50 Best Tips of 2013
1. Run commission detail reports on publishers and top performers. These reports can look at conversion revenues on a year-over-year as well as monthly basis. You may also want to consider the timing of promotions as well as using short-term offers (e.g., weekend sales) as a possible solution when revenue numbers are running low.
Karen McMahon, Affiliate Whisperer, "10 Tips to Make the Most of Your Affiliate Marketing Day," Aug. 21, ROI Report
2. Be willing to piss people off. You can't be everything to everybody. Our rule is you can make people mad, you just can't make them sad. Oh, and don't mix politics and marketing. Moosejaw learned that the hard way.
Eoin Comerford, Moosejaw Marketing, "4 Ways to Build a Brand That Customers Will Love," March 15, ROI Report
3. Track conversion rate in-store. While same-store sales, sales per square foot, sales per employee, average ticket, units per transaction and other transaction-based metrics are obviously important, no transaction-based metric can tell you about the sale you didn't make. Not only does conversion rate tell you the percentage of visitors that purchased, it also tells you the percentage of visitors that didn't purchase - i.e., the lost sales opportunity.
Mark Ryski, HeadCount, "Conversion: The Last Great Retail Metric," Feb. 8, ROI Report
4. Advanced e-commerce architecture must enable brands to manage issues that are specific to B-to-B buyers. For example, capable e-commerce platforms are able to address complex workflows, tiered pricing, purchase orders, regulatory support, governmental procurement requirements, tax exemptions and other requirements that aren't applicable in the consumer marketplace.
Bob Barr, Acquity Group, "Why B-to-B E-Commerce is Lagging Behind B-to-C," Jan. 24, ROI Report
5. Make the first line of body copy work hard. Your reader will scan, in this order, the headline, subhead and first few words of body copy. Make sure those first few words of body copy are snappy. Don't begin the first line with "the," "this" or "these." Borrrring. Also avoid "our" if you can. Don't repeat the product name in the first line if it's already in the headline. Doing so just wastes your interest-grabbing opportunity.
Susan J. McIntyre, McIntyre Direct, "How Copy Can Increase Catalog Scannability," Oct. 15, Catalog Doctor blog
6. Don't be afraid to attract customers who will buy only once. I'm a database marketer and have long stressed the importance of building your customer file with quality names, however, even with the best of efforts, about 50 percent of your customers buy from you once and never return. If you get an acceptable ROI on the first sale, you're good. Since databases allow you to segment at the purchase level, test whether these customers are loyal or fair-weather friends. You can know whether these customers will be repeats to whom you can remarket or if they're one-and-done.
George Hague, HAGUEdirect, "The Illogical Song: What Makes Sense vs. What Works," April 8, B-to-B Insights blog
7. Never say good-bye. When customers have completed their purchase, don't just let them leave. Remind them of your next special, sale or when new products are coming in. Accordingly, never say good-bye. There's no need to say goodbye when you've made a good connection with the customer. For example, say "I'm so glad you found what you wanted today! We will see you soon!"
Melissa Eisenberg, POSE, "4 Tips to Increase Customer Retention," March 18, ROI Report
8. Create "evergreen" how-to videos that answer frequently asked questions and help shoppers get more from your products, which can reduce customer service costs.
Ken Burke, MarketLive, "Building Compelling Content to Compete With Amazon," May 13, ROI Report
9. Don't use sitewide SSL. Your checkout page uses SSL to encrypt customer information (that's all those pages with "https" instead of "http" in the address). That's a critical security feature. But you don't need to encrypt every page of your site; you only have to encrypt pages that accept user data. SSL encryption requires three times to five times the "round trips" between the server and browser, so only use it where you need it.
Ian Lurie, Portent, "Increase Site Speed (and Revenue) in 10 Steps," April 25, ROI Report
10. Put style sheets at the top of the page. If your site uses cascading style sheets, make sure your CSS loads first so that your pages can start rendering right away.
Joshua Bixby, Radware, "10 Ways to Improve Your Site Speed," April 29, ROI Report
11. Institute a guest checkout program so buyers don't have to create a full account. Those that want to create an account can always do so, but the more requirements you have, the more shoppers you're going to drive away.
David Bakke, Money Crashers, "6 Ways to Improve Customer Service for Online Retailers," July 9, ROI Report
12. Take advantage of "hidden" pages on websites that could be used for promotional messaging or other outreach efforts. These pages include the following: empty shopping cart page, forgot password page, my account page, order success page, logout page and tracking code page.
Uri Foox, Pixafy, "A Recap of Magento's Imagine Conference, Part 2," April 16, ROI Report
13. Scale images in your photo editor, not HTML. Resize images before you upload them to your website. Don't use the HTML height and width attributes to squash an image down to size. Average time saved in my informal retail survey? Half a second. In e-commerce time, that's an eternity.
Ian Lurie, Portent, "Increase Site Speed (and Revenue) in 10 Steps," April 25, ROI Report
14. Build content as well as inventory. Rich, detailed content is increasingly important not just in showcasing products and driving sales, but also in giving consumers a reason to keep coming back to you. If you provide all of the information they need, as well as valuable opinion about trends and purchasing decisions, a customer is going to come straight back to you next time they're searching for inspiration."
Bernard Luthi, Rakuten.com Shopping, "How to Build Brand Advocates Online," Aug. 28, ROI Report
15. Leverage social graph information (Facebook's term for user demographics) from your highly engaged fans to improve targeting of precision email campaigns. Add social testimonials from "similar to me" advocates to email content targeting specific geographies, age groups or settings that your data reveals.
Dennis O'Malley, ReadyPulse, "5 Ways to Leverage Social Word-of-Mouth Marketing," Feb. 21, ROI Report
16. Retailers should use a hybrid layout with both responsive and scalable design to ensure consumers can interact with their email content. Responsive design adapts emails to the device subscribers are using, creating screen-proportional layouts that are visually appealing. Scalable design ensures that emails are still readable when reduced to half their size on a mobile device.
Matt Caldwell, Yesmail Interactive, "Tips to Improve the Mobile Email Experience," Sept. 10, ROI Report
17. Make sure your emails are optimized for mobile devices. Your email width should be narrow — between 485 pixels and 525 pixels — to enable more of your content to display. Place your headlines, calls to action, links and buttons on the left-hand side to be sure all can be seen, allowing users to take advantage of your content and offers.
Reggie Brady, Reggie Brady Marketing Solutions, "5 Ways to Grow Your Email Marketing Revenues," May/June, Retail Online Integration
18. Consider virtual hosting. With virtual hosting, content can be cached within China's borders and distributed as needed through in-country content delivery networks. Virtual hosting service providers allow online retailers to reach Chinese consumers by locally caching web content housed in regional data centers.
Mark Smith and Kevin Conway, Savvis, "Is Your Cloud Ready for the Chinese Consumer?" Feb. 13, ROI Report
19. Localize your website and content. Once you've identified which markets you're looking to move into, localizing your website and any content should be the first thing on your to-do list. One international website is no longer enough; consumers want global brands that talk to them on a local level. Begin by carrying out local research and creating a profile of your new customers. What are their interests, who are your competitors, what language do they use, etc.? These questions, in particular the latter, will help you to steer the localization of your website.
Christian Arno, Lingo24, "4 Tips for Retailers Going Global," Oct. 24, ROI Report
20. Adjust your overall inventory planning to actively account for returns. While you can't eliminate returns, you can at least compensate for them. If you shift your product mix to favor those with lower return rates, you'll achieve higher net sales.
Joe Palzkill, Direct Tech, "Happy Returns!," January/February, Retail Online Integration
21. Value store associates. Associates are the top driver of customer satisfaction, hands down. Retailers must realize associates are crucial to sales - just one bad interaction can destroy an entire customer relationship. CFI Group's recent Retail Satisfaction Barometer (RSB) study found that associates' friendliness, the ability to understand customer needs and product knowledge are the most important characteristics in driving incremental sales.
Sheri Petras, CFI Group, "4 Tips to Increase In-Store Customer Satisfaction," Oct. 18, ROI Report
22. Break down company silos by rolling up your sleeves and getting on the retail floor or online to gain better perspective of what's driving customer experience and conversion. Success is measured not only by sales, but also by end user experience, loyalty and engagement.
Amy Choyne, Kenneth Cole Productions, "The Top Women in Cross-Channel Retail," March/April, Retail Online Integration
23. Test ABC analysis and cycle counting. Cycle counting (i.e., the periodic counting of just some of your inventory) is a more accurate substitute for the costly and time-consuming process of complete inventory counting. Rather than experiencing regular business interruptions for full inventory counts, cycle counting allows you to limit counts to the items dictated by a pre-defined count calendar. Using ABC logic, the fastest-moving inventory is counted more frequently than the slowest-moving inventory. For example, you might count A inventory (your fastest movers) monthly, B inventory quarterly and C inventory (your slowest-moving inventory) only once or twice a year. The benefit of a cycle counting approach is that it dramatically improves accuracy, visibility and the ability to quickly identify trends or locate misplaced inventory. Cycle counting software streamlines the process even further and can create inventory accuracy levels of 99.5 percent or greater.
Maria Haggerty, Dotcom Distribution, "3 Simple Ideas to Improve Inventory Management," May 14, The Art of Delivering Style blog
24. Offer products of a different price range. Supplementary product suggestions should be across a varied price range. If three items have been suggested, it's crucial that all three offer a welcome mix of price points. Most often, the item that costs the least will be chosen. However, it will leave a good impression in the minds of customers, increasing the chances of repeat sales.
Radhika Subramanian, Emcien, "Tips for Using Big Data to Optimize Upsell and Cross-Sell Strategies," March 8, ROI Report
25. Don't rely on your customer to turn their phone sideways, rather adapt your website to better fit the space available. Scale down the number of columns to one or two, and make sure they aren't separated with too much space in between that will force the user to scroll sideways multiple times. Consider gallery style layout.
Kate Webster, ResourceNation.com, "Tips for Simplifying Your Mobile Site," Jan. 22,ROI Report
26. On your homepage, show which mobile wallets you accept so consumers know it's an easier mobile website to make purchases on. Anybody who has ever had to type their credit card, shipping, billing and account details on a mobile device will understand why most people drop off at this point; a mobile wallet can save some of these sales.
Danielle McCormick, Skava, "Tips for Optimizing Your Site for Mobile Shoppers," April 22, ROI Report
27. Use autocomplete for fewer keystrokes. Autocomplete is a big help for all of your visitors, as it provides suggestions and spelling alternatives after just a few letters or words are entered into the search box, but it's a particularly handy timesaving tool for busy mobile shoppers. Search suggestions should have some space between them so that when mobile shoppers click on their choice, they won't mistakenly tap the wrong one.
Terry Costa, SLI Systems, "5 Tips for Creating Shopper-Friendly Mobile Commerce Sites," May 31, ROI Report
28. Even though you have a native app, recognize that people might not use it. It can be wrong to assume people are going to download your native app just because you have one. Consumers routinely use both forms of mobile native apps and mobile web apps. If they're rushed, they might go straight for the mobile site vs. taking the time to download a native app. To succeed in today's mobile world and comprehensively reach engaged end users at or near the point of sale, retailers can't put all their eggs in one basket. Instead, they need to focus on performance excellence in both areas.
Stephen Pierzchala, Compuware APM, "Optimizing Performance for Native Mobile Apps," July 12, ROI Report
29. Give clear and distinct choices right away. Only display a subset of the options you usually show, and make the price available upfront. This is important. If users on desktops, laptops and tablets have short attention spans, here we're talking about an even shorter fuse. Make prioritization decisions when serving the mobile version of your product page.
Tim Ash, SiteTuners, "Make It Boring: The Psychology of the Mobile Product Page," July 23, Designed to Convert blog
30. Offer social login on your e-commerce site. Not only does this tactic increase opt-in rates because the registration process is easier, but it will help you to more data - and that data will be more accurate. The net result is that you'll capture useful data right out of the gate that might have taken you several form fields and a year's worth of time to capture in the past. For example, you may have wanted to capture gender and ZIP code data, but were hesitant to ask for this information at opt-in because of fear of form abandonment. With social login, however, you can gather this data and be able to deliver more relevant content based on a consumer's gender and location.
Loren McDonald, Silverpop, "Social Login: The Retail Game Changer," Jan. 4, ROI Report
31. Offer real-time global inventory availability. Showing web shoppers what's available in-store and online is fast becoming a mandate, but in-store employees need access too. A tablet-wielding associate can "save the sale" on the store floor by quickly determining that a product out of stock in her store is available 10 miles away.
Andy Lloyd, NetSuite, "Winning the Omnichannel Retail Arms Race: 5 Keys to Success in 2013 and Beyond," Jan. 29, ROI Report
32. Use dynamic ads. They're much more effective to show your shopper the boots that she was browsing before leaving your site. Even better, if your shopper has an item in their cart, why not serve up a promotion to entice her to come back and complete the order? These customized methods of reaching out to consumers typically convert better and are more eye-catching than traditional forms of web advertising."
Will Devlin, ShopVisible, "Using Retargeting to Get the Most Out of Your Ad Dollars," Aug. 2, ROI Report
33. The challenge extends beyond systems and data. Ensure that organizational structure, culture and training fully support the cross-channel customer experience.
Katherine Bahamonde, C. Wonder, The Top Women in Cross-Channel Retail," March/April, Retail Online Integration
Operations & Fulfillment
34. Consider service guarantee waivers. Do you file for late delivery credits? Quantify how much you're actually getting back on an annual basis. It's probably not much. Some shippers find it advantageous to secure deeper incentives up front in lieu of the service guarantee.
Rob Martinez, Shipware, "8 Ways to Use Parcel Carriers' 'Cost to Serve' Pricing to Your Advantage," April 17, Shipping Insights blog
35. Consider separating orders based on the type of gift packaging they require. For example, gift boxes may go to one set of pack stations, while gift-wrapped products go to others. By developing an optimized workflow, you're able to take advantage of process efficiencies and effectively manage a high volume of gift packaging and messaging requests.
Maria Haggerty, Dotcom Distribution, "Top 3 Bottlenecks in the Warehouse During the Holidays," Oct 7, The Art of Delivering Style blog
36. If you have extra space in your shipments, you might as well make the most of it by slipping in some flyers, newsletters or coupons. Hewlett-Packard (HP), for example, does a great job of advertising deals from Snapfish, a unit of HP that provides web-based photo-sharing and photo-printing services.
Jerry Jao, Retention Science, "Using Fulfillment as a Customer Retention Tool," September/October, Retail Online Integration
37. Google product listing ads (PLAs), which rely heavily on images, have proven enormously effective for e-tailers who have figured out how to run PLAs in concert with traditional text campaigns. Coordinate your image production efforts with the requirements of your PLA team so that your products shine on Google Product Search.
Mark Simon, Didit, "Image Search Tips for E-Tailers," April 11, ROI Report
38. Always have a "catch all" target. Since you can't bid on specific keywords for PLAs, and search queries are matched by the unique product titles and descriptions, it's important to have a "catch all" or "all products" target in your campaign. By neglecting to do so you run the risk of missing traffic to relevant products in your feed.
Shannon Greene, Elite SEM, "Best Practices for Using Product Listing Ads," June 24,ROI Report
39. Make sure there's enough space to accommodate user queries (users will shorten their search terms if there's little space, and that's more likely to lead to failure). As important, review the search depth for your most popular terms if visitors are refining their queries all the time for something that's used often. If this happens a lot, devise a plan to either change your site search engine or customize it for the terms that fail the most.
Tim Ash, SiteTuners, "What Users Want: Using Internal Site Search for Prioritization," June 26, Designed to Convert blog
40. You should have a XML site map. If you don't, create one. It should be listed in your robots.txt file with a "Sitemaps" directive. If you have videos on your site, you'll need a video site map. If you have a mobile site, you'll need a mobile site map.
Stephan Spencer, SEO expert/author/speaker, "Retailing for Dummies," January/February, Retail Online Integration
41. Require a signature upon the delivery of goods. A signed delivery receipt is one of the most popular recommendations for online retailers. The signature, in addition to information gathered online, helps relieve merchants of any wrongdoing in the resolution of chargeback disputes. A signature can often take the place of a card swipe transaction receipt, making your sales much more secure. Every carrier today offers signed delivery receipts. If this cost is prohibitive to your business, opt for delivery confirmation instead. A delivery confirmation service adds a very small amount to the postage and still provides you with a record of evidence.
Monica Eaton-Cardone, Chargebacks911, "3 Tips to Reducing Chargebacks," May 15,ROI Report
42. To defend against sophisticated cyber attacks, implement a unified security system capable of managing both mobile and other online transactions. All mobile transactions should be funneled through the same back-end security system as desktop/laptop transactions, and mobile access points should be monitored just as thoroughly as every other connection channel.
Andreas Baumhof, ThreatMetrix, "5 Ways Retailers Can Protect Mobile Transactions From Fraud," March/April, Retail Online Integration
43. Consider adding deferred, residential ground alternatives to your website, including offerings from UPS SurePost, FedEx SmartPost, and Newgistics. While these services may add days in transit, they come with significantly lower pricing than FedEx and UPS air and ground services.
Rob Martinez, Shipware, "Retailing for Dummies," January/February, Retail Online Integration
44. Include the bad stuff. While most brands instinctively want to suppress negative mentions, consumers assign more credibility to brands that publish both positive and negative reviews and comments on their social media profiles. Rather than alienating consumers by filtering out the occasional negative comment, emphasize transparency and give consumers visibility to the full spectrum of customer-generated content.
Bruce Warren, Empathica, "How Retailers Can Benefit From Consumers' Reliance on Social Media," Jan. 9, ROI Report
45. Establish rules. Post community guidelines in the "About" section of your Facebook page. It may be Barnes & Noble's approach to let fans have their say on the brand's Timeline, but within what parameters? And how will the brand participate in the conversation, if at all? Lots of brands post rules for community behavior, and many help fans/followers know what to expect from the brand, including identifying which platforms are for customer service and indicating if/when the brand will delete fan posts.
Carolee Sherwood, Media Logic, "The Retail Social Juice Index Spotlight: Wayfair.com, King Arthur Flour, Barnes & Noble," March 21, ROI Report
46. It's possible to have too much of a good thing. Though you should experiment to find your brand's ideal pace, many (Edgerank Checker, Social Bakers and Social Media Today, for example) say the right frequency for brands to post on Facebook is about once a day, citing the principle of diminishing returns after that. Carefully monitor "how busy" your Timeline is in other ways as well. Post diversity can be a good thing, but without a unifying principle, it can cause confusion - as can promoting too many activities and contests simultaneously.
Carolee Sherwood, Media Logic, "The Monthly Retail Social Spotlight: Silpada Designs, Boot Barn, 1-800-PetMeds," April 18, ROI Report
47. Make YouTube work for you. Drive traffic from your YouTube-based videos to your website by using a "secret link." Think you can't link out of YouTube? Think again. Put a text link as the first element in the video description. A clickable link will appear just below the video as it plays.
Craig Wax, Invodo, "9 Tactics to Boost Your Video Merchandising Efforts," Feb. 28, ROI Report
48. Test your thumbnail for volume lift. A simple change of your video thumbnail - the still image that shows before visitors play your video - can lead to double-digit increases in your clickthrough rate. But how do you know which of your thumbnail options is going to work best? It's simple, run an A/B split test. If you're not A/B testing your video thumbnails, you're giving away views.
Michael Litt, Vidyard, "5 Tips to Optimize Your Video Marketing Efforts," May 1, ROI Report
49. In terms of making good use of your videos, the best place to start is with your search engine optimization efforts. Video can be a very effective tool for cutting through the clutter of search results and convincing a prospect that your link is worth clicking on. When you upload your video site map to search engines, you instantly boost the placement of your videos in searches.
Dr. Melody King, Treepodia, "Video Engages Consumers at Every Stage of the Shopping Process," Sept. 23, ROI Report
50. Find the characteristics of a product that are key to the customer's decision. For an apparel retailer, it may be a photo; for an electronics site, specs and ratings are important; for a home improvement brand, "how to" videos may make it stand out. It's critical to the success of the site to place those elements that are most important to the purchase decision up front on the homepage.
Kevin Simmons, MICROS, "8 Tips for Developing E-Commerce Sites With Consumers in Mind," Oct. 16, ROI Report