480-595-0065
foster@unleash.com
Four Seasons Total Landscaping Builds Quick Following and Sells Merchandise

Four Seasons Total Landscaping Builds Quick Following and Sells Merchandise

One thing I want to make clear up front is this post has nothing to do with politics even though politics was involved in the story. My focus is on how a family-owned small business turned a circus-like press conference in their parking lot into online success. For those who want the full backstory on the press conference and everything that followed, please read Philly’s Four Seasons Total Landscaping dishes the dirt on the news conference heard ’round the world: ‘It was nothing we anticipated’ in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Prior to the infamous press conference on November 7, 2020; Four Seasons Total Landscaping had a Web site with a small following and a very basic Web page describing their services. It was around 11pm that night that the owner decided they needed to do something because of all the press coverage (both very positive and very negative) the company was receiving. They next morning (Sunday, November 8) they posted a message on their Facebook page and by that afternoon they were making plans to sell t-shirts. Twitter and Instagram accounts were also created.

Here we are less than a month later and they have more than 33,000 fans on Facebook, 27,000 followers on Instagram and 18,000 followers on Twitter. Their Web site did not have e-commerce and it was quickly added. They’ve already received more than 35,000 orders for t-shirts, ugly Christmas sweaters and face masks. In total, it brought it more than $1.3 million in sales!

Four Seasons Total Landscaping Online Store

The demand for merchandise and the social media followings will undoubtedly wane in the coming months as the time since the press conference is longer. In the long term, their focus will be back on landscaping and there is no doubt the extra exposure will allow them to build their business.

What would you do if your business had such an opportunity? Is your Web site ready for the world to visit? I have to admit the Four Seasons Total Landscaping site could use a lot of improvements. Yet I will give them kudos for adding e-commerce almost overnight.

Should your company need a Web site updated or if you want to add e-commerce to your existing WordPress site, please reach out and allow us to help you!

Olive Oil Site Makeover Has Led to Huge Sales Increase

Olive Oil Site Makeover Has Led to Huge Sales Increase

Back in May 2018, we gave the site for Cave Creek Olive Oil a tasty makeover. Exactly two years ago I wrote Giving Olive Oil Site a Tasty Makeover about the process. Now that two years have passed, we’re going to revisit the site to measure the sales improvement. Go ahead and check out Cave Creek Olive Oil.

At the end of the makeover post, I wrote the following:

Early in the project I was asked by the owner if I felt this would increase their sales by 10%. I smiled and said I would be very disappointed if we only saw a 10% increase. I’m fully expecting their online sales to double with the new site.

Quantifying Improvement

As we didn’t have access to their previous site’s sales data, we don’t know the exact dollar amount of sales. We can only go by what the owner said in a testimonial posted on Google in July 2019 (after just over a year of the new site).

We MUST MENTION and HIGHLIGHT that our sales have dramatically increased, in fact they’ve tripled on the new site Foster has created for us. We are truly amazed by the results.

We’ll take the owner’s word that sales on the new site were much higher than on the previous site. By their quote, sales had tripled. Now we have real data where we can compare the first year of the new site to the second year of the new site. Ideally we want to see even more sales growth over time. For the store’ privacy, I’m not going to share dollar amounts. Instead we’ll compare the same months a year later. Let’s look at the chart first and then I’ll discuss a few of the most important numbers and how this was achieved.

Online Sales Improvement

May 2018 was the first month of sales on the new site so it isn’t a huge shock to see sales more than tripled in May 2019. The more important number is seeing a 150% increase in June sales. Why is this so important? In June the store celebrates their anniversary and promotes it heavily via social media. That increase alone paid for the makeover!

November and December are always big months due to holiday shopping. November 2019 only increased slightly over November 2018. But we saw December sales nearly double. Keep in mind these increases can mean more because those are months with higher sales overall.

There was one month over month drop and that was in February 2020. But it was followed by the biggest gain in March 2020. March was also the month when COVID-19 kept many people at home. The retail store remained open, but the retail store traffic was down considerably. April 2020 didn’t show as large of a percentage increase, but it was the third highest dollar amount of the two years tracked.

Overall, the second year more than doubled over the first year. Due to COVID-19, this online growth was a big help to the store as they could more easily shift some of their sales online. Now that we’ve gone over the numbers, let’s talk about some of the reasons.

Reasons for Growth

Improving the Web site was important, but promotion of the site was probably even more important to the continued growth. Katie Leiler Consulting sent promotions on Facebook, Instagram and via Email Marketing. Not only did these promotions improve the online sales, they were also used to increase foot traffic into the store. What the numbers shared above don’t include are the in-store sales increases.

Cave Creek Olive Oil Ingredient ListWhile the site does include a dedicated store section, a goal was to also integrate the products into all parts of the site. Looking at popular search topics, we knew integrating the products into recipes would be a great way to bring in visitors and to promote products. First, links to specific products is included in the recipe’s ingredient list as you can see in the example at right. Below the recipe (see below), each of the products is listed so it can easily be added to the shopping cart.

Cave Creek Olive Oil Recipe Products

Since the online store was re-launched in May 2018, quite a few products have been added. As of this writing, they have a total of 217 products in the store. A very small number may not always be active as they are seasonal oils only available for part of the year. Online gift cards were a major category added to the store in fall 2019. Add in spices, sauces and gourmet food and you’ve got a wide range of culinary treats from which to select.

Cave Creek Olive Oil Gift Cards

Will sales double again in the third year of the online store? It is possible, but I don’t think it will double. At this point we are only half of a month into that third year and the early returns are very positive. May 2020 already has more than double the sales of May 2019.

Do you have great products and an under-performing online store? We’d love to talk to you and see if it is a good candidate for a makeover. Check out what we offer for e-commerce and request a quote.

Giving Olive Oil Site a Tasty Makeover

Giving Olive Oil Site a Tasty Makeover

Last summer a relative was visiting and we decided to go into the local olive oil store. It was an eye opening trip for me and I’m always looking for local businesses in need of a Web site. When I got back to the office, I gave their existing site a look and knew that I could be a big help to them. Below is a screenshot of the top part of their old home page.

One of the first things I typically do with a site is see how it works on a phone. This one didn’t work well at all as there was no navigation. It was about the fifth time I looked over the site that I realized it had a store and you had to click on the credit card icons to get to it. Plus, it just needed a design makeover.

Once we were done, the top of the home page had a new look and it works great on mobile. The very first elements are the phone number and email address. On a phone, a visitor can click the phone number and it will dial the store. Menus have a cleaner look and they translate well to a phone. While not shown on this screenshot, there are also featured products and a box for signing up for their mailing list.

Social media was barely visible on the old site with a somewhat hidden Facebook icon. The new site features prominent icons for Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest as well as recent posts embedded throughout the site.

Some visitors to the site and store will be very knowledgeable about olive oil. While I know it tastes good and has health benefits, I don’t know much more. That’s a perfect reason for the site to have a section labeled Learning Center. On the old site, it wasn’t very inviting and it was easy for me to overlook. Below is an example.

Everything was stuffed on a single page. We broke out each topic into an individual lesson and gave the page a more appealing look. Not shown in the screenshot below is the sidebar promoting other parts of the site or the navigation shown in the earlier shot.

Now visitors can easily see the title of each lesson and click on it to learn more. Now learning about olive oil is more appealing and can help direct visitors to products they can purchase.

One of the most popular types of site on the Web are recipes. The old site had some recipes though they weren’t presented in a way to draw in visitors. Below is a screenshot of the old site.

Just as with the learning center, all recipes were on a single page. We felt it important that each recipe be laid out similarly to the popular recipe sites. The main recipe page simply has links to each of the individual recipes as shown below.

When you click on one of the recipes, it takes you to a detail page. Having all of the distinct pages also gives search engines more content to rank so the site will be found more often. Below you can see how the recipe is laid out and we even included links for purchasing the products needed by the recipe.

What isn’t shown in the screenshot is a slider that links to all other recipes so that visitors can easily navigate through all of them if they like.

Of course the ultimate goal of the site is to provide a way for visitors to purchase products. While the old site had a store, it wasn’t obvious to visitors. Once you got to the store, you were presented with links to some general categories as shown below.

Clicking on a category led to another page with products and more clicks were required to add a product to the shopping cart. This was a very inefficient process and their online sales weren’t living up to their potential. We truly integrated the store into the site as you already saw on the recipe page. Below is the main store page also showing the sidebar.

In addition to the main store page, we also have dedicated pages for each category of products. Some of the products are added directly to the shopping cart, while others have options to select. Below is a product page that allow you to select the gift bag and bow color.

Early in the project I was asked by the owner if I felt this would increase their sales by 10%. I smiled and said I would be very disappointed if we only saw a 10% increase. I’m fully expecting their online sales to double with the new site.

Want to see all the changes? Visit the Cave Creek Olive Oil site and pick up something tasty while you’re there! Want our help in designing a site for you or giving your site a makeover? Send us a note and tell us how we can help.

10 Reasons Why It’s Worth Investing in Professional Web Site Development

10 Reasons Why It’s Worth Investing in Professional Web Site Development

Our friends at GoDaddy recently wrote a post titled 7 reasons why it’s worth investing in professional website development. I encourage you all to click the link and read the post as it contains some great information.

When I read it, I had my own thoughts on the reasons listed so I’ve taken the seven reasons from that post and have provided my answers below. Three other reasons came to mind as I thought about why I feel Unleashed is a great choice and they are included after the initial seven. As we focus solely on WordPress development, the solutions below are all based on WordPress.

1. Professionals can customize beyond templates

Elegant ThemeseEvery WordPress site has a theme (template) that determines the design and features of the site. Sure, there are a bunch of free themes available and some of them are OK. We’ve tried a lot of themes and found that there are many of them that are difficult and/or don’t work nearly as well as the demo.

Over time, we’ve developed a small number of themes that we use on most of the sites we build. We know how they work in depth and know that we can deliver a wide range of designs from them. There are also ways to extend our favorite themes to give them even more features and options.

Should you build a site yourself, you might choose a great theme and it’s possible you get a really bad one. When a bad theme is used to build a site, it can be very hard to switch to another theme at a later time.

2. The ROI is worth the initial cost

Let’s say you want a pizza for dinner tonight. It is simple to go to your favorite pizzeria and get a large pizza with a few toppings for $15-20. The alternative would be to make your own crust, either purchase or make sauce, get some cheese and the other toppings. Then add the time involved to take the raw ingredients and make the pizza. In the end, you could have a gourmet pizza or a complete dud and you will have spent a lot more money and time to get there.

Yes, a good Web site is an investment. If you work with a developer and provide the content required, it will save you money. Even if you built it yourself, you’d still need to come up with the content. What is your time worth? Expect that it can take you 3-5 times as many hours (minimum) to build a site as well as a good developer. In the end, will your creation be a masterpiece or a dud?

By using a pro, your site will be working for you sooner and will be designed to meet (or exceed) your goals. This brings a return to you sooner and that return will likely be much greater.

3. You can choose the right developer

No single developer is the right fit for every project and you’ll find many choices when looking for someone to build an awesome WordPress site. Clients sometimes judge only the cost and not what the developer can delivery. The goal is to have a site that best delivers on your goals while delivering a great return on investment.

We pride ourselves on being part of the GoDaddy Pro program as well as being a Google Partner. The online world changes every single day and we focus on educating ourselves on those changes so that we can deliver sites that follow all the latest standards. This also allows us to minimize the time and costs involved.

4. Managing your own content is still possible

At its heart, WordPress is a CMS (content management system). It is designed to allow multiple users to change content to varying degrees. Some clients only want minimal abilities to change a few words or photos. Other clients want full control of a site. Either option is possible and the abilities can even be changed at any time.

This also brings up the famous Spiderman quote “with great power comes great responsibility.” If a client has the ability to edit anything on the site, they also have the ability to accidentally create problems by clicking the wrong thing. We work with clients so they know how to complete the processes most important to them to minimize potential problems.

5. eCommerce functionality is doable

With a WordPress site, eCommerce functionality can be as simple as installing a plug-in. While it is technically quite easy, a good eCommerce site is much more complex. What types of products and/or services are you going to sell? What types of payments are you going to accept? Do you need to ship products? Are they downloadable? These are just some of the questions that need to be answered.

WP EasyCartWooCommerce is often mentioned as it is the most popular tool for adding eCommerce to WordPress. That does not mean it is the right answer for your site. We have found other tools that are better choices for our clients. Not only do we recommend these tools for clients, we use them on our own eCommerce sites so we know them inside and out.

6. Your site will be mobile-friendly and responsive

Google Mobile Sites CerticationWith nearly 2/3 of all Web traffic coming from mobile devices, it is an absolute must that your site works great on mobile devices. Visitors to your site could be on a computer screen that comes in nearly any size. Throw in the variety of tablets and mobile phones and there is just no single size anymore.

When we design a site, it is designed to be responsive. That means it adapts it to the screen of the device on which it is being viewed. Not only does it need to adapt to every screen, it needs to be usable on every screen. Your blog post must still look great on every screen. Visitors should be able to shop in your eCommerce store on every screen. Google created a certification test to make sure developers followed mobile best practices and all of our designers have passed the test.

7. Websites are constantly changing

One of the best parts about building a Web site on WordPress is that the platform itself is being regularly updated. We prefer to work with themes and plugins that are also regularly updated. First and foremost, this helps to keep your site secure. But these changes also support new and improved features.

Not only does the technology itself improve, we also focus on improving our skills and knowing that latest best practices in Web design. While you may choose not to have your site updated regularly, we’ll be ready to update it when you need it.

8. Keep all elements maintained and secure

It is thought that once a Web site is launched that all work is done for a long period of time. That just isn’t the case. It is not uncommon that some element of the site has an update almost every single day. If a client prefers, they can handle all of these updates. A far better value is to select a maintenance plan where all the updates are installed on sites for clients.

This keeps elements updated and keeps the site more secure as well. Additional layers of security are available for clients who want true peace of mind.

9. Your pages can be tested and optimized

If a user builds a site, will they test it on a variety of devices or do they decide it looks great on their own computer so it must be perfect? We want to test pages on computers, tablets and phones so that the user experience is consistently good.

Even when a site looks good on devices, it may not be optimized. Are images the right size in both dimensions and download size? Will the page perform well in search results? Can adjustments be made to make the site load as fast as possible? These are all tasks a pro will perform so that you get the best results from your site.

10. Resource for support after the site launches

When a site is first launched, it is only the beginning. Changes will inevitably be made. New content will be added. Quite possibly new features will be needed. Where is your time best spent? Is it becoming an expert on WordPress or working on your own business? Regardless of whether you are going to update the site or you want a developer to do it, we’re here to help.

We’d be happy to discuss your needs to see if we are the right developer for your project. Visit our Contact Us page or give us a call at 480-595-0065.

Featured image by Helloquence

Outdated Plugin Caused WordPress Shopping Cart Failure

Outdated Plugin Caused WordPress Shopping Cart Failure

Clients come to us for our expertise in WordPress Web design. Some clients want us to handle everything while others want to have the ability to make any changes they desire. Even when we give clients the ability to make those changes, we try to give them advice that will help them to avoid problems.

Our thought is that it is truly their Web site so we have to allow them to make those changes. If the changes cause problems, they’ll rely on us to fix the problems. Fixing those problems will likely cost them more than simply asking us to make changes in the first place.

Recently just such an issue came up. A client contacted us because their shopping cart wasn’t functioning properly. Products weren’t staying in the cart and other products couldn’t be removed from the cart. At first glance, we also noticed that their pages were not being loaded securely. While this could be related to the problem, it was very concerning to us that the e-commerce data wasn’t properly secured.

We can only guess that the client had also noticed that the store wasn’t secured as there was a WordPress plugin installed related to SSL security. It wasn’t something that was installed by us so it was time to investigate this plugin. At the top of the plugin page was the warning below.

wordpress plugin not updated warning

wordpress plugin four years oldEach plugin included in the WordPress repository also includes some basic stats on updates, compatibility and popularity. As shown in the screenshot at right, this particular plugin hadn’t been updated in more than four years. In the WordPress world, that is ancient history!

As soon as this plugin was disabled, the shopping cart started functioning properly. There were still security issues with the site to be resolved, but the initial problem had been resolved. Unfortunately in trying to fix the security issues, the client had created more problems and yet the site still wasn’t secure.

We did find the root cause of the security issues and got them fixed. Now, the e-commerce functions on the site are working as designed and shoppers can enter their payment data with peace of mind on a secure site.