Paul and I are in Nashville right now, in fact, and we keep bumping into startups who, for one reason or another, didn’t realize they were eligible to enter the contest. To be clear: It doesn’t matter how early stage you are, or where you’re based, we want to highlight as diverse a range of companies as possible. The only rules are that you have to have raised less than $ 1m in funding, must be (broadly speaking) a tech company, and must not have entered another startup contest in the two months prior to Pandoland.
Our first impulse, especially as we already have way more entries than we were expecting, is to say that latecomers can’t enter. But that means some great companies won’t get a chance to compete just because they didn’t understand the rules or were so busy building their companies they blew past the deadline. Instead, we’re going to re-open entries to the contest until 8am Pacific time on Monday (11th May). Any entires received before that will be considered. Any after that 100% definitely will not.
The slight hiccup is that AngelList’s slick application system has already closed Pandoland2015 for new entires — so you’ll have to apply manually. To do that, send a link to your AngelList profile (you’ll need to create a new one if you don’t have one) and your answers to the following three questions…
1. Which, if any, startup competitions have you entered in the past two years? How did you do?
2. Total funding raised to date?
3. Who would be pitching on stage at the event on June 15th-17th? (Name and position — maximum of three people)
We are picking finalists in the next few after that and will start notifying the lucky startups by end of next week.
Whether you’re part of the startup contest or not, we can’t wait to see you at Pandoland here in Nashville next month. You can find the full speaker line up, travel info and more on the official Pandoland site. Tickets are going fast, but there are still some left if you hurry!
Sarah Lacy is the founder and editor-in-chief of PandoDaily. She is an award winning journalist and author of two critically acclaimed books, “Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good: The Rebirth of Silicon Valley and the Rise of Web 2.0” (Gotham Books, May 2008) and “Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky: How the Top 1% of Entrepreneurs Profit from Global Chaos” (Wiley, February 2011). She has been covering technology news for over 15 years, most recently as a senior editor for TechCrunch.
If you were an online store, what would you be? What would be most important to you? What would you look like? These are the crucial questions you need to ask yourself before creating an online shop. In a nutshell, the idea is to embody and essentially “become” the store. But all of this is useless if potential customers don’t convert into actual customers. This is your conversion rate–the percentage of users or website visitors who take a desired action and buy something on the site. Most businesses spend a majority of their budget bringing visitors to their website, but they aren’t doing anything to convert them into customers.
As much as I can stress the importance of conversion optimization, the fact is, that it’s often overlooked. According to Smart Insights, the average conversion rate for the majority of e-commerce stores has remained at about 1.5% for a very long time, even with advancements in technology and the growing trust consumers have in entering their personal credit card details online. But, I think we can identify a couple of culprits here: a lack of understanding the customer psychology, as well as too much focus on updating products, finding new markets, and processing orders.
But have no fear! Your online store can fortunately be saved by following a few simple tips that make a powerful difference. Here are three ways to increase your e-commerce conversion rate:
1. Put Yourself in Your Visitor’s Shoes
Is your online store simple and easy to understand? Are your eyes drawn to the “add to shopping cart” button? Is the page complicated with crazy colors and pointless features? Visitors arriving on a product page want all their questions answered without having to go on a treasure hunt all over your website. By offering solutions to their questions, you can help push the customer along the decision making process faster and see a positive impact on your sales.
Ideally, your customer should be able to navigate around your online shop effortlessly. Conversion rates increase massively if things are uncomplicated. In this case, the phrase “less is more” definitely applies. As long as you have a clear and visible call-to-action, such as the shopping cart, there is less chance your users will feel overwhelmed. The shopping cart button should be visible with minimal distractions surrounding it. Consider offering a video chat or a co-browsing walk-through tool like Toonimo to visually guide the customers. This can lower customer frustration and help them to engage with your site more effectively (especially if what you are offering is somewhat technical). Ultimately, retention rates will rise.
2. Stop Shopping Cart Abandonment
There have been countless times I’ve visited an online shop, admired a product, but was hesitant to purchase it right away. So, I put the item in my shopping cart with the intention of returning to the site later. But then, of course, I never came back. Game over! If you’re already on the fence about a product and then faced with a lengthy check-out among other things, it’s easy to abandon the process. E-commerce sites need to understand this about consumers.
According to Baymard Institute, 68.7% of consumers abandon their shopping cart at least one time. This could be attributed to:
Too many options: Online shopping has become extremely popular, and thus there is an abundance of options to choose from. It is easy to abandon a cart and toggle to another (competitor) site.
High prices: If your product can be found elsewhere for a similar cost, you’ll lose out to your competitors. You need to make sure your pricing is competitive so you don’t fall victim to the window-shopping curse.
Shipping costs: Shoppers often have an expectation of what the shipping costs should be, ranging from free to a low, flat rate. If potential customers are shocked by your “unfair” shipping rates, this fact alone can easily deter them from completing the purchase. Make sure that your shipping costs are as low as possible, or offer free shipping as part of a promotion.
Lengthy check-out processes: Repeat after me: “I will always make my website’s check-out process as easy as possible for the customer so that I can get lots and lots and lots of sales”. With that thought in mind, here are some simple guidelines to follow:
Ask for minimal personal data (name, address, email address, etc)
Design the process so that there are only a few pages to click through (the fewer, the better)
Allow the customer to complete the transaction as a guest, thus not imposing the set-up of a new account
The check-out process needs to be as seamless and as effortless as possible. Just remember—you’ve successfully gotten the customer to the point of actually wanting to purchase the item now, so don’t let anything get in the way of making this a done deal.
3. Optimize Your Site for All Devices
Whether it’s a phone, tablet, or wearable device, people are buying things and interacting with brands while they’re on the move, whether they’re walking to their car, waiting in line at a store, or boarding a plane. This may seem fairly obvious, but you would be surprised by how many e-commerce sites are still not optimized for mobile devices and thus suffer from lower conversion rates than their optimized counterparts.
The proof is in the pudding. According to KISSmetrics, two-thirds of customers prefer to access a mobile website than a mobile application. While that trend may be shifting as time goes on, you need to give your visitors the same experience regardless of the device they’re using. Here, we use the term responsive design, which is an approach to web design aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience, such as the ability to read and move with minimal resizing, panning, and scrolling across a wide range of devices. According to Google, responsive websites have an impressive impact on customer conversion. Try to cater to your audience by ensuring your site is responsive or has a minimum of four different versions of screen sizes.
Optimizing the customer experience throughout your entire site will help to increase conversion. Now that we’ve gone through how to identify points for optimization, it’s up to you to get the ball rolling! Have you tried any of these tips before? Share your experience in the comments below.