Optimizing your E-commerce Store

When designing and developing online shops, it’s very important to consider what devices your customers will be using — not only to view the site, but to checkout and pay. I was on a site the other day which looked fine but when I added an item to my cart and went to checkout, everything was jumbled. That looks incredibly unprofessional and was/is a red flag that caused me to leave without making a purchase.

I’m not the only one this happens to. Stats show that mobile traffic now accounts for 50% of the visits. (Some merchants experience closer to 70%!) What’s interesting though is that only about 35% revenue comes from purchases on a mobile device. Compare that to 55% on a desktop.

What does this tell us? Well, it may indicate a number of things: perhaps more people tend to just browse on their phones, which is likely true to a degree; or maybe the ordering, checkout and payment flow is not as highly optimized as it could be for mobile users.

So, how can you optimize your shop for the best browsing and purchasing experience on all devices?

The first thing to consider is whether you intend to build a completely customized mobile experience — separate from the desktop site — or whether you will simply “optimize” the mobile experience. The latter is referred to as “responsive” design and is typically the easier, more popular option.

I’d prefer not to get into the debate over the pros and cons of responsive vs. dedicated mobile sites, but the trend for most sites is to go with responsive design. This is our preference at Charity Swipes (and is how we’ve designed our website).

Here’s a list we’ve compiled of all the things to consider when developing a responsive site:

Do you need a totally unique experience on mobile devices?

Or is it enough to simply tweak the layout for smaller screens? If you feel you need a totally different workflow for mobile, think carefully about whether responsive will in fact work for you. Or rethink your workflow. Keep it simple. Keep it intuitive. Small UX and UI modifications are often sufficient and perhaps you can rework certain areas of the desktop interfaces to better accommodate the mobile experience. If the site is so complex it won’t adapt to mobile, maybe it’s time for a refresh overall.

Would it be wise to eliminate some of the content on smaller devices to simplify the experience?

If you do this, bear in mind you need to be careful not to remove anything that is vital to the overall experience and brand story. It’s also worth considering whether your content is too heavy in the first place — even for larger screens. It’s important to have consistency, and “dumbing down” your content for mobile might not be in the end- users’ best interest — especially if they might eventually view the site on both mobile and desktop devices. 

How will your navigation work on different devices?

If you have a complex menu structure, perhaps with multiple levels
of nested items, consider going back to your content strategy and working out a better way to simplify it overall. Regardless of whether the site is for mobile or desktop, we always try to avoid having more than one level of nested content — it’s easier to build and it’s definitely easier and more intuitive for users.

Are clickable elements easily tappable?

This is an easy element to miss. (admittedly, we did when we first built our site). A finger is larger than a mouse pointer and the element being tapped on will be obscured by the finger. Be sure elements that need to be interacted with are big enough and have adequate spacing on mobile devices.

How will you handle layout of grids and images on different devices?

It’s common to change the number of columns depending on the screen size. But something important to consider is how this might change the layout and balance — try to avoid having “widow” thumbnails on smaller devices because the number of columns doesn’t divide evenly into the total number of items. This isn’t always possible, of course.

Are your images beautiful and crisp on retina screens?

Balancing quality of image with not overloading the bandwidth/speed is crucial.

This is tricky and there are no industry-standards or best-practices yet. Test your work on desktop and mobile and resize images accordingly.

Do you have big, bold, beautiful banner images or sliders? How will they look on a small screen?

If they have words overlaid, consider rendering the type using HTML and CSS rather than embedding in the image so you can then optimize the text for different screen resolutions. Text “embedded” in the image could well be unreadable on small devices. You might want to consider moving the text off the banner image on small devices and display it below so it can be large and bold without obscuring the image.

Does the site have a complex header, large logo, sidebar or information-filled footer?

How will you strip this down and simplify it on smaller screens? What can be hidden or collapsed into the “hamburger” menu? If you have important call-to-action buttons on the desktop site, does the functionality get significantly diminished if you hide this button by default? Should it live outside the collapsed menu?

Do you have hover effects on links or buttons?

Hover effects are a great interactive tool on desktops but be sure to consider how this will work on touch devices that don’t have hover. Better yet, don’t rely on hover effects for key functionality and reserve for subtle enhancements only.

Are sliders and popups optimized for small screens and touch devices?

Even if your sliders have left/right arrows, it’s worth considering whether you can optimize these to work with swipes as it’s a nicer experience for mobile users — and navigation arrows can obscure the image on smaller screens.

Are forms optimized for use on small devices?

Are field labels still visible and does the user-view zoom in appropriately when the user taps on a field to enter text? What about field types? Are the appropriate device keyboards triggered for each field — i.e., numbers, URLs, email address, text, etc.?

Is the add to cart, checkout, and payment workflow optimized for different screen sizes?

Going back to what I said at the beginning of the article, this is crucial! If the customer can easily browse the website but can’t easily add products to their cart and/or check out, your conversions will suffer. Make sure you spend time going through the entire ordering workflow (right through to payment) to be sure it works beautifully on all devices. 

There you go. Those are the things to consider when optimizing your site for mobile. Always remember what you like and don’t like about sites you view on mobile, and make sure your site follows suit. After all, if you find something unlikeable about a site, chances are there are plenty of other people who feel the same.

What are your Rates???

In my 10 years in the merchant processing industry, by far the most asked question of me is “what are your rates?” If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, I’d be retired in Fiji… I understand why merchants ask it as it seems like a logical question. Business owners must manage every expense of their company, and their merchant service account costs are no exception. The problem, however, is that the question “what are your rates” is fundamentally flawed for a couple reasons.

First of all, the merchant services industry is not simply a matter of “rates,” it’s a matter of “rates AND transaction fees AND monthly fees.” For example, there might be a merchant processing company out there who offers a rate of 0.10%. Sounds amazing, right? The problem is, the company will ALSO charge $150 in monthly fees and a $.40 flat fee for every transaction. Not so amazing now, huh? We see cases all the time where we will keep the rate (percentage) the same as another processing company yet save the business $100’s per month by lowering their monthly and transactional fees. So, fight the urge to focus solely on the “rates” and remember there are other factors equally, and sometimes more, important.

The second fundamental problem with the “what are your rates” question is this: Unless they’re processing with Square, no business owner knows what their current rates are. They might think they know, but they’re never correct. (Yes, even though you are a smart business owner, you don’t know what you currently pay. Don’t feel bad, literally 100% of business owners don’t know). As mentioned in the previous paragraph, knowing what you pay to accept credit cards is complicated. Although there are only 3 main categories of fees (rate, transaction, and monthly), there are literally over 1,000 subcategories of fees which fall under those main categories. (Fees such as: Interchange fees, AVS fees, NABU fees, Debit Network fees, Assessment fees, Integrity fees, PCI fees, Gateway fees, Association fees, etc, etc, etc…) This makes being able to read your merchant statement impossible unless you’ve had years of industry training. It actually took me about 2 years of analyzing merchant statements every day before I truly understood how to read them. So, without knowing what you currently pay, how are you going to know a good deal when you hear it?

Fear not though, there is a simple trick to understanding what you pay and I’ll share it with you here… It’s called the “Effective Rate”. The Effective Rate cuts through the hogwash and gives you an exact, easy-to-understand overview of what you pay. No years of industry training necessary. You calculate the Effective Rate like this:

Pull out a recent statement and a highlighter… Find and highlight: 1) the Total Fees you paid for that month’s processing. And 2) The Total Volume you processed that month. Now simply Divide the total fees by the Total Volume. You’ll get some # with multiple decimal places (ex: 0.0297). If you don’t get a # less than 1.00, you probably divided the total volume by the total fees (very common mistake). Try it again. Assuming you now got a # less than 1, you now need to convert the # to a percentage and you’ll have your Effective Rate. Simply move the decimal to the right two spaces and that’s your Effective Rate %. For Example 0.0297 = 2.97%. Another example: 0.03153 = 3.153%.

Now you know exactly what you’re paying to take cards! The next question to ask yourself is this: Is my Effective Rate too high? As a simple rule of thumb, if you’re over 2.50%, YES, you are paying too much! We’ll lower that for you so call us..

Why Donate or Volunteer?

We all know it feels good to help others. You’d be hard pressed to find someone (aside from Ebenezer Scrooge) who doesn’t know the joy of helping the less fortunate. Yet most of us aren’t aware of all the benefits of giving to charity, so we’ve compiled a short list of some great reasons to give our time and money to those in need…

1. Experience More Pleasure
In research conducted by the National Institutes of Health, participants who chose to donate a portion of $100 they were provided enjoyed activated pleasure centers in the brain. This experiment showed that donating money simply makes you feel better, which is something we can all benefit from.

2. Bring More Meaning to Your Life
When you donate money to charity, you create opportunities to meet new people who believe in the same causes that inspire you. That, and making a real impact on those causes, can infuse your everyday life with more meaning. If you’ve been stuck in a rut, whether personally or professionally, sometimes the simple act of donating cash can do the trick and reinvigorate your life.

3. Get a Tax Deduction
If you give to an IRS-approved charity, you can write off donations on your tax return. Certain restrictions do apply, though. To learn more about them, along with whether or not a particular charity has IRS approval, check the IRS website about tax deductibility.

4. Promote Generosity in Your Children
When your kids see you donating money, they’re much more likely to adopt a giving mindset as they grow up. I write from personal experience. I’ve donated money to a variety of charities over the years and have always made sure to include my eight-year-old daughter in it. We often participate in beach cleanups and I make sure to educate her on the importance of conservation. When we walk by a homeless person, I’ll hand her a dollar or two to pass along to them. Every Christmas we bag up some of her old clothes and toys and we take them to a local homeless shelter… I’m confident all these small acts will lead her to be a caring, philanthropic adult. I highly encourage you to expose your kids to charity as well.

5. Gain Perspective
In today’s fast-paced, often-stressful world, it’s incredibly easy to fall into a self-absorbed daze. It’s easy to focus so heavily on your own problems that depression and anxiety can lead you to think your life is too hard to handle. When you donate or volunteer, you get exposed to people who are often in a far worse situation than yourself. Seeing others persevere despite horrible circumstances is not only inspiring but is a reminder that every day you wake up is a good day. It’s a way to gain humility and perspective that can help improve your mental health and your attitude, which in turn improves your overall well-being.

6. Improve Personal Money Management
If you set a scheduled $100 donation each month for a particular charity, that can motivate you to be more attentive to your own finances in an effort to ensure you don’t default or fall behind in your monthly donations. Anything that gets you to pay closer attention to your bank account is a good thing—especially when it helps those in need.

7. Motivate Friends and Family
When you let your friends and family know of your charitable donations, they may find themselves more motivated to undertake their own efforts to give. It takes a village to address issues such as world poverty, scientific advancement, and early childhood education. Stoking passions in the folks around you is a very positive and tangible effect of your own giving.

There you have it; 7 good
reasons to help your fellow man/woman. If you want to give time or money to
charity but aren’t sure where to start, we suggest looking into our Partner
Charities listed https://charityswipes.com/about-2/
. If none of those suit your fancy, charitynavigator.org is a great resource
for finding charities of all shapes and sizes. Thanks for reading and we wish
you the best of luck in your quest for giving!

How we choose our charities

We’re often asked by merchant clients, and prospective clients, why we work with the charities we do. We’re also asked why we only give to certain charities instead of letting the client choose any charity they desire.

I’ll address the first question first because the answer also lends itself to questions 2. The reason we work with the charities we do is because we have researched, interviewed, investigated and vetted each of them thoroughly, and we 100% believe in their organizations. We look at many factors including: user reviews, employee reviews (glassdoor.com), ratings from publications (such as CharityNavigator.org, CharityWatch.org, Consumer Reports, and more), percentage of funding which goes towards overhead costs versus going to the direct cause, CEO/President salary, positive and negative news articles, and many more aspects. It obviously goes without saying but we take our decisions very seriously. As a result, it usually takes us over a month of research before deciding on a charity to support. Allowing our clients to choose any charity (outside of our list), would simply require more resources than we have available, and subsequently, isn’t feasible.

I do want to point that if you’re passionate about a charity that isn’t on our list, all hope is not lost! Every year we are adding another 2-3 charities to our list. This means if your favorite charity is not currently one of our donation partners, you are welcome to submit a request for us to include them in the future. We greatly appreciate all requests and will take them all into consideration. Shoot suggestions to info@charityswipes.com.

Thanks for reading. As always, let us know how we can help you!

New Year, New Website, New Charity Swipes!

Happy 2019, everyone!

We’re glad to announce we launched our newly redesigned website: www.CharitySwipes.com on Monday.

It was many months in-the-making because we wanted it to be perfect. We needed it to represent our mission, our values, and our personality. Thanks to a dedicated, hardworking team we feel we got it right!

We’re looking at taking big steps in 2019 to extend our reach and help communities across the country. You’ll be seeing our name on Youtube, on Instagram, and on the most popular sites on the internet. 2018 was about growing our mission in California. 2019 will be about growing and influencing cities across America!

Stay tuned for some great things to come from our amazing team!