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From Feedback to Rewards: How to Build a Loyalty Program that Resonates with Your Audience

Learn how to build a loyalty program that puts your audience first. We also discuss strategies for creating a customer experience that secures repeat...

Francesca Nicasio

Content Strategy Manager

Fact: Loyal customers are some of your most reliable income sources during uncertain times. 

We can see this in action in some of the top brands in the market.

Starbucks, for example, was one of the companies that quickly recovered after the Great Recession. Despite the economic downturn, Starbucks continued to invest in its loyalty program, enhancing its value proposition by offering free refills, free Wi-Fi, and special offers.

Or consider Sephora, which launched its rewards program, Beauty Insider, in 2007, and has since expanded and diversified the program to include personalized offers, exclusive events, and early access to new products. Today, the majority of Sephora’s sales come from Beauty Insider members

All this to say that rewards and loyalty programs can unlock lasting customer retention and revenue.

But there’s a catch: you’ll only achieve these benefits if your loyalty program stands out in an increasingly competitive landscape. 

In today’s crowded market, consumers are bombarded with them left and right. That’s why we’re big believers in customization—tailoring your program to meet your target audience’s preferences and needs.

In this article, you’ll learn how to build a loyalty program that puts your audience first. We also discuss strategies for creating a rewarding customer experience that secures repeat business.

 


 

Importance of customer insights in developing notable loyalty programs


Guesswork often influences strategies when developing loyalty programs. So before proceeding to launching or overhauling your loyalty program, make it a point to challenge your views.

Start with a hypothesis. Let’s say you assume your customers are motivated by discounts. Consider the variables that made you think this way. Is it based on sales performance? 

Next, look at your data and analyze your sales trends. What impact do discounts really have on your sales?

Maybe you discover that discounts do work, but not as much as they used to. Poring over customer insights may show you that many of your customers favor tangible freebies, such as complimentary samples.

In this instance, you may need to discard your original hypothesis. Markets adapt, and customer preferences shift. Use your assumptions as a framework, but refer to actual insights as you tailor your loyalty program accordingly.


Loyalty expert Rory Moss talks about getting data & survey results to customize your loyalty program and appeal to higher value customers.

 

Benefits of insight-driven customer loyalty programs

 

Learning to fine-tune your customer loyalty programs directly translates to concrete benefits for your business. These include.

  • Higher customer engagement. By basing loyalty programs on real insights, you can design initiatives that resonate with your customer base. They’ll feel a deeper connection with the tailored rewards and incentives. The more relevant you are, the better your customer relationships will be.
  • Better resource allocation. Insight-driven loyalty programs help your marketing team manage resources. You’ll avoid spending on generic incentives that may not align with customer expectations. Instead, you can direct the resources toward more enticing initiatives, maximizing the loyalty program’s long-term impact.

Customer insights ensure program success with strategic implementation. Here’s how to leverage this data to build customer loyalty programs that stand out and connect with your target demographic.

 

6 steps to develop a successful customer loyalty program

 

From getting customers on board to measuring performance, launching and managing loyalty programs take work. Follow these 6 steps below to start and gradually increase signups and engagement levels.

1. Conduct customer interviews

 

Shoppers stay loyal to brands that understand them. To get to know your customer base, conduct direct surveys and interviews. Talk to a sample of 10 to 20 customers in person or on the phone, varying between regulars and one time/new customers.

Regulars are the most engaged audience with repeat purchases. Use the interview to identify what they want from a loyalty program. 

One-time/new customers are not as engaged–at least not yet. Take the interview as an opportunity to learn their preferred incentives, offers, or experiences to keep them coming back

Keep the questions consistent across both groups to get a well-rounded perspective. Here’s a set of potential questions you can ask these individuals. 

  • How often do you purchase from our store?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to participate in our loyalty program?
  • What types of rewards or perks would motivate you to join the program? (e.g., discounts, freebies, cashback promos, special offers, exclusive event access, early access to sales)
  • How important is it for you to feel valued and rewarded for your loyalty to us?
  • Do you prefer tiered membership systems or ​​points-based loyalty programs? (i.e., point-based voucher amount vs. bronze, silver, and gold tiers with more valuable rewards as you progress)
  • How likely will you recommend us to others if we offer reward/referral programs?
  • Are there any specific products or categories you’d like to see in the loyalty program rewards?
  • What communication channels do you prefer to receive loyalty program updates and offers? (e.g., email, SMS, social media, in-store notifications)
  • How do you typically redeem loyalty rewards or benefits? (e.g., online, in-store, mobile app)
  • Would you be more likely to participate if the program offered early access to new product releases or exclusive benefits?
  • Do you have any concerns or reservations about joining a loyalty membership program?
  • How likely will you continue shopping at our store with vs. without a loyalty program?
  • What additional features or benefits do you want to see in our loyalty program?

Regular and one-time shoppers have distinct preferences, motivations, and expectations. Engage with both ends of the spectrum to know what drives each group from a 360-degree standpoint. 

Pro-tip: Gather contact details, such as email addresses and phone numbers, should you require a follow-up.

2. Collate survey and feedback responses

 

You can also use surveys to get more quantitative data on your customers. The goal here is to organize and analyze customer feedback to identify recurring patterns. 

You can do it in a formal, informal, or a hybrid approach.

Formal surveys are recommended for large-scale operations. Here are the approaches to implementing this method for a more thorough understanding of survey responses.

  • Use advanced software to categorize feedback systematically. For instance, you can implement customer feedback management platforms that tag and sort responses based on common themes.
  • Statistical analysis. If you have the resources, consider applying statistical methods to identify patterns quantitatively. It involves frequency calculation of particular keywords or sentiments expressed by customers.

Informal surveys are best for small businesses with limited resources. They’re more qualitative in nature and require first-hand assessment to understand your customers. 

  • Manual review. Evaluate customer comments, emails, or survey responses. The goal is to absorb the qualitative aspects that may be overlooked in strictly quantitative analysis.
  • Key learnings. As you review feedback, jot down a few bullet points that summarize key learnings. These could be recurring themes, noteworthy suggestions, or significant areas of concern raised by customers.

You can also combine formal and informal approaches (hybrid) to maximize both methods’ strengths. Doing so balances qualitative findings with objective insights in a more accessible yet scalable manner.

3. Review and act on the data

 

Knowing what appeals to new and existing customers helps ensure your loyalty program aligns with your overall brand identity. It helps craft your Unique Value Proposition (UVP), which you can use to reinforce your brand message and create a cohesive experience across all touchpoints.

Review the preferences and needs you’ve discovered from feedback responses. Then be sure to offer customers enticing rewards to meet those needs. 

Take Amazon Prime’s paid loyalty program, for example. Industry data shows that 71.8% of its loyalty program members find the $99 annual pricing worth it for all the shipping, shopping, streaming, and reading perks. 

How does Amazon know this? Simple. The company actively creates, distributes, and collects online survey responses.

amazon prime example

Not many businesses have the same resources as Amazon. But it doesn’t mean you don’t have enough data to analyze in your hands. 

Sports retailer TennisGear actively observes their database to understand customer behavior. They grow and keep it accurate through complete visibility across their sales channels and prompts that reminds staff to update or add customer information.

Maintaining a continuous feedback loop with your customers is key to creating a loyalty program that resonates. Send out regular surveys or perform ongoing database analysis to stay current with changing preferences and market trends.

Additional tip: Look at review sites and Google Reviews to draw information about what customers might appreciate seeing more in your programs.

4. Design and optimize the program based on feedback

 

Now that you know your rewards and incentives, optimize your program’s structure and mechanics to incentivize customers to spend more. 

Choose between non-tiered and tiered programs. Non-tiered appeals to a broad audience, whereas a tiered point system suits a diverse customer base with varying spending levels.

Balance the program’s exclusivity and inclusivity if you opt for the latter. Introduce exclusive high-value perks for top-tier loyalty cardholders (e.g., premium rewards, VIP events) and accessible rewards for those in lower tiers (e.g., birthday discounts).

Lastly, decide if your customers prefer simple or gamified types of loyalty programs. Gamification adds interactive elements but often requires more resources in terms of design, development, and ongoing management. 

In Sephora’s Beauty Insider Challenges, for instance, members must first complete a series of tasks to earn rewards. Some tasks don’t involve a purchase but require active engagement. The first challenges include checking out online, picking up orders in-store, signing up for text alerts, and trying Sephora’s in-store shade-matching tool.

If you’re still testing the waters, a straightforward loyalty program can be equally lucrative. 

Melbourne-based fashion label ALPHA60 exemplifies this with a simple earn-and-redeem model: spend a thousand dollars, earn a thousand points, and receive a $50 voucher.

ALPHA60’s Brand Strategist, Kelvin, explained that ALPHA60 customers prefer simplicity. Just by understanding this tendency led to the brand enjoying a high repeat purchase rate.

Alpha60 earn options


Find what works best for your audience, and consistently seek feedback for future adjustments if needed.

 

5. Make communication personalized wherever possible

 

Before you roll out the loyalty program, establish customer-centric communication channels. Identify where they prefer to receive updates and redeem rewards. Do they prefer traditional in-store redemption like punch cards or through handy technology like an app or a digital card?

If customers raise concerns or suggestions, acknowledge and address these in your response. Show that you value their input and actively strive to improve their experience.

A one-size-fits-all approach in communication may alienate customers who seek tailored interactions. Don’t lose your regulars to more attentive competitors. Pay attention to customer behavior when launching or announcing loyalty program updates.

 

6. Choose technology to run the loyalty program

 

Invest in user-friendly technology to simplify the implementation process. It’ll help your staff to adjust fast, minimizing the learning curve and likelihood of errors.

Loyalty program software like Marsello features seamless integration with ecommerce and POS systems (e.g., Shopify, WooCommerce, Bigcommerce, and Lightspeed) to leverage data analytics.

Syncing in-store and online transactions generates insights to help you deliver consistent loyalty experiences. It’s a hands-off process you can leverage to offer custom-tailored promotions, point earning, and reward redemption across all platforms.

With the right tools, tracking your loyalty program’s performance becomes easy. Take note of the key metrics and indicators to measure in the next section.

How to Measure Your Program’s Success

 

Define key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with your goals to gauge initial success. Some KPIs to consider are customer retention, referral rates, average order values (including credit card transactions), and customer lifetime value. These metrics measure the program’s overall contribution to your revenue stream.

Tracking KPIs is more efficient with Marsello’s dashboards and automated reporting. These tools feature real-time updates with charts, graphs, and other visual elements to interpret complex data patterns. You can also set up predefined schedules to receive detailed reports.

scottys-makeup-and-beauty-insights-dashboard

Invest in technology to keep your efforts on track. Let your staff focus on refining your marketing strategy rather than spending significant hours on data gathering and reporting.

 

Streamlining Loyalty Programs with Marsello

 

The best customer loyalty program prioritizes the customer experience. So, rather than rushing to launch your rewards or loyalty program, take time to solicit shopper insights, analyze data, design a responsive program, personalize communication, and use technology wisely.

Loyalty programs shouldn’t remain static. Keep ongoing customer engagement by regularly evaluating and updating your program.

If you’re ready to reward customers on their next purchase, start with Marsello’s free trial. Build your loyalty program today while synchronizing your omnichannel strategy.

 


 

Join a community of 5,000+ retailers building sales with Marsello's customer loyalty software

 

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Read more: 7 Steps To Building A Profitable Loyalty & Rewards Program

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    BigCommerce Apps to Help You Thrive Through COVID-19

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    These BigCommerce apps help to ramp up your customer service and run your business in the wake of Coronavirus (COVID-19) as it continues to develop.

    Marsello-BigCommerce-Apps-Covid-19

    As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to impact businesses nationwide, many eCommerce retailers know that providing customers with exceptional shopping experiences is vitally important. These useful apps can help you to ramp up your customer service and run your business more smoothly.

    Sales and Marketing

    With fewer customers making purchases from online retailers, it’s especially important to attract Internet shoppers who are in the market for your merchandise. Innovative sales and marketing apps will help you to convert web browsers into paying customers.

     

    Marsello logo

    Marsello

    Marsello’s customer loyalty program rewards customers for engaging in behaviors that help to grow your store. You can also use Marsello to launch promotional offers, super-effective one-off SMS and email marketing campaigns, and automated, customizable emails that trigger at the perfect time, to the right customers.

     

    Benefits for Your Business

    By implementing a well-crafted customer loyalty program and complimenting that with seamless automated marketing, you’ll build “win-win” customer relationships that will help your business grow. Worldwide, omnichannel stores (those that sell across multiple sales channels) are adapting to a new way of retail and communications with built-in customer rewards are absolutely essential for keeping your customers coming back!

     

     

    Answerbase logo

    Answerbase

    Answering your customers’ product questions encourages them to make a purchase. Answerbase helps ease the load of this by adding a product Q&A feature to your product pages. Your team’s product experts can address questions and drive people closer to a purchase decision.

     

    Benefits for Your Business

    Answerbase helps to increase your conversions by giving them the info they need while they’re shopping. You’ll also improve SEO and organic search rankings because you’re adding quality content to your product pages.

     

     

    fomo logo

    Fomo

    Shoppers often want social proof before they’ll purchase a product from an online store. The Fomo app provides that validation by showcasing product reviews and real-time orders on your storefront. After customers view a Fomo notification, they can easily add items to their shopping cart without exiting the page.

     

    Benefits for Your Business

    When shoppers see customers buying your products, they’ll likely be enticed to make a purchase. As a result, you’ll see an increase in your store’s on-page sales conversions and completed sales.

     

     

    affiliatly logo

    Affiliatly

    Maintain full control over your affiliate program with the multifunctional Affiliatly app. Track each affiliate’s user visits and customer orders. Manage your affiliates’ earning methods and income percentages. Customize the app so it blends with your store’s appearance.

     

    Benefits for Your Business

    By definition, affiliates build links and help to promote your store. You’ll have full control over how the affiliates perform those activities and can structure your affiliate interactions to benefit your business.

     

     

    Financials

    Maintaining an accurate picture of your business’ financials is important, especially in today’s economic climate. These beneficial apps make it easy to view your store’s sales, expenses, inventory, and other relevant functions.

     

    QBO logo

    QBO

    The efficient QBO app collects data about your products, orders, customers, shipping charges, taxes, and more. Next, QBO transfers this vital data directly from your eCommerce store to your Quickbooks Online account.

     

    Benefits for Your Business

    Using the QBO app eliminates the need for manual data entry. Potential data entry errors are also a thing of the past. Using this time-saving app enables you to devote your efforts to higher-level business growth tasks.

     

     

    Xero logo

    Xero

    The Xero online accounting app makes it easy for your small business to copy operations data to your accounting program. Xero syncs your products, orders, customers, shipping, taxes, and other charges to your accounting software. Automate frequently completed tasks such as creating invoices, recording expenses, and generating reports.

     

    Benefits for Your Business

    Xero frees you up from endless data entry tasks, giving you valuable time to work on higher-level operations goals. You’ll also eliminate the possibility of manual data entry errors that can completely skew your accounting results.

     

     

    Taxman logo

    Taxman

    If your eCommerce store sells regulated products such as alcohol or nicotine, Taxman will automatically calculate and charge the correct excise tax for these product sales. You just need to define the geographic zone and tax rate, and Taxman takes care of the rest.

     

    Benefits for Your Business

    With help from Taxman, you’ll navigate an often-forgotten type of product sales tax. Even better, you’ll remain compliant with all applicable tax laws.

     

    Social Media

    With increased time on their hands, more people are browsing their social feeds, looking for something to buy. Toward that end, you should introduce compelling social media initiatives that will draw them to your eCommerce store.

     

    Here are some BigCommerce apps that can help.

     

     

    Elfsight logo

    Instagram Feed by Elfsight

    Elfsight Instagram Feed will blend your eye-catching Instagram content into your eCommerce store website. Use numerous customization options to match the app’s widget to your website style and color scheme.

     

    Benefits for Your Business

    Your Instagram-enhanced website will see increased audience engagement, and you’ll also get more Instagram followers. Most importantly, you’ll see a boost in your eCommerce website’s conversion rate.

     

     

    ContentPlum logo

    ContentPlum

    ContentPlum provides shoppers with multiple social feeds, and adds intriguing relevant content, to promote better social engagement and social trust. The app can be used for Shoppable Instagram Gallery, Social Hub, Social Wall, Social Contests, Social Campaigns, Media Buzz, and more.

     

    Benefits for Your Business

    By inviting viewers to engage with social media widgets on your store’s site, you’ll enhance social trust and build credibility. Because customers are more likely to buy from someone they know and trust, you’ll improve the likelihood that these visitors will turn into paying customers.

     

     

    Promote your eCommerce store’s products on up to 14 social media networks without duplicating your efforts. The highly efficient Outfy app helps you to create visually appealing product videos, high-impact sales promotions, and automated posts designed for social media audiences.

     

    Benefits for Your Business

    Outfy’s broad social reach will help to attract more viewers to your eCommerce store. Over time, you’ll see an increase in your product sales.

     

     

    Take advantage of free, customizable social sharing buttons for popular social media networks. You don’t need coding skills to build and load the mobile-friendly buttons. In addition, the installation process won’t slow down your store’s website.

     

    Benefits for Your Business

    By installing the social sharing buttons, you’ll see an increase in followers and social shares. This increased viewership gives you the opportunity to promote product specials and collect more emails for your marketing list.

     

     

    Analytics

    Generally speaking, retailers want to know what’s working and what hasn’t met their expectations. They want to maximize their revenue sources, solve their financial problems, and set themselves up for success. These powerful apps can play a key role in that ever-evolving process.

     

    Shogun logo
     

     

    Build custom eCommerce website pages with Shogun’s versatile drag-and-drop page builder. Professionally designed home page, landing page, blog pages, and product pages templates are compatible with your existing theme. Compare completed pages for metrics’ results, and evaluate marketing campaigns with targeted analytics.

     

    Benefits for Your Business

    Your well-coordinated eCommerce website will enhance your business’ online credibility. Concurrently, you can compare the effectiveness of different pages and marketing campaigns. The comparisons’ results will help you make adjustments that can move your business forward.

     

    Price2Spy logo

    Price2Spy

    Monitor your competitors’ prices with the real-time Price2Spy app. Applicable to businesses of all sizes, this service enables online retailers to track competitors’ prices and price changes. Track multiple competitors’ websites for maximum benefit. Determine which of your eCommerce store’s products can vary in price, and easily make these price changes.

     

    Benefits for Your Business

    Price2Spy's comprehensive pricing reports will display incremental market changes. The reports will also show whether your competitors are ramping prices up or easing them down.

     

    Lucky Orange provides insights into your'eCommerce store’s functionality. View visitor recordings of site transactions, and learn why some shoppers don’t make a purchase from your store. To change that, Lucky Orange helps you answer visitors’ questions through live chat and offers live view to co-browse with them to help them find the product they need.

     

    Benefits for Your Business

    When you learn why most site visitors don’t convert to paying customers, you can take steps to turn the situation around. By tweaking your eCommerce site, you’ll be well-positioned to increase your conversions and sales.

     

     

    Customer Service

    Top-notch customer service can help you rise above the competition and promote long-term customer loyalty. Adding the right communications tools to your eCommerce retailer’s toolkit can streamline the process and convert customer questions into sales.

     

     

    To chat with shoppers while they visit your eCommerce store, install the LiveChat + Product Cards widget on your website. You can also provide product suggestions and assist customers through the buying process.

     

    Benefits for Your Business

    The LiveChat + Product Cards app enables you to interact with shoppers while they’re actively engaged on your eCommerce store’s site. When you answer their questions or provide other customer support, you increase your chances of making a sale.

     

     

    Social messaging platforms, including Quick Facebook Chat, are fast becoming preferred communications venues. With Quick Facebook Chat, your customer can easily use Facebook Messenger to get product-related assistance and gain satisfaction.

     

    Benefits for Your Business

    By using Quick Facebook Chat, you’ll avoid the need for third-party live chat agents. Customers can “Like” your store’s Facebook page from the chat window, which increases their engagement. These Messenger encounters can also help you to cross-sell products and introduce new items.

     

     

    While you’re on the Slack communications platform, use the Live Chat for Slack app to chat with visitors. Customize the chat backdrop with your logo and other helpful visuals. Then, send visitors directly to your eCommerce store. While they’re browsing your site, convert them to email list subscribers and followers, and ideally to paying customers.

     

    Benefits for Your Business

    By putting Live Chat for Slack into your communications mix, you’ll save money on a third-party chat platform. You’ll also maintain better control of the customer conversion sequence, increasing your chances of turning visitors into paying customers.

     

     

    Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

    You may need to temporarily tighten advertising purse strings. To get customers to your eCommerce sites and brick-and-mortar stores, you must take steps to drive organic traffic to your business.

     

    Let’s say you edit, optimize, and analyze your eCommerce store’s titles and meta descriptions for categories, products, and pages. FavSEO streamlines that process, enabling you to perform those operations at a single location. You’ll also uncover new keyword opportunities, track your keyword rankings in Google, and submit your sitemap for review.

     

    Benefits for Your Business

    FavSEO’s one-stop optimizing tool saves you valuable time, freeing you up for other important tasks. By tracking keyword rankings and getting an SEO audit, you’ll improve your SEO program’s effectiveness. In turn, this helps to increase your store’s visitor traffic.

     

     

    ProSEOTracker logo

    ProSEOTracker

    Optimizing your SEO metadata and content and managing your blog and SEO issues is easy with ProSEOTracker’s one-stop SEO hub. Monitoring your competitors, and working with Google Analytics or AdWords, are simpler tasks when you’re not visiting multiple websites.

     

    Benefits for Your Business

    With your SEO analysis and optimization resources in one place, completing SEO-related tasks will be a less laborious and time-consuming process. You’ll also realize increased efficiency by viewing the data from one location.

     

     

    Search engines (including Google) often display extra features on your eCommerce store’s search results. These features, such as product prices, review stars, and availability, work together to make the search results more useful and increase clicks to your site.

     

    Benefits for Your Business

    With the SEO Rich Snippets App, you’ll be able to create FAQ pages, “How To” pages and Video structured data that combine to increase your site’s appeal. Over time, these features will bring extra traffic to your store, and should help to increase your sales.

     

    Inventory Management & Order Fulfillment

    With “stay at home” orders in place, consumers have plenty of time to browse and buy from eCommerce retailers. As such, you must have a reliable order fulfillment program so customers get their products on time.

     

     

    Lightspeed

    Lightspeed

    Manage your eCommerce + physical store’s inventory with Lightspeed’s cloud-based sales and inventory app. Edit product features in bulk, and reorder stock automatically. Lightspeed Retail also sheds light on key retail metrics in real time to help you make the best decisions.

     

    Benefits for Your Business

    Lightspeed’s one-stop POS, inventory, and retail management system puts an end to tedious product entry and tracking work. At the same time, you’ll have access to a powerful cloud-based sales and inventory tool that provides all the data you need to keep your physical shop and eCommerce store’s inventory under control.

     

     

    The small business-friendly Sendle app enables affordable door-to-door package delivery. When Sendle integrates with your online store, you’ll receive live shipping rate quotes that you deliver to customers. Sendle also enables efficient order processing and tracking. Oh, and Sendle’s delivery service is 100 percent carbon neutral.

     

    Benefits for Your Business

    Sendle’s combined shipping rate quote, order processing, and package tracking services offer your customers an all-in-one shipping solution. Sendle is also a time saver, as you won’t have to wait for delayed shipping rate quotes that could delay order completion.

     

     

    Endicia logoEndicia

    If you regularly ship products via the United States Postal Service (USPS), the Endicia eCommerce integration offers several helpful services. With your no-fee Endicia account, you’ll save up to 51 percent compared to USPS Retail and USPS.com Click-N-Ship prices. Give your customers real-time USPS shipping quotes, and print shipping labels from your computer. 

     

    Benefits for Your Business

    The Endicia eCommerce integration will save you money. In addition, offering real-time shipping quotes and printing shipping labels gives you control over each step in the process.

     

     

    The Store Pickup + Delivery by Zapiet app invites customers to decide how they want to receive their purchased products. The customer can opt for traditional shipping, local delivery, or in-store pickup.  

     

    Benefits for Your Business

    By offering the customer several product receipt options, you’ll likely be perceived as highly responsive to their needs. That favorable attribute can play a key role in building customer loyalty.

     

    Your turn

    Did we miss anything? What other BigCommerce are helping retailers through COVID-19? Let us know in the comments.

     

    16 BigCommerce Apps that Can Help You Run a Better Retail Business

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    BigCommerce have an impressive selection of apps available to support BigCommerce stores. Read on to find the best BigCommerce apps to meet you

    BigCommerce Top Apps

    BigCommerce is cementing itself as a popular eCommerce solution offering merchants a range of competitive features, no transaction fees, and an incredibly user-friendly platform. 

     

    Whether you're a brick and mortar shop looking to go online for the first time or have already run eCommerce sites in the past, you'll get the hang of BigCommerce in a snap. 

     

    The platform also offers an expansive selection of apps that easily integrate to support merchants – no matter whether they need solutions for accounting, inventory, or sales. 

     

    An expansive selection is great, of course, but of the hundreds of apps in various diverse categories, a little guidance can go a long way in selecting those that are going to best support your retail business.

     

    To save you hours sifting through reviews and user information, we've gone and done it for you and found the best BigCommerce apps to meet your store's needs.

     

    Lightspeed-Logo 1. Lightspeed

    Point of sale, inventory, and reporting tools are a must for every merchant, both online and offline, and Lightspeed brings users all of those tools – POS, inventory, and reporting, as well as customer engagement – to remove the hassle of managing a business. 

     

    The Lightspeed app makes it easy to manage sales, customers, products, and inventory from one easy to use platform. BigCommerce merchants can integrate with Lightspeed, so their sales, inventory, and customer data are synced seamlessly across both platforms. 

     

    Lightspeed and BigCommerce give you everything you need to power your retail business online and in-store.

     

    With these two solutions, you can remove the complexity out of going omnichannel. You can on top of your sales, stock, and customers while Lightspeed POS and BigCommerce stay perfectly in sync. You can even sell on your favorite social media and marketplaces!

    - Francesca Nicasio, Content Marketing Manager, Lightspeed Retail

     

    Engaging and communicating with your customers is a MUST if you want to keep them coming back, and this one of the reasons why you want to have Marsello in your retail toolkit. 

     

    Marsello is marketing automation and loyalty software that enables you to run personalized, data-driven campaigns at scale with added tools like customer segmentation and feedback collection. You can use Marsello to create email and SMS campaigns tailored to each user based on their purchase history, behavior, and previous interactions with your brand. 

     

    On the loyalty side, Marsello lets you create a rewards program that works seamlessly across your eCommerce and brick and mortar shop, so your customers can earn and redeem perks no matter where or how they're shopping!

     

    Accounting is a task that very few business owners enjoy. However, thanks to the beautiful integration of Xero Accounting on the BigCommerce platform, accounting need not be a chore. 

     

    Your store can be easily connected with your accounting software for a seamless flow of information, with your online and offline data and accounts perfectly in sync. Xero covers payments, payroll, inventory, invoicing, expenses, and performance reporting, which is all mobile compatible for quick insights. 

     

    Importing, managing, and shipping orders is an arduous process that requires tech power to reign in and refine. ShipStation is just the tool to cover BigCommerce users.  

     

    With ShipStation, eCommerce merchants can import orders from all selling channels into a single platform, manage them with custom automation, and ship through all the best carriers. The platform also makes returns easy, allows for next-level branding and marketing, and offers first-class user support. 

     

    With ShipStation, you can say "goodbye" to copying and pasting. Seamlessly sync your orders from BigCommerce and all your selling channels into a single platform to automate nearly every step of your shipping process. Save time and money with the fastest, easiest way to get products to your customers and provide an exceptional post-purchase experience and a little peace of mind with your own branded tracking page. 

    - Adam Foster, Content Marketing Director at ShipStation

    Shogun  5. Shogun

    Successful eCommerce stores need sites that visually stun and captivate audiences. Shogun enables BigCommerce users to create this through their powerful page builder and content management system. 

     

    BigCommerce users can build landing pages, blog pages, product pages, and more with the intuitive Shogun drag and drop page builder. These pages are then easily optimized to perform through AB testing, and once in use, the system also provides analytics and marketing features to schedule campaigns, and measure performance.

     

    Bigcommerce merchants have discovered that the simplicity of using our page builder not only gives them control over their storefront, but it's also helping them save on costs by greatly reducing development hours and time to market. It's empowering their marketing teams to maintain and implement site changes quickly without having to submit engineering tickets.

    - Phill Moorman, Director of Marketing, Shogun

     

    Understanding why your visitors don't convert is the most valuable tool to enable you to make changes to your business to ensure that they do. Lucky Orange helps you to do this. 

     

    Lucky Orange eliminates guesswork and gives merchants clear insight into how to optimize their site for more sales. They do this by tagging and tracking visitor behavior in all areas of the site's usability with Sales Chat, Recordings, Form Analytics, Dynamic Heatmaps, Polls, and more.

     

    “BigCommerce merchants use our software every day to find ways to turn more visitors into customers. The most important thing we want merchants to understand is that getting more people to “add to cart” isn’t guesswork. You don’t have to rely on assumptions to find the problems people are running into on your website when you can watch a session replay of exactly where a person clicked and scrolled on your site or look at form analytics to see where most people are getting stuck and abandoning your website.”

    - Danny Wajcman, Chief Operating Officer, Lucky Orange

     

    Order and inventory management, when done well, significantly increases business performance. While it's the universal goal of merchants to boost business performance, managing orders and inventory can require a helping hand. 

     

    Integrated with BigCommerce, Pulse Commerce helps merchants with real-time visibility and control of their inventory, orders, and customers across all sales channels – i.e., in-store, eCommerce website, and marketplaces.  With a 360-degree view of each customer order and interaction history, modifications are easy, and issues resolved quickly. 

     

    Dealing with customers abroad can prove challenging, but there are tools like Zonos Checkout to simplify the process for merchants and make international transactions and interactions much more streamlined. 

     

    The Zonos BigCommerce integration makes cross border transactions simple with landed cost, localization, and compliance to enhance the buying experience for international customers. The Zonos app covers duties and taxes, currency conversion, payment solutions, and fraud coverage. 

     

     

    Without backups, an unexpected crash or hack can bring down your entire eCommerce business. Without a backup, there is nothing to bring back, and a new build may be required. To ensure that never happens to your store, you can leverage Rewind Backups.  

     

    Rewind Backups on BigCommerce completes daily, automated backups to keep essential data stored, secure, and retrievable should something unexpected occur. It also allows you to quickly undo unwanted changes in just a few clicks, eliminating the need for CSV exports and saving significantly on downtime. 

     

    Rewind® protects the data that runs your eCommerce business. BigCommerce backs up its platform – not your store. This means product catalogs, pages, themes, and more can be lost should something go wrong. Human error, malicious attacks, or third-party apps can all compromise or accidentally delete your data. And recreating a store can take hours, even days. With Rewind, you can quickly undo unwanted changes and never worry about making an irreversible mistake again.

    - Ryan Gibson, Content & Comms Manager at Rewind.io

     

    AfterShip 10. AfterShip

    In need of shipment tracking and delivery updates software? Look no further than the Aftership app for BigCommerce users, which supports all your carriers, including UPS, FedEx, USPS, DHL, and 400 more.

     

    The free Aftership app allows BigCommerce users to track all of their shipments in one place while giving their customers a powerful delivery experience where they can check the delivery status, and submit requests in just a few clicks. Tracking pages can also be customized with the merchant's logo, store URL, and imagery to boost brand recognition.

     

     

    Printful.com 11. Printful

    Want to sell custom-designed apparel and other goods but don't want to hoard stock? Printful, through BigCommerce, is a print-on-demand dropshipping app that allows merchants to print branded products, without needing ever to have them in-house. 

     

    Printful helps with free design templates, warehousing, order fulfillment, and discounted samples so that merchants can try products before they sell them, as well as 24/7 customer support. 

     

     

    Kudobuzz 12. Kudobuzz

    Positive product and brand reviews have the power to boost conversions and compel new customers to buy. It makes sense, then, to use them on your eCommerce site, wherever possible to influence your customer to act. 

     

    Kudobuzz makes this process easy. Through the Kudobuzz app, BigCommerce users can collect reviews from social channels like Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and more, to then show them on the eCommerce site via clean, customizable widgets. Reviews from other apps are easy to import into Kudobuzz for future use.

     

    Pixlee 13. Pixlee

    Customer content is a powerful tool to harness in the exercise of branding. Just as customers trust the reviews of their peers, they also trust the social pictures of their peers using products that they are considering. 

     

    Pixlee helps BigCommerce users to connect with and leverage customer content to deliver personalized content in any marketing channel. The platform allows merchants to connect with their customers, collect customer-created content identified through tagging or hashtags, gain permission, and publish, all from one place. 

     

    Skubana 14. Skubana

    Skubana is a distributed order management platform that facilitates fulfillment, inventory, and business intelligence for brands operating across multiple channels. 

     

    Through BigCommerce, Skubana synchronizes data from sales channels, warehouses, 3PLs, POS systems, and wherever else it can be found, so that merchants can focus on what matters: customer experience. With Skubana, merchants can sell direct-to-everywhere, automate operational responsibilities, and transform multi-channel complexity into singular clarity.

     

    LiveChat 15. LiveChat

    Instant customer service chat is powerful to resolve questions and help customers move through to make purchases. The LiveChat chat widget for BigCommerce makes it incredibly easy to set this up and go live. 

     

    LiveChat allows brands to communicate with shoppers while they browse, answering all incoming sales and support questions, and even making product recommendations in the live chat widget. The app comes with a pre-installed chat dashboard and lets merchants monitor the results of the chat activities, right in the BigCommerce dashboard.

     

    Affirm 16. Affirm

    Alternative payment solutions are becoming increasingly more common across the world, and of them, buy now, pay later (BNPL) is one of the most widely adopted by both customers and merchants. 

     

    Affirm is one such app that integrates with BigCommerce and allows shoppers to pay their goods off over time, giving merchants the ability to secure more sales, while offering more agile solutions to their customers. The Affirm app shows customers what their payments could look like based on their shopping cart price. And on the backend, it provides merchants with insights into their customer's journey and preferences.

     

    Final Words

    While there's no magic bullet that can solve all your retail problems, the apps mentioned in the post can certainly help you take your business to the next level. Whether you have a brick-and-mortar store, an eCommerce site, or both, you can use the solutions mentioned above to streamline your operations, increase customer loyalty, and boost your bottom line 

    SEO Series Part 3: Common Mistakes SEO Mistakes for Retailers to Know

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    Solve common SEO mistakes before ever even making them with Part 3 of our SEO mini-series.

    In this article, we’ll be talking about the common mistakes online retailers make when optimizing their websites for search. Many eCommerce retailers make errors during their quest to improve their SEO without realizing it. They end up sabotaging their own efforts in small ways; small errors can build up over time to become a major barrier to their top-of-page-one aspirations.

    How to improve your retail store SEO ranking

    Fortunately, fixing these isn’t as complex as you might think; a few quick adjustments will have you on the way to a higher ranking in no time.

    Read the points below and see if you’re making these mistakes on your website:

     

    Mistake 1: Not optimizing your product URLs

    URLs might seem like a minor consideration, but they are extremely relevant to eCommerce SEO; this is because they play a significant role in how Google indexes each page of your site.

    The URLs of your product pages should help search engines to work out how the different parts of your site relate to each other. This is especially important for your broader product categories (e.g. ‘dresses’). You want these categories to rank well because this is how your potential customers can access your catalog from the search engine results page (SERP).

    Even the biggest eCommerce sites still make persistent errors in this area. See below this link from the clothing giant H&M:

     

    H&M product page url

     

    Would you be able to tell what the item was by looking at this URL? No chance. It contains no keywords, so it’s only by clicking that you’d know the item is a V-neck dress. This is exactly the kind of link you want to avoid; it looks messy and chaotic, so no one is likely to click on it.

    A messy URL also makes your site more difficult to navigate. If your customers can’t retrace their steps back to other parts of your site by reading your URLs, there’s a good chance that Google will struggle as well.

    What to do instead: focus on website hierarchy

    Your links should be offering a solid road map of your site. An optimized link would follow this structure:

    https://example.com/category/sub-category/product

    The pet care retailer Bobbie Dogs has a great URL structure – their URLs have a logical flow from the broader elements of the website (e.g., homepage, category pages, etc.) to the more specific parts (e.g., the product in question).

    As such, both Google and shoppers alike will find it easier to understand what the page is all about. Check out their URL below and note the logical mapping of data within the URL; it’s easy to follow, understand and remember.

    Bobbie dogs url
     
     

    Mistake 2: Keyword stuffing your product titles and descriptions

    In SEO, keywords make the world go round, so it’s a smart idea to incorporate them into your web copy. And since product descriptions make up a sizeable chunk of your on-site content, it makes sense for you to optimize them with the right search terms.

    Product descriptions help Google determine the relevance of your pages in response to a search query, so it’s vital that they show up on the search engine’s radar.

    But trying to write for Google instead of your customer through keyword stuffing will make your copy look stilted and awkward. Plus, the practice can really hurt your rankings because the clunky sentences make it look like you aren’t trying to be informative.

    Here is a prime example from a listing on Etsy:

     

    Keyword stuffing in an Etsy store product listing

     

    This description is very wordy and dense, using the keyword ‘top’ multiple times. It also uses far more descriptors than necessary, making it more likely to confuse customers than inform them.

    What to do instead: Sprinkle in keywords and don’t overdo it

    Use your keywords moderately and only in places where it’s natural to do so. Try putting yourself in the position of your customer when you read your copy. Is it relevant, useful and compelling? If so, that’s what will make them want to stick around – and Google, in turn, will reward your website for it.

    Check out this example from Triangl, a highly successful Australian swimsuit brand. In the following product page, you’ll notice that Triangle lightly sprinkles relevant keywords (e.g., ‘bikini’) throughout the content without going overboard.

    Triangls product listings are concise, clear, and helps to sell their products

    Mistake 3: Not having an internal linking strategy for your product pages

    What often gets overlooked in discussions about algorithms is that site ranking really boils down to usability.

    Translation: your site architecture needs to be on-point, and this is judged in part by how easy your site is to navigate. The purpose of an eCommerce site is to have customers buy products, so you need to gear your link structure to this end. There’s no point in only having navigational links to your site’s ‘about us’ and ‘contact’ pages. This won’t take your customers anywhere near the shopping cart! If your customer is looking for something specific, the links they come across in their searching need to be relevant and useful.

    What to do instead: Improve your site’s usability with the right internal links

    Internal linking really boosts your site usability. If you link between ‘similar’ product pages, whether they be companion products or products with similar features, this massively improves the user experience of your site. Keeping your customers browsing between products for longer periods sends positive ranking signals to Google, which helps you in the SEO department.

    Take this example from women's fashion store, Osmose:

     

    Osmose's product recommendations listed below their product pages

    On this page, Osmose has included a plug-in that recommends similar products to customers as they browse This aids a customer’s shopping experience because they’re able to find relevant products much easier.

     

    Mistake 4: Not optimizing your site for mobile

    Having a site that isn’t mobile-optimized may not be killing your SEO rankings just yet, but in July 2019, Google will begin using a ‘mobile-first’ indexing system – this means that your site will get judged according to its mobile-friendliness. Google’s new system replaces a previous update in 2015, which used a mix of mobile and desktop signals to dictate search results.

    So even though it currently makes no difference if the majority of your traffic still comes from ‘desktop-based’ searching, Google has basically confirmed that mobile is king. Moral of the story? If your site isn’t mobile-optimized, your ranking could be taking a hit in a few months’ time.

     

    What to do instead: Implement responsive web design

    Rather than having your mobile customers struggle with a shrunken version of your desktop site, you should install a responsive layout. Responsive Web Design (RWD) is the approach recommended by Google because it doesn’t create separate URLs for desktop and mobile, which can get confused as duplicate content (a real SEO headache). RWD instead adjusts to the layout needed for each user, whether it be mobile, tablet, or desktop.

    Google’s free mobile-friendly test allows you to analyze each page of your website by entering the URL, providing feedback on any issues.

    And here’s the good news: some of the best eCommerce platforms, including Shopify and BigCommerce, now provide responsive themes. So, it’s worth checking if you need to update to the latest version, or else switch to a custom theme.

    Mistake 5: Publishing low-quality content


    It’s easy to fall into the trap of ‘content for content’s sake’ to improve your ranking, particularly when it comes to your blog.

    Many SEO experts agree that having a blog is an important part of SEO strategy because they’re a great tool for adding more indexed pages to your site. Google’s ‘crawlers’ treat pages as individual search results that show up if they match a query. The more indexed pages you have, the more queries that your brand will get associated with. So, it’s tempting to churn out tons of short, hastily-written content each week, simply to get your indexed page count higher.

    But Google is well-aware that this strategy is used to ‘trick’ its algorithm, and the search engine penalizes websites with a high number of pages ‘thin’ content.

    What to do instead: Choose quality over quantity

    Switch to a strategy that prioritizes high-value content that engages, informs, and entertains your readers.

    In terms of the content itself, your focus needs to be less about the semantics of SEO. Being perfectly optimized for keywords isn’t what makes a blog interesting! So, what does? Content that is well-researched and contains insights that people can use or learn from.

    Check out the skincare specialist, Sigi Skin. Many of their posts are highly actionable and contain pointers that their customers can do on their own.

     

    Sigi Skin Blog
     

    Mistake 6: Not optimizing your images for SEO

    There are a number of key errors that eCommerce merchants make when it comes to images. They include:

    • Using larger-than-necessary images - It's a known fact that page speed is a ranking factor for Google. Using large images increase a page's load time, which in turn hurts your rankings.

    • Not having the right image titles and tags - Search engines crawl image file names and alt text to figure out what image is about, so by failing to optimize these components, you're missing out on giving Google valuable information about your images.

    • Using images to replace text - Some merchants use images that contain words, to avoid dealing with text formatting issues. While this may seem like a smart shortcut, it does nothing for SEO. Again, this practice prevents you from fully communicating with search engines, thereby hurting your rankings in the process.

    What to do instead: Always consider SEO when using images

    Optimize your image file names and alt-tags by using descriptive words. Let's say you're posting an image of a red party dress. Instead of naming it "IMG_0321111.jpg" use the file name "red-scoop-neck-dress.jpg".

    The same thing goes for your alt text. According to BigCommerce, in addition to serving as "an alternative when websites can't render the image for some reason," alt text "describes the image to search engines so they can understand them."

    The best thing you can do to optimize your alt text is to sprinkle in keywords that clearly communicate what the image is. Just make sure not to overdo it by keyword stuffing.

    As for your image sizes, BigCommerce recommends keeping your images under 70KB. Also opt for JPEG instead of PNG or GIF, because it “allows higher quality with a smaller file size.”

    Finally, avoid using images as a replacement for text. Remember, search engines determine your rankings primarily by crawling the text on your website, so make sure you have enough word-based content on there to give Google a clear idea of what each page is about.

     

    Creating a webpage as an image

     

    Final words


    SEO can feel like a real minefield for both new and experienced eCommerce merchants. Ultimately, though, the most important thing to keep in mind is that both you and Google have the same goal; to give your customer the best user experience possible. Focus on that and you’ll be on your way to better SEO rankings.

    Have you seen the rest of the SEO Series? Check out Part One and Two in the links below.

     

    Take me to part 1Take me to part 2

    SEO Series Part 2: Making Search Engine Optimization More Affordable

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    Part 2 of our SEO series gives you actionable tips on getting started with eCommerce SEO while taking the DIY route!

    Marsello's SEO blog series Part 2

    Welcome to the second instalment of Marsello’s eCommerce SEO series. In our previous article, we talked about the basics of Search Engine Optimization and the initial steps you should take to kick off your efforts.

     

    This week, we’ll be discussing the costs of Search Engine Optimization and the things you can do to get more bang for your buck.

     

    A 2018 study by Ahrefs found that the most popular hourly rate for SEO professionals ranges from $101-150 per hour. For those that charge monthly retainer fees, the range of $500-$1,000 per month was the most popular pricing tier.

     

    And while those figures aren’t surprising, they’re far from being chump change, especially if you’re a small business.

     

    So what does an SMB to do?

     

    While your exact steps will depend on how much SEO work you need, we’ve put together some expert-backed pointers on how you can save money on search engine optimization costs.

    Let’s have a look.

     

    Educate yourself

    If you have some time on your hands and don’t have the budget to pay someone $100+ an hour for SEO services, then going the do-it-yourself (aka DIY) route could be a good way to go. Just remember, though, that your results from your DIY efforts will only be as good as your SEO knowledge.

     

    That’s why if you’re not well-versed in Search Engine Optimization, the first thing you should do is educate yourself.

     

    “There are so many resources available online now to do your own SEO, even for online merchants,” says Ben Hanzel, chief editor at BestCompany.com

     

    He adds that eCommerce-centric SEO is different from the average website, which is why he recommends consuming SEO resources specifically for eCommerce merchants.

     

    Alex Ratynski of Make Bank Blogging echoes this advice. “In my years of experience as a professional SEO, I have worked with a number of brands and businesses big and small. For those smaller businesses in eCommerce, I think a lot can be done by just simply educating themselves beforehand. This will help whether they work with a consultant or not.”

     

    To start with, Alex suggests the comprehensive eCommerce SEO guides from Ahrefs, Backlinko, and Neil Patel. Guides such as these give a good grounding for the information eCommerce retailers need when getting started with SEO and it’s a great idea to get this base-understanding as early as possible.

     

    Hire a consultant who can offer advice

    If you have funds to spare, Hanzel recommends using it on a consultant. But rather than paying an SEO specialist to work on your site for 20+ hours a month for a year, you can choose to spend a fraction of the cost by consulting with an expert who can tell you what to do.

     

    “It may be worth getting an hour consultation, to know where to start,” he says. “Some SEO companies even offer this for free, as long as you're willing to sit through a sales pitch at the end of it.”

     

    Another option is to hire someone as an ’overseer’ rather than a full-fledged service provider. According to Ratynski, one thing you could do is bring in someone "for a few hours every few months to do full audits, give clear actionable improvements, reasons for those, and then give you the option to do it yourself.”

     

    With that said, if you decide to hire a consultant or advisor, make it a point to take action on their recommendations. “SEO does take time, so make sure you're putting in the effort and time to fully dedicate yourself to it, and you'll reap the benefits for years,” says Hanzel.

     

    To reiterate Hanzel’s point, SEO can take months even to seem to make a difference, and even then it’s not static. You will need to update your store, information, and content frequently to be sure that it’s relevant. The basic idea is that Google and other search engines see your site, process that information as valuable to the search requests of your potential customers, and prioritizes your site in the search results. The higher your store appears in that list; the more likely a customer is to click on it and convert to purchasing with you. SEO is a long game, but it’s undeniably important.

     

    Marketing professional uses diary and computer to make SEO plan.

    Go the DIY route

    Once you have the SEO info you need (either by reading up on Search Engine Optimization or consulting with an expert), it’s time to take action on what you’ve learned. The specifics will vary, depending on your site, but generally speaking, the success of your SEO efforts will hinge on how well you do the following:

    • Keyword research

    • Content creation

    • Link building

    Let’s look at each of these components in more detail.

     

    Keyword research

    As we mentioned in our previous post, keyword research is the cornerstone of any Search Engine Optimization strategy. Before getting to the ‘optimization’ part of SEO, you first need to identify the keywords that your customers are searching for.

    As we mentioned previously, the best keywords are the ones with a high search volume (because it means many people are searching for it) but with a competition level low enough for you to compete with.

    But there's another key component that makes a search term worth targeting, and that's intent. When doing your research, you need to discern whether or not a keyword is backed by a consumer's intent to buy.

    For example, a person searching for keywords like ‘where to buy a coffee mug’ or ‘travel porcelain mugs’ likely has a stronger buying intent than someone who's looking for information on just ‘coffee’ or  ‘how to clean a coffee mug.’

    When identifying keywords to use in your copy, ask yourself: "does this search term reflect an intent to buy?". If the answer is no, then it's not a good keyword to target.

     

    How to find keyword ideas

    There’s no shortage of SEO tools dedicated to keyword research. Some of the industry’s favorites include Ahrefs, SEMRush, and Mangools, though we should note that these come with a subscription fee.

     

    And since this guide is for merchants looking to save on SEO costs, we’ll be focusing on the free tools you can use to find keywords.

     

    Google Keyword Planner

    Google’s Keyword Planner is a great starting point for search term ideas. Simply enter keywords related to your product, and the tool will make numerous suggestions based on what others are searching for. Google will also display a search volume and competition level for each keyword.

    For instance, when you enter the word ‘mug’ into Google’s Keyword Planner, it’ll serve up nearly a thousand relevant ‘mug’ related keywords you can sift through.

     

    Google Ads keyword planner

     

    Ubersuggest

     

    Online marketing guru Neil Patel created a nifty tool called ‘Ubersuggest’, which can be an excellent source for ideas. Much like Google Keyword Planner, Ubersuggest displays search volume estimates and competition info. Even better, Ubersuggest offers keyword difficulty insights that can estimate your chances of ranking in the top 20 search results.

     

    Ubersuggest keyword search volume

     

    Amazon

     

    Another easy way to surface the right keywords is to use Amazon. Just start typing your keyword into the search box and take note of what the autocomplete feature will display.

    What’s great about this method is that since Amazon is already a shopping site, most (if not all of the keywords) it suggests would be high-intent search terms.

     

    Amazon search suggestions

     

    Google

     

    Google (the search engine) also has a great autocomplete feature that you can mine for keyword ideas. Again, just type in a search term and see what the tool suggests.

     

    Google search suggestions

     

    Do note that that with the last two suggestions (i.e., Amazon and Google) you won’t get any data on search volume and competition. That’s why if you’re using these sites for keyword ideas, you’ll need to take note of the keywords you want to target and enter them into a tool (like Google Keyword Planner) that shows you how many people are searching for the term and what the competition looks like.  

     

    Content creation

    Once you've figured out the best keywords to target, start incorporating them in your copy. There are a number of key places to do this, including your title tags, meta descriptions, headers and subheads, and product and category descriptions.

     

    A great example of a website that does all of the above is Zazzle. Their website is one of the top search results for ‘funny mugs’ and for good reason. As you’ll see below, all the key areas of Zazzle’s category and product pages are optimized for search.

     

    Title tags – In addition to telling search engines what the title of a page is, the title tag is also text that shows up on search results, so it's also one of the first pieces of information that potential visitors see. In eCommerce, the best places on which to optimize your title tags are your category pages and product pages.

     

    Meta description – As we mentioned in our previous post, meta descriptions don’t directly affect your rankings. However, they still show up in search results, so they can influence a searcher’s decision to click through your site. For this reason, it’s important that your meta description still contains relevant keywords

     

    Zazzle meta description

     
    Headers and subheaders – Headers and subheaders can have a lot of SEO value, as Google factors them in when determining if a page is relevant to a particular search term. From user's perspective, headers can act as signposts that help visitors easily skim your content or jump to the section that's relevant to them. In the world of ecommerce, your headers usually come in the form of your product titles and subtitles, so make sure they're optimized for search.
     
    Creating webpage headers and subheaders

     

    Product or category descriptions – Your product and category descriptions essentially tell customers and search engines what your merchandise is all about. In addition to peppering in relevant keywords, you want to make sure your descriptions are unique. Google doesn’t like duplicate content, so using the product descriptions of your manufacturers – or worse – copying another website’s description, will lead to poor rankings.

     

    Creating SEO-optimized product titles

     

    Link building

    After you’ve optimized your content for SEO, the next step is to build links for your site. While no one knows for sure how Google's algorithm works, pretty much everyone agrees that links are a critical ranking factor.

     

    According to Search Engine Journal, “Backlinks remain an important Google ranking factor, but over the years, Google has learned to weed out the bad links from the good. More links will still result in a higher score, but only if they’re from a number of diverse and authoritative domains.”

    In short, the more high-quality links pointing to your site, the better your chances of ranking.

    So, how do you build those precious backlinks? Consider the following ideas:

     

    Get featured on relevant blogs

    Build relationships with bloggers in your niche and see if they can feature you on their site. An effective tactic here is to send them a free sample in exchange for an honest review. You could even assign a promo code or affiliate link that allows bloggers to earn a commission when someone buys your product through their site.

     

    For instance, when Tarashaun Hausner reviewed Daily Harvest on her blog Blender Babes, she included a special promo code that gives readers 3 free cups when they sign up. Her post also contains affiliate links, so she can earn revenue for each signup.

     

    Daily Harvest used influencer marketing for SEO

     

    Do press outreach

    Connecting with members of the press is another great way to obtain backlinks. Find journalists who are writing a story relevant to your industry and volunteer yourself as a source for their article.

     

    You can easily do this using a tool called HARO. Short for “Help a Reporter Out,” HARO is a service that lets journalists submit queries asking for expert input for their articles. When you subscribe to their service, HARO sends you daily queries from journalists, which you can then respond to. If the journalist likes your input, they’ll include it in their article and will often link back to your website.

     

    Here’s an example of what query looks like. The journalist sends in a description of an article that they’re writing along with a request for sources. Members subscribers receive the query in their inbox and can choose to respond if they’re a good fit for the article.

     

    Marketers can use Haro to submit and create research requests

     

    Create share-worthy content

     

    Another way to gain backlinks? Produce link-worthy content. Create a piece of content (e.g., guide, video, blog etc) that’s so engaging that people would naturally want to link to it.

     

    Dollar Shave Club is a master at this strategy. The company regularly creates useful and entertaining content for its website; in addition to helping DSC engage their followers and subscribers, all that content is also helping them gain backlinks.

     

    For example, DSC’s ‘Original Content’ homepage currently has 285 backlinks, many of which are from high-quality sites.

     

    Dollar Shave Club's backlinks

     

    DSC is also doing well with video. The company has produced several hilarious videos about their product, which earned them backlinks from the likes of The Wall Street Journal, Vox, Entrepreneur, and more.

     

    One of their top videos currently has more than 25 million views and over 53,000 backlinks.

    As you can see, effectively gaining backlinks doesn’t just happen. Getting others to link to your site requires active outreach and content creation, so it’s critical to incorporate these tasks into your SEO strategy.

     

    Take advantage of free or affordable tools

    Depending on the SEO tasks that you’re doing, you can save a lot of money by choosing your tools wisely. We’ve already mentioned several free tools above, but here are additional SEO solutions you can use to optimize your website:

     

    Yoast – Yoast is a plugin made for WordPress. The free version enables you to optimize your blog posts through tools like keyword optimization and Google preview. Yoast can also check your content for readability and make on-page recommendations on how to improve.

     

    Keywords Everywhere – This is a free browser plugin for Chrome and Firefox that displays search volume, CPC, and competition data for the keywords that you search on sites like Google, Amazon, YouTube, Answer the Public, and more.

     

    LinkMiner – Another Chrome extension, LinkMiner helps surface broken on any website. Broken links can be harmful for SEO, so this tool makes it easy to find those pesky links so you can fix them.

     

    Can I Rank? – Can I Rank is an AI-powered tool that analyzes your website and gives you insights on what you can do improve? It provides insights like which pages are ranking well (and why) and you'll get suggestions for content ideas, link opportunities, and more.

     

    SERP Preview Tool – Curious about how your website will appear in search results? Portent's SERP Preview Tool can help. Just enter your title tag, meta description, and URL and the tool will generate Google search result preview for you.

     

    The tools mentioned in this guide are just the tip of the iceberg, though. If you’re looking to dive deeper into various SEO tools, we recommend the following resources:

    If you must outsource, know which tasks to do yourself and which to leave to a pro

    If you have a full plate and don’t have the capacity to fully shoulder all things SEO, consider adopting a hybrid approach where you do some tasks yourself while outsourcing others.

     

    How do you determine the right balance? Start by making a list of the SEO tasks that need to be addressed (e.g., link building, creating content, creating a site map, etc.). From there, figure out your strengths and focus your efforts on the things that you’re good at.

     

    As Catherine Giese, SEO associate at Fundera puts it, “SEO encompasses a lot of time-consuming techniques such as keyword research, site structuring, and link building. That's why it's often at least one person's job, if not that of an entire team,” she says.

     

    Giese continues, “take stock of your strengths to determine how to prioritize. For example, if you're an engineer, you may be able to do site structure, but may not be comfortable with doing outreach for link building purposes.”

     

    Follow her advice when you’re mapping out your strategy. Before diving into various SEO tasks, iron out the specific jobs that need to get done, figure out what you can do yourself, and then outsource the rest.

     

    Visual business chart with an agent showing how to interpret marketing metrics.

     

    Be smart about working with agencies and freelancers

    If you decide to outsource your SEO, do your research and make sure you select a reputable agency or freelancer who can optimize your site using ethical and white hat tactics. One of the best ways to go is to ask for referrals from merchants you know that are ranking well on Google. Then once you have a handful of prospects, request for case studies and references so you can see the results they’ve achieved with other businesses.

     

    In terms of working arrangements, we recommend avoiding long-term contracts, as the last thing you want is to be tied down to an agency or freelancer who isn’t a good fit.

     

    As Matt Antonino, Head of Operations at the marketing agency Digital Eagles points out, “many agencies have 12-month contracts but if they don't perform you are stuck with a long-term relationship that costs and has little value.”

     

    Antonino adds that “long contracts don't create an incentive for the agency to continuously help improve your business... thee and six-month deals may make more sense.”

     

    Once you know who you want to work with, be smart about the tasks you assign to the agency or freelancer. You want to make sure you get the most value out of their efforts, so figure out the best use of their time and resources.

     

    “The trick to keeping costs down is to ask yourself if what you want that expert to do is their highest and best use,” says BJ Enoch, VP of Enterprise Accounts for SocialSEO. “If you're looking for someone to do alt image tags across 1,000 products or fix internal broken links, is that something you really need to pay an expert, or could you be doing it yourself?”

     

    Enoch adds that you can lower your costs even more by taking care of content yourself.

     

    “Content is one of the most labor intensive and expensive parts of an SEO strategy (and one of the most important). There are some content elements that should have some expert insight, but making sure you've got unique product descriptions and resolving duplicate content on your own can save a surprising amount of money with a consultant or expert.”

     

    SEO doesn't have to be expensive

    While search engine optimization requires an investment (in both time and money), you can lower your costs significantly by being smart about the tasks you take on and the SEO experts that you hire.

     

    With the right SEO education, some patience, and competent experts on your side, it’s totally possible to take your SEO game to the next level.


    Have you seen the rest of the SEO Series? Check out Part One and Part Three in the links below

     

     

    Take me to part 1Take me to part 3

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