sells and Related Products

Make Your Investments Last

As an online retailer, you probably invest a tidy sum to attract consumers to your site. The last thing you want is for prospects to land on a product page and click away immediately because they didn’t see exactly what they’re looking for.

Fortunately, there are ways to make your product detail pages (PDP) work harder for you by keeping visitors on your site longer, thereby increasing the likelihood they’ll find what they need and even boost the value of their orders. This post examines the role that Magento’s up-sells and related products features play in promoting those goals.

Up-Sells and related products Defined

First things first, Magento defines up-sells and related products as they appear on PDPs in very specific ways. Up-sells aren’t necessarily more expensive products, in fact, as we shall see below, higher cost items may be a deterrent for some consumers. Rather, up-sells are similar products, ideally within the same price range, as the item the consumer has chosen to look at. Related products are accessories; if a consumer is on the product detail page of a ski jacket, related products may be ski gloves or a ski hat.

Let’s see how these features can work to your advantage.

Accommodate a Greater Range of Shoppers

It’s important to keep in mind that people come to your online store from different viewpoints. Some may be super familiar with a brand and know exactly what they want, while others are less familiar with a product category, and are exploring available options. As a retailer you need to accommodate both people at once, which can be a challenge.

This is where up-sells and related products excel. By displaying a range of additional options on a product detail page, the shopper who knows exactly what they want can add it to their cart and be on their way, whereas the shopper who is still in discovery mode will have the opportunity to compare products quickly, easily and conveniently. For this reason, we at Something Digital consider it a best practice to give both cross-navigation options a lot of weight.

Placement of Up-Sells and related products on Your PDPs

Obviously you want the product featured on the PDP to be most visible, but a best practice is to ensure that consumers can see additional options without squinting or opening a new browser tab. That means the up-sells and related products should display within the viewport to the furthest extent possible. If shoppers see they have multiple options in their desired price range, they’ll take the time to comparison shop, which in turn, increases the likelihood of a conversion.

Differentiate Between Up-sells and related products

Although we recommend using both up-sells and related products, take care that the two are easily distinguished on the page. Related products should have a different treatment than up-sells, so as not to confuse the customer. This is a mistake I frequently encounter as I shop the web. Up-sells and related products should be populated in different ways.

Avoid Sticker Shock

Up-sells in Magento are all about providing choice, and not getting a consumer to blow their budget. If a shopper is looking at a $200 ski jacket, it’s unlikely they’ll seriously consider buying one that costs $1,000. In this scenario, a best practice is to display a range of similar coats by different brands at the same price point (within $20 or so).

The same holds true for related products. If a shopper has a $200 budget for a ski jacket, avoid related products that are close to or above that price point. In other words, promoting a $20 ski hat or a $15 box of feet warmers will likely result in additional purchases, but not a $250 pair of ski pants or $300 pair of goggles.

Promote Comparison Shopping on Your PDPs

The main goal of up-sells is to cater to people who aren’t sure of what they want. The strategy should aid in their product discovery process, without the need to click between multiple pages and browser tabs. This is particularly critical for sites with hundreds or even thousands of product SKUs. No consumer has the time or patience to weed through 2,000 product pages, so when they select a specific item from your product listings page, they’re providing you with critical insight into their requirements. Use that as an opportunity to help them in their discovery process.

There are a variety of data points that help people compare products at-a-glance. Including things like price, consumer reviews or stars, along with a photo will help them compare products from the original product detail page they selected. We also recommend a brief description, including details like material, dimensions, or other features, so they can easily assess how each product differs.

If the product is one that relies on visuals, like a ski jacket, make sure the images of your up-sells and related products are large enough to assess and compare. Providing shoppers with pertinent details will help them compare products.

Promote Self-Bundling

Consumers are more apt to purchase related products if they can add them to their cart or bag from the PDP of the main product they wish to buy. This isn’t a requirement for your up-sells but it’s definitely a good practice for your related products. By offering three or four related products, you allow the individual shopper to create a custom bundle. Incentives, such as free shipping or 10% off orders above $100, prompt customers to bundle.

Track Products of Interest

Consumers who are deep into discovery mode may find it difficult to keep track of or find products they’ve looked at previously. You can help them by adding a third-party plugin that allows you to show customers products they’ve already viewed. This will go a long way in helping them make a decision from a single page, which is precisely the goal.

Question or comments? We’d love to hear from you.


Written by: Gina Angelotti, Interactive Designer

Black Friday

Acquire Your Valentine’s Customer Now

Get Ready for Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s day is just under a month a way, and no doubt you’ll want your ecommerce site to feel the love of consumers everywhere. Make no mistake, Valentine’s Day is a shopping bonanza: according to the National Retailers Federation, consumers spent $19.6 billion in 2018, up from $18.2 billion in 2017.

What’s more, over half of the US population celebrates Valentine’s Day, spending an average of $143.56 per person, although men are the big spenders, with average outlays of $196.39.

Here are some tips to help you ensure success this Valentine’s Day:

Blow Your Monthly Paid Search Budget

Most retailers have monthly paid search budgets they’ve carefully calculated using a variety of KPIs. Come Valentine’s Day, it may be time to blow your budget and spend more. Consider this: over half of the country’s population will be Googling for gift ideas, which means competition for gift buyers will be high, so you will need to up your bids. No doubt about it, your cost-of-acquisition for new customers will be much higher in the lead up to the holiday. But the extra costs just may pay phenomenal dividends.

3-for-1 Customers

Gifting holidays are interesting phenomenons in that when you spend to acquire one new customer, you have the potential to gain up to three new consumers to your brand. Let’s say a guy opts to give his sweetheart cupcakes from Baked by Melissa, which she receives and finds absolutely delicious. And let’s say those treats came in a pretty box with nice packaging, which added to the overall greatness of experience for her. When it comes time for her to send a gift, say for Mother’s or Father’s Day, she will remember that experience and is more likely to buy from Baked By Melissa. And if her mother or father have a similar experience, the cycle will begin anew.

Gift giving can have a halo effect that more than justifies the extra costs you’ll incur for paid search. In fact, you just might find that the aggregate cost-per-acquisition is substantially lower.

Put Your Ducks in Order

Many Valentine’s Day gifts are food oriented, and you’ll need to ensure you’re set up to handle the unique shipping and transit challenges that come with perishable items (the topic of a previous blog post).

Gift messaging is also important. Senders typically want to surprise their recipients, so you will need the functionality that allows them to include a personalized note as to who it’s from. Some online retailers allow their customers to choose their own cards as well as enter custom messages.

Allowing gift givers to send to multiple addresses in a single order is a great way to increase AOV, as well as build your customer ranks. Let’s say our guy who visits Baked by Melissa to send his girlfriend cupcakes decides to send his mom some while he’s at it. Now Baked by Melissa has doubled is sales order, and has the opportunity to gain six new customers!

Incentivize for the Next Holiday

To really get the most bang for your paid search buck, consider incentivizing a repurchase for the next upcoming holiday: Mother’s Day. According the the National Retailers Federation, consumers spent nearly $20 billion on mom in 2018, or about $169 per person. By offering both the gift giver and gift recipient an incentive to buy mom a gift from you, you will both stretch your paid search investments further and build your pipeline.

There are many ways to incentivize for the next holiday, such as including a one-time-only discount in the gift box.

Encourage Self-Gifting

Self-gifting is a noted trend during the holiday season (up to 60% of Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers purchase items for themselves). Valentine’s Day has a smaller, but still significant trend. Nearly 15% of shoppers will buy something for themselves on Valentine’s Day, and there is no shortage of listicles, from Cosmopolitan to Huff Posts, with suggestions for gifts to buy oneself.

You can launch some enticing promotions with Buy One for Her/Him and Treat Yourself themes (of course, these promotions require multi-address shipping capabilities). People are more willing to spend more on a gift when they themselves get something out of it. Footwear brands use this promotion frequently. In a typical scenario, the brand will offer a time-based coupon for the gift giver. It’s an interesting strategy to continue the relationship with the gift giver, so it’s not just a one-and-done deal.

Encourage Email Sign-Ups

People have a tendency to return to a retail site following the same path that led them there in the first place. If a customer found you via Google, there’s a pretty good chance he or she will Google you again when it’s time to purchase another gift. But why pay those CPMs twice?

At the time gift givers purchase from you, make every attempt to encourage them to register for your email newsletter so that you can reach out to them for free (and proactively!) next time around. The newsletter doesn’t need to focus solely on sales; include stories of the products or the history of the holidays. Ask your purchasers for feedback, or to take a survey on products they’d like to see in the future.

By implementing these suggestions, you can both find new customers and increase AOV. Who can ask for better Valentine’s Day gifts?

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Ecommerce Evangelist

ecommerce data

Year in Review: A Look Back at 2018

The year 2018 was an interesting year for retail. We’ve seen some new trends emerge and nascent ones mushroom (which shouldn’t surprise anyone when one considers that 2018 was the year that millennials eclipsed baby boomers in terms of consumer power). Their tastes and preferences are upending brands and changing retail, and will do so for a long time to come.

Let’s take a look at some of the more notable events that occurred these past 12 months.

Online shatters all records

We’re quite accustomed to online retail reaching new heights, but 2018 was different. On Cyber Monday, U.S. consumers spent an astounding $7.9 billion online, the highest U.S. ecommerce sales day in history. According to MarketWatch, Cyber Monday was also Amazon’s biggest sale day ever, though truth be told, the entire weekend was kind to the retailer. From Black Friday to Cyber Monday, Amazon sold 18 million toys and 12 million fashion items. Sales outpaced Prime Day by factors.

Of course, those numbers pale in comparison to Singles Day 2018. Alibaba, the biggest promoter of the sale event, reports that in mere minutes of the clock striking midnight the site sold $1.4 billion worth of products. Twenty-four hours later, sales topped $30 billion.

In addition to the wow factor of these tallies, the high spending tells us something pretty interesting: despite talk of tariffs, trade wars, government shutdowns and uncertainty in the global economy, retail is strong and getting stronger. Consumer confidence remains high.

Rapid growth of impulse-purchase sites

Impulse purchases — Star Wars themed nail clippers or Justin Bieber toothbrushes — were once the purview on brick-and-mortar retailers, but that’s changing, thanks to sites like AliExpress, and other “Dollar Stores” of the world wide web. Kitsch is on the ascent, with consumers bragging on social media about the unusual/funny/ridiculous products they’ve acquired. Those boasts are spreading the word that AliExpress and exist; streamlined logistics and payment have lowered the barriers to online impulse purchases. What really blows my mind is that these impulse purchases are occurring outside of Amazon.

Business Insider says that could break $2 billion in revenue this year, which isn’t huge, but it’s notable because it indicates a massive cultural awareness of such sites.

2018 Tombstones

Rest in peace Toys R Us and Sears. Iconic brands continue to fall for many, often common, reasons. To begin, they’re typically late to embrace digital, rely too heavily on discounting, have massive retail footprints and over-leveraged square footage. But these are all systems of a larger problem: Americans just aren’t that drawn to big retails stores anymore. They find greater selection, more convenience and a better customer experience online than they can in real life. So why wait in line, search in vain for the products stores don’t have, and put up with harried customer service reps if they don’t need to? For more of my insights and impressions on Toys R’ Us demise, check out my podcast Future Commerce — Retail Tech  at the Speed Commerce.

The year of explosive growth in digitally native brands

Admittedly you can say this about every year for the past five years, but once again, 2018 was different. Digitally focused vertical brands, such as,, and are a clear indication of the millennial’s values, which is probably why they have tremendous VC backing.

These brands have little interest in selling their wares in retail outlets, and frankly, an in-store experience isn’t particularly appropriate for a product line that includes Viagra and or scripts to stop hair loss. In addition to the strong digital focus, these sites, of which there are many, have a common visual aesthetic and visual language that indicate they’re marketing to the millennial demographic.

I believe that 2018 was the tipping point of, not just the digitally native brand, but the digitally native brand on Shopify. Unlike the Warby Parkers or the Allbirds of the world, which have branched out of digital to open boutiques or sell through Nordstroms, these brands will remain pure digital for the simple reason that their target markets have little interest in malls. (The death of malls has been a topic for the past 12 months, with experts claiming that 1 in 4 malls could be out of business, in large part due to the consumer preferring to shop online.)

So that’s my review of 2018, want to see what I think is coming in 2019? Check out my 2019 ecommerce trends prediction blog.

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Ecommerce Evangelist

Compete Amazon

Ecommerce Trends: A look at 2019

This is the time of year when industry pundits like to predict what the coming 12 months will look like. Given the pace of change in the ecommerce sector, I think it’s a worthwhile exercise to take stock, look at emerging trends, and offer insights into where we see the industry is going.

I offer you two trends to consider:

2019 will be the year of guided commerce

Since the dawn of ecommerce, retailers left it to the consumer to figure out which products were right for them. They provided a search function, a product image and details (often taken verbatim from the manufacturer) and called it a day. It was up to the consumer to slice and dice the catalog to arrive at a decision. True, some offered live chat assistants to help consumers make decisions, but mostly they followed pre-written scripts, and lacked the detailed knowledge to help a visitor select, say, the best television for a new home theater system.

That’s changing, and it’s changing quickly. Guided selling started gaining traction in 2018, particularly in the Health & Wellness sector and is quickly spreading across the web. Today, all major brands — KitchenAid, Whirlpool, Honda, Trek — as well as digitally native brands offer guided selling to consumers.

Guided selling takes multiple forms: quiz-based personality testing, questionnaires, chatbots that walk consumers through a decisioning tree, and so on. Regardless of the format, the goal is always the same, which is to help the customer find a product that is right for him or her.

This is a fascinating trend for a few reasons. First, it’s super smart. Let’s go back to the consumer who is looking to purchase a new television. The decisions she will need to make are endless. LED or OLED? HDMI or DisplayPort? DVI or VGA? It’s enough to make one’s eyes spin. All the consumer really wants to know is: which TV will work best in the space I intend to use it? Guided selling done well will ask questions the average consumer can understand, such as, will this be your main television for a home theater, or an ancillary screen in a smaller room? How much daylight does the room get? It can then lead the customer to a product that’s optimized to her needs and context.

Another reason why guided selling fascinates me is that it allows the retailer to understand their customers better than ever. What can you really learn about consumers as they slice and dice your catalog? Obviously, you’ll know that this particular consumer is in market for a new television, and you’ll probably spend a fortune on re-marketing. What you can’t know is why they didn’t buy. Were they overwhelmed by the options? If so, you’re wasting your media spend on re-targeting, because you’re not doing anything to actually help that consumer. Whereas with guided selling, you’re getting detailed knowledge about their home and lifestyle — valuable information for establishing a lifetime relationship with them.

What’s truly interesting about guided selling is that there isn’t an ecommerce platform that’s designed to support it, or is capable of delivering a thoughtful guided selling experience. All of the ecommerce platforms that exist today were built in the last ten years, and they all follow the old paradigm of slicing and dicing very large catalogs. In my opinion, the successful ecommerce platforms will need to cater to this style of selling in their very next product releases, or they will be looked at as aged dinosaurs.

We’ll also see a new ecosystem of AI-driven sales assistant point solutions, such as SMARTASSISTANT(a company that is quickly becoming an important partner of Something Digital). By 2020, these types of solutions will be as vital to an ecommerce store as its ESP or CRM.

GDPR is building walls around the web

On the negative side: GDPR is having a bigger impact on the global economy than we may realize. There are two trends that I find particularly disconcerting. First, there is a dark pattern emerging among global content brands, such as and the properties of Conde Nast, that rely on advertising in order to exist. GDPR is forcing these brands to make difficult decisions, such as whether or not to continue their presence in Europe. Because abiding by GDPR is difficult, publishers are beginning to build virtual walls around their content in order to block EU citizens from accessing it.

I believe this is fundamentally anti-web. The open web has always been about unfettered access to content. Yet here we are approaching 2019, marching into a future where that isn’t the case anymore.

The other dark pattern I see is: companies like Forbes will allow customers to opt out of cookie tracking, but enforce stringent behavior restrictions for that decision. For instance, a consumer who opts out of cookie tracking on can still view content, but he or she must wait a full two minutes in order to do so. This amounts to punishing consumers for opting out of tracking, which I find incredibly disturbing, because it too means the web is less open.

I’m not sure what this all means or how it will play out. But it behooves us all to recognize that we are wading into uncharted territory of a web that is no longer open or global, and that it has the potential to become the new norm.

So those are my predictions for 2019. Check in this time next year to see how well I called the future.

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Ecommerce Evangelist

Executive Series

Challenges and Tactics of Ecommerce for the Food & Beverage Brands

Before the advent of ecommerce, Food & Beverage brands relied on catalogs to attract the attention of customers, and to develop a loyal customer following. But as the consumer migrated to the web, such brands found that the skills they honed no longer applied. Selling food and beverages online presents challenges that are unique to the sector. Because Something Digital has worked with a lot of brands that sell all types of food and beverage, we know the pitfalls to watch out for, as well as strategies to help brands navigate those challenges.

Let’s look at some of the most common challenges.

Your product is perishable and transit is everything

Just about every food and beverage item is perishable, and getting them to the customers while they’re at the peak of freshness has unique requirements. The first is a seamless integration between your ecommerce platform and your logistics partner. End customers are often buying products as a gift for someone else, which means meeting a delivery date is absolutely critical. If you promise a gift-giver that the product will arrive in time for a birthday or Valentine’s Day, you must keep that promise or forever lose that customer.

To meet delivery expectations, you need to clearly communicate cut-off times, (e.g. “order by December 20th to arrive by Christmas”). In other words, you need to build urgency with the customer so you don’t get blamed for products that don’t arrive in time.

You also need to translate the date a product needs to arrive by into the date it must ship from your fulfillment center. Not all logistic companies have the ability to set a future order, so you need to build that translation into your ecommerce platform.

Finally, you’ll need to take care that you don’t overload your logistics partner and create a backlog of orders.

The right approach depends on your product line and peak ordering times. For instance, one of our clients, Baked by Melissa, does a brisk gift-giving business, with Valentine’s Day seeing a spike in sales. Products are shipped FedEx 2-Day, in cold or freezer packs. We helped Baked by Melissa meet its delivery requirements by integrating ShipperHQ, an important partner of Something Digital, to facilitate much of the logistics information.

Bottom line: Understanding those needs and challenges of selling and scheduling delivery of perishable goods, and the integrations that workflow relies on, are absolutely paramount to a food & beverage delivery company.

You need to sell the food and beverage experience based on looks only

A lot of food & beverage companies are historically catalog companies, a medium that is better suited than the web at creating an immersive experience for buyers. One of our clients, Chesapeake Fine Food Group, has many decades of experience selling their fabulous gourmet meals via catalogs. Catalogs allow the brand to display their products over a two-page spread, leveraging top-notch photography that creates a sense of joy and plentitude. It doesn’t matter that consumers couldn’t touch or taste the products, the spreads create a sufficient, immersive experience.

The web is much more constraining. In ecommerce, emphasis is on content, calls to action, and plenty of white space to create a sense of calm in the user — all requirements that apply to food & beverage sales. That leaves just enough room for a tiny image.

Something Digital helps food & beverage companies overcome this challenge through a combination of tactics, including creative direction, UI and UX enhancements. For instance, our creative team will advise brands on strategies to ensure photography and copy build an immersive experience, with each product description evoking a sense of plentitude.

Product discovery takes extra effort

When customers arrive on your site, they typically have a very clear idea of that they want, and it’s all too easy to get pigeonholed into a single product or category. A good example of this phenomenon is Harry & David, a brand that is renowned for its amazing pears. And while that’s a great hook for the brand, there are a great many sweet and savory options available on the Harry & David site. But due to its reputation for a single item, it might not be a destination for someone looking to send a cheese and cracker basket.

One way to get loyal customers to expand their palates is through creative promotions and kitting. This strategy has multiple benefits: it promotes product discovery, encourages repeat orders, as well as boosts AOV.

A tactic we suggested to Baked by Melissa is to encourage gift-givers to send an item to themselves as well. The results have been sweet (pun intended).

Corporate gifting is a B2B sale

So far we’ve talked about consumers who buy for themselves or others, but there is a third, extremely important food & beverage customer: corporate accounts.

The corporate customer has very different needs than a consumer. They need to place orders en masse, and ideally want to upload orders to a site. They also need accurate estimations of shipping times, delivery windows, pricing (with taxes), as well as volume-based discounts. And they are apt to ask for significant customization of the card, box or wrapping. This is very much a B2B experience, and one you’ll need to excel at given the budgets they have to spend at key times, especially the end of the year.

Obviously, your ecommerce platform will need to be able to accommodate these types of large-volume, highly-customized sales.

Beverage Compliance

Brands that sell spirits, wine or beer face an additional layer of complexity. Laws differ from state to state and from region to region. In some regions you can ship liquor, in others you can’t. Some items can be shipped via FedEx and UPS, but not through the post office. Tracking and complying with these logistics are a huge challenge. It is essential that your ecommerce platform can handle all requirements of your region, as well as the regions you will ship to.

In general, we recommend that such brands have a capable order-management platform that allows you to set rules to flag orders that need additional review, and to fully integrate that platform into your ecommerce system. Maintaining those rules in two different systems is problematic, and can lead to mistakes being made.

The ideas presented here allow you to create shopping experiences that cater to the common personas of food & beverage customers. If you need to improve your site in order to increase sales, AOV, or create a better experience for all of your shoppers, get in touch. We have a lot of experience building beautiful sites for a wide range of food & beverage brands.

 Written by: Phillip Jackson, Ecommerce Evangelist

Beauty Ecommerce

Challenges and Tactics of Ecommerce for Health and Beauty Brands

For any brand, establishing an ecommerce presence is a tricky endeavor, one that requires a thoughtful approach and plenty of testing. For health and beauty brands, the challenge is compounded. After helping a number of health and beauty brands launch successful ecommerce businesses — including IMAGE Skincare, Champion Performance, a Clorox company, and Garden of Life, a Nestle company — we’ve seen first-hand the challenges you face. But we’ve also seen how those challenges can be addressed.

Let’s start with the challenges. There are four big ones that all health and beauty brands face.

#1: In health and beauty, it’s personal.

Whether it’s a vitamin to improve physical or mental health, or a lotion to enhance outward beauty, all health and beauty products are incredibly personal to the consumer. Such products profess to change the consumers’ life or lend some benefit to make them feel better about themselves.

As a brand, you need to exhibit a lifestyle. For instance, a wellness brand will need to sell the eventuality of the life the consumer might have if she were to take or use this product. This isn’t easy to accomplish for many reasons, including FDA-imposed limits as to what you can and cannot say. Building a lifestyle requires content — and lots of it — which leads to challenge number two.

#2: Content management

Creating a lifestyle brand requires a lot of content for the simple reason that you will have a lot of personas to sell to. Thus, content management is a big challenge.

For instance, if you’re a wellness brand you’ll need to sell products to a range of personas, from the busy mom to the single dude who wants to go mountain biking with his buddies. If you’re a beauty brand, you sell to consumers who are concerned about aging, and even within anti-aging products, there personas for people seeking preventative maintenance and people hoping to repair damage already done.

In addition to creating content for persona, you’ll need to cater your content to website traffic sources. For instance, organic traffic relies almost exclusively on content that’s fresh, original, and ever-changing, especially around particular keywords. Keyword research is imperative.

You’ll need to continuously craft content, both for your product detail pages, as well as the world of content that lives alongside the sales process. Because these products are so personal, you’ll need to engage with consumers in ways that establish your brand as an authority in the subject your products address. If you sell a skin care product, you also need to be an expert on the impact of diet and exercise on a consumer’s complexion.

Without this world of content that lives alongside your sales process, you’re effectively asking people to put something in or on their bodies based on your word. For this reason, it is essential to build trust with your customers, and that takes time. Which brings us to the next challenge.

#3: Long Product Consideration Times

Trust is a critical driver on health and beauty product purchases, and that means consumers take a long time to make a purchase decision. They do a lot of comparison shopping, and this in and of itself is a challenge as it isn’t easy to compare products. Many, such as L’Oréal Age Perfect Cell Renewal, are off-the-shelf, while others are more bespoke, with more limited distribution. Price, usage, volume and replenishment rates can differ wildly, making it difficult for consumers to do an apples-to-apples comparison, which is why it takes a long time to decide which product is right for them. But that long consideration time comes with an inherent opportunity: the lengthy consideration time means the consumer is like to become a repeat customer (assuming they’re happy with it).

#4: Customer-Acquisition Attribution

Health and beauty brands are eager to understand their customers’ journeys, but customer-acquisition attribution is a huge challenge. Consumers tend to browse on their mobiles and tablets but convert on their desktops in the category. It’s likely your customers complete their path-to-purchase on multiple devices.

How do you assess which channels deliver the best sales? Let’s say you compensate your social media influences with free products, how do you tie an Instagram post seen by a prospect who then converts in-store or via Amazon? The truth is, it’s very difficult to tie these sales to the original interaction, and that means the traditional methods and assumptions of sales attribution and investment need to be challenged. You also need attribution technology, but even those technologies are as much art as they are science.

Tactics and Strategies for Success

So now that we have an overview of the challenges, what are some of the ways you can overcome them? I can’t stress this enough: the right approach varies from brand to brand, from product to product, and from demographic to demographic. That said, we’ve found the following tactics and strategies to be very useful.

Sell in Many Channels

Consumers will hear of your product in many ways — an ad, an article, a social media influencer, a friend — and will look to purchase it via their preferred channels. For this reason, it’s critical that your products are available in as many channels as possible, including your ecommerce site, marketplaces and offline stores.

That said, some companies, such as Something Digital’s client, Garden of Life, is focused on winning new customers, regardless of channel, sales via Amazon, Alibaba, grocery stores, or pharmacies are all equally valuable in their eyes. Interestingly, due to one-to-one fulfillment expenses, the brand prefers not to sell via a direct channel. As I said above, every brand is unique!

Affiliate/Referral Sales

In addition to your direct purchase channel, plan on building a thriving affiliate network channel. This is a smart tactic for an important reason: The strongest endorsement you’ll ever get is when one friend tells another her life has changed for the better, thanks to your product. That testimonial will carry way more weight than any content you can put on your product page.

Referral sales typically offer compensation to the brand evangelist, and some brands even compensate both the referrer and the referee. (Just take care to strike the right balance so as to avoid harming your margins or diluting your brand in the marketplace.)

Spend More to Acquire Customers with Higher Lifetime Values

Most health and beauty brands find it’s well worth it to spend more for an initial purchase as they tend to have a high AOV along with a fixed replenishment date. If a new customer is happy with your 30-day supply of vitamins, he’ll be back to purchase another 30-day supply the following month.

Subscription Selling

One way to make your investments (and long wait times) in initial purchases deliver bigger payoffs is to offer subscription buying. This tactic ensures customers keep buying your products, stay with your brand longer, and drives their LTV higher.

Create a Culture of a Content Machine

Every health and beauty brand needs to create a culture of content that evolves and changes with the times. Case in point: ten years ago, I worked at a vitamin company, and our focus was on SEO. We created a WebMD-style ailment digest with 20,000 pages of content. Today, this kind of content isn’t prioritized because consumers no longer begin their purchase journey on; they start on YouTube.

Your content will need to follow the consumer. Not too long-ago brands began creating long-form videos as consumers started their purchase journey on YouTube. Closed captions were added so that people could watch them in the office without disturbing their colleagues. As consumers wanted shorter content, brands moved to Instagram, creating 30-second spots.

In other words, you’ll need to create content that’s appropriate to channel in which it is consumed. This will differ by brand and age of the consumer (millennials prefer Instagram while baby boomers live in Facebook).


These are just a few of the tactics and strategies health and beauty brands can deploy to address the unique challenges of their sector. Need more specific advice? Feel free to get in touch.

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Ecommerce Evangelist

Ecommerce Footwear Guide

Shoes Lead the Way: How Footwear Brands are Pushing Commerce Technology Limits

Something Digital had the pleasure of sponsoring Logicbroker’s second annual Connected Commerce conference, this year taking place in New York. Connected Commerce was created to unite brands and retailers all while bringing the brightest minds and the best of technology together. The 1-day summit featured thought leadership around scaling digital commerce operations and delivering exceptional customer experience.

This year, Phillip Jackson, SD’s Ecommerce Evangelist had the opportunity to be one of the keynote speakers at CC18. His talk ‘Shoes Lead the Way: How Footwear Brands are Pushing Commerce Technology Limits’ discussed how footwear brands are finding creative ways of solving challenges – from supply chain to authentication and counterfeit. From creative partnerships to Augmented Reality — from Secondhand Commerce to hyper-custom personalize creations, footwear brands are leading the way for technology and social-driven commerce.

In this talk he highlights the importance of addressing the market challenges a footwear merchant will face such as inventory, exclusivity, bots, and merchandising as well as changes in consumer expectations. Many consumers now look for free shipping not just cheap shipping and paying for shipping can be a deal breaker for many online shoppers. Consumers are looking for curated shopping experiences and expect 24/7 customer service and the ability to shop anywhere no matter where they are or what device they are using. This talk discusses how these merchants are beginning to overcome some of these challenges all while staying unique to their brand.

Interested in hearing more? Watch his full talk here.

If you couldn’t make it to Connected Commerce this year and are sad you missed out, save the date because it’s coming back to NYC September 19, 2019.

Executive Series

Singles’ Day is Coming and it Will be Big!  

Singles’ Day is just around the corner. It’s the largest holiday shopping event in the world, bar none. Last year spending topped $25 billion — that’s four times the size of Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. And with 1 billion individual sales predicted in 2018, revenue will reach the stratosphere.

So what exactly is Singles’ Day, and why haven’t most Americans heard of it? The holiday began in 1993, when a group of bachelors at China’s Nanjing University wanted to create an anti-Valentine’s Day. The date 11/11 was chosen for its collection of lonely ones. It soon morphed into a day to celebrate singledom for all genders. In 2009, Alibaba got in on the action, launching a 24-hour Singles’ Day bonanza, with special deals for singletons. The shopping holiday was destined to be huge — China has 400 million millennials, five times more than in the US (and 74 million more than the entire US population).

The annual event kicks off at midnight on November 11, and runs for 24 hours. Like Amazon Prime Day here in the US, the event features steep discounts that are driven by the main Alibaba-owned platform, Tmall.

Due to China’s relatively new consumer market, Singles’ Day is brand-focused, meaning an important goal is to introduce the consumer to new brands and products. Alibaba encourages brands “to launch their latest products and try out their most creative marketing campaigns. It’s the Super Bowl for brands.” Consumers don’t need to buy any kind of membership in order to participate in Singles’ Day deals, nor do they even need to go online. This contrasts with Amazon Prime Day, which is focused on selling Amazon house products, and requires an Amazon Prime membership.

It’s hard to overstate just how big a deal Singles’ Day is in China. Alibaba flies in celebrities to perform at a televised gala in the hours leading up to the stroke of midnight. In fact, Singles’ Day is quickly become a popular date for couples to tie the knot.

It was only a matter of time before the holiday spread beyond China, first into Southeast Asia and Japan. Last year, retailers in Germany, Holland, Sweden and Turkey hosted Singles’ Day sales. Is it coming to the US? When publications such as Retail Insight ask are western countries missing out, the answer is probably yes. Maybe not this year, but soon.

As a retailer there’s a lot you can do to leverage Singles’ Day 2018. For instance, you can offer existing customers special deals for Singles’ Day, and encourage them to visit your site. And just as we advised for Amazon Prime Day, you don’t need to offer your top selling or evergreen products on Singles’ Day; ancillary products are a great option for impulse buys.

If you have the wherewithal — meaning you sell via Tmall and you can ship overseas — it’s a good time to alert consumers that they’ll find deals on your site. Chances are, you’ll get a surge of customers new to your brand.

Start of the Holiday Season

Or, you can approach Singles’ Day as the new start of the Holiday Season, and promote special deals on gift ideas. For retailers who invest in paid search, this can be the gift that keeps on giving.

Let’s say you promote a great gift idea in paid search, which attracts the attention of a new customer who comes to your site and converts. She then gives the gift to a friend or family member, who is then made aware of your brand. Now let’s say that person visits your site to purchase a gift for one of their friends or family members. Gift buying is a great way to double or triple the brand awareness impact you get from advertising and media spend.

Singles’ Day as a shopping event is less than ten years old. But it’s success has been fast and furious, and will continue to smash records. No doubt US retailers will want in on the action, and it will soon become the official kickoff of the holiday shopping season.

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Ecommerce Evangelist

Accessibility Ebook

5 Accessibility Features Built into Something Digital’s SDK Accelerator

More and more the activities of daily living occur online. We shop, bank, request a ride, check in with friends and schedule appointments via the web. The convenience of the digital ecosystem is compelling, especially at times when we feel harried, or inclement weather makes us want to stay inside. More than that, web-enablement is so wide spread that for many brands, it’s the only way to interact with them.

But what happens if your eyesight is poor, or your muscles lack the dexterity needed to operate a mouse? Such conditions can bar you from engaging in the activities of daily living the majority of us take for granted.

Recognizing the role of the web in today’s society, unfettered access to web-based services is now the law of the land. Specifically, Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that businesses help disabled people access the same services as able-bodied people, including those services offered via a website. And with 51.2 million Americans with disabilities, allowing all people to buy from your website makes good economic sense.

No doubt, designing an ecommerce site so that it is accessible to the widest possible audience can be complex. To eliminate that complexity, Something Digital created an SDK accelerator that offers five functionalities — all absent in baseline Magento —  that make ecommerce sites accessible to consumers with disabilities.

These functionalities include:

Keyboard Navigation

For a variety of reasons, many people find it difficult or impossible to navigate a website using a mouse, and must rely on their keyboards to accomplish all website functions, including selecting menu options, accessing desired content, and moving between elements on a page. For this reason, SD’s Accelerator provides functionality that allows users to navigate your website via their keyboards.

Convenience & Assistive Cues

Most people don’t need instructions on how to navigate a website or access the content we want. Decades of going online have taught us a common vocabulary. We instinctively know how to accomplish the tasks we want to accomplish, even if we are first time visitors to a site.

For instance, most website content is placed approximately in the middle of the browser to provide space for site navigation, logos, assistive links, advertising, and so on. People with good eyesight, by habit, skip over these elements and go straight to the good stuff. But if your eyesight isn’t strong, or you rely on a keyboard, you need a way to go straight-to-content or back to the top of the page.

Our Accelerator includes assistive cues that allow people with disabilities to take advantage of these conveniences.

Voice Over Support

People with disabilities often rely on assistive technology when going online to shop or access other services. These devices may be screen readers (i.e. programs that read text aloud for the user), text enlargement software, or software that allows users to control their computers via voice commands.

Screen readers literally read the contents of the screen to the user, which offers obvious benefits, as well as some surprising challenges. For instance, a screen reader must read the menu options and navigation options for the user, which means it will read all of the text contained ARIA-rolls, alt-tag, title tags and so on. As a result, the same text can be repeated over and over, causing confusion and creating a poor brand experience for the visitor.

SD’s Accelerator identifies when text is redundant, and instructs the screen reader to skip it.

Focus Management

Focus management is a big deal in creating accessible websites, and it took up the bulk of our efforts when developing SD’s SDK Accelerator. Focus, as it applies to web page accessibility, is the outline that highlights an item or element that is selected by a person who doesn’t use a mouse.

Focus management addresses challenges people with disabilities encounter as they navigate sequentially through content. Here’s a prime example: Let’s say you’re on an ecommerce site and you place an item in a shopping cart. Many sites will have an overlay or pop-up image of the mini-cart, which now becomes the center of focus. You can either interact with that mini-cart, or you can go back to page content by simply clicking outside of that mini-cart, which automatically dismisses it. Or let’s say you continue to browse products after you’ve placed an item in your cart. At any point, you can access the mini-cart pop-up by clicking on the shopping cart icon, typically located in the top navigation bar. Once clicked, the mini-cart becomes the focus of your screen, but you can easily dismiss it by clicking on the surrounding page.

Such conveniences are difficult and confusing to people who use a keyboard or screen reader. If using a keyboard, there’s no way to click on the surrounding content to close the overlay. If using a screen reader, the content is out of the expected sequence, andthere is no way to click on the original content.

The challenge, therefore, is to allow disabled people to close the overlay easily. To accomplish this, our Accelerator inserts an X for closing the overlay, and it puts the focus (i.e. outlines) on that X. (The X is a universal cue for closing a page or document.)

We also capture the focus so that the overlay is truly captive, meaning that users are prevented from accidently tabbing through the navigation, which can result in them closing the overlay without realizing it, and getting lost in the page.

Images Embedded in Text

Magento 2 has a new default theme named “Luma,” which is a clean and elegant theme that that features better usability practices than its predecessor, the “Madison Island” theme.

The Luma theme encourages website designers to embed text within hero, masthead and other images. Such text often conveys important information to visitors, but because it is part of an image, it can’t be selected. Assistive devices, such as braille displays and screen readers can only read text that’s selectable. Therefore, a person relying on an assistive device is unable to access any text that’s embedded in an image.

To overcome this challenge, the Accelerator includes numerous CMS content widgets for the drag-and-drop editor in Magento’s visual page builder tool. Essentially, the approach is to allow website designers to create images with text that is overlaid onto the image, not embedded into it. The text can match your brand typography so that the overall impact of the text and image is equally beautiful as if it had been created it in the Luma theme.

And there are additional benefits to this approach. Because the text is actionable, search engines can read it as easily as assistive devices, which means it has SEO value. It also means that the text will load on the page faster than the entire image, which means allvisitors will be able to see the message sooner.

Seamless Accessibility

All of the functionality described here are seamless to your website visitors. If they don’t rely on a keyboard or assistive device to navigate websites, they’ll never know you’ve built accessibility into your ecommerce store. Creating a website that allows more people to use it doesn’t require you to make design sacrifices at all.

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Ecommerce Evangelist

Compete Amazon

7 Strategies You Need To Compete With Amazon in Paid Search

Amazon is an ecommerce powerhouse that keeps on growing. Between Amazon’s strong domain authority, trusted customer base, and exclusive shipping methods, it can be difficult for brands to compete with Amazon. By the end of the year, Amazon is expected to generate $258.2 billion dollars in retail sales, which will make up 49.1% of all ecommerce sales. Many brands who feel they cannot compete with Amazon have resorted to selling on the marketplace.

However, you can compete with Amazon in the digital search space. Through carefully thought-out, planned digital strategies, your business will be able to capitalize on some of the weaknesses within Amazon’s digital strategy. So, how exactly do you compete with Amazon in the digital game? Follow these tactics. By utilizing these seven strategies, your online business will be able to find a way to compete against Amazon.

Tactic #1: Bid More on Branded Keywords

You own your brand, so by bidding on more branded keyword terms, you will have the opportunity to take up more of the retail space within the SERP, above the fold. When consumers search for your brand, your paid ads and organic listings will dominate the search engine space, giving you a larger opportunity to gain more customers. Not only will your online business gain more exposure in the SERP, you will have the opportunity to save money. Google will always favor the brand and branded keywords are generally less expensive than non-branded long-tail keywords. Know that there is power in your brand.

Tactic #2: Sell Unique Product Offerings

Consumers love Amazon because it is generic and efficient, but there are consumers who still shop online for an experience. Therefore, a way to compete with Amazon is to offer unique products not sold on Amazon. Think about what products of yours are on Amazon and then create new ads for products that are not sold on the marketplace. Another strategy is to take the products that you sell on Amazon, but make your product offering more unique, like bundled promotions or entering a contest. Entice consumers to click through to your ad with something unique.

Tactic #3: Create a Localized Experience

One of the struggles brands are presented with is competing against Amazon for ad space. They have a large budget in place for CPC but a downfall to this strategy is that Amazon does not bid locally. By placing bids and narrowing down your target market based on location, your online business will have the opportunity to target the right people in locations where consumers convert. Rather than placing bids on all locations, create ads that are location specific. For instance, if you know people in the mid-west typically do not purchase your products, but consumers in New York City and Boston have the highest conversion rates, spend your budget accordingly. Do not devote money to areas that do not convert. Segment consumers based on location and offer high-quality ads to profitable locations.

Tactic #4: Create Strong Content

Part of Amazon’s paid search strategy is that they only optimize on keywords in the first headline and the rest of the ad copy is rather generic. As a result, Amazon’s ad copy and landing pages are rarely optimized. This is a great opportunity for your online business to generate clicks by creating highly targeted landing pages with ad copy full of rich keywords consumers are searching.

For example, there is a major difference between the ad copy in Amazon’s ad and Sony’s ad. Although Sony’s ad is in position number two in the SERP, Sony’s ad copy is full of strong keywords that will entice a higher CTR. By creating better content with optimized landing pages, your online business can generate more clicks.

Tactic #5: Develop and Omnichannel Experience

Similar to bidding on more branded keyword terms, creating an omnichannel experience will enhance your overall presence in the SERP. By creating an omnichannel keyword list that will be utilized in both PPC and organic search strategies, quality score will increase, CPC will decrease, and your ranking in the ad space will have more authority. Take the time to work on organic search and reap the benefits in both PPC and SEO.

Tactic #6: Narrow Down your Target Market into Niche Markets

Amazon is fortunate enough to have a large budget and strong brand authority, and bidding on broad keywords may make it difficult to receive representation in the paid search ad space. Therefore, to compete with Amazon, narrow down your target market into niche segments that have a past of making online conversions. From there create a list of long-tail keywords that these niche markets would search for. By doing this, you have the ability to create highly target ads whereas Amazon ads target a larger audience.

Tactic #7: Create a Free Shipping Promo within PPC Ads

One of the biggest attractions to Amazon is their free two-day shipping for Prime members. With over 100 million Prime members worldwide, shipping can be the make it or break it point when it comes down to your branded landing page or Amazon’s marketplace. Create an ad campaign or ad group that is geared towards offering shipping promos in order to compete with Amazon’s most utilized ecommerce strategy.


In Conclusion, your ecommerce store can offer a unique shopping experience for your customers that Amazon cannot offer them. Follow these strategies, adapt them to your ecommerce goals and business plan to compete with Amazon in the paid search space.

Written by: Tori Oates, Digital Strategist