One feature that nearly every web site should have

Do you own an ecommerce website? Great! Next question: do you have a mailing list?

If the answer is ‘no’, you are probably leaving a lot of money on the table.

Keeping in touch with your potential customers, past customers and general web site visitors is one of the easiest and most cost effective methods of increasing your website sales. You simply must have the ability to collect the email addresses of both buyers and browsers alike. Most current web sites should have this functionality built in or it could be added by the use of widgets from some of the larger email marketing companies that will do everything from collecting email addresses for you to running your email marketing campaigns.

Collecting buyers email addresses is really a ‘no-brainer’ for most web businesses. The main thing to remember is that visitors have to opt-in to get on your mailing list. Just because they made a purchase from you – that does not give you permission to add them to your future email campaigns.

Once you get the email addresses – then what? Follow some of the suggestions and ideas from the larger email marketing companies like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp and you will have some great basic email marketing ideas to start.

It’s that time again: Change your copyright date!

Update your copyright date every year!

It’s a pet peeve of mine: visiting an e-commerce web site and their copyright date is from last year – or even worse, it’s from 4 or 5 years ago. To me, that’s the sign of a web site that is not ‘fresh’ or updated. Certainly Google and the other search engines are paying attention as well.

Some software platforms will automatically update the copyright date on your website for you at the stroke of midnight on 12/31 each year, but there are still many others that it is a manual task. However, just because it’s a manual task doesn’t mean that it should be overlooked. Take a second now and look at the bottom of your web site in the footer. What does it say? If it doesn’t say Copyright 2012 – it’s time to change it.

Written by Pat

Timing is everything when it comes to email marketing

Written by Pat

So you’ve spent a day or two putting together a slick email that you are sure is a winner; you’ve edited the subject line until you were bleary-eyed and now comes the big question: What is the best time to send out a marketing email to your opt-in email list?

Sending out your customer emails at the right time is not as difficult as you would think. The trick is to know when people are most apt to read them. If you send it out at the wrong time, there will certainly be an effect on your marketing campaign. Emails sent out overnight, for example, are the ones that are most likely to be deleted without even being opened.

To get the best results, take a look at the graphic from Pure360emailmarketing.co.uk and see what time slots you should avoid for your future email marketing campaigns.

(you can click on the graphic to view it full sized)

Keeping Your Marketing Strategy Fresh

Keep your marketing strategy fresh!

Written by Pat – West Florida Components

The economy and consumer buying habits have significantly shifted in the last few years. In today’s competitive environment, it’s important to take a look at your marketing strategy on a regular basis. Evaluate what you are doing and take a hard look at what your competition is doing, too. If you’re still banking on last year’s PPC campaign to drive your business, you’re probably missing out on some valuable opportunities to acquire new customers and increase your sales.

Here are some questions and suggestions to help you evaluate your marketing strategy:

Lead Generation:

Review your email marketing efforts. Do you offer a place to sign up for your newsletters on every page of your website? How about in your physical store? Do you use social media platforms as a way to capture emails and leads?

Analyze the results of your last few emails blasts and newsletters. What is the open percentage? What is the most clicked on article? What product converted the best from your email campaigns? What is the product or article that drew the most attention in your tweets or Facebook page?

General Promotions:

Discounts and coupons – whether they are used in person or on a web site, can drive tremendous amounts of new business and encourage repeat customers. What is the coupon with the highest number of conversions? Where was it distributed?

Evaluate any rewards programs for repeat customers. Take a close look at the percentage of repeat customers before a rewards program is instituted. What is the increase after a rewards program is put into place? What is more effective: percentage off discounts or flat dollar discounts? For your web sales, use analytics software to help you find the answers.

Search Marketing:

Many businesses use Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising to generate customers and sales. When is the last time you looked at your keywords? What is the highest performing keyword? Which ones can you cut?

Review where you are spending your PPC money. Should you invest in a retargeting campaign? Would your products do well with a targeted Facebook PPC ad?

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) campaigns need to be evaluated on a very regular basis. Where are you ranking for your major keywords? What new keywords need to be targeted? What changes need to made due to algorithm changes in the search engines?

This is just the tip of the marketing iceberg. All businesses, large and small need to ask themselves these questions frequently.  Remember – if you’re not measuring the success (or failure) of your marketing efforts, you’re losing time and money. You need to know what works so you can devote your resources to those efforts and cut your losses on what doesn’t work.  Keep it fresh!

ASD Educational Sessions Now Available

submitted by: Pat – West Florida Components

The Internet Merchants Association and its sponsors recently presented eight educational sessions to the ASD trade show attendees. The bi-annual sourcing show was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center with over 30.000 visitors in attendance.

Platinum and Diamond level sponsors including Vendio, Alibaba and MIVA Merchant were among the featured speakers on topics ranging from integrating social media to building effective web sites and search engine optimization.

Most of the speakers have provided their slide decks so that session attendees can review them and download them. The slide presentations are available at slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/imamerchants

The Internet Merchants Association is now accepting applications for the March, 2011 educational sessions. Speaking preference is given to all IMA Platinum and Diamond level sponsors. Interested parties can learn more about the speaking and membership opportunities by contacting Pat Pepe. She can be reached by email at pat@imamerchants.org.

Top 6 Reasons for E-Commerce Merchandise Returns

Written by Pat

It’s a cost of doing business and a headache for a lot of online sellers: accepting merchandise returns.

There are valid reasons that we get returned merchandise from our online customers, but there are some times that costly returns can be avoided or prevented.

According to a recent Distribution Center Operations Report from The Supply Chain Consortium and Reverse Logistics: Returns, Refunds and Recalls Hot Topic Report, the top six reasons for customer returns were:

1. The customer ordered incorrect product or size
2. The customer decided the product was not needed or wanted
3. No reason for return given
4. The product did not match the description on the Website or in the catalog
5. The product did not fit the customer’s expectations
6. The company shipped the incorrect product or size

e-commerce shoppers

So, as an e-commerce company, how can you stem the tide of product returns?

At first glance, it would seem that the merchant might be responsible for only #6:

The company shipped the incorrect product or size

This, of course, is generally a clerical error that might be avoided with improved systems and procedures and employee training.

However, there are quite a few steps an e-commerce seller can take to prevent returns based on some of the other reasons that were cited.

How about these reasons?

1. The customer ordered incorrect product or size

4. The product did not match the description on the Website or in the catalog

The number one reason is incorrect product or size and the fourth most popular reason is that the description was not accurate. How can you as an online seller prevent this?

Ask yourself:
How clear and accurate is my description?
How many pictures do I have for each product?
Do the pictures show the product from various angles?
Do the pictures show relative size with a ruler or other measurement of scale?
For clothing items, are there sizing charts available?
Do I link to the sizing charts from the respective product page?
Do I provide measurements?

Another way to avoid having customer returns is to allow customers to leave product reviews.

Besides providing descriptive language that will help the search engines better index your products, reviews left by past customers can help shoppers make the best decision based on their experience. Who better to know that a pair of shoes runs small and to order a half-size up? Or that the orange shown in the picture is just a little bit brighter than the actual color of the purse?

As an e-commerce website, we will always be susceptible to returns, but it is possible to greatly improve your company’s return rate by improvements to your site and product descriptions. These changes will not only lower your merchandise return rate, but provide a boost to your customer satisfaction rate as well.

Consumers are Going Social

Written by Pat

The results are in…and social media is more than just a passing phase, particularly in e-commerce. A new study by Oneupweb that was released earlier this month showed that “social sites are creating much more online traffic to e-commerce sites” which bolsters the argument that e-commerce sellers need to be involved in social media to drive traffic and business. The study showed a significant shift in traffic at the largest e-commerce sites, review sites and social sites over the last two holiday seasons. Consumers are using the social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to search for product information and recommendations. “The integration of social media and online search provides consumers with a way to quickly search for information, reviews and price comparisons,” explains Oneupweb’s Founder and CEO Lisa Wehr. “It’s clear that social media is influencing search behavior and affecting the purchases a consumer makes.” Wehr’s observations suggest that e-tailers should be “embracing social media.” Oneupweb’s study, containing examples of how some e-commerce merchants are using social media to drive traffic, can be downloaded at their site: www.oneupweb.com The Internet Merchants Association wants to know how you are adjusting your business to reflect the growth of social media, especially with the holiday season nearly upon us.