ASPDotNetStorefront Conference – Day One

Est. Reading Time: 7 minutes

I have the great opportunity this week of attending the ASPDotNetStorefront Conference in Las Vegas, hosted by Vortx (the new owners of the e-commerce shopping cart that Beacon has been implementing for about four years).  The conference is divided into two tracks– developers and merchants– and, being neither ;), I’m bouncing back and forth between the tracks, based on the topic.  Here are my thoughts and discoveries thus far:

Session 1 “Fearless Source Code Modification” by John Morrison, Morrison Consulting- I’d hoped this session would be focused on best practices to safely make source code modifications to the ASPDNSF code, which we do often.  It was actually a session on source control and was a bit too technical for me.  However, I’m sure that many of the developers in the room benefited from the information and I plan to take the information back to the office to have our DBA investigate both VisualSVN and TortoiseSVN to advance our internal code management to “vendor branch management”.

Session 2 “Email Marketing – Beyond the Basics” by Kristine Dobson (Email Direct) and Ross Kramer (Listrak) – Really enjoyed this session a lot.  Not really related to ASPDNSF per se, but lots of awesome information about creating email campaigns.  A small glimpse of what I learned:

Email Marketing

Shopping Cart Abandonment

Session 3 “Payment Methods” by Alex Brutin, Moneybookers/Skrill and Jason Doll, Amazon Payments- A very interesting session about alternatives to the traditional credit card payment.  In Europe, for example, credit cards are very rarely carried or used for online purchases, in favor of local credit sources, debit cards, or bank transfer.  Skrill will soon release an electronic wallet product in the U.S., much like PayPal, that will allow U.S.-based online stores to more easily accept payment from European countries in their preferred method of payment (potentially increasing conversions).

Likewise, Amazon Payments will soon be releasing an integration with Aspdotnetstorefront that will allow the visitor to check out of the online store using the address book and payment information already stored in their Amazon account, without leaving the online store.  Previously, Amazon Payment required a rebranded window that left the online store, which reduced the options for upselling.  This new interface will be a widget that will be included on the site’s checkout page and will never cause the customer to leave the site.  Since there are over 100 million Amazon account holders, this has a tremendous potential for increasing conversion rates.

Session 4 “Product Feeds” by Ryan Douglas, Singlefeed – The presenter described his own experience with a retail online store and the difficulty of maintaining data integrity.  He described how essential it is to maintain very good data, in particular with regard to feeding data to comparative shopping engines.  The accuracy and descriptiveness of your data can make a huge difference in a purchase selection between identical products listed in a shopping engine.  He highly recommended, in addition to the traditional required fields like product name and description, to maintain UPC, brand/manufacturer and model number for every product in your store.  UPC codes are particularly essential for the new mobile apps that allow the customer to scan a barcode and find the product online.  He also recommended listing product attributes like color and size as separate fields so that they can be more easily denoted in the comparison.  Also give very close consideration to product title and include as much relevant information as possible (color, size, brand) in the product name so that it can be easily understood outside the context of the online store.

Session 5 “Interacting With Customers” by Michael Teitelbaum, Velaro and Ian Rowley, WhosOn – These presenters each shared their online chat programs with the audience and gave very valid arguments as to why chat should be implemented in most online stores in order to add a necessary “touch point” for the customer.    There are two main chat formats– reactive chat and proactive chat.  Reactive chat is initiated by the customer in response to graphics/icons located on the site indicating that chat is available.  It was recommended that the chat icon be placed prominently on the home page as well as any other location that the customer is likely to “show intent” (like a product detail page) and anywhere that customers traditionally abandon the cart (checkout, shipping policies, etc.).  Proactive chat is an invitation to the customer that pop-up for the customer when they attempt or initiate some action.  For example, if a customer spends a certain period of time on a page, navigates to a particular page, adds certain items to their cart or is a “high value customer” could all prompt a proactive chat invitation.  Proactive chat is usually more than twice as effective as reactive chat.

Including chat in an online store has proven to significantly reduce call volume in call centers and is more efficient than phone banks because most agents can field more than one chat at a time (as many as four, in fact!).  Once involved in a chat, the agent can view the customer’s order history, browse history, referring sites, referring keywords, etc.  The speed and efficiency of the chat can be improved by implementing pre-made messages and links, so that the agent does not have to type answers to many routinely asked questions.  This is essential, because customers expect that there will be no queue when waiting for a chat response.

Good job to all of today’s presenters… Looking forward to tomorrow!

See a summary of “Day Two” here…