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.
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.
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
This is the first in a three-part series about communicating with customers.
In a physical store, you’d have salespeople. On the Internet, you only have words. Plain words, in plain type, on (hopefully) an attractive backdrop. Those words have to do a lot of work if you’re planning to move units anytime soon. Whether you’re a copywriter or you’re in charge of hiring the copywriter, you need to know how to distinguish excellent copy from decent copy. (Bad copy is usually fairly self-evident.) So, without further ado, here are the best practices, gleaned from the best of the best:
1. Headlines and continuous attention
A good headline leads the reader to read the first sentence. A good first sentence leads the reader to the second, and so on. (This is the advice of copy guru Joe Sugarman, who mentored Copyblogger’s Brian Clark.) Headlines take advantage of people’s need to solve problems, figure things out, and get resolution.
The headline is the opening statement, the “ad for the ad”. As in a novel or a short story, a piece of ad copy has a conflict and a resolution. The headline and the opening sentences should be written so that they set up the conflict, driving people to read attentively to arrive at the resolution. Some headlines leave out information, are jarring, or are humorous to this end.
2. The Promise
Clark goes on to say that every piece of copy must make a promise to the reader, then fulfill that promise with claims that are authoritatively backed up. The promise is a small part of the copy, as is this list item.
3. Clarity and Structure
The copy you write should be utterly clear. Upon reading it, there should be no doubt in the reader’s mind regarding the message, especially the call to action. Copywriter Michel Fortin calls the lack of a clear call to action one of the “seven deadly sins of website copy”.
Fortin extols the virtues of the “power of one”. In his words, that means “one message, one audience, one outcome”. Some simple, actionable things that can help the clarity of your copy include:
- The basics: Grammar and style should be perfect.
- One voice: Having a style guide and a branding guide will help.
- Revision: Never just type it and forget it. Read it aloud or even hire an editor.
4. Support and fulfilling the promise
As mentioned, every piece of copy needs a resolution. This means your call to action should really solve the problem you exposed. This, in turn, means you need to make sure your audience believes you. So, back up your statements with credible proof. No matter how short, your copy will fail if your audience doesn’t believe it.
In sum, everything in your copy should be laser-focused on showing your solution to a real problem facing your audience. This will put attention on your call to action, which in turn will activate the salesperson hidden in these words on your website.
Image credit: Robert Neff, “Fifth World Art” via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Does your Amazon Webstore site have a favicon? If not, stay tuned—we have instructions on how to get one.
What is a favicon?
A favicon is 16 x 16 pixel image which shows up next to your website’s URL in the browser. It also usually shows in the tab of the window you’re viewing. Take a look at any tabs you may have open right now—if you see a small logo next to the site’s title, that’s the favicon.
Why is it important?
A few reasons! First, having a favicon can make your site easier to identify when users have multiple tabs open. Second, it can make the site look more complete when that professional-looking logo shows up in the browser. Finally, it’s another touchpoint with your brand—however small—that can help visitors remember your site.
Can I have one on my Webstore?
Yes, you sure can add a favicon to your Webstore. Here’s how to do it:
- First you need an image to use as a Favicon. Most sellers will generally use their logo or the first letter of their logo. For example, if you look on Amazon.com you will see a styled letter “a” with an arrow underneath it. The image dimensions should be 16 pixels by 16 pixels. Please save your image file to your directory and give it an “.ico” extension. For example: you can give it the name “minilogo.ico”.
- Log into Seller Central, and upload the image in your File Library (under the Store Design tab). The best place to put it is in the “Merchandising Files” directory.
- You will need to get the image URL from the picture you just saved in the File Library, by following these steps:
- In the File Library, select the icon for the file you uploaded.
- At the bottom of your screen, click the “View Current Version” link.
- The file will open in a new tab. Select the image URL, copy it to your clipboard, and save it in open file. It will look something like this: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/[FILENAME].ico
- Back in Seller Central, navigate to the Merchandising and Layout page (again under the Store Design tab), select the ‘My Webstore’ master page in the left sidebar, and add an HTML widget by dragging it from the bar of widgets at the top into any slot on the page.
- In the HTML widget, add the following text, pasting in the URL to your favicon in place of where it says [URL TO IMAGE]: <link rel=”shortcut icon” href=”[URL TO IMAGE]” />
- Click Save, and Publish the changes when you’re ready.
- Next, just wait—the favicon may not be immediately available after you publish the Webstore. It should show up within 24 hours after you publish the changes.
Congratulations! Your site now has a Favicon.
You may already be using Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and a company blog to drive traffic to your eCommerce site. We discussed how to get started with these in a previous post. But a recent survey by Bizrate Insights revealed that Pinterest motivates more online purchases than even Facebook. If you’re not using Pinterest, it may be time to start!
We live in a world of people who love pictures, and Pinterest caters to us in that way. Pinterest is a pinboard-style photo sharing website that allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections focused on hobbies, interests, crafts, fashion, and more. Users can browse other users’ pinboards for inspiration, ’re-pin’ images to their own collections, and ‘like’ photos that they see.
According to Alexa, Pinterest is the 15th most visited site in the United States, and 38th most visited in the world. Your customers probably already know and love Pinterest. Here are some thoughts on how to tap into the Pinterest phenomenon:
- Getting started is as easy as setting up a free account for your business. If you want, you can also link to your other social platforms like your Facebook site or your company website or blog.
- Add the Social Sharing widget to your product details pages (and your category pages, if you’d like). To do this, log into Seller Central, navigate to the Merchandising and Layout page (under the Store Design tab), and drag the Social Sharing widget from the top bar into a slot in the right page template. This will allow you to add a Pinterest button, so site visitors can pin your products directly to their Pinterest boards.
- Pin your own products! Users will find them on Pinterest either by browsing to your company’s boards or by discovering them in the search. When they click the link that accompanies the image, they’ll be taken directly to your product detail page—providing valuable site traffic. If you’ve pinned them using the button provided by the Social Sharing widget, the pinned product images will also have the product’s price flagged in the upper left corner.
- You can then use your customer email lists, social networks, and other lists to let people know about your company’s Pinterest boards, so they can start re-pinning your products. The more people re-pin your products, the more other people will be able to find them!
- You can organize your company’s pins into products lines and themes. For example, if you sell jewelry, you might have a board dedicated to men’s watches, another for women’s necklaces, and the like. You can then ask customers to share pictures that show them wearing your products. See how one popular shoe seller has done this.
- Track your boards to see which ones generate the most buzz. You may end up wanting to change your sales and purchasing strategies based on how your customers interact with your products on Pinterest.
Ultimately, Pinterest could become a virtual sales person helping people find your products in the global marketplace. Is your business already finding success with using Pinterest to drive traffic and sales? Let us know in the comments!
Today it’s becoming more and more important to use video to educate customers about products on your eCommerce site. Many customers have questions that can’t always be answered through words. Customers love to see, hear, and touch products before they commit to purchasing them. However, most often the Internet doesn’t allow for this. By using video, you can demonstrate how your product works, showcase key features, and give the viewer an in-depth, 360-degree view of your product.
Effectively educating your customers through video can be tricky. Common mistakes include not answering your customer’s questions, not highlighting key product differences, and creating lengthy, run-on videos. Here are four tips to effectively educate your customers through video.
1. Think like your customers
What would you want to know? What would you want to see? Thinking like your customers not only helps you answer their questions, but it can also build assurance and credibility. Common questions include:
- How does this product work?
- What does it do?
- What are the key features?
- What are the details?
- What makes it different?
- Will it last?
2. Highlight differences
What makes your product or service different from competitors? All customers want to know, so show them. By showing what makes your product or service different, you immediately stand out to your customer.
3. Showcase the Details
Video is an excellent way for customers to get up close and personal with your brand and products. Using close-up shots, and high-quality video can bring out the details in your products. Notice the level of detail you can see in this photo of a waterproof ski jacket:
4. Keep it short and sweet
Attention spans are short; your videos should probably be too. Once your videos exceed the one-minute mark, the drop-off rate can increase quickly. Focus on keeping your videos crisp, concise and interesting. Research shows that, on average, 30-second videos get viewed 85% of the way through, while two-minute videos only average getting watched halfway through.
Shorter videos are usually much more engaging than longer videos. Shoot for your videos to be between 20-60 seconds in length. If you need to show more, consider breaking down your videos into sections. You could even use a carousel feature to display your videos – allowing people to view what they want.
When used properly, video can be an extremely powerful tool to boost eCommerce sales. It not only allows customers to get a firsthand look at your products in action, but it also gives brands a chance to be unique and creative – standing out from competitors. Keeping these four tips in mind will lead you on your way to effectively educating your customers through video.
Have you found any of these tips especially helpful? Have a suggestion to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below.
On Wednesday 10/17 at 12:00PM Pacific, join Internet Retailer’s Don Davis, Editor in Chief, Scott Pulsipher, Director of Amazon Webstore, and Danna Ramberg, Director of IT at Seattle Pacific Industries, for an informative webinar on specialty eCommerce sites.
In this webinar, Danna will share why and how Seattle Pacific Industries implemented their multi-brand strategy with dedicated eCommerce sites for their UNIONBAY, Union Jeans, and Howe Clothing brands. She is joined by Scott Pulsipher, to discuss how Amazon allows businesses to launch full-featured eCommerce sites quickly and cost-effectively.
Don’t miss this opportunity to learn about specialty sites and how they can benefit your business.
The webinar is on Wednesday October 17, 2012 from 12:00PM – 1:00PM PDT