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Ecommerce Blog - Fortune3

3 Tips for Making Your Side Business Your Full-Time Gig…Without Working Insane Hours

fortune3-going-crazy-at-workDid you really get into business to reduce your time and money freedom?

I mean, for many, possibly (probably?) you, one of the main reasons for starting your e-commerce business on the side was to escape the 9-5, or the 60-70 hour work weeks, right?

On many e-commerce sites, you get recommendations for how you’re supposed to work on the weekends.

Wait a minute…the weekends?

For the earlier years, and maybe occasionally in the future, you’ll have to pull some odd hours and work on the weekends at times.

But is that really what you want? Do you want to work every weekend?

Then, you’ve sacrificed slavery at your day job for slavery to your business. And even if you make great money, you’re left with not enough time to enjoy it.

So how can you run a profitable business, without feeling like it owns you?

Here’s some ideas:

1. Only Hire People You Trust with Your Life

“Trust but verify” is the way you should approach work. You should be able to trust anyone who works for you as much as you trust your spouse.

If you don’t feel you can do that, you have to work the issues that concern you with the other person. If it doesn’t look like they can ever be trustworthy, you have to let them go.

You’re not the best at everything. So hire people you trust to take care of the things they excel at.

2. Remember, Every Action You Take Counts

Say you give yourself 40-45 hours to work your full-time job each week and 15-20 to work your e-commerce business.

The trap that can come there is you know you have 15-20 hours to work your e-commerce business, so you don’t work any faster than you have to. You just assume you can use that time.

It’s a tough psychological shift to make, but it’s more effective to remember you have limited time and need to make the best use of that time. So you don’t have time to dilly-dally on meaningless, inconsequential tasks that don’t drive your business forward.

Find out what works. Work with great urgency – like your life depends on it. Make sure every step is tracked, and that it’s truly the most effective thing you can do for your business right now.

3. Consider Outsourcing to Foreign Countries

This is a tough issue – and one you have to decide for yourself. On the one hand, you’re sending work that could be for Americans overseas. And you don’t know if the person doing it is getting paid a fair living wage for their work. Plus, foreign workers, while talented, generally aren’t as skilled as Americans.

On the other hand, you’ll pay much less for a “good enough for now, but not exceptional” product. Then again, that may be just what your business needs to survive and thrive. And you may have to work through some difficult communication issues.

There’s a lot of debate about outsourcing. Those are the ins and outs. And you have to decide what route makes you most comfortable.

You Can Have Great Profits – And Freedom of Time Too

It’s easy to fall into the American trap of being obsessed with working 10-14 hour days 7 days per week, and making as much money as you can. But it’s not all it appears to be.

You can make an income that supports you comfortably, and allows you to live the lifestyle you want too. You just have to focus on taking the steps that get you there.

 

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips

5 Profit-Killing Mistakes to Avoid When Selling on Amazon

fortune3-amazon-ecommerce-sales-mistakeAhhh Amazon…it can be a great way to make sales, get customers familiar with your name, and start rolling in some qualified traffic to your website.

But, you could totally screw your chances up before you even start.

And there’s plenty of opportunity to get yourself in trouble down the road too.

Here are some mistakes you can make:

1. Pricing Items in What Amazon Views as Unfair Ways 

Amazon makes for a great place for testing in some cases. So, you might think,”Well, I’m going to test out my pricing strategies on Amazon, and see how people respond. Then I’ll know how to price on my own site.”

That’s okay to do, but you have to proceed with caution.

If you price items on Amazon higher than they are at your own store or any other sales channel, you can land yourself in hot water.

As long as you price the same on Amazon, or less than you do on all other channels, you’re okay.

2. Intentionally Luring Shoppers Away from Amazon

You can’t put your company name or URLs to your website in your product description. You can’t include any identifying information in product photos.

If you think there’s anything else that you’d like to try, err on the side of staying away from it. Or contact Amazon first.

You don’t want to lose your ability to sell on Amazon.

3. Bad or Costly Shipping Policies

Remember, Amazon’s customers hold you accountable for your actions. There’s lots of them, and Amazon asks them to leave feedback. Your reputation will suffer if you have a bad or costly shipping policy.

So make yours simple and straightforward.

4. Selling the Same Thing as Everyone Else

Generally, as a smaller e-commerce company, you want to avoid this entirely. That’s because you’ll have to compete on price and volume, which is difficult to do for a smaller outfit.

And if you do choose to sell the same product, write your own unique description. It’s tempting to just copy and paste someone else’s, but don’t do it. That’s an outright violation of Amazon’s policy.

5. Don’t Think Amazon Customers will Read Your Policy 

Remember what Amazon pages look like. They’re loaded with information. It’s hard to find exactly what you need, let alone anything at all.

And most people don’t read, even when there is very little to read.

So state your policy as often as possible. But above all, keep it clear and simple in the first place.

You don’t want confusion, anger, and people blaming you unjustifiably. That costs you time and money.

So those are some simple Amazon basics to get down to start.

Happy selling!

 

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, Online Marketing Strategies

Google Analytics 101 – Interpreting Data

fortune3-google-analytics-imageSo you have all this wonderful data in Google Analytics…

And you hear  this chatter about “big data” and “deep insights.”

That’s all well and good, but what does all of that mean?

And what can you do with it?

Well, you’ll get those answers with these tips:

1. See Where Visitors Drop Off from Your Website

Navigate to Behavior –> Behavior Flow

You’ll see an image that looks like this:

behavior-flow-google-analytics

You see those areas at the top where it says “856 sessions, 789 dropoffs?” Yikes, something’s going on there with this website!

In this visualization, that’s what you’re looking for: high drop-off rates.

Why does that happen?

Could be a couple reasons:

• You’re not getting the right traffic to your website

• Something’s wrong with your website

Start with the pages with the highest drop-off rates first. And then work your way down.

Technically, work on improving your conversions is never done, so you can grind away at this as much as you want.

But start with the biggest problems first, and work your way down as you have time.

2. Who’s Your Audience?

Fortunately, Google Analytics gives you some of this information.

Go to the “Audience” section here. You can learn things like:

• Which countries your users come from

• Age

• Gender

• Type of device they used to browse your website

• Some of their main interests

• How many visitors are new versus returning

• With this information, you can pinpoint your best customers and strategize how to market to them.

3. What Could “Bounce Rates” Mean?

Next, in Google Analytics, go to Behavior –> Site Content –> All Pages.

Under this section, you’ll see a column titled “Bounce Rate.”

Bounce rate is generally not a good thing. It refers to the fact that someone visited your page, and then did nothing else.

It can, on a rare occasion, mean they found exactly what they wanted and left. So, maybe they visited your page, and then made a phone call and ordered.

But more often, bounce rate means someone visited your page, and pressed “Back” on their browser, or closed your website out entirely.

So that can mean a couple things:

1. You get traffic from irrelevant sources

2. Visitors to your site aren’t seeing what they want or expect to see right away

4. Traffic Sources

Now, you can determine part of the problem – whether the traffic source is the issue.

Go to Acquisition –> All Traffic –> Source/Medium

You’ll note all the sources of traffic to your website. It’s totally common to see that you get traffic from websites completely unrelated to yours. Some websites rely on sending junk traffic so that when you see it in these analytics reports, you go and visit their website and hopefully like it.

You’ll have to work on blocking traffic from these sources and others.

And for the rest of the sources? You’ll have to check those out on a case-by-case basis and decide whether their traffic is valuable based on the demographic that reads their website.

So That’s Analytics 101…

Those are a few basic things to learn from your analytics. Hope your company takes big strides forward!

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, eCommerce Website Analysis, How To

How to Make an Omnichannel Marketing Strategy Work

fortune3-omnichannel-marketing-imageIf you really want to be present on every available marketing channel, how many are there?

Hundreds of social networks. Thousands of blogs.

That’s truly an impossible task to manage for any company of any size, let alone a smaller e-commerce store.

The difference between omnichannel and multichannel marketing is that you attempt to provide an experience that works completely together in the case of omnichannel strategies. Multichannel strategies, on the other hand, simply mean you’re present on many channels, but not necessarily trying to make your strategies work together on all of them.

While you can never be truly “omnichannel” in the purest sense of the term, you can be present on as many as possible, while still providing a consistent experience, and with minimal effort, using these tips:

1. Test the Experience Out Yourself on Every Website/Social Network

This is the simple way to do things and ensure a consistent experience. Test every network yourself.

But, the one downfall is that you aren’t the customer. So some of your perceptions and conclusions might not be accurate.

2. Measure Everything from All Your Sites

You’ll have various metrics for determining success at your various marketing channels. However, you need to look at that defining metric – the sales each site brings in.

Then you know how, or if you even need to tweak your experience on those sites.

3. Make Sure All Purchases Go into The Same Cart

If your customers view your store from their desktop and add an item to their cart, they should be able to see that item if they log in from their smartphone. It’s small, but a standard expectation of every consumer.

4. Do You Have a Rewards Program?

If so, it again needs to work consistently across all devices. Customers should be able to use their rewards through their desktop computer, phone, or even in-store. And this all needs to be updated in real time.

5. Use Ad Retargeting

This strategy targets customers that have already visited your store, and presumably who like it. However, they didn’t purchase for whatever reason.

So a great way to build your omnichannel marketing is to lure them back through ad retargeting. That gives you more data to make educated decisions from, and you’ll get some more sales too. And you might use that capital to improve how your business uses omnichannel marketing.

6. Allow Customers to Return Items by Mail or In-Person

It’s yet another simple tactic, but one that’s important to your customers. Regardless of where they bought your item, let them make the return anywhere they like.

Think of how convenient this is from your customer’s perspective. No waiting for days for mail if they visit in-person to make the return.

Those are The Basics…

Omnichannel is tough work and hard to pull off. You may need a small team dedicated for the effort. But when you make it happen, your customers get a more personal and convenient experience.

And that translates into stronger relationships and more sales for you.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, Online Marketing Strategies

6 Simple and Proven Ways to Easily Increase Your Average Order Value

fortune3-increase-average-order-value-imageCha-ching! Hopefully that’s the sound you hear in your e-commerce store today.

If it’s not, or even if it is, you might be able to increase your average order value even more with these tips.

Check out what you can try to increase the average order value on your e-commerce site:

1. Offer Bundles When Customers Purchase a Product

Don’t require the bundles, but do offer them. For example, do like the cell phone companies do.

Sell the phone, and then offer a car charger, protective case, and bluetooth. Give a 10-20% discount off what customers would normally pay if they bought these items separately at your store or another.

And make sure they know about the discount. That increases the chances they’ll buy.

2. Free Delivery When You Purchase a Certain Price

Let’s say your customers pay $100 for an item, and you pay $10 in shipping. Ouch, that’s a 10% whack right there!

Try setting your free delivery amount to $110 or $120, and see if that results in more orders. Any cut to your shipping costs is a good thing.

3. Add in a Browsing History for Your Shoppers

Not all shoppers know what they want to buy right away.

So…remind them what they’ve looked at. Place a browsing history at the bottom of your category pages with the 5-10 most recent items they’ve viewed.

4. Use the “F-Word” of E-Commerce

No, I’m not talking about something offensive here. The “F-word” in online marketing is FREE.

Everybody wants something for free, ranging from the most intelligent to the most impulsive buyers.

A few ideas for how you could use free to increase average order value:

• BOGO – buy one, get one free

• Buy one, get one half off

• Buy the main product and get an accessory free

• Free shipping (ala Zappos

• Free trial

5. Consider a Loyalty Rewards Program

This works best with replenishable items that consumers have to buy every few months or couple years. Think about things around the home like kitchen utensils, clothing, and other personal care items.

The challenge with loyalty rewards programs is they have a cost and can be hard to implement. And they don’t work as well if you sell products that last many years.

6. Use Price Anchoring

When you encounter the first price, that appears to be the best option. It’s the way most consumers make purchasing decisions.

So, to take advantage of this, you put a less costly item first, and then a more expensive item next to it. When the consumer sees the higher price of the second item, they’re more likely to judge the first as being “affordable.” And that works even with items with higher prices in the first place.

Implement those strategies into your e-commerce store today…and watch your profits soar.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips

Do You Have These 4 Qualities of Successful Entrepreneurs?

fortune3-successful-entrepreneur-imageWork insane hours, take ridiculous risks, do things other see as impossible…

Aren’t these the typical qualities of all successful entrepreneurs?

Well, for some yes. But you don’t need all, or even most, of these qualities to succeed.

In fact, you need just a few. And as long as you do them well, you’ll succeed just fine.

Here are some qualities you may need to succeed as an entrepreneur:

1. Ability to Spontaneously Adapt to Unpredictable Changes

Successful entrepreneurs don’t have it all planned and figured out. Planning ahead is smart and helps you avoid some business obstacles.

But many times, even the smartest entrepreneur can’t see the danger that lurks ahead. That’s the nature of business.

So it’s important to be able to identify changes when they happen, and make changes, sometimes dramatic ones, in your business.

2. Passion for What You Do

You can get away with “enjoying” or “really liking” what you do. But, in business, regardless of the type of company you run, you’re going to hit extraordinary highs and depressing lows.

When those low times happen, simply liking what you do may not be enough to get you through. You might consider doing something else instead, or even burn out entirely.

Even great companies go through tough times. For example, Starbucks, which now has a market capitalization of more than $83 billion, nearly failed in 2008 from its rapid growth. Since then, it’s grown by more than 300%!

Finding your passion may take several businesses to do. But it’s well worth your time and effort.

3. Be Comfortable with Delegation

This one comes from research done on 1,000 entrepreneurs by Gallup. You may be a smart person at many things, but you don’t want to be the smartest at everything.

Otherwise, you’ll end up doing it all yourself, and did you get into your business just so you could stay working all the time? Or would you rather have the freedom of time and money to do some things you like?

The choice is yours. You can certainly spend all of your time working if you want. That part’s on you.

If you want to grow your business beyond yourself, you must learn how to delegate. You can be the best at something – identifying who would be best at doing various tasks.

But that’s about it!

4. Know You Need Help to Accomplish Their Goals

In this case, I’m not talking about help from employees. Those who are successful have help from people who’ve already traveled the road before them.

They have a mentor, or mentors. Or they pay a coach.

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt used a coach. He didn’t want to at first because he thought others were suggesting he was doing something wrong.

However, everyone, including CEOs, has their blind spot. And everyone, not just CEOs, should have a coach or mentor.

With help from a coach or mentor, you make fewer mistakes, and learn faster from the ones you do make.

Successful entrepreneurs have those 4 qualities. Which do you have? Which don’t you have?

Consider those questions and their answers to help your business take off!

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips

EMV Credit Cards are Coming to the US – Here’s What to Do

fortune3-e-commerce-emv-card-securityYou’ve heard about all the massive credit card fraud that happens out there in the US. Something has to be done about it, right?

Well, EMV, which stands for Europay, Mastercard, and Visa, will hopefully be more secure and dramatically reduce US credit card fraud. The magnetic stripes on credit cards are child’s play for thieves to steal private information from.

How are EMV Cards Going to Increase Security? 

They have a computer chip – a small, metallic square you’ll see on the card. Interestingly, EMV cards don’t make it harder for data breaches to occur.

But when they do happen, it will be extremely difficult for cyber thieves to steal information. With each transaction, a unique number is created. Once the transaction completes, that number is no longer usable and the card gets denied.

In countries where EMV is already widely adopted, credit card fraud has dropped noticeably.

EMV Cards Will Likely Increase Online Fraud

Because EMV protects consumers only when they use their card in person at a physical location, card security experts expect online fraud to increase.

It’s unfortunate, but appears to be the reality of the current situation. High card-present fraud with magnetic stripe cards dictates the US address that problem first.

As the fraud expands to other avenues, more large-scale solutions will be proposed and implemented.

While a unified payment security system makes sense, one won’t come about anytime soon. So in the meantime, it’s important to use every security measure you can to keep your customers as safe as possible.

The deadline for merchants to switch over to EMV technology is October 1, 2015. After that date, whoever is the least EMV-compliant in a given transaction is financially liable for card-present fraud.

Online Security Measures You Should Have in Place

This is what you should be doing right now to minimize, and hopefully eliminate, fraud and hacking on  your site:

1. Use SSL for all checkouts

2. Ensure you’re PCI compliant

3. Don’t store sensitive information yourself, like credit card data

4. Require your customers to have strong passwords

5. Never communicate sensitive data via e-mail or text

6. Train your employees on company security policies at least once per year

7. Know the level of security your web-host offers, and move to a new host if they aren’t helpful

8. Use tracking numbers for every order to prevent chargeback fraud

9. Perform regular PCI scans of your website to guarantee ongoing security

10. Use a firewall

11. Use cloud-based DDoS protection

12. Apply patches and updates literally the minute they’re released

If you do all that, you give your customers maximum protection – online and off.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips

8 Ways to Improve Your E-Commerce Site’s Speed – And Sales

fortune3-fast-loading-ecommerce-site-imageAhh speed. Who doesn’t want more of it?

It’s all part of your user’s experience. And they want your website to be as fast as possible.

The faster it is, the more you sell.

So what can you do?

Some easy things:

1. Put as Little As Is Necessary on Each Page

Every image, object, or widget you put on your web page increases its size and download time. Everything you put on the page should help your customers trust you’re the best option to buy from.

While Amazon’s a great company, they have an awful lot of clutter on their product pages. They improve their speed using other tactics. With less, you can help your customers focus on buying, rather than browsing and leaving.

2. Specify Image Dimensions

Few e-commerce companies are doing this. Not doing so forces the entire image to load on the page before anything else happens.

When you specify the image’s dimensions, placeholders are created, so images and the rest of the page load at the same time.

3. Compress Your Images

On top of that slick technique, compress your images with TinyPNG. You can compress your images by about 75% without any noticeable reduction in image quality.

4. Explore Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)

CDNs are simply data centers around the world that store your files at their data center. So, rather than users from all over the world having to wait for content from a single data center near you, they get it faster from one closer to them.

5. Optimize Your E-Commerce Platform

Different e-commerce platforms come with various speed-enhancing features. Are file compression and a CDN associated with your platform by default? Take advantage of them if they are.

6. Have a Fast Host

Cheap hosting does the job when you start out. But when you grow and revenues  seriously ramp up, you might need to switch to a more expensive, but faster host.

Don’t worry – the additional sales you make will outweigh your increased hosting costs.

7. Compress Your Site with GZip

This can reduce your site’s size by up to 70%. It’s not the simplest change to make, so you may need to hire the process out. If you’re ambitious, or strapped for cash, here’s a guide.

8. Switch Off All Plugins and Features You Don’t Use

They’re page speed “vampires,” sucking the speed out of your site. Not to mention, many additional features can cause operating conflicts with others.

Use the fewest number of features possible that give your site a great user experience.

Your users absolutely love the additional speed you give them. So make it your priority to optimize your website’s download speed. Your bottom line will be glad you did.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, eCommerce Website Analysis, SEO for eCommerce

How to Use Social Media to Boost Engagement (And Sales)

fortune3-engaged-customers-image“Get active on social media!” That’s the general advice you get from most online information sources.

Everyone knows that.

But what exactly should you do to get more attention?

Here are some simple ideas:

1. Post Frequently & Be Funny with Twitter

With Twitter, you can easily do up to 5 posts per day without coming across as spamming. How do you find that much content?

You don’t need to find 5 different things to post. Simply re-post the same content, with a different message, a week later.

Posts are so hard to find that most of your followers won’t notice when you re-post the same content.

Plus, you’ll want to use as much personality as possibility. Don’t worry about being snarky or funny – that helps you stand out.

2. Be Personal on Facebook

You’ll want to be professional and post useful information on Facebook, of course. But people want to get to know the real person behind the professional.

Post pictures of your dog, you fishing, and sometimes just silly or goofy photos. That helps your engagement a ton.

3. Share Visual Content

You can do this on Twitter now too, but you’ll also want to do it on Facebook. On Twitter, not every post has to be visual. But make it a point to get pictures in occasionally.

4. Respond to As Many Comments As Quickly As Possible

Think of your comments as another form of customer service. With standard customer service, people want rapid responses. Do the same with your comments.

If you can’t respond to every comment, it’s time to hire help.

5. Pay for Advertising When Possible

Watch your costs closely because they can quickly skyrocket out of control. The advantage of paid advertising on any social network is more access to a targeted audience. They’ll have a stronger interest in what you sell, and you’ll make more sales as a result.

6. Include a Call-to-Action at the End of Every Facebook Post

This isn’t necessarily a call-to-action to buy. In fact, that type of call-to-action should be rare – around 1 in 10 posts. With every post, you can ask a question, ask people to comment, or tell them to share it with their friends.

Your followers will take more action when you ask them to do it.

7. Ask Your Audience for Content Ideas

“Advertising” is a one-direction form of communication. That’s what businesses did (and it worked) decades ago.

But now, the point of social media is to have two-way communication, a real conversation. Don’t worry about asking your audience for content ideas. It’s not up to you to know everything.

You’ll get good engagement because they’ve told you exactly what they want.

Add in Those Ideas to Your Social Media Profiles & Watch Your Engagement Blast Off!

And when you have engagement, sales come a lot easier. So follow these tips, and make some changes today.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips

6 Strategies to Increase Your Profit Margins

fortune3-better-profit-margins-imageMost e-commerce businesses have a 20-50% gross margin on the products they sell.

It’s important to measure this because most small businesses don’t. And if you can find ways to get your gross margin to 60-80%, you free up all kinds of time and money to hire better employees and solidify your competitive edge.

Here are some simple ways to increase your margins:

1. Make Your Own Niche Product

This is the easiest way to ensure good margins. E-commerce businesses with closer to 80% margins typically make their own products.

And since you’re the only, or one of few businesses, that make the product, you can charge higher prices. Those increased prices make running your e-commerce business so much easier.

2. Private Label Inexpensive Products

This one can be a tough one. It’s easy to find products to private label. But many of them are low-margin.

However, with enough research, you can find items you can mark up 100-150% for a 60% net margin.

That’s not too bad.

3. Sell Items with Traditionally High Margins

Certain products carry with them high margins, and have done so, for years. These include things like wine, eyeglasses, jewelry, software, online courses, and many others.

If you need to generate cash, these products are a good place to start. Then you can decide whether to keep running your business selling these items, or if you want to invest cash in creating your own products.

4. Simple Things You Can do to Reduce Operating Costs

One of the main things you can do is to consolidate as many processes as you possibly can with as few vendors as possible. Work with your shipping vendor to identify areas to improve efficiency (most businesses don’t talk to their shipping vendors at all and waste money). Constantly analyze your marketing channels so you never waste money.

5. Continue Building Relationships with Existing Customers

You don’t have to work with your existing customers to earn their business – you already have it! Winning over new customers costs you much more time and money than selling to your existing ones because they already know, like, and trust you.

Do everything you can to keep their business!

6. Give New Customers Great Service

Most businesses tell you they value their customers. But here’s the thing: their actions often say otherwise.

But, by being easygoing with your customers on returns, and being as prompt as possible with current customers, you make yourself stand out from the pack.

Not hard things to do, but they do give you a strong competitive edge. And your profit margins will notice a nice boost too!

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips