Home>JXC eNews: Marketing Your Online Store: Part 4 - Cart Performance

JXC eNews: Marketing Your Online Store: Part 4 - Cart Performance

Welcome to the 4th and final instalment of our marketing series, "Marketing Your Online Store". This article is entitled "Cart Performance".  Here are links to the previous 3 articles in case you have missed them:

The previous articles have covered ways to get your brand out and in front of people, to encourage them to visit your online store. But what if all that marketing works and they visit your store, only to find it's slow to load, things aren't working and the overall user-friendliness causes them to make their visit brief and leave your site for your competitors?

Getting visitors to your store is only part of the battle - first you have to get them there but then ensure that they stay, by making the store a pleasure to browse and making the order process efficient. This will assist you to get the sale. As such, optimisation of your site and its usability are key considerations in your overall business marketing efforts.

When covering all aspects of cart performance, I break it down into 3 main areas: SpeedUser-friendliness and Security

Speed

Hosting


X-Cart is known to need a particular hosting environment to run to its best ability. Sadly, many hosts do not offer that environment. Ensure that your hosting account adheres to all the standard and advanced recommendations so that it can run at optimal speed and give you its best performance.

Just X-Cart Australia was appointed the first and only ever X-Cart recommended hosting provider in Australia, so if you are concerned that your current host may not be able to run your site as you would like, or if you are experiencing outages and downtime that is costing your store money, please contact us and we can quote you on moving over! We ensure a hosting environment that is optimal to run your X-Cart store and we won't turn off your store if you happen to exceed your bandwidth either (as we see many hosts doing). We have a great special on at the moment so its the ideal time to move over!

Hosting & Server Move Specal

Website Optimisation

Provided you are with a hosting provider that gives you lightning-fast hosting to start with, the only other thing getting in the way of fast page loads is how your website is optimised. What do I mean by that? Let's have a more in-depth look.

Images

Firstly, lets consider the the images on your site. Here are 2 images as examples. They look identical don't they? But from an optimisation perspective they are far from the same.

IMAGE 1
IMAGE 2
     File Type: PNG
     File Size: 434 KB
     File Type: JPG
     File Size: 32 KB


Each image you will see the file type and size of the image is referenced. Now all I did was download "Image 1" (which is the original image in PNG format) and save it to be the "image 1" example. To create "image 2" I simply brought the original image into an image editting program, saved it as a different file format and automatically you can see how much the file size was reduced, yet the clarity of the file remained the same. So why does this make such a difference?

Imagine now your X-Cart store homepage. If all of your images are PNG or even GIF format (as these two formats usually carry a much heavier file size), if you add them all up you could be looking at many 1000s of KBs just to load your homepage - this translates into slower loading times for your visitors because they must wait as all the images are downloaded to be made viewable (oh an incidentally this causes a much bigger bandwidth total per month, which could also translate into bigger hosting bills depending on the plan you are on). My example is of only a small image, but you can imagine what happens, especially for those of you who use the Banner System in X-Cart, if you don't have images optimised!!!



So my recommendation is to make sure that all of your images are JPG file format wherever possible and have the JPGs optimised to be as small as possible without loosing clarity. If you have no idea where to start, get in contact with us and we can do some investigation and get you headed in the right direction :)

X-Cart admin "speed-up" tools

You have an array of tools in your X-Cart admin that can also assist with increasing the speed of your site. These are located under Settings >> General Settings - scroll down near page bottom, under the  "Optimization settings" section. There are a range of ways, using these tools, that you can increase performance on your store. In this section you can easily enable and disable functions, depending on how your store is utilised. You can easily learn what each function does by clicking on the "?" next to each option.


In conjunction with these tools, you can go into the Tools >> Maintenance section of your site and there you will find another great list of things you can do that will further increase the performance of your cart. Things like an un-optimised database can cause slowdown of your site and it can be easily fixed in this section (note: as a general rule, anytime you are making database-related changes to your site, please ensure to first take a backup).

For full details on optimisation of your store you can click here or contact us for further assistance.

Advanced Statistics

Earlier versions of X-Cart had a module called Advanced Statistics. In short, if you have them, turn them off and go into Maintenance and clear all statistics from your database. Later versions of X-Cart simply didn't have this module any longer given its ability to very quickly file up your database and lead to a slow down in your shopping cart. If you want to have tracking stats on your website, which I strongly recommend in order to get a better understanding of how your website is working overall, utilise things like Google Analytics or we can even activate a detailed Web Analysis programme called Opentracker for a 30 day free trial.

User-friendliness

The usability of your store is another critical component of a successful store. Having difficult navigation where clients either cannot find the navigation, get too deep down into sub-categories and cannot find there way out, or just not having an effortless, minimal click-thru order process, are all things that can kill the success of any online store.

Some of the key considerations for making your website user-friendly include:

  • Ensuring you have breadcrumbs: Just like "Hansel and Gretel" who left a trail of breadcrumbs to find their way back through the forest so as to not get lost, the theory is the same on your website. Having an easily displayed "breadcrumb navigation" trail is a must for every store, especially when shoppers may be clicking down into sub-categories of your site. Always allow them to easily go back to previous pages they have drilled down into - see an example here https://www.justxcart.com.au/xcart-47x/ - this is default X-Cart behaviour. For whatever reason, however, we see sites customised by other web developers where the breadcrumbs are removed, which is disadvantageous to shoppers and to Google.
     
  • Stream-lining checkout process: Previous versions of X-Cart had a more cumbersome checkout process, however, the latest version has an easy 1-page checkout which is a breeze to complete and order from in a matter of moments, even as a newly registered customer. If you are running an old version of X-Cart, please consider an upgrade so you and your customers can enjoy all the latest enhancements of the latest version. You can get a free upgrade quote here >>
     
  • Prompting product selection: Although you can create an unlimited number of sub-categories, restrain from having clients drill down 2, 3 or more levels unless you have a massive product range. Use sub-categories to make browsing and finding the wanted product a simple task as opposed to creating more "clicks" for customers to go through before they get to what they are looking for.
     
  • Limiting banners: A nicely placed banner informing customers of something like "free shipping" is always appreciated, however, customers won't spend much time on each page so avoid having excessive banners as they detract from products and can slow page load down also.
     
  • Being mobile-friendly: With more and more shoppers using their smartphones and with Google even penalising sites who don't offer a mobile-friendly option, there is no question that catering for smartphones is a must on your website. Whether using a responsive template or the X-Cart mobile app, don't have your potential customers going to your competitors simply because your site isn't easy to navigate on mobile.
     
  • Making a great first impression: You have a small amount of time to make a great first impression, so ensure that when your homepage loads you have the best products or best promotions/offers displayed immediately, ready for customers to click on.
     
  • Ensuring best use of the product details page:
    ... Have you got too much whitespace?
    ... Is your page nice and succinct or is the product information and buttons spread all down the page?
    ... Do you have multiple images to show-off the product?
    ... Are you effectively cross-promoting so that if a customer wants to buy a shirt, you also display suitable pairs of shorts to match?
    ... Do you have social media buttons per product so that customers can easily share with their friends your products to social media?

    There is so much you can do on just your product details page to make sure you give your shoppers all they need and the best shopping experience possible.
     
  • Ensuring you are ready for changes to payment gateways you use on your store: As technology progresses you will find from time to time that the ability to continue to utilise your payment gateways will be affected if you don''t keep up with the changes. Paypal is one such gateway who has a range of new things happening that do require X-Cart owners to make changes to their stores to ensure things continue to work. More recently we saw ANZ and CBA banks in Australia make similar changes that required the attention of X-Cart owners who use their gateways. You can rest assured that as soon as we are made aware of any such upcoming changes, we will let you know via a mail-out and via our Facebook page.
     
  • Making sure your site works and looks good: Test your site across a myriad of browser types and versions, from desktop, tablet to mobile. As at October 2016, 73% of internet users are using Chrome, followed by 15.7% on Firefox. At minimum test your website on these 2 main browsers to ensure everything is running smoothly on both of them. As at January 2016, it would seem that 97% of internet users have a desktop screen resolution of 1024 x 768 or higher so if you have a site that is more narrow, you could consider having it go a little wider. If you have a "responsive" template then your website will fit to the screen size of each visitor to your site. This can be both a blessing and a curse because it can make your website look weird when it adapts to much wider screen resolutions. Static banner that look lovely and fit perfectly on a page in the resolution you view your site from on your PC, may look much less appealing when someone sees its on a much wider monitor because the banner will not stretch to fit.

    I strongly recommend that you see what your site looks like on different sized monitors as you get the chance and also test your site from other browsers. Do a quick test order, check that the registration form works, that the image verification isn't posing any problems. If you do such tests here and there you can be assured that you aren't loosing potential customers to little issues that could be easily fixed had you known about them.

    If you are a little overwhelmed by my list but would like to ensure the best shopper experience, you can take up the Site Analysis service. This will give you an in-depth report about your site, including screenshots of issues and recommendations on how you can make your site more user-friendly.

Security

In closing, you owe it to your customers to have a secure shopping environment. So in conjunction with offering up a website that is fast-loading, easy to navigate and full of great bargains, also ensure that you have:

Security patches: Make sure that security patches are up to date so as to not have your store compromised (free check available here).

HTTPS on logged in area and checkout: Protect customer data when they provide their personal information or log into their registered members area by having an active SSL eanbled. This also provide customer confidence that you are taking the security to their data seriously.

Additional security measures on your payment gateway: If possible on your payment gateway have additional security services like Fraudguard and 3DSecure (Verified by Visa / Mastercard Securecode) which offers additional checks when a customer is making payment with their credit card.

An eye open for fraudulent orders: By comparing the order's IP address with the actual delivery address of the customer, you can see easily if the location where the order was placed and delivery address are the same. With Paypal orders, send a confirmation email to the primary Paypal address when you receive orders via Paypal for whilst a hacker may have gotten into a Paypal account, normally they won't have also gotten access to the email address attached to the Paypal account.

If you have questions or need a hand with anything mentioned in this article, or any of the previous articles, don't hesitate to get in contact with us.

Until next time, take care :)

Kind regards,
Nat 
Owner, Just X-Cart Australia

WARNING: Fake Just X-Cart Email

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