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Harness Customer Behavior to Boost Conversions

Demographics play a role in attracting prospects. But it’s behavioral targeting that converts those visitors and keeps them coming back.

Shoppers’ actions — how they navigate the site, what they purchase, how they pay — help determine what they’ll do next.

Merchants should consider:

  • Behaviors to target, such as frequent browsing, visited pages, or purchases from specific product categories.
  • What prompts each customer to buy. Some are motivated by coupons; others prefer product recommendations.

Aside from browses and purchases, track shoppers’ email and SMS engagement, customer support requests, returns or exchanges, product reviews, and testimonials.

Also, incorporate on your site non-invasive, single-question surveys. Amazon uses such surveys to offer relevant recommendations. The company also suggests products based on each customer’s purchase history.

Amazon page with single question survey and product recommendationsAmazon page with single question survey and product recommendations

Amazon asks simple questions — such as “Are you a fan?” at top left  — to boost sales on specific products.

Build Segments

Use journey mapping to segment customers. This helps personalize the experience on- and off-site. For example, you could adjust the frequency of marketing emails based on how often recipients interact. Many of today’s popular email marketing platforms — Mailchimp, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, many more — have APIs to connect email actions to on-site, real-time messaging.

You could also prioritize offerings based on a customer’s browsing or purchase history. Shopify, Miva, and BigCommerce are just a few platforms that can natively build datasets based on customer purchases. And most carts support third-party plugins and scripts to manage recommendations or replace blocks of content based on a customer’s history.

By focusing on behavior, a sporting goods store could recommend an overstock of blue parkas to customers in colder regions who had purchased other clothing in that color. A makeup brand could showcase “more likely to buy” products to loyal customers while offering the store’s most popular items to newcomers.

Segmenting based on behavior helps brands identify what to offer and when — increasing the potential for quick conversions.

Real-time Marketing

Use segmentation and anticipated actions to deliver the best content to each customer in real-time. Here are a few examples.

  • Use conditional data fields to personalize the shopping experience, including product offerings and checkout flow — e.g., “if a customer purchased a blue shirt, display a blue parka.”
  • Prioritize offers based on a customer’s lifecycle and behavior — you may not have to offer as many discounts.
  • Adjust abandonment emails based on previous and current activity — messaging should reflect product types and price ranges.
  • Display custom messaging to those about to leave the site without purchasing. OptinMonster and similar tools gauge shoppers’ intents to deliver messages at ideal times.
  • Adjust frequencies of SMS alerts and marketing emails based on clicks and purchases.
  • Generate on-the-fly emails or text messages based on specific actions, such as reading a blog post or watching a video.
  • Display prime recommendations based on where the shopper came from, such as a referral from another website.

A/B testing various “rules” for what happens when shoppers perform certain tasks helps identify the best solutions for each action or segment.

Personalization

Personalization is a driving force behind successful ecommerce sites. Demographics provide the basics to get started. But as shoppers interact with the brand, their behavioral portfolio grows, providing crucial, actionable information.

8 Ways Social Proof Sells (Much) More

One of the most prominent conversion tactics is social proof. Coined in 1984 by psychologist Robert Cialdini, social proof is the theory that most people follow the crowd when unsure of what to do. It’s why savvy marketers target influencers, early adopters, or trusted experts — people apt to share positive outcomes with their peers or audiences.

According to Statista, about 81% of online shoppers say customer reviews impact tangible, non-food purchase decisions. But testimonials and other user-generated content impact decisions, too.

Today’s stores should leverage as much proof as possible to remain competitive.

Social Proof Tactics

Social proof helps merchants tackle multiple conversion goals. It can guide shoppers to specific products, help them choose the color or size, and prompt them to finalize the checkout. It can also nudge them to share their purchase details with others and return later to post ratings and reviews. Social proof can trigger FOMO — fear of missing out — and boost pre-orders and waitlist signups.

The value of social proof goes beyond immediate purchases. For example, instead of explaining the benefits of your email newsletter, simply say, “Join 50,000 Beauty Tips Subscribers.”

Social proof can include endorsements from celebrities, experts, and everyday customers.

Certifications and badges. A company’s accomplishments and participation efforts instill trust. Examples include awards, memberships, and certification badges. Place the most prestigious ones in the footer of each page and the rest on a designated page. Convey your support of causes, too.

Media coverage. Covered by the local news? Tell everyone. The same goes for online magazines and social media shout-outs. Use logos in the site footer to link to articles directly or, alternatively, maintain a list on a separate page.

“Spotted on” showcases. If a prominent personality talks about or posts a picture using your products, call attention. It’s a high-impact (free) endorsement.

Taylor Hawkins featured at Van Halen StoreTaylor Hawkins featured at Van Halen Store

A famous musician wearing a product you sell is worth a mention. Source: Van Halen Store.

Real-time notifications. Sometimes shoppers need to know they’re not alone. On-site notification apps can display the current visitor count and recent activity, such as purchases and reviews. Most of these tools run off a code snippet and allow you to customize the text and data to display.

Real-time notification on product pageReal-time notification on product page

Real-time notifications can urge others to join or buy now. Source: ScoutIQ.

Quantity sold; people waiting. Just as a low stock alert can trigger FOMO, a “sold more than” count can encourage trust-based purchases. For pre-order or waitlist items, display the number of people waiting.

Waitlist showing number of people on the listWaitlist showing number of people on the list

Brevite promotes popular backpacks by showing the number of people waiting.

Subscriber, follower, and share counts. Display the numbers of your subscribers and followers as well as social shares of product pages. Use a tool that suppresses counts below a certain number — low volume can hurt, not help.

Social media mentions. Show off who is talking about your products based on hashtags or keywords. Use a tool that monitors the mentions across multiple social platforms. Some tools can be configured to display calls-to-action on posts related to specific products. Real-time feeds are fresher, but moderation ensures nothing shady or vulgar slips through

Focus on products and experiences. Most stores curate testimonials and display the best on the home page. But place them on product pages, too. And include reviews of trending or premium products on the home page and search results. Test different placements and content to see what works.

Need Repeat Customers? Try Low-tech Selling

Fast-changing tech trends make it difficult for merchants to compete with retail giants such as Amazon and Walmart. But those companies rarely offer a super-easy way for shoppers to make sound buying decisions. Amazon relies on its customers to “sell” products via reviews and Q&As, but it does little to guide visitors to the best solutions.

If you lack the budget for high-end automation tools, there are still plenty of ways to fill the gaps left by massive competitors. Here are nine ways to catch the attention of savvy online shoppers and keep them returning for more.

9 Low-tech Selling Tactics

Help people find what they need, even if you don’t sell it. One of the best ways to encourage return visits is by being helpful, even if that means sending shoppers elsewhere. People want solutions to their dilemmas. If you can’t fix the current problem, referring shoppers to another merchant can prompt them to consider you the next time.

Don’t hide managers from public view. Most of today’s company leaders are inaccessible, leaving lower-level staff — people who are rarely in the spotlight and can’t make big decisions — to interact with shoppers. Take a cue from many of today’s startup companies, where CEOs and other leaders converse with everyone. Incorporate leadership messages in emails, blog posts, and social media content.

Encourage employees to use your goods. Regardless of what you sell, what employees think about the products or services matters. The best restaurants ensure servers have tasted the food to make ideal recommendations. The more knowledgeable support and service teams are, the more they’ll sell and keep customers returning.

Show off your staff. Consumers want to support the folks who make things work, including the shipping and production departments. If you employ more than 20 people, consider introduction campaigns via landing pages, emails, and product recommendations.

Grid of staff membersGrid of staff members

Little Seed Farm showcases its entire staff for a more personalized about-us page.

Focus on word-of-mouth marketing. Shoppers trust the buying advice of family and friends. Delivering quality products and services in conjunction with stellar customer service not only builds loyal relationships but also drives new customers you’d otherwise have to pay to acquire. This long-running revenue generator remains the most cost-effective way to build a strong brand.

It’s okay to remind customers that you appreciate them telling others about their experiences. A simple note of encouragement on receipts, order follow-ups, and support emails can go a long way.

Approve and respond to negative reviews. Humanize the experience by offering troubleshooting tips, empathy, and appreciation for the feedback. Responding to bad ratings tells others that you care.

Don’t over-automate messaging. Relying too much on behavioral-based triggers can drive people away. For example, promoting only black shoes to a customer who once purchased that color can backfire. Instead, incorporate complementary products and categories. Analyze which pages shoppers visit and the products they buy over time to understand their likely interests.

Ask customers what they want. When analytics isn’t enough, ask! Short online surveys are an excellent way to understand your target audience. Solicit responses in email confirmations, marketing messages, and post-checkout pages.

Break the rules. Store policies exist because the shopper is not always right. However, sometimes breaking the rules is necessary. Remember that life happens, so sometimes you’ll need to extend returns deadlines or offer special discounts. Doing the right thing regardless of the rules builds trust and loyalty.

Low-tech, Long-term

Never underestimate the power of low-tech branding and conversion strategies. Many of today’s dominant companies claimed their space using these (and many other) methods. Incorporating a healthy balance of old-school and high-tech efforts can drive not-so-big businesses to long-term success.

Product Photography, Part 15: Crafting an Image Start to Finish

Throughout this series, I’ve explained how to shoot and edit product products that appeal to shoppers and drive conversions. This final installment is a wrap-up, applying all of the concepts I’ve addressed to a single image using only my iPhone and three editing tools.

To date I’ve covered all material aspects of selecting equipment, staging shoots, and improving the images afterward: “Part 1: Choosing Backdrops,” “Part 2: Selecting Tripods,” “Part 3: Artificial Lighting Basics,” “Part 4: Angles and Viewpoints,” “Part 5: Choosing a Camera,” “Part 6: Selecting a Lens,” “Part 7: Magnification and Close-ups,” “Part 8: Composition Essentials,” “Part 9: Advanced Composition,” “Part 10: Lines as Design Elements,” “Part 11: Image Editing,” “Part 12: Color Correction and Presets,” “Part 13: Special Edits,” and “Part 14: Optimizing for Speed, Search.”

Image Start to Finish

I’ll work with a vase I’ve created in my art studio.

I’ve discussed the importance of using a white background for most product images. For this shoot, instead of a professional backdrop, I’ve used standard white seamless paper. The quality of the paper wasn’t great, and it had several crinkles.

Photo of an art studio with a green vase on white paperPhoto of an art studio with a green vase on white paper

The backdrop is standard white seamless paper with several crinkles.

I offset these deficiencies by using natural lighting to push the shadows to the left of the vase. I could have used artificial lighting if natural light was inferior or if I wanted to remove the shadows.

I didn’t worry much about the image’s composition since I wanted it to resemble what’s typical on the Amazon Marketplace or an independent ecommerce store, with the item being front-and-center, displaying as much info as possible.

I pulled back the view of the shot for an eye-level viewpoint from a 45-degree angle. Using my iPhone and my studio tripod, I captured a bland image, perfect for demonstrating editing on a mobile device.

Photo focusing on the green phase on the white paper backgroundPhoto focusing on the green phase on the white paper background

The shot is an eye-level viewpoint from a 45-degree angle using an iPhone and studio tripod.

I started the editing process by removing the extraneous objects in the top-right corner (which I’ve marked in green below) using Touch ReTouch’s brush tool.

Screenshot from the Touch ReTouch brush toolScreenshot from the Touch ReTouch brush tool

Remove the extraneous objects in the top-right corner (marked in green) with the Touch ReTouch’s brush tool.

I then removed the background shadows created by the horizon of the image (again, marked in green below), leaving only the shadow from the vase itself. To do this, I again used Touch ReTouch’s brush tool.

Screenshot of the Touch ReTouch tool showing in green the background shadowsScreenshot of the Touch ReTouch tool showing in green the background shadows

Remove the background shadows created by image’s horizon as marked in green.

Having sorted the shadows, I fixed the image’s brightness and color levels. I used Snapseed to increase the brightness to +92. This instantly made the vase more appealing.

Screenshot from the Snapseed app Screenshot from the Snapseed app

Adjust the image’s brightness and color levels with Snapseed.

But the image still wasn’t perfect. The color wasn’t right. So using Snapseed, I adjusted the saturation to +42 and added a bit of contrast. That made the entire image pop. I showed it to a friend, who said she would buy my vase based on the photo!

Screenshot of the saturation screen in SnapseedScreenshot of the saturation screen in Snapseed

Use Snapseed to adjust the saturation to +42 and add contrast.

I then cropped the final image using my iPhone’s native editing tools. I made sure the lines of the shadow drew viewers’ eyes into the center of the vase. Finally, I offset the composition by leaving additional white space above the vase, increasing its appeal.

Photo of the vase as croppedPhoto of the vase as cropped

Crop the final image using iPhone’s native editing tools.

I could have used Adobe Photoshop from a desktop computer to do all of this. But my goal was to demonstrate how to achieve terrific results with a smartphone alone. Plus, switching back and forth between computer-based software and mobile apps on a single image gets unnecessarily complicated.

Optimizing

I finished the whole process by changing the photo’s file name from the generic IMG_3880 to carolyn-mara-blue-tie-dye-swirl-vase — which is search-engine friendly. After ensuring its file format was a JPEG, I posted the image to my website, where I added alt text to ensure accessibility for visually-handicapped shoppers and for max exposure on Google.

This entire process took about 20 minutes. It illustrates the ease for both new and experienced merchants of creating quality product photos using only a smartphone.

Why Mobile SaaS Conversions Are Lower Than Desktop

Some software-as-a-service companies experience much lower paid conversions from consumers on mobile devices versus desktop and laptop computers.

The scenario goes like this. A SaaS company offers a free trial of its service. The company garners many new accounts, and 40% came from mobile devices. Two weeks later the trial ends. Paying customers are minted, but only 6% came from mobile.

This gap can be troubling, and there are four regular suspects.

Wrong Customer

What if mobile marketing is attracting the wrong customer? A large percentage of the new accounts created on a mobile device could come from folks who are poor prospects.

One way to tell is to analyze the acquisitions channels, such as organic and paid search.

Imagine, again, that mobile devices produce 40% of free trial accounts and just 5% of paid ones.

The mobile discrepancy is glaring. The company looks at trial accounts by device type and channel, discovering that about 4% of trial accounts from organic search start on a mobile device. By comparison, about 60% of accounts from the paid advertising channel came from mobile.

Bar graph of two columns (paid and organic) for users on computer and mobile Bar graph of two columns (paid and organic) for users on computer and mobile

In this hypothetical example, the difference in paid conversions was not so much about mobile devices versus desktop and laptop computers as paid versus organic traffic.

In this made-up example, the issue could be that the paid channel is targeting folks who have little need or intent to use the SaaS product — most accounts created on mobile devices come from ads, and most on computers come from organic listings. Or perhaps the reverse is true.

Regardless, the issue is not the device but rather customer intent and interest.

Poor Mobile Onboarding

Sometimes a poor onboarding process causes the gap.

Here is an example. Imagine a SaaS company that makes it very easy to create a new paid account — add an email address or use a single sign-on from Google or Facebook, provide payment details, and voila, a new account.

For other SaaS companies, creating a paid account is only the initial step in the onboarding process. That process might include a product tour, account setup, and any number of similar activities.

If its process on a mobile device becomes confusing or cumbersome, the SaaS company could be losing customers.

To resolve, SaaS firms could test the onboarding process on multiple devices or use a screen recording service such as Full Story to watch users work their way through the app.

Communication Problems

Communication during the onboarding process may be a factor.

Automated emails typically welcome new SaaS users. The automation guides them through the setup and getting-started phases.

But what if new users do not receive those encouraging and helpful messages?

Stacks of data show that mobile users open and read emails. But other demographics and segments may not. For example, TikTok creators are less likely to check their email regularly.

A solution could be providing communication options — email, text, or even push notifications.

Poor Experience

A final factor causing the difference between computer and mobile paid conversions is not the wrong customer, poor onboarding, or communication snafus. It’s a poor mobile experience from the SaaS app itself.

This might be especially meaningful if some customers use only mobile.

To resolve, SaaS companies could mimic the common tasks on mobile devices, use screen recordings, and survey or interview users who did not buy.

Unfortunately, of all of the potential factors causing a gap between mobile and desktop paid conversions, a poor mobile user experience may be the most difficult to resolve. It could require an entire overhaul of the SaaS product.

Expand Payment Options to Convert More

Essential features for many online stores in 2022 include enhanced chatbots for high-end customer service, virtual product sampling, and real-time order tracking. But what happens once shoppers reach the checkout page is equally important. Plenty of issues can interrupt the process, driving cart abandonment.

One such obstacle is limited payment options. The ecommerce sophistication of post-pandemic consumers lit the pathway to single-page checkouts that convert in seconds.

And those checkouts must accommodate how shoppers want to pay.

Buy Now, Pay Later

Buy now, pay later is booming, with nearly a third of Generation Z (ages 15 to 35, roughly) reportedly preferring it. The popularity of BNPL skyrocketed in 2021. And the lack of risk — most providers (i.e., Klarna, Affirm, Afterpay, many more) pay merchants upfront — makes up for the slightly higher fees.

To boost sales, incorporate BNPL options on product pages and at checkout.

Mobile Payments

Mobile payment options include wallets such as Apple Pay and WePay as well as “contactless” payment apps such as Venmo, PayPal, and Zelle. All offer benefits to both consumers and merchants, especially for checkout speed and security, as the payments rely on passwords and single-use tokens, eliminating a customer’s need to enter a credit card number for each transaction.

Nonetheless, merchants should still utilize fraud protection services for mobile payments. Moreover, minimizing fraud and keeping consumers safe calls for up-to-date shopping carts and order processing systems.

Accepting alternative methods requires a processor that supports mobile payments. Most merchant account providers manage at least a few, and many shopping carts include plugins for the most popular options. Stores running on Shopify can also implement Shopify’s own Shop Pay, which finalizes payment using a customer’s email address.

Single page checkout that accepts Shop Pay, Apple Pay and PayPalSingle page checkout that accepts Shop Pay, Apple Pay and PayPal

Monos, a luggage retailer, uses a single-page checkout that supports Shop Pay, Apple Pay, and PayPal.

Cryptocurrency

Consider accepting cryptocurrency if you’re eager to serve loyal, tech-savvy consumers. While there are risks, most can be thwarted by managing crypto’s volatility and conversion into fiat money.

Cryptocurrency has advantages over standard credit card and mobile payments processing:

  • Acceptance fees are typically less. In many cases, the currency is held in a wallet, so you only pay fees when the crypto is withdrawn or converted.
  • Crypto transactions are immediate and irreversible. While you could face backlash from the crypto community for not providing excellent service, you can avoid chargebacks entirely. Thus merchants selling unique, high-value items could benefit.
Checkout buttons for credit card, crypto and mobile wallets.Checkout buttons for credit card, crypto and mobile wallets.

Newegg supports paying via credit card, crypto, PayPal, and BPNL.

But, again, accepting cryptocurrency has downsides. It requires additional layers of security to protect consumers. Stores with legitimate higher return rates may want to avoid the payment method altogether. And uncertainties about future regulation should also be considered.

Convert More

The rise of mobile commerce and the elevated expectations of post-pandemic shoppers necessitate payment flexibility. Paying quickly, directly, over time, or via nontraditional currency is attractive to many buyers. The result for merchants is more conversions, higher order values, and fewer abandoned carts.

Product Photography, Part 14: Optimizing for Speed, Search

The final step in product photography is optimizing the images for search engines and page speed.

This is the 14th installment in my series on helping ecommerce merchants create better product images, following “Part 1: Choosing Backdrops,” “Part 2: Selecting Tripods,” “Part 3: Artificial Lighting Basics,” “Part 4: Angles and Viewpoints,” “Part 5: Choosing a Camera,” “Part 6: Selecting a Lens,” “Part 7: Magnification and Close-ups,” “Part 8: Composition Essentials,” “Part 9: Advanced Composition,” “Part 10: Lines as Design Elements,” “Part 11: Image Editing,” “Part 12: Color Correction and Presets,” and “Part 13: Special Edits.”

In this post, I’ll address making your photos faster to download and more visible in Google’s image search.

Image Search

Optimize descriptions. It’s tempting to keep the default image names from your camera. But don’t do it. Take the time to rename those images with keywords. It will help rank in Google’s image search. Organic search traffic is the lifeblood of many ecommerce businesses. Creating keyword-rich files is as important as the copy on product pages.

For image keywords, think about how online shoppers search for your type of products and apply those patterns to file names. If you’re unsure of those search queries, tools such as Moz, Semrush, Ahrefs, Rank Tracker, and Google Search Console can help.

Consider the example below from my own business. The original file name for this painting as assigned by my camera was a string of numbers, such as 1583.jpg. But that isn’t descriptive. So I changed the name to panamericanartprojects-carolyn-mara-overlapping-circles-2021.jpg.

That description lists important keywords consumers can use to find my artwork via any search engine. Do the same for the file names of your product images.

The camera’s default file name for this image of the author’s painting contained only numbers, such as 1583.jpg. She changed it.

Customize alt attributes. An alt attribute — alternative text — describes an image. It’s essential accessibility for visually-handicapped users and those that do not otherwise download photos. For search engines, it provides additional, keyword-rich info and thus elevates rankings, potentially. Apply the same keyword research to alt text as for file names. For example, the alt text from my image above is alt= “Carolyn Mara, Overlapping Circles, 2021”.

Include model numbers or serial numbers in alt attributes if applicable to your products. But don’t overdo it. Keep alt attributes relevant and straightforward.

Page Speed

The size of an image determines download speed. The bigger the image, the slower the speed — a 200-kilobyte image is slower than 50 kb. Slow pages impact your visitors’ shopping experience. Many will leave if too slow. For organic search rankings, Google’s new Core Web Vitals algorithm assesses speed. Slower sites have lower rankings. Fortunately, merchants can optimize their images for faster downloads.

First, optimize thumbnails. Product thumbnails can be helpful on, say, category pages or even the home page. But use them sparingly and make them as lightweight as possible. Reduce the resolution if necessary. And make sure the alt text of your thumbnails is different from the larger version. Many ecommerce platforms optimize thumbnails automatically.

Second, shoot in RAW format but upload in JPEG. Shoot and edit your products in RAW format. Then convert them to JPEGs. RAW files, unlike JPEGs, capture all of the data from the camera’s sensor, which makes it easier when editing and obtaining the true color of your item. RAW files also provide increased brightness.

But the downside of shooting in RAW is that the files are typically huge, up to 10-times larger than a JPEG. Thus, shoot and edit in RAW. Then convert the photos to JPEGs.

It’s a New Normal for Ecommerce in 2022

The pandemic has accelerated the worldwide digital transformation. Online businesses have opportunities for massive growth. But it comes with a cost: elevated consumer expectations. Merchants who opt for “business as usual” may find survival difficult.

Now is the time to prepare for ecommerce in a post-Covid world. Here are five essentials every online store must embrace for 2022.

The New Normal for 2022

Mobile now. The world is on smartphones. Thus mobile shopping continues to grow. Depending on the source, U.S. ecommerce sales on smartphones will soon average 40% or more.  In less developed countries, it’s nearly 100%. Consumers’ skepticism about mobile payments is slowly fading with the rise of faster and more secure methods.

“Mobile-first” considers everything from native smartphone-friendly user interfaces to streamlined checkouts — not scaled-down desktop experiences. For 2022, develop for mobile devices first and then scale up. It creates a more seamless experience across all device types.

Middle-aged femaleMiddle-aged female

Consumers are no longer mobile-shopping skeptics. “Mobile-first” considers everything from native smartphone-friendly user interfaces to streamlined checkouts.

Personalization throughout. Addressing a customer by the first name in marketing emails was once enough. Today, consumers expect both relevant product recommendations and reminders to purchase. By delivering dynamic content — tailored to the shopper — stores can close more sales and increase average order values.

Many platforms offer API access, allowing businesses access to information that triggers specific actions or injects certain content into messages. A shopper’s geolocation, purchase history, marital status, career changes — all could prompt a personalized offer.

There is a caveat to personalization, however. Some platforms track consumers across the web. This may violate your store’s terms of service or privacy policy and could otherwise alienate shoppers.

Surveys are an affordable, non-intrusive way to customize products and messaging. Pop culture retailer Hot Topic once ran an email campaign that asked recipients which Harry Potter house they preferred. Subsequent messages focused on the recipient’s preference.

Behavioral triggers a must. Relying on a shopper’s actions to determine what happens next is an excellent way to feed relevant products. While the initial setup takes some time, automated triggers learn more about customers individually and build up an arsenal of probabilities.

Populate recommendations based on each shopper’s session behavior via IF > THEN automation. Here’s an example:

If a shopper scrolls through a specific product category and then navigates to the clearance section for the same type of products, show on the clearance section what’s available at all price levels. Do the same on the full-priced category if the shopper returns later.

Just-for-you discount codes. Generating unique coupon codes for each customer is an excellent way to personalize the experience and analyze the success of campaigns. The codes can be pre-assigned or created on the fly based on an action, such as a click in an email or text.

Tying codes to each person can identify who’s engaging and facilitate personalized reminders to the others. And since no two codes are alike, you can worry less about expiration dates and unauthorized access.

Human-like chatbots. Artificial intelligence can be scary, but so is losing sales because customers can’t get answers quickly. Use today’s advanced chatbots to guide shoppers to relevant products, assist with payment issues at checkout, and provide compatibility info. They can also collect vital feedback and inform consumers about upcoming promotions.

AI-driven bots can address routine queries. Non-standard issues require a live agent. If you can’t offer 24/7 real-time support, respond to consumers first thing, every day.

Expectations

Online shopping will never “return to normal.” The demands retailers have faced over the past two years are now standard heading into 2022. Prepare now by analyzing shoppers’ actions during the next several weeks. Behavior — more than sales alone — reveals consumer expectations.

Product Photography, Part 13: Special Edits

Special post-production edits can help create the perfect product images.

This is the 13th installment in my series on helping ecommerce merchants create better product images, following “Part 1: Choosing Backdrops,” “Part 2: Selecting Tripods,” “Part 3: Artificial Lighting Basics,” “Part 4: Angles and Viewpoints,” “Part 5: Choosing a Camera,” “Part 6: Selecting a Lens,” “Part 7: Magnification and Close-ups,” “Part 8: Composition Essentials,” “Part 9: Advanced Composition,” “Part 10: Lines as Design Elements,” “Part 11: Image Editing,” and “Part 12: Color Correction and Presets.”

In this installment, I’ll look at advanced editing techniques.

Special Edits to Product Photos

Straightening an image is a key editing step for sitewide uniformity and creating the most appealing views. If you’re shooting products on a mobile device, use its native straightening and perspective tools, VSCOs skew adjustment tool, or Snapseeds perspective tool. Adobe Photoshop offers more advanced straightening options.

In the video below, photographer Rory Factor uses Photoshop’s Warping Tool to create perfectly straightened images.

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Cropping can improve an image’s composition — the arrangement of items. When cropping, remember that consistency across all photos is key. Crop every product image in the same manner with no switching between square, horizontal, and vertical views. Pick a view and stick with it. I follow Amazon’s cropping guidelines: the product comprises 85% of the overall frame.

Removing a background is among the most common photo editing tasks. Marketplaces often require white backgrounds. Thus shooting your product against a solid white background enhances its effectiveness while saving on editing time. Background removal can be time-consuming and tedious. Consider outsourcing this part of the process to a product photo editing service.

Image from Remove.bg of four items with part of the background removed. Image from Remove.bg of four items with part of the background removed.

Removing a background is among the most common photo editing tasks. Source: Remove.bg.

Removing imperfections. Examine your product before shooting. Check for blemishes, scratches, and damage. Luckily, editing out imperfections isn’t difficult. I use Photoshop’s Healing Brush and Clone Stamp tools. Photographer Amanda Campeanu’s video below explains how to use those tools and clean up misaligned background lines. (She also promotes her course.)  I also use TouchRetouch, a terrific mobile app, for spot removal.

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Color changes. One of the best ways to speed up the editing process of a product with multiple colors is to use the best image and then change the color. The video below from Photoshop’s YouTube Training channel explains how to use Lightroom to change the color of anything.

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Adding shadows can enhance some products that are set against a white background. If you add shadows, avoid darkening the product. Instead, create a realistic shadow that adds to a product’s depth and dimension.

A reflective shadow, for example, is common on ecommerce home pages and category pages.

Image from Shift4shop.com of sunglasses with a reflective shadow.Image from Shift4shop.com of sunglasses with a reflective shadow.

Reflective shadows are common with images on ecommerce home and product pages, such as these sunglasses. Source: Shift4shop.com.

A drop shadow can create a sense of depth and dimension.

Image from Shift4shop.com of four kitchen knives with drop shadows.Image from Shift4shop.com of four kitchen knives with drop shadows.

Drop shadows create a sense of depth and dimension, such as on these kitchen knives. Source: Shift4shop.com.

Phlearn’s YouTube channel includes helpful tutorials on adding shadows to an object and on reflective shadows specifically.

Also, “15 Photoshop Tutorials for Product Photography” by contributor Sig Ueland is a terrific rundown of learning resources.

11 A/B Testing Tools to Optimize Conversions

A/B testing, the process of exposing randomized visitors to one or more variables, is among the most effective strategies to optimize user experiences and conversion rates.

Here is a list of A/B testing tools. There are dedicated platforms as well as full design suites with multiple testing applications. Test page layout, images, copy, and more. Run basic split tests or multivariate tests. Several of these tools have free plans for a limited time, but most require payment.

Google Optimize

Home page of Google OptimizeHome page of Google Optimize

Google Optimize

Optimize is Google’s platform for testing websites and apps. It natively integrates with Google Analytics to help identify the parts of your site that need improvement. Run A/B and multivariate tests, including split URL redirect tests to test separate pages against each other. Price: Free for a basic account. Contact sales for enterprise pricing.

Adobe Target

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Adobe Target

Adobe Target, part of Adobe Experience Cloud, is a service that identifies your best content through easy-to-execute tests. A/B test your whole experience, including images, copy, user interface, and more. Within the visual experience composer, select and edit any individual element on your site (desktop or mobile) to include in your tests, such as slideshow carousels or popup windows. Contact for pricing.

Optimizely

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Optimizely

Optimizely is an experimentation platform for web, mobile, television, game consoles, and even the internet of things. Experiment with every part of your customer experience, from the frontend interface to the backend data and business logic. With Optimizely Program Management, collaborate, execute, and report on hundreds or thousands of experiments. Users submit, prioritize, collaborate, and track experiment ideas in one place. Optimizely’s Stats Engine provides real-time results. Contact for pricing.

Crazy Egg

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Crazy Egg

Crazy Egg is an analytics platform that tracks and optimizes website visitor behavior to improve user experience and increase conversion rates. In addition to heatmaps and session recordings, Crazy Egg features A/B testing to optimize web design for purchases, subscriptions, and email signups. Use the A/B testing page editor to change elements in your ecommerce store. Pick a goal such as “Sell More Products” based on a URL, form submission, or a clicked link. As soon as it detects the winner, Crazy Egg automatically sends more traffic to that variant, producing as many purchases or email signups as possible. Price: Plans start at $24 per month.

Kameleoon

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Kameleoon

Kameleoon is a platform for A/B testing, full-stack development, and personalization. With unlimited A/B and multivariate test variations, Kameleoon allows brands to test and optimize every desktop and mobile experience. Use one of Kameleoon’s existing goals, or create your own, to track how an A/B test increases conversion rates, retention, or visitor engagement. Preview exactly how your test hypotheses work for your intended audience with a simulation tool. Manually allocate traffic to a variant or let Kameleoon automatically push traffic to winning variations. Contact for pricing.

Zoho PageSense

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Zoho PageSense

Zoho PageSense is a conversion optimization and personalization platform. Split-test two or more web pages to see which generates higher conversions. Target a visitor segment for your experiments. Enable heatmaps within each test to determine how your visitors are interacting with each variation. Track revenue, clicks, engagements, page views, and events. Access form analytics, heatmapping, session recording, and more. Price: Plans start at $16 per month.

VWO

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VWO

VWO is an A/B test platform for marketing teams. Design and launch new experiments quickly with an intuitive, point-and-click editor. Test multiple combinations via multivariate experiments. Automatically adjust splits between variations. Augment your analysis with qualitative user insights using integrated session replays, heatmaps, and popup surveys. Contact for pricing.

AB Tasty

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AB Tasty

AB Tasty is a platform for building and deploying web experiments to deliver better visitor experiences. Create user segments, start from pre-configured templates, and then customize. Create any combination of goals to evaluate performance. Choose what portion of your traffic is exposed to experiments and compare results. Easily send your campaign’s performance data to your analytics tool of choice. Contact for pricing.

Freshmarketer

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Freshmarketer by Freshworks

Freshmarketer is a platform for data-driven experiments. ​​With tracking goals, attribute actual revenue to every event. With detailed reports on testing, learn why a variation leads over the others with detailed metrics such as conversions over time, unique conversions, significance achieved, and more. Price: Free for up to 100 marketing contacts. Premium plans start at $19 per month.

Convert

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Convert

Convert is an A/B testing tool to optimize websites. Convert’s A/B testing features real-time reporting, blink-free testing, personalization, third-party goal tracking, and rich reporting. Test across multiple properties, and run unlimited tests and variations. In addition to A/B testing, Convert offers multivariate testing and multipage experiments. Price: Plans start at $699 per month.

Unbounce

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Unbounce

Unbounce is a drag-and-drop builder to create, publish, and test targeted on-brand landing pages. Easily launch A/B tests with just a few clicks. Duplicate an existing page, tweak your elements, and split the traffic 50-50. Optimize performance by comparing conversion data and promoting your winning page to Champion. Repeat the process by testing your Champion page against a new Challenger, and keep increasing conversion rates. Price: Plans start at $90 per month.