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Feb
26

custom_formsWe are often asked to create custom webforms for quote requests or applications which customers can submit from the store. It’s an easy mod if there is no need to adjust that form or add multiple webforms but if you need something more sophisticated and do not want to get into complex custom development, consider this software: http://www.appnitro.com

There is no monthly fee and you get 100s of features like:

– Drag & Drop Form Builder
– Multi-Page Forms
– Save & Resume Later
– Mobile Forms
– Email Notifications With auto-responder.
– Easy integration – just copy and paste JS code into static page or popup

If you need a custom web form – consider appnitro.com – it’s a cost effective solution with lots of powerful features.

To your success!

Anton Pachkine
FinestShops offers premium Magento and X-Cart managed packages for companies without a large IT department and will host and manage your online store and servers like your own dedicated IT department so you and your staff can concentrate on growing your sales and serving your customers. Visit www.finestshops.com


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Feb
25

Dear client,

To comply with the latest PCI requirements, we are disabling unsecured SMTP and POP3 ports on all shared servers. If you are using email service included in your package and not a third party service like Rackspace Mail or Google Apps for Work, you have to check the setting below: 
Enable "This server requires an encrypted connection (SSL)" and change pop3 port to "955" and stmp port to "465" in your mailing software.

Here is how to do this in most Outlook versions:

Secure SMTP and POP

  • Start Outlook and select Tools -> E-Mail Accounts.
  • From the pop up window select "View or change existing e-mail accounts."
  • Click Next.
  • The E-mail Accounts windows opens
  • Select your account on the left and select "Change..."
  • Verify Incoming Mail Server (POP3): it should be set to your domain. If it's not - you are using some third party service and do not need to make the changes below
  • Click the "More Settings" button.
  • The Internet E-mail Settings window opens
  • Select the "Outgoing Server" tab
  • Check "My outgoing server (SMTP) requires authentication"
  • Check "Use same settings as my incoming mail server"
  • Click the "Advanced" tab.
  • Check "This server requires an encrypted connection (SSL)"
  • Change the Incoming server (POP3): to 995
  • Check "This server requires an encrypted connection (SSL)"
  • Change the Outgoing server (SMTP): to 465
  • Click "OK"
  • Click "Test Account Settings..."
  • The window Internet Security Warning may pops up. 
  • Click the "Yes" button to trust SSL certificate.
  • The window "Test Account Settings" will open
  • This test sends a test email to your account. It is normal for it to fail.
  • Click "Close"
  • Click "Next"
  • Click "Finish"

If you need more help with this, please contact support with the name of mailing software you are using (ex: Windows Mail, Outlook 2007 ...), your domain name and email address.

Your FinestShops Team


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Feb
3

email-automationA very common question asked by may online retailers is answered with a humor and lots of practical steps by Kyle @ vextras.com in article called “7 Delicious Email Marketing Recipes You Can Cook Up In Less Than 45 Minutes” (https://www.vextras.com/7-delicious-email-marketing-recipes-can-cook-less-45-minutes)

Article shows 7 “Recipes” with list of “Ingredients” and step by step “cooking” instructions.

  1. Build a Mailing List From Everyday Web Visitors
    A simple way to collect email addresses is to install a notification feature when visitors arrive at your store….
  2. Send Emails To First-Time Subscribers
    Trigger an event to take place when someone subscribes to your email list for the first time. The key here is to get them to take action once they receive your welcome email …
  3. First-Time Buyers
    Show new customers a little love after their first purchase and entice them to come back…
  4. Promote Cross-Sales
    Promoting cross-sales can take more time to configure, yet it’s also a very effective email marketing technique….
  5. Request Reviews
    Requesting reviews from your customers can include a wide variety of tools depending on what you want to accomplish. There are several third party applications available like…
  6. Win Back Customers
    Reaching out to customers who haven’t bought something in awhile is a potential gold mine for sales. …
  7. Reward Your Best Customers
    Creating a workflow to reward your best customers is almost exactly the same as with first-time purchasers….

Please read full article here: “7 Delicious Email Marketing Recipes You Can Cook Up In Less Than 45 Minutes” and let us know if you need help implementing any of this – main ingredient is MailChimp.com and we have integration modules for it for Magento and X-cart.

To your success!

Anton Pachkine
FinestShops offers premium Magento and X-Cart managed packages for companies without a large IT department and will manage your online store and servers like your own dedicated IT department so you and your staff can concentrate on growing your sales and serving your customers. Visit www.finestshops.com


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Dec
29

trends2015I found a great article by Armando Roggio from practicalecommerce.com which I wanted to share with you. It outlines 6 trends you can consider using in your next Magento or X-cart upgrade (which we’ll be happy to do for you) to give you a competitive advantage over your competitors.

  1. Hidden Menus
  2. Responsive Design for Large Screens
  3. Flexible and Large Typography
  4. Large Photography
  5. Video Content and Backgrounds
  6. Material Design

You can read full article and see examples here: http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/77729-6-Ecommerce-Design-Trends-for-2015

To your success!

Anton Pachkine – General Manager of FinestShops (follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn or call 1-800-675-0162 ex 704

FinestShops offers premium Magento and X-Cart managed hosting for companies without a large IT department and will manage your online store and servers like your own dedicated IT department so you and your staff can concentrate on growing your sales and serving your customers. Visit www.finestshops.com


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Dec
23

comanyE-commerce platforms come and go quickly, with a few of them managing to establish themselves as leaders in the industry. Among those that remain established for many years, there tends to be a few that are chosen by the largest retailers, though you wouldn’t necessarily know this from looking at market share information.

While plenty of very small, new eCommerce platforms get attention on review websites, the rate that they’re being adopted at and the reviews they get don’t necessarily tell you about what the capabilities of those eCommerce platforms actually encompass.

For serious eCommerce businesses, there are complex features that need to be included in the platform that allow large amounts of inventory, many orders, many customers and other aspects of doing business that eCommerce enterprises deal with to be handled.

Who Backs It?

As the dot-com bubble established, online businesses can come and go very quickly. Knowing the entity behind the eCommerce platform is imperative to making a choice.

ECommerce platforms that are backed by very large companies are generally ones that get the best development and that are likely to remain active for the longest period of time.

Magento, for instance, is produced by the enterprise division of eBay, one of the most successful online businesses in the world. Because it has the backing of an established eCommerce entity itself, the features on the program are geared toward serious businesses that need very scalable and capable software.

This has led the Magento eCommerce platform to become the choice of some very large brands, such as COACH and Signature Hardware. When an eCommerce platform is used by extremely large companies, such as the aforementioned and many others, it’s obvious that the software can scale up to any level required.

While new entries come onto the market and generally get a lot of attention, this doesn’t and give good information about the company that backs it and if the company that backs the eCommerce platform has the resources necessary to develop it to levels required by larger eCommerce enterprises.

Support

Any eCommerce platform is really only as good as the amount of support available for it. When new products take off, it’s not likely that they have the level of support that more established, larger and more well developed platforms will have.

For example, an eCommerce platform such as the aforementioned Magento will typically have certifications available for working on that platform, allowing people who provide services to businesses to establish themselves as experts. This also helps the businesses to be sure that they’re hiring the right people to work on their platforms and, because of that, it’s easier to get the platform customized, expanded, to migrate information from other platforms to the new eCommerce platform and so forth.

Whenever you choose an eCommerce platform, it’s important to do some investigation into it and to make certain that it is well established and that there is plenty of support available to it. It’s also important to make certain that it is capable of growing along with your business.

To your success!

Anton Pachkine – General Manager of FinestShops (follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn or call 1-800-675-0162 ex 704

FinestShops offers premium Magento and X-Cart managed hosting for companies without a large IT department and will manage your online store and servers like your own dedicated IT department so you and your staff can concentrate on growing your sales and serving your customers. Visit www.finestshops.com


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Dec
17

high traffic online storeWhile every eCommerce business would love to have a high volume of traffic, some of them are not being naively optimistic when they prepare for such a significant amount of visitors. Some of them, in fact, are merely being realistic, particularly if they’re well aware of the fact that, upon opening their new site, they’re going to get a flood of traffic.

Here are some of the things that you will need to consider if you are building a site and you are reasonably certain it’s going to be high traffic. There will be concerns with both hardware and software that you will have to address.

Scalability

Web hosts have different ways of offering scalability in their products. From the hardware end, you might want to make certain that, as you build traffic, you can scale up your hosting plan so that your servers can handle visitors adequately. This means that the visitors should not experience any delays when they visit your site and that everything should serve quickly.

Cloud hosting is one of the more popular solutions to this need at present. This type of hosting allows you to expand the capabilities of your hosting as needed. This is something you may want to consider if you know you’re going to get a lot of traffic, but you’re not sure how much it’s going to grow and how quickly.

Premium cloud hosting providers like Rackspace Cloud which we are using for our clients servers offer load balancers to connect multiple servers into one web cluster. Load balancer handles the traffic and sends visitors to the least loaded web server. There is some special considerations required when setting up load balancing for e-commerce system to handle shopping cart sessions and software cache properly.

Site Designs and Customizations

High-traffic websites have to be very streamlined. With any visitors making demands on the server simultaneously, the opportunities for slowdowns are greatly increased and, because of that, the webpages themselves have to be designed around this.

Where webpage design is concerned, make certain that you hire a qualified developer to handle the job for you. They can make sure that everything is within the parameters required for a very busy site. In over 12 years managing e-commerce client we saw a lot of cheap designs and customizations done by third party developers which caused major issues with server overloading even with moderate traffic. Problem is that unskilled developer is concerned only with implementing functionality requested by store owner without consideration of optimizing the code. So poorly designed layouts and customizations run fine in test environment but fail as soon as traffic hits the store.

An example with numbers: client with apparel store moved X-cart based system to us at the end of last year and was running happily on 4GB server for $250 per month. They wanted some customization done to how product variants are shown in the store to make it easy for customers to select different sizes and colors – good idea. Quote we sent was $800 to be done by our developers because this a relatively complex customization. Client thought this was too expensive and got customization done by a team from “less expensive environment”. I believe they paid around $600 for it. 25% saved? Customization looked fine in development store but as soon as it was installed in production store we started getting outage alerts every time promotional mail blast went out from this store – server was getting overloaded by spike in traffic – server had to be restarted which kicked all browsing customers from the store for 5-10 minutes so they see an error. Not acceptable. Fast solution was to upgrade that client to a larger server, we moved this store to 8GB server which is $350 per month (extra $100 per month over previous setup) – it was handling the spikes but store would noticeably slow down when traffic hits. Client was running like this for three months until they decided to have us to fix the code. Fixing the code ended up costing over $500 and we had to rewrite more than half of the internal code of that customization. After this, store was fast again and we downgraded server back to 4GB – we did not have any overloads on this server for the last 6 months. That “cheap” customization ended up costing client $1400 ($600 customization + $100 x 3 months for larger server + $500 to fix) plus lost orders during server restarts and lost customers because of slow downs.

My point is – make sure your design and customizations are done right and optimized for speed so you do not have to pay every month for a much larger server because you saved $200 on development.

Content Delivery Networks

A content delivery network, CDN, can speed the loading of webpages by delivering static content from the server closest to the customer. This is something that you want to consider if you know your site is going to get a great deal of traffic. Many web hosts will help you get set up with a CDN, making it a fairly easy endeavor, and don’t require you to handle any of the technical heavy lifting.

Database Optimization

Make sure that your database is optimized and that, of course, all of the entries in it are correct and consistent. We ran nightly database check and optimizations on all the servers we manage for clients which proved to be one of the best preventive actions to avoid downtimes and checkout errors due to database problems.

Testing

Make sure your site is tested before it is deployed. Testing is something with which you will want expert assistance and it includes debugging, which is something that programmers have to handle. There are services which can simulate high traffic hitting your store before you spend thousands on advertising just to find out your shopping cart hangs when too many customers are just about to pay you.

Provided you have a reliable and scalable hosting, solid eCommerce platform like Magento, properly optimized database and design, your store should be able to handle very high levels of traffic. Remember that scalability factor, as you do not want to end up with a hosting package that is inadequate just when your business is really starting to succeed.

To your success!

Anton Pachkine – General Manager of FinestShops (follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn or call 1-800-675-0162 ex 704

FinestShops offers premium Magento and X-Cart managed hosting for companies without a large IT department and will manage your online store and servers like your own dedicated IT department so you and your staff can concentrate on growing your sales and serving your customers. Visit www.finestshops.com


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