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 ›

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/

 

 

 

 

 

How Can Marketers Prioritize A/B Tests? An Overview of PIE/PXL Methodologies

Not too long ago, we heard from my colleague, Lindsay Pugh, about the importance of A/B testing every change you make to your site. Hats off to her for laying out the risks of relying on gut instincts when determining how potential customers will interact with your site.

But if yours is a typical ecommerce site you have a long list of hypotheses worth testing, which means you’ll have time to do little else other than A/B test. How do you prioritize?

If you’ve been hard pressed to answer that question you’re not alone. Most marketers don’t have a methodology to prioritize A/B tests, or more concerning, a way to gauge success.

That’s where PIE and PXL come in. These methodologies are widely used frameworks for prioritizing A/B test, as well as determining whether or not your hypothesis is a success.

PIE (Potential, Importance, Ease)

PIE is an acronym for the three dimensions — potential, importance, ease — that are used to score each hypothesis. Each dimension is given a weight, and by adding them up together you arrive at a score. The A/B tests with the highest scores are the ones you should tackle first.

Here’s how Something Digital applies PIE to ecommerce:

  • Potential – What is the potential this change will have to improve your pages? If you anticipate just a slight improvement, then feel free to give it a lower priority.
  • Importance – How important is this change to your page? Will the change affect pages with the highest traffic, or pages that are seen by visitors who arrive on your site through costly pay-per-click ads? Is the element you plan to test essential for visitors to complete a transaction?
  • Ease – How complicated is it to test a particular change? Quick edits to product description copy are a breeze to test, whereas a complete redesign of your product page is inherently complex. The easier the fix, the higher the score.

 

Scoring the PIE Dimensions & Your Hypotheses

The first step of the framework is to score the dimensions. The easiest way to do that is to apply a scale, say 1 to 5 or 1 to 10 (at Something Digital we use a factor of 1 to 5). The scores are a bit subjective — what you think warrants a 3 in terms of ease your colleague (or competitor) may rank a 4.

Once you score all of your hypotheses and plot them in a matrix it will be simple to identify which are your low hanging fruit. But it also means that complex, yet important, hypotheses will be low on the your list. I’m not suggesting that you ignore them; rather, you’ll need to take a different approach to prioritizing them, one that is slightly less subjective. That’s where PXL comes in.

PXL Framework by ConversionXL

PXL is a framework that’s useful for prioritizing complex A/B tests. It’s a modification of the PIE methodology, developed by the editors of the ConversionXL blog. This framework, according the ConversionXL offers three benefits:

  • It makes any “potential” or “impact” rating more objective
  • It helps to foster a data-informed culture
  • It makes “ease of implementation” rating more objective

 

PXL helps you determine the potential by asking certain questions rather than applying a subjective score. For instance: Is this test for an element that’s above the fold? Is it noticeable within 5 seconds of landing on a page? Does it add or remove an element? Is it designed to increase user motivation? Does it run on high traffic pages?

PXL is super useful when doing web page testing, but in ecommerce, almost everything we do is above the fold, which means the efficacy of the methodology declines. At SD, we use PIE every day, and we use PXL more sporadically.

When Many Hypotheses Are Equally Important

Over time you’ll find that a great many of your hypotheses will have equal priority. This is to be expected: once you’ve identified the low-hanging fruit, the balance will sit in the middle. How do you prioritize them?

Clearly you’ll need a new set of criteria for establishing priority. Typically, your low-hanging fruit focus on improving actual conversions or sales. But there are plenty of micro-conversions that are critical to building your sales pipeline, such as signing up for your email newsletter, following your brand on social media, or even visiting your website (clicking product pages should be a micro goal because that behavior will likely put them into a retargeting funnel). Prompting visitors to interact with specific site content, such as a store locator or product configurations, are also worthy micro-goals.

By broadening the behaviors you can develop new scores for the hypothesis and apply the PIE methodology.

How to Handle Hard Stuff

Clients often approach us with help testing complex hypotheses, such as a product page redesign. By definition, such projects will never be easy to test. So how can you make it easier?

There are two ways to make complex testing easier. The first approach involves testing the hypothesis on a similar, but less risky, page. For instance, does your site have a page that looks similar to your product page that you can use to test your new design? Can you launch a static page with the proposed design so it can be tested in isolation? This approach boosts the score for ease as the web designer can focus on a single page, rather than coding the new design for all of pages and coming up with a way to split traffic.

The second approach involves breaking a big project into smaller hypotheses that you test individually. For instance, let’s say you want to redesign your product page. Rather than rolling out a new design all at once, you can begin by testing various elements: whether a larger Buy Now button brings more attention, rethinking where it sits on the page, or assessing if the size of the product title affects sales. All of these smaller outcomes will provide critical insight into the larger goal of revamping the product page.

One Last Thing

If you find that your hypotheses often prove false, don’t despair. False hypotheses means more data, and data lets you make better informed decisions. If we find that our hypotheses always prove true, I immediately question if we’re testing things that have value. We should be proven wrong sometimes because every client is different, as are their customers and websites. Broad assumptions are almost always wrong.

That’s not to say that nothing is universally true. We know that for consumers to purchase a product, they need to know what they’re buying (i.e. product photos and descriptions), how much it costs, and they need a buy button they can click. But outside of that, it’s all up for grabs. By testing all of your hypotheses you will drive continued traffic, micro conversions and ultimately sales for your business.

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Ecommerce Evangelist

SD Accessibility Ebook Part 2

The spec, officially known as the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG, were developed by the world wide web consortium (W3C), with the goal of creating precise standards for designers to help them create websites that are fully accessible to people with a range of disabilities.

Put another way, this group wanted to provide creative professionals with clear steps and guidance so that you know how to ‘design for inclusion.’ To do that, the group laid out a series of hierarchical instructions, organized by principle, guidelines and sub-guidelines (i.e. guidelines for meeting the three levels of compliance) that are fleshed out with techniques for achieving the desired results.

Part two of the Accessibility Ebook is here and yes it’s still free! It’s available to anybody and everyone because we believe it’s important to share the knowledge we’ve gained about accessibility. Download part 1 of the Accessibility Ebook here.

If you’re interested in downloading part two of this amazing ebook all we need is your email (it’s definitely worth it).

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

 

Enter your email below and receive a copy of this eBook in your inbox.

Your eBook is on the way!

Every Little Thing, Part II

Every Little Thing: Why Attention to Detail Matters, Part II

In our last installment, Every Little Thing: Why Attention to Detail Matters, Part I, we talked about the benefits of being detail-oriented and the drawbacks of perfectionism. We also briefly walked through Something Digital’s Quality Assurance testing process, in which thinking critically and carefully impacts designers, teams, stakeholders, and users alike. Now, we’ll look at an external site through a critical lens to show how something as small as margin or font size can impact usability, accessibility, and brand loyalty. Regardless if your goal is to serve a community, to build a following, or to to stand out among your competitors, investing in a well-planned, well-executed, serviceable design is one of the best long-term business strategies. Paying attention to detail matters. Design matters, period.

Think Compassionately

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw

Alongside monitoring analytics, conducting regular UX audits helps us to gage the health of a website and pinpoint areas for improvement and growth. If we only skim for quick answers to explain why site performance is down, we might overlook hidden roadblocks or miss key details. During an audit, we investigate forward, backward, inside and out. We don’t just scan for existing mistakes, but we also note what is working well, compare competitor sites, and suggest enhancements that can later be measured with analytics. It’s much like how we weighed design decisions in the original discovery exercise, only now, we have live visuals, real customer engagement, and data.

Coming out of an audit, we want to validate if our designs work in the real world, if they are user-friendly, and if there are any failures in communication, that we have practical recommendations for fixing them. To illustrate our approach at SD, let’s put on our designer goggles and comb an example web page — something neutral and widely read: a New York Times feature  — and call out small details that positively impact usability, readability, and legibility (and what could be done better).

Desktop Visual Examples of NYT Article Top: The site header and article hero image; Center: Related articles; Bottom: An image with a descriptive caption

 

Mobile Visual Examples of NYT Article
Left: The site header and article hero on mobile; Center: White space around advertising; Right: The submission form

Usability

DESIGN DETAILS AT WORK
Header: A sticky navigation follows users on scroll, giving them access to the main menu, search, and sharing tools. Notice the soft shadow clearly separating the header from the page content. Within the navigation, the title of the article displays, allowing users to refer to what they’re reading, regardless of where they are on page.

Feedback: Hover states, like color changes on social icons or the zoom tool on images, inform users when something can be clicked. The number within the comments icon updates regularly, letting users know there’s a lively discussion happening around the content that they can participate in.

Related content: A sidebar of related articles includes contextual images and headlines to give users a holistic view of how the story has been covered in the past and prolongs their engagement with the site.

DESIGN DETAILS TO REVISIT
Because the article is long, a ‘Back to Top’ button could help users jump to the beginning of the article. Likewise, if the sticky header was enabled on mobile, users browsing on their phones could easily access the navigation.

Readability

DESIGN DETAILS AT WORK
Typography: There is a maximum width on paragraphs, limiting the number of characters per line, which makes long blocks of text easier for users to read. Additionally, there is a clear typographical hierarchy. Content is broken up by subheadlines, quotes, and sidebars, and each type is consistently styled.

White Space: There is a substantial amount of breathing room between advertising and the article, so that users can distinguish paid content from brand content.

Mobile: All of the content that was overlayed on a hero image on larger screens drops below the image on small screens, so that users can easily see, read, and tap it. No features are lost from device to device.

Clicks to Conversion: The design doesn’t ask the user to do more work to get more content, like hiding the story within tabs or behind a ‘read more’ link.

DESIGN DETAILS TO REVISIT
Paid ads could be deferred or relocated, so that they don’t break paragraphs. Also, if the total estimated time for reading displayed at the start of the article, users could anticipate how much time they need to invest to read it, potentially reducing abandonment.

Accessibility

DESIGN DETAILS AT WORK
Links: Font colors meet accessibility contrast requirements, and most links are additionally underlined. Multiple visual indicators distinguish links from static copy for users with impairments like low-vision or color-blindness.

Images: Each photo in the article is methodically captioned, which is helpful for blind users who require a screen reader to navigate the site.

Microcopy: The submission form features labels the clearly specify what should be entered into each field, minimizing confusion. Additionally, microcopy preemptively outlines required fields, input character limits, and terms and conditions.

DESIGN DETAILS TO REVISIT
While the submission form has specific labels and calls to action, the search box does not. However, both forms could benefit from higher contrast borders and larger inputs for mobile users (at least 40px).

Overall, has communication been made successfully? Yes. Can communication be improved? Always. In this example, we only brushed the surface. But we can conclude the designer thoroughly iterated and tested their work, adding features — not flourishes — to serve users at every move.

Think Strategically

“Integrity is the essence of everything successful.” – R. Buckminster Fuller

Do thousands of marketing emails stuff your inbox per week? Is it even possible to commit to inbox zero in today’s e-commerce ecosystem? For a designer, a more important question is: What qualities do the few you actually open all have in common? I’ll venture a guess that they:

  • Use charming, witty, or persuasive subject lines.
  • Exhibit high-quality photography.
  • Mirror site patterns, so that the email-to-site click-through experience is virtually seamless.
  • Have a strong brand voice setting the tone of every interaction.
  • Do all of the above consistently.

 

The question I always have for winning marketing campaigns is rhetorical: “How are they always this good?”

The answer is obvious: Nothing is accidental. Designers pay attention to every detail, head to toe, err, header to footer.

To show how attention to detail impacts brand integrity, let’s review an email marketing campaign. Again, to be neutral, we’ll look at a vertical outside of SD’s current client roster: Outerwear. In the example below, we chose just three qualities that link Patagonia’s standout UX strategy to their longevity.

Visual example of Email
A few examples from one recent Patagonia email marketing campaign

1. The subject asks a question, and the layout answers it.

Designers aren’t necessarily copywriters, but even if they don’t directly contribute to the marketing calendar, they are responsible for weaving the planned theme through the visuals (Note: SD’s Creative Team are BOMB copywriters). The subject asks for input, so users can opt in. Contextual photography of real customers, earing the product in real environments, provide the answer. In case you doubted Patagonia’s authenticity or dedication to outreach — both brand hallmarks — the designers even included captions and credits.

2. The typography is big, bold, and legible, and it’s mostly html.

Why is that last part so crucial? Not only is content visible to all users, even if their email clients have disabled showing images by default, but it also scales better. Often, embedding text within images ignores how most people read email: on their phones. If you can’t read the CTA, was it ever truly even there? For designers, it may seem risky to display html content instead of embedding text because it means giving up control over how the design will be rendered by different email clients. But a good designer is one who delights in problem solving, and therefore doesn’t mind going through multiple rounds of test sends to get a result that is flexible and accessible.

You might argue that some email clients can’t render webfonts, so embedding type on images is the only way to stay 100% on brand. But in the case of Patagonia’s emails, they’ve done their research and chosen google fonts — along with a defined stack of backup web-safe fonts — that closely resemble the ecommerce site typefaces. Being adaptable > leaving users out. The email reads clear and crisp on all screens by all users. If Patagonia promotes corporate responsibility, every design choice must, too.

3. The color isn’t just for kicks.

First, the email is stripped of color, save for the rich photography and buttons, which are the same hex values as the ecommerce site CTAs. Second, there is ample whitespace surrounding each content block so that they are digestible and free of noise. Third, the monochrome logo is isolated header and the navigation, also black, is minimized.

Color is thus reserved for clickable content — and all of it really pops! Essentially, the designers forge the trail they want users to follow, without having to give directions. Attention to detail leaves no one guessing. As an even more subtle detail, the buttons leading users to Patagonia’s shoppable categories are orange, while the buttons navigating to influencer, blog, and informational content are purple. I suspect that over time they have A/B- and user-tested everything down to button color and taken into account what resonates with their recipients, particularly the many that have become lifetime customers.

Although we only grazed the surface in this example, we validate that designers have the power to reinforce brand awareness and loyalty. They find common ground between design principles and core brand principles. They elevate copywriting and use visual language to say what words alone can’t about the brand. And if they’re dedicated — and always testing! — they can engender a unique brand voice that stands out — and thrives — on the internet.

The Takeaway

Being perceptive to the details in the world around us isn’t just about what’s in our immediate surroundings and what’s urgently signaling us right now. It’s important to see — and foresee — how every little thing can impact the future (and the users living in that future, interacting with that world). It’s the duty of designers to meticulously observe everything, so that they can identify problems and make educated decisions to help solve them. It’s also our duty to notice and learn when to take a step back. Through our examples, we’ve given you insight into SD’s internal design process and demonstrated how designers double as strategists. On one end of the spectrum, we can be nit-picky perfectionists (and we know it!), but on the other, we can be the best ally for your business by generating and sustaining a loyal following, guiding those users through conversion workflows, and advocating for their needs. Attention to detail pays off. We see it. Do you?

Special thanks to swiss-miss  for the continuous supply of design inspiration and inspirational quotes, some of which are featured here.

Written by: Gina Angelotti, Interactive Designer

Every Little Thing, Part I

Every Little Thing: Why Attention to Detail Matters, Part I

Think Critically

“Pay attention to what you pay attention to!” – Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Here are two arguably true assumptions about designers:

Designers are admired for their attention to detail.
Designers are mired by their attention to detail.

Designers have a reputation for caring too much about details that no one else notices outright. Conversely, we are known for taking care of seemingly insignificant details that, when incorporated into the greater whole, significantly and noticeably influence how everyone interacts with the world around them. While our work can seem imperceptible, it is highly intentional. In fact, good design is ingrained in everyday life without any of us — designers included — even noticing.

Admittedly, designers can be meticulous to a fault. Zeroing in on minor details can take us off course when our vision becomes too myopic. Other times, we arduously sweat the small stuff, which can bloat project budgets. We’ve all been there. And we learn, over and over again, the importance of stepping back, evaluating design choices in their entirety, and discerning when the end justifies the means.

Now here is one assumption about designers that is inarguably true:
Designers steadfastly attend to detail.

Whether to our detriment or success, designers pay close attention to details because it’s our calling. If we’re truly present and thoughtfully examining everything we see, feel, and touch, real problems reveal themselves. More and more companies are adopting design thinking not because it’s buzz-worthy, but because honing design skills, like the ability to perceive, empathize, and iterate, helps solve problems that matter.

Let’s explore at how a web designer’s attention to detail can improve user engagement with a product or site. First, we’ll share an example of how it plays out internally at Something Digital.

Think Aesthetically

Creative Team QA Tests
QA Testing at Something Digital

White-glove attention to detail is part of every step in SD’s process, from discovery to deployment. But a prime example of when design thinking takes center stage — and is occasionally controversial — is during front-end QA testing.

For every project, the design team conducts an end-to-end comparison of mockups and pattern libraries to live sites. We’re not only looking for fidelity, ensuring that meticulously predefined rules are followed, but we’re also regulating consistency, cadence, and continuity. We report bugs that range from margin issues — adjusting space between elements so that content is evenly distributed, logically grouped, and legible — to functional errors, in which a page or an element on a page impedes the checkout process.

We’re not aiming for pixel-perfection, which is an impossible task given browser and device irregularities. The goal is to meet an acceptable standard. But that doesn’t mean attention to detail falls by the wayside. All documented QA issues are collaboratively classified as low, medium, high, or critical. And every issue is eventually addressed in order of priority.

Much to the chagrin of designers, margin and padding flaws are often considered low issues, because to technical teams, project managers, and clients, they are aesthetic and don’t directly prevent a user from accomplishing a task. And while true, designers will counter that these flaws could be proven over time to slow down or frustrate users, indirectly decreasing conversion. What if users can’t tell which step of a form they’re completing because the margins between the labels and fields is too great? What if they’re checking out on a phone and they can’t tap the correct input for payment method because the radio buttons are grouped too closely together?

It’s the role of the designer to see problems at more than face value, foresee how they might persist in the future, and critically examine if resolving them, however small, is worth the effort.

It can be a mistake to be nit-picky, jeopardizing scope. It can be a mistake to ignore details, jeopardizing usability. Designers walk a fine line, but if we’re self-aware, user-aware, and openly communicate with our co-workers and clients, our attention to detail can be what separates a functional website from a thriving one.

For more in-depth examples of how the SD creative team digs into detail, see Every Little Thing: Why Attention to Detail Matters, Part II.

Special thanks to swiss-miss  for the continuous supply of design inspiration and inspirational quotes, some of which are featured here.

Written by: Gina Angelotti, Interactive Designer

How to Drive Repeat Customer Success with Magento Business Intelligence (BI)

Business intelligence (BI) is certainly a hot buzzword, and if you’re like a lot of ecommerce managers up to your ears with work, you generally don’t have time learn every buzzword in the zeitgeist. You may already pull a half dozen reports out of Google Analytics, why bother with more?

But BI is to Google Analytics what a rotary phone is to an iPhone. BI can be game changing for your business, and it’s well worth adopting. Why?

To begin, when you use a BI tool, such as Magento’s Business Intelligence, you essentially create a data warehouse using data from all the systems deployed throughout your business: website analytics, CRM, OMS, ERP, help desk, inventory management, email management and so on. Those datasets are layered on top of one another in visual dashboards, letting you spot interesting correlations, and ask very strategic questions based on what you see. It offers a level of insight that’s impossible to achieve by manually merging data in a spreadsheet. And it’s fully automated.

How to Know if You Need BI

You know you need BI if:

  • If you, or someone in your company, spends a good chunk of time merging myriad datasets into a single Excel spreadsheet to arrive at some kind of understanding of what has happened in your business.
  • You want to know what’s happening now in addition to what just happened. Reports tell you what happened yesterday, last week or some other past interval. Only a dashboard fueled by BI can tell you what’s happening right now.
  • You’re considering making changes to your business, say expanding into a new market or your product suite. BI doesn’t just tell what’s happening; by layering on multiple data sources, it tells you why. And that, in turn, will help you assess the risks and opportunities of more strategic moves.

 

It’s Easy

You don’t need to be a data geek to gleam insights from BI. By definition BI is highly visual, offering dashboards that highlight correlations between datasets that would otherwise be difficult to see. You can then drill down into the data, and begin to ask additional questions and test hypothesis.

A New Level of Insight

Google Analytics and similar website analytics programs do a great job at tracking metrics such visitors to your website and conversion rate. But those metrics don’t offer the critical context you need to home in on your most profitable customers, and drive ROI. To understand which customers cohorts will drive your business forward, you need to understand their lifetime value (LTV).

With a BI tool you can merge conversion rate and visitor information with actual revenue data to arrive at customer lifetime value. Then when it’s time to make critical decisions, such as product selection or pricing, you can see the impact of those changes on the LTV of the customers you acquire.

For instance, let’s say you sell a product for $200 and that your margin on that product is 45%. Now that lets you know (because you’ve used a BI tool to get LTV insight) that customers who purchase that product have a $2,000 LTV. This is strategic information, because it means spending up to $150 – $200 to acquire that customer will still deliver stellar marketing ROI. Without that LTV data, you might not be willing to spend that much for the customer.

Snapshot of What Best Behaving Customers Look Like

BI also allows you to track LTV by customer behavior and segments. For instance, do shoppers who purchase a particular line of products have a higher LTV than your overall customers? What are the LTV of customers by geographic location, age, gender, income or by any combination of attributes? Which channels — Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, email newsletters, etc. — deliver the greatest number of high LTV customers? Are there behaviors and demographics that indicate a consumer who will purchase just once vs. those who will purchase frequently? What about time in between purchases?

A thorough understanding of LTV dynamics will help you drive ROI by:

  • Focusing your marketing promotions on products that attract your most profitable customers.
  • Model your most profitable customers by demographic and behavior use those models to target consumers who are new to your brand.
  • Target consumers in the channels in which they’re most likely to respond, thereby driving return on ad spend (ROAS).

 

Out of the Box Plug-ins Means Fast Implementation

Once upon a time, business intelligence was a hugely expensive proposition, one that required engaging an army of system integrators to merge disparate data sources. Today’s SaaS, API-driven tools, particularly Magento BI, has leveled the playing field. Merging data from tools such as Google AdWords, MailChimp, Salesforce, Facebook, Zendesk, SurveyMonkey and many others is a simple one-click process. The plug-ins — not your IT department — will retrieve and normalize the data automatically, allowing you to set up a robust BI tool in less than a day.

Once all of this data is centralized in your dashboards you can begin to compare how each channel/campaigns perform with your particular customer segments, and quickly identify which have the best LTV.

Attribution Models

One of the most frequent questions we hear at Something Digital is: How do I establish an attribution model? Online retailers want to know which channels deliver the most profitable customers so that they can focus their marketing spend on them. BI sheds light on attribution.

By tracking trends on a wide variety of data points, BI can tell you how your customer cohorts first engage with your brand, as well as show you where the gaps in your understanding of your attribution might be.

Once your understand how customers arrive at your site, you can then probe on a deeper level, such as:

  • Which channels are best for brand new customers?
  • Why does one channel bring in customers with a higher LTV than another?

 

Assess All Your Customer Touchpoints

So far I’ve talked about customer acquisition and sales, but as every retailer knows, sales are hardly the sole customer touchpoint. Fortunately, BI can deliver insights into all interactions customers and prospects have with your brand.

For instance, let’s say you wish to know how many customers experience a slower than normal time-to-ship for their orders. More importantly, you want to understand the impact of such delays on their LTV.

The first question alone is extremely to answer because you’ll need to pinpoint when the packages shipped, when they left your warehouse, when the customers actually received them. BI can pull all of these datasets from your internal (OMS, CRM, ERP) and external (UPS deliver) sources.

Once you have that data in your dashboard you can then determine the impact late shipment has on your customers. Are they more likely to return their product if they received it late? Are they more likely to cancel their order? What are their purchase patterns after receiving a late package? Are they less likely to become a repeat customer if we ship poorly on the first time?

Each question leads to additional insights, all of which are actionable. For instance, if customers with behaviors and demographic attributes that indicate a high LTV receive their packages late, you can proactively send them a coupon or offer by way of apology.

BI insights can help you improve interactions with every customer touchpoints by allowing you to monitor every part of the customer lifecycle, identify where your trouble spots are, and more importantly identify what your company is doing right and focusing on those activities.

Customer Loyalty

Customer loyalty deserves its own blog post, it’s worth mentioning now how BI can help you build a customer loyalty program that rewards your brand promoters without breaking your bank. For instance, you can take advantage of the one-click access to SurveyMonkey from Magento BI to understand how customer sentiment affects purchases, and how purchases affect customer disposition. By layering sentiment data onto purchase data, you can begin to understand what motivates your brand promoters, and ways to reward them.

One Final Thought

While everything I’ve described above should great and amazing, I can promise you this: it’s only going to get better! Magento is investing serious research and development into its BI tool, adding new functionality while driving the cost down. Expect to be dazzled at this year’s Magento Imagine.

If you have questions about you Magento BI let us know!

Like this blog? Check out this blog on why you need Magento BI.

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Ecommerce Evangelist

 

Why Aren’t Your Google Shopping Campaigns Performing as Expected? A Troubleshooting Guide

If you’re like most online retailers, your company invests a fair amount of money in Google Shopping campaigns, and for good reason: Your ad will appear in the consumer’s viewpoint at the exact moment he or she is about to make a purchase.

But what happens if, despite your investments, your campaign dollars just aren’t delivering the ROI you expected? Rather than jettison your initiatives, spend some time troubleshooting your campaigns. It will take you some time and most of all, lots of testing, but it can make the difference between okay sales and a truly banner year.

A Few Words Before We Get Started

On the face of it, launching Google Shopping campaigns seam simple enough: generate a product feed, send it to the Google Merchant Center for verification, and watch the sales come in. We wish it were that simple, but it’s not.

The truth is, Google Shopping is inherently complex. If you’ve ever Googled “Google Feed optimization” you will have discovered numerous agencies dedicated to the task. And there’s no shortage of thought-leadership articles on the best ways to configure a feed by industry sector.

But if you plough through all of those thought leadership pieces you’ll understand an important take away: There’s no one prevailing approach that works best for all retailers. There’s simply no way to get around the trial and error that’s part and parcel to successful Google Shopping campaigns.

Get a Product Feed Generation Tool

The first step to launching a Google Shopping campaign is to generate a Google Shopping Feed (aka product feed), which can be notoriously complex and rule-ridden. There are many companies that offer Magento extensions to help ease the burden, and you should use one. At Something Digital, we like this Google Shopping Feed for Magento , which, by the way, is also recommended by the Google AdWords team.

Of course, there are others fine tools, such as ChannelAdvisor, but we prefer the aforementioned shopping feed because of the way it walks you through the entire process to ensure your Google Shopping Feed is accurate and complete before you submit it to Google Merchant Center. This is critical, since the Merchant Center checks your product feed to ensure it complies with all of Google’s requirements for campaigns. And it offers a terrific integration and configuration guide.

You can (and should) opt to regenerate your product feed on a daily basis to check for product or pricing updates. If you aren’t checking it daily and it’s out of compliance, you’ll need to spend time correcting it, potentially missing sales while you do so.

Once you’ve generated a product feed, you’ll need to link it to your Google Merchant Center, which you can do via your Google AdWords account.

Your product feed is used to generate the visual and informational components of your AdWords ads, and Google Merchant Center ensures it’s configured properly, and meets all of Google’s requirements. It will also tell you if you’re missing components or data that will help your ads perform better.

Troubleshooting Google Shopping Campaigns

There are many reasons why your Google Shopping campaigns deliver poor results, but some are more common than others. Let’s look at the issues we hear about most frequently.

Setting an Optimal Bidding Strategy

High spending with poor return is one of the most common complaints we hear. Poor ROI may be due to many different factors, and troubleshooting will be required.

Begin by examining your competitors on a campaign level. You may find, for instance, that you’re competing against an Amazon Google Shopping Ad, and that competition is driving up the price. That’s why it’s important that you look at:

  • Who your competitors are
  • What their bidding strategy is
  • How much they are spending per click

 

This exercise will help you home in on your own bidding sweet spot. To find this data, go to the Details tab of the campaign from within Google AdWords. That tab offers an Option Insights section, which provides a breakdown of all the companies that compete with you for Google Shopping real estate. It also provides the impression-share percentage (the percentage of impressions that you and your competitors win).

From there you can do additional research to discover what your competitors bid for each click, but it will require additional tools that provide approximate bidding information.

What happens if you learn that deep-pocketed competitors – eBay, Amazon, Jet.com – are going head-to-head with you? You can:

  • Stop running all of your products in your Google Shopping Campaigns and focus on niche products that are unique to you.
  • Think of Google Shopping as a branding tool rather than a performance one. Of course it will lower your ROI, but it may raise awareness of your shop among consumers.

 

Product Grouping in Feed

Let’s say you’re a retailer that offers many different brands across a range of apparel items. There are many ways to group them: by brand, price and product category (clothing, shoes, accessories); which is right for you?

There’s no one answer for every retailer, which is why we recommend testing multiple configurations to see which delivers the best results. It’s entirely likely that you’ll have multiple product-specific campaigns, each using a different configuration.

For instance, you may need to compete on price for a popular style shoe, in which case, grouping these styles by price is the right strategy. Meanwhile, you may offer a wider variety of jackets than your competitors, and grouping them by category is the way to bring more shoppers to your store.

Touts & Shopping Promotions

Are your ads distinguished from your competition? Are they attracting consumers to your site?

Touts are callouts that draw attention to your ads. There are two types: promotion, such as free shipping, or consumer reviews. You can configure touts using Google Shopping Promotions Feed, but note that this is an additional step.

The Shopping Promotions Feed – like Google Shopping in general – has many rules that must be followed, and it can get rather confusing. You can’t simply offer site-wide free shipping because Google requires an offer code associated to each product There are ways to get around Google’s configuration requirements, but it’s a learning curve to figure out how to get the information you want to show up to actually show up.

Simple vs Configurable Products

This is an area where that may (or may not) make a difference in your site traffic volume. Depending on how your products are set up, you may have the option to configure your products so that your ads reflect the exact information a consumer searches on (e.g. “Joe’s Denim skinny jeans size 28”). This option is warranted if consumers typically want to ensure a site has their size prior to clicking on an ad.

Internal Competition

The final issue we see occasionally is internal competition for ad space, which occurs when a retailer has multiple sites that offer common products. Be sure to check the impression share (mentioned above) on a regular basis to ensure you’re not sabotaging your own AdWords spend.

These are steps you can take on your own. If you check for these trouble spots and still can’t improve your ROI, then we suggest you engage an expert.

If you have questions about your Google Shopping Feed let us know!

Like this blog? Check out this blog on website personalization.

Written by: Lindsay Pugh, Digital Strategist