The year 2013 was extremely stressful for SMEs, especially during the last quarter, with shopping event days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as well as the uncontrolled shopping surges around Christmas. During this period, it was essential for any SME to be fast, effective and punctual in order to survive and to rise above the competition. During this period, they have proved to be much more successful than traditionally based businesses.
The main benefit of getting your business online is that you can reach out to more people, target the needs of your market and offer your products and services accordingly, without having to limit yourself to the local market. So, let’s see what 2013 has left us with and what can we do to improve our eCommerce Websites in 2014.
The World has gone Mobile
According to statistics by comScore, around 3.6 billion pounds (5.8 billion dollars) were spent using mobile phones, adding to a total of 33.2 billion pounds (53.2 billion dollars) from eCommerce sales in Q3, showing a 13% increase in sales over the same quarter in 2012. This ever-growing trend of online shopping has escalated quickly with the rise of social media and mobile devices. Currently, over 56% of people in the world own a smartphone device and use it as a primary source for online shopping.
The same study has shown that almost 68% of shopping research (product/service comparison, reviews and consumer satisfaction) was conducted on mobile devices.
To improve the efficiency of your online retail shop, you need to improve the functionality to offer the best User Experience (UX) to both mobile users and desktop users. Focus this year on on-site optimisation, in order to improve the User Experience.
The main elements to look at are:
- Responsive Websites vs. Mobile Sites
There are three options available for mobile device optimisation:
- Creating a responsive website where the content of the page responds to the screen size of the device.
- Registering a mobile domain where the server optimises the page content specifically for mobile devices.
- Building an Android and/or iPhone app.
Making a fully responsive design is usually the best option – mobile websites require registering an “m.domainname.com” which will be treated less favourably by the search engines as the links shared from your mobile domain will not add to the link equity of your main website. As mentioned by Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam Team, making a website responsive reflects better in search results than creating a website with a mobile domain.
Building an Android / iPhone app is generally not a good option as it can very expensive to build and very difficult to market among the multitude of other apps.
- Location-specific pages
If your target market is in more than one location (for example, you could have targeted markets in the UK, Central Europe and the US) you may want to create different landing pages for each location and try to gain Search Engine Rank for each page accordingly. Some of your products/services may do better in UK rather than in Central Europe, so you should consider trying to rank a page for the specific keyword for that targeted market. Potential customers will still end up on your product/category page, but they will arrive there from your ranked page from a local search.
- Local addresses and Phone numbers
If you are operating your business either online and offline you need to be available to your customers. They may need information about a specific product or they may want to contact you before purchasing. That is why you need to provide contact information on all of your pages for each specific location, so that your potential customers can contact you.
Putting phone numbers and addresses of your specific branches (if you have them) on each location-specific page is a great way of improving two-way communications with your potential customers and ultimately increasing your revenue. However, some of the greatest mistakes that designers make is that they put this information in image format on the footer and/or header of the website. Showing them like that makes them un-clickable, unusable and therefore ineffective. The information needs to be placed in text format, so that it will be clickable on mobile devices. When people tap on the screen where your phone number is located, they will be given the option to dial it without having to remember it or write it down.
Landing page optimisation
When it comes to eCommerce Websites in 2014, one of the essential parts of your online business performance is the design and functionality of your landing page. Minor but constant tweaks on your landing page can greatly reflect on the bounce rate of your visitors and potential customers.
Let’s take a look at this sketch. This is a popular perceptual psychology test that will help you understand the importance of landing page optimisation.
Is this image a rabbit or a duck? If you look at this image during most of the year, it will look like a duck. However, if you are looking at it during Easter, you’re more likely to see a rabbit. That is why landing page optimisation needs to be done constantly, adjusting things according to the response of your visitors.
- Track your landing page with Google Analytics
By creating a Google Analytics account, you’ll get a tracking code for your website which you need to include in the HTML for each page. That way, you can constantly track traffic on the site, the geographical location of your visitors, the time spent on each page and the areas of the page that your visitors paid the most attention to. People should spend no more than two minutes on your landing page – otherwise it means that the concept of your page, as well as the description of the action you want them to make are poorly defined, confusing and ineffective. Try making some minor changes and see what happens to the results. By using Google Analytics for comparing the real result of changes you can tailor those changes.
SEO and SMM for eCommerce Websites in 2014
Both Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Social Media Marketing (SMM) campaigns are essential factors for your online presence. During the past year, Google has launched two major search algorithm updates, Hummingbird and Penguin, which have made an impact on the entire web. Conventional link building methods such as link exchanges will soon be forgotten as Google can now examine search queries and present personalised search results that answer questions. For example, when searching for “nearest gym in town”, Google will run through your mail and Google+ to confirm your location and through your previous searches for that same string and it will present you with the most relevant results.
So how does this affect the eCommerce world?
Content is your tool, your king and the driving force of your online marketing and presence. However, it is a hard tool to handle. According to Google Quality Guidelines, the content that you present to your audience needs to be informational, educational, well-written and relevant. So, how do you achieve that with an online shop that has over 5000 items – 2000 specific products and a lot of variations in colour and brand? How do you create “informational, educational and high quality” product descriptions and avoid duplicate content? With a description for each item, it is impossible.
Battling with Duplicate Content?
If you want to end up penalised by Google and appearing at the bottom of search results, you can use the descriptions from the manufacturer’s website. Creating a page is hard and daunting and duplicate content is very difficult to manage. That is why you need to avoid repetitive sentences and mark problematic pages with a no-index tag. This is important in order to avoid the search engine spiders finding these duplicate pages and penalising you for it.
However, there is a way to help in making the content of these pages unique. By allowing people to register on your Website and add product reviews it will help create unique content on your product pages. The idea of this is to engage your followers on social networks to talk, discuss and engage and to ultimately bring more customers to your website. Consider trying to build email registrations to gather a large list of potential customers who are interested in your products. That way you achieve multiple goals – you be building an email list for your newsletter campaign, you have engaging visitors from your social network pages and you have unique generated content for each page without having to work for it.
Social signals affect your rankings in search engine results. However, the engagement of the same audience is far more vital to ranking factors than social signals (likes, shares, +1s, tweets). For example, Walmart’s Facebook page. There are over 34 million people who have liked this page but there are barely 60 thousand of them who are actually talking about it. What does this tell you?
This is a simple representation of not-so-good customer engagement. The reason why 30 million people liked their page on Facebook was to see the products, services and updates in their newsfeed. So if only 0.16% people who have liked your business are talking about it – pure logic – how exactly is your business relevant? You may be the largest retailer in the UK but your online relevance can be way down.
So what have we learnt so far?
To conclude – eCommerce Websites in 2014 have become one of the most influential factors in the success of your business. The web is a powerful medium now, used by more than 36% of the total world population and it has become a marketing battlefield. People are fighting their way to improve their customer experience and present them with the best shopping experience, just so they can increase their total monthly revenue. Online marketing offers eCommerce businesses the best ROI, but only if done continuously and properly.