The benefits Google’s BERT update could bring for your ecommerce store’s product pages

Piranha Designs - Thursday, October 31, 2019

It may be easy to become overwhelmed by the abundance of acronyms in the world of SEO (‘SEO’ itself being just one of them), but that doesn’t mean Google’s recently released BERT algorithm should be ignored.

Indeed, this particular open-source update – its letters standing for the rather catchy Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers – could be a particularly significant one for your ecommerce site’s product pages, given its focus on better understanding the intent of search queries.

So, what does BERT actually do?

Reading the above, you may wonder whether BERT is the replacement for RankBrain, which was Google’s 2015 effort to understand searcher intent. As it happens, it isn’t a replacement, with the two instead working simultaneously to decode what a user means when they perform a particular search, and giving them more relevant results accordingly.

While it isn’t the only thing that BERT does, a particular strength of the update compared to previous ones is the more sophisticated way it evaluates prepositions like “to” and “with”.

Among the examples Google provided of how BERT makes a difference was the query “2019 brazil traveller to usa needs visa”.

As human readers, we can easily understand that the person performing this search was probably someone from Brazil enquiring about how to obtain a visa to the United States. However, search results pre-BERT would also provide pages for US citizens interested in travelling to Brazil, which would obviously not meet the requirements of this specific searcher.

What should all of this mean for your ecommerce site?

Such an improved understanding of prepositions could have real positive implications for an ecommerce store wishing to attract more targeted traffic through long-tail queries.

After all, users looking for particular products online often include many specific details in their queries. Searches that use lots of such details and prepositions – for example, “red record player with speakers” or “basswood window shutters with green finish” – are likely to yield a higher proportion of truly relevant results now that BERT has arrived.

Now is the time, then, to consider how you can adjust your ecommerce site’s SEO to make the most of BERT. This should be the case across not only the product detail pages themselves, but also the filtered product grids that arise on your site due to the wealth of product attributes, such as colour, size and material, that you allow shoppers to toggle between when searching.

By citing a greater number of more specific attributes on your product pages and elsewhere around your site, you can help to put your ecommerce store in a strong position to tap into the power of BERT as you look to the busy festive shopping season and beyond.

In fact, why not have a more detailed discussion about this and other aspects of your site’s SEO with our search marketing professionals here at Piranha Designs today? It’s easy to contact us via our Gibraltar, London or Edinburgh offices, and it could help to make a big difference to the effectiveness of your brand’s online presence in the months and years ahead.

How to retain more of those festive-season customers once Christmas is over

Piranha Designs - Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Of all of the seasons that could be declared a ‘time of plenty’ for e-tailers, the last few months of the calendar year are surely the most obvious candidate. It’s a time when customers are rushing to purchase goods from online stores that they may barely have any contact with at any other time of the year – so all will be well for your own ecommerce site, right?

Well, not necessarily. That’s because even if you do receive a great boost in your customer numbers over the festive period, if those shoppers then disappear for the rest of the year, you might be failing to capitalise on the opportunities the winter months present to keep hold of more of them.

Just look at the statistics

Various studies down the years have, after all, pointed to just modest improvements in customer retention potentially translating into significant increases in profit. One famous study from Bain & Company and Harvard Business School in 2000, for instance, found that upping customer retention by 5% could lead to profits going up by as much as 95%.

So, what steps could you take right now to bolster your own ecommerce store’s chances of keeping more of its festive-season customers coming back in January, February and beyond?

  • Actually measure your customer retention. Even if you do a great job of retaining a decent proportion of your festive-season shoppers long after their Christmas trees have been taken down, will you have any idea what things you did actually helped to bring about that increase? That’s why it’s well worth tracking your customer retention rate over time to identify trends – not just over the next few months, but for many more years to come.
  • Bring in a loyalty scheme. Even if you’re only just reading this in October, it’s not too late to introduce a loyalty programme that your Christmas shoppers will appreciate. Nor are these schemes just about giving your customers an added incentive to keep spending with you right through the year, as they can also serve as a useful means of capturing customer information and permission for marketing communications.
  • Send a personal note and offer. Presumably, if you’re reading this, you’re not a large and impersonal multinational – so why not make a virtue out of the fact that you’re a small business? Including a personal handwritten ‘thank you’ note in the package you send to each new customer will give another positive and heart-warming thing for the shopper to remember you by. That can be especially so if you throw in a discount voucher or the offer of free delivery for any future purchases they make from you.
  • Make the most of ecommerce subscriptions. Ecommerce subscriptions – otherwise known as ‘subscription boxes’ – can be great for boosting customer retention anyway, simply because they represent longer-term commitments from the customer than one-off purchases. But their suitability as Christmas gifts arguably further boosts their potential value and importance to your ecommerce store when you’re trying to capture more customers for the long run during the winter season.


It’s the little touches as much as the big ones that could particularly influence your store’s ability to keep hold of more of its customers for the months and years ahead. So, why not talk in more detail to the Piranha Designs team about what those touches could be?

Browse our range of website design and online marketing services today to get a sense of how we could transform your brand’s ecommerce effectiveness well into the 2020s, before calling or emailing us now at our Gibraltar, London or Edinburgh offices.

Is it finally time for your ecommerce business to start taking voice search seriously?

Piranha Designs - Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Whether you personally consider smart assistant devices such as Amazon Echo or Google Home to be the future of online communication or a mere gimmick, the mere fact that more and more of us are becoming owners of them should cause ecommerce store owners to sit up and take notice.

Indeed, it was reported just earlier this year that almost a quarter (22%) of UK households now had a voice-controlled digital home assistant device like those we mentioned above.

This is quite the jump on the 11% figure recorded in 2017 – and with 41% of households having indicated that they plan to own such a device in the next five years, the actual ownership percentage at present may already be a lot higher.

No less crucial, however, is how we are using these devices

As recently as August, it was reported that almost 60% of smart speaker owners in the UK had used their device to shop in the last month. However, nearly half – 45% – felt that they weren’t really getting the most out of their devices, which indicates just how much of a burgeoning opportunity voice ecommerce might well be for many online retailers.

Moreover, Google has predicted that half of all searches will be initiated by voice by next year. So, is now the time to start re-jigging your own ecommerce portal for the emerging era of voice-activated shopping, or is the hype around it still outpacing the reality?

There are very real complexities to shopping by voice

Unfortunately, if there’s any reason for you to not invest a huge amount of time and money into readying your site for voice-initiated shopping just yet, it’s the sheer awkwardness and difficulty of trying to search for and purchase products using voice alone, at least for now.

For one thing, even with simple goods such as T-shirts, there are just so many attributes and variables for shoppers to compare and choose from – think the likes of size, colour, style, fabric, price, brand and so on.

And, while artificial intelligence (AI) is certainly continuing to improve, it’s still got some way to go until shoppers can be assured of a concise and easy path for sorting through the various choices before them as far as product specifications are concerned.

Nonetheless, voice-based shopping is a field to keep an eye on

Even if the AI in today’s voice assistants isn’t quite up to the task just yet of conducting the sophisticated conversations that many customers will expect if they are to start making serious use of this method of online shopping, the seeds of such development have certainly been planted.

As a consequence, voice shopping is creeping up and up on many ecommerce store owners’ priority lists – and it should be doing the same on yours.

As for what you can do right now to boost the relevance and usefulness of your e-tail portal for the current preferences and needs of your customers and those that they are likely to have in 2020 and beyond, get in touch with the Piranha Designs team today for a more in-depth conversation.

You’re welcome to contact us at our Gibraltar, London or Edinburgh offices, and when you do, we’ll be pleased to advise you on the best steps to take with your ecommerce website design to achieve the results that you want.

The ‘unusual’ product images that will do the most to boost sales

Piranha Designs - Thursday, October 03, 2019

The visual element of the online shopping experience undoubtedly makes an immense difference to customers’ ultimate buying decisions. This is especially so given that the customer is unable to physically touch and examine an item prior to purchase.

It is precisely this that may have led you to include product images on your ecommerce site that showcase your items from various angles, as well as in close-up to draw attention to more specific features.

It is, though, possible – and potentially fruitful – to go even further with the ‘non-standard’ images that you supply for your online product pages. Here are a few examples of what we mean.

Context of use

A context-of-use image is one that shows how the product is to be used. Of course, there’s the obvious purpose of the product that may seem self-evident, but also alternative uses you could highlight in your product images to inspire the imaginations of prospective buyers.

You may find out about potential alternative uses of the product through your own experience, or even as a result of your customers simply telling you.

Size and proportion

Even when specific figures are given for a product’s size, it can be very easy for shoppers to become confused. That’s why you might decide to make it even easier for the customer to decide whether to purchase, by making the item’s size and dimensions even clearer through the images you use.

Including other elements in the photo for straightforward comparative purposes is one step that you might take. If the product in question is very small, for example, you might show it alongside a coin or in someone’s hand. A medium-sized product, meanwhile, could be shown with a person or animal, while a particularly large item may be best depicted next to a vehicle or building.

Consider, too, the items that could be shown inside the product – money and credit cards, for example, in the case of a purse or wallet.

User-generated images

When you look to purchase a given product online and land on a product page, there’s a good chance that one of the first things you do is look for the elements of content that actual customers have provided in relation to the product. Those include not only customer reviews, but also any images that customers may have contributed.

So, why not tap into customer images to help your store to drive sales? After all, such images constitute ‘social proof’ – demonstrating that others have bought and used the product – and provide a realistic view of the product, thereby helping to keep returns down.

Asking your customers to submit their own images of the given product – while perhaps offering enticements like reward points or store credit – could therefore prove more than worthwhile to your efforts to present your ecommerce site’s offerings in more dynamic and engaging ways.

Would you like to talk through your requirements for your next ecommerce website design with professionals who have ‘been there and done it’ and possess the most up-to-date specialist knowledge and skills? If so, it couldn’t be more straightforward to get in touch with the Piranha Designs team.


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