Category: Ecommerce

Ecommerce Help: A Little Goes a Long Way

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Ecommerce: So Much to Do, So Little Time

frustrated-with-ecommerce-store

As you may know, running an ecommerce business is so much more than putting up a website and waiting for the orders to come in. As with any sales business, there’s accounting, marketing, inventory, shipping, staffing, and customer support issues to manage. Plus, your industry and products may change frequently, which means that updating your online store regularly to stay competitive is probably always on your to-do list. Making your website the best it can be and then maintaining it can be overwhelming — but it doesn’t have to be.

 
 
 

Need Development Help? (Short Answer: Yes!)

Many ecommerce businesses could benefit from having support services for their store on a regular basis, but at what cost? If an inexperienced developer works on your ecommerce store, they could not only take it down, resulting in lost revenues, but seriously screw things up, requiring you to spend way more money and time than you can spare. Besides, who can afford to hire a full-time or even a part-time ecommerce developer, and where can you find one?

If you’re not super tech savvy, or simply don’t have the time (or desire) to learn the ins and outs of your shopping platform, we don’t blame you. While getting help can be a real game changer, where can you get the help you need, and at a reasonable price point?

 

You Asked for it, You Got it: 2-Hour Monthly Store Support

happy-with-ecommerce-store

In order to serve BigCommerce, Shopify, Lead Commerce, or Volusion businesses that need just a little development help, we have added a 2-Hour Monthly Recurring Package to our Store Support menu. Instead of overextending yourself doing projects outside your skill set, spend your time doing what you do best, and leave the rest to us.

“Two hours a month sounds great, but can you get anything useful done in such a short time?”

 
 
 

With two hours a month, we could help you with:

  • 1 small project
  • 2 one-hour tasks
  • 4 thirty-minute tasks
  • 8 fifteen-minute tasks

If that doesn’t seem like very much time, think of all the tasks you’ve been putting off, like:

  • Updating your homepage
  • Managing theme updates
  • Improving product page user experience & styling
  • Formatting images & blog posts
  • Reviewing and configuring Google Analytics & Webmaster Tools
  • Adding special functionality to your site

 

This new package (and all of our Store Support packages) includes our monthly backup service, free of charge — woo hoo! To provide continuous support with the greatest convenience, our Recurring Monthly package subscriptions automatically renew every month — but you can cancel at any time prior to your renewal date without penalty.

Small investments can pay off big. Making improvements to your ecommerce store on a consistent basis is the best way to manage continual change, ensure the long-term success of your online business, and give you some much-needed peace of mind. Give us a try and experience the difference just a little help can make.

For more information, please visit our Store Support pages for BigCommerce, Shopify, Lead Commerce, and Volusion.

BigCommerce App-Alooza! Top-Rated BigCommerce Apps for 2017

BigCommerce-top-apps

Are you looking to make improvements to your BigCommerce store? We recently published an article called “Shopify’s Greatest Hits! 8 Best-Reviewed Apps for 2017”, so we thought we’d provide a similar resource (different apps!) to our BigCommerce friends.

As we stated in that article, the needs of individual businesses vary widely. No time to check out BigCommerce’s App Store? Here’s a quick run-down of some current top-reviewed BigCommerce apps by category.

 

Accounting App: Discount Manager

Discount Manager schedules sales in your online store to run automatically. Enter discounts that turn on an off when you want, saving time and trouble.

Key Features

  • Sale price can be fixed or percentage of the product’s price.
  • Retail price will be shown on your web store, crossed out to show savings.
  • Eliminates using coupons to start and end your promotions and sales.

discount-manager-app
 
 
 
 
 

  • Price: $12.95 – $18.95/mo.
  • Free trial: 7 days

 

Advertising App: LeadDyno

LeadDyno quickly and easily builds a team of affiliates to resell your product … and turns your customers into affiliates, too.

Key Features

  • Fast sign up page which can be fully customized, branded, and embedded directly on your website.
  • Upload banner ads, import your marketing copy and materials, and help affiliates create their own custom links to specific product pages and subdomains.
  • Pay affiliates automatically or with “one-click” approval using Paypal, Dwolla or Coinbase.

lead-dyno-app
 
 
 
 
 

  • Price: $29/mo.
  • Free trial: 30 days

 

Customer Feedback App: Picreel Exit Offer

Picreel recovers abandoning visitors and turns them into customers using targeted offers. Increase your sales, build lists, conduct customer surveys, and more.

Key Features

  • Track visitors’ mouse/scroll movements in real time and then display an offer when they navigate away from valuable content.
  • Use Picreel’s design templates or create your own offers that will be displayed based on the business rules you set.
  • Know everything from visits to conversions with insight analytics.

picreel-app
 
 
 
 
 

  • Price: $19.99 – $399.00/mo.
  • Free trial: 30 days

 

Email Marketing App: InStockNotify

Stop losing sales! InStockNotify helps create relationships with potential new customers by automatically notifying them when a product is back in stock.

Key Features

  • Increase sales by seeing which products your customers are most interested in.
  • Send customized emails, and see when they’ve been read.
  • Exports data to .csv format.

in-stock-notify-app
 
 
 
 
 

  • Price: $17.99/mo.
  • Free trial: 15 days

 

Inventory App: Lead Commerce

When you’re ready to get serious about your inventory, warehousing, and order management, Lead Commerce is your go-to solution.

Key Features

  • Powerful quoting and inventory features.
  • Multichannel: Sell your products on third party sites like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy, and easily track them in the back office.
  • Customize your quotes & invoices with Autoresponders functionality.

lead-commerce-logo
 
 
 
 

  • Price: Varies per number of users
  • Free trial: 60 days
  • Integrations: BigCommerce, Shopify, Amazon, eBay, WooCommerce, ShipStation via our ecommerce connectors

 

Marketing App: Sweet Tooth Loyalty

Sweet Tooth creates custom loyalty programs to reward your shoppers with points. Happy customers increase your revenue, retention, and referrals.

Key Features

  • Create a loyalty program that works on every online shopping device — desktop, laptop, smartphone, or tablet.
  • Customize your loyalty program to incentivize purchases, registrations, referrals, social sharing, and more.
  • Allow your best customers to earn points faster in different V.I.P tiers.


 
 
 
 
 

  • Price: Free up to 500 members. Larger plans range from $59 – $399+/mo.

 

Shipping App: Aftership

Aftership gains customers’ trust and makes them happy with automatic delivery status updates. Developers can add tracking functionality easily.

Key Features

  • Send delivery notifications to engage your customers after sales.
  • Allow customers to view delivery status in one click on customizable tracking pages.
  • Find out about delivery exceptions and take action before it’s too late.

aftership-app
 
 
 
 
 

  • Price: Free up to 100 shipments/mo; $10 for 100-100K shipments/mo., custom pricing for orders exceeding 100K/mo.

 

Product Reviews App: Yotpo

Yotpo generates reviews, photos, and user-generated content to drive qualified traffic, increase conversion rates, and boost sales.

Key Features

  • Review-request emails use proprietary technology backed by data science to get 9x more reviews.
  • Optimized for mobile: Users can leave reviews without ever leaving their email app.
  • “Retention and Engagement Suite” uses coupons, community Q&A, and review responses to engage and entice customers to keep coming back.

yotpo-app
 
 
 
 
 

  • Price: Basic version is free; premium features available at additional cost.
  • Free trial: 14 days

 

Didn’t see your favorite app listed here? Would you add or subtract one or more? We’d love to hear about it and connect with you on our Twitter page. If this list has inspired you to visit BigCommerce’s App Store and you did not find an app that provided the functionality you need, learn more about Inkblot Digital’s custom development solutions for BigCommerce or contact us. We love to help ecommerce stores be freaking awesome.

Shopify’s Greatest Hits! 8 Best-Reviewed Apps for 2017

Whether you’re new to Shopify or an experienced store owner, it’s always helpful to find tools that make running your day-to-day business easier.

If you haven’t visited Shopify’s App Store (which is pretty awesome, by the way) recently, here’s a rundown of some apps you may want to check out. Since the needs of Shopify businesses vary so widely, we thought it’d be helpful to give you a listing of some current top-reviewed apps by category.
 

Accounting App: Sufio

Want to look more professional in the eyes of your clients and impress your tax accountant? Sufio creates nice looking, automatic invoices for your online store.

Key Features

  • Automatically sends invoices and receipts for every order.
  • Allows you to sell on new markets. Invoices are compliant with legislation worldwide.
  • Captures VAT numbers from businesses and sets them as VAT exempt.

sufio-app
 
 
 

  • Price: $9 – $49/mo.
  • Free trial: 14 days
  • Integrations: BigCommerce, Soundest, Spently, Kit, Coin

 

Customer Service App: Facebook Chat

Don’t be a stranger! Leverage the power of Facebook to live chat with customers via Facebook Messenger to build relationships, offer support, and boost sales.

Key Features

  • Enables chat with customers by Facebook accounts, right on your store.
  • View customers’ profiles, get closer to and engage with them to increase sales.
  • Support customers anywhere, anytime, even on your mobile phone.
  • Easy to use; no coding required.

quick-facebook-chat-app
 
 
 

  • Price: Free
  • Integrations:Also available on WordPress, BigCommerce and LightSpeed

 

Inventory App: Oberlo

Oberlo helps find & sell dropshipped products in minutes. Automating your product and order management allows you the time and freedom to grow your business.

Key Features

  • Easily imports products from AliExpress.com directly into your store.
  • Ship orders directly to your customers in just a few clicks.
  • Know that your inventory and prices are always up to date.

oberlo-app
 
 
 

  • Price: Free
  • Website features free information on dropshipping

 

Marketing App: Privy

Don’t let your customers get away once they’ve found you. Use the power of pop-ups to build relationships and drive revenue.

Key Features

  • Rapidly grow your email list with high converting pop-ups and offers with bulk coupon codes.
  • No coding required! Choose from existing templates or easy-to-use drag & drop to create and instantly publish marketing campaigns.
  • Target and reclaim abandoned carts easily with special offers.

privy-app
 
 
 

  • Price: $0 – $199/mo.
  • Required: Privy account
  • Integration with all email marketing platforms, including MailChimp, Bronto, Klaviyo, Soundest, Adroll, Zapier and more.

 

Sales App: Printful

Easy, on-demand, online printing, fulfillment and shipping — with no minimums! See your brand come to life on a wide variety of products.

Key Features

  • No upfront costs – no need to stock inventory, buy equipment, or pay monthly fees.
  • No manual orders – easily integrate your store and have all orders automatically fulfilled.
  • Extra perks – access to designers, photographers, white label service, and hundreds of product choices.

printful-app
 
 
 

  • Price: Free; custom pricing by product
  • Required: Printful account
  • Integrations: BigCommerce, Woo Commerce, ShipStation, and many others

 

Shipping App: ShipStation

Import, manage, and ship your orders, even from your phone. Save countless hours by automating nearly every task associated with ecommerce fulfillment.

Key Features

  • Best USPS Rates at all plan levels + includes a free USPS-enabled account + Web-based w/ free iOS & Android app.
  • Aggregate orders from your selling channels + Automate order processing with a simple but powerful rules engine.
  • Create hundreds of labels at a time for USPS, UPS, FedEx, DHL, Canada Post, and others.

Shipstation-app
 
 
 

  • Price: $9 – $145/mo.
  • Free trial: 30 days
  • Integrations: Extensive! Please check out Inkblot’s ShipStation/LeadCommerce connector if you want to pair a robust inventory tracking system with your shipping.

 

Social Media App: Snapppt

The eye buys — let customers shop from your Instagram feed. Embed your entire shoppable Instagram feed into any web page and never miss a selling opportunity.

Key Features:

  • Increase sales by making your Instagram feed instantly shoppable.
  • Embed shoppable Instagram galleries & carousels into your store.
  • Plug & play with Shopify – easy and fast to set up and use.

Snapppt-app
 
 
 

  • Price: Free
  • Requirements: Snapppt account; Instagram

 

Tools App: Quick Announcement Bar

Always keep your customers informed about updates, promotions and special events with auto-display banners. Include a CTA button and drive sales even faster.

Key Features

  • Create as many banners as you want; the App automatically schedules them and selects the right one to display.
  • Fully responsive and customizable, optimized for desktop, tablets, and phones.
  • No App branding added on the bar to make your site look unprofessional, unlimited number of impressions.

Quick-announcement-app
 
 
 

  • Price: Free

 

Didn’t see your favorite app listed here? Would you add or subtract one or more? We’d love to connect with you on our Twitter page. If this list has inspired you to visit Shopify’s App Store and you did not find an app that provided the functionality you need, learn more about Inkblot Digital’s custom development solutions or contact us. We love to help ecommerce stores be freaking awesome.

Need Help with Your Online Store?

Stressed Businesswoman

If you’re like most entrepreneurs, running your own business can run you ragged. You wear all the hats, make all the decisions … it’s exhausting. But as the saying goes, you’d rather work 80 hours for yourself than 40 hours for someone else, amirite? But what happens when 80 hours becomes 100 hours, or 120 hours? When you’re constantly busy but not feeling like you’re making progress? When your dog AND your kids both snap at you? You’ve put in all the sweat equity you can afford, but it’s still not enough?

If you started an ecommerce business thinking it was your ticket to Easy Street, you have certainly found out otherwise by now.

Starting an online store on a platform designed for small to midsize businesses certainly seemed like the way to go, because who can afford a fully custom site? Relatively easy setup, low cost point of entry, and the default settings met all your basic needs, right?. Ok … some of them?

Perhaps you were told that your online store could be customized, but you’ve no doubt discovered that your shopping platform’s help desk will not help with that. Have you tried hiring a web developer who really didn’t know anything about ecommerce and you ended up paying dearly for their learning curve, only to find that they couldn’t deliver?

And what about routine maintenance — are your backups reliable? Are your product photos and content updated regularly? Is your site running slowly and you don’t know why? Are 404 errors driving you crazy?

If you’re struggling or are simply unsatisfied with your online store and don’t know where else to turn, what you need is an ecommerce development expert.
“But why outsource when I should be able to do it myself?” you ask?

 
six-reasons-you-need-store-support

Reasons to Get Outside Help for Your Online Store

 
 
 

  1. Running your ecommerce business is already a full-time job, and you want to spend more time with your family and/or occasionally binge-watch Netflix.
  2. You can’t afford even a part-time employee to help. Besides, you don’t know enough or have the time to train someone else.
  3. Site upkeep is no fun and you hate it; consequently, you neglect to do certain tasks that usually come back to bite you later when you’re in crisis mode.
  4. You realize that it’s not the best use of your time, that it’s better to work “on” your business rather than “in” your business.
  5. Asking your spouse or family member to help out isn’t an option because he/she already has a full-time job or other responsibilities.
  6. You want to add custom functionality to your store that would help with all of the above — but you don’t write code.

 

“If there is a aspect of my business that I don’t like working on, I usually end up outsourcing it. As a founder you can focus your efforts on the aspects that you enjoy while hiring out the rest.” Nathan Resnick, Founder of Sourcify

“In my mind, the bottom line is that everyone outsources. Unless you grow, harvest, and process your own food, make your own clothes from fibers you’ve produced and spun, build your own house, create your own power sources, and are completely independent from the long chain of people in the manufacturing economy, you’re paying other people to do that which you do not want to do, don’t want to make time to do, or lack the skills to do. In the modern word, specialization is the norm.” J.D. Roth

 

There comes a point (usually much sooner than most entrepreneurs are willing to admit), when it all becomes too much. When you have more work than you can handle, but not quite enough to hire a full or even part-time employee, outsourcing to an ecommerce expert may be just what you need. Check out Inkblot Digital’s Store Support service for BigCommerce, Lead Commerce, Shopify, and Volusion stores.

 

How does our Store Support work?

You can use our service in three ways:

  • Pay by the hour (Hourly: for very short jobs or emergencies)
  • Pay for a set number of hours per month on a one-time basis (On Demand: for longer, one-time tasks)
  • Pay for a set number of hours on a recurring basis (Recurring Monthly: for continuous support and priority service)

Pssst … sidebar … Our Recurring Monthly packages are really something to shout about. Not only do you get our very best hourly rates, but the following features are included free

  • Priority Service
  • Monthly backup (including template)
  • Site Downtime Status Report
  • Missing Title Tags Report
  • Broken Links Report

What kinds of services could I use this for? Can you give me some more examples?

  • Making changes to website layout and styling
  • Adding custom coding & functionality
  • Updating content & graphics
  • Managing product & store configuration
  • Providing graphic design for site banners
  • Providing ecommerce consulting
  • Optimizing website speed
  • Restoring backups when code changes cause templates to break
  • Integrating external services such as Google Analytics, a third-party reviews system, or other tools
  • Building custom API integrations to allow better management of your ecommerce store

 
Businesswoman-using-store-support

Store Support = Life Support

Think of our Store Support as your part-time help desk or outsourced internal development team.

Life is too short to spend time doing things you’d be better off not doing yourself. Let us help you shoulder the burden. Contact Inkblot Digital today and let’s find out how we can make your online business — and your life — easier.

Get More From Your Online Store

Is your ecommerce website just … average?

Is your back office inefficient?

Is managing your online store overwhelming?

 

Inkblot Digital at your service! At Inkblot Digital, our ecommerce developers specialize in creating custom code applications that add needed functionality to your shopping platform, along with providing store support services to lighten your load.

Not only have we recently redesigned our website (woot woot!), we have consolidated our service offering to focus on three areas: Store Customization, Ecommerce Connectors, and Store Support. This change enables us to dive deeper into BigCommerce, Lead Commerce, Shopify, and Volusion platforms and offer custom solutions and service specific to the ecommerce community. Need a quick fix or an extra pair of hands so you can get back to business? Here’s what we do best:

 

Store Customization

creative-customizing

Is your “off the shelf” ecommerce website not quite cutting it? Are you missing key functionality that would set you apart from your competitors and improve user experience? Are you having trouble finding a developer who knows your platform well enough to make the changes you need (You do know you can add features to your shopping platform, right? Just checking …). Our development experts love creating custom solutions for ecommerce stores.

Enhancement possibilities are endless with imagination and custom code. Choose a pre-built app from our Store Mod Marketplace or a custom solution — which one is right for you?

 
 
 

Ecommerce Connectors

connector-handshake

Inkblot makes your life easier by designing ecommerce connectors that integrate your back office software with platforms like Amazon, eBay, and ShipStation. Would you like make your business run more efficiently? If so, why wait? Integrate. Connecting your systems is an important yet complicated process, but one that could be vital to your long-term success by allowing you to spend more time working on your business, not in your business.

We’ve built connectors that hook up Lead Commerce with other platforms, but we can integrate many other platforms to your specifications. Choose one of our existing connectors or have us create one just for you.

 

Store Support

store-support-lifesaver

Wouldn’t it be great if you had easy access to ongoing assistance with your ecommerce store? Managing things like template changes, handling 404s and 301 redirects, adding pages and products, and JavaScript customization take valuable time. Our Store Support Packages provide an easy way to pay for our services and are the perfect solution for busy online store owners. We offer three service package levels for BigCommerce, Lead Commerce, Shopify, and Volusion stores. Plus, Monthly Recurring packages come with our Automated Backup Tool and site monitoring service free!

All web developers are not created equal. Our developers are ecommerce experts who know what to do when you just need to get it done. And in case you were wondering, we are 100% U.S. based.
 

How Can We Help?

Find out how your store can be AWESOMIZED! Contact us today at inkblotdigital.com and let’s talk about how we can help you get more from your online store.

Inkblot Digital: Your Ecommerce Development Experts.

3 Ways to Win the Ecommerce Game

wheel-of-business-fortune

Running an online business is challenging at best these days. The economy is unpredictable, competition is fierce, and the rules are always changing. To make matters worse, your shopping platform may not always perform to your expectations. If your BigCommerce, Shopify, Lead Commerce, or Volusion store doesn’t provide all the functionality you need, you are immediately at a disadvantage and could be throwing good money after bad to deal with its shortcomings. You may have wondered how you can get your store to do what you want it to. You are not alone.

ABC television is currently airing “Sunday Fun and Games,” a lineup of classic game shows for the 2016 summer season. Hosts Alec Baldwin, Michael Strachan, and Anthony Anderson turn back time and revisit some of the classic shows of the 70s and beyond: Match Game, The $100,000 Pyramid, and To Tell the Truth. What does ecommerce have to do with game shows? Well, let’s take a closer look using three classic shows to find out how you can level the playing field and beat the odds.

Let’s play!

Match Game: Which Store Mod is Right for You?

Fill in the blank:

If my store could ______________, my online business would improve tremendously.

Need a quick fix? Inkblot Digital has created bits of pre-built custom code — what we call Store Mods — that can be tweaked to suit your store and be up and running in no time. Our mods were designed to suit the unique needs of ecommerce stores and they work. Case in point:
Our Store Locator tool enables a customer to find the address of the retail/distributor location within a designated radius instantly. “Hey wait, that’s easy — doesn’t my platform offer that already?” you ask? No — believe it or not, it probably doesn’t.

Curious? Browse our Store Mod Marketplace to find our Store Locator and many other handy tools.

$100,000 Pyramid

Category: Things Ecommerce Store Owners Have in Common

Ready? Go!

  • This is what you lack when it takes you WAY longer than you think it should to do run a report: Patience — yes!
  • This is the code you need to use to make changes to your store, but you don’t know anything about it and don’t have time to learn it: JavaScript — yes!
  • This is how you feel when your competitors’ site works better and provides a better user experience than yours: Frustrated — yes! yes! YES!

Didn’t find what you needed in our Store Mod Marketplace? Our ecommerce developers can create code-to-order to fill just about any need you may have for your online store. Plus, purchasing one of our Store Support Packages makes it so, so easy. Why phone a friend who doesn’t know ecommerce? Whether you need 5 hours or 15+ hours of support or development time a month, having an ecommerce developer on retainer could be a lifeline. Plus, the price is right — and it won’t cost anywhere near $100,000.

Love Connection

Ok, this game isn’t in the summer lineup, but wait — there’s more!

Need to integrate your shopping platform with back office support software? Our ecommerce connectors are off the hook. Talk about a match made in heaven! Connecting your store with a third party platform is an important yet complicated process, but one that could be necessary to your long-term success.

We’ve created connectors to integrate Amazon, Ebay, BigCommerce, and Shopify with Lead Commerce, a powerful order management system that helps you manage your inventory, warehouses, and shipping orders. To tell the truth (ah, I worked it in after all!), it’s not easy to find an ecommerce developer who knows how to create this vital functionality between platforms. Look no further — this expertise is one of Inkblot Digital’s specialties.

 

So grease the wheels of fortune and give one or more of these ideas a spin — your business (and your sanity) may be in jeopardy if you don’t.

Mic drop.

Customize Your BigCommerce Sliders!

So you’ve read our posts about the importance of page load speed, especially on mobile, right? [If you haven’t, check out Who Cares How Fast Your Bigcommerce Mobile Site Loads? and Introducing Responslider: A New Bigcommerce App from Inkblot Digital.] What we haven’t mentioned yet is that not only does our Responslider app optimize your BigCommerce carousel sliders, it allows you to customize them too!

That’s right, in addition to allowing you to load perfectly sized slider images to improve home page load speed, you can load completely different images to better suit image dimensions or unique marketing strategies for each mobile device.

Let’s say you want to have a large image of tacos on your site (because really, who wouldn’t?). You picked this image because it’s nice and wide and is photographed so beautifully that you can almost smell and taste them. Yum.

Optimized Slider Images

Optimized-tacos

In this example, the original image had blank space on the right that was well suited for the tagline “Mmmm … tacos.” As the image gets cropped and resized down to optimal smartphone size, the original look/feel is greatly compromised. Wouldn’t an image that is organically portrait size be better suited for this?

Customized Slider Images

Customized-tacos

Vive la difference! Different images were chosen for each device size, which has the added benefit of providing a unique experience for each device a viewer might be using.

So, form over function, or vice-versa? Who cares? Our tacos are being seen in all their crunchy glory … and fast! Visit Responslider’s site for more information on how purchasing Responslider can improve your BigCommerce store. Monthly plans start at only $9.99/mo, the sacrifice of just a couple of tacos. Hey now …

New Resource: Ultimate Guide to Google Analytics for BigCommerce Stores

Imagine sailing across the ocean without any instruments, a GPS, or even a star chart. You might know where you want to wind up but have no idea if you are track for getting there or whether you are making progress at all. Probably not the best idea.

Yet every single day, thousands of ecommerce store owners are navigating their online business blindly, since they do not have Google Analytics properly set up or are not using the invaluable data at their fingertips. They are effectively navigating without using their instrument panels. Critical to managing your BigCommerce store is understanding what is happening, how users are engaging, where traffic is coming from, and what is and isn’t working.

We know that this isn’t easy to do. That is why we are excited to announce our newest resource: the Ultimate Guide to Google Analytics for BigCommerce Stores.

This guide will walk you through setup, integration, goal/conversion tracking, advanced configuration, and frequently asked questions.

We hope this helps you along the way and proves to be a great resource for BigCommerce store managers.

Who Cares How Fast Your BigCommerce Mobile Site Loads?

Two words: Google does.

The end.

Just kidding … but not really.

RS-slow-3-pack

If you keep up with the latest data on how user experience affects conversion rate optimization and SEO, you’ve probably read about page load speed being one of the ingredients in Google’s “secret recipe” for determining whether your site is a quality result for a user’s search query — and that includes your mobile experience too. In short, fast-loading sites make search customers happy, and happy customers help bring in mad advertising revenue for Google.

Case closed. Wait … not yet.

The Dilemma

RS-wait-callout

Before a customer can see your products, your content, learn about your awesome philosophy, or experience your phenomenal customer service, they have to get to your site first. Your homepage is often the main point of entry for your website. If a user gets impatient with the length of time it takes for this page to load, they will most likely give up and go elsewhere, which is a complete waste of the effort you took to get them that far in the first place. Studies have shown that even a 1-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions (check out this great infographic from Kissmetrics).

Plus, if the bounce rate for this very important page is high, Google starts to get concerned, and your sliding rankings will show it.

Yikes.

Attention, BigCommerce Users!

If you are a BigCommerce store owner and your home page features carousel slider images, the size of these images can be a problem for load time right off the bat. The large images that exist on the desktop version of your site are the same images that will be used every time your home page loads on a tablet or smartphone, causing it to respond slowly.

The image sizes you’ve chosen for the sliders may be awesome for a large, high resolution, desktop experience, but what about on a tablet or a smartphone? It’s hard to visualize how something large can be successfully squeezed into a tiny container in the real world, but this is something that can definitely happen in the digital world … at a cost. Your images will indeed be loaded and resized, usually without distortion, but this takes time, and time is something you do not have when your customer is waiting.

“But — my store is mobile friendly! Why is this happening?” Unfortunately, “friendly” and “optimized” are two different things. Implementing a responsive template — which is something you absolutely should do —  is just the first step in ensuring that your mobile customers have a good shopping experience. So while your site may be “mobile responsive” it’s not device optimized.

What Does “Device Optimized” Mean?

When a site is device optimized, it has been configured to run optimally on various devices. It is more than just adapting to a device’s screen; it is optimized for it. While choosing a responsive template generally handles basic formatting issues, the images on a site remain at their original sizes, which is not a problem if you’re not concerned with page speed … which of course, you are.

There is an optimal slider image size for each device a user can view your site on, whether it be desktop, tablet, or any kind of smartphone screen. Ideally, you should be loading the correctly sized slider image (i.e., loading a 400 pixel image on a 400 pixel phone instead of a 2,000 pixel image on a 400 pixel phone) for every mobile device.

When the right-sized image loads on a device, page loads are fast, which makes customers really happy. Unfortunately, BigCommerce has no built-in tools to fix this problem.

What Can I Do?

Here are two options:

Option A: Pay, Pay, Pay … and Pay Some More

Pay an experienced ecommerce developer (provided you can find one) to help you. If (and that’s a big “if”) this developer understands the problem and knows how to fix it, you can expect to pay him or her for at least several hours of development time now, and again every time you want to change the images on your site for a special sale or promotion.

If you paid this developer $75/hour for four hours of initial work — a very low estimate — and an additional one to two hours every time you ran a promotion (say, once a month), you’d be paying well over $1000 per year just to maintain your sliders. Ouch.

Option B: DIY … and Save!

Install Inkblot Digital’s Responslider for BigCommerce, which automates the development process and puts the control of your website in your hands, where it belongs. Our coding experts have done the work for you, enabling you to easily upload the right-sized carousel images for every device, making page load time super speedy.

Responslider has been shown to increase home page load times by 20%. With plans starting at just $9.99/month, what have you got to lose, except maybe two overpriced lattes?

 

After Responslider

RS-fast-3-pack

Now that’s more like it.

Responslider gets you back in the ecommerce race — and keeps you there. For more information, please visit Responslider’s site.

The end. For real.

This article is dedicated to Elisha Avne, our in-house sloth enthusiast.

Introducing Responslider: A New BigCommerce App from Inkblot Digital

Customized mobile screens

  • Do your home page sliders load slowly on mobile?
  • Are you frustrated by your high bounce rate?
  • Are you looking for a way to help improve your conversions and make more money?

 

Responslider to the Rescue!

responslider-logo-medium

Responslider makes your site load faster by enabling you to upload correctly sized slider images for every device with no coding required — and no squeezing!

Speed Kills

Green cart

Even a fraction of a second can be the difference between a visitor abandoning your site or staying and making a purchase. Responslider allows you to reach the optimal page speed for each user’s device, thereby improving user experience and retention rate. Your page load time will be faster, making customers happy and increasing conversions.

 
 

Good for Your Customers … and SEO Too

Responslider is the perfect app for store owners who know how important user experience is to conversions. Google and other search engines like happy customers too, which can translate into improved site credibility and rankings. Search engines want to deliver the best possible search results, which include sites that load fast on any device.

 
 

Affordable and Easy to Use

With two monthly plans to choose from, you can improve your site performance for about the cost of lunch for you and a friend at In-N-Out (Wait … did we lose you on that part? It’ll be worth it, really!). Responslider’s easy-to-use interface requires no coding experience. If you know how to upload a photo, you can use Responslider! Just resize your image using any free online resizing tool and you’re good to go. It’s that simple.

There are no contracts or long-term agreements. What have you got to lose but your slow page loads? Give Responslider a try today.

 
 

Ready to Buy?

GET RESPONSLIDER HERE

 

Need More Information?

LEARN MORE

 

Hear about the latest in ecommerce optimization by following Inkblot Digital on Facebook, Twitter, and Google +.

BigCommerce Announces New Stencil Theme Engine

BigCommerce recently announced their latest upgrade: a templating engine which powers stores built on their ecommerce platform — and store owners should be thrilled. This upgrade, named Stencil, opens the door for all sorts of new opportunities for their stores. The level of flexibility and power for your BigCommerce store is going to be drastically improved.

 

What is Stencil?

Stencil is the framework or template engine behind your BigCommerce store. This is what takes your data and settings and brings them to life in a functional ecommerce website. While the existing template engine was fairly flexible compared to many other platforms, it was due for an overhaul to allow stores to improve their storefronts. Introducing: Stencil.

bigcommerce-stencil-theme-engine-thumb

Stencil is far more than an HTML template with shortcodes. It is a dynamic framework that leverages several modern technologies to create a powerful and flexible website. Stencil builds on the flexible Handlebars.js template system that uses javascript to compile the page together with YAML front matter, making data points available as templates are compiled. SASS/ SCSS will allow you to more rapidly push styling changes across the store. The combination of these technologies and other enhancements that BigCommerce has added on top of it all will create a powerful development environment that will allow for great customization.

 

What are some of Stencil’s Top Features?

While it is early on, some of the initial features of Stencil that really stand out are:

  • Greater customization and flexibility in terms of store design
  • Conditional templating (i.e., if a customer belongs to Group A, show this)
  • Faster customized page speed (due to the fact that much of store customization will now be handled by servers instead of browsers)
  • Local theme testing

 

What does Stencil mean for BigCommerce Stores?

Technical improvements aside, Stencil could make a big impact on stores. Here are a few of the things we are excited about:

  • Engage customers better
  • Tailor your store to your unique context
  • Offer more flexible, dynamic experiences to visitors
  • Implement custom functionality that does not slow the page load
  • Experiment more freely on how to improve conversion rates

 

Over the coming weeks we will break down the different technologies behind Stencil, outline what these mean for your store beyond having to upgrade your theme coding, dream with you about the possibilities for better user experience and conversions, and discuss how to take advantage of it all. Stay tuned.

Feel free to check out our BigCommerce Stencil Theme Engine page to discover more about how you can implement and customize this exciting new technology.

The Volusion Mobile SEO Dilemma

Google recently announced that mobile user experience will play an even greater role in mobile search results come April 21. We recently wrote an article detailing why Google prefers sites with a good mobile experience and how a website might respond. However, many sites (including many of our ecommerce clients) have a more nuanced set of options resulting from the platform they are on. Such is the case with Volusion stores.

Volusion Mobile SEO Dilemma

The Volusion Context

Volusion, like many other ecommerce platforms, does not offer a great amount of flexibility. As a result, it is not as easy to meet the mobile-friendly guidelines laid out by Google.

Those used to self-hosted, open platforms such as WordPress might not understand the hosted CMS scenario. Here is the Volusion context:

Mobile Storefront

In the Fall of 2013, Volusion released version 2 of their Mobile Storefront. Although it had many issues at the outset, they have since made many improvements — especially involving SEO aspects. Unfortunately, the mobile store is limited and falls short of the needs of many modern stores. There are many contexts where it simply does not function properly for a store’s needs in the way the desktop version does.

Updated Theme Engine

In the Spring of 2014, Volusion announced the pending arrival of a new “theme engine” that would power Volusion templates going forward. This theme engine was to be built using AngularJS, which was to give web developers great flexibility to, among other things, build responsive websites to better reach mobile customers. While the release of the new theme engine was due out at the end of the summer of 2014, it quietly fell off the radar. While it was alluded to at the beginning of 2015, there is no telling when or if it will go live.

Responsive Templates

Instead of releasing the new theme engine, Volusion launched “responsive templates” in the fall of 2014 and has pushed them hard since. It sounded like great news at first, but they are not quite what was hoped for. While these templates adapt to various screen sizes, they are not truly responsive. As they are built on much of the same HTML table code as before, they cannot truly adapt to the context. For example, instead of a row of four products on a category page switching to rows of two on smaller resolutions, the products are simply shrunk and squished into the device width. This is not a true responsive solution. Additionally, it is unclear how much of a stopgap this is. Will it will last or be scrapped if and when the theme engine releases?

Such is the context for Volusion stores looking to implement a mobile solution.

SEO Implications

In a time when it is imperative for those who want to reach mobile searchers to have a solid mobile strategy, Volusion owners are faced with a difficult decision. Whereas all stores likely want to improve their SEO, the options are limited with no clear cut path forward.

Again, the issue — laid out in our previous Google Hates Your Poor Mobile Experience article — is that not having a “mobile-friendly” website will likely result in the loss of mobile search traffic at a greater level come April 21, 2015. For many Volusion stores, mobile search traffic is currently a significant source of revenue. To be under-optimized for mobile SEO could be painful. Furthermore, in a world where visitors often move from device to device, many customers may start on mobile but checkout on a desktop or tablet, masking the true revenue resulting from mobile search.

The SEO guidance is clear and I will not belabor this point: mobile-friendliness is a key factor for mobile search. Online stores hosted on the Volusion platform need to find a way to respond to this latest change.

Mobile Options for Volusion Stores

Here are four key options available for your Volusion store as you consider how to best target mobile visitors and adapt for mobile search:

Responsive Web Design Device Types

Option #1: Use the Volusion Mobile Storefront

Many stores currently use the Volusion Mobile Storefront to better reach their mobile visitors. Volusion has certainly improved several key features — especially the SEO setup — since the launch of version 2. However, there are several drawbacks to be aware of.

Benefits

Some of the top benefits of the Volusion Mobile Storefront include:

  • Reaches mobile visitors with a version of your store made just for them
  • Enables mobile optimized checkout
  • Passes the “mobile friendly” test

Challenges & Limitations

The Mobile Storefront also has the following challenges and limitations:

  • Minimal customization available
  • Not all web content displays
  • Many features are not supported
  • Unable to run conversion tracking codes

Option #2: Use/Customize a Responsive Theme

Volusion’s responsive templates have been around for a while now and appeal to many sites. While it does not offer the theme engine that many expected, it does enable your site to adapt to various device types. It is important to note that you cannot simply turn this on for your existing template. You must switch to a new, responsive template and customize it from there.

Benefits

Some of the top benefits of the Volusion Responsive Templates include:

  • Provides a single template for your site
  • Creates a responsive site, the Google-preferred option for your mobile solution
  • Passes the “mobile friendly” test

Challenges & Limitations

The Responsive Templates also have the following challenges and limitations:

  • Requires a new template
  • Continues to use HTML table code
  • Adapts somewhat, but is not truly responsive

Here you can find the responsive templates that Volusion currently offers: Responsive Template Store.

Option #3: Migrate to Another Platform

Of course, it is always possible to migrate your Volusion store to another ecommerce platform that offers the flexibility to implement responsive web design. While the most difficult of all options, this opens up a myriad of options.

Benefits

Some of the top benefits of migrating to another ecommerce platform include:

  • Accessing theme engines that fully support responsive coding
  • Upgrading to a modern platform
  • Passing the “mobile friendly” test

Challenges & Limitations

Migrating to a new platform also has the following challenges and limitations:

  • Requires a significant investment of time and resources
  • Other platforms may not suit your business processes like Volusion does
  • Business will need to adapt to new systems

Option #4: Do Nothing / Wait for a Volusion Upgrade

The easiest option is to not do anything. Perhaps you don’t want to invest in the other options. or decide you want to wait for the new theme engine to come out prior to making a change.

Benefits

Some of the top benefits of doing nothing include:

  • Avoid investing in temporary technology
  • Save funds for key improvements

Challenges & Limitations

Doing nothing also has the following challenges and limitations:

  • It is unclear when other, better options will be available
  • You risk a drop in mobile search results
  • Your site will not pass the “mobile friendly” test

Recommendations

So, what should you do? It depends (I know, I know …)

Here are a few options you might consider based on your situation:

Scenario #1: Minimal Store Customization

Scenario: Your store is barely customized and you plan on staying on Volusion for a while …

Recommendation: Utilize a Volusion Responsive Template

If a new, responsive template will require minimal customization to meet your needs, this might not be a bad option for you. Generally speaking, the Volusion responsive templates do not provide enough benefit for the amount of effort involved in customizing them as they do not resolve all issues. However, in this scenario it might just make sense.

One key drawback is that you cannot run conversion tracking codes for Google Analytics ecommerce transaction tracking or other conversion tracking. If this is critical data for your store, as it is for many, this recommendation would not apply to you.

Scenario #2: Moderate Store Customization

Scenario: Your store design is moderately customized, you plan on staying on Volusion, and are not utilizing unique Volusion features unsupported by the mobile storefront…

Recommendation: Volusion Mobile Storefront

If your store design is unique and would require significant effort to re-skin a responsive template, I would recommend using the Volusion Mobile Storefront. The key factor here is that you are not using any of the features that do not work on the mobile storefront. In this case, the minimal effort required to switch to the mobile store option is worth the trade off to become mobile friendly.

Scenario #3: Planning on Leaving Volusion

Scenario: You already plan on leaving Volusion…

Recommendation: Migrate Now & Implement Responsive Web Design

If you already plan on migrating to another cart but have not done so for one reason or another, now would be a good time to make the move and to implement a responsive web design in the process. The opportunity cost may justify the expense of migrating. Consider what you might lose in mobile sales each month versus the expense of migrating.

Scenario #4: Heavily Customized

Scenario: Your site is heavily customized or the Mobile Storefront does not work for your store…

Recommendation: Implement Responsive Web Design (customizing a Volusion Responsive Template or Migrate to another platform and build a template with responsive web design

If your store has been significantly customized or if you are utilizing features that do not work properly with the Mobile Storefront, the decision is more complicated. In this scenario, I recommend first determining how valuable your mobile traffic is. If mobile, organic search drives minimal sales and is unimportant to you as a sales channel, you might actually want to “do nothing” for now and stick with the desktop-only site. If it drives a higher volume of traffic and is a valuable source of revenue, then you will want to go responsive — either on Volusion or not. While a Volusion responsive template is more of a stopgap, it may still be worth investing in a new template and the subsequent customization if you are committed to the platform. If you are indifferent or frustrated with Volusion, you might consider investing the same funds into a one-time upgrade onto another platform.

 

Concluding Thoughts

Unfortunately, there is no single, clear guidance here. Many nuances such as mobile traffic, revenue driven from mobile, business process, and long-term plans, along with a lack of clarity about Volusion’s plan, create a complex landscape for you to navigate. Our final recommendation is to look at all of these factors to truly understand what you are dealing with first, then make a decision. Work with the information you have today and then adapt as things progress. Not making a decision of any kind is effectively choosing to miss out on mobile search traffic. Choose wisely.