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?

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.

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

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.

E-Commerce Shopping Cart Abandonment

written by Cathy, VisibilityUnlimited.com

I was talking to a friend tonight and she mentioned that she had a very high cart abandonment on her website. Experts say that ‘high’ is anything over 20% and if your shopping cart is higher, it would be to your financial interest to figure out why.

So I did a little research and found the reasons for consumer cart abandonment. But the number 1 reason is because of high shipping charges.

Other reasons consumers abandon e-commerce shopping carts are because they want to:

  • compare shopping with other internet shopping sites
  • lack of money to spend
  • research for coupons for your site
  • shop offline
  • you don’t offer their choice of payment
  • out of stock at checkout
  • you do not offer support
  • concern of credit card security
  • Because this is such a wide discussion, today I am only going to talk about high shipping charges. So how do you fix this issue? Well the obvious solution is to adjust your shipping charges. Can you revisit your costs and negotiate a better rate with your shipping company. Crunch your numbers folks, get your shipping charges in line with your competitors. This is a very important step to online selling.

    Another idea is not to surprise your customer with the charges and have an ‘estimate your shipping charges’ program on your main site, so your customer does not go through the troubles of checking out and then realize that the shipping charges are to high. There are programs (or you can have one written), that shows you who left their shopping cart and you can see if you can save the sale with a phone call or email. Check your shopping cart software to see if they offer either option. I have also seen with companies that have pop up boxes that you can offer a % discount after they bail on your site, just to sway the possible customer come back and complete the sale.

    Is FREE shipping expected to consumers? In this economy, it doesnt hurt. Online consumers are not expecting free shipping on every product but they are expecting reasonable shipping charges. You don’t have to offer free shipping for every sale, put a dollar value on it and watch your sales increase.

    Because your e-commerce site is so important to you, have outsiders (family, IMA members, customers) go through your checkout process and let them be brutally honest with what their opinion is, as a consumer, and let them tell you what is wrong. It can only help.

    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

    Too MANY Payment Options?

    Written by Cyn

    With the launch of Checkout by Amazon  I have to ask myself – is there such a thing as too many payment options?  When a buyer comes to my site, what are they looking for as far as payment options?  Currently I offer Paypal, Google Checkout and a merchant account.  50% of my shoppers choose the merchant account, 25% Paypal and 25% Google Checkout.

    Would I not be shooting myself in the foot by adding another payment option?  Considering each payment processor offers reduced fees based on volume, by having too many options, and spreading that volume among 3 processors, I am paying higher processing costs.

    When I only offered Paypal, I had a lot of abandoned shopping carts and even a few potential customers email me that they canceled their order because they couldn’t use their credit card directly.  So I’ve added a merchant account and have had no more abandoned carts.  I may even experiment with deleting Paypal and Google Checkout for a month.  See if I get any requests for them, or if my abandoned carts return.  If I were to process all payments through my merchant account, I could save quite a bit of money on processing fees with the reduced percentages.

    So for me, Amazon Checkout is a non-event.  Too many hands in the pie.

    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!

    Be Notified When Your Website is Linked To & Indexed

    Wouldn’t it be nice to be automatically notified when your website has a new page indexed in Google, or when someone links to your site? Well this is very easy to do using the Google Alerts Beta! Here are the instructions for setting up a site wide Google index update Alert and a site wide link alert.

    Create an alert for when a page on your site gets indexed:

    1. Go to www.google.com/alerts.
    2. For search terms enter (without quotes) “site:yourdomain.com”.
      1. Make sure you do not use a www or other subdomain.
    3. Select Web as the type.
    4. For “How often” we will select “as-it-happens”. I like this because this tells you exactly when Google is crawling your site!
    5. Enter the email you want the alert sent to.
    6. Click “Create Alert”.
    7. Confirm the alert from the email Google send you and you are set!

    [Read more…]