Discuss

Category Archives: Uncategorized

5 Key Global Online Marketplace Brands

By | Announcements, Comment, ecommerce, Uncategorized, Web Store | No Comments

global online market

The process of global expansion has changed significantly over the last 5 years, so much so that eBusiness decision makers are no longer expanding internationally through the traditional method of building several direct-to-consumer websites. These days, many leaders are creating official accounts that act as online storefronts on various marketplaces to further their reach.

The sheer number of these online marketplaces might make it difficult for you to choose where to create a storefront, which is why we at Enform have narrowed down your choices to 5 leading marketplaces that offer compelling reasons for business owners and brand managers to extend their reach through their sites.

Why Marketplaces?

In several countries, marketplaces offer plentiful options for brand stores across different categories and represent a huge chunk of all online sales in their respective territories—it’s an opportunity just waiting to be exploited.

Although global online marketplaces are home to thousands of small to medium enterprises selling their wares on these platforms, these marketplaces have increased their options specifically for official brand owners.

Marketplaces are highly appealing today because they:

  • Offer instant access to a large audience. These buyers are major hubs for international shoppers. This eliminates the need to build an international customer base from the ground up, as marketplaces already aggregate online shoppers in their territories for you.
  • Streamline entry into their international markets. Entry into new international markets has never been easier with global marketplaces. One of the key obstacles that impede the entry of brands into new markets is the cost of building new direct-to-consumer websites solely for a specific region.

Marketplaces solve this problem by offering a smooth, low-cost entry into a foreign market. Furthermore, the top marketplaces have existing relationships with third-party providers that provide customer service or after sales support—something brands no longer have to spend on.

Marketplace Challenges

Of course, marketplaces aren’t without their share of challenges. eBusiness leaders should take note of the following:

  • Marketplaces might demand that you offer your products at discount prices. Marketplaces often revolve around the concept of offering bargains to shoppers. True enough, eBay’s Fashion Galleries are home to several outlet shops, Rakuten likes to wow shoppers with deals right on their home page, while Tmall has several brands offering extended sale periods on certain special holidays. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but for brands looking to sell their products near their retail price, this can be a problem.
  • Marketplaces can put a dent on creativity. Some marketplaces like to maintain a level of uniformity across all the brands on their sites, so the rigidity of these templates can mean having less wiggle room to stand out with your storefronts.
  • Marketplaces offer limited to no access to customer behavioural data. The top marketplaces share some data with sellers, albeit not as much as you would get if you ran your own e-commerce site. For instance, Tmall shares data on page views for product listings, store traffic, conversions, transaction prices, and more. However, Tmall and other marketplaces fail to offer information on the product paths of customers, which means having no idea on your customers’ browsing behaviour.

The Top 5 Global Marketplaces

Amazon

amazon

Established in 1994, Amazon stands out as the only company featured in this report that handles operates international marketplaces alongside conventional online retail businesses. With the combination of online retail and marketplace offerings, Amazon is easily the dominant online retail player in the United States as well as in a number of international territories.

Outside American and Canada, Amazon drives 85 percent of its revenues from Germany (35% of international revenues), Japan (26%), and the United Kingdom (24%).

Some of the key takeaways from working with Amazon include:

  • Amazon brand store reach extends across several countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, China, Japan, and India. With its global reach and uniform technologies, Amazon presents an attractive and easy option for brands to build official stores across multiple markets.
  • Amazon actively reviews brand stores and makes recommendations on improvements. The online retail giant offers brand stores the option to incorporate several features and tools into their systems, which include online video and access to deep product information.
  • Another area where Amazon separates itself from other marketplaces is in the kind of customer information it provides to sellers. Instead of receiving data on customer shopping behaviour, brand stores are provided with an Amazon service where the company automatically evaluates for a brand for performance in key areas. The results of this review are placed in a dashboard that compares the seller against rival stores in the same category.

eBay

ebay_logo

No marketplace discussion is complete without a mention of eBay. Starting out as an online auction site in 1995, eBay has since expanded into one of the largest online marketplaces in the world. At present, the site runs localised customer-to-customer (C2C) marketplaces across 22 countries in North America, Europe, and the Asia Pacific region, with more than half of all its total revenues derived from outside the United States.

Key takeaways to bear in mind entering global markets with eBay include:

  • eBay’s brand stores are primarily targeted towards key markets and categories, for now at least.  Although the company’s international marketplaces have a wide reach, its enhanced offerings for brand stores are significantly concentrated. It wasn’t until 2011 that eBay created a commission-based brand store serviced named Fashion Gallery in Australia and the United Kingdom; eBay’s localised marketplaces in these regions boast of more than 100 brand stores, with offerings ranging from accessories, apparel, and footwear. Fashion Outlet is a brand store offering in the United States that works the same way.
  • eBay provides brands with the option to use its fulfillment options, or to turn to the company’s logistics systems. In addition, brands can also benefit from eBay’s resources when answering inquiries related to Fashion Gallery.
  • Brand stores wanting to make an impression on customers will be happy to know that eBay’s brand store offerings are highly customisable, with Fashion Galleries having their own hub of pages to distinguish them from the rest of the marketplace.
  • Individual brand stores can be customised according to the desires of managers and owners, who may want to build marketing-heavy pages, or a store that focuses on conventional eCommerce layouts.

Mercadolibre

Mercadolibre

Founded in 1999, MercadoLibre is the leading online marketplace in Latin America, operating marketplaces across 12 countries in the region. As of 2013, more than 40 percent in the company’s revenues came from Brazil, while 25 percent came from Argentina. Key markets for the company include Mexico and Venezuela.

Key takeaways for brands expanding on MercadoLibre include:

  • While MercadoLibre has operated successful marketplaces in Latin America, the addition of brand stores is a fairly new development. The first brand store emerged in Argentina in June 2013, Brazil the following year, and Mexico earlier this year. The most popular sellers focus on fashion—apparel, footwear, and accessories. Overall, however, MercadoLibre sees a significant percentage of sales coming from computer hardware and electronics.
  • MercadoLibre provides localised features for the Latin America segment. For brand owners, the company labels brand offerings to distinguish them apart from regular marketplace vendors. In addition, shoppers can search for products specifically within the brand site. Other localised features include instalment payment schemes, and local payment options.

MercadoLibre also offers an online wallet called MercadoPago, plus the option for customers to pay via local payment centers such as boletos bancáriosin Brazil or Oxxo convenience stores in Mexico.

Rakuten

Rakuten

Established in 1997, Rakuten has grown to become Japan’s dominant eCommerce company, boasting of more than 85 million registered users, and a market share pegged at 30% in the country.

Over the last decade, Rakuten has bolstered its expansion plans by acquiring several international eCommerce and fulfillment companies from all over the world, allowing the company to offer international shipping from its domestic marketplace, as well as launch multiple marketplaces outside of Japan. The company runs marketplaces in the US, UK, Thailand, Taiwan, Spain, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil, Germany, France, and Austria.

Brands interested in expanding through Rakuten should take note of the following:

  • Rakuten is unique due to how it operates different types of marketplaces, depending on the region their based in. The company brands its marketplaces differently around the world; for instance, in countries like Thailand, France, and the UK, Rakuten operates a co-branded site with the Rakuten name alongside a partner marketplace acquired by the company. On the other hand, marketplaces in the US and Brazil only bear the Rakuten name.
  • Offerings for brand stores are available on Rakuten’s flagship site in Japan, as well as other select marketplaces. Still, brand stores are most established in Japan, with Rakuten providing several enhanced brand services such as fulfilment options and customer service solutions—the latter being a major challenge for brands as Japanese customers have some of the world’s highest customer service expectations.
  • Localisation is perhaps the most compelling reason for brands to sign up with Rakuten. Brand stores by Reebok and Toys R Us on its flagship store are heavily tailored for the Japanese consumer in terms of site design. Rakuten describes its brand stores as completely blank canvasses, with only a small header on the top marking the store as being under the Rakuten Marketplace.
  •  Payment options are also localised, with shoppers given the option to pay at convenience stores as well as through a myriad of offline and online options unique to Japan. Other markets see a similar style of localised payment option, such as cash-on-delivery for metropolitan districts in Indonesia, and instalment schemes in Brazil.

Tmall

Tmall

Anyone looking to penetrate the Chinese market should take a hard look at Tmall. Operated by Alibaba, Tmall was first launched in 2008 as a separate site from its C2C counterpart Taobao. Today, Tmall caters to shoppers in China, Taiwan, as well as SAR regions Hong Kong and Macau.

Tmall stands out for providing a marketplace experience that guarantees genuine products to customers, and liberal customisation options for brands wanting to control their store’s shopping experience.

The site is the dominant player in China’s B2C eCommerce segment, with estimates of its market share in the country hovering around 50 percent—far beyond any other marketplace in the region.

Brands looking to tap into the Chinese market through Tmall should take note:

  • Tmall is a favourite among many global brands selling online in China and surrounding territories. With more than 100,000 brands, around 2,000 of which are international companies, Tmall boasts of an estimated 500 million registered shoppers.
  • The variety of brands on Tmall is impressive, ranging from consumer electronic brands like Samsung and Apple, apparel brands such as Nike and Levi’s, as well as a variety of brands in surprising categories like food. In fact, ice cream company Haagen-Dazs sells around 2 million RMB or US$ 325,000 of products on the site every month.

Final Thoughts

thoughts on market

Opportunities for brands to sell their products through online marketplaces are growing quickly, all while the marketplaces themselves are trying to meet the specific demands of their growing clientele. For eBusiness leaders of global brands, here are some key takeaways we at Enform have outlined for you.

  • Analyse how marketplaces can match your needs. Some marketplaces allow you to tap into multiple markets, while others enable to really delve deeper in one specific region. Examine your partnership options and see which ones are in line with your global expansion goals and more importantly, your budget.
  • Don’t shy away from giving marketplaces your feedback. Let marketplaces know what features and tools are important to your brand. With marketplace solutions evolving as we speak, now’s the best time to let them know what things should be integrated into their offerings for brand vendors.

Auto Parts Aftermarket Online, e-Commerce and all that PART 1: What’s it all about and why should I care?

By | Automotive, Blog, ecommerce, Research, Social Media, Uncategorized | No Comments

Reprinted from Undercar Review magazine – April 2014 issue 

By Jim Gurieff of PARts Australia www.partsdb.com.au

PART 1: What’s it all about and why should I care?

In 1997 the Australian new vehicle market was around 650,000 units and of that, Falcon and Commodore platforms accounted for over 200,000 or 30% of the total new cars sold.

Jump to 2013 and the number of new cars sold was over 1.13 million and of that, less than 70,000 were Commodore or Falcon based.

Meanwhile, the AAAA reports as part of its latest industry report – “Workshops and repairers crave an integrated vehicle and product fitment lookup with VIN and service data as part of a point-of-sale solution.”

With over 200 unique new models added to the Australian market in 2013 we now have one of the most diverse vehicle markets in the world spread over a relatively small volume base. With the demise of local manufacturing and an inevitable pure import market the industry has to adjust to knowing more about more vehicles at an increasing rate.

At the same time, the range of product available today is more diverse than ever before so accurate and timely service and product information is even more important.

Customers Looking For Outcomes

To add another layer of complexity, our customers are using the web more and more for product reviews, service information and price shopping for products and services while increasingly demanding of the way in which this information is provided. I want it now and when  it suits me.

So back to the question, why should I and the undercar industry care?

Because every industry needs to adapt to the changing environment and the connected digital world is accelerating the rate of change.

We are product and service providers and we need to remember that the end user customer or consumer is actually looking for outcomes and not just parts or service. They are most often driven by the need to repair a fault, pass registration, upgrade their vehicle or any number of other actual outcomes.

It’s rare that a vehicle owner wakes up one day and thinks that replacing their muffler would be a good thing to do that day. So when they do think about the problem, potential outcome and solution, all the industry players need to be ready to provide the answers and solution.

In simple terms, it’s about giving the customer what they want. A simple enough statement but not always considered by some in the aftermarket parts industry.

The following has been put together in conjunction with one of our digital and online specialist marketing partners, Enform Networks. This 2-part summary pulls together research, advice and case studies from various sources to help explain the current environment and the where the market might be headed.

The last few years have seen an explosion in online retail sales of auto parts. Major players like Amazon and eBay are enjoying  significant growth in many sectors of online retail sales and that clearly includes auto parts and related products. IBlSWorld reports a 13.3% annualised growth in Australian online automotive parts and accessories sales between 2008 to 2013 while US numbers are even stronger.

Clearly we are seeing a migration toward online fulfilment of retail consumer demand while trade and reseller purchases are moving toward closed user group solutions offered by the industry wholesalers and their business-to-business (B2B) portals. Many of the same wholesalers are also offering retail solutions to complement existing bricks-and-mortar or physical services with many more building virtual stores and online outlets that often exceed the service delivery offer available through their retail store fronts, try free shipping direct to the customer’s door!

Future projections are equally bullish with continuing double digit growth expected across all categories with reports specifically mentioning traditional “hard parts” categories including undercar brakes, shocks and suspension.

So it’s not just “S & G” lines (as the hard parts purists sometimes call accessories) but all manner of parts. This is an important misconception that poses one of the biggest threats to traditional parts sales and service thinking and is just one area of Significant risk to parts suppliers and sellers.

Along with our online specialist partners, we try to help our clients adapt to the changing nature of customer expectations and their channel preferences because after all, it’s about giving the customer what they want and also where they want it.

It’s natural to resist change. This applies to every level of the distribution chain and across all industries but some businesses are more resistant than others.

The area of data standards is particularly tough as suppliers and sellers struggle to defend and justify their own carefully cultivated data silos. Having worked in the aftermarket for a few decades, I’ve seen the changes to fitment cataloguing and product data creation and management.

Once the digital age picked up speed in the ’90s, we saw the beginning of the age of data-divergence as more and more suppliers and sellers built their own data solutions imagining that this would somehow provide a significant and durable commercial edge. In many cases it did and some of these are still working well however for many others, it proved to be a distraction and a costly diversion from the core business of making, selling and servicing parts.

Parts

After all, how many different versions of a Commodore VT 6 cylinder sedan data record do we really need?

The ’00s saw a maturing of the discreet data silo model as more and more sellers realised that having “another industry standard” that their suppliers would need to contribute to was actually working against them both in terms of cost and support. Meanwhile, the European parts suppliers created the Tee Doc industry standard (as one example) and the AAIA in the US launched the ACES/PIES system to help their industry.

The last few years have seen an acceleration towards standardisation with more and more suppliers and sellers adopting some sort of standard, a time of data-convergence. This is good news for both the industry and consumer and helps the aftermarket compete better while supporting the aims of programs like the AAAA Choice of Repairer campaign.Which leads us back to the real point and reason for the automotive parts aftermarket, selling more aftermarket products to auto parts consumers!

Online channels are not a silver bullet to rescue flagging sales. It’s a different way to market and requires different skills and resources and doesn’t suit all types of products. However, according to the National Australia Bank, the value of annualised online retail sales for the 12 months to end February 2013 was $13.1 billion or 5.9% of all retail spending with a year-on-year growth of 19%.

If you don’t have an online strategy or your strategy is not delivering that sort of growth rate, you’re falling behind. Embrace the opportunity and make sure you’re visible where your customers are.

Next time we’ll look at some practical ideas, suggestions and case studies to help you think about a strategy that suits you.

Auto Parts Aftermarket Online, e-Commerce and all that PART 2: What are my options?

By | Automotive, Blog, ecommerce, Research, Social Media, Uncategorized | No Comments

Reprinted from Undercar Review magazine – June 2014 issue 

By Jim Gurieff of PARts Australia www.partsdb.com.au

Part 1 of this article appeared in the April 2014 issue of Undercar Review. In part 2 we follow on with this topic and look at the “how” and “what” side assuming we now have an answer to “why should I care”. That is, assuming online and e-commerce is important to me, what are my options and how can I deploy them?

So assuming that we’re talking about solutions and strategies using open solutions and standards, the following are some typical questions and answers to help guide you to the right decision for your business.

The reason why open standards are mentioned is that the last thing you should be doing is looking at custom data or technology solutions that leave you with something unique. Imagine building your own accounting software, word processor or worst still, creating your own vehicle table that you had to maintain?

Who is my customer – B2B, B2C or both?
Business to business (B2B) means selling to others in the industry like a reseller store, workshop or garage. Business to consumer (B2C) is essentially retail so think about who you want to target and find the right solution for each or both. Remember, a business will often start with B2B and then want to expand to B2C.

 

AFI PARts B2

An effective B2B site needs lots of information and options for trade customers.

What are my business goals or expectations for this project?
You wouldn’t launch a new service or product without some clear goals and sales expectations and you shouldn’t build an e-commerce solution without some goals and expectations of potential sales.

With that you can develop a realistic budget based on an acceptable return on investment projection. It will cost money and the cost will be proportionate to the goals and targets. See more below about time and resources.

Do I have the time and resources I need?
Just because Google doesn’t charge you to search and you can read a newspaper online for free (for the moment), don’t think that building an online e-commerce store is free or cheap. People think that because its digital or online, web stores or web sites are cheap.

point1image

Yes they are a lot cheaper to build and fit out than a physical bricks-and-mortar store but you can’t expect to build any new business channel, sales division or strategy without a realistic investment. Technology and systems cost money and the more “robotic” (not requiring human input) they are the dearer the initial setup cost.

It also takes time to build and deploy a successful online or e-commerce strategy just like any new sales channel, product or service.

Do I have the staff I need?
Building something that works for your business also takes some love and attention. You need someone that believes in the project to take ownership and to nurture and maintain it ongoing. Remember that a successful web store or e-commerce site is akin to a successful shop front or merchandising store which means a good merchant in charge. Be realistic and make sure you have that person or persons before you start,that they understand the technology, “get” the goals and are supported by the business.

Do I need to sell on eBay or Amazon?
Amazon is not offering online sales in Australia yet (apart from Kindle and niche items) but they will arrive eventually. Note that apart from tyre outlets, one of the biggest sellers of car tyres in the US is Amazon.

Meanwhile, eBay is already here and their Parts and Accessories marketplace is now in the top 3 sales channels for aftermarket retail sales.

If you need to sell to retail or B2C you need to consider these channels in your decision making and technology choices. Suppliers who want to maximise retail sales of their brands need to make sure their product and fitment data is optimised and available for your B2C reseller or retailer customers.

What are the key elements?
Data, technology and merchandising are 3 main element groups.

  1. Data means anything from product information, catalogue or fitment, images and video links to inventory and pricing data from your own systems. Fundamentally you need to be able to acquire, store and link product data to pricing and inventory data to sell the product successfully.
  2. Technology is about the data management and delivery tool. This would involve your ERP or point-of-sale system, a web site, an e-commerce store or web shop as well as any integration tools to link the data together or process payments. It’s a big area but getting the previous points clear in your head first will make it easier to get the right technology.
  3. Merchandising is THE most important element ongoing and is often the difference between adequate and acceptable sales performance. This includes presentation of the product, data, range, pricing, stocking policies but also promotions, SEO (search engine optimisation) and even copywriting. A good digital “merchant” is just as important as a good shopkeeper.

What data do I need?
Product or fitment data is the key thing. Our industry is a complex one and the product data requirements are amongst the most complex around. It’s not just about finding the right part for low cost of sales but also making sure it fits and doesn’t injure someone.

The right product data solution needs to do the job of a parts interpreter and using industry standards or global solutions supported by the suppliers themselves is key.

The data needs to be detailed and flexible enough to be deployed where the supplier and seller need it and in the appropriate format. Many potential sources exist so think twice (or preferably not at all) about building your own.

e-Comm or e-commerce data is the other side and typically involves pricing and inventory data from the seller’s side.

It would also include freight rates, weights and measures like dimensional data needed for shipping and could also include the suppliers own availability data for more complex solutions.

DB_Console_Monroe                               Good quality product and fitment data that’s easy to manage and distribute is critical to e-commerce

What technology should I use?
Answer – the right one. Over simplified but the truth if you’ve answered and considered the above and talked to people that work in this area about your specific needs.

Options will include subscribed product and fitment data solutions like TecDoc or ACES/PIES. Service and repair data from providers like Autodata, VIN decoding and vehicle parc data from a variety of local and global
sources.

In some cases you may need an integration solution like Flow for complex systems or multi-channel market listing tools for eBay and Amazon like Commerce Connect, Channel Advisor or Neto.

The later also have the advantage of linking to your own web store but that then also includes most of the popular web site content management systems like Joomla or Magento and the associated shopping cart or e-commerce plug-ins.

Most importantly these are known, off-the-shelf products and solutions that are all used in automotive aftermarket e-commerce.

This also includes products like PARts B2, an off-theshelf specialised B2B and B2C e-commerce engine that can be rented by the month and connected to a product and fitment database source.

However, if you feel you need to go it alone in this area, limit the custom solutions and use off the shelf for as much as you can.

What about 3PL?
Third Party Logistics is a growing service area where suppliers use dedicated warehouse and logistics providers to store, pick and pack your orders. This is a great boom for growing and emerging businesses that operate online as it removes the need for warehousing and related staff letting you concentrate on merchandising.

There are an increasing number of sellers that are also using a type of 3PL function to drop-ship orders direct from the supplier to the customer. Efficient wholesalers or suppliers love this sort of business as they can deploy many sellers to manage the sales coal-face while they get on with the job or making and or distributing product.

If I build it they will come, right?
Imagine building the world’s most comprehensive auto parts store but then locating it out the–back-of-Bourke?

No offence intended to our regional and country brothers but there aren’t that many potential customers out there to support your mega parts store let alone any passing traffic.

Building a new store in the city needs an advertising and promotion strategy to get people to come and buy and an online web store is even more demanding as every new store may as well be out in the desert without some sort of promotion and marketing.

A big physical store front at least has some presence to passers-by whereas the biggest web store in the world is invisible unless it appears in search engines, is promoted via direct mail, with advertising both online and in the real world.

Needless to say this is an oversimplification and should be used as a guide to help you get started. It may seem too complex already but with the right answers and support from the right people it’s relatively straightforward to get a solution that suits you.

Most importantly, it’s not too hard and it should be a core part of your business in the current commercial environment.

Next time we will look at a couple of specific case studies from a B2B and B2C side.

Making Sense of Responsive Web Design For Mobile

By | Blog, ecommerce, Mobile, Social Media, Uncategorized, Web Design | No Comments

responsive web design

Responsive web design, or RWD for short, is a relatively new approach in web development wherein a website is designed to be capable of making dynamic changes to its appearance depending on the screen size and orientation of the device used to view the site/page.

RWD was conceived as a solution to designing for the growing number of devices capable of connecting to the web, which range from small smartphones, tablet devices, to traditional, large desktop monitors.

Designers use breakpoints in RWD to determine a site/page layout’s appearance, with one design above the breakpoint, and another used below it. These breakpoints usually depend on the browser’s width.

The same HTML code is used across all kinds of devices, with CSS used to change the layout and appearance of the page depending on the device used. Instead of creating a completely separate website and code for each device and screen size out there, RWD offers a single code base to support differently sized view ports.

This results in a design wherein page elements reshuffle depending on the view port’s size. For instance, a 3-column design for a desktop will shift to a 2-column design when viewed on a tablet, or into a 1-column design on a smartphone. Responsive design is hinged on proportion-based grids to reshuffle web content and design elements.

Common Problems

While responsive web design can be an effective solution to provide equal access to users on different devices, it can also lead to hiding some design elements out of necessity. This is common with background images, which have to be omitted when moving to smaller screens. When faced with the problem of hiding content and page functions, as well as altering the appearance of pages for device types, it’s important to base your decisions on information about your users and their needs.

Figure a. -3-column Design

Figure a. – 3-column Design

Figure b. -2-column and 1-column Design

Figure b. – 2-column and 1-column Design

An example of responsive design. Figure a. shows a 3-column design for desktop screens, while Figure b. shows a 2-column and 1-column design for tablets and smartphones respectively. 

Performance Issues

Performance can be a problem with RWD. Because it offers the same code regardless of device type, meaning a 5-inch phone gets the same code as 24-inch desktop display, it’s possible to run into performance problems, what with smartphones relying on a slower data connection.

It’s important to remember that changes in design occur on the client-side, so don’t test your designs in a controlled environment. Test your RWD in real environments, like outside where connectivity can be spotty and several factors come into play.

Usable Responsive Web Design

Since responsive design involves shuffling elements on a website, both design and development teams need to work together in order to create a usable web experience across all devices. RWD can be akin to solving a puzzle—figuring out how to shuffle around elements on larger screens to fit into smaller, longer displays, and vice versa.

However, it’s not just about making sure things fit. More importantly, it should be about making the design usable across different screen sizes and resolutions. With various site elements moving around the page, the user experience can be fragmented between devices, hence the importance of design and development teams coming together to evaluate the result of an RWD.

Responsive web design

Responsive web design options

Prioritizing Content

Another important aspect in RWD is content prioritization. This usually isn’t a problem with desktops, since more content is visible without scrolling on a large display. On smartphones however, the limited real estate eliminates the choice users have of looking around the page to find the content they want; designers and developers must now serve the content they deem most important to users, and place in an area of premium visibility.

The last thing mobile users want is to scroll endlessly down a page to find information of interest.

Bottom Line

It’s important to remember that responsive design is only a tool, not the final cure to device fragmentation. Many webmasters make the mistake of believing RWD to be perfect, it’s a solution and it doesn’t always ensure a usable experience. The techniques for common user experience are there, but designers and developers must hone them to support users across multiple devices.

 

Ideas to Make Your eDM Email Subject Lines Work

By | Blog, ecommerce, Uncategorized | No Comments

good-bad-subject-line-examples

The bitter truth: The vast majority of email newsletters, promotional campaigns, and email blasts never make their way past the crowded in boxes of their recipients.

Those that did manage to get views did so thanks to how users evaluated email subject lines and sender information.

Successful emails reach users who are confident enough to open them, and the keys to this are clear, easily recognisable sender information, and concise, well-written subject lines. Both factors help users make informed decisions on whether or not to open or bypass an email message.

Web usability experts the Nielsen/Norman Group (NN/g) put together some guidelines on how to create effective subject lines that should increase the chances of your emails’ success with users.

  1. Incorporate content into subject lines

With the mad rush of information reducing web users’ internet attention spans, email subject lines should let users know the kind of content the newsletter contains. Users want to know what’s in a message right away through the headline, and while it may seem like a good idea to tease users into reading a message, this is not the case with emails.

The argument against being too direct with subject lines is that users might not open an email newsletter if they see the content in the subject line right away.

NN/g however, notes that it’s much better to keep users informed and allow them to make a decision instead of forcing them to open the message only for them to have no interest in it. Most users may not even bother doing this, deleting the message instead. The interaction cost is simply too high with no clear benefit to the user. fail

We at Enform agree with NN/g’s assertion  that it’s much better to have some messages fail to be opened by some users, than risk penalizing them with opening messages they don’t like.

However, be aware that Junk mail and anti-SPAM filters look at subject lines very closely so go easy on the “killer sales” language.

email subject

  1. Place keywords into the subject line and limit it to 40 characters

For optimal viewing of subject lines, it’s best to stay within the character limits set by email programs. Because character limits vary between programs (not to mention they can change over time), it’s best to stay within the safe limit of 40 characters.

The most important content should be placed right at the beginning of the subject line to prevent it from being cut off. Keywords that carry the most information and are the most descriptive should take prime real estate. Avoid the common mistake below:

(Company Name) Newsletter: The Annual Clearance Sale is Here

The first 3 words in the subject line above could have been put to better use, replaced with more meatier keywords such as the discounts being offered in the sale, the date of the promotion, what products are on sale, and more.

EmailSubjectLines

  1. Avoid redundancies

We already mentioned how important it is to select the right keywords for the subject line, so by all means, don’t repeat things like the sender information in your subject line. While it’s important to let users know whom their newsletters are coming from, don’t waste valuable space repeating information that could’ve been replaced with something important.

Remember, you have less than 15 seconds to get the readers attention with your email or eDM message, make it count.

 

Facebook, the kids are moving out

By | Blog, Facebook, Research, Social Media, Uncategorized, Webpage Monitoring | No Comments

SWEDEN-FACEBOOK-DATA-CENTER-SERVERS

Social media is a finicky business—just ask MySpace.

Just a few months after being acquired by News Corporation in 2006, MySpace somehow lost its ‘cool factor’, turning from a once thriving social network where teenagers shared music, videos, and photos in ways only teenagers could fathom, to the online version of a ghost town.

MySpace losing its reputation as the cool place to be on the Internet can be partly attributed to the rise of Facebook, which has grown to have a base of 1.2 billion active users as of September 2013. But even the social media giant may not be so safe, with a recent blog post casting doubts on the company’s perception among youths, potentially leading to a similar exodus of users.

myspaceFB

Speculations like these are important because Facebook has for the most part, enjoyed the bullish patronage of investors. Since going public, the company’s share price has soared to more than double in 2013, ending the year above $54. It’s a clear indication of how the market just loves to gobble up social media stocks, and it shows their belief that Facebook’s users won’t tire of the site.

Enter Daniel Miller

Stirring up the pot is an article on the academic research site, The Conversation. Published by Daniel Miller, professor of material culture at University College London, the article describes how young users are reportedly turning away from Facebook in large numbers, going as far as to say the social network “is not just on the slide, it is basically dead and buried.” Miller notes that most teenagers now prefer to use photo-sharing and messaging mobile apps like Instagram, WhatsApp, and Snapchat—places where parents aren’t around.

Miller drew his conclusions on Facebook’s waning popularity with young Internet users after conducting a survey among 16- to 18-year olds in Britain, part of an EU-funded report on social networks.

Critics responded to the article, pointing out that Miller’s small sample of just 40 students was far too small to extrapolate such a sweeping conclusion from. In response, Miller published a follow-up article to defend his findings, revealing that he had based his conclusions on a wider set of discussions. He also pointed out that a journalist had written his original post, which explains its alarmist tone—something he vowed would be fixed in the future.

Facebook’s safe, or is it?

So as it turns out, Facebook isn’t quite facing a MySpace moment. Still, the social network can’t afford to rest easy, which might partly explain the acquisition of Instagram for $1 billion. As is common with big networks, Facebook has drawn huge numbers of older users, as shown by this chart below from Pew Research Centre.

image1

It’s also worth mentioning that Facebook CFO David Ebersman  admitted that daily usage of Facebook by younger teens had decreased. It doesn’t help that the social network has a growing reputation of being inhabited by parents, the bane of most youngsters.

But saying there’s a mass defection happening would be irresponsible. It is true, however, that teens now use a wide range of social networks for different purposes, this according to Lee Rainie of the Pew Research Centre’s Internet and American Life project. They’ve observed that ‘safer’ content is posted on Facebook, while more intimate posts (read risqué) are uploaded to networks not penetrated by parents as of yet—it’s an observation echoed by Professor Miller.

The teens may not be leaving in droves, but Facebook knows all too well the dangers of being casted as ‘uncool,’ as evidenced by their recent attempt to acquire Snapchat.

 

Are Facebook Pages Still Worth It In 2014?

By | Blog, Facebook, Research, Social Media, tools, Uncategorized, Webpage Monitoring | No Comments

image1 (3)

From occupying a dominant position just a few years ago, Facebook’s fan (business) pages have seen their ‘fan reach’ sink to an alarming low, leading to speculation of their impending demise. If you maintain your own business page, fan reach is defined as the percentage of your fans that see your post after its published on Facebook.

Fan reach falls drastically

From 2009 to 2010, Facebook’s fan reach on its business pages was at 20+ percent, with many pages enjoying record impression results. Since then, page administrators have seen severe drops in their fan reach, so much so that even with significant growth, it would take at least 2 years to recover. Here’s a brief timeline on the problem put together by Just Ask Kim.

  • 2 years ago: Fan reach falls to 16 percent, a reduction but not enough to worry about
  • 1 year ago: Fan reach falls yet again to 14 percent
  • 8 months ago: Fan reach drops to 12 percent
  • 4 months to present: Fan reach has dropped to an all time low of 9 percent, with several pages reporting lower impressions

Of course, the numbers above are simplifications meant to make the downward trend understandable. But, in any case, several marketers have been forced to rethink their strategies, in particular, just how much time and effort they should spend on their FB pages with the start of 2014.

Not all pages are equal

Facebook-paid-advertising

Yet despite the fatalistic attitudes of many online and social media marketers, a subset of Facebook pages have actually been spared from this shortfall in fan reach. Marketers who have allocated a stable budget for Facebook advertising and creating effective ads have not been affected as significantly. While fan reach has fallen across the board, the effects are less consequential because they have a funnel that capitalizes on their ad strategy.

In other words, those paying for ads on Facebook aren’t feeling the decrease in fan reach as much as the people relying on ‘free’ reach are.

 Cough up the money

Similar to how Google had shifted its attention to its paid advertisement system, Facebook is slowly making a compelling case for page owners to cough up the cash and protect themselves from dwindling fan reach. And if your plan is to do it on a long-term basis, you’ll have to come up with a strategy that funnels money out of your leads.

Facebook fan pages have gone from being a free way to market your brand on the world’s largest social network, to joining the ranks of paid media. Facebook is of course, well within its right to do this— and are using this to maximize their revenue.

It’s now up to marketers to respond to this paradigm shift.

No budget? Here’s what you can do.

Facebook-EdgeRank-Formula

Just Ask Kim has taken the liberty of outlining some measures you can take to improve your fan reach without having spend one cent.

  • Study the EdgeRank formula to figure out how Facebook rewards pages with more reach and what they ignore.
  • Use your fan list to your advantage. Use posts that encourage discussions among your fans to show signs of engagement on your page, which in turns increases EdgeRank, thereby letting more fans see your posts.

Do note that if you choose not to invest Facebook’s business pages for your brand, you’ll have to do more research and work. In any case, we here at Enform can help you achieve better results with your social media presence.

 

Why it Pays to Display Product Prices on your B2B Website

By | Automotive, Blog, ecommerce, Industry, Research, tools, Uncategorized, Web Design, Web Store | No Comments

Optimized-115i-R-Category-Management-Strategic-Pricing-Final

What’s the one thing a prospective customer wants to know when visiting an e-commerce website?

Prices.

When dealing with displaying pricing, businesses need to ask them selves; Is it better to not be judged, or to be ignored completely?

Yet it’s interesting to note that multiple usability studies by experts like the Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) show that many websites still haven’t done anything to respond to people’s frustrations on not seeing the prices of products and services.

What’s more, usability experts NN/g  point out that business customers see pricing as the most important piece of information online, yet several B2B sites don’t seem to acknowledge this as they continue to obscure prices.

Adapting to New Shopping Habits

B2B webmasters and developers should adapt to the new ways consumers of the 21st century shop and research information about products and services. Gone are the days when consumers had to interact with sales agents; DIY is the way to go, with consumers now empowered with the information to make decisions on what to buy and not.

Many B2B site owners make the mistake of assuming customers will contact them to ask about pricing—they probably will, but it’ll be an inconvenience. In fact, studies by NN/g found that many participants in their research opted to go to competitor sites when websites failed to show prices. In the end users ended up viewing and purchasing from sites that did show pricing information.

Why Hide Prices?

image2

For companies, the most common reason behind keeping pricing hidden from consumers is to obscure it from competitors. Other reasons include:

  • Having varying prices for different customers
  • Prices constantly fluctuate, making it difficult to show fixed prices
  • Special services have unique prices

While the reasons above are legitimate excuses, it doesn’t change the fact that they’re still excuses. The simple fact is that failing to be open with pricing works against the needs of customers, creating a poor shopping experience. What’s more, one person’s impression on a brand (e.g. they’re hiding their prices) can ripple out to other consumers. This effect completely negates all of the reasons stated above.

And besides, all of the issues mentioned above are also tackled by brick and mortar establishments, which still openly display their prices.

Here’s an insightful look on why you shouldn’t be bother hiding your prices.

For Those That Really Can’t Show Exact Prices: Sample Prices 

For B2B companies that have unique products and services, it’s true pricing structures can be complex, with rates varying between clients based on their specific situations. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t show pricing, as prospective customers still need something to go on during their initial research.

When providing exact prices becomes impractical, the next best option is to provide estimates in the form of a price range, typical pricing packages for usual situations, or the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). To avoid running into legal hiccups with displaying prices, it’s best to consult with legal counsel to find the most accurate ways of displaying this information.

 Provide Prices for Typical Scenarios

acme11

For companies that structure their prices according to the unique services different clients need, the most prudent course of action is to provide pricing information for a handful of scenarios your company commonly encounters. You might hear of tools like cost calculators that allow customers to input what they want, and in the end, get the corresponding cost for the service package.

While useful, studies show these pricing calculators are often too complex, unwieldy, and prone to mistakes. Pricing calculators are not entirely useless; they can still appeal to some highly engaged customers eager to enter the required data to get the information they want.

In any case, it’s best to employ the rule of averages and offer sample prices for typical situations, which are sufficient to provide inquiring customers with a rough idea of what they want and how much it should cost.

Example: Automotive Parts Pricing

acme22 

In the context of automotive parts, we believe that showing the price of parts and accessories is crucial for attracting prospective customers who are searching for an item they already know they want or need, but don’t know the price of. Often, these customers are conducting pricing comparisons between vendors, and transparent pricing provides the convenience of seeing the information they need immediately, and hence increases the chances of these customers making a purchase a decision.

Showing prices on your B2B site also boosts consumer trust in your brand. Consumers see vendors that openly display their pricing as being straightforward and honest, and transactions are more likely to occur when people get the information they want right away.

For the average consumer, the fewer the number of steps it takes to make a purchase (e.g. make a phone call to inquire price, make a reservation), the better the shopping experience will be, and the more successful your business will be at gaining and retaining their business.