In light of the recent World Economic Forum on Africa, we thought we’d take a look at the Africa E-Commerce Agenda. ShoppingFeeder began in sunny South Africa and we love to hear about the exciting transformation of the ecommerce game that’s looking to create jobs and make a sustainable impact on the continent. We’ve read the WEF and ITC’s agenda (so you don’t have to) and touch on a few key players who embody the same vision.
CALLS TO ACTION
The agenda report is extensive, covering ecommerce’s potential in Africa, as well as aspirations and challenges in eight different areas which we’ve outlined below. You can read the complete report here.
1. Refresh policies
Policies shape the business environment, that much is inarguable. Without conversations between stakeholders, policies necessary for industry growth will be impossible. Associations of these stakeholders need to be put in place to spearhead policy creation and standardize industry practices. Without regulation, there’s far too much uncertainty on issues such as payments, privacy and consumer protection for ecommerce to thrive.
2. Expand connectivity
Despite Africa being the second largest population of internet users after China, internet penetration is significantly lower in African regions than in the rest of the world. There is a need for widely available, affordable internet access to create an inclusive digital economy. The agenda points out that markets aimed at the unconnected, in particular, should be encouraged.
“Only a quarter of Africa’s population regularly uses the internet. Costs are high. On average, 1GB of data is 9% of monthly income”
3. Upgrade logistics
Logistics and delivery services are crucial if we are to access the global market, and both are especially important for cross-border selling within Africa. Creating sustainable logistics models will help e-retailers’ effort to manage returns, handle payments and reduce trace-ability problems.
4. Enable e-payments
The agenda calls for a dialogue among policy-makers to identify challenges and solutions in the payment ecosystem in order to increase security, reduce risk and support global access and transactions in international currencies.
5. Manage data
Merchants need information and support in order to comply with privacy regulations overseas. Again, legislation is key with regards to the protection of personal data.
6. Grow the tech industry
Foreign investment has a huge role to play here. Supporting and financing of start-ups can increase the availability of risk capital and infrastructure gaps can be addressed more efficiently.
7. Coach small business
If Africa wants to compete globally, its industry players will require skills, coaching and market access using all of the calls to action listed above. With the help of incubators, small businesses can attract foreign investment and drive innovation.
8. Join forces
To make all of the above possible, dialogue between African countries to develop best practices is essential. Contributions need to come from every direction- researchers, policy-makers, retailers, logistics services, government officials, industry experts and so on. The WEF report calls for cooperation among all stakeholders.
Here are a few useful infographics on the global digital landscape in 2019:
COMPANIES TO WATCH
The largest ecommerce company in Africa, Jumia operates across 14 different African countries, its largest market being in Nigeria. One of the major challenges Jumia faced with regards to logistics was delivering to areas with incredibly informal addressing systems. This hasn’t put them off, however, as the company is determined to grow the industry sector and make their services widely accessible. Jumia co-founder and CEO Sacha Poignonnec discussed the company’s approach to such challenges in an interview with McKinsey&Company.
“In Africa, there’s no address system in most of the cities. For someone to find a consumer, you need to have a local partner who knows where the consumer is, based on very subjective information. And, for example, if you say in a city in Africa, ‘I live in the third street by the church with the blue door,’ that’s the address. You and I, we would not find this consumer. But if you partner with the right local player, who has the right local knowledge, then they can find those consumers because they understand that. Now the challenge, of course, is that to have a lot of fragmented logistics players is a risk, unless you have what we created, which is a very good set of standard technology tools and processes that we give to the local players so that they can operate their last-mile, cash-on-delivery, door-to-door-delivery businesses according to international standards.”
-Poignonnec, CEO Jumia
Now that’s the kind of long-term thinking the African ecommerce industry needs, and Jumia isn’t just concerned about access. Part of the company’s slogan is “We build a digital Africa” and they certainly seem to be living up to that. JumiaPay is the company’s own payment gateway that provides secure online payments, the first of its kind released in Nigeria in 2016. In March, the company announced a strategic partnership with MasterCard to explore innovations in payment platforms and enhance Africa’s digital infrastructure.
M-Pesa is a banking service that allows users to transfer money via mobile. The service launched under Safaricom, the country’s biggest network provider, in 2007. In 2018, Safaricom teamed up with PayPal and TransferTo (now thunes.com) creating a service that allows funds to be transferred from M-PESA to Paypal accounts, allowing online shoppers in Kenya to purchase goods and services globally. This gives e-retailers the opportunity to expand their reach and participate in the global marketplace. The collaborative effort by these companies has made it cheaper and faster to transfer funds, focusing on alternative payment methods like mobile wallets for the majority of Africa’s population who remain unbanked.
Check out this list of South African incubators for start-up.
WooCommerce, one of the ten shopping cart platforms ShoppingFeeder supports, is an open-source e-commerce plugin for WordPress. Last Thursday, Elegant Themes rolled out a new WooCommerce builder for Divi with 16 new modules you can use to customize your product pages. Let’s take a look.
Say goodbye to boring standard product templates. The WooCommerce builder gives you creative control over every element of design for individual products. Once you enable the Divi Builder on WooCommerce, you can use any combination of modules to create and customize anything from Add to Cart pages, to image galleries, to Checkout. Available Divi modules have an abundance of design settings; combine that with WooCommerce’s 16 new modules and the possibilities are endless.
Product pages now come with new sidebar options, customized buttons, you can even design your up-sells and cross-sells using the Woo Related Products element. Divi has a range of templates to choose from which you can modify using the Woo modules from either front or back end- yep, you can build without code using the visual editor or add custom CSS if needed. You don’t even have to use the default style settings to build product content, Divi and WooCommerce integration allows you to build your product pages completely from scratch. Now you can control what appears on your product listings and display product infp in entirely new and creative ways.
You can explore the product pages made by the Elegant Themes team using their new features here.
One of the many challenges one faces as an online retailer is generating organic traffic. Optimizing your content is about more than randomly placed keywords; good SEO requires a systematic approach to keyword research and a thorough understanding of SEO metrics. We’ve described the essentials below to help you drive traffic to your online store through organic searches.
Create Topic List
Come up with a list of topics related to your business. Try to put yourself in the shoes of your customers. What would they type into a search engine in order to stumble across your website? Let’s say you sell handmade, vegan leather shoes online. Your customers might be searching for things like “handcrafted shoes,” “vegan fashion,” “vegan leather” or something along those lines. You can see related topics by under “People also search for” on Google. These are your broad topics, which we will use in the next step to generate some keyword ideas.
Now that you have topics to work with, you can use a keyword tool to create a list of specific keywords or phrases to potentially target.
- Google Keyword Planner
- Enter one of your topics into the keyword planner tool
- Google Ads -> Tools -> Keyword Planner -> Find Keywords -> enter topic -> Download Keyword Ideas
- Google Ads -> Tools -> Keyword Planner -> Find Keywords -> Enter competitor’s URL -> Download Keyword Ideas </u
- Enter one of your topics into the keyword planner tool
Note: You will need to have a Google Ad account in order to see keyword search volume for this tool.
- ahrefs Content Gap tool
- Enter your store’s domain to reveal competing domains
- ahrefs -> Site Explorer -> enter your domain -> Competing Domains -> copy the top 3 competing domains -> Content Gap -> Paste competing domains into the content gap tool ->Export to CSV ->Copy keyword ideas and search volume.
- Enter your store’s domain to reveal competing domains
Prioritize your Keywords
You’ll now have a long list of keywords and their respective search volumes which you’ll need to prioritize according to how competitive they are. The keyword with the least competition (i.e. the one you are most likely to rank highly for) will go to the top of your priority list. So how do you make an informed decision on what keywords to prioritize? A little bit of common sense and your favourite SEO tool.
There are a variety of SEO tools available for download and the choice is entirely yours; depending on your budget, preference and experience with the tools at hand, you’ll need to pick a tool you feel is most accurate and one you can afford. Whatever tool you choose, it’ll show how authoritative a page is (indicated either by a DA score – Domain Authority, or DR score- Domain Rating. Simply switch the toolbar on when you search a keyword and it will indicate the authority of the pages in the results.
Now let’s start searching keywords. Take any one of the keywords from your list, type it into the Google search bar and start scanning the results page. What we’re looking for here is good and bad signs indicating whether or not you’ll be able to rank on the first page of results for this keyword, and if this keyword is worth targeting. Let’s discuss the good and bad signs.
The first thing to look for is the authority of the top-ranking page. If the first result has a DA of less than 50, you may have a good chance of beating it and being the first to rank (granted you optimize your content well).
If there are Google Ads in the results, you know this is a good keyword. The fact that advertisers have invested in the keyword means it must have value.
Subdomains, Youtube videos and forum threads are another indication of a good keyword. Subdomains are usually low authority and quite easy to rank against and Youtube videos are generally not content rich, meaning you may be able to rank higher here as well. Although forum threads like Quora and Reddit are content rich, they’re usually very disorganized and easy to beat.
If the pages in the results have high DAs, you’ll struggle to beat those rankings. High authority sites i.e. those with a DA of 70+ are not impossible to beat, but it’ll certainly take you longer and cost you more money to do so.
If the first page of results contains many SERP features, this could negatively affect your CTR.
It’s important to remember that there are no hard rules when it comes to SEO and prioritizing your keywords. Just because a page has a high DA doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t rank higher; you need to take all of the above into consideration and exercise some common sense as well. That high DA page may have been posted a year ago, which actually indicates that the keyword in question is low competition. Remember, too, not to dismiss certain keywords just because they’r low on your priority list. Keep a sheet with all of the information you’ve compiled from the above steps and return to those keywords when your website has established itself and has a higher DA. Your ability to compete will absolutely change over time and it’s important that you are constantly monitoring your site traffic and revising your SEO strategy so that you stay highly ranked.
Gather Data on the Competition
When you’re coming up with your SEO strategy, it’s useful to have a resource to refer to that outlines all the information you need to make informed decisions. You have prioritized keywords and search volumes to start you off. Let’s create a sheet with more information to help you answer the question What will it take to beat my competitors for this keyword? Pick a few of your top keywords, say five of them, to gather data on.
Using ahrefs again, enter a keyword into the keyword explorer tool. You’ll get a list of the top competitors for this keyword as well as each of their URLs, number of backlinks, number of referring domains and their domain ratings. You can use all this info to create a sheet for each keyword, so that you have a sense of exactly how many backlinks, for example, you need to compete for the keyword.
Now that you’re getting the desired traffic to your site, you’ll need to capitalize on it. If you have a potential buyer visit your site, browse, add something to their cart and abandon it- you’re not going to make the conversions you want. Upping your sales is going to require good SEO, yes, but you’ll also need a thorough ad management plan that pushes ads to that customer and gets them coming back. With Facebook Dynamic ads connected to your ShoppingFeeder, you can track online activity and push relevant ads to users on Facebook or a channel of your choice. Once you’ve set up item tracking, someone who adds a product to their cart and forgets about it will see an ad for the same product on their Facebook feed, nudging them back to a sale. Find out how to setup Facebook Dynamic ads here.
In August 2016, the Google Merchant Center got a brand new look, and we like it. The forgotten kid finally had a new responsive interface built with Google’s Material Design to align with most of Google’s other products. Here’s what’s new…
The hot new interface
The new homepage features a full overview of your products (expired, pending and disapproved), new announcements, and highlighted information about your active product feeds and campaigns.
Nestled under the Products Tab on the left navigation is the Diagnostics Tab, which allows you to download a report on all feed errors. It is now updated far more frequently (previously twice a day) – in fact, updates are close to real-time. The Shopping Ads tab at the bottom of the Products Tab now features a Currency Conversion feature too. Handy for international sellers, it allows you to show products in the local currency without making changes to the original product page.
Feed rules updates
Probably the greatest update of the Merchant Center, you are now able to make changes to the feed without editing it directly – you can edit specific values, combine values and pull data from one attribute to populate another. For example, pulling the product colour from a product description to populate the colour attribute of the product in the feed made easy.
Merchant Center Programs
By clicking on “Merchant Center Programs” in the “Shopping ads” section of the left navigation, you’re now able to access and use Dynamic remarketing reporting, Product ratings in Shopping campaigns and Merchant promotion. Once you’ve enabled Dynamic remarketing reporting, a products overview chart will be featured on the Merchant center home page.
Great user interface and a few new handy features. What’s next, Google?
Hold on, for starters, what is a GTIN? GTIN stands for “Global Trade Item Number”, which is a broad term used to describe the various product identifier systems used internationally e.g. UPC (Universal Product Code) and ISBN (International Standard Book Number).
A GTIN is a ‘thumbprint’ assigned to Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) and, traditionally, these numbers have allowed businesses to optimize processes and create a streamlined supply chain for a product. Google’s primary products are, in reality, clicks – and they are always looking for ways to improve the quality of these clicks. Requiring advertisers on Google Shopping to submit GTIN numbers is a strategy to ensure that products are accurately listed, improving the consumer’s user experience and ultimately the quality of the clicks to your online shop.
The GTIN journey
Google started requiring its retailers to use GTINs in mid-2015, but only across 50 specific brands. If the GTIN was not included in the product feed, the ad would not be served. In February 2016, Google then expanded this requirement to all products that have a GTIN from their manufacturers. Retailers had by May 2016 to ensure that their product feeds reflected the required GTIN.
Why the change?
Remember, Google sells clicks. So, how will these tedious requirements for retailers improve the quality of the clicks? For starters, it allowed Google access to richer accurate information about products which it trusts. This then opened the door for Shopping to be able to displays ads in more places, including on other Google partners.
Reason number 1: More product data, better user experience, more engagement
The more quality product information available to Google, the more likely they will serve your ads to the right customers. When Google can precisely identify the product via a GTIN number, it has more confidence that is matches a consumer’s search terms. GTIN numbers also allow advertisers a level of control on the targeting (who are often left floundering without the control of keyword use). And it works… feeds containing GTINs realize more engagement and higher conversions.
Reason number 2: Increase the number of impressions and conversions
Adding GTINs results in significantly more impressions. In the initial case study by Google, it quotes up to 40% more impressions after adding GTIN numbers (also validated by results for a group of Search Engine Land’s clients). But, better yet, Google claims that adding GTIN numbers resulted in up to 20% higher conversion rates.
While sourcing GTINs can be time-consuming, they are readily available online and directly from manufacturers, and it is well worth ensuring that your feed is up to date with all of these numbers to fully leverage Google Shopping – arguably the most effective sales tool for online retailers.
Google Shopping is a great platform for online retailers to reach customers, but is often fairly misunderstood and underutilised. It works differently to Google Ads and organic search. You won’t be able to leverage the latest SEO hacks. And you won’t spend ages writing and optimizing text ads. You are targeting people who are specifically looking for your products and, when used correctly, Google Shopping can produce very high quality site traffic, higher click-through rates than search, and higher conversions due to the relevancy of ads to consumers.
Right, so here are some tips for when you get started:
Get your product feed ready
Once your AdWords and Google Merchant Centre accounts are set up and you’ve created a new campaign, you’ll need to upload your product feed. If you’re using a feed management tool such as Shopping Feeder, you’ll be able to integrate your accounts and your feed will automatically be adjusted for Google Shopping feed requirements. You can then easily make further adjustments to the feed via the tool. If not, you’ll have to ensure that your feed contains the required product attributes. Remember, if your product feed doesn’t match your website, Google will not show your product ads so, unless you have the time to upload your feed manually often, it is best to use a tool which will update every few hours.
Google Merchant Centre: data feed overview
- Google Shopping doesn’t use keywords to determine ad relevancy – so make sure your feed copy is keyword rich but, more importantly, appealing and easily readable for your shoppers.
- Images are key! No edited or watermarked images are allowed, they need to simply and beautifully display the product to meet Google’s criteria and attract customer’s attention.
Spend time creating your Ad Groups
Once your product feed is uploaded, you’ll choose Ad Groups to organize your ads. It is worth spending some time doing this initially. If your feed is small (200 products or less), you may choose to have just one Ad Group. Segmenting your product feed into different ad groups allows you to bid differently on each group (remember you aren’t bidding on keywords). Initially, your campaign will have 1 group containing “all products”, which you can then segment into smaller product groups – with a different bid per group. For example, you may want to segment all of your products into 2 “clothes” and “shoes” groups, and then segment those further into brand and style. i.e. Nike Running Shoes may have a different bid to Levis Mens Jeans.
- Google will automatically place products that are not categorized into an “Everything Else” group, which is often included by default when adjusting campaigns – watch out for this!
- While you can’t necessarily leverage keywords in Shopping, you can add negative keywords to Ad Groups– which excludes that group from searches with that term.
- If you have a small data feed, it’s best to have groups based on item ID so you can set bids per product.
- Once your campaign has been running for a while, segment your best sellers into their own group so you can keep a special eye on them.
- You should bid lower that you would usually on a search network. It is recommended to start at $.50 – $1. Changing a bid is easy and should immediately affect product performance.
- Give mobile ads a go, but do keep an eye on them. Many retailers find that mobile is not profitable for more expensive products ($100 or more).
- Although Google Shopping gives some metric benchmarks as guidance, use these only as a guide and ensure you are continuously reviewing your own benchmarks, based on industry feedback and your own ad performance. Cost per conversion is the best metric to use but might take you a while to get your head around.
Remember, Shopping is different
Google Shopping is not like your other campaigns, and many retailers get frustrated at the lack of control they feel they have over campaigns. You cannot use the complex tricks and tools you’ve learnt for search, and you might need to unlearn some of your habits and relearn a strategy for Google Shopping. But don’t be afraid to experiment with Shopping. Products that didn’t stand a chance on search may surprise you, and making small segmentation and bidding adjustments may reap immediate, great results.
We’ll be creating a guide to explore Google Shopping in much more detail shortly. In the meantime, please get in touch with us if you’d like any further information on Shopping Feeder’s integration with Google Shopping and how it can benefit your online store.
Whether you’re starting out or have been in the game for a while, you have probably heard that price or product comparison platforms (or “comparison channels” as we refer to them) can help you increase sales when used strategically. These sites receive large volumes of visitors who are searching for specific products, so they’re a good place to get your products in front of a large and engaged audience… But, how do they work? And, will they work for your online shop?
What are they?
Product comparison channels compare the features, specifications and price of multiple products, and are a useful tool for online shoppers to differentiate between the sometimes overwhelming choice of products available online. PriceCheck, Shopmania, Google Shopping and Shopping.com are some examples of these services. These websites are also extremely useful for small to medium-sized online retailers facing increasing competition, who struggle to optimize for search and allocate large budgets for paid advertising. When used correctly, these channels can be well worth the spend, driving good conversions for your online shop, with little hassle.
How they work
Before you start engaging with these sites, you need to ensure your website is up-to-date with product images, descriptions and item numbers. To get your products listed on these sites, you’ll need to provide a feed (typically in XML format) of all your products. Each platform may have slightly different data requirements, so it is highly recommended that you use a feed management tool such as ShoppingFeeder to streamline the process. Data feed management plugins connect to your e-commerce platform, and enable you to generate the required feed in a single click. Your product and pricing information will also automatically be kept up-to-date.
Once the required data has been processed by the site, the comparison channel will then display your product information to their visitors, alongside competitor’s products. Most operate on a Cost Per Click (CPC) model, so you pay a fee every time someone clicks on one of your products and is directed to your website. However, unlike other CPC marketing tools, people who click through to your site have been actively looking for this product and you can therefore expect a higher conversion rate than some of your other lead generation activities. There are a few free product comparison sites out there, so it is worth testing your top-selling products on both. Some sites also have a paid “featured product” service which may be worth testing too.
Why and who should use them
Product comparison websites are highly targeted advertising tools, and can reach a wide and engaged audience. They are relatively easy to manage and measure (compared to Google AdWords), and are great for brand visibility for retailers of all sizes, as products from smaller retailers are featured alongside products from large retailers. But, these sites don’t work well for all retailers. If you’re not keen to continuously compete on price, then perhaps stay away from these platforms. However, comparison channels are a great option if your strategy is to lead on the lowest price; if your products are completely unique; or if you are happy to play around with your product prices on a monthly basis.
Optimizing product comparison channels
Some comparison websites will yield a better ROI for your business than others so it is a good idea to try many, but you will not see results overnight so best to try a few at a time to ensure you have the time to optimize. Limiting the list of products that you upload to your top-sellers and lowering the price of certain products for a period are two common optimization strategies. Also, the more data you can give on each product, the better. It is important to measure the performance of channels closely initially, to figure out which channels are converting.
In short, product or price comparison channels are fantastic marketing tools for your online shop. They put your products in front of a large audience, generate strong leads and high conversions, and are far simpler to manage than other lead generation channels such as Google AdWords. They do, however, require some time invested to ensure that your listings are optimized to compete, and that you’re featured on a site that works for your product range. Channel feeder tools such as Shopping Feeder make getting started on these channels very easy, and allow you to monitor performance. And, once you’ve hit the sweet spot, comparison channels can become your primary marketing strategy, significantly increasing website traffic, sales and brand recognition in a highly competitive global marketplace.
If you would like some help optimizing your site and selecting the right price or product comparison channels, register on ShoppingFeeder and our team will help you to leverage comparison channels strategically.
Your product feed can be daunting, and is therefore often ignored by retailers. Is optimizing the product feed sitting at the bottom of one of your retail manager or marketer’s to-do lists? Yet, optimizing your feed is a crucial step for successfully advertising your products online. Whatever your approach to date, it’s time to make it a priority.
Why it’s a big deal
Your product feed is your direct communication channel with product advertising and comparison channels. These channels use the data you’ve submitted to match an engaged online shopper to your product. If there is missing, irrelevant or outdated data, you’re losing out on the opportunity to be linked with someone who is actively looking for a product you’re selling: a hot lead.
As a retailer, you want to provide comparison channels with as much information as possible via your product feed because – the more information in your feed, the higher you’ll rank. And, the more accurate and comprehensive the information that a consumer receives about your product via online advertising or a comparison search, the higher the likelihood that they will convert when they do click through to your website. And therefore, a lower CPC and a higher ROI.
In essence, high quantity and quality data in your product feed = greater connection with high quality searches = greater conversions. Therefore, investing in optimizing your product feed can yield an immediate impact on your sales. Here’s how we suggest you approach it…
Decision: Use a tool or DIY
To start using online advertising or comparison channels, such as Google Shopping or PriceCheck, you’ll need to upload your product feed. At this stage, you have 2 options. You can directly upload your product feed onto the Google Merchant Centre, for example. This might be a good option if you have a very small range of products and have the time to monitor performance and play around a bit. Alternatively, you can choose to use a product feed tool, such as ShoppingFeeder.
The benefits of using a tool are huge, especially if you’re strapped for time and resources:
- A feed management tool will extract product information straight from your website, and format it to create a feed for the multiple channels you’re using (different channels have different requirements). Price and stock changes will be automatically updated every few hours.
- A tool allows you to make quick data edits on your different feeds, without affecting your site data.
- Tools also continuously monitor each of your channels for feed errors, picking them up quickly and reducing the time your account is suspended for when they do arise.
Optimizing for Google Shopping
Optimizing your feed is especially important when you first start using a new advertising or comparison channel, but it is important to keep your eye out for areas to optimize on an ongoing basis too, taking into account channel performance and search trends. Before you start tweaking your feed for Google Shopping, do an audit of all the keywords that have worked well in your search campaigns and look to incorporate in your feed.
Spend time on product titles. Arguably the most important information in your whole feed, you should ensure that your titles include the relevant details, including brand name; size, color, or material product specifics; and any related promotions or discounts. Also, add in any successful keywords from search campaigns. Search Engine Land found that including a successful keyword “party dress” in the title for a specific dress increased interest by 3600 clicks, in comparison to the original title. There are 2 goals with the product title: for Google to rank your product, and for customers to click. So, all the relevant information should be there, but it must be attractive to read.
Ensure you have attractive images. Google is fussy about images – white background, no logos, and only the product in the photo. Alongside price and titles, images are the most influential factor on clicks.
Product descriptions are not so important. They need to be there, but the product title is far more important and should be where all relevant information is featured.
Don’t keyword stuff. Google doesn’t take kindly old school SEO tactics.
Check your Google Product categories. There are many product categories, so ensure each of yours is in one that is the most relevant.
Ensuring information in your feed is accurate and comprehensive is essential for maximizing your ranking, click-through-rates and conversions from product comparison channels. Yet, the process need not be daunting.