Five Ways Customers Can Find You

Building your brand online and offline

When we are an ecommerce business, we tend to think of being found online only. Fortunately for us, there are other ways that customers might find out about our business and help us grow! See how your business rates on each – and which ones you can improve on.

ONLINE

Well of course this is probably the number one way that customers might find us. How does your ecommerce business rate for each of these:

  • SEO – Also known as search engine optimization – it’s the process of getting your web site found by the search engines. Take a few of your business keywords and plug them into the search engine. Are you on page 1 or page 21? If  you are not on page 1, chances are you are not being found by most people.
  • PAID SEARCH – On Google, the ads you see on the very top and on the right of the results page are paid advertisements. Most small businesses find they burn through a ton of cash before they figure out what makes sense for their business. Many businesses (with a strong web site and strong SEO efforts) may even find they don’t need to advertise on the search engines. Find out what works for your business.
  • LOCAL RESULTS – All of the major search engines place a lot of emphasis on providing relevant local results. Even if you don’t have a storefront, you may find that it is very valuable to get your business address into the search engines. This is particularly true for niche markets where there is not as much competition.
  • SOCIAL MEDIA – Sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest can help people find your business. The secret is finding out which one works the best for your particular niche and brand. It’s smart to try a few and figure out which sites give you the best ROI. Not every business is going to do well on Facebook!

COMMUNITY

Are you active in your local community? Do you sponsor any local club or events? Do you belong to any local organizations such as your town’s Chamber of Commerce? These are all ways to help promote your business and get the word out about you. Consider sponsoring a little league team or high school football band. They are all looking for sponsors and often will have print programs and/or banners that will get your business name some exposure.

TRADITIONAL ADVERTISING

Offline advertising can be very effective even for online only businesses. Consider traditional media such as yellow pages, directories, radio and TV. Does your product line lend itself to a catalog format? Building a mailing list for catalogs can be another means of promotion and sales. Of course with a web site, you should have an email marketing campaign for little or no cost but supplementing it with a traditional mail campaign might work for your business as well.

PHYSICAL LOCATION

Maybe you also have a storefront – so of course you have another means to promote your online business. But those ecommerce business that have a warehouse can also use outdoor signage to be visible to those that pass by your location. How about company vehicles? Use bumper stickers or vehicle wraps to promote your products and web site.

BRAND

Last, but definitely not least is your brand. Do you have your own packaging with your logo and tagline? Do you mark the outside of your packages with your website and logo? Consider all the ways you can build brand awareness with your packages, signage, banners and more. Don’t forget to include business cards with your logo and contact information – they help build your brand for very little effort and money! QR codes that lead visitors to your web site (or even a special page with a discount) can be very effective for building brand recognition and sales.

So how did your e-commerce business rank?

What does extreme networking look like?



At last week’s ASD trade show in Las Vegas, our partner Vendio hosted a night of ‘extreme networking’ in the IMA’s hospitality suite. Even without the fine selection of gourmet cheeses and generous supply of wine, this night would qualify as a major success for anyone in e-commerce. Over 100 people came through our hospitality suite doors that evening armed with business cards and a willingness to mingle.

One of the most popular questions that was asked was ‘So where do you sell online?” and usually followed up with “What do you sell?” When the ecommerce merchants weren’t chatting with their fellow sellers, they were seeking out the advice of service providers like Alibaba, Vendio, SingleFeed, M-Shopper and TextBroker.

Do you want to be a part of our next networking event in Las Vegas? Head over to the IMA website and click on ‘Join Us’. It’s FREE to join the IMA as an ecommerce seller! Be sure to also check out our newly launched Facebook Group where there is a ton of great information shared every day. And get ready to join us in Las Vegas during the next ASD show when we will again be getting together with our members and business partners for another extreme networking event.

What people buy online

ecommerce salesAccording to data from the US Census Bureau, more than 74% of electronics are purchase online, followed closely by 74% of music and videos. Surprisingly, furniture, which many ecommerce sellers shy away from selling for logistic reasons is in 3rd place (65%) with the massive clothing category right behind furniture. What categories could you be expanding into to take advantage of the enormous growth in ecommerce?

Product Sourcing Ideas – Dropshipping

When you are beginning your ecommerce business, one of the first hurdles is deciding on what you will sell.

There are a variety of places and means to source product – you need to decide which one will work best for you and your business. Today’s blog post will address a low cost way to enter the market: dropshipping

Sometimes this is the easiest and lowest risk way of getting into an ecommerce business. Simply put, drop shipping is the process of listing merchandise for sale that is owned and warehoused by a third party. Once you sell the merchandise, you notify the drop-shipper who will ship out the product to your customer for you. Sounds easy, right? The secret here is finding a RELIABLE and TRUSTWORTHY source with a product line that is IN DEMAND.

Most legitimate drop shippers will not require a minimum purchase or charge a monthly fee, but there are exceptions to even that rule. Do your homework – research potential drop shippers by entering the dropshipper’s name into a search engine and add the words “complaints” “sucks” “reviews”. Also research what the fees are and figure out if there is a market for their products and what the going rate is. Take a look at private web sites, ebay and Amazon to start. Figure out if it is worth it to sell their products after you factor in the fees that each marketplace charges, the fees from the dropshipper and the cost of the merchandise.

Next up: distributors

An ecommerce home based reality check

So you want to sell on the internet and you want it to be a home based business. What do you do first?

We will be beginning a series of blog posts on starting a home based ecommerce business just to provide some information to newbie ecommerce sellers that need some basic information and guidance.

As always, you are welcome to join the Internet Merchants Association where you can network with others that have been in your shoes.

In our first blog post, we will be addressing product sourcing. Do you have any requests for things you’d like to see us cover in a future blog post? Leave a comment below and we’ll see if we can accommodate your request.

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.

3 Ways To Use Your Email Signature to Market Yourself

Remember how, in the “old” days, folks would “call on” others and, if they weren’t at home, they’d leave their calling card behind? I haven’t been able to find an academic reference to it, but it makes sense that the modern-day practice of exchanging business cards stems from there. And even in this highly electronic day and age, there’s still room for business cards, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

But are you maximizing the use of your most basic calling card? And that’s nothing more than your email signature.

We all suffer from email overload – I’ve long since stopped counting how many emails I get in a day. Even when I’m not working or on vacation, I use my BlackBerry to delete unnecessary emails from my inbox, in an effort to keep on top of the traffic (sigh, it never stops!).

But I also know that when I send an email out, it’s a unique way to remind others of what I do, particular affiliations I have and things that are important to me.

Here are three tips to maximize your email signature as a marketing tool:

1. Proclaim yourself.

You normally include your contact information in your e-signature, right? Why not include hyperlinks to all the relevant data you think people should have access to? For example, these could be your website, blog or Twitter handle. How about your Etsy site or another storefront? If it’s in your signature, it’s right there for the recipients to click through to, yet you’re not hitting them over the head with it.

2. Add a visual touch.

Go one step further and add some visual pizazz to your e-signature; and a terrific way of doing this is by using a program such as WiseStamp. What’s cool about this is that you can actually embed the hyperlinks rather than simply include them, and you can also include select social profiles such as Twitter, SlideShare, etc. at the bottom of your signature. Here’s a screenshot from their site:


3. Put a shortening service to work for you.

Working on a special promotion? Use a URL-shortening service such as tr.im, bit.ly, ow.ly (or several others) to draw attention to it just above your signature block. For example, I used this as a way to raise funds around my birthday: “Why I’d like you to know how old I am: http://tr.im/K6Yi.”

Granted, it’s not often that a woman is proclaiming her age for all and sundry to hear, but if you use short but sweet copy and a dedicated URL, it’s an easy way to add to your marketing mix with almost no effort.

What other ways do you use your e-signature “real estate” to market yourself? Please share by leaving a comment below.

Image: Rich Bowen, Creative Commons

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.

IMA Announces 3rd Annual Conference Agenda

The Internet Merchants Association has announced their conference agenda for 2009 in Las Vegas, NV in conjunction with the ASD/AMD Trade Show.  There is still plenty of time to register, so be sure to go to www.imalasvegas.com right now and get signed up. You do not want to miss this conference packed full of information for increasing your online sales!

AGENDA: Updated 3/11/09

NOTE – The IMA is still adding more speakers, so times and speakers are subject to change.  In addition to the agenda below, there will be a Networking Suite open at Bally’s on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights where you can meet the speakers and ask more questions!

March 16-18 Internet Merchants Assn. Las Vegas register @ , www.imamerchant.org & www.imalasvegas.com Don’t miss out – Register TODAY!

Monday, March 16, 2009 – Internet Merchants Assn Workshops for ASD/AMD
Conference @ Sands Expo Convention Center Rm 107

8am – Marketing My Website on a Budget – Crystal Wells-Miller,Senior Marketing Manager, Vendio
930am – Successful Email Marketing –Charlie Bass, President, Las Vegas Int. Chamber of
Commerce
11am – Make Shipping Easy With Today’s Tools – Seth Birnbaum, Endicia
1230pm – Understanding Search Engine Marketing – Chris Finke,  Orange Soda

FIRST IMA EVENT:
ZAPPOS ON SITE TOUR:
3:30 p.m – 5:30 IMA Pre-conference on-site tour, Zappos.com
Meet in front of Bally’s hotel for transportation, reservations must be made in advance and are first come, first serve.

Hospitality Suite Open, Ballys Resort : 8 p.m. – midnight

Tuesday, March 17, 2009 – Sands Expo Convention Center Rooms 302/303

7:30 – 8 :15 am exhibits open & coffee

8 :15 am – 8: 45  YES WE CAN –case history, Mike Terpin, Social Radi’us Agency

9am-9:40am – Maximizing profit: How to make more money despite the economy – Sarah Brubacher senior manager of eBay’s top sellers programs,
Seth Birnbaum, Endicia and Charles Steinmetz, regional director CISCO

9: 45am-10 15 – Multi-channel Selling, Anthony Musselwhite, AuctionBlox

10: 15am- 10:30am – snack break

10 30-11: 00 am –  How to cash in on TWITTERMANIA , Dan Hollings Twitter Guru

11: 00 – 12:00 ROUNDTABLE #1 & exhibits area open

12 – 1:00 Lunch Exhibits open

2:30- 2:45 pm Snack break

2:45pm-3:30 pm – Driving traffic & attention with Video & Podcasts & online radio
in your marketing & ad mix: Mariana Danilovic, Hollywood Portfolio( former EVP Mediazone). Networks, Andrea Mitchell, Podcast Go, Charlie Bass, Host Vegas Talk Radio

3:30pm-4 00pm – Comparison Shopping Sites; Greg Haslam, Become.com

4:00pm- 4:30 pm Joyce Schwarz, Matchmaking for Business, JCOM, www.joycecom.com Marketing, PR & Joint Ventures

4:30 – 5:30  pm ROUNDTABLES #2

Wednesday, March 18, 2009 – Sands Expo Convention Center

8 am- 8:45 a.m. Morning Networking/continental breakfast

9am-10am – IMA Business Meeting /elections

10am-10:30am – Getting the Most from Your Websites –  Michael Levit, EVP Marketing & Business Development, Vendio

1045am-11:00am – snack break

11:00am-11 45am – “Rich” Email Marketing & Video that sells  Ron Cates, Regional Director, Constant Contact, Dave Boufford, creator of the viral video “THE DASH” 40 million views & counting.

12 pm to 12:45 LUNCH inspirational speaker. Author & poet, Linda Ellis,www.lindaellis.netTHE DASH which sold 200,000 books (only online) and online film that attracted 40 million viewers and counting.

1- 2 p.m. Zappos Keynote: Business Development 2.0 Business Development
at the cross-section of commerce, content & community, Aaron Magness, Zappos, www.zappos.com

2: 15 – 2:45  Subject TBA – Phillip Mulloy, CEO frooition, www.frooition.com  & Burne Hill, US Regiion Manager, frooition

3 – 4:45 Roundtables, workshops & demos & exhibits open

4: 45pm-515pm –-“SEO Link Building Techniques“, Alex McArthur, VP of Search, Orange Soda

5:15 – 5:30 – Closing Comments & Awards

Register today!  Get your business on the fast track to success! www.imalasvegas.com

IMA Announces Feedback Initiative Website

The Internet Merchants Association recently announced the launch of their new website – LeavingFeedback.com.

This new website is a Public Service Initiative to give all eBay sellers a one stop link to include in their correspondence with eBay buyers in order to help educate buyers on the effects of eBay’s new feedback system, including DSR’s and neutral feedback.

From what I can tell, the only education eBay has done to help buyers understand the new feedback system is to include a pop-up when a buyer leaves feedback, that encourages them to leave negative feedback by pointing out the seller can no longer retailiate in kind.  That’s eBay’s kind of buyer education.

The Internet Merchants Association felt that more education was needed and took the initiative to publish the LeavingFeedback.com site which has been received very positively in the seller community.  IMA is encouraging sellers to include the link in their correspondence with buyers and post it on various sites in order to get it out to the public at large.

Auctionbytes has picked up on the leavingfeedback.com site and Ina’s blog post can be read here.

After the site was posted on various eBay boards, IMA was asked permission to have it reposted in Dutch, French and other languages. Several eBay Certified Education Specialists have requested permission to print the site and use it in their classes.   We are pleased to oblige!