May
31
Posted on May 31, 2017
Filed Under (Ecommerce) by jennifer

Experts in online sales and marketing share their tips regarding how startups and smaller ecommerce sites can compete with larger businesses – and use their size to their advantage.

With ecommerce and mobile commerce booming, many would-be entrepreneurs, as well as owners of small brick-and-mortar stores, have set up shop online. But competition in cyberspace can be brutal. So what can small and/or new online businesses do to attract eyeballs (and sales) and beat out their much larger (and better bankrolled) competition? Here are 11 suggestions.

1. Choose your ecommerce software/platform wisely.

“SMBs should do their research when choosing the software on which they build their ecommerce store,” says Jason Woosley, senior vice president, Product & Technology, Magento Commerce. Instead of automatically picking the cheapest, most basic option, new ecommerce business owners should “consider platforms that are scalable for future growth…, offer security measures and are equipped with marketing and analytics tools. The key is to identify the business’s unique goals and select the… software [or platform] that enables both immediate and long-term growth.”

2. Make your branding stand out (unique).

“The first and foremost thing to [help you] stand out from competitors is to have an original and unique brand identity,” says Daniel Shane, a branding expert at LogoOrbit. This should start with your logo and include your website and how you “represent your business visually.”

3. Use original photos and content.

Don’t use stock images, or product images supplied by the manufacturer. Instead, “take professional photos and edit them so that they are visually appealing and clearly highlight the item for sale,” says Gwen Schlefer, PR manager, Bonanza. “There are tons of free tools to help elevate photos to a professional selling level. Gimp has a massive suite of tools to help with all your editing needs and the Background Burner is a powerful tool that removes all background imagery in order to only display the foreground object.”

Similarly, when writing product descriptions, don’t cut and paste the manufacturer’s copy. Instead, write fresh, original copy to describe products – and try to update copy regularly.

4. Feature user-generated content.

“Ask [customers] for images and videos [of themselves using your product] and display them on product and category pages,” says Theresa O’Neil, senior vice president, Marketing, PowerReviews. “Eighty-eight percent of consumers specifically look for visuals, such as photos or videos submitted by other consumers, prior to making a purchase.”

5. Make your site search-engine friendly (SEO).

“To stay on top of your competitors as an ecommerce business, you need to have a strong SEO strategy,” says Matt Franks, managing director, Dreambooth. “Optimize all your website’s pages with relevant keywords. Give your products detailed descriptions, which include keywords – [and] have a detailed description of your company on [your] Home page, which explains who you are and what you do.”

6. Have a mobile version of your site.

“If brands aren’t focused on mobile optimization, they’re already losing,” says Ed Burek, director of Solutions Marketing, SiteSpect. “Mobile continues to play a key role in online shoppers’ journeys. For [small] ecommerce businesses looking to provide a compelling customer experience, they need to [think about] the… way consumers browse and make purchases” and ensure they’re meeting customers where they shop.

7. Use marketplaces in addition to a standalone website.

“All merchants have a desire to increase conversion, but the goal is unattainable if you can’t drive traffic to your site,” explains Deniz Ibrahim, a product marketing principal at BigCommerce. “The most successful understand that consumers aren’t inherently going to visit a website they have no experience with. As a result, they work to drive higher brand awareness by putting products in all the places their customers make shopping decisions.”

That’s why “55 percent of product searches today start on Amazon,” he says. “Listing on Amazon doesn’t hurt your brand, but rather opens it up to a huge opportunity. The same goes for eBay, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Giving your customer as many opportunities to interact with your brand (consistently) in a channel they are comfortable with only serves to build a stronger connection, and, in turn, drive traffic.”

That’s why new ecommerce businesses “should consider an online marketplace,” says Marshal Kushniruk, executive vice president, Avalara. “Etsy and Amazon are the best known ecommerce platforms, but there are other online marketplaces to consider, such as Bonanza, Jet, Overstock and even niche marketplaces.

“Platforms that already attract a solid or targeted customer base may enable smaller businesses to bring their products to market faster and reach new customers more easily,” he explains. “These platforms may also help smaller companies solve, or guide them through, many of the complex legal and technology issues small businesses face – such as managing digital payment options, sales tax management… and more.”

8. Make customers feel special by providing superior customer service and support.

“One of the biggest advantages of being a small retailer is the ability to connect with your customers in a way that a big box retailer like Target, Walmart or even Amazon never could,” says Ibrahim. “For them, the 1:1 connection simply can’t be replicated at scale, giving you an opportunity to connect in a personalized way.

“The simple act of engaging with your customers via social media channels and responding to messages, or leaving a handwritten note in product packaging, can create a lot of added value for the customer,” he explains. “People want to interact with other people, so humanizing the brand provides a leg up in the crowded ecommerce environment.”

Similarly, provide customers with multiple methods to contact your business should they have any questions about your products or service pre- or post-sale. And be sure you staff your customer service and support areas with people familiar with your products or service who can quickly respond to customer queries, whether they come in via phone, text, email or social media.

9. Keep the checkout process seamless and quick.

“When an online shopper is ready to buy, a simple checkout experience is crucial,” says Jamie Domenici, vice president of SMB Marketing, Salesforce. “Companies must keep it linear and move customers toward completing a purchase. For example, avoid asking shoppers to create an account when they are confirming their order. Minimizing the amount of work they have to do can help ensure shoppers won’t abandon their cart.”

“Shoppers expect ultimate convenience, and any small annoyance, like needing to re-enter a billing address or clicking between keyboards on a mobile device, [can] lead them to just give up,” adds Andy Barker, senior director, Strategy & Growth, Global Payments, Magento Commerce. So make paying simple – and mobile friendly.

“There’s an abundance of emerging convenience-first-based payment methods, from Apple Pay to PayPal [and] Venmo,” he explains. “So SMBs [can find the] solutions that best suits their customers, [which] can be the difference between a sale made and a sale lost.”

10. Connect with influencers.

“Connecting with experts and influencers within your specific field is important for staying relevant in the market,” says Jenni Macleod, brand awareness manager at Love Crafts. “At Love Knitting and Love Crochet we love connecting and collaborating with knitting and crochet designers, [which] adds value to our content and user experience.”

11. Reward customers for shopping with you.

“The single most important thing a business can do to stand out from the competition is to implement a strong rewards program,” says Alex Keats, customer loyalty specialist, Sweet Tooth. “In an environment where the boundaries of competition are becoming lower and lower, retaining your customers and keeping them loyal is becoming more and more important.”

According to Sweet Tooth’s research, retailers that run a customer rewards program enjoy much higher revenue than competitors who aren’t rewarding customer loyalty. “As ecommerce continues to evolve and brands struggle to differentiate themselves, it will become imperative to show your customers appreciation by rewarding their loyalty with a rewards program.”

(0) Comments    Read More   
May
12
Posted on May 12, 2015
Filed Under (Ecommerce) by jennifer

ecommerce_iconIn today’s super competitive, I-want-it-now mobile world, you only have a few minutes (or seconds) to engage online shoppers. And if your site isn’t mobile friendly, considered trustworthy or a dozen other things online shoppers deem important, that potential customer will go elsewhere.

So what steps can small business owners to ensure their ecommerce websites aren’t costing them customers? Here are 12 things to watch out for.

1. Your site isn’t mobile friendly.

2. Your site is too slow.

3. You site is clogged with banners and ads.

4. Visitors don’t feel your site is safe or trustworthy.

5. Your site is difficult to navigate.

6. Your photos sucks.

7. Your copy is boring or difficult to understand.

8. Customers consider your shipping too expensive.

9. Checking out is a pain.

10. Help and contact info are hard to find (or don’t exist).

11. You bombard customers with email.

12. You don’t engage with customers on social media or don’t have a social media presence.

For detailed explanations and remedies, read my article “12 easy ways to lose your ecommerce customers” on CIO.com.

(1) Comment    Read More   
Sep
22
Posted on September 22, 2014
Filed Under (Ecommerce) by jennifer

No ecommerce site is perfect, especially when it first goes live. Even if you choose an ecommerce solution that promises to be straightforward or foolproof (i.e., designed specifically for small business owners), problems are bound to occur. And while it’s hard to predict problems, there are certain common ecommerce problems, say the experts, which can be prevented — or fixed relatively easily.

Herewith, 11 of the most common ecommerce mistakes small businesses make (larger ones, too).

Mistake No. 1: Choosing the wrong ecommerce shopping cart.

Mistake No. 2: Not making sure your site is secure.

Mistake No. 3: Unintuitive or cumbersome site navigation.

Mistake No. 4: Bad or no search capability.

Mistake No. 5: Poor images/photography.

Mistake No. 6: Using stock product descriptions.

Mistake No. 7: Having a confusing or lengthy checkout process.

Mistake No. 8: Having only one shipping option and/or carrier.

Mistake No. 9: Not having a mobile or mobile optimized version of your ecommerce site.

Mistake No. 10: Not making content easily shareable on social media, especially on Pinterest.

Mistake No. 11: Making it hard to contact you, the seller.

For detailed explanations of each mistake and how to avoid or fix them easily, read my article “11 Common Ecommerce Mistakes — And How to Fix Them.”

(0) Comments    Read More   

Let’s face it, no one likes having to update or tweak their website — or (shudder) having to redesign it. It can be time-consuming and expensive. But if online sales have been slipping, and even if they haven’t (yet), it behooves small business owners to periodically and objectively evaluate their web or ecommerce sites — and make the necessary fixes.

So what are some signs that your web or ecommerce site needs a bit of tweaking (or a major overhaul)? I queried dozens of ecommerce, web design and analytics experts to find out. They identified nine giveaways that your small business web or ecommerce site is in need of some help — and how you can make the necessary fixes without spending a lot of time or money.

If any of these problems sound familiar, it’s time to update your website!

Problem No. 1: Your Traffic Isn’t Converting Into Sales.

Problem No. 2: High Bounce Rates.

Problem No. 3: Your Site Takes Forever to Load.

Problem No. 4: It’s Difficult to Add Content or Update Your Site — Without Having to Pay Someone a Lot of Money to Do it for You.

Problem No. 5: Your Website Isn’t Mobile Friendly.

Problem No. 6: No Way to Opt In/Sign Up to Receive News or Promotions.

Problem No. 7: Stale Content.

Problem No. 8: No Social Media Linkage.

Problem No. 9: Your Buttons Look Dated.

(To see explanations of each tip/problem and learn how to inexpensively update or freshen up your web or ecommerce site, read my article “9 Signs It’s Time to Update Your Website (and How to Fix It.”)

By the way, after researching this article, I realized my ecommerce site, Prepster Pineapple Clothing, which sells Hawaiian-inspired cotton clothing, was in dire need of some tweaking, especially on the Home page. But I was loath to spend a lot of money or time doing it. Fortunately, I found SiteTech Media, a small but eager web design/developer that specializes in Bigcommerce stores.

Don’t know anyone? “Elance and oDesk both can connect you with hundreds of qualified freelancers who will compete and bid to work on your website,” for just a few hundred dollars, says Simon Slade, CEO and cofounder of SaleHoo , a platform for building your own online store and an online wholesale directory of over 8,000 prescreened suppliers. And if you are thinking about redesigning your whole site or want to give your business a new look, to save some money (and time) “shop at template marketplaces, such as Envato and Creative Market , which both offer stunning website designs for as little as $4,” he suggests.

(0) Comments    Read More   
Jun
12
Posted on June 12, 2014
Filed Under (Advertising, Ecommerce) by jennifer

Google_AdWords_exampleIf you are like many (most?) small business owners, you have probably used Google AdWords and quickly became frustrated with the pay-per-click (PPC) advertising service. Or you’ve thought about using Google AdWords but were worried about not getting enough (or any) bang for your buck.

As a small business owner, I feel your pain. Which is why I decided to investigate whether there was a proper way, or better way, to run an AdWords campaign, and if there were some tricks or tools that could help improve the odds of a campaign being successful (i.e., getting qualified clicks — and, more importantly, sales).

In querying dozens of fellow business owners and AdWords pros, I learned a lot. Following are their 10 Tips for Creating a Successful Google AdWords Campaign.

1. Have a clear goal.

2. Keep your target customer in mind when writing your ads.

3. Don’t mislead customers.

4. Use negative keywords.

5. Target your ads.

6. Don’t ignore mobile users.

7. Always be testing.

8. Implement conversion tracking.

9. Monitor and tweak your campaigns.

10. Use Google’s Remarketing feature.

For detailed explanations of each tip, along with links to helpful tools/pages, please read my article “10 Tips for Creating a Successful Google AdWords Campaign.”

(0) Comments    Read More   
Oct
18
Posted on October 18, 2013
Filed Under (Ecommerce, Marketing) by jennifer

ecommerce_iconHanukkah is less than six weeks away — and Christmas just four weeks after that. And analysts are predicting that this holiday season ecommerce (including mobile commerce or mcommerce) sales will be even better than last year. The question is, will shoppers be stopping and shopping at your online business?

To find out if your ecommerce site is holiday ready — and learn how you can drive more traffic to your online business and increase sales this holiday season — check out these 16 tips from ecommerce and online marketing pros.

1. Don’t wait until the last minute to get your site holiday ready.

2. Make sure your teams, servers and partners can handle holiday traffic.

3. Make sure your site is secure.

4. Have a true mobile version of your site.

5. Stock up.

6. Make sure pages load quickly.

7. Make products shareable.

8. Make checkout easy.

9. Optimize your copy.

10. Use video and 360-degree images.

11. Implement a holiday SEO strategy.

12. Staff up — and be ready to answer customer queries quickly.

13. Ramp up your email marketing campaigns — and add SMS marketing to the mix.

14. Run pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns.

15. Incentivize customers to order early.

16. Offer free or discounted shipping — and provide shipment tracking.

For additional information, and to see explanations of each ecommerce holiday tip, read my article titled “16 Tips for Ecommerce Holiday Season Success.”  And be sure to check out my new ecommerce site, Prepster Pineapple Clothing!

(0) Comments    Read More   
Aug
14

online_shoppingWith so much competition online for eyeballs (and dollars), your website needs to stand out. Indeed, many times you only have seconds to make a good impression. If your web or ecommerce site is hard to find, takes too much time to load, is unattractive or difficult to navigate, chances are you’ve lost a potential customer, maybe dozens of them. So how do you create content that attracts and sticks in people’s minds?

To find out, I asked dozens of web content and marketing pros. Here are 16 of their top web content strategies for engaging both humans (i.e., potential customers) and robots (search engine spiders or web crawlers) — and increasing your search engine rankings and sales.

1. Make sure your content can be properly viewed across platforms and devices (e.g., laptops, smart phones, tablets).

2. Know the customer journey. (Not everyone is going to land on your home page.)

3. Make it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for.

4. Use keywords, but do some research first.

5. Create unique content.

6. Tell a story.

7. Provide product reviews.

8. Let visitors know they can trust you.

9. Blog.

10. Create evergreen content (content that doesn’t grow old or stale).

11. Remember that size matters when it comes to images and multimedia. (Small is beautiful.)

12. Think quality not quantity.

13. Say it with headlines (H1 and H2 tags).

14. Keep content short and to the point.

15. Make content easily shareable — and share it via social media (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest).

16. Brand photos, images and content with your URL and/or logo.

For additional information, including detailed explanations of each tip, please read my article, “16 Ways to Improve Your Content Marketing Strategy.”

(0) Comments    Read More   
Aug
05
Posted on August 5, 2013
Filed Under (Ecommerce) by jennifer

It seems you can’t go a day without hearing about someone or some group hacking a website or stealing credit card and other sensitive data from ecommerce sites.

So how do you protect your ecommerce site from being hacked and sensitive customer data from being stolen? I recently asked dozens of ecommerce and security experts to find out. Following are their top 15 tips for protecting your ecommerce business from hacking and fraud.

1. Choose a secure ecommerce platform.

2. Use a secure connection for online checkout–and make sure you are PCI compliant.

3. Don’t store sensitive data in house.

4. Employ an address and card verification system.

5. Require strong passwords.

6. Set up system alerts for suspicious activity.

7. Layer your security.

8. Provide security training to employees.

9. Use tracking numbers for all orders.

10. Monitor your site regularly–and make sure whoever is hosting it is, too.

11. Perform regular PCI scans.

12. Patch your systems by downloading patches and upgrades in a timely manner.

13. Make sure you have a DDoS protection and mitigation service.

14. Consider a fraud management service.

15. Make sure you or whoever is hosting your site is backing it up–and has a disaster recovery plan.

For additional information about these tips (i.e., how to implement them), please read my article, “15 Ways to Protect Your Ecommerce Site from Hacking and Fraud.”

(1) Comment    Read More   
Nov
13
Posted on November 13, 2012
Filed Under (Ecommerce, Web Design) by jennifer

Whether you are an ecommerce only small business or you have a bricks-and-mortar store in addition to an online one, your website speaks volumes about you. But many small business owners often confuse a good-looking website with a good website — or ignore the design, layout, content, and navigation of their website. And these can be fatal mistakes.

Following are 12 common website mistakes small businesses make.

Mistake #1: Forgetting who your target audience is.

Mistake #2: Not making your website mobile friendly.

Mistake #3: Changing your URLs without adding a redirect.

Mistake #4: Not clearly and concisely explaining what you do or what you are selling; using jargon and cliches.

Mistake #5: Not refreshing or updating your content on a regular basis.

Mistake #6: Not leveraging social media (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest) and having links to social networking sites on your Home and product pages.

Mistake #7: Using Flash.

Mistake #8: Not including an email opt-in form on your Home or Contact pages.

Mistake #9: Not doing UX (customer experience/usability) testing.

Mistake #10: Not checking that the site looks good — and functions properly — on all major browsers, both desktop and mobile.

Mistake #11: Taking cybersecurity for granted — i.e., not having appropriate anti-virus software or security measures (firewall) in place.

Mistake #12:  Not monitoring/tracking visitor behavior.

To learn more about each mistake and how to fix them, read my latest article, “12 Ways to (Not) Screw Up Your Website.”

(0) Comments    Read More   
Sep
25
Posted on September 25, 2012
Filed Under (Ecommerce) by jennifer

Thinking about starting an ecommerce business? Use this handy ecommerce checklist to make sure you set up your new small business properly.

1. Create an LLC.

2. Open a business checking account — and get a business credit card.

3. Trademark your intellectual property (your business name, business logo, and any product names).

4. Get a sales and use tax permit (or resale certificate).

5. Check out the competition and figure out how to set your ecommerce business apart.

6. Choose the right ecommerce solution (i.e., shopping cart) for your business — and the person who will be managing your ecommerce site.

7. Hire a good designer, photographer, and writer.

8. Provide succinct search-engine optimized (SEO) product descriptions that inform, not bore, visitors.

9. Make your site easy to navigate.

10. Include Terms & Conditions, Shipping & Returns, and Site Map pages.

11. Support multiple browsers and mobile devices.

12. Promote your business before you launch — but not too far ahead of your go-live date.

13. Purchase accounting software — and set up a chart of accounts before your first sale.

14. Have inventory on hand for your go-live date — and make sure you are set up to receive payment (i.e., have tested your ecommerce solution).

For specifics about each step, as well as helpful resources, check out my article “14 Essential Steps to Launching an Ecommerce Business” on SmallBusinessComputing.com.

(0) Comments    Read More