I moderate this panel several times a year and it is always a very informative and interactive session. I have never walked away from one where I did not learn something new or useful. September’s panel was no different; in fact, what I learned was very interesting and I thought I would share it here.
Among the collection of “usual suspect” questions I presented to the panelists, there were several new ones. A question came up about using a shared domain among several different senders and how to deal with that to avoid classification pitfalls. Although there was a lot of interesting information discussed around this topic, the conversation branched off into talking about phishing, “look-alike” domains and machine learning. Yes, you read that right – phishing, “look-alike” domains and machine learning!
Let me explain. While answering the question, one of the receivers brought up the use of what they referred to “look-alike” domains. When orchestrating phishing attacks, bad actors sometimes register domain names like those of the targeted organizations, in the hopes of exploiting victims’ typos or inattention. These domains are known as “look-alike” domains, as they appear to be the intended target domain (or some official variation thereof), but are in fact not usually affiliated with the target itself.
The receivers went on to say they are in the process of tuning their machine learning algorithms used for email classification to detect and treat these domains as phishing suspects. The panelists all generally agreed that if a brand is sending bulk email, it should be utilizing a subdomain of its pre-existing domain, and not a domain which looks similar and/or contains an iteration of the already-established brand domain. For example, if you are brandname.com and you send your marketing emails using the domain email-brandname.com, you should instead be sending using the domain email.brandname.com. They agreed that established brands should not risk registering a new domain, which looks similar to its already-existing domain, as the machine learning would eventually detect this and begin to classify the email as suspect.
Some of the receivers went on to add they like to see transactional.domainname.com and marketing.domainname.com in the domains used for mail. This means using the actual words transactional and marketing (or some form of marketing) in the subdomain name. The key with this is “transactional”, as many of the receivers stated when they detect this in a subdomain name, they treat it accordingly unless they see behaviour or characteristics which indicate it should be classified as suspect. Remember, simply putting the word transactional as your subdomain name is not a guarantee of inbox placement! You still have to play by the rules.
Having been in the information technology and marketing space for quite some time now, I know that the practice of using a custom domain for sending of bulk marketing email is quite common. I know of many brands that employ this practice and use such domains for their email marketing programs. For those of you who are using a custom domain and not a subdomain, you may never experience any issues. If you are just starting out, or switching to a new email marketing platform, keep the above information in mind and think about the use of a subdomain or multiple subdomains instead of a new custom domain, which may cause you eventual problems.
Either way, the dotmailer Deliverability Team is here to answer any questions you may have.
There are some planets in Star Wars that are highly important and feature throughout the Saga, such as Corusant, the capital of the Galaxy. It is critical to the plot and the characters have to plan strategically how to engage with it. In the email universe this planet is Gmail. It is by far the most popular email client and one that is growing with every new generation. Email marketers cannot ignore Gmail and have to plan strategically how they’ll work with the client.
There are some planets like Tatooine that are equally as important and are critical to the plot. However, Tatooine has a rough landscape, with little investment in the infrastructure and the inhabitants of the planet. This is much like Hotmail, it was once the most popular email client but with very little investment, many Hotmail users have chosen to abandon ship and move to Gmail.
Then there are planets like Mustafar; inhospitable, desolate and with a threat of volcanic eruptions. Mustafar is a place where it’s impossible to survive and no-one particularly wants to visit, just like Lotus Notes! And finally we have Alderaan, which was destroyed by higher powers and bears similarities to the fate of AltaVista; it was acquired by Yahoo in 2003 and subsequently shut down in 2013.
2. The Force is like the good and bad side of email
The Force is the ubiquitous power in the Star Wars universe. The Sith from the dark side of the force are working to take power in the Galaxy, whereas the Jedi work tirelessly to protect it. The Sith are unethical, brutal and will do anything to get this power. In this analogy, email spammers are the Sith of the email universe. They will do anything and everything they can to dupe and lie to people. They will steal their money, their identities, and in some cases cause incredible damage. On the other hand, you have organisations like Spamcop and Spamhaus; many ESPs and industry organisations like the DMA fight against unethical conduct in email. They work tirelessly to protect the average Jane from these vicious attacks.
3. The Star Wars Saga will never die, much like email
Star Wars began almost 40 years ago; it has eight movies, 11 TV Series, over 100 video games and hundreds more books. In 1983 many thought it was over when the Return of the Jedi was released; the plot seemed so final surely it was the end? Then in 1999 LucasFilms kicked off the second phase of the Saga. 2005 arrived and we all thought it was over, until Disney purchased LucasFilms and kicked it all off again. This is a franchise that will continue to give for many more years to come. And here it comes…much like email. Email will never die. For every new craze, phase and social channel, email has become so ubiquitous with our daily lives. As technology improves and new innovations come into play, email becomes more and more ingrained into the fabric of society.
So there you have it, I have successfully linked two facets of my own life together.
I first got to know dotmailer when the company was just a bunch of young enthusiastic web developers called Ellipsis Media back in 1999. I was introduced by one of my suppliers and we decided to bring them on board to build a recruitment website for one of our clients. That client was Amnesty International and the job role was Secretary General. Not bad for a Croydon company whose biggest client before that was Scobles the plumber’s merchants. So, I was probably dotmailer’s first ever corporate client! After that, I used dotmailer at each company I worked for and then one day they approached a colleague and me and asked us if we wanted to work for them. That was 2013. We grabbed the opportunity with both hands and haven’t looked back since.
Tell us a bit about your role
I’m the Global Head of Technical Solutions which actually gives me responsibility for 2 teams. First, Custom Technical Solutions (CTS), who build bespoke applications and tools for customers that allow them to integrate more closely with dotmailer and make life easier. Second, Technical Pre-sales, which spans our 3 territories (EMEA, US and APAC) and works with prospective and existing clients to figure out the best solution and fit within dotmailer.
What accomplishments are you most proud of from your dotmailer time so far?
I would say so far it has to be helping to turn the CTS team from just 2 people into a group of 7 highly skilled and dedicated men and women who have become an intrinsic and valued part of the dotmailer organization. Also I really enjoy being part of the Senior Technical Management team. Here we have the ability to influence the direction and structure of the platform on a daily basis.
Meet Darryl Clark – the cheese and peanut butter sandwich lover
Can you speak a bit about your background and that of your team? What experience and expertise is required to join this team?
My background is quite diverse from a stint in the Army, through design college, web development, business analysis to heading up my current teams. I would say the most valuable skill that I have is being highly analytical. I love nothing more than listening to a client’s requirements and digging deep to work out how we can answer these if not exceed them.
As a team, we love nothing more than brainstorming our ideas. Every member has a valid input and we listen. Everyone has the opportunity to influence what we do and our motto is “there is no such thing as a stupid question.”
To work in my teams you have to be analytical but open minded to the fact that other people may have a better answer than you. Embrace other people’s input and use it to give our clients the best possible solution. We are hugely detail conscious, but have to be acutely aware that we need to tailor what we say to our audience so being able to talk to anyone at any level is hugely valuable.
How much of the dotmailer platform is easily customizable and when does it cross over into something that requires your team’s expertise? How much time is spent on these custom solutions one-time or ongoing?
I’ll let you in on a little secret here. We don’t actually do anything that our customers can’t do with dotmailer given the right knowledge and resources. This is because we build all of our solutions using the dotmailer public API. The API has hundreds of methods in both SOAP and REST versions, which allows you to do a huge amount with the dotmailer platform. We do have a vast amount of experience and knowledge in the team so we may well be able to build a solution quicker than our customers. We are more than happy to help them and their development teams build a solution using us on a consultancy basis to lessen the steepness of the learning curve.
Our aim when building a solution for a customer is that it runs silently in the background and does what it should without any fuss.
What are your plans for the Custom Tech Solutions team going forward?
The great thing about Custom Technical Solutions is you never know what is around the corner as our customers have very diverse needs. What we are concentrating on at the moment is refining our processes to ensure that they are as streamlined as possible and allow us to give as much information to the customer as we can. We are also always looking at the technology and coding approaches that we use to make sure that we build the most innovative and robust solutions.
We are also looking at our external marketing and sharing our knowledge through blogs so keep an eye on the website for our insights.
What are the most common questions that you get when speaking to a prospective customer?
Most questions seem to revolve around reassurance such as “Have you done this before?”, “How safe is my data?”, “What about security?”, “Can you talk to my developers?”, “Do I need to do anything?”. In most instances, we are the ones asking the questions as we need to find out information as soon as possible so that we can analyse it to ensure that we have the right detail to provide the right solution.
Can you tell us about the dotmailer differentiators you highlight when speaking to prospective customers that seem to really resonate?
We talk a lot about working with best of breed so for example a customer can use our Channel Extensions in automation programs to fire out an SMS to a contact using their existing provider. We don’t force customers down one route, we like to let them decide for themselves.
Also, I really like to emphasize the fact that there is always more than one way to do something within the dotmailer platform. This means we can usually find a way to do something that works for a client within the platform. If not, then we call in CTS to work out if there is a way that we can build something that will — whether this is automating uploads for a small client or mass sending from thousands of child accounts for an enterprise level one.
What do you see as the future of marketing automation technology? Will one size ever fit all? Or more customization going forward?
The 64 million dollar question. One size will never fit all. Companies and their systems are too organic for that. There isn’t one car that suits every driver or one racquet that suits every sport. Working with a top drawer partner network and building our system to be as open as possible from an integration perspective means that our customers can make dotmailer mold to their business and not the other way round…and adding to that the fact that we are building lots of features in the platform that will blow your socks off.
Tell us a bit about yourself – favorite sports team, favorite food, guilty pleasure, favorite band, favorite vacation spot?
I’m a dyed in the wool Gooner (aka Arsenal Football Club fan) thanks to my Grandfather leading me down the right path as a child. If you are still reading this after that bombshell, then food-wise I pretty much like everything apart from coriander which as far as I’m concerned is the Devils own spawn. I don’t really have a favorite band, but am partial to a bit of Level 42 and Kings of Leon and you will also find me listening to 90s drum and bass and proper old school hip hop. My favorite holiday destination is any decent villa that I can relax in and spend time with my family and I went to Paris recently and loved that. Guilty pleasure – well that probably has to be confessing to liking Coldplay or the fact that my favorite sandwich is peanut butter, cheese and salad cream. Go on try it, you’ll love it.
Your welcome email is the first email that your customers are likely to receive from you. It typically has the highest engagement of any email you are likely to send, and it’s your opportunity to show off what you do and how great you are. It is also a way to thank your customers for buying from you and begin building a relationship with them; yet too many retailers miss this great opportunity. You only get one change to make a first impression.
Office, Sweaty Betty and Hotel Chocolat didn’t send a welcome email at all after signing up. There was no thank you, no offer, and no attempts to capture extra data. This is a lost opportunity for these three companies.
Charles Tyrwhitt, Reebok and Urban Outfitters did send an email after signing up. But their subject lines and content don’t come across like a welcome email and can be easily missed for instance, “15% off your Reebok gear”, “Start Urban Outfitting”, “Hurry, your £10 offer is waiting!” However, their emails are on brand and offer an incentive to take action.
Reebok’s welcome email
If UO replaced its hero image with an animated GIF they would probably see an increase in engagement with their emails.
Urban Outfitters’ email has a nice graphic but a GIF would be more eye-catching
Diesel, Footlocker, Havaianas, Hugo Boss, and Uniqlo also send a timely email shortly after signing up. Yet their emails need a lot of work. They are text-heavy, aren’t on brand and are not particularly engaging. Diesel’s email copy is confusing and tries to get you to create an account.
Lack of branding let Diesel’s email down
All of these brands create a poor initial experience. Footlocker, Fossil and Hugo Boss’s emails are double opt-in emails. This is good for data quality, but it is at the expense of great customer experience. At least Fossil and Hugo Boss’s actual welcome emails are on-brand. But since signing up and confirming my subscription, Footlocker hasn’t sent me a single email.
The welcome email from Hugo Boss
Adidas, Allsaints, Cath Kidston, FootAsylum, Forever21, Jack Wills, Kuoni, Levi’s, Schuh all sent what in my opinion are good welcome emails. They had clear subject lines that welcomed or thanked the user. The copy and design of these emails are on brand and again welcomed the user to the company.
Levi’s welcome email is image-heavy and on brand
Some of the brands like Adidas and Forever 21 included a discount to encourage the customer to engage further, and followed best practice elements to create a positive customer experience.
Adidas offers an incentive in its welcome email
However, the outstanding winner of the welcome emails goes to FootAsylum.
The email has great use of microcopy throughout.
It contains a clear benefit statement of being a subscriber. The benefit statement also set the expectations of what you’re likely to receive.
They use a great Call to Action “Stop Reading. Start Shopping!”
They are also the only company to use their welcome email to collect further data by having a very obvious preference centre within the body of the email.
Finally, the email is clearly on brand.
Foot Asylum wins the welcome email contest
Tips for welcome emails
Make sure you send it immediately after the customer signs up.
Keep the subject line clear and obvious that it’s a welcome email.
Set expectations for what the customer will receive and how frequently.
Provide a benefit statement for signing up.
Use this email as an opportunity to find out more about your customers.
Use preheader text as a follow on from your subject line.
Provide a safe sender message to encourage customers to add your email to their safe senders.
The top three reasons were People, Product and Opportunity. I met the people who make up our business and heard their stories from the past 18 years, learned about the platform and market leading status they had built in the UK, and saw that I could add value with my U.S. high growth business experience. I’ve been working with marketers, entrepreneurs and business owners for years across a series of different roles, and saw that I could apply what I’d learned from that and the start-up space to dotmailer’s U.S. operation. dotmailer has had clients in the U.S. for 12 years and we’re positioned to grow the user base of our powerful and easy-to-use platform significantly. I knew I could make a difference here, and what closed the deal for me was the people. Every single person I’ve met is deeply committed to the business, to the success of our customers and to making our solution simple and efficient. We’re a great group of passionate people and I’m proud to have joined the dotfamily.
Dan Morris, dotmailer’s EVP for North America in the new NYC office
Tell us a bit about your new role
dotmailer has been in business and in this space for more than 18 years. We were a web agency, then a Systems Integrator, and we got into the email business that way, ultimately building the dotmailer platform thousands of people use daily. This means we know this space better than anyone and we have the perfect solutions to align closely with our customers and the solutions flexible enough to grow with them. My role is to take all that experience and the platform and grow our U.S. presence. My early focus has been on identifying the right team to execute our growth plans. We want to be the market leader in the U.S. in the next three years – just like we’ve done in the UK – so getting the right people in the right spots was critical. We quickly assessed the skills of the U.S. team and made changes that were necessary in order to provide the right focus on customer success. Next, we set out to completely rebuild dotmailer’s commercial approach in the U.S. We simplified our offers to three bundles, so that pricing and what’s included in those bundles is transparent to our customers. We’ve heard great things about this already from clients and partners. We’re also increasing our resources on customer success and support. We’re intensely focused on ease of on-boarding, ease of use and speed of use. We consistently hear how easy and smooth a process it is to use dotmailer’s tools. That’s key for us – when you buy a dotmailer solution, we want to onboard you quickly and make sure you have all of your questions answered right away so that you can move right into using it. Customers are raving about this, so we know it’s working well.
What early accomplishments are you most proud of from your dotmailer time so far?
I’ve been at dotmailer for eight months now and I’m really proud of all we’ve accomplished together. We spent a lot of time assessing where we needed to restructure and where we needed to invest. We made the changes we needed, invested in our partner program, localized tech support, customer on-boarding and added customer success team members. We have the right people in the right roles and it’s making a difference. We have a commercial approach that is clear with the complete transparency that we wanted to provide our customers. We’ve got a more customer-focused approach and we’re on-boarding customers quickly so they’re up and running faster. We have happier customers than ever before and that’s the key to everything we do.
You’ve moved the U.S. team to a new office. Can you tell us why and a bit about the new space?
I thought it was very important to create a NY office space that was tied to branding and other offices around the world, and also had its own NY energy and culture for our team here – to foster collaboration and to have some fun. It was also important for us that we had a flexible space where we could welcome customers, partners and resellers, and also hold classes and dotUniversity training sessions. I’m really grateful to the team who worked on the space because it really reflects our team and what we care about. At any given time, you’ll see a training session happening, the team collaborating, a customer dropping in to ask a few questions or a partner dropping in to work from here. We love our new, NYC space.
Guests and the team at dotmailer’s new NYC office warming party
What did you learn from your days in the start-up space that you’re applying at dotmailer?
The start-up space is a great place to learn. You have to know where every dollar is going and coming from, so every choice you make needs to be backed up with a business case for that investment. You try lots of different things to see if they’ll work and you’re ready to turn those tactics up or down quickly based on an assessment of the results. You also learn things don’t have to stay the way they are, and can change if you make them change. You always listen and learn – to customers, partners, industry veterans, advisors, etc. to better understand what’s working and not working. dotmailer has been in business for 18 years now, and so there are so many great contributors across the business who know how things have worked and yet are always keen to keep improving. I am constantly in listening and learning mode so that I can understand all of the unique perspectives our team brings and what we need to act on.
What are your plans for the U.S. and the sales function there?
On our path to being the market leader in the U.S., I’m focused on three things going forward: 1 – I want our customers to be truly happy. It’s already a big focus in the dotmailer organization – and we’re working hard to understand their challenges and goals so we can take product and service to the next level. 2 – Creating an even more robust program around partners, resellers and further building out our channel partners to continuously improve sales and customer service programs. We recently launched a certification program to ensure partners have all the training and resources they need to support our mutual customers. 3 – We have an aggressive growth plan for the U.S. and I’m very focused on making sure our team is well trained, and that we remain thoughtful and measured as we take the steps to grow. We want to always keep an eye on what we’re known for – tools that are powerful and simple to use – and make sure everything else we offer remains accessible and valuable as we execute our growth plans.
What are the most common questions that you get when speaking to a prospective customer?
The questions we usually get are around price, service level and flexibility. How much does dotmailer cost? How well are you going to look after my business? How will you integrate into my existing stack and then my plans for future growth? We now have three transparent bundle options with specifics around what’s included published right on our website. We have introduced a customer success team that’s focused only on taking great care of our customers and we’re hearing stories every day that tells me this is working. And we have all of the tools to support our customers as they grow and to also integrate into their existing stacks – often integrating so well that you can use dotmailer from within Magento, Salesforce or Dynamics, for example.
Can you tell us about the dotmailer differentiators you highlight when speaking to prospective customers that seem to really resonate?
In addition to the ones above – ease of use, speed of use and the ability to scale with you. With dotmailer’s tiered program, you can start with a lighter level of functionality and grow into more advanced functionality as you need it. The platform itself is so easy to use that most marketers are able to build campaigns in minutes that would have taken hours on other platforms. Our customer success team is also with you all the way if ever you want or need help. We’ve built a very powerful platform and we have a fantastic team to help you with personalized service as an extended part of your team and we’re ready to grow with you.
How much time is your team on the road vs. in the office? Any road warrior tips to share?
I’ve spent a lot of time on the road, one year I attended 22 tradeshows! Top tip when flying is to be willing to give up your seat for families or groups once you’re at the airport gate, as you’ll often be rewarded with a better seat for helping the airline make the family or group happy. Win win! Since joining dotmailer, I’m focused on being in office and present for the team and customers as much as possible. I can usually be found in our new, NYC office where I spend a lot of time with our team, in customer meetings, in trainings and other hosted events, sales conversations or marketing meetings. I’m here to help the team, clients and partners to succeed, and will always do my best to say yes! Once our prospective customers see how quickly and efficiently they can execute tasks with dotmailer solutions vs. their existing solutions, it’s a no-brainer for them. I love seeing and hearing their reactions.
Tell us a bit about yourself – favorite sports team, favorite food, guilty pleasure, favorite band, favorite vacation spot?
I’m originally from Yorkshire in England, and grew up just outside York. I moved to the U.S. about seven years ago to join a very fast growing startup, we took it from 5 to well over 300 people which was a fantastic experience. I moved to NYC almost two years ago, and I love exploring this great city. There’s so much to see and do. Outside of dotmailer, my passion is cars, and I also enjoy skeet shooting, almost all types of music, and I love to travel – my goal is to get to India, Thailand, Australia and Japan in the near future.
While the program is recently revamped, dotmailer has enjoyed a 17-year history of working side-by-side with partners like Magento, Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics. We value these relationships as an opportunity to help deliver the best marketing strategies that lead to more business for you and your clients. Our new partnership program extends these relationships with the right tools, resources and benefits to help you build, run and grow a profitable agency, marketing or technology reseller business.
Here are the top five questions about the partner program answered:
Who is the partner program for?
Our partner program delivers two types of certification for two distinct types of audiences:
Partners: For example, a marketing agency that serves both B2B and B2C clients that integrates, develops, and executes email and marketing campaigns on behalf of their clients. Partners will work closely with dotmailer to sell and grow their client base with a tool that directly impacts client retention.
Referrers: For example, a shop that wants to refer leads directly to the dotmailer team. A referrer doesn’t handle the sale or management of the account, but still collects commission when a referral signs up for dotmailer.
What are the benefits of becoming a dotmailer partner?
dotmailer is a fast, powerful, and easy-to-use marketing automation platform with email at its core. Our world-class integrations make dotmailer extensible, and suitable for both B2C and B2B marketers alike. Here’s what some of our current partners have to say:
“We have found that dotmailer offers a strong solution. Not only do they cater to retail brands, but they also have a distinct B2B focus, which aligns with the more than 60% of our clients that have a B2B component as part of their ecommerce channels. Leveraging the dotmailer solution makes these conversations more relevant when discussing their marketing needs. As Magento’s Premier email marketing automation provider, they have invested heavily in both the technology and the sales enablement tools we need to win over customers.” – Caleb Bryant, Strategic Alliances Manager at Gorilla Group
“dotmailer enhances and extends our opportunity to bring customers a solution that provides highly personalized, automated and measureable email interactions to their customers to further nurture leads and customer engagement.” “An additional benefit of dotmailer is the pricing flexibility and geographical reach.” – Motti Danino, VP of Operations, Oro Inc.
How much does it cost?
The dotmailer partner program is free to join and benefits are offered in three tiers: Bronze, Silver and Gold. The benefits include commission, guest blogging, partner case studies, co-hosted webinars, event sponsorship and more. Our main aim is help partners become more successful and rise through the ranks as they become more affluent in offering the dotmailer platform and services.
What’s coming next?
dotmailer is committed to ensuring our agency partners have the tools at their disposal to continue them to grow service retainers and effectively sell a best-of-breed email marketing automation platform. Our philosophy has always been to innovate and we still run in bi-weekly development cycles with quarterly releases. We are constantly innovating on both the platform and our integrations, meaning the partner program will continue to evolve as does the dotmailer feature set.
Without a site that’s precision engineered for a good user experience and high conversion rates, all of your email marketing efforts could be going to waste.
Of course, you do want to market your business and email campaigns are statistically proven to be one of the most successful avenues to do so – according to McKinsey, email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter. VentureBeat also released this year that according to their research, email is generating better return on investment than any other channel. So how do you make sure your site is secure and effective enough to keep customers there once your campaign has enticed them this far?
For the majority of visitors, your homepage will be the first impression you get to make. A great homepage factors in a number of different ingredients to create the biggest positive impact on the user. Chief of which are…
A great homepage is above all engaging, instantly connecting a potential customer with the brand. Engagement comes from a website having personality and a clear message, a customer should feel comfortable with the design and want to interact with it. Take the example below – Mardon, an international seafood import and export company. The large cinematic image captures attention, while the well positioned brand and informative footer let the user know who they’re interacting with. The elements on the page come together to create a beautiful and simple looking design with the feel of a company you can trust and, as a result, want to engage with.
mardon.com designed and built by Nublue.co.uk
The human element
In most cases (and where relevant), adding a human element to your homepage will encourage a positive reaction from users. Having a real life human being can enable customers to relate to your business and products more effectively. We believe in this philosophy so much that our own staff feature heavily throughout our site. Using actual staff members allows you to showcase your people, your greatest asset.
The www.nublue.co.uk homepage
Excellent user experience
Once you’ve made an excellent first impression, you’ll need a functional and user-friendly website that ensures customers aren’t left frustrated by complex navigation or slow load times. Simple, intuitive menus and navigation alongside a website that’s fast enough to keep your users from having to wait.
Load speed is critical. According to surveys done by Gomez.com, 79% of online shoppers who have trouble with web site performance say they won’t return to the site to buy again. There are also statistics that suggest consumers will abandon a site that isn’t loaded within three seconds. High performance hosting is vital to addressing this issue and your site could benefit from the use of a CDN. CDN (Content Delivery Networks) improve speed by offloading your site’s static content – such as images and CSS. This frees up your hosting package to serve only the dynamic parts of your site. The result is a faster, smoother running site, regardless of the user’s location.
Better conversion processes
Trying to get people to make a purchase from an email isn’t easy and the fewer potential stumbling blocks you put in a customer’s way the better.
For ecommerce sites, an optimised checkout with guest login will produce a much smoother, simpler and more effective conversion process. Offering guest login at checkout gives the user an option of either signing up for an account or checking out without doing so, and prevents losing any sales at the last moment.
Another best practice is to introduce ‘trust signals’ so that customers feel confidence in buying from your site. Trust signals range from having visible reviews and testimonials onsite, to things like SSL certificates – which are visible in the url bar and prevent third parties seeing or accessing a customer’s personal details between their browser and your server, through encryption.
An expert design and development team will together implement the best features and functionality using a user-centric approach to ‘reverse-engineer’ your site. Effectively creating the best and simplest customer journey, improving both customer experience and conversion levels, whilst making it as quick and easy as possible for customers to buy from you.
When sending an email campaign, it’s vital that your website is not the weak link in the marketing chain and that leads are clicking through to a secure and effective page. At the heart of an effective website is a full understanding of your audience and the expertise to clearly guide them through the actions you want them to take. This is ultimately accomplished through user friendly navigation and beautiful and engaging design.
The site’s features and functionality need to be thought about and in order to get a website that’s fast enough, you’ll need a tailored, high performance hosting solution – such as CDN.
This post was created by Nublue, a web hosting and Magento ecommerce agency and partner of dotmailer.
Australia has a resident population of more than 24 million and, according to eMarketer, the country’s ecommerce sales are predicted to reach A$32.56 billion by 2017. The country’s remote location in the APAC region means that unlike European countries or the USA, traditionally there have been a lack of global brands sold locally.
Of course, we also know that many expatriates, particularly from inside the Commonwealth, have made Australia their home and are keen to buy products they know and love from their country of origin.
All of these factors present a huge and potentially lucrative opportunity for non-Australian brands wanting to open up their new and innovative products to a fresh market, or compete for market share.
But it’s not just non-Australian retailers who are at an advantage here: Australia was late to the ecommerce party because native, established brands were trading well without it. Subsequently, Australian retailers’ ecommerce technology stacks are much more recent and not burdened by legacy systems. This makes it much easier to extend, or get started with, best-of-breed technologies and cash in on a market that’s booming. To put some of this into perspective, Magento’s innovative ecommerce platform currently takes 42% of Australia’s market share and the world’s first adopter of Magento 2.0 was an Australian brand.
The GST loophole
At the moment, local retailers are campaigning against a rule that exempts foreign websites from being charged a 10% general sales tax (GST) on purchases under A$1,000. And in 2013, Australian consumers made $3.11 billion worth of purchases under A$1,000.
While the current GST break appears to put non-Australian retailers at an advantage, Australian-based brands such as Harvey Norman are using it to their advantage by setting up ecommerce operations in Asia to enjoy the GST benefit.
Australian consumers have also countered the argument by saying that price isn’t always the motivator when it comes to making purchasing decisions.
It’s not a place where no man has gone before
Often, concerns around meeting local compliance and lack of overseas business knowledge prevent outsiders from taking the leap into cross-border trade. However, this ecommerce passport, created by Ecommerce Worldwide and NORA, is designed to support those considering selling in Australia. The guide provides a comprehensive look into everything from the country’s economy and trade status, to logistics and dealing with international payments.
Global expansion success stories are also invaluable sources of information. For instance, it’s not just lower-end retailers that are fitting the bill, with brands like online luxury fashion retailer Net-a-Porter naming Australia as one of its biggest markets.
How tech-savvy are the Aussies?
One of the concerns you might have as a new entrant into the market is how you’ll reach and sell to your new audience, particularly without having a physical presence. The good news is that more than 80% of the country is digitally enabled and 60% of mobile phone users own a smartphone – so online is deeply rooted into the majority of Australians’ lives. 
Marketing your brand
Heard the saying “Fire bullets then fire cannonballs”? In any case, you’ll want to test the waters and gauge people’s reactions to your product or service.
It all starts with the website because, without it, you’re not discoverable or searchable, and you’ve nowhere to drive people to when running campaigns. SEO and SEM should definitely be a priority, and an online store that can handle multiple regions and storefronts, like Magento, will make your life easier. A mobile-first mentality and well thought-out UX will also place you in a good position.
Once your new web store is set up, you should be making every effort to collect visitors’ email addresses, perhaps via a popover. Why? Firstly, email is one of the top three priority areas for Australian retailers, because it’s a cost-effective, scalable marketing channel that enables true personalization.
Secondly, email marketing automation empowers you to deliver the customer experience today’s consumer expects, as well as enabling you to communicate with them throughout the lifecycle. Check out our ‘Do customer experience masters really exist?’ whitepaper for some real-life success stories.
Like the Magento platform, dotmailer is set up to handle multiple languages, regions and accounts, and is designed to grow with you.
In summary, there’s great scope for ecommerce success in Australia, whether you’re a native bricks-and-mortar retailer, a start-up or a non-Australian merchant. The barriers to cross-border trade are falling and Australia is one of APAC’s most developed regions in terms of purchasing power and tech savviness.
We recently worked with ecommerce expert Chloe Thomas to produce a whitepaper on cross-border trade, which goes into much more detail on how to market and sell successfully in new territories. You can download a free copy here.
 Australian Passport 2015: Cross-Border Trading Report
 Australian Passport 2015: Cross-Border Trading Report
Every two years, Moz surveys the brightest minds in SEO and search marketing with a comprehensive set of questions meant to gauge the current workings of Google’s search algorithm. This year’s panel of experts possesses a truly unique set of knowledge and perspectives. We’re thankful on behalf of the entire community for their contribution.
In addition to asking the participants about what does and doesn’t work in Google’s ranking algorithm today, one of the most illuminating group of questions asks the panel to predict the future of search – how the features of Google’s algorithm are expected to change over the next 12 months.
Amazingly, almost all of the factors that are expected to increase in influence revolved around user experience, including:
The experts predicted that more traditional ranking signals, such as those around links and URL structures, would largely remain the same, while the more manipulative aspects of SEO, like paid links and anchor text (which is subject to manipulation), would largely decrease in influence.
The survey also asks respondents to weight the importance of various factors within Google’s current ranking algorithm (on a scale of 1-10). Understanding these areas of importance helps to inform webmasters and marketers where to invest time and energy in working to improve the search presence of their websites.
On-page keyword features
These features describe use of the keyword term/phrase in particular parts of the HTML code on the page (title element, H1s, alt attributes, etc).
Highest influence: Keyword present in title element, 8.34 Lowest influence: Keyword present in specific HTML elements (bold/italic/li/a/etc), 4.16
Titles are still very powerful. Overall, it’s about focus and matching query syntax. If your post is about airplane propellers but you go on a three paragraph rant about gorillas, you’re going to have a problem ranking for airplane propellers.
Keyword usage is vital to making the cut, but we don’t always see it correlate with ranking, because we’re only looking at what already made the cut. The page has to be relevant to appear for a query, IMO, but when it comes to how high the page ranks once it’s relevant, I think keywords have less impact than they once did. So, it’s a necessary but not sufficient condition to ranking.
In my experience, most of problems with organic visibility are related to on-page factors. When I look for an opportunity, I try to check for 2 strong things: presence of keyword in the title and in the main content. Having both can speed up your visibility, especially on long-tail queries.
It’s very easy to link keyword-rich domains with their success in Google’s results for the given keyword. I’m always mindful about other signals that align with domain name which may have contributed to its success. These includes inbound links, mentions, and local citations.
These features describe link metrics for the individual ranking page (such as number of links, PageRank, etc).
Highest influence: Raw quantity of links from high-authority sites, 7.78 Lowest influence: Sentiment of the external links pointing to the page, 3.85
High-quality links still rule rankings. The way a brand can earn links has become more important over the years, whereas link schemes can hurt a site more than ever before. There is a lot of FUD slinging in this respect!
Similar to my thoughts on content, I suspect link-based metrics are going to be used increasingly with a focus on verisimilitude (whether content is actually true or not) and relationships between nodes in Knowledge Graph. Google’s recent issues with things, such as the snippet results for “evolution,” highlight the importance of them only pulling things that are factually correct for featured parts of a SERP. Thus, just counting traditional link metrics won’t cut it anymore.
These features describe elements that indicate qualities of branding and brand metrics.
Highest influence: Search volume for the brand/domain, 6.54 Lowest influence: Popularity of business’s official social media profiles, 3.99
This is clearly on deck to change very soon with the reintegration of Twitter into Google’s Real-Time Results. It will be interesting to see how this affects the “Breaking News” box and trending topics. Social influencers, quality and quantity of followers, RTs, and favorites will all be a factor. And what’s this?! Hashtags will be important again?! Have mercy!
It’s already noticeable; brands are more prominently displayed in search results for both informational and commercial queries. I’m expecting Google will be paying more attention to brand-related metrics from now on (and certainly more initiatives to encourage site owners to optimize for better entity detection).
These features relate to third-party metrics from social media sources (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc) for the ranking page.
Highest influence: Engagement with content/URL on social networks, 3.87 Lowest influence: Upvotes for the page on social sites, 2.7
Social ranking factors are important in a revamped Query Deserves Freshness algorithm. Essentially, if your content gets a lot of natural tweets, shares, and likes, it will rank prominently for a short period of time, until larger and more authoritative sites catch up.
Social popularity has several factors to consider: (1) Years ago, Google and Bing said they take into account the authority of a social profile sharing a link and the popularity of the link being shared (retweets/reshares), and there was more complexity to social signals that was never revealed even back then. (2) My experience has been that social links and shares have more power for newsy/fresh-type content. For example, a lot of social shares for a dentist’s office website wouldn’t be nearly as powerful (or relevant to consider) as a lot of social shares for an article on a site with a constant flow of fresh content.
Honestly, I do not think that the so-called “social signals” have any direct influence on the Google Algorithm (that does not mean that a correlation doesn’t exist, though). My only doubt is related to Twitter, because of the renewed contract between Google and Twitter itself. That said, as of now I do not consider Twitter to offer any ranking signals, except for very specific niches related to news and “news-able” content, where QDF plays a fundamental role.
These elements describe non-keyword-usage, non-link-metrics features of individual pages (such as length of the page, load speed, etc).
Highest influence: Uniqueness of the content on the page, 7.85 Lowest influence: Page contains Open Graph data and/or Twitter cards, 3.64
By branching mobile search off of Google’s core ranking algorithm, having a “mobile-friendly” website is probably now less important for desktop search rankings. Our clients are seeing an ever-increasing percentage of organic search traffic coming from mobile devices, though (particularly in retail), so this is certainly not an excuse to ignore responsive design – the opposite, in fact. Click-through rate from the SERPs has been an important ranking signal for a long time and continues to be, flagging irrelevant or poor-quality search listings.
I believe many of these will be measured within the ecosystem, rather than absolutely. For example, the effect of bounce rate (or rather, bounce speed) on a site will be relative to the bounce speeds on other pages in similar positions for similar terms.
I want to answer these a certain way because, while I have been told by Google what matters to them, what I see in the SERPs does not back up what Google claims they want. There are a lot of sites out there with horrible UX that rank in the top three. While I believe it’s really important for conversion and to bring customers back, I don’t feel as though Google is all that concerned, based on the sites that rank highly. Additionally, Google practically screams “unique content,” yet sites that more or less steal and republish content from other sites are still ranking highly. What I think should matter to Google doesn’t seem to matter to them, based on the results they give me.
These features describe link metrics about the domain hosting the page.
Highest influence: Quantity of unique linking domains to the domain, 7.45 Lowest influence: Sentiment of the external links pointing to the site, 3.91
Quantity and quality of unique linking domains at the domain level is still among the most significant factors in determining how a domain will perform as a whole in the organic search results, and is among the best SEO “spot checks” for determining if a site will be successful relative to other competitor sites with similar content and selling points.
Throughout this survey, when I say “no direct influence,” this is interchangeable with “no direct positive influence.” For example, I’ve marked exact match domain as low numbers, while their actual influence may be higher – though negatively.
Topical relevancy has, in my opinion, gained much ground as a relevant ranking factor. Although I find it most at play when at page level, I am seeing significant shifts at overall domain relevancy, by long-tail growth or by topically-relevant domains linking to sites. One way I judge such movements is the growth of the long-tail relevant to the subject or ranking, when neither anchor text (exact match or synonyms) nor exact phrase is used in a site’s content, yet it still ranks very highly for long-tail and mid-tail synonyms.
These features relate to the entire root domain, but don’t directly describe link- or keyword-based elements. Instead, they relate to things like the length of the domain name in characters.
Highest influence: Uniqueness of content across the whole site, 7.52 Lowest influence: Length of time until domain name expires, 2.45
Character length of domain name is another correlative yet not causative factor, in my opinion. They don’t need to rule these out – it just so happens that longer domain names get clicked on, so they get ruled out quickly.
A few points: Google’s document inception date patents describe how Google might handle freshness and maturity of content for a query. The “trust signal” pages sound like a site quality metric that Google might use to score a page on the basis of site quality. Some white papers from Microsoft on web spam signals identified multiple hyphens in subdomains as evidence of web spam. The length of time until the domain expires was cited as a potential signal in Google’s patent on information retrieval through historic data, and was refuted by Matt Cutts after domain sellers started trying to use that information to sell domain extensions to “help the SEO” of a site.
I think that page speed only becomes a factor when it is significantly slow. I think that having error pages on the site doesn’t matter, unless there are so many that it greatly impacts Google’s ability to crawl.
Mobile will continue to increase, with directly-related factors increasing as well. Structured data will increase, along with more data partners and user segmentation/personalization of SERPs to match query intent, localization, and device-specific need states.
I really think that over the next 12-18 months we are going to see a larger impact of structured data in the SERPs. In fact, we are already seeing this. Google has teams that focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning. They are studying “relationships of interest” and, at the heart of what they are doing, are still looking to provide the most relevant result in the quickest fashion. Things like schema that help “educate” the search engines as to a given topic or entity are only going to become more important as a result.
Finally, we leave you with this infographic created by Kevin Engle which shows the relative weighting of broad areas of Google’s algorithm, according to the experts.
What’s your opinion on the future of search and SEO? Let us know in the comments below.
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