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Better Search Engine Optimization and Higher Revenues for Web Stores

August 30th, 2010 Sandeep Walia No comments

While there are several articles out there that talk about Search Engine Optimization in general, very few are tailored to web stores and eCommerce sites. While the basic concepts of SEO are similar, there are fundamental differences in the execution that are required. Over 10 years of building Ignify eCommerce, our focus has not been just to be an eCommerce transaction engine but to be a marketing engine that drives additional revenue for merchants. Hence our mantra – ‘Rev Up Your Revenue.’

Let’s be clear – Investing in Search Engine Optimization for an eCommerce merchant has one and only one primary reason – and that is higher revenue. However, revenue is a function of three factors. At a basic level – here is the formula:

Web Store Revenue = Web Traffic In Unique visitors X % Conversion Rate X Average Size of Order

So for example if my Average daily traffic is 1,000 visitors a day, my conversion rate is 1% and my average order size is $60 dollars then my average daily revenue is $600 (1000 X 1% X $60). Now let’s talk about how we can really Rev Up your Revenue. It’s a little obvious but I have to increase the numbers on all 3 counts. Each of these revenue drivers has different things that influence it though

Web Store Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

#1 Revenue Driver – Web Traffic: The most effective way to increase this is through Search Engine optimization of the ecommerce site. The easiest (but potentially expensive) way to increase this is through paid search. For example, Ignify ecommerce uses a folder structure with each page natively search engine optimized with URLs and web addresses that are humanly readable instead of a lot of $%#$ signs. Additionally Page Titles (which is the #1 field an eCommerce merchant should work on for SEO) are automatically filled in with product or product category names instead of a generic single page titles across the store

#2 Revenue Driver – % Conversion Rate: This is a function of two things a. how easy the site is to buy from b. How attractive the products, pricing and promotions are for the end customer to make a purchase. Point a is effectively Usability and the shopping experience. For example in our store deployments we will typically enforce that the buy button is always much bigger in the check-out page than any other button.

#3 Revenue Driver – Average Size of Order: The most effective way to increase your average size of the order is to have great upsell and cross-sell. For example the merchandising functionality in Ignify eCommerce automatically recommends products to a customer based on what they have in the cart + past history of shoppers who have bought those products.

Let’s go back to our example – if I can increase my average daily traffic by 40%, double my conversion rate and increase my average order size by 20% – what does this do to my revenue? Incredibly – it actually more than triples revenue. ( 1,400 visitors per day X 2% conversion X $72 per order = $2016 per day Versus $600 per day prior to the Rev Up your Revenue formula).

In my next blog article, I will go into more details of how you can increase revenue by positively impacting each of these revenue drivers and more than double your revenue by following these simple tips.

Sandeep Walia is the Chief Executive Officer at Ignify. Ignify eCommerce is the only PCI certified eCommerce solution in the market that integrates with the Microsoft Dynamics ERP and Sage ERP solutions. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for four years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine. Ignify was ranked in the Red Herring 100 finalists for 2010 – this list represents the top businesses in North America with disruptive and innovative technology.

How does Microsoft Dynamics Enterprise Portal compare against Ignify eCommerce?

August 18th, 2010 Sandeep Walia No comments

One of our team members asked this question to me yesterday and I thought it was interesting enough to write about. The context is a solution for the requirement of an eCommerce web portal. I’ve done a comparison of the two below and this would be a good read for any Dynamics AX customer looking at Enterprise Portal for meeting their eCommerce needs. I’ve listed down the features that an eCommerce site requires and listed how both Enterprise Portal and Ignify eCommerce stack up. We sell both solutions and I believe there is a fundamental difference. Enterprise Portal is a great Intranet and an Extranet but not an eCommerce Engine. It is ideal if you need customers to view information and make minor edits. It is not a solution that is built to take on a high order volume and provide configurability and flexibility to make for a sleek website. This table below will show why.  

Web e-commerce Requirements
Ignify eCommerce
Enterprise Portal
Product Catalog for Customers to view publicly without login    
Product Catalog for Customers to view with login    
Customers get pricing specific to them based on Price List/ Price Level assigned to them.    
Advanced Search capabilities to find items with multiple parameters    
Auto-fill type capabilities to help customers get to the right items    
Search Engine Optimized Web site links and Page URLs    
Search Engine Optimized Alternate Image descriptions    
 Multi-level category in the Catalog    
Customers can have multiple logins for a single customer account    
Customers can view and update their address book    
Customers can maintain a credit card wallet or manage their payment methods    
Customer information is stored in a PCI compliant manner    
Customers can request a credit line increase    
Customers can view Sales Orders    
Customers can place orders without a login e.g. B2C customers    
Customers can place basic orders with a login    
New Customers can request a login and go through an approval process if required    
Orders can be configured based on business rules    
Ability to have coupons and promotions on orders that can be applied with a coupon or promotion code    
Customers can request a return on an order    
RMA number automatically provided based on whether the item qualifies for a return based on parameters such as the order date    
Customers can make online payments for an order at the time of submitting an order    
Customers can view invoices and open balances    
Customers can make payments for an open invoice
   

  An important point is that Enterprise Portal will just not support a B2C site as it is built for working with a login as opposed to also being a site that requires an anonymous login. If you were even a business to business site and you need customers to login to place an order you may still be challenged by Enterprise Portal. For example most B2B sites will expose their catalog publicly with list or retail pricing without any order entry capability but will need a login to see pricing specific to the customer. Even that scenario is not supported by Enterprise Portal. Clearly Enterprise Portal is not an eCommerce platform though there is some light functionality in there that allows it to be used as a very unsophisticated order entry tool if required. However, I’ve not seen any customer do that successfully. In fact several of our customers who moved to Ignify ecommerce are those that tried Enterprise Portal and realized it will not do a good job for them and needed to move to a real eCommerce platform. If you have any questions on this topic please email our ecommerce information team at ecommerce@ignify.com and we'd be happy to provide detailed answers. Sandeep Walia is the Chief Executive Officer at Ignify. Ignify eCommerce is the only PCI certified eCommerce solution in the market that integrates with the Microsoft Dynamics ERP and Sage ERP solutions. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 3 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine. Ignify was ranked in the Red Herring 100 finalists for 2010 – this list represents the top businesses in North America with disruptive and innovative technology.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM for the Healthcare Industry

August 12th, 2010 Sandeep Walia No comments

Microsoft has introduced an integrated framework to enable health insurance plans to use Microsoft Dynamics® CRM. Known as “Health Plan Sales Solution”, this new framework will allow health plans to quickly and easily move their marketing and sales processes online to better manage and monitor sales, member service and retention. As a result, health insurance plans will be able to better compete in the individual and small-group market; reduce multiple points of failure in their current sales, service and retention processes; and operate in conjunction with state health insurance exchanges.

In addition to this new framework, Microsoft Dynamics CRM also helps healthcare providers overall by improving the delivery of care, lowering costs, and assisting patients in managing their health by streamlining these six critical areas in the Healthcare Industry:

  1. Information Management
    Manage patient information that eliminates the need for patients to fill in the same information repeatedly. Provide quick, efficient care delivery to provide better service and satisfy your patients as you ease work for administrative staff.
  2. Referrals Management
    Maintain consistent processes and strong communications channels to support referrals between clinicians, specialists, departments, and facilities.
  3. Business Processes
    Microsoft Dynamics CRM gives you the ability to improve service and proactively respond to patients by eliminating manual processes and breaking down silos of information.
  4. Business Intelligence
    Efficient operation of your healthcare facility is critical to your success. By providing administrators and others with access to comprehensive, real-time information, you can manage business more effectively and respond more quickly to changing conditions.
  5. Clinical Trial Management
    Furthering medical research is essential for improving treatment and prevention. Microsoft Dynamics CRM gives you the tools to streamline operations to more easily manage clinical trials and serve your patients better.
  6. Recruiting
    Meet the challenge of recruiting high-quality healthcare professionals with tools for automated communications and analysis.

Delivering high-quality care may be the number one priority for you as a healthcare provider, but reducing costs is also an important factor. Overall, Microsoft Dynamics integrated healthcare management solutions make it easier for you to share patient information for clinical decisions and cross-organizational case coordination, as well as access the financial data required to drive business decisions.

Sandeep Walia is the Chief Executive Officer of Ignify. Ignify provides design, consulting and implementation services for CRM and ERP initiatives for mid-market and enterprise businesses. Ignify is a Top-tier Microsoft Gold Certified partner ranked in the Microsoft Partner of the Year in 2010 and both the Microsoft Dynamics Inner Circle and the Microsoft Dynamics Presidents Club in 2009 . Ignify offers Dynamics CRM to retailers, banks, insurance companies, contact centers and to several other businesses. Ignify has offices in Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Nashville, Chicago, Toronto, Manila, Pune and Bangalore.

Dynamics AX for Retail Point of Sale Solution Launched

August 4th, 2010 Sandeep Walia 1 comment

Microsoft has launched the Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail Point of Sale solution . When I visited the Microsoft Convergence show in 2009, I saw the solution in action under its prior owner and was very impressed with it. The thought that crossed my mind then was ‘I wish Microsoft would buy this solution’ – and they did. Today that solution has been re-launched with improvements as the Dynamics AX for Retail Point of Sale Solution.

We’ve had quite a bit of experience with the product today by dint of being a Microsoft premier partner – in the last few months, we have integrated the AX for Retail with Ignify eCommerce, demonstrated it to a few customers and done some configurations for a demonstration store we plan to launch early next year. In this time, we have gotten to know the solution very well.

Most Point of sales do a basic set of functions and then some do more advanced functions. Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail has the basic functions covered very well but has some incredible advanced functionality. In this blog, I plan to cover primarily the basic functions and in my part-II talk about the advanced functions.

User Interface: First off – the interface is extremely slick. This is what caught my eye. An example lay out is below. But what’s attractive is not that it is a cool-looking lay out but that you can make changes to this in a snap. For example, I can right click a button and not only re-label it but also trigger a completely different function. For example – I can make the Edit Line Item button be my Void Transaction button. I can also decide how many buttons I want and how many rows and columns and what colors they should be. For example – I can have my top selling items each be a separate button – or my top selling category each be a button e.g. Men’s Shoes, Men’s Hats, Women’s Shoes, Women’s Hats etc. But then I can also color code all the Men categories in blue and the Women product categories in Pink for example. Now you will likely not have a sales clerk do these changes – but someone like a store manager or IT do them. But you can create multiple POS layouts and based on the user or role you can assign the layout and when the person logs in they see the lay out assigned to them. For example I can have the same machine show a lay out for customer service supervisor that has returns, credits, returns, warranties, exchanges while for a sales clerk the focus may be on the sale, checkout like the one below. I don’t need to setup a machine specifically for customer service and another one specifically for checkout. Any machine can be used for any role and adjusts to who logs in. Additionally the user interface is built to work with a touch screen so it will natively support a self-service Kiosk touch pad. I’ve put this in my basic blog feature description but frankly most point of sale products in the market don’t offer this flexibility. California law (and some other states) requires retailers offer a dual screen where not only the cashier can see what is being transacted but so can the customer. Dynamics AX for retail offers this dual screen capability natively.

Dynamics AX for Retail POS has the capability to automatically apply discounts

Figure 1.Dynamics AX for Retail POS has the capability to automatically apply discounts

Upsell: Items can be configured to do up sell. For example when I rang up the HP 22 inch LCD monitor in the transaction shown above the system automatically prompted me to check if the customer wants extended warranty with it. This was a pretty simple up sell but you can do much more e.g. have multiple options for extended warranty or have a bundled item. The upsell screen can be configured in many ways – it can be a pop-up or another screen or just show up as a reminder. In this case I set it to be a pop-up where the cashier has to select an option thus increasing my average order amount.

Example of Upsell in Dynamics AX for Retail

Figure 2.Example of Upsell in Dynamics AX for Retail

System Interfaces: Dynamics AX for Retail provides out of the box interface for the cash drawer for opening the drawer for cash out to the customer, or for accepting cash and interfaces with credit card swipe but also an interface with the credit card payment providers through Dynamics payment services. This interface is at no charge.

Native Credit Card capability in Dynamics AX for Retail POS

Figure 3.Native Credit Card capability in Dynamics AX for Retail POS

Promotions: Dynamics AX for Retail has rich promotion capability to support item discounts, quantity discounts, mix and match, multi-buys etc. For example, the screen below shows a promotion of 10% running in August starting August 1st 2010 and expiring on August 31st, 2010 on all of my HP LCD monitors. Promotional offers can be a discount amount, a discount percentage or just a flat offer price, or an offer price including tax (the last is more common in places like UK)

Dynamics AX for Retail Headquarters with Promotions

Figure 4. Dynamics AX for Retail Headquarters with Promotions

Technology: Finally the platform is built entirely on Microsoft Technology written in C# and the .NET framework. The database behind this is SQL Server. A local database is available through SQL Server Express that can maintain a local copy in case connectivity in the store is an issue. I will talk more about the architecture in the next blog. In addition, the product natively interfaces with the Microsoft Dynamics AX ERP for financials, end of day reconciliation, refunds, credit card settlements, Item Master, Pricing etc. The entire AX for Retail Headquarters is natively integrated into the Dynamics AX ERP

All in – I am very excited of the future of Microsoft Dynamics in Retail. Microsoft is too – their Microsoft Stores run the Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail Point of Sale. Kevin Turner – the Chief Operating Officer comes from a Retail background having been the CEO of Sam's Club and the CIO of Wal-Mart. He has definitely taken Microsoft into Retail with great results.

Microsoft Stores run the Dynamics AX for Retail Point of Sale

Figure 5.Microsoft Stores run the Dynamics AX for Retail Point of Sale

Here is a great video for you that gives an overview of the product.

Here is a great video

If you have specific questions on Dynamics AX for Retail Point of Sale – email us at dynamics@ignify.com and we'd be happy to answer them.

Sandeep Walia is the Chief Executive Officer of Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, POS, CRM, and eCommerce software solutions to mid-market and enterprise businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify is a Top-tier Microsoft Gold Certified partner ranked in the Microsoft Partner of the Year for Retail in 2010 and both the Microsoft Dynamics Inner Circle and the Microsoft Dynamics Presidents Club in 2009 . Ignify offers Microsoft Dynamics AX, Dynamics AX for Retail POS and the Dynamics CRM Loyalty Management solution for retailers and to several other businesses. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 3 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine. Sandeep was ranked in 2010 in the Microsoft Dynamics Top 100 Most Influential People List by DynamicsWorld. Ignify has offices in Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Nashville, Chicago, Toronto, Manila, Pune and Bangalore.