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tools for ecommerce

Clever Tools for Online Retail Websites

Updated October 2019 – Read the Retailers Guide to Ecommerce 2019 Today!

Insight and interpretation has long been at the very core of retail excellence. Understanding your customer, identifying their needs, behaviours, challenges and obstacles and ensuring your retail store can effectively cater for these individuals has set many a retail outlet apart from it’s competitors. The same criteria for success hold true for online retail. The best (and most profitable) online retailers are continually reviewing and interpreting real time data and feedback from customers to help develop a more immersive and enjoyable online experience.

Developing a rounded approach to online retail has delivered success to a cross section of industries and has proved a minefield for many small and mid-level retail companies. However, there are a range of tools that can help you embellish your online offering, help your company grow online and most importantly,  deliver much more than just a “best practice” experience for your customers. In this blog, we rate just some of the tools that are of benefit to Irish Retail Companies in pursuit of online success.

Google Analytics

The Old Reliable

How It Works

Google Analytics is a powerful and free tool from Google that works through the addition of a unique piece of code to your website. This code includes a unique UA code that determines where information is sent when a visitor visits your website

What It Does

Use Google Analytics to find out pretty much everything you could want to know about your website visitors. From the mobile device most frequently used by your visitors to how long they spend on site, Google Analytics gathers an incredible amount of data.

What You Can Learn

Practically everything. There is simply too much too learn, however below are some of the key things that retail store owners could and should be interested in learning though Google Analytics.

Marketing Channel Revenue Return – How much revenue is my website generating from my digital marketing efforts. Now a newspaper advertisement can’t do that for you.

Unique Users – How many unique visitors have come to my website? A very similar trait to a footfall metric for your bricks & mortar store.

Cart Abandoners – How many people have thought about buying something, only to leave it back and walk back out the door.

Visitor Demographics – Understanding the age profile of your online customers can help you make better sales promotion choices.

These are just 4 of the plethora of information, that retail stores can learn through a Google Analytics account.

Dmac Media Score: 6/10

Google Analytics power is immense. However, it’s held back by its complexity for people not using it every day. Don’t get us wrong, we highly recommend that all websites utilise Google Analytics. Just don’t be expecting to grasp it all at once.

Hotjar

hotjar logo

The new kid on the block

How it Works

Hotjar works in exactly the same fashion as Google Analytics – simply add a small piece of code to the website.

What it Does

Essentially Hotjar records how your website visitors interact with your website. From your Hotjar Dashboard, you can watch up to 300 website visitor videos and determine the user pathways of choice as well as any barriers to conversion that might be negatively impacting your performance. In addition, Hotjar’s Heat & Click Maps can provide real insight into the navigation elements most frequented by your website visitors as well as user drop as they scroll through your content.

What can you Learn

Hotjar is a incredibly powerful tool for digital marketers. We’ve used Hotjar to various degrees and have helped us identify a range of issues and improve websites from a user experience. As we’ve already mentioned, you’ll identify the user pathways most frequented by your visitors which you can then use to enhance user experience. Pitfalls or barriers to conversion also become glaringly apparent following a Hotjar review, enabling business owners to take action and become more successful online. We’ve also used the click and scroll maps to empower call to action placement as well the positioning of key website content, to provide users with next steps ands keep them engaged.

Dmac Media Score: 10/10

Hotjar’s ease of use coupled with simple rollout puts it the top of our list. The wealth of information and interpretation gives unrivalled insight into how your visitors interact with your website.

Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner Logo

An oldie but a goody

How it Works

Keyword Planner is a tool associated with Google Ads, which can be off putting for business not looking to engage with paid advertising. However, this free tool gathers genuine keyword search data from Google, that can be subsequently used to develop organic keyword strategy.

What It Does

Keyword planner aggregates a range of keywords as entered by the user offering real time averages from the previous 12 months data and help you forecast future search volumes. You can use Keyword Planner to gain insight into keyword search volumes from any country in the world, helping you identify new markets beyond the boundaries of Ireland. You can also use it to help generate keyword ideas that you might not have thought about through the clever “Find New Keywords” option.

What You Learn

Essentially, keyword planner can provide key insight into the search volumes for potential keywords. This can help you build an SEO map and develop a strategy that will maximise your websites organic reach and potential. In addition, Keyword Planner can help you plot the seasonality of products meaning you can develop your sales promotion & pricing strategy to coincide with in-season products.

Dmac Media Score: 8/10

An invaluable resource for both pay per click advertising and organic strategy, keyword planner is an integral part of a Digital Marketing arsenal. Yes, there are other keyword research tools, but we’ve found that real keyword insight for the Irish search market can be gained through Keyword Planner.

Moz

Moz SEO Software Logo

The SEO Partner You’ll Want

How it Works

Moz SEO Software is the brainchild of Rand Fishkin, a leader in the world of Search Engine Optimisation Tools. Moz is an easy to use SEO tool that essentially looks at your website from Googles perspective and tells you what can be improved to “Keep Google Happy.” Moz uses crawl technology, the very same as Google, however unlike Google, Moz feeds back any issues negatively impacting the websites organic perspective to you, the user.

What it Does

In effect, Moz sends a crawl bot in the very same way Google does and identifies a range of website issues that are impacting how search engines interpret your website. The issues it finds are then collated in an easy to use site crawl interface, so you can make the relevant improvements. In addition, Moz reviews the strength of your domain, pages & even details how your website ranks in a weekly report, so you can see just how well your website is performing in Google Search.

What You’ll Learn

The power of Moz is really harnessed through its easy to use and interpret interface. Data from Moz is categorised into 6 primary headings, which will tell you everything from how your websites ranks in Google Search for a specific keyword, to how your website stacks up against competitors. We regularly use Moz’s site crawl tool to improve overall website efficiency and performance from Google Bots perspective. This incredibly useful tools direct our both our manual and technical SEO efforts for clients. We also use the links tool to great effect, examining our clients domain and page authority regularly to evaluate our link building efforts.

Dmac Media Score: 8/10

Get on top of your technical and manual SEO efforts with Moz software. It’s easy to use interface coupled with insightful data can help your website climb the ladders of Google and gain real traffic.

New Ecommerce Website

How to Access Funding for your E-Commerce Website?

I think it’s fair to say that all business sectors benefit from having a quality responsive website. Within each sector the business may range from a start-up right through to a longstanding multi-national.

As such, there are a wide range of opportunities to access funding, each designed to be suitable to the age and status of your business.
Typically they fall into one of the following categories.

  1. Private Enterprise Start Up
  2. Existing SME (Less than 10 employees)
  3. Existing SME (More than 10 Employees Less than 250)

Back to Work Enterprises

Back to Work Enterprise Allowance

The Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) scheme supports people who are in receipt of particular social welfare payments to become self-employed. The qualifying criteria for this scheme are as follows:

  1. Starting a new business a self-employed person
  2. The Business model is pre approved
  3. The applicant has been in receipt of Jobseeker’s Benefit or Jobseeker’s Allowance for the past 9 months or more.

Under this scheme you may avail of grant funding for many things that will assist you with your business, for the online side of things the allowance is €500 for Website registration, related services and production with a 20% contribution being made by the applicant.

Read More Here>>>

1.Private Enterprise Start Up

Enterprise Ireland – Start-up Team

If you’re thinking about a new start-up business that has a product or service that is suitable for international markets, has the potential to create 10 jobs or more and has the potential to generate €1m or more in export sales within the first 3 years,  then you may qualify for financial assistance from Enterprise Ireland as a High Potential Start-up.

Read more here>>>

2.Existing SME (Less than 10 employees)

Technical Assistance for Micro Exporters

Technical Assistance for Micro Exporter’s Grant enables clients to explore and develop new market opportunities. This grants part-funds the costs that can be incurred in investigating and researching export markets, e.g. exhibiting at Trade Fairs, preparing marketing material and developing websites specifically targeting overseas markets.

Grant Terms:

  • Grant Covers 50% of eligible costs (net of vat) to a max of €2,500.
  • Applications must be made prior to any expenditure being incurred
  • Payments will be made to approved projects on receipt of proof of payment of all qualifying and approved expenses.
  • Successful applicants should consider using an Enterprise Ireland Mentor to develop an export/marketing plan.

Projects eligible for support include:

Enterprises not employing more than 10 people

  • Enterprises located within the geographic location of the Local Enterprise Office
  • Enterprises operating in the commercial sphere
  • Enterprises must demonstrate a market for their proposed product/service
  • Enterprises engaged in manufacturing or internationally traded services
  • Innovative businesses with prototype products
  • Enterprises must not have received any funding for this proposal from any other source

Eligible Expenditure categories

  • Participation at trade fairs and shows covering Trade Show Exhibitor costs including rental/fees relating to space/stands
  • Participation at International trade networking events organised through the Enterprise Europe Network
  • Development of specific Marketing Materials aimed at exploring new export markets
  • Translation, e.g. of existing material (booklets, web-pages, etc. for export markets
  • Development of export related websites
  • Investigation of new internal or external processes to develop export business, e.g. new business model or the carrying out of non-regulatory technical requirements

LEO Trading Online Voucher Scheme

 The “Trading Online Voucher Scheme” has been running for about 5 years now and so far has provided funding to over 2000 different Irish businesses.

Background

In 2014 under the National Digital Strategy the Irish Government recognised that there weren’t enough Irish Businesses operating E-Commerce websites. At that time, 85% of all online spending in Ireland went to foreign retailers, as late as 2017 60% of online spending in Ireland still went to foreign retailers. (Hamilton, 2018)

So, the Irish Government under the National Digital Strategy designed the Online Trading Voucher Scheme aimed at “Optimising your business with an E-Commerce website” The government were really concerned about the amount of monies leaving Ireland considering that “The Irish people are the biggest international online shoppers in the world” and over the last few years the trend towards shopping online has grown in 2018  

Irish consumers spent approximately €7.8bn online, with this figure expected to exceed €10bn by 2020” (Hamilton, 2018)

According to Government figures, businesses that participated in the LEO Trading Online Voucher Scheme reported a 20pc average increase in sales, with an 80pc spike in sales leads.” (Tannam, 2019)

Before you get too excited!

Your business must meet certain criteria, to qualify for the scheme, businesses must have:

  • No more than 10 employees;
  • Less than €2m in turnover;
  • Be trading for at least 6 months
  • Be located in the region of the Local Enterprise Office to whom they are applying.

*Find your local enterprise office here>>>

If you don’t meet these criteria you won’t be eligible for this funding:

Example: You run a retail business, employ 9 people, your turnover is less than €2,000,000 per annum and you are located in Cork, you apply to the LEO office in Cork for a Trading Online Voucher

The application will require that you get quotes from 3 different Web Developers, you supply these and some information about your business, attend one of their regular information sessions and all things being equal you are awarded the Online Trading Online Voucher.

Note: The LEO office does not decide or define who you work with, that is entirely up to you regardless of the difference in quote values.

NOTE: You can only get a refund on monies spent after your application has been processed and you have been accepted on the scheme.

3.Existing SME (More than 10 Employees Less than 250)

Enterprise Ireland – Established SME Funding

This section sets out the main funding supports and programmes for established small and medium sized enterprises in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors. An Established SME client is a company that is not a High Performance Start Up client, has an established trading record, the company (or its group of companies) employs between 10 and 250 employees, has either an annual turnover of less than €50m or an annual balance sheet of less than €43m.

Funding decisions are determined by the;

  • Need for financial support for the project
  • Potential employment and sales growth
  • Previous funding provided to the company
  • Regional location of the company

Read More Here>>>

Conclusion

Generally speaking, if you haven’t accessed funding recently, then you are most likely eligible for one of the funding opportunities listed above. The one thing I wouldn’t do is to do nothing.  Each and every day your company has a poor website presence or worse still, no website presence,  your competitors are rising above you!

References

Tannam, E. (2019, April 19th). Government announces funding for small businesses to boost e-commerce. Retrieved from Silicon Republic: https://www.siliconrepublic.com/companies/small-business-funding-ireland

Talking EPOS – How retailers overcome stock management issues on ecommerce websites

One of the major fear factors for real world retailers, when they are stepping into ecommerce, is the challenge of managing stock.  If most retailers are honest they will confess that their real-world stock management is patchy and are terrified at the thought of selling something they don’t have in stock.

This is one of the most common roadblocks we help retailers overcome and we have seen all sorts of solutions.  Here are my top 5 from the lowest cost and complexity to the highest.  They will give you some insight into the best way forward for you.

 

1. No stock management

Believe it or not a staggering number of retailers select this option.  They rely on there products being easy to source from suppliers to cover them.  If you have strong ties with suppliers, this can be a low-cost way to get started as your website does not need to carry out any stock checking, it is either available or not, black or white.

 

2. Basic Stock management

As retailers put more and more stock online and the order volumes start to increase it can be harder to keep customers product moving.  Alternatively, you might not have steady supply chain, and this means you need to operate a more flexible stock file.  The low budget option for this is to use a stock file update within your website.  Usually this consists of a CSV file upload option that lets you update product lines in bulk.  You need to be sure the uploader can handle complex product variants if you are using options like size, colour or type on your website.

This can be a blunt but effective instrument for manging stock but needs manual intervention on a regular basis to work well.

3. Epos feed – one way

Almost any Epos in operation today can create and send reports to servers.  With this option you can send an automatically generated stock file with stock volume and price for each product to the website.  The website will generally run an update check one to two times a day looking for a fresh file and update the website from there.

It is very much a one-way street with product data only going from the EPOS to the website and no return website order data. Your Epos provider may charge for enabling this solution but as it is relatively low tech it should not be to excessive.

4. Epos feed – Two way

Now we are really getting into automated stock.  This solution allows both the product feed from epos to web but also pulls down web order data from the website to the Epos.  This will give you a very high percentage of accuracy on your stock and pricing data and has the added benefit of not needing day to day management.  Two things to keep in mind;

  1. a) this is still not live stock as the website will only update on a fixed time schedule.
  2. b) unless your epos has all ready got web service functions in place, retrieving order data from the web may have large costs attached or may not be possible at all

 

5. Live-stock management (API)

This is usually the higher end of the available options but is worth a look if you have the budget.  More and more modern epos systems offer an API environment.  This lets your website developers used pre-set calls between website and epos to check stock volumes on the fly (when a user browsing your site for example) or mark stock as reserved at the point of order confirmation.  It is truly live stock management.  It requires a good Epos system and good stock management policies with staff involved but if you can afford it you have a much better satisfaction rating with customers and much lower refund rate.

 

Summary

To sum up there is more than one way to handle stock and if you are just getting started you can manage without for at least a while.  If you are trying to decide on a good epos, make sure you ask the vendor about the web service options available and get a feel for what they cost.

As always if this has left you with more questions than answers get in touch and we are happy to help…

 

 

 

 

Have you ever launched an e-commerce website and failed, but don’t know why?

90% of all e-commerce business start-up’s fail!
 (Patel, 2016)

Every week I meet or take calls from business owners who all have one thing in common. They have tried launching an E-commerce website and failed, most of them don’t know why?

The top 3 reasons e-commerce businesses fail!

1. They haven’t developed a manageable strategy and timeline

2. They have too great an expectation and quit too early

3. They Choose the wrong web design team


1.  You haven’t developed a manageable strategy and timeline

During my e-commerce consultancies one of the first things I try to impress on the business owner is the need to Start Small & Grow Big” . You need time to learn, adapt and compete against similar companies or products that have a head start on you.

Each e-commerce project should have a strategy with measureable goals in place before you begin.

Key areas to consider:

  • What platform should you use?
  • How will you load your products?
  • How will you manage stock?
  • What delivery methods should you use?
  • What payment options should you choose?
  • How will you market the website?
  • What social media platforms should you use?
  • Have you got a budget set aside?
  • Do you have time to manage the site?
  • As the website gets busier can you expand?

Your strategy and timeline are intrinsically linked to your budget, so, be realistic at all times.

In the early stages of your project you’ll need to set aside a fair bit of time to engage with your web design team, you’ll need to adjust your schedule to include website related activities.

A typical breakdown of an e-commerce project should always include a Start Date and Delivery Date, within that timeline you should have other phased goals:

  • Graphic Design phase
  • Development phase
  • Testing and training phase
  • Content/product loading phase
  • Launch date
  • Post launch activities (Digital Marketing, Pay Per Click Advertising etc.)

“Execution of a strategy is a specific set of behaviours that companies need to master in order to have competitive advantage” (Ram Charan and Larry Bossidy, 2018)

2. Business owners have too great an expectation and quit too early

Some clients think that if we build them a website the money will start rolling in. I can tell you I’ve seen some disappointed faces across my desk 3 months post launch!

Surprisingly a good number of business owners who go to all the trouble and expense of building an e-commerce website abandon it after 3 or 4 months because it didn’t work!

It’s not that it didn’t work, it’s that they didn’t work the business! Currently there are over 1.8 Billion websites online. So launching your e-commerce website without a Marketing Plan is like putting a message into a bottle and throwing it into the sea.

Google may not trawl your website for a number of weeks so it will be practically invisible, it won’t rank well either, so it’s unlikely to appear on the first few pages of a search engine results, until you start working on your “Post Launch” Strategy.

Post launch strategies include but are not limited to:

  • Blog Writing
  • Video Blogs
  • Social Media Activity
  • Google AdWords Campaign
  • Facebook Advertising
  • Email Marketing Campaign
  • On site content writing
  • SEO development
  • Referral Request for your Google My Business account
  • Newspaper and Media Advertising

To deliver all or even some of the above to a level whereby you are going to see some results takes time –Blog writing may take 18 months or more to gather momentum, Pay per click advertising takes approx. three months of delivery, testing and refinement to achieve an optimised campaign.

3. Choosing the right Web Development Team and getting the Budget right

How to get the balance right?

If you’re really interested in building a business online then choosing the right team to partner with is a serious choice, you will probably be working with this team for a 3 to 5 year period, longer if the business model and partnership blossoms. Choosing the wrong Web Developer can set you back 2 years!

By talking to friends and colleagues who have either built a website or built a business around their website you will gain invaluable insight into the process and you may well get a decent referral, I know in my own life I will only refer someone who has done an outstanding job.

Choosing the wrong Web Developer can set you back years!

How do you choose the right web developer for your e-commerce project?

  • Do a Google Search, if the Website Development team know what they are doing they should rank well.
  • Look at their portfolio of work, does it resonate with you
  • Call a couple of their clients and ask them about their experience
  • Open a conversation with the Web Development team, meet with them to discuss the specifics of your e-commerce project

Questions to ask your prospective Website Development team:

  • How much will it cost and what’s included in those costs (Get a breakdown)?
  • How long will it take?
  • What type of support do you offer?
  • Who writes the content?
  • Who uploads the content?
  • Can I edit the content myself?
  • Who uploads the products?
  • Can you connect my EPOS system to the website?
  • What payment gateways can I use?
  • Will the website talk to my accounts package?
  • Who’s responsible for the SEO on the website?
  • Do you give training on e-commerce management?
  • Is my website Responsive (mobile friendly)?
  • Who manages the Google AdWords?
  • Who manages the Social Media posting?
  • Who Pays the 3rd Party Costs (Facebook Ads, Google Adwords etc.)

Conclusion

If you want your e-commerce business to be part of the 10% who launch successful e-commerce websites you should do the following:

  • Design a clear and achievable strategy, map it out on a timeline
  • Keep your feet on the ground, this isn’t going to be an overnight success
  • Choose your web development team wisely.

Do the Math! Ecommerce for Small Business Needs to Add Up!

Do you know the running cost of your ecommerce website?

I have written before about what to spend on a website but in this blog I want to focus on how to breakdown the running costs of a website.

A key part of our sales process at Dmac is an assessment of the resources a client has available to them before agreeing a project.

 

Areas such as:

 

  1. How many staff, if any, will be involved in the site?
  2. How much time, in a given week, will be given to website management?
  3. How are you managing shipping and inventory?
  4. What kind of digital marketing budget is in place?

These are key questions to answer before taking out the cheque book for a new website as the answers will largely dictate the success or failure of an ecommerce website.

There are still plenty of business owners who look at an ecommerce website as a fixture or fitting in their business.  It has a cost of x and once that is paid I can relax and let it add revenue to my business.

With the internet’s continuing descent into pay for position this is getting further and further from reality.  A website is more like a vehicle.  It only moves if you keep it fuelled.

This blog will focus on the common costs that a business needs to manage when running a good ecommerce website.  We will also show how best to express these figures to keep track of costs on a daily and hourly basis.

 

managing-website

We will break it down under the following headings:

  1. Product & Category Management
  2. Fulfilment
  3. Payments
  4. Shipping
  5. Website Maintenance
  6. Promotion

1. Product & Category Management

This is almost entirely a labour cost.  To get the best possible traction for your products they need to be displayed with good quality images, unique descriptions and accurate costs.  This all takes time to do correctly particularly if you write your own product descriptions (literally the best thing you can do for your website)

Adding a new product should take a trained person 10-20mins from start to upload, depending on the web platform.  Once the product is loaded it needs to be monitored for price and stock changes.  If you integrate with your epos system this is automated, but you would be amazed how many SME’s do not have a web enabled epos.

On top of the day to day management of product, you also need to invest time in researching new product trends to influence your buying as well as constantly revising your category structure to make sure it is simple for your customers to find product.

The amount of time spent should be based on the volume of product you want to manage.  The staff time required to do it right needs to be factored into your budget.

2. Fulfilment

This is an obvious one but again time needs to be factored into the administration of orders once you start making them.  Who is looking after customer contact, picking lists and packaging?  Who works with the courier company to ensure they collect & deliver on time.  Every order will have a handling cost which again adds to your labour cost.

3. Payments

If you take credit cards in your real-world business you are all too familiar with the related charges and online payment processors are no different.  They fall into two broad billing categories;

Commission Based, the processor usually provides aggregated processing and merchant account.  They only charge a percentage of the total order which is fine until you start to generate high volumes of transactions and the percentage (somewhere between 3-5%) really starts to sting.

Set Tariffs, usually suited to more established sites with higher volumes.  These providers normally require a separate merchant bank account and have fixed monthly fees (circa €30) The merchant bank will also charge a commission fee on top of that but it is normally much more competitive than their commission based counterparts (Stripe, PayPal)

Whatever your setup these costs chip away at the product margins and need to be considered as part of the whole.

4. Shipping

Another cost each order must bear.  To give a competitive edge many operators go with Free delivery which normally means the actual cost is hidden in the product.  But free or charged you must be sure you count the real cost of delivery.  This starts with getting good parcel rate from your courier or logistics partner, but you should not forget the cost of packaging materials as well as returns charges.

5. Website Maintenance

Like it or not your website ages faster than you can imagine.  To stay ahead of the ever-present security threats to customer data online and to keep up with Google’s incessant changes (over 1600 in 2016 alone!) You need to keep your website up to date.  We recommend that you look at the cost of a website over a three-year period so if you invest €3k in a new ecommerce platform your yearly cost is €1k.

6. Promotion

It is no longer possible to gain traction online without engaging in digital marketing.  Email, Social, Content or AdWords it all must line up to make sales.  This is one area where budgets can run unchecked and is often where profits vanish.  All digital marketing must be looked at through a lens of Cost per Acquisition.

 

Expressing the figures

Now that you have a grasp of the major costs of operating a simple ecommerce site you need to know how to get this into a manageable figure for you to track.  Over the last decade the we have learned the simplest method is to express everything as a percentage of your average order value.  This keeps the figures small and allows you to spot check your performance at any time without getting lost in P&L sheets.

Let’s break that down.  Look at the total revenue generated from the site over a period (your choice but anywhere from 1-12 months works) and divide this by the volume of orders.  This gives you an average order value.

Now take your total labour costs (under the headings above) for the same period and divide by the volume of orders.  Now figure out what percentage of the average order value this takes up.

Repeat the same exercise for all your costs and you now have the anatomy of an order value.  You can get a surprisingly accurate net profit figure per order but more importantly you have a great picture of the true cost of that sale

 

Facing the facts

If you do this exercise and realise that you are in fact loss making, then you are already a step ahead of many small ecommerce sites. Many seemingly successful or at least busy ecommerce sites are not profitable.  As a business operator you need to do the math on your ecommerce setup (real or imagined) once you have the numbers you can start optimising what you are doing and get the profit margins back.

 

The Dmac team are free to talk to you about your ecommerce dreams or nightmares at any time so drop us a line if this article has got you thinking.

 

Secure Lock

SSL Certificate –Why your website needs one

Want to make your website secure but not really sure how to go about it? This blog will help you answer some of your questions regarding your websites security.

Why do I need a SSL certificate?

Typically, information sent between a browser and a web server is sent as plain text, which can leave you vulnerable to hackers. SSL certificates utilise a public and a private key, which work together to establish an encrypted connection.

 

This certificate does a couple of things.

One, it enables your site to communicate with users using encrypted, non-corruptible data.

 

Two, the certificate also acts as a stamp of approval from a trusted party that says your site is legitimate and secure to use.

 

Three, HTTPS sites also load faster. In a test on HTTP vs HTTPS.com, the unsecure version of the page loads slower than HTTPS – try the test on your own device and see it for yourself. Fast loading time is also discussed here as part of upgrading your website blog.

 

Back in 2014, Google tried to persuade webmasters to make the switch to HTTPS and made the secure protocol a stronger ranking signal as motivation. Google flat-out said they would start giving preference to sites with an SSL.  Since that time, encrypted sites have earned a boost in rankings over their unsecured counterparts.

What is a SSL certificate?

Let’s start with the basics, SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, this is a security method which allows data to be transferred over a server securely. SSL certificates help to protect the transfer of private information such as payment or bank details, usernames, passwords and more. A website is secure if the URL begins with HTTPS, and it is important to note that it will also display that it is secure.

 

An SSL Certificate contains the company’s domain name, company name, company address, and the country of origin, for the website. It also contains the expiration date of the Certificate and the name of the Certification Authority responsible for issuing the Certificate. The certificate also includes the public key of the server which is used for the encryption of data. It is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browsers remain private.

What is HTTPS?

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) and HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) are protocols, or languages, for passing information between web servers and clients. All you need to know is that HTTPS is a secure connection, whereas HTTP is unsecure. With a standard HTTP unsecure connection, it is possible for unauthorized parties to observe the conversation between your device and the site.

So, what will happen if I don’t have one?

Historically, Google Chrome has not explicitly labelled HTTP connections as non-secure. Beginning in January 2017, they began marking HTTP pages that collect passwords or credit card details as non-secure, as part of a long-term plan to mark all HTTP sites as non-secure. Recent figures from Google now indicate that over 50% of all websites are now secure.

 

Google has stated in their blog that in future releases, they will continue to extend HTTP warnings, for example, by labeling HTTP pages as “not secure” in Incognito mode. Eventually, they will label all HTTP pages as non-secure, and change the HTTP security indicator to the red triangle that we use for broken HTTPS. As shown here:

https

 

Your SSL cert will need to be updated yearly to avoid things like this happening:

123

OK, so how do I get a SSL certificate?

With prices starting from €100, contact our team at Dmac media and we will be happy to assist you in setting up your SSL certificate and leading you on your way to secure happy browsing.

Web Designers - I need a new website

Is your website like a grumpy salesperson?

How many times have you found yourself getting irritated while trying to
complete a process online?  Booking flights, hotels, buying a product? Well if you struggle to complete a task on a website the good news is you are not to blame.

 

Jakob Nielsen,  arguably the first and definitely the leading expert on website
usability has said that a bad website is like a grumpy salesperson.  Meaning it actively drives customers away from it by frustrating or irritating them.  If a website is difficult to understand or use it is the fault of the designer or company not the user.

 

We often design websites around our experience or understanding of our products and this is usually bad news for users.  The worst sin of all is to assume everyone uses the website the way you do.  Remember you are not your customer, they have different experiences, needs and understanding of your services or products.  You need to consider your website from their perspective.

 

When you do that, the all important questions are:

 

  1. Are all menus consistent throughout the site?
  2. Are the main sections or functions (like product search) obvious?
  3. Are you bombarding them with everything at once, or are you giving them relevant information one piece at a time?
  4. Do you know what your visitors are trying to achieve and why it maters to them?

 

If we are honest, most of us will not have a definitive answers, it will be more of a gut feeling.  So how do you diagnose a bad website?  Well it might be common sense but unfortunately it is not that common.

 

Ask your users!

Conducting a Usability study

 


This is actually a lot simpler than most people imagine.  It consists of gathering a small group of people (normally 5-6) in a room with a range of devices (Smart Phones, Tablets, Laptops)  and asking them to carry out specific tasks.  While they are carrying out the tasks you observe and record there behavior and reactions.  Do not listen to what they say but watch what they do (thanks again to Mr Nielsen for that tip)

 

An important caveat here is that the users you gather should relate to your ideal customer or user.  If you are not sure who that is you should check out our research options here but in short they are the people you expect to use your website to buy from, or learn about you.

 

The specific tasks you set your users is up to you but you are looking at there behaviour and assessing 5 key aspects:

Learnability:

How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the website?

Efficiency

Once users are familiar with the website, how quickly can they perform tasks?

Memorability

When users return to the website after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?

Errors

How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?

Satisfaction

How pleasant is it to use the website? remember, the more relaxed and comfortable your user, the more likely they are to convert.

 

 

Studying the results of your tests through the prism of these pointers will give you a very clear idea of what you need to improve on and what is all ready working well.  Once you have made improvements to the way users experience your website the most important thing to do next is…

 

Ask your users again!

 

The best way to ensure your results keep getting better is to test, tweak and test again.  This should never stop.  As the intelligence, technology and attitudes of your users keeps evolving.  So should you.

 

This article is giving you the briefest outline of something called usability which is vital to User interface Design (UI), which in turn is a major aspect of User Experience (UX)  I have intentionally left these buzzwords until the end of this article because a lot of you out there have a negative reaction when you hear them.

 

You assume that it is either too complicated or too costly but as you can see from the simple steps above it is very easy for any business to start listening to how their customers feel about interacting with them.

 

If you feel like you need a bit more help on this then why not get in touch and we can start a conversation.

 

 

How Much Should I Spend on a Website

How Much Should A Website Cost?

 

This is most common question anyone in the web design industry gets asked and if you know web designers you know it is not always a straightforward answer.  Compare it to asking a car sales man how much a car costs.  It all depends on what you want the car to do.  To get an accurate quote on a website you need to give the web designer or company more details.

 

I am writing this article in the hope that it will give you some insights on how to effectively budget for your website.  In the interest of full disclosure, I have a small bias because I work for one of the best website development companies in the known universe!  I will try and keep my ego in check and give you information based on my experience in the web design industry over the last 10 years.

 

To understand website costing you need to look at three questions:

  1. What do websites cost?
  2. What can I afford?
  3. What is my priority?

 

What do websites cost

If you carry out even the most basic research you will find that website costs vary wildly depending on where you look and it is not always clear what the difference in the result is.  To help dispel some of the mist around this you can break it down into four broad categories.

 

D.I.Y Websites €0 – €500

Platforms like wordpress.com, Weebly & Squarespace offer you the option of do it yourself web design.  If you have some technical or design experience it can be a great low cost options.  As with all DIY projects the results can look fantastic or frightening depending on the skill set you have.  Most of these platforms come with preset themes that may well suit your needs and require little else other than your content.

 

Assisted D.I.Y. Websites €500 – €1500

For the less brave but still budget sensitive they can engage a professional to set up a WordPress theme and tweak it to suit your requirements.  This normally leaves you with a great looking site that you then must populate yourself with your own content. This can be a real winner for small business or start ups as there is minimal outlay and you have an experienced developer on hand.  A word of warning though:  Your professional works based on billable hours (or should do) so you need to know how much of their time you are getting as some of these projects can creep which can lead to a fractious relationship between you and your developer which is no good for anybody.  Always ask what the hourly or day rate is and then cost in terms of time.  It is fairer to both of you.

 

Professional Website €1500 – €3000

This is where a lot of web designers like to work.  Still a reasonable cost but more time to do more.  Believe it or not web designers like to create beautiful work and if they have the right budget they normally do just that.   As with the previous option make sure you know the time rates for your web development company and agree a reasonable timeline at the outset.  This price range is perfect for standard business websites or simple ecommerce systems.  If you need your site to go a little further or do a little more it is usually possible to evolve or build onto this type of site.  If you need it bespoke from the start then you need to look at the next step up.

 

Bespoke Web Development €3000 + €?????

Ok so this can be real blank-cheque territory so if you are going down this road you should either a) have plenty of experience with websites or b) have someone who does.  Most bespoke sites are completely reworked or remodeled within their first year because clients are rarely right about what is important for their customers.  Starting small and growing big is a much safer option.  However, if you are committed then here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Create and sign off on a functional spec.  Make sure everything you want the site to do for you and for your visitors is down in black & white.
  2. Create graphics before you start building.  You should see and sign off on images of what the key pages of the site will look like before committing to the build.  This limits the misinterpretations of developers.
  3. Agree a timetable for every key stage and stick to it.
  4. Agree rates for additional work.  It is hard to think of everything and extras normally cost extra so get a clear idea of what the rates day/hourly rates are for work over and above the spec.

free-audit

 

What can I afford?

Now that you know the kind of costs that are out there you can start to focus on the real question:  What can I afford?  To answer this, you need to know a few things:

 

How long will this website last?  Websites generally have a technical shelf life of 3-5 years.  If you consider the pace at which the web design industry moves you will realise that nobody can predict where we will be in three years.  There is chance that your website will be as good in three years as it is today but it is more likely that something significant will have changed in security standards or user experience.  If you are shopping around now you should be looking at your website spend as something that will last for the next 3-5 years (similarities here again to car buying).

 

How much revenue will it generate?  Deciding what to invest in a website should be considered in terms of what the website is going to create.  How many new leads or sales or what is the potential revenue you are expecting (top tip: be conservative!)  Once you have an estimate on this, your new website development should fall between 5-10% of the gross profit on those sales.

 

Let’s look at two scenarios:

 

Website 1 is a business website with no ecommerce engine.  It generates 4 leads every week with at least one of those leads converting to a sale every month.  If the average value of the sale is €400 and the cost of sales (what you spent on the product) is €110; then your gross profit is €290; 10% of this is €29 so over three years this website will generate an estimated €1044 (€29 x 36 months) This puts you firmly into the assisted DIY bracket.

 

Website 2 is an ecommerce website generating 25 orders a day.  The average order value is €48 with a gross profit of €10; That gives you a gross profit over three years of €273,750; 5% of this total is €13,687 which puts you into the bespoke price range.

 

The point I am making here is that you should look at your budget as a percentage of your gross profits as this gives you a sense of what a reasonable budget is.  This is probably something your accountant has already told you.

 

dmac-media-on-trustpilot

 

What is my priority?

My decisive point for this post is that once you have all the figures, you need to decide what the priority is.  You can only spend two things in business and that is time or money.  I have found that there is a balance between these when it comes to web design.  The more of one you spend the less of the other.  You need to decide how important the website is to your business and act accordingly.   You may have lots of free time and very little money which means you are going to be a master of DIY or alternatively you might have a budget and no time so the professional is your best route.

 

Hopefully you have gained some useful insights in pricing your next website revamp but if you are like me and have just skimmed this article let me give you all the above in a neat little cliché:

 

There are three options for pricing any job:

  1. Fast
  2. Right
  3. Cheap

You only get to choose 2.

 

 

The Trust Stack and what it means for your ecommerce website

The Trust Stack is fast becoming a common term for how people are interacting with companies and individuals online.  The formal definition, according to Rachel Botsman, is as follows:

A new trust framework is emerging in the collaborative economy, the ‘Trust Stack’. In the first layer of the Trust Stack, people have to trust that a new idea is safe and worth trying. The next layer is trusting the platform, system or company facilitating the exchange. And the third layer is all about trusting the other user.

Trust or faith in ecommerce as a concept has been well established but if you are involved in ecommerce you need to pay attention to that second layer, “Trusting the platform”. When a new customer is contemplating a purchase from your platform they are dealing with uncertainties. Is this the right product? Is that the best price?  When will I get it?  Along with a host of other concerns that give the average new customer a high level of uncertainty.

 

A good ecommerce website will do everything it can to lower that uncertainty which in turn builds on the trust the customer has in you and your business.  Sounds good right?  But how do they do it?  Here are some key factors that you should look to address at two key stages of the purchase process, the product details page & the checkout process. These pointers are based on a traditional product based ecommerce process but many of them can be applied to any website.

 

Its all in the detail

 


Below is a screenshot from our friends at babyaccessories.ie  the page layout is clean and simple but there is a lot of elements here that create trust with visitors.

koolkidz

  1. A large product image lets the customer see exactly what they are getting it also has an image zoom feature (take a look at the live site here) that lets the visitor get up close and personal with the product and judge the quality.
  2. The product title contains the brand name, colour and product type, you would be surprised how often it doesn’t!
  3. The price is the largest piece of text on the screen closely followed by the original RRP which shows the discount.
  4. Beneath the price you have a free delivery statement which offers a visitor free delivery if they spend over a set value.
  5. They are displaying both an availability icon (confirming they actually have it on the shelf) as well as an estimated delivery timetable.
  6. Speaking of delivery, there is also extra delivery and returns information in the tabs beneath the image.  Lack of, or unclear delivery and returns information is one of the most common reason for abandoned carts.
  7. Last, but definitely not least, they are displaying the statement “safe and secure shopping” statement along with a recognised online credit car processor.  Customers will recognise and respond to processors they have used before.

All of these elements reassure a visitor and make them much more likely to click on the all important “add to cart”.  This is a great start but it is only half the battle.  Lets move on to the checkout process.

Good Checkouts Increase Sales!

Cart abandonment rate online is somewhere between 60-80%.   You can lower your percentage by continuing to build trust and lower your users’ uncertainty.  Here are some pointers to consider:

Simple cart summary

When a customer visits the cart you want to make it very simple to start the checkout process.  The cart should have only the essential information for a customer to make that decision.  Keep your cart simple by making the options for removing or updating quantities of products obvious.   Show your delivery options clearly and make sure the customer can see the total cost at this point.  In addition, an eye catching checkout button that is visible above and below the cart summary.  Do not make your customer look for twice for it.

Stop asking me to join your cult!

The most common first step for a checkout is to ask the user to sign up or log in as a member or checkout as a guest.  This is a bad idea.  A first time customer does not want to join your club or become a fan.  Pushing them at this point can drive them in the wrong direction.  It is far better to let them checkout as guest and ask them to join afterwards (preferably with a bonus for doing so)  If the customer is already a member they just need a simple log in link.

Choice of payment providers & delivery options

Customers are getting used to having it their way.  Providing customers with options for payments (PayPal, Stripe, etc.)  gives them control.  The same goes for your delivery options.  Express delivery,  standard 3 day delivery or collect in store?  Don’t assume you know what is best for your customer.

 

If you spend time studying how visitors behave on your website you can find hundreds of ways to lower their uncertainty and increase your revenue.  If you would like us to take a look at your platform why not mosey over to our contact page and we can start a conversation.

 

 

 

 

Online Reviews

Is your Business Harnessing the Power of Online Reviews?

How many times have you, as a consumer read an online review? Be it about a product, service or even business, online reviews are playing an ever increasing factor in the purchase decisions of consumers both on and offline. BrightLocals recent study suggest that nowadays a whopping 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. While a staggering 74% suggest that positive online reviews help them to trust a local business.

But what does this mean for your business? It really is quite simple.

Whether your business trades online, or your online presence simply afford customers your business information, you could stand to gain real benefit from online consumer reviews. Whether you are driving your sales online or inviting customers to your store, online reviews facilitate the business owner to maximise profits, and also keep abreast of issues, customer service & resolve problems before they affect a wider audience. Once you invite a customers to leave a review, you are inviting them into dialogue with your business in the public forum, offering you the opportunity to craft meaningful responses on a deep, personal level. Take a look at some of our recent reviews left on our Google My Business Page.

Martin Kennedy Dmac Review

Here we see two examples of good quality reviews and feedback from clients. Notice how the personal response from the owner reaffirm the position of the company

Negative Reviews are simply an opportunity in disguise!

The overwhelming fear that many business owners have is related to receiving a negative or bad reviews. Despite the best efforts of you and your team, negative reviews will occur. In most cases, these individuals may have felt let down by your product or service, however it is not the end of the world. Hand crafting a personal response to these negative reviewers, projects your business as a proactive listener, eager to resolve the gripes of your valued customers, and who can argue with that. In fact Mike Ward, CEO of Thriftbooks is a firm believer of resolving negative reviews stating

“When you stack all the positive reviews up and you see this one that is obviously from a legitimate customers with a legitimate concern, as a potential customer, your trust skyrockets.”

Profit from your strong customer service through social media reviews!

By now, we’re sure you understand the powers of social media, but have you considered the power of social media reviews? With 8 out of 10 Irish Adults now using social media, mediums such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Snapchat are more powerful than ever before. The social profiles your business uses often gather the reviews of your customers organically, but are you really harnessing their power? Social Media can be a simple, cost effective tool to broadcast your happy customer stories, in a relaxed, informal environment. Who can argue with establishing trustworthiness and building a strong bond among consumers through social media reviews? I certainly wouldn’t.

Make educated business decisions by harnessing your customer’s feedback

While most business will strive for (& expect) five star reviews to just flow in, real meaning can be gathered in the words your customers use in a review. Looking beyond the star rating can arm business with genuine insight into the experiences of their customers and make adjustments to their business processes where necessary. For instance, should a number of reviews highlight a delay in shipping or perhaps even poor customer service, business owners can address these issues, ultimately driving repeat business and brand advocacy. After all keeping the customer happy is what business is all about.

Understanding the value of reviews is one thing, harnessing their power is another. Nowadays, businesses have a host of review platforms open to them, Trustpilot, Feefo and even he simply Google Review can all have a significant bearing on how would-be customers view your business online.

Talk to a Dmac Account Manager today about harnessing the power of Online Reviews