Thursday, March 26, 2009
There's been a lot of hype, and even more anti-hype, the last couple of days about the recent release of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 (IE8). Along with the usual Microsoft bashing, there have been articles stating that IE8 won't save Microsoft's dwindling market share.
So lets recap the situation and revisit exactly why IE will continue to remain the majority choice out there for many years to come.
Firstly let's look at the numbers. Yes IE's market share has slipped over the last few years, mainly due to Firefox. Chrome and Opera get about a percentage point each, and certainly have their fans, but no serious competition. However, and this is important, IE's share hasn't slipped enough to make any difference in the past few years.
The reason's simple, good old IE6. Now in modern terms IE6 is a pretty poor browser. No tabs, insufficient security, poor CSS standards compliance. Let's look again at the numbers. The fact is that about the same number of people use IE6 (24%) as use FireFox 3 (26%).
This a a truly startling number, and even though numbers about Microsoft's browser share slipping to Firefox over the last few years have been loudly publicized, this has not. What is says is that at least one in four people simply do not care about having a modern browser, they don't see the need for tabs, add-ins and all the bells and whistles. All this despite Firefox being promoted on Google's own homepage, full page ads in the New York Times and a huge groundswell of support. The fact is that after several years of Firefox leading IE in technology the same number stuck with IE6 as have bothered to move to Firefox.
IEs launch was quiet, it wasn't announced loudly, and nothing was leaked to the press before hand. Understatement was the word of the day, for what is a major update to one of the world's most used software applications. So why is that?
Vince Vizzaccaro of Net Applications quote that was reblogged all over the place simply does not apply to IE8. He said "If I were Microsoft, I would do something more on the Mozilla model. I'd be a lot more optimistic [about IE8's chances] if there was a large public announcement that it was available."
Microsoft know something that Vince has failed to realize. They've already won. They didn't need a big hoopla of a huge launch. The guys who switched to Firefox are very unlikely to ever switch back to IE, that would be like vegan's ordering up a pastrami sandwich, it's just not going to happen. A big launch would gain IE nothing, as they will slowly convert the user base through Windows Update and installations on new PCs. They're also stemming the tide of new defectors to Firefox as the browser gap narrows. There just isn't that much difference in browsers anymore, certainly when it comes to rendering HTML.
As software developers there are lessons here. Microsoft, after some mistakes in the past have come up with a solid and confident approach to slowly and systematically remain at the top. They've learnt the lessons of big promises that have left egg on their face in the past, and have come up with a solid applicaiton that's clearly an improvement and gives users features that they actually want.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
The usual process goes something like this:
1. Choose the Software Product
2. Ask about Updates, CD, Download Service, Cross-sell items
3. Enter Personal Info
4. Enter Payment Option
5. Enter Shipping Details
That's seven steps which can all throw errors and throw the customer out.
So what's to be done about it? The knee-jerk approach of in-page or new window popups on abandonment simply don't work and just infuriate customers. What's needed is a little finesse and an eye to the future.
Streamlining the Process
I was talking to @algirhythm who advised me that streamlining pages for user's eyes can have a vast improvement on the readability of pages, and can retain customers through the registration process.
So a quick quiz, which form do you think is the easiest for a customer to fill in, this:
The answer might surprise you, but based on eyeball tracking test software the second form is significantly easier. This is because the user just has to scan straight down, instead of left and right. Combine this with the user having to move the mouse, type, look away and find their credit card and you can see how this is true. This simple technique can help retain customers.
Applying the 'simple is beautiful' mantra throughout the registration process it also makes sense for 'OK' buttons to be big and clickable, and 'Cancel' buttons to be simple text links.
In the first screenshot the 'Cancel' button is equally as important as the 'Post' button, but in the second it's obvious where to click. The user does not have to think and less mistakes will be made. Again apply this thinking and it will subtly reinforce the 'correct' behavior that you want your customers to do during the checkout process, and hopefully you'll get more sales.
I've always had a loathing for the pointless 'Reset' button that's sadly still used on some forms:
This is even worse than having a 'Cancel' button as when it's clicked the user cannot use the browser's 'back' button to get their information back. I've never seen a place where it should be used and I'd lobby to have it permanently dropped from the HTML spec!
In the future "Social networks will be like air", or so says @charleneli at her recent SXSW presentation. We'll we may be a few years off from having Google powering our sock draw, and Microsoft lightbulbs, but we are starting to get some tools that can help the death-march of registration screens and customer loss.
The web as it exists today is powered by 'registrations', and slowly we are starting to move to an 'identity' model. With services such as Facebook Connect the whole process of registration is side-stepped. Users don't have to fill out the long signup form, they just have to use their existing "Identity".
Of course this all relies on trust, so it remains to be seen if collectively we will trust services like this when integrated into e-commerce systems. Over the next few weeks and months we may find that we're re-writing our shopping cart systems to use technology such as this, hopefully with at least one less hoop for the customer to jump through.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
I was reading a popular industry newsgroup and was surprised to see someone post that they were extremely proud that they had over 100 unanswered Facebook invitations in their inbox. Now I know that social networks have their down points, they can be seen to suck up time and reconnect you with people that you really don't want to remember, but for software marketing they're an important piece of the puzzle.
Whether it's just you're friends that you're connected to, or business partners, using the status update feature of pretty much all social networking site is an easy, quick and effective way to get your message out.
You might be thinking that this does very little, however I've picked up contracts, and made business connections just through regularly updating my status.
I recently attended Mashable's NextUp NYC mixer event, which had a number of New York bloggers speak. One of the speakers, a hip writer for Gawker called blogging "old media". I don't think it was meant in total seriousness, but it is true that the blogging landscape is changing.
Micro-blogging is really the same thing as updating your status, and it's catching on like wildfire. Sites such as Twitter, which is micro-blogging for text, and Tumblr, micro-blogging for images are seeing the same rise in popularity.
We recently set up a Twitter account for Bits Du Jour. What we did was take our existing RSS feed and automatically route it through to update Twitter using TwitterFeed. We've been getting about one signup a day, not bad at all as it requires zero maintenance work on our part.
If you're already blogging then just by setting up Twitterfeed with your blog's RSS feed you'll be reaching more eyeballs.
The single most valuable social network site out there, other than of course SoftwareMarketingResource, is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is all about business connections, and after working in the New York web development world for nine years it's amazing how interconnected it all is. LinkedIn lets you contact people that are up two three degrees of separation away from you. These days it's rare that any of my new contacts are a 'three', they are almost always a 'two'; that is, a friend of a friend. You won't find customers on LinkedIn, but you can build partnerships.
With the release of Ning many more niche networks are starting up. As with all marketing half the battle is finding your audience. With a little digging you can find networks of people interested in software, or whatever niche your applications sit in. Whether it's a Facebook group or another kind of specialist group there are often free tools that will let you blog to your group or post messages so you're speaking direct to your target audience.
So even if you want to dismiss social networks as kid's stuff, or want to run screaming at the sound of the name, social networks might be worth at least a little investment in your time.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
The SMR Resources section contains hundreds of links to websites that should be an integral part of your software marketing efforts. We've categorized them by page and category to make things easy, so lets have a look at the most useful ones.
By far the biggest list is the Software Sites list. Here's why you can submit your software to a huge list of download sites and get featured on a wide variety of popular download websites. Many of these websites are marked as "PAD Enabled", meaning that you can submit your software using a PAD file, which is an XML file that describes everything about your software. If you need to create a PAD file, or want to learn more then check out PAD Gen, a free application that will help do this.
Second stop on your list should be the Press Releases listing. This list has a wealth of sites that allow you to submit your press release and have it distributed all through the web. Some of these services are free, some are not, but even the free ones will help get your name out there.
Marketing is all about getting to the users, and something that's often overlooked in doing this is User Groups. Our listing has links to groups that may want to give out free copies of your software and spread the word about new releases and great tools. The old adage of "Think global, act local" can apply to software too.
If you're looking for Distributors then we have a listing for that too, so if you're looking to get your software on the shelves then that's a perfect place to start.
There's many more pages to our Resources section, but these are probably the best palces to start, especially for new developers.
When you click on a resource link you'll see a top navigation bar pop up, looking something like this (click for a bigger image):
The nav-bar has has three dropdowns, allowing you to easily navigate through the resources. So, for example, if you're submitting to Software Sites you can click through each one without ever having to return to the main page, which we hope will really speed up the process.
In the nav-bar you'll also see a star rating for each resource. Once you're logged in you can rate each resource, giving it as many stars as you see fit. Your rating is shown in green, and the community's rating is shown in blue, so that way you can see exactly what's good and what's not according to you and your peers.
Submit a Resource
The Resources section is also open for your submissions, so you can easily add in a URL of any site that's appropriate or that isn't on the list. Be sure to select the correct page and category otherwise it won't pass our moderation.
We're going to be adding new features to the resources section over the next few weeks and months, the next feature should be comments, but if you can think of anything else please let us know in the Site Suggestions section of our forum.
Monday, March 9, 2009
An unfortunate consequence of most downturns is a rise in crime. The majority of people won't steal under any circumstance but the numbers of those who do grow and the frequency of their crimes increases in response to hard times. In an October story, Reuters reported that, "most of the criminologists, sociologists and police chiefs interviewed by Reuters forecast a rise in crimes in certain categories. opportunistic crimes like theft."
A FAST (Federation Against Software Theft) survey conducted at the start of the downturn queried company directors and found that 79% believed that businesses would be more likely to try to save costs by not securing appropriate software licenses. When budgets are cut sometimes corners are too.
More recently, in a two-month global poll that just concluded, Aladdin asked technology users and software publishers if they felt the recession would ultimately result in greater instances of software piracy. 73% said they believed software piracy would increase.
Whether you believe the absolute accuracy of Reuters, industry associations, Aladdin or even surveys in general, the damages inflicted by piracy on software vendors becomes much more critical in times of economic crisis.
Software vendors are under attack at their greatest moment of weakness; sales are down because of recession-induced reductions in demand, and they are reduced further because of increases in theft (software piracy).
The result is more job losses and more hard times. For our brethren in the software community, the ones that will be teetering on the edge of survival, software piracy will be what pushes them over the edge and out of business.
Sorry, I don't have the usual funny or witty close for this entry - just a sobering frontline observation about the growing body count from the piracy wars.
About the Author:
John Gunn, General Manager Aladdin USA, brings more than two decades of industry experience in senior marketing and sales management positions for leading tech companies.
I'm Dan Engel, CEO of FastSpring E-Commerce. From time to time, I'm asked about the specific benefits of outsourcing to a full service e-commerce payment solution vs. utilizing a basic payment service like PayPal or setting up your own merchant account. Here are my thoughts...
* Focus on your core business and on growing your revenue rather than investing your company’s time, money, and resources into building and maintaining a commerce platform, a platform that will need to be constantly updated and improved as your business grows and your needs change.
* Eliminate chargeback fees (typically $15-$40 per occurrence) and chargeback management. Let your e-commerce service handle them for you.
* Avoid the order-related customer service work, let your e-commerce provider handle this on your behalf. Some e-commerce firms assign a Dedicated Account Manager to you who provides hands-on help with anything you need which can be quite helpful. Gain access to a support staff trained for software product and software delivery issues as opposed to customer service representatives who are not trained specifically for handling software vendor issues.
* Get support for delivery issues specific to software products incuding delivery of download links, customized emails, generation of registration codes, and other items.
* Avoid tax compliance issues by state or country by having a full service solution handle tax collection, compliance, and payment on your behalf, including management of the European Union's Value-Added Tax (VAT), California and New York state sales taxes, and more.
* Save time and avoid hassle by using an e-commerce service to minimize the volume of fraudulent sales. Software focused e-commerce firms offer fraud prevention tailored to software sales.
* Increase international sales by displaying your order page text in each customer's native language, displaying prices in localized currencies, and settling your transactions in the appropriate currency for each customer.
* Utilize multiple merchant accounts for payment processing. No need to obtain your own merchant account, which typically costs 3.5-4% of every transaction (card processors routinely talk about rates being around 2%, but check your statements and you'll see it's more because of the surcharges applied to your international transactions and higher priced American Express processing costs, fees for items such as chargebacks, etc.) Many full service e-commerce firms utilize multiple merchant accounts for backup security and the merchant account cost is included in the price of the service. Avoid working to obtain different accounts for different payment methods you want to support, doing technical development to setup and support those payment methods and to support multiple merchant accounts on an ongoing basis (the methods and accounts require periodic servicing due to updates and issues that arise), avoid paying monthly fees to merchant providers, turning over personal financial records, being personally liable for certain bank account funds, etc.
* Accept customer payments through as many methods as possible to maximize sales, including Visa, MasterCard®, Discover®, American Express®, PayPal™, JCB, check, and money order, payment methods offered by many e-commerce services.
* Gain access to a marketing distribution network and online marketing guidance offered by some e-commerce firms.
* Increase revenue through utilization of cross-sells and upsells on order pages which typically increases your average revenue per order by 15-45%.
* Utilize order pages branded with your site's look to reduce cart abandonment.
* Increase revenue through sub-product listings (i.e. drop down menus for add-ons) and data collection throughout fully customizable order pages, an option available through some full service e-commerce solutions.
* Ensure your customers’ transactions occur on secure servers.
* Utilize valuable 3rd party marketing tools like Google Analytics for site traffic analysis, online ad campaign tracking, and affiliate programs for growing affiliate marketing revenues.
* Increase revenue by offering your customers the option to receive your product in physical format for an additional customer charge via an on-demand CD/DVD physical fulfillment network.
* Convert more traffic into paying customers by testing between and choosing from a selection of different order page and product layouts and offerings.
* Increase revenue by utilizing product discounts, coupons, bundles, volume licenses and other pricing adjustments.
This is a sampling of some of the many benefits to outsourcing e-commerce to a full service e-commerce payment solution.
- Dan from FastSpring.com E-Commerce
Dan is the CEO of FastSpring, the next generation e-commerce payment, merchandising, and fulfillment solution for software publishers which is focused on customer service, flexibility, and reasonable pricing. Prior to running FastSpring, Dan led online marketing and customer acquisition at Google, Picasa, and Citrix's GoToMyPC.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
We're very happy to announce the re-release of the website, which has been brought fully up to date. Software Marketing Resource is for anyone that writes, develops, or distributes software. To this end, Software Marketing Resource offers a wealth of forums, articles, resources, and targeted services that’ll provide the tools to market software like the big boys, on a limited or even non-existent budget.
If you’re a software marketer, marketing copywriter, eCommerce provider, SEO service provider, or at all count ISV’s among your target customer base, you’ll find numerous opportunities to connect with potential clients and spread the word about your particular product or service. Software Marketing Resource is about making connections, making information more accessible, and unifying the software marketing landscape.
The resources segment of SMR represents a dynamic, user-moderated collection of links touching on nearly every corner of the software marketing universe. From CD replication to Software Sites, Press Releases to Search Engine Strategies, Beta Testing to Distribution Outlets, SMR’s resources provide a centralized amassment of browsable marketing information.
But browsing is only the beginning. Registered SMR users can submit their own resources for listing, comment on a particular resource, and vote on each resources’s relative quality, nudging it up or down the list. SMR Resources are the most comprehensive and user friendly on the web. They’re targeted, dynamic, functional, and most importantly -- community-driven!
Software Marketing Resource offers a number of premium services for ISV’s looking to connect with potential partners, develop marketing strategies, and subcontract or outsource various marketing tasks.
These services include our daily deals promotions that you can find on BitsDuJour.com, allowing you to ratchet up your sales and product visibility by running a 24-hour discount promotion.
If you're the type of coder who wants to leave the marketing to us, then take a look at our Developer Partner Program, where you write the code and we handle everything else, hosting your product on Iconico.com and doing all the sales, customer service and marketing.
But that's not all, we also offer affiliate programs in our daily deals system. If you run a download site then you can easily host our deals on your website, fully integrated so you'll see extra sales and never loose a visitor.
As SMR grows, so will the scale and breadth of our partnerships and available services. If you offer a service that could be of interest to our customer base, please don’t hesitate to contact us with your proposal.
Questions about how to market software? Where better to find the answer than a forum dedicated to the topic? After all, the best answers almost always come from those that’ve “been there and done that!” But that’s not all. Drop by the newly re-opened SMR forums and you'll be able to talk with industry professionals from around the globe.
SMR Forums: A great place to network, find answers, share opinions, or just hang out and chat with like minded individuals.
Via the SMR articles center we publish a steady stream of original content directly related to software marketing, software distribution, and everything in between. Solicited and edited by the SMR editorial staff, these articles -- written by industry experts, insiders, and professionals -- offer a wealth of content specifically tailored for the independent software vendor.
Are you in the industry? Do you know your way around the written word? Contact us, we’d love to discuss publishing your content on SMR!
So stop in, look around, and contribute if you’d like.
After all, it’s free!