This post is part of a series reviewing new sites launched on Amazon Webstore
Insight Editions new site offers lavishly produced and visually stimulating elegant and informative books on photography, music, and popular culture. Built on Amazon Webstore – their eCommerce site showcases a high level of site customization and features.
Company Name: Insight Editions
Type of Products: Books on photography, music and popular culture.
There are a few things we like about the new site at InsightEditions.com:
Highlighted Product at the top of each category page. At the top of each category page they have highlighted a specific product. This can be a great way to promote a specific product offering, best-selling product or trending item. This highlighted product allows site visitors to easily view a specific product before navigating through their entire product offering.
Huge Search box. Looking for something specific? Insight has made it dead-simple by placing a giant search box at the top of their page navigation. Big, bold and clear results in a simple user experience for site visitors.
Prominent “join our newsletter” button. Capturing site visitor’s emails is a difficult task – but it’s key to establishing a quality email list. They have done a great job by placing a “join our newsletter” button at the top of their left navigation bar. No matter what page you’re on, you always see it.
It’s one thing to have a newsletter signup on your site, but if visitors never see it then what value does it provide? Insight Editions has done great job making sure their newsletter signup is prominent on each and every page on their eCommerce site.
“Add to Cart” directly from category browse pages. They have done a great job building in the feature of adding products to your cart directly from the category browse pages. No longer do you have to “click” into a specific product to add it to your cart – you can do it directly from the category browse page. This is a nice feature that makes eCommerce shopping quick and easy.
This post is part of a series reviewing new sites launched on Amazon Webstore
Flemish Linen’s new site brings world-wide fine linen goods for the table, bed, bath and kitchen areas directly to your home. Built on Amazon Webstore – their new site allows you to experience the affordable daily luxury of fine linen goods chosen by the world’s most demanding buyers – in just days’ time.
Company Name: Flemish Linen
Type of Products: Table, bed, bath and kitchen linen products
There are a few things we like about the new site at us.Flemishlinen.com:
- Powerful homepage hero graphic. The sites homepage displays eye catching images through a large presentable rotating hero graphic. This is a great way to highlight and showcase different product offerings, or also promote online sales to site visitors. This is the first page most users see when visiting the site and they have done a great job capturing and directing your attention toward a specific offering.
- Different online country stores. Live in a different country? No problem, Flemish has easily displayed their different international online storefronts at the top right of the page header – allowing site visitors to easily navigate to a different country online store.
- Amazon Fulfillment highlighted. Flemish puts Amazon’s fulfillment and payment technology to work for you – and they’ve highlighted this by including an Amazon fulfillment icon in their footer. This can increase customer trust and eventually lead to an increase in sales.
Rick Watson is the VP Operations for Merchantry, an Amazon Webstore Solution Provider. Merchantry provides cloud-based marketplace software that empowers retailers to launch and expand their own online marketplaces.
Consumers are increasingly discovering and engaging with brands through user communities such as Pinterest, Polyvore and Instagram. From your best friend to Beyoncé, users are creating content that can come in the form of smartphone photography, collages, ratings, reviews, lists and more. This global network of passionate consumers discovers, creates and shares what is in vogue and on trend. With so many brands and retailers to shop from, these sites help consumers hone in on their preferences and needs — and expedite the purchase cycle.
Coinciding with New York and London Fashion Week, Merchantry recently hosted panels on the topic of eCommerce for fashion businesses. Panel members talked about how shopping has always been an inherently social activity (recall your teenage visits to the mall) and consumers frequently seek validation before making a purchase. Web-based social sharing communities make this easier than ever.
So what can your brand do to engage with social sharing sites? Here are some tips to increase user engagement with your brand:
- Create accounts and publish content: Brands and retailers can create accounts on these sites and participate in the conversations and content that are of interest to the users. A profile on Lyst can offer a selection of current season merchandise, descriptions and images, as well as pricing and store locations for each product. On Polyvore, fashion brands can create their own “sets” and some sites, like Pinterest, offer fashion businesses tools they can use to encourage and improve audience engagement.
- Partner: Many of these sites are looking to build marketplace or affiliate relationships with brands and retailers to generate revenue. Depending on the business model, you may be able to provide product, pricing and inventory data so consumers can purchase your merchandise directly from the site, or link directly to your site for purchase.
- Advertise or sponsor: With so many images and products available to users of these sites, it can be difficult for your brand and products to break through. You can “pay to play” (by buying media in prominent locations on the site) or get preferential ranking so that your products show up first. There are also opportunities to partner to co-develop events and content.
Like any other marketing or sales channel, you should evaluate the audience profile of each site and determine the participation level and mix that is right for your business.
This post is part of a series reviewing new sites launched on Amazon Webstore.
B FROG’s new site offers unique, progressive and colorful apparel to consumers around the world. In building their site on Amazon Webstore – they’ve done an excellent job incorporating this unique and colorful design into their new site.
Company Name: B FROG
Type of Products: Apparel, Clothing, Shirts, Polos
There are a few things we like about the new site at BFROG.com:
- The site is crisp, clean and very easy to navigate. Its simplistic store design layout, along with eye catching images allows users to easily understand their brand story and the products they offer.
- Awesome job emphasizing their brand pillar. Directly placed on the homepage and easy for site visitors to see:
- Product focused category pages. While most category pages need product titles and prices, B FROG instead has stripped off the prices and titles on their product category pages – allowing users to focus solely on the products they offer and not the pricing.
- High-quality product images. It’s very clear they have spent the time to capture high-quality product images. You’ll notice when you use the “roll-over zoom” feature it allows you to get a sense of the product almost as if your touching it in person. This can be a key selling point when selling products online.
- Nicely integrated blog. You would never know their blog (blog.bfrog.com) was hosted on WordPress. They have done a nice job integrating the blog into their navigation bar, and applying similar styling to match their site.
In Their Own Words
Christian Cremer, co-founder of B FROG, had this to say:
“Navigating in Amazon’s Seller Central is very friendly and no programming skills are required. Although it’s a lot of information, you can control everything from there.
I’m very happy to be working with Amazon. I decided to work with Amazon for three main reasons:
- Integration: Instead of working with many suppliers I decided to work with one: Amazon.
- Credibility: Being hosted by the worlds biggest retailer gives consumers credibility on the product my website is selling.
- Simplicity: Now I can occupy my time with doing what my business is all about, which is designing and producing unique, trendy and colorful apparel.
B FROG launched its website a few days ago, and we are very excited to be working with Amazon. Before we used to have a website hosted by another company and it gave us a lot of problems—since we started working with Amazon, everything is working great. Happy to be Amazon’s client.”
Photography in eCommerce is almost a foregone conclusion. Of course great photos are likely to help you sell products online. And yet, spending just a few minutes looking around the eCommerce world, unexpectedly few have put the time and effort into making their photos spectacular. This is surprising, as images on the product page are a customer’s most direct contact with what you’re selling—a good image isn’t just a good image for your product, it’s a good image for your company.
1. Use only professional, high-resolution photos. Even the best product looks unappealing in a bad picture. Make sure that your photos are taken professionally—if you’re not sure what that means, refer to other tips we’ve given on good product photography here—and at a high resolution. You likely won’t be able to display the image at full size directly on your product page, so make sure the image scales well also.
A professional photo should be taken with the customer in mind. Because online shopping removes the element of direct interaction with your product, the photo itself should provide that interaction. It should answer common customer questions about your product, by displaying features like texture, color, and fit.
2. Enable features that let the user see more. As a high-resolution image usually doesn’t fit in the space allotted on a normal webpage, you’ll need to include features like mouseover zoom, color swatches, and quick view. You may also consider more advanced visual effects, or something as simple as allowing a user to click a color swatch to change the color of the product image.
Essentially, these features give your customer the chance to see the product in more depth than they would with just a single photo. As the main product image answers basic customer questions about the product, these additional features answer more in-depth questions the customer may have.
3. Back up the images with quality website organization. Paying attention to the little things like search features, social media widgets, and “breadcrumbs” will make it so that customers can find the right product pages. Images will do no good if the customer is frustrated and can’t find the right product.
Consider what Alternative Apparel does with their search features, where a search for “white shirt” immediately returns a search for “shirt” filtered to just white products. Look around at other eCommerce sites for these little features that make it easier to find just the right thing, and implement them right away (many of these features may be available out of the box with the right eCommerce solution).
In the end, the most important thing to keep in mind about product images is this: they need to be as accurate and detailed a representation of your product as possible. The goal of your eCommerce site should be to help potential customers decide on which products to buy as quickly as possible. If they have to squint, you’re probably doing it wrong.
Image Credit: Shermeee, New Camera, December 1st, 2008 via Flickr, CC-BY 2.o
As we start the New Year, you are no doubt thinking about what has been accomplished this past year and where you want your eCommerce company to be for 2013. Writing resolutions that we will NEVER keep is a poor way to plan. Forget those dead-end promises you usually make, and brainstorm some resolutions for propelling your eCommerce business to success.
Here are some new ideas to start the year with that will result in a bigger, faster, and better business:
Launch an additional store: People shop in different ways. Do you know your largest demographics? Designing your main store for one category of customers, and adding a second store that targets a different set of users may be the way to go. The rule of thumb, is updating your website at least every 18 months to keep things fresh. For inspiration, check out this review of a sharp-looking new site on the Amazon Webstore platform.
Use search marketing tools like a pro: If your customer cannot find your store or products, you won’t survive long. Many services out there make it easy for you to see who is coming to your store, what they are looking at, and can help you figure out why they are leaving without making a purchase. For more information on driving traffic, read Driving Traffic to your Online Store: Short-term vs. Long-term Solutions.
Communicate with your customers: Even if you are already on the social media landscape, (Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and many more), check out consolidators like Roost or HootSuite to schedule social media campaigns in advance and get reporting on how your audience is engaging with your content. These consolidators wrap up all your social media interactions into one dashboard. Read more about social media in this post about optimizing your company’s social presence.
Consider new Web technology: This could be the year you move to the cloud! Imagine not having onsite servers to manage, using templated product detail pages, and getting many other benefits that come with cloud-based. There are so many services out there, from storage to database management to—of course—cloud-based eCommerce with Amazon Webstore; you can hardly go wrong if you read the reviews when choosing a new cloud service to implement.
Spruce up your store: It does not have to be a complete redesign to benefit your customers. Are you still using that old standard of 640 X 480 designed for CRT monitors? Consider designing your pages for the 800 X 600 resolution, which is today’s entry level.
Now that you have taken steps to improve the performance of your eCommerce business, it is time to raise your glass, may it be filled with happiness, joy, and plenty of success.
Search engine optimization (SEO) can often seem complex and difficult. With so many different experts and tips it’s often difficult to know where to begin. In reality, yes, some aspects of SEO are very complicated and based on deep insights from analytics and other sources. But quite a bit of SEO comes down to thinking logically about how your web site is set up, experimenting wisely, and keeping on top of both site maintenance and the latest trends. Here are three tips that you can implement right now to get your site more optimized for natural search:
● Get your URLs in order. The first rule of SEO is: make your site accessible to humans. The goal of Google, Bing, and other search engines is to deliver the most relevant content for the user’s search at the top of the search results. One of the attributes that the search engines use as a ranking factor is your URL. A good URL format will describe the topic of the page and therefor have the key search terms right in the URL. Additionally, Google prefers that canonical URLs are in place (go here for the ups and downs of canonical URLs). It’s also important to avoid trying to stuff keywords or add duplicate keywords in your URL, so www.domain.com/womens-slippers-ruby-slippers is not a good choice. Sites built on Amazon Webstore have these considerations built in. Product detail pages have the product name in the URL by default, for example, and canonical URLs are taken care of behind the scenes for product and browse pages.
● Link to your best selling products from your home page, for example you can add a section on your home page that links to these product pages using the product name as the link anchor text. Links from higher-level pages are crawled more frequently and allow you to distribute the link equity (“link juice”) of your hope page to your most important products. If you sell relatively few items, you may want to consider putting links to all of them on your home page, but only if it doesn’t make the site difficult for your customers to use. Whatever you do, focus on linking to these on these hot products from your strongest pages.
● Build links to your website by thinking outside the box for link placement. Perhaps you could pitch a story related to your company to a local paper, a trade magazine, or a business journal. Maybe there’s a blog out there that is interested in a product you carry. Hit all the angles—every inbound link from reputable outside sources, especially a well-known one, is good for your SEO. Just be sure to keep your inbound links natural, don’t engage in link exchange networks or respond to requests from people you do not know for reciprocal link exchanges. The goal of the search engines is to return the most relevant content, and by participating on the websites and social networks related to your business or industry you will have no trouble obtaining relevant links that are good for both users and ultimately improve your natural search rank.
Bonus tip: Look into ranking for phrases including the color of the product you’re selling. A lot of people search for “black iphone 5” or “red gucci belt”. While we don’t necessarily recommend having different pages for the different colors, considering the effects of color words in search terms is definitely advisable.
In the end, the best advice for anyone interested in improving their natural search rankings and optimizing for search is the simplest: Make your users love your site.
This post is part of a series reviewing new sites launched on Amazon Webstore.
Pipeista offers a carefully curated selection of women’s apparel and accessories on its new site, Pipeista.com—and that same craftsmanship and eye for design has gone into building a clean, sophisticated eCommerce site on the Amazon Webstore platform.
Company name: Pipeista
Type of products: Apparel
Time to build and launch: “The site took us only a short time to build, we developed over top of the templates/examples that Amazon provided. The largest amount of time was spent entering in our inventory, getting our product shots, and creating other graphical elements.”
Solution providers: Built in-house
There are a few things that we particularly like about the site at Pipeista.com:
- This is web design at its absolute cleanest. The simplicity of the homepage suggests a sophistication that many brands simply can’t reach. They’ve edited down the homepage to just the most basic elements—navigation, good imagery, and, uh, I guess that’s it—and the result is a classy site that is ridiculously easy to use.
- The product photography is just as stylish as the clothes themselves. One of the hardest things about buying apparel online is getting a good feel for how the outfit will look on you. Pipeista gets that much closer to solving this by injecting some attitude into their models and photography.
- It’s a UX dream come true. The categories are straightforward, and the top navigation leaves little question about how to get to them. The brevity of the curated product offering even lends it self to a site further simplified by removing the search box—this is a site for browsing, and it feels completely natural.
In Their Own Words
Craig Bell, co-owner of Pipeista.com with his wife Lindsey, had this to say about working with Amazon Webstore:
“We felt the site was easy to get started with. We looked at a few other services and felt that Amazon’s offering would work best for us. The build and launch process went smoothly, with the normal hiccups that come with building a website. The webstore has allowed us to expand our business outside of just Omaha, NE and reach customers across the country. My wife is the true creative force behind the clothing we offer, she travels to shows in NY to buy clothing that is then featured on our site. We buy in small amounts and try to focus on quality products that will keep customers coming back.”
The marketing life cycle of the modern eCommerce organization is fairly predictable: set up an online storefront, optimize search engine results, buy up some ad space, and get on social media. This may seem like a recipe for success, but the standard cycle is no guarantee—especially if you’re a small player in a big field.
The trick is as it has always been: connect people with a need to your company, who provides that need. Unfortunately, the world of content is wide, and people build their internal content filters very fast. Sometimes you need a radically different approach to raise yourself above the noise. Here are three less-common marketing channels you might try:
Teleconferences and Online Courses
This is “the new black” of marketing. The idea is to set up a class where one can learn a skill that your company can teach expertly. If you sell outdoor gear, for example, you might consider a timely course on wilderness survival in the snow, with an expert either inside or outside the company teaching. If the subject is interesting enough, you can provide a great service (you might even charge), while building up your brand’s credibility.
Additionally, you might make the video recording of the class available afterwards, which can allow your brand to “go viral” if the content hits just the right note with your audience. The concerns you’ll want to address before you set up such a class are: What subjects do you think you could teach expertly? Who could you get to teach them? What subjects will be interesting to your audience? Will you charge for live attendance? Will you charge for the recording?
That said, this is a very popular secondary marketing channel, and if your company has expertise that could be shared in this format, it’s worth looking into.
The heyday of “advergaming”, around the middle of last decade, brought us some truly mediocre attempts at merging marketing and interactivity. But these days, some brands are getting a lot of mileage out of making their own games and releasing them into the wild. The goal with an advergame is to make it a good game first, and an ad experience second.
If you feel like you’re up to the task of making an advergame, you’ll want to make sure you get it out to the various casual gaming blogs out there (Jay Is Games is probably the largest one). If you’re looking for inspiration, one of the most successful advergame series Doritos’ famous “Hotel 626” and “Asylum 626” Halloween-themed series. One thing to remember when using video games as a marketing tool: Avoid the Noid.
The best part of doing charity work in conjunction with brand awareness is that everybody wins. Your company gets sterling press, a good cause gets a benefit, and donors get to feel the happiness that comes with giving. “Cause marketing”, as it’s known, can be tricky, however. It’s really important not to appear to be using charity as a cynical attempt to leverage goodwill for profit, so be very judicious as to what projects you take on and how often you do so.
If you’re not queasy about revealing your marketing data, releasing reports and other publications that may help other marketers is an interesting new channel.
Image Credit: EvinDC, Lemonade Stand, August 4th, 2007 via Flickr, CC-BY 2.0
Rick Watson is the VP Operations for Merchantry, an Amazon Webstore Solution Provider. Merchantry provides a cloud-based marketplace platform that empowers retailers to launch and expand their own online marketplaces.
Fashion brands are increasingly seeking online outlets for their products and for good reason: U.S. online sales of apparel and accessories are expected to top $73 billion by 2016 and constitute 20% of all retail eCommerce sales. And yet the traditional fashion business model is optimized for brick-and-mortar retail—wholesale, seasonal orders that are placed by retailers before any manufacturing commences. We recently interviewed Martin Zagorsek, Partner at design firm Arch & Loop, to get a behind-the-scenes understanding of the challenges fashion brands face when selling online. The key takeaway is that fashion brands need to commit resources in three areas: inventory, logistics and content development.
Fashion brands typically operate without inventory—they produce what retailers have agreed to purchase and very little more. While selling through their own eCommerce site necessitates the manufacture and storage of inventory, the gross margins on direct sales will be much higher than selling through the wholesale channel because the fashion brand can keep the entire retail margin. Furthermore, selling directly can provide valuable insight into customer preferences and demographics that can be used to inform fabric selection and design for future seasons.
Selling and shipping individual orders to individual customers requires storage and working space, branded packaging (boxes, tissue paper, invoices) and staff to package items, arrange shipping and handle customer service. With apparel returns running at 20-30% of all items purchased, customer service is no small task. Technology plays a primary role here in ensuring that all parties can access the same information about an order and in automating customer communications. Many fashion brands are turning to third-party logistics providers to overcome these challenges.
From photography to product descriptions and attributes, the content-development requirements for eCommerce exceed what brands are accustomed to providing to their retail clients. According to Zagorsek, photography, though expensive, is the most critical content item. Fashion remains inherently visual. He recommends fashion brands hire professional photographers and invest as much as they can in the photography. They must keep it consistent—using the same background, same distance from screen, same angles and same lighting. The styling of the product for the photo shoot goes a long way in conveying luxuriousness, quality and, as a result, the implied price point to the customer. Copy, while less important, is also less expensive than photography and easier to produce. Videos are trendy right now but Zagorsek recommends smaller brands avoid producing videos because their return has simply not been proven to be worth the investment; they should instead harness their limited resources to produce great photography.
While fashion brands face challenges when they first take their business online, a smart allocation of resources to inventory, logistics and content development can help ensure success.