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Ecommerce Blog - Fortune3

Have You Heard about Google’s Responsive Update?

fortune3-responsive-design-imagePerhaps by now you’ve heard of Google’s new responsive design update. Search Engine Land reports that Google will release this update on April 21st.

No one knows the exact consequences, but some estimates hold that not having a responsive website could cost you around 40% of your mobile traffic and 20% of your site’s total traffic.

The good thing about this update? You know about it, and exactly what you have to do, BEFORE it rolls out. And you have several weeks to make your fix.

How Do I Know if My Website’s “Responsive?” 

It’s actually easy to tell. Visit this URL and take Google’s “mobile-friendly” test. If your site is not mobile friendly, you’ll see something that looks like this:

 

Yikes! The owner of that website’s in trouble.

Google is sending e-mails with the subject “Fix mobile usability issues found on http://www.yourdomain.com/”

Google’s Actually Talked about the Importance of Responsive Design Before

While it’s not totally clear how having a responsive design affected your site’s rankings in the past, Google loudly and clearly discussed the importance of having one. In fact, they did so on their Webmaster Central Blog on June 6, 2012.

The New Algorithm Update Affects Mobile Search Only!

So if users search from a desktop or laptop computer, your rankings don’t take a hit. At least, that’s the current understanding. In terms of total impact on search rankings, it could do more damage than either Panda or Penguin.

What Should I Do If I Don’t Have a Responsive Design? 

You need to redesign your website so it is responsive as soon as possible. You really have no way around it. No one’s sure of the exact consequences, but it will cost you a significant percentage of your site’s overall traffic.

To check your potential impact, go to Google Analytics. Then navigate to “Audience” and “Mobile.” There, you’ll see what percentage of your traffic comes from various sources. Some estimates believe around 50% of your mobile traffic could be gone after the update.

Most sites have an average of 50-60% of their traffic coming from mobile devices. If you hit the “devices” sub-menu under the “mobile” menu, you’ll learn which mobile devices people use to view  your website.

Do you really want to risk the hit?

Web designers will be busy, so you should contact one right away.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, eCommerce News

How to Sell Your E-Commerce Site for Maximum Profit

fortune3-sell-your-e-commerce-business-imageWow, so you’ve got the best problem any business owner could have!

It’s time for  you to sell your e-commerce business. Now, the real issue is getting a fair price for it.

That word “fair” – it’s important. Yes you built it. But you have to be willing to sell your business for a fair price. It’s hard, because the temptation is to sell it for too much because you put years of your life into it.

But be realistic! That being said, here are some tips for determining a fair market value for your e-commerce site:

1. The General Guideline – Sell for 3-6x EBITDA

“EBITDA” refers to “earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.” In plain English, that means roughly 3-6x your revenues. Around 3x is the average, and if you have a stellar site with lots of growth potential, you may get closer to 6x.

2. Bigger E-Commerce Sites Command Higher Sales Prices

Shopify has a chart showing this information. Businesses with a current cash flow of $5 million or more sell at the highest prices. Businesses with $2-5 million in revenues sell for reasonably high prices also. Finally, companies at lower revenues than that all sell at similar prices.

3. Factors that Affect Your Website’s Sale Price

In general, they boil down to profitability. Specific factors that also affect your sale price include:

• Recent and future growth
• Traffic levels
• Brand strength
• Income streams
• Percentage of repeat customers
• Potential business risks

 4. Sell When You’re Growing or The Overall Market is Hot

You just might find an aspiring entrepreneur who believes he can skyrocket your business’s growth. It’s always easier to sell when things look good to the buyer. You can sell if business isn’t going so well, but that gives the other party more negotiating power.

5. What’s Your “Table Selection?” 

This is actually a poker term. How it relates to e-commerce is you want to be in a market where you have high growth and margins, but don’t have dominating competitors. You may want to be in an “evergreen” market – one that always has strong demand.

6. How Old Is Your Business? 

Less than 2 years is young, and you’ll have a hard time commanding top-tier prices. 2-5 years is average, and you can expect your sales price to come in at a 2-3x multiplier. At 5 years old and older, your business is considered “established.” That means perceived risk is much lower, which allows you to command higher prices.

7. Do You Sell Your own Products or Resell Others? 

If you sell your own products, buyers perceive you have a stronger market position. They’re willing to pay more. If you resell other people’s products or dropship, your business can easily be replicated. That makes you a weaker market player, and it’s harder for you to sell your business at a higher price.

Selling your e-commerce business is actually a long process. You’ll most likely want to hire a broker to help you. But, these tips get you going in a good direction from the start.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, How To

How to Make Your First Sales

fortune3-e-commerce-selling-footwearGetting sales momentum going is the difficult part in e-commerce, isn’t it?

How do you do it? What should you do?

There’s about a million different things you can do – so where’s your time best spent?

Read these tips and find out:

1. PPC’s a Good Starting Place

All your product pages should be set up like landing pages anyway. Start driving PPC traffic to your website immediately.

On each of your product pages, the number of actions your users can take should be kept to a minimum. They should be able to read a little about the product, click buy, and maybe subscribe to your e-mail list.

2. Grow Your E-mail List Rapidly 

You can start growing your e-mail list immediately on Twitter with a lead generation card.

If you don’t know how to write great content to offer from around the web, then share other people’s content.

No, it doesn’t necessarily cost you business. In fact, it makes you look more credible because you’re sharing stuff that’s not your own.

To your users, it looks like you really do place their best interests in mind.

You should view your e-mail list like marketing gold. This is where your best leads come from. And e-mail marketing is so cheap, you get some of the best ROI from it.

3. Tell Friends & Family 

The key here is to make it no-pressure. Don’t try to twist your mother’s or grandmother’s arm into buying from you if they have no interest.

Just let them know what’s going on and ask them to spread the word to people who might like your products and services.

4. Don’t Cut Your Prices! 

This is easy to do when you’re desperate. And it’s okay to do from time-to-time. But, especially in the beginning, you don’t want to compete on price.

That kills your margins. Then, you can’t hire the best employees, buy the best tools, or do anything at all to the best of your ability. That becomes obvious to your customers, and then you either:

1) Attract the wrong kind of customer

2) Scare good customers away

5. Create a Link Roundup on Your Website

This works marvelously. Basically, what you do is compile all the best pieces of content on the web on some subject of use to your customers.

Make sure many of the pieces of content are from websites with large, active social communities.

Run your link roundup and let the owners of the sites you mentioned know about it.

They’ll give you links and social shares…great organic growth!

Those are some easy, and in many cases no-cost, ways to make your first sales.

Do any intrigue you?

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, How To, Pay-Per-Click

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