Large in the Margin

Websites designed for eCommerce use have their own unique look and feel which attracts a visitor to do one thing, and one thing only, on the site – purchase something. The individual whom is designing the website needs to consider several factors of online selling during the design process.

Below are a few principals an eCommerce website design should include:

1. Be sure to give the user a pleasant experience when visiting your site and doing online shopping

2. Be sure to provide sufficient contact information, so visitors can contact the site owner with questions or concerns.

3. Make sure the website is easy to use and navigate.

4. Provide many examples of the items that are for sale

The principals of a good eCommerce website design are not new to anyone. Our every day to day experiences shopping either on or off line are still required to follow the same basic principles, however, with online sales it can get a bit trickier because all contact is visual and not verbal.

Be sure to give the user a pleasant experience when visiting your site and doing online shopping

When designing a site be sure it simple for individuals to find the items they want and the checkout process is not overly lengthy. It is important to have all items easily navigated to by one to two clicks of the mouse and plenty of ‘order now’ and ‘checkout’ buttons in front of the user. When users have to click back and forth multiple times to checkout, it can be a frustrating experience.

Be sure to provide sufficient contact information, so visitors can contact the site owner with questions or concerns.

Unlike a regular store, when purchasing items through an online eCommerce platform, it can be difficult to talk to a representative if questions arise. Be sure to make your contact information readily available to anyone who visits your site, either with a dedicated ‘Contact Us’ page or simple contact us text. It is beneficial, but not necessary, to have a contact us form dedicated to contacting the site owner directly.

Make sure the website is easy to use and navigate.

Similar to giving your user a pleasant experience on your site, you need to create a site that is easy to use and navigate. A website can become overbearing when there is a lot of content on the site, tons of pictures, pop-ups, and rollover text. When visitors come to your site to purchase something, they want to see what they are purchasing, and may not be interested in all the other fluff (however cool it may be). One of the best methods to follow is the KISS method: Keep it Short and Simple

 

Provide many examples of the items that are for sale

It is important to provide users to your site live examples of the items in which they are purchasing. The more examples you can have on the site, the more informed of a decision the user will be making on what they are purchasing. This can help alleviate questions and issues in the future that it was not fully understood what was being purchased.

How Expensive Is Good Customer Service?

Ok, so I would like to relate a story that happened to me just this past week. But before I do, I would like to post a simple question. Be thinking about this question as you read this post (rant).

Q. How much is customer service worth to your organization?

This a true story: (company names changed to protect the innocent)

Today 2/3/09 I went to store #11814 to use a 2 for $5.00 (sourdough bacon-cheesburger) coupon that I had gotten in a flyer in the mail. I will say that the experience was one of the worst, most unproffesional experiences that is POSSIBLE at a fast food location. The worst part was the follow-up with your corporate center by contacting Consumer Relations department at 555-1212

So here is the story.
At 1:43pm (actually started at 1:36pm) my friend and I entered the store and started the process of ringing up a simple order for a sandwich and fries (nothing more). I presented the coupon to the attendant (manager called him Mohamed, but I did not read his tag), and asked for that with a Large Fry. The coupon was for two sourgough bacon cheeseburgers for $5.00. This is where everything went downhill.

The attendant tried to charge me $10.01 for the order (most expensive fries I would have had). I told him it was wrong, so then he voided my order and tried to get the managers attention. She was irratated that she had to help him. She gave him her manager pass to override anything that he wanted with no oversight at all (that cannot be right). Next he attempted to try again, and even with the managers key he could not figure it out. He again voided a transaction, and this engraged the manager who made the statement “You need to know what your doing, you keep voiding this and that…. Talk to your brother”. I felt bad for the person at the register and he clearly was hurt by this public degration.

So, now the manager comes over and makes an attempt to try and get the order to work. She fails, and starts muttering to herself (including explicit words). She continues to bash the person that started to take my order as she let our her frustration with the computer system. Both of them continued to blame the computers for having bad data, and such. This should not be any of my concern, or should you be telling me the consumer that your computers are untrustworthy and yet you still want my CC if that is how I am paying.

Let me remind you now, that we have had 3 people (mohamed, his brother and the manager) try and ring this order up. I have been holding the line up for over 5 minutes as I stood and watched this comedy show and just praying that my order comes out right.

Finally the manager figures out how to make a special order, and charges me $7.51 for the sandwich and fries (at this point I would have paid the $10.01 just to get out of the store). I pay cash, get my change and wait for food.

As this all going on, the client in front of my had STILL not gotten his food, as there were 3 people trying to ring up my order and he says something about it. The manager, tells the client “Sir, I know you do not have all day, but I am working on something over here” and proceeds to ignore the client for a short period, but finally gets him his food.

So, finally I get my food, and am out the door. I will not recount the ordeal my friend went thorugh behind me (repeat) as he had a coupon for two whopping burgers for $5.00.

So, fast forward 15 minutes when I am back at the office and start to eat my burgers only to found that I got two sourdough hamburgers (no cheese or bacon). So that was the last straw. I decided to call the consumer relations line and report the worst experience in my life at a Burger Place. This is where the story gets even more fun.

I ring the line, press option #3, then #1 (of course I have to hit a button to continue in english).   This nice (indifferent) lady gets on the phone and I explain the situation to her. She asks me if I would like to leave a name, and I do. She tells me she will email the district manager about the problem…. Thats it!

As you can see from my story not ONCE did anyone offer to make things right. Not once did they even ask what they can do to try and help keep me as a customer. Not once did anyone even care that this horrible experience happened, let alone shared by more then one person. I can say with ease that I am tossing out the remaining coupons and going to McBurger Place, Pigtail Girl Burgers or any other place that actually cares.

The biggest kicker is that I start to recall this story to my co-workers (the Burger Place is 6 blocks from our office) and one of my co-workers says thatshe will ONLY go there for Coffee now as they screw up the orders so much it is impossible for them to mess that up. That is such a telling statement I do not know what is.

As you can see from the post not only did they loose a client, but they lost 3 (me, my co-worker). So how expensive is that?

Lets run some simple math. If you assume the average cost of eating out at a fast food place is $6.00, and many people in the office world eat out 3X a week, that is $18.00 a per person per week or $54.00 a week in our little example (3 people). That is $216.00 a month, and $2592.00 a year for those three people.

This simple math is not taking into effect that each of those people will on a average tell 10 other people about the bad experience and those people will tell 3 others. So each person is equal really to 14 peoples says lost. That is $294.00 a week, $1176.00 a month and $14,112.00 per year per person in our equation ($42.336.00 a year for our three people in the office.) Lets not even take into effect the blog effect that happens everyday when things like this happen.

That is an EXPENSIVE mistake in my opinion.

So, we go back to the simple question that I asked earlier: How much is customer service worth to your organization? Would you be willing to give a single client $5.00 to make them happy (in our fast food scenario) or do as we saw and let them go (remember the math!).

Hearing Michael Dell

This week, I was invited to an NVTC event in McLean, VA where Michael Dell was speaking. It was interesting to hear that in 1983, while he was a freshman, he noticed an opportunity to sell computers for less. He saw that when you bought a PC for $3,000, there were about $600 worth of parts in it. During college, he operated a business out of college dorm room had had people bring him their computers and he would put in some memory or a disk drive . By doing this inexpensively and giving customers exactly what they needed, he made close to $25,000 a month. Dell continued to sell directly to customers with his own company soon afterward and quickly made $6 million.

This background is fascinating given that Dell Computers is now on its way to becoming a $60 billion dollar company. A few things struck me aboutMichael Dell. He, obviously, had a tremendous amount of dedication to his vision. Despite all of the economic fluctuations, major changes in technology and a savvy yet ever-changing landscape of shoppers, he thrived due to his ability to adapt.

As more and more entrepreneurs create online businesses, It is good to keep in mind that if you understand your customer’s needs and remain committed to your company, you have a chance at being successful too.

Use of Time

Tips for High Quality Time Management

Setting time aside for those important tasks is never an easy thing to do, especially if you are the procrastinator type.  However, there are many ways for you to turn around your procrastination traits and begin practicing effective Time Management and gaining Time Management skills.

Here are a few tips to improve your time management skills

Before you can dive in and implement new time management strategies into your daily routine, you need to understand a few basics.

You must be cognizant of your goals in both the short term and long term.  This awareness of what your goals are will help you prioritize your day to achieve the daily short term goals and well as make strong headway on reaching those long term goals.  These goals will also help to keep you motivated and make you less distracted away from your daily plans.

Be sure to develop a flexible and open schedule for your self to follow. Ti needs to be flexible and open enough so you can fit your goals within, yet leave some extra time in your schedule in case a distraction has to take you away from your daily activities for a few hours.

A Few times to use your time successfully

1. Have a look back at your old daily habits and see what you can do to improve them. — Once you realize what habits you have formed that are impacting your management of time, you have made the first step in beginning to change them. Old habits die hard, so once you have felt you have begun to overcome one of those habits, be sure to reward yourself.

2. Keep your short and long term goals in sight, literally. — It is easy to lose focus on something when you are not seeing it everyday. Put up reminders around your house or office, even if they are yellow sticky notes, to help you refocus on the task at hand. The more focused you are, the less likely you are to get distracted.

3. Write down a daily list of things to do, and prioritize them once the list is complete. — Keeping a daily to-do list is a great way to see how much and what you are accomplishing on a daily basis. This will also give you an indication of whether or not you are properly allocating to the tasks at hand. At the end of the day a list will help you to remember your goals for the day and give you a visual checklist of what has been completed.

4. Concentrate on one task item from your checklist at a time. — Some people are not natural multi-taskers, so be sure to focus on one of your task list items at a time. Once that is completed, you can move onto the next item. Good time management will afford you the time to work on just one thing rather than 10 at a time.

5. Keep what you are doing fun. –When you are working on a taks that you feel is fun of enjoyable it is much easier to keep moving forward to meet your goals. When you are not doing something you enjoy it can create a lot of stress, and this stress can impact your time management and the completion of both short and long term goals. When you are not stressed, you are more likely to accomplish tasks quicker.

Investing Time and Effort in Marketing Your Site

It’s funny how many times I’ve received the question, “Is there a free program that will optimize my site?” Fortunately, most online business owners know that doing search engine optimization (SEO) is an ongoing effort in running a company on the Internet. In fact, making sure that search engines index your site and rank your business high is paramount to having an internet-based company. If you have any hopes to be successful on the world wide web, optimizing your site is a “must-do”.

The ultimate goal of SEO is to satisfy the needs of people who are entering a query into a search engine. If they find you, you stand a decent chance of obtaining traffic. Ideally, you should not only rank higher than your competition, but your site should be on the first page. If you are on page 43 million, for example, you may as well count your business as being invisible.

While there are no SEO secrets or easy tricks in order to gain high ranking, there are several things that you should keep in mind. First, make sure that you have solid content on your site so that your business is deemed to be an expert. Second, you should have a good idea what keywords that your site should have in order to allow searchers find you. Third, you should ensure that you have links from quality sites and, also, have outbound links. When you have these links , it affirms to the search engines that your site has relevancy. Finally, make sure that you budget time to market your site on an ongoing basis. As you learn more about SEO, you will discover that it is, not only, a reiterative process but also that search engines are consistently changing their algorithms. It, therefore, will be up to you to keep on top of this dynamic field as well as keeping ahead of your competition.

While there isn’t a free program that can do SEO for you, fortunately, you can learn more about how to do Internet Marketing from a plethora of books or you can even obtain information from the Internet. Ultimately, you should remember that having an online business requires the same discipline that running any type of business would. You will need to understand your audience, market to them and bring them onto your premise.

Sales and Marketing Today

You’re not in business to be popular
Kirstie Alley, popular 1990’s actress

I thought about this quote and realized the irony of it given my role with Arca Solutions. I am responsible for educating our prospects and customer base on how they can increase search engine rankings and market their site. Specifically, I promote eDirectory and our Search Engine Optimization(SEO) service which are designed to make our customers’ sites popular. As most people know, the importance of high search engine rankings is key to getting the traffic that can turn into sales.

There has never been a more exciting time for people to run an online business whether they do this as a full time job or manage it on their spare time. Because the overhead is lower than having a brick and mortar shop, getting into the web space during down-economic times is a low risk thing to do. It still requires dedication and the use of all of the tactics that you would normally use to run an “offline” company. With all the software tools out there, however, a mere spark of an idea can turn into cash-flow reality in less than a year.

I look forward to writing about topics such as search engines, monetizing your site, increasing traffic and how to make your audience find you. After all, unlike Kirstie’s thinking, you ARE in business to be popular.

We are the Project Managers

Hi Everyone;

My name is Jessica. Just 2 years ago I started at eDirectory as a project manager and I am now currently one of several project managers we have in the office. The project managers here come from a diverse background in business administration, information technology, finance, and other industries which allow us to put a unique perspective on any project that comes to eDirectory.

Our daily focus is on the development, production,  and success of eDirectory sites for our wide variety of unique customers. Each phase includes time spent discussing the needs of the project with the customer to relaying those needs to the development team and producing a strong final product.

We will be posting on a variety of subjects which we touch on, on a daily basis:
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  • Website Design
  • Website Profitability
  • Website Management
  • Time Management
  • Selling your site

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Postings will come out one to two times per week. Hope you check in frequently to see what is going on in the world of project management here at eDirectory.

Jessica and Project Management Team

The eDirectory Blog is Live!

Friends,

A little over 5 years ago I rented a small office, hired 2 young developers and opened for business. The idea was simple – software and services for digital media. Back in 2003 the dot com bubble had burst, but the Internet was still growing rapidly, and then as today, grand opportunities seemed abundant despite the economic uncertainty.

Fast forward to 2009- our company has grown quite a bit. We closed last year with 51 full-time employees in our two offices, and a wide range of customers from publicly traded media companies, to decades old (but surprisingly modern) family owned publishers, to the T-shirt guy in his home-office getting the next “it” site off the ground. eDirectory, our flagship product, is now used to power more than a thousand online directories, guides and yellow page websites. As print industry revenue is collapsing, publishers must remember they are in the media business and the demand for content is increasing with all the new outlets, not decreasing. For all-digital startups, this rapid change in landscape marks a unique opportunity.

During our year end review there was a constant standout– we need to share our knowledge to make our customers more successful. With this in mind we cornered off a small space on eDirectory to launch the eDirectory blog.

We intend to post one or two times a week with success stories, monetization strategies, product announcements, and maybe the occasionally anecdote to keep it engaging- I’ll try to push the one about getting robbed in Rio past editorial.

Stay tuned, and please post your comments – we intend for this to be a forum for your success online.

James Chubb
CEO