GMT NewYork London Moscow Tokyo Sydney

Nov

15

2016

150 Years of the Best Holiday Marketing Campaigns [Infographic]

150 Years of Holiday Marketing Campaigns.jpg

Despite changing demographics and consumer behaviors, the holiday season remains one of the more influential times of year to launch a campaign and seal it into holiday memory for years to come.

To do that, though, your brand needs to come up with something seriously innovative, engaging, and interesting — something that’ll resonate with your customers. This usually means lights, emotions, and celebrating family and friends.

Of course, there’s no harm is looking to the past to see which other brands and campaigns have made their way to the holiday retail hall of fame. Here, we look back on 150 years of inspirational ads and campaigns that many consumers say the holidays just wouldn’t be the same without.

What can your brand do this year to stand out?

best-holiday-retail-campaigns-750x3125 (1).jpg



free ebook: holiday marketing campaign ideas

Nov

15

2016

150 Years of the Best Holiday Marketing Campaigns [Infographic]

150 Years of Holiday Marketing Campaigns.jpg

Despite changing demographics and consumer behaviors, the holiday season remains one of the more influential times of year to launch a campaign and seal it into holiday memory for years to come.

To do that, though, your brand needs to come up with something seriously innovative, engaging, and interesting — something that’ll resonate with your customers. This usually means lights, emotions, and celebrating family and friends.

Of course, there’s no harm is looking to the past to see which other brands and campaigns have made their way to the holiday retail hall of fame. Here, we look back on 150 years of inspirational ads and campaigns that many consumers say the holidays just wouldn’t be the same without.

What can your brand do this year to stand out?

best-holiday-retail-campaigns-750x3125 (1).jpg



free ebook: holiday marketing campaign ideas

Sep

7

2016

Free Shipping is Tough— and It Might Not Be Your Best Option [Infographic]

free-shipping-ecommerce.jpg

Businesses of all sizes struggle with offering free shipping. Yet, 80% of U.S. shoppers cite shipping cost and speed of delivery as a heavily influential factor in if they buy a product from certain brand. Free shipping can, then, increase conversion rates, and give your brand the leg up it needs to close more sales and win more customers for the long haul.

Of course, that is, if you can make free shipping sustainable –– and not many can. Even Amazon struggles with free shipping profitability, and –– not to point fingers –– but they started this whole free shipping frenzy!

Know this though: free shipping isn’t the only shipping trick you should have up your sleeve. And, free shipping isn’t the right choice for every single brand. It depends on what you are selling, where you are selling it and to whom you are selling it.

That said, here’s a handy chart to help you determine the best shipping strategy for your brand. Shipping shouldn’t be a drain on your revenue, nor a reason why customers aren’t checking out. There’s a balance. Here’s how to find it.

ecommerce-shipping-infographic.jpg

Learn to grow your ecommerce business with these guides.

Subscribe to the ecommerce blog

Jun

8

2016

Modern Consumer Behavior in an Omni-Channel World [Infographic]

omni-channel-consumer-behavior-ecommerce.png

There have been plenty of predictions for the commerce industry in 2016. From drones and year round same-day delivery, to AI and wearable technology woven into our everyday fabrics. Google, Amazon and the like have all made strides in these arenas, but outside of those technology behemoths, 2016 has been a relatively slow shopping year from the point of view of retailers.

The Guardian recently blamed this on deep discounting trends, which began during the recession, have yet to let up, even though the economy is relatively healthy and consumers likely have more to spend. The pricing race to the bottom is cutting into the margins of most small and mid-sized retailers –– and it’s a bit unclear for most on who to back out of this situation. It’s one thing to lower prices and an entirely other to raise them.

In looking to solve this problem and figure out exactly what it is that is convincing consumers to buy online, BigCommerce commissioned a study into the modern consumer journey. We learned how, when, why and where U.S. consumers buy today –– and more so, what is stopping them from doing so. 

This information is incredibly important for retailers looking to sustain and grow their revenue. In today’s omni-channel world, brands must be strategic about merchandising on their various channels and need to fully understand why or why not their customers are clicking the buy button –– no matter where it appears.

Check out the infographic below for key insights or read the full State of Omni-Channel Retail Report.

modern-consumer-behavior-omni-channel-infographic.png

  Learn to grow your ecommerce business with these guides.

Subscribe to the ecommerce blog

Feb

4

2016

How to Prep Your Online Store for a Celebrity Endorsement with the Likes of Beyoncé

online-store-celebrity-endorsement.jpg 

Starting up a business is hard work. Any successful entrepreneur will tell you that. What they’ll likely also tell you is that to be truly successful, timing is absolutely everything. Some entrepreneurs may call this aspect of success “luck,” and they’re probably right. The formula to produce luck for you and your company, then, is as simple as identifying your opportunities and putting action behind them. At least, this was the success formula for metallic temporary tattoo company Flash Tattoos when they solidified a collaboration with Beyoncé.

“We were really excited about collaborating with Beyoncé, not only because we are huge fans of hers, but also because the partnership grew organically,” says Kirsten Stoddard, marketing and PR manager at Flash Tattoos. “She was a genuine Flash fan before we even started talking about designing a collection together.” 

It’s easy to recognize that a collaboration with Beyoncé will grow your brand awareness and sales. But for online businesses, there’s a lot more to consider behind the scenes when it comes to launching something this large. Downtime or slow load times occur on even the best maintained sites, and loyal customers are always quick to leave if the business doesn’t deliver a great experience to its customer.

Preparing for a Spike in Visitors

“During media events like these, we often see huge spikes of visitors. A large percentage will visit out of curiosity and others will have true buyer’s intent,” says Liam Garcia, Flash Tattoos’ Bigcommerce account manager. “If the experience is compromised due to server performance, businesses can lose sales opportunities generated during and after the event.”

For businesses such as Flash Tattoos, whose site may regularly see some 200,000 visitors a month, any delay in page load time can quickly cause a user to bounce – often to a competing business. Add the expected site traffic bump from launching a partnership with Beyonce, and you may be spelling disaster for a growing brand.

The Cost of Downtime

The data suggests that each and every one of these precautions is necessary. After all, downtime or slow page load speed costs money – and a lot of it. Most cloud-based ecommerce platforms maintain 99% uptime, but that still equals about seven hours of downtime a year. Besides, unexpectedly high traffic load can easily cause even the most trafficked sites to go down – whether you’re on a cloud-based platform or not.

The average cost for downtime incidents increased from $5,211 per minute in 2010 to $8,023 per minute in 2013, an increase of almost 54%. These costs are calculated not just based on sales lost, but on loss of customer trust and negative brand association. All of which studies suggest can rarely be fixed. When it comes to online shopping, just as in life, first impressions matter – and few forget them. Now, consider you’re a growing, but relatively unknown brand with a Beyonce collection to release and you can assume those costs per minute to increase.

Flash Tattoos preparation on its backend paid off, and worked in its favor. It had ten times the normal traffic at the peak of the launch, and its team knew such lofty goals were attainable as a result. For other brands looking to replicate Flash Tattoos’ success, or who are new to partnerships and collaborations, here are a few helpful tips to keep you sane during the process:

Start Early

It’s never too soon to reach out to an influencer you want to work with and start brainstorming ways you could collaborate.

Plan for the Best, Be Prepared for the Worst

It’s inevitable that problems or delays will arise at some point during the process. Just stay positive, come up with creative solutions and keep chugging along. All those exhausting late nights are worth it in the end.

Be Flexible!

Plans can change, and rules can bend: just keep an open mind, and be able to jump on a moment’s notice. You never know what can change in a day. 

In all, collaborations are high-stakes initiatives for online businesses, especially those at that pivotal growth stage, where any small misstep can suddenly halt that hockey stick growth. Thoughtful governance around site maintenance for unusually high traffic is absolutely necessary to ensure all of your public-facing work pays off.

Learn to grow your ecommerce business with these guides.

Subscribe to the ecommerce blog

Jan

7

2016

Omnichannel: A Fancy Word for Increasing Product Discoverability

omnichannel-discoverability.jpg

With the Fed recently raising interest rates, it is clear that consumer confidence is up. Shoppers have more money in their pockets and are willing to spend it. So, trying to persuade them to purchase won’t be as much of a need in 2016 as compared to years past during the economic downturn.

No, this year, attracting and converting customers will be the biggest challenge, especially for brands who have not embraced the omnichannel trend. Why? Easy—studies suggest that the rise of technology and the plethora of options it affords us has lowered human attention span to less than that of a goldfish. For retailers, this means that a potential new customer wanting to purchase, say, a dress, has a lot of distractions in her way before she lands on your site.

The Rise of Omnichannel

Let’s take a step back though. Omnichannel is an industry buzzword, and perhaps an overused one at that. But, its implications pack a meaningful punch.

Omnichannel simply means that your brand is capable of selling absolutely anywhere the consumer is willing to buy. In an omnichannel world, there is no distinction between retail stores or ecommerce or mobile commerce or social commerce. It is all merely commerce, and the need to manage business operations from a centralized hub, pulling in sales and inventory data from physical stores, ecommerce sites and various marketplaces, is key to a successful strategy.

Recent data supports this, as well. An Adlucent study found that 47% of shoppers plan to start researching products on a search engine like Google or Bing, followed by Amazon with 31%, and 13% in stores. Bloomberg data released earlier this year reported similar findings: 44% of consumers start their product search on Amazon, with 34% doing so on search engines.

Yet, no matter where consumers start their search, 90% of retail sales still occur in store, and 95% of all retail sales go to stores which have brick-and-mortar locations. In fact, it seems very much as though mobile commerce and physical commerce are converging: 75% of shoppers use their mobile device in store, promoting the use of beacons to push in-store notifications bringing that short consumer attention span back to the brand at hand.

These numbers are likely the impetus behind Amazon’s recent opening of a brick-and-mortar bookstore, or the ever-growing physical locations of once only-online stores including ModCloth, Nasty Gal, Birchbox, Warby Parker and more. Indeed, in a recent USA Today article, Warby Parker CEO Neil Blumenthal said the company sees itself as medium agnostic.

“In five years, I’m not sure what other channels will exist,” he says. “The key is to stay flexible and follow the customers.”

Of course, the reverse is true as well. Many once offline-only sellers are opening up digital storefronts, with mobile-friendly templates to get the most out of Google’s recent mobile-local search algorithm play, among other online benefits. Luxury retail is one of the fastest growing online segments due to the previous reluctance of brands like Chanel, Dior and more to open online shops. Exclusivity is no longer the name of the game, folks, at least not when it comes to discoverability.

So, what is a scaling brand to do to compete with ever-eroding boundaries between the various commerce preferences of consumers? Well, here are a few ideas.

Open a Popup Shop, Even to Just Test It Out

Have you heard of Storefront? This startup works similarly to an Airbnb for your business. You enter your location and they will find a space for you to rent. This is a smart strategy for scaling brands. Invest in a few pop up shops in your area and perform a bit of an A/B test on location.

Plus, Sucharita Mulpuru, a senior analyst with Forrester Research, says that an offline store could be well worth its costs, drawing on analysis of foot traffic and customer conversation. “It costs $10,000 to pull a focus group together,” she said. “If you look at how much it would cost you to do market research, and the amount of market research you gain just by observing people, it’s the equivalent of 100 focus groups.” 

Optimize Your Site for Search Engines

This goes well beyond SEO. Yes, be sure that your SEO is rock-solid and remember that SEO is not a “set it and forget it” thing. You must be consistently updating. Make sure all product pages have proper meta-data and page titles. Write your own, compelling and keyword rich product descriptions. Launch a blog to add personality to your brand, and to earn growing ranking authority on search engines.

Got all of that? Great—now to the technical side. Make absolutely sure your site is mobile-friendly. Responsive templates are one of the best ways to do this. Add SSL protections to your site. Your whole site. Google has yet to completely verify that this is used in how they rank sites, but multiple executives have mentioned the importance of this. Take note.

Make Marketplaces Your Friend

This is a hard one for a lot of growing online businesses. Many of you started on an Etsy or Amazon, and decided to move away from those marketplaces to increase your total cost of ownership and begin to build serious brand awareness. That’s great, and that was a smart move.

Now that your site is up and running, though, marketplaces can increase your product discoverability and bring even more people to your site as well as your brick-and-mortar. Amazon product listings often instill brand trust and credibility for consumers. Plus, almost half of all online product search begin on Amazon. If your products aren’t there, you aren’t even in the running to win those customers.

Marketplace product listing is a strategy all its own. You don’t need to put every single one of your SKUs on marketplaces. In fact, it might be better that you don’t. Instead, slightly alter the SKUs you sell on Amazon, Etsy, eBay and the like, and then price them accordingly. On Amazon, for instance, you’ll be competing for the lowest price—so be sure you place products there with high enough margins that you can be competitive.

This can play well into a full omnichannel strategy as well. For instance, stores like Best Buy place products on Amazon, but offer in-store price matching, enabling them to sell additional products to savvy customers in-store, and let those who prefer marketplaces check out there.

Conclusion

In all, retailers of all sizes need to be utilizing all available product discoverability touchpoints. Customers are increasingly blurring the lines between commerce points of sale, whether that be offline, on your website or via a marketplace. If your products don’t appear when and where a customer searches for them, you won’t be closing any sales. Instead, you’ll likely be losing those sales to a quicker competitor—one who is constantly watching the industry and prepping their ecommerce backend to better serve as a hub, rather than a stand-alone.

Learn to grow your ecommerce business with these guides.

Subscribe to the ecommerce blog

Dec

3

2015

Conquering the Free Shipping Conundrum: How to Make Money Without Forfeiting Margins

Ecommerce-Free-Shipping.png

Millennials are discount-hungry. Blame it on the economy in which they launched their careers or attribute it to their digitally savvy shopping habits. Either way, a new report from Mindshare North America shows that this generation will do just about anything to buy goods at the lowest possible cost. Just look at these stats for proof:

  • 47% of millennials will purposely leave items in their shopping cart in hopes that the retailer will reach out with a promotion. 
  • 39% of millennials clear their online search history to get better prices from online sellers. 
  • 26% of millennials have purposely entered a fake birth date to receive a discount. 
  • 70% of millennials search for promo codes online before purchasing. 

Another study conducted jointly by Forbes and Elite Daily mimicked similar findings, and found that 57% of millennials report they will not change their spending habits.

Millennials Move Towards Mobile

But there’s more: Millennials are also depending on their mobile devices as necessary comparison tools when shopping both in-store and online. Continuous access to the internet allows 59% of shoppers to simultaneously search competitor’s product listings or even access barcode scanner apps to find the same product for the cheapest possible price online. And, with 66% of millennials using new mobile payment services, the process of mobile purchasing isn’t only seamless — it’s becoming commonplace.

This shift in consumer shopping habits (increasingly ecommerce, and even within that segment, increasingly mobile), has forced many retailers to pivot their pricing and marketing strategies. And top of the list for most online stores is free shipping –– and the ability to offer it, or not.

The Free Shipping Question

For many retailers, free shipping simply cuts too far into their margins, eliminating any possibility of profitability. Even Amazon is among those –– the company reported net shipping costs were more than $1 billion per quarter in 2014. Amazon made a strategic decision to subsidize shipping heavily as part of their growth strategy.

And in the ecommerce industry, when one behemoth brand does something the consumers like, most others must follow suit. Indeed, consumer perception of shipping costs now weighs heavily on their purchasing decision. Pitney Bowes published their 2015 Holiday Shipping Survey and it makes for an interesting read. Here are some of the more relevant and poignant points:

  • 93% of consumers say shipping options are an important factor in their online shopping experience (up a massive 24% from 2014)
  • 88% said that free shipping with 5-7 day delivery time is more attractive than paying a fee for 1-2 day faster delivery
  • 3 in 5 consumers have increased their total spend in the past to qualify for free shipping
  • 68% have used a free shipping coupon code

In all, free shipping has essentially become a marketing tactic to help you close sales. Below are tips from shipping expert Karen Baker on how you can use free shipping as a marketing channel, while still maintaining your margins.

1) Consider Your Industry

As a merchant, you need to think about your market sector, your competition and the space in which you play. You might not need free shipping. This is especially true in the B2B space, where what might be more important is accurate dimensional based pricing.

If you have loyal customers, they will appreciate you passing on your negotiated rates to them and giving them the choice over urgency of delivery. If you are competing based on product price, then it may be that you have no ability to absorb free shipping costs. It’s all about information accuracy, and using multiple carriers where required so you can offer the best and cheapest service.

Be transparent, be honest. Customers appreciate it.

2) Offer Free Shipping to Limited Regions

As a starter, in the U.S. you should limit free shipping to the U.S. 48 contiguous states. Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico –– sorry, you are out of luck. People in those places expect to pay extra for shipping.

APOs and PO Boxes are other areas for which you can switch off free shipping. If you take a look at Jet.com, they follow this policy. Copy it.

3) Surcharge Your Expedited Rates

We know how this works. We go to a store advertising free shipping. We shop. Then, we get to checkout and find out it’s going to take 10 days to deliver. Amazon is the master of this. They will purposely hold the shipment back for a few days if its free.

The reasoning is that, by this point, we are committed to the sale. We’ll then think, “Oh, another $10 bucks I could get this faster.” This is where your opportunity lies. Surcharge the expedited. There will be a segment of customers (especially as the holidays get closer) that will pay extra to get it faster. This surcharge can offset the free shipping you are offering other customers.

4) Take a Monthly View

Some merchants want to look at every single order and ensure they make a profit. In some cases, that’s necessary. In most cases, taking a monthly view is a better option.

You win some, you lose some. It’s an iterative process. You should understand your shipping rules and be able to correlate what’s happening with your charges against your own policy. At the end of the month –– are you happy with the results?

5) Show Delivery Time

People are becoming more and more impatient. And, more and more used to having readily available information. Having an estimated number of delivery days, or an expected delivery date, is becoming more important.

Once you have that, you can then have more leverage around upselling faster services. Remember: people are much less tolerant now, and they have greater choice to shop elsewhere.

6) Offer Free Shipping After Conditions Met

Try pushing up your minimum order price to qualify for free shipping. Does it affect sales? Maybe. Run an A/B test to see what the impact is.

You can advertise free shipping on your site, but qualify that it only applies on your small goods, a certain category or maybe you want to just offer it on your big ticket items. Free shipping on your site doesn’t have to be universal.

7) Use Promotions

We all love a promotion. Does it need to be free shipping? Maybe you publish list rates for UPS, but then offer 20% shipping discount to your returning customers via an email campaign. Or, just charge shipping on the highest value goods. For example, if I buy a kayak, I might pay shipping for that, but any other goods in the store ship for free. There are many, many combinations you can do here which give customer reward and encourage a higher dollar price.

Visit the holiday resource hub for all your holiday marketing needs.

Subscribe to the ecommerce blog

May

21

2015

The Democratization of Ecommerce Through SaaS (and the Importance of Uptime)

ecommerce_copy.jpg

The holidays seem so far off, but trust me: they are approaching full speed. For ecommerce companies, the holidays are a black train in the night –– but one for which you’ve already bought a ticket and are excited about the destination. You know it is coming, you know it will be on time, but the anticipation, the necessary preparation –– well, those are a bit less exciting than the benefits of the trip itself.

See, when it comes to the holidays, ecommerce benefits more and more year-over-year. In total, the 2014 holiday season saw a 7% increase in ecommerce sales –– bumping up the total revenue to $100 billion. For individual days, though, the increase was much more significant with the biggest year-over-year gains in ecommerce spending being Thanksgiving Day (32%), Black Friday (26%) and Cyber Monday (17%).

While online and mobile shopping continue to dominate the retail industry, especially during high volume shopping periods like the holidays, an online store’s biggest concern isn’t that they won’t make any sales –– but that they will make too many.

Inventory issues abound, especially for those brands who have gone from startup to making more than $1 million in revenue in a very short time period. For these brands, though, even inventory isn’t the biggest issue. It’s uptime. With a slew of new visitors hitting their site thanks to promotions often unexpected (think of publication gift guide roundups from Mashable and the Huffington Post, to name a few), some online stores simply are not capable of handling the load.

The Revolution in Ecommerce

As the internet continues to democratize information, ecommerce is seeing a revolution of sorts akin to what the publishing industry saw a few years ago when blogs began competing with legacy brands like the New York Times (you’ll notice it was once startup blogs themselves referenced earlier in this article –– now full-blown publications in and of themselves). Today, startup brands like Warby Parker or Birchbox are capable of selling online and outcompeting the bigger names –– like Luxottica or Sephora. In a few short years, it’s likely you’ll know ecommerce sites like Flash Tats, Man Crates or Lace and Grace just as well.

There is a difference though –– these latter companies, due to their smaller size and need to allocate funds efficiently, have opted out of the traditional on-premise, self-hosted or built-in-house ecommerce solutions and gone with SaaS platforms instead. Then again, so has Beyonce and Fadar Fort. Samsung, too, is testing it out. Even the guys from Duck Commander are forgoing the older, expensive technology in favor of the newer cloud-based options.

Why? Well, because doing so can save you upward of $60,000 per year on maintenance alone –– while achieving 99.9% uptime in the form of an SLA. This means when it comes to high holiday traffic, or maybe just high traffic from an appearance on Shark Tank or a product mention in your new documentary or TV show (referencing Beyonce and Duck Commander here), all you have to worry about is converting those new visitors rather than if your site will be able to handle the increased load. 

And Its Democratization

In all, there is a massive democratization of ecommerce movement going on. In the past, the cost to entry was incredibly high –– and few stores outside of the big box brands could open their own online stores. It is why boutiques have for so long been brick-and-mortar only. It is why platforms like Etsy and Amazon have done so well –– because facing a $60,000 cost of deployment, with a similarly high recurring yearly cost for maintenance, hosting your products on marketplaces was the only affordable option.

Now, it is equally affordable to own your own site, to utilize powerful branding and marketing to increase your revenue and brand awareness, to become one of those two million small businesses advertising on Facebook, and then to become one of those once-startup brands seriously disrupting the retail industry.

This is no longer a rare story. Online retailers are increasingly pushing bigger brands aside in the consumer mind. In fact, some journalists even think that these bigger brands will need to acquire the smaller guys in order to stay ahead. After all, it is the smaller guys who are more nimble and agile, better able to react to new age consumer needs and wants. Welcome to the age of ecommerce democratization –– where every day people can start up a store, market authentically, build a loyal community and then beat out big box, chain retailers at their own game.

19 (Easy To Fix) Blunders That Are Hurting Your Conversion Rates

Subscribe to

 

May

14

2015

Dropshipping 101: What It Is and How It Can Make You a Successful Online Retailer

dropshipping-101-ecommerce.jpg

You’ve decided to launch an online store and join the ecommerce revolution. The very first questions you need to answer are all about your product: what will you sell, where will you get it and how will you get it to your customers. Amazing marketing and incredible customer service won’t get you very far without sourcing, inventory management, order fulfillment and shipping processes in place.

Does that sound intimidating, boring or even impossible? You may want to skip the hassle and check out dropshipping.

What is Dropshipping?

Dropshipping allows store owners to fulfill orders directly from a wholesaler or manufacturer. That means that you don’t have to worry about inventory management or shipping; you simply transfer orders to a dropshipping partner who handles all of the inventory and logistics.  

Before dropshipping, there were two major ecommerce models:

  • Make a unique product from scratch. Do you love knitting cashmere cat sweaters? Great! You’ll have a completely unique product to bring to the marketplace. But can you create demand and scale your business?
  • Purchase inventory in bulk. You won’t need to develop a new product, but you might get stuck with a garage full of widgets you can’t sell. If you do get traction, you’ll need to tackle fulfilling and shipping orders on your own.

With dropshipping, you are only responsible for marketing and selling the products. Another person in the supply chain worries about product, inventory, packaging and shipping. But that means rather than finding efficiencies in the system, you’ll need to get very clever to take on Amazon, big box stores and other dropshipping ecommerce stores.

The Pros & Cons of Dropshipping

Dropshipping can sound like a magic bullet for making money online, but don’t be fooled. Like anything else, there are upsides and downsides to dropshipping.

The Pros:

1) No startup capital. If you’re just getting started, dropshipping lets you launch without investing a lot of money. Traditional retailers need to buy and store inventory in order to sell it to consumers. But if you’re using a dropshipper, you can offer a full catalogue of products with little overhead.

2) Less hassle involved. As mentioned above, you don’t have to deal with on-hand inventory, which means that you don’t have to handle packing or shipping either. This lets you focus your time and energy on marketing and growing your business.

3) You can easily expand your offerings. If you want to expand your offerings, dropshipping is a great way to test new products with your audience. This will allow you to truly see if they’re a market fit without having to invest in large amounts of expensive inventory up-front.

The Cons:

1) Managing the logistics. The logistics for dropshipping can be hard to overcome as your business expands. If your supplier relies on multiple warehouses, this will be even more of a challenge. Poor logistics management can lead to a subpar customer experience, due to improper tracking numbers, incorrect addresses and shipping delays.

2) The low barrier to entry. This sounds like a positive, and it is. But at the same time, because of the low barrier to entry, plenty of other people will be selling the same products. This makes it harder to stand out as a new business and means there’s stiff competition. Remember, if a supplier dropshipping for you, they’ll dropship to anyone, and that makes it tough to stand out.

3) No control over the packaging. If you’re an online-only store, the very first physical interaction you have with your customers is when they open their purchase. But if you’re dropshipping, you give up control over the packaging. That means no special touches or cute thank-you cards that can really make your store stand out. These days most reputable dropshippers will at least allow for private label shipping with customized invoicing and packing slips.

4) Tight profit margins. It’s very difficult for small businesses to compete on price, and the nature of dropshipping means you aren’t selling a unique product. Make sure you are ready to invest in something that will differentiate your store, like great educational resources, strong copywriting, or building a unique niche market.

Avoid These Common Dropshipping Mistakes

After you’ve decided to start dropshipping, you need to make sure you’ve got a solid strategy in place from the get-go. And that means avoiding these common mistakes.

Expecting Your Products to Sell Themselves

As mentioned above, dropshipping automatically puts you in a competitive space, because others are selling exactly the same thing that you are. It’s all too easy to think that you’ll be able to set up dropshipping for your store and then have an instant money-maker on your hands.

The opposite is true — when you’re dropshipping, you need to put all of the time that you save on shipping and fulfillment into marketing and SEO. Those are the elements that will drive traffic to your store and make you sales when you’re a dropshipper. Since you can’t control the fulfillment or packaging with dropshipping, you always want to put a priority focus on quality customer service and giving customers a positive experience with the parts of the buying process that you can control.

Relying Too Much on One Supplier or Not Testing Suppliers

If you rely on one supplier without having a back-up, you’re setting yourself up for logistical issues down the line. What if they raise their prices to a point you can’t afford? Or go out of business? Or simply decide not to work with you any more? Even on the less drastic end of scenarios, they could be out of stock on a product and have no idea when they’ll get it back in stock. Always have a backup supplier that you can turn to if your go-to supplier doesn’t work out for a particular order.

Every time you start working with a new supplier, you should make sure that they cut the mustard by placing test orders. When you get the order, examine it closely, considering the packaging, shipment time and so on, and make sure that everything is top-quality. It’s a good idea to continue placing test orders on a somewhat regular basis. Fulfillment is critically important to any online business, and you want to catch any slips in quality before they become an issue.

Stressing Over Shipping Rates

Dealing with shipping rates can be a hassle, even if you ship all your orders from one location.

If you ship from more than one warehouse, or dropship through multiple suppliers, it can be a nightmare. What if an order draws on two different warehouses, or three different suppliers?

Instead of stressing about multi-location shipping on every single order, take a step back and look at the big picture. What are you trying to achieve? Accurate shipping rates? Or more sales, happy customers, and repeat business? If you’re burning energy over shipping prices on every single order, that’s energy you’re not spending on creating a better shopping experience, growing your store, marketing and so on.

So what should you do instead? Take a look at past orders and use them to work out a flat shipping rate. Or perhaps a tiered rate based on cart value. Will it cut into your profit margins? Yes, on some orders. But you’ll come out ahead on others, and if you’ve set your flat rate properly, shipping costs will even out over time. There’s also the fact that flat rate and free shipping has been shown to increase conversion rates—one of the main reasons customers abandon their shopping carts is because of shipping costs. A flat shipping fee removes confusion and seemingly “hidden” fees that show up at checkout.

As you can see, dropshipping isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but it can be a great way to start or scale an ecommerce store. At every stage of your business, you need to step back and evaluate whether or not dropshipping makes sense for your store.

19 (Easy To Fix) Blunders That Are Hurting Your Conversion Rates

Subscribe to

May

7

2015

Online Security & Protection Measures: What All Ecommerce Owners Need to Know About PCI Compliance

 Online Security Measures Ecommerce

The modern world of technology can be frightening place. Sure, the internet has democratized information for developed countries, and is continuing to do so for emerging and developing countries across the globe. Big data is beginning to reach a catalyst point, at which its use and its profitability are growing parallel –– and at exponential rates. Yet, with all of our modern day technologies and innovations, one very real concern still weighs heavily on the mind of most consumers: security.

This couldn’t be more true in the ecommerce industry –– an industry rife with tales of breaches and hacker takedowns. Whether you’re talking Wal-Mart, Target or Home Depot –– few retailers are safe. In fact, in 2014, reports showed that some 43% of companies had a data breach of some sort.

That’s a lot of information falling in to the wrong hands, but before we really start to worry, know this: there are solutions.

Enter PCI (Payment Card Industry) Data Security Standards (DSS)

The PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) defines a series of specific Data Security Standards (DSS) that are relevant to all merchants, regardless of revenue and credit card transaction volumes.  

Achieving and maintaining PCI compliance is the ongoing process an organization undertakes to ensure that they are adhering to the security standards defined by the PCI SSC.   

The SSC defines and manages the standards, while compliance to them is enforced by the credit card companies themselves. Again, these standards apply to all organizations that deal with cardholder data. Cardholder data refers specifically to the credit card number, along with cardholder name, expiration date and security code (CSC).

And, here’s the kicker: it is a retailer’s responsibility to ensure PCI compliance. For online retailers operating a SaaS based ecommerce store that do not have any access to any credit cardholder data (which is the case for most modern SaaS commerce platforms), your need for PCI compliance is mitigated entirely. The heavy lifting has been taken care of by the experts working on the backend of your technology.

If you host and manage your own ecommerce platform, you will need to ensure PCI compliance for your organization, and the first step is to determine the required compliance level.

All online merchants fall into one of four levels based on credit or debit card transaction volume over a 12-month period. Level 1 is the most strict in terms of DSS requirements, where Level 4 is the least strict:

PCI_Compliance_Ecommerce.png

Almost all small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) classify as the lower Level 3 or Level 4 merchant, however, this does not preclude the necessity to maintain compliance with the same diligence as larger organizations. In fact, it’s a costly misconception encountered amongst SMBs who believe they do not need to worry about compliance at all because they don’t do a significant enough volume of online or in-store sales.

How to Achieve PCI Compliance on Your Own

The PCI DSS follows common-sense steps that mirror security best practices. There are three steps for adhering to the PCI DSS – which is not a single event, but a continuous, ongoing process:

  • First, Assess: identify cardholder data you are responsible for, take an inventory of your IT assets and business processes for payment card processing, and analyze them for vulnerabilities that could expose cardholder data.
  • Second, Remediate: fix vulnerabilities and do not store cardholder data unless you absolutely need to. Wherever and whenever cardholder data can be retained by an external qualified body instead of yourself is ideal, because nothing reaches immediate compliance more quickly than not storing or transmitting credit card data at all.
  • Third, Report: compile and submit required remediation validation records (if applicable), and submit compliance reports to the acquiring bank and card brands you do business with.

Keep in mind that online merchants over a certain size require quarterly external vulnerability scans. The largest merchants require outside compliance audits.

In all, online security and data protection standards are continuously rising. SaaS technologies build this type of protection into their platforms and for online businesses not using a SaaS solution, they are required to achieve compliance levels akin to any other online merchant.

I believe Nate Silver said it best. In a recent Freakonomics Podcast, Silver spoke briefly about human error when it comes to mass adoption of new technologies.

“When the personal computer became commonplace in the workforce in the 1970s and then in the home in the early 1980s, it took awhile before there were any tangible signs of productivity gains in the economy –– meaning like ten or fifteen or twenty years, even. So I think people love new technology, but they overestimate how much of the kind of human factor gets in the way. I’m not trying to be cute about that, I just mean that people need to learn how to use these tools, what they can do, what they can’t do.”

Online security is beginning to reach that point at which market saturation is high. This means that, like the computer, people are seeing online data protection as a necessity rather than a nice-to-have. Sure, big name breaches brought the issue into the public eye, but since then, much has been done to educate the public and online merchants as to the full scope of the problem and the possible solutions.

PCI compliance is just one of many regulations put in place to protect both online businesses as well as their customers.

Download The Free Ecommerce Email Marketing Ebook

Subscribe to

Apr

30

2015

The Tale of Two Ecommerce Companies That Turned Down Shark Tank Deals

 Shark Tank Ecommerce

Choosing what to sell online is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as an entrepreneur. To be successful, you need to pick products that you’re passionate about and find an ecommerce model that resonates with your personality. With that in mind, let’s look to popular TV show Shark Tank to help you get started on the right foot –– because no one embodies passion and personality like the stars of the Tank.

PetPaint’s Shark Tank Advice: Listen, Learn –– Then Sell

MARRY-640x469.jpg

It’s tough being thrown into the Tank. Judges on the popular television show, Shark Tank, will hit you with tough questions and there is a lot to learn from the best of the best in the entrepreneurial industry. Sometimes, you need to listen to the words of a seasoned mentor.

“Shark Tank was a good experience for me in that you walk into this room and you exchange a lot of ideas and a lot of questions in a short period of time,” says Abe Geary, founder of PetPaint. “Mark Cuban’s biggest advice on the show was, “Why don’t you go the ecommerce route rather than trying to build the wholesale-retail network? Go straight to the consumer.”

That was in 2013. Since then, Geary has taken his PetPaint idea to the web, like Cuban suggested, increasing his sales 130% year over year. His Shark Tank appearance certainly helped to gain valuable eyeballs on his products. After the show aired, Geary saw a 55,000% spike in traffic.

“The biggest challenge, and the greatest asset, that we have is that it’s a new and exciting product,” Abe replied.

“All the more reason why the web would have worked great for you,” Cuban countered.

To truly utilize the web to grow product awareness, one of Geary’s top priorities was in building a robust PetPaint community. Before Shark Tank, he used the online store as proof of concept, setting up the company for future growth with consumers and retailers. But, PetPaint has continued to build their fanbase with offline events as well. The product is especially popular as a charity fundraiser and with rescue organizations looking for a safe way to help deserving dogs find a forever home.

petpaint_sharktank.jpg

Since his appearance on Shark Tank, Geary has honed in on another particularly engaged customer segment: dog groomers. By providing professionals with a new way to boost their own revenue, he’s establishing a base of loyal repeat buyers. Their artistic creations, which range from zebras to cartoon characters, are also a great way to show off PetPaint in action.

“My goal for PetPaint is to take it from a novel product to actually creating an industry segment,” he said. “Nobody’s heard of paint for dogs in the past, but you’re going to think about it in the future. And you’ll have a place to buy it, whether it’s from my ecommerce site, multiple other online avenues or your nearest pet store. That is my goal for the next five years.”

SoapSox’s Shark Tank Advice: Don’t Go On Until You’re Ready

soapsox-phillips-uy.jpg

SoapSox, a successful Kickstarter idea turned company, had a unique journey into the Shark Tank. The company was accepted for the 2013 season, when they already had a deal with Nordstrom but no sales.

“I was terrified to go on national TV and look like an idiot,” says Ray Phillips, founder of SoapSox, a unique and fun washcloth for kids. “So we respectfully declined. The producers urged us to reconsider, ‘Few people get calls back, so really think about it. We’d love to have you back, but we can’t guarantee anything.’ But we knew we weren’t quite ready.”

Over the next six months, SoapSox built a solid customer base and got some serious sales numbers under their belt. The company also received a rejection email from Shark Tank for Season 6, but when Phillips reconnected with the casting director again at a New York trade show, the producer told him to delete the email. SoapSox moved forward with filming on Shark Tank in 2014.

“The people at Shark Tank are amazing,” Phillips said. “The whole experience was so amazing, I can’t even tell you how amazing it was! When you have a platform like Shark Tank, that changes the whole ballgame. We didn’t know we’d air until for month, so we had a Plan A and a Plan B. We went with Plan B. We want to ride the Shark Tank wave as much as we can.”

soapsox-tank-the-shark.jpg

In the end, however, Phillips turned down all offers from the Sharks. He came into the tank asking for a $2.6 million valuation, offering 10% of the company for $260,000 in capital infusion.

FUBU founder Daymond John started off a round of bidding after all of the other judges opted out. Daymond offered the men a steep $260,000 for 33% of the company, cutting their valuation by more than half. Shortly after Daymond entered his offer, Lori Greiner and Robert Herjavec entered back into the mix, offering $1 Million. Lori and Robert saw the product moving in a different direction, and they said in order to move in that direction, they needed to own the company outright.

Phillips rejected the offers, but has been riding the Shark Tank wave ever since. SoapSox is now available in 51 Nordstroms across the country as well as online.

Shark Tank Tips for Entrepreneurs –– Whether You’re in the Tank or Not

Proprietary is Priority

Your product must be safe from copying. The Sharks are keen to deal with products, processes and technologies that are securely owned, so it’s best to try for a patent. Being proprietary helps prevent any competition from popping up by mimicking your property. You also have the ability to license your property to other businesses, guaranteeing yourself a nice check in the mail for little effort.

Complacency Will Sink You

Did you know sharks will die if they stay still? So will entrepreneurs. According to the Sharks, you must constantly be on top of your game, innovating and improving your business. Whether it be a rise in sales from an amazing press release, a stellar marketing strategy, or a climb in your SEO rank, what goes up must come down. Being able to constantly adapt to changing technology, consumer behaviors and competition is something a successful entrepreneur cannot survive without. Your products can fade into obscurity quickly, so, as un-inspirational as it sounds, it’s best to be planning for the worst –– consistently pushing the limits of your creativity to stand out.

Economies of Scale

An investor isn’t interested in dumping some money on a product with low margins, so it’s best that you reduce the cost to manufacture your product. Being able to produce your product as cheaply and efficiently as possible in large volumes, while retaining its quality, allows you to lower your cost of goods sold (COGS) and improve your returns, overall increasing company revenue.

Passion Alone Just Won’t Cut It

If you aren’t motivated and don’t believe in your product, you’re just treading water. But investors are merciless, and you won’t receive an investment on passion alone, no matter how committed and emotional your pitch is. Numbers speak louder than words, and actions speak louder than promises. Your product’s past sales revenue, market performance, and potential competition are what earn you an investment.

19 (Easy To Fix) Blunders That Are Hurting Your Conversion Rates

Subscribe to

Apr

23

2015

Ecommerce Sites Must Be Responsive; But That’s Just the Beginning of Their Mobile Future

ThinkstockPhotos-456894741_copy

In July 2014, a study analyzing the SEO of the top 500 retailers for Internet Retailer’s Mobile 500 guide found that the mobile adoption rates across those top 500 retailers were as follows: 59% use dedicated mobile sites, 15% use dynamic serving, 14% had no mobile presence, just 9% were responsive. In all, that’s less than 50 of the top 500 retailers using responsive, and that is still about a 3x increase from 2013 adoption rates.

Of course, if that study were to be run again this summer, responsive is likely to take up a larger chunk of that mobile-friendly pie. After all, Google’s most recent algorithm update penalizes brands not effectively addressing their mobile consumers’ needs via a mobile-ready site.

For many retailers, addressing the Google algorithm update meant installing responsive design as a catch-all to not lose their Google ranking –– and that’s a great thing for both those brands and their customers. We are currently at the internet tipping point in which mobile and desktop use runs parallel. Mary Meeker predicted this moment in 2008, and a wealth of other experts agree with her that desktop internet use will continue to level off as mobile rises.

Number_of_Global_Users-Desktop-Mobile

What took the ecommerce industry, then, so long to respond to the rise in power of mobile internet? No, it isn’t that the ecommerce industry is slow, nor that it was unaware of the trend. Instead, it came down to the numbers: mobile visitors convert at drastically lower numbers than desktop visitors. Lower conversions means lower revenue, even if you site traffic is up.

Mobile-conversion-rates-by-device-type-2015

Don’t lament these ecommerce companies just yet, though, for being so money focused.  The majority of ecommerce companies on the web are small businesses, and with so many options on how to scale their online store, these store owners must make the most profitable decisions.

Now that Google has effectively forced the ecommerce industry to address the mobile browsing trend, here are a few ways online stores can combat low mobile conversions.

Timing Matters

According to comScore, while mobile internet usage continues to rise, timing has a lot to do with what device you use, and when.

comscore-device usage throughout the day

If you’re looking to talk to anyone aged 18 to retirement, you’ll want to make sure all of your social posts between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. are mobile friendly. What does mobile friendly mean here? Short posts (less than 100 characters) with links to pages that are responsive and easy to use while on a smartphone. Why? Because commuting hours see the highest number of mobile internet users and you want to optimize for any potential conversions.

During work hours, on the other hand, most people are on desktop, following their own industry news and taking a couple five to ten minute breaks. Give these users content and links that provide useful, actionable information or offer a quick, convenient method to purchase. Retargeting here works well.

Responsive Might Not Be Enough for Ecommerce

Yes, Google now basically requires it for you to rank on mobile search and it is certainly wise for your ecommerce site to indeed be responsive. After all, even during work hours people are using their phones to shop (we are all innocuous shoppers), and you don’t want to lose out on a sale simply because your site wasn’t convenient for a mobile browser.

That said, mobile app usage far outpaces mobile internet usage and it’s ideal for your ecommerce site to be both responsive and either have an app or be included in an app.

Nielsen Monthly App Usage Mobile Web

There are multiple services that can help your brand create a mobile app quickly. Of course, there are also marketplace apps, if you will, that function much like the online marketplaces you are familiar with including eBay, Amazon and Etsy. These mobile marketplaces include apps like Shopkick, on which brands including Walmart, Crate & Barrel, Macy’s and more already have a presence.

In other words, whether your create a branded mobile app or join a marketplace, having a presence in an app increases the possibility for mobile conversions and can help prove the business case for staying mobile-focused first.

To wrap up, responsive design is incredibly important not just for ecommerce sites, but for all sites on the web. Finally, we are moving away from creating one-stop-shop websites that function only on one device, browser or the like. The internet’s purpose has always been to democratize information –– and now, its helping ecommerce businesses democratize their product offering across possible touchpoints.

19 (Easy To Fix) Blunders That Are Hurting Your Conversion Rates

Subscribe to

Apr

16

2015

5 Need-to-Measure Ecommerce Metrics to Scale Like the Big Box Retailers

 made to measure ecommerce metrics

The internet has an infinite amount of benefits, but one in particular that has wholly disrupted business operations. See, the world wide web allows for equal and fair access to websites, which means that startups and small businesses are essentially on an equal playing field with their big box competitors when it comes to ecommerce.

This makes for a monumental advantage when it comes to smaller ecommerce shops. Through an easy checkout process, excellent customer service and a smooth delivery experience, startups and small businesses can oust competitors who have long been household names.

This is exactly what Warby Parker did, ousting Luxottica, or what Rent the Runway did, ousting David’s Bridal, among others.

Of course, as legacy brands become more and more educated to the power of ecommerce, their large budgets follow. And, more often than not, those budgets are going toward analytics platforms that help these brands optimize for repeat customers and quickly notify them to what is working on their sites and what is just sitting in inventory.

In other words, legacy brands do have a leg up on smaller retailers when it comes to ecommerce and it’s in the amount of intelligence they are using to drive conversions and increase revenue.

That said, data and analytics should be democratized throughout the ecommerce space, and no, Google Analytics isn’t enough. Your big box competitors aren’t simply monitoring new and repeat visitors, or from where their web traffic comes. No, they are using enhanced ecommerce analytics to push visitors down a purchase funnel from the moment they land on the site.

Below, the top metrics these retailers are using and how you should be using them, too.

Cost of Acquiring a Customer (CAC)

Before customers can begin purchasing on your site, you need to get them there first. Big box brands have an advantage here in that they have marketplace name recognition. In other words, people will simply type their name into Google and land on their page.

For smaller retailers, you’ll likely need to spend some cash to get your target customers to your site. The cost of acquiring a customer metrics, or CAC, reveals how much money you spend throughout the acquisition funnel, from creating an ebook or promoting a post on Facebook, to having a visitor come to your site because of the ebook or promotion, all the way through to their finding a product they like and finally checking out.

The cost of customer acquisition is the amount of money you have to spend to get one customer. The lower the cost of acquisition, the better: i.e., you always want your cost of acquisition to go down. As a quick example, your CAC is $40 if you need to spend $200 to get five visitors to buy on your store.

You may employ different techniques to bring in those visitors — SEO, paid ad campaigns, high-quality content, social media — but all of them cost you either in terms of money or time.

There are a lot of factors that affect your cost of customer acquisition, but it is important to get an accurate number here. As a best practice, you should always try to find marketing outlets that lower your CAC valuation.

Conversion Rate

Once your store gets traffic, you need to see how many visitors are buying. Conversion rate reveals just that.

Conversion rate is defined as the percentage of visitors who end up buying from your store. The higher the conversion rate, the better. When it comes to conversion rate, you always want it to be going up. As a quick example, your conversion rate is 2% if 2 out of 100 visitors buy from your store. According to this recent Marketing Land article, one way to improve conversion rate is to add video to a majority of your product pages; retailers adding video reported conversion rates close to 9%.

There are hundreds of articles out there on how to improve conversion rates –– because it is just that important. There’s so much emphasis on conversion rate because it directly affects your business’s bottom line. Regardless of how much effort you spend on driving traffic to your store, if most visitors don’t end up buying, it’s all wasted. That said, it’s really important to make sure you know what your conversion rate is at all times and keep tabs on whether it’s improving and if you should stay the course or not.

Shopping Cart Abandonment

When your conversion rate is low, you need to understand how many visitors had an inclination to buy. To do this, you’ll want to examine your store’s cart abandonment. 

This metric indicates the percentage of visitors who added products to their shopping cart but did not complete the checkout process. The lower your cart abandonment rate, the better. As a quick example, your shopping cart abandonment is 75% if 75 out of 100 visitors with a cart leave without buying.

Cart abandonment is the closest you come to earning real customers before they leave your site. Adding to the cart typically indicates an intent to purchase. The fact that they leave without buying means you lost potential customers. It gets especially bad if you paid a lot of money to get these visitors to your store. Making sure your cart abandonment is low is key to improving your conversion rate.

Average Order Value

You should monitor how much money each order brings in to see how much revenue you can generate. That’s what AOV tells you.

This is the average size of an order on your store. The higher the average order value, the better. For example, your AOV is $35 per order if you made $140 from 4 orders.

By monitoring AOV, you can figure out how much revenue you can generate from your current traffic and conversion rate. Being able to predict revenue is a big deal for any business. If most of your orders are really small, that means you have to get a lot more people to buy in order to achieve your target. It’s important to have at least a few high value orders so that your overall average is on the higher side.

Churn

If your LTV is low, it could be that many of your customers buy once and never return. This is measured by what is referred to as “churn.”

Churn is the percentage of your customers who do not come back to your site. The lower the churn, the better. For example, a churn rate of 80% means 80 out of 100 customers do not come back to buy from your store.

As we have seen, to ensure a high profit, it’s important to influence your customers to keep coming back to purchase. That means you want your churn to be low so that once you acquire a customer, they continue to come back and purchase again and again. Lower churn means higher LTV and a healthier business overall.

Once you start measuring your ecommerce store performance and using data to drive your business decisions and strategies, you’ll be well on the way to enterprise-level success! No big box retailer takes action without measuring the impact and neither should you. Monitor your metrics, pivot when and where necessary and make the most of your both your time and money in order to build a successful brand.

19 (Easy To Fix) Blunders That Are Hurting Your Conversion Rates

Subscribe to

Apr

9

2015

Prose, Bullet Points and Journalism: How to Write Product Page Descriptions that Sell

how to write product page descriptions that sell ecommerce

The web has inadvertently made authors out of us all as we post on forums, send emails, share information, write white papers, guides and various web content. Most of us, however, are not authors by profession and so consequently the quality of writing on the web varies greatly.

This is especially true for ecommerce managers and online store owners looking to boost conversions on product pages via product descriptions. As businessmen and women by profession, rather than writers, many ecommerce professionals often ask about how to optimize product descriptions. What should they say? How long should they be? What format is best? It’s no wonder they are worried — the quality of a product description can make or break a sale, especially if it doesn’t include the information a shopper needs to make a purchase decision. Providing key product details is critical if you want the shopper to click “Add to Cart.”

Think Like A Journalist

To truly optimize your product description, then, you must understand how the shopper reads online text, especially when it comes to items they are considering purchasing. To do this, thinking like a journalist is a great place to start. Answer the who, what, when, where, why and how of your products. Tell a story and use prose in combination with bullet points.

Your descriptions should also anticipate questions a customer might have about your product. Be sure to include information on:

  • Dimensions and weight: Including exact size information reduces shopper questions.
  • Materials/ingredients and care instructions: If the care instructions or ingredient list is long, consider uploading a picture as a secondary product image.
  • What’s included in the box: Include information on parts and accessories so your consumer doesn’t abandon cart due to uncertainty.
  • Warranty information and certifications: Let your shopper know what will happen in the worst case scenario (i.e. if they can return the item) and provide certifications proving that the product is indeed authentic (especially important for luxury items).
  • Where the product was made: Local, handmade items often score increased loyalty with shoppers.

Leading by Example

Take this example from online store Criquet, which uses short paragraphs, bullet points, video, product photo carousels and product photo text to educate the shopper on absolutely everything they may need to know before they purchase.

Screen_Shot_2015-04-01_at_9.31.59_AM_1-1

Indeed, providing this level of granularity is great for shopper clarity, but also great for your SEO. After all, search engines rank original content higher in search results, and treating every single one of your product pages like the above example will add immense SEO power to your ecommerce site. 

A Simple Formula for Product Descriptions

Think all of this sounds like a lot of work? Well, it can be. But, well written product descriptions increase both SEO and conversions –– meaning both your brand awareness and your bottom line are improved. Better yet, there is a simple formula you can follow that makes product descriptions a little bit easier, even for non-writers:

[Paragraph(s) of Prose] + [Bulleted List of Specs or Features] = [Engaging Product Description]

In all, spending a bit more time with your product descriptions will decrease customer calls (they won’t have as many questions), improve SEO, decrease your product return rate (because you are setting the proper expectations for the product to begin with) and ultimately increase conversions.

Indeed, at the end of the day, your product descriptions can make or break your ecommerce success. So, be sure to be concise, honest, interesting and on-brand with every single one.

The Smart Guide to Ecommerce Landing Pages

Subscribe to

Apr

2

2015

3 Steps to Winning Customers from Big Box Retailers With Long-Tail Keyword Phrases

long-tail keywords phrases ecommerce seo 

SEO can be tough. It is no miracle worker –– at least not overnight. Focusing hours of hard work on keywords and metadata likely isn’t any small business owner’s idea of money or time well-spent. Yet, the ROI from doing so has a long tail that seriously impacts your bottom line.

In fact, not spending time on SEO can mean failure for your ecommerce business. After all, if no one can find you, you don’t exist! And on the internet, that means if Google isn’t ranking you well, you might as well not even be selling online.

The only problem with SEO, then, is that its benefits take time.

“A typical client wants results as soon as SEO tactics are implemented,” says Katey Ferenzi, a client education manager at Bigcommerce. “As we all know, though, SEO takes time and constant tinkering and updating.”

This constant tinkering and updating is akin to how you view your homepage. You A/B test what converts and produces the most clicks, and then you use those metrics to make data-driven decisions that garner increased sales and overall revenue. SEO works the same way, especially when it comes to your product pages.

To compete with the big box brands, smaller stores must be experts at product page SEO. After all, customers favor convenience, and the search results that appear higher on Google are likely to earn their purchasing power. Below, the top three things you need to be implementing when it comes to your product pages in order to out-SEO your competition.

Long-Tail Keyword Phrases

Unlike blog posts for which you can search top keywords for a topic and sprinkle them throughout an article, product page keywords must be specific to the product being offered. In other words, there’s no need to do a large amount of keyword research for product pages. Instead, be specific and descriptive about the item offered –– and use long-tail keywords.

For instance, “landscape watercolor painting” works better than “watercolor painting” or “landscape painting.”

Again, get specific and descriptive for your product pages, but exclude options (colors, sizes, etc) from your keyword phrase. Optimize for individual products, not for the options of those products.

The Long-Tail Theory

Why use a long-tail keyword phrase instead of something shorter? Because the big box retailers of the world have already optimized for short-tail keywords, and your small business won’t be able to compete.

And that’s totally fine.

Long-tail keyword phrases catch the customer in a later point within the purchasing funnel. They know exactly what they are looking for, down to the details (options excluded!). They don’t want just any watercolor painting, they want a watercolor painting of a landscape. Sure, they don’t know which one just yet, but with a long-tail keyword phrase, you’re presenting them their filtered options.

Larger brands focus most often on short-tail keyword phrases that pull in high traffic volume to their site. Because of their recognizable brand name and sizable online presence, Google rewards their short-tail efforts by placing them higher in search results. A smaller ecommerce company won’t receive such a luxury. Instead, compete with the bigger brands by taking away their potential customers. People typing in a long-tail keyword phrase into Google have already browsed a couple options, and likely have already found a few things they like. Now, they are just comparing what they know exists to what else may be out there. For smaller brands, this is your time to shine –– and convert.

Sprinkle That Keyword Phrase Throughout

The goal here is to put your keyword phrase in as many places as possible, without over-optimizing for it. Google will penalize you for using a keyword phrase so often it becomes obvious you are writing for the bots, not for people.

You want to make sure that your keyword phrase appears in all of the following places for your product page:

  • the product name
  • product description
  • page title
  • meta description
  • alt text (the picture description text)
  • the picture file name
  • and the URL itself

Write Compelling Product Descriptions

Use the product description to voice your brand personality, while also dropping in (only once!) your long-tail keyword. The unique description along with the presence of the long-tail keyword will increase your page rankings. Better yet, customers don’t just buy based on price, they do so based on emotion as well. Get a customer to relate to your description, or at least read it in their own voice, and you’ve likely found yourself a customer with some serious lifetime value.

In all, if you want to succeed with product page SEO, you must make sure that each of your long-tail keyword phrases are unique, descriptive and specific. In addition, be sure that you aren’t just using that keyword phrase once. Use it in all the spots where bots-only can read them (i.e. the metadata and alt text). When it comes to what your actual customers are reading, be sure you use the keyword phrase, but not in a way that alienates them (i.e. only once!).

Also, keep in mind that good SEO pulls in traffic overtime. Be sure to use SEO best practices on all product pages, and watch your site begin to make it to the top of Google search queries for long-tail keywords.

How to Build a Profitable Ecommerce Business

Subscribe to

Mar

19

2015

Google and Consumers Agree: You Need a Mobile-Friendly Ecommerce Site

 mobile friendly ecommerce site seo benefits

Brands with both a physical and digital presence make almost 30% more in revenue. Consumers report a higher level of satisfaction with brands that have both a brick-and-mortar and online store, according to a recent study. Legacy brands who once hailed shopping malls as their “mecca” are now having to close shop, and once-startup, online-only brands, including Warby Parker and Birchbox, are moving in and opening their doors. Department and chain stores, in an effort to remain relevant, are spending upward of $4 billion on ecommerce platforms, redesigns, loyalty programs and in-store technology to keep consumers connected at all times.

There are plenty of ecommerce sites running fully functioning, profitable operations sans a physical footprint. And, there are also plenty of boutiques, even legacy luxury brands, whom avoid the ecommerce industry, focusing instead on offering a local clientele exclusive, one-of-a-kind products.

What is it then that makes multi-channel retailers of all sizes more successful than their solo-channel counterparts? Simple: a consumer-wide shift in shopping habits.

“Customers are increasingly expecting to shop any time they want, more inclined to shop multi-channel, looking to social media for ideas and recommendations, and − particularly in emerging markets − using the phone as a major means of internet access,” cited PricewaterhouseCoopers in a recent report.

In all, what the data reveals is surprising: consumers are using mobile to browse and compare, saving desktop and in-store outlets to actually purchase.

Mobile Matters Most –– But Not for Conversions, Yet

Mobile commerce is the current darling of the ecommerce world. Yet, 53% of U.S. consumers surveyed reported they’ve never purchased on their smartphones. To put that in perspective, for in-store and desktop checkout, only 4 and 6%, respectively, said they have never completed a purchase via those outlets.

In fact, in-store and desktop purchases are by far the leading checkout methods for shoppers in the U.S., with 78% surveyed reporting they have shopped in-store with their favorite brand and 68% reporting they have done so on desktop. When it comes to mobile shopping, only 15% reported they had utilized that method to buy an item.

Yet, the lower usage of mobile commerce in comparison to in-store or desktop purchasing is no reason to ignore the platform. With malls losing dominance in the mind of the consumer, window shopping has moved to smartphones, where users can browse sites and products, bookmark what they like –– typically by sharing it socially –– and then purchase either in store or on desktop, where typing in card information is considered more convenient.

Indeed, a mobile-friendly site is absolutely a necessity in the ecommerce world. Come April 21, Google will begin penalizing sites that are not mobile-friendly, meaning your brand will lose all of those mobile window shoppers to a competitor –– not to mention your good SEO rankings, too.

In all, mobile might not convert at the same profitable rates as desktop and in-store shoppers, but having a mobile-friendly presence that allows for easy customer browsing will increase your sales via both your digital and physical presences. If you haven’t already, get started with responsive design to make your site more accessible, regardless of device. 

And, stay tuned. Mobile commerce is still a burgeoning market and with the introduction of ApplePay, as well as the many other mobile wallets, it’s likely that some of the issues currently preventing consumers from purchasing on mobile –– 27% of consumers say the mobile screen is too small to checkout, for example –– have already been solved. At this point, mobile commerce is just a matter of market adoption. Don’t let your brand be the last to join.

19 (Easy To Fix) Blunders That Are Hurting Your Conversion Rates Subscribe to

Jan

16

2015

The Rise of Innocuous Holiday Shopping: End-of-Year Ecommerce Data Shows New Trend in Mobile Commerce

mobile_holiday_shopping

Q4 is typically a strong quarter for retail. Between Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Super Saturday, Hanukkah, and Christmas — just to name the bigger shopping events — there are a ton of potential customer touch points on which your brand can capitalize to increase sales and revenue for year end.

Holiday Shopping: More Than Black Friday and Cyber Monday

The holiday shopping craze has grown so dramatically over the past few years that the best deals no longer start on Black Friday, the most infamous of shopping days. According to, which accounts for tens of thousands of online retailers in the U.S., many stores start their discount cycle before Halloween. In October of 2014, online small businesses saw a 29% increase in year-over-year sales for that month alone. November and December followed suit, with 27% and a stark 47% increase in year-over-year sales respectively.

None of this information should be surprising. Big box retailers are looking to get a leg up on their competition during the holiday commerce rush by opening up shop on Thanksgiving to start Black Friday deals a whole day early (considered a taboo business strategy by some). That said, it makes sense that small businesses, especially those with niche and loyal customer bases, would begin touting their holiday discounts earlier and earlier as well.

These stats support what is currently an 8-year high in small business confidence and optimism. The data is also providing some proof that the U.S. appears to have finally climbed out of the recession, as consumers are taking their extra dollars to retail, particularly ecommerce.

Increase in Mobile Commerce

What’s more, though, is that the data shows we’re not shopping the same way we did prior to the recession. During the 2014 Cyber Week, which encompasses Thanksgiving through Giving Tuesday, small business saw a 79% increase in mobile orders over those made in 2013. Roughly 10% of those sales were made on Thanksgiving Day, a 52% increase in mobile shopping on that particular day from 2013.

All right, you may be thinking, people shop on Thanksgiving. Between all the football games, the food and the family time, a little mobile shopping might just be what many of us need to keep sane. Besides, many stores including Walmart, Target and Kohl’s were open on Thanksgiving to offer Black Friday-like discounts a day early — and these campaigns were highly publicized.

Fair enough, but before the number is truly dismissed and this innocuous shopping of sorts is drummed up as a ripple effect of the larger retail brands’ holiday campaigns, let’s take a look at Christmas day.

Christmas Day is a nationwide holiday and even Walmart, the big box chain that rarely closes its doors for a holiday, creed or religion, takes the day off. If the public was in throes over stores opening on Thanksgiving, the potential PR repercussions of choosing to do the same on Christmas Day are interesting, to say the least.

And yet, though few U.S. brick-and-mortars are open on Christmas, and though there is relatively little digital activity on that particular day, online shopping increased 33% in 2014 compared to 2013. In all, 36% of total sales on Christmas Day were on mobile and, compared to 2013, that is a 101% increase.

Rise of Innocuous Holiday Shopping

In other words: we see you, smartphone users. Sitting there, avoiding awkward, embarrassing, or enraging family conversations over gifts and get togethers, pretending to be texting or playing games. The data shows that it’s much more likely you’re perusing online stores and actually clicking “Buy.”

Turns out mobile shopping, then, isn’t just a nascent channel and growing opportunity for omnichannel retailers — data suggests it’s already a trending consumer pastime. Well, at least on days when shopping is supposedly taboo.

How to Build a Profitable Ecommerce Business

Subscribe to