Ecommerce Templates > Newsletter > May 2009

Ecommerce Templates Newsletter May 2009

Welcome to the May 2009 Ecommerce Templates newsletter

Welcome to the May newsletter where we highlight probably the most important aspect of online selling - converting visitors to buyers. We hope we will provoke some discussion through the points we raise and have set up a dedicated thread on the forums to follow up on.

Our top tip this month is a neat way to add dynamic product content to your home page, keeping your site fresh and targeting specific products in the process.

Converting visitors to buyers

We have spoken in previous newsletters about getting visitors to your store. The challenge is then to convert those visitors into buying, and hopefully, returning customers.

How can we measure conversions? The calculation is quite simple if you have access to a stats program like Google Analytics. Take the number of unique visitors to your site in the last 30 days, divide that by the number of successful transactions and you have a conversion rate. So let's say you had 5000 visitors and 50 sales, that means your conversion rate is 1%. It's not really possible to say what a "good" conversion rate might be as there are so many variables involved but the interesting statistic is how the conversion rate changes over time, which of your advertising efforts are converting best and what you can do to improve conversions. Once you have started tracking the rates, you should be able to roughly work out what effect changes on your store have had on sales.

We have compiled a list of ten questions that address important conversion factors. Read through them below and see if they apply to your store. If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised, we have set up a dedicated thread.

  • Are you forcing customers to set up an account before buying?
  • Do customers need to go through checkout to find out which countries you ship to and what payment methods are accepted?
  • Are your buy and checkout buttons big, bright and bold enough?
  • Are you showing the shipping estimate in the cart?
  • Are you using upselling techniques?
  • Do you clearly show your telephone / toll free number on each and every page?
  • Do you know what terms people are searching on and are results being returned?
  • Do you have a clear and friendly returns policy?
  • Do you encourage feedback from your customers?
  • Have you physically watched how a user interacts with your site and checkout?

Design Tip - Add recommended products to your home page

This idea comes from our main demo store where you can see the Specials section on the right hand side of the page. The set up is really simple and you can choose which products are displayed through the product admin page of the control panel. Here's how we set up the example there.

First of all you'll need the following line in vsadmin/includes.asp crosssellaction="recommended" or in vsadmin/includes.php $crosssellaction="recommended";

Next select the product or products you'd like to appear on the home page by checking the box in the product admin page labeled "Recommended".

Now you need to add a line of code where you want the display to appear. For the ASP version that would be <!--#include file="vsadmin/inc/inccrosssell.asp"--> and for the PHP version <?php include "vsadmin/inc/inccrosssell.php" ?> You will need to make sure that the four ASP include lines

<!--#include file="vsadmin/db_conn_open.asp"-->
<!--#include file="vsadmin/inc/languagefile.asp"-->
<!--#include file="vsadmin/includes.asp"-->
<!--#include file="vsadmin/inc/incfunctions.asp"-->

Or PHP include lines

<?php include "vsadmin/db_conn_open.php" ?>
<?php include "vsadmin/inc/languagefile.php" ?>
<?php include "vsadmin/includes.php" ?>
<?php include "vsadmin/inc/incfunctions.php" ?>

Come somewhere in the code before the cross selling line and that they are not duplicated on the page.

The last thing we need to do is to add some style and formatting. In the example here we want a display of 2 products in one column with no horizontal line between them so will add the following for the ASP version

prodseparator=" "

Just before

<!--#include file="vsadmin/inc/inccrosssell.asp"-->

For the PHP version that would be

$prodseparator=" ";

Just before

<?php include "vsadmin/inc/inccrosssell.php" ?>

You may want a slightly different style for the product display here to the one in the main products page so we need to add the following to vsadmin/includes.asp csstyleprefix="cs" or to vsadmin/includes.php $csstyleprefix="cs"; This means that any class specific to the cross sell layout won't affect the main product page. To get the box effect we have on, add the following to your css file

td.csproduct {
border: 1px dotted #3B4754;
background-color: #FFF;
text-align: left;

You can be as creative as you like and add more classes if you need to.

Updater proof language files

Updaters is the system we use to provide new features, fixes and security patches. As you probably know the updater overwrites the files in your vsadmin and inc folders with the exception of db_conn_open.asp / .php and includes.asp / .php. This means that any changes you have made to the languagefile will be lost in the update. To make things simpler, all new entries are always added to the top of that page from updater to updater but you can also make the language file updater proof by simply adding those changes you have made to the file includes.asp or includes.php. As an example you may have changed xxState="State (US)" to xxState="County (UK)" so add that line now to vsadmin/includes.asp and it won't be touched by an updater.

You will need to check the includes lines in the cart pages (products.asp/php cart.asp/php and so on) to make sure the vsadmin/languagefile.asp/php include line comes before the vsadmin/includes.asp/php include.

Now with that change made you can relax and run the updater without worrying about which language entries may have been lost in the process.

Updaters are available from and if you are outside the 6 month update / support period they can be purchased from at $39.95 for 6 months or $59.95 for 12 months' extended support and updates. The current update version is 5.7.4 and you can check which version your store us running by logging onto your control panel and checking the top of the admin home page.

If you have any questions about this feature or anything else we have covered in the newsletter, please feel free to post your comments on the support forum.