Posts Tagged ‘ecommerce’

8 Must-Have SaaS Tools For Your Ecommerce Business

Guest Post

It’s sometimes said that getting ahead in business (as opposed to, say, academia) comes down to who you know, not what you know. Things are different still in ecommerce. When you’re selling online at scale, success is more closely linked to the tools you use. Everyone has access to the same research and networking resources, and the software you rely on determines everything from the amount of free time you have to the quality of your work.

Ecommerce Apps

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Let’s suppose that you have ambitions to achieve great things in ecommerce. Perhaps you’re already running and trying to grow a store, or maybe you’re contemplating running one and trying to get prepared. No matter your situation, there’s great value in having a solid lineup of SaaS tools to help you along the way. Here are 8 must-have tools for ecommerce that are praised by most ecommerce agencies.

Salesforce

Salesforce

The real long-term value in ecommerce comes from loyal customers. They visit unprompted, spend more, and contribute additional traffic through recommendations — and to win (and keep) loyal customers, you need to stay connected with them. CRM (customer relationship management) software is key to this, and Salesforce is the industry leader.

With Salesforce configured, you’ll be able to monitor everything that’s going on with your customers from a single dashboard: how much money each customer is spending, how long they’re spending on your site, what support issues they’re facing, etc. This data will help you improve your store. It is a paid solution, but $25 per month for the essentials isn’t bad.

Prisync

Prisync

Knowing how to price your products is a persistent challenge in online retail. Go too low, and you’ll destroy your profit margin — and potentially induce a comparable reduction from your competitors, making things tougher for everyone. But go too high and you’ll price yourself out of contention. How do you get the balance right?

Prisync is a price tracking service that helps you maintain an advantage over other stores. It checks industry prices several times each day, so you can always keep up, and it integrates readily with all standard ecommerce platforms. It’s not cheap, starting at $59 per month for 100 products, but it may be worth it — particularly if your products are relatively expensive.

Easil

Easil

The importance of promotion through social media and blog posts is not to be underestimated. Getting a glossy ad in the right place at the right time can make all the difference — but if it’s going to get attention in the fast-paced stream of social updates, it needs to look the part, with strong visuals and sharp design.

While Canva may get the lion’s share of attention when it comes to design tools, Easil has some major advantages. For instance, it supports text shadowing by default, allows you to set per-pixel positions, and has a native service for consulting a professional designer should you decide that you need some assistance. Use it for free, or pay $7.50 per month to get a greatly-expanded range of templates plus a variety of new options.

Tawk.to

Tawk.to

Strong support is more of a priority today than ever before. The number of people viewing your store can fluctuate wildly, and there may come a time (during a sale, for instance) at which you’re getting far more interest than you can handle over the phone or through an email ticketing system. Fail to answer an important question when it’s posed and the person asking will likely just decide to seek assistance elsewhere.

Tawk.to is a free service for adding a live chat service to your online store. When someone has a question, they can simply type it in and wait for a reply. And because one person can handle numerous simple support conversations roughly simultaneously, using live chat both increases convenience for customers and saves you time.

Zoho Books

Zoho Books

Keeping your accounts tidy is a core demand of running a business of any kind, and since ecommerce leaves a minimal physical trace, it’s even more important that you log everything carefully and maintain in-depth records. The more easily you can tell where all your money is going, the better equipped you’ll be to reap efficiency gains.

Zoho Books, part of the broader Zoho suite of SaaS tools, comes well-recommended as an accounting tool for its ease of use and reasonable pricing (starting at $9 per month). It doesn’t do payroll, but that’s becoming a rare native feature anyway, so don’t let that dissuade you. Give the trial a try and see what you think.

Freshmarketer

Freshmarketer

The ease of A/B testing is one of the greatest advantages of digital content. If you’re not sure whether a particular change is worth making, you can simply run a split test to directly compare the two variants before keeping whichever one comes out on top. It’s particularly handy when you’re lacking context — for instance, if you buy a ready-built store and don’t know why the design choices were made, you can use A/B testing to gauge the reasoning behind them.

Now, you’ll hear (and read) a lot about Optimizely for A/B testing. It’s the most popular option by far, and typically the most highly-rated. However, it uses a pricing model shrouded in mystery, which may be because it tends to be very expensive. For that reason, I suggest trying Freshmarketer. It’ll easily integrate with popular platforms, creating heatmaps and split testing (complete with a WYSIWYG page editor), and it costs just $99 per month for 50,000 monthly visitors with all features available.

Segmentify

Segmentify

Online customer experiences need to be personalized wherever possible if you want to exceed expectations. After all, everyone has different product and offer preferences, and a shopper will be more likely to buy if they find a page catered to their needs instead of something generic.

Segmentify is all about nailing personalization for product recommendations, marketing emails, and push notifications. It collects visitor data, adjusts content accordingly, then repeats the process — this ensures ongoing optimization that should keep value going up. It is somewhat frustrating that the pricing model is quite opaque (you need to request a quote if you want a meaningful figure), but used at scale, it could be a game-changer.

Super Monitoring

Super Monitoring

In general business, they say time is money — but in ecommerce, uptime is money. You can’t sell when your website isn’t live, and every moment of inaccessibility contributes to a negative perception of your business. Who wants to frequent a store that clearly isn’t reliable? So you need to know when your store is down — otherwise, you can’t do much about it.

The value of Super Monitoring, then, is quite clear. It not only loads your website at regular intervals to confirm that it’s responsive, but it can also run through set routines (e.g. filling in specific forms, such as at the checkout stage) to confirm that everything is working as it should. And with every fault corroborated from multiple locations, you don’t need to worry about false alarms. The tier best suited for ecommerce is $29.99 per month, but there are plenty of options, so see which one is right for you.

Work these 8 SaaS tools into your ecommerce strategy and you’ll see a range of benefits. Your monthly expenses will go up, of course, but the value you’ll receive over the coming months will more than justify that investment.


About the Author

Ecommerce TipsEcommerce Tips is an industry-leading ecommerce blog dedicated to sharing business and entrepreneurial insights from the sector. Start growing your business today and check out the latest on Twitter @myecommercetips

How to monitor the proper functioning of an online store

You are definitely registering user traffic in your store. You are most likely also tracking the position of your website on Google. You are also highly likely to track mentions of your brand on the Internet. But do you monitor the availability and proper functioning of your store?

ecommerce monitoring

Your store is not indestructible and there may be various types of malfunctions. The server, connection, and database can all fail. An important form or the third step of the purchasing process may stop working. Your website may also start to work slower than usual.
All these situations will have a negative impact on your sales. That is why it is worth making sure that you are the first to learn about any failure, making it possible for you to react before the users notice.

Why monitor the functioning of the store

E-commerce is an industry in which website failures and defects translate into measurable losses in the most direct way.

When the online store is unavailable or is not working properly:

  • you’re losing orders that would have been placed during this time
  • you’re wasting your advertising budget on attracting users who cannot make a purchase
  • you’re harming your image risking that the users who notice a failure will not return to your store
  • you’re helping the competition—no one will wait for the end of the failure, they’ll just go to the competition
  • it may have a negative impact on your website’s rank with Google (in the case of long-term problems).

You cannot avoid problems with the functioning of your store as there are many potential causes. Physical damage to devices, overloads, system faults, application errors, human mistakes, etc.
What you can do is minimize the response time to a failure—using a monitoring system that will alert you immediately when a problem is detected. You will learn about the unavailability of the entire website before the users—you will also find defects that you might not have noticed for a long time (most likely only from the sales reports for a given period).

An additional benefit of monitoring the availability is the ability to use the monitoring data to justify claims against the hosting provider under the SLA.

What to monitor in the store

It’s easy to say “monitor availability and proper functioning”, but what exactly does it mean? Availability is rather obvious, but how to monitor the proper functioning?

Availability

This is a basic monitoring feature and should preferably be monitored at intervals of no less than 1 minute. It consists in checking the server’s response and its response time. It provides detection of total failures—server, connection, and DNS going down, missing application files, etc.

Content

Content monitoring is based on checking if a defined piece of text or code is being displayed at a given URL. This allows us to detect failures of e.g. a database—when the website is theoretically available but is displayed without the content (white page or empty templates).

Speed

Ever since Google announced that it includes website speed in its ranking, monitoring the speed of loading has started to make even more sense. This feature consists in measuring the full website loading time (full-page)—that is, with all embedded graphics, styles, and scripts. Exceeding the defined limit is treated as a failure.

Functions

Your website can have various features, but the shopping process is, of course, the most important matter for any e-commerce website. And a failure can occur at any of its stages.
The monitoring system, pretending to be a real user, goes through the purchasing process in accordance with the scenario you have defined. For example, it first finds a product using the search engine, then selects its parameters, adds it to the shopping cart, changes the quantity, provides the buyer’s data, selects the method of delivery and payment, and finally places the order.

Other features

Depending on your needs, you can monitor other features related to your store, e.g. cohesion of key documents (detection of unauthorized changes), availability of the mail, database, FTP, DNS servers, etc.

How to optimally configure monitoring

The default monitoring tests settings are not always the best. Usually, these are simply the most commonly used options.
Below we suggest how to set up monitoring in a way that will allow you, for example, to avoid being flooded with irrelevant notifications, but at the same time not to miss the really important events.

Alerts

In addition to e-mail alerts, notifications sent via SMS are most commonly used. In the case of non-critical tests, limit the days and hours in which you will receive text messages in the settings—so that the monitoring system does not wake you up at 3:00 in the morning.
You can also define an alerting pattern—for example, by setting the system not to bother you with failures lasting less than 2 minutes, or to remind you of an ongoing failure every 5 minutes.

Alerts can be sent to multiple recipients—you can decide who will receive notifications from which test. For example, the server administrator can be notified of a complete unavailability of the website while notifications about problems with the purchasing process can be sent to the persons responsible for the application.

Reports

In the history of events of the selected test, in the user panel, you will find the details of all failures—not only the type of error but also additional materials that will help you to analyse the problem—e.g. screenshots, HTTP headers, HTML snapshots, HAR files.
You can also receive e-mail reports summarizing the given period—usually a month, although you can also receive reports every week.

Integrations

If your store is based on a popular platform—e.g. WordPress/WooCommerce, Drupal, Joomla—you can use a ready-made plugin, thanks to which the interface of the monitoring system will be integrated with your CMS and you will not have to log in anywhere else to display the monitoring history.

In all other cases, you can use the API offered by the system—and integrate data from the monitoring system in any way you want.

e-commerce monitoring

Additional tips

Here are some hints to keep in mind when starting e-store monitoring for the first time.

Exclusion from statistics

While the tests that check the availability of the site are invisible to services that track users’ behaviour on the website (e.g. Google Analytics), the more advanced ones (monitoring features or measuring the loading time) pretend to be real users and are registered.
You don’t want monitoring to interfere with your statistics, so make sure your software ignores visits generated by the monitoring system. You must create a filter for a specific UserAgent, i.e. a browser name—e.g. “Super Monitoring”.

Ignoring test orders

When monitoring the purchasing process, you must remember to handle (ignore or remove) test orders in the store—so that they won’t be carried out or disrupt sales statistics. You will recognize them simply through the data entered into the forms that you have defined in the scenario—for example through the e-mail address.

Whitelists

When setting up monitoring, it is worth whitelisting the monitoring system:

  • in the firewall, adding the IP addresses of all monitoring stations, to be sure that a large number of connections generated by the stations will not get them automatically blocked
  • on the mail server by adding the domain to make sure that all notifications and reports will reach the recipients.

Maintenance windows

If you are planning works in the application or on the server that may cause temporary unavailability, add maintenance windows in the monitoring system. The monitoring will then be temporarily suspended and no false failures will appear in the test history.

Processes at the company

Prepare for possible failures. This means that everyone should know what to do when the monitoring sends notifications about the detection of problems. Leaving this for the “near future”, i.e. the first real failure, is a very bad idea.

Help is at hand

If you don’t know how to get something done, don’t fight with the configuration for hours, just call for system support. Specialists are just waiting for the opportunity to help you—and to find out which elements are causing problems (and can be improved) along the way.

  • Do you monitor the availability and proper functioning of your online store? #ecommerce supermonitoring.com/blo…

    Tweet this

Where to start

Set up a free test account and set up tests to monitor the most important features of your store. Or ask the system staff to set them up for you. Observe for 2 weeks how it works—how alerts and reports look like.
If no failure or malfunction occurs for the entire two weeks, click the button for generating the sample test failure. Or ask the service to extend the trial period—they will definitely agree. 🙂

State of mobile 2013 (infographic)

HUGE infographic about mobile adoption, vendors and platforms, mobile usage, business, e-commerce, payments and advertising.

Scroll down for Twitter TAKEAWAYS (or click here)

state-of-mobile-2013

Feel free to use this infographic on your blog or website,
but please don’t forget to link to www.supermonitoring.com.

Infographic design: AF Studio

CC BY-ND

TWITTER TAKEAWAYS

 
 
By the end of 2013, there will be more mobile devices on Earth than people. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

The average age for the first cell phone is now 13. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

More than 2 billion mobile devices will be shipped globally this year. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

50% of the average global mobile web users now use mobile as either their primary or exclusive means of going online. http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

The average consumer actively uses 6.5 apps throughout a 30-day period. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

80% of mobile time is spent in apps. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ by @supermonitoring tweet this

Mobile web adoption is growing 8 times faster than web adoption did in the 1990s and early 2000s. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

There are over 1.2 billion people accessing the web from their mobile devices. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

Global mobile traffic now accounts for 15% of all Internet traffic. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

28.85% of all emails are opened on mobile phones and 10.16% on tablets. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

91% of mobile Internet access is for social activities versus just 79% on desktops. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

Mobile-based searches make up one quarter of all searches. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

One in three mobile searches have local intent versus one in five on desktops. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

51% of mobile traffic is sent from mobile video. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ by @supermonitoring tweet this

60% of users access Twitter through mobile. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ by @supermonitoring tweet this

80% of smartphone owners and 81% of tablet owners use their devices in front of the television. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

44% of cell phone users have slept with their cell phone by their side so that they didn’t miss a notification. http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

80% of consumers plan to conduct mobile commerce in the next 12 months. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

57% of users say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

Not having a mobile optimized website is like closing your store one day each week. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

41% of people have used a mobile device to browse for a product after seeing it in a show or advertisement. http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

80% of mobile device owners use mobile to enhance thir shopping experience. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

36% of shoppers search for other store locations on their phones while shopping in store. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

52% of tablet users now say that they prefer to shop using their tablet rather than their PC. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

72% of tablet owners make purchases from their devices on a weekly basis. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

Tablet users spend 50% more money than PC users. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ by @supermonitoring tweet this

Tablet visitors are nearly 3 times more likely to purchase than smartphone visitors. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

PayPal mobile handled almost $14 billion in payment volume in 2012. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

Within five years, half of today’s smartphone users will be using mobile wallets as their preferred payments method. http://ir9q.gu.ma/ tweet this

Mobile advertising is 30% of Facebook’s ad revenue. #infographic http://ir9q.gu.ma/ by @supermonitoring tweet this

Sources:

econsultancy.com/pl/blog/63268-showrooming-is-on-the-rise-stats
blog.flurry.com/bid/95723/Flurry-Five-Year-Report-It-s-an-App-World-The-Just-Web-Lives-in-It
www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2306215
www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2408515
www.inmobi.com/inmobiblog/2013/02/27/inmobi-releases-second-wave-of-mobile-media-consumption-survey-global-results/
www.jdpower.com/consumer-ratings/electronics/ratings/909201510/2013-Wireless+Consumer+Smartphone+Customer+Satisfaction+Study/index.htm
www.localytics.com/blog/2013/mobile-statistics/
www.luxurydaily.com/why-mobile-wallets-are-the-new-credit-card-mobile-commerce-daily/
mashable.com/2013/02/06/mobile-growth/
www.mobify.com/go/50-mobile-commerce-stats/
pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Smartphone-Ownership-2013
gs.statcounter.com/

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