“You had me at hello” is what I thought about Personal the minute I checked out their website. I just want my life made simpler, more streamlined, and Personal arrives at my digital doorstep. Their beautiful site, the clean layout and, more importantly, its practical and timely platform are a user’s dream come true. So what is Personal? Personal is a free secure digital data vault that stores your information. From personal data as important as your account numbers, as trivial as your favorite recipe, to business data, including your contact lists, for example. Personal takes digital conversion to the next level – it makes it functional and accessible, much like cloud technology, and you can access it from anywhere anytime. How Personal Works Stored data is neatly compartmentalized into what Personal refers to as “Gems.” A user’s dashboard of Gems will look a lot like monotone iPad apps – easy to identify and use. Beyond that, Gems can be shared with others by being classified as public, and other users can access the information by downloading it. Any user can quickly keep up with “Gem activity” so you can keep abreast on what Gem exchanges have been taking place. You can share gems to a contact or email address, which from a business perspective makes communication much more fluid. You no longer have to burden yourself with digital files stored on your computer or mobile. But unlike some other similar sounding platforms, not just anyone has access to your network of Gems. You choose your personal network of contacts and you choose if and what you want to share with a broader public community. Personal’s Business Molding Potential While Personal founders understood the appeal of creating digital vaults of information, the interest really stems from the ability to share the information with others. The idea of social sharing and communal information networks is no longer a trend – it’s the way we live and the way we do business. So much like PearlTrees, the idea that useful information will always be shared and that sharing it is a mutually advantageous arrangement, is what makes the creation and perpetuation of such platforms a current favorite among developers. The idea is for everyday people to turn to Personal to store their data. The next step is creating a platform where Personal automatically sources the data and then offers the appropriate data to an authorized individual. The core concept is to eliminate the need for that burden of signing forms in triplicate (times however many number of forms). Now a user can authorize Personal data to sort these forms for them. The business potential here is monumental on both the B2C and B2B end. From a business to consumer end, users can authorize business owners to extract the necessary information needed for a transaction, a membership, etc.; on the business to business end, executive personnel no longer have to deal with long tiresome paperwork. On both sides, information is clearly communicated quickly, effectively and efficiently. Tedious work that would otherwise have taken much longer to do (and in the case of B2C transactions, deterred consumers) is streamlined into one quick strike. Naturally the biggest question mark gets placed on just how much emphasis Personal places on privacy. Business owners can rest assured that Personal has also taken great strides to ensure that private data stays private. Aside from being involved with the “Privacy by Design” Program, Personal user data vaults can be accessed with a user-chosen password that Personal doesn’t store. Beyond that, not even Personal employees can access private data and they’ve ensured that their 256-bit SSL encryption will keep hackers at bay.
You may have heard the word before, but in the web world “conversion” doesn’t mean a religious shift. Rather, it means shifting your web audience from inactive members to involved participants. The term is commonplace in e-commerce, where any e-commerce business owner needs traffic to result in a cash transaction. If someone isn’t buying from your site, it’s like someone walking out the door. Conversion reaches beyond e-commerce and is an end-goal of any site that’s designed to get a viewer to take action, either through a donation, subscribing to a newsletter or obtaining a free download. It’s an art that requires steadfast dedication to perfect…and even then it always needs tweaking. But you don’t have to do it alone, since it’s easy to take advantage of several great tools out there to help make the process more streamlined and effective. Google Analytics – Google Analytics can asses everything on your site, from the amount of visitors, to unique hits per page, to peak times, to geographics and more. It can be used in a number of ways to see what efforts are working, and which aren’t. Perhaps the most important metric Google Analytics will reveal is the length of time someone was on your site. Anything less than a minute and you can consider the individual a completely uninterested party. If you’re an Analytics beginner, this is the first thing you have to discern of your site visitors. If you find your visitors are leaving quickly, then consider changing up your home page. It could be the design, the content and even the graphics that are turning people away. Also consider what type of keywords attracted people to your site. If you’re ranking for the wrong keywords, you’re hurting your traffic and site worth. This is where you should take the time to bring on board a trained SEO professional. A popular Google Analytics competitor can be found in Clickdensity, which offers many of the same services but a more targeted assessment of your website. Google Website Optimizer – Once you’ve mastered Google Analytics, you’re naturally poised for the next step…and that’s conducting your own experiments to see which choices work best for your business. Google’s website optimizer lets you have two different versions of a page so you can see which page your visitors prefer. This is called split testing or “A/B testing.” Keep in mind that the process is still very scientific and far exceeds the usual focus group inspired answers. It’s not just about what people like, it’s about what’s making people act. What’s getting you the sale, what’s getting you the membership, the donations, the subscriptions? Something as simple as a graphic switch, a layout change, a color swap and even different keywords can help you determine whether a strategy is effective or not. Userfly - Whether or not you go the Optimizer route, you should be taking advantage of Userfly’s free service of 10 sessions/month. Userfly acts like a digital one way mirror, allowing you to watch visitor movements as they navigate your site. This works best for sites that have more processes or content to go through. Perhaps there’s one section of your site that’s a bottleneck to traffic? Perhaps users give up on lengthy forms half way in or maybe a certain page tends to confuse people? Whatever it is, you’ll be able to pinpoint it with Userfly. E-commerce users will find that most of their conversion fails when it comes to check out. Checkout processes are too long, or there’s some other glitch that customers find frustrating. Even something as simple as not allowing customers to “continue to shop” can deter a final transaction.
For WordPress enthusiasts who long ago discovered a beautiful, easy to use platform, nothing became more frustrating than its ultimate limited functionality when it came to e-commerce. GetShopped changed that by offering one solution as an alternative to DIY e-commerce websites. WooCommerce WooCommerce – If you want a thoroughbred online shop, WooCommerce recommends you give them a shot. A common frustration with WordPress themes is that you only get to see a live preview, but rarely can really test drive it yourself. WooCommerce alleviates the worry by offering both: A 14 day live preview that you can try out to see if it’s something that works for you as well as a free download after a brief registration. So what do you get with WooCommerce? You get administrative control and reporting, shipping and tax is sorted out for you along with an easy mode to track customers and orders. You also get product and inventory control, marketing and promotion help, payment gateways (like PayPal and credit cards) and theme options (depending on which package you choose). Cost ranges between $70 for a Standard Package to $150 for a Developer Package and between $100-$200 for Enterprise Themes. If you’re a beginner running the shop on your own, your best bet is a Standard Package, which gets you what you need but doesn’t include layered Photoshop files or advanced functionality – options that you’d really only use if you knew how to manage this already or were to hire help on the side. For someone who wants the options, Enterprise is the right choice. You don’t get bonus themes but you do get Photoshop and advanced functionality. Having the option to tweak your site to suit your preferences, especially aesthetic ones, is really a critical factor that determines whether your shop is going to attract customers or not. A great design will always get the customers…assuming it’s paired with a great product. Cart66 Cart66 – A plugin rather than a complete theme like WooCommerce, Cart66 stands out by not only catering to e-commerce business owners but also to those interested in selling subscription and digital content/services. For those not interested in complicated design implementation, Cart66 is an attractive feature that lets users plug in e-commerce aspects anywhere; so rather than designing the site around the trade you have the trade mold to the content/products already on your site. But if you do want to change the appearance of your page, you’re still able to do so through CSS. The admin side of business is made pretty easy too. You can set your currency, choose “sell to” countries, sort out tax, manage sales reports and track inventory. The cost ranges between $89-$299. A free version is available but doesn’t allow for analytics or subscription sales and has limited payment modes, among other disadvantages. Shopp Shopp – Also a plugin, Shopp lets you get your e-commerce store started quickly without all the complicated programming that traditionally goes into a non-WordPress site. Although the plugin allows you to customize style sheets including your site’s theme, catalogs and receipts, there’s no mention of order tracking, price coding and inventory management – which is a major drawback to an otherwise adequate plugin. Cost ranges between $55 to just under $300. Shopp might be best for those with a little more programming and site navigation experience; it’s not designed for beginners. Experience is another necessity in using this plugin, otherwise you’re going to end up with an amateur site. Which One Should You Choose? An e-commerce project is not like any other web project. It involves a lot of time and commitment, market research, sales and a considerable investment in time. You can do it for less with WordPress, but it’s better to really do your homework and study each option. Think about all the pros and cons, your needs and how you want your store to grow in the years ahead. Once you have a thorough blueprint, you have a better idea for how to forget a path. Here, you’re better off taking your time and doing it right the first time, rather than jumping from platform to plugin, leaving you disheartened with the project and with a loss in profitability.