Shero Designs
your ecommerce partner for success

Category Archives: Tips

8 Signs It’s Time To Upgrade Your eCommerce Store to Magento

Here at Shero Designs, our area of expertise is in finding new ecommerce solutions for our clients. We feel that Magento is the best ecommerce solution to help your online store grow and modernize. Below I’ve listed some of the reasons why it becomes necessary to upgrade an online store, and have also provided some of the reasons why Magento is the best solutions for common problems that online store owners face.

This post was inspired by Magento’s “seven reasons it’s time to break up with your ecommerce platform”. Since we deal with clients making this change on a daily basis, I feel that we have the experience and expertise to expand upon this concept.


1. You can’t control the content of your site or it is difficult & complicated to do so. 

You should have complete control over the content that your ecommerce site displays. If you need to contact your developer to change a description, informational text, contact information, product information, product images or prices, or images, your website needs an upgrade.

While website building is still a complicated process, modern e-commerce platforms like Magento allow store owners to exhibit control over all of the content that a visitor will see. With only a few hours of training, store owners can easily update product descriptions, meta information, images and image labels, as well as all of the information on the CMS pages,  the official store information and the contact info displayed to visitors. With a little additional training, you can learn how to add and configure product attributes and more complicated elements and extensions.

2. It’s difficult to upgrade & modernize

There are a lot of elements that need to work together to make an ecommerce website work properly. The platform itself, as well as the theme employed, extensions utilized, and more. All of the pieces of the puzzle need to work together to keep the website running smoothly and your shoppers happy. As time goes on, it becomes necessary to make upgrades to all of these elements, and it’s important that the platform and all of the elements are designed to grow and change over time.

Not saying that Magento is easy to upgrade, but if set up and developed properly, using a child theme, upgrading to to latest version is pretty straight forward.

3. You’ve grown too large for your current platform

As an online retailer, it’s possible that you started your website with only a few products in mind, and you were able to manage your sales, shipping, and inventory yourself. As your sales have grown, has your eCommerce platform been able to grow with it? A modern eCommerce platform like Magento should be flexible enough to handle small online shops as well as giant megastores. For example, Magento can allow small store owners to manually control their inventories, but also allows for massive automated inventory control with a POS integration solution.

Obviously POS integration solutions require extra time and budget, but the great thing about Magento is that you can start of with a small store that sells 10 speciality items, and expand to a massive megastore with lots of automation.  A fully automated system is something you might be thinking about in the future, so your eCommerce platform should be just as prepared for the future growth of your business as you are.

4. Your site isn’t responsive

Your e-commerce website should look good on all devices, because many shoppers (especially young ones) will be browsing your products on their iPads, tablets, and smartphones. Magento offers dozens of excellent responsive theme options, which can be customized to match your brand identity.

5. You can’t install any helpful extensions and add-ons

Perhaps you have a special product that features multiple color swatches, sizes, and styles and you want a creative way to show your shoppers the different views. Maybe you want advanced reviews or to prompt new visitors to sign up for your newsletter with a pop-up.

As your online store grows, you’ll have plenty of ideas about how to keep your customers happy and loyal. Magento is an open source platform, so reliable extension companies offer hundreds of solutions that are designed to work seamlessly with the Magento platform and your chosen theme.

6. You can’t easily change the look and feel of your site

Your ecommerce platform should offer options when it comes to the look and feel of your website, and you should be able to update your website’s look as trends are constantly changing.

You have a few options in Magento when it comes to updating the style of your website:

  • You can easily switch out your theme with a new theme, whether this is a permanent fix or a temporary, seasonal change. Changing your theme can be limited to style only, and will therefore not affect your product information or site content.
  • You can choose a theme with styling options, which you can easily control yourself in the admin (things like font, colors, backgrounds)
  • Access your theme’s CSS files, or hire a development company with an experienced Magento front-end developer who can design and style a custom website built just for you.

7. You don’t have an integrated blog

In order to establish the trust of your customers, you need to establish your store as an authority in a specific niche. The best way to do this is with a blog. Your blog should integrate seamlessly with your e-commerce store, so users don’t feel like they are leaving the store to get to the blog. We recommend WordPress blogs, and have a lot of experience successfully implementing WordPress blogs into Magento websites.

8. Your search engine rankings are’t improving

Magento makes it easy for store owners to optimize their own website by making all of the meta information accessible. In Magento, you also have control over the URL’s for categories and pages, as well as cache management to ensure optimal speed.

With the integration of a WordPress blog, you can write about the topic of your expertise and earn the trust of your visitors. You can add meaningful content that contributes to high rankings and encourage other pages to link to your store.

 

Posted in eCommerce, Magento | Leave a comment

Web Design – How To Use Use Icons For a Better User Experience (UX)

Visual communication is one of the main aspects of any website. It is important for the user to be able to properly navigate through each web page without frustration. Getting, and keeping, the attention of the user can be difficult, but it’s not hard to achieve. This can be accomplished by the use of clear and functional icons throughout your website. Yes, they are pretty and fun to look at, but they do serve a purpose. Here are some explanations on why:

Why are icons important?

The first thing users do when visiting a website is quickly look through the page for the most visually appealing content. Icons can help out by drawing the user’s attention to what you want to promote. They are recognizable and seen almost everywhere. Icons are useful in way where they can give direction and even separate text to make it less intimidating. The webpage will be more organized and professional. They support the content by summing it up with an image that represents the paragraph. Even though smaller icons are less distracting, they still share the same level of impact as larger icons. Using icons increases readability and makes your website more appealing.

What is considered a well-made icon?

There’s no strict set of rules to making an icon, but there are some things a designer should keep in mind. Icons are used to translate a meaning or to direct an action. Successful icons get right to the point, are easy to understand, and highlight information clearly. Consistency is the most important facet to making a set of icons. It looks unprofessional and sloppy if the icons are mismatched or different in scale. And, if they are all the same size with the same amount of negative space, it shows the user you care about the user’s experience. Icons shouldn’t have a lot of detail or any over the top styling. Sticking with the key elements is always the best idea. Just remember icons must also match your brand.

These icons are a good example of what icons should represent. Each icon is recognizable and easy for the user to comprehend. There are no excessive styling and detail. Basic shapes and silhouettes are really all you need to get your message across.

Adding text can also help your user identify your icons once their eyes are drawn to them. This helps clarify any possible confusion, as well as providing a set definition for that icon. The next time they visit your site, they won’t need to look for the words, just scanning for the image will do.

Here’s an example from our site at Shero Designs.

As you can see our icons are minimalistic and eye-catching. The colors help draw the user’s eye, while also differentiating between each image. The blurb on the side relates to the icon and quickly expresses what the icon’s trying to convey. These eliminate confusion, and increase the user’s ease and navigation of the site.

What can make an icon confusing to the user?

Icons should be simple and easy to comprehend. If a user is having difficulty understanding the meaning of the icon, there is a good chance many others are not as well. Some users are not experienced enough with icons and the metaphors they provide. For example, most users understand that a house icon means that it will redirect to the home page of the site they are browsing. If an icon does not have a real life object (shopping cart, magnifying class, floppy disk, etc.) associated with it, there’s a good chance the user might interpret the icon differently. The designer must be careful not to use too much metaphoric imagery since it might not represent the same thing to everyone. A way to avoid this is to add text next to the icon. It still makes the page interesting, but it’s more functional for the user now.

Shown below are a few examples of icons that could potentially confuse the user. Not everyone will be familiar with the message they are trying to portray. These icons aren’t necessarily designed poorly. The main issue is that they aren’t as functional for the user. Adding a few words next to the icon to provide context can help to make these less confusing, and provide greater understanding in the future.

Conclusion

Icons make your website easier to navigate and look less intimidating. Using icons appropriately will help make your site more visually appealing as well. Stick to easy metaphors that are well known and try to not confuse the user with overly complicated imagery. Always remember icons must match your brand and remain consistent throughout your website.

Posted in Graphic Design, Web Design | Leave a comment

MailChimp vs Constant Contact Review. Which one is better?

Mailchimp VS Constant Contact

Update Oct 6 – 2014

This blogpost, MailChimp vs Constant Contact, was posted for the fist time on August 21, 2012(see old article here). Since then it has been ranking number one on Google search results on reviews of either system or a comparison between the two. As the web changes and improves for the better, so have this two email marketing systems in the past two years. Personally we use MailChimp for our email marketing and have used Constant Contact on multiple occasions. 

Constant Contact and MailChimp are the top two email marketing systems today, but how do you choose? Here is an apples-to-apples comparison:

Deliverability measures what percentage of emails sent from a campaign get into the subscribers’ in-boxes. Constant Contact and MailChimp both have the highest deliverability rates in the industry: 97% and 96%-99% respectively. They use complex techniques to get emails delivered. For example, before the email is sent, these systems have tools to flag the email if it has spam triggers. Also, they both claim to be “whitelisted” by most ISPs to ensure deliverability. Both services have strict policies about list quality, which help ensure the list is truly opt-in and not just scraped or purchased. They are involved with industry groups and standards.

Social media integration means that your email campaign gets attention on Facebook, Twitter, etc. When you are ready to send your email, you get the option of propagating a link to a web-based version of the email on your social media accounts. Constant Contact posts to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn MailChimp lets you auto-tweet to Twitter and auto-post to Facebook, and allows your subscribers to comment about your email on Facebook.

MailChimp’s campaign archive toolbar also provides a permanent, free link to your email campaign on its server. Constant Contact will host a webpage version of your email free for 30 days, but permanent archiving costs $5/month. MailChimp’s archive automatically displays a mobile-friendly version of the email to mobile users, but Constant Contact does not. And Constant Contact has no automatic way of archiving emails on your own website, but MailChimp does, and it’s updated automatically whenever you send out an email campaign.

MailChimp was ahead of Constant Contact in terms of usability until 2012, when Constant Contact rolled out a new interface very similar to MailChimp’s. Now they are both easy to use. They are both mobile-friendly with large buttons. They walk new users through the process of creating their first email campaign using prompts, help topics, useful on-screen explanations, and videos.

Constant Contact and MailChimp handle their lists differently. Both have the ability to segregate email lists into groups according to their interests (for example, General Interest, Health, Exercise). However, MailChimp has multiple, separate email lists with segments, while Constant Contact just has segments. Additionally, Constant Contact allows you to “tag” each email address with any number of words, so you can “narrow down” the list directly before sending. These tags are also useful for keeping track of sources and other details without adding too many segments.

Comparing pricing is tricky. Both have a free version: Constant Contact for 60 days under 100 contacts (unlimited email campaigns); MailChimp has a permanently-free option under 2,000 subscribers (maximum 12,000 emails/month). However, the free MailChimp does not give you access to certain tools for increasing your email’s deliverability, it does not have MailChimp’s “SocialPro” to analyze your subscriber’s social media activity, and doesn’t have auto-responders. The Constant Contact free trial ends quickly for many beginners because if they are doing it right, they exceed 99 subscribers before 60 days are up. Constant Contact’s fees start at $15/month <500 subscribers for “Basic” (email marketing only) and more for Essential (email marketing, plus campaigns with end-to-end reporting, surveys, offers & promotions, autoresponders). MailChimp costs $10/month <500 subscribers, and $15/month <1000 subscribers. It’s true that Constant Contact costs more for its “Essential” and most useful package, but it also offers a lot more. Constant Contact wants you to pay monthly and have pre-payment and non-profit discounts. MailChimp offers monthly plans as well as pay-as-you-go plans that act like stamps. (Tip: If you aren’t sending email to your list at least once a month, don’t bother — your subscribers have forgotten about you.)

Having done a great number of newsletters for clients who use both MailChimp and Constant Contant, when we’ve set up accounts for clients with Constant Contact, they have contacted us with follow up calls trying to sell more features from their service. MailChimp has been more laid back. One time they sent us a free MailChimp T-shirt when we used their Delivery Doctor, which costs $10 to have an email analyzed and run dozens of tests until to ensure the email is optimized and will not get blocked by email clients. Nonetheless, even when we used the Delivery Doctor we didn’t see a significant increase in delivered emails. In fairness, Constant Contact has more services to offer so you can’t fault them for offering more – they DO offer more. Also, when you open a new account with them, they assign an account manager to contact you and help you with everything from the day you sign up – not sure if MailChimp does that but our phone hasn’t rung since we signed up for a MailChimp account.

Both Constant Contact and MailChimp have hundreds of built-in, pre-designed, professional-looking templates that set them apart from most of the other email marketing systems. They are beautiful, perfectly programmed in HTML and easy to style. MailChimp even allows you to choose from a list of color schemes. They both use standard email marketing protocols including typical “safe” email widths starting at 600 pixels. MailChimp has a special button called “Get Colors from My Site,” which tries to auto-generate colors and images on your chosen template to match your website. Aligned with the fact that as many as half of your readers open your email from a mobile device, both services have “mobile-friendly” templates.

Constant Contact takes a more sophisticated “campaign” approach with its “Essential” toolkit. The system is set up to help you prepare different types of campaigns: Send an Email, Run a Promotion (similar to “Groupon”), Grow Facebook Fans, Plan an Event, and Create a Survey. Sure, most of the campaigns are propagated via email – but the idea of campaigns is better aligned with basic principles of marketing. You get a free email marketing template called “Campaign Design” that is based on the look-and-feel of your website. It’s handy to be able to track all the email addresses related to your events, surveys and special offers in one place. Constant Contact lets you track the entire campaign from beginning to end, and you don’t have to move data from one system to another. This is the main reason why Constant Contact Essentials costs way more than MailChimp. They also offer an “Ultimate” package that comes with a personal marketing coach.  MailChimp is only email marketing with list management and some social integration at this time.

Consider what you need. If you want to promote events and conduct surveys, Constant Contact is more convenient. Both are quick to start up, but MailChimp’s “Get Colors from My Site” and color scheme features might save you some time. MailChimp has better, free, permanent email archiving versus Constant Contact’s $5/month option. Fully-featured MailChimp is cheaper than Constant Contact, but you don’t get as many services. And MailChimp’s free account can have lasting value if you don’t need all the system’s features. These two companies are constantly adding features, to the point that the differences between their email marketing offerings are difficult to detect.

Best,

Genti

Posted in Custom Newsletters, Email Blasts, Marketing | Tagged , , , , | 19 Comments

Top 8 Magento eCommerce Shipping Methods for Your Online Store

Shipping can easily be overlooked by new merchants that come to the Magento eCommerce world. You become so focused on products configurations, website designs, content updates/changes, hosting, inventory migrations, and every other aspect of your new Magento store, that shipping gets put on the back burner for a rainy day. Then, just as you’re about to finish, you realize that you have to configure your shipping as well.

Whether it was the first or last item on your pre-launch list, the Magento shipping configuration is one of the most critical parts of your website as it affects:

  1. The overall logistics of your business
  2. How and when customers will receive their purchases
  3. How you handle items that are not in stock
  4. Any handling fees, such as the shipping cost and packaging, that you may institute
  5. Whether or not you will include free shipping when the customer’s cart reaches a certain price
  6. Any special requirements for large or heavy products
  7. Any specifications regarding destinations such as: shipping from different warehouses or locations
  8. Abandon Shopping Carts and Lost Profits

Shipping Costs Affecting Your Profits
According to a 2011 study conducted by the Baymard Institute, one of the most common causes of cart abandonment is the shipping cost (http://baymard.com/blog/cart-abandonment). Due to the increased popularity of major eCommerce hubs, like Amazon.com, customers have higher expectations for their shipping fees. Customers expect merchants to be upfront with shipping costs and expect their order to arrive quickly for a very low cost, which is not always realistic for smaller business, or businesses with larger sized products. Make sure you plan ahead and think about the options that work best for your business, your customers, and your overall profit. The more options that you can provide your customers, the most satisfied they will feel at the end of the checkout process.

There are eight common Magento shipping methods that you can choose from. Understanding which methods work for you can help you estimate the cost of shipping for each product you sell, and how to balance that with your profit margin. While you are choosing your shipping options, keep in mind that your developer will need a set amount of time to work on it. Shipping configurations can be relatively easy, or they can be fairly complex depending on the specifications that need to go into your project. Because of this, different methods take longer to configure and implement appropriately. Make sure that you have a thorough understanding as to what your business needs, and that you convey those needs to your Magento partner with enough time for them to finish the configurations on time. If at all possible, don’t let your shipping configurations be put off until the end of your project. Get it done sooner rather than later to allow for any complications that arise.

1. Live shipping Rates from Different Carriers like UPS, FedEx and USPS
You can easily connect to these carriers through the Magento admin under the System Configurations. UPS is probably the easiest to configure. FedEx and USPS are a little more complicated as they require an API connection to receive the correct rates from your shipping account.
Estimated Configuration Timeline: 1-2 days

2. Freight Shipping for Larger Products
Freight has always been very popular, and it is becoming more important as larger items are shipped with greater frequency. Freight shipping saves the customer money, and helps you ship more products at the same time as it is based on a pallet vs. weight scale. Most freight configuration can be configured to show up based on a weight limitation. If you have 150 lbs in the cart the customer would be presented with discounted freight shipping weights. This saves the customer money! http://www.webshopapps.com/us/shipping/freight-shipping.html
Estimated Configuration Timeline: 1-2 days

3. In Store Pick Up
It has become very important for brick and mortar stores to offer this feature. In Store Pick Up helps give the customer a discount and draws the customer into the store to potentially purchase more goods. Making the experience convenient for the customer is the most important part of customer service! http://www.webshopapps.com/us/store-pickup.html
Estimated Configuration Timeline: 1-2 days

4. Free Shipping for Promotions
This can easily be set up in Magento without an extension, but if you have specific rules you may want to utilize the Shipping Override stated below for more control over Free Shipping.
Estimated Configuration Timeline: 1-2 days

5. Override Live Rates
At Shero we do a lot of override configurations to regular rates using the WebShopApps Extension. (http://www.webshopapps.com/shipping/shipping-override-matrix.html) Using a CSV you can configure and mange all of your shipping based on different rules. Some good examples of how you can use this is if you want to limit shipping to certain areas and charge extra for other areas like Alaska and Hawaii. You can also include surcharges which can be useful to configure for heavier items or based on quantity. It can also limit certain shipping options based on location. For example, if you want to offer store pick and flat rate shipping to certain regions, but have live UPS rates for areas outside of that region, this would allow you maximum control and flexibility. There is a little bit of a learning curve to the CSV configuration but WebShopApps has a great wiki and once you get the hang of it you will be making shipping miracles in no time!
Estimated Configuration Timeline: 3-7 days – Could be more based on complexity

6. Custom Rates
This can be very important for unique products or if you work with a specific shipping that gives you major discounts based on certain parameters. The Product Matrix (http://www.webshopapps.com/us/productmatrix-shipping-extension.html) from WebShopApps is a must have for this scenario. We use this on multiple websites with great success. Product weights may not be necessary for this if you have a set of rules.
Estimated Configuration Timeline: 3-7 days + Could be more based on complexity

7. Drop Shipping
You may not have everything in stock or you may be shipping from multiple warehouses. Drop shipping will help you send the customer the product sooner, or it can allow them to pick their closest shipping location based on zip code. http://www.webshopapps.com/us/dropship.html or https://secure.unirgy.com//products/udropship/
Estimated Configuration Timeline: 7 days + Could be more based on complexity

8.Dimensional Shipping
The dimensions of the product or combinations of products can have a major effect on shipping price. For example, you may be able to combine five t-shirts in one USPS Priority shipping box. Why charge the customer for five priority boxes when you can combine it? Note, the configurations for this set up can be very complicated depending on the box dimensions you are working with! http://www.webshopapps.com/dimensional-shipping.html
Estimated Configuration Timeline: 3-7 days + Could be more based on complexity

Note: Most of these tend to work together and can be combined in multiple ways.

Great You Have a Plan! How Do You Implement These Complex Shipping Rules?

The more planning involved the better. We have learned that while most merchants have been shipping for years, they do not understand how it works, or what information is needed to configure this sort of functionality. The best thing to keep in mind is to discuss shipping configurations early in the project, ensuring that both you and your Magento partner understand exactly what you want, and how you want it. The more time you have set into your project to have your configurations completed, the better off you’ll be in the long run.

Work with People You Trust and Understand Your Goals to Achieve Results
In this blog post we mention WebShoppApps Magento shipping extensions because we have worked with their team time and again and they undoubtedly are the best in the industry when it comes to Magento shipping.

Concluding,  is important to plan, understand your goals and work towards the most cost effective shipping from the merchant and customer side of the business. In the end, if the shipping is too high you will lose customers because of those shipping costs. Give the customer multiple shipping options, as it helps to reduce the amount of abandoned shopping carts your store receives. If you do not have an in house Magento developer to work with, make sure that whomever you hire for this job understands your shipping goals and can partner with you to see those goals met.

If you have any specific questions or want to discuss your shipping needs in more detail, feel free to contact us.

Posted in Magento Shipping | Leave a comment

Responsive Magento Template vs. Mobile App Extension

Most companies who own a Magento eCommerce store want their customers to be able to access the website through their mobile devices. There are two ways to go about this: First, for Magento stores that are not responsive,  an extension  can be purchased that makes the website mobile friendly by adding the mobile app extension to the website. The second option is using a responsive template that already has that feature built in from the beginning.

However, if you already have a website that isn’t already responsive, choosing to redesign your site onto a responsive template can be a difficult decision. While choosing a mobile extension from the Magento Connect Marketplace may seem like the most convenient and less expensive route, it can often lead to challenges and complications that you hadn’t foreseen. A responsive template is the most cost effective decision in the long run, and it is the easiest to maintain.

To be clear, using an extension to make your Magento store mobile friendly is effective. The mobile app extension will do what it is designed to do. However, the true drawback of going this route is the amount of work that needs to be put in to keeping the mobile app website up to date and running. Every time you want to update your website, a second step would have to be made in order to update the mobile version of your website too. Your app essentially acts as its own website, requiring its own maintenance and upkeep. Overtime, this can heavily increase the amount of money your company spends on your website, exceeding the overall cost of redesigning or transferring to a responsive template from the get-go.

In addition to the fact that your website needs to be updated in two places, if a website has too complex shipping, subscription options, or discount codes it is often quite difficult to make this functionality work on the mobile version of the website exactly the same as on the actual website. As a result, visitors that are accessing the website via a mobile device are not offered the same user experience and see the options that show on a regular browser leading like this into a lost sale.

With a responsive template everything will update at the same time through one admin panel. One adjustment to your site will affect your mobile site, and vice-versa. There’s no separation. All changes whether it be content, organization, design, or others take place in one location.

Continually, mobile apps cannot be indexed through search engines. This will effect your overall Search Engine Optimization (SEO) ranking as your traffic patterns won’t register appropriately. With the responsive template, all traffic will be directed to one location, and so your ranking should not be affected negatively.

 

Mobile App User: Kombucha Brooklyn

 


Responsive Magento Template User: Junie Moon

 

Conclusion

Responsive templates can easily fit into any platform and there are no extra steps you need to follow. They are already built and ready to go, so you don’t have to worry about whether your e-commerce site is fitting correctly on a customer’s device.  Many online shoppers use smart phones or tablets to purchase their goods. They scroll through hundreds of product listings a day, and if they see that your site is not working correctly or easy to navigate, there is a strong chance they’ll leave your site. Having a responsive Magento template can benefit your company and your customers by circumventing this issue.

It would make things easier and faster.  While there may be more cost in setting a responsive template up from the beginning, it will save money in the long run as it is easier to update and manage. While using an extension to create a mobile version of your Magento store, also known as a  mobile app, can work well too, the excess time and money spent keeping both the mobile app and the main site running simultaneously and effectively may not be worth it. 

If you are creating your Magento website from scratch, choosing to build  it with a responsive template is the ideal way to go. It is more expensive as an  upfront investment, but it saves time, money, and energy in the long run by allowing you to have both a computer and mobile friendly site up and running in one fell swoop.

 

Posted in Magento, Responsive Web Design | Leave a comment