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Ecommerce: web design – tables or CSS

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 23rd, 2009

Many ecommerce merchants have the dilemma of deciding if they should use tables or CSS to build their web site.  Just like a merchant’s credit card processing system, the web site must be fast and robust as well. Html tables have been used for over a decade now. They are great and easy to understand and build. But they do have their limitations. CSS is something that was born several years back and is a great way to manipulate your website however you wish. Instead of using tables to divide up your web site, you can use CSS to create the site. CSS is basically a style sheet that you reference to within your website. This particular style sheet specifies everything. Color, font, style and even the location of all of your content. So if you wanted a navigation bar on the left hand side, so many pixels wide and so many pixels to the right of the left hand side of the screen, you can do that. Basically everything floats around and CSS tells where everything should be placed, down to the exact pixel. Just like html tables, you can integrate your website with your shopping cart as well, it will not be any harder than html tables.

Ecommerce web sites: keep the loading time to lightning fast

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 23rd, 2009

Did you know you have about two seconds to get your web site loaded before a shopper will generally get frustrated before leaving your site?  Granted, this applies to shoppers on a high speed connection, which is most of the population these days.  In 3 seconds, almost half of all shoppers will abandon the site completely according to a recent survey.   The study was based on over 1,000 shoppers and was conducted in July of this year to aim at measuring how customer’s experience have changed during the past few years.  I think you can blame a lot of this on Google.  Google’s site is so fast and quick to load (granted there isn’t much to load) that it has created those expectations among society.

How do you make this happen?  For starters, you need a web hosting company that providers very fast hosting services.  Two, you need a well designed site that isn’t extremely large in size.  Third, you need a shopping cart system that is robust, reliable and operates really fast.  Fourth, you will need a credit card processing gateway that is just as fast as everything else, like the Authorize.net service.  Finally, you will need a high speed connection yourself to test everything out.  If you do not already have one, you should as I can’t see how any business could operate today on a slow dial up connection.   With satellite services, everyone can have high speed Internet.

Blogging and ecommerce

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 23rd, 2009

Have you ever wondered if your business should have a blog?  For many businesses today, it can be critical for them to reach a certain level, to have a blog for their company.  Social media is big business with many consumers today.  Depending on your targeted market, this may be a big piece of your business.  If so, then  you should be all over the social media space.  Take merchants like Zappos.com that has a blog, several in fact.  It helps create those connections with your customers.  Blogs can also be a great way to spread the word about your company and its new products.  Blog posts also seem to be indexed by the search engines fairly quickly and rank much higher because of its fresh and relevant content.  I reviewed a shopping cart a few days ago that integrates with blogs and social media sites.  So if you wanted to focus on selling your new products on your blog, you could integrate their shopping cart into your blog.  It also has integrated credit card processing that would allow to you accept credit cards without ever leaving the blog page.  In summary, if your business’ main market is the general public, then you should definitely have a blog.  Look at it this way, after giving it 6 to 12 months, if you haven’t received positive results, what have you lost besides some time and energy?

The gap with the customer experience and how to close it

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 23rd, 2009

What do you think of when you want to close the customer experience gap with technology?  Do you think of web sites and automation?  When retailers embrace technology, they can help close that gap and improve the in-store customer experience.  A recent survey revealed what the top five attributes customers seek when shopping at retail stores: Knowledgeable employees, a good value, courteous employees and be treated like a VIP.  Which category do you think received the worst rating of them all?  Knowledgeable employees was the winner!  However, with technology, employers can help close that gap by improving in these areas.  You can use technology to create great training programs that will improve the employees knowledge about the products and the company.  You can also use it to create good value with the lowest possible price.  Having reliable and affordable credit card processing can be one start to help keep your prices low.  Lastly, use technology to show and demonstrate to employees the importance of being courteous and treating all customers like a VIP.  Once you implement some of these suggestions, you should see improvements in all of these areas.  But do it give time as most changes will not happen overtime.

Retail sales have surged

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 23rd, 2009

Retail sales for October were much better than expected.   Sales jumped 1.4% compared to a decline of this month last year.  Since Black Friday is around the corner, retailers were hoping this would instill confidence in consumers and encourage them to spend this holiday season.  York was saying that the cash for clunkers program made the numbers jump around too much to get an accurate count.  The holiday sales season is all backed by consumer spending and since we have been at high unemployment for several years now, consumers are strapped for cash.  Some like York do not believe this holiday season will be any better than last year even though economist are forecasting for things to be on the positive side.  If they do indeed turn up to be bigger than expected, merchants will find themselves with higher credit card processing bills. But that is a good price to pay for an increase in sales.  In any event, we should know what will happen in a  few months, so stay tuned with fingers crossed.

Is the Internet a place for all businesses?

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 23rd, 2009

Car dealers have been embracing the web for some time now.  Almost all consumers use the web the research a vehicle before making a purchase.  You can practically do everything except test drive the car.  Many dealerships have an exclusive sales team for the Internet site.  Even though most dealerships do not list any pricing on their site and if they do, it is the MSRP price.  However, you can generally negotiate with most dealerships through email and phone.  Man of those sales reps are salaried and are focused on volume and not high profit margins.  This could result in a big favor for the consumer.  One thing that hasn’t come to light and may never, is the actual buying of the car online, as if you were buying a product from Amazon for example.  If this capability ever came to light, you would have large ticket sales placed on credit cards, which most consumers probably do not have that kind of available credit.  The merchant may also have issues with their credit card processing provider for the large ticket sales are much riskier as consumers are well protected when it comes to credit card charges. So it is probably in the best interest of the merchant to never go down this road. Lastly, I’m not sure of how many consumers could even pay for a car with a credit card and pay the bill in full when it comes in.

Newegg.com: ecommerce merchants should follow

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 23rd, 2009

Why has newegg.com become one of the largest ecommerce retailers in the US?  It has been known because of the shopping experience with them.  The customer flow seems to be full of options.  They have a search box feature, a nicely well done navigation bar, colorful rotating special offer banner and a list of categories to shift through to find what you are looking for.  The idea to take from this is you must have clear paths to products from your homepage, so you user knows and feels confident on where to go from there.

Once you go to a particular category, you can narrow down your choices by other features or categories using the left hand navigation.  This is very useful when trying to find the exact product you are looking for.  For example, you want a NIC card, but do not want to spend more than say $20.  This would allow you to find what you need very quickly.   One thing I’m not sure I agree with is if you want rush processing, they charge a fee for this.  This has nothing to do with the shipping time, but the speed they process your order.  I guess you could say what else can you expect for the lowest price, you can’t have everything.  They also have great follow through emails by providing shipping confirmation and tracking information.  Another thing is certain, with their kind of processing volume, I would only expect them to be on the Interchange plus pricing model with their credit card processing company, if not, they should really look into that.

5 ecommerce improvement tips

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 23rd, 2009

Would you like a few more conversion tips for your ecommerce web site?  Here is a list of five in no particular order.  Ecommerce sites should have a site search function.  But many sites all do the same common thing when it comes to a shopper searching for something that wasn’t found.  They say no, they do not have anything for them.  Pretend you are the customer, do you ever want to be told no, sorry?  Instead, have some recommendations of your most popular products at the bottom of the results page after whatever results do show up.  You never know, they may be interested in one of your most popular items.  Some say adding a third party trust certificate helps create trust among shoppers and some disagree.  I’m not for it either way as I do not know exactly what is true, but it couldn’t help if it doesn’t have a cost.  Make your 800 contact number prominent on all pages of the site.  If you do not already have an 800 number, get one asap!  Just like it is best to display your credit card processing logos on all pages, you need to display your phone number so they can easily call you if they want with any questions they may have. Always have a privacy, return and shipping policies for those users that are concerned about those issues. Plus you should have a link to those policies on all pages of the site. Lastly, add a link to your contact page on your product page, a button for example that stands out saying something like contact us with any questions. If a shopper will have any questions, it will most likely be when looking at the product information page.

JosBank.com Review

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 23rd, 2009

A recent review of Josbank.com was posted by another company and found the review to be well done.   First, it points out that the site is clean, elegant and modern, something I couldn’t agree more.  The image they portray is as important as the retail stores.  Josabank has a reputation for a certain level of quality and luxury and this must be maintained throughout their retail and Internet stores.  One thing the reviewer noticed was that they do not have a well designed 404 error page that instructs the user where to go if they landed on a page that doesn’t exist anymore.  This can happen as other web sites may link to a particular page that gets taken down for whatever reason.  The header has been done nicely, with everything split up into categories that are easy to browse.  One thing I personally like is how they give you your current total of your shopping cart at the top of the page.  This allows you to know how much you have spent thus far and how much left remaining before you earn free shipping.  This is a great sales tool on their part.  It also seems that they have their credit card processing integrated into their web site, which also keeps the same professional web site look throughout the entire shopping experience.

Retail stores going upscale for the holidays

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 23rd, 2009

What does prime vacant retail locations and Christmas have in common?  How about seasonal “pop-up” stores are going upscale.   Such as the Lionel Electric Trains opened up its first retail location on Nov 1, which will disappear after the holidays.   Pop up stores have been around for a long time for Halloween and Christmas.  But now they are going upscale by showing face in places like malls and fancy streets in big cities.  The reason is because of all the vacant real estate that landlords are having a time filling.  It would be better for them to find  a home temporary than to live it empty.  For Lionel, it isn’t a profit center for them, but a way to create brand awareness and desire for their products from young children.  Regardless of who opens up a seasonal retail store, they must have the ability to accept credit cards.  In many situations, a wireless credit card machine is needed for the expense involved with getting a temporary phone line put in place. The one big draw back is the profit must be large enough to be worth the time, energy and money involved in getting setup for such a short period of time.



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