Archive for the ‘The art of selling’ Category

Give Your Site the Gift That Keeps on Giving

April 16, 2012

Reduce Shopper Anxiety and Increase Sales with Gift Finder

by Ofer Alt

 

We’ve passed the Ides of March and the dreaded Ides of April, which means one thing:        We’re heading right into the next big gift buying season: Mothers’ Day, Father’s Day, graduations and weddings galore.  So what better time to highlight a great little feature that will help any e-shop get through this busy time.  It’s an automated “gift expert” that will help your customers find the gifts they want, with a minimum of stress and effort, and a maximum return of happy customers.

The feature I’m referring to is Gift Finder, which, in my opinion, is one of the more underrated and powerful tools you can add to your site.

Gift Finder’s power begins even before a shopper begins their search!

How?  Gift Finder asks specific questions in order to direct customers to the most specific items, and delivers personalized, useful results based on their answers. Not only does this module help relieve the gift giver’s shopping anxiety and stress, it increases the chances the browser will convert to a paying customer.

In other words, Gift Finder performs much like a live sales person would. Who are you shopping for? Is the recipient male or female? What’s the occasion?  What gift category, price range, size, etc.  The combinations can be added to a drop down menu that the shopper checks off, and results are returned quickly and accurately.

Gift Finder is one of thirteen powerful features found in Celebros ConversionPro V8, the only conversion platform that gives you the flexibility to turn your catalog into a dynamic shop that’s relevant, current, personalized and optimized for higher conversions and increased sales.

So make it easier for your customers to shop for all those mothers, fathers, graduates, brides and grooms. Reduce their anxiety and increase your conversions with Gift Finder!

First in Its Italian Ecommerce Class…CHL

March 24, 2010

To continue on with our interview series, we are speaking with Marco Forlai, the Web Marketing Specialist from CHL, a successful computer and electronics retailer in Italy, as well as the first-ever Italian ecommerce site. 

Marco, could you please give us a brief summary on CHL?

CHL was born in 1993 in Florence as one the first Italian computer shops. In the same year it started its online activity on BBS, giving  users the possibility to consult the catalogue and order products. In 1995 CHL gave birth to the first true Italian ecommerce site, www.chl.it.  These were the very first years of the internet era and the company had to make strong technology investments to implement what is commonly used now.  The core business of the company was, and still is, the sale of computer parts and the possibility to order personal computers choosing the internal components from a big variety of products.  We gave birth to “Dr. Orange”, a web application which guides the user in the process of choosing components to project a pc.

In 2000, CHL entered into the Italian stock exchange market and became the first Italian ecommerce player.  From here we’ve been developing more and more web functionality while the community was growing, reaching more than 1,500,000 users.  Over the years we’ve been extending the variety of products on our catalogue.  Today we have about 22,000 items by 900 different brands. We’re selling products from 22 categories like Computer, Electronics, Photography, Telephone devices, Home appliances, Jewelry and so on.

We have now more than 1,000 physical shops all around Italy where customers can pick and pay for their orders online.

How do you feel about your growth over the past year?  Do you find your sales to be strongly dictated by Technology and Electronic industry trends?

Our sales are always influenced from technological trends, there have been times in which top sellers were home personal computers, in the last two years we’ve seen the explosion of LCD TVs, notebook and smartphones.  We’re just experiencing a strong interest in the new phone devices, I think this will influence our way to use internet in general. Let’s say that every technological innovation has been strongly influencing the behavior of our customers and, consequently, our business. We’ve been constantly growing during the years, some years less than others due also to growing competition in Italian ecommerce.

Do you feel that the state of the economy has had any impact on your shoppers and therefore on your sales performance? 

Sure, recession has had a strong impact on our sales performances, people have less money to spend, less tendency to buy.  The increase in shipping costs also reduced the advantages of buying online.

What are the challenges CHL faces at the moment? 

Finding a new competitive supplier, optimize the logistic chain, open new physical order and delivery centers all over Italy.  Moreover, we’re continuously working to enable better web usability.  One of the main goals is to make users find what they’re looking for, it’s hard to categorize and cluster over 20,000 items from 1,000 brands.  We’re also working to establish new partnerships in terms of web visibility and mainly to always offer new services to our customers like, for example, satellite connectivity, mobile services, and so on.  We’re now focusing on IT infrastructure improvements with  particular attention to the internet highways, driving our traffic on optical fibers to reduce the long response times due to internet congestion.

Have you learned from the success and/or failures of other sites that you admire/do not admire?

There are several sites in Italy which are doing good work.  We always compare our work with theirs.  In these last years we’ve seen how important is to have a small and flexible organization, we all have to act like low cost air companies. Strong competition and reduced product margins made it necessary to reduce costs everywhere possible. We learned that we always have to be careful in investments motivated by international analyses.  The Italian market, like many others, has its own trends and often what is a success in the world doesn’t work here.  Amazon has always been our ecommerce model and we try to learn from its success.  I also like buy.com and the particular business model of krillion.com.

Do you feel like you have an edge over your competitors?/What do you feel sets you apart from your competitors?

There are several aspects I think set us apart from our competitors, the information richness of our product details pages, customer reviews from over 10 years, our big community, computer configurations and production.  Furthermore, we offer many services to our customers we can deliver thanks to our shops net all over the territory.

You have been a long time customer of Celebros.   How did you come to work with Celebros and how do you feel it is going?

We met Celebros in 2006.  We had been working for several years to implement a search solution built internally without particularly good results. During the growth of our business, with so many products from many different brands, a good search solution became essential for our success. When we met Celebros for the first time, we immediately saw the power of their organization and their software.  We were a little frightened though to abandon our software and entrust the whole search process to a foreign company.   However, after 4 years, I can say it’s been one of our best decisions, absolutely no problem due to the company’s distance and what astonished us was that since the first day we went online, our sales increased immediately.  We started to sell more and sold many products that we didn’t even know we had in our product catalog.  Helping the user to find what he’s looking for is essential when there are too many products to show.  I think Celebros has been and still is one of the best partnerships ever in CHL’s history.

What are some other technologies on your site that you feel contribute to your success?

I think “Dr. Orange” and “Wizard”, tools to create personal computers, are something unique, at least in Italy. We’ve also been one of the first Italian companies to manage all the processes through the internet.  Oracle databases are central in our architecture.

What are some new developments that you are trying out this year and what expectations do you have?

We’re going to enter the magical world of mobile apps.  There are huge mobile communities waiting for new apps, we hope to be ready soon and be able to bring ecommerce, store locator and new ideas to this upcoming navigator.  Mobile micro payments are really interesting too, we’re investigating on how this could help our business.  In Italy there are 50 millions potential new users, and 1.5 million are already equipped and active on smartphones.  Social networks gave a strong impulse in the growth of these reality, a new world surely to be observed and understood.

Thank you, Marco, for your time.  This has been great!

Thank you!

The DOs and DON’Ts of Ecommerce Graphic Design

March 17, 2010

We found this recent Clickz post by Tim Ash pretty useful where the author explains how looks really can kill… your website, and essentially your business. 

Ash includes helpful tips and a case study emphasizing the importance of graphic design on your ecommerce site and its effects on your customers and their buying potential.  Something as simple as the text format in a headline or a background color choice can completely deter a shopper from becoming a buyer on your site.   

Word to the wise…take note.  Website visuals are powerful and this article should serve you well when debating on which design direction to follow.

1…2…3 = iPad

March 1, 2010

It’s happening!!  As the New York Times has reported today, and as we suspected in a recent post of ours, the iPad has already begun influencing the creation of 3rd version online sites (2nd being dedicated to mobile phones) so as to efficiently accomodate the specialty size and expected wide distribution of the new Apple technology. 

The first to embark on “version # 3” are Condé Nast publications, including Wired, GQ, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and Glamour magazine.  These publications are focusing their attention on ecommerce businesses trying to develop enhanced advertising alternatives to encourage iPad ecommerce. 

That was pretty quick!

The Beauty of Ecommerce

February 23, 2010

Celebros is looking to do a series of interviews with its customers and partners to gain better insight into the best practices of ecommerce that we can share.  To kick off our series, we are speaking with Dr. Eisinger, from Beautynet.de, a leading luxury perfume online retailer in Germany.

To begin, Dr. Eisinger, would you be able to please give us a brief summary on Beautynet?

Yes, Beautynet was established 11 years ago in 1999.  We are exclusively an online store that sells premium perfume brands, also known as “perfumeries”.  You may also obtain a small assortment of our perfumes at select hair salons in Germany.  60% of our customers are women and 40% are men. 

How do you feel about your growth over the past year?  Do you find your sales to be strongly dictated by beauty trends?

 2009 was a very good year for us and we showed considerable growth from 2008. Regarding our sales, I believe our business, in addition to the beauty/perfume industry as a whole is very much dictated by the release of new products.  20-30% of our sales are generated through new product sales; hence as long as there are new products, we shall be in good shape.

Do you feel that the state of the economy has had any impact on your shoppers and therefore on your sales performance? 

No, I don’t think so.  Beautynet, as well as the entire perfume industry was not really affected by the economic crisis.  These are products that people are buying year round.  I know for Christmas, we had sales on our perfume that did well and our shoppers were still buying. 

What are the challenges that face Beautynet at the moment?  What do you look to accomplish in 2010?

Well, our biggest challenge as mentioned before is making sure that there are enough new products to ensure successful sales and maintain the growth of our business, and the growth of the industry. 

Regarding technology, we are now looking into buying a new shop system.  I am quite sure we will buy Magento based on client recommendations, as we were told and have observed that it has good support and is more innovative than other solutions we examined.  It offers a lot in area of templates and web design.  Additionally, we are also looking to add a pay via invoice feature with the company SIT-Pay, which we currently do not provide. 

Shoppers are only able to pay via credit card or Prepay at the moment. The new mechanism reduces collection risks on our side and eliminates the need from the user to input credit card details – still a blocking factor for online shopping.  We tested it already on Christmas and will now implement it by the end of February.

Have you learned from the successes or failures of other sites that you admire or perhaps your competitors’ sites?

Yah, our biggest competitor is Douglass.  They have 65% of the German beauty market.  They are not very innovative but have abundant and perfect images (advertising materials) of the products they sell, which they are able to get directly from the supplier.

Do you know how much people are using comparison shopping between Beautynet and Douglass?

I think you do have a bit of that.  One big difference I notice though between Beautynet and Douglass is that we carry quite a lot more products.  Now after Christmas we are building up our product catalogue, but overall during the year we usually have more to choose from than what Douglass offers.  I know people here usually say that they want to buy everything in one go, so we have the advantage there because they can come to our site and find the majority of what they need when it come to perfume.

Amazon too is a strong competitor. At their site you can buy everything you had on your list all together from every goods category.  I believe it is also a trust issue with Amazon.  Many people are more comfortable shopping with Amazon because they feel more secure with their purchase.

Are you able to compete with the shipping prices of Amazon

Not really. But I don’t think this is where we have a problem.  It’s more the trust in security as discussed previously.

Where do you do most of your advertising?

We try to be on most of the comparison sites (provide data feed to Google and others).  We have more than 10,000 affiliates.  We have also collaborated with women’s magazines such as Women’s Day, where we use a lot of coupons.  Coupons are also distributed via e-mail marketing campaigns, for example on Christmas and Mother’s Day.  Additionally, coupons are distributed when customers provide data on the Beautynet site. 

Are you also using analytics to check which affiliates are converting better?

Yes, Google analytics.  It does not provide all possible reports but for us, this is good enough.

You have been a long time customer of Celebros.  How did you come to work with Celebros and how do you feel it is going?

Beautynet has definitely benefitted from Celebros services over the years.  I find that the monthly analytics-based reports are most valuable and help in the never-ending process of optimizing our site, especially with a frequent high intake of new products!  It also greatly facilitates our ability to regularly monitor our search.  There has repeatedly been an excellent reaction to our requests from the Celebros team. 

Do you use customer reviews?

No we do not have customer reviews though we should have.  It is on our list for 2010 to add this to our site.

What are you using for e-mail marketing?

We have our own software. 

Are you using reminders so that they can subscribe when something new comes in?

No, but customers that bought a lot of a certain brand that is going out of stock, receives an e-mail to inform them of the new product we have chosen to replace it.

Do you use recommendations? 

Yes, we have cross-selling.  At the moment we do it just by hand.  This is a big thing for us and we have to do it all manually.  This creates a lot of work for us at the moment. 

Okay, on that note, I would like to thank you very much for your time.  I certainly have learned a lot here from what you have shared with us.  I wish you and Beautynet much more continued success.

Thank you, it was a pleasure.

The (current) Apple of Our Eye

February 10, 2010

iPod, iPhone, iTouch, iPad…I get it.  For those of you who don’t get it, I apologize, but you have apparently been living under a rock for the past month.   As most print and online technology publications (as well as comedians for that matter) have been reporting, Apple has come out with its own tech savvy version of the netbook entitled the iPad, as mentioned in Business Week.   And in the midst of all this Steve Jobs hype, I have begun to ponder the effect that all these I’s could have on U.

These technological novelties can be both a blessing and a curse for an online retailer.   On the one hand, a netbook or iPad carrier on the go is able to instantaneously log onto your site and start shopping at the very realization of a product they need or want.  On the other hand, the tiny 10” size for which these devices are praised can also be the cause of abandonment from your site. 

Think about it.  During the process of online shopping, there is usually abundant navigation going on and a heavy reliance on clear product images.  Scrolling, mouse hunting, and arrow clicking, as well as miniscule images on a tiny screen does not present the most comfortable way to shop, causing shoppers to get frustrated with their search and leave.   You could be missing out on tremendous revenue potential!  So what does all this mean for you, the retailer?  

First off, make sure your search box is VISIBLE and easily located. 

Take a look at the  mock up of Amazon’s landing page below.  Here the search box is down, off to the left side of the screen, causing a shopper to have to scroll and work a little bit to get to it.

A mock up of Amazon landing page displaying an inefficiently located search box

Compare this to the actual Amazon site which displays a clear and visible search box at the top of their landing page…much better.

Actual Amazon landing page with clear, visible search box

However, if your search box is not functional, the fact that it is visible, is pointless.  A functional search box is important, but for netbook or iPad users, it’s crucial!   Your search should do all the navigating for the customer so he does not have to.  

Therefore, be sure that your search can effectively read complex queries from customers who opt to put in adjectives as part of their query, in addition to customers’ spelling mistakes and their use of synonyms to match your product listings.

And this is only the beginning of what could and should be done.  Perhaps with the boom of this tablet technology there is a need to create a separate version of your e-tail site to better serve the growing population of netbook and tablet carriers.  The different user interface could address the need for the varied positioning of other merchandising tools, customer reviews, advertisements.  Of course by the time we figure this out, Mr. Jobs might have us scratching our heads about a new technology innovation of his…

‘Tis the Season to Be Social

September 30, 2009

Two months till black Friday, three months till Christmas morning, that time of year when shoppers are in the giving spirit, throwing caution to the wind, and pushing their credit card limits to the max…or at least that is the goal.   And they certainly do not like going at it alone.

This Christmas is about Social Shopping. The e-tail world has been introduced to a new level of social interaction amongst customers. The wind blowing from social nets is hitting online stores, calling for online retailers to incorporate a social dimension to their online search!  Trust us, we’re not making this stuff up.

The results are in.  An E-tailing Group study reveals that 67% of online shoppers buy more when friends give a nod.  Customers enjoy getting approval on their purchases and knowing what’s popular.  A shopper searching today doesn’t want yesterday’s style—she wants what’s hot right now. With Social Shopping technology, you can help out your customers figure out what to buy and help out your business by knowing what to stock.  Even Santa needs a little help every now and then… Some tools that were introduced this year help retailers do just that – make shopping a social experience:

  • Social Search Cloud provides customers with a cloud of popular searches, products, and brands of choice, revealing the community taste  immediately as you enter the online store.
  • Social Sort, gives customers the ability to arrange search results by social feedback, including top sellers, ratings, reviews, popularity, and more.
  • Share with Friends permits customers to refer products they find to their friends via e-mail and social networks. Shoppers sitting miles away can now shop together and exchange impressions at the click of a mouse.

Customers no longer feel they are shopping alone and gain confidence with their product choices, making that extra click to the checkout page. 

On the retailer side, advanced reporting lets the retailer get a head start on analyzing product popularity and identifying trend leaders, essentially  reading shopper vibes and voicing shopper buzz as it forms!

Of course, it goes without saying, none of the optimum online search essentials should be left behind.  As we noted in a previous blog of ours last year (155 Sleeps Away – Get Ready to Sell) there is a list of basic action items that an etailer should consider in the months leading to the Christmas season.  Just to jog your memory a bit, some of the mentioned items in the link above include sprucing up your UI, adding an auto complete solution to your search box,  suggesting cross-sell items based on your customers’ product choices, and adding more refinement options to further zero in your customers on the products they seek.  If your customers can’t find the products you are stocking, they cannot purchase them.

Lastly, it is important to remember, as mentioned in Latitude blog, that the success of online Christmas shopping will impact shoppers activity and likeliness to come back to your site.  So if you follow the checklist above and let Santa be social, you are in for a good new year of repeat business 🙂

Onsite search converts 50% better

December 10, 2008

An interesting research was just posted by one of our UK partners – Screen Pages (see also coverage by e-consultancy). They reviewed 39 sites to find out that shoppers using the search box to locate a product are much more likely to buy – 50% more! Furthermore, guided search (which is what we do J) gets much more people to use the search box (and generates much more sales, as the people using the search box buy 50% more)!

We at Celebros are always amazed by the amount of retailers who make huge investments in their site but seem to forget that if users can not find a product, they can not buy it. And the next store is just a click away!

A good real world salesperson excels in pointing customers to the product that really fits them after a few words of conversation. Not necessarily what they say they want but rather what suites them best / is within their budget / is on sale / gives the best value.

A good online store excels in exactly the same way! e-shops should make sure they quickly take the user to the right product page regardless of the interface: navigation menus, promotion ads or the search box. This is exactly what guided search does. Working behind the scenes and building on an intimate knowledge of the product catalog, we find the most relevant offers and help the user reach them through either interface and in one or two clicks!

And a last note – being in the middle of a hard recession, guided search getting 50% more in sales, is a matter of life and death for every site. Simple as that!


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