Online shopping isn’t just the domain of eCommerce giants like Amazon and eBay. According to a study conducted by UPS, 70 percent of shoppers prefer to visit their favorite retailer online. With that in mind, no online store—regardless of its size—can afford to ignore eCommerce marketing.
That said, far too many small businesses commit mistakes that could potentially doom their eCommerce sites long-term. Fortunately, we’ve not only identified the four most common missteps made by online business owners, but also ways to avoid them.
Too Many Choices
If you drove by a restaurant that served sushi, hamburgers, Tex-Mex and Indian food, would you think it did any of this well? The same principle applies to selling online. To be competitive in a $ 1.5 trillion global eCommerce market, you can’t be average, you must be great. You are competing not only against corporations that sell products by the thousands and can survive on much smaller margins, but also against foreign companies with low labor costs that can do what you do for half the price.
Besides diluting your competitive advantage, over-diversifying your product offerings eats up valuable capital in stock that may or may not sell. Identify your core business niche and build your eCommerce marketing strategy around that one category. Later, when you have built your brand and carved out a place for yourself, you can consider expanding your offerings.
Difficult Checkout Process
Sales are the entire purpose of your eCommerce site, so why make it difficult to complete a transaction? According to British research company Baymard Institute, 67 percent of online shopping carts are abandoned, meaning people add items to their carts, but do not or cannot complete the purchase. So, how can you prevent that?
If you make it easy for a customer to find a product, you make it easy for him or her to buy the product. Make sure your site has an intuitive navigation menu that reduces the number of clicks it takes for customers to find what they’re looking for. From there, creating a shopping cart that doesn’t make people jump through hoops is key. Asking customers for unnecessary information will make customers abandon what’s in their cart, as will a bad checkout design. Keep the process simple with easy navigation and only one checkout page.
Adding SEO as an Afterthought
eCommerce search engine optimization is critical to attracting new customers, but too many small businesses only think of integrating it into their strategy once they have already built a site. SEO entails more than just the use of keywords, it includes:
- Meta data
- Title tags
- User experience and more
Since SEO encompasses virtually the entire site, it ties into why narrowing down a niche is so important for your company, since it will help you identify the keywords that will be most useful for your site. By optimizing your site based on your offering and what people are searching, you’re ultimately bringing in new audiences and building your customer base.
Ignoring Valuable Data
What do you know about your customers? When consumers shop in person, you learn many things about them, such as their age and gender, and can naturally build a bond with them based on these indicators. Online, every consumer appears the same, so it’s more difficult to build the kind of brand loyalty that leads to repeat business. Here are a few options for comprehensive data capture that will help you to cultivate the type of profile that allows you to send personalized recommendations and offers to create repeat customers.
- Google Analytics—this is an incredible tool that showcases the demographics of your site’s visitors.
- Shopping Profiles—offering your customers the ability to build shopping profiles will help capture data like birthdays and gender and can help track shopping habits long-term.
Remember that when it comes to online shopping, you aren’t the only store in town, as a customer has literally thousands of places to shop on the Web. If you avoid the mistakes outlined above and develop an effective eCommerce marketing strategy, your online B2C sales stand to become very lucrative.
When looking to host an eCommerce site, factors like a private SSL certificate and having a dedicated IP are key to your site’s success. Having a dedicated IP as well as an SSL certificate for your site will make your customers feel safe because it protects their sensitive data, like personal information and credit card numbers. SSL certificates require dedicated IP’s and luckily our web hosting plans offer that across the board. We’re compatible with all online stores and offer easy-install shopping carts, SSL certificates, and your very own dedicated servers.
The bulk of CIOs time is spent working on data breaches, security issues, disaster recovery, business continuity and justifying technology investments. However, there are some issues that may not seem that obvious but can have serious consequences when overlooked. Here are some undercover risks that need to be addressed.
Let’s start with the IT staff. Critical expertise in IT is neither earned nor can be handed over overnight. IT managers know their key players and know their expertise but they often fail to understand that small things these players contribute every day. As almost always is the case, the value of this key member is understood when he leaves. The situation strikes even more drastically when the IT manager must manage without this expertise. This is one of the reasons why CIOs have to look for ways to keep their IT staff and back up their work and expertise with other members.
Continuing with the IT staff, the internal attacks launched by the IT staff are often overlooked. IT dedicates its time to secure the company from the outside attacks to ensure business continuity, but often does not spend enough time to consider insider attacks. A frustrated IT staff member with high privileges can severely paralyze a company. Imagine a domain administrator waking up at 2 o’clock A.M. and placing malware on the domain controllers to corrupt the Active Directory contents. Knowing about such risks and taking actions begin at the employee screening phase and continues with assigning at least two IT staff members to high security areas.
Aside from security, today’s IT is about many specialities. Inevitably, every speciality builds specialized knowledge and in turn every specialized knowledge builds its own experts. This is good so far but when those specializations hamper effective communications, the first thing that will take the hit will be the projects that touch those specifications.
The communication risk, or more generally interpersonal skills is an area to watch out for. IT staff tend to speak in its own jargon and tend to keep their relationships inside the IT department. This tendency results in “tech talk” and this tech talk is viewed as IT arrogance by the non-IT people. It is exactly this point where the bells should ring for the IT managers: this is one of the places where IT is being broken from the business, creating IT versus business scenarios.
Inside IT, there is the case of developers and the code. I have many clients who run a custom built application on legacy systems. The application works fine, without any problems and it is not touched because it is running. However, there is no documentation, there are no people left in the company that know how it runs, there is no similar software package, there is no one that can support, modify or fix the code. However, if/when it fails, it is the responsibility of the IT department to get it up and running. IT managers should have the courage to touch the code and to convince the management that it is not the costs involved in replacing the application is prohibitive, it is the costs involved when the application fails.
Great working relationships has to be maintained both inside and outside the organization, including the vendors. A changing account manager or a changing vendor can therefore have very negative effects. One of my clients have switched its backup software from Vendor A to a much bigger, so-called industry-leading Vendor B. Just two weeks after the deployment project started, my client realized that Vendor B’s work ethics were questionable despite their position in the industry. To make things even worse, the account manager in Vendor B has changed a few months later, which left my client in almost no position to get support. It has been about 3 years by now and still the effects of the account manager and the contract lock-in clauses make the company’s backups suffer still.
There is also the issue of multinational support. It is tempting for the management to select a support solution that works in every country; the tendency is to select a vendor that works in all countries. Even you select a multinational vendor, the operations of the vendor will most likely to be outsourced in some countries, resulting in different service levels. A perfect example of this is one of my ship owning client: it has various cargo ships sailing the world, with servers on board. When there is a any problem, we see how the service level of the servers’ vendor differs from one port to another: from Rotterdam to Fuzhou, from Boston to Conakry. When you are evaluating the vendors, try to evaluate what service levels it offers in the areas that you operate/plan to operate in.
This, so far is my list or risks that may effect any CIO one way or another. What are your undercover risks? Please share your experiences in the comments below.
Many corporations fail to play with big data after making so much investments. The market dynamics and the competition points them to big data analytics but often they cannot reap the benefits for the fear of “something may happen.” What I would suggest is to throw themselves deep in the water and experiment with big data, not play with the sand at the shore.
The organization needs to experiment rapidly and try to discover what works best in order to make most out of big data. To make it a decision making process it is imperative to embrace it, rather than to look at it as a magical forest and believing that only people who know certain spells can enter it. Otherwise your whole investment will be a money sucker with almost no return.
The first and the foremost thing big data brings you is the wealth of options to explore. You have real time, high-variety data streams which is excellent for making a lot of experiments. You can make a lot of analyses such as product/service, market, process just to name a few; product to market, process to product are the immediate ones that comes to my mind. Make a lot of analyses, a lot of experiments without losing your common sense.
In order to come up with a lot of analyses is to allow the individuals to come up with ideas. Establish multiple teams working with different ideas and establish meetings so that the teams come together and sparkle ideas. Offer incentives to the staff to come up with ideas. In a very short amount of time you will see a lot of ideas pouring down to your big data team. Put the ideas to work in your big data and see what results it produces. Expect magic. It will happen anytime.
The second thing is to analyze your own processes, your own experiments. Take your time and analyze how much time does your company need to introduce a product to the market, from the idea to the shelves (same goes for a service, from the idea to the market delivery). See what points the system is stuck. In many cases you will see that the process waits a considerable amount of time for data collection to begin. See if you can incorporate this data from the big data warehouse. If not, try to integrate your big data with the other applications used in your company – ERP and CRM systems are the first to consider. Not only you will reduce the time to gather data, but also you will embrace big data, make it a part of your company’s information infrastructure. In turn, you will be able to outpace your competitors.
The worst way to utilize your big data is to work with it in just one dimension. Try to figure out how to make analyses from various viewpoints. Map your products, your customer base, your services and figure out if there are gaps, if there are, how to fill them. See where your products need customer loyalty and to what degree. How can you build customer loyalty with your services, what investments should be made to build long-term loyalty and what are the expected returns? What do the results mean in terms of competition? Are the results in line with what your sales team bring from the market?
How to accomplish all those together? Well, I would start by forming teams, talk with them about the objectives, ask them to be creative, tell them that the company’s big data investment is at their service to experiment. In a short amount of time idea sparkles will fire innovation, in turn your big data system will flood with creative ideas. Next, these ideas will turn into products, services and customer loyalties.
Big data is about trying to unearth the right information from your structured and unstructured data sets. Done properly, it is no doubt that it will assist the enterprise to understand its environment, its customers better and make more informed decisions. However, in the current market dynamics, fear of missing out, wrong investments in the platforms, lack of experience are the most cited risks. There is more to that.
We have seen the bandwagon effect behaviors in big data as expected, companies rushed to invest in big data without proper knowledge, the fear of missing out rushed projects with too many items undone, which were in fact the same as the cold war era of arms race. During the big data timeframe, from the investment to the arms race, the companies failed to understand there are further risks that come with big data.
I can say that the foremost risk that companies fail to understand, or lose down the road is common sense, which this post is about. First of all, big data analytics are about giving insights, nothing more. It is being used by the scientific and government institutions for many years and by today we are sure that it is not hundred percent accurate. Think about the meteorologic research, which has far more data than many other sciences: are we absolutely definitely sure about the time when the next hurricane will strike? Looking at the big data, nobody can say which week, let alone day and time. We are sure about that and we are also sure that our big data will give us the information we need. It might, but we have to apply some judgement, we need to stop and think, before accepting whatever it gives us.
Similarly, there are the inherent problems that come with any data analysis: choosing significance, relevance, eliminating noise, validity, extent of analysis, just to count a few. Staff training will eliminate some of these problems for sure, but still anyone working in the big data analytics should be aware that it is so easy and just a matter of minutes to lose sight. There are correlations that show the murder rates in U.S. fall with the loss of Internet Explorer market share, Facebook lowering the cholesterol-lowering effect of Justin Bieber and similar unrelated issues. Although these are just some funny statistics, they show that there are traps in the analytics that people may fall, such as correlation not implying causality.
Second, it does not replace the tried and tested methods in the business. Visiting customers, attending trade shows, conferences, building networking cannot be replaced entirely by monitoring mentions, hashtags, clicks, web site analytics and click monitoring, displayed in dashboards. The product or service that is offered by the enterprise, whether or not operating in a fully-automated Business-to-Business market has a human factor in it. Big data analytics does not replace the human element. Following my list above, suppose that big data analytics indicated a building trend in your market. In this case you have to make a little bit of research and then discuss with your colleagues, with your customers about their opinions. You cannot make the whole enterprise act on the big data results.
Third, big data present users with the opportunity to dive deeper in the analysis, which is also a trap in itself. It is so easy to lose the sight of the forest for the trees. Big data analytics give you the tools to make queries for you to gain some insights. When you spot a trend, list a couple of questions to analyze the insight from different dimensions and when you are done, avoid the temptation to go further. Suppose that you are trying to analyze the trends with your product launch, you can try to see the impact of the marketing campaign, competitor’s reactions – such as increase in commercials etc.. Once done, and perhaps with some more questions from your colleagues, stop your analysis. Digging deeper will shift your focus from the product launch to less trivial things.
My advice is: try to see what works and what not, what works best where, how you should be using big data analytics and what technologies enable you to walk to your goals. Pushing big data too far and losing common sense may easily work against your company.
Every website needs a reliable web host, but many people are unfamiliar with the basic principles of hosting. You might be wondering how to get started in finding a host and getting your site online, and the thought might be overwhelming. This article is geared toward getting you linked up with a reliable host.
Find out what kinds of sites your web host supports. A lot of free services will only provide you the tools necessary to build your own pages or let you use their templates, but not add overly dynamic personal scripts. If you require a page with dynamic scripting, it would be better to find a paid hosting service that you can afford.
Look into what add-ons and additional features that the different hosts offer. When comparing hosts, be sure you are including the features that you need. A cheaper host may not have the same level of features as one that costs a bit more but has a more robust plan.
Should you choose shared or dedicated hosting? If your site is large or complex, or you receive a lot of traffic, shared hosting might limit your ability to expand and meet the needs of your customers adequately. In this case, you should search for one of the dedicated hosts.
Choose a web host that does not have constant outages. Host sites that have a lot of outages and don’t have any type of backup plan or prevention plans to keep this from happening are probably not a reliable company that you want to deal with. Regardless of how little they charge, you should never sign on with a host that experiences frequent outages.
Your domain should be registered outside of the web host. This way you can keep the name in case of a disagreement between your host and you, or a shutdown. If you register your domain through the same company that provides your web hosting, you may lose control of the name in such circumstances.
You should select a web host service that offers enough space for your site to grow. While a single HTML page takes up almost no space at all, adding media like photos and videos will quickly eat up your available space. Having access to 100MB of storage space should give you enough room to develop your site.
A SSC or secure server certificate is worth the price, so pick one up with your web page hosting account. This allows you to add a security button on your site to tell your visitors they are in a secure zone. People will trust your site and will buy from you.
Be wary of website hosting packages claiming unlimited services. For instance, there could be limited file types allowed for hosts that offer some unlimited limitations. Also, infinite bandwidth might be considered to be tiered payment plans. Take the time to fully research the terms and conditions of any unlimited packages, and keep in mind that in the web page hosting world, ‘unlimited’ rarely means completely unlimited.
Free Web Hosting
A free web hosting service is a good way to save money. Be aware that using these types of hosts will typically mean that advertising appears on your site, and your website’s space will be limited. Therefore, if you want your site to look professional, stay away from free web hosting.
Having a good reputation is highly valuable to any great web host. Check out a few user reviews and you will quickly find that there are some web hosts that have a stronger reputation than others. Companies that do not give much of an effort or don’t fulfill the claims they make, should be easy to spot as well.
Find out what format your host uses for their email service. Pick one that uses POP 3. This will ensure that emails are linked to your domain and will be accessible from anyplace on the web.
Considering using a dedicated server in order to improve your web hosting service. This type of server allows you to have more storage space, bandwidth and security. This will make your website run more quickly and efficiently, which will enhance your visitors’ experience on the site. Customers that leave feeling good about their experience are likely to return.
If you are still connecting to the Internet with dial-up, then don’t try to host your site yourself. A reliable connection is necessary to ensure that a site is available all the time. Dial-up will result in a lot of lagging and downtime for your domain, which means losing money and customers.
It can be a little intimidating when starting out, but learning about hosting is necessary to getting a site up and running. This article, however, should have drastically increased your knowledge of the web hosting business. Remember what you have learned here when you are looking for a good web host.