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Ecommerce Blog - Fortune3

Do You Need a New E-Commerce Platform? Find Out in This Post!

e-commerce-platform-upgrade-pictureWe can’t make this decision for you – there’s too many unique circumstances surrounding your situation.

But, we can give you some guidelines so you can make this decision on your own.

You are the expert on your business, after all.

With that in mind, here are some things you should look for that may indicate it’s time for a new e-commerce platform to help you manage your website:

• Lots of growth – You may need a better website host than you have right now

• Increased back-office integration – As you grow, one of the biggest needs you’ll have is the ability to logistically manage inventory and all your orders. Does your current e-commerce site support that?

• Are your customer’s security needs met? Probably don’t need to say too much more here. You need at least 128-bit encryption, and ideally 256.

• You decided on new goals for your store - Depending on what they are, you might need a new e-commerce platform to support them.

• You’re not sure your site appeals to your customers - Then it’s time to get an e-commerce platform that does.

• You’ve been adding ad hoc features with regularity – This means your current web store no longer meets your user’s needs. It’s time to find a platform that does. You might also need to hire a full-time designer.

• You use your current data in many new ways - In the past, the simple reports you looked at always seemed to be good enough. Now, you need to do all sorts of complex things that you didn’t before.

• Your inefficiencies continue to increase - Your website load time is grinding to a halt. You spend a lot of time creating custom code and adding new widgets that make your website more useful for your visitors. And growth, for whatever reason, has been slowing lately.

• Your customers complain about the same problems repeatedly - Okay, a complaint here and there is no big deal, is it? No business ever goes without getting any complaints at all. But, if you hear customers complaining about the same issue over and over again, you may need to upgrade to a better platform.

• New technologies have come out, and your platform doesn’t support them - Pretty straightforward here. Your customers expect you to use the latest and greatest, and your platform simply must support those features.

If your current e-commerce platform exacerbates those problems, then it may be wise for you to consider moving on to a new one.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips

How to Get More Sales from Pinterest

You get endless Facebook and Twitter tips on the web.

Over the last 6 months of 2014, Pinterest grew its active user base by 111%.

Other social networks may get all the publicity, but Pinterest is one you can’t ignore.

Here are some simple tactics you can implement today to get more sales from Pinterest:

1. Simply Show Photos of Your Products

It really is that easy in some cases. This infographic shows 20% of Pinterest users buy a product after pinning or liking it.

2. Use Rich Pins

For one thing, this makes your pins easier to discover and click on because rich pins are eligible for Pinterest’s curated feed. Another way they help your business is they send e-mail notifications to your customers who repinned them when you drop the price of the product.

3. Only Pin Images Likely to get Repinned

What makes an image get repinned? There’s no guarantees, but if you follow these guidelines it’s much more likely your images will get repinned:

  • Images without faces are more likely to get repinned
  • Pins with multiple colors get repinned more
  • The larger the image, the more likely it is to get repinned
  • 2-4 PM and 8-11 PM are the most likely times for images to get repinned, but do check your analytics to make sure that’s when you get the most repins
  • With your product images, make sure they appear on a white or gray background, in a person’s hands, or in their natural environment

3. Don’t Sell your Products, Sell the Lifestyle They Help Your Customers Lead

Let’s say you sell high-end camping gear. Your product images should, of course, feature the products themselves.

But, to sell more, you have to take it even farther than that.

At the end of the day, remember your customers don’t buy your products – they buy the benefits they get from those products.

So, you show people around the outside of a tent smiling and enjoying their day – making it clear they get an experience you don’t get with the average tent.

4. Use Keywords in Your Pin Board Names

Anywhere you can enter information on the web, that’s a good place to enter in keywords so you can be found.

Pin boards are no exception. Use descriptive words so people know what yours is about, but also use keywords too.

5. Advertise Your Coupons

“Free, discount, and deal” are still very powerful words in marketing. You can take advantage of coupons on Pinterest by creating a separate coupon board. Just make sure you use an application like Wishpond to manage the whole process – it makes your life much easier.

There are numerous other ways to get more sales from Pinterest, but by using these you’ll definitely give yourself a leg up on the competition.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, Online Marketing Strategies, Social Media For eCommerce

4 Tax Tips for E-Commerce Businesses

fortune3-taxes-imageSo are you the type of person who gets your taxes done right away, or do you wait until the last minute?

Of course taxes aren’t easy. But they will get easier (and less costly) if you follow these tips:

1. A Few Deadlines to Remember

Of course, the one you should know is April 15 for personal income and partnership tax returns. But here are some others to remember:

  • February 2: Forms 1099 and W2 must be postmarked and sent to your contractors/employees
  • March 16: Corporate tax returns due. Make sure you have them filed – especially if this is your first year.

2. Do You Understand Sales Taxes? 

It’s getting sorted out these days. Today, you must have a “nexus” in a state – that means a physical presence.

But that means more than just having an office. For example, if you have employees, a warehouse, store inventory, or even do something as simple as setting up a pop-up shop inside of a state just one day, you’ve established a “nexus” and must pay sales tax in that state.

3. Did You Remember to Set Aside Money for Your End-of-Year Tax Payment? 

If you didn’t (not a good idea), you at least benefit from the seasonality of the e-commerce business. Hopefully you made good profits around the holidays and have cash to make your final quarterly estimated tax payment.

And if you had a really good year, you might even owe more than what your quarterly estimated taxes added up to. So if you’re not sure how much money you’re going to have to pay in, hopefully a profitable holiday season helped you.

4. Don’t Forget about Your Home Office Deduction!

For many of you e-commerce companies, you can take this. To take the home office deduction, you must meet the requirements of exclusivity, regularity, and precedence.

For exclusivity, you must use your working area solely for business.

To meet the regularity requirement, you must use this space regularly for business purposes. It’s a gray area. It doesn’t have to necessarily be every day, but more often than not.

To meet the precedence requirement, you should spend most of your working time in your office, and your most important business activities should be done there.

If you meet those criteria, then there’s a couple ways to calculate your deduction:

• Use the simplified method, which lets you deduct $5 per square foot of home office space, up to 300 square feet

• Calculate the square footage of your home office, and divide that by the square foot of your home. You can measure square footage to the outsides of your exterior walls.

Of course, there’s a lot more to doing your taxes than that. And, don’t substitute this for professional tax advice. But, at least it gets you going in the right direction.

 

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, How To

Why Isn’t Your Website Selling Like You Want?

So you’ve spent all this time working on your e-commerce site, and you’re just not getting the sales you want.

Hopefully you can still hang in there while you figure what’s going on.

And it could just be one of these things:

1. You Don’t Have a True USP

We’ve talked about this issue before. It’s hard to find a USP. But basically, what it is, is a 2-3 sentence statement that makes your products different from all the other website who sell something similar on the web.

When you get right down to it, many products are exactly the same. So, you have to position yours better in the mind of your customers. And you do that with a USP.

2. You Don’t Have Reviews or Testimonials

Reviews are only good if you have a lot of them. If people click on to your products pages and see none, they get turned off and leave. It works the same with testimonials. If you can fit them in on your product pages, that’s where they work best.

3. It’s Hard to Find Your Contact Information

You must at least have a phone number and e-mail address on your website. It’s even better if you have your physical address. They should all be clearly laid out where your customers can see them – you really can’t make it too obvious.

4. Your Branding Doesn’t Make Sense to Your Customers

If you sell products that help people relax, you want to show them calming colors – like blues. If you show red (which energizes and builds confidence) they’re not going to buy as much (or maybe at all).

5. You Don’t Use Enough Calls-to-Action

You must have “buy now” buttons all over your website in a color that stands out from your brand’s main color scheme. Put them at the end of your copy. You can have around 2-3 per page (not including category pages) without overwhelming your visitors.

6. You Ask People to Join Your Newsletter Way Too Early

If people get hit by a popup the minute they visit your website, they’re not likely to sign up. In fact, you might chase them right out your doors again.

A better place to use your popup is to have it show up a 30 seconds or so after they land on your website. That way, you know they already have some level of interest in your products.

You could also ask as they check out, or right after they check out.

Those aren’t all the reasons your website doesn’t sell as well as you want. But they are some very good reasons why it might not.

Figure out which ones apply to your site, and start making the changes that take you to the leading position in your market!

Posted in Uncategorized

When Was the Last Time You Updated Your Online Store?

fortune3-update-your-website-imageDo you go to your doctor at least once per year for a checkup?

Your e-commerce store needs the exact same thing on an annual basis.

Before you know it, you’ve been in business for years – and there’s all kinds of stuff you need to fix with your website that you haven’t thought about during that time.

Have you checked for things like these:

1. On-Page SEO Stuff

Titles and meta descriptions get truncated or forgotten entirely. You may not have a focus keyword for your pages. Perhaps some of the copy doesn’t reflect how you currently do business. Maybe some of your titles and descriptions are exactly the same (yikes!).

2. Optimize Your Images

Yes, the web has increased its bandwidth. But unfortunately, it’s still not at the point where everything downloads fast. You still have to optimize your images and compress them for the best resolution – and the best download speed at the same time.

The faster your site downloads, the better the user experience, and the more sales you make.

3. Get an ALT Tag on Every Image

SEO is most certainly not dead. When you put your keywords (in a natural way) inside of your ALT tags, that helps Google understand what your website is all about.

You just have to do it in a Google-friendly way. That means adding 1-2 keyphrases, for about 7-10 words total, and making them descriptive of your image. Besides being useful for search, remember they are for visually impaired people as well.

4. Do You Have Permission to Use Your Images? 

Yes, you can use vendor stock photos, but you should really get permission to do so. If you don’t, technically they can come back and sue for you using them. For example, Getty Images/iStockPhoto used to (and maybe still) installs tracking code on their images. Then they sick high-power lawyers on you and try to extract outrageous sums of money from you for violating their copyright.

It generally only leads to bad things when you use someone else’s photos without permission. So, get permission, or make sure you take the photos yourself.

5. Check Out That Link Profile 

You can never look at this too often! If you have too many bad links, you’re going to lose an awful lot of traffic. You can get away with some bad links and exact-match anchor text, but not much these days.

You really must have a lot of content going that attracts those awesome natural links you want.

Go to Google Webmaster tools and review yours – your website’s health won’t regret it.

If you haven’t reviewed your website’s health in some time, you should start now. Your search rankings will improve, and so will your marketability.

And finally, the profits follow!

Posted in Uncategorized

How to Raise the Perceived Value of Your Products

increase-value-of-products-imageLet’s be honest: 95% of all products are exactly the same, with only superficial differences.

But even though many are eerily similar, the prices vary dramatically.

So why are some people willing to pay so much more for essentially identical products?

There’s ways to raise the value of the product in the eyes of the customer.

Here are some of them:

1. Simply Raise the Price 

American consumers view products that cost more as being more valuable. But do make sure that you also give them a good value for their dollar.

Otherwise, if they get a crummy product – at any price level – they have no reason to ever buy it again.

2. Offer a Strong Guarantee

Make it unconditional for 60 days, and give people double their money back. Only someone with remarkably awesome products would do something like that, right?

3. Throw in Some Free Bonuses

You remember the stereotypical late-night and mid-afternoon infomercial, don’t you? You know, the one where the salesman talks really loud and obnoxiously, telling you how amazing a product it is and that they’ll throw in so much for free if you buy it.

Those infomercials sell very well even though they might bug you. And adding in some free bonuses helps raise  your sales a ton.

4. Sell to Your Customer’s Pain Points

Remember, people don’t buy shovels because they need one that’s a certain color. They buy them because they solve a problem – helping them dig holes in the ground.

The more headaches your product solves for your customer, the more valuable they find their product. And when you write your copy for your product, talk all about the problems it solves and how easy it makes your customer’s life.

5. Put the Price Into Context

If you’re selling a product that costs $50, it might be kind of expensive for the average American. So find a different way to relate your price to them.

Say something like, “For just the price of a single dinner out, you can [have all these benefits...]” Suddenly, what seemed expensive isn’t that way so much anymore.

6. Promote the Results

Does your product help people lose weight, eliminate pain quickly, or make money fast? You can tell them yourself, but they believe more if the proof doesn’t come from you.

So, you want plenty of testimonials of customers discussing the results and how fast they got them from your products!

Raising value is in your best interest, and it’s in the best interest of your customers too. Just make sure you go about it ethically, which means you truly believe your product does deliver great value for the price you ask.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, How To, Online Marketing Strategies

The 5 Golden Rules of E-Commerce

If you’re going to do something in e-commerce, or you’re not going to do it at all, these are the golden rules you should follow:

1. Don’t Try to Be Amazon!

Yes, what they’re doing works awesomely well for them. But just because that happens, it doesn’t mean it’ll work well for you. Take reviews, for example.

They work great when you have 20-50 of them for a product at Amazon. And then when people come to your site, they see no ratings or reviews at all because you have low traffic!

Your site looks like a ghost town instead and ratings/reviews don’t help one bit.

Some parts of Amazon may be worthwhile to copy, but don’t mimic them down to the last detail.

2. Do Use E-mail Marketing

For sure, ask for their e-mail when you get them to purchase. You know they like your store enough to buy from it, so it’s the perfect time to ask.

E-mail marketing often gets forgotten because it’s not the hot, new thing. But on an ROI basis, it’s possibly the most effective form of marketing available.

3. Give Your Customers Options

Can they buy that sweater you’re selling in purple, green, blue, and even orange? You definitely lose out on sales when customers can’t customize their products the way they want.

Give them as many options as possible so they don’t go to another store to buy that sweater.

4. Don’t Use a Hard Sell Approach 

Face it – most customers on the web aren’t ready to buy.

Think of it this way: what do  you do when you’re looking to buy something online?

Do you go to Google, type in the item name, and then hit “buy” on the first site possible?

No, you check around for prices first. You look at different sites to see if you can get benefits with some that others don’t offer (like free shipping).

You might read some blogs or product reviews first to see if the product’s worth it.

After all that, THEN you buy!

Trying the hard sell route won’t work.

5. Don’t Underestimate the Time Involved

When you hear of people working on the web, what’s the image most sites portray?

You sit in your pajamas sipping on your favorite drink, working whatever hours  you want.

You can get that far, but it takes years of hard work to build a business that runs without too much help from you (in most cases).

Plan the number of hours it takes you to do things, and then add 30% to it to account for the unforeseen. Revise your plan every month.

Follow Those Rules to Success!

Okay, so clearly there’s many more rules than those. But they give you a good start, and if you follow them, you succeed much faster.

Posted in How To

What Should Your Business’s Name Be?

fortune3-open-for-business-photo.jpgDoes Johnson Enterprises work? It could and could not, depending on your target market and a host of other factors.

Give your company a catchy name like Google, and that helps it grow. It doesn’t guarantee growth, but it arouses more curiosity and excitement within your target market.

If your company has a boring, generic name that could apply to 1,000 companies in other various niches, you might have more trouble growing your business.

So what should your company’s name be?

Here are some tips for giving it the one that allows you the best opportunity for growth:

1. Think about Hiring a Company to Help You Identify a Name

This doesn’t come cheaply, though. It costs upwards of $80,000 or more for firms to help you find a company name that works in your niche. You may be able to find consultants for much more affordable rates, but then who knows what the quality of their expertise is?

2. What Your Business Name Should Do…

Your name should be clear, communicate the value you offer, and also be meaningful to your target market. For example, consider the name “Italiatour.” It’s not a real word, but it combines a country name (Italy) and a service offered (tours).

That evokes visions of Rome, the Mediterranean Sea, and the gorgeous Italian countryside in people’s minds.

How do those tactics apply to your e-commerce business?

Be Careful Doing These Things…

3. Always Pick Sensible Names

Yes, Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other unusual business names got big. But in general, they’re also a huge risk. For example, if you heard of a small company called “Google” 15-20 years ago, what would you guess they do?

Avoid crazy, whacky, and quirky business names.

4. Get Customer Feedback

Family and friends love you and want to help in any way they can…but when it comes to naming your business, they aren’t much help at all. And they may give you biased opinions that don’t reflect the opinions of your market.

Instead, talk to your customers directly and get their opinion on your business’s name.

5. Don’t Be Too Specific…

Unless you plan on offering basically the same thing with your website for the rest of its life! You may want to stay at a broader, higher level because that allows you to expand the products and services you offer without having to rebrand your business.

6. Don’t Put Your Name in the Business if It’s Risky!

If your e-commerce site fails, and enough people know about it, they’ll associate your name with the failure in the future. And that could ruin your chances at success with new businesses.

Ultimately, there’s a lot of luck and chance involved in picking your business’s name too. Do take the process seriously, but don’t be perfectionistic about it!

When you think you find the right name, it’s time to go full speed ahead.

Posted in Branding, Online Marketing Strategies

How to Take Amazing Product Photos that Sell Like Crazy

fortune3-amazing-product-photos-pictureDo you really need to drop $10k on professional photography equipment to sell well?

You don’t, but at some point in time that might be a good decision for your company.

While you’re starting up, though, good enough is all your customers need. Perfection comes later.

For now, this is all you need to start selling (thanks to Practical E-Commerce and wikiHow for many of these tips):

1. Camera 

You can buy a modern DSLR camera because that’s all you need. The iPhone 5 though, works well enough too.

2. Lights

You can use the sun, but that doesn’t work year-round in all parts of our country. Alternatively you can get a light kit, and ideally one that operates in “continuous” mode versus “flash only” mode.

3. Tripod

You must have one. Holding your camera/smartphone in your hand results in blurry photos and customers will notice the imperfections.

4. Background

Buy a roll of craft paper with a neutral color and clamp it down to a smooth surface. The clamps eliminate wrinkles and rolls.

5. Clean Your Camera Equipment Before Use

Buy microfiber rags and wipe down the lens of your equipment for crystal clear photos.

6. Watch Out for Shadows & Backlighting

Make sure you arrange the lights for your product so they don’t cast any noticeable shadows or look unusually bright themselves.

7. Clean Your Products Too

Use a clean cotton terry towel and rubbing alcohol (for non-plastic surfaces) and dilute soapy water for all other surfaces. Do a test on a small area of the product’s surface first if you’re not sure how it’ll react to your cleaning solution.

8. Set Your Camera’s Self-Timer

If you push the shutter button itself, you can cause the camera to shake, ruining your photo’s quality. If you set the timer for around 5 seconds or so, the camera will be recovered and holding still after its previous photo when it takes the next one.

9. Not Enough Money for Photoshop? No Problem!

While Adobe Photoshop is the best hands-down solution for photo editing, the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) comes in a close second place and is completely free to download. Plus, it’s fairly popular. So if you don’t know how to use it, you can likely find a forum or website that can help you.

10. Crop & Compress Your Image

High-quality images are great, but their one drawback is they take a longer time to download. Remember, mobile bandwidth is still relatively slow compared to your laptop or desktop PC.

To keep the image size small, crop out unnecessary areas, and make sure you compress the image as small as possible without compromising quality.

If you do those 10 things, you’ll take gorgeous photos that make it a no-brainer for your customers to buy from you.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, How To

7 Psychological Triggers that Explode Your Sales

fortune3-psychological-triggers-imageWhen you hear the word “web marketing,” what goes through your head? Most people think of links, keywords, social media, and the like.

Those are all essential to your online success.

However, that misses out on a critical component of marketing: how you present your message and influence people to buy from you.

Here are some tips for making that happen:

1. Using Reciprocity 

Have you ever noticed how when you get something from someone else, you immediately feel obligated to do something for them in return? Some charitable foundations, for example, will send you a small Christmas gift and ask for a donation.

The same concept works when selling online. Give your customers some free content or a free product when you buy a certain product, for example.

2. Model Your Products on People That Look Like Your Customers

If you’re selling watches to techie geeks, show a techie geek wearing the watches you want to sell. If you need to sell expensive basketball shoes, you have young male models wearing them.

Or, you can also use celebrity’s star power. Have an image of LeBron James wearing the shoe you want to sell.

3. Use Social Links to Help Your Market Spread the Word

They should be able to share your product pages and tell people what they’re so happy to have just bought from you. It sounds rather obvious and simple, but many e-commerce stores, and especially the smaller ones, don’t do it.

4. Use Authority Where Possible

Has your product been recommended by doctors from all over the country, or world? Has someone else with authoritative, expert status recommended your product?

If so, put that to use on your e-commerce site.

5. Social Proof

Have you gotten rave reviews from your customers? Place them around your website, or even put them in your e-mail newsletter. Don’t hide them in a “testimonials” section. Put them on products pages and order pages, or even on your site’s front page.

And of course, never forget reviews and ratings. They are so trustworthy because people do not hold back their feelings on the internet.

6. Increase Urgency 

This is another marketing basic. “Hurry – 10% off sale ends today!” “Just 25 left and they’re all gone!” Find the right message to send to your customer, and you’ll sell most of those products in a rush.

7. Reducing/Eliminating Risk

Think “unconditional return guarantee” here. This may work well especially with higher-price items. The truth is that while these guarantees eliminate risk in the eyes of your customers, you rarely get any returns.

So don’t worry about the fear that lots of people will purchase and return your items – it’s not the way sales works.

 

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, How To