Jul
07

Video Rocks – Experiment Results

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I’ve just completed a limited experiment on one of my ecommerce sites. The experiment was carried out on the home page and on one of the most popular product pages. A test version of each page was created that included a 30-second video, to split-test against the original version of the pages.

The home page video was an introduction to products offered throughout the site, while the product page video was focused on that particular product. Each visitor to the site was either shown the original page, or the page with the video, and Google Analytics was used to track and analyze the results.

The #1 result I was interested in was the “value per visitor” (total sales divided by the number of unique visitors to the page). I was also interested in the time each visitor spent on the page, and the “bounce rate” (the percentage of people that left the site after viewing that page).

Results

In both experiments, the “video” versions of the page clearly out-performed the original version. No other changes were made to the experiment pages other than the inclusion of a video at the top of the content area.

Home Page Results

Video on the home page had the following results (green = improvement):

Time on page: +36%

Bounce rate: -36%

Visitor value: +111%

Product Page Results:

Video on the product page had the following results (green = improvement, red = no improvement):

Time on page: statistical tie

Bounce rate: +14%

Visitor value: +243%

Video on the product page had a slightly higher bounce rate, but the increase in revenue (2.5 times higher!) per visitor makes the trade-off well worth it.

The above tests ran for 45 days. Based on these results, I am going to be rolling out video to additional product pages, and will continue to track improvements / declines verses the original pages. In the case of the two pages already tested, I feel confident in declaring the video versions to be “winners” and ending the split-tests.

I’ll report further experiment results here. So far, the improvement is dramatic – I highly recommend testing video on your site if you aren’t already!

Categories : Ecommerce, Testing, Video
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My wife and I went out for Chinese food today for lunch.  We went to our favorite place, just around the corner.  Usually we order the lunch special, and sometimes we order drinks along with the standard tap water.

But today was different.  When I had finished my drink, I was offered a refill as always.  I accepted, and then was told that there would be an extra charge.

This is new, and the new policy is because of “rising prices.”

And I understand.  When prices rise, the costs get passed on to the end consumer.  But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it.

The right way would be to increase the price of the lunch special, or even the drink itself.  This is a completely understandable response to rising food prices.

The wrong way is to change a long-standing policy of “free refills with your soft drinks” and start charging for something that used to be included in the price.  (What next – an extra charge for the fortune cookie?  A separate bill for the rice?)  As a customer I don’t mind paying for the meal or for the drink, but I left today feeling “nickeled-and-dimed” instead of satisfied — and it really has little to do with the final price and everything to do with how we got there.

The refill would have cost them about 10 cents.  The result of their new policy is I will not be ordering drinks when I eat there, and I will probably eat there less often.  $1.95 for a soft drink is pretty steep – but tolerable if you can at least have a refill, and don’t have to interrupt your meal with a decision of whether to spend another $1.95.  I doubt I’m the only customer that sees it that way.  Luckily for them, I like the food enough to keep going there; but I wonder how many customers they will lose with this policy (never mind how many drink sales will be lost).  All to save 10 cents.

If business is slow because the economy is slow, then perhaps raising prices is required.  But don’t start charging for things that your customers have come to expect as part of the normal transaction.  Your customers don’t mind paying a fair price, but they will rankle if you seem desperate to get every possible cent from them.

And one final point – if the economy is truly affecting business, that means customers are looking for deals more than ever.  This means providing value (not necessarily offering the lowest price).  It’s better to increase the value of the offering (even if this means increasing the price) instead of trying to offer less for the same price.   Provide more value than your competitors and you will win, even in a slowing economy.

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Feb
01

Merchant Processing 101

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Thinking about adding electronic processing capabilities? There’s a lot you should know.

There are countless reasons why a business should add credit card and electronic payment processing capabilities – transactional speed, convenience, increased customer satisfaction, improved cash flow, views into sales data and more. But perhaps the most important consideration is the sheer volume of consumers who use non-cash methods as their primary form of payment.

In 2005, credit card and electronic transactions accounted for an overwhelming $3.4 trillion of total U.S. payments, according to The Nilson Report. That’s 50 percent of all transactions nationwide for that year. More recently, Visa USA estimated that nearly 60 percent of U.S. consumers aged 18 to 25 use cards as their primary payment method.

So while the reasons for adding payment processing are clear, understanding all your options and which are right for your business is far more complex. This article will give you the information you need to get started in setting up payment capabilities for your business, and it will provide some of the essential details you need to consider when selecting a provider.

How Payment Processing Works

Some form of the modern credit card has been in use since the late 19th century, mostly as department store charge cards representing lines of credit. Things have changed and today, the step a merchant needs to take in order to accept credit card payments is to establish a merchant account with a bank or third-party payment provider. Once your account is live, the transaction process generally works as follows:

1. A customer presents a credit card for payment.

2. By swiping the credit card through an electronic point-of-sale (POS) transaction terminal, typically provided by the bank or payment provider, an electronic request is submitted to the processing network for authorization.

3. The processing network receives your electronic request and determines if the cardholder’s account is valid and if the funds are available. If so, a response called an “authorization code” is transmitted, guaranteeing your access to the funds.

4. A receipt is then printed for the customer using the POS terminal or your computer. The customer then signs the receipt and, for their part, the transaction is complete.

5. At the end of the business day, a merchant will electronically submit a final request to the processing network to “capture the funds” for all authorized transactions in a given day. This process is referred to as settlement. Once approved, a response is generated to your electronic terminal or computer.

6. From there, the funds associated with the batch you settled are deposited electronically into your business bank account, usually within 48 to 72 hours. Typically, the rate and any fees paid to your merchant account provider are deducted from your account at the end of the month.

7. At the end of the month, your merchant account provider will send a statement to you, detailing the credit card activity for the month and the associated fees you’ve been charged.

This process describes what happens in a traditional retail, or “bricks and mortar” sales environment. For Internet and e-commerce merchants, the set-up process requires a few additional steps.

Retail Terminals vs. e-Commerce Processing

Because they do not have access to the purchaser’s physical card, Internet and e-commerce merchants rely on specialized software that allows them to capture and process credit card information on their Web sites instead of through a POS terminal. There are two basic software programs needed to enable online commerce:

  • Shopping Cart: A secure series of scripts (or coding) that keep track of items a visitor chooses to buy from a site until they proceed to checkout. On the checkout screen, the shopping cart collects the credit card number, billing address, authorization number and expiration date.
  • Payment Gateway: When the online shopper is ready to finalize the transaction, the information collected in the shopping cart is transferred to a payment gateway for authorization. It is the equivalent of a physical POS terminal used in a retail setting.

Another situation where a purchaser’s card is not physically present happens with MOTO or Mail Order and Telephone Order. Here, touch-tone processing or an automated response unit (ARU) allows for credit card authorization and processing over the telephone. This type of processing does not require a shopping cart or payment gateway.

Pricing Basics

Now that you know how processing works and what the available options are, you’re probably wondering how much all this will cost. While service fees and rates vary from provider to provider, “bundled” pricing is the most common type of agreement used in determining which per-transaction rate applies to which type of merchant. In the simplest terms, pricing is based on risk: the higher the risk involved in the transaction, the higher the rate the merchant will have to pay:

  • Qualified Rate applies primarily to card-present or traditional card-swipe (not key-entered) transactions. This is the lowest possible rate a merchant will incur when accepting a credit card. Telephone and e-commerce transactions cannot receive the qualified rate because they are unable to swipe a customer’s card.
  • Mid-Qualified, or partially qualified rate, is the percentage a merchant will be charged if they accept a credit card that does not qualify for the lowest rate. This may happen if a consumer credit card is keyed into a credit card terminal, virtual terminal (online) or via a shopping cart. This is the best rate that a telephone or e-commerce business can receive.
  • Non-Qualified is the highest percentage rate a merchant can be charged and applies to those transactions posing the greatest amount of risk. This rate would apply if a special kind of credit card is used like a rewards card or business card or if address verification is not performed, or a merchant does not settle its daily batch within the allotted time.

Again, these rates are used to determine the cost to the merchant on a per-transaction basis. There are additional costs associated with payment processing, including start- up fees, equipment costs, chargeback fees and more. Stay tuned for the next e-newsletter installment for additional processing tips and useful information for merchants and business owners.

e-onlinedata (EOD) is the nation’s fastest-growing, most trusted provider of online payment solutions. Thousands of Internet, mail order, auction sellers and retail businesses – from start-ups to billion-dollar companies – are choosing EOD every month for affordable, reliable, and easy-to-use credit card processing and Authorize.Net payment gateway solutions. For more information on e-onlinedata or to apply for a merchant account, please visit www.e-onlinedata.com/paymentwerx

Merchant Processing 101 is a production of e-onlinedata provided to WebSite Werx, reprinted with permission from e-onlinedata. Content is intended to provide merchants and small business owners with practical information and insight into the world of payment processing.

Questions? Please feel free to post a comment to the blog and I will do my best to answer them.

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email marketingI admit it – I’ve been slow to embrace email marketing on my ecommerce sites. It has literally taken me years to get around to implementing it on my own sites (even though I have helped many clients do it successfully). This has been a huge mistake, and one I’ve been actively working on remedying.

Before I get into the different methods and tactics I’ve used (including some of the tests I’ve performed and their results), I’d like to start at the beginning:

What is email marketing? And why should anyone bother?

Here’s the definition that I believe answers both the what and the why at once:

Email marketing is an avenue for an ongoing relationship between you and your prospects and customers.

Once all of your efforts, resources, time, effort, and advertising dollars have finally brought a visitor to your site, one of two things usually happens:

  1. They browse and end up buying, or
  2. They leave and never return.

If in doubt, check your website logs – you’ll see the stark reality of what I’ve just said . It is the very rare visitor that comes back once they’ve clicked the back button or the little red ‘X‘.

Even among those who buy from you, how many make their way back to purchase again?

By implementing an ongoing email marketing system with your site, you add a third option:

3. They don’t purchase, but they do give you permission to contact them in the future.

What is your purchase conversion rate? 2%? 3%? Even 5%? That means 95 or more out of 100 visitors are not buying from you. If you don’t have a way (and permission!) to contact them again, those 95+ visitors are gone for good. They aren’t customers.

They aren’t even prospects!

They are, at best, a ‘hit’ in your log. (At worst, they cost you money by clicking on your ad, and you now have no way to recover that expense).

With permission to contact them again, you have an opportunity to establish and grow a relationship with your prospects, converting some of them to customers.

And for those who do buy from you, I’m sure you know that the first sale is the hardest (and most expensive) sale to make. Permission-based email communication with previous buyers provides you with an opportunity to maintain “top of mind” awareness with your customers, and solidifying you as the provider-of-choice whenever they need the product or service you provide.

In upcoming installments I’ll talk about:

  • just how easy it is to get your own email marketing engine going;
  • results from my own testing on live ecommerce stores;
  • common pitfalls and mistakes to avoid;
  • ways to increase sign-ups to your email list; and
  • strategies for effectively communicating with your list.

If you have a question about list building or email marketing for ecommerce stores, please leave a comment and let me know.

If you’re not building a list of opt-ins (prospects & customers who have given you permission to contact them), why not?

What is the #1 thing holding you back?

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