Selling online is a great subject to write about as it is constantly changing and evolving. Each month new start-up businesses bring in new ideas. There are lots of opportunities to improve your online business for B2B or B2C. If you have any questions about eCommerce try our FAQs and Ideas Center or just send us a comment or email.
It was coming up to our end of week team meeting on a quiet afternoon in August 2015. Discussions were about what the weekend would be like with everyone looking forward to winding down and how we would spend our family time. Somewhere thousands of kilometres away someone had a different idea (ominous music plays).
It all started as a blip on the radar with our incoming data charts starting to show excessive activity. That is not necessarily unusual as we often see spikes in activity. However before long we knew the prolonged and aggressive spikes meant a potential attack. Then the phone calls and emails from our customers started to roll in and the rest of the weekend went downhill fast…
What started as a Friday prelude to the week end was an attack that lasted (on and off) for over a week. It impacted most of our customers’ websites, it was a large attack that was relentless. It disrupted customers and cost a great deal in time and money before it was eventually beaten. No one asked for money, there was no vulnerability uncovered, it was done solely as a business disruption.
Starting an online store or business, or extending your bricks and mortar business online can be a real challenge for many people and is much more complex than most new business owners understand. There are lots of forums where the general feedback will tell you how easy it is to build you website and sell online. How often do you see: “Your products will sell because you have a great looking website! Customers will just turn up and buy from you! You can do it all for free!”
Well sorry to tell you, but it is all basically rubbish!
Making the most from your online store or website means making sales. In order to make sales your visitors have to find you and also understand what your business and products deliver. So what do we mean by structured content and how does it improve how your website or online store appear in search engines?
Search engines like Google look for clues in your content to the meaning of the page and the importance of content in the page. These can often be referred to as "snippets" and Google provide great advice on best practice. It is also useful to remember the important basic issues when you are writing your website. Additionally website structure is very important for both your visitors experience and also for search engine optimisation. MOZ provide excellent advice on how best to structure your website. Of course ePages will do most of this for you.
The first element that is often used is the Title tag which appears in the HTML head area on each page as <title>...content here....</title> this is one of the main clues that search engines use. The Title should be generally around 65 characters long and contain a good description of the main content. It will appear in search results and when you mouse over the tab in your browser.
There are other snippets like the Meta Content Description that is used in the search displayed results. The META Description is created in ePages when you add a description (first or short) to any page or product. The description should be meaningful and typically around 160 characters long. Longer descriptions will appear on the website in full but would be truncated in search engine results.
There are other tags like the Image alt tag, which is the "Alternative text" in the ePages Image Properties, that help search engines understand the content that cannot be read in this case images. The "alt" tag appears in the HTML and should contain meaningful information and keywords about the image to which it is associated.
TIP: Make sure that the ALT tag makes sense and relates to your content and keywords
All these snippets help with your search engine results by either improving search engine optimisation or by helping the search engine to show more meaningful information about your page to the person searching.
Website webmasters, content managers and owners need to help search engines understand what the content on a page is all about. In this case we are talking about the content that appears between the <body> </body> tags.
In HTML there is a concept called <H> tags these are structured from H1 to H6 and are used to structure content.
On the webpage the main title of the page should be the H1 following that the content is broken into sections so that the H1 section can contain many H2 tags. H2 sections can contain many H3 tags and so on.
With most good Content Management (CMS) or eCommerce Solutions editors the system will help you setup default formats for H1 through H6 tags so that you have consistency of font, font size and font colour.
Then when creating content it is very easy to format that content with the correct H tag.
ePages has built in an editor that will allow you to make styling changed to the content of your website as well as the ability to add images, videos and other rich content. When you want to edit you content always use the expanded editor window which allows more options and also provided you with in-content search.
Once you have expanded the window you will need to shrink it down in order to save your content changes.
So you can see from this example using that I can select the content I want to format and then select the H tag that I want applied and it is done.
TIP: There should only be one H1 tag on a webpage, or at least carefully used.
By styling (colour, font and size) the H1, H2, H3 etc tags differently you can give a visual indication of the structure. The H1 might be larger font (or different) than the H2 which might be larger than the H3. Always make the font and font size of the content consistent so as to help make the webpage visually appealing. You can also use other HTML markup tags to emphasise the content for example by using the <strong> (important text) </strong> tags. Again these different tags should be available in your CMS or eCommerce Solution editor.
TIP: Don’t overdo the styling and limit the number of fonts you use so that content is consistent.
One of the most important aspects of getting results and sales from your website and online store is to have good content. Lack of content will effectively result in lack of sales.
When writing content always have another person review the content before you publish it to your website. Everyone makes mistakes in spelling and grammar. Your view of good content and the opinion of your website visitors may vary dramatically.
A common mistake made by business owners who understand their products and the terminology around them is to write content they understand. However someone looking for information about your product or service may not understand buzz-words or technical terminology. Your product descriptions needs to meet the information needs of an uninformed buyer and not an expert.
TIP: Ask someone to read your product description and tell you why they should buy your product.
In face to face communication words make up around 7% of the understanding while tone (38%) and body language (55%) make up the rest. There are many words that can convey multiple meaning or even lead to disbelief or distrust. When verbalised tone and body language pay an enormous part in the meaning. There are some great tips for writing good product content that sells available also on MOZ.
When you are presenting information about your product online, words are not enough and need to be supplemented with photos that don’t just show the product but that also relate to the description.
TIP: Product images are essential for online sales
This is a mistake that almost ever website content editor will make from time to time. Generally think that less keywords in content can be better as long as they are well used.
MOZ Beginners Guide to SEO has some excellent advice on the issue:
“Not surprisingly, a persistent myth in SEO revolves around the concept that keyword density—the number of words on a page divided by the number of instances of a given keyword—is used by the search engines for relevancy and ranking calculations.”
Content and structure can be the difference between a successful online store or website and no sales. Spend some time reviewing and improving structure and content every day. Ultimately it will mean better results for your business and will be time well spent.
Right now there is a lot of speculation that retail in Australia will be impacted negatively by international eCommerce players like Amazon. The general view seems to be that retail is under threat and there is nothing that we can do!
We aren't convinced that this is true! Retail has undergone several evolutions in the last 50 years and if anything the market has always got bigger and better each time. The retailers who embraced the changes and accessed the new opportunities flourished, while those that resisted missed out (or went bust).
Each stolen record costs retailers USD$172 on average in the event of a data breach, according to the latest Cost of Data Breach Study, the gold-standard benchmark conducted by the Ponemon Institute – and this figure is on the rise. Cyber security should therefore be front-and-centre for any business operating on the Internet, and we are regularly asked to advise on how to manage and mitigate the risks of operating online.
When WordPress was introduced in 2003, it started out merely as a solution to create blogs. However, things have changed. WordPress has become an incredibly feature-rich content management system that caters to the most sophisticated needs of bloggers and website owners alike. Today, approximately 25 percent of all sites on the entire World Wide Web use WordPress.
While there are many eCommerce solutions out there for Wordpress, the management of security and Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance have always been serious and complex issues to solve. This has led to thousands of security breaches on Wordpress sites.
By combining your Wordpress site with a secure, hosted online store from eCorner stores, you can take all of the stress around security away while still having all your products for sale directly from the online store. Additionally, you can access all the other great features of a hosted online store from eCorner, such as integrated eBay, Amazon and Facebook shop channels, advanced shipping and payment options and connections to your back office systems like Xero accounting.
Setting up your eCorner store is easy and connecting with Wordpress via the ePages plug-in only takes a couple of minutes – and there are no additional costs involved.
Here you can see what a WordPress site with added products could look like:
As soon as the plugin is installed, your products will be showcased on selected pages or on dedicated posts of your WordPress site. If a customer clicks on one of the products, an overlay window opens up with further details about the product – including price, product image and description as well as stock and delivery information, if available.
Customers can add products to a shopping basket. If they click on the basket icon, they see a summary of all the products they added as well as the delivery costs.
When customers click on the “Check out” button, a popup opens up with the order process of your ePages shop where they can complete their order.
To get a better idea of how the plugin works, you can try it out on our WordPress demo site.
You simply have to install the free plugin and connect it to your ePages shop. After that, you can add products to certain pages or posts of your WordPress site by clicking the Add Shop button:
It is up to you if you want to show all of your products or only selected categories. This allows you to have full control over which products are available in your WordPress shop.
Besides that, you can decide if these elements should be displayed:
Once an order is placed, you will be notified via email and can manage the order in your shop’s administration area – just like you are used to.
You can find detailed information about the setup in this PDF file.
The plugin has a variety of advantages for you:
You want to connect your online shop to your WordPress site now? Then just follow these instructions.
Wanted to share a few of the podcasts that I’m listening to/find interesting at the moment.
I’ve always loved the podcast format, as you can consume information, tips or stories in easily digestible chunks while leaving your hands free for other things. Whether it be your daily commute, an hour at the gym or your daily picking and packing time, I’ve always found a podcast to be a good way to add a layer of additional productivity to your "free" time.
Listed below are a few podcasts that contain interesting information, tips and tricks for online retailers, as well as a few random ones that I’m listening to at the moment in case you are looking for something else to fill some time.
All of these are available via iTunes if you search for the names below (as well as from their own sites as linked).
Please be advised that between the hours of 10:00 PM on Thursday 2nd February and 4:00AM Friday 3rd February (AEST) eCorner will be carrying out an update of our mass-hosted environment (all cloud-based online shops). The purpose of the upgrade is to update the core ePages software (to 6.17.52). During that time your website and adminstration systems will not be available.
The upgrade will be predominately for maintenance with a variety of fixes and improvements. These are aimed at creating a more stable, secure and faster system. However there are new features and services that will be added after the upgrade is complete.
The deductions available for the costs you in incur setting up a website have long been a point of speculation, as the general principles available in Australian tax law were mostly invented before the internet was as prevalent or pervasive as it is now (or in some cases long before the internet existed at all).
On 14 December 2016 the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has published their views on the topic in a public ruling titled: TR 2016/3: Income tax: deductibility of expenditure on a commercial website.
Through this ruling the Commissioner seeks to clarify the ATO’s expectations in relation to the treatment of expenditure incurred by a business in relation to its online presence. However, does it actually make commercial and practical sense?
You can get an online store up and running in 12 days!
There are some definite and important steps to get an online store or business started but it takes a little time. If you are a website or eCommerce novice then don't expect to work it out in the first five minutes. To be successful and build a good online presence needs time and some planning. An online business is still a business. You need to manage your business and when selling online that means managing your online store, products and content. You have to connect to other systems and channels to promote your products, organise shipping and to take payments for your products. It is not that difficult but for a new starter it can be a challenge. eCorner's role is to help with the challenging technical issues and provide you with an online shop that sells your products and sevices successfully.
Start a free trial online store and you will learn what it takes to sell online and how to use a hosted ecommerce solution. But the best news is that it gives you 30 days to setup your online free of charge. When you are ready to launch just let us know and we convert your trial store ot a real online store for your business.
Before you start thinking about software and hosting, there are some basic requirements that need to be met. If you do a little planning and think about the business structure it can save you heaps of time later.
Read more about this topic - Establish the basics.
It is important to get the right online store system for your business and that is eCorner's speciality. We recommend starting a free trial and getting a feel for the system. The good part it's free and what you do in the trial can be kept and converted to a live store so it is like getting the first 30 days free. Plan a couple of days to start and ask for our free training.
Read more - Select an online store system.
Your eCommerce package comes with a range of themes that you can use ‘out-of-the-box’. You can fully customise your theme or you can use one of our complete custom themes to help you get started. You can find lots or great information about our themes and deign on our website. Don't be afraid to start with something simple with eCorner's online store updating design is really easy. eCorner can also help you with your first design as part of the free training.
Read more - Design Themes and Layout.
Content really is king - good content means a more successful business. Most people will find your online store using a search engine like Google and search engines love content. So it is important to create great content. by content we mean category pages, blogs and importantly products. If you want to be successful then comprehensive product content and great photos are essential.
Read more - Prepare the site content.
Two of the most important business decisions that you will make will be how to calculate shipping costs and how to accept payments. Both are key to a successful and profitable online business. A good eCommerce system will have a range of payment and delivery options available to you straight out of the box. You simply select the options that best suit your business!
Read more - Delivery and Payments.
Most people search on Google or Bing to find the products and services that they want. Good search engine rankings are a result of good content. But make sure that you look at the quality of the important search engines meta tags and that you have included your main keywords. Don’t pay hundreds of dollars per month for so-called ‘SEO experts’. During the trial use the extensive search engine optimisation toolkit!
Read more - Search Engine Optimisation Built-in.
Read more - Legal Content and Trust.
A good eCommerce solution will offer a range of marketing and multi-channel sales tools ‘out-of-the-box’. We include; Newsletters, Cross-sell and upsell, Ratings and reviews, Social media, Promotional items, eBay and Facebook shop; and lots more. Spend some time getting to know how the various internal and external marketing features work. By external we mean services like Google Adwords, Adroll, Google Shopping, Getprice and the many other portals and markets. The website has to work well on any device so that your market effort will work for you.
Once you have the online store setup the work does not stop. It is a constant process of reviewing results and making improvements. The window in to your audience (online buyers) in the website analytics that can be used totrack activity. Improve your results by understanding customer behaviour and focus your attention where needed. Real-time reporting (Wagtail Analytics) and Google analytics helps you understand what your customer is doing on your store.
Read more - Understand what is happening on your website.