As promised, Volusion has raised the curtain on a handful of new rollouts. But, before we embark on an adjective frenzy to display our happiness for V13 updates like enhanced mobile capabilities, automatic tax rates, Volusion mobile apps and new storefront page editor, let’s cut to the chase and get into some first-hand details. We spent the past week playing around with the different features and here are our findings.
Enhanced Mobile Commerce
With more people than ever buying directly from the phone or tablet, ecommerce stores should be putting their best foot forward on mobile devices. In order to help storeowners cater to on-the-fly buyers, Volusion has rolled out a long-awaited mobile commerce update.
Aside from minor aesthetics enhancements, the main functionality upgrade appears during checkout. On the old checkout process, mobile users would go through the buying cycle via a mobile-friendly version of the site. Then, when time came to complete the order, customers were redirected back to the non-mobile version of the checkout page.
Now, shoppers will see a mobile-friendly version of the desired site throughout the entire buying cycle, from start to cart. While functionality of the product and category pages are relatively untouched, the checkout process is now much easier to manage. No longer will users be required to expand tiny, non-mobile friendly buttons to go from page to page. Instead, they’re served up a clean and seamless cart experience, which will inevitably get them through the process faster and increase conversion rates for site owners.
Furthermore, the upgrade gives owners the option to add custom field names for checkout pages, add custom contact information in the footer of checkout pages and the ability to display detected credit card type when customer enters credit card information.
How To Set-Up: To enable mobile enhancements, simply go into your Volusion admin dashboard, navigate to Design > Mobile, then under select ‘on,’ under Mobile Checkout.
New Storefront Page Editor
In the past, when Voluson users attempted to make seemingly easy aesthetics changes to their storefront, the process required an FTP upload or knowledge of HTML coding. Now, to help store owners offer timely updates and promotions, Volusion has unveiled the new Easy Editor for impromptu site alterations in both their store and admin area.
In the admin, the ‘What You See Is What You Get’ tool allows users to adjust HTML in product or category descriptions and article bodies with half the effort. For instance, say someone wants to add in a hyperlink to a specific product description, directing users to an associated item. Well, with Easy Editor, all they have to do is highlight the field, click Edit and a new toolbar will appear (similar to Word Press or Microsoft Word). Then, users can easily add in styling like hyperlinks, color, font adjustments and paragraph indentations – without having to know HTML at all, which had long been a drawback of field editing for our clients.
Another great way to use Easy Editor is when swapping out product pictures. Instead of having to use a FTP server as an intermediary between their site and computer, users can now add or replace pictures in the admin panel or storefront by selecting the ‘Insert Image’ icon and selecting the appropriate picture from their computer, or linking from a URL. From there, users can adjust the image further, by clicking ‘Edit,’ which allows them to resize the picture and add the appropriate tags. Adding updated product photos or pictures for Learning Center articles has never been easier.
Lastly, users can now make quick alterations to the hero image on their site, simply by hovering over them and clicking ‘Edit’. For example, if a site were running a Christmas-themed special for the holidays, this feature would hypothetically allow users to replace their generic banner with a holiday-themed banner, without having to use FTP.
For a full list of the added alteration options that will help your brand implement timely taglines and prioritized promotions for customers, read Volusion’s break-down of Easy Editor.
How To Set-Up: The features should be immediately implemented for up-to-date V13 users. Simply login to the admin interface, then browse around applicable areas and the Easy Editor options will become noticeable.
Automatic Tax Rates
In case anyone missed our blog post, Volusion has simultaneously solved all tax-related issues for eCommerce store owner’s, by rolling out their new Automatic Tax Rates calculator.
Essentially, the tool factors in all up-to-date tax variables on a customer-by-customer basis, coming up with the proper taxation for every buyer. As a result, store owners can focus less on managing variable tax rates per client and spend more time enhancing other aspects of their business.
How To Set-Up: To enable Automatic Tax Rates, log in to the admin dashboard, then go to Settings > Tax, then click ‘Settings.’ From there, users will be asked a few location-based questions, then whether they want to implement Automatic Tax Rates, to which they’d select ‘Use Automatic Tax Rates.’
Volusion Mobile Apps
Most ecommerce storeowners can’t resist dipping into their dashboard. After all, a wealth of information about their business is only a login away and having up to date insight on their store status allows owners to adjust according to demand. Now, proactive owners can access vital store information even quicker, thanks to Volusion’s new native mobile app.
Upon installing the app on their mobile phone or tablet, storeowners can easily access store specifics, such as orders, revenue, stock status and more. For most intensive purposes, the mobile app offers everything users get from their desktop version, aside from merchandising.
Considering how hard much time entrepreneurs spend on their phone already, the only problem this new rollout presents will be getting them off the darn things.
How To Set-Up: The Volusion app is available in the Apple App Store and Google Play. To enable them, simply download, install and login with your store credentials.
With Volusion’s official unveiling of its new commerce platform, Mozu, Brand Labs is thrilled to finally openly discuss the release with our clients and the entire interweb. Our relationship with Volusion, Inc. as a trusted solutions partner for over seven years allowed us the privilege of early access to “look under the hood” of the Mozu platform. With multiple trips to Austin (Volusion Inc. headquarters) over the past year, we have witnessed the virtual sea of amazing talent working tirelessly on Mozu. The platform promises a limitless enterprise-level commerce solution and we believe that it will deliver.
Why are we so pumped about Mozu?
Brand Labs is fanatical about creating engaging e-commerce experiences and enhancing the Volusion platform for some of the community’s top brands. While we maintain and strengthen our commitment to the Volusion platform community, the addition of Mozu allows Brand Labs to flex its proverbial ecommerce muscles in delivering unparalleled creative vision, technical wizardry and strategic direction to our mid- to enterprise-level customers.
How will Mozu allow us to push the boundaries of commerce?
Let’s take a quick look at the key feature sets that make Mozu an incredibly flexible / scalable platform designed to deliver a unified shopping experience across web, mobile and retail stores.
1. Commerce + CMS converged:
Mozu combines seamless publishing and content management in a fully integrated experience
Note: Mozu combines the power, flexibility and ease of a CMS like WordPress with enterprise level commerce. Beautiful.
2. Multi-brand, multi-site:
Mozu’s infrastructure and integrations allow merchants to manage multiple sites and connect data within one platform
Note: The ultimate in scalability and flexibility… connecting multiple data sources to one platform.
3. Responsive design:
Mozu provides retailers a beautifully seamless design experience for any shopper on any device.
Note: A prerequisite or standard moving forward for any enterprise level client. Responsive design allows Brand Labs to develop design systems resulting in design, development and maintenance efficiencies.
4. Omni-channel optimization:
Retailers using Mozu can efficiently manage all of their e-commerce properties and sales channels via one online admin
Note: One admin folks, it’s a must have.
5. Best-in-class usability:
Unlike other enterprise commerce platforms, Mozu creates efficiencies by providing intuitive site building and customer engagement via a simplified, enjoyable user experience
Note: This one is a little difficult to picture without giving you access to an account to see for yourself, but the Mozu team kept the interface simple but powerful.
6. API-first development:
Online retailers can easily connect their existing technologies and limitlessly expand by using the same API technology used to develop the Mozu platform
Note: The API is what allows Brand Labs to really shine technically without limitations. The completely open API allows us to advance the platform and meet our clients every need.
We anxiously await Mozu’s official launch on January 13-15, 2014, at the National Retail Foundation’s “BIG Show” in New York City (booth #707). As a Mozu agency partner, Brand Labs is poised and ready to deliver the same high level of service the Volusion community has experienced and been accustomed to for years. Intrigued by the platform? Want to know more? We’d love to open up a dialogue on how Mozu and Brand Labs can help you achieve ecommerce success.
Anyone who’s ever maintained an eCommerce store has surely been stumped when trying to implement up to date tax rates. Thankfully, Volusion has released a brand new feature that brings complete automation to this once arcane and manual process.
In just a few simple steps, this new feature eliminates the tedious work, leaving store owners with a completely automated sales tax tool.
For any owner who signed up after November 7, 2013, the upgrade is already in affect and sales tax headaches should be resolved. Woo-hoo! However, for users with an existing store pre-dating the roll-out, automated tax rates can be enabled by going to the admin dashboard, then going to Settings > Tax, then clicking ‘Settings.’ From there, they’ll be prompted with the quick, three-step process below and on their way to implementing up to the date tax rates for every order, without all the hassle.
Pretty easy, right? Not only do we love the ease of implementation, but we appreciate that it’s coming directly before the ensuing holiday madness – meaning that store owners can rest easy knowing that they aren’t over or under charging customers the right amount of sales tax.
Anyone who still has questions on Automatic Tax Rates, should make sure to watch this instructional video from the Volusion team on how implement the upgrade, step by step. If not, enjoy the hassle-free tax rationale and have a successful holiday selling season!
Brand Labs does not only deal with ecommerce as a science — as our name implies, we also deal with your company’s brand as a science. We’ve had many customers since we began back in 2006 (500+). Aside from what we already knew about the importance of having a well designed logo, we’ve learned something else… having a good ecommerce logo design on your website can increase conversions! In the next few paragraphs we’re going to explain why having a good looking logo is so important and why it can persuade visitors to make a purchase.
Your company logo is your company’s face to the world. It’s one of the first things someone will see when they visit your website or look at your product packaging. A unique logo is one of the main ways people remember your company. It should link your website with your marketing materials. It should give those who see it a feeling for what your company does just by looking at it. It should give people a sense of trust to buy from your company.
If your company is a startup, after deciding on a name and a business plan, one of the next things you should consider is having a logo designed by a professional graphic designer. At Brand Labs we pride ourselves on our design abilities. It’s one of the reasons we got into building ecommerce sites in the first place. We took a look at so many online stores and saw that they looked terrible. We wondered how they were able to stay in business. We knew that if we weren’t comfortable ordering products from websites that used a poorly designed default store template with a logo that was created with a simple font typed in Microsoft Word, then thousands of other people would be nervous, too. We knew that we could help these companies do better, increase site visitors, and increase revenue.
Take a look at some of the logo comparisons below. These companies all came to Brand Labs because of our reputation as an agency that can take their online business to the next level with our expertise in design for ecommerce.
We’ve seen many studies about how visitors view websites. The majority of people always start from the top left corner and move across and down in a kind of F pattern. Typically, a logo is placed in the top left corner of a website because that is the first place people look. If someone is a first-time visitor to your site, you want to present them with a professional look to make them feel at ease with purchasing something from a company that has been and will be around for a while. If someone is a return visitor, you want them to feel comfortable that they are visiting the same site where they previously had a great online shopping experience. The placement of the logo in your site’s header is important to give people that anchor of confidence they need to make a purchase.
You don’t need to be a big company and spend a ton of money to have a great logo, but even big companies need to be careful when changing their overall branding strategy. Take Gap as an example. They went through a logo redesign process to try to “modernize” and re-energize their brand. What happened instead was, shall we say, not good and Gap reversed their decision and reinstated the old logo.
It’s easy to see why: the new logo lacked character, originality and thought. If you’re looking for someone to design a new logo for your company, make sure it is someone that has proven they do great work. However, it is also important to keep an open mind during the design process. While you know more about your company (and probably your target market as well) than the designer you hire, a good designer should know what kind of look and feel will work best for you without jumping on the latest trend. Your logo should be something that will stand the test of time and not need to be redesigned every few years because it’s trying to be “hip.”
Take a look at your current logo. Ask yourself what it says about your company. Does it look professional? Is it memorable? Is it appropriate for your type of business? If you are unsure about any of these, a redesign might be something to think about. Money spent now on a well conceived, impeccably designed logo will show a return for years and years to come.
Brand Labs goes through an extensive research and design process when we’re hired to design a logo. We begin by talking directly to you about your brand and where you want to take it. Even though we’ll work through many sketches and concepts internally, we’re only going to show you the concepts that we think work best for your company. It’s our job to create, through science, what we think will make your company unique in a sea of competition.
In our previous review of Photoshop CS5, 6 Valuable Features Missing in Photoshop CS5, we went over some shortcomings that we think Adobe should rectify in Photoshop. Version CS6 has been out for a while now and we have been using it for several months since this writing. Adobe has made some nice improvements to this new version, but also some glaring omissions.
1. Snap Vector Tools and Transforms to Pixel Grid
A great new feature that allows Photoshop to easily snap vector shapes to whole pixels. For anyone that uses vector shapes, you know that in the past when you draw a shape it can overlap pixels creating a fuzzy edge. This new feature, when turned on, eliminates fuzzy edge syndrome. Unfortunately, this feature is hidden in the app’s preferences. We tend to turn this on and off many times throughout the day as we work. There are reasons for this: the need to nudge existing shapes that do not have crisp edges, freeform drawing with the pen tool, creating clipping paths around photos, etc. Instead of simply having an option right in the toolbar to enable/disable snapping, you have to open the Preferences every single time. This can eat up a lot of time. The only workaround we’ve found for this is to create two actions (one to turn snapping on and one to turn it off) and assign hotkeys to them in the ACtions panel. This works well, but had Adobe thought this out better it would not be necessary.
2. Symbols and Graphic Styles
We’re lumping these two together, since they go hand in hand. These are carry-overs from our Photoshop CS5 wish list. Adobe has still not included a feature for reusable symbol objects in Photoshop. Fireworks has them. Illustrator has them. Photoshop does not. Smart Objects are a great feature, but they are not as flexible or easily updatable as symbols. Nor is there any kind of 9-slice scaling feature for Smart Objects.
Graphic Styles implementation in Photoshop is essentially useless. You can basically save a style to reuse later, but when you apply the style to a layer Photoshop has no memory of it. So, you cannot update a style and then have every layer that the style is applied to update along with it. We could live without one of these if the other was implemented well.
3. Text Styles
Photoshop CS6 finally has paragraph and character styles. We know many people that have been clamoring for this feature. Unfortunately, it is not implemented very well. It works decent when there are only a few text boxes, but once you start getting into a couple dozen it slows to a crawl. Simply opening the paragraph style panel and turning the preview checkbox off literally takes several minutes. This effectively makes the feature unusable. There are many posts about this in the Adobe Forums.
We’ve created a screencast just to show how painfully slow this feature works (warning: it’s a really boring video to watch).
4. Editable Shapes
Now that Photoshop has a Properties panel, it would be great if it included options for adjusting vector shapes. When selecting a vector rectangle or rounded rectangle, it could have options for adjusting the radius on each corner. A star vector shape could have options for changing the number of points and radius of the inner and outer points.
5. Subscriptions…The New “In” Thing
It seems that many companies offer monthly subscription services for their services. Adobe has now jumped on that bandwagon. That is fine. We use their Creative Cloud subscription here and it’s great. We have access to almost every Adobe program and can download an app that we don’t have on the fly if we need it. The problem comes in when Adobe offers the exact same application to both Creative Cloud users and those that buy the standalone version, but then only offer feature updates to the Creative Cloud users, even though the version of Photoshop is not changing to CS7. A perfect example of this is CSS styles in the Layers panel. Creative Cloud users can click on any layer and select an option to copy the CSS code for that layer style so they can use that in the stylesheet for a website. This was an addition to Photoshop CS6. Standalone users do not have access to this feature even though they use Photoshop CS6. Everyone has paid a lot of money for Photoshop, so why not give everyone access to those features?
Overall, Photoshop CS6 is a nice upgrade with some great features. It would be nice if the next version concentrated on productivity instead of always having to try and throw in some “wow” features. Given that Adobe has the Creative Cloud subscription service now, they shouldn’t need to try and sell people with wow features to get them to upgrade. This is the perfect time to streamline the app and make it as productive as possible for everyone.
That almost electric tingle in your fingertips and rapidly growing itch in the back of your brain that lights the fuse on your hand’s afterburners and rockets it to your device. The race is never acknowledged, but it’s always on. The finish line can be anything. And your answer-loaded info-missile is being constructed as fast as your network will allow. For something that hits so frequently, it’s amazing how you still get excited when you can be the fastest one to an answer to whatever question is on your “dot-com generation” friends’ predictably impatient minds. For those gathered, this whole unspoken information retrieving Olympics often becomes a spectator’s sport. Others often just think it’s stupid until the pressure is on and they’re in heat of the moment.
With extraordinary variability across inventory, Auto Parts Cheaper needed a way to decrease click paths and the time it took customers to find the proper part for their vehicle’s specific make and model. In order to ease a buyer toward checkout – without completely overhauling the landscape of their site – Brand Labs implemented our custom-built search refinement.
The advanced, Volusion-specific product filter then allowed customers to display their desired car parts, which stuck with them throughout the site. This enhancement allowed consumers to avoid having to sift through thousands of unrelated products, which ultimately resulted in quicker conversions and a subsequent 10% increase in revenue.
UPDATE: Both the iPhone and Android apps have now been fixed. You will need to download the newest version of the apps to restore proper functionality.
iPhone App: Available now!
Android App: Available now!
Remember when we designed, engineered, and created the amazing Volusion Snapshot App (for iPhone and Android) that brought the power of tracking your stores revenue to a mobile device? Well don’t worry! it hasn’t gotten any less amazing. HOWEVER, it will be down temporarily as some minor code changes on Volusion’s end has required us to make some adjustments to the app.
The updated Volusion Snapshot apps have been submitted for approval to both Apple and Google Play app stores.
Isn’t that a relief?
We apologize for any inconvenience this may be causing, but rest easy in knowing that the down time will be short-lived. We’re committed to constantly improving our Volusion Snapshot App in order to help you run your business as smoothly as possible- and while that sometimes means updates and fixes, it also means we’re always on the job with the goal of making your ecommerce life better, and more profitable!
Haven’t heard about Snapshot? Get in the know, man!
Volusion Snapshot (available in the iTunes app store and the Google Play app store) is a completely free and easy way to watch your sales add up throughout the year. We created Volusion Snapshot to be secure and simple and to provide you with the one piece of data we know you’re looking for: revenue. Volusion Snapshot provides current (refreshable) daily revenue figures as well as monthly data, annual data and year-over-year comparisons. Now you can watch your bottom line while you’re on the go without having to constantly log in to your Volusion dashboard. We’re giving you the gift of freedom.
We can’t explain BOGO Bowl better than they do it themselves:
“We believe all dogs – whether they’re in their forever home or waiting to find one – deserve high quality nutrition. That’s why we make it easy for dog lovers to help at-risk dogs in their own communities by doing something they’re already doing – buying great food for their best friend! By working together, we provide food to shelters and rescues giving dogs the time they need to find the perfect family. How cool is that?”
We think it’s pretty cool. For every bag of BOGO Bowl dog food you buy, they’ll donate a bag to charity! It’s a fantastic way to help out our four-legged friends in need. Visit their new Volusion store to get some great dog food and to do your bit for the world’s needy pooches.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ecommerce Economic Defense Initiative Extends “Win a New Store” Contest
The Ecommerce Economic Defense Initiative (EEDI) has extended the entry period for its currently-running contest, in which entrants can win a complete online store.
Rochester, MI – Brand Labs, the founding member of the Ecommerce Economic Defense Initiative, announced today that they would be extending the entry period for the EEDI’s first nationwide competition.
The contest was originally set to end in August, but in response to requests from potential entrants, the deadline to enter has been moved to November 16, 2012.