Mobile Trends for 2013

eMarketer predicts that $37.44 billion worth of goods will be purchased by consumers on their smartphones and tablets in 2013. The option to shop via mobile devices is becoming easier than ever with the development of new technology and platforms that make purchasing simple for consumers. With more access to apps and mobile web sites with higher quality and functionality,  it even seems that consumers will ultimately prefer to shop mobile,  according to Huffington Post Tech.

It’s estimated that there will be 118 million mobile shoppers in the U.S. this year and with this comes the preference for using mobile devices for research as opposed to computers. eMarketer predicts that eight out of ten digital shoppers will also be using mobile within the next few years.

Tablet use will also continue to increase as consumers use them for research and to complete purchases even more than smartphones. According to Business Insider,  tablets tend to drive more traffic to online retailers than smartphones and tablet consumers spend more per transaction than PC-based users.

As retail spending habits change, retailers must implement new ways to meet their needs. This includes experimenting with services such as location-based price discrimination and investing in apps to cater to the need for immediate retail therapy. Nine of out ten consumers own a smartphone,  tablet or cellphone in the United States alone. That’s approximately 216 million possible mobile device owners to reach.

According to a study from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA),  37% of these owners are currently engaging in some form of mobile commerce, which includes shopping,  purchasing items to be picked up in-store and using coupons or gift cards. IBM found that 24% of shoppers used a mobile device to visit retailer websites during Thanksgiving and Black Friday 2012,  up from 14.3% in 2011.

“There will be many more unpredictable changes in mobile in 2013,  but if these emerging trends are any indication,  we’re in store for a new world — built,  consumed and reinvented by the wireless generation,” says Huffington Post Tech.

A recent example of mobile commerce success is Sephora,  a beauty product retailer. Sephora saw a 167% increase in mobile orders in 2012,  with a 75% rise in mobile traffic, as well as 50% of email opens coming in from mobile devices,  according to Johnna Marcus, director of mobile and digital store marketing at Sephora. Marketing Pilgrim,  says that Sephora’s goal is to use mobile as a personal shopper that offers reviews,  tracking of favorite brands and showcases new items. Sephora has also invested in a mobile wallet concept that can be used with gift cards. By scanning a barcode on a product, you can instantly see reviews and buying options.

“Between our collective move towards e-commerce,  the new technologies being introduced into stores and an increasing reliance on smartphones and apps,  retail is undergoing a massive tech transformation,” according to Forbes

While traditional commerce has always struggled with location targeting,  mobile can “entice” shoppers into stores for items they are personally in the market for. “With in-store mobile marketing,  an indecisive consumer can be nudged toward a specific brand or product,” says Business Insider.

With mobile commerce only getting bigger,  another way to drive growth could be increased mobile payment options, which create value while providing a direct link between the brand and the consumer.

“That’s the direction being taken by Passbook,  which sidestepped payments to start with coupons,  loyalty rewards and ticketing. Established mobile payments players,  such as Square and Google Wallet,  are building on transactional solutions to offer shopping-related services,” says Business Insider.

In some cases,  e-commerce and mobile are actually replacing physical stores. For example,  Toys “R” Us plans to open mobile-friendly sites in China, Australia and France. Instead of opening traditional brick-and-mortar stores in certain areas,  virtual ones will ultimately replace them.

More and more companies are accepting that this is where real opportunity lies. With smartphones and tablets come easy access to global information on any product. The growing use of mobile devices persuades retailers to keep prices competitive and websites active.

As always, we welcome your input and look forward to the conversation;  click here to leave a comment. For an overview on the purpose of this blog,  take a look at the initial post here.

This article was written by:
Bethany Richard,  Sage Tree Trade Marketing Associate

 

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2012 in Review

From November 1 to December 31,  $42.3 billion worth of online goods were purchased by U.S. shoppers (comScore). That’s up 14% from the $37 billion comScore reported in 2011 for holiday sales. The largest increases were found to be:

  • Thanksgiving Day,  up 32% to $633 million
  • “Free Shipping Day” (December 17),  up 76% to just over $1 billion
  • Black Friday,  a 28% increase with online sales equaling over $1 billion
  • Cyber Monday,  up 17% with sales of more than $1.4 billion

The largest winner was the traditional Cyber Monday. On this day the top gaining retail categories were:

  • Digital Content and Subscriptions (books, movies, etc.) at 28% growth
  • Electronics up 24%
  • Computer Hardware up 22%
  • Video Games and Accessories up 18%

Most people believe the reason Cyber Monday is so large because consumers are using high-speed Internet connections at work. But the majority of online purchases made on Cyber Monday 2012 were done so from home (47.2%),  followed closely by 47.1% from work.

Overall,  this holiday saw five days each with total retail spending greater than $1B- more than any other year. But despite these numbers, total online spending for the holiday 2012 period did not quite meet the expectations of over $43 billion. In part this was due to fiscal cliff concerns in early December,  but retailers also blame it on the holiday falling in the middle of the week.

For the fourth quarter,  retail is estimated to have seen a growth of just 4%, according to Deloitte. During this same time period,  e-commerce is estimated to have gone up 20% and Amazon is predicted to have seen up to $22.75 billion in revenue for Q4,  which could mean Amazon is looking at an over 70% increase from $13.18 billion in Q3,  according to ZDNet.

Scott Wingo,  CEO and Co-Founder of ChannelAdvisor,  predicted that the strong growth of e-commerce in Q4 2012 would be due to innovation waves that are changing the e-commerce landscape.” Wingo noted that Amazon’s ability to lower shipping costs and increase fulfillment lead to “an overall adoption of e-commerce,” adding that mobile and social come hand-in-hand with further innovation.

The big question Sage Tree is continually asked is, “Does the eCommerce growth detract from or add to retail growth?” While eventually we believe this will happen to some degree,  the current trends don’t support that at all. Online shopping is not only driving e-commerce sales, but offline sales as well for consumers. According to Forrester’s Web-Influenced Retail Sales Report (U.S.),  nearly 50% of consumers research online before purchasing. Meanwhile,  42% research online and purchase online and 32% also research online,  visit the store and then purchase online. And what’s more important is that this trend is only expected to continue. The ‘Omniretailing’ trend that’s talked about in the press is something that manufacturers and retailers alike are just beginning to address.

“With more and more consumers having mobile lifelines that can share… the power is truly in the hands of the consumer.” –econsultancy.com

The key is how you support this trend.

So, what is to be expected in 2013? E-commerce will continue to be on the rise. Goldman Sachs predicts that worldwide online sales will reach nearly $1 trillion. Retail and online sales will become more and more intertwined. We also expect to see brands developing mobile platforms. It will continue to become true that integrating online and offline sales is not only a must,  but increasingly beneficial to both business and customers’ overall happiness.

As always,  we welcome your input and look forward to the conversation;  click here to leave a comment. For an overview on the purpose of this blog,  take a look at the initial post here.

This article was written by:
Bethany Richard,  Sage Tree Trade Marketing Associate

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Flash Sites

One of the fastest growing phenomena in the online world are “Flash” sites.  These deal sites are springing up for every category from electronics, to baby, sporting goods, home improvement . . . the options do not seem to be limited in any way.  Like the variation in offers, the business models are all very different as well.  Some like Woot! are focused on one product each day.  Others like The Clymb want to offer 4 to 9 products from one manufacturer in a grouping.  All are trying to offer the products at a discount to the general market.

The idea originated in Europe in 2001 with a company called Vente-Privee; this stands for private sale.  The concept was to sell the end-of-season and overstock inventory through limited time sales events for members of the club.  This innovative idea would fulfill manufacturer needs of unloading excess inventory, without damaging the brand’s image or competing with other distribution channels, all the while maximizing profits.  This confluence of opportunities created a new model.  Over a six-year period their membership grew to over 5 million and people started to pay attention.

Today flash sales sites are one of the largest growing ecommerce segments in the U.S.  We have seen several new ones over the last few months but there are some established sites there today.  Some that seem to have perfected the formula are: Gilt, Woot!, Groupon, Living Social, Babysteals.com, The Clymb.

The draw to work with this business model has even captured Amazon who has lent their name to a “Groupon like” model called “Amazon local deals”.  In this model, like Groupon, the program offers local deals for items such as travel, services and entertainment.

With most flash sale sites, customers start by becoming a member.  This membership helps the customer gain access to the deals.  Typically to become a member the consumer has to provide the site an email address; this enables weekly, sometimes daily, emails describing the current event.  Several Flash sites go a step further and ask members to fill out a profile.  The member is given different categories or activities and then asked to select where their interests lie.

This information about the member can be vital to the site.  With it the site can tailor the emails based on what they have selected.  But maybe more importantly the site knows what their customers are looking for; this tells them what products they need to carry or a segment into which they can expand.  Many times this information can be used to help in the negotiations with manufacturers who want to offer products on the site.

The challenge for many of these sites is soliciting membership.  With the glut of offers, consumers are beginning to get tired of the different sites.  A Flash site has a limited offering – both in breath of choices and depth of stocked units – changing inventory on a regular basis.  Because of this, it is hard to build the key relationship with consumers.  And starting out new continues to be the challenge.

One Flash site that we work with has partnered with a non-profit organization to help solicit membership.  They donate a percentage of sales to the organization and in return they get access to contact information they use to solicit membership.

Other sites use incentives such as a discount on their first purchase if a consumer invites their friends to join. Flash sites can also solicit membership using social network sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Often times the products on the Flash site are discontinued or “over stocked” items that a manufacturer needs to sell.  The Flash site is helping the manufacturer move large quantities in a short time frame, often 1-day.  Woot! is a great example of a site that likes to buy in large quantities, using their huge customer base to sell the products.  On Woot!, a new product is listed each day at midnight and their goal is to be sold out by early morning.  This creates a drive in purchasing that can lead to phenomenal results; Woot! was ranked the number 176 online retailer in 2010 and Amazon purchased them in 2011.

Like most “deal” oriented sites, the margin requirements for a Flash site aren’t as strict as a typical online retailer.  One of the keys we have found is to be clear who is shipping the product to the end consumer before you offer pricing.  Many of the newer sites never take inventory, asking the manufacturer to drop-ship the products to the end user.

As always,we welcome your input and look forward to the conversation; click here to leave a comment. For an overview of the purpose of this blog take a look at the initial post here.

This article was written by:
Whitney Vanderweit, Sage Tree Senior National Account Manager

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Soft POs

We thought it would be worthwhile to discuss different ways in which ecommerce customers place orders.  In traditional buy sell relationships since the beginning of time, the customer places an order and the supplier fills the order by shipping it.  Recently though, and to a large degree because of the growth of etailers as a significant retail force, the idea of a soft purchase order has become commonplace.

Many etailers are considered to be what we refer to as ”drop ship only” because they do not have a warehouse and they do not stock inventory.  They require that the manufacturer drop ship individual consumer orders directly to the consumer’s home.  Couple that phenomenon with the growth of the deal sites or flash sites and it’s a perfect storm for soft P.O.’s.

A deal site or flash site builds their model on the fact that manufacturers are sitting on excess, discontinued and obsolete inventory, often referred to as distressed inventory.  The manufacturer needs to move it out fast and get it off the books.  They will gladly heavily discount the inventory to move it.  Usually they sell to discount retailers that have big warehouses, but now they are beginning to sell to etailers who have no warehouses.  In this case, the etailer will place a soft P.O. for a chunk of the merchandise and the P.O. acts like a hold on that inventory until the etailer can put the merchandise up on their site and offer the deal to the consumer.  After a few days, when the deal is over, the etailer adds up all the orders and places a hard P.O. (a real purchase order) for the exact quantity pre-sold to the consumer.

At that point the manufacturer may ship to the etailer’s warehouse or directly to the consumer if the etailer is drop ship only.  There are benefits for both the manufacturer and etailer.  The etailer gets to sell product that they have not purchased yet, eliminating their capital outlay and risk.  They never end up sitting on overstock inventory because they’re buying only what they have pre-sold.  The supplier gets to sell to an etailer that could not have purchased any other way, opening up a new channel of distribution.  That inventory is sitting in the warehouse anyway so why not let someone try to sell it on their website.  The downside is that a portion of it has to be placed on hold for a few days.  We’ve seen it work very well for both parties.

As always, we welcome your input and look forward to the conversation; click here to leave a comment. For an overview of the purpose of this blog take a look at the initial post here.

 

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Encourage Repeat Buying

In this series of articles we have been discussing the the traditional three key fundamental steps of the sales cycle for an online retailer:

  1. Acquisition
  2. Conversion
  3. Retention

The last two articles coverd Acquisition, getting the customer to your offer page on a retail dot com site, and Conversion, getting the customers to buy.  In this article we are going to discuss what a manufacturer can do to help Retention; once the customer has purchased your product, how do you ensure they buy again.

Online businesses hope to turn visitors into customers, and customers into clients. They want and need to develop a long term relationship with customers; reducing their acquisition costs and increasing converstions because customers trust them.  The same aspects are true for the manufacturer. With so many online retailers available on the internet, how do you help your retail partner ensure that customers will come back?

Brand Statement

Brand statements are company informational paragraphs that come at the end of each description on the product page.  These statement are generally only a few sentences that tell the customer about the company, i.e its values, history, etc…These are an important part of each content paragraph, building familarity across products and product categories.  They are especially important if your company manufactures under different product categories, ensuring that the customers that trusted your product in one segment can more easily translate that trust to the new category.

Accessories

By offering the main products and accessories, manufacturers support having customers return frequently to buy add-ons or extension to their particular product. This can be seen as a variation of the “Razor/Razor Blade” business model, referring to customers who buy razors for shaving, but then frequently return to purchase more razor blades when needed.

Owner’s Manuals

The overall goal is to attain lifetime customers. This means the retailer needs to inform and educate the visitors about your products and its uses.  A great way to accomplish this is to have manuals linked to your product page. These manuals provide the customer a more detailed description of how to use the product.

Responding to Reviews

Research shows that the vast majority of customer written reviews are positive.  But how do you retain the customer who wrote a negative review? Again research has shown that by responding to a review can create lifetime customers.  A study was taken by Retail Consumer Report in January of 2011.  They followed 1,605 US adults who shopped online during the most recent holiday season.  They concluded the following:

  • 68% of consumers who posted a negative review on a social network or review site got a response from the retailer.  Of those, 18% turned into loyal customers and bought more products from the retailer.
  • The survey also found that of those 68% who received a response, 33% then followed up by posting a positive review, and 34% deleted their original negative review.

Of course you can only do so much for retention.  The retailer plays a critical part in the process.  How the approach the cousumer and fulfill on their comitments plays a major part of any long term relationship.  But helping them make the site a destination the consumer can trust and use for support, at least for your products, goes a long way in supporting the relationship.

This series of articles offer some thinking about how a manufactuer can effect their retail pages in all aspects, from acquisition, conversion, and retention.  Each of the features described play an equally important part in getting the customer to your products, and providing the necessary information that is needed for the customer to make his/her decision to buy or not.

As always,we welcome your input and look forward to the conversation; click here to leave a comment. For an overview of the purpose of this blog take a look at the initial post here.

This article was written by:
Phil Hope, Sage Tree Account Executive

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Creating Customers

In our last article we spoke about acquisition; getting the customer to your offer page on a retail dot com site. But the efforts of acquiring the consumers and getting them to your product page will prove wasteful if they never actually buy the product.  In this article we discuss the processes of Conversion from the manufacturer’s perspective; what the manufacturer can do to help get buyers to purchase the product on a typical online retailer’s site.  Some of the key features that help convert visitors into customers are:

Images

The image(s) that are featured on the product page can be a vital factor in the decision making process.  While having one image of your product shows something, to make a difference you need to have multiple alternate images.  These images should include:

  1. Different angles of the product and packaging,
  2. accessories of the product, and
  3. life style images showing the product in use

Today’s consumers deal in imagery.  Consumers will remember details better by seeing them instead of only reading about them. Understanding features or details can prove challenging if only listed in writing.  By supporting your content with a variety of images, the consumer will gain a better perspective of the uses the product can offer.

Descriptions

Well-written and descriptive content is what separates your product from others.  Good content consists of the important technical aspects of the products, while at the same time using consumer friendly language to explain how the product makes the customer’s life easier. This is an important aspect that if done well will be a vital contributor to all three steps: acquisition, conversion, and retention.

Reviews

After the fundamentals of the product page are perfected (images and content), customer reviews are the most imporant factor in a customer’s decision to buy or not. Individuals are reading customer reviews before purchasing any product now more than ever. Statistics show about 70% of Americans read reviews before purchasing a product.

In the last decade, traditional marketing has evolved. Customers no longer need to walk into a store to review a product and decide whether they want to buy it or not. They find and share their own information on their own time; consumers can decide whether they will buy a product or not before leaving the comfort of their own home and they depend on their friend’s opinions more than ever. Having a strong customer review section will only help your product page in all areas, from Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to providing a sense of creditablilty and authenticity.

Stay in Stock

Keeping your product in stock is a simple, yet overlooked fundamental to keeping customers happy and buying. Even if you have great content and solid reviews, the product with lose its relevance if it goes out of stock.  Being out of stock causes a chain reaction on many sites where the algorithms are tuned to only support in stock items.  On some sites the product is automatically removed which means the search engines lose track of the ranking.

After taking the time to set up a great product page, being out of stock can cause the product to become irrelevant. It may seem like a simple and obvious issue, but this causes significant issues in the online retail world.

Variations

Many products come with different variations, such as size, color, model, etc… These variations are important because they offer the consumer different choices for a product, keeping them on the page.

Each retailer deals with variations in a different way; most implement a drop-down menu that allows the customer to easily pick the variations.  Are you taking advantage of variations?  Size can be more than Small, Medium and Large, it can be watts or cubic inches or even speed.

Promotional Opportunities

Promotions are a great way for manufacturers to get their products in front of people.  Obviously, promotions help sell products but they also help with brand name recognition. Sending out regular email-marketing blasts to previous customers is a basic and effective way to let customers know of certain promotions and deals yet not everyone mines this data effectively.

In Summary

There are many aspects on a product page that can help increase the chance of the consumer buying your product.  The fundamentals of a product page that are important to the ranking of the page within the site’s search engine are often equally as important to keeping the customer on that page and getting them to take the desired action – to buy.

As always,we welcome your input and look forward to the conversation; click here to leave a comment. For an overview of the purpose of this blog take a look at the initial post here.

This article was written by:
Phil Hope, Sage Tree Account Executive

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Selling More than the Competition

There are many different ways to answer the question, “How do I ensure that my products sell more than my competitors at an online retailer’s site”?   We have covered several different aspects of this in past articles about text, imagery, videos, how a manufacturer works with buyers . . .

This article is going to explore the importance from a different aspect; the manufacturer’s involvement in the traditional three key fundamental steps of the sales cycle for an online retailer:

  1. Acquisition
  2. Conversion
  3. Retention

In Tim Ash’s book Landing Page Optimization, he refers to these three fundamental steps to gain a customer and keep that customer.  He claims that these steps are the “The Three Keys to Online Marketing” for a retailer.  In our interpretation we are going to consider them in relation to how your product page ranks among all the other product pages on the site.  The three steps are:

  1. Acquisition: Getting your products ranked high enough that you get the customers to your product page
  2. Conversion: Persuading customers to take the desired action(s); buy your product vs. another
  3. Retention: Strengthening the relationship with that customer to increase its lifetime value; getting them to buy other products you offer on the site.

For the remainder of this article, we will discuss the first step.  In the next installment, we will finish the second two.

Acquisition

Every good e-commerce site offers an on-site search engine.  This feature makes the site more convenient to find an exact product or a range of products that all share a particular feature. As a company who sells their product on one of these sites, your challenge is to have your products appear at the top of the results when consumers run a search.  This is no different than what you are trying to do with your brand site when someone searches Google; you want to be on the first page of search results.

It is fairly safe to assume that when consumers search for your particular company and product SKU in a retailer’s search box you will appear at the top.  This doesn’t always happen, but if the brand is combined with the SKU you should be first.    The challenge is what happens if the consumer types in something vague?

  • Say they want a double bowl stainless steel sink; on Amazon there are 80 manufacturers who have listing for stainless steel sink.
  • What about a Cordless Electric Power Drill, again there are 34 manufacturers available that offer this in the Tools and Home Improvement Department.
  • If you are looking for a five-light chandelier, then you will also have to compete with 19 other top brand manufacturers on Amazon

On-site search by retailers like Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and Target.com use many of the same fundamentals as regular search engines like Google.com, Yahoo.com, and Bing.com.  Each algorithm used by the different sites is a highly protected secret and changes on a fairly regular basis, but the key drivers that you can impact are fairly consistent.  Relative to search these keys involve:

  • Title: Every title should include the SKU number, brand name, and key features.   Search engines typically treat every word in the title as a key to what is on the page.  Also, titles are what typically appear in the search results; allowing consumers to immediately discern the difference from one product to another.
  • Description:  Most e-commerce sites allow for a minimum of 2000 characters to describe the product.  You should use these characters wisely; be simple and concise with your descriptions but be thorough. Describe how the product is useful for the consumer and mention its major and unique features that can help make the consumer’s life better.  It is not a place to mention any competitors or refer the consumer to another website.  To go into more detail on this matter, visit our article on content.
  • Key feature bullets:  The key feature bullets provide the consumer an easy way to understand the features of the product. Bullets can be “long tail keywords” that consumers might use to search for your product.  Think about key features: size, weight, major benefit, construction, etc.
  • Reviews:  Reviews, or user generated content, help boosts the page’s ranking by keeping it relevant in the search engine’s database. One major reason is the review updates the page, helping the engines know you are committed get the consumer the right data.  Also the consumers writing these reviews are helping by using primary and long tail keywords, and making them more dense (how many times the keyword appears on the page).  We will discuss the importance of reviews in the second installment.
  • Stay In Stock:  Yes, this sounds simple but we have found again and again that many manufacturers don’t.  Having great content with regularly updated reviews can only help your product be ranked higher and sell if that product is in stock by the manufacturer. If the manufacturer’s inventory is out of stock, the particular product will lose its relevance within the retailer’s system; this could mean the product drops off the site or minimally ensures the product appears lower in the search results. Overall, by not having the product in stock, a chain reaction is set into motion that ultimately lowers that’s products ranking; or more importantly significantly lowers sales.  We cannot emphasize this enough.

There are many different factors that influence how your products appear at the top of on-site search results, but when done correctly, you significantly increase your retail partner’s chance to close the deal with your brand versus someone else’s brand.

One caution, before you spend too much time ensuring your products reach the top of the search page you need to be sure the site is worth your time and attention.  When reviewing an online retailer’s site, the same things we discussed above apply.  When you are looking for the tools the site is using to acquire customers watch for things like:

  • Are their titles informative and descriptive, or vague and short?
  • Does their content describe their product with strong keywords and end with a brand statement or is the content confusing and unorganized?  Or is there no content at all?
  • Are images (at least one) provided for the product?
  • Are customers able to write reviews for the products?
  • If so, have customers written reviews? If not, we will discuss in the conversion section on how sites can improve their chances of having customers write reviews.

In the next article we will discuss some of the tactics that e-commerce sites use to get their visitors to take action and become loyal customers.

As always,we welcome your input and look forward to the conversation; click here to leave a comment. For an overview of the purpose of this blog take a look at the initial post here.

This article was written by:
Phil Hope, Sage Tree Account Executive

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Getting Started With Content

Your ecommerce channel is a virtual store that tells a story about your company and the products you offer. The goal is to align your product’s brand with descriptions, keywords and bullets that build brand trust and tell your story with best practices in SEO.

Online the content is what makes a difference – from search to ensuring consumers understand the product – the content you create is what will sell the product.  But before you begin the process of enhancing your content with different online retailers, firsts you need the basics.  This article provides a brief introduction to the basics for:

  • Titles
  • Long Descriptions
  • Bullets
  • Keywords and
  • Product Cleanups

Product Titles

The first part of any setup is getting the title correct.  Many retailer search engines and all commercial engines, like Google, treat the words in the title as extremely important keywords.  It is important to think about fully describing the product, but keep it short and to the point; include all essential information.

Product titles must follow this format style when applicable:

Mfg + Brand + Model # + Model Name + Key Specifications + Product Type + Unique Thing/Attribute* (if applicable) + color + Pack Size.

When writing the product titles remember:

  • No abbreviations, no quotation marks
  • Avoid marketing content (free, exclusive, bonus, etc.)
  • No symbols, especially ® and TM
  • Capitalize the first letter of each word (except “and” and “with”)
  • Do not use any characters (%, &, etc., “) – The key is to spell out: and, degrees, volts, inches, etc.
  • Inch, pound, ounce, foot must be spelled out (5-Inch instead of 5”)
  • Use exact brand, model #, and description as it is found on the product packaging.
  • Single space after each word
  • Specify pack size only if item comes in multiple sizes (1-Pack, 3-Pack, 6-Pack) If the size is not relevant, do not include in the title
  • If the product does not come in multiple colors, the color does not to be in the title

Long Descriptions

You must diversify your content to improve search engine rankings and overall completion rates. The goal is to always strive to strike a balance between technical content and consumer friendly copy, selling to impulse buyers and professionals.

This is where you get your marketing department involved. All the collateral content you’ve previously created can and should be used here. This is your opportunity to romance the product and really sell it!  The goal is to help consumers find the “right” product and this is the place where you get to make that happen.

When writing your long descriptions be concise, honest and friendly; you are after helping consumers understand more than the basics . . . they need to understand the key benefits and uses of the product.  Try to stay focused on your product’s unique properties and best applications.  If the product has limitations, you can say so and even show why it has the limitations. It’s ok (and preferred) to mention the brand name and model number more than once; it helps with your search relevance.  Be sure that your description is written with no abbreviations, in complete sentences, with proper spelling and grammar.   You have up to 2000 characters (in most cases) to use in this space and best to do so.

Bullets

Each bullet is an information rich fragment that drives sales and overtime improves your product’s search engine status and completion ranking. Without reading every word, online consumers scan for information. Bullet points make content accessible and clear without wading through long descriptions.

  • The first three bullets use the features to benefits formula, translating a product’s features into consumer benefits. Since your product occupies a virtual space, represented by text and media, it is important to create a buying experience online.
    • Bullet 1: Overall synopsis of product
    • Bullet 2: Major feature(s)
    • Bullet 3: Materials and construction. Is assembly required?
  • The fourth bullet describes technical aspects of the product in clear layman’s terms. This information is pertinent to impulse buyers.
  • The fifth bullet includes warranty information. This bullet could “make or break” online sales and provides assurance to the consumers. If the casual customer doesn’t recognize your brand, the warranty information provides a seal of quality and reinforces the content at the point of sale.

Keywords

The keywords are grounded in the best practices for search engine optimization and use keyword tools such as AdWords and Spyfu.  You should evaluate user-generated content and use consumer syntax to improve SEO. Every bit of text on an optimized page is essentially a keyword, and you should recognize this, and uses descriptions, bullets and keywords in unison to drive traffic to your channel.

Cleanups

After the initial content is uploaded, try and revisit your descriptions and check for accuracy and quality. The process is extensive, but will develop brand trust and ensure a loyal customer base for years. Evaluating images and creating video content for your online channel is also important.   You can review some of our past posts with regard to content to find some help on enhancing your listings.

In Summary

Sites like Amazon rate sellers on a metric that includes image quality, editorial copy and general completion. It is your goal to provide as much information as possible about your products and brand to improve search engine optimization (SEO) and completion rates.  Aside from the obvious benefit that products that are easily searched sell better, many automated promotional opportunities arise from improved completion rates and strong content.

As always,we welcome your input and look forward to the conversation; click here to leave a comment. For an overview of the purpose of this blog take a look at the initial post here.

This article was written by:
Will Healy, Sage Tree Content Team Manager

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Writing Best Practices

Whether it’s a blog post or a product description, using insightful language with a clear message is the first step to delivering strong online content. Ecommerce demands a particular writing style, and that style is typified by simple, action oriented sentences with the end user in mind. In an earlier post on text, we discussed the merit of good grammar, and how one spelling error could negatively affect conversion rates, and in Content is King we looked at the impact of media on overall sales. This post touches on the best practices for style and grammar when writing for ecommerce.

Whom Are You Writing For?

Remember, you are not only writing for the manufacturer or the etailer. You are also writing for the consumer and should tailor your content with the consumer in mind. This means using consumer syntax and simplifying technical language. Also, avoid esoteric tangents and confusing abbreviations. Strive to use detailed language that conveys concrete meaning using the features to benefits formula. See examples below.

Bad Description: The Morgan NW57003 Flood Light is compatible with 4-amp ballast CFLs.

Good Description: The Morgan NW57003 Flood Light is compatible with compact fluorescent bulbs and uses a 4-amp ballast to regulate the amount of electricity flowing through the bulb.

Good Description: The Zone XZR Hawk Bowling Ball is made with an aggressive offset counterweight, performance urethane and a 2-piece modified core which influence your overall CG.

Better Description: The Zone XZR Hawk Bowling Ball is made with an aggressive offset counterweight that delivers a vicious curve, and its urethane surface creates enough friction to grip oily lanes. The 2-piece modified core changes the Hawk’s center of gravity, making this product perfect if you throw a hook.

Taking that extra step of explaining what “CFL” means or describing how “urethane” reacts to lane conditions is potentially the difference between a sale or a bounce. To illustrate the importance of online content, a recent study showed that a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half! Informative, grammatically correct content is an important step in online selling and it builds brand trust.

Use Active Voice

Use active voice whenever possible. Active voice occurs when the subject of the sentence is performing the action. In the first example, the lamp is the subject of the sentence and the lamp is completing the action, therefore, the sentence is active. The examples below are written in active voice.

The lamp turns on automatically.

The lamp (subject) turns on (verb)

Incandescent bulbs burn brightly all night long.

Bulbs (subject) burn (verb) brightly all night long

With a sound design, this light endures inclement weather.

This light (subject) endures (verb)

Active voice is the quickest and clearest way to communicate a message in the English language and should be used whenever possible. Linguists have found that active voice uses 40-percent less words and communicates the same content as passive voice. Action words are directly related to active voice and ultimately tie into search engine optimization. Every word in your description is potentially a keyword and can effectively drive traffic to your page. There are five advantages to using active voice.

  1. Studies have shown that native speakers remember content longer in active voice
  2. Passive voice is harder to read and is known for its awkward constructions
  3. Active voice is 40-percent less wordy and expresses the same amount of content
  4. Passive voice uses abstract words, while active voice uses concrete, action oriented words
  5. Active voice uses action words that improve SEO

Obsolete Practices

Use one space following a period or between sentences. Using two spaces between sentences is typographically and historically wrong and harkens back to the days of inconsistent type sets and experimental English. Always use one space between words and sentences. Your publisher will love you forever if you do this one thing.

Most publishers have moved away from the outmoded Oxford Comma. The Oxford Comma is used when listing three or more items in a single sentence. In the phrase, “Portugal, Spain, and France” the Oxford Comma comes between “Spain” and “and France.” When listing more than three items do not use an Oxford Comma. Avoid this grammar faux pas and write, “Spain, Portugal and France.”

As always,we welcome your input and look forward to the conversation; click here to leave a comment. For an overview of the purpose of this blog take a look at the initial post here.

This article was written by:
Kyle Roble, Sage Tree Content Editor

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Selling Amazon, part 2

Last week we discussed some of the introductory ways that companies can sell on and to Amazon.  This week we will be discussing the last two models:

  1. Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA)
  2. Amazon Direct

These models are often confused as something similar but they offer very distinct benefits to the seller.

Fulfilled by Amazon

Some of the traditional concerns that are encountered by selling products as a third party reseller can be overcome with the Fulfilled by Amazon method.  This basically means you use Amazon as a third party logistics (3PL) source, setting your products up so that Amazon stocks them in their warehouse.   Amazon has one of the most advanced fulfillment networks in the world with 69 distribution centers globally with about 40 in the U.S.

The basic benefits for FBA are all focused around the shipping aspects of the ecommerce business model.

  • All FBA products are eligible for Amazon Prime shipping
  • FBA products show as more competitive because the sort to win the buy box doesn’t include shipping.  FBA listings on Amazon.com are sorted by the item price without a shipping cost, assuming they will ship via Amazon Prime.
  • FBA listings are displayed with the “Fulfilled by Amazon” logo, so customers know that packing, delivery, customer service and returns are all handled by Amazon.
  • The FBA offer can be used to fulfill any online or other channel order.  Amazon does not charge any extra fee to fulfill for a competitor; they are providing 3PL services for any fulfillment need.

The image below shows a Dewalt product that is sold by a third party reseller but fulfilled by Amazon.  See the note below the In Stock indicator.  Also see the Amazon Prime logo next to the price.

FBA costs can be found here on the Amazon site.   Costs differ by category and storage needs, just like with any other 3PL service.  Basically costs include:

  • An order handling fee – free for Amazon orders and they vary for off site fulfillment
  • An individual Pick & Pack fee
  • Storage

Amazon provides a great calculator to help figure costs here.  The tool provides real-time cost comparisons between a reseller fulfillment and Amazon’s offer for customer orders fulfilled on Amazon.com.  Fulfilled by Amazon resellers do have access to an Amazon FBA sales team to help increase their sell through.

Amazon Direct

Amazon has shared that moving from an FBA relationship to a direct selling relationship with Amazon typically increases sales by 200%-300%.  The difference is that rather than just using the power of Amazon’s consumer network and fulfillment network as an outsider, a direct relationship means you have access to it as a full partner.

One of the biggest benefits to selling directly to Amazon is you get access to Amazon’s incredible marketing engine.   Think back to the emails you have received from Amazon; recommendations based on your search history, your browsing history and your purchase history.  The products placed in these emails are products that Amazon has for sale in their warehouse as a direct relationship that are best sellers matching your consumer profile.

You also get access to an Amazon buyer who is incented to work with you to ensure your products get premium placement on the site.  This can include things like A+ pages, premium site placement, Search Engine Marketing opportunities, participation in key category promotions, etc.

The image below is an example of a product that is Shipped and Sold by Amazon.  It has the Prime logo and clearly indicates the seller under the In Stock tag.

Regardless of how you work with Amazon, they are the 800-pound gorilla of the online channel.  With 3 to 4 times the product search history of Google, Amazon is critical from brand perception to ultimate sell though on the web.

Our recommendation is to have a direct relationship with Amazon.  This give the manufacturer more of an opportunity to fix content, images, collections, variations . . . ultimately ensuring the brand is represented properly.

As always, we welcome your input and look forward to the conversation; click here to leave a comment. For an overview of the purpose of this blog take a look at the initial post here.

 

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