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Ecommerce Blog - Fortune3

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

How to Stay Mentally Fit for Business

When you start up your new e-commerce site, you make millions of dollars almost overnight, right?

If only it went that way…

The truth is that most startups of all kinds involve years of hard work. Suddenly, they’re in the news and it seems like the whole process happened “overnight.”

Business is most often a marathon, not a sprint. And to keep pace in that marathon, you have to keep your mind in good shape. Otherwise, you get exhausted, and potentially you experience burn out.

And that’s where mistakes can happen and you might lose a good chunk of your business!

But if you take good care of yourself, you won’t hit those extremes and jeopardize what you’ve worked hard for so many years.

Here are some tips to stay mentally fresh year-round:

1. Take Breaks

Seems obvious doesn’t it? But what about those hard workers who say they work 60-80 hour weeks year round without taking vacations? In truth, they often exaggerate how hard they work.

For example, a good business friend of mine said he worked “65-70 hours per week,” but that it took “an hour to do 15 minutes of work for every hour over 40!”

That’s almost a 25% ROI – not a good investment. Plus, they also tend to include non-work tasks in work itself. For example, going to lunch and sending clients a few texts may count as work in their minds.

Some people can put in large amounts of time – but they are few and far between. Take breaks and don’t feel guilty about it when you do.

2. Eat Healthy

In America, we are slowly moving towards eating healthier as a society. It’s more of a “sub-culture” though. It’s still very traditional to go out to eat for a quick meal at fast food restaurants and the like.

But, the healthier you eat, the better off your mind is. Sugar and salt make you feel exhausted. Eat lots of vegetables and fruits, but focus mostly on the vegetables for the best mental health.

3. Let Go of All Negative Thinking

Negative thoughts, even though they are realistic at times, are rarely helpful. They drain your mental energy like nothing else.

As soon as you notice them swirling around in your mind, let them go somewhere else and focus on something positive instead. That doesn’t guarantee positive things will happen in your life, but it makes them more likely.

4. It’s Not Failure – It’s Learning!

When you look at all those things that “didn’t work out,” don’t look at them as failures. Again, that’s negative thinking and it’s going to waste your mental energy. The truth is 80-90% of everything in business won’t work like you expected.

And how can you expect yourself to always know all the solutions?

View all those things that don’t work as “lessons learned.” Try to figure out why things didn’t work out, and what you can do better or try differently the next time.

Yes, business is often a ton of simple trial-and-error.

If you focus on those 4 things, that’ll make your mind a much healthier place that makes better decisions for your customers and keeps you profitable for a long, long time.

Posted in How To

Top 5 Marketing Secrets for E-Commerce Stores

fortune3-marketing-secrets-imageDo you know what marketing really is?

Is it screaming your message as loudly and proudly as you can to the general American public through PPC ads or SEO?

Does it involve hyping up your product so much that people can’t resist but to buy it?

No and no!

Marketing means communicating how your product is different, how it solves your market’s problem, and the sets of ideas your market is likely to respond to.

Unfortunately, most businesses (even large corporations) don’t do a very good job with their marketing.

When you market your products using the right messages and tactics, it’s so much easier to sell them.

Here are some marketing tips for your business:

1. Find Your USP

Your unique selling proposition is a one-sentence statement that describes exactly how your product differs from all others similar to it. It should be understandable by a sixth-grader!

Seriously…it must be that simple and clear.

That’s the primary message that you spread whenever you market because people love to buy what’s unique.

2. Use User-Generated Content Where Possible

This comes as a recommendation from Forbes. “UGC,” as it is called, is seen as much more credible than anything that comes from your company. So you want to get as much of it as you can on your site.

Reviews and photos are two powerful forms of UGC.

3. Keep Your Selection for Marketing Channels Narrow

Business, at least in the early days, is always about keeping things as simple as possible. The same goes for your marketing. Aim to master about 3-5 different techniques, and no more.

Otherwise, you spread yourself too thin. And when you do that, you can’t master each channel for maximum success. By trying to do too much too well, you end up doing nothing well.

4. SEO

No, it’s not dead, and it won’t ever be dead. If you think about it logically, Google’s always going to need a method for identifying how to rank your website and its pages for various keywords.

What SEO looks like changes a lot, so in some sense the SEO of 2010 is now dead. But you’ll always want to optimize every page for keywords. Google will always need them.

5. Get Your Product Reviewed on Niche Industry Blogs

Bloggers own a lot of online public relations power these days. Offer to send them a free version of your product in exchange for a review. Just make sure your product is relevant to their audience.

They get so many completely irrelevant and worthless pitches that when you send them a relevant, awesome one, they’re quite delighted. You’ll get a lot of great long-term customers if you have a quality product and awesome customer service to back it up.

There’s many more marketing secrets than that, but those are enough to get you started and going in the right direction.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, Online Marketing Strategies

Don’t Want to Make Your Own Product? How to Find One to Sell Yourself!

If you can find a truly differentiated product that other people love, that’s the surest way to e-commerce success.

But maybe you’re not the inventing type. Maybe you’re ready to start your e-commerce business right now. And maybe in the future you’ll identify an awesome product that you patent and make millions from!

For now though, you just want to get started and make a decent living.

Here’s what you do to find a high-margin product that you can sell well:

1. What types of products do you love to use in your own life? 

In business, you have to know everything about it and be willing to spend a lot of time working on it. Have you ever tried studying something and spending lots of time learning about it without actually liking the subject?

It’s actually very stressful and leads to lots of boredom and even hatred for what you do. Make sure that whatever product you choose to sell, you love it yourself.

2. Study Wholesalers

This tip comes straight from the Shopify blog. Alibaba is the big guy Рyou can source cheaply made Chinese products and turn those for a profit here in the US. Alibaba also has some competitors like TradeKey and Global Sources.

3. Get Active in Forums

Yes, internet forums might be somewhat “old-school” and not necessarily the latest and greatest thing. But, they get heavily used. And people who use them are seriously interested in what they discuss.

Corporations do focus groups and meet people in busy areas like malls. You can do the exact same thing in internet forums. It’s awesome market research and a great way to find viable product ideas for your business.

4. Startupbros Recommendations

This website has a few recommendations about selling products that are not yours:

‚ÄĘ Sell products with prices of $10 – $200 because if you go lower than that, you compete with big companies that can afford to sell on low margin and high volume

‚Äʬ†Sell very specific products like “silver owl pendant clock necklace” and not “clock necklaces”

‚Äʬ†Avoid seasonal items

‚Äʬ†Sell small items because they cost you less to ship

‚Äʬ†Only sell products you can buy and sell at twice the price you bought them at

5. Your Product Should be Timeless and Always in Demand

If you sell a product, like something electronic, you know it’s going to go out of favor relatively quickly. Maybe that’s something you can sell years into the future when you’re a big company.

But for now,  you want to sell something like an information product or keepsakes, says Steve from MyWifeQuitHerJob.com

Do Your Research Right!

You can make mistakes in business…and you will. But you have to make sure you do this part of the process right because it’s the foundation the whole rest of your business is built on.

Don’t skimp!

Be thorough, and once you’ve found that awesome product, dive head-first in!

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, How To

8 Common Conversation Rate Optimization Questions & Answers

Does your website convert as well as you had hoped?

If it doesn’t, this Q&A may hold the solution to your questions.

Check’em out:

1. Q: What should I test? 

A: Everything.

Images, headlines, copy, purchase button text and color. If you can test it, do so. The reason is because people do not tell the truth when you ask them.

Most don’t want to hurt your feelings and would like to have you think well of them.

And if you expect them to behave logically, the reality is they often don’t.

Actions speak louder than words, so pay attention to what your customers do, not what they say.

2. Q: How long should I test?

A: For most businesses, a month works.

The bottom line is that you need to have a sizable sample and run the test for at least 2 business cycles.

3. Q: If I’m doing PPC, should I drive customers to a microsite, landing page, or page on my website?

A: Almost every time the answer is a landing page on your website. Think about the product you want to sell, and whether the context of other web pages help make that sale happen. In most cases, a landing page does the job.

4. Q: What key elements drive high conversion rates?

A: First, you want eyeflow that leads straight to the value proposition and call-to-action. That shows website visitors exactly what to do and where to go. Second, the location and presentation of your value proposition comes into play.

Finally, the call-to-action should have enticing copy, while the CTA itself must be obvious and easy-to-click.

5. Q: Do I need conversion rate optimization if I just redesigned my website?

A: A new website does not guarantee you get the most conversions possible. Most likely, you will get more conversions than your old website simply because you have a new one.

But unless that web designer also knew CRO to a precision science, it’s not fully optimized for driving more conversions.

6. Q: What do I need to do to be ready for conversion rate optimization?

A: You must have PPC campaigns running to your website or better than 1,000 organic visitors per month. That gives enough data to make informed decisions from.

7. Q: When is the right time to do conversion rate optimization?

You should be spending at least $5,000 or more per month in PPC advertising for it to be worth your while. You can go with less than that, but the payoff won’t be as great.

8. Q: If I follow “best practices” when designing my site, will it convert well?¬†

A: It converts better than if you just do things off the top of your head, but following “best practices” doesn’t guarantee an optimized conversion rate.

The whole reason you do CRO is because it works differently in various contexts. For example, “blue” isn’t necessarily the best button color to maximize conversions.

If you had a website that was mostly green, blue may not stand out enough. But if it’s a mostly white website, blue may be the best choice. That’s why you do CRO!

Hopefully those conversion rate optimization tips help you avoid some big mistakes and get on the right track!

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips