8 Tips For a Better Site Navigation

Your site navigation is one of the most important features of your storefront and overlooking any aspect of it can be catastrophic to your business. If you want to sell more, your customers need to be able to find what they want with ease. Any good store design begins and ends with a positive user experience, which always relies heavily on the simplicity of your navigation.

There are far too many online stores that spend a great deal of time on designing large, beautiful site images, only to offer a sub-par and confusing navigation structure. You can design the most beautiful and effective landing pages for your products, but it won’t matter if customers can’t find them.

With this in mind, here are our top recommendations for improving how people navigate your online store:

1. Simple & Apparent Navigation

Though it seems obvious to say, your navigation must be simple to use, easy to find, and consistent through all pages. Users have to learn how to use every new website they visit, so making your navigation structure the same throughout your site will make it easier for them to understand. Navigation menus should never interfere with other site functionality.

2. Top-Level Menu Items

The pages/categories that are at the top of your navigation structure must be intuitive and obvious. Each of these must be on the same level of importance. Don’t place categories in the top level that make more sense to be subcategories of another category. Your store should be structured like a tree, with the most important branches supporting smaller branches.

3. Clickable Categories

Everything in your navigation menu should be clickable. If you have a category with 3 sub-categories under it, customers should still be able to click to a page for the master category, even if that page only has a short category description and links to the sub categories.

4. Number of 1st and 2nd Level Items

It’s important to limit the number of 1st and 2nd level items in your navigation structure. If there too many, the category will feel too heavy and may be best served by splitting it up.

5. Obvious Labels

Terms that are used in your navigation must be easy to understand and not overlap. If the customer is confused by what category they should look in to find a particular item, then your category labels should be made clearer.

6. Featured Product Display

You can implement a featured product display within a “megamenu”-style navigation to show a good example of what kind of products will be found within a category, and possibly get your customers to the most popular products faster.

7. Intuitive Breadcrumbs

Make sure to include a useful breadcrumb trail on every page on your site to show your current location in the site structure so that users to navigate easily to parent pages. If you have a page that exists in more than one parent category, consider displaying two different breadcrumb paths so that users have a choice when navigating backward through the site structure.

8. Single Navigation Menu

Whenever possible, your site navigation should not compete with any other menus so that users do not get confused. If you have a navigation menu that spans the top of the page, do not have a competing menu on a left sidebar, or another menu on top for items of lesser importance.

How will you compete with Amazon Prime Day?

While Amazon is preparing for its largest digital shopping event since the company’s launch, you should be preparing for yours as well. On July 12th Amazon will be offering over 100,000 deals to an estimated 54 million Amazon Prime account users. Countdown deals for Prime Day begin today, July 5th and last through the end of the event. Last year, Prime Day’s ripple effect increased web sales an average of 20%.

Now is not the time to be shy. It’s time to plan for your biggest and most unique sales event yet. Amazon has already started, so let’s get your strategy together and begin execution.

There are many strategies that can be used to maximize your online store this week. Here are a few to consider as you get started…

Free Shipping deals. The most popular feature of Amazon Prime is free 2-day shipping on all orders. If you have a Prime account, you don’t have to worry about the cost of shipping or time to ship. You already know what it costs and how long it will take to get to you, which makes shopping easier. Make shopping from you just as easy with a free shipping deal to compete directly with Amazon.

Feature your sales. Be sure your promotions are featured in obvious ways on your web page. High-quality banners with captivating graphics tend to have the best results. You want to draw attention to your promotion in the best way possible. Make sure your banners are not cluttered with too much information. You also want to be sure the banner aligns with the message of your promotion. Keep it consistent and don’t forget to add the banner to all relevant pages.

Make it easy. The average human attention span in 2015 was an all-time low of about 8.25 seconds. If people can’t find something in that amount of time, they tend to lose interest. Categorization is key. If your potential customers expect a sale on your website, give them an easy to find sale. Don’t make your customers scroll through hundreds of items before finding what they are looking for. Giving customers an easy path to make a purchase is the best option here. This can be done by distinctively categorizing your sale items.

Make it unique. What about your website makes consumers want to purchase your products before seeking any other company? If you can’t quickly answer that question, it’s time to re-evaluate, get creative and do your research. Determine what prominent factors differentiate you and from the rest. Is your site easier to use? Are you environmentally friendly? Are your products one of a kind? These are just a few examples, but you can use these types of qualities to your advantage if you make them known to your audience. Give them a reason to choose you.

Tailor to your audience. For Prime Day, Amazon is targeting all of its users that have memberships to the site. Who are you targeting? Once you have figured this out, you can better tailor your sales and promotions to this audience. Take a look at the characteristics and demographics of your website’s audience. Looking at your history of product sales wouldn’t hurt either. If you know who is buying what product, you can use this as a foundation for determining what products will be featured as well as what your advertisements will look like.

Preparing for a major online shopping event is not an easy task. It takes a strategic plan, careful execution and examination to get promising results. From featuring your sales in innovative ways to ensuring that you have catered to your particular audience, VenturaU offers professional assistance customized to your needs. Contact us today to see how we can help you compete on Prime Day and beyond.

All About Platform Migration

Are you unhappy with your current e-commerce platform and thinking about moving to another platform?  If so, there are a few things to take into consideration before you decide to plunge in and make the move.

Design Considerations

Today’s e-commerce platforms are built on templates and depending on the platform changing those templates to fit your current site’s design may be difficult and you may need to make design changes to the site to fit the new template on the platform you are moving to. A move to a new platform can also give you the impetus and opportunity to update the current design of your site, so this could be a good thing.

Product and Category Migration

This is probably the biggest challenges you will face if you decide to migrate your site from one platform to another, particularly if you have thousands of products, complex product options, and a complex category and subcategory system for your products on your current platform. If a product migration doesn’t go smoothly it can be an absolute nightmare and take many, many hours to fix it and get it correct. Imagine thousands of items and hundreds of categories that don’t match up with your current store, and then imagine going through every one of them to figure out what issues need to be fixed.

Customizations

If the platform you are on now allows for you to add custom variables, has a flexible database that lets you add custom attributes to your products, and lets you write code to take advantage of those variables and database attributes, you need to be aware that the platform you move to may not allow you to customize your site in this way. The advantage of the new platforms is they are easier to operate and run, allowing more non-tech savvy people to open online businesses. To achieve this simplicity they lock down the database and prevent you from writing code and logic to customize your site, basically, what you get is what you get with these platforms.  This is a big consideration if you currently take advantage of the customization that your current platform allows.  If you want to keep those customizations make sure the new platform supports what you need.

Customer Reviews

Many of today’s e-commerce platforms have built in review systems.  If you are using a third party review system on your current site, it may be difficult to migrate those reviews over to the new platform.  In many cases the third party review systems have more features than the simple ones the platforms have implemented.  If you want to keep your third party reviews there will most likely be extra costs associated to have those moved to the new platform.

URLS

The likelihood that the URL structure on the platform you are migrating to having the exact same structure of your current site is extremely low.  Most likely during migration your product and category pages will have different URLs than what they currently are.  This means you will need to 301 redirect the old URLs to the new pages; otherwise you will lose any SEO link juice that those old pages had.

DNS

The final step to a platform migration is to update your DNS so the new site can go live.  DNS stands for Domain Name System. This system is used to point to the server that your website lives on.  If you change platform, you are changing servers.  So you will need to point your domain name to the new server.  For the most part this is a pretty simple step, and the platform you are migrating to will have instructions on how to point your domain name to their servers, but if you aren’t familiar with changing your DNS settings it can seem a bit daunting.  There are a few things to be aware of though. The main thing is you need to aware of with this is whether you will be changing your mail server or keeping it where it is. A wrong setting can prevent your web site from working or prevent you from receiving or sending your email.

 

With careful planning and expert advice, migrating to a new e-commerce platform does not have to be difficult, and a professional design and marketing firm can help ease the transition and assist you in avoiding any pitfalls that come along.

The Importance of Online Reviews

If you’ve ever shopped online, chances are that you’ve seen and considered reviews for merchants you shop with and products that you’ve browsed. Customers prefer real testimonials to marketing fluff, so it’s no surprise that reviews are the fastest growing social marketing tool for online stores. According to a 2012 study, almost 33% of shoppers trust reviews over a particular brand or its marketing. If you’re considering adding reviews to your website or online store, there are a few things you should know.

Online reviews are a becoming a big factor in determining your placement in search and shopping results. Total number of reviews, review quality and length, and trust of your review platform all play a big role. A 2013 study reported that almost 85% of users considered reviews before visiting a new restaurant, hiring a contractor, or making a major purchase, so it’s no wonder that search engines take reviews into account more than in the past.

In general, there are 3 different types of reviews.

Merchant reviews are a measure of trust in your business in general. When someone fills out a merchant review, they’re reviewing your customer service, shipping time, and overall quality of shopping experience. Merchant reviews are powerful incentives to trust your brand.

Product reviews rate the quality of individual products. Product reviews help build trust in the particular brand of a product, and allow customers to read personal stories from other buyers who’ve used that product, as well as share those reviews on social media. In fact, 42% of all Amazon customers have left product reviews, and products with postiive review have sold 200% more than those with no ratings. The best and most trusted review programs only allow reviews from someone who has actually bought that product.

Local Reviews are reviews you collect either in your physical business location or on the go (using a tablet or phone, for instance). You can then syndicate that review to many online lists and social media platforms to get you the most exposure available when someone searches your business.

While you can always install a simple review plugin or use whatever comes built-in with your e-commerce platform of choice, it’s far better to have reviews collected by a Google and/or Microsoft approved third-party review company. Those reviews are guaranteed to be from actual customers, which means they can’t be faked. Depending on who is collecting your reviews, can be used to boost your visibility and attractiveness in Google Adwords, Google Shopping, Yahoo and Bing ad networks.

We’ve found Shopper Approved to be the best review company overall. Their prices are highly competitive and their customer service is top notch. Their review management tools are easy to use, and they’re one of the most trusted names in the business. Shopper Approved collected 70% more review and are historically more visible on search engines than their competitors. Most importantly, their ratings are fed to Google so shoppers will see your review stars when browsing Google shopping.

Want to get started with reviews for your website or online store today? VenturaU can set you up with a 30-day free trial of Shopper Approved. For more information, contact us today.

5 Tips for Properly Merchandising Your Online Store

Properly merchandising your online store is just as important as merchandising a brick-and-mortar store. Having a well-merchandised store can lead to increased conversion rates and higher average ticket sizes.

Online merchandising is, at its most basic, a way of displaying your products that entices your customers to make a purchase.  There are a myriad of different ways and methods to properly merchandise your store.  We will take a look at some of the most important.

  1. Make sure people can easily find what they are looking for.  This includes proper categorization of your inventory.  A store with poor categorization can be a nightmare for your potential customers to navigate through.  Make sure your navigation is clear and easy to follow.  The fewer steps a customer needs to take to get to the product the better.  Make sure your store has a search function.
  2. Provide unique product descriptions.  Writing your own product descriptions is more important than having your own product photography.  Using the same generic product description is going to hurt your SEO as Google will see it as duplicate content, and you will be lucky to make it on page one of the search results.  Writing your own compelling product descriptions will give you the opportunity to include any important keywords that the manufacturer may have missed.  It also allows you to optimize the content to your customers and fit within your store’s culture.
  3. Use high quality photos and product descriptions not provided by the manufacturer.  This may seem like a no-brainer, but many stores just use the product descriptions and photos provided by the manufacturer. Using the same photos and descriptions as your competitors will not set you apart from the crowd.   If possible, hire a professional photographer to take product photos for you.If professional photography is out of the budget, take your own photographs.  You should only take your own photographs if you can match or exceed the quality of the photos that the manufacturer supplies.  Poor photography shows a lack of attention to detail and makes your business look like an amateur operation. Make use of alternate images by showing different angles of the products or a close-up of important details.
  4. Make sure any promotions you are running are prominently featured.  Use attractive banners with compelling graphics on the home page to draw attention to your promotions.  If you run promotions that are category specific ,don’t forget to add banners to the category page as well.  Feature your best selling products or newest items on your home page. And don’t miss the opportunity to cross-sell and up-sell by adding related / alternative products and accessories on your product pages.
  5. Make it easy for your customers to make a purchase from you.  You have done a good job of merchandising your store, you have killer photos and product descriptions, cross-sell and up-sell is properly set-up, and promotions are prominently featured.  All this hard work could be wasted if it is difficult for your customers to make a purchase.  Make sure your buy button is prominently featured and easy for customers to see.The checkout process should be as streamlined as possible.  Do you force customers to sign up for an account before they can buy from you, or can they check out as a guest?  Remove any obstacles that may prevent a guest from completing the checkout steps.  Do you offer PayPal as a checkout option?  Many consumers are reluctant to give credit card information to merchants they are unfamiliar with, but they will use PayPal since that information isn’t passed on to the merchant and it gives the customer a degree of better security.

Merchandising your entire store can be a difficult and time-consuming task, but it’s certainly worth the boost in conversions and customer engagement.  VenturaU offers professional, personalized assistance in merchandising your online store.   Contact us today to see how we can help you.

Establishing Trust in your Online Store

Trust is one of the most important factors in whether a customer decides to purchase from your online store.  Visitors to your store need to feel safe when making purchases on your site.  Successful store owners establish trust with  great customer service, but sometimes that’s just not enough.  A proven way to boost credibility for your business is the use of common trust indicators.
Millions of digital transactions are made every day, requiring sensitive data to passed over the internet.  A trustmark from a third-party verification company proves to visitors that your website is trustworthy.  Showcasing your earned trustmark logos is a gret way to ensure that your store is safe to do business with.  Good trustmarks are easily recognizable, and are issued from companies that the public is familiar with, such as PayPal, Norton, McAfee, or TRUSTe.
Trustmarks can also showcase how reliable a store’s customer service is.  Companies like the BBB and Trustpilot issue trustmarks based on customer reviews.
Online stores secure the financial data they pass to their servers by using SSL, a security protocol that encrypts any data passed between a customer and the store.  Displaying your verified SSL trustmark in addition to serving pages securely is a good way to ensure the security of customer transactions.
It is important to make available a clear and concise return policy for items purchased from your store.  Address potential customer concerns up front and you’ll avoid customer service issues post-sale.
The idea that someone is available to chat with should you have any questions is comforting to most shoppers.  It’s convenient to not have to pick up a phone to contact support.  Installing a live chat service is simple and unobtrusive, and there are many chat platforms to choose from that will integrate easily with any online store.
Last but certainly not least, nothing establishes trust in an e-commerce website like professional design.  Successful companies depend on well thought-out, amazing-looking web design.  Their graphics are sharp and planned-out well in advance of any promotions, and they’re consistent across platforms (desktop, mobile, social, email, and so on).
Potential customers approach online shopping just as they would walking into a brick and mortar shop; If they have any reservations about your store, they won’t bother browsing, much less give you their credit card information.  Establishing trust right away is key to getting the sale.