3 Steps to Improve the E-Commerce Experience

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Ecommerce has leveled the playing field in a lot of ways. Smaller online businesses now have access to the same sprawling, international customer base that established retailers enjoy. Small and large retailers alike are cashing in on the ecommerce opportunity: In 20

17 alone, online-based businesses made sales amounting to $2.3 trillion, up from $1.8 trillion in 2016.

Growth in the next 3 years is predicted to push sales to $4.8 trillion. It’s a compelling opportunity for merchants of all shapes and sizes.

While established retailers may already have a strong foothold in the ecommerce space, smaller merchants often go through some trial and error in perfecting the online shopping experience. Ecommerce optimization is fluid, evolving, and complex. The ability to perfect every area of an online shop can be both daunting and expensive for smaller online businesses.

Despite this, there are certain areas on which merchants need to focus if they expect to be profitable at all online. The payments experience is at the top of this list. Business Insider reports that poor payment experience contributes to 39% of cart abandonment in the US.

That doesn’t have to be the reality for online merchants. There are three big ways to improve the ecommerce experience today.

Implement a User-Friendly Payments Flow

Consumers want to get from point A to point B in as few clicks as possible. Your payments process should enable them to do this. Avoid redirecting customers away from your branded site to an external payment gateway, as this disrupts the flow. Instead, choose a gateway provider that integrates seamlessly with your ecommerce site or mobile app.

Include a progress bar at the top of checkout screens so users can see how far along they are in the checkout process. This can help move customers along through the process while reassuring them that there’s not much further to go.

Avoid requiring users to register before completing a purchase. It’s a major point of friction in the checkout process and can increase cart abandonment rates quite a bit. Instead, allow customers to proceed to checkout as a guest and give them the option to register later, after they have completed their purchase.

Boost Security and Fraud prevention

The rising amount of online fraud and data breaches has made shoppers wary of entering personal details online. It’s estimated that 19% of abandonments occur when customers cannot trust you with their credit card details.

In addition to providing adequate security assurance, you should boost customer confidence by safeguarding the whole checkout process. Many merchants use Address Verification Service (AVS) to verify the address of a person claiming to own a credit card. Card Verification Value (CVV) is another security protocol, which asks the cardholder for the 3 digit security number on the back of a Visa or MasterCard card. While these tools increase security, they also boost customer confidence that your brand takes security seriously.

Working with a reputable payment processor that is PCI DSS complaint can also aid with site security. This level of baked-in security has become table stakes at this point, so merchants should also seek out solution providers that can help reduce fraud. A tailored suite of fraud tools not only protects your bottom line but keeps your customers’ sensitive data safe.

Integrate an Omnichannel Payment System

Omnichannel optimization is more important than ever. Merchants are increasingly seeing customers begin shopping on a desktop, visiting the store to see and touch items, and then complete the purchase on a mobile device. The channel combinations are endless, but the bottom line remains the same: consumers want a consistent experience across devices and channels.

Again, working with a reputable payment services provider can streamline omnichannel success. A great provider will be able to facilitate omnichannel payments across the board, including broad payment types, high-level security, and fraud prevention tools.

While ecommerce and online shopping has opened up a world of opportunity for merchants to sell to new audiences, taking advantage of that opportunity requires best practice implementation and the ability to pivot with evolving consumer preferences.

Successful online merchants will prioritize customer experience, security, and the omnichannel experience. As the framework upon which great ecommerce experiences are built, merchants that optimize these areas will be best positioned for growth.

Why Responsive Design is Dead

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The Adoption of Adaptive Design and the Rise of Progressive Web Apps

Mobile traffic is past its tipping point with roughly 52 percent of web traffic currently deriving from smartphones versus desktops – and counting. People are accessing sites and services with the expectation they will not only have the same functionality they would on desktops, but, more so today, that the sites will also use the functionality native to their devices without needing to download an app.

To date, forward-thinking ecommerce companies have worked to ensure their sites were primed for mobile viewing, turning to responsive web design (RWD) as the solution. Times are changing, however, and device-specific experiences are becoming the new requirement (e.g., touch gestures, speech recognition, mobile push notifications). Responsive design that delivers one size, fits none is now being replaced with two new ways of implementing mobile experiences that are faster and provide a better customer experience: adaptive and progressive design. While adaptive design requires more coding, it offers a whole range of other prioritizing features on mobile that customers crave versus receiving a shallow, shrunk-down version of the desktop site that leaves too much to be desired.

But First, The Four Approaches

Before going further, it will be helpful to first understand the differences between mobile themes, responsive web design (RWD), adaptive web design (AWD) and progressive web apps (PWA).

Mobile Themes

These are responsible for the mobile-dedicated sites of the world – or m-dot. They are easy to add to existing desktop experiences, but each change to the site requires both mobile and desktop updates. What’s more, Google frowns upon serving two different experiences as its crawlers must essentially read two sites because the content and code of mobile themes are separate. Enter: responsive web design.

Responsive

“Responsive design is client-side, meaning the whole page is delivered to the device browser (the client), and the browser then changes how the page appears in relation to the dimensions of the browser window.” ~ Garrett Goodman of The Huffington Post

The positives of RWD are often stated in that the sites are easy to maintain, and they provide a consistent experience across devices. On the other hand, one channel typically suffers. If mobile first, for example, then the desktop does not look quite right. If desktop first, then mobile is overloaded. Still, there is unified content and code, which minimizes the resource burden of catering to both desktop and mobile users.

Adaptive

“Let’s use an adjustable lamp as a real-world example: responsive design is when you flick the switch, and the lamp responds by turning on the light. Adaptive design is when you’re able to adjust/adapt the lamp so that you can see better.

“If a website doesn’t respond to your interaction, it’s not very responsive, and if it isn’t able to adapt to its surroundings (i.e. the device screen), it’s not very adaptive. Both of these can significantly impact the UX.” ~ Daniel Schwarz of Sitepoint

The positives of AWD are often under-stated in that it delivers a device-specific experience and it improves website performance (think speed, load times). AWD is not without its negatives though in that enterprises must manage separate code branches, which can add time to development and site updates – even though it uses a single content repository – still very much better than dedicated mobile sites. The content and code are both unified. Now, the mobile experience for both the end-user and the organization hosting the site itself, is becoming more mature.

Progressive

“PWAs enable companies (and the designers and developers they employ) to deploy their digital creations natively (on iOS or Android for example) and on the mobile/desktop Web itself, taking advantage of both channels, and the benefits of both channels – again, simultaneously.” ~ Peter Prestipino

Progressive web aps are user experiences that have the reach of the web, and the web reaches three times as many people as native apps. There is not a retailer alive who does not want to reach more people. Once they reach them, the users are presented with an app-like experience, using features of phone and browser to enhance mobile web experience – and quicker than other design options allow. Like each of the design approaches mentioned here, PWAs do have their downfalls in that organizations need to manage separate code branches. Managing separate code branches can add time to development and site updates, but PWAs use a single content repository so it is still faster than updating mobile themes.


Progression from Desktop to Progressive Web Apps

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Why It’s Time to Move on from Responsive Web Design

While responsive web design is the de-facto mobile design approach these days, the negatives far outweigh the positives. Responsive sites send the entire website to a mobile device, which does nothing for user experience. This is called client-side (browser-side) rendering where a mobile browser is doing all the work. Adaptive Design is server-side rendering where the website decides which page elements to send to each browser and at what levels of quality.

For consumers, one size also does not fit all. Desktop does not fit mobile, mobile does not fit desktop. And desktop first does not prioritize mobile navigation or features. See Apple’s example below:

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On the left, the desktop navigation makes sense for the product browser. On the right, the mobile navigation is now what the person is used to. 

Mobile first doesn’t create a great browse experience on desktop either. Check out the Lyko.se example below where the desktop navigation is hidden and not optimized for the device.

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With the risk of redundancy, again, one size just does not fit all. Mobile first or desktop first means some experience will be second and customers are shopping on multiple devices in a continuous journey between devices. If retailers do not give the right experience in the context of the device someone is using, they will lose that customer engagement. Both approaches, however, do not allow merchants to prioritize features or navigation for the user’s need.

The few positives are that responsive design is a dramatic improvement from mobile themes or rendering desktop and it is easy to maintain.

Why Adaptive and Progressive makes sense now

Technology is improving all the time and underlying technology is getting better and better to support adaptive and progressive approaches. Adaptive has not been discussed as much as responsive because the front-end code technologies were not as good, mobile was not as important as it is now, and responsive was so much better than desktop rendering that it was seen as a natural evolution. AWD has, however, so many positives from front-end development approaches that make it easier to maintain, front-end development approaches that make it faster, a single URL structure for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes (which is why many organizations started using RWD in the first place) and platforms that provide a mobile view for editors that can be integrated to an adaptive mobile strategy.

Still, the rising star in the game is progressive web apps. Google is creating these apps to drive ad spend over Apple’s advocacy for native apps. Apple and Google are in a bit of a tussle over mobile experience that will affect ecommerce sales. Google is likely to win because of its higher market share of smartphones globally. This is going to lead to less mobile applications being developed for brands and retailers and more app-like experiences being developed for browsers. Progressive web apps are changing how retailers and brands can create stand out ecommerce experiences online.

With progressive web apps many wins are possible. They use stored customer data in the mobile browser like shipping addresses and credit card details, which allows for seamless checkout without loading separate pages. Using progressive web apps, retailers are also able to create fun experiences that behave like apps without developing mobile apps. Paper Planes World is a great example of this, it uses a phones accelerometer (motion sensor) to allow users to ‘launch’ a paper airplane around the world virtually to other site visitors, catch a plane and see the stamps other users added to it.

Is AWD or PWAs for Me?

With times changing and technology evolving, consumer-savvy retailers would be right to ask if adaptive and responsive are right for their business. First, think of the margin. If device-specific features and experiences are important to the user experience and if users switch device during the journey, these new features are probably worth it.

A 6-Step Framework for Purposeful Blogging

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While blogging with a clear strategy in mind can be very beneficial, falling into the trap of posting just to post will leave you with lackluster results and probably a bit of frustration.

Lucky for you, we are going to share a simple six-step process that will allow you to create blog posts that attract qualified traffic to your website and help you generate quality leads.

1. Defining Your Idea Customer

Meredith Hill once said, “When you speak to everyone, you speak to no one.” This holds true in all marketing, especially when you are creating content.

  • What level of knowledge does your customer already have?
  • What pain points are most sensitive with your audience?
  • What problems with your industry does your product or service solve?

These are just a few questions you should be asking yourself before creating a blog post. Taking a step back, if you haven’t narrowed in on an audience, you must first define who your ideal customer is and then start to ask questions like those above. Better understanding your audience will allow you to build greater credibility while bringing tremendous value to them via blog posts.

2. Identifying Popular Topics

One of the easiest ways to figure out what topics to cover on your blog is by seeing what has proven to be popular in your industry. Tools like Buzzsumo will allow you to enter keywords and see the most popular content focused around those terms.

buzzsumo

One mistake commonly made when using this strategy is not looking at the popularity of the site publishing content. Let’s use Business Insider for example. A mediocre post presented to a large audience may get more engagement than it deserves, but going down the list is where real value starts to happen from an SEO perspective. According to a study completed by Columbia University and the French National Institute, “59% of links shared on social media have never actually been clicked.” To find topics that really engage users, look for content near the top of the lists that was posted on smaller sites. Repeat the research process for 5-10 keywords and record the page titles and a summary of the content topics, along with the URLS for step three.

3. Conducting Long Tail Research

Whenever you publish new content, you can share it on social media or with your email list, but that is not where the real SEO benefits come from. Each piece of content you create can draw targeted visitors from search, so long as you have a long tail keyword strategy in place.

One of the simplest ways to find long tail keywords opportunities is to look at what your competitors are doing. SEMrush (shown) and Ahrefs are both tools that allow you to pull in a competitor page and see what keywords their content is showing up for. Grab the list you made in step two and put the first url into your keyword research tool of choice. This example is based on the previous Buzzsumo search for “blogging,” in which beautifuldawndesigns.net appeared atop the list behind a more well-known site.

semrush-example
Below is another example of some long tail keywords used in a blog post about a different topic: plastic surgery marketing. If you were to write a post on the same topic, pull in the most popular pieces of content for the term and see what long tails keywords they have in their content. Make a list of terms from the top blog posts and then work those into your content as you are able.

plastic-surgery-seo-example

4. Deliver Unique Insights or Opinions

Once you have an idea, you know who you are writing to and you know what keywords can bring traffic to your post, you must use that information to deliver something of value. In some industries, the process or products everyone uses could be very similar. To differentiate in cases like that, personality in your content is key. Marketers do everything from writing content that goes against popular opinion to joking to creating their unique persona, so don’t be afraid to take a strong stance with your content.

In other fields, there may be many ways to complete a process, if that is the case with yours, demonstrate through your content how your method works, why it works, or even run a test to disprove a commonly believed theory. Whatever you do, try not to just have someone re-word an existing piece of content without adding any new value.

5. Post-Publishing Optimization of Long Tail Keywords

You researched and created something spectacular, but it isn’t gaining any traction – why is that? Chances are it is because your long tail keywords are not ranking, and you are missing the traffic you set out to capture.

Since you have a list of long tail terms you used in the content, set up a rank tracker and see how those terms are performing. If they are not in the top 3-5 spots, you need to do some follow-on optimization. The amount of time and money you spend on this should vary based on the value of the terms you are promoting, so don’t go crazy trying to get a keyword with 10 monthly searches from position three to position one unless it is for a product or service that justifies the investment.

Once you decide how much time or money you are willing to invest, there are two ways you can improve the content: on-page refinement and link building. Find the top-ranking sites for your long tail keywords and do a side-by-side comparison. As with finding content ideas, leaving out authority sites ranking for your terms will net more useful comparison data. Once you have a list of ranking sites, check the following:

  • What is the average content length of pages outranking yours?
  • What are the keyword density percentage averages of pages outranking yours?
  • Do they use video or multiple images in their content?
  • What is the overall authority of their site compared to yours?
  • How many unique referring domains do they have pointing to the blog post on average?

In most cases you will find opportunities to tweak your content to be in line with what Google already likes. You will also find that competitors with more quality links to their entire site or to the specific blog post. In those cases, you need to setup an ongoing link building campaign. If you plan to blog often, building your overall site authority through link building will enable you to rank more quickly for long tail terms contained in your new posts.

6. Trim the Fat

Almost everyone has written a blog post that flopped. No matter what you do, it just won’t gain any traction. Sometimes these blog posts even rank and bring traffic to your site, but the bounce rate is horrible. When this happens to you, don’t be afraid to get rid of the post. You can write new content on the topic and redirect the old post to the new one if it has acquired links or you can simply delete it from your site. In doing so, you will consolidate the “power” of your site to pages people do like.

Purposeful blogging takes careful planning and hard work. Creating a successful post and more importantly, the framework for ongoing success is well worth the effort though. If you are blogging just to have new content on your site or you are working with a company who haphazardly throws up a new blog post every couple of weeks without a clear plan to promote it, now is the time to implement the steps above and make your words work for you in 2018.

25 Ways to Encourage Activity in Online Communities

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Perhaps besides a great website nobody visits, there is nothing worse in the digital world than an inactive online community.

There is a way, for instance, to drive website traffic but marketers really cannot get people to discuss and share in a community if they simply do not want to or are not inspired to. Below we’ve detailed 25 ways to encourage conversation. If we missed any, sign in to comment below!

1. Collect Photos: Chances are a community is going to share some pretty great photos of a product or service in use in the real world. Have these photos go into albums that members can browse perhaps even with tagging functionality.

2. Comment on Trending News:
 Brands can help develop in-depth conversations about what is trending outside of its digital walls by sharing and commenting on trending news.

3. Consider Push Notifications: With permission, companies could accelerate activity within their communities by alerting members when someone has commented on a thread they are following, voted for their content or took some other action relating to their interests. Just be sure, however, members have a way to control the frequency at which push notifications are sent and the reason they are sent.

4. Curate Relevant Content: While most people like to be in the know, consuming all the available content out there is impossible. A community manager should follow industry news in order to keep their community members updated on what they should know. Consider it a “Five Things You Need to Know Today” type initiative and members could reward a community with their time if the curation is done well.

5. Embrace Hashtags: Even on social apps that do not support hashtags (i.e. Snapchat), people still use them in their posts. When working with the development team, ask that the community supports hashtags so people can discover related items when they are used. 

6. Ensure It’s Accessible: Make it easy to access the community like the same username/password combo for the site and the community or remembering a user as they go from one place on a website to the community. In other words, reduce the friction of accessing the community.

7. Establish Cadence: If employees can only be active on a certain day, tell community members so they know when to show up to have conversations in real-time.

8. Follow Trends:
 It’s critical community managers keep up with what their members expect from the platforms they use to engage with their peers like the use of artificial intelligence to answer questions quicker.

9. Gamify: People are naturally competitive so reward their community activity with points to be recognized on a leaderboard or to redeem for some virtual or real-life swag.

10. Get Giffy with It: The Internet is still in the age where the ability to use GIFs is a novelty considering Facebook and Twitter only recently added that support. By allowing GIFs, community members can express themselves in a fun way.

11. Give Your Best Content (Free): Look if anyone gets paywalls, it’s traditional publishers like Website Magazine. If a company is going to support a community of people who want to talk about topics relating to a brand, however, the organization is going to need to give them the good stuff (like that content that is only available after filling out a lead generation form). Community members will come to know that they can bypass some of the company’s acquisition strategies because they are valued members or insiders of the brand.

12. Hold Contests: 
While brands do not want to get in the habit of only offering perks for participation (see sidebar), contests are a quick way to get people active within a community particularly when the prize is worth their effort.


quote“When I got started in Community Management, contests were all the rage, and at the time they seemed like a great way to get people to participate. But when you’re trying to build a community of people who will keep returning and participating, the motivation to participate needs to be more intrinsic. If people are only participating to get a prize, they aren’t going to engage as authentically, they’re less likely to come back, and the motivation isn’t focused around quality. I think an occasional contest or swag giveaway can be a lot of fun, but the primary focus should be on strategies that build relationships rather than just reward participation.”

~ Nicole Relyea, Senior Community Manager at Zendesk


13. Integrate with Social: Consider ways members can allow their social network to participate whether it’s sharing key insights to their favorite networks, adding new members or using their social profile picture.

14. Let them Mention: 
CMNTY Founder and CEO Maxim Schram recently told Website Magazine that the ability to mention a fellow community member is critical functionality in online communities today because people are used to this capability on social networks like Facebook.

15. Listen First: Community managers should know when to sit back and listen to a conversation, when to take action (like funnel a query to the appropriate person) and when to join in. Members will start to trust admin when they find a good balance of the three. 

16. Make It Mobile Friendly: If a company is going to have a community in 2018 and beyond, it absolutely needs to be accessible from mobile devices. Brands could miss out on an incredible amount of activity if they are alienating those who have time on their phones to interact.

17. Onboard Creatively: Brainstorm ways to introduce new members to a community, and what would encourage other members to welcome them as well. Perhaps an interstitial is delivered to new members asking quick questions about them and their interests then those surveys can be used as part of the introduction (with expressed permission). If it was a community for LEGO enthusiasts, for example, they could perhaps even share a photo of their recent build to go along with that survey. The photo and background information about the person could get people talking and make the new member feel welcomed. A community for a particular software platform, for example, could ask the new user what it is they are working on, what questions they hope to get answered and perhaps a little about their company. 

18. Organize Events: Invite members to local events where they can interact in person; chances are the community’s bond will grow after meeting face to face.

19. Personalize Everything: To maximize activity in online communities the experience needs to be tailored to who the member is and how he or she has behaved in the past. Content should be delivered based on the person’s expressed interests (what they have clicked on, commented on or spent time reading), what the company anticipates she may be interested in next and other known elements about this person.

20. Provide a Voting System: Not all community members want to share or comment, but they can still be part of the community by voting on certain elements they would like to see in the community or by voting for another person’s comment as a confirmation they agree.

21. Repurpose Conversations: After obtaining permission, consider repurposing community conversations in the form of a blog or social posts. Not only could it encourage other advocates to join the community, but current members may appreciate the impact their insights can provide others. Repurposing conversations as good-looking graphics used in email or social channels may get others to join and actively participate as well. Capitalize on that fear of missing out (FOMO) element so many of us have.

22. Schedule Time: While some communities thrive even without admin participation, dedicated community managers (or those assigned as such) should schedule time out of their day to be active within the community themselves. By scheduling a time, the person will be less likely to forget or push it off for other tasks.

23. Share News There First: Treat community members like a public relations manager would treat a trusted reporter by sharing news there first whenever possible (e.g., product launches, new hires, sales). Community members will likely think nothing of it as the brand shares the news, but if they hear of it from somewhere else, they may feel slighted.

24. Social Login: Do not make a potential community member remember another username/password combination. To boost initial registration as well as activity levels, let them easily sign in for the first time and every time after with Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter  or LinkedIn login.

25. Spotlight Members & Moderators: Simple Q&A’s about who a person is, where they came from and what they are passionate about can make everyone more relatable to encourage participation.

Local Vs Organic: 3 Effective “Local Only” SEO Tactics

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For some, there is little variance in their organic and local SEO strategies. If the maps rankings you are trying to secure mirror the organic rankings, this can work out just fine.

However, if the map pack you are aiming for does not mirror the organic results, a few tweaks can dramatically decrease the time it takes to break into the top 3 map spots. Today, we are going to look at three ways to accelerate your progress when working with a disconnected map pack.

For the sake of clarity, a “disconnected map pack” is one that does not mirror the organic results. If #1-3 in the maps match #1-3 in organic, you do not have a disconnected map pack. If the sites in the map results are not the same ones ranking organically, you do have a disconnected map pack.

Now that we have that out of the way, lets get to it.

1. Press Releases

Press releases for organic SEO purposes only are a dated strategy. If you have something newsworthy and you reach out to real new sources directly, that can be a different story though. For the sake of local SEO, press releases can still work well.

As you may recall, the issue Google had with PRs is that they were meant to create numerous links from a single piece of content, much like article directories of the past. When it comes to local SEO, you are not looking for links from a PR though, you are looking for unstructured citations and geo-relevant brand mentions, both of which help Google confirm that you are located where you say you are. To be on the safe side, you should use no follow links in these PRs and when possible, mention your GMB or embed a map to your business for the extra boost.

2. Geo Networks

We touched on these before in our local SEO link building guide from a few weeks back, along with some other effective local link tactics. As previously mentioned, the point of these networks is very simple, to create geographical relevance. This can be achieved with city/county “lifestyle” blogs, with city specific social media profiles, and even with free blog platforms, so long as they are fully built and get frequently updated.

This strategy can be applied very effectively in two specific cases. If your business is filtered (Possum) and if you are just outside of the main city you are trying to rank in.

3. Map Embeds

Google My Maps is a free tool that will allow you to create, share, and embed custom local maps. In creating these, you can also add a lot of information such as:

– Business NAP Data
– Links to Your Website
– Links to Social Media
– Other Local Business
– Long Form Content

This means that you could create a map that links to your top social profiles, your top citations sources, your city specific landing page, and that these links could be surrounded by location optimized text. What’s more, you can then take these maps, and share (embed) them, boosting their authority, much like a YouTube video.

Using the other two tactics, you could include your local optimized map in your press release as a point of reference for people looking for your storefront and you could include it on your geo-network as well. There are a lot of creative ways you could share and boost each map, you could even start showing up on maps that other people create in your area…

Anyway, if you are a local SEO service provider, I think you get the gist. If you are a local business, keep it simple and you can still pull ahead of the competition using the three simple tactics discussed above.