As big as ecommerce has become with worldwide sales of $123.7B in the first quarter alone, there’s still one huge disconnect—how to seamlessly bridge the physical shopping experience of a brick and mortar with the speed and convenience of shopping online.
Augmented and virtual reality has been getting a lot of press over the past 12 months with the promise of completely transforming the way we shop. Yet it still seems like widespread adoption by online merchants and online shoppers is a long way off which for me is more than a little puzzling.
The tools are already there to create a seamless shopping experience. Powerful mobile technology combined with blazing fast internet connectivity and crystal clear image resolution. Yet even the largest online retailers still rely on static thumbnails with little or now chance to truly try a product online before you buy.
Today I saw a few tweets from Tobi Lütke, CEO of Shopify that really caught my attention. If you’re not familiar with Shopify, they’ve gone from one of the first ecommece software providers to one of the biggest and most innovative ecommerce platforms on the planet. From the very beginning, they’ve pushed the envelope to think about ecommerce beyond just building websites. Tobi's tweets definitely didn't disappoint.
For the past few years, it turns out Shopify has been working hard on a way to simplify shopping with AR (augmented reality) and now they’re getting really close anticipating a fall 2018 launch.
With the new technology, consumers on iOS 12 this fall will have AR Quick Look — a feature that allows products to be previewed in AR directly from Safari. Best of all, Shopify figured out a way to make the functionality available without requiring users to download yet another app—an absolute deal breaker if you want to scale up quickly.
If an online retailer’s site contains product images that links to a specific file type (usdz file), a badge will appear in the upper right corner of the image. When shoppers tap on the badge, it will open AR Quick Look and let consumers see the product exactly as it would look on their book shelf, kitchen table, etc.
Shopify’s also working on backend support such as identifying partners that can assist with 3D modeling to help bring your products to life—virtually.
Imagine a completely immersive shopping experience. One where someone can visit your online store, find a product they like, see exactly what it would like in their space in real time, and then make a purchase with just one click using Apple Pay.
Ecommerce has relied on static, one-dimensional product thumbnails for far too long. Especially when the technology is there to do so much more. With augmented reality and companies like Shopify, ecommerce and online shopping are definitely going to get a lot more interesting. If you're currently running the iOS 12 beta, you can check out the new AR shopping experience on a live Shopify store: https://shop.magnolia.com/collections/arkit.
Stay tuned. This is only the beginning.
1%? 5%? 10%? When you’re measuring the success of your online marketing and your ecomerce store, what’s a good conversion rate?
I was recently talking to an online store owner with a conversion rate of less than 1%--somewhere around .005. That means for every 2000 visits during a typical month, 10 people would make a purchase. Although conversion rates can obviously vary by industry and product type (we’ll talk more about that later in this post), I believe the website can do better.
How Do You Define an Ecommerce Conversion?
For the purpose of this post, we’re going to define ecommerce conversions as the percentage of visitors who actually make a purchase from your online store. The percentage of website visitors who add an item to their cart and those who make it to the checkout are also hugely important. After all, if you don’t get enough people in your sales funnel, they’ll never actually buy anything.
Where Does Your Website Traffic Come From?
First things first—your conversion rates will depend a lot on the type of products you’re selling and where your traffic is actually coming from.
If you’re selling bigger ticket items it might take longer for people to buy so your conversion rate could be lower than if you’re selling $10 t-shirts.
If you’re generating a lot of traffic from Facebook, Instagram, etc., people hitting your site might be window shopping and not have the same level of intent as those landing on your site from organic traffic or Google Shopping campaigns.
Google Analytics can be an incredibly powerful tool for understanding sources of website traffic. Even if you’re using ecommerce platforms such as Shopify or BigCommerce that already have quite a bit of reporting built in, the depth of information you can glean from Analytics is second to none.
Once you’re in Google Analytics, just click “Acquisition” and then “Overview” for a quick look at traffic sources.
What’s a Good Ecommerce Conversion Rate?
According to an article from BigCommerce, average ecommerce conversion rates are 1-2%. However, they suggest setting a 2%+ conversion rate as the baseline goal for your online store. And I completely agree. Why limit yourself to only 1%? Wouldn’t you like to generate as many conversions from your website as humanly possible?
Assuming you have a good product and visitors to your website didn’t land there by accident, every click means you have a chance to capture a sale.
How to Improve Your Ecommerce Conversion Rate
When an online store has a low conversion rate, the first thing I look at is the user experience. Here is a handy 5 question checklist to help you get started and improve your ecommerce conversion rate.
- Is the website easy to navigate? When you have too many items or your navigation isn’t intuitive, visitors typically bounce out.
- Does the website showcase the products and services in the best possible light? I can’t stress this enough. If you’re using a template, make sure the template is the right fit for what you have to offer. If you’re building a custom website, think about your design through the eyes of your target customer—what do they want to see?
- Do the product descriptions pull the reader in and elicit an emotional response? All too often, ecommerce stores mail it in by using the same product descriptions that can be found on similar products from competitors (or distributers if you’re dropshipping). That’s a big “NO NO!” Unique ecommerce product descriptions are hugely important for organic search and for your website visitors.
- Is the product photography interesting? Similar to product descriptions. If you don’t get your product photograph right, you’re going to have a really tough time capturing more conversions. Your product photography should capture your brand voice and your brand personality.
- Is it easy to make a purchase? Most of the major ecommerce platforms make this part really easy as they have a standard shopping cart functionality already built into their sites (ex. BigCommerce, Shopify, etc.). Regardless, you always want to make sure you ask for the minimal amount of information possible to make a purchase. For example, if you aren’t interested in sending out email newsletters or growing your email list, it might make sense to remove an automatic opt-in when shoppers complete an order. If you’re mainly targeting B2C shoppers, you probably don’t need to capture “business name” as part of their contact information.
Before you spend all of your time trying to increase Facebook likes or Instagram engagement for your online store, spend some time improving your ecommerce conversion rate. After all, none of the social media will matter if you’re not able to get people to buy. Don’t settle for anything under 1%. Swing for the fences! You can (and should) do better.
Where are your phone leads coming from? Do you know? Whether you are placing an advertisement in your local newspaper or promoting your business on Facebook, it’s not always clear exactly where your leads are coming from and, without knowing, it’s impossible to maximize your ad spend and measure your marketing campaign effectiveness.
Ask “How Did You Hear About Us?”
One of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to get a sense of where any new leads and calls are coming from. When you’re speaking with callers, look for an opportunity to ask them how they heard about you. You can create a quick checklist in Excel to track responses. One potential drawback—customers don’t always remember where they found you. They might group a Facebook ad and googling your business into “online” which ultimately won’t be of as much value of knowing exactly how they found you.
Call Tracking Software
For as little as $19 per month, you can use call tracking software such as CallTrackingMetrics. Instead of having to ask (and possibly annoy) every new customer and caller, with call tracking software you can quickly and easily track calls from every one of your marketing campaigns by creating custom phone numbers that are unique to each campaign. Beyond the conversion data which is already worth its wait in gold, the other great thing about call tracking software is the ability to listen to calls—helping you identify opportunities to improve customer service.
Call Extensions in Google AdWords
Similar to call tracking software, Google AdWords call extensions allow you to include a forwarding number on your website and a call extension in your ads so you’re able to draw a direct line between Google AdWords conversions and actual phone calls to your business. You can even set the duration of the call based on when you consider it a lead (ex. 30 seconds, 60 seconds, etc.)
If you’re advertising on Facebook, consider experimenting with a click-to-call button as your primary call-to-action for your social ad. This is especially great when you’re trying to reach mobile shoppers. Although your cost-per-click and cost-per-conversion will likely be higher than a post focused on engagement and social shares, anyone clicking on the call button has more intent on taking the desired action—in this case a phone call.
Tracking Phone Call Leads from Social Media
Whatever method you choose, it’s crucially important for you to be able to track any and all phone call leads. Once you have an accurate idea of where your calls are coming from, you’ll have a more complete look at your marketing campaign performance and can focus your budget on the channels that are generating the most calls.
As a disclaimer, I use affiliate links for some of the products listed. They are all products I absolutely love and trust and would recommend regardless of whether they have an affiliate program.
Looking for an ecommerce platform for your online store? We interviewed a business owner with experience using Shopify and BigCommerce and asked to them to share their experiences. Here is a look at the pros and cons of both options.
Introduce your business and tell us your story.
SKINourishment is a 100% plant-based cruelty free all-natural skin care company based outside of Austin, Texas. We make all of our own products right here in the United States and develop our own recipes. SKINourishment started back in 1996 with the invention with what today is known as the climbOn Bar and has now expanded to the climbOn, crossFIXE, POLYN and RIDICULIOUS skin care lines. We are a women-owned B-corporation and continue to expand beyond our current 30 plus countries. We can also be found at Whole Foods, REI, Central Market, Jet.com, Amazon.com and hundreds of local retailers.
How did you decide on the best ecommerce platform for your small business: Which solutions (BigCommerce, Volusion, Shopify, etc.) did you consider and what features and factors were most important?
We decided on Shopify's ecommerce platform after considering many of the options available. Originally our site was run on a custom PHP shopping cart software that was very intense to use and didn’t have many features. One of the key parts of our new site was to make it easy to use for our customers and for us to update on the back-end.
In our consideration we looked at WordPress with WooCommerce and even started development on a site and quickly found out that for a site of our size, 50+ skus that was not in our best interest. There were too many moving parts and points of failure for the site. Even during the development as WordPress was updated the custom features we built continually broke.
As a key decision maker in this process I ran a site on BigCommerce and found that BigCommerce was a greater starter site for me as a smaller brand. It didn’t tick many of the options that Shopify did. One of the key parts about Shopify reminds me very much of Apple and the developer community that surrounds both of these platforms.
Shopify has a large community of full service to one-time developers willing to lend you a hand at nearly any hour in addition to their incredible customer support. (More about their support later) In addition to the developer community these developers have created hundreds of out-of-the-box solutions to provide you with nearly any feature you would need on your store. From reviews to email marketing, upselling, to return management there is an app for that. We found at the time competitor app stores were either non-existent or severely lacking. I still feel Shopify leads in the app store by far from their competitors.
At the time we were choosing and moving to our new site we were also launching a rebrand and we knew that were going to expand our reach. Therefore we did consider a more advanced tool such as Magento, what we found was Magento truly needed a full-time individual dedicated to managing it and the setup was far beyond any of the other platforms to get started.
In the end, Shopify ticked all of our boxes with customer support, developer support, themes, ease of use and customer support. While price was a consideration we reminded ourselves that this site is one of the most important investments in our business and we didn’t want to let $50 or $100 get in our way from making the best choice.
Based on your experiences using both platforms, how would you compare Shopify vs. BigCommerce based on each of the following:
Website design templates/themes
Shopify truly has some of the best developers contributing to the platform. If you really want to dive deep beyond a template you have plenty of support systems.
If any place Shopify, Volusion, and BigCommerce are similar the user interface and ease of use is it. I don’t find a huge difference between the interfaces between the products on the front end or the back end beyond the slight variances in features you find, it’s all very similar and easy. WordPress/WooCommerce and Magento have more of a learning curve but you also have a lot more ability to really dive into everything with you site.
I often feel when business owners are creating a site they are looking to a create the perfect site. The truth of the matter is your site will never be perfect, it’s a living and working prototype always. Often times the focus because the specific site design and a certain element when it should be making sure the site is easy for you and your customers to use.
Shopping cart functionality
The shopping cart is another area where all of these products are similar. Shopify I have seen continually make improvements like experimenting with different types of checkout pages from single to multi-page and I believe that gives Shopify the edge. If a customer adds something to their cart and starts the checkout process and gets frustrated, you’ve likely just lost that sale. I believe all the products have a clear and easy process with Shopify having a slight edge.
Shopify is certainly pricier than many of the other options available we didn’t want to let a small price difference stop us from choosing the best tool to grow and advance our business. When we were choosing the price of Shopify came up over and over again and today it’s not something that we question at all.
The customer support at Shopify is unparalleled. I can not speak for the support of anything other than Shopify and BigCommerce. When we were first choosing platforms and researching I spent over an hour on the phone with a representative from Shopify. The conversation then spilled over into at least another dozen emails considering every aspect of our business.
At BigCommerce my customer service experience were not poor, Shopify just went way above and beyond to earn to what at the time would be $50 a month. The provided options and solutions to problems we were running into and were there to answer any question we had.
The positive customer support with Shopify does not stop with the sale. A few months ago a group targeted our site for an attack. Shopify notified us of the attack and helped mitigate the attack by quickly moving our site and redirecting traffic.
The only real issue I’ve had and I feel like I have to mention it is we currently have two Shopify stores as we launch a new brand. One day we received notification that our second stores credit process was shut off due to a terms of service violation. Our first and second store sell nearly identical products. The kicker was the shut off was immediate. I got an email notifying us and right away our credit card processing was gone. Shopify simply redirected to their processing partner (Stripe) saying it was their choice and there’s nothing they could do. The irony of the situation is that site now processes payments directly through Stripe and I asked them to review the site citing the compliance concern and they cited none.
This is a important part of business I try to remember that every partner you choose to work with directly reflects on your business. To your customer they are your business. Therefore, if you install a new email app and it accidentally spams all of your customers, it’s ultimately your fault. In our 5+ years with Shopify this has been our only issue but it was a big and sudden one.
Tell us about the back-end of your business. What tools and apps do you use to run your online store?
I am not ready to reveal all of our secret juices that make our store run. I am happy to share about some of the tools we use to make everything happen.
- MailChimp – email marketing with a direct connection to Shopify
- Recieptiful – Reciepts designed to further market your business. In addition, they have been building out other features such as segmented email lists, smart product suggestion marketing and more.
- Bold Upsell – Simply upsell products based on products.
- ShippingEasy – easy create shipping labels for USPS, UPS, FedEx, DHL and more. Compare prices and get the best price.
- Okendo – A reviews platform that supports photos, text, incentives, and reminders.
What additional advice would you share for someone considering an ecommerce platform?
A key piece not mentioned above that made us seriously consider Shopify is that businesses who used Shopify have appeared on the hit show Shark Tank more times than I can count. Never once have those Shopify sites gone down or experienced any serious issues. Furthermore, Shopify handles the security of your site and it’s ironclad. This are often overlooked and under considered items however site stability in the traffic spike of your big moment, especially if unknown and the security of your site is the upmost importance.
If you customers can trust you or access your site, how can you earn money?
In conclusion, I consistently see BigCommerce playing catch up to Shopify. That being said, no platform is perfect. Consult a professional, take advantage of the free trials, ask questions.
Written by Will Reynolds Young
As a disclaimer, we use affiliate links for some of the products listed. They are all products we absolutely love and trust and would recommend regardless of whether they have an affiliate program.
Trying to decide between Grasshopper and RingCentral for your small business?
Both are great cloud-based VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) virtual phone systems offering toll-free and local numbers, department and employee extensions, and 24/7 customer support. Which one is right for you?
Why choose Grasshopper over RingCentral?
Small business/entrepreneur focus. Grasshopper.com is best known for offering virtual business phone systems for entrepreneurs and smaller small businesses. If you’re just starting out and looking for a professional and affordable business phone, Grasshopper can be an attractive option.
Unlimited minutes. Every Grasshopper plan currently features unlimited minutes which can be incredibly helpful if you’re trying to maximize your budget and you spend more than 500 to 1,000 minutes every month on the phone with your customers. RingCentral plans cap toll-free minutes based on each pricing option.
Multiple phone numbers. With Grasshopper’s “Partner” and “Small Business” plans, you have the option of multiple phone numbers whereas RingCentral charges an additional $4.99 per month per number.
Equipment. RingCentral Office requires special SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) pre-configured phones which can add an additional expense. Grasshopper phone plans work with any mobile, office, or home phone.
Why Choose RingCentral over Grasshopper?
Inbound and outbound faxing. RingCentral’s “Standard” “Premium” and “Ultimate” plans all include inbound and outbound fax capabilities whereas Grasshopper currently only offers outbound faxing.
Team collaboration. Beyond a business phone system, RingCentral also offers tools to help facilitate collaboration within your organization. Features include real-time messaging, shared calendars, video conferencing, and file sharing—great for growing small businesses with more than 10 employees.
Grasshopper and RingCentral both offer affordable business phone systems ranging from $19.99 to $89 per month. It’s hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison without looking at each individual feature based on the unique needs of your business. In both cases, make sure you have a clear understanding of what’s included in their standard packages, where you’d need to upgrade, and what any upgrades are going to cost.
Customer & Industry Reviews
RingCentral was recently named an “Editor’s Choice for the “The Best Business VoIP Providers and Cloud PBX Services of 2018” by PC Mag. Grasshopper customers typically comment on ease of use and affordability. As you compare both options, spend some time looking Grasshopper reviews and RingCentral reviews hear what businesses like (and potentially don’t like) about each business phone system.
As a disclaimer, I use affiliate links for some of the products listed. They are all products I absolutely love and trust and would recommend regardless of whether they have an affiliate program.
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