There is no denying that advancement in technology is one of the key driving forces behind the 10% year on year growth in eCommerce sales which is expected to reach $706 billion annually by 2022, according to Forrester Research.
There is also no denying that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning are defining factors in this extraordinary growth.
From predicting user behaviour to intelligent product suggestions, the speed it takes for a customer to pass through a digital shop is increasing all the time and not because they dislike it and want to leave as quickly as possible, but because merchants are able to put the right products in front of the right customers eyes more accurately and with greater speed.
When was Artificial Intelligence created?
AI has been used in eCommerce for many years, one of the most obvious examples being personalisation through targeted products, which has infuriated many for the last decade or so.
It is now rare to land on an eCommerce site that doesn’t implement AI somewhere on their site and even off their site in that retailers and brands are are able to personalise the experience of the search results pages or the category listing pages based off the visitor behaviour from their website.
AI technology is increasingly set to replace marketers and merchandisers in selecting which adverts to place where and at which time across the Internet.
Predictive analytics is an extremely important field of AI and increasingly it’s becoming more accessible to smaller companies. It gives the opportunity to provide deeper insights into what consumers want and need and suggest to marketers and advertisers what the next action should be. So if you are able to analyse all of the activity on a website and serve this to a merchandiser and say which customers are likely to purchase next if you send them an email or offer them a promotion. Because these machine learning algorithms detect patterns that human beings often miss, it is able to serve a lot more intelligence to marketers a lot more efficiently and catch things that we wouldn’t normally find, at least not as efficiently as AI.
The ability of artificial intelligence to connect dots that would be tricky for humans to do, combined with it’s capacity to crunch numbers on a massive scale is an extremely powerful tool to possess.
AI Merging with eCommerce
We’ve all heard the rumours about being tracked around brick and mortar shops by cameras tracking what is in our shopping baskets, what are shopping trends are and even the route customers take around the shop.
Granted this is designed to make retailers see more but, whilst it is a bit (well, a bit more than a bit) of an invasion of privacy, we, the shopper, gain from it as well.
Customer experiences are becoming tailored to the individual which is great! No?
Personally, and I know I speak for many others out there, I want to spend as little time as possible traipsing around shops trying to find that illusive product, whether it’s cotton buds or ink pots, and if someone makes this easier for me then I will welcome it with open arms.
For some time in America billboards have concealed cameras behind the motorway billboards to track which cars have been exposed to the ad it’s displaying.
So when Brett Bushkin (for some reason this is the name that has sprung into my head when trying to come up with an American sounding name) drives past the ad displaying a package deal on some Jesus sandals and frog socks, when Brett later drives up to the store in his olive green Chrysler to follow up on the ad, the store knows that Brett is likely to have seen the its billboard and they can now build a detailed profile on Brett which it can then use to apply to others. The stores can machine learning system can now sort this data and roll out ads at the correct time of the day to when Brett, and those like him, are likely to see it.
This style of marketing has now been stepped up and advertisers can target specific cars with specific ads. Indeed a year ago Britain’s most famous billboard in Piccadilly square started doing exactly this. https://www.wired.co.uk/article/piccadilly-circus-new-massive-advertising-screen
The leading digital researcher Gartner predicts that by 2020 around 80% of customer interactions will be handled by artificial intelligence and in as many as 95% of all customer journey’s, artificial intelligence will have been employed at some point.
Should we be weary of this or should we embrace it?
AI disruption in eCommerce
Disruption is a loaded word and it is often used as the link between AI and eCommerce. To me ‘disruption’ undeservedly carries various negative connotations, especially when associated with eCommerce. Invasion of privacy jumps to mind.
So when it comes to AI and eCommerce, I don’t think ‘disruption’ fits the bill.
Revolutionising, enhancing and refining are words that should be sandwiched between Artificial Intelligence and eCommerce. We must accept that we live in a data driven world and when handled correctly it has the power to turn the mundane into the sublime.
Shopping experiences are truly bespoke and whether you want to spend an hour or a minute in shops, you will increasingly leave more satisfied as AI enhances these often tedious experiences.
On a personal level, as I’ve already mentioned, I cannot stand the thought of wandering around shops, either online or in real stores, looking for the colourful cotton boxer shorts that I’m particularly keen on, or what ever the product is… If I can be signposted to them more efficiently, or better yet them brought to me, then I’m going to be happy.
Over the past decade we have seen how much AI has changed the way we spend our time, most of the time unknowingly. However most people don’t appreciate that AI has been around for considerably longer.
Past Predictions – Where are they now?
Making predictions around technology has become increasingly tricky and, as Moore’s law demonstrates, the speed of technological advancement makes making predictions nigh on impossible – especially when thinking about timings. However, as the law also suggests, the ceiling preventing us from progressing further is also fast approaching and current human knowledge will not be able to enhance the machines we have created.
Over five years ago, when AI and eCommerce was a lesser-known beast, leading qualitative and quantitive analyses firm McKinsey Quarterly wrote an article that looked ahead at where this space was moving. The following is a version of one of their predictions
The rise in NFC (Near Field Communications)
Intrigued by his friends headphones, Brett taps his NFC enabled phone against them, they too have these NFC powers.
Brett’s phone then asks her to take a selfie.
In the app Brett can now see what he looks like with a pair of headphones and can select the colour.
Brett can now share the image with his friends who can vote directly on which colour they prefer/suits him best.
Brett now receives a message from Shopify offering him a free months membership subscription or a free premium plan if she buys the headphones
Brett loves the beige headset and decides to make the purchase. Yay Brett
When Brett opens the recently delivered box the next day he is asked if he wants to take a picture to share online online with his friends. The more shares the more perks he gets such as a Spotify subscription from, for example, his mobile phone provider who has a partnership agreement with the headphones.
Whilst all of the above isn’t completely familiar, generally speaking they got it pretty spot on and most of what is described is seen during our every day lives. Now where is all this going?
Where is AI and eCommerce heading?
In some cases we’re already there, in others we’re almost there and others are speculative, however the following is a list of a few areas where Artificial Intelligence heading:
- Albert – A trustworthy sounding AI led marketing platform.
Albert is a software that automates the campaign management of your paid and non-paid media campaigns. Making use of predictive analytics, machine learning, language processing and feedback, Albert keeps a check on campaign execution, optimisation, analysis, testing and insights.
Now for those businesses who have neither the time or the inclination to run there own marketing campaigns themselves Albert might be a good alternative to the expensive agency fees that they would otherwise be facing.
- Boost Conversion – stop those slippery customers from getting away
As more and more data is being collected on customers we’ve seen a rise in the number of AI driven strategies aimed at engaging these customers and helping them to convert
This is one of the big players in conversion marketing today and the statistics out there are fairly irrefutable. For example Kia introduced their digital friend Kian (a Facebook messenger chatbot) to their website in late 2017. Kian is programmed to answer any question a user might ask and if Kian didn’t know the answer guess what, through machine learning, the next time he will. Since the Chatbots introduction Kia reported that it had tripled its conversion rates in the space of 4 months – and something tells me this wasn’t down to a ground breaking new car design. From improving customer service to shortening the sales steps, to up-selling and cross-selling, chatbots have revolutionised digital marketing in recent years.
Retargeting is a key part of digital marketing as it keeps your brand in front of previous visitors to your site thus increasing the likelihood of them converting. Shoelace is an example of an AI tool designed for retargeting. With some leading agencies estimating that only 2% of shoppers convert the first time they are on a store, the benefits of keeping your brand at the forefront of your customers as they move around the internet is invaluable and can save a considerable amount by avoiding targeting the wrong type of customer.
Time is of the essence in this increasingly fast moving world we find ourselves in, and if you’re able to address customer reviews as soon as they make them then the chance of conversion can be dramatically increased. Through machine learning and AI, Keatext is able to sort through positive and negative reviews and pass them onto you in real so that you are able to address any issues head on and even create a ‘feedback loop’ so that you are able to display a more relevant product to the customer straight away.
- Content Recommendation
As we know creating engaging content is a key factor to driving traffic to a site and boosting your page/site authority in the eyes of search engines. Many companies are now experimenting with bots that not only suggest potential trends but also analyse and provide feedback on the likelihood of that content generating shares or engagements. For example Rocco AI is a social media bot that recommends more attractive content. Rocco can even be integrated with Slack where it can analyse a brands tone of voice and make recommendations for original content ideas.
- Image Recognition – shining a light into the shadows
For years bots were unable to see or understand what an image was however, times a changin. Google, Facebook, Amazon and every other big digital player have developed bots that recognise what an image is and can provide a detailed description of what the subject matter is. So for instance, if you take a photo with you smart phone you can then carry out a search on that image and you will be delivered products that are similar to the image in the results.
- Voice Commerce – “Talking to oneself – the first sign of madness”
Now if speaking to robots isn’t your thing then you better change your tune because there is absolutely no denying the direction we are moving in.
Voice commerce is the interaction with an eCommerce site when there is no screen to engage with – Amazon Echo, Google Home etc. This is great for repetitive orders or things that you have already put onto your shopping list and like it or loath it, we are getting more and more comfortable talking to machines and inevitability this trend is going to continue.
It hasn’t quite reached the level of product search or product comparison, so there is still a need for traditional eCommerce experiences and this will not change. However the way voice search will augment how we shop by providing greater convenience is certainly where we are going to see a lot of growth over the coming few years.
- Combatting Fake Reviews
Reviews are an essential part to modern day shopping with Shopify estimates that as many as 63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site with product ratings and reviews. More often than not you’ll be able to find an alternative product for a similar price on a different website and people’s decision as to which to buy is largely based upon a star rating or product review as well as expense of course. However, who is writing these reviews? Well, it could be real customers but increasingly over the past decade machine learning AI has evolved to be able to write reviews that are nigh on impossible to tell are not written by a human. This being the case how can we combat it? Well, through AI obviously.
Whilst it might be tricky for us to decipher between fake and real, AI is being developed to spot behavioural patterns in reviews that can indicate whether or not the review is genuine or not and remove or flag up those that is suspects to be fabricated.
But Alas – That Which Glitters is Not Always Gold
What are the negative effects of AI? I admit I have been waxing lyrical about artificial intelligence and how it is going to help me minimise the time I spend in shops, which is great. However of course there are consequences; some more concerning than others.
In the last few years there are several embarrassing examples of people being caught out. Take for example Microsoft’s chatbot Tay being provoked into becoming a racist back in 2016 when social media users bombarded it with confusing quesitons. Within a day Tay was tweeting about anti-semitism, racism and dictators, to name but a few.
But this isn’t eCommerce I hear you say. Well, true. However the principles of manipulation still apply and depending on what questions are asked to your eCommerce chatbot, its effectiveness and the results it returns can be varied. This can have a devastating impact on your brand.
Useful AI is based almost entirely on the quality of the data that is collected meaning consequences could be disastrous should their be discrepancies in the data from which AI is learning. JJ Guy, the CTO at Jask – a leading AI security provider, said: “The algorithms themselves are easy. Collecting, classifying and labelling datasets used to train the algorithms is the grunt work that’s difficult – especially datasets comprehensive enough to reflect the real world.”
- You might end up living a sheltered existence
Whilst it is great to be presented with your colourful boxers that you had been searching for as soon as you land on a page, think of all the things that you might be missing. Whether it is ‘Recommended For You’ Netflix films or ‘You Might Also Like’ popups that appear across countless eCommerce stores including, and perhaps most dangerous of all, publishing and news sites, gradually someone else – or something else – is tailoring our lives for us.
Our ability to choose is being diminished and this is dangerous on so many levels, not least that our lives will become blinkered and driven by what brands think will make them the most money.
- Anything you can do I can do better
Artificial Intelligence doesn’t bode well for the job market as, as we have pointed out in this article, machines are increasingly becoming more efficient than humans, which ultimately means that people are going to start losing their jobs.
The Future is Bright, the Future is Artificial Intelligence
It might sound obvious but Artificial Intelligence is here to stay. From self driving cars to fully customised eCommerce shopping experiences, soon enough every part of our life will involve sound element of artificial intelligence, whether we are aware of it or not.
In 2019 expect to see an upshift in eCommerce stores implementing AI technology to help drive sales. In fact I would predict that by the end of 2019 the vast majority of online merchants will be making use of AI somewhere on their site, whether it is voice powered shopping, virtual fitting rooms or computer-generated assistants offering a hand.
My only advice would be to try and avoid being hit by a self driving car and remember to take shopping online with a pinch of salt and recognise that there are some very clever machines out there getting us to open our wallets.
As a leading digital agency Diffusion Digital would be happy to answer any questions you may have – feel free to get in touch through the form below or alternatively you can call us on +44 (0) 203 141 2000
WordPress came to life on May 2003 and few technological inventions in the internet age have become as ubiquitous as WordPress when it comes to website Content Management Systems (CMS).
This is what the WordPress home page looked like back then:
And this is what it looks like now:
The rise of WordPress and WooCommerce as a CMS has mainly been due to 2 main factors: ease of use and scalability.
As a CMS, WordPress is an extremely versatile and easy to use CMS with a learning curve that is much less steep than say Joomla and esp. Magento.
Scalability has been made relatively easy due to the myriad number of plugins that have been built for it by WordPress and third parties around the world.
If you have a WordPress site there’s a good chance you have at least a few plugins installed already. However, the list of available plugins and their potential uses are almost too vast to count thus making WordPress even more functional and scalable.
In this post, Diffusion Digital will talk you through some of our favourite plugins for a shipping and SEO. Bookmark this page as we’ll be updating it with more plugins next month!
WooCommerce plugins for Shipping
Flexible Shipping for WooCommerce
First up, we have the Flexibility Shipping for WooCommerce which claims to be the most advanced shipping plugin for WooCommerce and whilst we’re not sure we believe in that claim, it does offer quite a wide range of features and customization options to choose from.
There isn’t much that the plugin can’t do and is an ideal solution for WooCommerce sites in the medium to high competition sectors where offering a wide range of delivery options is a must.
In addition to allowing the calculation of shipping costs based on cart total, you could also do so based on weight. Plus, it also offers COD (Cash On Delivery) shipping options which is something most other shipping plugins do not.
Additionally, you have options to integrate insurance options which again, could be a way to add a USP to your WooCommerce site.
The plugin comes in 2 flavours: the free version which gives you the tools that should be sufficient for most small retailer and a paid option for more advanced Ecommerce businesses.
For a full list of features and the differences between the free and paid version, check out their official site.
WooCommerce Delivery Time Picker for Shipping
Next up, we have the WooCommerce Delivery Time Picker which is a good option to consider if your WooCommerce store offers shipping based on time slots.
Successful Ecommerce stores know that one of the ways you can increase sales is by reducing the amount of ‘friction’ between the user and the buying process and it is usually a good idea to offer as many shipping options as is possible.
This plugin is more like an ‘add-on’ to your existing setup, adding the functionality of allowing users to select when to receive their purchase, giving control to the user on both, the day as well as the time.
Of course, not all courier companies offer this feature so it’s a good idea to check that yours does.
WooCommerce Weight Based Shipping
No. of downloads: 20,000+
Being able to calculate shipping charges based on weight isn’t exactly a unique feature by any means but the WooCommerce Weight Based Shipping does have a super-useful way of offering this option.
There’s a section for adding multiple shipping rules and you can set further conditions based on when certain rules should or shouldn’t apply.
You can also configure your shipping rates based on total order weight, price or a combination of the 2 and although most companies will probably end up using either one it’s a good feature to have.
WordPress Plugins for SEO
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is to a website what the engine is to your car. Without it, no matter how amazing your product is, no one is going to see it.
The popularity of SEO has meant that this is area of plugin development is one of the most popular for WordPress which means there’s literally thousands of WordPress SEO plugins to choose from.
A thing to bear in mind is that no matter how good the plugin, they only offer you the tools to have the basic on-page SEO in place. If you’re hoping to attract a wide audience for your WordPress website, you will also need to undertake an off-page SEO campaign that encompasses important traffic-driving techniques such as link building and content marketing.
No. of downloads: 5+ million
First up, we have the Yoast SEO plugin which is by far, the most popular SEO
plugin for WordPress around.
Yoast SEO comes in 2 flavours: the free option which offers you the basic functionality around keyword optimisation, page previews and duplicate content checks whilst the premium (paid) option offers you all of that and much more.
Here’s a snapshot of the comparison but for more on this head over to https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/.
At the time of this writing, the paid plugin costs £79 plus VAT.
If you’re asking “is the premium (paid) Yoast plugin worth it?” then our answer is going to be annoying yet inevitable: it depends.
For small WordPress sites in non-competitive sectors and where you don’t need to drive a ton of traffic to the site, the free option might be just fine. Or, if you have a professional SEO company who is looking after your site, both on-page and off-page as well.
However, if you want to do it all yourself and don’t plan on a link building and content generation campaign or traffic isn’t all that important, you may find the paid plugin adds a little bit of value.
All In One SEO Pack
No. of downloads: 3+ million
The All In One SEO Pack is another WordPress plugin for SEO and just about as useful as Yoast.
All In One has a useful XML sitemap submission feature for those who don’t know how to work with Google Search Console or Bing (or simply aren’t inclined to).
AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is becoming increasingly common-place on the mobile web and All In One has integration and monitoring capabilities for those 2.
Which is better, Yoast SEO or All In One?
The differences between the 2 are subtle and in many cases, comes down to your personal preference.
For example, whereas the various functions of Yoast are laid out on different tabs, All In One has then all listed on a single page (think of a multi-step checkout process compared to one where you enter all your info on the same page).
Another example is Social Media – Yoast does tend to offer a few more options for Social Media monitoring and integration than All In One.
WordPress Plugins for Marketing
Welcome back to part 2 of our list of essential plugins for your WordPress or WooCommerce website.
This month, we’ll be taking a closer look at some of the best plugins around to help you super-charge your marketing efforts.
The popularity of WordPress has meant that there are thousands of developers around the world building plugins for it for pretty much anything you can think of.
From a marketing perspective, WordPress is designed for small to medium sized growing businesses which means no matter what your skill set when it comes to marketing, there’s sure to be a plugin that is right for you.
No. of downloads: 10,000+
First up on our list is the CAOS plugin built to make the task of Google Analytics integration easier.
If you’ve got a website, you’ve most likely have an analytics programme installed too which gives you data about how many people visit your website, where they come from, actions they take and so on.
Google Analytics (GA) is one such platform and perhaps the most popular one for most small to medium sized websites.
If you’re considering adding GA to your site, you should know that GA only works once you’ve added the GA code to all pages of the site and often you will need to get your web developer to do it.
This is where CAOS comes in. it is a plugin for Google Analytics which allows to you connect to it without the need for any outside help.
The plugin is natively compatible with WordPress which means that installing it on your site is going to be seamless and hassle-free.
What’s more, once you have this in place, it can also show you the basic info from GA right into your WordPress dashboard saving you a lot of time and clicks having to bounce around from once platform to another.
MailChimp for WordPress
No. of downloads: 100,000+
Mailchimp is for email newsletters what Google Analytics is for website analytics so it’s no wonder that we have a bespoke plugin for MailChimp available.
MailChimp is one of the most popular newsletter software around and until the arrival of this plugin, it wouldn’t be too uncommon to find your email subscriber data separate from the signups from your website which means each time you had someone signing up to your newsletter via your website, you will have to manually add them to your MailChimp database.
With the MailChimp for WordPress plugin however, all of that is history.
Once installed and connected, not only can you automatically sync your newsletter and website subscribers but you can also carry out some advanced functions such as offering the ability of people who make an enquiry via your site to sign up to your newsletter directly via opt-in checkboxes.
This is not only a great time saver but will also go a long way in enhancing the size and quality of your subscriber list.
No. of downloads: 800,000+
Speaking of increasing your email subscriber list, another tool that is designed precisely for that is the OptinMonster plugin for WordPress.
Your website’s conversion rate is one of the most important Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and offering multiple ways for a conversion (aka call-to-action) to occur is a must.
For example, even though your most important call-to-action is going to a sale if you’re selling something or an enquiry if you’re a service business, secondary call-to-action such as a newsletter signup or to download a white-paper or brochure can also be very valuable in the long run.
OptinMonster offers the ability to create several different types of forms such as popups and light boxes and even ‘exit-intent’ light boxes which can help you increase the number of page/views, increase conversions and ultimately make your website work better.
Drip Marketing Automation plugin for WordPress
No. of downloads: 9,000+
If your website’s subscriber count is in the triple digits, you need to have a marketing automation CRM in place if you don’t have one already and Drip is one such option.
In addition to collating all your signups and subscriber info from a variety of signup sources, a software like Drip can also automate certain marketing tasks that you carry out on a routine basis.
For example, Drip will allow you to send out an automated email notification to a a visitor who signs up via your blog each time you publish a new blog post which is not only a great time saver but also helps you improve your return visit levels.
Or, you can create lead nurturing emails which are designed to gradually move your user from the ‘cold’ to ‘hot’ stage of the buying funnel. In the long run, this can mean more sales for relatively less effort.
If you remember in back May this year, Shopify made some really exciting announcements at their annual developer and partner conference: Shopify Unite.
Keynote speakers presented us with a series of new features, automated functionalities and simplified tools that have been built in order to improve business management for existing merchants and to offer an array of new opportunities for global expansion. Shopify also wants to welcome more merchants into joining their ecosystem and taking advantage of these new products and services.
This fits in with Shopify’s vision for an inclusive international commerce ecosystem, which should be “in the hands of the many, not the few” (Harley Finkelstein, Shopify COO).
On that note… let’s recap on what we thought were the most impressive new features announced at the conference.
(Shopify Plus merchants)
Let’s start with our favourite announcement.
What we are most excited about is the long-awaited multi-currency feature, which allows merchants to sell in multiple currencies. At the moment, the feature enables online transactions in 9 currencies: AUD, EUR, JPY, SGD, USD, CAD, HKD, NZD and GBP.
This is a huge deal for Shopify users – as this is paving the way to a more globalised online selling environment, including non-English speakers.
So, thanks to this fantastic new feature, now Shopify merchants can expand their reach and build international consumer relationships, resulting in maximised sales and higher revenue.
Shopify has introduced a degree of optionality to consumers by implementing Local Payments, which allows the consumer to use whichever payment method is preferred in their country of purchase, eroding conversion rates at checkout.
For example, consumers in Germany pay through SOFORT, whereas in China, consumers pay through WeChatPay and Alipay.
This makes the purchase process more seamless for consumers, builds a trusting relationship with the consumer and reduces friction, therefore improving the overall user experience.
Also contributing to Shopify’s new focus on diversity is the multi-language function, which allows merchant’s to set their admin dashboard to any of the following languages:
- Brazilian Portuguese
These new features are proving Shopify to be moving in a direction that is more internationally-minded and culturally aware.
2. Business Management
(Shopify Plus merchants)
Shopify Locations will improve many aspects of business management for merchants, as they will have the ability to monitor and update their inventory across multiple locations from one centralized management system, increasing the speed at which they sell.
Having the ability to track incoming orders, fulfillment, refunds etc in a common area will allow merchants to operate more efficiently and reallocate the time that they previously spent manually updating inventories in different locations on other aspects of their business.
In a nutshell, Locations will simplify the selling process for Shopify merchants.
To be the first to hear when Locations is available, sign up here!
Fraud Protect is a new feature that automatically assesses the risk on a new order and acts to ensure protection and prevent fraud.
Due to its automated nature, merchants will no longer have to physically review the risk on every single order and therefore can spend more time working towards being more efficient and meeting other business goals.
This also provides a degree of confidence when moving into new markets.
Connectors for Shopify Flow
(Shopify Plus merchants)
Hence the name, this feature connects your existing business apps and tools to create a workflow, which automates everyday tasks that merchants currently carry out manually.
The merchant can set conditions that decide whether or not an automated action should take place. If the trigger meets these conditions (in this instance, the condition is that the customer has accepted marketing in Shopify), then an action (a task in an app or in-store) will take place.
The action in this example is that Klaviyo app is activated and automatically sends an email.
This is a really exciting step towards automating two completely unrelated apps to work together.
If you already use Shopify Flow, to apply for early access to Connectors for Shopify Flow, sign up here!
3. Selling Made Simple
Not only will selling be made easier for the seller, but also for the consumer. Dynamic Checkout features a button either beside or below the ‘Add to Cart’ button, which will either allow the customer to pay with Apple Pay, PayPal etc in one click, depending on their historic preference.
This should encourage consumers to purchase products more instantaneously, and therefore increase sales and revenue for merchants.
Also contributing to seamless selling are Shopify’s Point of Sale features.
These include a Tap and Chip reader for Apple and Google Pay, allowing merchants to run their business from any device. Additionally, a tipping feature gives customers the ability to reward merchants for their good service. And finally, POS offers a returns and exchanges functionality which customers can take advantage of, whether they purchased in-store or online.
So to summarise, Shopify POS improves user experience and seeks to maximise sales and revenue.
BOGO & Other Discounts
Buy One Get One and other discounts offer automated promotions and improve the checkout experience. Merchants can create incentives for customers to add value to their purchases, and reward them for doing so with this functionality.
This feature allows merchants to experiment with different discounts and incentives to boost the average order value and increase customer loyalty.
4. Additional Features
Shopify’s new snazzy app store will have a totally new design. Not only is it visually attractive, but it will also offer personalized recommendations to merchants based on their store requirements.
This new and improved platform will increase visibility to a range of useful apps, and has been described as “Netflix for commerce apps”.
Expert Services Marketplace
This new functionality runs in the Shopify admin, and allows merchants to browse through experts who can help them with specific issues they have. This increased accessibility to support and information will increase overall efficiency for merchants.
So there you have it. Just a few of the many exciting new apps and features – some of which we are still waiting to see come to life.
It’s evident that Shopify is taking us in a new direction of interconnectedness, inclusiveness and increased efficiency, all of which are shaping the future of online retail selling.
The website design and development racket is a tricky field to navigate.
If you find yourself in search of web design agencies, it’s sometimes hard to tell the wood from the trees in terms of differentiating between the good and the bad.
The aim of this blog is to give you a few pointers on why it’s worth your while getting professionals to design and develop your website.
#1 How hard can it be? I’ll do it myself for a fraction of the price
But, have they created something that truly reflects their brand or business? Well I’d bet that 99% of ‘self-built’ websites entirely misrepresent their brand/business or simply don’t do it justice.
A website is often the first place a prospective new client will look – the importance of making a good first impression is essential in building trust, driving conversion and encouraging advocacy.
#2 Due-diligence whether it’s a new business or an upgrade – don’t go rogue
So, you’ve made the right choice and realised what’s best for your business.
You must be careful though. As in every industry, especially overcrowded ones, there are those who have your best interests at heart, and then there are the crooks.
Owing to how diluted the industry is, the web design and development space is littered with people trying to exploit other peoples ignorance and make a quick buck and whilst most agencies in question provide a similar service offering to one-another, it’s up to you to differentiate between them all.
It’s important to try and choose an agency that will take as much pride in the client’s business and brand, as the client themselves.
This is obviously easier said than done but finding a team with enthusiasm for not only their work, but also their clients, will ensure a positive outcome further down the line.
An obvious place you can check this is in their case studies. If there aren’t beautiful examples of past work proudly placed on a pedestal on the agency’s website, alarm bells should be ringing.
#3 Pay Peanuts, Get Monkeys
When it comes to costs, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is and somewhere down the line you’ll end up in losing out either financially or being lumped with a mediocre, under-whelming website.
Always bear in mind the number of different elements it takes to build a good website – design, UX, development and SEO. Each are very specific skills that people spend years honing and as such you expect to pay!
So, save your time and don’t engage with any company who quote significantly less than all the other quotes that you have received.
Especially in regard to SMEs and start-ups, budgets can be restrictive, but, considering the importance of a website plays on client’s first impressions, every effort should be made to make them as well-crafted as they can be.
Websites are often more expensive than people think but when you take into account the expertise you are getting for your money, the juice is worth the squeeze.
People are often taken aback by the costs of building a custom website. Whilst these costs are usually fair, the agency should provide fairly comprehensive breakdowns demonstrating how they are arriving at the forecasted costs, including an idea of additional development and post build costs should they be needed.
Getting several quotes from different agencies should give you a good idea of a ballpark figure you should expect to pay.
Whilst there are some very intuitive platforms out there that can walk you through every step to building an intuitive and responsive website for relatively little money, the chances of you creating a website that best reflects your business is hard with off the shelf templates. What’s more; by using the standard themes offered by the likes of WordPress and Shopify, it’s likely that your website will end up looking similar if not identical to someone else’s and correct me if I’m wrong, it’s in a businesses interest to stand out from the crowd, not mix about in it.
#4 Forming Lasting Relationships
Digital professionals helping ambitious brands thrive online.
This is the mantra at the core of Diffusion Digital’s ethos and fundamentally lays out our driving force, and, in danger of sounding self-righteous, it’s one that every digital agency should pursue.
I say ‘pursue’ because – owing to evolving environments, demographics and products, to name but a few – this process is changes with the times and we must adapt with it. Having an agency aboard throughout will make your life easier in the long run.
Agencies should demonstrate that they take genuine pride in the websites they help craft. They should take the time to truly understand what the brand or business stands for and the client’s objectives or vision into the future, as well as Key Performance Indicators.
#5 Sit back and watch your business/brand evolve online
The beauty of using an agency is that you should expect all bases to be covered.
- Appropriate platform
Magento, WordPress, Kentico, Salesforce, Shopify are just a few of the platforms that people host their websites on and which one to use depends on your business. Engaging the correct platform from the outset is critical to all businesses moving forward in terms of functionality abd scaling the business in the future.
- SEO structure
It is essential to involve Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) from the earliest stages of a website build. Creating keyword optimised landing pages will help Google recognise what your business is and subsequently, with an ongoing content strategy, high quality organic traffic will be driven to your site.
- Clever custom animations
Being able to customise apps and other integrations is essential to truly bringing a brand to life online. Agencies make it their mission to tweak existing apps to best fit the profile of the business they are working for. This allows entirely bespoke interactions that will truly enhance the appearance and performance of the site.
- Seamless user experience
Creating a site that is easy to navigate, with intuitive integrations and that’s pleasing both visibly as well as practically is a crucial part of attracting engaging and retaining visitors to a site.
- Responsive design
Increasingly people use a variety of devices to access the internet making it essential to develop a website that transitions seamlessly from one device to another.
#6 Key considerations
- Does this agency have the right expertise?
The agency doesn’t necessarily have to be old but it is worth checking the experience of the team who is going to be working on your account. It has been known that experienced people will be in the discovery stages in order to win the brief and subsequently pass the account onto less able juniors. Whilst this is great in teaching other people skills, it might not be ideal in terms of building your website.
- Does this agency offer all of the services I require?
Where possible find an agency where all departments — SEO, Development, UX, Copy Writing to name but a few — are housed under one roof. In terms of simplicity, efficiency and ease of communication this is far better than working with agencies who sub-contact elements out to people who might be based on the other side of the world
- Is my business important to them?
Find people who care. If it is a small project don’t go to a big agency because they might not assign the same amount of time as they do to other projects.
- How many people will be working on my account?
This will vary throughout the build. Expect all sections to be involved during the initial discovery stages but once designs and strategies have been laid down the teams will work individually on the sections that are relevant to them before passing it onto the next to complete theres.
- Who will be my main contact?
Ensure clear lines of communication are set up and you know who you speak to directly should you need to
- What am I paying for?
You are paying for a team of experts in their respective fields to help bring your business to life on line. In a world where digital is taking over a little more each day, it is essential that we keep up with the times and by creating a beautiful website you will extend your reach enormously.
- Do you like and trust them?
This isn’t just an agency who you need to help you in the short term. These individuals are going to be dealing with something which is incredibly important to you and as such you need to not only to like them, but more importantly trust them. You need to be able to look at them and tell that they are going to treat your baby – so to speak – with the upmost respect. Essentially a website design agency becomes intimately involved in the development of your brand/business and as such you need to see that they care.
- Are they asking the right questions?
The agency should develop a deep understanding of the business and how it works during the initial discovery stage, this should also look into key performance indicators and future targets.
- Are they able to provide testimonials and examples of work?
Whilst the agency doesn’t necessarily have to be too old, it is important that at least a few of the people who work there have considerable experience working in the industry. This can be tested by looking at the testimonials on both the individual as well as the work they have done.
Ultimately what you ant to ask yourself is whether or not you will form a good relationship with the agency and especially the team who are going to be working on your account.
Contact with an agency rarely ends after the build is complete and usually an agency will offer retainer packages to manage a website into the future. Moreover finding an agency who offers on-going SEO and content marketing retainer strategies that will help drive high quality organic traffic to your site.
By implementing an effective lead generation and conversion strategy you stand to dramatically increase your profits, or engagement, or whatever objectives you are pursuing.
Whilst on the surface this might seem like quite a daunting task, the reality is that it’s actually relatively straightforward. In fact you have done the tricky bit already by building a beautiful website – now you just need to add the polish. So, lets role up our sleeves and and start the process of boosting your business into the stratosphere.
And joy of joys, look what comes up first…
1) Search Engine Optimisation
First things first – you have to begin by attracting quality traffic to your site. This fundamentally means you need to have a good SEO strategy in place. Google prides itself on matching people’s queries with the most relevant web pages and so it’s in your interest to help Google understand the content on your website as clearly as possible.
Bringing low quality visitors to your site is as useful as a chocolate teapot.
Granted your might get lucky and convert them further down the line, but this will be more by luck than judgement. By writing regular quality content and optimising site structure, Google will naturally drive quality traffic to your site.
So, now that you are reaching out to your target audience you need to ensure that your site’s functionality is at the optimum in terms of speed and ease of navigation. As we’ve mentioned in other blog posts involving SEO, negative bias is especially strong in relation to online activity and so the user experience needs to be top draw.
Employing SEO for lead generation is generally, but not exclusively, implemented for non-eCommerce products/services/goals in that you’re trying to entice the visitor into making an enquiry, thus moving them a closer to conversion and a little further down the much talked about sales funnel. SEO for eCommerce is a slightly different kettle of fish which we’ll get into later.
One important thing to remember is that search traffic is among the highest quality traffic online in that the user has already expressed an interest in what they are looking for, otherwise they wouldn’t be there. So, make the most of it!
What is the point in encouraging unqualified or low quality visitors to hand over their email addresses? The juice simply isn’t worth the squeeze and you’ll end up waisting valuable time trying to convert somebody that simply doesn’t want to convert. A far more effective way of operating is to only attract those who are interested in your service or product from the outset. Whilst this might mean less traffic, this doesn’t equate to less conversion.
2) Move them down the funnel
In most instances in life people like to choose the easiest route possible and so the job of the website host is to not only to encourage the visitor to stay on the site, but also urge them to take the next step, whatever that might be, by guiding and engaging with them every step of the way. This needs to be done subtly so as not to annoy the visitor but it also must be proactive – never simply ‘expect’ people to do what you want them to. Encourage them, entice them, dangle a delicious looking carrot in front of their nose and lead them to the next step.
It is well known that people’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. There are many tools available today that allow you to maintain the focus of your visitor.
I bet that anyone who spends even a short time browsing online each day will encounter what is known as an ‘overlay’.
Read Justin’s insightful article on how to increase email opt-in rates.
Who are we to argue with Justin?!
The trick with these is to ensure that you don’t annoy the visitor – quite often you come across a website that abuses these tools and ultimately this will have a negative effect. Whilst they are invasive and a quite aggressive way of approaching potential customers, the reason why you see the all of the time is that they work.
Overlays are aimed at first time visitors and the objective is to quickly obtain their information before they leave the site. In most cases they will appear as soon as a visitor arrives.
4) LEAD MAGNETS / LEAD HOOKS
These are not as in your face as overlays as they can be triggered as a response to the manner in which your visitor is moving around your website and, generally speaking, they offer an immediate benefit for the visitor, like ‘20% Off’ or ‘Free Shipping’.
Overlays are enticing little pop-ups – for want of a better expression – that appear after you have spent a certain amount of time on a webpage and they’re designed to encourage the visitor to convert, whether it be by proposing a one off offer should they go to the checkout or a free consultation if they get in touch.
Generally speaking ‘lead hooks’ are triggered when the visitor reaches a certain point of your page. Essentially they have committed enough time on page to demonstrate that they are interested in the subject. This being the case they are more likely to engage in whatever you’re offering, whether it be a call-to-action, an offer or redirecting them to another page of your site. Like contact forms they can also be a method of capturing email addresses.
In both of these examples it is important to give your visitor an incentive. Especially nowadays with countless stories of data breeches, people are not willing to give up their valuable information for free so offering them something like a free handbook or access to an upcoming webinar is essential if you are going to convince them to part with their contact information.
This is also a chance to be creative – don’t just write a run of the mill, boring CTA like ‘Join our Newsletter’. This provides no incentive to your visitor. Get creative and make it worth there while!
As ever it isn’t as simple as offering them a juicy bone. Different dogs like different bones (I’m not sure if this is entirely true but regardless you understand what I mean!) and this is especially relevant now because there are three different types of leads; early-stage, mid-stage and late-stage. You have to approach all three with a different strategy.
Read what Dummies have to say about the three different types of early, mid and late stage buyers
5) Intelligent Lead Generation
Understanding who your customers are, the tone of voice to use with them and the stage they are at in the sales funnel is an essential part in converting leads into sales.
There are a number of tools that help you do this, Convert Plus, OptinMonster (as seen in the alongside image) and Sumo to name but a few.
Checkout exactly what the Convert Pro plugin does in this video.
These intelligent systems allow you to target specific users, whether they are new or returning, with specific messages depending on who they are.
These tools are designed to keep visitors on the site, encourage engagement and conversion and even contact visitors who have recently left the site.
Setting up ‘lead alerts’ that tell you when a new qualified visitor is on your site allows you to engage them directly thus giving you a greater chance of converting them.
73% of your leads are not ‘sales ready’ for a variety of reasons. Keeping in touch with recent visitors in order to keep them interested is an effective way of encouraging conversion but speed is a critical part of this. Infusionsoft is one of many tools that can send an automated email to recent visitors with differing messages depending on where they were in the sales cycle / funnel.
As ever balance is important and whilst you want to imprint your brand at the forefront of your customers mind, it’s important not to over do it or do it in an overtly aggressive manner – this might sound obvious but it’s something that many people get wrong.
It is often necessary to build trust with the customer before they convert and in some cases this might mean contacting them as many as 6 times before they edge the ultimate outcome. However, know your limits and disengage with people who show no sign of converting, not only from the point of view of not waisting your time, but also in order to remain within the confines of the new General Data Protection Regulation laws.
6) A / B Testing (Split testing)
Developing the correct tone of voice and working out what works and what doesn’t is an essential part of developing a lead generation strategy.
By implementing split testing at the beginning of your campaign you’ll be able to quickly determine which one of your strategies is converting more traffic.
Have a look at some examples of A / B Testing and how it can significantly effect the way you role out a lead conversion strategy.
Lead generation, conversion and retention is an iterative process that must constantly be massaged in order to know that you’re operating at full capacity. It doesn’t happen over night. Take your time, adapt and don’t be afraid to try knew things.
The moral of this story is to be proactive. Don’t sit on your laurels and wait for traffic to convert.
But who am I to say that?
Take it from someone who’s done pretty well in their life/career…
Ladies and gentleman, without further ado…
Mr…. Stephen….. Coveyyyyyyy
(Who I hear your cry? I admit I found this quote on Google – but don’t let that detract from its relevance…)
“The most important thing in this highly competitive world is action, and you just need to take matters in your hand, create your own possibilities, and be proactive. Whether it is your career or personal life, get going; take charge; make it happen; be proactive!”
So, roughly translated; understand who is coming to your website, entice them to stay, encourage them to engage and inspire them to convert.
Have you built a website and are looking to transform leads into sales? Do you need any help doing this?
You’ve probably encountered both of these phrases online, often used interchangeably, but what is the difference between the two? And how do they relate to each other?
Well let’s find out by taking a closer look at exactly what’s involved, starting with front end development.
What is a Front End Developer?
A front end developer, often referred to as a web developer, is someone that implements the visual elements that users see and interact with on a website.
This is distinct from a web designer, who is responsible for the visual concept of a website, such as page layouts, grids, templates, typography and general ‘look and feel’.
So What Does Front End Development Involve?
Essentially a front end developer takes a mock-up of a website from a designer and develops this concept into a website using development languages such as HTML and CSS.
The result is what’s known as a static website – a website that doesn’t change, transform or rely on dynamic /interactive features, such as allowing a user to fill in a form and submit information.
How Does a Front End Developer Make a Website Dynamic?
In a nutshell, this allows information to be collected from the front end of the website and stored in the database. Or, conversely, it allows information to be retrieved from the database and displayed on the front end of the website.
A perfect example of this is process in action is Facebook. After registering for a Facebook account using the front end of the website your personal details will be stored in the Facebook database.
Then, when you log into Facebook your account details are retrieved from the database and a personalised version of Facebook is presented to you.
So What is a Back End Developer?
Back end development refers to the development of applications such as Content Management Systems which run on the server and are used to convey information between the database and the browser / front end.
Back end developers are often referred to as programmers or coders, since their work is very much focussed on building applications using server based coding languages such as PHP, Ruby, Python and .Net.
What does backend development involve?
Backend development takes place on the server, often referred to as the ‘server side. Essentially this means anything that happens ‘behind the scenes’ away from the front end of the website.
Essentially if a website requires any additional dynamic functionality, it’s the job of the backend developer to develop it, test it and ensure that it functions with speed and responsiveness in mind.
This could range from a comprehensive internal search system for the website, to simply ensuring that the drop down menu that the front end developer places on the website is populated with information pulled from the database.
So What is a Full Stack Developer?
A full stack developer is a developer that is familiar with both front end and back end development languages. These developers have an understanding of the individual layers that go into software development and can specialise in any area of that development process.
A Final Thought
The role of ‘developer’ is evolving almost as rapidly as the software and technology that developers use. It just isn’t as clear cut as front end or back end anymore, not when so many other disciplines are involved in the development process.
The days of a lone ‘web designer’ building an entire company website in a few hours before heading off to the slopes for a cheeky snowboarding session are over.
These days development requires the input of UI designers for the visuals, UX designers to ensure the right goals are achieved and QA testers to make sure that everyone has done their jobs correctly.
Who knows, the way things are going with recent advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence, will we even need web developers 10 years from now?