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Which Should You Choose: A SAAS or an On-Premise eCommerce Solution?

June 8th, 2015 Manasi Kulkarni No comments

Cloud computing and a highly competitive business arena have made SAAS – Software as a Service – solutions popular among business owners (particularly small- to medium-sized business owners). eCommerce businesses can greatly benefit from such SAAS solutions, and this post attempts to lay out the benefits and disadvantages of both SAAS and on-premise eCommerce solutions to help you make an informed decision.

  1. Availability and deployment: As compared to on-premise software solutions, SAAS solutions are more quickly available and can be easily deployed. On-premise solutions may take weeks or even months to deploy from the time you decide to invest in an ecommerce solution for your business. The SAAS solutions do not involve receiving any installation package from the provider, installation of CDs, or involvement of a dedicated IT department to ensure smooth installation and deployment of the software etc. SAAS solutions are available over the internet, and business owners can begin using them simply by signing in within minutes.
  2. Hardware/IT infrastructure requirements: On-premise solutions usually require the business owner to maintain some dedicated hardware and invest towards its regular maintenance and upgrade as per the ecommerce solution’s requirements. While larger businesses might not require any additional hardware procurement, or new procurement might not be an issue, for smaller businesses purchasing and maintaining hardware can mean additional costs that they would rather avoid. SAAS solutions are available over the cloud and do not require the business owner to make any additional investments. The infrastructural requirements are thus significantly reduced.
  3. Solution upgrades: Traditional on-premise installations require the business owner to keep track of and manage software upgrades at his end. This can be a cumbersome activity if a dedicated IT department is not available and if the solution provider is not proactive in providing the upgrades or new releases to the business owner. In comparison, a SAAS solution is maintained entirely by the provider and all upgrades are automatically available to the business owner.
  4. Costing: It follows from the earlier points that SAAS solutions are relatively cheaper to procure and maintain as compared to on-premise installations. With limited hardware requirements, licensing fees, upgrade and maintenance charges, the overall cost of a SAAS solution is significantly reduced. SAAS solutions can also be available as free trials initially, further reducing the costs for the business owner.
  5. Free trials: As mentioned earlier, SAAS solutions are increasingly being offered with a free trial period. These free trials allow the business owner to experience the solution first hand and make an informed decision about if the solution is suited for his business, and if he should make a long-term investment in it. On-premise solutions usually offer only a snapshot of what is available and require the business owner to make a commitment before he can get the whole picture. This could at times mean failed investments as the solution may not fit the business requirements completely.
  6. Customization: With on-premise solutions the business owner can get a customized solution tailored to suit his unique business requirements. The solution provider can make significant modifications to the product and guarantee a perfect fit for the business. However, this may involve additional costs and longer time to deployment. SAAS solutions, on the other hand, may not always render themselves to customization, leaving the business owner dissatisfied with his purchase.
  7. Internet connectivity and performance issue: As SAAS solutions are provided via cloud, your internet availability and speed may hamper the overall performance of the solution. In-house servers and applications usually guarantee greater speed and performance, thereby making on-premise solutions a better option. However, SAAS providers are increasingly overcoming the reliance on internet, and some solutions can now be accessed even when offline or at slower internet speeds.
  8. Data security: As on-premise solutions use in-house servers and other hardware, the concerns of data security are greatly reduced. The business owner has more control over his solution and greater knowledge of who has access to data, or who it is being shared with. In comparison, SAAS solutions are hosted over the cloud and storing sensitive data on third-party servers can be a risky proposition. However, SAAS providers are seen to be increasingly working on reducing these security concerns, and SAAS solutions are now beginning to be a lot more secure than previously imagined.

While each type of solution has its advantages and disadvantages, the Ignify eCommerce solution attempts to reduce the gap between the two, and is available both as a SAAS as well as an on-premise solution, and guarantees complete customer satisfaction in both cases.

Irrespective of whether you are an on-premise or SAAS customer, the Ignify eCommerce solution can be easily installed/deployed, store data securely, provide regular upgrades, is customizable, and works both online and offline without compromising the solution’s performance. Based upon your business requirements, we provide you the best solution that is affordable and easy to use. To learn more about our product, please contact ecommerce@ignify.com.

Manasi Kulkarni is a Product Marketer at Ignify. Ignify is winner/finalist of the Worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year Award in 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010, and offers eCommerce, ERP, CRM, Order Management and POS solutions based on the Microsoft Dynamics line of products. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing businesses in North America for seven years in a row by Inc. Magazine and Deloitte in the FAST 500 from 2008 to 2013.

Win Over Your Customers with Omnichannel Marketing

December 9th, 2014 Manasi Kulkarni No comments

There is a lot of talk about how businesses, whether ecommerce or otherwise, need to market themselves across various social media platforms and through other online marketing avenues such as emails to reach a cross section of their audience. While such multi-channel marketing is becoming central to marketing strategies and is being widely incorporated, the proliferation of devices and customers’ movement across these multiple devices has necessitated that marketing strategies not only advertise on these platforms but also provide the same experience across them all.

This new form of customer centric marketing that is aware of the customer’s behavior and engagement habits across the various platforms, and connects them all with a continuous story about the brand is known as omnichannel marketing. Omnichannel marketing works to give the customer a seamless experience across devices and online as well as offline channels, thereby breaking down any walls that may exist between online and offline marketing.

retail consumer

Today’s retail consumer expects to shop and research products via mobile devices, online resources, and brick and mortar stores before committing to purchase.

This means that a customer may encounter your products on a social media platform or print advertisement, read more about it on your blog and then walk into your retail store while still comparing prices for the same product in other stores on his mobile device. Furthermore, with omnichannel marketing you would have equipped your retail salespersons with the right information about your products, enabling them to be ready for any questions that an informed customer might have, thereby giving your customers a more satisfying shopping experience. Omnichannel marketing thus increases your chances of sales and creates satisfied customers that are more likely to stay loyal to your brand in the long run.

Benefits of omnichannel marketing

omnichannel marketing

Source: DM News

By combining efforts for marketing resources online and offline, the consumer is able to complete more thorough research and make more informed, confident purchasing decisions.

  1. Save duplication of marketing efforts and resources for online and offline mediums with a combined marketing strategy. Such combined efforts make for more relevant, robust, and effective messaging. 
  2. Get higher return on investment for your marketing efforts with higher sales across your online and offline stores. As customers stay longer with your brand both online and offline, the chances of sales increase.
  3. Increase brand retention and loyalty with uniform messaging.
  4. Increase customer engagement and satisfaction with your brand with messaging that is adjusted to their buying habits and online behavior, and gives the impression of a more personalized service.
  5. Opportunity to collect better data about customer behavior and buying patterns across various online and offline channels, enabling you to modify your marketing strategies accordingly to meet their needs and expectations. This consequently helps you market your products better and increase sales and brand loyalty.
  6. Enhance employee productivity by empowering them with product and customer information that can be used to convert leads and walk-ins into sales, while providing a better shopping experience to the customer.

Tips to get started with omnichannel marketing

Whether you are an ecommerce merchant or run a brick-and-mortar retail store, here are some tips to get you started with omnichannel marketing. We shall assume at this point that you have some online presence, either in the form of a web store or on the social media platforms.  

  1. Gather and analyze customer behavior data from both online and offline sources.
  2. Based upon your analysis create a cohesive marketing strategy that ensures that online and offline marketing efforts complement each other.
  3. Create more than one type of messaging and creatives that can be tested for customer response, providing you in depth data about your customers’ shopping behavior.
  4. Ensure theme and design uniformity across various channels such as Facebook, Twitter, banner ads, print ads, in-store advertising, etc. Your creative should ideally be usable across channels, or at least uniform enough that the customer gets the same experience whether he is looking at it in print or on his television, etc.
  5. Personalize engagement with the customer where possible on social media platforms, through email marketing or in-store experience, by managing your messaging to suit their tastes and habits. The customer should be left with the feeling that you had only him in mind when you created the message.
  6. Constantly analyze customer data and make modifications to your strategy until you get the perfect blend that maximizes sales across all your channels.

Ignify eCommerce has you covered

As you start exploring the rather daunting world of omnichannel marketing, Ignify eCommerce helps you in a variety of ways.

Multi-device browsing: With Ignify eCommerce you get responsive web design for your web stores, which means that your customers can browse your web store using any device, such as laptops, mobile, tablets, etc. with the same user experience. Not only is your web store accessible, the customer can also seamlessly carry over his shopping sessions from one device to another with features such as save cart and a self-service account on the web store that store essential information accessible as and when required.

eCommerce responsive web design templates

Ignify eCommerce’s responsive web design templates ensure browsers have an excellent user experience regardless of which device they are using.

Support for Google Analytics: The Ignify eCommerce Manager Panel lends itself easily to have Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager configured on your web stores to help you track and understand customer behavior and plan your omnichannel marketing activities accordingly. Depending upon his business requirements, the merchant may choose to have Google Analytics, both Classic or Universal, or Google Tag Manager on individual web stores. If you have multiple stores, each store could be assigned a different tracking mechanism via the same Manager Panel.

With these tips and tools at hand you can now kick start your omnichannel marketing efforts and stay ahead of the competition.

Manasi Kulkarni is a Product Marketer at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, CRM, eCommerce, and Point of Sale software solutions to organizations. Ignify is winner/finalist of the worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year Award in 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing businesses in North America for seven years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine from 2007 to 2013.

SEO/SMO Tips to Get Your Web Store Ready for the Holiday Season

December 2nd, 2014 Manasi Kulkarni No comments

In a previous post we discussed how Ignify eCommerce provides various customer-friendly features to help you make the most of the holiday season. Along with setting up those features, you would also be sprucing up your product catalog and bring out the discounts in preparation of the holiday season. We bring you some search engine optimization and social media optimization tips that will complement your efforts and help you stay on top of your game, and ring in higher footfall and revenues.

As elaborated in earlier posts, optimizing your web store for search engines is a long term activity and your SEO/SMO strategies have to be well drawn out to bring great results. But there are some focused activities that can be implemented to capitalize on the holiday traffic.

1. Identify top pages/products: No matter how big or small your catalog, there are certain items which you would like to particularly highlight during the holidays. Identify such important pages that display not only the products you want to sell at that time, but also those that have traditionally been the crowd pullers. Your SEO/SMO efforts should be concentrated on pushing out those pages even further.

2. Create holiday themed pages: In addition to your regular pages, create temporary holiday themed pages and promote them through your SEO activities. These pages should be optimized using holiday-specific keywords and rich content. You can use these pages to link to your PPC/Google ads, Facebook ads, etc.

holiday themed pages

Optimizing holiday themed pages with holiday-specific keywords and content is a helpful way to pull in holiday-focused traffic.

3. Check if your title tags, meta descriptions and keywords are optimized: Revisit your pages, particularly the top pages you have already identified and ensure that they have been optimized as per SEO best practices. Ensure that these pages have unique title tags that are informative and include the relevant keywords. The meta descriptions should be checked for their keyword density and compelling copywriting to ensure higher click through rates when they show up in the search results. Also, revisit your keywords to see that they are competitive and best describe your page.

4. Add images and Alt Tags: Images not only add to the aesthetic value of your page, they also help elaborate upon the product’s features in a captivating manner. Search engines such as Google tend to rank pages with images higher. So it can be beneficial to add a few colorful images to your important pages complete with Alt Tags. Check if existing images on your important pages have Alt Tags and add them if absent. Alt Tags should crisply describe the image and add to the keywords on your page.

5. Get creative with social media campaigns: The importance of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest cannot be overlooked during the holiday season. Facebook and Pinterest particularly lend themselves to creative and colorful holiday campaigns that get the shopper into the festive mood, choosing you over the competition and increasing the click through rate. It is a great opportunity to engage with your customers through contests and giveaways.

social media campaigns

Social media campaigns

Social media campaigns are important for creatively engaging with customers and persuading them to choose your business over the competition.

6. Use PPC ads aggressively: Holiday time is targeted marketing time, and nothing reaches your target audience faster than pay-per-click (PPC) ads on Google, Facebook, etc. Create a themed and targeted copy for your PPC ads, and ensure that the keywords in the advertisement and your landing page align. PPC ads are a great way to bring customers to your important pages and drive sales there. Given that you would be making a bulk of your revenues during the holiday season, investing in PPC ads is a wise choice.

pay-per-click (PPC) ads on Google and Facebook

pay-per-click (PPC) ads on Google and Facebook

Pay-per-click (PPC) ads on Google, social media, etc. are highly targeted toward your audience, pushing traffic toward your pages and driving sales there. 

For more tips on how you can optimize your online store for the holidays, please email us at eCommerce@ignify.com.

Manasi Kulkarni is a Product Marketer at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, CRM, eCommerce, and Point of Sale software solutions to organizations. Ignify is winner/finalist of the worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year Award in 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing businesses in North America for seven years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine from 2007 to 2013.

Multiply Your Holiday Shopping Sales in Four Easy Ways

November 26th, 2014 Manasi Kulkarni No comments

The holiday season is around the corner and everyone is rushing to finish their shopping on time. For a busy customer, the convenience of purchasing for everyone in one place and not having to wait in multiple checkout lines can mean the difference between choosing one store over another.

With online shopping being increasingly preferred by the busy shopper, it becomes important for an ecommerce merchant to ensure that he combines the best of online and offline shopping to give the shopper a truly satisfying shopping experience. Here are some tips to take the stress off festive shopping, and make the most of this holiday season for your customer and your business. 

Multi-store browsing

It wouldn’t be a leap of the imagination to assume that a diverse catalog that caters to a cross-section of shoppers would lead to greater sales. While that may be a sound argument to make, it can also be argued that crowding a single web store with divergent products can confuse the shopper and push him towards a niche web store. Not to mention that the design that suits, say, an apparel store might not gel well with a bookstore.

To help you deal with such a dilemma, Ignify eCommerce provides you the ability to operate multiple web stores via a single Manager Panel, and let your customers browse across them with a single integrated shopping cart at checkout. This means that if your catalog has apparel and electronic gadgets, books and tools, you can easily create a different web store for each one of them and link them together. Each of your web stores can be designed to best suit the products and the target audience you wish to attract. All of these web stores are then linked together and shoppers can travel from one store to another from the comfort of their chairs, and complete their festival shopping without having to wait in long checkout lines at the retail stores.

Multi-store browsing

Customers navigate across the multiple web stores by clicking on the different web store links.

Multi-store browsing

An integrated shopping cart makes checking out items from multiple stores a breeze.

Multi-device compatibility

This multi-store browsing facility can be made even more attractive by letting your shoppers shop using any device of their choice. For shoppers always on-the-go, being able to shop on their mobile phones and tablets just as easily as they would on their laptops or desktops is an attractive option.

Ignify eCommerce not only lets you provide your customer such multi-store, multi-device compatibility with responsive web design web stores, it also lets your customers carry over their shopping sessions seamlessly from one device to another. A social media integrated login process lets them login to any of the web stores quickly, where shopping carts can be saved and orders tracked as required. In case of multiple saved shopping carts, they can even be merged to create a new cart and an order placed conveniently; all this without discriminating between the shoppers’ choice of device.

Multi-device compatibility

Responsive Web Design web stores as rendered on a mobile phone and a tablet.

Multiple payment options

Once the shopper fills up his shopping cart with goodies for family and friends, the least of his worries should be a hiccup at checkout, where his preferred payment option is not available. This can force the shopper to abandon his shopping cart and move over to the competition’s web store.

Avoiding this scenario is easy, with Ignify eCommerce’s web stores allowing you to easily set up various payment options such as Credit Card, PayPal, Terms PO, Cash, Check, Reward Points, etc. The backend Manager Panel processes orders just as easily for online payment methods as for offline payment methods. Your customers can also make partial payments against invoices and use different payment options for each part of the payment. This means that no matter how big or small the billing amount, the customer can pay as per convenience and ability.  

Multiple shipping options

For festive shoppers, a major concern with online shopping is receiving their packages on time. Getting your Christmas gifts delivered after New Year is not an option. The uncertainty of delivery makes many shoppers opt for the more traditional retail stores to complete their shopping on time. You can capture these shoppers and even those last-minute shoppers by providing multiple shipping options ranging from 7 day delivery to overnight shipping.

Ignify eCommerce lets you set up various shipping carriers such as UPS, USPS, FedEx, etc. and make them available on your web store for the customer to choose from. Not only can you provide a choice of shipping carriers, the customers can also have different items in their order delivered to different addresses using different carriers. This ability to ship to multiple addresses can be particularly attractive to shoppers who do not want to miss out on the opportunity to send gifts to friends and relatives out of town. 

Multiple shipping options

Provide your shoppers multiple shipping options.

So this festive season make your customer feel like a king and let him shop across your multiple web stores using the device of his choice, place his order with the payment method and shipping carrier to his convenience, and then also have his gifts hand-delivered to different locations on his behalf, without ever having to leave the comfort of his chair!

For more information on how to optimize your web store for the holiday season, please email us at eCommerce@ignify.com.

Manasi Kulkarni is a Product Marketer at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, CRM, eCommerce, and Point of Sale software solutions to organizations. Ignify is winner/finalist of the worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year Award in 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing businesses in North America for seven years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine from 2007 to 2013.

Personalization Isn’t Just for B2C: Enhancing the B2B eCommerce Customer Shopping Experience

April 6th, 2014 Brianne Schaer No comments

Although business-to-business customers are a different segment than business-to-consumer customers, B2B shoppers want the same type of shopping experience that B2C shoppers want: convenience and ease of use.

We’ve discussed the importance of personalizing the online store shopping experience before, and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to optimize your B2B website; in fact, you can take a look into what works for B2C and adjust those qualities to create a beautifully designed, easy-to-navigate B2B channel.

Dramatically enhance your B2B eCommerce platform by implementing a few features sure to create a loyal following of repeat customers.

Personalizing the User Experience

Nobody likes attempting to navigate a poorly-built website in which product information is shrouded in mystery, hiding behind inconsistent tabs or categories.
Among the key elements of running a better B2B site is improving the user experience. From making navigation easier to tailoring content to each individual’s needs, no venture is too small to make an impact on today’s B2B customer. These busy shoppers are looking for personalization, better search capabilities, and strong content management to convince them to spend their dollars on your products.

There are a number of options within Ignify eCommerce to personalize your web channel both from the back-end and the storefront.

Let us first take a look into the functionality of the storefront. As soon as a customer logs in to their account, a reminder alert will pop up if there were any items sitting in the shopping cart from the last session. This will save your customers time searching for previously-viewed items while encouraging them to commit to purchasing these items.

Ignify eCommerce reminds B2B customers at sign-in of items stored in the shopping cart during previous visits

Ignify eCommerce reminds B2B customers at sign-in of items stored in the shopping cart during previous visits.

Because each customer, or company, has unique login information, Ignify eCommerce allows you to tailor which products show up in category searches, and at what price they are listed. In the example image below, one particular customer will view various bike cranks when clicking the “components” tab under “bike.” However, a different customer may view pedals, or handlebars, for example. Depending on which industry or specific needs a customer has, the site will adapt to showcase only relevant products.

category tabs

Each customer has a custom view of which items show up under category tabs. This customer views bike cranks, but different customers would see what is relevant to their needs.

The customer dashboard is streamlined in its ability to provide customers with a breakdown of order history, past sales quotes with negotiated pricing, view outstanding balance versus credit limit, and update email preferences including subscription to newsletters. It is also as easy as a click of the mouse to copy a past order into a new order, saving time for order entry. With time-saving capabilities in mind, the customer dashboard fully serves its purpose in making shopping easy and quick for B2B consumers.

purchase history

Customers can view their past purchase history and reorder the same items instantly.

Pricing can also be set for various B2B customers by custom level, or item category discounts. Customers can be segmented in to Diamond, Gold, or Silver levels to reap benefits for their continued business. These benefits vary from item, or item category, discounts to customer-based pricing, and can be controlled in the manager panel.

Another important feature to tailor the site to each customer is to segment customers by customer class. Customers can be segmented into classes such as: corporate, reseller, retail, or government. Based on each class, various payment methods can be set up, or tax can be charged or waived, and different shipping methods can be made available. For each of these variations, defaults can also be set up depending on customer class.

customer class details

The “customer class details” in the manager panel provides an easy-to-read chart that highlights pricing, discounts, invoices, and currency accepted based on each customer’s class.

The more personalized and user-friendly a B2B eCommerce site is, the more likely your customers are to maximize its functionality. Don’t let your customers waste their precious time trying to find an item. With a well-tailored website, your customers will feel comfortable finding key inventory items, purchasing in bulk, and returning for more.

For more information about Ignify eCommerce’s B2B functionality, please email ecommerce@ignify.com.

Brianne Schaer is an Assistant Copywriter at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of CRM, eCommerce, ERP, and Point of Sale software solutions to organizations. Ignify has won the worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year Award in 2013, 2012 and 2011. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing businesses in North America for seven years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine from 2007 to 2013.