WordCamp Boston 2017 Thoughts & Takeways

WordCamp Boston 2017 Is in the Books

Many of the staff here at FirstTracks have been attending Boston WordCamp since the first year back in 2011. Since then our company and our team has grown. We have even given presentations at the event in 2013 and 2014 on how to setup your own WooCommerce store. These events are always fun, well attended, and full of great information from other peers and professionals who all work with WordPress every day just like we do.

We thought it would be fun this year to have each member of the team share his biggest takeaway from the event. As there were five of us in attendance, we all had a different perspective on the event. If you would like to see an archive of activity on Twitter you can search #wbcos.

Matt Nelson – President / Interactive Strategy Director

Matt Nelson at WordCamp Boston 2017These events are always fun for me as I get to spend time talking with people at the event and learning more about how their businesses work. This year was particularly special because we got to help out with the WooCommerce booth and Happiness Bar because of our new Gold WooExpert Status. We even made cool T-shirts to wear so people could find us easily. We were looking sharp!

I think my biggest / best takeaway was getting to listen to the last presentation of the day—how Bill Gadless, president of Emagine, has grown his company to a 50-person firm. It’s always interesting to me to hear perspective from the people who have lived the journey that we are currently experiencing as we have grown over the past few years and are now approaching 15 people at FirstTracks. Gadless offered some very sound advice about making hard decisions regarding who the right clients are for you and what your true focus should be as an organization to provide the best clear direction for your growth. Words and strategies that we will continue to evolve by.

Ryan Davey – Website Developer / Support Specialist

Ryan DaveyWordCamp is great! Although we work in WordPress all the time, it’s nice to get different perspectives from other folks in the industry as you are always going to walk away with some new knowledge to help make websites even better and more efficient.

Among many things, I learned some new skills to bring my WordPress development up a notch and I was excited to hear about the new Gutenberg content editor in WordPress. Although I am sure that it will take some time for everyone to embrace it, I think that it is a step in the right direction. I’m looking forward to attending next year’s WordCamp!

David Strout – Website Developer

David StroutWordPress is a powerful, mature platform for building everything from blogs to e-commerce sites. Part of what makes it so enjoyable to work with is its expandability. With so many plugins and themes already written, excellent documentation on how to roll your own, and a large and helpful community, WordPress is an excellent way to get online.

James Dudley – Web Development Manager

James DudleyAs usual, the WordCamp conference confirmed that the work we’re doing here at FirstTracks is using one of the industry’s best, most cutting-edge, and widely used platforms for building websites, online stores, and marketing platforms in the world today. The more we learn about WordPress, we realize just how powerful it is, and how it really can scale for our larger enterprise level clients. One of the seminar presentations said “It’s totally okay to brag about how fast your WordPress site loads.” We also enjoyed helping numerous people out at the WooCommerce table and at the Happiness Bar (helpdesk area) as well. See you next year!

Eric Murray – Senior Web Developer

Eric MurrayIt’s great helping people solve problems, and getting to be the hero who could solve what no one else could is even better. I also love getting obscure questions and scenarios thrown at me that I might never had considered.

The WordPress community and diversity is its most valuable asset. The platform will continue to grow exponentially as long as more people are included in the development. PHP is not as limiting a factor as possibly thought, and can even be circumvented altogether if desired by relying on interacting through the REST API.

Being able to interact with a WP install and do all the CRUD tasks all from an external site/app creates a lot of options. A super-lean js app can leverage a large WP database and lean on the WP framework to handle all kinds of data manipulation. Ideal for an app to pair to a website and share management and info capabilities.

Functional Programming & Accessibility

Organizing functional blocks into smaller and smaller bits makes those functional pieces more flexible and easier to maintain, as well as making the code run faster in general. Something that is VERY important in reducing the not always easy to debug “slow server response time” variable. Logic is fast on modern computers, but it’s the parsing that is the bottleneck over network connections.

As the expectation of having an accessible sites grows, it’s more important than ever to have a well-formed document. At the most basic level, having relevant headings and content in a structure that makes sense is what search engines are looking for. There’s no reason to think that now and certainly in the future search engine algorithms wouldn’t give preference to accessible sites over non-accessible sites.

Performance:

Everything has a cost. Every image, script, and external code coming into any web page needs to be scrutinized and offer a real end-benefit to pay for that cost. If the benefit can not justify the cost, then it should not be included. This is easy to lose track of, especially in a WP environment where adding plugins is only a few clicks away. In order to really make a site perform well this thinking needs to be applied from planning to design to implementation and then maintained going forward.

Bullet-Proof Software:

Building software using WP coding standards has huge benefits. Lots of functions already exist and have been curated in the WP core for years, making common tasks far quicker and less tedious when used over and over. This goes along with the functional programming piece in ensuring that plugins and features we program are reliable enough to be run on a server getting hit with thousands if not millions of page views.

Customizing WooCommerce:

WooCommerce customization is definitely in a good place. WooCommerce continues to evolve its software into being more functional and bullet proof, by adhering to the WP coding standards. The fact that it is so functional is a testament to what is possible using the WP framework of post types, taxonomies, and template structure. I’m convinced that being so flexible is what makes WooCommerce the easiest shopping platform to use, and being built on such a flexible framework makes it the easiest to customize.

FirstTracks Marketing Website Development Team
The FirstTracks development team enjoying an awesome meal together after a long day of learning!

Are you in need of WordPress / WooCommerce Development & Design?

The team at FirstTracks Marketing is extremely passionate and experienced in all areas of WordPress and WooCommerce design and development. If you have a website you need built, designed, or overhauled, we are the team to call. If you have an online store that you want to increase sales with, we are the team to call. So what are you waiting for? Give us a call today at 603-924-1978 or fill out our short request form and let’s get going!

WooCommerce Conference Day Two Afternoon Recap

Better later than never right? Here is a quick recap of notes from WooCommerce Conference 2016 Day 2 the afternoon sessions. Lots of great tidbits of information here, take a quick scan through we are sure you will walk away with at least a few a ha moments. And don’t worry we will be summarizing this all in one nice short and sweet blog post very soon. In the mean time enjoy!

Value Metrics for new stores – @Beka_Rice from SkyVerge

  • Conversion Rate is like a batting average for your store
  • New stores don’t have enough data points to measure enough to optimize your conversions
  • If you have less than 1k transactions per month, it’s probably too early for you to split-test. Your dataset has not reached data significance yet.
  • So what metric are important when you’re starting out? (that don’t rely on number of orders)
  • Average Order Value (AOV)
    • How to increase revenue:
      • Get more total customers (traffic)
      • Get existing customers to buy again
      • Convert existing visitors better (increase conversion rate)
      • Make more money on the order you get (increase AOV)
    • How to find AOV? (Sales by Date in analytics)
      • Total sales / total order = AOV (average order value)
      • Now you can best know how to:
        • Set free shipping thresholds
          • Offer discounts above AOV (see swwp.co/y)
  • Average Order Profit: (Total revenue – order costs) / total orders
  • Customer Acquisition Cost = total marketing spend / new customers
    • How to find new customers? Look at “new orders” (but also has repeat customers), OR install SkyVerge’s plugin that shows you report of new customers (compares billing emails)
  • Analysis Paralysis – you don’t have to track every single metric at once. Improve a few metrics, then move on to others.

Benefits of Multi-Channel Selling – @jakegasaway from Stitch Labs

  • 10% of ALL sales happen online (90% are still brick & mortar)
  • Shopping cart store + 1 other marketplace: 38% increase in sales
  • Shopping cart store + 2 other marketplaces: 120% increase in sales
  • Amazon has not taken over Google with where people to go search for shop
  • What to watch out for:
    • Order volume goes up in an added marketplace
    • Average order value goes down in an added marketplace
  • Where should I start?
    • Test, then strategize

How to Elevate Brands with their unique Voice – Kandace Brigleb

  • Your online presence either builds your brand or defines you as a commodity
  • How to get your authentic brand voice into your WooCommerce shop
  • Brand assets (look at what you already have images, videos, etc and get it on your site)
  • Use the Power of WordPress – to tell your story
  • Customize the experience to match your brand (language)
  • Trust your Gut – what feels right? You know your brand better than anyone else
  • People are loyal to brands, not products. Your website needs to be an articulation of your brand.

Using User Generated Content to Boost Sales – Shayla Price

  • Reviews, tweets, blog posts, social media, etc
  • 3 benefits of UGC: valuable feedback, brand advocacy, cost savings
  • Example: Go Pro – video of the day, asks customers to share videos and they share one each day on their site & youtube channel
  • Campaign planning:
    • Target people’s passions
    • Create a catchy hashtag (not long; easy to remember)
    • Promote heavily (on your email list, social media accounts, and website)
  • Invitational Emails: automatically send customers “would you like to reivew this product?” After they purchase
  • Path to Sales
    • Product Pages (put UGC right on the product page about that product)
    • Curated Content Hubs
    • Community Q&A Forums
  • User review discounts – plugin for WC that gives customers a discount coupon code after they complete a review

Stop Selling. Start Helping. – @matthew_j_white

  • Ie: free recipe with every purchase (added value!)
  • Try to see things from your customers’ perspectives: Would you rather be “helped” or be “sold”?
  • 85% of top websites, they are selling to you before they even get to know you.
  • Bottom line: just be useful to your customers.

Improving Customer Interactions – @WooMindy

  • When a customer talks to you, they want to be sure you’re listening
  • Store Owners: Ask for feedback (ie: surveys) Maximize results (avoid Thurs & Sun for surveys, send to loyal audience, keep it short & sweet) Be sure to listen to the results.
  • Developers: Create and maintain an ideas board (where customers can suggest new ideas)
  • Designers: Acknowledge customers and educate them
    Support Reps: validation as a tool to defuse angry customers

Word of Mouth Marketing at WooCommerce Conference 2016Word of Mouth Marketing with Andy Sernovitz

  • Giving people a reason to talk about your stuff
  • Making it easier for that conversation to take place
  • Love & Money do NOT mix (never *pay* people to share your story, etc)
  • The 5 T’s:
    • Talkers: Find People Who Talk
    • Topics: Give Something to Say
    • Tools: Help It Spread
    • Take Part: Join the conversation
    • Tracking: Measure & listen
  • Advertising is the Cost of being Born

WooCommerce Conference 2016 Morning Recap Day Two

Ready for WooCommerce Conference Day Two!

Day two got off to a slow start for Matt because he forgot his conference badge at the hotel. He ended up getting some extra exercise before making it over to the WooCommerce Conference morning session block. Luckily it was a beautiful morning. 🙂

Disruption and the Future of Commerce—Juan Benitez – Braintree

  • WooCommerce Conference 2016 Day 2 StartProvide easy to use APIs that are available to everyone
  • Great integrations. Great APIs = great platforms to build on
  • Social messaging platforms are dominating consumers’ attention
  • Average smartphone user picks up their phone 85 times a day – twice as often as they realize
  • The future of commerce is contextual:
    • Messaging – becoming the interface for consumers to connect and transact with each other and business
    • Buy Buttons – put your goods and services anywhere (native app, social media, other places) to buy directly from there (i.e.: Pinterest “buyable” pins)
    • Email – up to 65% of emails are opened on a mobile device. Companies using email to nurture leads generate 50% more sales leads at 44% lower cost. Put “buy” buttons directly in your email.
    • 4x harder to buy on a mobile device as compared to desktop experience
    • PayPal Commerce – buy what and when you want in a few taps

Sales Tax 101—Mark Faggiano – CEO of TaxJar

  • WooCommerce Conference 2016 Day 2 AMStep 1: Is what you’re selling taxable? (Services are not taxable, just products.)
  • Step 2: Where do you have nexus? (presence in a state, such as an office, retail store, employees, tradeshows, drop-shipping, warehouse inventory)
  • Step 3: Get a sales tax license (permission to collect tax). You need one for each state you have nexus in. This is free in most states; it just takes a little time.
  • Step 4: Collect – collect tax at point of sale.
    • Nexus for one channel means nexus for your entire business
  • Step 5: File sales tax returns.
    • Filing deadlines usually tied to sales volume
    • Enter your sales and taxes collected for each jurisdiction
    • Gets worse if you’re multi-channel

TaxJar plugin for WooCommerce takes care of everything (calculates how much tax should be calculated, provides reports, and files returns automatically).
Free ebook is available at salestax101.com (for developers and store owners)

Security of Payments—Siddique Hameed – Simplify Commerce & MasterCard

  • Transaction Security with WooCommerceCNP (Card Not Present) fraud is a major concern for U.S. merchants
  • 7 times harder to detect and prevent CNP fraud than card present transactions
  • 32% increase in fraudulent transactions from 2013 to 2014
  • 254% on digital goods in Q3 of 2015
  • 4 parties: Customer, Merchant, Merchant Bank, Issuing Bank
  • To prevent fraud: Enforce Transaction Security, Tokenization, and Location Checks

Simplify controls is a brand new system from Simply Commerce that will allow you to protect your store transactions in a variety of ways very easily:

Location checks for Fraud Prevention

  • Billing vs. Shipping
  • IP Address vs. Billing
  • Person using a proxy
  • Known networks
  • IP location – country
  • Which country the card is registered

Velocity Checks for Fraud

  • Number of payments by the same card
  • IP address
  • Device
  • Email
  • Number of payments

Why Every E-commerce Business Should Have a Membership Offering

  • WooCommerce MembershipAttracting a new customer costs 5 times as much as keeping an existing one
  • Amazon invested billions in the development of its Prime services because data showed that members spend 2.5 times more money with them each year
  • Replenishment Model
    • Convenient
    • Set it and forget it
    • Cheaper
  • Discovery and Curated Products
    • An exciting discovery experience
  • Value Driven Content
    • Adds depth to customer relationship
    • Customers learn more about the things they care about
    • Makes you a trusted authority

Latest Trends in Search Engine Marketing with Seth Rand

  • Ecommerce Search Engine MarketingGoogle AdWords & AdWords Display Network
  • Search, Display, Remarketing, Shopping, Shopping Remarketing, Video Ads (YouTube)
  • Remarketing has a higher conversion rate than on the first click
  • AdWords campaign settings
    • Location settings: add each state individually so you can collect data on which states do better.
    • Time settings: same thing, setup times of day so you can track what does better, and what days of the week do better.
    • Targeting based on device.
    • Then you can adjust bids based on that data.
  • People may initially search on a mobile device, but then return on a desktop to convert.
  • Make sure you install conversion tracking (contact thank you pages, order thank you page, account creation, newsletter signup, etc.) Set these up as Goals in Analytics.
    Install remarketing code site-wide.
  • Google Merchant Center to run Google shopping campaigns. Set-up feeds from WooCommerce into Google Merchant Center. Also set up product data feed for Bing shopping.
  • Connect Analytics and AdWords (this has to manually be done)
  • How to increase click through rate (CTR): SiteLinks extension (increase CTR), Call extension (inbound phone calls), Location exention (push shoppers to your physical store), Callout extension (track call outs, e.g.: 10% off!, etc.)
  • Submit dynamic sitemaps through Google Webmaster Tools
  • Content writing, social media, industry backlinks
  • Google looks for high page authority inbound links
  • Use Moz Open Site Explorer to find out who is linking to your site (and your competitors)
  • Scholarship Opportunity: Create a scholarship (e.g.: $1000) and send out press releases to all colleges and universities. Maybe 10-20 of them will pick it up and link to your site (high authority).

The 3 Types of Video You Need to Boost Conversions Now with Josh Cary

  • Video for Ecommerce73% of adults are more likely to make an online purchase after watching a video about that product
  • 77% of adults consider companies that create online video to be more engaged with customers
  • 3 types of videos:
    • Branding Videos – convey a certain feeling to customers. Give customers a wide scope of your brand. Build trust.
    • How-To Videos – teach how to use products. You can fit multiple products into one video. People search YouTube all the time about how to solve a problem. Have videos that show them how (and sell your product at the same time).
    • Individual Product Videos – (Start here) – show specific features, break down why it will solve a problem
  • Product Videos
    • 370% product conversion boost when adding a video!
    • Mobile phone and Red Scarlet camera
  • 8 Tips for Taking Product Videos:
    • Lighting and sound are more important than video quality
    • Product closeups are important; don’t just hold on a wide shot
    • Don’t be afraid of getting into the details
    • Video length doesn’t matter, make cuts between yourself and product shots to keep interest
    • Don’t forget a call to action
    • Give the video a prominent place on your product page
    • Pay attention to your video thumbnail
    • Use social channels (Facebook, YouTube, email) to deliver your videos to a wider audience

Hope you enjoyed all the quick hitting info above.  We know it’s a lot. We will summarize all of our thoughts on the event after it’s over. It’s been great fun so far getting to meet and talk with so many people who use WooCommerce in so many different ways. A few more sessions to go before we wrap up. More soon.

WooCommerce Conference 2016 Day One Afternoon Recap

Some Thoughts and Insights from the Early Afternoon WooCommerce Conference Sessions Day One.

WooCommerce Conference Afternoon Sessions Early BlockThe early afternoon 2016 WooCommerce Conference sessions featured great common sense ideas and reminders from a few different presenters. I’ve gathered them all up in one list to make it easy to review them quickly. 🙂

  • Identify your best customers and focus heavily on them
  • Cost per acquisition between good customers and bad customers is the same, goes back to who you really need and should be focusing on (the 80/20 rule)
  • Good customers are born, not bred
  • Be creative about your business: How does your product help people or make their lives better?
  • Speak in your own voice, your customers want to hear from you

The Second Block of Afternoon Sessions on Day One Were Excellent!

The late afternoon sessions featured some great insights on what WooCommerce can and should become, a great talk from the CEO of WP Engine, and a fantastic data discussion on what search means for your e-commerce shop.

WooCommerce Is More Than a Cart

  • WoooCommerce is More Than A CartWooCommerce is a platform that can be used to build any commerce solution, not just shopping carts. To do so will require our ability to innovate.
  • The physical world has limits that the digital world does not.
  • The shopping cart metaphor has to go! We need to move beyond things we are familiar with so that we can truly innovate online commerce.
    • Wanelo – live feeds of over .5M carts around the world
    • Starbucks – allowing users to pay via smartphone BEFORE Apple Pay was a thing
    • Geo Marketing Online Only Users – what about truly targeting the online-only customers based on their location?
    • Amazon – The One Click checkout – not conforming to the standard limitations of the physical checkout, and Amazon Dash, voice recorder or barcode scanner allowing you to request products from the device in your hand
  • WooCommere has more than 1M registered users. Imagine what we can do as a community!

Content & Commerce: Implications for Sites and Brands

  • WP Engine CEOCommerce done right is CONTENT. It’s not a flat sales page, it’s storytelling. It’s not about what you are selling, it’s about WHY you are selling it.
  • Your customer experience is your digital strategy. Make that a priority.
  • Your customer experience is based on a few key stages
    • Credibility – Do you know what you are talking about?
    • Respect – Are you authentic? Do I get value from your ideas?
    • Trust – Do you care about me?
    • Advocacy – I will actively share on your behalf.
  • Delivering the next generation of online commerce, we need to innovate to make this happen and it’s not happening fast enough.
  • We need to get more technically adept at providing more intelligent content to users based on what we know about them already based on history and activity.
  • Why is AdTech so smart and the general website experience so dumb?
  • How do you bridge the gap between the brick and mortar welcome back and frequent customer experience in our digital stores?
    • Toms – great brand quality and consistency (Credibility)
    • BirchBox – beauty subscription service (Respect)
    • Glasses.com – 3D technology to try glasses on with their website (Trust)
    • GoPro – make it easy for people to share experiences with your brand; how can we make sure that the most super of the super fans get treated as such (Advocacy)
  • Experiment with different techniques to engage, listen, and learn!

E-commerce Search: Everything You Wanted to Know But Never Dared to Ask

  • WooCommerce SearchPeople who search came to buy, convert at roughly 2.5 times more than people who do not search
  • Make sure your search box is clear and visible
  • Make sure your SERP (search engine results page) is good on mobile
  • Need to think about how your shoppers are looking for your products
  • You need to know what shoppers are NOT finding on your website. Think globally; people call things different things in different parts of the world
  • Consider Instant Search+ for enhancing your sites search tool

Phew! What a day! So much to take in. We met so many new people and shop owners selling interesting products using WooCommerce. Looking forward to Day Two tomorrow!

WooCommerce Conference 2016 Day One Morning Recap

We Made It to Austin and the 2016 WooCommerce Conference!

Matt Mullenweg at WooConferenceThe opening WooCommerce Conference keynote with Matt Mullenweg was very interesting. Here are some key points and stats from his talk on the state of Woo and WordPress:

  • 1 in 4 websites now run on WordPress
  • Current growth stats of WooCommerce
    • September 2011 – Zero downloads
    • September 2012 – 310,000 downloads
    • November 2013 – 2,000,000 downloads (WooCommerce 2.0)
    • November 2014 –  5,000,000 downloads (WooCommerce 2.2), 350+ extensions, and 380,000 site installations. Team was 45 people deep
    • Today: 13,800,000 downloads! Powered by 78 people over 18 countries
  • WooCommerce is translated into 26 languages worldwide
  • WooCommerce 2.6 will be dropping sometime in May 2016

How to Turn Data into Insights & Customers with Peep Laja from ConversionXL

  • Conversion XLOptimizaiton is compound intrest for growth
  • How would you go about growth?
    • #1 you need a systematic approach, a process
      • Best practices are more like common practices; they are where you start, not end.
      • Did you know that the Amazon Prime average conversion rate is 75%!
      • Copying the layout and approach of big successful businesses and competitors is not going to help at all. They don’t know what they are doing either.
      • What are the things that matter most to your buyers? More than half the copy on your website is doing nothing and probably hurting your sales, YOU NEED TO KNOW WHAT MATTERS TO YOUR BUYERS!
      • This is accomplished through testing and research
      • Ask the right questions…
  • 6 Key Steps to the Process
    1. Technical Analysis
    2. Heuristic Analysis
    3. Digital Analytics (heap analytics, need to look into this)
    4. Mouse Tracking (session replays, how can we get this?)
    5. Qualitative Surveys (send to people who purchase with incentives, with simple open-ended questions, no multiple choices, need to learn more about who is buying to find more of them)
    6. User Testing
  • Conversion Optimization is NEVER done!

Make Facebook Ads Work for You

  • Facebook tracks with User ID and NOT cookies. This makes multi-device tracking possible, which is vastly superior to more traditional paid search advertising.
  • MOBILE FIRST!  Don’t think ads, think engagement, organic boost, talk to people like PEOPLE.

Lessons Learned from Selling (a crazy amount of) Lipstick & Scaling Cababilities of WooCommerce

  • Your success with e-commerce is linked to your appetite for experimentation
    • If you aren’t prepared to do this you will just be copying someone else
  • Define the target right and defining the right target are two different things
    • What’s the right metric for YOU?
    • Add to carts per minute is a valuable metric…..Chris Lema and his team was able to run 2000 add to cart events per minute for their customer last Black Friday. WooCommerce can scale if done properly.
  • Scaling WooCommerce takes more than just setting it up
  • Hire developers who prefer testing over everything
  • Your host should be a partner not just a vendor
  • Everyone has blindspots. The solution is a great team
  • If you end well, people will remember a positive. If you end bad, they won’t

That’s all from this morning. More to come later from the afternoon session!

FirstTracks Marketing Is Now an Official WooCommerce Expert

FirstTracks Marketing is a Silver WooCommerce ExpertBig news at FirstTracks Marketing. We are very excited to announce we are now a Silver Level WooExpert. We are now certified WooThemes and WooCommerce development experts! As of this writing there are only 15 companies in the entire world approved for this distinction, one of only seven US-based companies, and only one of two U.S. companies on the eastern seaboard.

We are honored to be approved WooThemes and WooCommerce development experts and look forward to working on many exciting projects in the upcoming months with this new partnership program. You can check out our official profile on their site or explore some of our recent WooCommerce work.

A Little Bit of Background

Four years ago we made the decision to become a WooThemes affiliate developer because we saw the great potential of WooThemes writing and design. Since then we have been one of only a few northeast based developers with this distinction. With the advent of WooCommerce just over three years ago the entire ecommerce landscape has changed. Today WooCommerce is powering 29% of all ecommerce websites, an insane amount of growth in a very short period of time.

We Look Forward to Working on Your Ecommerce Website!

FirstTracks is all about your bottom line, if you have a product you want to sell online, or you are already selling product online and want to sell more we can help you get there. We are passionate marketers, developers and designers all working toward that all important goal of helping your business make you more money. Give us a call today at 603-924-1978 or fill out our online request form to get the conversation started!

FirstTracks Marketing: A Look Back at 2014 and Ahead to 2015

Thank You to all our Clients for an awesome 2014As December winds down and we get closer to Christmas and the new year, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on what was another exciting, challenging, and interesting year. We continued to grow as a team, had a few fun group outings, and enjoyed becoming part of the local community in Concord during our first year at 5 Warren Street. There was some internal change with our location and staff, all in response to our growth as a company. It’s exciting to be heading into 2015 with such a dynamic and experienced team that is ready, willing, and able to deal with whatever new challenges await us in 2015. We also added some great clients in 2014 and had some very important learning experiences with other clients—all part of our continued growth as an organization. We feel poised and ready to handle whatever challenges 2015 has in store for us!

Exciting Highlights from 2014:

  • New client Hyo Silver had its biggest online sale months EVER in November/ December using the new WordPress/WooCommerce platform we built for them.
  • Curly Girl Design achieved its online annual sales goal in OCTOBER! This was helped along by the new mobile responsive site we built for them using the Genesis theme framework, which improved performance and conversion rates across the board.
  • Our graphic design department continued to grow producing a stunning catalog for Douglas Toys, annual reports for Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene and Weeks Medical Center, and new branding for retirement community Fox Hill Village.
  • Launching new digital communication initiatives for Weeks Medical Center using email campaigns and continued growth of the hospital’s website platform.
  • Attending the first ever WooCommerce conference in SanFrancisco in November.
  • Adding three awesome new team members this year in Ryley, Philip, and Lou.
  • The 1st FirstTracks Holiday Extravaganza where we all raced at F1 Boston (Interactive Media Director Matt Nelson took the top spot in case you were wondering).
  • Presenting at WordCamp Boston 2014 on setup basics for WooCommerce.
  • Supporting all of our e-commerce clients and helping them do a combined total of more than $1.7 MILLION in sales in 2014!

Things We Are Looking Forward to in 2015:

  • Continued growth of our team and the capabilities of our growing online marketing team.
  • More new WooCommerce e-commerce platforms being developed and launching in early 2015.
  • New Joomla website coming for Nashua Community College in the spring.
  • More exciting marketing campaign support for our wide variety of consumer products, from athletic equipment to soapstone countertops to fasting bread.
  • Building more successful marketing and e-commerce programs for the great brand partners such as Dr. Cool Recovery, Curly Girl Design, and Hyo Silver.
  • Continuing to refine our own brand, culture, and company.

None of This Is Possible Without You–Our Clients

We feel very fortunate to be working with such a diverse and interesting group of professional organizations all over the country (and even the world; we did a project in the UK this year). We couldn’t do all this fun, creative, and exciting work without our clients, and we thank you for that. We look forward to pushing our clients marketing programs to new heights of success, efficiency, and sales in 2015! Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year everyone!

Our Top Pick for Online Payment Processing

stripe_woocommerceThrough the years, we’ve worked with plenty of online payment processing gateways for our clients’ e-commerce stores, subscription sites, or event tickets. What most people don’t realize is that integrating a website with a good payment gateway no longer needs to be a painful and time-consuming process. There is one online payment solution that we always recommend above all others: Stripe with WooCommerce. We’ll tell you why in a minute, but first you need to understand what your needs are when looking into various payment gateways.

When considering payment gateways…

There are so many payment gateways out there, and they all have their own fine print, fees, setup costs, features, and limitations. Some are easier to setup than others. Some may integrate with your e-commerce platform, and some may not. Some are a lot more expensive than others. When you are looking to signup with a payment processor for your store, there are several things you should consider:

  • What is the signup fee (if any), and what are the transaction costs?
  • Does it integrate seamlessly with my website and e-commerce platform?
  • Does it accept mobile payments?
  • Is it expandable and customizable using an external API?

Stripe’s valuation has doubled in less than a year!

The best payment gateway in our opinion is Stripe. We have experience with lots of gateways, such as PayPal, Authorize.net, Google Checkout, and many others. When we first started using Stripe, it was like a breath of fresh air. The account setup takes about 5 minutes (compare that to authnet!), and you can be accepting payments. Stripe’s website interface is super easy to use. It deposits the funds from each transaction into your bank account a couple days later automatically. It makes refunds really easy. And most importantly: There are no setup costs and transaction fees are 2.9% + .30 per transaction (very competitive, less based on volume). Here are also a few highlights of what Stripe provides:

  • Extremely easy to integrate with WooCommerce
  • Supports recurring billing (such as Subscriptions with WooCommerce)
  • Supports “saved” credit cards for your customers (securely)
  • Seamlessly integrated mobile payments
  • Built for developers so it is easily customized
  • Accepts all major credit cards and international cards
  • Accepts payments in more than 100 currencies
  • Integrates with accounting systems and ERP systems
  • And much more that you can learn about here

If you’re not convinced yet, here are a couple articles that were recently published that show how Stripe is growing:

Do you need help with online payment processing?

There are several things you need to think about when you add online payments to your website. How do you want to accept payments, and which cards do you want to accept? How does the process work for transferring funds from your payment processor to your bank account? How are you going to integrate the payment gateway into your website? Does your website even support it? If you’re going to accept credit cards seamlessly (direct) on your website, you need to make SURE you have SSL installed on your server so your customers can trust the security on your site. Does your checkout force SSL for checkout? You want to make sure your online checkout is secure, easy, and intuitive to use, and does not inhibit your store’s ability to make sales.

[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]Bottom line: Do your customers find it easy to purchase your products or services on your website?[/box]

We love Stripe. We think you’ll love it too. Call us at 603-924-1978 or Drop us a line if you need help getting it setup on your website.

How to Make eCommerce Easy for Your Customers

So where’s the EASY shopping now? It’s online and it’s booming. According to a recent Goldman Sach’s report, eCommerce sales will grow in excess of 17 percent annually for the next three years. What’s a business to do?

Easy > Easier >> Easiest

Make it easy for your eCommerce customersWhat is the real driver of change in the world of retail commerce? One word: Easy. Easy is at the heart of eCommerce. In the way back machine, we see small farms and craftspeople making things and selling to neighbors. Then the village market day made it easier to reach more customers and shopping there made people’s lives easier. Then the town main street developed making it easier, once again, for customers to find what they were looking for. Then the strip mall developed to concentrate retail a bit further, and the ’60s gave birth to the mall and the even bigger mall. All of this occurred to make it easier for customers to find what they were looking for and to spend less time doing it.

Now to the 21st century. Retail store traffic is down and 15 percent of U.S. malls are closing. Why? They’re not the easiest. Traffic, compressed family schedules, and limited selection are the norm. Not everything is their fault, but when is it ever? Check out the annual reports of mall stalwarts such as Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle and you’ll read about drastic store count reductions. Worker productivity is at an all-time high, but there is still only 24 hours in every day. Packing more into these 24 hours has never been more of an American priority. So where’s the EASY shopping now? It’s online and it’s booming. According to a recent Goldman Sach’s report, eCommerce sales will grow in excess of 17 percent annually for the next three years. What’s a business to do?

eCommerce Questions Your Business Needs to Answer

  1. Am I making it easy for my customers to buy?
  2. Am I where they want me to be?
  3. Is my purchasing environment easy?
  4. Is my selection easy?
  5. Can customers see what I have, easily?
  6. Is my checkout easy?
  7. Is my delivery and return activities easy?

Getting Your Business Online. What You Need to Do

  1. Develop a strategy. This is the heavy lifting part. Don’t skimp. Do the work. Know where you are going and why.
  2. Make sure your website is ready. Is it a platform that can truly handle online sales? Will your customers be happy there? (think “easy”)
  3. Select an eCommerce platform that works well, can grow with you, and is easy to manage.
  4. Develop an online marketing strategy and plan that supports #1.
  5. Have the will and the patience to work the plan.
  6. Measure, analyze, adapt and implement. Every week, every month, ALL YEAR.

Need Help?

At FirstTracks, eCommerce is what we do. We are experienced business people who have the technical skills to get the job done. eCommerce, like any business, is hard work based on a will to succeed. Make it easy for your customers to find you, easy to understand that you have what they want, and easy to process and to deliver what they order. Yeah, we can help you do that!

Contact us at FirstTracks today and let’s get this figured out for you. Call 603-924-1978. or fill out our contact form and we’ll call you.

Top 5 Must-Have Items to Launch Your E-commerce Website

Ecommerce is serious business. It’s complicated and stressful at times but it’s also very exciting and interesting. The best thing you can do for yourself and your store is to have a great framework and system behind your products. That way you can spend more time handling your orders, serving your customers and marketing to make more money online. Learn more about the 5 key elements you need to have in place before you start selling online.

ecommerce system must have

Here at FirstTracks, we’ve built and continue to manage a lot of e-commerce websites for our clients. Our customer’s e-commerce websites come in all shapes and sizes and serve a variety of audiences including fasting bread subscriptions/materials at Live the Fast, soccer uniforms at The Team Factory, western jewelry at Hyo Silver, whoopie pies of Chococoa Baking Company, or the original apparel/greeting cards of Curly Girl Designs. You can sell pretty much anything online these days: memberships, subscriptions, appointments, food, apparel. You name it. Regardless of what you sell online you need a few basic elements to allow customers to visit your store and make purchases.  Here are the Top 5 must-have items to get your e-commerce website up and running and making you money.

WordPress Logo1. Choose a Great Website Platform

Your website will need to run on something. Nobody builds sites from scratch anymore. You need a foundation that will make it easy for you to mange, edit, and support your site. Our platform of choice is WordPress. Our clients love how simple we make their website management.

2. Pick a Flexible and Reliable E-commerce Engine

Shopping Cart PlatformBuilding your e-commerce store using WordPress means that you will have a host of options to choose from.  WooCommerce is hands down the best ecommerce engine available for WordPress. If you’re looking to build any kind of e-commerce shop with WordPress, WooCommerce has the extensions to make it easy. From online courses, to subscriptions, to perishable products, WooCommerce can get it done. If what you are looking to do with your sales isn’t something WooCommerce currently does out of the box, we can customize a solution that fits your business. WooCommerce is built and maintained by WooThemes, one of the premier theme and extension development companies. This guarantee that the support and reliability will be there for the long haul as your store continues to grow and thrive.

3. Decide How You Will Process Payments

Payment Gateway OptionsYour e-commerce website will need a way to take payments. There are more than 90 payment gateway extensions available for WooCommerce. FirstTracks can provide a service that meets your needs. If you’re looking for the quickest and easiest payment gateway setup, you can use PayPal standard. If you want to allow for seamless online payments (people pay directly on your site), you will need to get an SSL certificate setup on your site. This creates a secure connection to pass credit card data from your site to your gateway. You then need to select your gateway. We recommend Stripe (if your store is in the United States or Canada). It’s free and simple.

4. Figure Out How Your Customers Will Get Your Products

Table Rate? Flat Rate? Free Shipping? UPS? USPS? There are a lot of options when it comes to delivering your Shipping Optionse-commerce products. The secret is to choose the right mix of options by evaluating what products you have and the best ways to ship them. The major commercial service extensions (UPS, FedEx, and USPS) can be set to auto calculate shipping based on the dimensions of the products in the user’s shopping cart. If you need more control, something such as Table Rate Shipping would be a better choice. Table Rate lets you set shipping rate price break points based on the amount of items in the shopping cart and also by types of products the carts. It’s all about how you want to control the fulfillment of orders.

5. Enter Your Product Data Into Your System

Simple, variable, virtual. What will you be selling and how will you need to set it up? Does your product have attributes and variations that affect the price of your products? Are your products going to be shipped or downloaded? Is it a combination of both? Regardless of what platform and e-commerce engine you choose, these are the basic setup factors you need to organize so you are ready to sell your products or services on your website. Once you have your product mix and types set you will be ready to start selling online!

Running an E-commerce Website Is Exciting—But It Isn’t Easy

E-commerce is serious business. It’s complicated and stressful at times, but it’s also very exciting. The best thing you can do for yourself and your store is to have a great framework and system behind your products. That way you can spend more time handling your orders, serving your customers, and marketing to make more money online. If you are looking for the right partner to help you launch and or manage your e-commerce website, give FirstTracks a call at 603-924-1978 or fill out our short online request form.

Top 5 Takeaways from WooCommerce Conference Day 1

Wow. What a day yesterday was. The first day of the first ever WooCommerce conference was overall an excellent experience. It was a long day, but I got to meet a lot of wonderful people. I definitely learned some new things as well as got some great confirmation that the way we are doing things at FirstTracks.

Wow! The first day of the first-ever WooCommerce conference was an excellent experience. I got to meet a lot of wonderful people, and I definitely learned some new things. I also confirmed that when it comes to website development and e-commerce in particular, FirstTracks is definitely on point with its approach and methodologies. Here are my Top 5 takeaways after spending a full day with WooThemes and WooCommerce.

1. Creating Buyer Personas

This is something that I am going to get busy creating for ALL of our e-commerce clients immediately. Basically, the idea is you create a visual breakdown of how your customers are using photos. Who are your customers? What do they like? How do their experiences with your product offerings differ? Creating this outline breakdown and using the information as a guide should have an effect on all future communications. Trying to come up with your next A/B split test subject line? Thinking about what headline you should use on your next website banner promotion? You need to always go back to those buyer personas and put yourself in their shoes. This will make all your marketing and communications more relevant and successful across the board.

2. Tools and Methods for Creating More Marketing Automation

I am VERY excited to dig into this tool and get it running for some of our clients. We have been using a service called Zapier to help our client Yankee Barn Homes get its sales lead requests from gravity form submissions over into their Salesforce CRM platform. It works excellent once you have it set up. What I learned is that you can also use the Zapier service to create automatic email reminders for abandoned shopping carts. In tests, these emails have repeatedly received open rates in the neighborhood of 40%. That is HUGE! Think about all the potential missed revenue this automated service alone could generate for your store. Fantastic!

3. Video Is a VERY Powerful Sales Tool

Video is easier than ever to produce for the web. With a basic smartphone and a YouTube account, anyone can do it these days. I was excited and shocked to learn that just adding a simple product overview video to your product detail pages can increase your conversion sales by as much as 250%. The video doesn’t have to be fancy or over-produced, just clean, simple, direct, and to the point. A video provides users with a much more tangible view of what they are buying and makes them much more likely to purchase.

4. Securing Your Website Is More Important Than Ever

At FirstTracks Marketing, we take the security of our client websites VERY seriously. After attending two security talks, I determined there is still room for improvement across the board. I learned some great quick tips that provided simple solutions to common hacking point attacks. For example: If you’re going to work on your website over pubic wi-fi and your site admin isn’t protected with an SSL certificate, use a service such as getcloak.com (if you are on a Mac). This service basically turns access to your site into a VPN of sorts. A definite must.

5. If You Want to Build a Platform—You Need WooCommerce

If I were to sum up the entire day, the above statement by Chris Lema does it best. I was inspired by Chris and his presentation, both in style and in how he commanded the room. I’ve given a few WordCamp Boston presentations, taught college classes, and consider myself a decent speaker, but Chris definitely showed me how a great speaker handles a crowd and delivers a powerful gripping message through story, humor, and experience. To summarize Chris’ talk: There is no other e-commerce platform other than WooCommerce that allows you the flexibility to adjust and accommodate the vast variety of customer needs. The key to success online today, particularly from a product sales standpoint, is being able to efficiently monetize your products and services. WooCommerce has all the tools (and is constantly developing new ones) that make it easy for you to sell pretty much anything you can think of, while seamlessly integrating those structures in with your content generation activities. You want to own all your real estate, control all your sales, crush it in organic growth, and traffic, WooCommerce is the best way to get there.

 

Additional Thoughts from Day 1 & Looking Forward to Day 2:

FirstTracks has been an affiliate developer with WooThemes for more than 3 years. I’m proud of this affiliation. It has been a great feather in our caps. After meeting and mingling with a good amount of the WooCommerce staff during the day, and at the after party, I am more confident than ever that we are partnering with the right group of people. These people come from all over the world and are extremely passionate about what they do with WooThemes—be it marketing, support, development, or testing. I was excited to see this, because it’s the same passion, excitement, and dedication the staff at FirstTracks gets from building, managing, and marketing all the sites we create using these products. WooThemes work. They are reliable and they are successful. I am excited about what’s to come. Kudos to everyone I met. You did an excellent job today. I’m looking forward to Day 2 and attending (or maybe even presenting) next year’s conference.

View the Twitter stream from the conference at #WooConf

 

On my way to the WooCommerce Conference in SanFrancisco

WooCommerce ConferenceThis is an exciting time, albeit a bit on the early side for my liking but hey we do what we have to do to get better at our craft! As I sit in the concourse at Manchester Regional Airport in Manchester NH at 4:30am waiting to board my plane I am excited to think what lies ahead.

Attending the first ever WooThemes / WooCommerce conference is no small deal to me. Having helped to start FirstTracks Marketing back in 2009 we have been growing and evolving constantly in both staff and core competencies. We started out small and have continued to grow and evolve along with the industry, and today we are working with clients all over the world providing first class website design, development and marketing services.

WordPress is a huge part of who FirstTracks Marketing is now and WooThemes is a big part of how we build and manage our websites. We frequently use their flagship Canvas theme and Woothemes framework on a lot of the websites we build (it’s what our website runs on as well). Woothemes aren’t the only themes we work with but we do prefer them simply because the code is well written, easy to customize which makes it easy for us to support for all of our clients who use it. Another reason why we use Woothemes products as a base for our projects is that it integrates extremely well with our ecommerce engine of choice WooCommerce, which brings me to the main reason why we are attending this event.

We build and manage a lot of business for our clients

Our business is built around the idea that we build profitable programs for our clients, be that through PPC campaigns, direct sales in an online store, through lead generation or a combination of the above. WordPress, WooThemes and WooCommerce are all at the center of these programs. I am very excited to be able to attend this event so that I can connect more directly with the community and team that supports and helps us to create all the wonderful and successful client programs we have designed to date. I am excited to hear the presentations about up selling strategies, scaling woocommerce and discussing the role data plays in the optimization and success of your online product.

Stay tuned for more updates tomorrow as I will be blogging with my thoughts from each of the sessions that I will be attending tomorrow, it’s gonna be a busy jam packed day of learning and I can’t wait to get started!