Monday, October 9, 2017 by Shayla Price
Monday, October 9, 2017 by Casey Kelly-Barton
Personalize Your Online Store's Customer Experience with Magento ExtensionsOnline shoppers expect a customized experience now, with stores showing them the types of products they like before they have to spend a lot of time searching. But an eMarketer report from earlier this year found that only slightly more than half of retailers offer any type of customized web experience for shoppers. Many retailers customize their email marketing messages, but not the experiences in their online store. Those that don't are leaving money on the table and losing the loyalty of customers who want to be recognized. Here's what you need to know about personalizing your customers' experience in your online store. The desire for a personalized shopping experience is nearly universal. The majority of Millennial and Gen X shoppers want retailers to know their preferences and are willing to share personal data with stores in order to save time and help them find the items they want quickly. It's not only young consumers who want a made-to-fit experience, either. A Deloitte report from 2015 found that consumers over age 55 are the most likely to order up a personalized vacation package. Catering to these desires can translate into better sales and stronger customer loyalty. Among retailers who have personalized their sites and mobile apps for customers, 48% reported a rise in sales of more than 10%. Personalization can take many forms, from “other products you may like” to clothing in preferred sizes and colors to the timing of offers for particular products. Retailers who have some control over the manufacturing process can offer product customization options, which are increasingly in demand. Let's look at four ways to give each customer a personalized experience in your store.
Customize your shop to meet customer expectationsMagento lets you set up your shop the way you want it to reflect your brand and stand out from “off the rack” store layouts. The Magento Marketplace offers store owners more than 1,800 extensions to help you add the features and functions your customers expect. More than 700 of those extensions focus on store content presentation, search, review, and customization options. If you can't find exactly what you and your customers want, Magento's open-source code means you can have something custom-built to suit your needs. Let's look at some of the extensions that provide personalized product recommendations, targeted social media ads, and product-customization tools for your store.
Suggest “other products you may like”More than 80% of online shoppers in North America want stores to serve up product recommendations for them. Most major retailers already do this – the best known example is Amazon's suite of product recommendations, ranging from new Kindle titles to clothing, food, and other items based on your past purchases and searches. Your smaller online store can build customer loyalty by offering similar recommendations with Magento extensions that use customers' data to show suggestions. Softcube's highly popular extension needs as few as two clicks from new customers to start serving product recommendations based on customer preferences, sizes, and more. The developer says its personalization extension can boost sales by as much as 20%.
Tailor your offers to your customers' habits and needsAnother Magento extension, Nosto, supplies personalized product recommendations along with tools to bring customers back to your store, through personalized emails and Facebook retargeting. Nosto also gives your store the ability to reach “lookalike customers” (with demographics similar to your existing customers) through personalized Facebook ad campaigns. Nosto and similar tools can help your store make the right offer at the right time – the “contextual relevance” that retail-industry watchers say is one of the keys to surviving and thriving in the time of Amazon and Google's micro-moments.
Offer co-created items and a menu of custom optionsSuggesting the right products at the right time is one aspect of personalizing the customer experience. Letting customers personalize their product choices is another. Made-to-order clothing, shoes, and other goods used to be reserved for the very wealthy and the lucky friends and families of craftspeople. Now platforms like Etsy make it easy for shoppers to request personalized items from artisans, and e-commerce tools like Magento offer the same type of options for standalone online stores. Meanwhile, artists and small manufacturers can tailor production to each online customer's preferences—a new phenomenon known as “mass personalization.” For example, Shoes of Prey sells customized shoes online. Shoppers can choose not only size and style but color, heel type and height, materials, and embellishments and have their design made to order and delivered within a couple of weeks. This type of customization isn't limited to $150 pumps, either. Jewelry designers, kids' clothing makers, sticker artists and many other small business owners offer custom options in the online stores. To give your customers these options in a Magento-powered store, you'll need an extension. Two of the most popular for product customization are Product Personalization by SM Design and Personalized Products by Milople. Milople's offering lets shoppers add art and text to your stock products, make color and font choices, and more. SM Design's extension lets you customize the personalization options for your products and gives you the option to show the personalization details at checkout.
More personalization = more salesAll these personalization options take some time to research, choose, test, and put in place, but they can put your store ahead of the competition. More personalization can lead to better customer retention, more sales to your existing customers, and more new customers brought in through ads that show products tailored to their interests. If you're just starting out and planning your store, check out HostGator's Magento hosting packages that include email marketing tools for your new business.
Sunday, October 1, 2017 by Shayla Price
5 Ways Web Design Can Make or Break Your WebsiteIs it time for a website makeover? Your website is prime real estate online. It’s where you can showcase your unique talents and where future clients can learn about your services. Because your website is an integral part of your brand, it makes sense that it looks professional and impresses all your visitors. You want to immediately grab their attention. The right website design builds trust. It gives social proof and encourages people to inquire about products. The best sites attract people, not repel them. It’s time to strengthen your brand image. Keep reading to learn how a professional design makeover can improve your website.
1. Visitor ExperienceThe design of a website is a make-or-break moment for your business. An Adobe study noted that if “given 15 minutes to consume content, two-thirds of people would rather read something beautifully designed than something plain.” A well-designed website enhances the visitor experience. It’s visually pleasing and captures people’s attention. You’ve probably landed on an unattractive website before, and your instincts automatically tell you to exit the screen. Instead, you want to draw people in. Here’s an example from Tatte Bakery & Cafe. The site is modern with two bold images, the brand’s logo, and lots of white space. Beyond eye-catching images, the visitor experience also includes the functionality of the site. Can visitors easily navigate your site without any hassle? Your website isn’t a static piece of art. It’s a dynamic tool for presenting your business to the world. So, you’ll want to insert strong calls to action within your site to lead visitors on a journey. Good design gives visitors a clear pathway to find what they need on your site. Set your design standards and observe how people use your site to make improvements.
2. Brand IdentityThe marketplace is crowded with businesses seeking to gain more customers. With so much competition, it’s easy for buyers to mistake your brand for another business. It’s vital that your website stand out from the rest, and it all starts with a solid brand identity—the consumers’ perception of your business. Itai Elizur, COO at InboundJunction, agrees: “It’s hard to overstate the importance of a solid brand look, no matter the size of your business or how long you’ve been around. From first impression to building engagement and growing solid relationships, your brand identity is crucial.” A modern website not only looks great and impresses your customers, but it also tells a story about your brand’s mission and values. To create a distinct and memorable brand identity, think about your customers’ expectations and the message you want to convey. Your identity is represented through the structure, the color palette, and the fonts of your site. Keep consistency as a guiding principle as you create your website. Visitors should recognize your brand within a few seconds—without having to see your logo. Moreover, finding the right balance between branding and design takes time. Don’t feel anxious if it takes you longer than expected to build your website.
3. Mobile LifestyleYour audience is exploring websites when they’re commuting from work, visiting a friend out of town, and waiting in line at the grocery store. Research found that “mobile devices now account for nearly 2 of every 3 minutes spent online.” Your goal is to develop a mobile-friendly design that works seamlessly on all devices, from smartphones to desktops. Sizing your site to fit each device makes it convenient for visitors to navigate your content. “Taking a mobile-first approach necessitates a lot of focus and attention on the needs of the user, and it requires the company to hone in on what is most essential about its message and its content. There’s no room for flashy widgets and vanity features,” states Forbes contributor Gabriel Shaoolian. Below is a mobile website from airline JetBlue. You’ll notice that the content fits in the screen without having to zoom in or out. Plus, a simple finger tap opens drop-down menus. You also want to consider the limitations of mobile devices. Not every task on a desktop website is suitable for a smartphone or tablet version. For instance, you might disable a live chat support feature or remove specific pop-up windows. You’ll have to make critical decisions on how you will engage with your mobile visitors.
4. Social ProofPeople trust websites that look professional. If you want customers to work with you, you need to fortify your brand site with social proof. When consumers visit your website, they need immediate indicators that you’re a reputable business. They want to know that you’re not engaged in phony transactions or attempting to sell their personal information. Social proof eases the tensions and gives credence to your brand. These trust elements include badges from the Better Business Bureau or logos from past mentions in publications. However, those types of social proof aren’t always the most effective. People believe their family and peers more than another business vouching for a brand. Fast Company reports that “70% of consumers say they look at product reviews before making a purchase.” Buyers want honest opinions from current consumers. Serial entrepreneur Neil Patel practices this strategy. On his consulting page, he provides testimonials from his past clients showing how he impacted their work. Experiment with different forms of social proof on your page. You can post a customer quote with a photo of the individual. Or you can upload a short video clip from a past client. The key is to illustrate the respect your brand receives in the industry. This is your chance to brag a little.
5. More SalesLet’s be honest. When visitors land on your site, you don’t want them leaving without purchasing your product or at least inquiring about your services. It’s important to work with your designer to create a natural flow from interested buyers to new customers. This means anticipating how visitors will interact with your website as it relates to the sales funnel. Obed Richman, an experienced web designer, offers his perspective: “It isn’t enough to state explicitly in your written content that you can solve someone’s problem—not if that message is drowning in so much poor design that your customer doesn’t read it. Every element of your website needs to be designed to point towards that one end goal: attracting your customer, and solving their problem.” What pages will people visit first? How easy is it for visitors to shop in your eCommerce store? Can they contact you directly? For example, the checkout process should be streamlined for the buyer. Focus on reducing the number of clicks it takes to complete a transaction. Normally, businesses implement a three-step process: the add-to-cart page, the payment page, and the confirmation page. Designing a sales-ready website is less about the product and more about the consumer. You’re crafting an experience that promotes shopping.
It’s Makeover Time!Is your website lacking pizazz? Take the leap and get a professional design makeover. A new website look enhances the visitor experience by improving functionality. It displays your brand identity with visual storytelling. Also, you can update your site to fit your audience’s mobile lifestyle. Don't wait another second! Check out HostGator's web design services for more details.
Should Your Business Offer a Refer-a-Friend Program?No matter how much you invest in marketing and how good your messaging is, nothing you say will ever be as convincing to prospective customers as hearing from happy customers themselves. An enthusiastic recommendation from someone who’s like them and has already had direct experience with your company is powerful. Word-of-mouth or referral marketing isn’t the easiest type of marketing to do. It’s not something you can simply pay for, since happy customers have to be earned. But if you can find a way to encourage your current customers to help promote your brand and products to other people in your audience – you pretty much hit the marketing jackpot.
What is a Customer Referral Program?One of the best options you have for looping your customers into your marketing and promotion efforts is with a customer referral program. Customer referral programs encourage and incentivize customers to spread the word of a product or service they already use to their friends, acquaintances and social media networks. Friends and followers trust that a person they know wouldn’t promote a product unless they believed it was worth it, so they’re more likely to give it a try – especially if their friend’s promotion includes a discount for them as well. It’s a win-win for all involved. You get a new customer, and both the referrer and person referred get a good deal.
3 Benefits of Starting a Customer Referral ProgramCustomer referral programs are powerful for a few key reasons.
1. People trust recommendations from friends.Nielsen research has found that people trust recommendations from friends more than any other source. That confirms what most of us already intuitively feel. We know our friends have no reason to lead us astray. If they say their experience with a product or company is good, we have no reason to suspect ours will be any different.
2. Referral programs are naturally targeted.Marketers spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to reach our target audience where they are. Chances are, a lot of the people in our target audience are hanging out with other people in our target audience. Each new customer your marketing earns you gives you a way in to reaching their contacts, which is likely to include a number of other people with similar likes and interests to them.
3.When referral marketing works, it’s exponential.This might be the best thing about customer referral programs. All that hard work you did to attract one customer with ads, SEO, and content marketing doesn’t just pay off in them buying the product. When they see that you have a referral program that rewards them for spreading the word, they tell all their friends. If even just a few of those friends decide to give you a try, love the product, and respond the same way to your referral program, then you have several new customers promoting your product to all their friends. Your reach will grow and grow.
How to Start a Customer Referral ProgramIn order to get a customer referral program going, there are a few key steps you need to take.
1. Create a plan.Before moving forward, you need to sit down and work out the basics of how you want your customer referral plan to work. In this step, consider who your audience is, what their habits are, and what drives them. For instance, you’d be best off considering a different approach to a referral program for middle aged moms who are most likely to make recommendations to friends in person than you would for teenagers that spend a lot of time on social media. Determine what reward you should offer that you're confident will incentivize your customers. If you sell the kind of product that inspires a lot of repeat customers, then a discount on a future purchase can benefit both them and you. If you sell the kind of big-ticket item a person’s not likely to buy again for a while, then something like a gift card or a discount at a partner business may make more sense. In addition to rewarding the customer that sends referrals your way, you should also plan on offering something to incentivize their friends and followers to take the step of signing up. Offer a discount, a longer trial, or something else that makes it a better value for them to sign up through their friend’s referral link.
2. Pick your software.Setting up and implementing a referral program will be much easier if you invest in the right software for doing so. Referral software can help you organize and streamline the process of promoting your referral program and providing customers with what they need to participate. Take some time to review your options and get some quotes for those that look like the best fit. How much work you have to put into the process and how good of an experience your customers have will have a lot to do with the type of software you use.
3. Develop all the marketing materials you need.Like any other marketing campaign, a customer referral campaign will require creating a variety of marketing materials. You’ll need to call in your usual team to design and write emails, landing pages, graphics for the campaign and anything else you’ll need to promote your referral program. Your program won’t get far unless your customers learn it exists and are convinced it’s worth it to them to get involved. This is the step where you make that happen.
5 Best Practices for Running a Successful Customer Referral ProgramFirst things first, this only works if you have a good product and stellar customer service. Hopefully you already have those things under control. If you’re providing your customers with the kind of experience they’ll want to share with others, then go a little bit further with these best practices.
1. Promote your referral program to all your customers.Anyone who buys a product from you has the potential to be a valued member of your referral program. Make sure you take every opportunity you can (without becoming a nuisance) to let your customers know about the program and urge them to get involved. Rover regularly emails their current sitters urging them to recommend the service to other sitters in exchange for gift cards and/or the ability to be entered into a contest. This periodic reminder, coupled with an attractive incentive, makes current sitters that much more likely to think to mention Rover when they encounter friends likely to be a good fit for the service.
2. Promote it on your website.In addition to emails, hit them with a reminder every time they come to your website. Every time a customer visits the Naturebox website, they see the promise of FREE SNACKS displayed in orange in the top menu. That menu item leads to a page touting their referral program. That means any time someone’s browsing the site hungrily, they get a reminder of how easy it is to save money by looping their friends in on the deal.
3. Make sure the reward is worth it.Your referral program isn’t likely to go far if you’re not offering something people will want – on both ends of the deal. Gift cards and credits are a pretty tried and true method – people like free money. But you can find other ways to incentivize people as well. For example, Dropbox offers free storage to people who participate in their referral program.
4. Make it easy for them to share.Many social media plug-ins exist because of one, simple truth. People are more likely to do the thing you want them to (in this case, share their referral link) if you remove all friction and make it totally painless. To that effect, Rover provides pre-filled copy for email, Twitter, and Facebook that people can use if they don’t want to bother writing their own message.
5. Make it easy for them to claim their reward.The customers that refer their friends are some of your most valuable customers. You want to keep them happy so they keep spreading the word about you. So don’t make them jump through any hoops to claim the reward they’ve earned. Make it automatic. When someone comes to you through a customer’s referral link, have it set up so your customer automatically receives the discount, credit, gift card or other reward you’ve promised as soon as possible. If it’s an easy and rewarding experience for them, there’s a good chance they’ll keep it up and send more people your way. The customers that love you are more valuable to your company than anything else. They can make and break your success. Customer referral programs give you a way to actively nurture those connections and gain new customers at the same time. When done well, they’re beneficial to all involved and can be a boon to both your customer relationships and your bottom line.
Use Google Analytics to Find the Most Visited Pages on Your WebsiteWhether you run a small website with just a few pages or practice content marketing and have 1,000 blog posts, it’s valuable to understand how people interact with your website. One piece of information any website owner should pay attention to is which of your webpages are getting the most traffic. Luckily, that’s a pretty simple metric to access.
Find Your Most Popular Pages in Google AnalyticsFirst, you need to login to your Google Analytics account. If you haven’t set up Google Analytics for your website yet, then get that done ASAP. You can find instructions on how to do so here (or here for WordPress websites). The rest of these steps will only benefit you once you have Google Analytics tracking set up on your website for a while, so if you just set it up today, bookmark this post and make a note in your calendar to revisit it in a few weeks once you have some data to work with. Once you’re in, choose Behavior in the left hand menu. Under that, select Site Content and then All Pages. And that’s it, you should now be seeing a list of the pages in your website ordered by how much traffic they receive. Google Analytics usually defaults to showing you just the last week’s worth of information, but you can expand that by changing the date range in the top right corner.
How to Use This InformationNow that you have the information, what are you supposed to do with it? Well, your most popular pages have something to tell you about what’s working best for your website. And they provide you with opportunities to do more to capture the attention of the people who navigate to your website so you can (hopefully) turn one-off visits into ongoing relationships. Here are a few steps you can take to get more out of your most popular pages.
1. Add CTAs to keep the relationship going.What happens when people land on these pages? If most of them leave again without visiting any other pages on your website or signing up for your email list or taking any of the other actions you’d ideally like them to, then you’re missing opportunities. Figure out what you’d most like people to do after they visit each popular page, and craft a call to action to help guide them in that direction.
2. Add relevant internal links to other pages on your site.Internal links both encourage your visitors to check out other pages on your website and contribute to improving the SEO of the pages you link to. Make sure the links you include fit in naturally on the page, and don’t try to force a link in there that doesn’t make sense. Be sure to include relevant anchor text for the links you create (those are the words that are linked, the ones that show up in blue). It’s one little step you can take to give those pages some extra SEO power.
3. Analyze what’s working for your most popular pages.There’s some reason that your most popular pages are outperforming the others. Try to figure out what that is. Start by looking at how people found the page. You can see this in Google Analytics under the Acquisition section. If a lot of that traffic is coming through organic search, then your SEO is working for you. If it’s coming from referral links on social media or other pages, then that tells you something about how well your promotion efforts are working. Look for things your most popular pages have in common. If most of the top pages are longform blog posts over 1,500 words and they’re handily outperforming your 500-word posts, then you know that a focus on longform is a good strategy. Maybe your popular pages are formatted differently than others, or maybe they tend to focus on particular topics your audience is especially interested. Do your best to work out what makes these pages special.
4. Revisit low-traffic pages to implement improvements.Your insights from step three will likely provide you some useful information in how to make the other pages on your site stronger. Work out a plan to re-visit your older pages and posts and make updates to them based on what you learned in your analysis.
5. Incorporate your insights into your plan for future pages.In addition to improving your current pages, use those insights to help you plan your future content. Figure out related or similar topics that you can cover on your blog. If your most popular pages tend to be tutorials, make more of those. Whatever this project has shown you is working, figure out a plan to do more of that.
6. Use A/B testing to confirm your insights.It’s possible to draw the wrong assumptions from an analysis like the one you did in step three. To avoid committing long term to a strategy based on a mistaken assumption about why your popular content is working, do some A/B testing. Create two pieces of content that are similar in every way but one – maybe they have a different CTA, different title format, or different lengths. By seeing the comparison in how they perform, you can either confirm or correct your assumptions about what made those popular posts work. Your analytics have a lot to tell you about what your website visitors like. To make use of that information, you have to get into the habit of paying attention to the metrics that matter and creating an action plan to turn those insights into improvements.