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How to Choose the Right Ecommerce Platform for Your Business

Does your business need a third-party ecommerce platform? Global ecommerce sales added up to more than $2 trillion in 2018. Projections show that the number could more than double by 2021. Whether you’re new or are looking to update a longtime brick-and-mortar business, this is the right time for an ecommerce shift. It’ll benefit your business to ensure online functionality for your future customers. There are so many fully realized and professional options available. Even established brands like Ben & Jerry’s and SkullCandy use BigCommerce, instead of developing and maintaining an in-house ecommerce solution. Source: BigCommerce You may not enjoy full control and customization with a professional ecommerce platform. However, it’ll save you time and effort. Outsourcing also means that you won’t need to hire new staff to maintain internal software. The only reason to create your own ecommerce platform is if key aspects of your website and retail process require special knowledge and skills. Professional services may not support very unique needs. What are some important considerations in choosing an ecommerce platform for your business? Choosing an ecommerce platform to power your online store isn’t as easy as it seems. The wrong choice could result in a financial or temporal setback. Read on to find out how to evaluate professional ecommerce solutions using a thorough and comprehensive eight-step assessment guide. 1. Pricing and hidden fees First, determine your budget. How much are you willing to pay for an ecommerce platform that you trust to handle your money? Not all services bill you the same way. Most send you a flat monthly fee, but some have added fees for features like installing apps and plugins or accessing more server storage. 2. Customer payment methods Think about how your customers are going to pay you. Credit card support should be standard. Some platforms may not accept more uncommon payment methods. For example, BigCommerce doesn’t support cryptocurrency payments at this time. Shopify and WooCommerce do, through BitPay integration and plugins. Source: Shopify 3. Secure handling of sensitive information Make sure the platform of your choice supports HTTPS/SSL for encrypted protection. Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance is important too. The latter’s requirements depend on management by credit card companies like VISA and MasterCard. Having these keeps your customers safe. They reduce the likelihood of credit card information theft. 4. Allowance for seamless scalability What if you eventually outgrow your ecommerce platform setup? Every business hopes to grow, but exact numbers are hard to predict. If you’re doing aggressive marketing and moving products quickly, you may need to scale up sooner rather than later. Sometimes scalability is an easy point-and-click process. All you need to do is to switch to a higher-tiered monthly plan. Shopify offers this experience. The service even has an enterprise version called Shopify Plus, should you expand so much that the highest Shopify tier can no longer handle your online store volume. 5. SEO readiness for growth Are you a small brand looking to compete with larger businesses? SEO could be the answer. Here are some features to look for in an ecommerce platform to asses their SEO friendliness: a way to add blogging to your website, customer product reviewing functionality, and the ability to change and use a domain name of your choice. It’s in your best interest to rank high in search results. If your website is SEO-friendly, it’s more likely to generate a larger amount of organic traffic. Over half of web traffic and about 40% of total retail revenue is from organic searching, so raising the latter number is crucial. 6. Mobile-friendly design Did you know that more than 40% of internet traffic in the U.S. in early 2019 came from mobile device usage? Smartphones and tablets are becoming more and more common. It’s important to have a website and online store that looks as good on your phone as it does on a desktop screen. Customers should be able to navigate your site easily and complete purchases without any issues on both. 7. Customer support for your business It can be frustrating to have your online store go down because of a server crash that you have no control over. Even worse is if you can’t contact your ecommerce platform for an update to relay to your own customers when they start to ask you what’s wrong. When you count on an ecommerce platform to power your online store, you’re dependent on their customer support services. Look for 24-hour availability and make sure you understand how many levels of support are part of the tiered plan you’re thinking of getting. This is one area that can change dramatically as monthly fees go up. 8. Ease of use If there are more than a few people running your business, you should involve relevant staff members in the platform decision-making process. You don’t want to rest the future of your business on an ecommerce solution that’ll only invite confusion and inefficiency. Check for apps, plugins, extensions and allowed integrations too. You should choose a platform that’ll work with what you’re comfortable using. For example: if you’re not using WordPress, you can’t use WooCommerce. What are the most popular ecommerce platforms right now? Here are three of the most popular ecommerce platforms available: BigCommerce: As you may glean from its name, BigCommerce is ideal for big retail brands. If you have a brick-and-mortar store and a large inventory, this ecommerce platform will be able to handle your online expansion. You can go in and tweak CSS or HTML to customize templates, but BigCommerce is understandable with little to no coding experience. This is a scalable and flexible platform with strong SEO capability. Shopify: App fees on top of your monthly Shopify fee can get unmanageable if you’re not careful. The platform charges additional fees for using payment providers other than its own Shopify Payments too. While it’s not the best at SEO integration or handling high volume stores, Shopify is generally the best if you want to focus on retail selling. Loading times are blazing fast. It supports drop shipping, Instagram marketing, and Facebook Ads. Setting up a store is beginner-friendly, due to Shopify’s drag-and-drop interface. WooCommerce: It’s not the best ecommerce platform around, and you may find it difficult to scale up when needed. However, it’s affordable and comfortable for WordPress enthusiasts. If you want to run a WordPress affiliate site with strong SEO and then add an online store, WooCommerce is your best bet. More functionalities—email marketing, one-click selling, and more—are possible through WordPress extensions as well. Source: WooCommerce There are so many challenges involved in setting up an online storefront, even if you’re internet-savvy. Choosing the right ecommerce platform depends on your business size, growth trajectory, marketing style, and many more. Which email marketing platform should you choose? In theory, you can use any email marketing service with your chosen ecommerce platform, as long as the former allows for integration with the latter. In practice, though, not using a comprehensive email marketing platform for ecommerce can feel like working with an incomplete set of tools. That’s why we built CM Commerce: We want every store owner to have the tools they need at their fingertips. We know most store owners don’t have an extensive background in marketing; with our platform, you don’t need it to reap the same rewards as major brands that have an entire team dedicated to email marketing. Customer engagement and loyalty are at the heart of CM Commerce’s design. Ready-made email automation recipes, personalized upsells and cross-sells, powerful segmentation tools, and product review submissions make every part of the customer journey a chance to connect and increase revenue. Wrap up The right ecommerce platform to trust with your business can be difficult to find. It’s essential to evaluate even the most popular ecommerce solutions—like BigCommerce, Shopify and WooCommerce—by looking at what they have to offer. Here are the ecommerce features to asses in order to decide which platform is best for your business needs: Pricing and hidden fees Customer payment methods Secure handling of sensitive information Allowance for seamless scalability SEO readiness for growth Mobile-friendly design Customer support for your business Ease of use Should your marketing strategy include email, check out email marketing platforms for ecommerce. CM Commerce, Remarkety, Omnisend, and Rare.io are some options to consider. Solutions like these will provide you with more tools to boost engagement and encourage more sales. CM Commerce is Campaign Monitor’s email marketing product for ecommerce. Sign up for a free trial today.

Blog Post

How to Choose the Right Ecommerce Platform for Your Business

Does your business need a third-party ecommerce platform? Global ecommerce sales added up to more than $2 trillion in 2018. Projections show that the number could more than double by 2021. Whether you’re new or are looking to update a longtime brick-and-mortar business, this is the right time for an ecommerce shift. It’ll benefit your business to ensure online functionality for your future customers. There are so many fully realized and professional options available. Even established brands like Ben & Jerry’s and SkullCandy use BigCommerce, instead of developing and maintaining an in-house ecommerce solution. Source: BigCommerce You may not enjoy full control and customization with a professional ecommerce platform. However, it’ll save you time and effort. Outsourcing also means that you won’t need to hire new staff to maintain internal software. The only reason to create your own ecommerce platform is if key aspects of your website and retail process require special knowledge and skills. Professional services may not support very unique needs. What are some important considerations in choosing an ecommerce platform for your business? Choosing an ecommerce platform to power your online store isn’t as easy as it seems. The wrong choice could result in a financial or temporal setback. Read on to find out how to evaluate professional ecommerce solutions using a thorough and comprehensive eight-step assessment guide. 1. Pricing and hidden fees First, determine your budget. How much are you willing to pay for an ecommerce platform that you trust to handle your money? Not all services bill you the same way. Most send you a flat monthly fee, but some have added fees for features like installing apps and plugins or accessing more server storage. 2. Customer payment methods Think about how your customers are going to pay you. Credit card support should be standard. Some platforms may not accept more uncommon payment methods. For example, BigCommerce doesn’t support cryptocurrency payments at this time. Shopify and WooCommerce do, through BitPay integration and plugins. Source: Shopify 3. Secure handling of sensitive information Make sure the platform of your choice supports HTTPS/SSL for encrypted protection. Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance is important too. The latter’s requirements depend on management by credit card companies like VISA and MasterCard. Having these keeps your customers safe. They reduce the likelihood of credit card information theft. 4. Allowance for seamless scalability What if you eventually outgrow your ecommerce platform setup? Every business hopes to grow, but exact numbers are hard to predict. If you’re doing aggressive marketing and moving products quickly, you may need to scale up sooner rather than later. Sometimes scalability is an easy point-and-click process. All you need to do is to switch to a higher-tiered monthly plan. Shopify offers this experience. The service even has an enterprise version called Shopify Plus, should you expand so much that the highest Shopify tier can no longer handle your online store volume. 5. SEO readiness for growth Are you a small brand looking to compete with larger businesses? SEO could be the answer. Here are some features to look for in an ecommerce platform to asses their SEO friendliness: a way to add blogging to your website, customer product reviewing functionality, and the ability to change and use a domain name of your choice. It’s in your best interest to rank high in search results. If your website is SEO-friendly, it’s more likely to generate a larger amount of organic traffic. Over half of web traffic and about 40% of total retail revenue is from organic searching, so raising the latter number is crucial. 6. Mobile-friendly design Did you know that more than 40% of internet traffic in the U.S. in early 2019 came from mobile device usage? Smartphones and tablets are becoming more and more common. It’s important to have a website and online store that looks as good on your phone as it does on a desktop screen. Customers should be able to navigate your site easily and complete purchases without any issues on both. 7. Customer support for your business It can be frustrating to have your online store go down because of a server crash that you have no control over. Even worse is if you can’t contact your ecommerce platform for an update to relay to your own customers when they start to ask you what’s wrong. When you count on an ecommerce platform to power your online store, you’re dependent on their customer support services. Look for 24-hour availability and make sure you understand how many levels of support are part of the tiered plan you’re thinking of getting. This is one area that can change dramatically as monthly fees go up. 8. Ease of use If there are more than a few people running your business, you should involve relevant staff members in the platform decision-making process. You don’t want to rest the future of your business on an ecommerce solution that’ll only invite confusion and inefficiency. Check for apps, plugins, extensions and allowed integrations too. You should choose a platform that’ll work with what you’re comfortable using. For example: if you’re not using WordPress, you can’t use WooCommerce. What are the most popular ecommerce platforms right now? Here are three of the most popular ecommerce platforms available: BigCommerce: As you may glean from its name, BigCommerce is ideal for big retail brands. If you have a brick-and-mortar store and a large inventory, this ecommerce platform will be able to handle your online expansion. You can go in and tweak CSS or HTML to customize templates, but BigCommerce is understandable with little to no coding experience. This is a scalable and flexible platform with strong SEO capability. Shopify: App fees on top of your monthly Shopify fee can get unmanageable if you’re not careful. The platform charges additional fees for using payment providers other than its own Shopify Payments too. While it’s not the best at SEO integration or handling high volume stores, Shopify is generally the best if you want to focus on retail selling. Loading times are blazing fast. It supports drop shipping, Instagram marketing, and Facebook Ads. Setting up a store is beginner-friendly, due to Shopify’s drag-and-drop interface. WooCommerce: It’s not the best ecommerce platform around, and you may find it difficult to scale up when needed. However, it’s affordable and comfortable for WordPress enthusiasts. If you want to run a WordPress affiliate site with strong SEO and then add an online store, WooCommerce is your best bet. More functionalities—email marketing, one-click selling, and more—are possible through WordPress extensions as well. Source: WooCommerce There are so many challenges involved in setting up an online storefront, even if you’re internet-savvy. Choosing the right ecommerce platform depends on your business size, growth trajectory, marketing style, and many more. Which email marketing platform should you choose? In theory, you can use any email marketing service with your chosen ecommerce platform, as long as the former allows for integration with the latter. In practice, though, not using a comprehensive email marketing platform for ecommerce can feel like working with an incomplete set of tools. That’s why we built CM Commerce: We want every store owner to have the tools they need at their fingertips. We know most store owners don’t have an extensive background in marketing; with our platform, you don’t need it to reap the same rewards as major brands that have an entire team dedicated to email marketing. Customer engagement and loyalty are at the heart of CM Commerce’s design. Ready-made email automation recipes, personalized upsells and cross-sells, powerful segmentation tools, and product review submissions make every part of the customer journey a chance to connect and increase revenue. Wrap up The right ecommerce platform to trust with your business can be difficult to find. It’s essential to evaluate even the most popular ecommerce solutions—like BigCommerce, Shopify and WooCommerce—by looking at what they have to offer. Here are the ecommerce features to asses in order to decide which platform is best for your business needs: Pricing and hidden fees Customer payment methods Secure handling of sensitive information Allowance for seamless scalability SEO readiness for growth Mobile-friendly design Customer support for your business Ease of use Should your marketing strategy include email, check out email marketing platforms for ecommerce. CM Commerce, Remarkety, Omnisend, and Rare.io are some options to consider. Solutions like these will provide you with more tools to boost engagement and encourage more sales. CM Commerce is Campaign Monitor’s email marketing product for ecommerce. Sign up for a free trial today.

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5 Sites You’ll Be Surprised To Know Are Shopify Stores

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Interactive Elements That Can Increase User Engagement

This is a guest post from Robert Brandl at WebsiteToolTester. Interactivity can be very powerful thing in web design. Interactive elements can help you to transform a static and forgettable page into something that captures the imagination of users and holds their attention. Not only are interactive features fantastic for adding practical functionality to a site, but they can also be incredibly useful in terms of personalization. And let’s not forget the added entertainment value. Some of the most interesting sites we’ve come across have made interactivity a priority, and the results are quite something. Increasing user engagement with interactivity Interactive elements are far more than simple visual tools. They’re also brilliant ways to increase user engagement. A study published by the Content Marketing Institute found that 45% of marketers would rate interactive content such as assessments, calculators, quizzes, or contests as “either extremely or very effective.” Evergage found that 87% of marketers reported “a measurable lift from their personalization efforts.” This uplift in engagement is crucial. Increased engagement means a simplified sales funnel, and a boost in sales and, ultimately, profits—that means a higher ROI for marketing professionals and great results for the business, overall. Looking to increase user engagement on your own website? Read on to discover some interactive elements you can use to improve user engagement at your website. 1. Interactive infographics Infographics are nothing new in the world of web design, but interactive infographics go one step further. By adding layers of interactivity to visual aids like these, the information on display quickly becomes far more interesting and engaging. The options here are varied. Infographics can be as simple or as complex as they need to be, and there are endless ways in which information can be brought to life. There’s no perfect way to display information in an infographic, which means you can really get creative (as long as you don’t go so far that you sacrifice user experience for cool design). For a little inspiration, take a look at this guide on how to design an interactive infographic. Simple interactive tweaks can be used to draw attention to certain parts of the page or encourage a user to keep clicking through to discover more information. More complicated versions include personalized infographics, designed to transform data according to a user’s specific requirements. For example, a user might input specific data relating to their financial status, age, or location, and this could transform the information displayed on the infographic. Interactivity can also be used to display the effect of other factors on the data, like time, location, financial status, life stage, and so on. To get a better idea of what we’re aiming at, take a look at this intriguing infographic designed by Goldman Sachs. In this example, users are taken on a journey through the minds of Millennials, to learn how this demographic might reshape the economy in years to come. The infographic is immediately engaging, asking a user to click to “get started.” As they scroll down, the animations bring the information to life and keep a user’s interest. 2. Virtual product testing Virtual product testing presents incredible opportunities for ecommerce stores. Consumers are increasingly shopping online for all kinds of different products now, with the only obvious drawback of this trend being the inability to try before they buy. Virtual product testing seeks to change this, by enabling users to try out products in the online world before committing to a purchase. Product testing tools are already in use for many different items, ranging from interior design and furniture to hair and makeup. For example, online makeup stores, such as NYX Cosmetics, now use interactivity to offer consumers the chance to see how products might look on their own skin. Users are asked to upload a photograph, which is then used as the backdrop for product testers. This idea is immediately engaging for a user, and encourages them to spend far more time on the website exploring different products than they might otherwise have done. For more ideas on how to implement interactive elements on your product pages, check out this post from Landingi. 3. Interactive animations In today’s crowded marketplace, companies need to work incredibly hard to stand out from the competition. First impressions are everything, and websites have a very short window of time to impress. In fact, Sweor has reported that it takes just 50 milliseconds for users to form an opinion on a website and decide whether or not they’ll stick around or hit that close button. Animations can really enhance the first impression that users have of a website. Interactive animations immediately show a user that a site is offering something different, and might just pique their interest long enough for them to start diving into the information on display. With competition fiercer than ever, a simple animation could be the difference between an engaged new customer and an abandoned Google search. To see what a difference animations make, take a look at new banking site Wickret. This mobile banking app’s website has already attracted high praise for its original design. Animations take pride of place on the homepage and are used to create a dramatic first impression that quickly demonstrates that this bank offers something a little out of the ordinary. This is hard to explain in words, so we highly suggest you check out their homepage for yourself. 4. Quizzes and calculators Few of us can resist a quiz or an interactive calculator, particularly when we’re looking for a way to procrastinate for a few minutes. Tools like these have been used to get the attention of users for some time now, but, as technology has advanced, we’ve begun to see more personalized, bespoke versions of these engaging elements. Quizzes are particularly useful, as they can be utilized to gather invaluable data on existing customers and new prospects. Such data can quickly be turned into actionable strategies designed to enhance the customer experience and boost business overall. Quizzes can be designed according to any target audience, for any brand or company. They range from educational tools designed to educate a user on a company, such as the Hiscox small business management quiz, to light-hearted and entertaining quizzes that help get users talking, such as this Buzzfeed quiz which promises to guess your emotional age based entirely on your pasta preferences. That being said, if you don’t have the time or resources, you can implement a simpler version of these quizzes. For example, we have a post that discusses Wix pricing options and, at the end of the article, you can find a simple quiz that’s implemented directly in the text: Quizzes aside, calculators are another useful way of increasing engagement, by presenting users with a practical tool that helps them solve a particular problem. We often see calculators in use on websites for financial services, but these can be used in almost any niche. Tools like calculators can also be used to help with budget planning, as this example from the Money Advice Service demonstrates. In this case, users are quickly engaged with a series of questions that then help to plan their monthly budget. It’s informative, useful, and provides a real service to users who may be struggling financially. Quizzes and calculator tools are particularly useful in building an engaged audience of newsletter subscribers. As the tools often require a user to input their email address, it’s easy to link such interactive elements directly to a marketing newsletter account. The data can even be used to create segmented, highly specific lists depending on users’ specific interests and requirements. Email lists that are built via interactive content tend to be incredibly useful, bringing in real results from marketing communications. Just take a look at this recent article to learn more about using interactive elements like quizzes and calculators to segment leads and build newsletter audiences. Building interactive quizzes and calculators isn’t as tricky as it might appear. In fact, there are plenty of user-friendly tools out there to help you. Some of the top tools available include Outgrow, Calconic, or Involve.me. 5. Surveys Customer feedback is crucial in any business, but gathering this information is often more difficult than it sounds. Surveys are a great way of encouraging customers to share their views and opinions, as well as learning how best to improve over time. These short questionnaires also play an important role in enhancing the customer experience, by ensuring that all customers feel listened to and valued. Many companies choose to share surveys automatically as soon as a consumer purchases a product or service. For example, when a user reaches their intended destination following an Uber ride, they’ll immediately be asked to rate their driver and give feedback. This helps to engage a customer and makes it more likely that they’ll continue to use the service. Similarly, online accommodation marketplace Airbnb asks users to rate their hosts and give specific feedback on the availability of items. This enables the site to provide a better service for future guests, and gives the company the opportunity to resolve any issues. If you want to go for a more standard survey that you can embed in a blog post or a feature page, you can use tools like Typeform, SurveyAnyplace, and SurveyMonkey. If you don’t want to spend anything and need something fairly simple, you can always create a simple form in Google Forms or check one of many free survey tools. 6. Social sharing buttons Social media remains an incredibly powerful tool, in terms of improving brand awareness and encouraging word-of-mouth recommendations. For this reason, many websites encourage users to share pages by adding social sharing buttons throughout their website. Sharing buttons are incredibly quick and easy to implement, and they make it simple for users to engage with the content on your website. For maximum engagement, consider adding bespoke sharing buttons beneath high-interest elements, such as infographics, quotes, or statistics. Take a look at Share This or AddtoAny to learn how to add sharing buttons to a website and discover a huge range of different options, when it comes to design and functionality. Here’s one example with small and unobtrusive sharing buttons on the Campaign monitor blog. And here’s an example from Pure Residuals with bolder sharing buttons. If you want to take this a step further, you can implement in-text Tweets and shares, like in the example below. Image source Take advantage of interactive tools to maximize engagement. Interactive elements can really power up user engagement, which will definitely improve the ROI of marketing strategies. There are endless options when it comes to introducing interactivity to a website, so it’s worth investigating different ideas and taking the time to consider which interactive elements would resonate best with your audience. The good news is that you don’t have to be a technological wiz to add interactive elements to your site. If you can create a website with a website builder, adding interactive elements isn’t any different. Basically, every interactive element can be designed using one of the many tools we mentioned and quickly embedded on any page you want. Wrap up No matter which elements you choose, you can be sure that your site will rapidly improve in terms of user engagement, as well as in your ability to pick up useful contact information. Robert Brandl’s passion has always been web tools that make your life easier. That’s why he founded the WebsiteToolTester, where you can find reviews and tutorials for the world’s best website builders and ecommerce platforms. Find him on LinkedIn and Twitter.  

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