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August 2013

Building Brand Loyalty and Annihilating Customer Attrition

 by zack on 24 Aug 2013 |
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  In the world of ecommerce, it’s very common to be concerned with attracting unique visitors. Online retailers are always looking for big injections of new capital to keep their businesses expanding. And there’s nothing wrong with this line of thinking. Unique visitors are a vital part of cultivating a successful online store. The trouble only begins when the value of unique visits outweighs the efforts at customer retention. It’s one thing to have an endless stream of new visitors, if you’ve got that going you’re in good shape already. However, wouldn’t it be preferable to keep at least a portion of those unique visitors coming back on a consistent basis? The returning customers form a core group of supporters from which you can extend your reach and grow your business. Today, we’re talking about the best ways to measure and improve brand loyalty. That means utilizing effective analytics, and implementing user-friendly strategies that will promise to cut back on your customer attrition, thereby turning your brand into a commodity that your customers will enthusiastically support. First, let’s define our terms. What is brand loyalty, and what do you need to know about customer retention? These phrases are really synonyms. They both mean that the customers your online store is attracting are going to be return business. Customer attrition, on the other hand, is the amount of loyal customers that you end up losing for one reason or another. These are somewhat immaterial expressions that need to be quantified in more concrete terms. That’s where your handy dandy metric measurements come into play. There are several different helpful metrics for measuring brand loyalty, and we’ll be giving you the lowdown on what they are, and how you should be using them to maximize the lifetime value of your customers.   LVC Speaking of the lifetime value of a customer. That’s the first metric you’ll need to understand. This metric is, of course, an estimate. That is unless you’ve been in business for 70+ years and have kept exemplary records for individual customers. But then, if that were the case, we wouldn’t be talking about ecommerce anymore, but regular brick and mortar retail. So assuming that you aren’t ageless and omniscient, let’s begin with the formula for evaluating a customer’s lifetime value. Customer Lifetime value (CLV) = (AVG profit per year x number of years)-acquisition costs     This next part is very important; this formula will only be effective if you have an accurate grasp of your profit margins. Profit margins are something you should be keeping close track of anyway. So consider this an added incentive for good bookkeeping, (like you really needed one more.)   Measuring CLV will help you to take a big picture approach to your business. You’re not living from paycheck to paycheck; you’re trying to build an empire. So try not to think about your customers in terms of single orders or purchases, but instead realize that every customer can be a repeat customer, if you approach them the right way.   One way to get a grip on how many repeat customers your business will have, aside from keeping contact lists and opt-in subscriptions to your newsletters and such, is to measure your NPS.   Net Promoter Score Net Promoter Score is the measurement your customers give your website, rating their satisfaction with your services. However, while they’re rating you, you’re actually categorizing them.  It works like this: before finalizing a purchase you put in an optionally answerable survey. You just ask your customers how satisfied they were with their shopping experience. A simple score that your customers give your site from 1-10 can reveal how big a cheerleader they’ll be for your business. With an NPS in place, you can gauge how much word of mouth advertising you’re likely to produce-- or how many bad reviews.   The general breakdown for Net Promoter score goes a little like this: A score between 9 and 10 is repeat business. They enjoyed their experience and they’ll be back. They’ll probably even go to bat for you with their friends and possibly attract other visitors to your site. Scores between 7 and 8 are satisfied customers, but would probably be susceptible to your competition’s marketing ploys. You don’t have their complete trust and happiness in your brand. Not yet.  A score of 1 through 6 is trouble. These people were not happy with their experience and are likely to talk negatively about your company in the future. It might not be a bad idea to reach out to these people and see if any amends can be made.   Reduce customer attrition It’s much easier to convince a returning visitor to buy than it is convince a unique visitor to do the same. And when we say easier, we mean much less expensive. Part of the cost of running a business is new customer acquisition. If the customer is already acquired, you can relax the budget a bit when trying to re-convert. That’s because the initial advertising that put your brand in view for your return customers has already done its job. These folks are aware of you, and are fond enough of you to have already made a purchase. If everything worked out well for them once, there’s no reason to assume it wouldn’t be the same way again. In these cases, the only thing you have to worry about is keeping the competition from wooing them away with a better offer. Think about it this way, working to keep customer attrition at a minimum is like trying to fill up a leaky bucket with water. You want to plug up as many holes as you can so the bucket will stay fuller for longer. If you’re not plugging up the holes, you’re essentially just pouring profit down the drain. So how do we go about trying to reduce customer attrition, and working to improve retention? Let’s take a look. Ways to Measure and Improve Retention It’s better to know where your retention rate is at before developing a plan to improve it. So first we need to talk about how you can measure your brand loyalty. Google Analytics has a helpful feature to do just that. Using Google’s Loyalty reports you can measure: Loyalty- that is the number of visits within a given time period. Recency- How long ago was the last time your repeat visitor looked at your site? Length of visits- This is the amount of time that the repeat visitor stayed on your site. And Depth of visits-the number of different pages visited during the length of the visitor’s stay. Measuring these metrics can give you a good idea of how many loyal customers you have, how often they’re visiting your site, and how engaged with your brand they are during their visits. It’s an extremely helpful report in determining what your customer’s are interested in, and how to best keep them interacting with your business. For example, using what you know about your loyal customers in aggregate, you can target all of the ones that stayed on a certain product page for a certain length of time. Let’s say you segmented your loyal customers by visitors to a single product page within the last week. Further segment that group to those who stayed for over 5 minutes without completing an order. These were people that were on the fence, but couldn’t commit to the purchase. Assuming that you have their contact information from the former purchases that they’ve made, you can reach out to these customers with a special offer email. Traditionally, these sorts of highly targeted email campaigns have been extremely successful. But beyond looking for that extra conversion, you can keep a customer happy by working to meet a need. We’ve already touched on this somewhat, briefly mentioning that an opt-in signup for your mailing list and newsletter is a fantastic way to keep customers engaged. You can also have a registration or subscription situation in place. That way your visitors will be more inclined to become loyal customers once they’ve made their first purchases. That means you need to offer some incentive to registering beyond just finishing the transaction that they’ve decided to make. Having their information stored for easy return purchasing is sometimes incentive enough. However, your visitors might also resent having to give out more of their personal information than is necessary for online shopping in the first place. In that case, an incentive to register for your online store could be something as simple as free content. Helpful how-to information or an educational e-book is the perfect fit for something like this. Another way to build customer retention is with a reward program of some sort. Special offers and exclusive deals for membership can have a powerful allure. So don’t feel hesitant to sacrifice a little capital in order to improve retention. Remember that it will make you a lot more profit over the customer’s lifetime. You also shouldn’t overlook the power of social media to keep customer attrition at a minimum. Social media allows you to have a real relationship with your visitors, and build a brand loyalty based on individual interactions rather than favors done on a mass scale. Promoting client loyalty with simple strategies like these can go a long way in building your online store into an ecommerce powerhouse. So don’t be shy about interacting with customers. They appreciate the individual attention, and if so enticed, they’ll become valuable lifetime customers who will pay back the difference many times over. So remember to keep customer attrition down and brand loyalty to a maximum by continuing to get the best ecommerce advice available on the Ashop blog. 

Your ROI: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know

 by zack on 20 Aug 2013 |
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Very few metrics are more important than your ROI. Return of investment is used to determine which of your efforts are producing worthwhile results, as well as those that are turning out to be mainly worthless. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to track ROI in certain ventures. Social media for example, is a notoriously difficult ROI to follow. But never you mind the nay saying. We’re trying to remain solution oriented even in the most indomitable of circumstances. So strap in and suit up, we’ll be focusing on the many methods of determining the exact value of your investments. Why should I track ROI? For most of you, this is probably a no-brainer. It’s far more difficult to think of a single valid reason why you shouldn’t track an investment’s return, than it is to give you a comprehensive list of all of the benefits that tracking your ROI can have for your business. And because it’s always better to work smarter rather than harder, we’ll be going point by point through the benefits, both subtle and obvious, of tracking Return of Investment. Think first about your organization as a human body, that of a professional athlete, who must always be in peak condition for world level competition. Think about your ROI as a monthly diagnostic performed by medical personnel. You’re trying to see exactly where your body is performing, and what it’s missing. If your diet suffers, then you won’t be able to run a sub 5-minute mile any longer. If you aren’t getting enough rest, you won’t be able to clean and snatch 400 lbs. It’s a slippery slope, if you don’t keep track of exactly how each vital component in your health and nutrition is interacting with the whole of your body, then some aspect of it is going to break down when you push it too far. The health of your organization is the same way. Your overall reach, customer engagement, marketing, advertising, sales, and customer service components work together to keep your company’s heart rate healthy while you’re pushing the organization to its limits. To be certain of y our organization’s overall health, you’ll need to keep a close eye on each of these, and experiment with different variables to see what increases the end return of each. Versatility There's a variety of different marketing channels, and ROI can be tracked for most all of them. Just check out this graph of some of the most profitable digital marketing channels on average Return of investment is an effective metric for many reasons, but its proclivity is what sets it apart the most. You can calculate ROI on nearly every action your business takes. Whether it’s a keyword you pay to rank for, as we discussed in out last post about the new Ashop UI, or perhaps the elusive effects of measuring social media returns. ROI can be applied in numerous capacities to offer you multitudes of powerful data bits that can help you make informed business decisions. Profits Let’s get down to brass tax. Everyone gets into the ecommerce business for one reason: they want to make money. Profit drives innovation, commerce, and every other factor that puts business of any kind in motion. The single greatest strength of ROI as a metric is its ability to measure the true profit value of an investment. Knowing the amount of revenue your company produces is one thing, but knowing exactly how much of a percentage change each action you take produces in revenue is quite another. ROI exists to give you the lowdown on your profits that you can’t get just by looking at bottom lines. Complete Metric Let’s go back to the human body metaphor for a moment. When going in for that monthly diagnostic, you don’t just measure your blood pressure, heart rate, height, weight, and call it a day.  You check blood levels, hormone levels, and an overall full body check. What is your insulin doing? Is your bone density holding up okay? You want to make sure your business health is measured in the same way, and that’s what ROI is for. ROI is what we like to refer to as a Complete Metric, and just as the title suggests it gives you a fuller picture than many other metrics do in isolation. How to measure your ROI Now that we’ve established the “why” behind ROI measurement, we can start digging into the nitty-gritty to discover the many methods behind the “how.” The Simple Stuff—and Some Complications In general, there is a simple formula to measure ROI.  You take the difference of the cost of your investment and your sales after implementing a new promotion, and then divide the difference by that same cost. Once you’ve got that number, you multiply it by 100 to express ROI as a percentage. Fairly easy to follow, yes? It looks something like this: [(R-I)/I] x 100= ROI I= Investment cost, R= revenue earned from sales Using this simple ROI formula, you can draw, for the most part, very accurate conclusions about the efficacy of your marketing efforts. Let’s imagine an example to give you a better idea of what we’re talking about. Let’s pretend that your online store sells widgets. You’re rolling out your brand new widget model for the year, and you're going to start an email marketing campaign that reaches a sizable amount of customers from your contact list. You’ve targeted each recipient according to feedback you’ve received as well as their tracked behavior on your site. So let’s say that this email campaign targets 1,000 different people, all loyal customers to your site. The email is personalized to each customer using a mail service that fills in their names, and the tracked behavior they’ve exhibited in the past. For example the introduction might go something like this: “Hello Samantha, Because you bought last year’s model of our patented mega-widget, we thought you might be interested in our brand new hyper-widget…” Now that you’ve got the template designed and the targets locked, the bill for this venture comes out to a nice round figure of $4,000.00. You send out the blast and of the 1,000 people 800 clickthrough to your site. You must have done an exemplary job of targeting.  Of the 800 people 500 made orders for the new hyper-widget. The hyper-widgets sells for $30.00 a pop. So you got $5,000.00 out of the promotion. So let's plug in the numbers to find your ROI: [(5,000-4,000)/4,000]x 100=25  So your ROI =+25% Easy stuff. Unfortunately, there are a few other contributing factors that take this simple ROI formula, and turn it into a complex process that can leave your brain numb. The biggest problem for marketers concerning ROI is time. Short-term campaigns are easy to measure. You know how much you spent, you can see the impact of said campaign in your quarterly report, and you’ve got easy to digest numbers explaining the increased revenues. Long term investments and effects are a whole different ball game. A long-term promotion takes a while to build momentum; your profits may shoot up initially, level out, then drop, and then rise again due to a number of factors. The longer the campaign goes on, the more difficult it becomes to quantify. Another thing that makes ROI difficult to deal with is the number of variables that interplay to drive up your sales. Fluctuations in market, bugs in your site, supply/demand, incidental costs associated with the product, overhead costs, and a numerous amount of other issues can all affect your profits. It can be difficult to isolate a single factor and assign praise or guilt for a change in ROI. Even though there you've got these complicating factors, they can be overcome through precise planning, and good bookkeeping. To keep ahead of the time curve, you simply have to measure your metrics on a schedule. Perform ROI measurements on a set schedule, and keep track of the overall trends rather than the day to day changes. Precise metric tracking, such as is available with Ashop’s system of integrated metrics, can help you determine the outside factors that have affected your sales in the short term, while still allowing you to keep your eye on the big picture ROI over longer periods of time. Your Personal Efforts Aside from leaning over your computer screen and bean-counting, there are some other ways to more subjectively ascertain what your ROI might look like. A lot of this is simple stuff that can have some complex implications for your marketing efforts. You can begin by asking your customers questions. Things like: How did you hear about us? What was your first exposure to our business? What made you decide to buy this product? All of the answers to these questions can provide you with interesting insights as to how your customers are interacting with your online presence, and where you can focus more of your efforts, as well as where the money you’ve spent is providing you with the greatest ROI. There are other interesting ways to track customer interaction, and its effects on your ROI, such as different landing pages for different campaign efforts, using unique coupon codes for each campaign, and grouping tracked customers by the different sources of their exposure. Taking these simple steps will help you gather numerical data about how many of your customers are coming from your different points of contact. Software Tools Measuring ROI is a difficult process for human beings without any sort of mechanical assistance. Using different computational implements can streamline your work and help you spend minimal effort, while receiving accurate information about the metrics that matter most to your business. We’ve already mentioned email marketing, and how helpful a service like MailChimp or Silverpop can be. And if you’re a regular reader or customer, you know how proud we are of our own software that allows us to calculate our own return of investment in various circumstances. There are literally dozens of software options out there for you to choose from that can help you measure your ROI in a variety of ways. Though we’re sure you’ll understand that ours is the best and most helpful. Your ROI is for sure your first and best resort for finding out a particular promotion’s effectiveness, and should be utilized as often as possible when developing sales and marketing strategies. It’s the number one metric for savvy online marketers and is undoubtedly a permanent mainstay in the ecommerce vernacular. Learn it, use it, and love it.  That’s all for now. Keep coming back to the Ashop blog for more helpful information to build your ecommerce empire

Ashop Ecommerce Software: Our New UI

 by zack on 12 Aug 2013 |
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  Normally on the Ashop blog we try to stay away from talking ourselves up too much. We aim to be a helpful resource to our customers, not just a hard sell site. But with our brand new user interface having just made its debut, we feel like we can take some time to pat ourselves on the back and go over some of the cooler features and benefits that we’ve worked so hard to provide for our fans. With all of the online commerce platforms out there, we want to express our appreciation for you, our loyal customers, in as many ways as possible. One of those ways is by working hard to put out a quality product. That's something  which we can confidently say we’ve handily achieved. So today we’re going to take an introductory look at our new UI, some of its major features and benefits, and the best ways to put this software to use while building your very own online commerce empire. So let’s get down to business and see what new exciting idiosyncrasies are in store. Smoother Aesthetics We won’t be spending too much time on this subject, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least briefly mention our intentions for (and pride at) the look of our brand new UI. The sleeker look of the Ashop system may be the least important of the changes we’ve made, but it’s certainly the most attractive. To put it simply, these changes have been made for your enjoyment and our vanity. We truly believe that Ashop is one of the first of the next wave of online commerce platform software suites, and to this end we’ve worked hard to make it look the part. While a distinction of human effort has always been straight lines and hard angles, it seems like the aesthetics of the future are turning toward a more earthy and organic look. So to stay current, we’ve rounded out all of our sharp edges off to give a smoother and more relaxed impression to all of the user interface’s dashboard pages. In the title graphic, you can see how this attractively plays out on the metrics page, which coincidentally is the subject where we’ll be turning our attention to next. Metric Driven System We’ll start looking into our improved functionality by bringing out the big guns first. Our specialized metric driven system is the pride and joy of our new interface. It allows you to track every ecommerce metric of any importance, in a familiar and easily digestible format. It’s not dissimilar to the Google Analytics structure, but it allows for analysis in much greater detail. What really sets our product apart is the degree of segmentation that’s possible. You can compare any metric you like on the timeline of your choosing: this week’s sales vs. last week’s sales, this month’s vs. last month’s, even this year’s vs. last year’s. You can make custom ranges to compare whatever metrics you like across whatever time periods you wish. This is so you’ll be able to compare your sales and marketing efforts in either broad or narrow terms, depending on your needs.  To go even further, you can actually segment metrics by category as well. Unique visitors by source, conversion rate by brand, average Revenue Per Visit by category or product. These itemized lists allow for a great deal of variation in the way you combine and segment your metrics.  With a little practice, you will find yourself getting lost inside of the gigantic amounts of data at your disposal.  Fortunately, you'll also be able to organize this data on your dashboard. That way you can find the metrics you deem most important quickly and easily.   Though perhaps you would like a more specific example of how you could best utilize this functionality. So let’s take a look at how you might decide to track your ROI on a particular marketing campaign using the new Ashop UI. Using Ashop's UI to Track ROI   Tracking ROI is all about measuring your conversions. Not just sales conversions either. Though the term "conversion" is often pigeonholed into the narrow definition of number of sales, it actually refers to any positive outcome resulting from a customer interaction with your site or marketing efforts, so long as that interaction holds value to your end goals.   So let’s put this knowledge to good use. Consider this hypothetical: you’ve paid out X amount of dollars into an SEO campaign with the goal of increasing your unique visitors. Specifically, you’re trying to rank for 10 new keywords on your site's different landing pages. By going to your Ashop dashboard and clicking on your unique visitors metric, you can then customize the date range to measure the time period when this campaign went into effect. Furthermore, you can scroll down to the Dig Deeper dropdown menu and breakdown your unique visitors by the segment titled: Keyword (Organic). This will show you a list of unique visits that came about as a direct result of visitors entering in your ranked keyword to their search queries. Pretty cool, huh? Now you know which keywords are performing, but why stop there? Since you know how many visitors these keywords are bringing in, wouldn’t you like to know how many of those visitors are making purchases? I’ll bet you would. Head back to your metrics page, and click on sales. Segment it by the same variable, Keyword (organic), and see how this list matches up with the previous one. Now you know exactly how many unique visitors each keyword is bringing in organically, as well as how much money the same keyword is responsible for producing. So all you have to do next is determine whether the number of sales brought in by your 10 new keywords is greater than the X amount of dollars you spent getting them to rank highly as search results. This is how you track conversions from the start of your sales funnel all the way to the finish, and determine your ROI using the Ashop Metric driven system. The best part? This is only one of the many ways you can use the metrics to determine advertising effectiveness and cultivate your ecommerce business. Let’s talk a bit more about that. Using Metrics to Determine Your Advertising Budget   Revenue Per Visit as compared to profit margins will help you determine what you should be spending on specific aspects of advertising. Go to your dashboard and click on the revenue per visit metric on you metrics page. Take a look around at all of the different information available to you. As you can see there’s a lot to take in. You’ve got the average, minimum, and maximum amounts which are based on your daily sales/visitors. You also have a graph charting this performance over your date range, just like you did with the unique visitors and sales pages we went over earlier. You also have the Dig Deeper drop down menu to segment your RVP against different variables. So to use RVP to determine your ad budget, go to the Dig Deeper menu and click on campaigns. There you have each of your created campaigns and the amount of revenue they are producing, as compared to the total number of visitors to the site within the date range you’ve selected. This list will be ordered from greatest to least profitable. Taking this knowledge into account and comparing it to your profit margins, you can now ascertain how much flex spending you have for each category. For example, if you have a PPC campaign producing an average of $3.00 per visitor in sales and costing you $1.50 per click, not only have you doubled your investment, but you have an extra 1.50 to bid on that advertisement. This will increase that successful ad’s exposure to different users, drawing more visitors to your site, and putting more dollars into your revenues. Not too shabby. However, I’m sensing that you’d like to get into even more specified detail. So let’s discuss the use of metrics on your product pages to measure individual product performance. Integrated Metrics On your dashboard there’s a tab labeled Inventory. Clicking on it will reveal a dropdown menu with the heading Products. Clicking here will bring you to your overview of different product pages. Clicking on a specific product will bring you that product’s performance metrics. Here you can take a look at all of the relevant information surrounding any of your products like the number of visits to the page, the amount of revenue that page is drawing in, and your conversion rate. Using this information, you can determine which of your products need a boost in advertising, or which are total non-starters. The latter of these might need to be removed from your inventory permanently. You can even make comparisons between products and draw ever more enlightening conclusions.  Also under your Inventory menu is a another subheading named Variant Templates that bears some looking into. Along with the integrated metrics on your product pages, you can customize products by creating a group of variant templates. This way your customers can choose from a variety of different options when it comes to your products. For example, if you’re selling clothes, you would want to create a size variant and a color variant. Unless you’re selling one size fits all spandex that is. Assuming you're not caturing to an exhibitionist audience though, you would want a small, medium, and large set of groupings. You can create as many other variants for each of your products as you need, and even combine several at a time for your customer's convenience.  You can just imagine all of the numerous applications that this data might have in your business model. However, this is only the beginning of the Ashop online commerce platform’s usability. We could talk about the many forms and functions of this software for days upon end, but frankly it would turn this already lengthy post into an overly voluminous eBook. Instead, we’ll just conclude here, and offer our support team’s services for any further questions, comments, or product-related feedback you might have. Drop us a line using the live chat box, our contact email, or by visiting the community forum. We have certified professionals monitoring all three channels, and they’re anxious to help you with whatever questions or difficulties pop up. So thank you for indulging us in our post about the invaluable applications of metrics using Ashop’s online commerce user interface. We worked very hard to bring a quality product to market, and now that it’s finished we just couldn’t help putting out some self-aggrandizing content. This is only the beginning, so keep up with the latest Ashop news by following us on our various social media outlets. 

Customer Service: The Good, Bad, and the Ugly

 by zack on 10 Aug 2013 |
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It’s one of those things that’s so basic it can be easy to overlook, but customer service is really imperative to any ecommerce business. With a saturated online retail market like we have in today’s virtual reality, providing subpar service to your client’s will quickly alienate them, causing them to leave in droves. It’s in your best interest not only to provide an excellent product, but also an excellent experience around that product. If you don’t, you can bet that someone else will, and your site’s visitors will quickly take notice. The good news is providing quality customer support and care can be as easy as being sociable. Today, we’ll go over some of the basics of good customer service, as well as some of the gaffs you’ll want to avoid. Good Customer Service Providing your customers with quality service and care should be a primary focus. However, it’s easy to get lost in all of the day-to-day humdrum of running an online store. So be vigilant against complacency, and always remember that you’re there to provide reasonably priced products as well as convenience. Convenience should be your mantra, always be looking for ways to improve user interactions and experiences with your brand. The easier it is to engage with your company, the more willing a visitor will be to buy from you. This is an issue of attitude and effort. How far are you willing to go, in order to close the sale? If you responded with “the extra  mile,” you’ve probably been in the business for a while, and that’s good. You’ll know what to expect. So stretch out because we’re about to put in some serious leg work. Beyond having a winning attitude in your interactions with customers, you’ll also need to provide multiple avenues for interaction. Customer service is a multi-tiered operation. You need to have several direct lines of contact that play toward a multitude of consumer preferences. Your company should be easily reachable through all of the following channels: Phone –The fastest way for a customer to make him/herself understood. Email – Easy, unintimidating, and prompt communication. Live chat–77% of online shoppers expect this service from a reputable ecommerce site. Snail mail–Because some folks like to keep it old school, and it’s nice to give and receive a hand written letter. Use direct mail for a personal touch that really spells quality customer care. You should also set up a support forum, where your users can discuss issues, problems, or difficulties with your products or site. This allows a degree of self-help, as well as offering a great means of monitoring customer feedback and reactions to your product. Most customers begin their search for answers at your website, and if you can avoid spending man-hours directly addressing their needs, by having a DIY resource at their disposal, you’ll save a lot of time, effort, and all the accompanying overhead costs.  A support forum can be a valuable resource to both you and your customers. Another factor that should play a role in your customer service strategies is social media. Whether you’re a Facebook fan or not, you have to recognize that social networks have revolutionized the way that businesses can interact with their clients. Developing a social media presence isn’t just essential from a marketing standpoint, but it’s also a boon to the way you’re able to intercept customer complaints and get ahead of any misgivings that someone may have about your products, content, or the reputation of your brand. Being present on social outlets also affords you an opportunity to react quickly to customer complaints. Speed is a powerful force in online retail, and should be prioritized in customer interactions. Try to provide a timely response to any customer outreach, no matter how big or small. This shouldn’t only be limited to social media interaction either. No one wants to wait 5 days to receive an email reply. Keep on top of your interactions with consumers on every level, because it could be the difference between a loyal customer and a bad review. Lastly, you’ll want to manage your customer’s expectations. Don’t promise the moon if you can’t deliver. They say that hate is only love deferred, and this idiom holds true in the arena of customer care as well. When dining out, a restaurant patron isn’t going to be happy if they ordered prime rib and received sirloin. Be honest and upfront with the services that you can provide, and then look to deliver a little more than what the customer expects. A little extra care will go a long way in establishing yourself as a trusted source of consumer satisfaction. Bad Customer Service While all of the above will make you friends and help you influence people, all of the following will ostracize and disappoint the clients who keep the lights on in your office. There are certain things that any and every ecommerce success story will be sure to steer clear of. Here are a few pro-tips on the faux pas you need to avoid. Don’t make a customer repeat themselves.  It’s irritating at the best of times and downright infuriating when you’ve got a problem with a purchase. Having to move up the chain of customer support command when explaining a problem can be a real chore. This is especially true if every time you reach a new higher up, you’re forced to re-explain the situation to another uninformed employee. It’ll drive a customer bonkers, and leave them with a bad taste in their mouth. So make sure they only explain their problem once, and have that information recorded and relayed in every transfer. Or if you can avoid transferring at all, go ahead and do so. Keeping a single point of contact with a customer helps develop a rapport, and a deeper level of intimacy. One that they’ll definitely appreciate. Keep and informed staff. Ask yourself this question: if one of my employees doesn’t know enough about our brand to be a good ambassador for our company, why would I let them talk to a customer with a problem? You wouldn’t. So don’t. Train any customer facing employees properly and to the fullest extent. This isn’t a job for the inexperienced. Providing good customer service can be a frustrating and difficult job. It’s not for the impatient, the faint of heart, and especially not for the uninformed. You want your staff to answer any and all customer queries in a prompt, friendly, and efficient manner. Don’t be inflexible. Life is all about compromises. If you fall back on that tired old “I’m sorry, but that’s store policy,” every time someone asks you to go above and beyond the call of customer service, you’ll end up looking more like a brick wall than an amiable ecommerce outlet. Use customer interactions as an opportunity to let you customers know that they can sometimes trump the rulebook. This kind of customer service will pay big dividends in the long run. Try to keep these customer service crisis points in mind whenever engaging a loyal buyer. They’ll appreciate the fact that you’ve gone the extra mile, and you’ll appreciate the positive feedback they give you, as well as the word of mouth advertising that will follow. Good customer service is all about attentiveness. Listen, compromise, and conveniently acquiesce to any demands that aren’t too overbearing. Keep to a policy of accessibility, rather than insensitivity. If you can follow these guidelines, your company will be on its way to ecommerce affluence and customer service excellence.  That’s all for now, keep updated with the latest ecommerce happenings on the Ashop blog.

Managing Your Marketing Budget Part 2

 by zack on 03 Aug 2013 |
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Welcome back to our post series discussing the best methods to build the perfect marketing budget for your ecommerce business. Last time we talked about calculating ROI and using that to inform your budgetary decisions, as well as a few of the different common areas of marketing budget spending. Today we’ll be talking about a series of different spending scenarios and some of the best practices for addressing common problems. So let’s jump right in with the next order of business. Where to Spend? Your needs define your spending. Your needs are measured in metrics, so to discover where you should be spending, you’ll need to spend some time measuring metrics. When you’re first starting out, a lot of this process will be trial and error. In the last post we talked about measuring your ROI and how it’s important to your budget. Today, we’ll be taking this underlying concept and applying it across all of your marketing channels. First you’ll need to define an initial testing budget for your marketing efforts. Along with your budget, you’ll want to define a time period for your testing phase. Once you’ve set these parameters, you can begin with your tests. This test budget and time period will be unique to your business’ goals and needs, so we’ll be working purely in the hypothetical realm from here on out. Hypothetical Marketing Budget Scenario Let’s say you’ve begun a brand new startup online store with a test budget of $2,500 for your first month. You’ve got a lot of content stockpiled from when you were planning this venture, but you’re starting from scratch in just about every other area. If you remember your list from yesterday you’ve got six different major areas to spend your marketing budget. SEO PPC CSE Content Social Media Conversion Optimization We’re starting your sales funnel from scratch in this example, so you should rank the importance of each item. You’ve got your content handled so that’s on the back burner. The areas with the highest average ROI are conversion optimization and CSE. So naturally, this is where your budgetary concerns begin.  Everyone’s list will be different according to their priorities but here’s a sample of marketing expenses in order of importance, in this specific scenario: Conversion optimization CSE SEO PPC Social Media Content You can apply a significant chunk of your budget toward making sure your landing page can convert, as well as trying to cheaply draw traffic toward the landing page. So let’s say 3/5 of your monthly budget is applied to those two areas. You hire a top notch copywriter and graphic artist team to design a stellar landing page, and you make sure that your products are appearing in the results of Google’s shopping application. You’re getting 500 page hits a day and converting 10% of your visitors, the average value per conversion is 25 dollars. Ain’t life grand? Total revenue accrued? $1,250.00 a day, and $37,500.00 for the month. Your ROI, if you remember your formula is: [(37,500-2,500)/2,500]*100=1400% Congratulations you’ve made your money back 14 times over. You go, girl. This is a great (if not an atypical and unrealistic) result. Because you’re having such awesome results, it’s time to adjust your budget. You can now afford to hire a pricey SEO expert to bring in all that juicy organic search traffic. Simply plug in your new expenses, adjust the calculations to reflect your new investment, and continue to record your results. Whatever you do, don’t forget to include your time in the calculation. If it takes you 3 hours every day to communicate and work with your SEO expert, multiply your hourly rate by three and add it to the amount that you’re investing. If you haven’t already broken your own salary down into its hourly components, now would be a good time to do so. This is obviously a grandiose example. These will not be typical results, and the math will not be so easy. There will certainly be more variables, and you’ll have to repeat this experiment over and over again, isolating each variable, and making adjustments based on your results. Selling things is supposed to be difficult. Goal Setting and Ratios Let’s assume your conversion rate isn’t going to be 10%. It’s more likely to be around 3 or 4 percent. So a natural goal for you would be to take that number up a notch. You’ll have to throw more resources, (time/money/effort) into conversion optimization. After another month of testing with a thousand more dollars spent into your conversion optimization budget, you haven’t noticed an increase in the conversions. Back to the drawing board. Turns out you’re targeting the wrong demographics for your products. Your social media strategy is slipping, and your SEO guy has targeted the wrong keywords on your website. You fire the old SEO guy, and pick up another who was referred to you by a friend. He’s working out fine. Now you’ve managed to meet that first goal, and you’ve bumped your conversion rate up to 7%.  But you’re not satisfied yet are you? This money is good, but more would certainly be better. You need to increase your reach. Your reach is the number of people that are going to be exposed to your marketing efforts. An increase in reach should result in an increase in traffic, but it won’t always. You’ll need to continue testing each and every aspect of your sales funnel, and see where you can allocate your budget dollars, (along with all of your other resources,) every time you set a new goal. Ideally, you want a consistent ratio between traffic, conversions, and investment. In other words, for every dollar you spend you’ll want x number of visitors to your site, and x percent of those visitors to be converted to sales. Ultimately, your goal should be to keep this ratio constant, rather than keep your marketing budget under a certain amount. Marketing is what drives your business and creates conversions, and a marketing budget is the means to that end. So if you are planning to limit your marketing budget, you are also essentially planning to limit your company’s growth. That’s probably not the best idea. Your marketing budget should always be flexible, and the only reasons you need to limit it, are for testing purposes, or fiscal constraints. Use what you have to as great effect as you can manage, and always be looking for new ways to exploit each dollar. The idea here is to limit the time spent and automate as much of your sales cycle as you can, so that you can enjoy the fruits of your labor, rather than continuously sow the seeds without ever letting the soil sit. If you’re struggling to keep above the red for years upon years, you either need to leave the business, or completely reassess your approach. And this method of goal setting, testing, and readjusting your marketing budget according to the metric data you collect on specific variables is an excellent method to employ in any major reassessment. That’s all the budget advice we have for now. Keep coming back to the Ashop blog for more expert ecommerce advice. 

Managing your Marketing Budget

 by zack on 02 Aug 2013 |
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Whether you’re just launching your ecommerce store or you’ve been in business for a while, you still need to constantly reassess your finances and adjust your budget accordingly. More money means more budgeted capital for all, less money means a different allocation of resources. So it doesn’t matter if you’re a rank amateur or a seasoned pro, you still have to make adjustments no matter where you are in the ecommerce process. Keeping this in mind, we’ve come up with a simple and effective list of tips and tricks that anyone can use to improve their marketing budget. No matter whether it’s the first time through the sales cycle or the forty first, there’s always room for improvement. Budget and ROI First and foremost, it should be noted that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to budgetary concerns. There aren’t any formulas that you can plug your numbers into and come out with the perfect individualized budget. There are simply too many variables for that to be the case. Since your revenues, products, marketing, content strategy, and overhead are all unique to your specific situation, you have to take all of these different factors into account when developing a budget. The most important thing you want to consider when building a budget is the potential ROI. In case you didn’t know, ROI stands for Return Of Investment. This is the amount of money you get back as compared to the money you’re spending. To be more specific, if you’re spending 30% of a $10,000.00 monthly budget on an SEO campaign, yet your organic search traffic is only responsible for a small fraction of your conversion revenue, let’s say $1900.00 over that same period of one month. That’s a very low ROI and simply a bad investment. Not because SEO isn’t a good investment, but perhaps because you’re using the wrong SEO tactics. It could be the SEO firm you’re employing, or maybe you’re using some outdated tactics, like building thousands of black hat links. Whatever the case may be, such a low ROI should inform you that the budget needs to be readjusted. How to calculate ROI Calculating ROI can be an extremely complicated process. As we’ve already mentioned, there are a lot of different variables to take into account. There are, however, some very, very, very simplified versions of an ROI formula that you can use to get an idea of how much an investment is paying off. In general, ROI = [(Payback - Investment)/Investment)]*100 So let’s define our terms. Payback is defined as the money you’ve earned that can be tracked directly back to a specific investment. The investment is the amount of money you’ve spent. And the 100 is so you can express your ROI as a percentage. So in our previous example where the investment was $3,000.00 on SEO, and the revenue generated from conversions that were directed to your site exclusively from organic search traffic was $1900.00 Let’s plug that into our formula: ROI= [($3,000.00-$1900.00)/$3,000.00]*100 = ($1,100/$3,000)*100 ROI=36.6% You’ve made just under thirty-seven percent of your investment back this month. Time to readjust. How not to calculate ROI In the previous example, we talked about a monthly ROI. It should be noted that ROI needs to be calculated monthly and annually. Try not to use trial periods any shorter than a month as they can cause you to come to inaccurate conclusions. Additionally, we isolated a single variable of your advertising budget. You want to make these calculations not just on single variables, but with your business as a whole as well. It’s good to isolate variables to decide where you can cut costs, but it’s important to take a broad view of your investment strategy as well. One important thing to remember is that investment doesn’t necessarily include only capital. You can invest a lot of time in a marketing campaign as well, and isn’t time idiomatically congruent with money? Calculate your ROI based not just on your monetary investments but on the investment of your overall resources.  Calculate your own hourly rate, and that of any employees working on the project, not just the direct fiscal concerns. Where to Spend There are a number of different areas that you can dump advertising dollars into. In general, these are the major areas of investment: SEO- SEO is a highly touted and much targeted area of investment. The advantages of SEO are astounding, but unfortunately the field itself is constantly in flux, and as a result is very volatile. SEO strategy is based on an expert’s ability to keep up with the ever-changing algorithms and search engine updates conducted by major traffic drivers like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! It’s also a consistent cost. Because of the ever changing nature of search engines, SEO is something that an ecommerce store has to keep paying in order to consistently rank higher in search engine results. However, the amount of traffic and concurrent conversions that can be attained by an effective SEO campaign is nothing to sneeze at. Honestly, SEO is essential for an ecommerce store, but it isn’t the end all and be all of your marketing budget.   PPC- If SEO is Yin, then PPC is Yang. Pay Per Click advertising is a sponsored link that is advertised by a search engine. You don’t have to pay for the link to be prominently placed. Instead, the costs accrue in accordance with the amount of clickthroughs that the link attracts. Hence the self-explanatory name: pay per click. PPC is another example of a consistent cost. As long as your link is attracting those clicks, you’ll be paying for each and every one. This can get very expensive, especially if only a small amount of those clickthroughs end up in conversions. If you’re going to invest heavily in a PPC campaign you want to make sure that your landing page is on point in its Conversion Optimization, which we’ll discuss in more depth below. Again though, despite the expense, ppc can be a very powerful form of advertising that generates tons of traffic for your site. If the ads are generating leads, it’s up to the rest of your sales funnel to convert those leads. The only problem comes in when the leads you’re attracting are low quality. That’s why you need to put a significant amount of market research into your targeting before ever investing in a PPC campaign. You don’t just want the curious to clickthrough; you want the curious and the hungry. CSE- Product listings on Comparative Shopping Engines (CSE) are Huge. They consistently out-perform text ads and they’re worth their weight in advertising gold. Getting your products listed in the Google Shopping app, Amazon, Shopzilla, EBay, Yahoo, Bing, or any other major listing will mean a very healthy boost in your revenue. These comparison shopping engines will host your product feeds for a fee. Either a cost per click, or a cost per ad fee. It just depends on the listing. Conversion Optimization- Conversion optimization is the process by which you shore up any holes in the latter half of your sales funnel. It means streamlining your landing page, investing in attractive copy, putting up killer images, hooking clients with free content, along with numerous other additional steps to be taken. Check out our post series on Conversion optimization beginning here.   Social Media Marketing- Social Media Marketing is one of those advertising markets that’s still in its beta testing phase. Marketers know that there is a gold mine of data for targeting potential customers on different social networks, but all the kinks for attracting traffic from the different platforms haven’t been completely worked out just yet. Facebook is generally considered a bad investment.  Twitter can be very powerful for creating brand recognition and positive buzz, but it isn’t the highest value on creating conversions. LinkedIn is still an untapped resource to a large degree. All of these have their pros and cons, and each could fill up eBook volumes as far as applicable strategies are concerned. Take a look at our recent posts on Twitter marketing, and keep an eye out for social media marketing trends as time goes on. While it’s still largely an unexplored field, you can bet that there are a lot of case studies being conducted at this very moment. Content Marketing-Content Marketing is another subject this blog has covered in more depth, but the necessities of a content marketing campaign are as follows: offer free useful information, become a trusted source of data within your niche, capitalize on your reader/viewer’s trust in your brand with special offers to your followers. There’s a lot more to it than that, but you can check out the different posts for that information. After examining each marketing avenue, you’d be smart to decide where you should spend your advertising dollars. This is another complex and difficult problem. One which we’ll have to discuss in enough depth and word count in our next post on the ins and outs of managing a marketing budget. While you’re anxiously awaiting the next installment in this post series, take a look at your marketing metrics to discover where your biggest advertising challenges lay. Are you suffering from low traffic, low quality leads, internet obscurity? Try to isolate the problem and look at which agent of advertisement would best address the problem. 
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