Ecommerce Platforms https://ecommerce-platforms.com unbiased reviews and comparisons of online shopping cart software Tue, 14 Aug 2018 10:13:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 20 Ecommerce Brands That Effectively Use Twitter to Skyrocket Customer Engagement https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/twitter-customer-engagement https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/twitter-customer-engagement#respond Sat, 11 Aug 2018 05:43:05 +0000 https://ecommerce-platforms.com/?p=17480 Twitter. Tweets. Twitterati. Trends. Do these words ring a bell? If it doesn’t, then you are probably living on another planet. Twitter has become so popular that, people who don’t even use Twitter, are also familiar with these terms. It…

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Twitter. Tweets. Twitterati. Trends.

Do these words ring a bell?

If it doesn’t, then you are probably living on another planet.

Twitter has become so popular that, people who don’t even use Twitter, are also familiar with these terms. It proves that the major social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat etc. have become a part and parcel of our lives.

When it was first created, I remember it as an online platform for individuals where they could openly express their thoughts and ideas with the world. These thoughts, also known as tweets, were supposed to be short and sweet because these were limited to only 140 characters.

With each passing year, it grew in popularity (and size). Soon, all the brands jumped on the bandwagon and began using Twitter as a means to reach out to their customers.

Twitter is the best platform for brands to expand their customer base, easily engage in discussions and conversations with them.Click to Tweet

To be ahead of the pack, every eCommerce brand has plenty of strategies up their sleeves and strives hard to be on top. Here are some commonly implemented ones:

  • Create quality content
  • Create a hashtag campaign
  • Use visuals (people prefer visuals over text)
  • Crack a few jokes, ask questions and tweet every day
  • Offer customer support
  • Use DMs

I have mentioned only a few here but most of these have the potential to boost the sales and increase the customer engagement.

Now, would you like to know how these strategies are put into effect?

Let me explain that to you with examples of 20 Ecommerce brands that have conquered, not just the market, but the hearts of people through Twitter.

1. 1800-Flowers

Brands That Effectively Use Twitter to Skyrocket Customer EngagementIf you want to send flowers, plants, and gifts to anyone, anywhere or anytime while on the go, 1800- flowers will help you to do so, in just a few easy clicks.

Here’s what they do- they tweet captivating images of flowers and gifts alongside quotes & informational content, and always make sure that it catches people’s eyes.

2. Amazon

Amazon, the world’s best eCommerce store, certainly is at the top of everything, from having the best Twitter feed to the most satisfied customers.

The Amazon Twitter feed is a plethora of images and videos that highlight special deals, best-of lists, Amazon Prime events and other promos stumbled upon one of their tweets which included a video of a man who made a fortune by selling his product through Amazon.

This is an inspiring story with a subtle hint of self-promotion. So, it's not always about self-promotion.

Amazon has another Twitter account dedicated to its customers. Amazon Help answers customer tweets directly, and strives hard to resolve issues, doubts, queries as quickly as possible.

3. ASOS

Their fashion statement is –

“Giving you the confidence to be whoever you want to be – without judgment”

They have one of the best-maintained accounts on Twitter. You’ll notice that they tweet on a daily basis. Their feed is filled with witty and wacky tweets. And, let’s not forget their daily dose of visual treats.

4. Bonobos

Everything from pants to a whole new clothing line for men. Thanks to the Internet and word-of-mouth marketing, Bonobos has come a long way.

The secret ingredient to their success is the pants furnished with a curved waistband. It’s neither too tight nor too boxy, just the perfect fit. Soon, it had a cult following.

They also have a special customer service team, known as the Ninjas. They are responsible for providing the hassle-free shopping experience for men who shop at Bonobos.

5. Casper

Casper has been rated as America’s #1 mattress brand. They have a million satisfied customers.

They have a wicked sense of humor and are quick to respond to their customers.

6. Ebay

When you go through eBay's Twitter feed, you will notice that all their posts feature an image or a video. These images and videos add a narrative element to their posts. Also, this ensures the audience that they are not being fed just promotional endorsements.

7. Home Depot

Are you planning to renovate or redesign your homes? Do you have a million thoughts in your head regarding it?

Follow Home Depot on Twitter and worry no more.

Home Depot has done plenty of homework and you will notice it in their Twitter feed. They have incorporated promotional videos about in-store workshops, and information about online sales.

Their Twitter account is more than just about promoting their products, it's about enhancing the audience’s overall experience.

8. JetBlue

They say, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’.

It’s very true in the case of JetBlue.

You might think it’s just an airline company, and the Twitter profile couldn’t be any more boring. But they have a huge fan base with over 2 million followers on Twitter. Their ultimate aim is to make their customers happy, so they constantly post contests and funny tweets to grab their attention.

JetBlue never fails to delight their customers, be it the funny tweets, the instant replies or even the special upgrades they give away. They are definitely on top of the game when it comes to engaging with their audience in the best way possible.

9. Loot Crate

Loot Crate is a dream come true for all the nerds and gamers. They provide monthly boxes of geek- and gaming-related merchandise.

Loot Crate has become even more popular due to their engaging content and versatile marketing strategies.

10. MVMT

MVMT is the brainchild of two college dropouts – Jake Kassan and Kramer LaPlante.

Forbes calls them ‘the fastest growing watch brand’ as they went on to earn a whopping $90M in revenue in just a few years.

They have been able to increase their sales by immensely using the Twitter cards along with their Twitter advertising campaigns.

11. Netflix

No matter what Netflix posts on Twitter, it gets me super excited. They have found creative ways to reach more audience by unearthing old movies, funny videos, all time favorite tv shows and what not.

Even if their feed is pumped up with promotional media content about their product, it will never drive away the audience, like the one below.

12. Nike

Other brands have a lot to learn from Nike’s dedicated customer service and support Twitter handles.

@NikeSupport is set out to tackle all the technical problems faced by Nike’s customers and at the same time giving them the necessary moral support.

13. REI

Their Twitter description says:

“We believe a life outdoors is a life well lived. #OptOutside”

Well, I believe it too.

Unlike other brands, REI doesn’t have eye-catching videos or astounding images. But they share beautiful and inspirational content that lives and breathes their Twitter description.

14. Starbucks

Starbucks knows how to serve coffee and knows even better how to serve their customers.

With over 11 million and counting followers on Twitter, Starbucks sure knows how to push all the right buttons and engage their customers. From branded hashtags to funny promos, they do it all and do it right.

Another notable thing about Starbucks is that, when they want to show some love for their followers, they retweet their posts.

15. Tommy Hilfiger

Almost all their tweets showcase their catalog and gains more popularity when worn by celebrities or top models. Their Twitter cards are a visual treat when compared with other brands and they strive to make sure that their photography skills are a tough match.

It's been announced that British Formula One racing driver Lewis Hamilton is the latest celebrity to partner with Tommy Hilfiger to create a collaborative collection. So there you go, more popularity and more followers.

16. TOMS

“With every product you purchase, TOMS will help a person in need. One for One”

This is a brand that stands for a cause. Each time you purchase a pair of shoes from TOMS, they give a pair to someone in need. Now, you shouldn’t feel guilty about buying some new shoes.

When your target audience feel that they are also a part of a good cause, trust and loyalty will follow.

17. Treyarch Studios

If you aren’t a gamer, then you probably wouldn’t know much about Treyarch Studios. But in the game world, they are legends.

Ever heard of ‘Call of Duty’? Treyarch Studios are the creators of this iconic game.

Out of all the Twitter accounts, I have mentioned so far, they get the maximum number of comments, retweets, and social love. This amplifies their reach with the audience and proves that customer engagement is the secret ingredient to success.

18. Warby Parker

No, it’s not a clothing brand.

Warby Parker is famous for only one thing: eyewear.

When you browse through their Twitter feed, you will notice that all their customers are super happy and satisfied. Their content ranges from hipster-cool pictures, savvy updates and product promotion. WB even goes the extra mile by replying to Twitter questions with YouTube Videos.

Warby Parker can proudly say that they are a successful brand because even their customers start generating priceless content to share the Warby Parker love with their followers.

19. Zappos

Zappos is an online shoe and clothing retailer owned by Amazon, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that its Twitter feed is also bursting with rich, vibrant images and super deals to engage its customers.

They say, like father, like son.

Like Amazon, Zappos has also conquered the Twitter market.

They tweets are filled with some incredible and impressive photos that feature stunning models and celebrities dressed in their products. This itself it gives them plenty of followers and customers.

They also respond to every single tweet they receive, thereby increasing their followers.

20. Zulily

Zulily is an American e-commerce company that sells clothing, toys, and home products. What makes them popular is that they are a loyal company and they love their loyal customers.

They have daily new sales, amazing offers, and all your favorite brands under one umbrella.

Another striking thing is how they go beyond the normal product and contests and plunge into great audience-building content like DIY projects and crafts.

What's even more intriguing is their cheesy headlines that make you go “awwww”.

Things to Remember

The most important thing I learned was that the follower count doesn’t matter. I hope the strategies followed by some of the best commerce brands that use Twitter helps you out on your journey to top the market with loyal customers and steady engagement.

And if you observe closely – almost all the brands have similar attributes.

They follow some tips and tricks to get on top and stay there as long as they can.

Now, what are these tips and tricks?

  1. Post ‘snackable content’
  2. Post every day or in high frequency
  3. Post astounding images and visuals
  4. Post funny pictures, videos, gifs, and character tweets
  5. Be human. No one likes to speak to bots
  6. Reply to all the tweets and as quickly as possible
  7. Respond to mentions
  8. Retweet your followers
  9. Always stay fresh with new avatars and cover photos

These are some healthy tips that are being followed by all major brands and it has proved to be handy. So you can definitely implement them along with your creative ideas as well.

Take these handy tips and use them as a launchpad for your own brand's success and growth.

Always remember – the customer is king. So if your customers are happy, everything else will follow.


 

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How to Start an Online Store – A Beginner’s Ultimate Guide https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/start-online-store https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/start-online-store#respond Tue, 07 Aug 2018 15:03:39 +0000 https://ecommerce-platforms.com/?p=17073 The post How to Start an Online Store – A Beginner’s Ultimate Guide appeared first on Ecommerce Platforms.

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The question of how to start an online store is a trendy one these days. This is due to a couple of factors:

  • First, small business owners and entrepreneurs simply want to market on the web because their customers are already here.
  • Second, and perhaps more significantly, the modern tools that we have at our disposal today make the process very affordable and DIY-able (if that's a word).

To say it another way, if you want to learn how to start an online store, you indeed can master every aspect of the process without any expert knowledge or development skills walking in. 👍

 
All you need is some guidance, and this is exactly where this guide comes into play!

What you'll learn here is how to start an online store – from absolute blank to an operational store with your products in it, ready to welcome your first customers.

Here's what's particularly useful about this guide:

  1. We go through the process step-by-step.
  2. We don't omit any challenging technical details that might be a roadblock for you.
  3. We cover not only the tools but also the methodologies and the decision-making process involved in building an online store.
  4. We go for a completely DIY approach – read: you don't need to hire anyone to help you out.

How to start an online store: table of contents

This is what we'll go through:

Before we dive right in, let's answer some of the common questions around the topic of how to start an online store:

FAQ on how to start an online store 🛒

Can I build an e-commerce store for free?

At the end of the day, no, not exactly.

Okay, to be more specific, you “technically” can build a store for free, but that kind of store won't allow you to accept payments. And accepting payments is kind of the whole point of having an online store, so…

How much does it cost to build an e-commerce store?

Those things change, naturally, but I'd say that the minimum is around $60 a year. For that price, you get a domain name (yourstore.com) and a hosting plan (where your store is kept).

  • In this budget model, your store will run on WordPress and WooCommerce – both free and open source software.
  • For a more managed solution – where you have someone else taking care of the more technical heavy-lifting – you'll need to pay around $348 a year, plus $15 a year for a domain name. In this model, everything runs on a thing called Shopify.

More on both approaches later on in this guide.

How to start an online store myself?

Yes, you really can build an online store all by yourself. No programming or web design skills required. The modern tools let you do everything as long as you're willing to spend a couple of afternoons going through the motions.

Who will handle the design of my store?

In this DIY approach, we'll select a ready-made design from the web and import it into your store.

What can I sell?

Anything:

  • physical products
  • digital products (ebooks, downloads, files, software, images, etc.)
  • services
  • consulting, etc.

How do I handle payments?

There are online payment methods – “gateways” – integrated into all modern online store solutions. Your customers will be able to pay for everything right from your site.

Step 1: Defining the type of your store 🏪

I'm assuming you probably already know what you want to sell – at least roughly.

“Hey, I want to sell custom-sewn bed sheets.” Or, “Hey, I have this idea for an online boutique.” Or, “I have an idea for a cool new app.”

Whatever it might be in your case, that core idea will help you define the type of your store.

This step is essential since it has an impact on the tools you'll use to build your store with, as well as your general strategy and approach.

Here are the questions you should try to answer 🤔

  • Do I want to sell physical products and have them delivered to the customer?
  • Do I want to sell digital products and let customers download them directly?
  • Do I want to sell services?
  • In relation to the inventory, do I want to…
    • …handle it myself?
    • …use third parties to handle it for me (such as Amazon FBA)?
    • …send the product directly from the supplier to the customer (drop-shipping)?
  • Do I want to display wholesale rates as well?
  • Do I want to sell overseas?

Each spot where you have a “yes” requires your e-commerce store platform to be able to handle that specific want.

Therefore, start by creating a straightforward list to define your absolute core requirements. Something like this:

I'll be selling digital and physical products, my own inventory, no services.

Step 2: Narrowing down your niche ⛳

As you learn how to start an online store, you get exposed to a lot of jargon. Like, something you've probably been hearing a lot, “you need to build your perfect customer persona,” or “you need to define a niche.” Those can sound incredibly vague and are hard to act on.

“I just want to sell my stuff!” – says you.

We hear that, but here's the problem:

On the web, every store is one click away.

Here's what I mean: If you're operating locally, you indeed can be the “neighborhood sock store.” There are no other stores like it in a five-block radius, and people do need socks, right?

It doesn't work like that online. Online, people can go to a thousand other stores instead of yours. They are all one click away. And they will all ship.

This means that you need to differentiate and be more laser-focused in terms of who you offer your products to.

Misconception no.1 when defining your customer base

You shouldn't just “define” your customer base by pulling them out of thin air. You need to put in some actual research here.

We have a whole other guide on how to find your target demographic, so feel free to check that out for in-depth advice.

In the meantime, start with the following:

Identify the keywords people use when looking for your products online

Google is the likely first stop for many people when searching for anything to buy.

While a lot of people will simply put “socks” into Google, those customers are probably interested in any type of socks and will buy whatever's cheapest = Amazon. You can't compete with that, so let's dig a little deeper.

Many people get real specific about the kind of socks they want to buy:

  • “warm socks”
  • “trekking socks”
  • “motorbike socks”
  • “cheap motorbike socks”

You can take any of such keywords and put them through a tool called Google Keyword Planner (GKP). It will let you know how many people search for any given phrase each month. GKP will also suggest other keywords for you to look into.

Therefore, your first order of business here is to replace “socks” with your product names and try drilling down to find some phrases that are in tune with what you want to sell and that are also kind of popular online (1000 searches a month or more).

Here's a how-to on using GKP.

After you have a handful of those phrases lined up, you can define your niche in more precise terms. Maybe you do want to target your hand-made bags to moms of toddlers? Or your clothing to dads in a hurry? Whatever that might be, it's officially a niche!

Step 3: Doing market research 📊

There's basically only one goal of market research when you're learning how to start an online store. And that is to make sure that there indeed are people in your niche that are eager to buy.

After all, you don't want to wake up with a shiny new store, only to find out that there's no one willing to check out the merchandise.

There are a few ways to go about market research:

  • (a) Research what your competition is doing and emulate them to an extent.
  • (b) Examine where your prospective customers hang out online, how they decide what to buy, how they compare products.
  • (c) See what the most common questions or challenges are in your niche.

From the top:

(a) Spy on your competition

First order of business, if there's no apparent competition in the niche, then there's no niche. Being the first one on the field works only in movies.

The best way to start is to go to Google. Do a couple of searches using some of the keywords you found during the earlier stages described above. You should find a handful of competitors that way, or at least people selling similar products. Apart from that, you might also already be able to name a couple of competitors just off the top of your head.

Now it's time to spy on what they're doing online.

I have two favorite tools for that purpose. You can do basic research with either of them for free, but if you want to get more in depth, you'll have to buy a subscription … which you can still cancel after a month when you're done with your research, of course.

The first one is SEMRush. They advertise themselves as a service for competitors research, which sounds perfect.

When you input a domain name of your competitor, you'll see all sorts of info about their website:

  • their main keywords
  • their best backlinks
  • their top link texts / anchors
  • general stats on their projected traffic, number of backlinks, and more

Example screen:

The goal here is to try figuring out what it is that the competitor does to promote their store. What sort of links they get? Can you get some of the same companies to link to you as well? Which keywords do they pursue? Should you go after them too? And so on.

The right thing to do here is to spend a while looking through all the info that SEMRush has on your competitors and get as many insights as you can.

The other tool is Buzzsumo. This one is great at revealing what the most popular pages on your competitor's website are, and possibly their most popular products as well.

Just type in a domain name and see what pops up.

Example:

The questions to ask would be: What makes those the most popular? Can I offer something similar?

Next, go to the social profiles of your competitors and see what you can learn there:

  • What sort of updates do they post? Just product promos or custom content as well?
  • How often?
  • Do they engage with their followers?
  • Do they only cover what's going on in the niche or comment on the news as well?

This type of research can signal what sort of things you will have to be doing as well if you want to be relevant.

(b) Find out how your customers decide to buy

This varies from niche to niche quite massively. There are a couple of ways to find out how people make up their mind when buying:

  • if you're a member of the niche yourself, look at your own buying behavior,
  • discover where your potential customers hang out online and how they compare products.

The main places you should go to do this kind of research are online communities in the niche, forums and Facebook groups.

We have an excellent guide on how to find relevant forums and Facebook groups in your niche here. Check it out for a walk-through.

The goal is to get into the brains of your potential customers and see what they talk about in relation to the products, how they compare different products before buying and what they really value in specific products. This is knowledge you can use later on when building your online store.

(c) Find out some of the FAQ in the niche

The final place you can visit to learn about your potential customers is Quora.

Quora is a questions and answers type of website. Anyone can go there, ask any question imaginable, and get multiple responses from the community. There are myriads of topics covered on Quora, so there's also likely a section for your niche.

Go to Quora, and use the search field to find relevant threads. Pay attention to:

  • the most common questions in your niche
  • the challenges that people seem to be struggling with the most
  • product alternatives that people ask for
  • questions on how to use a particular product

This sort of information can be a goldmine when deciding how to position your new store.

In summary, what you should have walking out of the market research phase:

  • a good idea that there indeed is a group of people possibly interested in your products,
  • insight as to where those people hang out online,
  • knowledge on how they decide what to buy,
  • the websites they go to for information and the reviews they read,
  • the everyday struggles and challenges.

Step 4: Choosing an e-commerce platform 🛒

If you want to start an online store, you'll be happy to know that there are more than a dozen viable e-commerce software solutions and platforms to choose from.

However!

This abundance isn't always a good thing.

After all … what if you choose the wrong one?

So here's what we're going to do:

I'm going to show you a rather sizable comparison table of the top online store platforms. You'll find all the details you need here. Then, below, I'll give you my shortlist of just the top two selections: the recommended and the budget solution.

Here are the top e-commerce platforms compared:

Comparison chart

Details
Features Ease of Use Pricing Templates & Design Inventory SEO & Marketing Payments Security Customer Support
  1. Shopify logo

    Free Trial
    From $29
    SEO Friendly
    Offline Store
    App Store
    24/7 Support

    9989899910
  2. Bigcommerce logo

    Free Trial
    From $29.95
    Built-In Blog
    SEO Friendly
    App store

    874878897
  3. Volution logo

    Free Trial
    From $15
    Social Media Tools
    Mobile Commerce

    986576668
  4. LemonStand logo

    Free Trial
    From $19
    Mobile Friendly
    Customizable Themes
    Coupon Codes
    Social Integration

    778557568
  5. WooCommerce logo

    Free SEO Friendly Analytics Discount CodesDigital Products

    646767765
  6. 3dcart logo

    Free Trial
    Social Integration
    Custom Designs
    Gift Certificates
    App Store

    666755656
  7. WIX logo

    Free Trial
    From $8.08
    simple dashboard
    SEO Friendly

    676456567
  8. Ecwid logo

    Free Trial Social Integration 24/7 support

    765455866
  9. PinnacleCart logo

    From $29.95
    Mobile Friendly
    Free Doba integration
    Free shopping cart migration
    24/7 Support

    765647474
  10. Big Cartel logo

    Free Trial
    From $24.99
    SEO Friendly
    Analytics
    Discount Codes
    Digital Products

    377345467
“Which platform to use?” is the most common question we get here at ecommerce-platforms.com.
 
In 90% of the cases, the answer is Shopify. Shopify is the leader in the e-commerce space and offers you all the functionality an online store could need. It can handle both physical and digital products, drop-shipping, and even services.

Meaning, no matter what you want to sell, you can do that with Shopify. Add to that, launching your store with Shopify can be done in minutes (tested) and you don't need to go anywhere else for any of the other pieces of the puzzle (like the domain name). Shopify is also affordable, starting at $29 a month.

 
Now, what about the other 10%? Well, that's usually where the budget choice comes into play. That setup is WordPress together with WooCommerce:

  • WordPress is an open source website engine.
  • WooCommerce is an open source online store platform that runs on WordPress.

What's great about this setup is that it's incredibly customizable while also being more than affordable. To say it simply, both platforms are free. So the only things you need to pay for are the domain name and hosting (this could be around $60-$80 a year).

(Having tough time deciding between the two? Here's our head-to-head comparison: Shopify vs WooCommerce)

Step 5: Naming your store & choosing a domain name 📛

Finding a name for your store is probably the most fun part of the entire process when building an online store.

Still, it's a critical step, and it shouldn't be taken lightly.

First off, consider having your niche's main keyword in the store name. This can have some SEO benefits.

For example, if you want to sell designer socks, then including “Designer Socks” as part of the name will send a signal to Google that they should perhaps rank you for the phrase.

However, at the same time, a name like “Designer Socks Today” might sound a bit dull, despite it being highly keyword-optimized.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have brandable names. Those usually consist of words with no prior meaning that combine into a sweet sounding and memorable name. Think “Google” or “Amazon.”

The downside is that those brandable names don't bring any SEO benefits.

More or less, this plays something like this:

The perfect scenario would probably be to meet somewhere in the middle – get some SEO benefit from the name while also retaining much of its brandability.

I like to use two tools when brainstorming names:

(a) The business name generator by Shopify. It's a free tool.

All you do is provide a seed term, and then Shopify will suggest some cool names based on that. It also checks available .com domains that you can use with that name.

(b) LeanDomainSearch. This one is similar to Shopify's tool, but it displays everything on a single screen, which might be easier to scan through.

The usage is the same. Just enter your seed keyword, and the tool will do the rest. It checks for available .com domains as well.

If you see anything you like, note it down for later.

Step 6: Understanding web hosting 🕸️

Important! If you've decided to go with Shopify or any other all-in-one e-commerce store solution, then feel free to skip this step entirely. If you're going with WordPress + WooCommerce, this step is for you.

Web hosting (or web server) is where your online store is kept and from where your customers can access it.

The good news is that there are companies offering optimized hosting platforms without requiring you to understand what's going on under the hood.

There are, however, things you should pay attention to when picking your hosting platform (and don't worry, I'll give you some recommendations below):

  • Dedicated IP addresses.
  • SSL certificates – to make the shopping experience secure for your customers.
  • PCI compliance – The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council is a body responsible for overlooking the e-commerce space. You want a host that meets their compliance requirements.
  • Good performance – if your site takes a lot of time to load = less sales.
  • Perfect uptime – with your site down, no one can buy anything from you. 99.99% uptime is reasonable.
  • Fast-acting support – should you have any troubles, you want to be able to contact someone for help.
  • Automated backups – you always want to have recent backups of your store data (orders, products, etc.).
Here's our recommendation – a host that gives you all of the above:

  • SiteGround WooCommerce hosting. Easy to get started with and really affordable. When you're launching a new online store, it's only $3.95 a month + $15 annually for a domain name (total of $62.40 / year).

SiteGround has perfect support, offers excellent performance, free SSL integration, and every other perk that a new online store owner could need.

Other options:

Check out our Ecommerce Hosting reviews to learn more about them.

We'll show you what to do with your hosting platform of choice in the next step.

Step 7: Launching a blank online store 🛍️

With the engine of your store selected, it's now time to get it running. Here's how to start an online store:

There are two alternative paths that we'll present here, based on your e-commerce platform of choice:

  • Path (a) going with Shopify
  • Path (b) going with WordPress and WooCommerce

Those are the two most popular paths that people take when building a new e-commerce store and also our recommended approaches.

Path (a): How to start an online store on Shopify

This is going to be quick! Shopify is dead set on making it as easy as possible to get started with the platform and go from nothing to a working store in mere minutes.

All you do is go to Shopify.com and click the main Get Started button that's in the top menu.

shopify get started

After that, it's Shopify that takes the initiative and takes you by the hand through the setup process.

It will:

  • let you set a name for your store,
  • ask about what you're selling so it can optimize the look of the store,
  • let you pick a domain name,
  • install everything for you,
  • show you through the main Shopify interface after the install.

We have a separate resource on how to build a Shopify store in less than 15 minutes. It features screen-by-screen instructions and guidance on how to go through the installation. You should check it out.

When you're done, your administration panel for the store will look something like this:

Path (b): How to start an online store on WordPress and WooCommerce

First, go to your hosting platform of choice. If you've listened to our recommendation, you're most likely with SiteGround WooCommerce hosting.

Start by clicking on Get Started next to the plan of your choice.

In the next steps, SiteGround is going to ask you all the usual stuff, like your name, email, country, payment information, and also confirm the plan you're selecting. Let's stop at that last thing:

The thing to pay attention to here is the server location. Pick the one that's the closest to your actual target audience. It's going to make everything run faster for them.

Next, SiteGround is going to let you register a domain for your new store. The cost of this is $16 a year. Enter the domain name you've chosen at earlier steps in this guide.

Lastly, SiteGround will propose to have both WordPress and WooCommerce pre-installed for you.

So after a couple of minutes of what's basically clicking around and filling out form fields, you end up with a working online store.

When you're done, this is what your administration panel for the site is going to look like:

Step 8: Picking a store design and customizing it 🎨

At this stage, you have a blank store – there's nothing in it, just the software all configured and ready to go.

The first thing we can do here is to customize the design.

Here's how to pick the right design:

Again, spy on your competition

This is, once again, a great moment to spy on your competition. Come back to the same competitors you researched during the market research phase, and look at their store designs:

Do they use a big header section with stylized product images?
Do they use a classic content-sidebar layout?
content sidebar
Do they push a lot of special offers?
special offers
Do they focus on one key product or promote everything equally?
many brands
These are just some of the questions worth asking. Jot down your conclusions – and especially if you're finding the same things with more than one competitor.

The reasoning here is that if something is standard practice in the niche, it's probably because it works.

With all that knowledge, come back to your e-commerce platform's design selection module, and look for themes/templates that seem to be the most in tune with your needs.

But!

Whatever you do, don't pick a design solely based on the fact that you like it visually. Trust your research and the niche. If you can see something in use over and over again in your niche by multiple competitors, then it might be a good idea to use it as well – even if you don't find it particularly appealing visually yourself.

Path (a): How to pick a design in Shopify

 
As you sign up, Shopify will assign a theme to your store by itself. To change it, from the main panel, go to Online Store → Themes.

There, you will be able to explore both free and paid themes to spice up your store.

shopify themes
 
To switch to a new theme, first click on Add THEME_NAME. This will add the theme to your site, but not activate it yet. At this stage, you can preview the theme and see if you like it.

If you do, you can click on Publish.

Now it's time to customize the theme, add your own graphics, logo, colors, etc. We're doing all this to make the store fit in with your business identity.

First, click on Customize next to your theme.

To make the process quicker, Shopify will suggest you get started with a set of temporary images from a couple of categories such as food, women's fashion, home, jewelry, men's fashion, etc. This is a friendly helper to speed things up.

The design customization interface of Shopify is really cool and offers a lot of options. Here's what's up:

  • (1) It's where you can adjust the sections on the homepage, as well as the general theme settings such as colors, typography, social media, etc.
  • (2) Settings for the header of the store – upload your logo, tune up the alignment, and more.
  • (3) This is where you get to configure, add/remove, and edit the current sections of the page. By clicking on any of the sections there, you can adjust their details and fine tune.
  • (4) This is where you can set the footer of the store.
  • (5) The main preview window of your current design.
  • (6) Switch from desktop to mobile to full-width view.

Spend some time here and adjust every little detail until you like the outcome. This interface is impressively easy to use, so you should have a great time with it.

When you're done, just click the main Save button.

Path (b): How to pick a design in WooCommerce

There are two directions you can take: either go for a free theme or a paid one. The paid ones tend to be more unique and original.

For free themes, go here. This is the official repository of free WordPress themes filtered for e-commerce. Alternatively, you can go with the default WooCommerce theme, Storefront.

For paid themes, go either here or here. The former is the biggest WordPress theme marketplace online, filtered for their e-commerce category. The latter is the official theme directory of WooCommerce.

When getting your theme, you will typically download a ZIP file containing it.

Take that file, and go to your WordPress dashboard, into Themes → Add New, click on the Upload button, and upload that whole ZIP.

After that is done, click another button to activate the theme. At this stage, you have your new design live on the site.

The next step is to customize it slightly to include your logo, colors, and other visual identities.

The exact way in which you'll be able to do that depends on the theme you've chosen.

In general, most of the quality WordPress themes allow for customizations if you go to Appearance → Customize.

The panel you'll see features a lot of tabs handling different sections of your store's design.

Explore each one to change your logo, typography, backgrounds, headers, and more.

The goal here is to use the colors that are in tune with your business identity, logo, and overall brand.

Here's a cool resource of ours that might help your design inspiration: the top 50 e-commerce websites and their designs in 2018.

Step 9: Dialing in your store's core settings ⚙️

With the design out of the way, we still have to take care of some core settings that your store can't run without.

This involves things like currencies, measurement units, tax settings, addresses, and everything else to that tune.

Store settings in Shopify

Click the main Settings icon in the bottom left corner. You will see a menu of all the settings you can adjust for your store. Some of the key tabs:

  • General – store name and address, standards and formats (unit system, time zone, etc.), main store currency.
  • Payment providers – how you want to collect payments from customers. By default, you get PayPal, but you might want to enable other payment methods to get lower fees on money withdrawal. Here are some sound PayPal alternatives.
  • Checkout – whether or not customers need to register to buy, plus what other info is required from customers, etc.
  • Shipping – shipping rates, saved package sizes, possibility to integrate your store with FedEx, UPS and more.
  • Taxes – aka the real fun stuff … not. Joking aside, this is a key panel to set up correctly. Consult with your local requirements and legislations to put correct rates here.
  • Notifications – get notified when an order comes in, etc.

With all those sorted out, you can proceed to add your first products.

Store settings in WooCommerce

To enter the main settings, go to WooCommerce → Settings. You'll see a handful of tabs there. The key ones:

  • General – the address of your store, locations you sell and ship to, whether you want to enable tax calculations, the main currency settings.
  • Products – weight units, dimension units, whether you want to enable product reviews, inventory settings, settings for downloadable products.
  • Tax – make sure to consult with your local authorities before setting the taxes in this panel.
  • Shipping – set shipping zones for delivery to different regions of the country or globe.
  • Payments – set how you want to collect money from your customers. The default option is cash on delivery, but you can enable PayPal easily. You can also get more payment gateways for WooCommerce as add-on plugins. It's actually recommended to look into some PayPal alternatives, which can be cheaper in the long run.
  • Account & Privacy – do you require your customers to create user accounts before they can buy(?), etc.
  • Emails – get notified when new orders come in, etc.

Once you're done with all that, it's time to start adding your first products!

Step 10: Adding your first products 🎁

Adding products in Shopify

This couldn't be easier – just go to Products and click on Add product.

For each product, you can specify its name, description, images, price, inventory, weight (and other shipping details), product type, collection (use that to group products that fit together), tags, and a couple of other parameters.

Click on Save once you're happy with your new product. You'll see it immediately in your All products list. Repeat for all your other products.

Adding products in WooCommerce

To add your first product, go to Products → Add New.

For each new product, you can set a name, main description, images, product type (simple product, grouped, affiliate, virtual, downloadable), price, tax status, inventory, shipping details, linked products (that fit together), product category, tags.

When you're done, you can click on Publish. The product is going to appear in the main list in the All Products section of the dashboard.

Step 11: Your before-launch checklist 🏁

At this stage, you have everything set up and ready to go, and you've officially learned how to start an online store. But hold your horses! It's an excellent moment to do some final checks and make sure that everything works as it should.

Here's your final “before launch” checklist:

  1. ✅ Does the main website navigation work as it should? Can you get to all the pages, categories, products without fail?
  2. ✅ Is your logo at the top (or top left)? Does it look correctly (not stretched or anything)?
  3. ✅ Is the cart icon in the top right?
  4. ✅ Does the cart work when you add new products / remove them?
  5. ✅ Does the checkout process work correctly? Can you actually buy a product from start to finish?
  6. ✅ Have you disabled test payments? Test payments are something that most e-commerce solutions will give you so that you can test out your checkout. When you're ready for launch, disable them so people won't be able to get your products for free.
  7. ✅ Do you have pages detailing all the legalities of your store, such as privacy policy, terms and conditions, returns, etc.?
  8. ✅ Is the registration optional when buying from you? It should be.
  9. ✅ Do you have an “About” page? Explain what your store is and how it came to be.
  10. ✅ Do you have a working “Contact” page? A page with a contact form through which people can reach you directly. Test the contact form by sending a message to yourself.
  11. ✅ Do all your product pages, category pages, collections look good?
  12. ✅ Are all the shipping and tax calculations correct?
  13. ✅ Does your store look good on mobile? Make sure that your on-the-go customers also get a pleasant shopping experience.

Once you've checked off all of the above, you can launch your store to the public and begin promotion…

… Content marketing, SEO, advertising, social media marketing, are just a few of the promotional methods you can use to get the word out and bring in some customers.

Further reading:

Also, it's a good idea to go back to all those places where you did your research (forums, groups, etc.) and see if you can promote your store somehow there as well.

Either way, you've made it all the way through this guide on how to start an online store. Here's to you! 🍾🥂

If there's anything we can help you with, don't hesitate to leave a comment below!

The post How to Start an Online Store – A Beginner’s Ultimate Guide appeared first on Ecommerce Platforms.

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YOOtheme Pro Review – Spanking New Page Builder With a History in Joomla and WordPress Themes https://ecommerce-platforms.com/ecommerce-reviews/yootheme-pro-review https://ecommerce-platforms.com/ecommerce-reviews/yootheme-pro-review#respond Mon, 06 Aug 2018 08:42:16 +0000 https://ecommerce-platforms.com/?p=17185 A black ambulance with police sirens. Yes, you’ve read that right. Now, imagine it and let the whole idea sink in. Sounds strange, right? Ok, well, think about this too. A hospital bed with red bedding. Even worse, I bet.…

Continue reading YOOtheme Pro Review – Spanking New Page Builder With a History in Joomla and WordPress Themes

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A black ambulance with police sirens. Yes, you’ve read that right. Now, imagine it and let the whole idea sink in.

Sounds strange, right?

Ok, well, think about this too. A hospital bed with red bedding.

Even worse, I bet.

Now, let’s take a step back and look at these two scenarios critically. For starters, they all make sense practically. A black ambulance will work fine. And oddly enough, red hospital bedding is even easier to clean and work with than white ones.

But, there’s just this undeniable peculiarity about them. It all feels wrong that it makes you really uneasy. Almost as much as a business executive in a yellow suit.

So, admit it. Come to think of it, you would certainly find it much harder to trust any of these, compared to their counterparts with contextually ideal colors.

Interestingly, researchers even studied this phenomenon, and subsequently published a report on the Impact of Color in Marketing. Basically, they established that up to 90% of the first snap judgments customers make about products can be all about colors alone. The rest come next.

In web language, we call this the site theme. And as you probably know by now, it’s not just about colors. Overall page organization is also a critical factor here, and online consumers simply have no time for websites with inappropriate themes.

That’s why a substantial fraction of WordPress and Joomla users have always depended on third-party theme powerhouses like YOOtheme for a wide array of options, designed and built by professionals.

Fair enough, but here’s the latest news. It turns out YOOtheme revised its strategy and decided to go for an even bigger chunk of the industry. Instead of just providing themes, it will now even help users build site pages with the spanking new YOOtheme Pro.

Well, I get the whole point of this move. A great theme is only effective if it’s matched with an equally responsive, and well-thought-out foundation. That’s what constitutes part of whole web user experience framework.

By 2020, user experience is set to become the most important branding feature, surpassing both product and price. So, of course, we could argue that now seems like just the right time to add page building capabilities to the broth.

However, how YOOtheme Pro actually hones usability and general user experience is a different thing altogether. Its chances, above everything else, depend on how its provisions are set up.

And that’s exactly what I’m going to walk you through. This YOOtheme Pro review is a comprehensive guide of the solution’s fundamental features and general pricing.

So, let’s fire this baby away…

YOOtheme Review: Overview

YOOtheme might have made quite a name for itself over the years, but it’s actually not that old, to begin with. Slightly over a decade ago, in 2007, a crew made up of Steffan and Sascha founded the company from a basement. Then YOOtheme progressively became one of the principal go-to places for both WordPress and Joomla themes.

But, that only covers half of the tale. Although designing, building and supporting themes is seemingly not an easy job, the team still had the time to expand their impact on the web design industry.

This saw them develop another popular tool that you possibly have already heard about at some point- Ulkit. It’s basically an open-source system that’s set up to function as a website interface front-end framework.

Well, that’s a solid achievement in itself. But it also didn’t limit their abilities to scale further. It turns out YOOtheme is also the birth mother of PageKit. Yet another open-source service for optimizing web usability, and is leveraged as a flexible CMS tool.

For a company with such an impressive portfolio, I’m ashamed to admit that I never anticipated a YOOtheme page builder. Needless to say, it might have an equally promising future, going by what the company has been able to achieve in the past.

Ulkit, for instance, is now feeding more than half a million websites. YOOtheme, on the other hand, has settled quite firmly into the WordPress and Joomla spaces, boasting of more than 150,000 users.

All in all, YOOtheme Pro is already hitting the ground running, with every intention of expanding that reach.

Well, let’s see how far it might go, and if YOOtheme Pro could turn out to be ideal for your site.

YOOtheme Pro Review: Features

Page Building

YOOtheme Pro seemingly wants to make its intentions clear right from the very start. The editing window, for example, is amazingly neat and refreshingly simple. And to use it, all you have to do is drag and drop your page’s features.

Just like the bulk of other web and page builders in the same space, YOOtheme Pro seeks to eliminate the much complex side of web development. It essentially simplifies the entire building and editing processes by handling the coding while you work on the front-end.

Therefore, you can think of it as a general graphics editor. But one that subsequently publishes the final layout on the web.

And speaking of layout, you can structure the site pages in grids, rows, or columns. However, since going with one could turn out to be too dull, it might be a great idea to add in some sophistication by combining two or three of the structures on one page.

Alternatively, you could proceed with the masonry effect option, which basically arranges elements into columns and rows that collectively form cells. YOOtheme Pro grants users the flexibility of using different cell lengths on one page. Plus, it eliminates column gaps on the masonry effect to achieve a clean, systematic layout.

For the cells, YOOtheme pro provides a host of elements you can place anywhere on the page. In addition to buttons, you can work with gallery, map, overlay, quotation, subnav, social networking feeds, tables, widgets, and many more element options. Cumulatively, they add up to 30 strong.

One particularly outstanding element here is the slideshow, which is ideally optimized for both PC and mobile site views. To make things interesting, it supports five systems of animations. And most importantly, it doesn’t limit your media. You can comfortably run both images and videos.

That said, it’s worth noting that the general webpage outlook depends on how well everything ultimately corresponds to the underlying layout.

Now, to cater to different sets of users when it comes to this, YOOtheme Pro also provides a layout library. A solid one laden with more than a hundred different layout options.

Well, to be honest, we’ve seen some prominent page and web builders with much bigger libraries. Extensive enough to make YOOtheme feel quite limited. The latter, nonetheless, argues that it makes up for this by ensuring that each of its premium layouts is systematically designed by a team of professionals.

Plus, it attempts to address all possible categories of websites, including ecommerce. And to help you sort through it all, the layouts are arranged in topics you can filter through.

Then, to further personalize your website, YOOtheme allows you to go past the default façade into the specifics. This is where you work on, among other aspects, the colors, typography, element sizes, fonts, spacing, and positioning, to fine-tune the site according to your branding and preferences.  And yes, if you’re wondering, it works for both PC and mobile.

Storing Google Fonts Locally

One of the details that stood out as I tested YOOtheme Pro is how well the system handles Google Fonts.

Now, I admit that font might not be a typical priority when you’re assessing page builders. But, hang on a minute there, allow me to explain it.

There are regular fonts, and then there’s Google Fonts. The thing that makes Google Fonts extra special is the fact that the storage location of their directory substantially affects a page’s loading speed. If Google can’t find any, its engine is forced to go for a roundtrip to generate the fonts from its servers before loading a page.

Consequently, you might end up losing extremely valuable time with slow page loading speeds. And get this. A one-second delay alone, can result in up to 11% fewer page views, a drop of 16% in customer satisfaction, plus 7% fewer conversations.

To prevent this, YOOtheme pro optimizes speed by storing Google Fonts locally. Once you select and save a font, the system automatically downloads the directory files to your server, then attaches them to the CSS.

The result?

First off, Google directs the traffic straight to your site without taking roundtrips.

Secondly, each of your user’s privacy is protected by virtue of localized Google Fonts storage being GDPR-compliant.

Integrating Unsplash Image Library

Basically, the bottom line behind stock images is this. As a site owner, you’re probably too busy running your business to make time for shooting unique photos for your pages. And even if you tried, your skills are possibly nowhere near a professional photographer’s.

But, what about that professional option? Well, you can guess how much hiring a good one for all your site photos would cost.

That’s pretty much why most site owners love stock image sites. An extensive one like Unsplash, for instance, is certainly a paradise for a wide array of free high-quality images.

But, while we continue to enjoy capitalizing on it, let’s be honest. Downloading images from Unsplash only to re-upload them to our servers is an annoyingly repetitive and tiring task.

Thankfully, YOOtheme Pro found a way out. By embedding Unsplash straight onto the main library, it’s now possible to lift a stock photo without leaving the editing window.

You don’t even have to download any to the local PC. Selecting an image through the media manager automatically adds it to your site.

Supporting Developer Coding

A page builder that simples everything by handling the underlying coding for you? That’s fine.

One that further supports extensive element customization while at it? Even better!

But, sadly, it still wouldn’t be a perfect editing solution without that one feature that ultimately unlocks comprehensive customization.

By opening up its foundation framework to developers, YOOtheme Pro is basically allowing the real coders to get their hands dirty and have fun too. The flexible modular structure makes it easy to dive deep into its core, override default settings and make unlimited adjustments.

And to guide developers through the entire process, YOOtheme Pro has provided informative support documents on its architecture.

Overall Features

YOOtheme Pro also provides:

  • Single-click updates
  • Integration to WooCommerce for business
  • Many blog options
  • Thumbnail navigation
  • Modern page layouts
  • Global custom options for style
  • Mobile support
  • Maximum width breakpoint
  • Images lazy-loading
  • Scrsets set to generate automatically
  • WebP format for images
  • Extensive user interface elements
  • Over 120 icons
  • Intuitive color section process
  • 16 different options for header layouts
  • 3 layouts for mobile headers
  • Adjustable footers

YOOtheme Pro Review: Pricing

Bad news first. Sadly, there’s nothing like a free package here.

And now for worse news. YOOtheme Pro doesn’t even offer a timed free-trial period.

The only two option you have? Basically, you’re expected to pay for any of the plans on offer to test it within a 30-day money back guarantee period. The second option is a demo that allows you to try out all their features, you can access the demo here.

That said, here are your options:

Developer- € 299

  • All Standard features
  • Unsplash integration
  • For WordPress and Joomla
  • Subscription for 12 months
  • Updates for unlimited sites 

Standard- € 99

  • All Basic features
  • Subscription for 12 months
  • Updates for 3 sites

Basic- € 49

  • Risk-free guarantee
  • Technical support
  • Regular updates
  • Access to all themes
  • Subscription for 3 months
  • Updates for 1 site

  

Who Should Consider Using YOOtheme Pro

YOOtheme Pro, just like any other web-based service out there, has its fair share of weaknesses. But, overall, it’s a pretty decent page builder for WordPress and Joomla. And it’s considerably impressive for a service that’s barely two months old.

At the moment, YOOtheme Pro is ideal for developers and individuals setting up blogs or personal websites. Providing full support to scalable online stores, however, is a different story altogether. That's best handled by builders that come with a full package of ecommerce optimization tools.

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The Ultimate osCommerce Review https://ecommerce-platforms.com/ecommerce-reviews/oscommerce-review https://ecommerce-platforms.com/ecommerce-reviews/oscommerce-review#respond Fri, 03 Aug 2018 22:09:42 +0000 https://ecommerce-platforms.com/?p=17331 The internet is barely two and half decades old and online shopping is already surpassing offline stores. Essentially, 67% of millennials now prefer the former over the latter. Realistically, the web is yet to spread to all parts of the…

Continue reading The Ultimate osCommerce Review

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The internet is barely two and half decades old and online shopping is already surpassing offline stores. Essentially, 67% of millennials now prefer the former over the latter.

Realistically, the web is yet to spread to all parts of the globe- only about half of the world has internet access. But still, ecommerce businesses are already raking in trillions of dollars.

Want to know a secret?
Online income is the new drug money. Numerous new businesses might be sprouting every day, but we’re barely just getting warmed up.

We’re probably centuries away from a glut. And that’s only if that will even be practically possible.

So, of course, there’s space for everyone, especially if you have a product that the market desperately needs.

But, make no mistake…

I’m not suggesting that ecommerce is easy. A global prospect base is exceptionally promising, but it also complicates accompanying variables.

At the very least, you’ll be increasingly facing logistical challenges as you grow and expand. More customers from different locations basically introduce additional complications.

Plus, unless you’re planning to sell unicorns, you can rest assured that you will not be alone.

The web doesn’t only serve customers. It also extends to other entrepreneurs worldwide. That translates to tight competition not only from beginners but also large established brands.

So your strategies need have the precision of a Japanese sword if you intend to stand out from the crowd.

And sadly…

Marketing is only one part of the puzzle. When you attract traffic, you still have to provide a holistic platform for exploring products, interacting, and conducting transactions. Across multiple devices.

I’ve been through all these demands. I know how it feels. As a matter of fact, this alone is a real headache for most online entrepreneurs because of its technical complexities.

Thankfully….

We have third-party solutions like osCommerce, which seek to provide a host of features to support and facilitate ecommerce processes. I will be reviewing its core elements to help you understand its functionalities, and consequently, make an informed decision.

osCommerce Reviews: Overview

OsCommerce has been around for quite some time now. Founded in 2000 by Harald Ponce de Leo, the German-based ecommerce solution is almost as old as Google.

It’s one of the oldest kids on the block running shopping carts built on PHP, while providing a host of features for launching ecommerce businesses. As a result, we’ve seen it over the past 18 years being adopted by thousands of online stores across the board.

Well, to be completely honest…

It has seen its fair share of bad days, pretty much like any other web-based solution that has been around for that long. Like the hacking attacks that, for some time, targeted online stores that were hosted on it.

Fortunately, its developers swung into action and patched things up. Since its open source, you’re also free to modify it further if you have some tricks up your sleeve.

And that brings us to the brighter side of things…

osCommerce does not just cover your store’s front-end. It also extends to products and further provides a wide array of features to facilitate back-end management. I’m talking about tasks like managing sales, plus adding and tracking products, among other things.

It’s also readily available. To leverage it, simply go to the main site, download osCommerce then upload it to your main site.

The subsequent installation procedure doesn’t need a user with extensive coding skills. It’s pretty basic and straightforward.

And now for the big question. What do you get after installation?

Well, let’s get this show on the road and find out!

osCommerce Reviews: Top Features

osCommerce is a holistic solution that attempts to comprehensively cater to all the possible needs that come with standard ecommerce stores.

All things considered, a service that that just supports shopping carts and the corresponding payments would 2000-and-late.

So osCommerce takes it up a couple of notches higher and helps store owners also generate sales reports, determine shipping rates and taxes, send out newsletters and promotional updates to customers, track inventory, as well as add and edit products.

In other words, an old dog, many tricks!

Thanks to its wide community of developers, which continues to adapt it to changing ecommerce trends.

You don’t even have to worry about integration, as long as your web server or site has installed MySQL and PHP. Simply plug and play. If you’re ever unsure about anything, you can easily find answers and support in its community.

One of the best things about osCommerce is the fact that it doesn’t set any limits on the number of digital and physical products you can sell. If you think you have the ability to auction all items in the dictionary, then, by all means, give it a shot.

To make the navigation process conveniently simple, all these products can be sorted by model, size, color, or even version if you’re more into digital stuff like software.

Your customers, on the other hand, will be able to conveniently search through the products thanks to its basic filtering options. Then they’ll probably love the fact that shoppers are can drop their personal reviews on individual products.

And in case you’re worried about international customers…

You’ll definitely appreciate the platform’s multi-language support. That essentially means you can expand and comfortably tap into multiple markets worldwide.

And speaking of which, osCommerce also supports a wide range of currencies.

Among its notable advanced features is database backup, automatic security checks and updates, plus cache control- which essentially serves as the turbo for shorter load times.

When it comes to templates and design, osCommerce might be making a good attempt at keeping up with the latest trends. But, the theme choices are rather limited within its official site. Fortunately, if you need more, the platform supports additional themes from third-party marketplaces like ThemeForest.

Now, of course, we can’t talk about ecommerce without mentioning payments.

Primarily, osCommerce can be integrated with Paypal.

But, while this option is predominantly popular among western-based customers, there are many other consumers who’d prefer other channels. That’s why it’s additionally open to numerous payment add-ons like eMerchant Pay, WorldPay, BitCoin, Braintree and many others. The choice is all yours.

Now hang on a minute. Did we just mention add-ons?

Yes, and in fact, this is one of the principal features that osCommerce boasts about.

Its developers seemingly acknowledge that above everything, ecommerce is pretty wide and diverse.

We might be sharing the basic concept of selling via the internet. But all our stores operate on different frameworks, with varying setups, catering to separate market bases. And each comes with its unique set of needs and preferences.

So, of course, a one-size fits all ecommerce solution would never be feasible. To work around this, therefore, osCommerce provides more than 8,000 add-ons, all of which can be easily integrated to customize your ecommerce site in line with your specific needs.

That said, here’s a summary of osCommerce main features:

  • Automatic updating of currency exchange rates
  • Support of multiple currencies
  • Customer and product statistics
  • Package list and Invoice printing straight from the order screen
  • Simple database backup and restoration
  • Ability to reach out to customers through newsletters or email
  • Administration back-end authentication through a username and its corresponding password.
  • Support for both virtual (downloadable) and physical (shippable) products
  • Management and editing of product reviews, customers, manufacturers, products and categories
  • Categories to categories structure
  • Products to categories structure
  • Hosting of unlimited products and categories
  • Compatibility with all PHP 4 versions
  • Technical support and customer service
  • Payment processing
  • Extensive integrations
  • More than 8,000 add-ons that are all accessible free of charge.

osCommerce Reviews: Ease of Use

As we’ve previously mentioned, installing osCommerce is as easy as reciting the alphabet.

Ok, not exactly. But you get the picture.

The overall design process is systematically organized by templates to make it simple, and help you implement a well-thought-out structure. But, of course, this is only useful to compatible ecommerce sites.

Coming to think of it, that makes me appreciate osCommerce’s simple but critical concept of universal integration. If you’ve been the web development block, you might have come across a wide range of seemingly attractive solutions that, unfortunately, come with limited integration options.

And even when they are compatible with your site, quite a significant number of them act like the entire web is based in the U.S.

osCommerce, contrastingly, facilitates localization by supporting a wide range of languages and currencies. A Russian-speaking user, for instance, will be able to use it just as easily as their English-speaking counterparts.

osCommerce Reviews: Pricing

Quite a solid list of features we’ve mentioned there, to say the least.

Now, I’ve seen many licensed and cloud-hosted shopping cart solutions charge monthly fees. The ones that don’t mostly require users to pay upfront fees, possibly after a selected free trial period.

Basically, different payment structures with varying prices. But pretty much the same concept altogether.

So, of course, I expected more or less the same pricing approach when I first landed on osCommerce. Especially considering the fact that it’s more than just a cart.

All these features should come at a comparatively higher cost, right?

But, you know what? Here’s the kicker…

osCommerce is completely free. Yeah, you’ve read that right. Excuse me for going around the site over and over again trying to find the pricing page.

It’s free at least as a platform. Downloading and using it won’t cost you even a dime.

Doesn’t that leave its developers out in the rain? They must be, at least, charging users for add-on installations, right?

Well, here’s another shocker…

They actually don’t!

All the add-ons are free of charge. You can uninstall and use as many as you please.

But, you’re right about one thing.

Its developers need an income stream, one way or another. That’s why instead of greedily imposing fees on the add-ons, they use a structure that’s rather convenient for all parties.

You can choose to optimize your overall experience by paying one of osCommerce’s partners for support. Or alternatively, hire a developer from the dedicated sub-forum.

That said, please note that you’ll have to fork some pennies out to pay for your store’s domain name and hosting account. Because you’ll need a place to install osCommerce, right?

osCommerce Reviews: Customer Support

The team at osCommerce is not paid for creating, distributing and updating the platform. Quite remarkable, I’ll give them that.

Now, we all know that customer support is usually resource intensive. It not only involves hiring agents on a permanent basis but also training and managing their shifts.

That’s probably why support tickets and live chat come at an extra cost.

Previously, this came in a package called the Community Sponsorship Program, which required $65 every 12 months. Now that, frankly, was quite reasonable to the bulk of ecommerce business owners.

Needless to say…

osCommerce then changed the name to Ambassador and, surprisingly, made it even cheaper. It now costs €49 for a lifetime membership.

If you insist on the free bandwagon, on the other hand, you’ll still get some support. But fairly limited since you’ll only be able to seek answers from osCommerce’s active forum.

Bottom Line

All things considered, osCommerce has enjoyed quite a remarkable run as one of the premier open-source ecommerce solutions.

But, we live in an age where things keep changing faster than our overall adoption rate. New ecommerce trends and systems are coming up before we even learn our way around the outgoing ones.

That’s why it’s not surprising at all that osCommerce is now facing exceedingly stiffer competition from a wide range of new entrants like PrestaShop, Zen Cart, CS-Cart, Magento, and many more.

While some entrepreneurs feel that the latter group is better streamlined to their ecommerce needs, many are still sticking with osCommerce because of its rather attractive array of features.

How this platform fares against the competition over the long haul is a mystery that is can only be determined by future ecommerce tides. Let’s wait and see how it responds to upcoming online shopping patterns.

Meanwhile, your ecommerce platform choice should be fundamentally based on your precise needs. If osCommerce seems like the best corresponding fit, then what are you waiting for?

Just one final thing to remember as you embark on this. Please feel free to drop in a comment regarding your experience. We’d definitely love to hear what you think about osCommerce.

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14 Kickass Tools for Social Media Marketing Automation https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/social-media-marketing-automation https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/social-media-marketing-automation#respond Tue, 31 Jul 2018 10:56:05 +0000 https://ecommerce-platforms.com/?p=17197 Social media has come a long way since Six Degrees, the first social platform. Before 2005, Facebook and LinkedIn were all the rage. Later, Twitter, Snapchat, Myspace, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Google Plus and many others cropped up to meet the…

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Social media has come a long way since Six Degrees, the first social platform.

Before 2005, Facebook and LinkedIn were all the rage.

Later, Twitter, Snapchat, Myspace, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Google Plus and many others cropped up to meet the rising need of people to link with each other.

Later on, businesses realized that social networks are also the best places to hunt for leads, and then came social media advertising.

2017 saw most social media platforms revamp their services with more new features, brand opportunities, and consumer preferences.

Some of the smashing upgrades that made these sites more useful include the use of stories, shopping capabilities, chatbots and other artificial intelligence ideas.

But, as the number of users on social platforms continues to bulge, business owners are having a hard time to fully engage with their clients. Thankfully, there is a wide array of tools you can use to automate social media marketing.

Before we can take a look at a few common social media marketing automation tools, let’s briefly review some of the recent inventions in the social media ecosystem that you can leverage- if you haven’t started yet.

The Best Social Media Upgrades of 2018

Instagram TV (IGTV)

Since its inception, Instagram has proved to be one of the best platforms for advertising.

Some of the brands that have experienced crazy success through Instagram include Gucci, Audi, FedEx, Lego, Nike, Oreo, WeWork and many more.

On 20th June 2018, this site launched Instagram TV- a YouTube-like platform for posting long-form videos. The medium is helping businesses broadcast themselves in detail by sharing in-depth video guides and tutorials.

Have you checked it out yet?

Social Listening Tools

In order to take great care of their customers, brands no longer want to guess what their customers want. In 2018, many companies are using social listening tools to eavesdrop on client and brand conversations through target keywords or phrases.

This way, they are able to know all the complaints, praises and suggestions regarding their service delivery. These tools are essential in crafting spot-on marketing campaigns as well as enhancing the company’s image

Custom-Made Chatbots

In an era where companies get thousands of questions, requests, and complaints in a day, it’s virtually impossible for any social media team to provide immediate response to all those queries. Unfortunately, customers don’t care how stuffed your inbox is.

All they want is an immediate response to their problems and this should happen in no more than an hour. Taking longer to provide a response will result in customers switching sides. To avoid losing clients, you can let bots do some stuff for you.

Chatbots can take a huge chunk of activities off the shoulders of your marketing experts; answer some queries, execute orders, gather information and even provide customers with guidance on certain products or services.

However, since bots are made differently, it’s important to customize yours so they can handle specific requests.

Chatbots have been exploding over the past few years with 10x CTRs and open rates compared to traditional email marketing.

That's enough theory for today on how new social media updates are changing the industry. Let's now take a look at how to automate your social media marketing.

The Best Tools for Social Media Marketing Automation in 2018

1. Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a simple yet powerful social media automation tool that lets you schedule posts in advance to be published on different platforms. With over 10 million subscribers, this tool provides social account holders with a single dashboard from where they can run all their accounts effortlessly.

The platform integrates well with over 35 social media APIs including Twitter, Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and the rest. It also supports Google Analytics.

This tool provides real-time updates of all the activities taking place on social sites like when your brand has been mentioned and what exactly has been said. This can help you know what consumers want and avert possible crisis. Its analytics section allows you to know the best time to post content and lets you generate in-depth reports.

Despite having many features, Hootsuite is inexpensive and thus suitable for average social media marketers. Starters can enjoy the brief free trial period and then pick a plan from the affordable choices available.

With it, you will be able to find, schedule, manage and report on social media content a lot faster even with a small team of marketers.

Now, why is posting important?

To a large extent, the attract phase of the ACD funnel (Attract, Convert, Deliver) in your sales funnel starts with attraction. Sharing updates and providing value to target customers on social media is a great way to atrract people to your brand.

2. BuzzSumo

We just took a look at how to automate social media engagement.

But how fo you find good content to engage your target audience with?

Enter Buzzsumo.

If you want to have a deeper understanding of your social footprint and come up with smarter content strategies, BuzzSumo is the tool you need.

Rather than guess what content within your niche gets a lot of eyeballs, this tool (through the use of keywords) lets you discover the most popular posts as well as the influencers who wrote them.

From here, it’s up to you to link up with those individuals and build a worthwhile relationship with them. BuzzSumo is majorly a research tool with a search bar where you scout for anything you want using a keyword or phrase.

You can filter the results obtained by geographical location, domain, platform, duration, etc.

This tool collects data from major social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin and several others. It’s capable of providing analytical data as well.

Since knowing exactly what to post can be valuable to businesses, you will find BuzzSumo to be a little costly. However, if you can use the tool wisely, there is nothing to lose.

Find what content works in your industry, and then try to tap into the audience of industry influencers.

3. Mention

Having a subscription with Mention means you will always know when your brand gets mentioned in social media conversations. The amount of information you can get from this remarkable tool will help you perform competitor analysis, brand monitoring and many other things.

Mention links you directly to the individuals discussing your brand. This will compel you to get in touch with them and answering their queries right there and then. Such high engagement levels earn you new leads and keep your sales at the top.

While there are a ton of listening tools out there, I've found Mention to be one of the best ones- they provide more data and loop in more social converations than most other tools.

This tool has one of the simplest interfaces and everything happens from a single dashboard. Keyword monitoring, influencer scouting, competitor analysis, crisis management and discovering unhappy customers happens in a few clicks.

 Pro Tip: You can also use mention to build links. Track mentions of your brand or content across the web, reach out and ask if they'dmind linking to your content/brand so that users can easily find them!

4. Agora Pulse

While Hootsuite is similar to Agora Pulse in several features, I've felt that Agora Pulse is the best way to engage with your customers.

The tool allows you to plan posts, schedule them, perform analysis, run contests, promotions, quizzes and effortlessly collaborate with your social media staff.

It goes further to compare your marketing campaign with that of your competitor so you can see where you stand. It’s a huge time saver for super busy business individuals.

Some of the media platforms Agora works with, include Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube. You can schedule your content to go to one, several or all the accounts at once. Its smart analytics system is spot on and reliable. Their pricing favors average marketers and there’s a free 14-trial as well as a few free tools to play around with.

Agora Pulse has a preview button that lets you see how your content will appear once published. This can showcase typos, unwanted characters and improper formats that need to be fixed.

The calendar feature provides you with a bird’s eye view of all your posts (usually color-coded) which enables you to see the posts that are queued, published, scheduled or awaiting approval.

5. Buffer

Buffer is the ultimate social media scheduler for anyone who deals with a lot of content and several social media handles.

This tool handles scheduling just like Hootsuite, but the best part is this:

They have enough analytic data to suggest the best time to post content!

It doesn't end there:

Its analytics mechanism provides useful insight into how your social media strategies stack up against those of competing brands.

They also provide unique advantages from an automation and UX perspective- adding content to it is easy peasy; especially with a browser extension. There’s a panel that guides you on what you need to fill in next like description, image, the social networks to post to and the specific times the post will be dispatched.

The interface is user-friendly and sports only the necessary tools. Buffer upgrades itself regularly to keep up with the ever-growing social media demands.

Their pricing comes with various packages that customers can choose according to their needs. The Buffer is available for windows and phones (iOS and Android)- which is an advantage for those who are always on-the-go.

6. Social Oomph

 

If you have a lot of evergreen content on your website then Social Oomph is the tool for you.

It's a social media management tool but doubles as an automation platform. It has great features, particularly, the queue reservoir that works best with evergreen content. Since evergreen content remains relevant a couple of years down the line, it’s important that you promote it whenever you can.

When you add your content to Social Oomph’s queue, you can specify how often the content needs to be shared. You can choose to publish it after an hour, two, three or even a day.

Every time an item on the queue gets published, Social Oomph sends out a tweet informing your followers about the post. Since the same evergreen piece will still be on the queue, the following tweets will vary a little to create some difference.

For instance, you want to promote an article on “5 ways to reuse plastic,” here is how Social Oomph will post the tweets:
Tweet one: 5 ways to reuse plastic – http://bitly.loak73h
Tweet two: Top 5 ways to put the waste plastic back to use – http://bitly.loak73h
Tweet 3: Is plastic lying around in your home? Here are 5 ways you can put them back to use – http://bitly.loak73h

So if you don’t want to bore your followers with the same string of tweet but wish to keep your marketing efforts at the top, try using Social Oomph.

7. SocialFlow

Wondering how the biggies automate and manage social media?

SocialFlow tracks conversations in real-time and gathers insight. Based on the insight gathered, this app will determine the best time to publish in order to capture the attention of the audience. Here’s how its dashboard looks like:

This automation tool is a favourite of big brands like The Washington Post, Mashable, and National Geographic.

So what’s so good about Socialflow? First and foremost, it makes campaigns more efficient and this usually translates to increased revenue.

Secondly, this tool shows you the content that works and this not only paves way for excellent writing but assures the posted content will gather engagement and attract more interest (ACD cycle folks!)

Additionally, the analytics you get from this program is based on past findings and thus quite accurate.

So, instead of hiring data scientists and paying them a lot of money for playing around with data, you can simply subscribe to Socialflow’s friendly plans and save yourself plenty of time and money.

8. Brand24

If Mention is not working for you for any reason, then the closest tool to it is Brand24. It mostly points out all the instances your brand has been mentioned anywhere on the internet.

But it’s not just about your brand or product; the mentions from your niche and competitors are also displayed. This should help you know how high or low you stand against your contenders. Beat that!

When you discover what people are saying about you online in real-time, you can jump in and provide more explanation or solve a problem before it gets worse. The mentions are classified as either negative, positive or neutral.

Brand24 can also help you identify and reach out to the most influential individuals within your industry (this means you can save on Buzzsumo). If you strike a good relationship with them, your business could gain more visibility. Through the social search tool, you can scour the net for hot or relevant discussions, topics, and trends so your content can exhibit the same viral traits.

For companies, the ability to share Brand24 projects, results, and alerts across the team can be super time-saving.

This tool is suitable for both individuals and companies who are interested in knowing their digital footprint on the web.

9. Socedo

Socedo is my favourite tool on this list.

Why?

Because Socedo is a good lead hunter for B2B businesses. It automatically scans social media profiles and suggests individuals who could be potential clients. Once you have such an audience, you can segment them into various groups and market your products or services to them through Socedo’s dashboard.

Besides connecting you to the right people at the right time, Socedo can help you discover influencers within your industry, the hottest topics, and trends that your audience cares most about. Note that this program doesn’t work on its own.

You must provide it with the commands to operate upon. So, once you set a criterion (think target persona demographics) of the people you wish to connect to, it will automate the process and let you handle other businesses.

Socedo has a smooth interface and there are many features to juggle. As they merge with Azuqua, an automation platform that allows you to dream bigger, businesses can look forward to top-notch services.

10. SocialPilot

SocialPilot can help you manage all your social media accounts under one roof. No more switching tabs to view each handle’s stats. Of the many social media automation tools available, this one comes nearly at the top as it supports over 200 accounts and allows bulk posting.

As the number of social sites keeps growing, SocialPilot could just be the pick of many people in the near future as it enables one to go beyond the popular social sites while hunting for leads.

Running dedicated campaigns can be a nightmare especially if all the teams involved don’t have real-time access to everything. Thankfully, SocialPilot can allow your entire team to collaborate on a project. Like most automation tools, this one too provides marketers with analytics so they can find out what’s working and what’s not.

SocialPilot’s plans are suitable for small business, professionals, enterprises, agencies, and teams. There’s a free trial period (with no credit card needed) for those who want to test their services. As the “bossman,” you get a dedicated account manager with phone and email support.

They're available on the web, on mobile, desktop as well as a browser extension.

11. Sprout Social

If you are looking for an exhaustive social media toolkit with tons of stunning features, you should try Sprout Social.

You can use it to schedule posts, monitor competitors, track your keywords, identify influencers, discover your mentions and analyze your stats.

The tool comes in handy for those looking for social media marketing as well. Regarding the number of social platforms supported, Sprout is a little bit limited compared to Buffer, Hootsuite, IFTTT, Socedo, and others.

Nevertheless, its multi-level access, including the lower-level team members makes it one of the best platforms for coordinating and delegating tasks. Even those with content problems can be assisted in drafting pieces that will spark online conversations.

Sprout Social is easy to use, affordable and serves small businesses, agencies as well as enterprises. There is a brief free trial period and no credit card is required.

12. Socialert

There’s so much noise on the web nowadays and this can make keyword analysis and brand monitoring an extensive and exhaustive work. To shorten that time and get accurate results, you can rely on Socialert. This tool makes social listening easier and bags a lot more features.

This tool uses keywords and hashtags to inform (in real-time) when your brand, product or competitor has been mentioned. This way, you will never miss a conversation that could save your brand from being dragged to court, incurring losses or losing its edge to opponents.

Above all, Socialert provides comprehensive reports that be generated in CSV format. Isn't that killer?

Taking social media automation to the next level

Now, all the tools mentioned above can save your time and minimize having to do everything manually. Unfortunately, they don’t do everything like linking up all your devices. This is where tools like IFTTT and Zapier come to play. Let’s have an in-depth look at what they do.

13. Zapier

I'm now wondering if which one I like more- Socedo or Zapier.

Zapier brings your entire world together. With a single tap, you can send out tweets whenever you’ve added a new video to your YouTube account. The platform provides over 250 services and anyone can use it; all you need is a trigger and every event will happen within those confinements.

This tool integrates with some of the common platforms like Facebook, Gmail, Instagram, YouTube, Slack, Google Docs, Google Sheets, Quickbooks and many more. And the best part…you don’t need to be a developer or learn code language to build your workflows. Everything can be done through a few simple clicks.

The starter kit with basic one step automation ‘zaps' (up to 5 of them) and getting help from support are some of the services that come for free forever. However, if you need a little extra power to automate more, you can go for premium plans.

14. IFTTT (If This, Then That)

The best way to scale your social media automation efforts is through IFTTT. Basically, automation kicks in once a certain condition/command has been fulfilled. It’s the one platform that connects you to many devices at a go. For instance, let’s use the applet (recipe) “save your Facebook images to Dropbox.”

So anytime you post an image on Facebook, it will be automatically backed up to Dropbox via the command “If you post an image on Facebook, Then upload a copy to Dropbox.” If you click the “all services” section, you can view a wide range of features, tools and “recipes” (also known as applications, channels or applets.

There are over 4000 applets that IFTTT connects to. Some are weird and some are cool but all in all, you can save a lot of time with this tool.

Some useful recipes for social media automation include:

  • Syncing Instagram posts to Pinterest– when you post a photo on Instagram, this tool will repost it to a particular board on Pinterest
  • Sharing WordPress posts on social media– whenever you post content on your WordPress, rather than having to share it manually on your social sites, IFTTT will automatically do that for you.
  • Posting your tweets to Facebook– if some of your tweets bear certain hashtags, this tool will strip them out and post the message on Facebook (which doesn’t benefit from hashtags)
  • Sharing your videos– just like WordPress articles, this tool can share the links to your YouTube videos on social media.
  • Email Automation- Automatically email someone who has commented on your blog

With IFTTT automation, you are not restricted to using just the current applets.

You can create custom ones that fit your needs at any time. This tool is absolutely free and there is no limit to what you can do with it. All you need to get started is an email, username, and passphrase.

The Golden Rule of Automating Social Media

Don’t just use tools to automate social media and forget about human interaction. Strive to be valuable and follow up on your posts or else, your techniques will appear like spamming rather than marketing. The golden rule to observe while marketing on social media is to be social.

And there is a hack to this:

Attract at scale. Engage one on one.

If you fail to do that, then you have just lost your golden opportunity. For instance, while talking about scheduled tweets on Business Grow, Brooke Sellas wrote the following:

It’s indeed spamming if you just throw around content without coming back to follow up on any arising questions. It’s a turn-off and an insult to customers when you leave their questions unanswered. So after automating, stick around to provide feedback.

Rookie Social Media Automation Mistakes to Avoid

  • Reaching out with automated DMs – Like a “hello”, just because someone said “hi” to you at the garage shop doesn’t mean they want you to take them out on a date. Similarly, don’t always imagine all your followers are ready for automated direct messages. Build rapport first, win them over and then solicit later.
  • Buying fake followers – Even “le grand maître” marketers don’t advise anyone to buy fake followers. It doesn’t work over the long haul.
  • Over-automating – Too much of everything is bad. Don’t over-tweet, don’t push and don’t post the same thing over and over again. Try to share some of the best posts from your competitors for a change.
  • Using stale and unremarkable content – Automating crap content cannot get you the leads you desire. Once these tools show you the content that works, try to draft copies that your audience care about or will want to click “share.”
  • Not measuring results & adjusting accordingly – You have the best automating software and its analytics data shows that things are not looking up for you, but you just keep going on. You need to use your analytics to readjust your moves and strategies so your business can thrive.
  • Not adding sharing links/buttons – If someone reads your posts and they like it, the next thing they’d do is share that piece on their social space so their friends can read it too. If they like your post, this makes them look valuable to their audience because they always share great content. Additionally, having sharing buttons can earn you more leads.

Are You Ready to Automate?

The sole purpose of automating processes is to get rid of mundane repetitive tasks off your plate and get some more time to attend to the real issues facing your business.

However, you need to spare some time to visit your social sites and engage with your audience– this is being truly social.

But if you continuously rely on automation, then your followers will be able to tell you are using a robot or software and this could jeopardize your online reputation.

What tools do you use for social media marketing automation, that has not been covered in this post? Were they effective? Share your feedback and valuable insights with us in the comment section below.

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How to Find a Name for Your Online Store https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/online-store-names https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/online-store-names#respond Mon, 30 Jul 2018 16:03:40 +0000 https://ecommerce-platforms.com/?p=17176 Ever noticed how the name “Google” progressively became a standard vocabulary for “search on the internet”? It has become so common that people are now getting away with otherwise contradictory statements like “let me Google that on Yahoo.” Admit it.…

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Ever noticed how the name “Google” progressively became a standard vocabulary for “search on the internet”?

It has become so common that people are now getting away with otherwise contradictory statements like “let me Google that on Yahoo.”

Admit it. We’ve all done it at some point.

In retrospect, the war between Google and Yahoo has been one that has spanned more than a decade. It has been fought across multiple fronts, as both giants struggled to dominate the World Wide Web.

But somehow, despite increased efforts from both adversaries, one is now valued at $581 billion, and firmly in the $1 trillion value race- while the other is barely hanging on to dear life at $68 billion.

Now, hold it right there! Where did things go wrong?

Well, there are many innovative technical hacks Google has leveraged to position itself ahead of Yahoo. But, since the latter also has its team of formidable engineers, it should be easy to adjust and recover, right?

Theoretically, that would probably make sense. But, here’s the kicker. Google is still the dominant favorite because, among other reasons, it has a name that’s proving too hard to compete against.

Maybe Yahoo would have stood a better chance had Google retained its former name “BackRub”. But Google’s co-founders Larry and Sergey have always had this exceptional wordplay skill. They realized early enough that that name just wouldn’t cut it.

Because, imagine how awkward “Backrub the meaning,” would sound in your office.

So during a brainstorming session, they thought of trying out “Googol”- which is essentially digit “1” followed by a hundred zeroes. The two basic units of digital information. Quite a brilliant suggestion, to say the least.

Then came the most interesting bit.

While they were checking the name’s availability online, they mistakenly entered “Google” instead. And boom! The rest is history.

A business name, undeniably, is the most basic element of an ecommerce brand. It forms the bulk of the average 10 seconds it takes to make a first impression to a prospective lead.

It’s not surprising that psychological science concerned with semantics has proven this on several occasions. The vocabulary and structure of your business name determine the subsequent reaction it elicits.

Unfortunately, choosing a name is not that simple. And even if you happen to accidentally stumble on one, would it be good enough for your target market?

To help you through this entire process, here are some solid tips for finding an ideal one.

So let’s fire away!

Keep It Friendly, Simple and Short

Image credits: 

Our brains were all like blank slates when we were born. A large part of the subsequent learning process was vocabulary development. Within the first decade, most of us were consciously aware of about 10,000 words, a number that ultimately grew more than two-fold by adulthood.

Now, this process is not simply about being fed letters and words like a computer. Each word was digested subconsciously, and our minds consequently developed specific attitudes towards certain names.

This is the whole concept behind implicit-association tests. Even when we don’t realize it, our brains have systematically developed negative and positive connotations about certain terms.

As a result, there are names that sound pleasant and friendly. While others will only make you react like “huh? What the! Ok, next!”

According to a Customer Thermometer survey that sampled individuals in the U.S., 65% of consumers have emotional connections to brands. And subconscious mental connotations, among other elements, have always been critical determinants.

That said, one thing’s for sure…

A name can’t be friendly enough if it’s not adequately simple and short.

The faster your prospects digest your business name, the quicker they’ll be able to remember it, and consequently the higher your chances of attracting returned visitors.

The secret here is starting out with words they can already relate to. An adult native-speaker knows about 20,000-35,000 words. So that should give you quite a wide pool to choose from.

Here’s a breakdown of different categories to help you narrow down to the specific target market demographic.

An unfamiliar or complex name, on the other hand, could end up pretty much like Mississippi. It originally went by an Ojibwe word “misi-ziibi”. But then we coined an even more complicated mouthful, simply because the original name was too unfamiliar to recall.

In your case, unfortunately, people won’t even bother coming up with alternative terms. If they can’t remember the name, they simply move on to your competition.

Should Be Synonymous With Your Micro Niche

Even when you’ve never spent a second on social media, you’d probably have a rough idea of what “Instagram” is all about just from the name.

If that proves to be a challenge, at least you can take a wild guess about “Facebook” or “LinkedIn”.

I, for instance, was not aware that Snapchat existed in 2012. My kids beat me to it. And the app’s logo didn’t help at all, because it only threw me off further.

A bell? Perhaps an alarm app? Then I read the name again…aha!

Pretty much explains why they didn’t find it necessary to include an “about us” page on their main site.

Instagram, on the other hand, essentially combined “insta” from “instant”, and “gram” from “telegram”. To be honest, it can’t be more straightforward. Explains why Facebook only messed around with other features but left the name intact after acquiring the app.

Now that’s the sheer power of choosing a name that’s synonymous with your ecommerce Micro-niche.

Look at it this way.

According to data by Chartbeat’s Tony Haile, 55% of your site’s visitors will bolt out within the first 15 seconds. That means that only a small fraction of them can afford to spare some time to dig around the “About Us” page.

So it only makes sense to start passing the message right from the name and save everyone’s time.

Be Unique and Original

Ok, we’ve agreed that a perfect business name should be friendly, simple, short, and relevant to your micro niche.

So let’s cut to the chase

Doesn’t this basically translate to a bland common name?

No, not at all. Make no mistake about this process. A familiar name can be common, but it doesn’t have to be bland.

It all boils down to your creativity in working around these two often mistaken characteristics.

Think about “Amazon” for instance. Previously, it only referred to a renowned forest in South America. Then Bezos came along and it became a trademark. Familiar, but refreshingly thoughtful and original.

Failing to be original could have your business suffering the same fate as a small time restaurant in Korea, which was formerly named “Louis Vuiton Dak”.

Of course, many people would assume that the designer company Louis Vuitton would never bother with small fry. That such established brands only go for other large businesses that present a real threat.

But let’s not overlook the fact that their extensive workforces often include in-house full-time lawyers. And since they are not involved in actual production and marketing, the legal professionals possibly crawl around the web for new prey every time they get bored.

The Korean restaurant was an especially juicy target because it had the nerve of even adopting the designer’s logo. Eventually, the original Vuitton won the resultant International Trademark infringement case, forcing the restaurant to switch to “chaLouisvui Tondak”. But that name, surprisingly, wasn’t good enough and the owner ended up paying a fine of $125,000.

The point is…

The name doesn’t even have to be completely identical to attract a legal suit. If it tastes, or even smells like another registered business, you’ll be labelled a copycat. And that’s bad enough, in addition to the risk of hearing from a team of hungry lawyers.

Trademark laws are no joke. So to be safe, check with bodies like The United States Patent and Trademark Office, and consult a lawyer for additional guidance.

And just like that, you’re all set.

Have fun sampling different possible names.

You might be forced to brainstorm many ideas, but you’ll be able to secure an ideal one through these tips. And don’t forget to seek additional name ideas from other parties.

Finally, we love stories on business naming and branding. So don’t forget to share the juicy details through the comment section. We can’t wait to learn how you came up with the concept behind your business name.

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10 Guidelines to Prepare Your Online Ecommerce Store for the Mobile-First Indexing Update https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/ecommerce-mobile-first-indexing https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/ecommerce-mobile-first-indexing#respond Fri, 27 Jul 2018 19:00:30 +0000 https://ecommerce-platforms.com/?p=17123 Have you noticed that some online ecommerce stores have highly responsive pages while browsing on our laptops while their mobile version isn’t so appealing and responsive? At the same time, other stores have highly optimized websites for both the desktop…

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Have you noticed that some online ecommerce stores have highly responsive pages while browsing on our laptops while their mobile version isn’t so appealing and responsive? At the same time, other stores have highly optimized websites for both the desktop and mobile.

Ever wondered why such differences exist?

Let’s dig a little deeper.

You might have probably heard the term ‘mobile-first indexing’ lately. Let me break it down to you in simple terms.

Mobile-first indexing is nothing but Google’s persistent efforts to make the web more user-friendly and mobile-friendly. As more and more searches happen on our smartphones, Google wants its index and search results to represent the majority of users – the smart(phone) users.

But all this can get the average business owner muddled up. Most of them have a million questions that queue up regarding this update:

  • Do I have to change anything?
  • What if I don’t have a mobile-friendly website? 
  • Will this affect my traffic?

It goes on. Today, I’m here to give you some insight on mobile-first indexing, how it’s going to affect your site and tips on how to prepare your online ecommerce store for the mobile-first indexing update.

 

What is Mobile-First Indexing?

Well, to begin with, let me quote what Google had to say about the update :

To recap, our crawling, indexing, and ranking systems have typically used the desktop version of the content of a page, which may cause issues for mobile searchers when that version is vastly different from the mobile version. Mobile first indexing means that we will use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help our primarily mobile users find what they are looking for.”- Webmaster Central Blog

Several sites that are migrating to mobile-first indexing via Search Console got notifications from Google regarding this update and it looked like this.

mobile-first indexing

Until now, Google had always indexed the desktop version of websites to determine search rankings.

It’s all going to change now.

Google has made its first official announcement regarding the rollout of mobile-first indexing.

Soon, the Googlebot will crawl and index the mobile version of a page to ensure that the majority of the users find content that’s optimized for their mobile screens.

If a site does not have a mobile-friendly version, then Google will still crawl and index the site as-it-is.

Should I be worried about this update?

This is a question that floods the minds of every website owner.

Firstly, this is not a big issue to be worried about. The update is only in the early stages of testing, and is being rolled out very gradually to websites which Google considers ‘healthy’. These are sites that follow the best practices for mobile-first indexing and uses either responsive web design or dynamic serving.

Secondly, Google assures that the new update will not have a huge impact on rankings. There will not be a separate index for sites which are optimized for the mobile and sites which are not.

It simply means mobile pages will be crawled first and Google will fall back to the desktop if no mobile version is found.

However, mobile-friendly content will generally be ranked higher in search results when the user is searching on a mobile device. This is a measure that has been in place since 2015.

Thirdly, the websites that are likely to get affected are the ones with separate mobile and desktop pages for users, depending on which device they’re using. In this scenario, the mobile version will now be crawled first and this could impact your search ranking.

The websites that are the least affected are the ones which have the same mobile and desktop pages. In this scenario, your mobile and desktop pages are the same and simply adapt to accommodate different screen sizes, which is the design approach Google recommends for mobile optimization.

The next question would be:

How do I prepare my online store to deal with the mobile-first indexing update?

With over millions of product pages, optimizing a mobile version for your online ecommerce store is not going to be easy. We have to ensure that these pages are crawlable, indexable and rankable while being viewed on a mobile.

Don’t worry, the following guidelines can surely help you.

1. Get started with Google Analytics

Always make sure that your website is linked to Google Analytics. The insights it provides contains a wealth of information about your site, your visitors and where they came from. It can also be used to determine the amount of traffic your website receives from mobile devices.

It has an option called the ecommerce tracking option which allows you to measure the number of transactions and revenue that your website generates.

2. Make Sure Your Online Store is Mobile-Optimized

These days, the number of mobile users have accelerated to a whole new level. So, pull up your socks and kick-start your mobile version because the mobile era is here to stay.

Responsive web design is the way to go.

The following statistic shows the total number of mobile phone users worldwide from 2015 to 2020. In 2019, the number of mobile phone users is forecasted to reach 4.68 billion.

Also did you know this?

The first step is to switch to a responsive website as soon as possible. It means that the same content will be shown on the website, irrespective of the platform the viewer is using- the content that moves around dynamically according to the screen size.

Be it a mobile, desktop or a tablet – the same design and content are shown and it becomes easier for the end users to navigate. The second step is to ensure that the website serves the same HTML code regardless of the user’s device.

Also, a responsive design means that the designers and developers do not need to monitor two separate websites (which was how they did it in the past) and can work on a single template. It’s a safe bet.

If you’re not sure whether or not your site is mobile-optimized, check using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.

 

After hitting ‘Run Test', you should see something like this:

 

 

If you don’t see the same message as above, Google will prepare a report for you. It will accentuate the main problem areas and you can easily make the respective changes and transform your website with the help of your developer.

Or of course, you can just use a good ecommerce platform that'll help you with this.

 

3. Increase Your Page Speed

Page Speed has always been of prime importance for SEO. And of course, for Google as well. According to Searchmetrics, the pages in Google’s top ten search results are those that load in less than 1.10 seconds.

 

 

Make sure that your site loads fast, or else it will affect your rankings on mobile. Users always expect the websites to load fast, and so does Google. Hence, a high page speed is essential.

It estimated that you lose 7% of users with every additional second your page takes to load and render.

Pro tip: There is an easy hack to get over this. If you want to send users to another page to sell them or show them a product, use popup overlays. Popus load fast, and users don't feel that they're navigating to another page, so you don't lose them. Nifty, huh?

How can you increase the page speed?

  • Optimize your images
  • Minimize redirects
  • Minify code
  • Improve server response time
  • Leverage browser caching

You can also use free tools to check your site speed, like Google’s Page Speed Insights, Web Page Test, and GT Metrix.

 

4. Convert the Browsers into Customers

The primary goal of every ecommerce website is – a sale!

Imagine this:

According to Google Analytics, the traffic generated on your website is a lot, that is, thousands of people browse your website every day but only a few of them become customers. Isn’t that sad? 

Well, here are some tips that you can use to make sure that each of these browsers turns into customers.

  • Use attractive images to grab visitors' attention
  • Ensure the path to conversion from any page is no more than 3 clicks or hops away.
  • Provide a seamless and easy payment gateway. Keep it as short as possible and don’t clutter the page with too many fields.
  • Remove autoplay videos and other pop-ups.
  • Make sure that your CTA (call-to-action) is prominent (and you can always do a bit of A/B testing to improvem them!)

 

5. Simplify Your Site Search

A good site search is crucial for every ecommerce website because it will create a smooth mobile UX.

The ultimate aim is to provide the best mobile search experience for the end user so that he/she can easily find their desired product in a jiffy.

Here’s how you can optimize your site search.

  • Ensure that your search bar is visible on all devices. Say ‘no’ to tiny search bars.
  • Use autocomplete to save time and effort
  • Make sure that misspellings have search results (this happens more often than you think)
  • Use images rather than text
  • Allow users to refine their searches
  • Allow sorting of search results and offer users the ability to use filters (why do you think Amazon offers such a large number of filters? It's because it makes their store more user friendly!)

6. Need for Gestures and Keyboards

Gestures

Suppose, you want to buy a new shirt and you start to browse a few online stores. You noticed that in some sites, you could easily zoom in and out while in some other sites, you can’t do so.

And even if you can, the image will be pixelated when you try to zoom in. This will easily annoy you and chances are that you will delete the item from your cart.

At this point, you realize that you really need common gesture features on your ecommerce site like pinch/double tap zoom.

On Screen Keyboards

Another important aspect that could be overlooked is the fact that some users religiously only use on screen keyboards while doing shopping online.

Always make sure that at the credit/debit card check out, only the numerical keyboard needs to be shown. Likewise, in the email field, provide the keyboard with the ‘@’ symbol. Ensure that you have enabled contextual keyboards that change based on the required inputs.

7. Ease of Access

Text Size

Ensuring that the end users can engage with every element of your content without the need to pinch and zoom helps to deliver a high-quality UX. Allow your font sizes to scale within the viewport and use 16px as your base font size and scale relatively as required.

Tap Target

Certain websites are set out to drive us crazy because their web pages are not optimized properly. It becomes intolerable when we hit the wrong button because they are too close or when we have to zoom in, to hit the button.

Here are few tips on how to get your tap targets optimized:

  1. Make tap targets at least 48px wide
  2. Space tap targets at least 32px apart

Scaling

When you are designing new pages, you should always design mobile first and then think about how this will scale to other devices like the desktop or tablet. Always make sure that your mobile-responsive web pages can accommodate both portrait and landscape device orientations.

The most important thing to be noted is that all your content and media should fill up the screen size and make use of the screen real estate.

 

8. Prepare for Voice Search

We've talked about voice search optimization a lot before.

Nowadays, the number of people using Alexa, Cortana, Google Now and Siri to find answers to their questions via spoken word rather than by typing in a search query is increasing day by day.

According to Google, these are the top reasons why people turn to their voice-activated speakers:

  • It allows them to multitask
  • It helps them to instantly get answers and information
  • It makes their daily routine easier.

So, obviously, every other website will try to incorporate voice search because this kind of technology has already taken root and has a huge impact on search results and rankings.

 

People search very differently when they type into their keypads and when they speak to Siri or Alexa. For example, suppose you want to search for an easy blueberry cheesecake recipe. If you are typing it into Google’s search box, you would probably type in “easy blueberry cheesecake recipe.”

But, when you do a voice search, you would probably say, “ Make a blueberry cheesecake with minimum ingredients” or “ Make blueberry cheesecake in 30 mins.” This is huge for the ecommerce industry and it will help you a great deal in business if you keep these tips in mind.

  1. Make a list of long-tail keywords and questions that are related to your business.
  2. Think about what kind of questions the end users would ask.
  3. Making note of answers would find helpful.
  4. Optimize your content accordingly.

Pro Tip: Google (at the moment) uses featured snippets a lot for their voice search results. Make sure your content is optimized for featured snippets, and you're good to go. We've talked about featured snippet optimization here.

 

9. Use Structured Data Markup

Search engines use structured data markup to understand the contents of a page and gather more and more information about the webpage. This makes it easier for users to find the information they're looking for.

At the same time, it will improve the business's search results listing.

Search engines like Google use structured data to generate rich snippets, which are small pieces of information that appear in the search results.

 

Here you can find the rating, number of reviews, cooking time and lots more. The rich snippets make everything easier for the end user.

Hence, structured data markup is vital for rankings. You can verify your structured markup across desktop and mobile testing for both versions with the Structured Data Testing Tool.

 

10.  Get Rid of Flash and Pop-ups

Avoid presenting content to mobile device users, which requires flash to be installed, as mobile devices do not support this. Googlebot can easily track it down as an error and your ranking will face the consequences. HTML5 and JavaScript are better alternatives to flash in terms of reliability and performance.

If your site is full of popups, then you may be penalized by Google. Google has been cracking down Interstitial content (that's the formal way to say nagging popups).

 

You must have seen this before, huh?

While we are busy browsing, a popup suddenly comes into view! And just like that, our whole UX is interrupted. The interstitials prevent you from exploring a website until you comply and click on a link or “x.”

 

Wrapping Up

These 10 guidelines will help optimize your ecommerce website for the mobile-first indexing update. After making the necessary changes to your website, it will be able to endure and survive after the update is rolled out worldwide.

I recommend a full mobile audit and a proper analysis of the website. This will help you get started and you will know how to proceed further.

Focus on creating a website that's mobile-optimized and the rest will follow.

Image courtesy:[1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[11],[13]

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Ambassador Review: Referral Software for Rapidly Growing Ecommerce https://ecommerce-platforms.com/ecommerce-reviews/ambassador-review https://ecommerce-platforms.com/ecommerce-reviews/ambassador-review#respond Thu, 26 Jul 2018 08:00:01 +0000 https://ecommerce-platforms.com/?p=17071 For smaller online stores, the Ambassador referral software probably hasn't been on your radar. It doesn't have a direct Shopify or Bigcommerce app, and the main customer base seems to be large companies like Logitech, Zillow, and Hulu. That said,…

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For smaller online stores, the Ambassador referral software probably hasn't been on your radar. It doesn't have a direct Shopify or Bigcommerce app, and the main customer base seems to be large companies like Logitech, Zillow, and Hulu. That said, plenty of lesser known brands are also utilizing the referral software, and there are integrations with platforms like Shopify (even though you can't get them in the public app stores).

Overall, Ambassador is a powerhouse referral marketing system meant to create a customized referral program for your business and push real results to your website.

Quite a few other modules and features are included with Ambassador, so if you're interested in a high-powered, revenue-centric referral platform to integrate directly into your online store, keep reading.

ambassador review

Ambassador Review: What's It All About?

Although it's mainly sold as a referral marketing tool, you actually get several solutions packaged into one suite of products.

The first is for referral marketing, which convinces your customers to share your product or service with anyone. This could be friends, family members, and coworkers. In return, the customers get rewards for all of the people they recommend.

The second part of Ambassador is the affiliate marketing, which is more catered to the people who are going to be writing about your products and services. All successful online stores need brand ambassadors and online influencers who rave about what you're selling. In fact, you're often better off partnering with bloggers, podcasters, and Youtube influencers than you are sending out a press release. The reason for this is because these people have hyper-targeted followings, so you're able to find the ones that relate to your product the most.

Third, we have partner marketing. This type of marketing allows you to team up with agencies, resellers, and referral partners who are then able to capture leads for you and type in the lead information on your CRM. Ambassador takes the information typed in by your partners and automates revenue sharing and commissions.

Fourth up is the influencer marketing module, which is best for reaching out to experts in certain subject matter. This might be a social media star or a blogger. Ambassador provides those people with automated emails, white-labeling, and links so it's much easier for them to promote your brand.

Finally, the brand advocacy marketing tool from Ambassador lets you interact with your customers to ensure that the right content is being shared on the right channels. This system seems to give more power to your referrers, with options for viewing their rewards, tracking progress, and giving feedback.

Ambassador Review: The Best Features

What's great about Ambassador is that both B2B and B2C online stores are seeing success with the platform. Not only that, but it doesn't matter how big your store is. Ambassador seems to have something for everyone, even if it's a basic referral program for a startup. That said, when Ambassador says a program is “basic,” this is still going to be far more advanced than what you would generally get from a Shopify referral program app.

Quite a few features are provided with Ambassador, and it depends on the pricing plan you decide to go with. You can find everything from smart segmentation to multiple campaigns, and like mentioned above, five suites are offered for setting up different systems for referrals, affiliates, partnerships, and more.

Although we're not going to highlight all of the features from Ambassador, here are some of our favorites:

Smart Segmentation

Your referral and partner programs become far more effective when you can segment the communications to separate partners. For instance, you might have two types of partners: bloggers and YouTube influencers. Both are interested in affiliate links, but they're not always going to be the same format and message. Bloggers may want banner ads for the affiliate links, while the YouTubers might be more interested in a short video clip. This is a rough example, but no two partners are the same.

Ecommerce Integrations

Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, WooCommerce, and all of the major ecommerce platforms can connect with Ambassador.

Email and CRM Integrations

If you're running a site with a specific CRM, integrating with Ambassador is no problem. The same can be said for your email portal, considering you need to constantly remain in contact with your partners.

Quick Payouts and Coupons

When you find brand ambassadors, affiliates, and referrers, it might feel like you're offering them more than what they're giving back–so you don't have to think about them that much. However, these referrals are the lifeblood of your business. Therefore, you want to make your partners happy by sending out fast, automated payments. Ambassador has both, along with multi-currency support, multi-language tools, gift cards, and custom rewards.

Ambassador Review: Pricing

When it comes to pricing, you'll have to contact Ambassador to schedule a demo and receive a quote. Usually, this means that they have a pretty hard sales pitch for you, but it also often demonstrates that this is a serious company that is more focused on catering to your individual company needs.

Therefore, one company will call in and most likely get a different quote than a completely different company. In my experience, this is typically a good thing, since you're receiving the best service possible, and hopefully you're only paying for what you plan on using.

What we do know are the types of plans provided for Ambassador users:

  • Starter Plan – This plan is designed for startups and smaller businesses with the need for a simple affiliate and referral program. From the looks of it, any smaller ecommerce store would enjoy this plan, especially since you can then upgrade if your store begins rapidly growing. A visual editor is included so that you can manage and view real-time changes.
  • Professional Plan – Medium and large companies go for this plan, considering it's for managing all of your business relationships and ensuring those partners are provided the best tools possible for talking about your brand. The goal is to set up one or more programs, customizing each of them for the different partners you have.
  • Enterprise Plan – This is a completely customized referral program that can be used on an omni-0channel network and created so that it has a global reach. It's also a white-labeled solution so that there's not a hint of the Ambassador branding on it. Overall, the Enteprise Plan is the ultimate solution for segmenting your affiliates and partners so that they all have varying experiences and materials for promoting your brand.

It all depends on the plan you decide on, but Ambassador states that some of the following features are available to choose from:

  • Omni-channel capabilities.
  • Influencer programs.
  • Affiliates.
  • Advocacy programs.
  • Smart segmenting.
  • Phone and email support.
  • A success coach.
  • Onboarding.
  • Ecommerce integrations.
  • Email and CRM integrations.
  • An Open REST API.
  • Much more.

Ambassador Review:  Customer Support

As you may have noticed in the pricing section, phone and email support is available for all Ambassador customers. This type of dedicated support is a must-have for any growing business interested in getting a powerhouse affiliate and referral program like this. Some of the plans also provide a designated success coach to guide you along your way and provide tips on how to boost the success of your brand ambassadors.

In addition to that, Ambassador walks you through the onboarding process so that you don't have to figure out everything yourself. Technical implementation support is also provided, which is often the support team doing most of the work for you.

Ambassador also provides a wonderful blog for reading articles about how to improve your referral programs. We also like the Resources Center, since it has a wide range of articles, eBooks, reports, and webinars, sending you through a crash course on how to utilize your brand ambassadors to their fullest potential.

Overall, Ambassador seems to have all of its bases covered when it comes to customer support. It would be nice to have a live chat option, but I don't see that anywhere on the website. Also, the knowledge base is great for completing your own research to solve some problems, but a user forum would be nice to speak with other Ambassador users as well.

Who Should Consider Ambassador for Referrals?

It's tough for startups to decide on a referral program (or any store integration for that matter) without knowing anything about pricing. However, Ambassador caters to large, medium, and small stores, with solutions made for boosting your sales, engaging your referrers, and getting the word out about your company.

If you're running a startup and you need a referral or affiliate program, I would highly recommend signing up for a demo with Ambassador. If you currently run a small to large online store, and you think it's time to graduate from your present referral app or software, Ambassador is a logical next step that is most likely going to render better results than a Shopify app.

If you have any questions about this Ambassador review, let us know in the comments section below.

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ActiveCampaign Review: Email Marketing with Marketing Automation https://ecommerce-platforms.com/ecommerce-reviews/activecampaign-review https://ecommerce-platforms.com/ecommerce-reviews/activecampaign-review#respond Mon, 23 Jul 2018 10:48:27 +0000 https://ecommerce-platforms.com/?p=16728 This ActiveCampaign review assesses its features, pricing, and the overall functionalities that would fundamentally be relevant to your business. It’s cheap. And most importantly, super effective. Welcome to the world of email marketing. If you’ve used this channel long enough,…

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This ActiveCampaign review assesses its features, pricing, and the overall functionalities that would fundamentally be relevant to your business.

It’s cheap. And most importantly, super effective.

Welcome to the world of email marketing.

If you’ve used this channel long enough, you probably recognize its sheer power at generating leads. As a matter of fact, 80% of retail business owners agree that email marketing is their principal customer retention driver.

It possibly has something to do with the fact that 77% of consumers prefer receiving promotional material through email, as opposed to social media, phone calls, texts, or direct mail.

So, yes. You’re dead right. Email is still king. You can say that again.

Your online store is pretty much surviving below its potential if you’re yet to fully leverage email marketing.

And no. I’m not talking about lazily drafting a couple of emails to selected leads.

Here’s the thing. There’s nothing like selected leads when you want to exponentially grow your customer base.

Each prospect is worth an email because, in the end, leads captured via email offers usually spend 138% more than their counterparts who’ve been left out.

What does this mean?

Basically, your entire campaign is worth nothing if your business has not implemented a comprehensive email marketing strategy.

But, of course, we know it’s logistically impossible to keep up with all your prospecting emails. Unless, otherwise, your store is only dealing with about five leads- which essentially beats the whole point of email marketing.

It goes without saying that email marketing is a mass lead generation channel. That’s why it’s popularly bundled with marketing automation tools.

Now, make no mistake. Although automation is all about handing over repetitive functionalities to an AI engine, it still has the same efficiency as a human controlled system. Admittedly, even better because of data-based decision making.

According to an eMarketer report, the businesses that capitalize on automation are recording conversion rates as high as 50%. Come to think of it, it makes sense why 79% of the top performing businesses have been on the marketing bandwagon for at least 24 months.

Where does that leave you?

A perfect place to start would be adopting an email marketing tool.

But, here’s the problem. There are more than 215 solutions in the market today. While the resultant competition is primarily beneficial to users, the wide variety pretty much complicates the selection process.

I’ll tell you what though. Let’s look at the primary ones in detail. Starting with one of the top dogs, ActiveCampaign.

This ActiveCampaign review assesses its features, pricing, and the overall functionalities that would fundamentally be relevant to your business.

So, let’s dive in…..

ActiveCampaign Review: What is ActiveCampaign

Before we even jump to the intricacies, it’s worth noting that ActiveCampaign is not just an email service provider. It attempts to provide a holistic approach to the whole email lead generation process through four fundamental functions:

  • Email Marketing
  • Marketing Automation
  • Sales and CRM
  • Messaging

Can you think of any other function that would seamlessly fit into this chain?

I think not. That’s why ActiveCampaign popularly sells itself as the “all-in-one” marketing tool. How it actually lives up to this is something we’ll be looking at in a bit.

So far, the solution has been serving businesses since 2003. It focuses mostly on small enterprises that are seeking to achieve increased growth through optimized lead generation and customer retention.

As a player in the ecommerce space, therefore, ActiveCampaign is undoubtedly something you should keenly assess in detail.

How does it fit your business?

Is it worth a trial?

And most importantly, what are its principal features?

Well, let’s find out….

ActiveCampaign Review: Features

Marketing Automation

Let’s start off with what’s undeniably the most critical feature- marketing automation.

Since businesses have varying marketing needs, ActiveCampaign recognizes that it’s impossible to provide an ideal one-size-fits-all automation approach. Instead, it offers an automation builder to help you customize your enter automation process in line with your specific goals and objectives.

And guess what? The whole process is actually as simple as clicking, dragging and dropping various automation rules until you have your final workflow.

Speaking of which, you can comfortably create a complex workflow since every automation element is customizable.

For example, you can adjust your system to hold off some pending emails until a particular milestone is reached. Like leads ultimately converting into customers by proceeding to checkout.

To further define automatic logic, ActiveCampaign also allows you to define the whole decision-making flow with if/then rules.

But then again, maybe you’re just not cut out for this whole workflow mumbo jumbo. So you find the process of creating your own automation protocol a bit too confusing and time-consuming.

That’s why ActiveCampaign also provides the automation marketplace.

Instead of scratching your head defining custom rules, you can skip the whole thing altogether and purchase a readymade automation workflow. The automation marketplace is just the right place to shop for a wide range of automation workflows with varying protocols, which can be plugged straight into your system.

And you know what? Yes, you can also sell your own unique workflow to other marketers seeking quick solutions.

Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. There’s also a downside to this.

Buying a workflow does not guarantee seamless compatibility with your system objectives. Overlooking even a simple protocol might result in a buggy automation system.

Email Segmentation

As an online based business, I presume that your site’s target market might be pretty extensive, with varying demographics.

Now, that complicates the whole lead nurturing process. Because it would not be advisable to send out emails with the same details to all your prospects. You’d ultimately risk losing out on quite a substantial chunk.

To help with this problem, ActiveCampaign comes with in-depth email segmentation. It allows you to break down and segment your entire list according to a wide array of categories- page visits, email opens, device, country of origin, etc.

And that just covers the baseline. You can still go further and establish a deeply targeted list by stacking up multiple categories to filter the entire email list.

Additionally, you can introduce tags dynamically to add to some segments automatically. For example, you could choose to include an automation rule that would send all checkout traffic information to the “Customer” list.

Email Retargeting

As you mind your business online, you’ve probably seen one of these. Those peculiar ads that conveniently follow you around to other sites, trying to convince you to go back to a specific site you just happened to peek through.

This is what is traditionally known as ad retargeting.

Well, it turns out ActiveCampaign helps you do just that with emails. But this one uses a rather clever approach.

Let’s assume one of your leads surfs through your site and ends up reading a blog article on “How to Make Strong Coffee”. The automation system subsequently picks this up and sends an email to them, outlining the wide range of coffee makers in your online store.

It’s as simple as that.

Social and Behavioral Data in CRM

Personalization is the foundation for customer relationship management. That’s why 96% of marketers are convinced that it’s quite effective in developing relationships with their leads.

Fair enough. But personalization and subsequent targeting rely heavily on personal information, which is rarely submitted comprehensively by customers.

Thankfully, ActiveCampaign will handle the dirty work for you. Through its CRM, it provides insights into social and behavioural data of your leads including:

  • Age and interests
  • Location
  • Previous interactions and site activity
  • Social feeds

This then comes in quite handy when you need to refine your complex automation workflow.

Lead Scoring

Business gurus often advise growing entrepreneurs to consider each lead important.

But let’s face it. All in all, only a limited number will eventually convert, and subsequently, proceed to become return customers. And they can be distinctly identified early in the conversion funnel if you paid attention to the intricate details.

ActiveCampaign makes this super easy through an automated lead scoring feature. It basically assigns scores to your leads according to their respective conversion likelihood.

Consequently, you’ll be able to identify specific parties that you can direct the bulk of your nurturing resources to.

All things considered, this is basically what you’ll get from ActiveCampaign:

  • Free one-on-one training
  • Custom landing pages
  • Free email templates
  • Social media monitoring
  • Dynamic email content
  • Automated series
  • Advanced segmentation and targeting
  • Contact categories
  • CRM and sales automation
  • Newsletter management
  • Free phone, live chat, and email support,
  • SMS marketing
  • Contact position tracking
  • Campaign, contact, and list reporting
  • Email designer
  • Built-in integrations
  • Autoresponders
  • Marketing automation

 

ActiveCampaign Review: Dashboard

ActiveCampaign’s cockpit is refreshingly simple and straightforward.

It fundamentally grants you the all-important front seat to your account, displaying all the critical info in widgets.

At the top are the following tabs neatly arranged to provide quick navigation:

  • Create Automation
  • Create a Form
  • Create a Deal
  • View Reports
  • Integrate Services
  • Create a List

There’s also a menu on the right with the following options:

  • Contacts
  • Campaigns
  • Automations
  • Deals
  • Lists
  • Forms
  • Reports
  • Apps
  • Settings

At the far right is a section that briefly outlines recent actions by your contacts- including subscriptions, social media activity, emails opened, emails read, etc.

Next to it is the campaigns widget, showing your latest marketing market campaigns in chronological order.

As you navigate through the dashboard, you also get to view your top contacts and current automation workflows for your respective campaigns.

ActiveCampaign Review: Pricing

Admit it. ActiveCampaign has quite a solid list of features.

So, of course, I expected the pricing plans to be a bit on the upper side. But, surprisingly, they’ve managed to keep their entire strategy quite competitive, with fairly well-priced plans for all business categories.

ActiveCampaign comes in four primary plans, each priced differently- Lite, Plus, Professional and Enterprise. Your specific tier is dependent on the actual number of leads in your contact database.

That said, it’s worth noting that you can give the service a test run through a 14-day free trial period. And the best thing about this is the fact that you can proceed without submitting credit card information.

Well, sounds good. But, what do you get after 14 days?

At $17 per month billed yearly, the Lite package comes with;

  • Supports up to 3 users
  • Chat and email support
  • Marketing automation
  • Newsletters
  • Email marketing
  • Unlimited sending

Plus, on the other hand, costs $49 per month billed annually. In addition to Lite’s features, it comes with:

  • Supports up to 25 users
  • SMS marketing
  • One on one training
  • Custom branding
  • Custom domain
  • Custom user permissions
  • Deep data integrations
  • Contact and lead scoring
  • CRM with sales automation

The Professional plan costs $129 per month billed yearly. Over Plus’ features, it offers:

  • Supports up to 50 users
  • Attribution
  • Site messaging

The biggest is the Enterprise plan, which is seemingly optimized for large enterprises with extensive email marketing needs. At $229 per month billed annually, you get the following in addition to Professional features:

  • Supports unlimited users
  • Uptime SLA
  • Phone support
  • Free social data
  • Free design services
  • In-depth onboarding
  • Dedicated account representative
  • Custom mail server domain

Who Should Consider ActiveCampaign

The bottom line is this. ActiveCampaign comes with pretty much all the functionalities you’d need as a beginner, intermediate, and experienced email marketer.

Although the free trial period is only two weeks, I think it should be enough for a detailed assessment. But, in case time runs out, the plans are reasonably priced, especially when you consider ActiveCampaign’s extensive provisions.

And the best thing about it is the fact that it can be seamlessly integrated into any business setup. The secret is simply learning the ropes around the whole process of building automation rules.

Unfortunately, the size of the supported businesses is rather limited. While ActiveCampaign provides an Enterprise plan for bulk users, its capabilities would barely match up to the broad, ever-changing needs of large enterprises.

But, so far so good when it comes to small and mid-sized companies. Some of its notable customers in this bracket include:

  • Cupid’s Charity
  • Schott’s Cheap Flights
  • TETON sports
  • Thrive Themes
  • Earth Hour
  • MyGreenFills
  • ApproveMe
  • Boutique Hotel Seven Days

So, yes, it’s worth a try.

Go ahead, and feel free to share your experience plus thoughts through the comments section.

The post ActiveCampaign Review: Email Marketing with Marketing Automation appeared first on Ecommerce Platforms.

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A Detailed Skrill Review: Is Skrill the Right Payment Platform For You? https://ecommerce-platforms.com/ecommerce-reviews/skrill-review https://ecommerce-platforms.com/ecommerce-reviews/skrill-review#respond Fri, 20 Jul 2018 13:23:19 +0000 https://ecommerce-platforms.com/?p=16769 Skrill has an interesting history. I've had some merchants ask me whether or not it's a scam. Let's be clear–I can be certain it's a legitimate payment processor. However, it does have some problems with transparency–especially in the United States. And…

Continue reading A Detailed Skrill Review: Is Skrill the Right Payment Platform For You?

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Skrill has an interesting history. I've had some merchants ask me whether or not it's a scam. Let's be clear–I can be certain it's a legitimate payment processor. However, it does have some problems with transparency–especially in the United States. And you're going to find that the fees are often less than desirable. However, this is often because Skrill does take on risk by supporting merchants that aren't supported by PayPal and other more popular processors. So, in this Skrill review, we'll learn about this interesting company and whether or not you should consider it at all.

Skrill review

 

Skrill Review: Who is it For?

Skrill used to primarily be used for storing and transferring online gambling winnings. The company was initially called Moneybookers, and although gambling is still supported on Skrill, it's evolved to include several other products and services.

For instance, a mobile wallet is provided by Skrill, and you also have the option to sign-up for ecommerce merchant services, also known as payment processing.

The main advantage of considering Skrill is how easy it is to send, accept, and store payments to a wide range of countries. Skrill seems to be driven by international transactions, and that's why sometimes a business in a more “risky” country may have no choice but to go with Skrill.

So, the advantages are that Skrill takes on more risk than other payment processors such as PayPal. It's known for excellent security measures to make up the risk being taken on.

Another thing to consider is that Skrill has been known to allow payments for more risky industries. This includes gambling, adult services, and firearms. It's not a guarantee, but several user reviews note that you'll have a much easier time partnering with Skrill than PayPal if selling something like that.

But, this type of risk comes with a price. The services and products are pretty much the same compared to the competition, so you're not getting anything extra. Yet, the pricing and fees aren't competitive, and I tend to assume this has something to do with the risk being taken on by Skrill.

So, if you're running a business in a country or industry that isn't supported by PayPal, Skrill starts to look more appealing. But it doesn't make much sense for companies in the US or most regular European countries.

Skrill Review: Fees and Other Expenses

You'll quickly find that the fees and expenses are yet another reason US companies should typically avoid Skrill. To start, the website doesn't show any information about merchant fees or rates. None at all.

You have to contact the sales team, which to me shows that Skrill isn't being transparent for a reason.

In addition to that, Skrill has a currency conversion fee of 3.99%.

This means that if I accept a payment in another currency outside my country, and would like to have it converted to my own currency, I then get charged 3.99%.

When running a business in some countries you'll have to simply eat this cost. Skrill provides a debit card that can be used to store your funds, but it's only available for those in the European Economic Area. So, once again, US merchants don't have that small bonus.

But now that we've covered how US businesses shouldn't consider Skrill, let's look at the rates and fees for European businesses–since those are the only rates I was able to find.

  • Chargeback fees are €25.
  • Transactions with the digital wallet are 1.9% + €0.29.
  • Quick checkouts on an ecommerce store are also 1.9% + €0.29.

The conversion rates obviously matter, but as of right now you're not saving money compared to PayPal in the US dollar.

The good news is that Skrill doesn't charge any money for fraud protection, account maintenance, and account configuration.

There don't seem to be any monthly fees associated with a Skrill account, but the website does have some vague statements about how each merchant is different (so the fees could change). But, in general, you should only have to pay the transaction-based fees as you go along with your business.

But…

And this is a big but. Skrill doesn't disclose on its website that some type of fee is charged if your online store generates less than €10 per month in transactional fees.

Based on some of the competition, this fee could be extremely high. Therefore, it's disappointing to see yet another example of Skrill not being transparent with merchants.

A Few More Fees

If you've ever used PayPal to send money to your bank, you know that it's free, regardless of being a consumer or merchant. In fact, many processors stick to this model. They charge for processing but let you send money to your bank without a charge.

Skrill, on the other hand, has a fee of €4 for when you'd like to move money from your Skrill wallet to a bank. This is a little ridiculous, unless, once again, you're not able to use PayPal because of your country, currency, or industry.

Finally, merchant refunds have a fee attached to them as well. Compared to other processors, this is another example of how Skrill's fees are a little out of control. Most of the time a processor sends back the money and transaction fee so you're not stuck eating all of those costs.

However, Skrill tags on a €0.49 fee for every refund that comes back to you. So, you better hope that your customers aren't returning many products.

Skrill Review: Products and Services

As we've mentioned a few times in this article, Skrill's basic functionality is rather similar to that of PayPal. It works as an online wallet and a merchant payment processor. So, a regular person could send or receive money from a friend, or you have the option to accept or receive payments for your business.

However, there's a fee to send money to a friend. As of right now, that fee is 1.9% of the money sent, and it caps out at $20.

Many gamblers and consumers of more risky products and services have become used to these fees, but regular consumers would scoff at anything more than the 0% fee to send a payment to a friend with PayPal.

However, we're not all that concerned with the consumer fees, since this is a blog about the best ecommerce platforms and payment processors.

Unfortunately, Skrill strikes again with its lack of information online, at least in terms of its merchant services.

But here's what we could dig up for you:

Two types of merchant services are offered–what they call hosted payments and wallet payments.

The wallet payments are like the “lite version” of hosted. The service essentially says that merchants can accept payments from any customers with the wallet, as long as that customer is using the Skrill wallet as well.

The hosted payments, on the other hand, are either embedded on your ecommerce site or processed through a Skrill checkout page. It's not that hard to embed Skrill on your site, so I would assume that you would opt for this instead of having customers redirected to an external page.

What else can you expect from Skrill?

  • Support for some interesting payment methods – 20 local payment methods are supported, along with 80 direct bank connections.
  • A one-click checkout option – Similar to what you'd find while shopping on Amazon, Skrill wallet users are able to click on one button and complete a purchase on your store. This feature isn't that unique, but it's included.
  • Support for recurring payments – Once again, it's nice to see this feature included with Skrill, but it doesn't stand out compared to any of the competition. However, the combination of recurring payments and the one-click checkout make lots of sense for those gambling sites.
  • Sending out payments to lots of people – This allows you to choose a large group of people and send payments to all of them at once. It might come in handy if you're working with several manufacturers or suppliers.
  • Small transactions for apps – If you're managing a gaming website you might also have an app for that game. I guess this could also work for an ecommerce store with its own app. Basically, Skrill lets customers send you micropayments inside of a smartphone app.
  • Integrations with many ecommerce platforms – Many competitors have this as well, but you should know that Skrill has apps and support for platforms like Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, and many more.

Skrill Review: How's the Customer Support?

The quality of customer support for a payment processor is usually determined by the resources on its website and what past customers have said. However, I tend to not put as much weight on user reviews since I find reviews are seldom written when people are in good moods.

That said, the reviews are fairly mixed, so I'll talk mainly about the online resources.

A help center is provided, but the articles aren't that detailed or plentiful. There's an email address for you to contact, which is most likely your best route. US merchants have no phone support, yet European merchants do.

A Final Word

With limited information about the features and fees online, it's no wonder Skrill does have its fair share of disgruntled customers. It's clear that US merchants should avoid Skrill, but Europeans might find it more useful with the dedicated customer support and debit card offering. I still think the only reason you would go with Skrill is if you're gambling, gaming, or maybe making some risky investments. The same might be said for companies in “risky” countries for PayPal to get into.

Other than that, there's no reason to put up with the high fees.

If you have any questions about this Skrill review, let us know in the comments.

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