Best Practices for Loyalty Programs in Ecommerce

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An effective loyalty strategy will offer the customer plenty of choices  in order to learn more about what their personal preferences are. Providing points based on signing up for a newsletter or sharing your experience on social media can generate … Continue reading

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4 Reasons Online Reviews Are Important For Your Ecommerce Business

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Online reviews are crucial to any online business that wants control of its reputation on the internet. Customer reviews have changed and created innovative ways for companies to market to them. Reviews allow companies to understand what their customers think of their products, service as well as themselves. It allows them to potentially create positive consumer interaction as well as long lasting relationships.

 

1. Increased Sales

The biggest reason why ratings and reviews are important to an ecommerce business is that it can ultimately lead to increased sales by giving customers the information  on a product or service they are considering to purchase. People are more likely to purchase a product or service based on ratings and reviews by others.

 

2. Increases Engagement

Online reviews have the effect of creating active social communities where many can share their experiences they’ve had with a product or service. Customers that leave reviews will usually come and see if others have commented on them or simply read what other customers have had to say about their experience  with the product or service. This form of social engagement allows customers to form a bond with the online business.

 

3. Improves Rankings

Reviews are great for SEO. Reviews help create a steady supply of keyword content that help your online business have a more prominent online presence. It helps improve your website ranking the more people you have to talk about you. Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing consider that extremely important.

 

4. Creates Customer Loyalty and Trust

Customers that actively participate in writing reviews, tend to develop a loyalty to the business. It allows customers to feel that they have a voice and can provide valuable feedback to help a company improve its product or service. The graph below shows that during a recent survey that 72% of of people felt that positive customer reviews made them trust a business more.

rating on reviews

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8 Ways To Secure Your Ecommerce Website

security definition in a dictionary

Does your ecommerce site have enough security? With the recent data breach of Sony Pictures, we are reminded that hacking and fraud are critical problems for ecommerce websites and their customers. While this article does not cover every single important security essential, it does highlight a few of the important ones that every online business should have.

 

1. Do not store sensitive data

There is no reason to hold on to thousands of customer records, especially credit card numbers, expiration dates, and CVV2 codes. Under PCI standards, it is strictly forbidden. The security industry recommends purging old customer data from your database and keeping a small amount of data for refunds and chargebacks. Per the PCI Data Security Standard Section 3.2:”Do not store sensitive authentication data after authorization (even if encrypted).”

2. Encrypt data information with an SSL certification

An SSL certificate or secured socket layer is the standard used to protect web communication. “Basically SSL is a technology that encrypts and decrypts messages sent between the browser and server. By encrypting the message as it is sent from the browser, it is rendered unreadable by the malicious virus or malware” (https://www.net4.in). A site with an SSL seal indicates the site has been authenticated and reassures the customer that their online transactions are safe. It helps to keep financial information secure on the website and reduce fraudulent purchases. Perform quarterly PCI scans to lower the risk of your site being hacked. It is essential with third party downloaded software like PrestaShop and Magento.

3. Multiple Layers of Security

Adding multiple layers of security acts as a deterrent to cyber crime. Firewalls are essential in stopping attacks before they breach your network and access vital information. “Start with firewalls, an essential aspect in stopping attackers before they can breach your network and gain access to your critical information,” says Sarah Grayson, Senior Marketing Manager for the Web Security Group at McAfee. “Add extra layers of security to the website and applications such as contact forms, login boxes, and search queries. These measures will ensure that your ecommerce environment is protected from application-level attacks like SQL (Structured Query Language) injections and cross-site scripting (XSS).”

4. Set Up an Alert System

As the level of fraud grows on ecommerce sites it is important to set up an alert system for suspicious activity. One example is a person placing multiple orders with different credit cards, and phone numbers that are delivered to separate addresses. During my time with ecommerce company One trend that we noticed was that most fraudulent orders would be shipped to port cities on the east coast such as Florida. Once the item would arrive it would be placed in a shipping container and disappear without a trace. Order control measures were put in place to check the recipients name matched with a credit card or debit card in order to avoid suspicious transactions. Part of that program consisted of emailing the customer and asking them to call and verify information. Many fraudulent orders were stopped by these methods

5. Patch Your Systems

When software companies release new versions of software patch everything immediately. The latest versions fix bugs in software. By updating to the latest software updates, you ensure your systems stay up to date. By not patching your systems, you allow hackers the opportunity to find a vulnerability and exploit it. Breached sites tend to have one thing in common. They tend to be running old versions of software and code. WordPress, Joomla, OS Commerce, and Zencart tend to be favorite targets for hackers and should be regularly checked for updates.

6. Require Stronger Passwords

Customers should be required to create long passwords utilizing symbols and or numbers. Making longer and more complex logins make it harder for cyber criminals to breach your website. Not only should they not share their passwords, they should be required to change them once a month.

7. Have DDoS Protection

“DDoS, short for “Distributed Denial of Service”, is a form of attack where multiple, already compromised networks are used to target a single system, causing a “Denial of Service” attack. When a website is under attack, it stops responding to legitimate users because a hacker-controlled “fleet” of computers are maliciously flooding network traffic to the target’s website. DDoS attacks have grown to be the weapon of choice for hackers and cyber criminals as they are inexpensive to execute, difficult to stop, and impact a very large network of users.” (https://www.sitelock.com).  A DDoS Cloud service works by sending traffic through scrubbing nodes that filter the traffic and only send what legitimate to the site.

8. Monitor Your Website Regularly

There are many tools available on websites that can monitor your traffic and alert you if there is any suspicious activity. Once alerted you can take the steps necessary to prevent it. Have the hosting provider monitor their servers for malware, viruses, and other harmful software. It is recommended that you scan your website once a day to prevent malware from entering your website.

These are by no means the only security measures you should take to make your ecommerce website as secure as possible. Use these, as a basic checklist to protect your online business, your customer’s and potential revenue.

 

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5 Reasons Loyalty Programs Work For Commerce

Lets face it, we are all fans of rewards points. I certainly am. It’s the reason why I shop at Target so much. It all started for me when I signed up for the Target red card. While they have a credit card option I opted for the debit card. Why? Because I get 5% off on all purchases in the store and on their website. They recently got me to switch my pharmacy, and here’s how. By making me a rewards program member. It’s quite simple really. Once I fill 5 prescriptions I get a rewards certificate good for 5% off  that I can use to  shop in the store or online. If I combine it with my red card it adds up to a total of 10% off my entire order.

While this article is not about Target, it’s more about the power of what a good loyalty program can do for your business and your customers.

1. Help differentiate your online store

 

loyalty club card

photo credit: hnnbz via photopin cc

In today’s internet world buyers, are faced with many more brands competing for their business and increased buying options. Because of these options, converting site visits into sales has become much more challenging than ever. Loyalty programs help online stores grow brand awareness. Online stores that run loyalty programs such as rewards points were more important to their customers, than their competitors that did not offer such programs.

2. Loyalty programs stimulate return visits

what loyalty programs work

Loyalty programs are designed to cultivate loyalty and trust to a business, which results in increased revenue from return customers. We have seen increases of 5-10% revenue increase attributed to loyalty programs from our clients. Quite simply, customers will return more often if they know they are getting rewarded for it..

3. Loyalty programs lead to an increase in positive customer feedback

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photo credit: Lotus Carroll via photopin cc

While loyalty programs have a positive impact on return sales, they also have the power to influence positive reviews for your business. Stores that offer customers the option to join a rewards program tend to have a higher percentage of positive reviews than those that don’t.

4. Loyalty programs continue to grow

plants growing

Image courtesy of amenic181 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Research conducted by Accenture shows that “customers are bound to be loyal if retailers personalize experience and integrate loyalty programs – online, in store, on social media, via mobile and tablet.”
Heres a look:
32% of shoppers said their loyalty to a favorite retailer has increased over the last year.
23% said it was because of a loyalty program.
48% of shoppers are comfortable giving their information in exchange for personalized communications.
30% of purchase decisions are influenced by promotions or recommendations based on purchase history.
30% of shoppers are currently influenced by real time, location based promotions.

5. Loyalty programs help you learn more about your customers

social media learning

photo credit: mkhmarketing via photopin cc

Loyalty programs help a business learn about their customers. Analytics make it possible for businesses to target specific customer groups, adjust product offerings and promotions in a physical or online store. A great example of an enterprise business that use analytics is none other than Amazon. More than a third of their business is generated through customer data driven optimization of their product recommendations, inventory and marketing campaigns.

 

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How Millennials Influence Your Branding Strategy [Infographic]

Infographic on Millenials cropped

Did you know that 247% of Millenials are more likely to be influenced by blogs or social networking sites?

According to research Millenials are the generation that is transforming consumer marketing. What distinguishes Millenials from past generations is there strong brand preferences. They expect to have a strong personal relationship with companies and their brands. Because of this Millenials influence other other customers in their social networks, while helping to define the brand.

Social Media acts as a catalyst for Millenials to use, as an amplifier for their opinions. Whether or not they have a positive or negative experience they will go out of their way to share it on social media, blogs and through reviews. Another aspect is the potential for criticism to go viral.

Millenials represent the customer market of the future and will outnumber baby boomers within 12 years. They are the main indicators, that are starting to change consumer behavior in the future. They influence consumer spending habits, brand perception and attitude.

Check out How Millennials Influence Your Branding Strategy Infographic.

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How Instagram Curated Products Work in Fashion Retail

social curated products gallery

Personalized shopping on Instagram has quickly become a central business strategy for many fashion commerce sites, as more and more younger consumers are attracted towards curated product options. What do curated product options offer the average consumer? It eliminates the plethora of buying choices available to them. Socially curated products provide consumers with choices that will interest them based on past shopping experiences, interactions and preferences. Curated products provide customers, relevancy in the products they are shopping for.

Why are social curated products important to fashion online retailers? Let’s take Instagram for example. Successful brands collect photos from Instagram’s growing community and promote them with specific branded hashtags. This allows retailers to display user generated images on their website and or with an Instagram voting gallery.Free people contest example A great example is Free People. They ask their customers to post images of themselves in their clothing using specific hashtags. Some of these images are then posted on their website where potential buyers can see how the clothing looks like in real life. The end result is shoppers will follow galleries based on what they like and share. This helps your brand organically as it helps consumers discover your products.

The choices that socially curated products offer, are far more authentic and can help influence customer buying behavior. Customers are more likely to purchase a curated products and spread the word to their friends in their social networks. By helping create a real world experience for your customers , it benefits your brands growth and makes you part of their decision cycle. Brands like Burberry use top influencers and trendsetters in featured photos and videos. This increases brand loyalty and helps drive consumer engagement. Bonobos nation picture exampleLike Free People, Bonobos, uses its own followers as models. By having fans submit images of themselves wearing their clothing, the company then promotes them on its own Instagram account. Using your own customers as a marketing tool is very powerful and can be quite effective in establishing a long term relationship with them.

 

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4 Tips for Social Holiday Consumer Engagement

With the holidays approaching rapidly, many Ecommerce sites are preparing their strategies in hopes of realizing increased sales and site visits. Social media can obviously be a very useful tool in terms of boosting engagement with the brand, but when leveraged effectively can also help with more specific tasks like promoting holiday specials, running contests themed around the holidays and so much more that represents value for your ecommerce brand. Here at Social Annex we have done some of the thinking on your behalf, and we came up with this nifty list of reminders for your holiday season social strategy.

1. Make your customers lives easier

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Holiday shopping often becomes a hassle and consumers will take notice and advantage of a brand’s efforts to make the process seamless. The value of cultivating this relationship will provide brand affinity and long-term benefits. Q+A forums, AMA’s, offer advice/help, shopping tips and tricks, etc. Are all appropriate to implement and promote during the holidays.Social Annex offers various forms of social commerce that can allow your customers to engage with your brand in a way that makes their entire shopping process more informed and generally easier.

2. Start early

earlybird

Get a head start on the competition with some sort of “early bird” incentive for shopping. There are a considerable number of people who want to get their holiday shopping done in a hurry. They are perfect candidates for early engagement opportunities and sales during the Holiday season. For example if you offer some kind of contest, deal etc. that offers higher percentages off than what will be offered during the holiday, it could be very effective. These kinds of specials also have potential to spread via social media, bringing more and more early bird shoppers in to capitalize and make purchases.

3.Make customers feel good about giving

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Offer incentives, contest or deals themed around “giving” etc. You should consider the holiday season not just a sales boosting opportunity but a relationship and brand building one as well. One example would be donating a certain percentage of sales during a given time period to a certain charity. Another would be offering a giving initiative around likes, email subscriptions or another conversion metric. It’s important to be sincere and try to attach to a cause that your brand can be associated with beyond just the holiday season.

4. Keep an open mind in holiday communications

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Your market is probably diverse and celebrates different holidays. Be conscious of this with your communications and keep it “Holiday-themed” when possible. Also, best practice is to modify your messaging depending on the platform and demo you are targeting. For example if your consumer base is 40% Jewish, it may not make sense to run a a “Christmas Giving” contest on Facebook. This may seem like a no-brainer, but many ecommerce brands fail to correctly identify their demographic and inform strategy based on that data.

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Best Practices: The Top 3 Accounts to Use With Social Login

 Social Login has become a frequently used tool of many e commerce sites in the past year or so. This hasn’t happened without very good reason. This tool makes the entire user experience easier and has very tangible results in the form of decreased shopping cart abandonment and higher retention rates.

But if you are currently using or even contemplating using social logins, there remains a very important question. Which ones do you use?

The answer to that question depends on a few key factors including your site demographics, your brand, and your specific goals for using social logins. However, there are some general guidelines and best practices for social logins that can be applied across the board. Here at Social Annex we have your back. Here are the top 3 accounts to use with social logins.

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1.Facebook 

Hands down, Facebook is the most highly recommended and widely utilized social platform used with social logins. The standout reason for using Facebook is the data collection. It offers way more access to information about your consumers than any other platform, and in addition, has the highest likelihood of being used by social login shoppers. Users that log in with Facebook also have the highest average order value. Also, 60% percent of social media users prefer to connect with brands via Facebook. It’s pretty much a no-brainer with this one.

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2. Google
Coming in at a very close number 2 we have the only other comparable internet giant, Google. Users average the second highest average order value while using Google. In addition, Google can access everything from Google plus to YouTube to Gmail, one of the most widely used email services on the planet. The there is a pretty good chance that a user is either already logged in on Facebook or Google, if not both.

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3.Amazon
Amazon’s social login offers access to the largest e-commerce consumer base on the internet. The advantage of using an Amazon login is that it connects you with a vast network of shoppers and not just users. 200 million shoppers to be exact. These users may be slightly more comfortable using Amazon, especially while shopping. Retention rates are sure to increase while implementing amazon as one of your available social login accounts.

Keep in mind that this list serves simply as a guideline. Here at Social Annex, we suggest that you use 4 social login options on your site, and these are considered our top 3 recommendations. We also offer social login connections for Yahoo, Linkedin, Paypal, and more. If you would like to learn more about social logins click here.

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Why Your Site Should Have an Instagram Curated Gallery

 

Instagram is widely considered the fastest growing and most frequently used social media network out, especially within the millennial demographic. As is the case with most growing social media platforms,many brands are still trying to figure out the most effective ways to utilize Instagram. Surprisingly (or not so surprisingly), most companies are having a hard time figuring out how to integrate this platform into their social mix in a way that doesn’t seem forced. Instagram is a very organic experience that is used by people who don’t really want to be exposed to anything that remotely resembles advertising. So, how do you leverage it in a way that makes sense for your business?

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One of the best ways to capitalize on this platform, and create some sort of tangible result in the form of ROI is the use of Instagram Curated Galleries. This tool can accomplish various marketing goals simultaneously and will be soon be considered a must have for many ecommerce websites. One obvious and major benefit is the ability to provide additional engagement opportunities between a brand and it’s most loyal consumers in a visually appealing manner. In an era where visual content is a dominating trend, the added value of consumers seeing your product used or worn in real life can not be understated. Impressions, mentions, and engagements all receive a spike in numbers as a result of this tool. The results are not all about engagement however. There are benefits in terms of ROI and retention as well. A user is more likely purchase let’s say, a pair of jeans, if they can see someone wearing them in a picture posted directly on the product page. This tool answers the “what will it look like” question that far too many online shoppers ask before eventually abandoning a product. Instagram Curated Galleries also create a way more user friendly experience that builds trust between a brand and its consumers over time.

Essentially, by using Curated Galleries an eCommerce site has the ability to take advantage of the blatant consumerism that dominates Instagram, and specify it to their own brand and product. Think of it as an extension of the consumers social media experience within their natural flow of interacting with your website. It is an enhancement to that experience to say the least.

You can check out an example of a live Curated Gallery here.

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