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Roadmapping is the necessary evil of every successful organization. It’s the non-billable, extraordinarily time consuming, yet unbelievably productive and collaborative meeting that we do every, single year. And will continue to do for every year to come. As a commerce agency, putting gears into place and turning the handle to set tasks into motion, we pride ourselves in helping orchestrate the projects that bring life to our clients’ goals. And all of that begins with roadmapping.

But that’s only if you do it well. Sitting your key players down in a conference room, throwing out ideas that make people feel warm and fuzzy like “SYNERGY, CROSS PROMOTIONS, LEAD GENERATION, or COMPANY CULTURE”, isn’t going to make your year one of quantifiable growth. If you want your business to stay ahead of the competition, there are some key considerations that should make it onto the meeting agenda.

Setting Realistic Goals

Boy, it sure would be nice to double profits, have 200% ROI on every campaign, see your homepage rank 1st for every relevant Search Engine Results Page (SERP) and, heck, for every lead that comes through to turn into a sale. But it’s not going to happen. So before you begin assigning KPIs to 2019, start at a higher level. A good place to start with setting goals is to decide on some broad objectives that will help you make decisions throughout the year. Review the performance of your business on every public facing platform including paid advertising, social media, and, of course, your website. Take a nice, long stroll through all of the available analytics. See what months of the year had the highest traffic, the highest rate of conversion. Review your percentage of new users, the device conversions are made on, and where your customers are located. These are just some of examples of questions you should answer to get an overall better understanding of where your business IS, and then move forward. Sorry to play on the map analogy, but it’s hard to see where you can go if you don’t know where you are.

Make sure that your broad goals are something that allow your team, throughout the year, to ask “Will this task contribute to the fulfillment of my goal?” If yes, it’s obvious that the team can commit and invest. If the project does not directly contribute to a larger goal, then no, you may want to re-prioritize and ditch that task to the island of misfit tasks.

Turning Those Goals Into KPIs

Next, you need to identify KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to track throughout the year. If you’re a commerce shop, one of your top KPIs should be associated with growth in sales. Whether you’re looking at overall revenue, eCommerce sales, increased ROI, or the like, establishing reasonable KPIs is the golden rule. Take a look at what KPIs you were tracking against in 2018 and whether or not your were able to achieve them.

As with setting broad goals, their quantifiable sibling should be based on past performance. If you have an average annual growth rate of 5%, you’re likely setting yourself up for failure if you set the goal of 30% overall growth in 2019 and aren’t breaking into a new market or have a serious nest egg for launching your business into a new tier. Sustainable success, more often than not, is achieved over time – whether we like it or not. So determine KPIs that identify as ones that not only are accessible, but also look beyond the current year.

Now Lay Out Your Marketing Plan

January and February are generally slow months in eCommerce and provide a good opportunity to plan marketing initiatives for the rest of the year. It may seem silly to be thinking about the summer vacation, back to school, or holiday shopping seasons but taking down time as an opportunity to plan for the busier times is not only smart, it’s profitable. If you’re able to get ahead of the madness and do your research now, it will afford you the opportunity to more acutely strategize and execute your plans when the time comes.

Look back on the 2018 holiday season while the memories are fresh in your mind. Use analytics for the hard numbers. What worked? What didn’t? Use that information to your advantage while you have the time available for true analysis. Another effective practice in developing a successful marketing strategy is to keep up with the times. Read up on trend predictions for the year and consider how your marketing can maintain a competitive presence.

And Update Internal Processes

A great time to take stock of out-of-date processes, technology, or initiatives that need attention is when you’re setting goals. Be it in the name of efficiency, consistency, or company culture, reviewing your team’s processes for improvement opportunities, is never a bad idea. At Human Element, we always have that voice in the back of our minds. But it’s during our roadmapping that we really focus on the core of our internal and client facing processes for improvement.

Just because you’ve always done it one way, does not mean you should blindly follow that practice for the sake of following that practice. The commerce ecosystem is changing darn near every day – if your organization is inflexible, your growth will be too. Be willing to look at things from a different perspective. Reconsider your brand voice, logo, sales funnel, and development standards; anything and everything that could be affecting your relationship with your customers. Is your site ADA compliant? Have you considered whether staying on your Magento Community site is limiting your abilities? Get into the grit of your organization.

Ready, Set… Roadmap

Now it’s your turn. We hope that this information helps you feel more confident in your abilities as a team to effectively roadmap for the coming year. Keeping these principles in mind can help make 2019 your best yet. And it all begins with your roadmap.

Want to begin plans for your 2019 eCommerce strategy and aren’t sure how to get started? That’s where Human Element steps in. Our team of experienced developers, digital marketing specialists, and UX experts can tell you how to improve and set goals for attainable growth. Feel free to get in touch and see how we can help your eCommerce business grow.

The post Roadmapping For 2019: Setting eCommerce Goals & Achieving Them appeared first on Human Element.

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It’s the beginning of the new year and everyone in commerce is knee-deep in roadmapping exercises and industry trend articles, bringing ideas to the table for how their organization is going to keep ahead of the competition. No matter if you’re B2B, B2C, retail or service based, there is a relevant place for your brand in social media. And if you want your business to thrive in 2019, you’re going to have to muscle your brand presence into the social shopping ecosystem, find your niche, and for the love of all things one-step-checkout, MAINTAIN that presence.

I know your instincts are, at this moment, telling you to hop on Instagram and create that business account, slap a logo on it, and send your office manager a quick email that there’s a fun, new task on their list of todos – but trust me when I say that you’re going to regret it. As in all things commerce, if you’re going to do something, do it the right way. You wouldn’t knowingly and willingly drive traffic to a poorly done website, right? The same rules should apply to ALL of your public facing content – even if it isn’t on your homepage. Your social media accounts act as first contact for your brand. They are the handshake that greets a potential new customer. So you have to be certain that you’re doing it the right way to make sure the first interaction, isn’t the last; harnessing attention and interest, sending users down the funnel, and turning views into conversions.

For the purpose of this article, we will be focusing on two major subject matters: what platforms to utilize (and how) for your business goals, and the general best practices of each platform to achieve those goals. Let me be clear that this blog does not address social media advertising – ONLY posting.

The first thing you should ask yourself before you begin using social media for your business is:

What Do I Want To Achieve Through Social Media?

And no, the answer can’t JUST BE be sales. You should have a set list of KPIs (link to previous blogs) that you want to accomplish. These will largely determine your specific, targeted methods. If you want to have 10,000 followers and a high average rate of engagement, your content and campaigns will be different than if your goal is to increase eCommerce sales by six percent by the third quarter. It is crucial to establish these metrics before you begin, and track on consistently.

No matter what goals you set, remember that in all incarnations, your social media presence is a direct reflection of your brand. If it’s not done well, users can make the easy and logical leap to assuming that it’s not the only thing being neglected. More than 73 percent of users on social networking platforms will follow a brand because they are interested in the product or service advertised. It’s pretty simple: with 214 billion (yes, billion) active U.S. Facebook users, three-quarters (that’s approx. 160 billion) of those users are following brands for updates, discounts, and engagement opportunities. By not maintaining a strong and consistent presence, you are selling yourself short.

So What’s The Right Way To Be Social?

We’ll start with an example, I love examples. On almost every list of brands killing it in the social media game, you’ll find Airbnb, and for good reason. This growing online marketplace maintains a universally stellar Instagram and Facebook presence, and is now the second-most-valuable US tech startup, worth $30 billion. Airbnb posts unique content to Instagram a minimum of once a day and focuses on the user, not the service. Following all basic best practices while making their content unique and targeted to their audience, as well as being an accurate reflection of who they are as a company.

It’s easy to understand the advice of “make your content about your users,” “focus on what they get, not what you’re doing,” and simply absorb that information without considering it in application. We’re not going to do that here. Follow those mantras – and we’ll do our best to help your business avoid that pitfall.

Learn From The Best

Another example? Yes, Please. Let’s use Target as easy subject matter for this point. One of their key audiences is moms who scroll through Instagram after they put the kids to bed (Is this a personal attack?). Their social game is strong. It has to be, or they will become irrelevant. The images they post are timely, professional, approachable and focus on the user.

What does the grid to your right make you feel? I look at those images and my brain says these nine things:

1. I love Mrs. Meyers
2. I wear casual business attire
3. OH MY GOD I want my baby to look like that
4. I want my door to look like that
5. I want to eat that
6. I want to sleep there
7. meh cards
8. SLEEPY PUUUPPY
9. THAT COULD BE ME BUYING ALL THESE THINGS IN TARGET. TARGET WILL GREATLY IMPROVE EVERY PART OF MY LIFE.

I might have a problem with Target. But you know what, EVERYONE DOES. And it’s because they have branded themselves as approach-ably put together, focusing all of their content on how shopping Target will positively impact your life.

And doing that, creating and executing your brand voice takes time and effort. So while doing social media right can be quite time consuming – writing unique content, creating engaging images and video, engaging with users, etc. – it’s worth the investment in brand equity alone. Brand awareness is vital, as is credibility – something that your eCommerce store is provided through successful social media engagement, posting and advertising.

Brand Voice

If users aren’t engaging with your social media, it’s probably because your ads sound like an advertiser, or like your grandpa wrote them. Take the time to identify who you are as a brand. What makes you different? What should compel a person to buy your product? And how are you going to communicate that in a way that makes people pay attention? Ads that speak in a unique voice with compelling content are more likely to engage. Don’t know where to start? Here are 5 steps to defining your brand voice from Content Marketing Institute.

My favorite example of this is Wendy’s renowned, and savage Twitter presence, and its capturing of the hearts of their audience. If you haven’t heard of the on-going Wendy’s vs. the world Twitter feud, well, then our lives are way better than yours.

Maybe your brand didn’t buy its pants from the sassy store – maybe this type of tone simply wouldn’t match. If you own a webstore for quilting supplies, I can’t imagine Martha of Salt Lake City would find this sarcastic, witty heat as enticing. But the point is that no matter your business, you can have a unique voice and communicate it.

What Platforms To Use & How To Use Them

Now that we have the basics, it’s time to address the platforms and individualized strategies. Scheduling the exact same content to post on every platform looks amateur. There are intricacies to optimizing content for Instagram that simply don’t apply to Facebook, etc. etc. For today I am going to only include the top five platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and LinkedIn.

A golden rule I like to employ is: Instagram is for the past, Twitter and Snapchat are for the now, and Facebook and Pinterest are for the future. One thing we have historically been absolutely terrible at at Human Element, is living by this principle. It is SO easy to fall into the rut of publishing a blog, creating an image, and posting it across every platform with a few hashtags you think might, kind of make sense. #ThrowbackThursday is still a thing, right?
Nope, nope, nope. This is where my ears begin to bleed. Content should be unique and optimized to each platform, even if it is a slight change for relevancy. This differentiation is primarily in 1. image size and 2. Tone. This also applies to whether or not a post should even be published to that platform. A smart tactic when you’re determining what platform a post would be relevant to is competitor comparison.

Creep on the accounts of your direct competitors, the people who offer what you offer, sell what you sell – and maybe do it better. Review those accounts for:

1. What you like and what you don’t.
2. How long the text content is for their best performing posts.
3. What hashtags were used and where – in the post or as a comment.
4. Tone: are certain descriptive words used often? Imagine what the person saying it looks like. Is it a confident, young bachelor? Or maybe your brand voice is more nurturing and maternal.

In addition, regularly check on the optimal dimensions for each platform – because size does matter. It would be a bummer if that picture you posted was in the wrong size and cut off 40 percent of the subject matter from the profile page view. Now, what you’ve all been waiting for, here are my…

Top Tips For Optimizing On The 4 Major Social Platforms: Instagram Is For The Past
  • Nostalgia: Did you pick up donuts from your friendly, neighborhood bakery on your way into the office? Ya better take a picture of the team members ravenously swarming the kitchen, shoving that fried goodness in their mouths.
  • Tagging:Find the handle for the donut shop, tag them, and write timely content that focuses on the reader. Example: “Is there anything better than @susiesbakery donuts and a mid-winter morning snow?” Tagging gets your post in more places and inspires a broader audience to engage.
  • Hashtags:Speaking of engagement, that timely content should also include 2-4 relevant hashtags. Additional hashtags can be used but aesthetically look better, while serving the same purpose, when added in a comment. Your post will appear in any search for #donuts if the hashtag is used in a comment. That said, be reasonable in your use of hashtags. If you want your post to rank, don’t join the competition for a hashtag with 10 million associated posts. Find something more approachable, but equally relevant.
  • Links: If you’re linking to a blog or landing page, put the link in your bio, not in the post. It is not hyperlinked and it’s a pain in the ass to copy + paste a URL from the Instagram newsfeed. No one is going to do it, those who try will hate you.
Twitter & Snapchat Are For The Now
  • Headlines: Publish a blog? Sitting in a seminar? Streaming a webinar? Tweet that. Consider Twitter your catch-all; post past, present and future relevant content – but its primary function is to communicate to your followers what is happening at the exact moment you’re tweeting. Most importantly, utilize this platform often – multiple times a day.
  • Tagging and Engagement: Twitter is the OG platform for call outs and commenting. Whether you’re tweeting original content or retweeting, tag someone. Just like on IG, tagging puts your content in front of more faces.
  • Hashtags: Because activity on Twitter is so hashtag heavy, it is vital to USE relevant hashtags in original content, and to regularly search for relevant hashtags and engage with the good stuff. Utilize the trending hashtags (in a relevant way) when creating content. Posts like “Check out our 30% off sale! #thoughtsandprayers” is, plain and simple, a bad idea on so many levels.
  • Links: Link it uuuuup on Twitter! Just please shorten your URLs.
Facebook Is For The Future
  • A Look Into The Crystal Ball: Facebook is a phenomenal platform for telling users who you are, and why it matters to them. Talk about how your target personas can engage with you off the internet; trade-shows, sales, conferences, parties – if you’re going to be there, share the host’s event. If you’re the host, create a Facebook event and post about it often. Then post about things happening internally; new hires, new products, things in the works that are timely and relatable.
  • Tagging and Engagement: You should always tag the people and pages you’re posting about. I think we’ve sufficiently stated this. If you’re going to tag another business or user, make sure it links to that account. There is no bigger eyesore than “Everyone welcome @Katie B. to the @susiesbakery team” on Facebook.
  • Hashtags: Use of hashtags is still pretty new to Facebook. Users don’t follow hashtag feeds on this platform the way they do on IG and Twitter. That said, using 2-3 relevant hashtags in your posts, puts you ahead of the game – as long as you do it well. See the Twitter hashtags section for an example of what not to do.
  • Links: Shorten the URLs and include them in posts.

Wheww! That was a lot of information. Just remember that while using social media correctly for your business can be overwhelming, and sometimes a job of its own, if you do it well, you’ll join the eCommerce race to its fullest extent, alongside the other 88% of U.S. based businesses marketing on social media. No matter what you’re selling, yesterday was the time to start implementing these best practices. If you haven’t yet, start now before your brand is wiped out by those that do.

Still not sure where to start? We’re here to help! Our team of strategists have the experience and technical knowledge to address your marketing questions and goals head on – and we love it. At Human Element, we make our client’s brands a priority, putting our nerd powers together as one to build a presence that sells. Let us build yours.

The post How To Use Social Media For Your Business In 2019 appeared first on Human Element.

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We’re already in the middle of the biggest sales season of the year, and more and more of it is taking place digitally. In 2017, the number of people visiting brick and mortar stores decreased by 4% versus 2016, while online sales for Black Friday were 26% higher. And, of course, November is closely followed by the Christmas season, which can be an even more significant revenue-generator for eCommerce retailers.

 To maximize your eCommerce store’s slice of the high-season pie, it’s worthwhile making sure you’re prepared to make the most of the peak spending period. We’ve put together some of our top tips for making the most of the remaining holiday season, and some best practices to keep in mind for 2019 preparations.Thi

Things You Can Do Now Remarketing

Remarketing, or behavioral retargeting, is a powerful technique to advertise products and promotions to people who have already shown an interest.

 The period running up to the holiday season, and throughout November and early December, generates a lot of traffic from undecided “window shoppers” looking for gift ideas. Using remarketing to have the products shoppers looked at but didn’t buy advertised to them, is a powerful way to reintegrate buyers into your sales funnel and guide them to purchase from you.

Abandoned Cart Recapture

The typical abandoned cart rate for eCommerce stores is somewhere north of 60% — and that rate increases over the holiday period with all the window shoppers umming and ahhing. You won’t be able to recapture all abandoned carts, but given the billions of dollars in lost sales that they represent, it’s worth implementing a solution that offers promotions to users who have filled a cart and not made a purchase.

 The best way to do this is to email users who abandon carts with specific promotions. There are various ways to go about implementing abandoned cart recovery strategies on a Magento store – check out the Magento marketplace for specific solutions.


Well-Tested Holiday-Specific Content

It’s difficult to tell which landing page design, promotional content, or advertising techniques will be most effective. You should leave yourself plenty of time to split test seasonal content before the peak traffic period, but if you’re making some last-minute changes or building those on-the-fly landing pages, use the content that is tried and true.

Run A/B tests on copy and design, see which promotional strategies have the greatest response, and experiment with different audiences. 

While the benefit attached to finding the best conversion strategies right in the middle of your peak sales period may be less than to discovering it beforehand, it is still worthwhile to dig in than to give up. Be ready with data-driven selections.

Make the 2018 Holiday Season Your Best Yet

For many eCommerce stores, the holiday period can be the highlight of the business year. And while every strategist will tell you that the best means of achieving success is with preparation, you can still make the most of the seasonal traffic boost now by implementing tested strategies.

If you’re kicking yourself and already thinking of 2019, use these tips for preparing your eCommerce store the right way – in advance:

When Should You Begin Prep?

Every year the holiday promotional season gets earlier, with stores decked out for Christmas months before Santa is due to start his annual run. This year is no different, with holiday promotions already well underway. 

It’s no surprise, considering that people think about holiday shopping well in advance; trying to grab the best deals and prices for presents and gifts. Moreover, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday just a short month before Christmas day, it’s in your best interest to tap into people’s desire for an early bargain.

With this being said, the age-old adage “There’s no such thing as too early” couldn’t be any more appropriate. Interest in holiday gifts tends to start to rise around late September, but there’s nothing wrong with running promotions even before this.

Since it’s already December and Black Friday seems eons ago, just tuck this piece of advise in your back pocket – or better yet, set calendar reminders for 2019 now and avoid last-minute scrambling.

Make Sure Your Site Is Prepared

The first, and most important, part of being prepared for the holiday season is to make sure your Magento site can handle the load. There’s little more disheartening than seeing your store grind to a halt because too many shoppers are filling their baskets and trying to check out.

It’s important to take a look at your store’s performance metrics over the past year and ask yourself if you have the infrastructure it takes to support the traffic you’ll be getting over the holiday period. If you’re noticing dips in speed and bottlenecking, then it may be fine to upgrade to a host that supports your requirements.

If you’re running on a budget, it may be a good idea to consider a reliable cloud hosting provider with an auto scaling mechanism. This will allow your store to increase capacity as and when it needs it.

Early Promotions

Start promoting deals and discounts early by leveraging email lists to send personalized content. These email lists should be segmented based on a benefit analysis of your customers. Use customer purchasing history to see where each customer falls and you’ll be seeing repeat purchases in no time.

On-site banners are also a great way to offer holiday promotions ahead of time. Some creative copy and design ready in advance will set you up for success.

Make Sure Your Site Is Mobile-Friendly

In 2018, this one should go without saying, but there are still eCommerce stores that perform terribly on phones and tablets. 62% of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile device in the last six months. That’s a huge chunk of cash to leave on the table because your store doesn’t offer an excellent mobile experience.

 If your Magento store doesn’t use a responsive theme, now’s the time to make the change.

Thank you to our friends at Nexcess for contributing to the Human Element holiday blog series with this insightful article! We value your partnership and are continually impressed with your breadth of knowledge.

The post Last Minute Holiday Tips For Your Magento eCommerce Website appeared first on Human Element.

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If you glean anything at all from what’s written below, know this; you SHOULD NOT ignore government issued accessibility regulations. In this post, we’ll discuss Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Amended 3/20/2017) in particular, as well as, how it effects you as an eCommerce web-store manager.

As of January 18, 2018, your website should have complied with the section 508-based standards. If you’d rather review the literal letter of the law and skip my handy blog, knock yourself out with this puppy. Over 50,000 words of riveting legal jargon about the updates to the Section 508 regulations relating to, among other things, “…computers, information kiosks and transaction machines, telecommunications equipment, multifunction office machines, software, Web sites, and electronic documents.”

Unless you are yourself a sentient computer, you almost certainly want to skip the step of reading and interpreting the content of this legal document and instead ingest some of the secondary literature on the topic. This blog aims to pull together some of those supporting sources of information, and provide some additional insights of its own. Hopefully I am able to help your organization build a strategy around bringing your website into alignment with ADA Regulations. After all, the deadline was almost a year ago, and big eCommerce players are already starting to feel the wrath of non-compliance. Don’t be one of them.

Speaking The eCommerce Legal Language

For starters, it’s crucial to at least learn the major vocabulary around the subject:

Section 508
  • Regulatory law passed to make all communications technology more accessible.
WCAG
  • Set of technical guidelines to meet Section 508 Regulations (Managed by W3C- Provides requirements and testing criteria).
VPAT
  • Voluntary Product Accessibility Template. Self-disclosing document declaring the current level of conformity with Section 508.
Now let’s break the approach to ADA into three parts 1. Self-Awareness

Before you do anything else, take stock of your current site to determine whether or not your site is in compliance. Depending on the size of your website, your aversion to risk, and, I suppose, the depth of your wallet, there are different tools available to measure your site’s adherence to current guidelines.

Small-Medium Sites: Website Accessibility Checks

WAVE – This one is my favorite as it provides in-context markups with a UI that makes it much simpler to understand. Offering the ability to filter error reporting by Standards (Section 508/WCAG) or by View (Styles/No Styles/Contrast), WAVE is the best tool for understanding the errors on your site and how they would impact users with a disability.

Level Access – Web Accessibility – Just like WAVE, you can run a quick scan based on URL and receive a report back on specific errors your site has when compared to compliance standards. One benefit of using this tool is the “Total Compliance” score provided after the report is run (ex. 87/100)

AChecker – This last tool is best for seeing the exact code and page elements associated with specific errors. Once you’ve decided to make the jump to addressing some of the compliance issues, this checker is good for knowing if an implemented “fix” has truly corrected the problem.

Medium-Large: Web Accessibility Audits

Deque – Of all the audit offerings available, this one appears to provide the most features and potential deliverables. They offer Accessibility Blueprint “If you don’t have specific accessibility compliance concerns but would like to understand more about your current state of accessibility and steps you can take to improve.” For larger businesses that would like to avoid any sort of risk, Deque has Conformance Statements and VPAT products that help to protect companies from legal pursuits.

Level Access – Audits – Level Access covers the spectrum of company sizes with its aforementioned self-service web accessibility checker, but it also offers professional services like Audits, Discovery, and Strategic Consulting for bigger businesses. While there does not appear to be a mention of Conformance Statements, there is enough support available to make this a perfectly suitable option for a medium to large company looking to avoid Accessibility litigation.

With Deque or Level Access, Accessibility is their entire game and their specialty, making either choice a safe one. Regardless of which path you take, if you’re a bigger company, you probably do not want to take the path of going it alone or ignoring accessibility altogether (Such is a potentially treacherous path, most likely involving pirates or a merry group of highway bandits).

2. Legal Context

One of the reasons that this is such an interesting issue is that there is very little legal precedent for how these new guidelines should be enforced. The first, and still most notable ruling on Title III guidelines was in the case of Gil v. Winn-Dixie. ADATitleIII.com notes that this was significant because “…it is the first decision to hold, after a full trial, that a public accommodation violated Title III of the ADA by having an inaccessible website.” You can find the full breakdown of the decision at the above link, but the key points are as follows:

  • WCAG Adopted – The court formally adopted WCAG which, if you’ve been paying attention, is the set of development guidelines compiled and maintained by w3c. The checkers and audits mentioned in the Self-Awareness step all use WCAG as the benchmark to determine what needs to be changed to be more accessible.
  • Cost Matters – The court considered how much Winn-Dixie spent on its website including the initial implementation ($2 Million) and subsequent updates ($7 Million) to determine if the cost of making the site accessible ($250K) would be too great a burden. In this case, they ruled that it was not an undue burden, but depending on a company’s budget, and the potential level-of-effort for making the site accessible, it could very much be decided differently. In this instance, the proposed changes would have accounted for less than 3% of the total development cost.
  • Your Site. Your Responsibility – The decision also included language suggesting that elements managed by third party vendors are considered parts of the site for which the company is ultimately responsible.

The only other judgement in this area so far is Gomez v. GNC which also went in favor of the plaintiff Andres Gomez. The primary difference here was that the court did not rule on the suggested remediation of these issues, stating that “GNC argues correctly – that Gomez has provided no support that WCAG 2.0 is an appropriate remedy. Even if WCAG 2.0 is the appropriate standard, the record is silent on which success level is most appropriate.”

If you can’t tell from the copious amount of references to ADATitleIII.com I’m just going to come out and say that it’s one of the best sources of legal news concerning Web Accessibility. Stay tuned to their news page for updates on what is currently the biggest case in any court, Robles v. Domino’s Pizza. I won’t delve into the specifics of that case, but suffice it to say that it stands to impose a significant precedent in this otherwise open territory.

3. Continued Improvement

Now that the warning flares have been sent up and guidelines are in place, it’s imperative that any new development on your site considers the WCAG guidelines. There are a few strategies for this, including:

  • Running a Check against Development Environments – Before deploying new updates to the production site, run one of the above checking tools against a development or QA environment to make sure that your new feature or “fix” has not introduced new conflicts with WCAG guidelines. If possible, it makes sense to address any existing violations while working on features that interact with the violating elements, since the developer will already be working in that space.
    • Level Access
    • Deque – WorldSpace AttestIntegrate Automated Testing – Probably the most seamless way to start developing to accepted standards is to implement an automated testing tool into your development workflow. There are two tools for this and they’re available through familiar sources:

Both of these tools integrate with most of the popular development platforms, making it easy for developers to catch potential issues while they code. Overall, tools like this will save significant budget by paying a little bit more for the testing and much less for fixes in the future.

The long and short of this novel is that it’s utterly crucial to have a strategy for web accessibility. When these regulations were initially released, there was limited documentation of guidelines and few tools available for remediation and testing. Now, with the resources enumerated above and others not even mentioned, there can be no legitimate defense that includes negligence or ignorance. And as time goes on, and more tools become available, the burden to businesses is reduced and another legal outlet removed. Very few sites comply with 100% of the guidelines, meaning that there are likely things to be done on your own site. What I’m saying is, don’t freak out, but get to work.

The post Developing an Accessible Website: Complying with ADA Regulations appeared first on Human Element.

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As the Thanksgiving holiday is almost upon us, we’re reflecting on what an awesome year 2018 has been for Human Element. From awards to great news clients, it’s been an exciting year. Here are a few memorable achievements that we are most thankful for:

Our 2nd Annual Next Conference

Last year saw the debut of our own Human Element Next Conference, which was a huge success. So, this year the challenge was set to continue to improve on the great line up of speakers and relevant content. And I don’t think we disappointed on any of those fronts! We again chose the awesome Scarab Club as our venue, which always lends a great backdrop for inspiring creative discussions. We were also proud to have many of our talented Human Element team speaking on topics from agile business methods to brand loyalty. But I think we were most thankful for the great partners and clients who also joined us on stage to spread their knowledge and start great conversations. Now we have the harder task of planning an even better day of activities for 2019! Stay tuned!

Climbing the Inc 5000 ladder to #2315

This was our second year and we jumped almost 500 spots from last year’s position. Nice work Human Element team! Only one in three companies recognized on the Inc. 5000 make it onto the list twice. So, naturally we were ecstatic to learn that not only did Human Element Inc. 5000 list for the second time, but we jumped nearly 500 spots to #2,315, making Human Element the 2,315th fastest growing company in America (4th fastest in Ann Arbor for our local folks).

Clients; new and old

We have clients who have now been with us for many years, which is a huge honor and testament to our team – and the great work we do as an eCommerce partner and agency. This year also saw many new clients joining us, including Leon Speakers, Bowers & Wilkins, Ford Motor Company and Ecowater. We’re excited to see what great things come from these new relationships.

A super talented team

Of course, none of the successes that I just mentioned would be possible without our team. We have brought onboard 4 new team members this year and continue to hire across most departments. We’re also excited to introduce an intern program with three Skyline high school students, as a part of our new partnership with the Ann Arbor Public Schools, ready to take on all the interesting tasks we have in store for them. Good luck guys!

We’re so thankful for our clients, employees and partners who have been such a great support this year. Here’s to a Happy Thanksgiving and a great holiday season to all.

The post The Human Element 2018 Thankful List appeared first on Human Element.

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Snow is falling for the first time this season here in Michigan, putting (almost) everyone in a cheery holiday spirit. I love snow – and I love the holidays. I know for a lot of people it’s purely anxiety inducing thinking about the weather born traffic, the shopping, the parties; but I’m a planner. Filling the calendar, both at work and at home, with activities brings my Santa-loving little heart enormous joy. And as a digital marketing strategist for a successful eCommerce agency, I know first-hand how packed the calendar will be starting now, right through January.

Want to know my secret? How our team manages to execute holiday marketing strategies while still finding the headspace to twirl in the winter wonderland? I’ll tell you: we reach down deep into our big bag of tricks and pull them all out one by one, carefully placing each into the task that needs it. This wealth of tactics comes from experience. We all have made mistakes, and if we’re smart, we learn from them. We take those mistakes and turn them into lessons; into knowledge to use for future endeavors.

Over the years, we have published a number of blogs that discuss how to avoid common mistakes that are made when executing marketing campaigns, promo codes, etc. Anything and everything that you’re likely planning for the 2018 holiday season. On a side note, if you own an eCommerce shop and you don’t have a holiday marketing strategy in the works… call us, because I’m worried about you. For now, let’s review some of our top posts that could save your season.

Three Keys For Planning Your Holiday Marketing by Cole Bednarski

This article takes a close look at what trends are most likely to get your brand seen; strategies that you should employ for the holiday season and the internal data you should review to justify how. We took a deep dive into the analytics of our biggest success stories and came up with a few key recommendations for you as you start to execute your 2018 holiday marketing plan.

How Can I Improve My Site Speed? by John Tucker

Your eCommerce website’s load time is a major contributor to your poor quality score. In the world of two-day guaranteed shipping and one-hour in-store pickup, the slow and steady does not win the race. Google recognizes the importance of this factor in user experience, and will negatively impact the amount of traffic your webstore will get through the holidays and beyond if you don’t keep page load times down. In this post, we learn how to improve site speed and keep ahead in the world of online shopping.

What Are Gen Z Shoppers Looking For by Judy Foster

There will be 2.56 million Gen Z shoppers by 2020. Does your online store speak Gen Z? To keep up with these shoppers we must learn to reach them on the platforms where they spend their lives. Social media, mobile – how this generation shops, may not be how your eCommerce store is selling. In this blog, we learn the what and how to speak the Gen Z language to sell more online, and in your brick and mortar store.

The High Cost of Promo Code Mistakes & How To Avoid Them by Erik Dotzauer

Banana Republic lit up the internet when they released a promo code earlier this year intended to offer customers $50 off a purchase over $150. However, due to what we can only assume to be a mistake in setting up the promo code, it actually allowed customers to checkout with $50 worth of merchandise for less than $1.

Digital Marketing Strategy: Reach Beyond Your Direct Market by John Tucker

No matter how successful your past holiday campaigns may be, there is always room for improvement and growth into new markets and audiences. In this post, we look at some simple strategies used at Human Element that you can put into play now, and expand on later, to increase traffic and conversions for the holidays and throughout the year.

The post Learn From The Ghosts of Holiday Marketing Past appeared first on Human Element.

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In mid-October, Human Element launched a new Magento Commerce Cloud website for Bowers & Wilkins, a migration for the brand from a custom eCommerce platform to a headless Magento 2 website – seamlessly integrated with Drupal, and a number of third party systems.

Our goal at Human Element, was to create a unique customer experience between Magento and other systems by utilizing the Magento API to send data, such as products, orders and customer information, between systems.

The storied British audio brand had done their homework, and knew that the move from their custom platform to Magento 2.2.4 Enterprise Edition would best fit the needs of their customers. And the agile, progressive team of strategists at Human Element were able to fit the solutions role with ease. The start of the project was to get the US eCommerce store ready for launch, with more countries to follow.

Previously on a custom eCommerce platform, the migration to Drupal and Magento Commerce Cloud was made possible by the close collaboration between Human Element and Bowers & Wilkins teams in the UK, India and California, as well as Drupal developer SMAL in Germany. Using Agile methodologies and strong communication, the teams overcame challenges in time zone, language, and deployments, completing the project in under four months in order to meet critical project deadlines.

Human Element handled integrations with Salesforce, SAP, and the Cybersource payment gateway – making the completed project and launch, a great success.

“The best part was that this was a true partnership and collaborative effort,” said Quan Nguyen, Bowers & Wilkins Global Director of Web Operations. “We understood there would be challenges, but we all worked together to solve issues as they arose. Human Element went above and beyond expectations, thought outside the box, and fixed issues that weren’t ‘their’ problem. They were truly an extension of our internal team.”

The Human Element team has already had a lot of great conversations with Bowers &Wilkins about the future and how to take this site to the next level with immersive and customer-focused experiences. While these conversations are happening, we are focusing on creating more efficiencies in the site based on feedback from customers and admin users, as well as adding some features that really encapsulate the lifestyle experience that is Bowers & Wilkins.

The post Human Element Launches Headless Magento Website for Bowers & Wilkins appeared first on Human Element.

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Planning a successful sprint requires more steps to complete than you’d initially expect, especially if you are not familiar with Agile methodologies and processes. At Human Element, we have implemented somewhat of an Agile-Waterfall (Agilefall) methodology to complete tasks for our maintenance and Implementation (or “New Build”) clients. We work in one week sprints that go from Tuesday to the following Tuesday. On Monday afternoons, the Project Managers meet first at a team level and then at a company-wide level to ensure that each team has enough work for the sprint and if not, work to fill any gaps.

Regardless of whether you’re working in a true Agile environment or a slightly modified one, there are a few key things that you can do before going into a Sprint Planning meeting that can set your development team up for success.

Review the roadmap/scheduled work for the sprint:

Project Managers should have an idea of what work is already in the development pipeline as well as a high level idea of what work looks like for the remainder of the month. Depending on how work is obtained, this may vary slightly in your organization.

Meet with involved parties in advance and review the backlog:

When managing work in software development, it is crucial to meet with the people that will be completing the work on your team. The backlog review should be completed before Sprint Planning to identify any pitfalls that developers may encounter when working on tasks.

Hold the Sprint Planning Meeting:

The Sprint Planning meeting can make or break a Sprint. A notetaker should be identified as well as a time keeper, to ensure the meeting stays on track and does not exceed the defined time period. Any questions that were not resolved in the backlog review meeting should be addressed in Sprint Planning and ideally resolved before the meeting’s end.

Track your Sprint Velocity:

Sprint Velocity is one of the metrics that we try to track on a weekly basis and is typically the total number of Story points calculated for each completed task in the Sprint. Since we do not use Story Points and instead provide hours estimates, we currently track number of tasks in the Sprint and keep detailed notes on which were considered Epics or were known in advance to span multiple weeks.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

In almost all software development models, communication is imperative to ensure the completion of a project. The ticket lifecycle should proceed smoothly throughout its lifecycle with little to no Project Management or Account Management intervention. If there are snags, it is up to whomever is working on the task to let their Project Manager and/or Technical Lead know as soon as possible so the task can be unblocked.

The post How to Plan a Successful Sprint appeared first on Human Element.

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We are at a moment of change within the world of design and software development where many of us are confused about how to build things better. We throw around the terms agile, waterfall, lean and design thinking but what does it all mean when all we want to do is work together to build stuff that matters? And that’s what counts, right? We want to build things that make sense and add value to someone’s life.

That is where design thinking comes in to play, and works well with the iterative approaches of an agile business. Creating digital products and services is a pursuit that requires collaboration across many disciplines – architects and thinkers from the technology, design and business sides.

This lifecycle diagram shows the relationship and association of the three mindsets around design thinking, lean thinking and agile.

So, what is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is the mindset of exploring complex problems or finding opportunities. It is a search for meaning; the “why” – focusing most often on human needs and experiences. It explores and questions “what if” and imagines “what could be” with innovative solutions.

And as you can see from the diagram, agile and lean design work alongside design thinking – it is not an “or” but more affectively an “and.”

There are many variations of this design thinking visualization, and it helps us understand what it is but it does not get us any closer to actually doing things differently. This is not a new process or procedure; it’s a way of thinking… a mindset shift!

It is a thing that we do and not just a final outcome…it’s not the pretty picture at the end of the project!

Design thinking is about design as a verb. Donald Norman, who many consider a groundbreaking leader in user experience said, “Designers don’t search for a solution until they have determined the real problem, and even then, instead of solving that problem, they stop to consider a wide range of potential solutions. Only then will they converge upon their proposal. This process is called Design Thinking”.

So, if we break that down – we should define the problem, search for a solution, consider options and produce a proposal or solution.

How do we bring Design Thinking into what we do? Start at the beginning

Involve design thinkers at the very start of the innovation process, before any direction has been set. Design thinking will help you explore more ideas quickly than you could have otherwise.

Put humans at the center of the solution

Along with business and technology considerations, innovation should factor in human behavior, needs, and preferences. Human-centered design thinking – especially when it includes research based on direct observation – will capture unexpected insights and produce innovation that more precisely reflects what consumers want.

Test early and often

Create an expectation of rapid experimentation and prototyping. Measure progress with a metric such as average time to first prototype or number of consumers exposed to prototypes during the life of a program.

Seek outside help…from the real people!

Look for opportunities to ideate with customers and clients. Gathering their additional level of perspective will quickly help to rule out issues.

Design Thinking can feel chaotic to those experiencing it for the first time. But over the life of a project participants come to see that the process makes sense and achieves results. Incorporating this into your overall company mindset, along with the ability to build with a lean approach and in an agile fashion, is worth exploring…and iterating as you go!

The post Design Thinking – What’s The Big Deal? appeared first on Human Element.

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Navigating the Magento 2 admin is a pretty intuitive experience once you’re familiar with the basic, high-level structure and functions. Getting to that level of comfort though, can be a challenge. Whether you were an M1 pro that migrated to M2, or a total Magento novice, approaching the task of simple admin management can feel a bit daunting.

But it’s a skill worth acquiring if you own, or manage, an M2 webstore. For most of us, this means having the know-how to edit and maintain. And the ability to accurately edit existing content without blowing it up, more often than not, comes from being able to successfully create it. So while you likely will never be responsible for manually creating hundreds of products within the Magento admin, I can guarantee that you, at some point, will need to know how to create a configurable product.

What Is A Configurable Product?

In Magento there are at least three types of products: simple, configurable, and bundled. A configurable product appears as a single product with lists of options for each variation. However, each option represents a separate, simple product with a distinct SKU, which makes it possible to track inventory for each variation. Let me give you an example:

One of my favorite stores, like most 30-year-old women, is Target. I know it makes me a Millennial Mom stereotype and I do not care. It’s a magical place. Fight me.

Let’s say that in achieving the spirit of fall I decide that my house needs a few extra throws. A fuzzy blanket, homemade apple crisp and a cup of very, very strong coffee are the basics of the season at my house. And because I spend my day writing blogs like this one, I am going to have to buy that blanket online. We’ll skip the narrative of how I got here, but the short of it is that I’ve decided that the 60″x50″ Threshold Knit Blanket is the perfect accent to my pumpkin spice creamer.

You’ll see on the right side of the product page that this particular blanket comes in a variety of colors: orange, gold, blue, and brown. Each of these options is a simple product with a unique SKU associated. But it appears to the user on the front end of the website as one product available in four colors. And THAT is a configurable product!

Let’s Get Started

Before you begin setup of a configurable product, you will want to have created the simple products associated with it. For information on how to create a simple product, check out this handy guide by Director of Project Management, Andrea Evans.  Once you have that step complete, you’re onto building out that configurable product. Woo! Let’s get started:

General Product Setup

This section of our tutorial applies to all types of products – it is not specific to configurable. If you are familiar with the general requirements of product creation and want to skip right to the nitty gritty of configurable products, scroll on down to Configuration Section Setup – Step 1.

Catalog: Log in to the admin. A navigation bar will appear on the left side of the dashboard page. From this navigation, select “catalog.”

Products: From the Catalog category selection, a secondary navigation will appear. Select the subcategory “products.”

Add Product: From the Products page, select the orange “add product” dropdown menu in the upper right hand corner. Select “configurable product.”

Enable Product: Verify that the product is enabled to be viewed on the front end of the website. “Enable Product” option is at the top of the product configuration options.

Attribute Sets: Select appropriate attribute set. This is the set of specifications of the product. The default is the recommended selection.

Product Name: Input Name in appropriate field. The first letter of all words in product title should be capitalized. Ex.: “Human Element Test Product.” This field is required.

SKU: Input correct SKU for simple product(s). This field is required.

Price: Input correct price for product.

Tax Class: Specify if item is or is not a taxable good.

Quantity: Input quantity of item.

Stock Status: Specify if item is in or out of stock. Item will still appear on front end of website even if “out of stock” is specified. To make product visible only from the admin, it must be disabled. See step 4.

Weight: Input weight of item. In second window, specify that “this item has weight.” If “this items has no weight” is selected, the platform will assume that it is digital/downloadable rather than a tangible item.

Categories: Select appropriate product category from dropdown menu.

Visibility: Specify that the product is visible from the “catalog” and “search” options. Simple products should be visible individually.

Set As New Product: Specify dates that product should be set as new on the front end of the website. If the product should not be specified as new, leave calendar dates blank.

Country of Manufacture: Specify country of manufacture.

Order Threshold Quantity: Input the product quantity that customers are able to order to. This option is used to alert the user that there are limited products available for purchase.

Out of Stock Date: Specify the beginning date that the product should appear as out of stock on the front end of the website. Item will still appear on front end of the website even if “out of stock” is specified. To make product visible only from the admin, it must be disabled. See step 4.

Content Section Setup

Short Description: This section of copy appears to the right of the product image. The short description should include the important details that are most relevant to a user’s need for the product. The short description appears above the long description for SEO purposes

Description: This section of copy appears at the bottom of the product page in the “details” section. This is the long description of the product and should include additional copy to accompany the short product description.

Configuration Section Setup – Step 1

Select the “create configurations” button on the right side of the section menu. This will open a new window. The window will not open until the product name, SKU, and price are specified. The image provided as an example (below) is from an existing demo product for Human Element internal training – a new configurable product will not have the listed configurations as seen in the provided image.

Select Attributes: A list of defined attributes is available to select from, or you can create a new attribute.

To create a new attribute: Select the “create a new attribute” button in the upper right corner of the window.

Configuration Section Setup – Step 2

Attribute Values: Select values from each attribute to include in this product. Each unique combination of values creates a unique product SKU.

Configuration Section Setup – Step 3

Bulk Images, Price, and Quantity: Based on your selection of attributes, new products will be created. In this section, you are able to specify specific images, prices and quantities associated with each attribute OR skip these sections and input this information later. If you choose to upload associated images, make sure they are of the custom image size selected for product pages.

  • The quantity must be specified in the attribute section for the item to appear on the product page.
  • You must specify “in stock” within the attribute section for the item to appear on the product page.
Configuration Section Setup – Step 4

Summary: Review the attributes and select “generate products.” Product Review Section: In this section you can delete, “approve,” or “not approve” a review submitted by a user on the product page.

  • To approve or not approve: Select the drop down arrow in the “status” field and make desired selection.
  • To delete: Select “delete” from the top right corner between “back” and “reset.”
  • Please note that editing of a review moves you from the catalog section of the admin to the marketing section.

Images and Videos Section Setup: Upload the accompanying image(s)/video to the product. Note that this is the image of the product, not the associated attributes.

Search Engine Optimization Section Setup:

URL Key: The unique URL key of a product is the end of the product page URL. The URL key should be 3-4 words that identifies concisely the product. This field will auto fill from the product name but can be changed in the SEO section if necessary.

Meta Title: The meta title of a product is the title that appears when the product page is found on a SERP. This content should clearly and concisely define the product. Ex.: “Human Element Natural Duck Food | 40 lb Bag”

Meta Keywords: The meta keywords of a product page are the targeted keywords associated with the page. These are not required and may be added as a best practice, but search engines no longer consider these as a ranking factor.

Meta Description: The meta description of a product page is the text that appears beneath the Meta Title in a SERP. The meta title should be unique content (not a duplicate of on page content) and should include a brief description of the product and a maximum of 320 characters.

Related Products, Up-Sells, and Cross-Sells

In this section you can specify products that have already been created to associate with the product you are creating.

Related Products: Related products are shown to customers in addition to the item the customer is looking at. To add related products, select “Add Related Products” and select via checkbox on the left side of the window.

Up-Sell Products: An up-sell item is offered to the customer as a pricier or higher-quality alternative to the product the customer is looking at. To add up-sell products, select “Add Up-Sell products” and select via checkbox on the left side of the window.

Cross-Sell Products: These “impulse-buy” products appear next to the shopping cart as cross-sells to the items already in the shopping cart. To add cross-sell products, select “Add Cross-Sell products” and select via checkbox on the left side of the window.

The post Magento 2 101: How To Create A Configurable Product appeared first on Human Element.

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