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Join us for a Webinar on 12/14/16 with eBridge!

Join us for a Webinar on 12/14/16 with eBridge!

We’re happy to announce an upcoming webinar with our partner eBridge Connections!  The webinar will be Wed, Dec 14, 2016 2:00 PM – 2:30 PM EST.

In the time it takes to watch a rerun of Seinfeld, gain a handful of useful tips to help take your eCommerce strategy to the next level in 2017.

As online shopping becomes old hat, your customers’ expectations are going up (and their attention span is going down).

Join eBridge Connections and Redstage Worldwide for a 30-minute webinar.

We will all explore:
– Delighting your customers with fast and accurate orders
– Common mistakes that are hurting your store’s conversion rate.

The strategy team at Redstage has specialized in conversion audit and enhancement for over 8 years. Redstage will present some of the most common faux pas we find across both SMB and Enterprise sites alike.

Click here to sign up!

 

The Incredible Benefits of Magento 2

The Incredible Benefits of Magento 2

Magento Ecommerce - Redstage Worldwide | Magento Development |

Magento just took everything to a whole new level with Magento 2.0. Magento 2 offers a superior feature set compared to nearly any other ecommerce platforms but you may ask yourself… What are the real benefits of Magento 2?

Originally, we thought that Magento 2 would simply be a major upgrade from Magento 1, but it’s actually much, much more than that. The file structure, admin panel organization and themeing system are all highly upgraded from the original Magento branch. What we would like to discuss are the major benefits of Magento 2.X and why you should embrace these changes and all of the opportunities for improvement that an upgrade will bring your business. As long time members of the Magento Community, we compiled a list of all the features and changes we love in an attempt to familiarize you with the improvements.

Let’s get started with the basics.

Intuitive Dashboard for User Admin:

The new Magento Admin is intuitive, easy to use, fully mobile responsive and accessible on any device. This update allows you to effortlessly configure your administrative workspace to manage products, process orders, and analyze customer data. You now have the ability to turn on or off any column in your view and drag it into the position of your choosing which allows you to quickly access the information you need when you need it. You can save the specific view and return to it in the future. Multiple admin users can create and edit products without fear of data conflicts. Menu grouping by function- system or e-commerce all modules are more logically organized and user friendly.

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Real Time notifications of Updates

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Data Grid & Keyword Search:

Combine your use of full text searches with keyword searches and SEO for greater customer satisfaction and greater exposure of your products. Omnichannel capabilities allow you to connect your site to other sites such as Ebay in order to increase the exposure of your products and their sales.

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Visual Merchandiser:

You can reduce optimization time with the drag and drop tool and the new automated sorting tool.

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Reporting & Analytics

Built in reporting and support for google analytics and google tag manager.

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More Opportunities for Magento Customization & New Speeds

Magento 2 provides more opportunities for customization without changing core site functionality. It organizes everything under the app structure and allows every module to have its very own directory where you can access all Magento templates, layouts, etc. Setting up new products is a breeze with a guided process that allows you to easily configure your product values such as size, color, and price. The new Magento Attributes give you an opportunity to recreate and better your site and gives you the motivation you need to reevaluate your Magento Performance to make it a better experience for your customers.
Other Magento ecommerce features include its partnership with Varnish Cache, a leading http accelerator technology for fast page loads and server loads which are making Magento sites work much faster than in previous versions. The efficient updates have improved query performance and speed dramatically.

Guided Migration

Magento 2 has a robust a migration tool to help with the data migration between platforms. This assists with store setup, products, customers, orders, and promo rules, but theme and code customizations which includes 3rd party extensions will not be transferable. This is a very interesting tool that we’re excited to see grow into an even more powerful system.

 


At Redstage, we always treat new Magento versions with caution and wait patiently while the new version is tested by the real world and the outstanding Magento community of partners and merchants. Magento 2.0 was released in November of 2015 and it’s truly ready to be your ecommerce platform!

How eCommerce is Like the 2016 Presidential Election

How eCommerce is Like the 2016 Presidential Election

Unless you have been off the grid for the last year or so, avoiding every type of media in existence (in that case, welcome back to the internet!) you’ve heard the seemingly endless news about the 2016 U.S. presidential race. Now more than ever, there is a constant stream of information including results and statistics, comments from candidates and pundits, and election-related controversy being covered by all channels of the media. While this seems to be spilling over from the realm of politics into that of entertainment, this is the process that has evolved in the age of information. It leads up to people making a choice, whether based on facts, emotion, compromise, prejudice, even misinformation—probably some combination of all of the above for most. There is of course only one President, and it is up to them to convince the voters that they are the one that can best hold the office of POTUS.

In much the same way, shoppers often compare the relative value of a certain product that meets their needs (or wants) at several online shops before deciding what to buy, and where to buy it. Each shop competes for the buyer’s vote, and seldom does one order two or more of the same product from two different stores. While the stakes are admittedly higher in picking the leader of one of the most powerful countries in the world, there are some definite parallels. Shop owners and eCommerce experts can learn a lot from the election process.

The Candidate is the Shop, as Much as the Product

While it may be somewhat satisfying to compare our current crop of candidates to cars, shoes, or brands of detergent on a supermarket shelf, within this examination of eCommerce, the closest analog to the candidate is the storefront. Ultimately your customers will take home or have delivered the product they want, whether they buy it from you or from your competitor. (Getting them to buy a different product is saved for another discussion.) The value proposition, level of trust, presentation, service and yes, the price all contribute to this decision.

The "candidates" for shoppers’ purchase dollars all make themselves known through various channels, from paid search, which is like a campaign ad, to reviews, which can be compared to word of mouth or the press, to social media presence, which is essential in both arenas. In much the same way as a grassroots campaign can be a road to the White House, it is not simply a matter of the most dollars spent on advertising creating the most sales. It requires engagement with your customers.

Stand on Your Platform

While watching the debates, both Republican and Democrat, you will see a wide variety of methods by which candidates make their points known. Take for example the platform of better education for American college students. One candidate might cite his or her record on supporting educational bills, devoting funds to improving or building schools, or reducing tuition costs for students. One might propose free education, while another might advocate a more moderate approach of reducing costs and putting limits on debt. When weighing the pros and cons of the policies of your store, you’ll have to consider what’s right for your business when making promises to your customers.

Whatever your value proposition, lay it out in clear, intelligible language and with captivating images. Curate content that highlights not only your product but your brand and the brands you carry. By giving more detail about what sets your shop apart from the competition, you make the case for their vote in your favor.

Run a Clean Campaign or Sling Some Mud?

Another campaign tactic is to attack the competitor’s failings, for example to address a poor record on education in his or her past career as a senator or governor, or to point out the candidate has no experience in this area. Online shops may not usually attack their competitors with such fervor, but each must offer a better proposition. You don’t have to badmouth anyone—it’s probably a bad idea for a number of reasons, one being that you are calling attention to a competitor. This is essentially a passive-aggressive approach. Consider that your customers have already looked at your competitor’s site, or will after they visit yours. What are their failings? Does your competitor who is selling the same product as you, for the same price, offer free shipping? What do their customers say, either in reviews or testimonials, about their record of service? These are all areas where you can prove your worth, and offer value especially if they have failed to do so.

Earn Their Trust

A candidate who says they’re the best without backing up their claims will not appear trustworthy. When he or she gives a blanket promise to solve a problem, but the numbers don’t add up, voters lose confidence. Likewise, online shoppers look at the whole picture. Price isn’t the only decider, as long as it’s competitive. Shoppers are savvy enough to know when something is too good to be true. Instead, detail your policies and provide a warranty of your service. Make yourself available to answer questions and to provide assistance through a toll-free number, chat, and easy to find contact information. Offer a measure of trustworthiness, leveraging your business with specifics such as longevity, e.g. "Selling quality widgets since 1929", or the selection, "The world’s largest selection of widgets," or the quality, "100% handmade, all-natural widgets".

Don’t Repeat the Same Rhetoric Over and Over and …

We’ve seen candidates make the mistake of repeating the same rhetoric, to almost comic effect, or giving repetitive answers to questions when pressed for a more detailed answer. This lack of preparedness makes them look inexperienced, or ignorant of the important topics. In much the same way, shops often cut and paste content such as product or category descriptions from one page or product to another, and often don’t update content on a regular basis. This may cause shoppers to feel that you aren’t paying attention to your store, or at least aren’t bothering to know much about your product. If your home page has the same banners month after month, returning shoppers will notice. Keep the home page fresh with seasonal, sale, or new product banners. Make sure your best-selling products are up to date. If a product has a description from the manufacturer, what can you add so that a customer can really "learn more" on its page? Add your own editorial and personalize the experience. This can be enhanced by offering additional content such as original or buyers’ images, demo videos, or a questions and answers section. If you have a blog or use a social media channel, update it frequently.

Throw Your Hat into the Ring

While issues like Net Neutrality and out-of-state tax laws directly impact stores, most shop owners operate independently of the political process. Nevertheless, shop owners can learn a lot from how campaigns are run and how voters respond to their strategies and actions, successes and failures. By being aware of who is shopping at your store, what they are looking for and how they shop, you can run an online business that will win in 2016—no matter who gets elected next November.

10 Do’s and Don’ts of Web Design

10 Do’s and Don’ts of Web Design

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This post will give you some pointers about how to go about your first Web Design project. If you have limited technical ability, we always recommend working with a professional developer or agency to get your project off the ground.

Layout

Creating a layout for your website is a big part of developing a successful website. The website should follow a pattern that feels familiar to visitors. Try putting your twist on the classics.

  • Do – Create a website with an intuitive layout/interface that is easy for a customer to find what they want. Research on other websites and try to identify customer behaving patterns when visiting those sites. There is a lot of research about how people browse the web out there, so look around and see what you can do to capitalize on how people navigate the web.
  • Don’t – Design or build a website that is so wide that the customer has to scroll left and right to see everything. All of the content should be contained within the viewable width of most web browsers with the most important information “above the fold” or before the page needs to scroll vertically.

Navigation

Navigation is an important tool for your website. Think of who will be viewing your site and think of how to split up the content in a way that would make sense to them to look for it.

  • Do – Use a top navigation or left-side navigation as these are familiar to most visitors so they’ll know where to go to get around on your site. If you’ve got a blog page, you may want to have a right column which includes the blog filters and widgets, while the main column contains the posts you’ve written.
  • Don’t – Use a hidden navigation or remove navigation on certain pages. Make sure it is always easy for your customer to get around your site. You’ve probably spent a lot of time and money on your site, so don’t waste that investment by making it hard for your customer to get around.

Colors

Color can be a very useful tool to create interest and engage your customers. As in most artistic mediums, color should be used carefully.

  • Do – Use colors to enhance your design and draw attention to specific elements on your site (checkout button, add to cart, etc. – more about this later).
  • Don’t – Complicate your site with tons of different colors that don’t belong on the same page. You’re not creating abstract art here. Color should enhance the website, not take it over.

Think About Mobile:

As more and more people turn to Mobile and tablet devices to browse the web, it’s important to have a strategy in place so customers can view your site on these devices.
     

  • Do – Implement a responsive theme for your website. Responsive design allows you to create a website which adjusts based on the device viewing the site. This makes it ideal for websites which receive traffic from a wide variety of mobile and tablet devices.
  • Don’t – Make mobile an afterthought. For most people, there is a tendency to develop a website and then implement a mobile theme separately. You’re doing your business a disservice if you follow this route. It’ll effect your branding (no matter how much you try, your mobile theme will never quite match your actual site) as well as your search rankings (two separate sets of HTML code for the same website add additional complication to your site that search engines don’t like).

Call to Action

Have a clear call to action prompting your customer to take a specific action that you want.

  • Do – Prominently feature your call to action on the page and make it stand out with a bright color or a large graphic.
  • Don’t – Pack your page so full of graphics and buttons that the Call to Action is lost in the shuffle.

Content

Ever hear the phrase “Content is King”? Well, it’s true. Content is an important piece of creating a successful website.

  • Do – Create good, original content to engage your customers. This applies to both website copy as well as images/graphics.
  • Don’t – Plagiarize or use duplicate content. Search engines want original content and know when you’re lying about it. Avoid getting punished in your rankings for doing this.

Get Interactive

Add interactive elements to your site. These can be used for specific promotions or messages to your customer. Changing/rotating graphics will keep a customer interested and allow you to draw their focus where you want it.

  • Do – Use sliding banners on your homepage. These allow you to send your customer a specific message about your site (promotions you are running, new products, etc.) in a way that is easy for them to consume. These can help grab a customer’s attention and keep them on your site.
  • Don’t – Use Flash. There is almost no time when a website needs to use flash these days; period. Search engines don’t like it and some Mobile devices can’t handle it (Adobe also announced that it will no longer support flash for mobile). Look to HTML5 to develop something you would normally use flash for. Also, stay away from music on your site – especially if it automatically plays. Unless you’re promoting your band or you sell music, this is just annoying.

Marketing:

Having a marketing strategy in place as you build your site will help you hit the ground running with SEO and page rank for your website.

  • Do – Create content that is relevant for your website and the product or service you are selling. Use important keywords that customers will be using when looking for your site on search engines.
  • Don’t – Go overboard with Keywords. It is more important that your content read well than have a ton of keyword density. Even if that does help you get traffic to your site, it will turn off customers and cause them to bounce and go to your competitors.

Optimize:

Work hard to optimize your website. This will ensure that it loads quickly for your customers, which will help keep them engaged and on your site.

  • Do – Optimize code, use Style Sheets (CSS) and speed test your site. These things will help keep your site fast and keep your bounce rate low. It will also make updating your site easier (which means cheaper for you!).
  • Don’t – Upload huge image files. You don’t want to get so caught up with image quality that you are uploading giant image files that slow down your page loads. Optimize your images for the web by compressing them – most likely, your customers won’t even notice.

Get Social:

If you’re going to be proactive and update/interact regularly, think about implementing a social strategy to engage your customers.

  • Do – Add Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. to your site. You can do this in the form of links to your accounts or social sharing widgets. The important thing here is to engage your customers in the way that is most familiar to them.
  • Don’t – Add a blog or social feeds that you aren’t going to regularly keep updated. This will make your potential customers question your credibility. Also, if you are just starting out and have a small following on your social accounts, hold off on adding those to your site – these will also reflect poorly on your brand.

If you have any questions or need some help with your new project, give us a call!

Why Responsive Design is so important for Mobile Devices and Tablets


We previously posted about what responsive design is and how to get started on a responsive design for your website. If you haven’t seen that post, you can read that here: Responsive Design: What is it and what do you need to know

This post will go into some detail about why responsive design is so important, specifically for Mobile and Tablet Devices. Originally, designers and developers only had one main challenge to deal with – maintaining the same look and feel of their website across multiple desktop computer browsers. As more and more mobile smartphones and tablets are released, things have started to get a little more complicated.

So, why Responsive Design?

Cost of Ownership
You may be asking yourself: “Why not just build a Mobile site and a tablet site?” Well, you could do that, but then you’re stuck with three different sites that you need to update as your site evolves. While there might be a slightly higher cost to implement a responsive theme, you’ll find that the cost of ownership is actually significantly lower when you factor in the cost of updating and maintaining one responsive site versus multiple sites for desktop/mobile/tablet.

User Experience is Important
Content may be king, but user experience is becoming a much larger part of the picture. A good user experience enables visitors to consume content on any website through the device of their preference at any time. As such, responsive web design is necessary to provide the optimal user experience for all site visitors regardless of what kind of device they access your site with.

Available to Anyone, Any Time
These days, people are constantly moving and on the go. Responsive design lets users access and view your site easily regardless of where they are and what kind of device they have. Early morning commuters can browse from their mobile devices and tablets, and then access the site from a desktop computer or laptop when they get to work or back home.

When Google Talks, We Listen
Google has about a 67% market share on search, so when they want something you do it. Google says that responsive design is the recommended configuration for mobile devices. Additionally, google refers to responsive design as the industry best practice (https://developers.google.com/webmasters/smartphone-sites/).
The reason for this is because websites that use responsive design have one URL and the same HTML making it easier for Google to crawl and index the website.

Mobile Browsing Statistics
It’s easy to support implementing a responsive strategy from a cost, design and usability, or marketing standpoint alone, but beyond that the statistics for mobile and tablet website browsing are compelling enough. Statistics show that 91% of all people on Earth have a mobile phone and 56% of people have smartphones. Out of all mobile phone users, 50% say that they use their mobile device as their primary internet source. That’s over 3 Billion (yes, Billion with a ‘B’) people browsing the web on their mobile phones. Moreover, people are turning to the mobile web at much higher rates than they did with desktops in the 90’s and early 2000’s with adoption rates 8 times higher. A recent survey has shown that 80% of consumers plan to conduct mobile commerce during 2014 with over half of the respondents (57%) saying they would not recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site.

The graphic below shows just how much people are using tablets to consume data on the web and the expectations for mobile payment growth over the next few years.

Infographic created by www.supermonitoring.com

As the number of people with web-enabled tablets and mobile devices increases, so does your customer base. If you fail to grasp the importance of this and don’t implement your Responsive strategy right away, you’re putting yourself at a big disadvantage.

Want to talk to someone about implementing a responsive strategy for your site? Call Redstage today!

5 Easy Steps to Increase Magento Site Performance

Magento is a massive system with tons of files which can really slow your site down if not set up properly. There are plenty of ways that you can optimize your site to improve performance (optimized code, upgraded servers optimized for Magento, etc.). These things can always help, but sometimes, it’s nice to have options available to you without needing a CS degree or spending a ton on hosting. This list will give you some times for how to optimize your sites admin settings to improve your websites performance.

1. Disable Logging – Logging is a feature in Magento which can be useful for testing while developing a site. It creates records of how various features in your site are working/communicating with internal and external systems. But once your site is live, logging is less necessary. Moreover, it is a big drain on your servers resources. This feature is enabled in all Magento releases by default, so you’ll need to go into the admin to disable it. To do so, go to:

  • System>Configuraiton>Advanced>Advanced
  • Expand the “Disable Modules Output” list and look for “Mage_Log”
  • Set this to “Disable” and click the “Save Config” button at the top right of the screen.



2. Enable compilation – Compilation has been a part of Magento for the last few releases (since Magento CE 1.4.x.x). Essentially, this feature reorganizes site files and scopes into a more easily accessible blocks of HTML. According to Magento, this feature can increase performance by 25-50% depending on the page requested. The caveat to using compilation is that you need to recompile the website each time that changes are made (especially if new extensions are installed – we recommend disabling compilation when installing new extensions and re-enabling it when the installation is complete). To enable compilation, go to:

  • System>Tools>Compilation
  • Clicking the Orange button to “Run Compilation Process” will turn on compilation for the site.

3. Combine JS and CSS files – This is another feature that has been around for a while now (since Magento CE 1.4.x.x). While this feature doesn’t decrease the file sizes for your JS or CSS files, it combines them into one which can yield significant improvement in browser rendering time. To enable this setting, go to:

  • System>Configuration>Advanced>Developer
  • Expand the sections for “Javascript Settings” and “CSS Settings”
  • For the “Merge Files” options, set the value to “yes”

4. Enable Flat Catalog – Magento uses the EAV database model, so loading a category or product page requires several different database queries from different database tables storing product data. Enabling the Flat Catalog allows these pages to be built using a single DB query from a single DB table. This reduces the performance bottleneck of loading a product/category page significantly. To enable this setting, go to:

  • System>Configuration>Catalog>Catalog
  • Expand the Frontend section
  • Look for the options “Use Flat Catalog Product” and “Use Flat Catalog Category” and set the value to “Yes”

Note: If you can’t set these values to yes (they are grayed out) it likely means you need to enable indexing for these features under System>Index Management.

5. Keep it Simple – This should go without saying, but it bears repeating: just because extensions are out there, DOES NOT mean you need to install all of them. The more files you add to your site, the more server resources you are wasting. Be critical about what features you want to add to your store. If you do want to try out a new feature, consider setting up a development environment so you can test that feature out without affecting your live sites performance.

Like these tips and want to know more? Contact us today to discuss your site and how Redstage can help grow your business!