A Well Balanced Content Personalization Diet: 3 New Years Resolutions to Increase Goal Conversions

Happy New Year, travel marketers! The beginning of January always brings its own kind of magic with resolutions and the opportunity to both reflect on the past year and look towards the next.  It’s also a time that, if I can be honest, is a little overwhelming with the pressure of setting life-changing goals. And… Read More

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Happy New Year, travel marketers! The beginning of January always brings its own kind of magic with resolutions and the opportunity to both reflect on the past year and look towards the next.  It’s also a time that, if I can be honest, is a little overwhelming with the pressure of setting life-changing goals. And it’s not only personal goals! Working within the digital marketing space I feel that every other content piece is focused on “new year, new marketing strategy” resolutions that couldn’t be easier to implement – or so the articles read…

At Bound, we’re big believers in starting where you’re at, especially when it comes to personalization and your marketing strategy.  That’s why one of our resolutions this year is to focus on something that we know has an impact: optimizing our goal conversions

When it comes to our monthly content reports, few things give our Customer Success Managers more joy than seeing an increase in click through rates on goal related content pieces.  But as fun as these increases are to see, we are even more thrilled by increases in the goal conversions themselves. As we’ve become increasingly aware of the important relationship between clicks and conversions – and the very different stories each can highlight when they don’t align  – we’re excited to share our new Goal Dashboard and highlight three resolutions on increasing your conversions in 2020:

Read More (into your A/B tests):

When in doubt about your content, run an A/B Test!  While click through rates can certainly highlight your audience’s preferences for the imagery, copy or CTA, how do you account for the content’s impact on the actual conversion?  Within the new Goal Dashboard, you can now compare conversion rates against your campaigns, segments and pieces of content, allowing for a deeper level of insight. We recently took a closer look at an eNewsletter related A/B test we have been running with a DMO.  Month over month, we found that one content piece had consistently less clicks than the other. However, in comparing the conversion rates between the two pieces, we saw that the content piece with a lower CTR had a considerably higher conversion rate. This comparison helped us see the value of a content piece we might have otherwise removed and will help inform future A/B tests.

Exercise (your understanding of your Mobile and Desktop visitors differences):

As we’ve written about before, there are many things to take into consideration when creating content for your Desktop and Mobile visitors.  Goal conversions are no different, especially given that our Mobile visitors are often less likely to convert. Within the new Goal Dashboard, we can now dive into the conversion rates for our different segments across campaigns, allowing us to compare, for example, fly-ins served to desktop visitors and banners served to mobile audiences.  Layering in this insight can help us develop content best suited for each of our unique visitors groups.

Spend Less (time guessing how your content is performing):

Over the past few years, we’ve increasingly become fans of thoughtful “abandonment” content and the way these direct CTAs can increase conversions for visitors who have initiated, but not completed, a conversion goal.  While we often see this content with high CTRs, it can be challenging to determine how exactly this content contributes to the overall goal. Thankfully, our new Goal Dashboard takes the guesswork out of content creation and helps us see exactly which Abandonment content is best contributing to the goal. 

Our hope for your 2020 is that your conversion related content is directly increasing your goal conversions (leaving you with more time to increase engagement for your ad visitors!)   Knowing that goal conversions are a vital piece to understanding your visitors intent to travel, we’re excited that our new Goal Dashboard will bring new awareness and insight this year.  Cheers to you and your increased conversions!

Want to learn more about the Goal Dashboard or personalizing to increase your conversions?  We’d love to chat with you and hear all about your 2020 marketing resolutions!

The post A Well Balanced Content Personalization Diet: <br/>3 New Years Resolutions to Increase Goal Conversions appeared first on Bound.

How Denver Increased Engagement for Ad Visitors

With the launch of their “always on” regional “Reclaim the Weekend” ad campaign, VISIT DENVER faced the challenge of how to keep their main landing page relevant. The regional effort, which promotes visiting Denver for a long weekend, targets a wide variety of personas that change monthly. Instead of creating multiple new landing pages every… Read More

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With the launch of their “always on” regional “Reclaim the Weekend” ad campaign, VISIT DENVER faced the challenge of how to keep their main landing page relevant. The regional effort, which promotes visiting Denver for a long weekend, targets a wide variety of personas that change monthly. Instead of creating multiple new landing pages every month, VISIT DENVER used personalization with Bound to match the hero slideshow content to the appropriate persona.

VISIT DENVER developed and rolled out three waves of ad personalization within their first year with Bound:

Wave 1

The first step was to personalize the slideshow for visitors coming to the landing page directly from the ad. This involved not only showing the appropriate group of slides but also starting the slideshow with the content targeted to that persona. While these visitors only had a 4% increase in clicks specifically on their persona-targeted slides, overall page engagement was significantly increased. Compared to other visitors, the ad persona segments had a 53% increase in visit duration and a 45% decrease in bounce rate when entering the site through the Reclaim the Weekend landing page.

Wave 2

The second step was to use Bound’s Media Optimizer tool to personalize the slideshow for visitors who were exposed to the ad. The pixeling capabilities of Media Optimizer allowed Denver to target Reclaim page visitors who had seen, but hadn’t clicked on the ad, as well as visitors who came back to the site after their specific persona campaign ended. Not only did these pixeled visitors have great page engagement, but they also had a 100% increase in clickthrough rates on the slideshow and were 28% more likely to click specifically on the persona-targeted slides. With this information, Denver had the data needed to show that visitors were still interested in persona-specific content even if they had not clicked on the ad. 

Wave 3

The third step was to build on the learnings from the first two phases of personalization and launch a fly-in campaign. The fly-in targeted visitors exposed to the persona who had never clicked on the ad or otherwise reached the Reclaim page. Using the fly-in, Denver was able to successfully direct 2% of these visitors to the page and continued to increase website engagement. Visitors exposed to the persona fly-in had a further 23% increase in visit duration and 18% decrease in bounce rate.

By identifying visitor interests based on ads, even if those visitors never directly engaged with the ad, Denver has been able to increase views on their key ad landing page and continually increase their landing page engagement. This has increased overall site performance and has allowed Denver to optimize the experience for these high-value website visitors. 

Want to learn more about personalizing for your targeted ad visitors? 

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Best Actionable Tips to Increase Travel Website Bookings

On an average, more than 95% of traffic coming on travel and hospitality websites leave without completing the purchase process. Why? Because travel eCommerce is…

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So, visitors land on your travel website, search for flights and accommodation, and then randomly leave without completing the booking — almost on a whim. If your website has been seeing a similar trend, then you are not alone.  

On an average, more than 95% of traffic coming on travel and hospitality websites leave without completing the purchase process. Why? Because travel eCommerce is one of the trickiest online businesses — thanks to lengthy marketing funnels, complex search parameters, complicated checkout processes, multiple forms, and massive personalization. 

The average conversion rate (% of website visitors turning into customers) of travel websites is a dismal 4% — far below the 10% conversion rate of financial and media firms.

But you can always improve this figure by optimizing your website so that more visitors turn into customers. Below mentioned are some best actionable tips you can implement to increase online bookings.  

1) Make Your ‘Site Search’ Smart and Simple

Source: Priceline.com

For no other industry in online marketing is the search function as critical as that in case of travel sites. Visitors in this domain typically operate in the ‘browsing and finding’ mode. 

Your visitors reach your site’s homepage through different channels such as search engine results pages, social media, and online ads.

Only when a visitor selects a location and a date, will he find relevant results from which he/she will make a choice. 

Help Visitors Choose

Most of the time, the results page of a search engine is full of hotel or flight and in some cases destination if he/she is planning a vacation, which most visitors haven’t used or explored before. Naturally, it is difficult for them to choose one from the lot. Here is when you should help your prospects select the best deal. 

Let us understand this with the below-mentioned example:

Destination

In a world where everything is accessible at a click of a button, travel websites also need to understand that their visitors also want instant results to their queries. MakeMyTrip.com is a travel industry giant in India that offers you vacation packages besides its popular flight and hotel booking business. 

When meandering, confused visitors get a well-curated list of such packages under his/her budget with beautiful and catchy visuals, day plans, and itineraries, MakeMyTrip (MMT) instantly relieves them of their pain points. Such services can not only save a lot of time and energy of your visitors, but encourage them to trust you and form a long lasting bond with your brand. 

An example of a vacation package. Source: MakeMyTrip.com
An example of a detailed itinerary. Source: MakeMyTrip.com

Pricing

Firstly, display your prices prominently. Price is one of the key criteria on which most visitors make their choice. When the price for different service providers is placed without a clear distinction on the results page, the usability of the website.

Discount

Also, when you’re offering a discount on a service, mentioning it only in terms of percentage can prove useless to some visitors. It’s always a better option to display the new or discounted price of the service below or after the original price, and the savings which they would make if they choose it.

Source: MakeMyTrip.com

Reviews and Ratings

Showing reviews and ratings on your website can act as cherry on top of the cake. Adding them can significantly work towards improving the chances of more conversions on your site. 

Why? Because in today’s day and age most individuals trust peer recommendations more than they trust they trust advertising. This is one reason why travel websites like MMT heavily advocate the use of reviews and ratings.  

Source: MakeMyTrip.com

You have to get your visitors’ attention really fast and make them act right away in order to score transactions. One of the ways to do so is by using the principles of persuasion – creating a sense of urgency and scarcity in the minds of individuals.

Employ Urgency

Urgency is when you ask prospects and customers to act quickly in order to receive an incentive. Many travel industry giants such as Booking, Makemytrip, etc., have been using effectively using this strategy to increase their conversions. Learn from them and employ the same strategies on your travel website to reap maximum benefits. 

Offer special deals with discounts or incentives to users for a limited period. The incentives that can only be redeemed in a specific time range will push users to buy it before the deal ends. 

Moreover, you can also display the number of people viewing a particular listing on the results page to instill urgency among visitors. Such a technique can not only increase the listing’s perceived popularity but urge individuals to act fast and grab the deal before someone else does. Here’s how Agoda.com does it:

Source: Agoda.com

Use Scarcity

Last few tickets available at a discounted price,’ ‘Book now to get a free hotel upgrade,’ ‘Book in the next one hour to get free wine on arrival,’ ‘Get complimentary breakfast if booked in the next 30 minutes.’

There are endless ways to generate urgency and dissuade the visitors to go on a website hopping spree. However, be reasonable and don’t make a promise you can’t keep because that will just tarnish your reputation. Booking.com constantly updates its booking status to create a sense of scarcity.

Source: Booking.com

Booking Form

Form optimization is equally important in your conversion funnel. When visitors have done all the research and chosen a flight, hotel, or a holiday package, you don’t want them to abandon the booking. 

Below are a few ways you can optimize your forms: 

  • Use intelligent forms
  • Put as few form-fields as possible
  • Test different form layouts
  • Use multi-step forms

Find more of such form optimization methods, and read more here

2) The Progress Bar is Your Lifeboat

Source: MakeMyTrip.com

Complex booking experiences make travelers switch to higher cost offline channels. However, it’s extremely difficult to cut down on the amount of information that must be collected during the booking process. 

Dividing the process into identifiable steps can make customers’ life much easier. These identifiable steps serve as road signs — the customer will know what lies ahead after they complete that step.

3) Go Mobile

Your users are spending more on the go instead of waiting to reach their computer to make a purchase. 

According to a survey conducted by Travelport, the average US leisure traveler uses between seven and eight different apps in his/her mobile. When it comes to hotels, 39% of guests would like to use digital room keys, and 36% would like to check into a hotel via an app.

In terms of last-minute bookings, Criteo’s Summer Travel Report found that hotel’s received just over 70% of last-minute bookings via mobile devices.

Investing in a responsive design for a mobile application, ensuring that it has the same functionality and features of your website could be a smart move. You can also leverage the native features of mobile devices (GPS, click-to-call, etc.) to offer a better user experience.

4) Feature USPs

If your company has unique benefits to offer to its visitors , then prominently display them on your homepage. Doing so can not only convince your target audience to use your services, but turn into repeat customers. 

Below is a screenshot from Expedia’s homepage, which presents its USPs prominently.

5) Upsell and Cross-Sell With Elan

Would they want to add on travel insurance as a package deal? Or perhaps, get flight seats with extra legroom at a little extra cost? Or maybe extend their trip by three days to get a steal of a deal? 

The options for add-ons, cross-sells and upsells are immense in the online travel business. Smartness is to use these elements to your leverage and present them to your target audience in a manner that they’re lured towards them. Provide offers which compel them to use your services and on the other hand help increase your average order value. 

According to a “Hotel Amenities Travelers Can and Can’t Do Without” TripAdvisor survey, free Wi-Fi is the most requested hotel amenity with 89% of travelers wanting it, followed by free parking and breakfast. 

However, you need to take care of two things when it comes to upselling and cross-selling. 

  • Don’t offer an upsell option when a visitor is at the checkout stage. Try and not tell them what they don’t have and confuse them when they are about to close the deal.
  • Don’t auto-check the add-ons as a customer might not notice them at that point but would get mighty pissed when they see the inflated cost at the checkout. 
Source: Makemytrip.com

6) Leave No Room For Ambiguity

Any information that is vague and open to a reader’s interpretation is a potential conversion barrier. The multitude of steps involved in the booking process is anyways a hindrance to smooth web experience. 

Review all the information throughout the funnel for ambiguities. For example, when you ask visitors for their age, you might be showing them three options to choose from — kids, adults, and elderly. 

Now you might think you have communicated yourself clearly, but what about someone who is 17? He definitely does not think of himself as a kid, and neither is he legally an adult. Or what about someone who is 59? An adult or an elderly? 

Here’s another study depicting ambiguity:

Looking at their analytics, Expedia found that many of their visitors were clicking on the booking button but weren’t completing the transaction. They also found that an optional field on the booking form called ‘Company,’ was confusing people. 

The visitors thought the field required them to enter their bank name. Having entered the bank name, they then went on to enter their bank address (not home) in the address field. This was causing the credit card transaction to fail. Expedia simply deleted the ‘Company’ field and reaped in higher profits.

7) Personalization is the Key

Personalization today has become a name synonymous to online shopping. And, that extends to travel websites as well. Irrespective of the fact that if a visitor is a first timer or your repeat user, everyone expects you to personalize their experience. You must make them feel valued, else they’ll leave.

Point being, personalization is the need of the hour. If you’re not encashing on it, you’re automatically losing out on a lot of potential leads.

To build a strong bond with your prospects and customers, you need to put in some extra efforts to show some gratitude since they entrusted you with their personal details.

  • As soon as a new user gets on board, you can send them a welcome email or push notifications and guide them on the most important sections of your site. The idea should be to make them feel like home. But keep it short, warm and actionable. 
  • Some of your users always book a hotel that offers free wifi and complimentary lunch. Whenever they search for a hotel on your website, you can display recommended hotels that offer free wifi and lunch. Such personalized recommendations will help users to choose a hotel of their preference quicker.
  • If a traveler has booked with you and if there is a lot of consistency in their booking behavior — sea-facing hotels, family trips, spa and recreational activities — you can assume they are a leisure traveler and accordingly recommend similar travel experiences. 
  • Using a personalization strategy to procure travelers’ booking history will help you offer relevant offers the next time they come to your website. The good news is that you could also track their in-session activity to understand their behavior and booking habits, a section covered later in this post.

8) Wear Nice Shoes

Men are judged by the appearance of their shoes. And, the authenticity of your business is judged by the appearance of your website. So, ensure your website’s UX is compelling and inviting rather than intimidating.

Furthermore, online frauds are the order of the day and visitors are ever more cautious about sharing their personal and credit card details online. Hence, it’s very important that your website oozes trust and authenticity. 

Marriott’s homepage has a minimalist classy design which evokes credibility. When you are asking for their credit card information, display a security seal along with it.

Use testimonials, customer reviews, media coverage, and privacy policies to win the trust of your visitors. 

Source: Marriott.com

Conclusion

The challenge for any online travel enterprise boils down to convince users persistently on each step of the conversion funnel. Tools such as heat maps, visitor recordings, and form analytics can help you in analyzing users’ behavior on websites effectively, which can become instrumental in increasing travel bookings.

So, there is never just one simple solution. You can improve your customer experience only through understanding the users’ pain points and providing them with the best solutions. Hopefully, they are never going to abandon you again.

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Get your A-Game Up with These 8 Effective Lead Conversion Strategies

The notion that building a fancy looking website and investing into marketing activities are more than enough to grab the attention of web strollers to convert them into leads. But, that’s precisely where most marketers are failing today.  Lead conversion is not just about ensuring these “fence-sitters” pay a visit to your site, it’s about…

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The notion that building a fancy looking website and investing into marketing activities are more than enough to grab the attention of web strollers to convert them into leads. But, that’s precisely where most marketers are failing today. 

Lead conversion is not just about ensuring these “fence-sitters” pay a visit to your site, it’s about changing them into an opportunity, nurturing them, and converting them into loyal, paying customers. More so, understanding the basic needs of your visitors and creating an experience that’s compelling enough for them to come back for more, is equally important. 

what means lead conversion

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of how to convert a visitor into a lead, let’s first talk about the importance of building a robust lead conversion process. 

Building a Lead Conversion Process

Having a robust and streamlined lead conversion process is essential for any business to survive in today’s highly competitive market place. A good conversion strategy can not only boost your business dramatically but help to get good leads aboard. Below mentioned are five steps to building an effective and efficient lead conversion process. 

1. Prepare Quality Content

Adding quality content to your website significantly increases the chances of getting more leads for your business. Write catchy website copies, create informative content such as blogs, ebooks, white papers, and work on product demos. 

When you generate qualified content, it develops the trust of your customers and nurtures a healthy relationship with them. Their trust and relationship can indirectly generate good revenue for your business. So, tell your content team to produce engaging and converting content

2. Build an SEO Strategy for Your Site

Visibility on Google can generate more leads to your business than you can imagine. So, investing your efforts in correcting your SEO strategies is essential.

Five primary SEO elements to focus your attention to include the page title, page URL, page header, internal links, and page content. Refer to Google updates to understand how to use SEO to rank high on search engines effectively.

3. Create an Appealing Landing Page Design

Your landing page design is the first and foremost element that defines the usability and success of your website. Having a good strategy of building landing pages can help to convert more leads. 

Strategically add images, videos, and call-to-action buttons on your landing pages to make them appealing and get more conversion. Further, make sure all your landing page links are clickable and directly or indirectly help to generate leads. You can also use pre-designed landing page templates to improve your site’s user interface.

4. Use Social Media Channels to Generate Leads

Today people are massively engaged on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and many other ones. They consume more content here than on other mediums. Leverage social media to your advantage. Promote your business offerings here and grab the attention of your target audience.

A company generates 80% of B2B leads by using LinkedIn as a marketing medium. So social media is a smooth platform to spread awareness of your brand products globally and gain more customer engagements. 

5. Do Email Marketing in Your Relevant Niche

Email marketing is an age-old inbound and outbound marketing tool that still serves as an effective medium to generate leads. You can design various email templates and send them to your target audience on multiple occasions, such as festivals or birthdays, to nurture them regularly. 

The marketing tool not only helps build a strong relationship with your target audience but keeps them informed about your products and services as well. Furthermore, emails have proven to get more leads to a business than most other marketing tools.

Lead Conversion Best Practices

It takes nearly 0.05 seconds for a visitor to form an opinion about your brand and decide whether or not they’ll stay on your site. Capturing these micro-moments is what can convert your visitors into leads and customers. Below mentioned are eight effective strategies that you must use and implement to improve your lead conversion rate. 

1. Learn to Capture the Right Market

To capture the right leads, understand the market that you’re operating in, and the behavior of your target audience. Use demographics (age, gender, education level, employment), geographic (location, address, region, country), and socio-economic (life-style, social class, personality, attitude) data of your target audience to show them relevant content and even incentivize them to convert into leads.

2. Segregate your Leads 

As a business, you may generate tens and hundreds of leads every month. But, not all of them may qualify as good quality leads. So, as a practice, filter out all the leads that you think would be truly useful for your business and are interested in buying your products or services basis your business context. 

Conduct thorough research on these leads, study their intention and interaction with your platform, check their last sales activities, and then establish contact with them. This is important because if your sales team attends to every lead that your business gets, they will not only end up wasting a lot of time but efforts as well.

3. Leverage Lead Scoring to Your Advantage

The lead scoring feature enables you to determine the value and importance of a lead. The higher the lead score, the better it is. Moreso, lead quality means shortlisting leads based on their ideal profile that can become a long-time converted customer for your business. 

4. Establish Communication With your Leads as soon as they Convert 

Leads are a fresh commodity to your business, which means you must nurture them immediately. Even a day’s delay can make them lose interest in your brand and probably shake hands with your competitor. 

If you’re contacting them through a phone call, then be humble. Address all their concerns and queries, and ensure they leave satisfied. Ask them whether they’d be interested in receiving regular updates about your brand’s offerings, a demo call to understand your product(s) or service(s), and any other related thing. Show them that you care and are willing to do everything to get them aboard. 

5. Use Effective Communication Channels

Deep dive into channels that are used by your prospects to engage with your brand. Try marketing channels like emails, cold calling, social media platforms, etc. to communicate with them.

For example, if your goal is just to increase your brand’s awareness in the market, then use channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Linkedin. These are apparently the best channels to increase brand awareness and generating leads. Pinterest and YouTube are two more marketing channels that can prove beneficial here.

6. Regularly Follow-Up with your Leads

Follow-ups are necessary to stay connected with your target audience. This gives them a sense that you care about their needs and are willing to provide them all the necessary services they want. 

Don’t stop after sending one or two emails to your target audience or after that one-time demo call. Continuously follow up with them. Make them aware of your business’s offerings and highlight what makes you stand out. 

7. Speed Up the Work of your Sales Team

It is always good to divide your sales teams into two divisions – one that handles all your existing customers and the other that takes care of all the new leads your business generates. 

Also, make use of a good CRM system that helps you to monitor your prospect’s sales stages and other related activities. You can further have dedicated resources who can monitor and assign leads to different sales managers. This will help your sales team handle all your incoming leads and supervise their sales pipeline at every buying stage.

8. Highlight the Testimonials of your Happy Customer on your Site

In today’s digital world, 72% of people trust businesses with positive customer testimonials and reviews. So, use your customer testimonials to your advantage. 

Build the trust of your new customers by making them read through the testimonials of your existing happy customers. Add them on pages where visitors are most likely to read them, such as on the home page, pricing page, blog page, and so on.

Final Thoughts

To convert leads into loyal customers, you need to nourish and nurture them properly throughout their sales journey. Calculate your lead conversion ratio and be aware of their progress status to know where you, as a brand, are missing out in terms of converting them into customers. Be patient, work on your lead generation strategy, and make necessary amendments wherever needed to get positive results to your business. 

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Shopify Plus vs Magento 2 Commerce (Magento Enterprise): Which Platform is Best for Your eCommerce Business?

This in-depth comparison between Shopify Plus and Magento 2 Commerce will clarify when to use each platform.

Shopify Plus and Magento 2 Commerce are two of the most popular eCommerce platforms for mid-market and enterprise-level online retailers. This post outlines their differences to make it easy to see what each platform offers for large and fast-growing stores.

While there are other great comparisons of Shopify Plus and Magento Commerce written, many of the ones we found were written by partners or affiliates of the platforms, and may be biased. 

(Full disclosure: At Inflow, we are a Shopify Partner, but this does not extend to Shopify Plus, which is a separate platform and a separate partnership.)

In writing this comparison, we sent a query out asking eCommerce business owners and consultants when they would choose one platform or the other.

Their answers revealed that, rather than one being “better” than the other, Shopify Plus and Magento 2 Commerce both have specific advantages.

According to nearly everyone we spoke to, how complex your store’s requirements are is what should drive the decision. If the initial answer is “simple,” Shopify Plus may be better. If your store’s needs are complex: Magento 2 Commerce is likely the way to go.

A significant number of the eCommerce brands we work with choose to host their stores on Magento 2 Commerce and Shopify Plus. We’ve also assisted clients in performing site migrations to one platform or the other.

Below, we’ll first break down the basic differences between Shopify Plus and Magento 2 Commerce. Then, we’ll zoom in a bit further on their most important aspects for retailers to see if they match your store’s requirements.

Let’s get started.

Note: Are you looking to move to an enterprise eCommerce platform? Schedule a talk with us today to get our recommendations on the right platform for your brand, help migrating to it, and/or optimizing for growth.

Shopify Plus vs Magento Commerce: Overview

To start, here is a summary of useful information about each platform:

Comparison table of Shopify Plus and Magento 2

Shopify Plus Overview

While it’s inarguably an enterprise platform, in many ways, Shopify Plus is geared toward existing Shopify stores that are ready to scale further.

Shopify’s own brand began by servicing smaller retailers. They have since grown quite a bit —  and so have the growth stages they service.

As a result, Shopify Plus is the iteration of Shopify geared toward mid-level and enterprise-level companies. Compared to Shopify, the “Plus” adds:

  • More apps, advanced features, and customization including a customized, responsive checkout.
  • More customer support from Dedicated Shopify Plus Account Managers and Launch Managers.
  • Flat pricing of $2,000 per month for retailers with less than $9.6m in yearly sales.

Shopify Plus’ offering differs from Magento’s because:

  • Shopify Plus is available as fully-hosted only while Magento has both hosted and non-hosted options.
  • Offers 24/7 managed account support that includes minor front-end development.
  • It requires far less backend development compared to Magento.

Overall: Shopify Plus is the more user-friendly version of an enterprise-level eCommerce platform. Smaller eCommerce teams whose needs require them to focus on product and marketing over pouring resources into development will likely prefer Shopify Plus.

Magento Commerce (Formerly Magento Enterprise)

Magento is its own software and service ecosystem that was acquired by Adobe in 2018. It comes in a few different flavors to cover businesses of all sizes and needs:

  • Magento Open Source (formerly Community Edition or “CE”)

There is a large community of Magento developers out there as a result of Magento’s continual free download of their core software. This is for businesses with advanced development capabilities on their end who don’t require support or hosting from Magento.

  • Magento Commerce (formerly Magento Enterprise/Enterprise Edition or “EE”)

In this article, we will be referring to Magento Commerce throughout. Unlike Magento Open Source, Magento Commerce comes with a license fee as well as support and other resources from Magento. There is also a hosted version branded as Magento Commerce Cloud that is folded into the Adobe Experience Cloud.

Compared to Shopify Plus, Magento Commerce’s offering is different because:

  • You can use Magento Commerce as a fully-hosted or externally-hosted platform
  • Magento Commerce is much more customizable than Shopify Plus
  • Magento Commerce is more apt for large product catalogs, product variations and attributes, and multi-store management.

Overall: Magento is geared toward businesses that can devote more time and resources toward the development and maintenance of their store. The tradeoff here is a wider range of capabilities with more work, cost, and often a longer development timeline.

Shopify Plus vs Magento Pricing Comparison

Right off the bat, we can see that each platform is better-suited toward different growth stages, applications, and product catalog sizes. As a result, their pricing varies considerably.

According to Kathryn Valentine, a business consultant to apparel companies, “Shopify is the Honda; Magento is the Ferrari.”

Valentine told us that smaller companies (under $25M, even $50M) will find the maintenance of a Magento site more time-consuming and expensive than their organization and budget are built for. That makes Shopify Plus the best option for start-ups and high growth businesses under ~$25M, and Magento the winner over $100M.

Companies in between these sizes will need to assess how important their DTC business is and if they are ready to make the investment in site maintenance.

Shopify Plus Costs

In general, Shopify’s pricing tends to be less expensive and thus better-suited to mid-stage growth periods.

  • License Fee: The monthly license cost is $2k plus .25% of average revenue after your store reaches $800K in revenue. The maximum monthly fee is capped at $40k.
  • Transaction Fees: Shopify Plus is not transparent on their pricing, but we have seen transaction fees reported of 1.6% + 0.35 and 2.15% + $0.30 per transaction (as of December 2019). Shopify Payments is the default processor, but if you use a third-party payment provider, there’s an additional 0.15% transaction fee on top.
  • Hosting: Hosting is included under Shopify Plus’ $2000/mo license fee as an optimized package. It also includes upgrades and maintenance, security and SSL certificates, payment card industry (PCI) compliance, and technical support.
  • Migration and Build Costs: These will vary, but they will generally cost less than a Magento migration or website build. Typically, a Shopify Plus site build will be a mid-five-figure cost and typically stays under $100k.

Magento Commerce Costs

The total cost of a website built with Magento will likely be more expensive because more development is usually needed. This means it’s well-suited to companies who want a lot of backend functionality.

  • License Fee: Unlike Shopify’s monthly + transaction and revenue fees pricing model, Magento’s license is an annual up-front fee based on merchants’ Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) and company size. As a result, the pricing for Magento varies a lot. Licensing starts at about $22k per year.
  • Transaction Fees: In contrast to Shopify Plus, Magento’s model is based on giving retailers ownership of all their own operations. The only transaction fees are those run by the processor you choose. With Magento, you can set up your own external payment gateway as well.
  • Hosting: You can host Magento on any server you choose. If you opt to host on Magento 2 Commerce Cloud, this includes both the Magento license and hosting. Pricing is not transparent, but the base cost of Magento 2 Commerce Cloud is around $3,333 according to eCommerce Guide — this linked article (written by two experienced platform consultants) has a very detailed breakdown of potential costs that both Shopify Plus and Magento 2 Commerce can incur.
  • Migration, Build, and Maintenance: As a general guideline, expect a $100k cost to a Magento 2 Commerce migration or build. Maintenance with Magento Commerce is an ongoing thing. You’ll likely pay a Magento developer on retainer to take care of what Shopify Plus folds into their license fee: patches, upgrades, module installations, and other maintenance needs. This will usually cost in the low-to-mid 4 figure range per month, but can go up to 5 figures per month for complex stores.

Now, let’s take a look at what these different pricing models gets you in terms of the platforms themselves.

User-Friendliness and Support

Shopify Plus

Built Primarily for Non-Devs

The basic version of Shopify is already designed to be user-friendly for busy eCommerce owners. Thus, it requires less development work in comparison to most other basic platforms.

Shopify Plus retains this principle, but adjusts them to enterprise-level needs by adding:

  • More API integrations
  • Access to theme code
  • Exclusive apps
  • Analytics reports

Shopify was designed for eCommerce businesses that are just getting started. Shopify Plus presents a similar solution that retains much of the core usability that people upgrading from Shopify to Plus are used to. Plus, more robust support and features.

Magento 2 Commerce

Built for Developers and Advanced Customization
Magento has some experience under its belt, but its users have to also. This isn’t a basic, user-friendly experience, which is fine for those more familiar with developmental coding.

In addition to the advanced features Magento provides out of the box, it can also be customized to suit specific needs. The tradeoff is that retailers running Magento Commerce typically have a dedicated development team to build additional features.

Overall, it’s a decent choice if you’re already skilled at developing. Magento can provide a more customized, luxury shopping experience, but requires much more time, effort and money to maintain.

Features

We want to make this simple for you to parse through.

Below, are what we see as the core feature differences to bear in mind when selecting between Shopify Plus and Magento 2 Commerce.

Shopify Plus

Shopify Plus adds:

  • Dedicated Shopify Plus account managers
  • Unlimited staff accounts
  • Wholesale channels
  • A Facebook community and Partners directory
  • A multi-store dashboard
  • Access to Shopify’s Liquid theme language for code-level changes
  • Shopify Scripts editor which allows you to customize checkout
  • Shopify Flow (Shopify’s eCommerce automation platform, which uses a visual builder)
  • Shopify Launchpad — a tool to automate sales campaigns and product launches
  • Bulk customer data import tools.

Compared to Magento, Shopify Plus has features that make it a lot more frictionless to get a store up and running.

Magento 2 Commerce

That said, compared to Shopify, Magento makes it easier to manage complexities such as:

  • Multiple brands
  • Multiple vendors
  • Stores across multiple countries
  • Promotions and discounts using a built-in promotions engine
  • Bigger product catalogs with complex attribute combinations
  • Different product types (Magento supports 7 core product types while Shopify has 2)
  • Native handling of product bundles and product attributes
  • International currencies and global shipping

In other words, if you have thousands of products and potential combinations of attributes, Magento is a clear winner. If you’re launching products in multiple stores, in multiple countries, with multiple promotions, currencies, and languages: Magento is way better for that than Shopify Plus.

Scalability

Scaling needs differ between different retailers. Are you scaling primarily for more traffic and sales? For more products, marketplaces, or vendors? Or for a combination?

Shopify Plus

Shopify Plus is a great choice when “scalability” translates to readiness for more traffic and orders.

Shopify Plus’ platform and hosting is designed with scalability in mind, thinking about the fluctuation of traffic and transactions for eCommerce. This is one of the main advantages of the platform.

The casual developer doesn’t have to worry about infrastructure and can focus on strategy instead without wondering if performance will suffer for it thanks to Shopify Plus’ fully-hosted platform.

While your store is on Shopify’s servers rather than your own, those servers will be ready for whatever comes.

Magento

When scaling your business means scaling products and marketplaces along with traffic and transactions — Magento Commerce is the better choice.

In terms of server capabilities, Magento Commerce Cloud is comparably prepared for volume fluctuations to Shopify Plus’ servers. If you are hosting Magento Commerce yourself, you’ll need to prepare for fluctuations accordingly.

As the running theme here has been: it’s going to take more work on your end if you want to use Magento Commerce, but you’ll be able to do a lot more in terms of managing your online retail empire.

Multiple Brand and Multiple Store Management

Magento allows you to manage multiple stores from one interface, while Shopify Plus involves managing multiple stores as their own entities under the same account. In terms of capability and cost: Shopify Plus can’t really stack up to Magento’s multi-store architecture.

For example, Magento’s dashboard allows you to set product attributes like name and price at store and global levels. You’ll need to find a workaround to do this with Shopify Plus and this will likely be a plugin that adds to the monthly cost.

Additionally, Shopify charges for the gross merchandising volume (GMV) of each additional store. So that additional cut of revenue to Shopify needs to be factored in when planning an expansion; not so with Magento.

Extensions and Apps

Both platforms have a dedicated marketplace of apps and extensions that add functionality, visual changes, and other options to your store.

Shopify Plus

As a SaaS offering, Shopify Plus has an ecosystem of third-party apps that require their own separate licenses. When comparing the native functionality of apps and extensions, users often report more and better functionality with Magento’s extensions.

You will need to weigh the costs of additional licenses with Shopify Plus to enabling that same functionality on Magento Commerce with a developer or a matching extension.

There are a lot of apps that provide services that aren’t found natively in Shopify, such as Recharge, which provides monthly billing for subscription businesses. However, users tend to prefer Magento’s native subscription billing over Shopify’s.

Magento 2 Commerce

Magento has its own robust marketplace for extensions (and services). These allow for functionality that you simply can’t do in Shopify Plus.

For example, with certain Magento extensions you can:

  • Turn your Magento store into a multi-vendor marketplace. (Meaning: vendors can upload their products to your store and manage orders on its front end through individual portals.)
  • Add more robust customer support functionality
  • Enable accounting and finance within the platform
  • Enable custom shipping and fulfillment solutions natively

In other words, there’s a lot more you can do with Magento compared to Shopify Plus — but those capabilities should be needs for your business.

Summary and Conclusion

Shopify Plus vs Magento 2

When to Choose Shopify Plus

Shopify Plus is the option for those newer to the eCommerce web-developing world, or who want to be a little more hands-on in customizing their website without extensive developer knowledge. Shopify Plus is easy to use, affordable, and very difficult to break.

For retailers willing to work within the features provided directly by Shopify or provided by Shopify Apps, Shopify is a great choice. You can work with an agency and build a great looking storefront quickly and focus more of your time on customer experience, demand generation, and retention.

You don’t need to place as much time and resources into development and hosting with Shopify Plus as you do with Magento Commerce. If your needs are not that complex and you prefer to focus on product and marketing, Shopify Plus is likely the right solution.

When to Choose Magento Commerce

Magento’s advantages over Shopify Plus were summed up nicely by John Moss of English Blinds, one of the eCommerce CEO’s we heard from:

“For us, the multi-store, language, and payment method options that are possible under Magento Commerce but not Shopify Plus was the clincher that saw us decide in favor of Magento Commerce. Shopify Plus’s multiple instances of ‘equivalent’ features just don’t offer the same level of functionality,” he said

“Unlimited product variants in Magento Commerce with a cap of 100 product variants in Shopify Plus is something else to bear in mind if you keep a large inventory,” he continued. “Magento Commerce is also much more flexible in terms of integration platforms while Shopify Plus only works with Shopify’s own API integrations, which might well be sufficient for many, but was a downside for us and limited our potential future scalability.

“Finally,” he said, “Magneto Commerce’s option for open-source code versus Shopify Plus’ proprietary alternative was the icing on the cake. Again, this might not be an issue or something most businesses will need, but having the option allows for superior flexibility and future growth.”

In other words: If flexibility and control over your website’s development are important, Magento 2 Commerce is the clear winner.

Are you planning a move from your current eCommerce website to a more robust platform like the ones discussed here? While we have written about some of the complexities in migrating ecommerce platforms, we strongly encourage you to chat with us before starting the process.

Talk to one of our enterprise eCommerce experts today by clicking here or filling the form below.

Monetate vs Certona: A Comparison of Kibo’s eCommerce Personalization Platforms

See our breakdown of Kibo’s Monetate vs Certona to know the difference between each personalization platform.

In this post, we’ll compare the two highest-rated software providers in the personalization engine space: Monetate and Certona.

KIBO Monetate vs KIBO Certona

Monetate and Certona are respectively rated the #2 and #1 Personalization Providers according to the Internet Retailer Top 1000. In the process of writing this article Kibo Commerce (which owns Certona) actually acquired Monetate. Kibo will be keeping the two platforms separate for the foreseeable future, so the question of Monetate vs. Certona is still very relevant for eCommerce businesses.

What do these eCommerce personalization engines do? Before we get into the specifics of each leading personalization engine, let’s take a moment to review what the general capabilities of tools like Monetate and Certona are.

What is a Personalization Engine Good for?

Certona highlights 6 key capabilities in their guide on Understanding Personalization Capabilities, these include:

  1. Collaborative filtering: Also referred to as the “Wisdom of the Crowd”, collaborative filtering does not focus on the individual behavior of shoppers, but rather collects data on how groups of people react to specific assets on your site.
  2. Customer segmentation: Segmentation allows you to target subsets of groups based on the specific attributes of those shoppers (such as customer intent and purchase history).
  3. Rule-based personalization: Business rules allow you to define, test and execute different experiments while still meeting your specific business goals.
  4. Real-time profiling: Profiling is one of the most powerful aspects of personalization, this helps you create individual shopping profiles in real-time and customizes the experience for those customers accordingly.
  5. Predictive modeling: Predictive modeling uses many techniques from data mining, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI) to predict the future behavior of shoppers.
  6. Data integration: Data integration is the process of leveraging data from various sources to gain additional insights into each and every shopper.

In the experience of eCommerce businesses we’ve spoken to, there are three main use cases that both Monetate and Certona can handle well, these include:

  1. Product recommendations
  2. Content recommendations (and content personalization)
  3. Dynamic UI changes (i.e. changing the navigation to match a customer profile)

Now that you know the high-level functionality and use cases for personalization engines, the question then becomes:

Are Monetate and Certona functionally different in terms of their capabilities, or are they extremely comparable platforms with different branding? 

The short answer is: There are major differences in their capabilities as well as the users they are best for. To illustrate these differences, let’s discuss the use cases and unique features of each platform.

Note: Do you want to know more about getting started with personalization on your eCommerce store, or want to improve your personalization such as product recommendations?

Get in touch with our CRO team today to get started.

Monetate vs. Certona: Use Cases of Each Personalization Engine

Although these two software providers are similar, they do have several unique features that they each specialize in. If we had to break down the differences of each platform in a single sentence:

Monetate specializes in testing and optimization, while Certona specializes in AI-powered personalization throughout the customer journey.

Is one tool better-suited for your eCommerce store’s needs than the other? Do you even need either of them? Let’s zoom in to review the unique features and use cases of Monetate and Certona in a bit more detail.

Monetate: Use Cases & Unique Features

As mentioned, Monetate is best known for its testing and optimization capabilities. The platform lets you launch controlled experiments to test everything from creative, recommendations, messaging, and UI changes. There are a few different types of tests you can run with Monetate, including:

  • A/B testing: these are used to determine the better of two content, product, or UI variations.
  • Multivariate testing: these are used to test more than two components of a website.
  • Dynamic tests: these allow you to test multiple features, monitor results in real time, and then automatically allocate more traffic to the winners.

One of the unique aspects of the Monetate platform is that you can combine your own customer data with third-party data from their personalization exchange. The personalization exchange is meant to help solve the “cold start” problem faced by consumer retailers who don’t have existing customer data for the software to model off of.

By supplementing your customer profiles with third-party data from such as behavioral, attribute, and location, Monetate’s user data from external sales channels can help fill the gaps in your own data to enable the full use of the platform.

In addition to the data exchange, the platform also has an open architecture that allows for data integrations and APIs to feed data into the decision engine from your existing analytics systems.

Another one of the main use cases of Monetate is for personalized product recommendations (Certona also has this capability). You can either choose to manually curate product recommendations, or you can use their algorithmically driven recommendations if you have a larger product catalog.

Monetate makes product recommendations by factoring contextual attributes about the shopper. For example, in the screenshot below you can see several examples of customer attributes like the Lifetime Purchases and Most Frequently Bought Category:

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Image Source

In addition to customer attributes, recommendations can be made based on things like the weather, ratings, inventory status, audience segmentation, or almost any other attribute you deem appropriate.

If you want to read an example of a company using Monetate for product recommendations, check out this case study of Helly Hansen using their geotargeting capabilities to deliver customized experiences based on the local weather conditions.

Certona: Use Cases & Unique Features

Similarly to Monetate, Certona allows you to personalize product discovery by rearranging your catalog to feature the most relevant and complementary products at the top of the page.

One of the unique features of Certona in terms of product discovery is that you can engage customers with interactive content to help expose relevant products and build customer profiles (what Certona calls “exceptional content experiences”). 

For example, in the screenshot below you can see a popup designed to help with audience building. It prompts the user to answer a questionnaire to help them find the right product:

Product Finder & Guided Discovery: Certona's guided selling solutions engage your customers with interactive content to expose relevant products and help build unique customer profiles to use in the future.
Image Source

Another unique feature of Certona is its predictive search engine, which populates recommended products based on a customer’s search term and buyer intent. As you can see in the screenshot below, the search bar becomes a visual recommendation engine:

Predictive Visual Search: As customers type partial or full queries in the search box, Certona instantly populates recommended products based on the search items and buyer intent.
Image Source

In addition to personalizing the customer experience of your website, Certona offers personalization capabilities that can be applied to the following use cases:

  • Brick-and-mortar shopping: allows you to connect online and offline customer data.
  • Contact centers: lets you automate manual merchandising processes to help your representatives recommend relevant upsells and cross-sells.
  • Email: allows you to send dynamic email campaigns that are tailored to each customer.

If you want to read an example of a company using Certona, check out this case study of PUMA, which used the platform for real-time behavioral profiling and personalized product recommendations for their large catalog without increasing labor costs.

Monetate vs. Certona: Pros & Cons of Each Personalization Engine

Since Monetate and Certona are the top two leaders in the personalization software market, they’ve also been extensively reviewed by consumers, so let’s look at a few of the commonly mentioned pros and cons of each platform.

Monetate: Pros and Cons

One of the main advantages of Monetate that many consumers highlight is its ease-of-use. Like any other software platform, there is a learning curve and more complicated tests do require a bit of web development, but many say that their WYSIWYG interface can easily be taught to entry-level marketers. 

One of the limitations of Monetate that several consumers mention is their lack of training videos, and the fact that the platform is not built for running more complex tests that require extensive web development.

Pros of Monetate:

  • More of a self-serve user interface: you can test virtually anything with relative ease including A/B tests, multivariate tests, and dynamic tests.
  • Ease-of-use for building and deploying experiments in your website or marketing campaigns with an intuitive WYSIWYG interface.

Cons of Monetate:

  • Several consumer reviews mention that the interface is relatively simple to use once you get the hang of it, but there is still a learning curve and a lack of training videos in the documentation to help you become a power user.
  • The platform is not built for running more complex tests that require extensive web development.
  • Pricing is not transparent.

Certona: Pros and Cons

Although users have reported in reviews that Certona is a bit harder of a platform to learn how to use, it excels in its scalability and integration capabilities compared to Monetate. As highlighted on the consumer review site TrustRadius, if your company offers a wide breadth of products and services and you want to personalize a large amount of the customer experience, Certona may be well-suited for you. 

Rather than a hands-on platform that someone on your team works on, Certona is all about their account management. They will work with your team to optimize your personalization efforts. So if you’re looking for more of a hands-off, managed solution, Certona might be right for you.

One of the limitations of Certona is that while you can run A/B and multivariate tests, their Smart Test & Analytics platform does require you to go in and identify the winning test that you want to promote.

This is contrasted to Monetate’s dynamic testing capabilities, which identifies and takes action on winners without the need for human intervention (even if it may just be a few clicks). While they have complementary features, given the enterprise-level pricing, many businesses will likely not opt for a combination of Certona and Monetate.

Pros of Certona

  • Well-suited for companies with a wide breadth of products and services that want the ability to run more complex tests.
  • As highlighted on TrustRadius, their visual search has a strong return and improves the discovery process for customers.
  • The strength of their personalization algorithms — they currently hold 13 patents for AI-driven algorithms.
  • Many consumers say the account management is very helpful if you’re looking for more of a managed solution.

Cons of Certona

  • As mentioned on Gartner, ease of deployment is a bit lower with Certona compared to Monetate (you will likely rely on Certona’s account management, while Monetate might allow you to have more of a hand in things).
  • As with Monetate, pricing is not apparent on the site and may likely be tailored to your store and use cases.

Criteria for Choosing Between Monetate and Certona

Of course, we’re all going to have specific business needs for choosing a personalization platform, but we’ve broken down the process into 6 main criteria to think about when choosing between Monentate and Certona. These include:

  1. Platform Ease of Use 

Monetate may be right for you if you want a simple interface that you can teach less-technical marketers how to use. Certona may be right for you if ease of use is not your top priority and instead want to be able to build more complex experiences with web development.

  1. Self-Serve Platform vs. Managed Solution

Since Monetate has a more user-friendly UI, it can more of a self-serve platform where you can be involved in setting up and testing different experiences. Certona, on the other hand, is a bit harder of a platform to learn how to use, but they are known for having excellent account management if you’re looking for more of a hands-off, managed solution.

  1. Use Case: Personalization vs. Testing & Optimization

While Monetate is still a personalization engine, it’s best known for its testing and optimization capabilities. Certona is less of a testing platform and more of an end-to-end personalization platform.

  1. Size of Your Product Catalog 

Both Monetate and Certona can certainly handle large catalog sizes (for example, auto parts and accessories).

They are also helpful for handling updates to dynamic catalogs that merchandisers are often changing from season to season (for example: fashion), and the account managers on the Monetate or Certona team can take care of this big regular task that your internal team might not have the bandwidth for.

  1. Unique Platform Features 

Both platforms have similar features like product recommendations, but there are several unique features of each platform that may be of interest to you. Namely, Certona’s predictive visual search engine and Monetate’s third party data exchange. If you already have and store data prepared well for personalization, you can plug in to Certona much easier — with less of a technical headache. If you are missing that data, Monetate can step in with their data exchange to fill in the gaps.

  1. Price

Price is, of course, another consideration for all businesses and some users report that Certona is priced slightly higher since it is more of a managed solution. However, neither company is transparent on price and they likely adjust pricing to individual clients depending on the business and use cases of the tools.

Summary: Monetate vs. Certona

There’s no question that one of the most powerful technologies in eCommerce right now is personalization in the customer journey. Personalization is more than just product recommendations; rather, it should be thought of as a steady delivery of unique experiences starting from the very first touchpoint to the end of the buyer’s journey. 

Both Monetate and Certona can be complements as part of a larger commerce platform to enable personalization. That said, businesses will likely choose one platform over the other depending on the use case and how hands-on or hands-off they want to be rather than opting for both platforms.

Note: If you have a solid JavaScript developer, you will probably be able to do some of the personalization that these platforms offer yourself. If you just have a one-off use case, or a small product catalog that doesn’t require large updates to enable personalization, this might be the more cost-effective way to go.

That said, if you’re in a business that is constantly changing, (for example if you’re in an industry like fast fashion) you may feel like you need to hire someone full-time just to handle all the product recommendations. In that case, the price paid for AI assistants like the addition of Monetate or Certona might make sense to enhance revenue and customer lifetime value — especially compared to hiring a full-timer to handle that on your own team.

As Meyer Sheik, the former CEO of Certona said in a Q&A, one of the main challenges that retailers and brands face when it comes to personalization is that they lack the technology infrastructure and internal resources to stand something like this up on their own.

One of the key takeaways that we learned from speaking to eCommerce business owners about their experience with personalization engines is that whichever platform you go with, there is still going to be a good amount of technical training needed to get everything up and running. So make sure someone from your team gets a technical onboarding from the personalization platform’s team to be safe.

If you do decide to go with one of these personalization engines and want to get everything set up correctly, that’s where Inflow can help. We’ve helped leading eCommerce companies implement personalization into their businesses to help drive more purchases and revenue from their customers.

If you’re looking for a team to help you personalize your customer experience to help increase conversions, schedule a call with us here.

The 5 Worst eCommerce A/B Testing Mistakes to Watch out for 

Make sure your eCommerce A/B Testing results are 100% accurate with our checklist!

Do you want to use A/B testing to increase the conversion rate on your eCommerce site?

Before you start running one of those tests, it’s a good idea to make sure that you set it up correctly.

A rigorously-run test can increase conversions, but if the parameters are flawed then the decisions you make based on the test could be too.

In this post, we’ll outline the worst eCommerce A/B testing errors that we see online stores make. Use this as a reference to make sure that any A/B testing you do returns accurate results. That way you can make better data-driven decisions that actually increase conversions.

Note: Want our CRO experts to do A/B testing to increase the conversion rate for your eCommerce business? Learn more about our services and get in touch.

What Are the Worst eCommerce A/B Testing Errors?

We’ve written in the past about the most common reasons A/B tests don’t perform well. Namely:

Here, we’re outlining the worst technical errors that can invalidate your results. These are:

  • Technical issues with the actual test
  • Making site changes during the test
  • Traffic source changes
  • Conflicting tests
  • Not accounting for user and site-specific factors

If you are going to put time into doing A/B testing to improve your site, it’s important to take the specific things about your site into account.

These are the 5 eCommerce A/B testing mistakes to avoid (beyond just setting up your analytics goals) that we commonly see while helping our clients with their conversion optimization.

#1. Technical A/B Testing Issues

Here are the things to consider when setting up an A/B test (whether you’re using Optimizely, VWO, or another platform) to make sure it yields valid and actionable results.

Didn’t Exclude Return Visitors

If people are experiencing 2 different versions of your eCommerce website, a test will be invalid. We often see this issue happen with returning visitors after a site changes their design, layout, or other elements.

A ‘Negative Response’ is the possible outcome created when return visitors to the site see the new treatment and are now lost (i.e. navigation change) or confused (i.e. page layout test). The user now has expectations about the site that we might not be meeting with the new treatmenteven if it is better.

For instance: Below is a familiar pattern we see when the test variation (purple) overtakes the control (green). This often happens when a site’s returning visitors are allowed into the test. These returning visitors prefer the control because it has a “continuity of experience” (it’s the version they’re used to).

This results in making the variation appear to perform poorly until the initial group of returning visitors exit the test. In the test below, it took roughly 12 days for this returning visitor bias to abate. 

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Many tests do not run long enough (see below). If returning visitors are excluded, the true result—a big win—will never be seen. Even worse, you may end up implementing a losing variant and harming sales.

Note: For businesses with loyal client bases who need to know how a treatment will impact their existing users, you can remove returning visitors from the data after the fact.

Didn’t Run a Test Long Enough

One of the most common ways we see eCommerce businesses run tests improperly is not giving them a chance to run for long enough. The reasons for this vary from not knowing better to succumbing to the pressure to get results quickly.

Whatever the reason, not running a test long enough will rob you of the truth, so you might as well have not run the test in the first place.

We’ll revisit how long to run these tests in a moment.

Run a Test with Enough Participants and Goal Completions

The more variations a test has, the more participants it will need. Your sample size needs to be large enough to demonstrate user behavior.

Consider 100 conversions per variation to be a minimum, and only after the test has run long enough (see above) and other criteria has been met (see below)

Don’t Turn Off Variations While Testing

Turning off a variation can skew results, making them untrustworthy. 

For instance: Let’s say you have four total variations (three treatments and the control). Each variation receives 25 percent of traffic. After 10 days, one treatment is turned off and from that point on, each variation receives 33 percent of traffic. Then you again turn off another variation, leaving each remaining variation with 50 percent of the traffic. 

The example below shows how when the green variation was turned off, the control improved, just like it did at the start of the test when it benefitted from some people buying right away (the control was for a free shipping offer):

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The control again lifts off when the pink variation is turned off showing the control (orange) improve for a third time when the mix of new and returning visitors shifts to include more new visitors. The variation (this time the control) disproportionately benefits since it does well at converting the first time buyers who saw the free shipping offer.

This graph would look very different if the control never saw those three bumps in conversion rate. Because the control is the baseline variation, the result of the winner (blue variation) would be more clear and confident, and the test would not have had to run so long. 

The above scenario is extremely common, and at a surface level seems benign, however, the reality is that the differences in the variations themselves may create a case where the test is corrupted by changing the weight of the remaining variations. 

Often a variation is favored by different types of buyer mindsets, such as a spontaneous shopper vs an analytical one. If one variation is preferred over the other, changing the weight of the remaining variations will result in the variation favored by spontaneous people to suddenly improve. The other variations, favored by more analytical people, will not see as much improvement until their buying cycle has concluded, perhaps days or weeks later. 

Since we never know who likes a variation for what reason (Was it the hero image? The testimonials? Product page? Overall user experience?) the safest thing to do is not to eliminate any variations. 

Custom Code vs. Test Design Editors

After trying to set up a few tests via any test design editor, you may find that the test treatments do not render or behave as you expected across all browser/device combinations. 

While design editors hold great promise for “anyone” to be able to set up a test, the reality is there is only a narrow range of test types (i.e. text-only changes) that can be done through a test design editor alone. Custom code is required to have it work well and consistently across browser types and versions.

The best practice is to write custom code because most modern websites have dynamic elements that visual editors can’t identify properly. Here are some specific cases that visual editors can’t detect: 

  • Web page elements that are inserted or modified after the page has been loaded, such as some shopping cart buttons, button color, Facebook like buttons, Facebook fan boxes and security seals like McAfee
  • Page elements that change with user interaction, such as shopping cart row changes when users add or remove elements, reviews, carousels, and page comments. 
  • Responsive websites that have duplicated elements, such as sites with multiple headers (desktop header is hidden for mobile devices and mobile header is hidden for desktop computers). 

In the beginning, you may be able to avoid running complex tests that require custom code. Eventually, you will graduate to a level of testing that demands it. Know that this requires a front-end developer to set up the tests that you will want to run. 

Run the Test at 100% Traffic

Today, many purchases online involve more than one device or one browser (i.e. researching on a smartphone, then purchasing on a laptop).

However, test tools are limited to tracking a user on a single browser/device combination. This means that someone who sees one variation of a test on mobile may come back to purchase on desktop and be provided another variation.

Showing a variation more often than another will give it the advantage since it is more likely to be seen with continuity by users who switch from device or browser. This is called “continuity bias.”

To avoid continuity bias during the testing process, we recommend you run tests at 100 percent of traffic and split that traffic evenly between variations.

When less than 100 percent of traffic is sampled for a test, the result (in today’s cross-device world) is that the control will be served more often than the variations, thus giving it the advantage.

For instance: A user visits your site from work and is not included in a test because you are only allowing 50 percent of people to participate. Then, that same user goes home later in the buying cycle and gets included in the test on their home computer. The user is then more likely to favor the control due to continuity bias.

Side note: This may be a good time to look at your past results of tests that were run with less than 100 percent of user participation and see if the Control won more than its fair (or expected) share of tests. 

Equal Weighting of Variations

For the same reasons as mentioned above with running a test at 100 percent, you also want to ensure that all variations are equally weighted (i.e. testing four variations including the control should see 25 percent of traffic go to each). If the weights are not equal there is a bias—as outlined above.

Test Targeting

Test results are easily diluted (test will have to run longer) or contaminated by not targeting the test to the right audience. The most common issues of inappropriate test targeting are:

  1. Geo (i.e. including international visitors in a test that is USA specific)
  2. Device (i.e. including tablets in a mobile phone test)
  3. Cross-Category Creep (i.e. test for Flip Flops spreads into all Sandal pages)
  4. Acquisition vs. Retention (i.e. including repeat customer in a test for first-time customers)

If the right audience and pages are not targeted, then it will take much longer to see any significant results with confidence due to the noise of users who don’t care either way. That test result will indicate that the change is not significant, leaving you to stop the test and not gain the additional sales.

These are the most common technical reasons we see invalid tests. There are some other good habits we recommend though.

#2. NO eCommerce Site Changes During Testing

As a general rule: Avoid making other site changes during the test period.

This will cause you to see a statistical result from the test without knowing what to attribute it to.

We often see eCommerce stores that launch a website redesign while they are in an active test period which causes issues.

For instance: If you are testing a trust element like McAfee’s trust seal, avoid changes that may impact the trust of the site, including:

  • Site style changes
  • Other trust seals
  • Header elements (like contact or shipping information
  • Or any other site-wide “assurance” elements (i.e. chat)

The same line of thinking applies to other changes. If you are testing a pop-up window, don’t make a change to the site style, other opt-in boxes, etc.

When split testing, it’s usually best to test one element at a time. Making site changes during a test makes that ideal a lot less feasible.

#3. Traffic Sources Change and Muddy Conversion Data

In our experience, the different sources of traffic to your website will behave differently.

When there is a change in the distribution of traffic sources (i.e. paid search increases), test results will be unreliable until the test participants brought in have had a chance to go through their entire buying cycle. 

For instance: Paid search visitors may be less trusting and less sophisticated when it comes to the web. This traffic source often responds well to trust factors like trust seals.

Increasing paid traffic during the test may result in a sharp increase in conversions. But that increase is not sustained as the test continues for a longer period and the number of non-spontaneous visitors get factored into the results. 

If one version performs better for one traffic source but another traffic source starts getting mixed into the test: you’re seeing the mixed traffic response because of the change. This can make it hard to attribute the conversion increase you see to one source of traffic or the other.

#4. Conflicting A/B Tests Spoil Attribution

It’s easy to run more than one test at a time, however, tests may conflict with user impact. It is common to see the results of one test change when another test is started or stopped. This is typically the result of the tests sharing the same purchase funnel, or impacting the same concept.

Avoid running conflicting tests. If you are running more than one test, do a bit of analytics work to see how many people will be affected by both tests (i.e. users common to the two pages involved in the separate tests).

If it’s more than 10 percent, then you will want to strongly consider how the two tests impact the user’s single experience. By using common sense and good judgment, you and your team will be able to estimate which tests can be run at the same time.

Here, we typically recommend breaking eCommerce sites into 3 “funnels” or sections:

  • Top-of-funnel is finding a product
  • Mid-funnel is when the user is on the ‘Product Detail Page’ and ‘Adds to Cart’
  • Bottom-of-funnel is Cart through a checkout page conversion

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You shouldn’t be running more than one test at a time in any one of these funnels, and KPIs should reflect the goal of each “funnel.” Especially when there is another test running in one of the other funnels.

#5. Not Taking User and Site Specifics When A/B Testing

Every eCommerce site is unique. So when you do A/B testing for eCommerce, take those particular factors into account.

Clients who work with us get individualized recommendations for their websites. Here are some important general guidelines:

1. Segment Traffic

When judging if you have enough goal completion, don’t forget to consider segmentation on a user persona level.

For example, an eCommerce store selling school supplies will have a big split between classroom teachers and parents who shop on the site. If the treatment only targets one group, or if it might impact each group differently, it’s important to take that into account.

2. Test Against the Buying Cycle

When looking at test results, a test must be run and analyzed against its buying cycle. This means testing a person from their very first visit and all subsequent visits until they purchase.

If you know that 95 percent of purchases happen within three days of the user’s visit, then you have a three-day buying cycle.

Your test cycle will be the number of weeks you test (you want to test in full-week periods) plus the full length of your buying cycle added on so the last participant let into the test has an adequate chance to complete their purchase.

3. Count Every Conversion (or at Least Most of Them)

If a participant has entered a test, their actions should be counted. This may sound obvious, but correct attribution is seldom done well, and this results in inaccurate testing.

In order to do this right, it’s important that all visitors are given the chance to purchase after entering a test. If a test is just “turned off,” participants in that test who have yet to purchase have been left out. 

Since it is common to see one particular variation do well with returning visitors, leaving out these later conversions will skew the test toward the variations that favor the less methodical type people.

4. Determine Your Site’s Test Cycle (How Long to Run a Test)

You likely have been involved in discussions about how long a test should run. The biggest factor in how long to run a test is your site’s test cycle. 

To find your site’s test cycle in Google Analytics, simply start with a segment like the one below where you define that you want to view only users who had their first session during a one-week period. Then set a condition where transactions are greater than zero.

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This type of segment will tell you when people whose first visit was that week eventually purchased on your site.

You can start by looking at a range such as two months, then work backwards to figure out when 95 percent of the purchases in that two months were. In the example below, the site has a three-week test cycle because 95 percent of purchases for the two months occurred in the first three weeks from the beginning of the period you started tracking purchases:

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You may be wondering, “Why 95 percent?” This is a simple rule of thumb and, from experience, we have rarely seen the final 5 percent of purchases change a test’s conclusions, however, we have seen the last 10 percent do so.

5. Use 7-Day Cycles

When testing, you most likely have to test against a full week cycle. This is because people often behave differently during different days of the week.

For instance: If your site sells toys for small children, your site’s reality might be that a lot of research traffic occurs on the weekend when the children are available for questioning (i.e. “Hey Ty, what’s the coolest toy in the world these days?”). 

Another reality for a toy site might be that often the “Add to Cart” button does not need to get hit until Tuesday evening, given that a lot of toys are not needed until the weekend when birthday parties are typically held. A test run from Wednesday through Sunday (five full days with lots of data) is still not enough.

The reality is, almost every eCommerce site (from the more than 100 eCommerce analytics we’ve done test analysis on) has a seven-day cycle. You may have to figure out which days to start and stop, but it’s there because of how user behavior varies throughout the week.

Therefore, if you don’t use a seven-day cycle in your testing, your results are going to be weighted higher for one part of the week than another.

6. Use the “Test Window”

The Test Window are essentially the steps we recommend to avoid skewing a test.

Step 1: Only let new visitors into the test. This way returning visitors later in their purchase cycle will not skew results and potentially set the test off to a false start. Get as many people into the test as possible.

Step 2: Don’t look at the test for a full seven days. If you don’t have a statistical winner at this point (most test tools will tell you the test has reached 95 percent confidence), let the test run for another seven-day cycle and don’t peak.

Step 3: Turn off the test to new visitors once you have a statistical winner (at seven-day intervals). Turning off the test to new visitors will allow the participants already in the test to complete their buying cycle. Leave the test running for a full buying cycle after you’ve closed the window.

Step 4: Report out on the test. To report out on the test’s overall results, you will simply look at your A/B testing tools report. Now, because you used the Test Window, you will be able to believe the results because:

  • Everyone in the test had a consistent site experience, spending it in the same test variation (no one seeing the control on a previous visit only to later experience a treatment). 
  • A full seven-day cycle was used so weekend days and weekdays were weighted realistically. 
  • Every user (or 95 percent of them at least) was allowed to complete their buying cycle.

Conclusion

If you are going to put time into testing to improve your eCommerce site, everything that you do will be invalidated if you aren’t paying attention to these vital A/B testing factors.

In our effort to be the best eCommerce agency, we study and rank the best eCommerce sites’ conversion rate optimization strategies in our Best in Class eCommerce CRO Report. We use our findings and apply them directly to our client’s sites so that their stores are as optimized as the best of the best (and we have case studies to demonstrate).

That said, every significant site change needs to be tested. And for that, the step-by-step guidelines we’ve shown you here will help ensure you get accurate results.

We know that conversion testing is time-consuming and often overwhelming. If you would like to increase your eCommerce site’s conversion rate, our CRO experts can help with set up and make A/B testing recommendations. Learn more here and get in touch.

Conversion Rate Optimization and the Travel Industry: 11 Questions with CRO Expert Danielle Schwolow

We sat down with Danielle Schwolow, Senior Growth Strategist for Multiplica US, a full-service digital marketing agency that offers optimization, analytics, and UX/UI services for the travel industry. Danielle’s been named a “woman making waves in ecommerce” by Ecommerce Magazine and will be co-host of an upcoming webinar with Monetate [register here]. She specializes in…

The post Conversion Rate Optimization and the Travel Industry: 11 Questions with CRO Expert Danielle Schwolow appeared first on Monetate.

We sat down with Danielle Schwolow, Senior Growth Strategist for Multiplica US, a full-service digital marketing agency that offers optimization, analytics, and UX/UI services for the travel industry. Danielle’s been named a “woman making waves in ecommerce” by Ecommerce Magazine and will be co-host of an upcoming webinar with Monetate [register here]. She specializes in creating data-driven digital optimization and personalization strategies for big brands, particularly in the travel and hospitality industries, that increase conversion rates, improve the user experience, and grow revenue.

What are the biggest trends in conversion rate optimization (CRO) that travel websites should pay attention to?

DS: AI has and is changing the way digital marketing teams create their conversion rate optimization strategies. Every brand wants to provide exceptional experiences to their customers and win bookings with the least spend… this is obviously easier said than done, but AI is making it much less difficult than it used to be. Having tools like AI that are capable of getting those results are obviously crucial to your business’s success.

What’s the most frequently misunderstood thing about CRO? 

Travel marketers and digital specialists often assume that there is just one big experience that will revolutionize the way users engage with and ultimately convert across their website. Conversion rate optimization is meant to be a series of ever-evolving experiments — not one-off experiences — that continue to improve the customer experience over time. Continual improvement means running multiple experiments in parallel across device types. There is no one test that wins them all. 

How do travel websites versus other types of ecommerce sites (like retail) differ when it comes to conversion rate optimization? 

The customer journey for someone travelling is much different than a traditional ecommerce experience. Travel websites have to accommodate users who have multiple factors influencing their decision-making. Rather than considering a single product or purchase, as in some retail sales funnels, travel users have to consider multiple decisions when booking: When will I leave? Where am I going? When will I return? What am I doing on my trip? Where will I stay? How will I get around? (And the list goes on…) They have so many more factors to take into account as they move through the funnel, which is why travellers take much longer to purchase and to plan their trips.  

What are the most important things that all travel and hospitality websites should be testing? 

Retargeting is a commonly overlooked testing segment. The returning user may or may not know what they are looking for, but retargeting can help them pick up where they left off. Users are often frustrated by having to type in long search queries identical to the the search queries they previously searched within the same session just by going back to the home page. Something as simple as storing the user’s search history within the same session (and for some time after) can improve click-through rates by double digits. 

What’s the best result you’ve ever seen from personalization? 

Actually, the upcoming webinar we are doing together with Monetate showcases one of our cruise clients and their AI use of retargeting based on destination; it yielded some of the most positive results across the board we’ve seen with personalization. The user experience that resulted from plugging in the AI to power our personalization efforts for this client is exceptional, and what’s so amazing about this experiment is that it just continues to evolve and get smarter everyday. This means the client, Celebrity Cruises, is benefiting from a kind of ongoing, continuous conversion rate optimization as the AI keeps personalizing the content in real time. It’s pretty cool stuff.

How can travel marketers move from simple A/B or MVT testing to a more sophisticated personalization strategy as competition among travel brands becomes more intense? 

Having a testing strategy that makes sense for your team and your resources is essential for entering the personalization arena. You have to realize your strengths and weaknesses as a brand and as a team. All too often big brands jump into personalizing without realizing that they need a strong team along with the tool they are using to execute personalization, and all of this should be supported with a testing structure to make things run smoothly. All of our optimization teams, for example, have at the very least a dedicated project manager, UI/UX expert, strategic lead, developers, QA tester, and an analytics expert, and everyone follows a proven testing process throughout the project.   

What do travel brands not understand about the customer experience? 

I think sometimes travel brands (and potentially all marketers!) will get so caught up in achieving their own goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) that they forget about the goals, needs, challenges, and desires of the customer. We see this a lot in end-of-funnel testing when brands try to guide users to create an account in order to checkout or book a trip; they get it wrong when they show too many required fields to the user and ask for too much information. It’s clunky and can annoy users. who don’t want to be bothered at this point by filling out a lot of unnecessary fields. 

When we test this type of experience with travel clients, one of our biggest winners time and time again is showing users the option to create an account by simply entering a password during checkout. By not forcing them to log in with long form fields or to create an account reduces friction, prevents cart abandonment, and improves the overall customer experience.

Is there an analytics or data skill you recommend all travel marketers try to master? 

Mastery is a strong word; to get the most out of your efforts, I would advise travel marketers to have useful skills that can be applied to everyday situations that make their lives easier and the teams run more smoothly. For example, hover over an element on your website and left or right click (depending on your mouse) on “inspect element.” You can now edit the element, and it’s only visible on your computer. This is what developers use to find bugs and such. But marketers can also use it to manipulate various elements on the website without getting their dev teams involved. It’s just a nice quick workaround to have in your wheelhouse. Say you want to see a different text or change a button color… You can simply do this instead of burdening your creative or dev team with minor tasks.

It’s already holiday travel planning season prep time for many travelers. Any trends or tips for this season on how travel websites can capture more holiday bookings and increase online revenue this season? 

One of the biggest trends this holiday season will be multi-touch retargeting. For example, if you know the user is interested in a particular product, you can showcase this to the user via retargeting by placing it on the homepage, recently searched, or even at the top of their search results. Making it easy for the user to engage with the products that interest them in the least amount of clicks as possible will always be a big conversion rate winner, holidays or not. 

How do you determine the success of an optimization project? 

Before we begin an experiment, we always ask ourselves, what is the goal(s) and how will we measure success. We establish clearly defined KPIs, and they are often tied to the control and the variation to determine overall impact. We take into account what we need to achieve our goal, and how long will it take. Once we know what we want to achieve and have a clear strategy for performance tracking throughout the process, we can set up overall measures of success. 

What are the biggest challenges travel brands face in conversion rate optimization, and how can they solve them? 

Lack of data or poor data, lack of a clear strategy, and a fragmented marketing stack are three of the biggest challenges I see with travel marketers. I discuss this in greater depth here, but, in short, don’t bite off more than you can chew when optimizing. If you want to run five experiments a month, for instance, but your team doesn’t have the resources to support this and make it all worthwhile, then start a bit smaller and keep your goals simple. Be smart, deliberate, agile, and data-driven when you’re scaling your optimization strategy, and recognize when you need to bring in additional resources to support it. 

Danielle Schwolow is a Senior Growth Strategist for Multiplica US

The post Conversion Rate Optimization and the Travel Industry: 11 Questions with CRO Expert Danielle Schwolow appeared first on Monetate.

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