Sunday Times Article: FabriQate comments on improving ecommerce website – simple, easy tips for 2010

How to untangle selling on the internet

Top of the hits parade: Tabitha Potts, with sons Felix, 7, and Rufus, 5, uses Google, Facebook and Twitter to attract customers

Top of the hits parade: Tabitha Potts, with sons Felix, 7, and Rufus, 5, uses Google, Facebook and Twitter to attract customers

Simply rewriting the tags and straplines on your home page can turn browsing visitors into paying customers

December 27, 2009
By Andrew Stone

A few simple changes to Jamie Wallace’s website resulted in soaring sales for his business, Granny-jacksons.co.uk, which sells Scottish confectionery to homesick expats.

The move from a simple home-made website to a slicker retail operation was inexpensive, said Wallace. “The appearance of the original site was amateur and messy. It looks much sharper now, with more welcoming web pages, and the site is more internationally focused.”

Thanks to these changes and creative marketing, Wallace said, online sales have grown to 50% of total sales, up from 5% when he started the business in 2007. Wallace, 30, runs the website part-time from Glasgow. Sales this year should be about £20,000.

Will Sussman saw bookings rise almost overnight when he revamped the website for Meribel-skichalets.co.uk. “I made silly mistakes on the original website, such as white print on a blue background,” he said. “We changed it to black on white, made it all much clearer, got a new logo and spent money on nice images.”

The chalet holiday company, set up in 2001, saw swift results. “In less than a week I had phone calls from customers saying they were booking because they loved the website,” said Sussman, whose UK base is on the Isle of Wight.
The changes he and Wallace made show the importance of the virtual shopfront, yet many small firms are unaware of simple and inexpensive ways to boost sales, said Aneesh Varma of FabriQate, a digital agency.

Studying your site traffic is a good place to begin to identify simple improvements, said Varma. “The most important first step is to evaluate where the customers come from. Are they arriving by word of mouth, via the search engines or from direct links through an ad campaign?”

Website analysis tools, such as Google Analytics, can help to do this as well as identify what is deterring potential customers, he said. “It will show you things such as the bounce rate, when people enter your site and then leave right away, and the abandonment rate, when they start filling the shopping cart and then leave. It may show people getting lost on page three, for example, which lets you know that you need to redesign it.”

Simply rewriting the tags and straplines on your home page can turn visitors into paying customers, said Varma. “Perhaps you are driving people away by asking for their date of birth or other information you don’t really need. Making the customer journey easy and obvious is important. Usability is paramount. If users get confused, you have lost them.”

Testing ideas for your site is useful. “Get family members or friends to play with the site. Are there things they can’t cope with?” said Varma.

Wallace imagined his site as a real sweet shop before he began his redesign. “I think in terms of shop shelves, not categories. I asked myself what products should I put on my shelves and which products do I want to be most prominent?” he said.

Simple improvements should not be difficult for anyone with a website built on a content management system, said Varma. “The latest systems don’t require special coding knowledge. You should not need to contact your IT guy to make small changes.”

Creating richer, more in-depth content is another way to improve sales, said Varma. “You can show all of the product label, add images and include all the information that comes on the box.”

Marketing services are getting cheaper and in some cases are free, said Wallace. “Mail Chimp is a good campaign management tool and is free to use for mailings of up to 500 customers.”

Tabitha Potts, the founder of Mimimyne.com, an eco-friendly childrenswear and toy retailer, has grown website traffic to 3,500 hits a month since launching last year.

She recommends listing a business in Google’s Local Business Centre. “It’s a good way to attract local searches. I also use Google Base, which gives you the chance to create links to your site with images and product descriptions. It’s a bit of a bore listing your products and names but it gets you up the Google rankings.”

Potts, who is based in east London, is looking at more proactive marketing: “I’ve seen discount coupons work well for other people and I am planning to introduce my own. You should be tweeting vouchers and passing them to your newsletter subscribers and Facebook group.”

Wallace recommends regular visual updates. “Having different themes — using Christmas banners, for example — shows you are up to date.”

Good salesmanship can work online as well as in the high street, he said. “The customer experience is so important. Using creativity and having fun is not something we do enough. I wrote a Scottish sweetie poem on my blog that I think reminded Scottish expats of what they were missing and gave them a sense of who I was. Over the next four weeks sales rose.”

Article reproduced from Sunday Times, December 27, 2009

Changing scene of Ecommerce – Bryan Garnier Summit in Dorchester Hotel London, December 8th 2009

As you know we are quite eagerly focusing on Ecommerce as a great product to sell to our clients especially in this market environment since its essentially equivalent to adding a sales team online without the real estate and personnel costs. So from an ROI perspective its a great web product to sell to relevant clients.

We recently attended a very good summit on Ecommerce (Hosted by Bryan Garnier) at the Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair London (with a Bugatti Veyron out front – see my Flickr). The conference was attended by some of the leading ecommerce companies in Europe as part of the panel:

  • SeatWave (CEO, Joe Cohen): They are a fan-to-fan ticket exchange (secondary market for tickets for events, concerts, sports)
  • Wonga (CEO, Errol Damelin): It allows consumers to get short term cash loans
  • ZooPlus (CEO, Cornelius Patt): German ecommerce dedicated for Pets accessories and stuff
  • Google was also there to talk about Analytics and ecommerce side of things from their perspective. (Head of ecommerce partnerships, Adrian Blair)

The audience had many of the leading VCs and some FabriQate clients there as well (Financia!)

Here are some of our notes.

  • For Ecommerce, Search Marketing is ABSOLUTELY Crucial.
    • It is something you HAVE to get right – there is no margin that SEO or PPC not working for ecommerce companies.
    • Most common business model in ecommerce is that you bring in the user from PPC for the right word, and ensure that you can convert that “lead” into a sale and the PPC than becomes Cost of Customer Acquisition
  • An interesting metric to measure your success as a brand is called:  Net Promoter Rank
    • Its basically a measure of how many people would recommend / promote your service to their friends
    • For companies that are selling online, this becomes a big metric
  • When buying for PPC ads – do consider the Long Tail effect, that cheaper words at the end of the tail might be more fruitful. The Google guy suggested that upto 20% of searches on google daily have never been done before (strange stat?)
  • Web is becoming real-time. The Marketing on the web has to become real time too
    • For a company that is dependent on social trends, they have to adapt their marketing rather fast to these changes
    • eg: Seatwave saw that a documentary on Rod Stewart on ITV sent the internet searches related to their concerts soaring. They quickly started buying more keywords (PPC) in that area and brought in additional revenue on the back of that ITV documentary. Real time, flexible, nimble.
  • The CEO of Wonga (Errol Damelin) made a statement: You can pretty much buy everything online now. So the real challenge for ecommerce companies is now differentiation and price comparison
  • Google commented that Google Analytics has really helped observe the user behaviour on the site and how to improve the Conversions of Visitors to Buyers (the others all agreed that Google Analytics has been a game changer)
  • The User Experience and adaptation to the International aspects was also discussed as a great example of how to maximize revenues. What works in the US does not work in Europe (and we know that by looking at the designs of US sites vs. European sites)
  • Fulfillment use to be the biggest struggle – but now isnt even issue for all ecommerce companies. Some of them are selling digital products, so there is instant online fulfillment like e-tickets, vouchers or even cash (eg: Wonga).

So in a nutshell, I think there is a lot of scope for Ecommerce to grow. One of the comments in the summit that really stuck with me, was that the internet industry is still very young (at most 15 years old) – and if you compare that to the automotive or aircraft industry – you realise… that the web is just about becoming a teenager.. with skin acne, some hormonal rushes… and lot more need to grow and mature!