8 Key Social Rules to Guide Ecommerce

8 Key Social Rules to Guide E-Commerce

Diamond Candles is an e-commerce company that specializes in (you can’t make this up) soy candles with rings inside them. Maybe you are familiar with this product; well, this market: in the Internet era, there is a market for soy candles with rings inside them. It’s a niche, that’s for sure. And the arguable ridiculousness of putting a ring inside a candle is exactly why this company is succeeding on social media – despite not having spent a dollar on advertising.

The brand, which has 1,036,526 Facebook Page Likes and counting, had difficulty growing when the business was originally formed. The problem was that marketing funds were low, and the product was not getting the kind of exposure that the founders felt it deserved. They figured out how to grow when they embraced social media and realized that any user could be their brand ambassador once they experienced (at least digitally and visually if not in person) the one-of-a-kind product that they offered. As customers started sharing their pictures more on the social sites, co-founder Justin Winter took that incredible user-generated content and used it to create additional value for the company. Winters and his team have grown the brand very simply, through word-of-mouth social posts and through carefully produced images. And let’s be honest, it’s even more impressive that the brand has been able to get a million Facebook fans while having lower than a 4-star rating (as of July 2017) on Facebook.

Diamond Candles is relevant because it is one of the social media success stories cited by web entrepreneur and marketing thought leader Sujan Patel in Forbes. Many of us would like to achieve the same e-commerce success on social media that Diamond Candles has; and there is certainly money to be made, worldwide. As an example, let’s look at the US-based online shopper: that person now purchases fully half (50%) of their products online, according to a 2016 UPS/comScore study that surveyed 5000 people in the US (where online shoppers now make up 79% of the population); in fact, to loop back to social, the same study found that the portion of people that said social posts influenced their buying decisions rose from 25 to 34% year-over-year, while the segment who said that they purchased something through a social site was at 23%.

Do you want to have the success of Diamond Candles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and/or elsewhere? Let’s talk about 8 golden rules of success (like a diamond within a candle, there are golden ideas hidden within this piece) espoused by Patel and others – for smarter, more powerful integration of online sales with social media.

Rule #1 – Facilitate post-sale sharing.

It can be easy to focus so much on the process of getting the sale that you forget to sell after the sale occurs, advises Ellie Martin of Startup Change Group. Of course, you want the person to keep buying or to otherwise help boost your revenue – and a very simple way to do that is with post-sale sharing buttons.

Just look at all your various forms of messaging following the sale (thank you page, confirmation email, receipt email, newsletter, etc.) and consider how social buttons can better be brought into the fold. (If you generally want to improve your game post-sale, you can check out this advice on how to improve customer lifetime value with post-sale content – which includes this great quote from marketer Dan Kennedy: “I’ve long believed that, rather than getting customers to make sales, it is smarter to make sales to get customers.”)

Rule #2 – Tell stories.

Patel says to narrate your brand. He gives the example of BeardBrand as a business that has excelled in this way. BeardBrand actually didn’t just expand by telling stories; they did so by telling them in a way that both built a recognizable brand identity and even created an identity to represent the buyer: the “Urban Beardsman.” By carefully crafting characterization and plotlines, the company was able to carve out a more specific space for itself, resulting in first-year sales that hit $120k per month. (On a related note, sadly, StacheBrand.com is already taken.)

Rule #3 – Celebrate every holiday.

You want to think more broadly than November and December when it comes to thinking about seasonal communications, says Alex D’Amore on Social Media Explorer. Plan well in advance for the year. You will undoubtedly need a progressively granular calendar to get everything organized and executed properly.

In terms of key dates, what is relevant to your business? For instance, anyone selling Apple products should pay attention to when their launches occur. We all know (except, perhaps, some of the robots reading this) how critical trending hashtags and language are to social prominence.

Rule #4 – Tie into a higher purpose.

Incorporate something for a nonprofit cause, says D’Amore. Whatever it is that you do for a charity can be based on social media or elsewhere, but you can certainly use social media for its promotion – and probably will score greater rapport with your customers for doing so.

Rule #5 – Create an air of exclusivity.

You open the doors to the business, and you want people to keep flowing in – to a point. It can also be effective to control access. Martin suggests making some sales and products (particularly in the case of clearances or raffles) only available when people follow you.

Rule #6 – Promote UGC.

No, not UFC: UGC. However, it does relate, because user-generated content can (sort of) help you to roundhouse-kick your niche competition on social media. User-generated content is just as it sounds: content created by your customers on social sites, either on their own or in order to take part in a giveaway or contest you organize. How powerful is UGC, or CGC (consumer-generated content)? Business Insider found that shoppers who see CGC are 97% likelier to buy; that is compelling.

Images that shoppers create of your products, as with the ever-popular picture-of-my-most-recent-meal, should really be taken seriously from a business perspective. Consumers like photos taken by consumers more than they do those taken by professionals – a 77% to 22% preference for amateur-generated Instagram photographs on product description pages over those created by career photographers, according to research by Yotpo.

Why are your images so important? “Using authentic visuals will demonstrate social proof, drive high-intent users from Instagram to product pages, increase on-site conversions, and improve ad performance,” notes Aaron Orendorff on Social Media Examiner.

Beyond that, there is additional value in repurposing if the Yotpo study holds true: once cleared with the appropriate parties, you could (maybe?) bring some of that UGC onto your product pages to give your site itself a better sense of community.

Rule #7 – Be supportive.

Social media is not just about posting content and interacting at the level of content but also serving as a communication channel. You want to pay attention to your messages. For one thing, Facebook lets users know how long it takes for you to reply, says Martin. Remember that this environment is not just a content channel but also a support mechanism.

Rule #8 – Use great site speed to support your social.

People think of social media as supporting the website, but the reverse is also true: if the user experience on your site is great, it will help further boost your social growth. One easy way to deliver great UX is simply performance-based, with the low latency offered by enterprise-grade solid state drives. See our managed SSD VPS hosting.

Read More

How to Fix Your Slow Site

The 10 Most Common Reasons Why Your Site is Slow and How to Fix Them

You have no doubt read or heard many laments about how we live in a society of instant gratification. We want things to work right away and if we have to wait, we’ll move on. Whether or not you think that’s a bad thing, it’s the expectation that has been set. This desire for fast and instant has an effect on our web browsing habits as anyone who has closed a tab after waiting only a few seconds for a blank page to load can attest.

 

But, if your website is the backbone of your business, load times and site speed matter quite a bit. The situation goes from feelings of annoyance and impatience to lost sales. Forbes has spotlighted several studies which demonstrate how users and customers respond to site performance. Statistics like a one second delay in load time translates into 11% fewer page views, a 7% decrease in conversions, and a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction. If anything, in the years since these studies, customers have become even less tolerant of slow sites. We also now know that Google does factor in page load times in their ranking algorithm, though not explicitly and the exact mechanisms are rather in depth.

 

All of this is to say if you’re noticing your site isn’t performing as well as you’d like it to, your first impulse might to be to contact your hosting company to see what’s going on. While it’s true that your server clearly plays a significant role in how a site runs, it’s far from the only contributing factor. In fact, there’s a good chance that what’s causing your site to not run at optimal speeds is something within your control.

 

Here are ten of the most common reasons why your load times could be slow and what you can do to fix them.

 

Traffic Levels have Increased Substantially

 

If you’re currently on a shared hosting plan, this could be the reason why you decide to finally make the switch to a VPS. If your site is taking off to the extent that the amount of traffic coming in is causing performance issues, the only real solution is to upgrade your hosting solution to accommodate it. However, you may not be sure that it is the traffic. To confirm your suspicions, check your visitor numbers in Google Analytics and check your bandwidth usage in cPanel.

 

Your “Neighbors” are Using More Resources

 

Typically, if it’s not increased traffic, it’s the other accounts that share your server space that finally convinces you to move on from shared hosting to a VPS. The biggest lure of shared hosting is that it’s cheap. But, much like renting an apartment, the lowered cost comes with the downside of sharing finite resources with all of your neighbors. If another website on the server that your site lives on sees regular spikes in traffic or requires more resources for whatever reason, the performance of your site can be negatively affected.

 

Your CMS is Outdated

 

A CMS can sometimes be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it makes updating content pretty much a breeze. On the other hand, it can be the culprit when it comes to performance issues. This can happen for a couple of reasons. It’s your responsibility to do the regular software updates that come out for your CMS. If you’re negligent, not only are you opening yourself up to security issues, but the build you’re using could be less efficient than the latest one. Each update brings bug fixes which improve performance. If it’s not outdated, it could just be your CMS is a more demanding piece of software than you realize. Which brings us to the next point.

 

Too Many Plugins

 

Many of the most popular CMSes, like WordPress, derive much of their functionality via plugins. These small modules can help your website accomplish a lot of things, but each one can add a fraction of a second to your load times. Not all plugins are equally sluggish, however, so you may have to do some trial and error to find the plugins that help your site work to your specifications without bogging it down too much. The same can be said for the theme you choose to give your site its appearance.

 

Redirects Are Out of Control

 

Sometimes redirects are unavoidable (though you’ll want to use 301s for this) and you need to update the URL for a piece of content that has moved to somewhere else on the site. This is really for the purpose of SEO and so users don’t need to update their bookmarks. Keep in mind that if you’re using redirects, you are essentially giving the directive to have a page load twice before the user reaches their destination.

 

Images Aren’t Optimized

 

A lot of sites likely have this issue. There are rarely any scenarios where you need images on your site that are megabytes in size rather than kilobytes. If you’re taking images from your camera or from elsewhere on the web and just inserting them into your content without taking the proper steps to optimize them, you could be adding needlessly to your load time. If you want a comprehensive guide to optimizing your images, check out this guide.

 

Use Text Rather than Graphics Where Appropriate

 

To go along with the above point, images take longer to load than text. If you have made the stylistic decision to use images instead of plain text where the latter would suffice, you may want to reconsider. Unless there is a pressing design reason for this, it’s always better to opt for the faster loading text.

 

Code Isn’t Optimized

 

The coding of a site plays a huge role in how “snappy” it feels. A fairly minimal site built on mostly HTML/CSS will load faster than a site that also uses JavaScript and PHP to perform a bunch of dynamic functions. While you shouldn’t sacrifice your creative vision, it’s important to make sure you or your developer is committing to clean code that requires minimum loading times to populate in a browser.

 

Embedded Media from External Sources

 

The benefit of embedding media on your site that’s actually hosted elsewhere is that you’re using up less space and fewer resources on your server. The downside is you’re at the mercy of that external source. If for some reason that source is having loading problems of its own, your site will suffer as well while it tries to call up the content.

 

Cache

 

Enable caching through your preferred method so that users are served the cached version of your site for faster load times. This can be done through the .htaccess file or through a plugin if you’re using a CMS that supports such functionality.

 

Conclusion

 

If you’re currently experiencing performance issues with your site related to traffic or you know that you’ve outgrown your current hosting solution, it’s time to upgrade. Say goodbye to frustrating shared hosting plans and take advantage of the performance boost of a VPS with KnownHost. Contact us today and our team of experts will help you find the hosting solution that best matches your needs. Partner with a hosting company that will help you achieve your goals and that provides excellent customer service.

Read More

Why Your Content-Based Business Might Need More Powerful Hosting Than You Think

Many web designers, developers, information architects, and other professionals that concern themselves with how a site works have some pretty set opinions on the kind of hosting their projects will need. As a general rule of thumb, most of these preconceived notions are probably on the money. After all, if you’ve worked in the digital marketplace for long enough you have a pretty good idea of what a project will entail. But, sometimes, the scope of a project can surprise even the most experienced web developer.

 

Many factors go into determining what the best hosting solution is for a project. Some of it requires having a bit of an ability to predict the future. Or rather, planning pretty far ahead and assuming some best case scenarios. After all, having so much traffic that you need to upgrade your hosting isn’t a bad problem to have. But, any project manager wants to get things right the first time. That’s why when determining what tier VPS or dedicated server you need, you want to future proof as much as possible. While your hosting company may assist with any migrations you need to perform down the line, you may not like the idea of needing to migrate at all if possible. After all, though you may have assistance with the process, there is always the long shot chance of something going wrong.

 

Clearly, there are many use cases where you would need a surprising amount of server power to create a reliable experience for your visitors. Let’s look at one specific use case  that people often misjudge because on its face it doesn’t sound like a terribly complicated project, but it ends up being a bandwidth beast. Let’s talk about content delivery or editorial sites. There’s a good chance you visit a few every day.

 

What Do We Mean by Content Delivery?

 

Doesn’t every site need to have content by definition? Otherwise, you’d be looking at a blank site. Yes, that is true. But that’s why you may want to refer to this kind of site as an editorial one, despite it not being home to opinion columns on current events. Essentially, this kind of site is similar to something like The Daily Beast or Huffington Post. On its face, this may not seem like a particularly demanding site. It’s words and images. Where is the functionality that’s going to bog everything down?

 

When web professionals think about dedicated servers, they immediately think ecommerce and they’re not wrong. There are many reasons why dedicated servers are the way to go for ecommerce. For one thing, dedicated servers are relatively more secure due to the fact other websites won’t be sharing server space with you. Of course, security comes down to best practices, software installed, and all of the other factors that go into it. But the fact it’s only your site on the machine closes off extra penetration points. Ecommerce sites are also fairly “heavy” from a structural standpoint, they see a lot of traffic etc. But many of the reasons why going dedicated for an ecommerce site is a no brainer applies to content delivery sites as well.

 

With an editorial-driven site, there is a tremendous amount of content living on the site. There are probably many authors who have access to either a custom or open source content management system. Depending on the way you produce content, there is a strong possibility you’ll at least have some video. Now you start to see how demanding a content site can be. So, here are some things to be mindful of and why dedicated servers make the most sense of this kind of site as well.

 

Site Speed

 

Producing content as a business model requires a very different kind of mindset from more traditional revenue streams like selling a product or service. You essentially want to convince as many people as possible to continuously return to your site to consume your content and share it. Unless you’re in a very specialized niche, the probability of your content being completely unique is low. That means your audience might go somewhere else to get the information they’re looking for. Consider every entertainment blog you’ve read. There are only so many ways to report on celebrities. One important factor in retaining an audience is site speed. The longer it takes a site to load, the bigger the bounce rate. Also, slow load times will hurt your SEO. And if you’re in a highly competitive niche, tumbling down the Google pages can be the difference between success and failure.

 

Bandwidth

 

A content delivery site needs a surprising amount of bandwidth. It needs it in amounts usually only found in a dedicated server plan. This is assuming of course you have a highly trafficked site with thousands of visitors, which you’ll need if you’re intending to make money off of ad revenue. There are some quick back of the envelope ways to determine how much bandwidth you need but it’s hard to get it down to an exact science. There are some pretty clear factors that come into play, though.

 

The first is obviously traffic. It takes bandwidth to handle not only all the visitors coming to your site, but also how many pages they navigate. If they go from page to page to read different sections, that uses up more bandwidth. Traffic spikes also play a big role. If you create content that suddenly goes viral on social media, you will see a large and sudden influx of visitors. Will your site have enough bandwidth to handle this unusual traffic? The worst thing that could happen is your site going down or slowing to a crawl because too many people are interested in what you have to say.

 

The second thing is hosting large files. If you optimize your images, they won’t take up too much bandwidth. You ideally want to be dealing with kilobytes and not megabytes. But, it’s videos that can really add up quickly. Most content delivery sites do a combination of video and text to reach a variety of audiences. If you’re hosting that video yourself, you’re going to need the bandwidth to handle it.

 

The third factor is page size. If you have pages that scroll to display content, complete with fancy visuals that are performed with CSS or JavaScript, that can be fairly demanding and eat up bandwidth. Of course, you don’t want to skimp on an appealing visual presentation just to keep your resource use in check, so it’s best to buy a plan that can support your vision.

 

Conclusion

 

If you are looking to launch a dynamic site, you need dynamic hosting. KnownHost is recognized as a leader in the industry and has offered support to businesses of all sizes for years. If your business model depends upon maximum uptime, consistently high performance, and hardware that is capable of handling the large traffic loads you’ll be courting, partnering with KnownHost is the solution you’ve been looking for. Contact us today and our team will go over options with you so you get the right hosting solution the first time.

 

 

Read More

What Do You Need to Know About Lost Money from Poor Hosting?

  • Connection between hosting and performance
  • How quickly do people leave a slow site?
  • How valuable is an online customer?
  • What’s the cost of a minute of downtime?
  • How long does it take to resolve the average site disruption?
  • How do performance leaders generally outpace their competition?
  • What benefits arise from a greater focus on performance?
  • Better hosting for the benefits of strong performance

 

Connection between hosting and performance

 

Everyone knows that certain types of technology are stronger than others. It would make sense that there are stronger hosting technologies that a company can choose to improve their speed, deliver better user experience, and differentiate themselves from competitors. However, it is understandable that many people’s eyes glaze over when the topic of web hosting or infrastructure are mentioned. There is a lot of subterfuge and selling of products that are ultimately poorly secured and end up costing businesses money because of a general misunderstanding that “hosting is hosting.”

 

That said, how can we understand or define poor hosting? Well, certainly one of its attributes is that is has lackluster performance. If you have low-quality hosting, it would be assumed that you won’t be able to reliably deliver content and other services at a fast pace to your audience.

 

Do you think performance doesn’t matter, or that it’s something that you can ignore – that will “take care of itself”? Take a look at these statistics from an August 2016 report by the Aberdeen Group (with more coverage on each of them below):

 

  • * More than one out of every three people, whether on mobile or desktop, will leave a website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
  • * Information collected by websites that have prioritized strong performance is four times likelier to utilize real-user data.
  • * Companies that speed up their websites are 90% likelier to see an increase in traffic than those that do not.
  • * If an organization improves the performance of its site, it thereby makes itself four times likelier to increase its e-commerce revenue.

 

How quickly do people leave a slow site?

 

These numbers are measurements of the number of users who leave a site within just 1, 2, or seconds – according to data collected from 103 different websites for the same Aberdeen report:

  • * At 1 second – 6% of companies say that desktop visitors have left, while 5% of them say that mobile visitors have left.
  • * At 2 seconds – 7% of businesses say that desktop visitors have left, while 14% of them say mobile visitors have departed.
  • * At 3 seconds – 21% of firms say that desktop visitors have left, while 20% of them say mobile visitors have left.

 

Note that at three seconds, more than one in three companies say people leave – 39% say it’s true of mobile users, while 34% say it’s true of desktop users.

 

How valuable is an online customer?

 

Respondents (managers of websites) polled by Aberdeen also provided information on how they value the average customer. Out of those organizations surveyed, here is how much companies said the average user was worth to them:

 

  • * More than $100 – 1
  • * $91 to 100 – 0
  • * $81 to 90 – 0
  • * $71 to 80 – 3
  • * $61 to 70 – 17
  • * $51 to 60 – 18
  • * $21 to 50 – 24
  • * $11 to 20 – 16
  • * $1 to $10 – 11
  • * $0 – 5.

 

What’s the cost of a minute of downtime?

 

Let’s look at this from a different angle: rather than thinking in terms of the value of an individual customer, think about how much it is worth to have your site up and running. How much does it cost the average company if their website goes down?

 

Here is data from a June 2016 survey by Aberdeen Group. This is how websites valued a minute of downtime, in terms of its cost to their business:

 

  • * Don’t know – 5%
  • * $40,000 or more per minute – 0%
  • * $20,000 to $39,999 – 1%
  • * $10,000 to $19,999 – 13%
  • * $5000 to $9999 – 15%
  • * $1000 to $4999 – 31%
  • * $500 to $999 – 21%
  • * $100 to $499 – 7%
  • * Less than $100 – 7%.

 

In the context of poor hosting, you are much likelier to experience downtime. You can draw a direct line from downtime to a negative financial impact on your business.

 

How much time do you need to resolve a typical site disruption?

 

Businesses that were surveyed for the above numbers on per-minute cost of downtime (in June 2016) were also asked their average resolution time for the average disruption of services. Here were the percentage of them that estimated typical resolutions of various lengths:

 

  • * 9 hours or more – 0%
  • * 5 to 8 hours – 9%
  • * 3 to 4 hours – 20%
  • * 1 to 2 hours – 36%
  • * 30 to 59 minutes – 19%
  • * 1 to 29 minutes – 11%
  • * 0 minutes – 5%.

 

How do performance leaders perform differently?

 

One way to understand website performance is to look at what the performance leaders are doing. These “leaders” are organizations that were determined by Aberdeen to have consistently high performance, very little downtime, and good user ratings. These models of great performance are significantly likelier to use a broader array of tools to improve their speed and otherwise literally outperform their rivals. Compare the portions of leaders and followers who adopted these mechanisms:

 

Category of tools “Leader” adoption rate “Follower” adoption rate
from CDN provider 49% 26%
from DNS provider 49% 35%
network performance management 49% 35%
from hosting provider 34% 17%
application performance management 40% 38%

 

How do performance leaders generally outpace their competition?

 

Leaders in web performance aren’t just learning and integrating more best practices to speed up their sites. They tend to be more cutting-edge in their relationships with users:

  • * 5 times likelier to figure out the actual source of performance challenges;
  • * 3 times likelier to conduct real-user monitoring;
  • * 3 times likelier to gauge the performance it delivers to web and mobile worldwide;
  • * 65% likelier to look at mobile and web speeds from the user’s point-of-view;
  • * 45% likelier to test with actual day-to-day site traffic.

 

What benefits arise from a greater focus on performance?

 

Especially since it is so difficult to get people to your site in the first place, you want to make sure that they stay; in other words, you want strong user retention. However, as indicated in the above statistics, businesses report that people start noticeably leaving their site behind after delays of just 2 or 3 seconds. To keep from losing customers because of performance issues such as slow loading and disruptions in service, the models of high performance in industry (the “leaders”) are investing time into studying and leveraging performance optimization strategies and tools.

 

By using tools that focus on management and oversight of performance, the performance bellwethers integrate that type of data into business decisions. By incorporating various strategies and diversifying their defenses in that manner, leaders “are able to take an end-to-end approach that makes it possible to find all potential issues, fix them before they impact users, and prevent similar issues from ever coming up,” explained Aberdeen’s IT senior research analyst Jim Rapoza, author of both reports cited here.

 

When businesses focus on performance, they become likelier to experience a number of key benefits, as indicated by the disparity between leaders and followers on these metrics:

 

Benefit Among leaders Among followers
Improved understanding of performance challenges 89% 62%
Less downtime 63% 28%
More visitors 58% 31%
More revenue 42% 10%

 

Better hosting for the benefits of strong performance

 

Two or three seconds may not seem like long, but it is long enough for many users to flee your site. By using best-in-class tools such as real-user monitoring and deep analytics, companies are able to improve performance and, in turn, achieve much better revenue.

 

One key way to turn your business in the direction of best-in-class performance tools in by reviewing the backend of your site: your hosting. At KnownHost, our SSD VPS packages have all the advantages of VPS hosting packages with the additional performance of solid state drives. Compare plans.

Read More