Archive for the ‘eCommerce websites’ Category

Technology Predictions for 2018 around online tech

December 11th, 2017 by Heather Maloney

2018 Tech Predictions

As we wrap up the last 2 weeks of 2017, we have been considering what we are likely to see in 2018 technology. You might like to mull over this with your mulled wine and Christmas pudding (or beer and BBQ). Better still; give it some thought as you carry out new year planning.

The Top 8 things we expect to see around online technologies during 2018:

  1. Increased pressure on smaller online retailers. If you don’t provide a very niche product or experience, that is, if the products you are selling online have many competitors, then your customers are likely to migrate to the larger online retailers including Amazon. The winners will be those with the most products, with the more consistently lower price, providing an easy shopping experience, and fast low cost delivery.
  2. Increased percentage of market share to smart phones running the Android operating system, particularly due to the uptake of Google pixel, but also lower cost Android smart phones.
  3. Increased automation of homes using internet-connected devices due to the major marketing push of Google Home.
  4. Increased integration between apps to make completing the jobs you need to get done even easier.
  5. Increased specialisation of apps for niche markets, again with the intention of making it super easy for people carrying out a task in a well-defined category, to achieve that task as efficiently as possible.
  6. Increased online shopping and therefore parcel delivery into homes; delivery costs paid by the consumer will continue to fall.
  7. Increased use of Apple Pay and Android Pay as more and more people use their smart phones as their payment device.
  8. Increased development of apps that utilise AI / machine learning, making decisions on behalf of organisations in order to more rapidly provide a personalised experience for individual app users.

Feel free to contribute your thoughts!

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Gamification of your online store

October 28th, 2015 by Heather Maloney

gamificationAll of you who attended the Melbourne Business Network event yesterday morning with me, and heard James Tuckerman speak about “5 disruptive trends and tactics that will reinvent how business is done in 2016″, will undoubtedly have been considering how you can implement gamification.

Gamification is “the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts” (source).

But first, if you are interested in some recent statistics on the impact of gamification, here’s an article I found which is a quick read: Gamification in 2015: Top Statistics and Facts. Here’s some more facts and figures.

Here’s a quick brainstorm on how to implement gamification into the online shopping experience (without culling the ridiculous … yes, aliens may get a mention).

Let’s get the obvious out the way first:

  • For first time customers (you can work that out based on their email address) after successful payment immediately reward them with a ‘first time customer’ badge, and give them something as a reward – that might be an additional extra product thrown into their first delivery, a discount off their next purchase, reward points …

By the way, before I go on … congratulations on choosing to read this blog, and getting past the first few paragraphs! Click here to get your reward. Seriously now, click!

Now where were we … okay, back to the perhaps less obvious ideas (and you wouldn’t necessarily do all of these things simultaneously):

  1. After the customer adds an item into their shopping cart, congratulate them with a badge and explain that they are x steps closer to owning their new item. Sounds, visuals and a feeling of game play are important aspects of gamification; so don’t make it too boring.
  2. As the customer works their way through the checkout, make it into a game … giving them fun visuals showing that they are progressing through the purchasing of their prize.
  3. For returning customers, give them a different reward compared to first timers … perhaps accrue points towards their free / goal purchase. To make this feel like a game, perhaps avoid a “frequent flier points” style point system, and lean more towards collecting cute ‘widgets’ to achieve a goal number of ‘widgets’.
  4. For customers who click through from your purchase confirmation email, to track the progress of their order or shipping, show them another badge – the excited shopper award perhaps! Make this sometimes anxious stage of the wait fun for your customer, and ease their mind that their parcel is on the way.
  5. For customers who click through to view your terms and conditions or payment security page, show them another badge – the careful shopper award perhaps. Again, this helps you to turn this more serious matter into something more light hearted and friendly.

Alright … there’s the brainstorm. You’ve probably thought of a few more, so please add to the above list via the comments!

Or tell us if you have noticed gamification popping up in business websites, like the DropBox example 1 and example 2?

NB: There is a real life prize for the first comment added to this blog post. You will receive your surprise gift in the mail.

 

 

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Integrating your shopping cart with the Google Shopping API

July 29th, 2015 by Harry Liu

The use of Google shopping is becoming more popular in Australia. The norm used to be that you would use the main Google search box, or more recently just type your search terms into the address bar and press enter, to find and compare products. Using this method, the search results is usually a list of websites, requiring you to view many sites to find the best purchase, or if you trusted them, you could use a comparison site to find you the best deal. Now we can use Google Shopping – https://www.google.com.au/shopping – to search items from a collection of ecommerce websites.
google-shopping-example

A search in Google Shopping returns an easy to navigate set of products (images, names, ratings, price) with multiple searching options, a powerful filter to narrow down the set of recommendations, and a Shortlist feature to help you select the product to purchase. Clicking on a product allows you to see more details, including any reviews, and then click through to purchase the product from the original vendor. However Google will only list products that have been submitted by an eCommerce website – Google doesn’t go out and gather product information to populate Google Shopping, as it does with the regular search engine results.

The simplest way to submit your products to the Google Shopping engine is to use the API (application programming interface) supplied by Google. We have recently implemented an automated product feed into Google Shopping for Miami Stainless, so now you can find their stainless steel products through Google Shopping e.g. search on ‘balustrade wire’.

On average it will take around 4 – 5 hours for us to implement automated integration of a Contact Point Shopping Cart website’s product information with the Google Shopping engine. You may elect to only send to Google products that aren’t on sale, or perhaps, certain categories of product – these sorts of rules can be programmed into the automated product feed from your online store.

Why not make the most of this opportunity in Google to place your products in front of more customers?

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Highly Personalised eCommerce snapping at the heels of traditional online stores

June 25th, 2015 by Heather Maloney

personalised ecommerce
The June Business Essentials audio program features an interview of one of the Australian entrepreneurs responsible for the recently launched personalised online shoe store Shoes of Prey. After choosing a base style (flats, mid-heel, high-heel, sandal, ankle boot etc) the Shoes of Prey online shoe designer tool allows you to customise your shoe to the nth degree. You can choose from a wide range of colours and materials, add straps, bows and other add-ons, even customising the colour of the insole, and toe sole (yes they are different). You can interact with the look of your unique shoe as you customise it. The end result can be a truly unique pair of shoes, made exactly to your size requirements, or if you are spoiled for choices and can’t decide, the website shows you the designs other customers have created allowing you to select one of those instead (and then add your own personalisation).

This blog: Personalised Shopping Services: How a bunch of menswear retailers found the future of ecommerce describes seven different online mens clothing stores which address the problem of men not liking shopping, but still wanting to look good and have new clothes. The retailers solve the problem in a variety of different ways, but personalisation is key – understanding the man’s size, shape, style preferences, budget, and then delivering to those preferences on a regular basis.

All of these examples make it clear that the next phase of ecommerce is here, and snapping at the heels of the “traditional” online stores. This phase of ecommerce takes personalisation to the next level. It’s not about personalising the person’s name in the emails you send and sending a birthday card & discount a few weeks before your customer’s birthday, it’s about combining the power of technology with personal service in order to provide exactly what each customer wants and needs.

I know where I will be ordering my next pair of shoes … it might even be worth a trip to Sydney to try on the various sizes and base shoe styles in the Shoes of Prey range.

The following points are clear from the stories of the abovementioned online stores:

  • The existing marketplace vendors believed that personlisation of their products was too hard
  • There certainly were lots of difficulties to overcome and significant effort required in order to support a personalised service – this lead some retailers taking on the manufacturing themselves
  • The more highly personalised model has delivered rapid growth of market share for the entrepreneurs who took on and solved the challenges
  • Customers receiving a highly personal service are likely to spend more, spend more often, and have greater loyalty to the store

I’ve been banging on about richer personalisation, particularly as it relates to email marketing, since the launch of eNudge in 2006. Marketers have been talking about marketing to an audience of one for about the same length of time.

Now that the greater personalisation is being experienced by consumers via solutions like those described above, all businesses need to think about how they can provide a more personalised service, creating customers who don’t want to go anywhere else. If you are already providing a personalised product through your online store, you still need to think about how you can take that up a notch … for example, think about the monthly service provided by one of the male clothing store vendors, sending a regular package to their customers to rent, buy or send back. It’s proactive, not reactive, but isn’t just sending the same things to everyone – the service is personalised based on in depth knowledge of each customer.

Perhaps you would like help to take your ecommerce store to a higher level of personalisation, or perhaps take your offline solution onto the internet providing a highly customised experience? I believe there are similar opportunities for B2B solutions and professional services. We need to stop thinking “it’s too hard” and start working out ways it can be done utilising a combination of technology and customer service.

We’re here to help you grow using technology, so feel free to get in touch.

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The New Contact Point Master Code

May 31st, 2015 by Mark Solly

There are many PHP code frameworks and ecosystems, including the more recently popularised WordPress environment. However, both myself in pre-Contact Point days, and Contact Point, have preferred to work based on a purpose-built codebase which has the following benefits over using a framework:

  • Our code is highly efficient and lean, helping to ensure the quick operation of your website, and enabling easier maintenance. Because a framework such as Word Press has to be all things to all people, they usually contain a large amount of code and functionality that will never be used for your website. This unused code not only takes up room and makes it harder to find the exact piece of code we may need to alter, it may also create an undetected security vulnerability. Any additional functionality can be easily incorporated into our codebase, still keeping the overall code lean and efficient.
  • Our code is robust; security to prevent SQL injection and other malicious activity is built into the core removing the need for constant security patching. Security patches will still be required from time to time, but much less frequently than the very well known frameworks which are often a target for hackers due to their large user base.
  • It incorporates the latest user experience elements which website users have come to expect – things like immediate prompting when the visitor enters information incorrectly into a web form, and animated page and style transitions. Should new user experience elements present in future, it will be relatively easy to add those also.
  • Easily customisable to facilitate bespoke requirements of each website.

We have recently overhauled the Contact Point Master Code in order to bring the best aspects of the Solly codebase and the Contact Point codebase. In particular the new Contact Point Master Code:

  • Combines the environment for the content management system and online administration systems of websites
  • Supports the concept of page plug-ins giving the webmaster the ability to quickly add components, such as online forms and image galleries, into new pages of the website
  • Ensures a more intuitive user interface for both the website visitor and online administrator
  • Incorporates into the shopping cart solution a collection of features that have become “standard” in more recent years such as automated SEO friendly URLs, meta tags and meta descriptions

If we built your shopping cart or web application many years ago, and you would like to benefit from some of the features described above, please don’t hesitate to contact Heather Maloney to discuss how we can most cost effectively deploy the new codebase for your solution.

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ecommerce; the amazing opportunity to improve customer service

February 19th, 2015 by Heather Maloney

online shopping gives rise to improved customer servicePeople often think of online stores as being devoid of customer service compared to the local retail outlet. After all, in a physical store you can ask for help, discuss various products and what they do, and receive your product immediately.

However, a scenario over the Christmas break gave me an example of where online shopping comes into its own with respect to customer service. My mother thought she would try out buying her groceries from Coles online rather than making what has become an arduous trip down to the supermarket. It’s arduous because she would need to take my handicapped sister with her, and she can be quite a handful, especially when you are also trying to push a trolley, and keep her with you as you are walking back through the carpark, and cars … and of course my mother is no spring chicken. In addition, my mother has recently hurt her shoulder and therefore pushing the trolley, and carrying the groceries from the car to the kitchen is also an ordeal.

Introducing online grocery shopping … my mother was so excited to receive her first delivery from Coles. “This is really living” she exclaimed. “It’s as if you are back to the old days of customer service where you went to the grocery store counter, gave them your order written on a piece of paper, and they packed it all up for you.” My mum was very pleased with the ‘delivery-to-the-kitchen-table’ service, ensuring that she didn’t need to pick up or carry bags anywhere, and the delivery cost where she lives is next to nothing compared to the convenience. Actually, Mum expects to save some money by not buying impulse items placed in strategic locations around the store. She was delighted with the products selected, feeling that she got the best on offer (not those picked over and prodded by others), and amazed at receiving SMS messages telling her when it would be delivered etc. Placing a future order is even easier with prompts to order commonly purchased items and the option to save your shopping list for future use.

Of course online grocery shopping isn’t going to suit everyone; we can’t all be home during the available timeslots to receive our delivery, and sometimes we do just need something right now. However, it reminded me that online stores by very nature give us the opportunity to provide even better customer service than the physical counterpart. Below I have described some unique ways in which customer service can be improved through online stores. Consider these in relation to your online store (or that of your friends / colleagues):

  • icon-searchproducts3Quick searching through the available products – have you ever been up and down aisle after aisle in a supermarket trying to find gelatine or horseradish? With your online store think about the different ways people might like to search for your product, and include those words in the product names or descriptions to ensure they can be found on those words.
  • icon-availabilityAvailability information – again at the supermarket, when you get to the place where you think you should find product xyz but can’t find it there, you have no idea whether you are looking in the wrong place, whether it is out of stock, or if it’s been discontinued. For products with different sizes, you might not know whether your size is actually made in this product. This extra information is easy to supply via an online store.
  • icon-informationReference material about the products can help your customer make informed decisions e.g. where it is made, why you would want the product, how to use the product, list of ingredients, awards won by the product, example images of the product in use, other products that people bought to go with this product, customer reviews, social media feedback etc. This is much easier to do online where you aren’t paying for shelf space to store all the extra information, or for shop assistants to help each customer. It may take some time to put this information in, but it never ceases to amaze me the number of online stores that give scant information about a product and expect the customer to guess about its properties when they can’t touch or feel it, read the box, talk to a person … The reference material may also include details of extended warranties and other product support; when you are offered these as a last minute option at the checkout, it’s very easy to say no thanks and not even really understand what they give you and why they might be worthwhile.
  • icon-supportImmediate assistance via online chat. It is often hard to actually get assistance in a store; once you find an assistant walking the floor, you’ll often be waiting for them to finish with another customer. When you get to talk to a person, they often don’t know much about the product you are considering. Online chat, whilst requiring people to be at their PCs to respond, can allow a single salesperson to deal effectively and quickly with multiple people at once, or pass the enquiry onto someone else who can help. The Miami Stainless website is an example of one of our client websites using online chat very effectively to support the sales process. Online chat also provides the personal touch, counteracting the claim that online stores are devoid of human contact.
  • icon-transactionhistory2Access to Transaction History is usually not a service provided in a physical store, and certainly not at the customer’s control. Online gives you the opportunity to show the customer what they have purchased before, store a wish list, store a “standard” order, remind customers of the consumables they need for previous purchases, notify customers when the consumables are on special …
  • icon-deliveryDelivery is an important part of the customer experience, and must be handled with care for online customers. As in the case of my mother’s online supermarket shopping, and in the case of the time poor, or remotely located persons, it might actually be an advantage of online shopping for some customers. Providing a range of delivery options (express, standard, insured) provides even greater customer service. Because you are packing and sending the product, you also have the opportunity to add items to the delivery. Lots of online retailers take the opportunity to add a little something to give an element of surprise to the customer. I always feel happier receiving my deliveries when my products have been lovingly packed (which is a bit like unwrapping a gift, even though you know what’s coming) compared to stuffed in a parcel bag with a grotty picking slip.
    Of course for downloadable products, the delivery is immediate, and you need to ensure that the delivery mechanism is secure, easy for the customer, and repeatable where something goes wrong.
  • icon-after-sales3After Sales Customer Service via email or phone is also a very important way online shopping can provide better customer service than in store. The customer doesn’t need to get back to the store and remember who they spoke to and on what day, they can simply refer back to their order. Online store operators need to check emails regularly. Depending on your product, having a knowledge base of likely questions or problems the customer may encounter is very important. Providing an easy process to follow with regard to returns (if you allow them) is very important also to ensure your customer comes back again.

You may have experienced yet other ways in which online shopping can provide additional customer service. I’d love to hear your examples here, so please add your comments below.

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Google Tag Manager: What is it and why do I need it?

September 23rd, 2014 by Trevor Robinson

Google Tag Manager (‘GTM’) is a free tag managing solution that enables website owners and marketing teams to have more control over the manner in which web traffic and visitor actions are measured throughout their websites, and allows consolidation of tracking across Google Analytics, Adwords, Remarketing, together with 3rd Party Vendors such as ClickTail. A tag is a snippet of code which can be used to measure website traffic and help analyse and identify your website visitors and their on-site behaviourial patterns. Tagging, when implemented well can yield powerful data to gauge the overall performance of your website and marketing efforts.

Whilst GTM was introduced by Google in 2012, it is really only recently that marketers and webmasters have started to take advantage of what it can offer. Once the single code snippet for GTM is added to your website, all of your tags can then be managed from GTM’s admin panel.

The Benefits of GTM

  • Efficiency – One of the most beneficial aspects of the Google Tag Manager from a website owner or marketers standpoint is efficiency.  Now that you can add, edit and test website tags directly through the GTM user interface, you will save both time and money as you won’t need to contact your developer each time a tag needs to be edited or added.
  • Enhanced tag management - As mentioned earlier, multiple website tags can really complicate the tag management process (especially if they are from different platforms or vendors). GTM allows you to view, edit and add tags through the GTM interface quickly and easily all from the one platform.
  • Event listeners - Tracking user interaction such as clicks, PDF downloads and form submissions is excitingly simple to accomplish with Google Tag Manager. Event listeners eliminate the need to manually tag each user interaction that you would like to track. Through the GTM admin panel you can target links or buttons by attributes that are already contained in the link such as an id, class or URL.
  • Testing and debugging – It’s always been good practice to ensure that your tags are firing (working) before they are published on the web. GTM comes with a built-in debugging window where you can test any tag changes on your website before they are published on your website.

While GTM empowers website owners and marketers with greater control and flexibility, development teams are also positively affected as they are able to focus on the more complex and technically demanding tasks.

We recommend watching the GTM introductory video created by Google which may give you a better visual understanding as to what the tag manager is and how it can help your business.

We have recently implemented the Google Tag Manager for the Contact Point website, and can confirm that there is a learning curve to understand how to use GTM. However, it will be worth the investment if the data it provides is analysed, and the insights gained from the analysis drive changes to the structure and functionality of your website. Changes made to your website as a result of your insights can then be very quickly monitored for the impact they are having on your metrics.

We particularly see that the GTM will be beneficial for eCommerce websites as it will allow webmasters to analyse behaviours such as:

  1. Sharing of product information in social media
  2. Clicking through to subscribe to your newsletter from a particular page
  3. Accessing online chat
  4. Customer Reviews emanating from follow up email
  5. Adding an item to your wish list
  6. Ascribing behaviours to the logged in user ID

Please get in touch with us for more information on Google’s Tag Manager or for any assistance with initial implementation.

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Social is now Normal Media

January 21st, 2014 by Heather Maloney

An article written by Brian Solis just over a year ago described social media being the new normal. I’ve been banging on about social media for a few years now, but in the last 6 months or so, I’ve noticed a change in Australia… people (media and the general public, young and old) now include social media in their conversations as a matter of fact, rather than as if it’s the latest cool thing, or as if to say “we’re on it too, but we don’t know how to use it”.

There are definitely areas, and segments, where social media proliferates more than others. We’re seeing it feature heavily in:

commerce – research for products and services, reviews, recommendations, complaints
promoting causes – both in the not for profit sector, and grass roots causes such as in response to tragedies
news - both personal updates about life, as well as discussion about historical events as they happen
events - promotion of events and then during events the audience / attendees engage in deeper involvement in live events, TV and radio programs using social media tools
education and innovation – information sharing and collaboration / discussion around specific topics
leisure / games – my mother who is 30+ years older than me recently relented and signed up for Facebook in order to participate in the online game, Candy Crush, with her sisters and she now shares more on Facebook than I do.

An interesting example has occurred recently in the estate where I live. The estate has a body corporate with a moderated online forum. The moderation takes days sometimes to allow posts on the forum to appear after submission… and if there’s any concern about the content of the posts (i.e. they don’t say the “right” types of things) then the posts may not make it, or be delayed for weeks. So residents have taken matters into their own hands, and setup a group on Facebook where they discuss issues. It’s of course not moderated, and therefore posts are instant and engagement is arguably deeper.

I know some of you are still sceptical about social media. No matter what your business is, you need to be thinking about where and how you can get engaged in the [not so] new place where the relevant conversation is happening. It has the added potential benefit of boosting your search engine optimisation.

We’ve recently added a relatively new Facebook feature to the Note Couture ecommerce website, which allows comments to be added by visitors alongside a product (in this case an illustration which you can add to personalise stationery) within the website. These comments will also simultaneously appear in their Facebook timeline, and are therefore not anonymous, giving them greater credibility. Of course, we’ve configured the Facebook Comments integration to include a thumbnail of the product into the Facebook timeline, which will encourage the commenter’s friends to click through and visit the website. To close the loop, Note Couture can moderate the comments that are added using this mechanism, to deal quickly with inappropriate content. You can see an example here: I love this illustration!

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Online Stores – should you be sending an automated request for a review?

April 12th, 2013 by Heather Maloney

I recently received an email from an online store from which I purchased some clothing (I’ve been their customer for many years), providing me with a set of thumbnails for the items I had purchased a couple of weeks ago, and asking me to provide a review. The email was interesting because:

  • it came from an actual person at the company from whom I’d purchased (rather than the usual generic email address of sales type emails).
  • it encouraged me to provide customer reviews to help other customers make the right choices – appealing to altruism.
  • it displayed in stars, the average usual rating that the particular products I had purchased received.
  • it gave me links through for each particular product, to make it quick for me to rate particular items.
  • it provided me with instructions and a link to login and change my preferences so that I no longer receive product review emails.

The email also provided at the bottom some links and images for new arrivals, and top rated styles.

This email has a great feel about it – more like a value-add than a sales tool. Of course, if I click through and provide my review, I’m going to be bang in the middle of the store, and highly likely to start browsing through items again, and possibly make another purchase. Overall, it’s a great way to continue the engagement with your customers, and it’s all automated based on a previous purchase.

How would you feel about receiving the email I’ve described? Please share your thoughts by adding your comment below.

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