Spending the day at the eCommerce Expo 2012

The eCommerce Expo is THE industry event for ecommerce professionals in the North West of England, with over 35 exhibiting companies and a range of educational seminars to attend. Red C’s Emma Beagrie and Angela Cromack went along to find out more.

The eCommerce Expo is THE industry event for ecommerce professionals in the North West of England, with over 35 exhibiting companies and a range of educational seminars to attend. Red C’s Emma Beagrie and Angela Cromack went along to find out more.

How web search influences website expectations

I was relieved to have arrived early and was at the front of the queue for the first seminar from Ed Hoffman from SLI systems.

This was a really interesting presentation about how search engines such as Google are raising the expectations for how consumers want to search when they land on your website. 40% of people go to the search function first on a website, so it’s vital that they are able to find what they’re looking for. Due to how people search on SE’s they expect that search functions on websites should work in the same way. Some top tips included:

  • Make sure your search box is in a prominent location and it’s clear what it’s for (use a magnifying glass icon, example search phrase etc)
  • Have an auto complete function so that suggestions appear as a customer starts typing
  • Have ‘rich auto complete’ that includes images and product info
  • Keep the search bar visible at all times
  • Show results based on past customer buying behaviour
  • Let customers filter the results
  • Rather than a ‘0 results’ message, give customers the opportunity to carry on searching either through an AtoZ of search terms or a tag cloud of common searches
  • Look at what people are searching for and make sure your results reflect it – they might be searching for something you have but are using different terminology (e.g. jam/preserves)
  • TEST TEST TEST! Try displaying results as a list and then a grid to find out what works best for your site

SEO Tips and Tricks Revealed – Click Consult

Luckily I didn’t have to go far for the next seminar as it was in the same location, so I stayed put to listen to Click Consult’s Client Services Director give some hints and tips for SEO. It wasn’t quite what I had expected as it was more about the impact of social media on SEO, but again there were some useful bits of information to take away:

  • The key to SEO is to focus on the quality of the content. It should be unique to your site, so don’t just copy manufacturers descriptions!
  • Avoid hidden text (cloaking) and ensure that key phrases and anchor text distribution is natural
  • Social media is becoming more important to SEO as the number if likes, reviews and reputation is becoming more important to Google
  • Google will index Social Media links (e.g. from Pinterest)
  • Google+ is very insular and you should have a separate strategy in place

Designed to sell: the anatomy of a successful online business – Rich Himsworth, Visual Soft

With standing room only this seminar proved to be very popular with attendees of the event and as the Business Development Manager for the company Rich was very good at selling what the company do which is designing and building e-commerce websites. But as well as talking animatedly about what they do – he also shared some useful tips for anyone looking at designing or building an e-commerce website. The company have mainly dealt with creating sites for small businesses but in most cases what he said could apply to any e-commerce site.

He started with the foundations – the building blocks of a good e-commerce site, which without them your site is doomed to fail – these are; a fast site, a reliable hosting platform, a scalable solution and a supported solution.

From here he went onto how you convert a visitor to a sale once they are on your site. This was described as discovering the product (navigation and category pages), convincing the sale (product page) and concluding the sale (the check out). And with every step he gave some useful hints and tips:


  • Both the home and category pages need clear CTA’s
  • Moving away from the norm is not advisable i.e. if everyone has the search button in the top right then don’t move it to the bottom left because you think it looks nicer as visitors will miss it
  • Have the most relevant information at the top and the less relevant towards to the bottom, as visiting a page is all about perception and if you don’t appear to have what they want at first glance they will bounce
  • Left hand navigation can be helpful but if it becomes too large it can become useless
  • Create a specific page for each process of the filter on a search results as this boosts your pages and your SEO
  • Give multiple options for people to access information on your site, through clear navigation, a quick search and an advanced search.


  • Photography is important and multiple views and angles especially so.
  • Try to bullet point your descriptions in the first instance then give more detail in emotive copy further down the page
  • Cross sell wherever possible

Concluding the sale:

  • The checkout process should be as short as possible
  • The pages should be clear
  • Live chat if possible is useful at this point to help with any check out queries
  • Don’t block the sale – don’t ask them to create an account – take their details and create one for them
  • Overall it was a great presentation confirming much of what I already knew but also giving me some food for thought.

Succeeding in the multichannel multi-national market – Andrew McClelland, IMRG

This seminar was less attended than my first one but this was one that I felt was invaluable for anyone selling online in the UK or abroad. IMRG in their own words are “ the UK’s industry association for e-retail, a membership community set up to develop and share the latest best practice advice to enable retailers to succeed in the world’s most competitive online market.”

Andrew’s presentation concentrated on the health of online retail in 2011 and he shared some useful figures with us which included:

Total e-retail sales grew 16.5% year on year and 12% month on month

Beer, wine & spirits, health & beauty and home & garden were the strongest sectors. With online only retailers seeing the highest growth.

5.3% of online sales in Q4 came from mobiles

1.6% of online orders in Q4 were cancelled due to fraud

33% was the average abandoned basket rate

8.2% of visits came from mobile and research suggests people will put up with flash on your site if they want to buy.

38% of UK smartphone users who purchase via mobiles are up 23% from 2010

There were many more but if the above has only just whet your appetite Andrew also mentioned that they are now sharing this information via the IMR Smart Knowledge Base. Which has a wealth of e-retail information for the UK market and beyond.

Overall, there were some useful things to take away from the event with some very well attended seminars so we’ll definitely be back next year!