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Selling on Multiple Devices: 7 Key Ecommerce Functions  -  Monday, December 19, 2011

This is the age of the always-connected customer. Having only an ecommerce website — accessible by a desktop or laptop computer — is not sufficient to maximize your sales. Today’s consumers use a variety of devices to research and purchase your products.

A successful online business needs to support tablets, smartphones, and desktop and laptop computers. It should have social interactions enabled on all versions — web, tablet, smartphones — with a friendly customer experience on all versions. All this comes with additional costs and requires a shift in the way an ecommerce solution is deployed. The objective is to offer all the features automatically across multiple devices, and thereby avoid an increase in operational costs to accomplish it. This requires reviewing key ecommerce capabilities and assessing how to expose them to all devices.

Here are seven key ecommerce functions that should work on all devices.

User Login

The user login should function from a mobile device, a store kiosk or a laptop. Never ask a user to register separately because the mobile site is not integrated with your website. To support a multi-device login, several other functions need to be enabled, such as user registration, forgotten user ID or password, and user security. Each of these will require your ecommerce solution to become modular to allow the same functionality to be used across multiple devices. Amazon.com, for example, integrates the user login in its mobile app with the website.


Amazon lets your order follow you between devices. The top portion of the image is Amazon's website, from which the author placed two items in the shopping cart. The bottom portion is the iPhone app, showing the two items in the cart.

Product Catalog

A user needs to view the product details before making the purchase. If you can have the same product information formatted to appear on different devices, it will save having to duplicate information, which will reduce cost. The user interface will need to be formatted to adjust to the different size screens for a laptop, tablet or smartphone, but the underlying functionality can be the same to display the product information. This would require displaying consistent product details on all devices, support for product promotions and pricing, inventory checks, product ratings and reviews, and product comparisons. All this can be achieved within a single ecommerce system by exposing these functions to be used on any device.

Search

Search is the most heavily used function to find the desired products. It is also resource-intensive. If your business can use the same search function across all devices then you could optimize the search terms being used and improve performance. The presentation of search results, though, will vary across devices based on the size of the screen. Consumers will search for a product on their mobile devices while they are researching a purchase in a shopping mall. When the same customer comes to the site using the laptop, the search history should show the last searched item even though a mobile device was used. Depending on your setup, the search backend might need to be upgraded to handle the additional load from different devices.

Shopping Cart

The shopping cart is the heart of an ecommerce solution. It is important to share the cart across different devices so that regardless of which devices the consumers are using, they can see the products they have added to their cart. This also applies to any promotion codes that the customers might have applied to the cart or any other promotions in the cart. It is not unusual for customers to search your site for a product while they are in a physical store. If they find the same product for less money on your site, they could add it to the cart using their mobile device, though they may not complete the checkout process until they go home and access your site using their desktops or laptops. They should then be able see the same products in their carts and can checkout along with any other product selections.

Checkout Process

A shared checkout process across different devices will allow entry or selection from saved shipping and billing addresses and entry or selection from saved payment methods. If the retailer has integrated the physical stores with its ecommerce system, then the mobile device should be able to show product availability in the store and accept orders. Walmart is a good example of this functionality as it allows customers to order products on their mobile devices and pick up from the nearest store. This could mean that customers order en route to a Walmart store and pick up from that store once they arrive.


Walmart allows you to select in-store pickup when you place your order from a mobile phone.

Note, also, that all these functions require a careful review of an existing ecommerce solution before they are decoupled for multiple devices, as the checkout process is highly susceptible to fraud.

Customer Service

Customer service is a key function, whether a consumer is using a laptop or a mobile device. It makes sense, however, to prioritize requests coming from a mobile device because in most cases the customer is trying to compare pricing between a product on your site and a product in a physical store. A quick response can lead to a quick sale. Customer service representatives should be able to view all customer interactions regardless of device, so that they get a complete picture of all the customer's questions and concerns, regardless of the devices used. If your site supports basic functions for customer service — email, phone, frequently asked questions — make sure these work across all devices.

User Experience

User experience will vary across devices and screen sizes. It is important, however, to offer similar functionality and similar user experience across all devices. There will be instances where a certain function may not make sense on a given device; it should be removed with a brief explanation. And there will be instances when you decide to build a different user experience to leverage the features of the device fully. As long as the underlying ecommerce functionality is being shared across all devices, it will justify the investment in creating a custom and friendly user experience on different devices.

Check with your ecommerce solution provider for extending the above functions to be used across multiple devices. If the backend can scale and support the additional load and has the key functionality across any device, then the only additional expense in supporting a new device should be the review and refinement of the user experience.

If you are interested in taking your eCommerce site to the next level by supporting multiple mobile devices, feel free to contact us today.

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Tips for Using Product Videos in eCommerce Effectively  -  Friday, October 21, 2011

A minute of video is worth 1.8 million words according to
Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research.

What is meant by this statement is that eCommerce video brings products to life in a way that text and static images can’t. From the comfort of the couch, shoppers can fully experience the product through videos.

Note that 33% of online retailers planned to add video to their sites in 2010, making it a higher priority than any other advanced feature. If you run an eCommerce website and underutilize or completely ignore this potentially valuable medium, it’s time to act. 2011 is the year when eCommerce video has become a mainstream and even a key component on retail websites. The race is on – your task now is to get into the game, because if you are slower to adopt eCommerce video today, you’ll soon face the problem of having to catch up very quickly. The one that uses every tactical step available for effective eCommerce video is first in line, remember that.

Why You Need eCommerce Video Now

Online videos can support multiple business objectives. You can put them on the eCommerce product pages, category pages, in dedicated video galleries, and in email campaigns (video in email marketing has been shown to increase click-through rates by over 96% and also drove a 51% increase in subscriber-to-lead conversion). Connecting with your customers through video allows a much more real experience when shopping online. You create company recognition, build trust, and humanize your brand.

Benefits You Can Derive from eCommerce Video

Giving more visual info on the product, eCommerce video is an incredibly effective way to appeal to a buyer’s senses. You give fine detailing, show extra features and functions, demonstrate product in action – that gives a final push to convince shoppers when they are looking for a reason to buy the product. Plus, a good product video can bring in positive attention and additional traffic, powerful SEO juice, higher sales, and also a significant drop in calls/questions asking how the product works. Report showed that retail sites with video increase conversion by 30% and boost average shopping cart by 13%.

Tips for Effective eCommerce Video

The idea of providing videos for your customers may not sound a new one, but there are many online merchants who are not taking advantage of the benefits videos can offer. The stats show that visitors who view product videos are 85% more likely to buy than the visitors who do not, still very few online merchants integrate eCommerce videos. Talking about the principles for effective product video, here are a couple of things you can learn:

  • The first and foremost is brevity, so don’t go long and try to keep your videos short and to the point. It is recommended to trim your video down to one or two minutes because most people have short attention spans (plus stats claim that retail site visitors who view video stay two minutes longer on average). Short videos with two or three main differentiators about the product tend to have more click-through and conversion rates.

  • Make sure your video has a good sound. Even if you use an inexpensive pocket video camera to shoot online video, don’t rely on built-in microphones; better use an external microphone input. Besides, customers will surely want to know what you’re saying, so speak slowly and clearly.

  • Highlight the right products. Retailers often have a large product range in multiple categories, and certainly they cannot cover entire categories of each product type. If you hesitate where to start your video shooting, try to choose in each product category the top sellers that bring a high profit and cover them.

  • Consider the lighting and background. The backdrop should be minimal and plain to focus your viewers on what matters most – the product. Make sure the product is well-lit and there are no annoying shadows by moving around different things. And remember to match the tone and style of the eCommerce store that will distribute this video.

  • As eCommerce videos are about the product and not about the spokesperson or the shooting talent, focus on the product and show it to the viewers (yet try not to overfill the presentation with dry facts and figures, make it easy and fun). How do you distribute video content? Pick out and highlight a few features and benefits that set the product apart, show a product in use to alleviate customer’s doubts about it, make instructional video or slideshow video with the narrator's explanations – any of these product video forms could help your customers make a buying decision faster.

  • Video performs best when displayed prominently and in a hero position. Place it front and center and remember to keep it above the fold as such video is going to be viewed more often and hence drive more sales. If the eCommerce page is tight, put a 'view video' icon above the fold. This is a good technique to maximize the visibility of the videos.

  • Once you find space right on the product or category pages to include a video player, consider the way it will be integrated. It is preferable to embed video (it can be viewed without leaving the page) rather than use pop-up or overlay on top of the page (video is being viewed once the video icon was clicked) or make the video open in the new tab or even in a new browser window, with its own URL.

  • Experts advise to use progressive download over streaming, because the stream takes longer to be initiated than it would for a progressive download file.

  • Turn off unnecessary functionalities in the player settings. Yet consider adding menu overlays, ‘Add to Cart’ button, as well as a range of related videos to enable up-sell and cross-sell.

  • Think about auto replay button appearing at the end of the video. As product videos are generally short and programmed to play only once by default, this option will make them repeat over and over again to give the viewer a better idea of the product.

  • Apart from in-house video production (this is a method when retailer bears the full cost and responsibility for the video production), you can have videos produced by manufacturers (the video will look more like commercial) or by partners (in this case the video will probably feature logos of both companies), or even allow customers to upload product videos to your site (it is cost-effective, plus you can gain valuable feedback on the product).

  • To do more with your videos apart from putting them on your product or category pages, you can embed videos on other sites such as YouTube, Yahoo Video and AOL Video (to get free publicity and drive additional traffic from these channels), create shortened versions to use on social networks like Twitter or Facebook (to get fans, likes, referrals, and comments). Thus you will get each and every product video in front of as many people as possible and leverage your search engine rankings. So distribute widely and also consider adding to your packaging a QR code that links to an explanatory online video. Note that in the first quarter of 2011, QR code scans increased 181% over the previous quarter for US smartphone users, and 25% of QR code scans are to access video content.

  • Measure the impacts of your videos on the entire sales experience. Don’t get hung up on the conversion rates only, also look at other metrics, such as view rate, time on page, time on website, and bounce rates.

  • Google does not automatically index videos, so make sure to label them correctly instead of just upload them. Try to systematically submit your video sitemap including video title, description, duration and more, in the correct format to Google. Once the video is properly submitted, its content gets indexed into Google’s database almost immediately. Note that with proper search engine optimization, video increases the chance of a front-page Google result by 53x. So, you can get a rise in the ranks of Google search and also have higher click-through rates, as thumbnail video images will appear alongside video listings in search results.
Consumers’ appetite for eCommerce video steadily grows, pushing online retailers to implement videos in ever great quantities. But many of the online stores are missing out this aspect. Don’t be afraid, with a little creativity and courage you can elevate your site performance and offer your customers a valuable comparison shopping experience. To give you a more convincing picture of why you need to adopt eCommerce video, we have made a list of retail stores that implement product videos in different ways. Stay up to date with the latest in the world of eCommerce video.

Dell


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Zappos



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Asos



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OnlineShoes



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ThinkProducts



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Ross-Simons



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eBags



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Williams-Sonoma



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Golfsmith

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Saks Fifth Avenue



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