Remember Big Data When Creating Your New Online Store

When creating your online store it’s important that you ensure its success by using a data analysis strategy.

By Ashley Kimler

So, you’re ready to launch a new online store? That’s great; technology has advanced so much over the last few years, that you can leverage better tools for website creation than ever before. The downside is that more people are thinking like you now, too. Your competition is more fierce.

So, if you want success, you need to include all the bells and whistles in your strategy – don’t forget big data. Here’s a blueprint for creating a data analysis strategy that will boost your revenue like you never dreamed before.

Be Mindful of Personalization

When setting up your store, you need to think like you’re speaking to an individual. Modern copywriters know not to speak to a site visitor as if he were a group of shoppers. Be mindful that 48% of consumers are more likely to spend money if their eCommerce experience is personalised.

The more personalised you make the buyer’s journey, the more revenue you’re going to earn. The more data you have about your customers, the better fit you are to customise a user’s experience of your store. Here are some tools that can help you tailor shopping experiences from person to person.

Customer Relationship Management Platform

A customer relationship management (CRM) platform can help you analyse and track consumer data inside your website. Many CRM platforms offer a free trial so that you can shop around to find the right one for you. I like Teamgate because it’s easy-to-use and the customer service experience is excellent.

Email Marketing Platform

An email marketing platform will provide you with engagement rate insights and comparisons with others in your industry to keep you in competition with the rest of the market. MailChimp is the industry standard for beginners in email marketing. This platform is free for up to 2,000 contacts and 12,000 emails per month.

Online store screenshot

All-in-One Marketing & Sales Platform

If you decide to go with an all-in-one marketing and sales platform, you won’t need your a CRM or an email marketing platform. HubSpot and SalesForce combine marketing, email, sales, and CRM into one dashboard. These two platforms are on the expensive side, but well worth the cost (once you get past the learning curve).

Each of the above tools will provide you with invaluable insights about shoppers on your website. Use what you discover to customise the shopping experience for each individual on your site.

Start at the Beginning

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

-Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

When diving into the development of a new web store, it’s easy to get carried away with a million details. I’ve seen entrepreneurs try to launch an eCommerce website five times in five years, never making a sale to fuel their website creation efforts. So, when you start your journey, handle what’s directly in front of you, and walk the path one step at a time. When you have what you need to get started, power-up your analytics strategy: then stop.

Before you get carried away with implementing changes on your site based on the data you find, take some time out to watch. Then, create a plan. Once you have created a strategy to appeal to more buyers, take the steps to implement it, then stop again.

Step One: Build a Responsive Site

The first thing you need is a responsive website; Shopify has beautiful, easy-to-use website themes that are perfect when starting out in eCommerce. Connect your store to your domain name, and create a skeleton with a home page, all of your product category pages, contact information, an “about the products” section and an “about the company section,” your privacy policy, terms and conditions, shipping information, a shopping cart, and a simple search bar.

Step Two: Add Your Products

Once the foundation has been laid, you can start building up your product pages. Post only what you are ready to sell. If you plan on expanding, you can add more products at any time. Don’t get carried away with “coming soon” pages – they’ll only turn people away.

Step Three: Connect Your Website With Social Media

When your website is at the point where a customer could potentially land on it and make a purchase, connect your website with your social media profiles. You want social sharing tools and social follow buttons so that your website traffic can connect with you. Once your website and profiles are connected, double-check that your social media profiles are set up as “business” accounts., because you want access to all of the analytics tools available on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and any other social marketing outlets you use.

Step Four: Connect Your Website With Your CRM & Email Marketing Platform or All-in-One System

Depending on the tools you are going to use for analytics and your content management system (CMS), you may need to use a tool like Zapier to connect your website.

Step Five: Connect Your Website and Monitoring Tools with Google Analytics

Through Google Analytics tracking, you will be able to see, in real time, how many people are on your website. You will also see targeted demographic information and traffic behaviour. Connect your website and your tools with Google Analytics to monitor your store and generate vital reports.

Step Six: Launch Your Store

After you build and connect everything, you are ready to launch. Use big data insights generated by the combination of the tools above to power your design, marketing, and sales campaigns from this point forward.

About the author
Ashley Kimler is content marketing dynamo and writer working with Heroic Search in Tulsa, where her team specialises in boosting modern pagerank for all sized businesses. Follow @ashleykimler.

Is Big Data on the Brink of Ruining Retail?

Retailers are taking advantage of the latest advancements in consumer targeting, but what are the drawbacks? Here are the pros and cons of Big Data in retail.

Over the past few years, consumer targeting through technology has boomed, in part due to interest from high-earning tech investors like Mark Zuckerberg and Tej Kohli. Advertisements on Facebook and Google have become extremely personal, drone delivery systems have promised to make shopping a breeze and Bluetooth low energy beacons (BLEs) have allowed businesses to connect directly with customers in their stores through smartphones. But is this new reliance on Big Data in consumerism actually detracting from our experience as shoppers? Here’s how the new wave of consumer targeting technology is affecting our lives, for better and for worse.

The use of Big Data has allowed businesses to tailor their offerings to individual shoppers, which potentially allows for a more streamlined experience. For instance, BLEs—beacons that are able to connect with consumers’ smartphones when they’re in a specific physical location—allow a shop to recognise when a customer has arrived, send them messages with special offers, ready their click-and-collect orders and notify them of items they might be interested in.

If the powers of BLEs are harnessed correctly, customers could quickly find what they’re looking for and take advantage of sales that they might not otherwise be aware of. However, these same capabilities could provide shoppers with too much information, overwhelming them and slowing down the process. BLEs also run the risk of sending a customer an influx of notifications to the point where they become so annoyed that they avoid returning to the store.

The same can be said of highly targeted online advertisements, which take into account the consumers’ search histories to show them ads they are more likely to demonstrate an interest in. Though the goal of these ads is to convert more sales, they have the potential to frustrate consumers, drive them away from the products and make them worry about privacy violations.

Big Data has also given companies the ability to use analytics to keep tabs on supply, demand, inventory and competitors when setting their prices, which often results in a gradual reduction in price for many items. Lower prices can certainly be seen as an advantage for customers, but they could have negative effects in the long-term. If more people choose to shop at larger retail outlets using Big Data, small businesses will be forced to shut down, and communities will feel the rippling effects in their local economies and cultures.

One of the most concerning aspects of the move towards Big Data in retail is the way it removes personal interactions from the shopping experience. Companies using BLEs in their shops or drones for their deliveries take away the opportunity for retail staff and delivery workers to make connections with customers. In a way, the businesses suffer too—without humans to represent them, they run the risk of losing the vibrant personality that draws in consumers and makes them loyal to the brand.

Big Data in retail presents a trade-off between face-to-face communication, which creates a personal experience by its very nature, and tech-based individualised shopping experiences that require little human interaction. Ultimately, the future of retail rests on striking a balance between Big Data and all of those little moments that make up our experiences, interactions and relationships.

Top Tips for E-Commerce Success This Valentine’s Day

Not so much a lovers’ holiday as a marketing tool, Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. PureNet share their tips on selling successfully online for Valentine’s.

valentine heartIt’s that time of year again when, in an attempt to get people to dig deep after tightening their belts for Christmas, online retailers are marketing Valentine’s Day. Of course, that is the cynical approach, but there is no denying that this annual holiday is a massive money-making opportunity, particularly in the digital age when online retail comes to the fore. With that in mind then, we’ve spoken to the team at PureNet about their top tips for guaranteeing conversions on your e-commerce site right in time for Valentine’s Day.

Avoid the lazy approach

The general pattern for e-commerce retailers is to find every product on their website that seems relevant enough to the Valentine’s Day theme and offer a discount alongside a promotional code. This is easy enough, but it doesn’t help you to stand out from your competitors, and it can also lead to a decrease in sales from new customers, who may be more likely to shop around.

Target everyone!

The aforementioned approach rather relies on the assumption that all buyers will already be looking for Valentine’s gifts. Instead, you need to focus on acquisition, which you can do by experimenting with a number of digital marketing methods such as email, re-targeting, Google Shopping and more. Think about your products – what can you offer the customer that is unique to your site?

Consider the date

This year, Valentine’s Day falls on a Tuesday, which can have a significant effect on the time span of your campaigns. Your customers could be celebrating on the day, the weekend before or the weekend after, so you will need to ensure the campaigns start well in advance and also offer flexible delivery options in order to cater for all tastes.

Go beyond the normal gift

Don’t be a slave to the clichés – Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be all chocolates and flowers! For example, if you’re a clothing retailer, you could focus on clothing for the big date, or if you’re trying to cater to those staying in, think about home treats e.g. snacks and movies (depending on your industry of course.) You could also offer your customers the chance to personalise a gift to decrease their chances of basket abandonment, providing your site has the right portals.

Share the message

When is there a better time of year than Valentine’s Day to spread the love? Remember to share all of your marketing campaigns and product offers on social media in order to garner the biggest audience. What’s more, you could even consider collaborating with a charity and inviting your purchasers to contribute, which will also raise your profile and encourage repeat business.

With so many e-commerce options out there today, it’s no wonder that Valentine’s Day is a hit for online retailers. All you need is a little customer savvy, some innovation and great service, and this love story will write itself.

About the Author
Katie Thompson is a Content Marketing Manager at Agency51.

How do product descriptions sell more products?

If all or any of your product descriptions are currently a straight lift from the manufacturer’s descriptions, or even from a competitor’s website, you will receive far less organic web traffic to your website.

If you’re running an online retail business, selling more products is undoubtedly your number one priority. And with so many people buying online these days – the UK spent £114bn online in 2015 – it should be easy, right? Unfortunately not. With so many businesses selling online – more than 100,000 in fact – some with potentially the exact same products, you really need to boost your site and differentiate your brand from the competition in order to secure a healthy portion of the sales. Here we’re going to look at why well-crafted product descriptions are the perfect way to do just that, as well as offering some tips for refining yours.

Original product descriptions are essential for good SEO

If all or any of your product descriptions are currently a straight lift from the manufacturer’s descriptions, or even from a competitor’s website, you will receive far less organic web traffic to your website. This is because Google and other search engines screen out duplicate content in their results – they will show only one instance of the same content to users, so if yours is duplicated from elsewhere, there’s a high chance it will be virtually invisible to searchers.

In contrast, original, well-written product descriptions which contain relevant keywords will benefit your site’s SEO by showing your site to be useful and relevant to users’ search queries.

Product descriptions are a chance to build your brand

Your product descriptions say a lot about not just the products in question, but about your brand as a whole. So you need to take the opportunity to infuse each description with your brand’s core values an personality.  How do you want your product range to be seen? As cutting-edge? Affordable? Luxurious? The words you use in your descriptions can reflect these values.

Each description should follow the same format and use the same tone of voice – it’s about building a familiar experience that customers can build a relationship with.

They allow you to sell your customers on the benefits of your products

Aside from the aforementioned SEO issues, one of the major problems with ‘out-of-the-box’ manufacturer’s descriptions is that they tend to focus on the features of products rather than the benefits that they provide to the customer. This is a problem because people really don’t care that much about what features your product has – they want to know what it can do for them and what impact it will have on their lives.

Here are a few examples of how you can turn features into benefits:

“150W sub-woofer” becomes “Powerful bass lets you feel the music more.”

“Heavy-duty battery” becomes “Battery has long life, so no need to constantly recharge.”

”100% polyester” becomes “Dress is made from Polyester, so it will last longer, dry easily and resist wrinkles.”

They appeal to the senses

The best product descriptions enable the reader to feel a little of what it would be like to own the product, and they do so by using language that connects with senses, like taste, smell and touch. By connecting with the senses, you can build a direct link between the customer’s desires and preferences, and the product you are selling. Here are a few examples of the kind of sensory words that you may wish to use:

  • Silky
  • Smooth
  • Tangy
  • Earthy
  • Floral
  • Sweet
  • Soft
  • Salty

They tell stories

“Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories.” – Roger C. Schank

With so many competing brands out there with similar products, the challenge really is to differentiate yours from the rest. Telling stories wherever possible is the perfect way to do this, as it gives the customer a deeper insight into your brand, and makes them feel that their buying something with character and heritage.

The stories that you tell might relate to the vision of your founders in creating the products, or in assembling a particular range of products from external sources. They might relate to the thousands of hours of testing and development that have taken place to create a product at the top of its field. Or they might speak of something more ephemeral, like the subtle images of nature that inspired your product designers to make certain choices.

With so many products to choose from, the flow of information can become too much for consumers. Stories can simplify the choice. As Duncan Stuart of Kudos Organisational Dynamics said, “stories are an elegant solution to the problem of too much information. Humans are wired to process stories and understand them.”

By telling stories, you create in your customers’ minds something more powerful for them to own than a simple physical object, and once they’ve connected with your story they may already feel invested in your product.

By putting your product descriptions at the heart of your e-commerce business, you can not only increase your sales, but build a brand that stands out in the crowded marketplace.

About the author
Derryck Strachan, 
MD, Big Star Copywriting. During the last 10 years Derryck has helped hundreds of businesses get better results from their SEO, product description writing and content marketing. Big Star have a strong stable of writers and an impressive list of B2C clients in travel, fashion, food & drink and online retail, including eBay, Hilton Hotels, Thomas Cook and Ladbrokes. Find out more here: http://www.bigstarcopywriting.com/blog/

Marketing Spend: Offline vs Online

Thomas Coppen, UK Director of Keel Over Marketing, debates the best ways to split your marketing budget.

Thomas Coppen
Thomas Coppen

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you already have some form of online marketing strategy – but how does it compare to the more traditional marketing methods of yesteryear? Question marks still remain over which routes generate the best ROIs, so Thomas Coppen, UK Director of Keel Over Marketing, offers some insight on how modern marketers should split their budget.

Print vs. Pay Per Click

Print is one of the oldest forms of advertising, and there can be something very satisfying about leafing through a magazine or newspaper and seeing your perfectly designed ad staring back at you. However, print advertising tends to be quite expensive, especially if you want to buy space in a respected national publication, while there are no guarantees over response levels.

Pay-Per-Click advertising, on the other hand, is a great way to get targeted traffic to your website with various PPC attributes that can be A/B tested until they deliver results. Essentially, it works by bidding on keywords that are relevant to your products and/or services, ensuring that your company remains prominent in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) when people enter relevant queries.

With PPC, you only pay when people actually click on your ad, taking them to a specific landing page on your website, and you can limit your daily budget, making it a very cost-effective form of marketing. PPC almost guarantees traffic to your site, but the trick is to make sure that your content is actually up to scratch to secure conversions.

Direct Mail vs. Email Marketing

Once you’ve built up a database of potential leads and current customers, sending semi-regular mail-outs of tailored offers and discount vouchers can be a great way to keep you front and centre in their minds. However, from printing to postage (as well as your carbon footprint), the cost of direct mail can be significant and there’s a good chance that your correspondence will be binned without a second thought (hopefully in the recycling rather than waste).

Alternatively, email marketing has proven to be very effective, with regular newsletters offering valuable insights and thought leadership giving you a chance to connect in the right way. People are very wary of being sold to these days, and everyone can spot spam a mile off, so make sure you do things properly by offering something valuable, informative and/or entertaining rather than simply shouting sales messages.

Live Demonstrations vs. Content Marketing

Giving customers a real-world experience of your product is a powerful thing, removing the guesswork and a allowing hands-on demos that can’t be replicated. However, buying booth space at a trade show is inherently costly and you’ll have to rely on your direct sales skills to convert passers-by into customers.

Producing regular content on your company blog – or even guest posting on established third-party websites, as well as platforms like LinkedIn – allows you to organically boost your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and inbound traffic, while also building trust in your brand and highlighting expertise. All of which should help catch customers.

Real-world Networking vs. Social Networking

Attending local events will help you get to know to other businesses, suppliers and potential clients in your area. Handing over a well-designed card can then create an instant and lasting impression, reinforcing any relationships you strike up.

In the digital world, social media offers a chance to extend your reach and connect with new, highly-targeted audiences. You can make your business relatable by showing some personality and building relationships with clients, transforming from a plain logo on a screen to a brand that people are talking about, recommending and sharing with others. This strategy requires time, energy and commitment, but is almost essential in the modern marketplace.

You can also create sponsored posts (comparatively cheaper than print or direct mail), which will shine a light on your business and place your content in front of highly-targeted demographics.

Instant conversions and real-time access to clients

The beauty of online marketing is the potential for instant access to customers – whether through PPC or social media accounts, your site is just a click away – and that immediacy vastly increases the likelihood of winning custom.

In my estimations, offline marketing rarely affords that same level of interaction, meaning that you could be waiting a long time before yielding any tangible results. Traditional methods certainly have their merits, and there is much to be said for the power of face-to-face interactions, but how often do you have the opportunity, time and budget to commit to prospecting in this way?

According to eMarketer, 2016 will be the first year that UK adults spend more time engaging with digital media than TV, radio and print combined, indicating that the consumption of online content is only set to grow and marketing budgets should naturally follow suit.

About the author
Thomas started Keel Over Marketing after receiving funding from James Caan’s Start Up Loans Company in 2012. He has since established an international client base and you can connect with him on on LinkedIn or follow@KeelOverMarket on Twitter.

Effective Retail Marketing Strategies To Boost Sales

A good marketing strategy means everything, especially in the world of retail selling, and that is why shop owners need to be creative to boost sales.

By John Stone

What is your marketing strategy?Smart marketing leads to maximizing profit, but devoting as much time as you need to marketing can be very challenging. A good marketing strategy means everything, especially in the world of retail selling, and that is why shop owners need to be creative in order to boost their sales. To achieve this, there are various tactics and strategies that are already tested and proven to get customers spend more, and more importantly – to spend more often.

Track your marketing campaigns

A post campaign check-in should be done to measure performance. Use the feedback information to shape your next campaign to be more successful. What was your ROI (return on investment) regarding the last marketing campaign launched by you? It is important to set aims for your campaign, and track them for each of your launched campaigns. Was the campaign successful or not? Did you boost your retail sale, increase website traffic or online post purchase reviews? Always know what you are doing, so to know where your mistake was if the campaign had failed.

Train your employees

Everything is worthless without having well-trained salespersons working for you. This is crucial to your business’ success, because when employees are efficient, capable, knowledgeable and know how to handle their customers – the success will be guaranteed, and your customers will leave your retail shop satisfied. Invest in training your employees to become top-notch salespersons.

Customer relationships

Focus on building new and strengthening the existing relationships between you and your customers. Personal interaction with them is an excellent way to establish and preserve long-term customer loyalty. Try achieving this by sending birthday e-mails, anniversary greetings, Christmas cards, and thank you notes. You do not always have to be selling, and your marketing can be a natural extension of this.

Becoming a resource

Whenever customers come into your retail shop, greet them and engage a conversation. Seek to provide help by asking moderately personalized questions about who they are shopping for and what does that person. In that way, you can help them in finding the perfect gift. Providing genuine tips and advice will make you become a reliable resource for their future purchases.

Perform after-purchase follow-ups

If you are not following up with your customers after they have made their purchases, you should certainly start. A great way to increase your sales is rewarding customers for their loyalty. Small acts of consideration, such as giving a ten percent off coupon, can encourage your new customers to visit again.

Take the bulk culture advantages

Present your products as part of a larger collection of items. Customers will spend more to get the whole set of products that is promoted as a great money-saving opportunity.

Place products on customers’ eyeline

Taking the advantage of various promotional platforms such as a point of sale display, dump bin, and counter display is a quite good merchandising strategy to use in a retail shop. Your customer’s buying behavior is primarily influenced by their eyeline. By doing this, you will ensure that your products are seen without using any extravagant promotional techniques.

Create the impulse effect

Everyone knows what it is like to buy something on impulse. Sales are guaranteed if a sense of urgency can be manufactured by your retail merchandising strategy. The impulse purchases section should be situated on the way to the point of sale. These purchases are actually affordable, last-minute additions to the customers’ shopping basket.

Find out the people who are your best customers, create a customer profile, and target them in your mailing list. When putting out ads, flyers, banners, or digital marketing material, remember that repetition sells. A customer needs to see an offer more than once in order to get intrigued and feel the desire to make a purchase. Get creative and take advantage of all marketing opportunities available, test them to see which one works the best for you, and be consistent to those most effective marketing strategies.

About the Author
John Stone is a business consultant and a regular contributor at Bizzmarkblog. He is a believer in the notion that thinking outside of the box is a prerequisite of being a successful entrepreneur. You can find him on Twitter.

 

Tesco to charge for ‘click and collect’ orders under 30 pounds

Britain’s biggest supermarket Tesco said it will introduce a delivery charge for “click and collect” orders under 30 pounds, in a move it said will ensure the service remains sustainable.

The head office of Tesco is seen in Cheshunt, in southern England January 8, 2015. REUTERS/Toby Melville
The head office of Tesco is seen in Cheshunt, in southern England January 8, 2015. REUTERS/Toby Melville

 

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s biggest supermarket Tesco said it will introduce a delivery charge for “click and collect” orders under 30 pounds, in a move it said will ensure the service remains sustainable.

“Click and collect”, where shoppers order online before picking up their items at a chosen store, has grown fast in Britain’s e-commerce market, one of the most advanced in the world.

Britain’s biggest department store group John Lewis became the country’s first major retailer to charge for smaller “click and collect” orders last July, prompting speculation that other shops could follow.

From Feb. 2, Tesco will introduce a 2 pound surcharge on orders under 30 pounds, said a spokesman for the company on Thursday, adding that orders over 30 pounds will still be free.

Tesco, and its smaller rivals that make up Britain’s “big four” supermarkets – Wal-Mart’s Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, are seeking to regain market share, having lost out to discounter chains, Aldi and Lidl.

Sainsbury’s, which has to date shown greater resilience than Tesco in stemming the rise of the discounters, laid out plans to improve its online offering earlier this week by buying Home Retail, owner of same-day delivery homeware store Argos.

(Reporting by Sarah Young, Editing by Paul Sandle)

Sainsbury’s deal with Argos would help online prowess

By James Davey and Paul Sandle

LONDON (Reuters) – Old-fashioned catalogues, pencils and paper order slips still line many Argos stores. But whether customers shop there, online or using white tablets in some revamped shops, they have access to one of the fastest delivery systems in Britain.

Argos sign
An Argos sign is seen outside a store in London January 17, 2013. REUTERS/Neil Hall

Goods not in stock can arrive within hours, seven days a week, the result of a push to turn the catalogue retailer into a digital business. This has made Argos parent Home Retail attractive to supermarket Sainsbury’s as it prepares for grocery competition from U.S. online giant Amazon.

Britain’s second biggest supermarket made a surprise swoop for Home Retail, also the owner of the Homebase do-it-yourself chain, in November and has until Feb. 2 to make a better offer. A Home Retail spokesman declined to comment on the outlook for an offer but analysts expect one soon after trading updates from Sainsbury’s on Jan. 13 and from the Argos owner on Jan. 14.

They say a deal could speed up Sainsbury’s deliveries, widen its range with electronics, appliances and toys, and optimise space by shutting some Argos stores, selling Sainsbury’s products in others and opening Argos concessions in Sainsbury’s. Homebase is expected to be sold.

“The stakes are now being raised on same day deliveries for groceries,” Sainsbury’s Chief Executive Mike Coupe told Reuters on Dec 3 when discussing the impact Amazon was having on the UK grocery market, where it is not yet a big player.

“You could argue that they’re already having an impact in the way that people are thinking,” he said, noting that Sainsbury’s was looking at same day grocery deliveries.

A sign is displayed outside of a Sainsbury's store in London, Britain December 3, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall
A sign is displayed outside of a Sainsbury’s store in London, Britain December 3, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall

Sainsbury’s has done a better job than rivals Tesco, Asda and Morrisons of battling the advance of German discounters Aldi [ALDIEI.UL] and Lidl [LIDUK.UL].

But it has been a laggard in some aspects of ecommerce and non-food products compared to Tesco and Asda, a risk as Amazon expands into food.

Argos, which accounts for almost three quarters of Home Retail’s sales, wants 75 percent of sales to have an online element by the end of its five-year digital push in 2018. Already internet sales account for 46 percent of total Argos sales and by February 2016 about 200 stores out of 840 will also be equipped with tablets.

But it is its hub and spoke system, where 160 larger stores have at least twice daily deliveries to smaller shops or homes ensuring quick collection or delivery, that is attractive to Sainsbury’s in its bid to fend off Amazon and other online retailers.

“There is some logic (for Sainsbury’s), at the right price,” said Nick Bubb, an independent retail analyst.

FAST, FLEXIBLE, RELIABLE

Experts predict that retailers will only be able to keep up with Amazon if they can capture the frequency of customers’ food shopping with more profitable purchases of other goods.

Sainsbury’s said on Tuesday a deal with Home could enable “fast, flexible and reliable delivery to store or to home across a wide range of food and non-food products”.

Home Retail is expected to give details next week about the reception for the same-day, nationwide, seven-days-a-week delivery service announced in October.

Amazon offers delivery within one hour for members of its Prime subscription service in a limited number of city-centre postcodes or in a two-hour same-day window.

The company launched its “Pantry” food service in Britain in October for Prime members, offering one-day delivery on a range of more than 4,000 packaged goods. Analysts have speculated it is gearing up to replicate its U.S. Fresh service for about 20,000 chilled or frozen products in Britain later this year.

STORE CLOSURES

However, British supermarket networks still provide a major advantage over Amazon, especially given popular click and collect services.

Sainsbury’s said it sees potential for Argos concessions in its stores, trialled in 10 over the last year and from selling Sainsbury’s products through Argos.

If it can use Argos to fill surplus space in its stores, Sainsbury’s could close about a fifth of Argos stores, Citi analysts predicted.

“There would be synergies from optimising the combined group’s property portfolio, but that might not be entirely straightforward with Home Retail’s lease liabilities,” said one major institutional shareholder in both companies.

The deal would also enable Sainsbury’s to extend its already extensive network of successful convenience stores by converting some Argos locations to sell food.

By contrast, analysts see few synergies between Sainsbury’s and Homebase, which the group did not even mention in its statement on Tuesday. Analysts believe Homebase, which used to be owned by Sainsbury’s, would be sold.

Home Retail, which warned on its profit outlook in October and was trading at almost a 50 percent discount to the broader sector before news of Sainsbury’s interest emerged, said on Tuesday the November approach undervalued it.

After soaring on Tuesday, the group now has a market capitalisation of 1.1 billion pounds, but analysts said the break-up value could still be as much as double that.

“We believe there is significant intrinsic value in the business,” said Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Freddie George, who rates Home Retail “buy” with a target price of 195 pence.

(Additional reporting and writing by Emma Thomasson; editing by Kate Holton and Anna Willard)

Nine important features for an ecommerce site

The 9 most important features customers look for in an ecommerce site and how OpenCart 2.0 can meet their needs and yours

Find below the nine most important features that your customers expect from an ecommerce website as well as how OpenCart 2.0 more than meets your needs of these expectations.

1. Store should be easy to find

Your customers need to be able to find your website through search engines. When potential customers are searching for a product, having your site associated to certain keywords will make a big difference if you are to realize high sales or not.

OpenCart makes your site search engine optimized almost out of the box to all the main search engines online. It includes support for META tags of categories and custom products. This feature was in earlier versions of OpenCart and you will find it available in OpenCart 2.0

2. Site should be responsive and easy to load

Once customers know that your website exists and that they may be able to get what they are looking for on it, your site needs to be able to load fast enough and be responsive enough to hold their attention.

Lazy Load is a feature available in OpenCart 2.0. It is a feature that prioritizes the loading of webpage elements that are in view. This means that web pages load faster.

3. Reputable identifiable and trustworthy

Whether your site is a startup or has existed for a while, your customers should be able easily to associate your site to what you sell and trust that you can deliver. A recognizable page is therefore important to make customers feel that they are in the right place.

Trust marks such as TRUSTe, secure socket layer (SSL), fraud score, payment card industry (PCI) compliance, GeoTrust and Verisign should be easily visible and OpenCart 2.0 allows you to do so.

OpenCart 2.0 also features a commenting system that allows customers to rate products as well as share their user experiences. This will make your site look and feel more reliable especially to new users.

4. Easy to find products

Customers to an ecommerce site need to be able to find what they are looking for easily. This could be implementable through several ways including smart and seamless integration of categories, sub-categories, brands, stores and geographical location if necessary.

OpenCart 2.0 now makes all this easier through the integrations below.

Easier categorization of products by brand

Ajax search to allow you customers to narrow down what they are looking for as they type within the search box or broaden their search as they delete characters from their search

Google Maps feature to show your customers locations relative to your location

Several other new features make it easy to navigate and find products.

5. Grab attention

Grabbing your potential customer’s attention and holding it with free items, free shipping, deals, discounts etc. is also important.

Features to grab your customer’s attention are for those who are just window shopping and they increase your websites conversion rate by motivating them to buy is vital.

You will also need to ensure that your ecommerce site makes it easier for those who know exactly what they are looking for, find their way to the products.

OpenCart 2.0 makes these needs easier by integrating them as shown below.

Quick View button. If you mouse over a product image, you can get a summary of the product’s information and when you click on the image, you get detailed information. You can also quickly add the product to the shopping cart.

Slider feature. This feature allows you to put focus on products that you wish to highlight immediately a potential customer gets into your website.

This feature allows you to specify the status of a product or service in your site by using a graphical image to describe if an item is new, on sale, discounted, hot etc.

Parallax effect. This feature allows users to get a dynamic feel of your website and therefore keep the interested and engaged as opposed to a static website.

6. Well organized and intuitive carts

OpenCart 2.0 also integrates a more intuitive Ajax shopping cart. This feature is great for customers because it allows a customer to add products to the shopping cart without having to reload the page and therefore stimulates spontaneous purchases.

7. Easy payment

Ecommerce websites have to cater for customers from all over the world. If your site wants to have a wide reach, it should be able to cater for at least the major languages and currencies used. Access to a variety of payment systems will also be important.

OpenCart 2.0 addresses the above and makes it easier to reach more customers because it caters for diverse markets and therefore increases your market and potential sales very easily.

Features such as:

Multilingual Support. That translates your site to major languages and

Currency Conversion. This feature allows customers to convert product prices from one currency to one that they are more conversant with.

8. Being social

About a fifth of ecommerce customers who will come to your site will do so through links from social media sites. OpenCart 2.0 has even better social media integration with most social media platforms.

9. Talking business

When customers want to ask questions, make enquiries, lodge complaints or want to communicate with you for a specific reason, it will help if you are available to respond to your customers or potential customer’s needs. This can be very important for customer retention from an after-sale point of view or for improved sales from a pre-sales perspective.

OpenCart 2.0 integrates an online chat feature to make it easier for you and your clients

The bottom line

All the features mentioned above are key features that you would want when designing or creating an ecommerce site. They are the features that your customers will expect, in terms of the functionality of your website and therefore are features that you should look for in any ecommerce website template.

Ultimately, your customers will want to feel that they can trust your website and that when they need something specific, they can find it on your website.

There are several other features available in OpenCart 2.0 that you as the creator of the website will also need in order to manage the site effectively and efficiently but they are not the scope of this article.

 

About the Author
Jack Dawson is a web developer and UI/UX specialist at BigDropInc.com. He works at a design, branding and marketing firm, having founded the same firm 9 years ago. He likes to share knowledge and points of view with other developers and consumers on platforms.

 

 

The Rise of SaaS Increasing Retailer Competition

With such low barriers to entry for retailers to start trading online, there is huge competition across all verticals and niches. Get ahead with data.

By Matt Rhys-Davies

It is undeniable that web technologies have advanced over the recent years, to the point where we now deal with technologies every day which would have been a mere twinkle in a software engineer’s eye only ten years back. Take for example personalised merchandising tools, that enable ecommerce sites to tailor product selections based on browsing behaviour, incoming channel and any numbers of additional metrics.

It is advancements in all areas of web technology such as the above, that has lowered the barrier to entry for online commerce to essentially everyone with internet access. The days of requiring advanced technical knowledge, expensive servers and mind-blowingly complex platforms have gone (well, they can still exist if you wish to use them), and have been replaced by incredibly user friendly SaaS (Software as a Service) platform such as Shopify.

Taking Shopify as an example – because it’s one of the better known platforms – a retailer, with absolutely no knowledge of front or backend code, payment gateways or APIs, can, in less than an hour, have a slick store front up and running with a secure method of taking payments, automated stock management, and sending order confirmation emails, all with minimal financial commitment and zero technical investment.

Lowering the retailer’s barrier to entry has predictably increased the number of merchants who now jostle for a place in the global marketplace. More competition of course brings with it the need for retailers to set themselves apart from their competitors. In the case of online retail, the foundation to getting ahead is data. Data, data, data.

In the world of online retail almost everything is measurable and quantifiable. Not only can a merchant see where their best converting traffic enters the site from, but they can drill into more niche data. Such as the originating channel of traffic that spends the highest time on site and the journeys they take; what landing pages entice the user to progress further into the site, and what landing pages bounce the hardest, and the most important metrics of all: the view of the conversion funnel.

The funnel is all too frequently overlooked by retailers large and small, yet it provides the merchant with the most insights into their site’s goal: converting users, selling product & making money.

The funnel should ideally be defined as starting when a user adds an item to their basket, and then each subsequent page they are required to visit in order to get to the confirmation page. A typical ecommerce funnel will be: add to basket > cart > checkout (login / register) > checkout 2 (billing & shipping address) > checkout 3 (payment details) > checkout 4 (order confirmation) – although this is dependent upon platform.

Once set up, the analytics package will provide vital information in the form of customer drop off in terms of absolute numbers, percentage figures and visual diagrams; all of which serve to highlight any issues your (potential) customers experience in their effort to become actual customers.

If there’s one concrete tip I can give to get ahead of your competition, it is to assess your funnel. Look at where users drop off, split test elements to see what keeps (potential) customers from travelling down the funnel. It may well be something basic such as the colours of the calls to action or the copy used; or it may well uncover something more intrinsically wrong with your conversion journey e.g. not telling the (potential) customer how long delivery will take. By perpetually assessing your site’s funnel you are working to make the process smoother and easier for the customer.

Data is a gift. Use it. That is how you will get ahead, and stay ahead of your competitors.

About the author
Matt Rhys-Davies is a Freelance Ecommerce Analyst working primarily in UK & European markets, with experience in development, marketing and analysis.

Why is bitcoin so volatile?

There are a multitude of factors that can affect make Bitcoin volatile at any moment in time

Bitcoin currency chart

The price of Bitcoin has been subject to wild fluctuations time and time again. As with any other financial asset, there are a multitude of factors that can affect the price of Bitcoin at any moment in time.

Interestingly, to investors bitcoin more closely resembles a commodity than a currency. Its status is not tied to the strength of any particular economy, and it isn’t under the control of a central bank. Rather, supply is restricted, and price is set by those who sell bitcoin – just like gold or oil.

As with any commodity, the laws of supply and demand are the biggest influences to a product’s price. When demand for bitcoin changes, so does the price. For instance, when there is a considerable rush by people to acquire bitcoin for one reason or another – public backing from a notable source, say – the price increases due to the rise in demand.

Conversely, when people who already own bitcoins start trying to dispose of the currency at a higher rate than people are willing to acquire it, then its supply in the market increases and bitcoin’s price drops.

But what causes people to start selling or buying bitcoin en masse?

Some governments view bitcoin as a threat to the established financial structure, or easy avenue for illegal activity. In February 2014, US senator Joe Manchin wrote an open letter to the US Treasury Department and Federal Reserve asking for a complete ban on Bitcoin. In his letter, he stated that ‘this virtual currency is currently unregulated and has allowed users to participate in illicit activity, while also being highly unstable and disruptive to our economy.’

Threats from key government figures can cause people to lose confidence in the virtual currency, which in turn can result in a lower price. Alternatively, some governments choose to give cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, a legitimate legal status, which encourages its use and hence improves its price.

Bitcoin exchanges have become channels for financial traders to try to make profits from bitcoin volatility, especially in 2014 when those engaged in online forex currency trading found markets flat. When an investor with a sizeable financial outlay makes an investment in bitcoin, the price is likely to be affected.

For instance, when a big investor dumps bitcoin in favour of another asset, bitcoin price is likely to take a hit. On the other hand, when a large investor decides to buy large quantities of bitcoin, the price will go up. More likely than one major investor moving price, however, is overall market sentiment driving movements. When PayPal publically backed bitcoin, for instance, positivity in the markets caused a bull run on the currency.

Without a doubt, the media can have a very strong influence on the value of bitcoin. Just as major news stories can cause substantial changes in the price of currency pairs, news stories affecting bitcoin, both directly and indirectly, can also affect its price.

In February 2014 news that one of the oldest and biggest bitcoin exchanges, Mt. Gox, was collapsing eroded investor confidence at that moment in time, causing the price of Bitcoin to tumble. With resulting headlines like ‘Is it the beginning of the end for Bitcoin?’ (Daily Mail 25 February, 2014) it’s not difficult to see why.

The maelstrom of different factors involved in bitcoin volatility make it difficult to point to any single one for the majority of bitcoin movements. But understanding how instrumental news sites, investors and governments can be in the price of cryptocurrencies is a must if you are planning on taking advantage of the opportunities that bitcoin can offer.

Top E-Commerce Trends for 2015: Here’s What to Expect

2015 is widely touted to be the year of the consumer. With the rise in ecommerce carts, the sites have faced huge competition from the market. The best of the best are sure to rise high though!

Top E-Commerce Trends for 2015: Here’s What to Expect

By CH Shah

Here are some of the top e-commerce trends for the coming year:

Location does not matter!

The global breadth does not matter much to the business strategy thought about in corporate boardrooms. Hungry consumers are now open to brands from new territories, and 2015 will have consumers changing the landscape, yet again. A familiar user experience and local pricing is the way to go, with immense supply chain flexibility.

Big buying days are getting huge and beyond expectations

Black Friday, Super Saturday, and many such days are piling up everyday. The sales for each of these special days involved billions of dollars of sales. Alibaba, the Chinese site took two hours to reach $2 billion and its day’s revenue surpassed a whopping $9 billion.

E-commerce spikes for these days necessitate scale on demand and also involve tight supply chains for diverse markets.

Same-day, in-store pick-up gaining traction

The same day service has failed multiple times, but now e-commerce sites are piling for next-day deliveries. Retailers are now evolving the entire in-store experience. Companies are now investing in warehouses and not resorting to local delivery hubs for inventory storage. E-commerce giants like Amazon are building space rapidly to keep up with consumer demand and immediate deliveries.

Impress the customer or die!

Deliver your products on time, and live up to the promise. With more shopping and shipping options offered by e-commerce sites, consumers are hyper-empowered, and tracking every aspect of their experience, and expressing them vocally online. Authenticity goes a long way when sites admit to their mistakes. Genuine customer support is the need of the hour!

Fast and free shipping is incredibly important. Give customers some options. Expect more personalization in terms of options offered.

The evolving offline experience

The truce between retail and online is now growing to be beneficial to both parties. Retailers with a good online and offline experience are looking for ways to shop while online stores are trying to leverage the digital investments in the stores.

2015 will be about adaptation and transformation

Transformation is crucial for e-stores and retail stores and they need to be highly flexible to make hay. It is important to adjust to the newly hyper-empowered customers and bet on trends that work well with your offerings.

Understanding consumer demand with social monitoring, social channels, and feedback will acquire high importance too. Retailers and brands will gain market share quickly when they pay heed to customers.

Broader e-commerce market diversity can boost companies to drive profits and avoid declines visible in local economies.Worldwide sales figures are tempting to local businesses too.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=CH_Shah
http://EzineArticles.com/?Top-E-Commerce-Trends-for-2015:-Heres-What-to-Expect&id=8866064

 

 

The E-ssential E-Commerce Maintenance Checklist

Successful business websites routinely gauge and improve the customer experience, and make necessary updates and changes based on their research

The Baymard Institute, a web research firm based in Copenhagen, ranked the top 100 e-commerce websites in the world in 2012 based on usability, layout, navigation, and several other factors. CrateAndBarrel.com, a Scottsdale, Ariz. home furnishings retailer, ranked at the top because of seamless navigation and checkout processes. The Symantec website was number-2 due mostly to top-quality copywriting, while the layout of Autozone’s website was the primary factor in its number-3 ranking.

Its no surprises that all the companies on Baymard’s list are well in the black when it comes to quarterly profits. Successful business websites routinely gauge and improve the customer experience, and make necessary updates and changes based on their research. Those that regularly exercise these three maintenance items are far ahead of the competition.

Behavior Metrics

When visitors come to your websites, its critical to know what pages are most popular, how long each visit lasts, bounce rates (how many visitors leave after viewing landing page), and other metrics to determine a maintenance calendar. That is where free applications like Google Analytics become invaluable.

You’ll need to set up a Google account and Gmail to use the app. Once you set up your websites in Google Analytics, the landing page alone shows crucial information for each one. The Dashboard feature breaks down data subsets like the demographics of your websites’ visitors, including their approximate age and location which they accessed your site.

High bounce rates mean you should re-evaluate your homepage. Remove fancy flash video and/or excessive advertisements and see if the rate drops. If you’re getting a lot of visitors from California, for instance, tailor more content to people of that state to keep them engaged.

Crazy Egg is another tool that gives you a “heat map” where users are clicking the most on your site. Statcounter.com is a simpler analytics tool to consider that is also free to use.

General Repairs And Fixes

Numerous broken links, bad video paths, and other bugs on your website will guarantee lower search engine rankings and a bad user experience that will lead to instant bailing. Webmasters can use sites like DeadLinkChecker.com to scan entire sites for bad links and other bugs. This should be done at least once per month to ensure your content is as up-to-date as possible.

Another routine maintenance item is checking your site’s compatibility with every browser. Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari are the four most common and should cover a vast majority of your users. Use a tool like Browsershots to see screenshots of your website in various platforms. Those who are unfamiliar with cascading style sheets (CSS) can contact the customer service department of their hosting company for advice on how to fix any potential issues. VelvetBlues.com offers some quick fix advice for those not afraid to tinker with coding.

Migration

Many users of Godaddy’s Quick Blog Cast blogging platform were hit with some ominous news when the company announced it will no longer support the software as of June 25, 2014, as WordPress’s blog explains. This news left thousands of users with no choice but to migrate what they could from the company’s servers before it disappeared forever. Quick Blog Cast customers had no access to cPanel, so all images, videos, and other media were lost unless each was individually downloaded. Even those who managed to save their content still lost years of hard work getting search engines to recognize their sites.

The Godaddy debacle should serve as a wakeup call for those who have had websites for years on proprietary platforms that do not easily export to WordPress, Joomla, or some other common open-source content management system. When shopping for a new host and/or registrar, make certain you have complete access to all of your files at all times. Read website building software reviews and place the ones with 24/7 customer service and cPanel access at the top of the list. Imforza.com has a website migration checklist that is extremely useful for those who want a little extra guidance.

Keep in mind this list is not all-inclusive. Proofreading your content and checking load times with tools like Pingdom are also very important for maximizing credibility and usability respectively. But regularly addressing all the aforementioned will ensure your website is a well-oiled machine that visitors will continue frequenting.

Seven Reasons for Using PrestaShop

PrestaShop is an excellent e-commerce system worthy of a serious look by small and medium sized companies in particular.

PrestaShop Screen Shot

Choosing software to run an online shop is not that easy. There are hundreds of different ways you can set up your Internet store and it can be very confusing for business owners.

If you are a big corporate organisation, though, you probably have a large team of programmers and experts who can spend time sifting through the possible solutions, or even writing a bespoke program to suit the business. But if you run a smaller business, that’s not an option.

In this situation you are either left with asking an agency to provide a solution or trying to sort it out for yourself. And then the problems begin.

If you use an agency, they will probably use the system they are familiar with – their favourite. That might be good for your company, but it might have limitations for your specific kind of business. So, to be sure you get the right solution for your firm you may well need to select the software yourself. And that means you need to sort through those hundreds of options which usually means nothing happens…!

When humans are faced with complex choices they usually decide not to decide. They walk away from the problem because it is too difficult to solve. What this means is that there are probably millions of businesses who want to run an online store, but having been faced with the complex array of choices have given up and decided to wait until it all becomes simpler. Some hope.

Making the selection simpler

The first thing to do when trying to make choices from complex situations is to try to simplify things. In the case of online shop software you can divide them into three possible options, which will make choosing easier. The first choice you need to make is between:

  1. Getting an agency to set up a system, using their preferred option;
  2. A hosted service where the entire system is run by another company and you just have an account with them and log in to set up your shop;
  3. Software that you download and install onto your own web server and run for yourself.

Let’s take a look at these three options. The agency option may be suitable for some companies, but you will be limited to their choices and you will have to pay administration fees – even if they use open source software. As a result this can be a costly option. If you use a hosted service, such as the various online shop systems available, you are limited to their designs and you have to pay monthly fees. For a shop that does everything you need, this can be more than $150 per month. The third option, downloading software and managing it yourself, can often be completely free of charge – but you have to provide the hosting and spend time running the system.

Essentially you need to choose between the amount of freedom and control you want. If you want the utmost freedom and control over your online shop, you need to download software and run it yourself. If you do not need complete control, then an online hosted solution is fine. If you are not bothered about controlling your set-up in any way and are simply happy to have anything online and free yourself of all the operational side of that, an agency is the best idea. The first step in choosing your shop system is to work out the amount of control you need and then select a system on that basis.

Remaining in control

For many business owners, remaining in control is essential. That means they need to download and host the software themselves. That is the second stage of selection. Many hosting companies have installers available for a wide range of e-commerce solutions. You are just one click away from setting up shop. But which of these self-hosted programs should you select? Again, you need to make the choice as simple as possible, otherwise you will walk away from the decision. A hosting company like GoDaddy, for instance, offers you 9 different programs, in addition to its own hosted shop software. How do you choose between 9 programs – especially when many of them offer the same functions?

You need to ask yourself the following questions to sort them out:

  • Have I heard of this program before?
  • Does it look and feel “right”?
  • When was it last updated?

These questions help narrow down the selection because the tap into some core psychology in decision making – emotions and the avoidance of any kind of threat. When humans make decisions they are trying to protect themselves and avoid having to “fight or flight”. We do that using systems that check whether what we are facing is some kind of “stranger” or whether it is “fresh”. If the program is not used by many people, if you haven’t heard of the name, it is more of a stranger – and psychologically therefore more of a threat. And if the program hasn’t been updated in a while, it is viewed as old and stale by our brains and that is also a “threat” to us; human beings prefer fresh and new things. By asking yourself these three questions you can pinpoint software that is your starting point for selection. The chances are you will come down to two or three potential programs to choose from.

Making the final selection

When I did this process I ended up with three potential e-commerce solutions. These were:

  • Magento
  • OpenCart
  • PrestaShop

These are all used by hundreds of thousands of businesses and any cursory search for software to run your online shop is bound to come up with these three programs. So, they fulfil the “not being a stranger” requirement. Also, they are all updated on a regular basis, meaning they are “fresh” and they are therefore less likely to be a psychological threat as a result of being old and outdated. Which means that all we are left with deciding about these three is “do they feel right?” That is subjective and is based upon your personality, the way you like working and your “gut instinct”. Essentially this means you need to install each of these programs and “have a play” with them and find out which you prefer. An important factor about online shop solutions is this: if you do not like the one you select you will use it less often, you will find it a chore. If that is the case, your online shop will not be as successful as you might hope. Therefore, it is important that you select the one you like the most – the one that appeals to you on a subjective basis.

Having said that, there are some important considerations when it comes to choosing your online shop solution. The program has to do what you need it to do and it has to do that in ways which are going to be cost-effective and not time-hungry.

Seven reasons for choosing PrestaShop

After going through this selection process I came up with my seven reasons for finally selecting PrestaShop. It passes those psychological tests of freshness and not being a stranger. It is used by more than 185,000 online shops and has been downloaded almost four million times. Plus the software is in constant development, with hundreds of updates happening each month thanks to a community of developers.

So, the only question was “does it feel right?” When you load the program it looks and feels professional, it operates well and it certainly does the job. It all looks good and feels as though it can do the job. For me, it passed the “feel” test easily. Which means the next part of the decision-making jig-saw was to decide, finally, could it do what I needed it to do.

I set up a simple PrestaShop store and discovered these seven reasons as to why it beats the competition.

1. Rapid and simple set-up

The one thing a shop owner wants to do is to get products uploaded and being sold. The process by which PrestaShop enables you to get your first product selling is straightforward. Everything you need is all in one place – the “Catalog”. This means that even if you do nothing else, you can start selling within minutes. Compared with other software I found this a much easier process on PrestaShop.

PrestaShop Screen Shot

2. Easy tax settings

One of the biggest problems for people outside the USA – where much of the software is developed – is setting up taxes. I am based in the UK and I am a VAT Registered trader. Hence I need to be able to charge that Value Added Tax to my customers in Europe. However, as anyone in Europe who charges VAT will know, it is not an easy tax system to administer. For instance, even though you may be a VAT registered trader not everything you sell will be taxable. Not only that, if it is taxable it can be taxed at one of several different rates. On top of this, if you sell within Europe to someone who is also a VAT registered trader they can have the tax deducted before payment. There are very few programs which understand this complexity. With PrestaShop, setting up taxes is easy. You use the preferences to say which country you are in. Then you simply select the taxes which you want to operate. For EU taxes all you then need to do is enable the “European VAT Number” module and everything works as it should do. This is the simplest system of setting up taxes I have seen.

3. Digital ready

Many online stores these days need to sell digital products. So, whether or not your shop can easily set up digital products is an important consideration. Even if you currently do not sell anything digital, there may be the need in the future. For instance, a fashion store might one day want to make a fashion radio show downloadable, or an ebook on choosing the right clothes for a holiday. It means that you cannot rule out digital downloads, even if you don’t use them at the moment. Thankfully, PrestaShop makes digital downloadable products easy to set up. With the product creation settings all you need to do is choose “Virtual Product”, upload your digital file and the program does the rest. This is a straightforward approach and one that is “common sense”, whereas the competing programs tended to make it more complicated for me, at least.

4. Modification possibilities

PrestaShop works through the addition of “modules”. The base install of the program adds all the essential ones, but there is a massive community of developers all coming up with extra ones. For instance, there are 57 different modules for payment gateways, meaning you can add a whole variety of payment methods for customers. Want to incorporate social media within your shop? There are almost 200 modules that let you do that. Plus there is a whole host of administrative modules to help you ensure greater profitability, such as the module that tracks conversions from Google AdWords. Many of the modules are free of charge, others mostly have a small one-off charge and a few are so specific they can be costly. Even so, the module system means you can modify and expand PrestaShop to provide exactly the kind of online shopping system your business needs. Other online shopping software does allow you to do this, but not with the ease of PrestaShop.

5. Easy customer management

One of the most important aspects of running a shop is ensuring you understand your customers. As a result, managing your customers is essential. Being able to see what kind of things they are interested in, when they buy, how often they buy and so on, is vital to ensuring you can target them with more suitable things. The customer management system of PrestaShop gives you a snapshot of each of your customers. Just click on their name and you have a complete page of information about that individual. Competing software does provide customer management, but not in such an easily digestible snapshot. Instead, you tend to have to click through several pages or open up sections of a page. PrestaShop’s customer management system is so much easier for me.

6. Instant changes

Most online shops are “alive”; they have new products added each day, as well as additional information, reviews, new pictures and so on. When you make any changes on PrestaShop these are changed immediately on the “live shop”, unless you are working in “maintenance” mode. The problem with some online e-commerce systems is that any changes you make are not reflected in the live site until you push them out to the web, or unless you refresh your system’s cache. What this means in practice is that it is too easy to make changes which then are not reflected in your live site. With PrestaShop, your changes are made straight away, unless you decide not to allow those changes to happen by switching on “maintenance”. What this means is that PrestaShop is the right way round, from my psychological perspective. It means I can make a change and it happens on my live shop without me having to think about it…!

PrestaShop Screen Shot

7. Deep customisation

One of the rather nifty and easy-to-use feature of PrestaShop is being able to customise things for individual buyers. For instance, not every shop is going to be selling to consumers. One of the errors made by other software providers is that they appear to assume that all selling is “business to consumer” (B2C) but there is more “business to business” (B2B) activity online than B2C. PrestaShop allows you to switch on its B2B options which means you can invoice people, instead of them having to pay online, for example. But the level of customisation goes deeper than this. Using the “Cart rules” for instance you can provide pricing per customer – that’s important in the B2B sector. But you can also use this as a B2C shop to provide loyalty discounts, for example. What PrestaShop allows you to do is to easily set up a system that is as individual as your customers.

But what are the problems with PrestaShop?

Even though there are seven good reasons for considering PrestaShop, it does have its downsides. One of these is getting inside the head of the developers…! They use different words to the rest of us….! For instance, instead of allowing you to “design your web pages” they require you to do “theme configuration” and “module positioning”. True, it is possible to do this on an overview of your web page, but the design of pages using PrestaShop is not as easy as it might be, at least not until you get used to the system.

What this means is there is a bit of learning to do. Frankly, all the online shopping systems are much the same – they focus on function from a software engineering perspective. They have a long way to go in terms of being “user friendly”. So, with PrestaShop, as with the other programs like it, you need to set aside some time to learn the basics and get used to the language. It only takes a couple of hours, but you do need to do it.

Another issue with PrestaShop is that there are some “loose ends” which clearly need to be tidied-up. For instance, when you are on the “modules” page and you want to enable a module it does so, but does not take you back to the page you were on, but only back to that module. This means that if you want to enable several payment processing modules, for example, you have to go back and forth between the pages. It is a mild frustration, but little niggles like this can annoy you…!

Should you use PrestaShop?

If you have decided that you need control by running software yourself, then PrestaShop could well be the right choice for you. Minor issues aside, it does have several good reasons in its favour. Overall, it was for me the easiest system to set up and use and had the greatest range of features that could be organised with the least amount of effort. For businesses that have complex tax arrangements, which operate in the B2B sector and need to offer digital products it is way ahead of the alternatives. But for what you might call an “ordinary” online B2C store owner, it is also excellent because of its “out of the box” simplicity.

[box type=”info”]Free access to PrestaShop was provided to enable this review to be written[/box]

How to Bring the Bricks-and-Mortar Shopping Experience to eCommerce with Technology

Here are a few exciting technologies (and some simple ones too) that are among many that have the potential to change the way we shop online forever.

By Shaylee Rogers

With the advancements of today’s technology, online is becoming the norm for many shoppers. In a recent survey in Britain, 29% of respondents stated that online shopping is the ‘best tech development of our time’. They mean it as well with eMarketer forecasting that the global ecommerce trade is expected to increase by 20.1% this year to reach $1.5 trillion, and with 70% of shoppers claiming to prefer online over real world shopping.

But there is another revolution of sorts happening. You may have noticed whilst shopping in physical stores, from the layout and positioning of the store to the colours and signage used, that consumer psychology is at work. Who hasn’t noticed that when your local supermarket changes their layout that you end up with odd product combinations to entice you to spend more.
But how can this be applied in the world of online shopping? While the global eCommerce trade is showing no signs of slowing, we have all heard the resistances many consumers have. Without the ability to touch, smell or try on online purchases, barriers to purchase can be prevalent for many online retailers.

Now the online players are experimenting with replicating the real world shopping experience. Here are a few exciting technologies (and some simple ones too) that are among many that have the potential to change the way we shop online forever.

Shopping With Friends Online
Online social shopping (sometimes referred to a sCommerce) is increasing in popularity in this digital age and proving itself to be not just a passing trend. Providers such as Mallzee, Wanelo, Svpply, Fab, Fancy, and many more are bringing the mall to your online shopping experiences and they are bringing your friends and recommendations along for the trip. These social shopping sites are removing the isolation of shopping online by integrating the real world experience of recommendations through online social sharing, ultimately providing the shopper with purchase validation and an even bigger wish-list.

Interactive Display
A bonus when shopping in the real world is that you can take a few steps into the store and get a good idea of the collective products at a quick glance.
Show See Sold. powered by thereitis is bringing that experience to the online world with a simple but effective interactive display. Shoppers are able to enjoyably browse an entire collection finding items that catch their eye, while increasing time on site, conversion and average spend for online stores. They can spin, zoom and click through items delivering a more immersive interactive experience.

Virtual Dressing Rooms
Sometimes the biggest barrier for completing a transaction is the uncertainty of product fit. Providers such as fits.me aim to reduce this barrier through virtual dressing rooms that allow shoppers to inspect elements such as size, fit and look, improving the shopping experience and increasing conversion for retailers.

Bonus: Instagram
Many fashion stores are using the social photo sharing network, Instagram, to showcase looks so that online only customers can keep up to date with what the staff and customers are loving and wearing. Many of us will admit to paying attention to the sales assistants outfit and what other people are purchasing, as social creatures it can be a form of validation that can be applied effectively online. This platform is an excellent way of providing this real world experience online and can even be linked to an online store and product pages to inspire a sites visitors like Free People do.

Now over to you. Would you like to use any of these technologies whilst shopping online? Are you going to think about implementing any in your online store? Or have we missed anything? Leave us a comment below with your thoughts.

About the author
Shaylee Rogers is the Marketing Coordinator of thereitis Interactive Display and Show. See. Sold. for Shopify. You can follow Shaylee on Twitter at @thereitisTeam.