9 Great Plug-Ins to Optimize Your Magento Website

Monday, April 28, 2014 Listrak 0 Comments

As a Magento Gold Partner with plenty of experience with eCommerce consulting, we’ve had a lot of experience with implementing extensions for the platform.  
Here are some of our favorite add-ons that help you launch and optimize your successful site. 


Jirafe enables a merchant to accurately connect customer website behavior with actual order, cart, product, and customer sales data. Unlike other analytics tools, Jirafe doesn’t just capture and transfer order and cart data via javascript calls; it’s directly integrated into Magento site’s back-end order processing system. This low-level integration enables it to capture a much larger, deeper and more accurate dataset in near real-time. Tools for importing and processing historical data are included with the module.
Jirafe’s Ecommerce Analytics service is built around a feature-rich web application for analyzing this captured data. Besides having the expected sales and site activity reports, it also provides tools for data mining customer behavioral information for improved product merchandising and sales performance.


Listrak is used frequently for retargeting abandoned shopping carts to increase revenue. About 3 hours after a customer has abandoned a shopping cart, this extension will send emails to re-engage the customer with a message to aid in purchase decisions and prompt buying. “Back in stock” alerts may also be used as a retargeting solution. Listrak campaigns have high response rates and aid in significantly increasing conversion rates.

Add This

This extension adds an AddThis button set to the product view page so that the end user can share the product URL to different social media websites with ease. The extension also allows you to add the buttons to the template and CMS pages in which you have created. The module allows easy access from a merchant perspective to add icons to pages.

Amasty Promotions Pro

The Amasty Promotions Pro extension allows a site to use very commonly thought of promotions on Magento store, as well as some unique and complex promotions. The ability to offer a free product with a purchase is common practice for eCommerce sites. The Amasty extension makes this type of promotion, which can often be complicated to implement, easy to configure. There is a tremendous amount of different promotion options that the extension provides.

WebshopApps MatrixRate

This extension extends Magento table rate functionality to better suit merchants’ needs. The MatrixRate shipping extension allows a simple way of adding and modifying rates by non-technical people. It has played a significant role in cutting implementation and maintenance costs for our merchants.


Optimizely offers an intuitive method for adding A/B testing to your Magento storefront. All the A/B versions are managed via the Optimizely site, so there is no additional theming that needs to be done in Magento. The installation process is very simple, as it only adds a JavaScript block to the top of the html. The JavaScript then loads content from the Optimizely site based on the configured A/B test, and asynchronously updates the content on the site. Optimizely is light weight and does not add much to the load time of the pages under. If your site is having conversion issues, performing A/B tests using Optimizely is a way to understand the user experience and improve your site.

aheadWorks Featured Product

This extension enables merchants to automate the way products are featured on their sites through easy to use tools built into the Admin interface. Many merchants appreciate Featured Products for its simple, yet flexible functionality and use it to showcase their products in an impressive way.

CJM Color Swatches

This extension allows a customer on a site to easily choose the color of a product.  The merchant doesn’t have to create images for the swatches, but instead can just enter the hex code of the colors within the color attributes options. From there the merchant can set the color attribute identifier and swatch size in the configuration. The module will automatically create the swatches for all configurable products or you can upload swatches via the swatches panel that is included.

Unirgy uStoreLocator

This extension has become a go-to solution for store locator needs. It’s easy to customize and due to an already existing functionality, cuts down on the implementation costs for projects. The uStoreLocator is an important tool for the many merchants who have physical stores.

Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager allows a site administrator to control all of the tracking pixels, conversion scripts, and all other components that require dynamic tracking content to be added to a Magento site. Before extensions like Google Tag Manager, if a site signed up with a new affiliate marketing company, the site administrator would have to ask their development team to add a new pixel to the bottom of every page. The Google Tag Manager extension just adds a script tag to the bottom of every page and asynchronously loads all of the pixels and tags required. Through the Google Tag Manager Admin, a site administrator can add and remove scripts and pixels easily without requiring a new deployment of code to their production system.


Responsive Design: Retina Images

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 Listrak 0 Comments

In a recent webinar, I discussed Listrak’s approach to responsive design and mobile engagement with best practices for navigation, text size, stacking and resizing content, retina graphics, and the use of media queries for mobile styling. There were many great questions asked by our viewers following the webinar, but the two topics that were most popular seemed to be retina images and stacking content. In the paragraphs to follow, I will review these topics and provide a clearer understanding of how they work and why they’re important.

Retina Images

You may not realize it, but you probably look at a retina screen every day. Most smart phones, tablets, newer models of laptops and even desktop monitors have high-resolution displays. These high-res displays jam 2 or 3 times the number of pixels into a small screen, enhancing the quality of photos and making text clearer and easier to read. However, we need to make sure our graphics, text, and photos are optimized for these higher density screens.
The most common pixel density for retina is 2x, meaning there are 2 times the number of pixels per inch. A screen that is 320 pixels wide will be 640 pixels across, and because of this, images need to be double in size to appear crisp on a retina screen. Images that are not scaled correctly will appear blurry and unfocused on a retina screen. A 200px wide image needs to be 400px wide to match this resolution. In email, we achieve this clarity by doubling the size of important graphics as well as images that contain text.
Below is a sample Listrak email. The first example shows the Listrak logo and social media icons saved at their normal size; note how they look blurry on a smart phone with a retina screen.
When the images are saved at double their natural size, they will be optimized for the 2x resolution of a retina screen. It’s important to note that images must be large enough to be saved at double their natural size, or be vector graphics that can be scaled without distortion.
The Listrak logo, for instance, is being forced to display at 175 x 38, but the natural size of the image being referenced is actually 350 x 76. A retina device will be smart enough to use the larger referenced size, yet still display the image at the size specified in the <img> tag.
Consider the file sizes of your images. Make sure when saving for web that you choose the most appropriate file type and quality. Gifs are typically better for flat graphics and text, while Jpgs are better for photos. Doubling images for retina will increase the file size of your email and cause a slower load time if it isn’t optimized correctly.
This final example shows an image that is large enough on the desktop version of the email to scale to half its size on mobile and be optimized for retina.
The desktop image is being displayed at 500 x 400. A media query was added to style our email for screen sizes less than 480px, and a class of mainImage was added to the <img> tag. Now we are able to style the class with CSS so that our image will shrink to 250 x 200 on a mobile screen — half the size of the image’s natural size — and also be optimized for retina.
 Any questions? Let us know in the comments section.


Responsive Design: Stacking Images

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 Listrak 0 Comments

In a recent webinar, I discussed Listrak’s approach to responsive design and mobile engagement with best practices for navigation, text size, stacking and resizing content, retina graphics, and the use of media queries for mobile styling. There were many great questions asked by our viewers following the webinar, but the two topics that were most popular seemed to be retina images and stacking content. I think it would be good to review these and hope to provide a clearer understanding of how they work.

Stacking Tables

Stacking content in an email requires more than just an understanding of good ol’ fashioned table structure. Planning out our design ahead of time in a grid with appropriate dimensions is an essential part of the process, and a bit of thinking outside the box. We are really pushing tables and nested tables upon nested tables to the limit.
Let’s start out simple, with a 2 column layout that will stack to 1 column on a mobile device. Here is our design:
The two columns we would like to stack are the location and date. Each of these columns will be coded as a separate table, one aligned left, the other aligned right, and a wrapping table.
There must always be space between tables, in this case between the blue and green tables. Outlook is quirky and adds padding to tables that are aligned left or right. Adding the border-collapse styles to the table does help, however the amount of space does not seem to be consistent. When there is not enough space between the tables, Outlook will force one table below the other. Always be sure to test.
We have added a class to each table that will style them as 100% when viewed on a mobile device. When the tables become full width, they will no longer float next to each other, but will stack, giving us the appearance of 1 column.
Here is the CSS for the mobile styles:
Adding additional columns can be tricky. There are two ways multiple columns can be achieved.
1. The first method is the simplest, but for someone who is pixel perfect, not exactly ideal. Any number of tables can be aligned left to form multiple columns. The key here is to fix the width of each table to fit within your layout. Remember to leave room to allow Outlook to add space to the aligned tables.
2. The second method will give you much better results, but requires more planning and math; but it is basic math, no reason to be afraid. Similar to the Listrak example that was explained, each table should contain two tables, one aligned left and the other aligned right. To add a third column, the first two tables need to be wrapped in a table that itself is aligned left, and the additional table will be aligned right. This can be repeated for any number of columns, each nested table containing just two tables.
Try each of these methods and let us know which you prefer. Something else to try; with CSS you can make your widths become 100% to create a 1 column layout on mobile, but you can experiment with 50% widths to give yourself a 2 column layout on mobile. This works great for product layouts.
Any questions? Let us know in the comments section.


How and When to Use Symbols in Subject Lines

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 Listrak 0 Comments

There is plenty - and varied - information available on using symbols in subject lines. Below Listrak Account Director Karen DiClemente shares some thoughts and best practices:

When using symbols in subject lines, retailers are primarily trying to drive higher open rates. I encourage ALL clients to A/B test subject lines with and without symbols to see if the symbol actually made a significant impact on open rates.

Prior to using a symbol, here are a few questions I tell clients to ask themselves:
How does using symbols in a subject line impact your brand (will they be seen as juvenile? Is this the brand impression you want your subscribers to have?)
Does the content of the email warrant a symbol in the subject line?
Make sure you are using symbols for a reason (not just to “use a symbol”):
Symbols can be used as a separator or punctuation
Symbols can be used to replace an actual word (ie. using a ♥ to replace the word “heart”)
Symbols can be used as a decorative design element
Not all symbols render in all email clients – make sure you are using a rendering tool (ie. Email on Acid or Litmus) to ensure the symbol you chose will display correctly

The guide below provides some more detail:

Subject Line Symbols by Email Client

Outlook 2010 – all symbols render correctly; color does not change

Outlook.com – all symbols render correctly; color changes based upon specific symbol

Comcast – all symbols render correctly; color does not change

Gmail – all symbols render correctly; color does not change

Yahoo - all symbols render correctly; color does not change

AOL/AIM – changes the 8th symbol; color does not change

Android – only the yellow symbols render correctly; color does not change

iOS (iPad/iPhone) - all symbols render correctly; color changes based upon specific symbol

Windows Phone - all symbols render correctly; color changes based upon specific symbol


Big Data Insights: Identifying & Retaining Your Best Customers

Thursday, April 03, 2014 Listrak 0 Comments

Some online customers are better than others – there, I said it. Shocked? You shouldn’t be. These are the customers that spend more money, buy more often, and think your products and services are fantastic; they’re your unofficial brand ambassadors and their continued support for your business is essential to maximizing revenue potential, particularly over the long-term. But just how important are these “best customers” for eTailers as we push forward in 2014? How do you properly identify this group and then actually retain them? To tackle these questions, I joined forces with big data pro and Content Marketer Janessa Lantz of RJMetrics, an emerging business intelligence SaaS based out of neighboring Philadelphia that has partnered with a number of impressive brands that include Bonobos, Fab.com, Frank & Oak, and Threadless, among others.

What Big Data is Telling Us

In our 2014 RJMetrics eCommerce Benchmark Report, we analyzed customer data across hundreds of our eCommerce clients to find the answer to the question posed earlier: just how good are your best customers? The answer is profound.

Wow, right?! This group isn’t just slightly better, they’re far and away your most important customer segment as they spend 30x more than your average customers over the course of their lifetime. They also make 4x more purchases than your average customers and spend 5x more per order. To put this all into perspective, your best customers spend as much as the entire bottom half of your customer base over the course of their expected purchasing history. If you’re ever going to lose a customer, these are not the ones that you want to lose.

Wow, right?! This group isn’t just slightly better, they’re far and away your most important customer segment as they spend 30x more than your average customers over the course of their lifetime. They also make 4x more purchases than your average customers and spend 5x more per order. To put this all into perspective, your best customers spend as much as the entire bottom half of your customer base over the course of their expected purchasing history. If you’re ever going to lose a customer, these are not the ones that you want to lose.

How Do You Identify the Best of the Best?

Step 1: Calculate Your Store’s Average Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

To find your best customers, you’ll need to look at more than just your “biggest orders ever.” This isn’t about one-off purchases; this is about finding (and keeping) the kind of customers that buy again, and again, and again. For this, you’ll want to look at customer lifetime value (CLV) which is an absolute paramount metric to use for calculating marketing ROI, finding the needle in the marketing spend haystack, and identifying your very best customers. It measures the profit that your business makes from any given customer over the course of their purchasing history. While this may be a particularly extensive exercise if you have a large customer database, it’s an important one and worth the resource investment. This formula can be equated in a few different ways (and also vary slightly by industry), but here’s a simple B2C version if you’re new to the concept:

CLV = (Avg. Order Value) x (Orders Per Year) x (Avg. Retention Rate)

Start by taking the data from your entire customer database so that you can calculate an overall average customer lifetime value – this will serve as your basis for comparison later on.

RJMetrics Pro Tip: Want to take the above customer lifetime value formula a step further by including factors such as Customer Acquisition Cost? Check out our sweet (and totally free) CLV Calculator.

Step 2: Segment Individual CLVs to Identify Outliers

After calculating your overall average CLV for your store’s database, you’ll want to dive into individual CLVs by creating customer segments. How you develop customer segments and dive into the data at the individual customer level is an art form and can be daunting depending on the size of your database. If you have a tool that can properly leverage consumer data for intelligence reporting (cue my RJMetrics pitch), this is definitely the time to use it. After your segments are created, and you’ve calculated CLV at the individual level, compile a list of your best customers based on those furthest north of your average mark from step 1. Treat this list like gold and know that if you lose just one of these customers, you could take a major hit to growth long-term and wind up looking like this guy…

Step 3: Study Your List of Best Customers

Once you know exactly who these best customers are, it’s time to get cozy with them. Use quantitative data to understand the products they purchase, acquisition source, their behavior patterns on-site, etc. Likewise, don’t overlook the value of qualitative research. Take some time to survey them, pick up the phone and give them a call or even send a friendly email. Make it your top priority to understand why these customers love you so much and start thinking about how you create that same attachment in other customers. Bottom line: the more patterns that you’re able to identify in these top customers, the easier it will be to recreate this process and recruit other customers into this top tier.
Part 2: Back to Tom

Retaining Your Best Customers

To piggyback on the research from Janessa and the folks at RJMetrics, I just wanted to list a few practical tips for retaining your top customers once identified.

Tip #1: Give ‘Em VIP Treatment

We’ve had several clients here at Groove upgrade their top customers to a VIP -like group based on what we’ve been able to collectively determine best customer qualifications. Perks for these groups have included: Free Ground Shipping, $5 Flat Rate Shipping w/ No Order Minimum, and Free Samples & Branded Giveaways. While these have typically been small investments from a monetary standpoint for our clients, that little “extra” always seems to garner extremely positive feedback from the customers, hence why big players like Zappos have been championing this system of surprise upgrades for years now. Think you’re too small to do the same? I challenge you to find your top few customers, offer them a perk, and then evaluate the response. While it might take some trial and error with the perks offered to see how these customers respond, it should serve as an extremely enlightening exercise.

Magento Pro Tip:Are you on Magento and have already figured out how to create new customer groups but feel limited by the promotions that you’re able to offer out-of-box? Don’t feel like doing everything manually? Consider checking out these extensions:

J2T Auto Add to Cart - allows you to automatically add products to a customers’ shopping cart based on rules and conditions that you create (i.e. a free branded giveaway if a customer logs into an account that’s part of your VIP group).

Special Promotions by Amasty - offers a ton of new promotional opportunities and rule combinations; see sample of new rules available below:

Tip #2: Reward Referrals

Love the idea of turning your best customers into brand advocates? Maybe they’re already referring you to friends but you need a way to reward them so that they continue to do this? Well if you’re targeting a sophisticated platform approach to this, you need a tool that can easily integrate with your website, preferably in multiple locations (i.e. product pages, CMS pages, and your post-purchase page) and offers clean social sharing to make the referral process as seamless and painless as possible. My guess is that you’ll need a third party platform for this.

Magento Pro Tip: Depending on your business model and how involved you want to get, you may want to consider a point-based reward campaign, in which case you can find excellent platforms in SweetTooth and 500friends.

Another option, that removes the whole “point system”, is a platform called FriendBuy, Why do I like these guys? Aside from partnering with some serious brands that include Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker, and Birchbox, I’ve had an absolutely great experience implementing the platform on Magento. Setup is minimal, their template offerings are extensive, conversion reporting is great, and social sharing is made extremely simple. Check out an example of FriendBuy in action with our client Dormify (this is taken from a CMS landing page, though we do have links to the widget on product pages and their post purchase page as well):

Tip #3: Get Personal

My roommate has placed several orders over the last six or so months from the UK-based Men’s Clothing shop, Charles Tyrwhitt, and absolutely loves their shirts (he has roughly 10 now). With his latest purchase, he received a handwritten note from their Director of Customer Service thanking him for the order as well as his brand loyalty over 2013. The message was short but extremely effective — my roommate placed another order a week later because of how impressed he was with the level of personalization and proactive outreach. Being the eCommerce nerd that I am, I ran a search query on Google to see if this “letter” was something that Charles Tyrwhitt has done before and/or does on a recurring basis. What did I find as one of the very first images listed in results? Brace yourself…

My response?

#AreYouKiddingMe? I could not have been more impressed here. The quality and level of personalization coming directly from the CEO of the company (who also doesn’t even MENTION his title) coupled with the free gift voucher is just a double whammy of epic proportions. Could he have written 100 of these same letters and just swapped out customer names? Does the gift voucher really only equate to just $13.54 in USD? Could this have actually been written by an entry-level assistant? Yes, yes, and yes. But still, come on… this is impressive. Consider writing something along the lines of the letter above and adding it to a few of your next best customer orders — that 30 minutes of your time should pay off plenty in future business.

While this is by no means a complete list of strategies for retaining some of your best customers, they’re a few that I find to be effective and relatively easy to implement.

Janessa Lantz, Content Marketer at RJMetrics

Co-blogger Janessa Lantz is a Content Marketer at RJMetrics, an emerging SaaS business intelligence platform for eTailers, with clients that include Bonobos, Fab, and Threadless. In her spare time, she’s usually reading, napping, or delivering spontaneous lectures on her current topics of interest.