3 tips to encourage social sharing on your ecommerce site

social media for ecommerce sellers

Social media is an ideal way to boost brand recognition, identify issues, share your wares, and above all – connect with your customers. So what is the best way to delve into social media for ecommerce? Check out our top 3 steps right here:

1- Create pages and identities on the social media sites Sounds like a simple instruction but this is where the biggest decision has to be made. Is Facebook the place for your customers? Or is Twitter where they can be found? Don’t forget LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+.

If you are in a narrow market, figure out what niche sites exist that cater to your customers – you might be surprised to find that the smaller niche sites may be a better place for you to invest your efforts.

You can’t be on every social media site, so do your homework first and see what sites you need to be on. Don’t be afraid to register on all the major sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+), if only to reserve your name – and to keep others from using it.

2 – Use social sharing buttons on your ecommerce web site From your home page to the product pages, every individual page on your site should have social sharing buttons so that customers and potential customers can share your site with others. Make it easy for them! If your shopping cart software has buttons already configured, be sure that they work properly – many times the hardcoded buttons simply create a new page on a social site (like Facebook, for example) but they don’t post anything on anyone’s timeline which is where you want to be!

Pick and choose which buttons you want to appear on your product pages based on which social media sites you are active on. Showing 15-20 (or more!) social buttons just clutters up the page and may deter someone from sharing easily.

Don’t forget – liking (or following) a business is different than liking (or following) a product on a product page. On your home page, ask people to like or follow you so that your future posts or tweets are visible to them. Be sure that the correctly coded button is available to make it easy for them to like (or follow) you.

3 – Set aside time every day for social media tasks For many ecommerce sellers, this is the hardest step to beginning. Even if you only spend 15 minutes a day monitoring, posting and sharing content, that will give you a presence on social media sites. If you have staff that can do this for you, even better! Just be sure to set the guidelines about posting like what is appropriate messaging and what is not and how much time you want them to spend on the different sites.

If you maintain more than one identity or are active on more than one social media site, you might want to take a look at some of the social media software that is available to increase productivity and monitor results. Software such as Hootsuite can be had for free for up to 5 identities. Of course, their paid version is far more robust but if you are just starting out, their free version might be all you need for now.

Product Sourcing Ideas – Distributors

Every product market has their own unique distribution channels. The key to effective sourcing is to know who to contact when you are sourcing a new product.

Here are some examples of different sources in a distribution network:

Manufacturer
In many cases, if you are going to source a new product, you might want to start at the top of the food chain – the manufacturer. Sometimes contacting the manufacturer will net you a positive response including a list of their recommended distributors. Depending on the size of the company, they may also be looking to sell directly to retailers. Remember, it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Distributors

If they provide you with a list of their distributors, choose one and send them a quick email introducing yourself and asking for some basic information. What you are looking for is:
Minimum order quantities (also referred to frequently as MOQ)
Pricing

No response? Don’t despair. Move down the list until you find another distributor who responds in a timely manner.

Another way to search for distributors is through Google or another search engine. Look for “Product name or brand name distributor”. Look for a wholesale or distributor link on their home page or ‘contact us’ page. Contact them as recommended above.

Next up: Trade Shows

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.

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.

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.