Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Avoiding chargebacks and improving business

Chargebacks are frustrating and expensive assaults on a retailer's bottom line. But practical and smart merchants can learn from some chargebacks, improving their stores' performance, customer satisfaction, and operational excellence.

When a consumer asks his or her credit card company for a refund, a merchant can suffer a chargeback. That is, the credit card company will reach into a merchant's bank account and take the total amount of the transaction that's being charged back. Then, any one of three or more different types of organizations—issuing banks, merchant banks, and payment gateways—could charge the merchant a fee for its trouble. Throughout this process, no one bothers to inform or ask the merchant.

Read more here: http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/893-Ecommerce-Know-How-Avoiding-Chargebacks-and-Improving-Business

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Protect your online business

Sound advice for an often forgotten about element of your shop - Proper terms and conditions. Check it out here:


Monday, November 17, 2008

Raise your conversion rates

I've heard a huge variation of figures in online conversion rates, anywhere from 0.5% up to a massive 15-20%. There are also tools to measure conversions, such as Google's conversion tracking - but you must remember, Google's main focus is Google. You need to know how to raise conversions across the board, not just as a result of improving your adwords campaign. The good news is - simple and sensible refinements can go a long way. If you're not already doing the following - you can improve your conversion rate:
  • Make it easy to find things
  • Show all prices up front - including shipping
  • Secure your site
  • Have an easy to use checkout
  • Provide incentives
  • Present your products professionally and enticingly
  • Allow community input
  • Let users research the product
  • Make top sellers and popular products even more accessible
  • Give good and prompt service
  • Comprehensive info Refund policies, guarantees and general customer assurance
  • Introduce loyalty programs or free vouchers for good customers
  • Keep your site fresh - work the seasons (Christmas, Easter, Back to school, special events etc) into site promotions

Getting potential customers to your site is only half of it. Once they're there - you need to convert! You've heard it said that the easiest business you'll find is from returning customers - so give them a reason to come back.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Get customers to interact

Repeat visits to a site are a hard thing to get - which is why there was so much hype about social networking online. It is a way to get people to interact with one another, and for them to have a reason to come back later.

How do we apply this to an online shopping site? Amazon has always been the leader - with ratings and relevant customer reviews, but you must not forget - each new interaction feature brings with it the overhead of impartial moderation. It can't be a free for all - because negativity could reflect badly on your site or competitors could take advantage, but it also can't be a police state where nothing but the most glowing reports get published (unless you want to come off looking like the great firewall of China). A set of rules accompanying user interaction like this is often a good idea - it's one of the best moderated forums I've used in a long time.

A great idea I saw today - allow users to post pictures or videos of them using products bought off your site. It gives that personal touch to visitors of the site, and triggers emotions in potential buyers to think - I could do that too, only better!

Many aspects of social networking not only can be applied to a shopping experience - but they should be mandatory requirements of a modern shopping system.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Get a web worker

In my experience, too many people have got the mindset of "set and forget" when it comes to maintaining an online shop. The thing is - can you afford to do this for your "bricks" store front?

In your store - of course you make sure all the products are on display appropriately, that your staff are there to help with queries in a friendly and personal manner, that the music sets the mood of the store, that the floor gets vacuumed, and that products are placed strategically through the store to catch that impulse purchase.

So why is it so hard to apply these principles in the online version of your store? The answer - it's not hard, it's just a slight change of mindset.

Get a dedicated web worker - they're no different than the checkout chick who also makes sure the shelves are packed right, except they're taking care of the online specials, the content, the emailed queries and a variation of order fulfilment. The skill set required is minimum - you're not hiring programmers here, you just need someone who can use a website with an admin system.

Your online store may be a small percentage of your bricks store - but if it's got customers and pulling in dollars it deserves ongoing attention.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Ship with gifts – online shopping with personality

I ordered a gizmo from an online shopping site a month or two ago – and what sticks in mind the most is not the product I ordered (I haven’t even used it yet), but the stuff that got shipped with it that I didn’t ask for.
  1. A hand written note in big black texta saying thanks
  2. A lanyard

I didn’t really care about the lanyard, but the note was a different story. On closer inspection of the note with a magnifying glass revealed of course it was a printout, but it was done so well, in a friendly and easy going manner that it compelled me to take a closer look. The details were immaculate - no standard computer fonts or fudging, not even standard A4 paper. It was even slightly scrunched up then unfurled and folded in half - just giving that human touch. It just shows that impersonal nature of online shopping can be made personal if done right.

It didn’t cost them any money – just a simple process to say “make sure this gets packed for first time customers”.

I’m sure I’ll buy from that shopping site again because it felt so good to get that first order. This time round I’ll try to make sure my hard earned cash goes to something I’ll actually use!


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

PCI Compliance

The deadline for PCI compliance has now passed in the US. For Australia - people have begun to raise their awareness of the issue, but the urgency simply doesn't seem to be there.

Why is PCI compliance so important? Because it's secure.

Many shop keepers still have the opinion that they have a right to store credit card data. The bottom line is though - THERE IS NO NEED.

The main excuse is "how do I know how much to charge for shipping?", but I say - put a pricing system in for shipping so you can automate! Wouldn't you rather set it and leave it, rather than stress over the price of postage? Sure every now and then you might need to take a small loss on postage, but set it so that 95% of the time you always come off better for it. The time you save putting a proper system in will more than pay for a few discrepancies.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Essentials of every shopping cart

If your shopping cart doesn't have the following, put them on! If it's beyond your ability - go back to your web developer and get them installed NOW.
  • Category list. On every page.
  • Search. On every page. With relevant results.
  • Cart summary. On every page.
  • Call to action incentives. Specials and Features and Freebies! oh my!
  • Detail pages for products. Customer research - let them do it.
  • SEO tailored to detail pages. Page titles should be: product name - category - store name. that way, the product name is the first thing that shows in search engine listings. Product name should always be the only thing in H1 tags. Why? deep linking is fast becoming the way to get listed on search engines - it's not just about the home page.
  • High quality photos. Obvious - but so many people get it wrong.
  • More photos. Multi product views
  • Info Sheets. Exploded parts diagrams. Videos. Research. Research. Research.
  • Reviews. Testimonials. Recommendations. Shortcomings.
  • Cross sell. Up sell. Bundles.
  • Security. This deserves another blog post.
  • Privacy.
  • Up front terms.
  • A real phone number.
  • Easy checkout.
  • Real time credit card processing. If it's not real time, it's not PCI compliant, which means it's not as secure as it could be.
  • Upfront shipping costs.

Inversely, if your site has the following, get rid of them NOW.

  • "Click here to shop". The whole point of an online store is for people to shop - they don't want to click to shop, they should already be doing it!
  • Pop ups for larger image views of a product. Everyone has blockers these days. Use a modal pop up or mouse over enlargement instead.
  • Non optimised thumbnails.
  • Search with irrelevant results.
  • Slow loading page elements.

There's much more to add here. This is just a start.


Sunday, March 2, 2008

Drag and drop carts a good idea?

While it's a cool GUI feature - I fail to see the merits in employing drag and drop for shopping cart systems. A simple click of the "Add to cart" button is much more simple than the click, drag, and release to do exactly the same thing. You can see an example of a drag and drop GUI facility here:


Everyone knows what the "Add to cart" button does - why complicate it?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Thanks for stopping by! Over the coming posts I'll be discussing all things to do with quality online shopping systems. What to do, what not to do, new trends, new standards, good (and bad) examples, and everything in between.

I'm your host - Bill Thomas. I've been building web sites for a living - and have been in the web development game for over 10 years. I've learnt a thing or two about what works, what doesn't and what's just plain wrong. My interest in online shopping systems comes from many experiences across a wide variety of retail and wholesale systems. From that experience - I've found shop keepers to be a challenging customer type, many of whom cut corners whereever possible. When it comes to security or any other pressing technical issues though, the customer is not always right.

I hope you find it informative, don't hesitate to give me feedback!