Some people take the “try and fail” approach, while others learn from the mistakes of those who traveled the road before them. If you’re going to do it on your own, it’s going to take an awful lot of time to “fail your way forward.”
Instead, check out these common questions and answers about e-commerce, and cut your time to success in half:
1. Should You List Products on Amazon and eBay?¬†
You can, but their fees eat up your profits. It’s very hard to make a living only selling products on these websites. And, if you’re trying to sell these products, they’re very rarely high-margin. Competition is intense too.
You should avoid selling your products on these websites, even if they seem like a good idea.
2. Which Shipping Service Should You Use?
It doesn’t matter, but what you should know is they do lose packages with regularity. This is true for all major companies. Make sure you get insurance when shipping all items.
3. Does Fraud Happen?
It does, and to e-commerce companies of all sizes. If you’re getting a bunch of orders, and one suddenly looks strange, don’t be afraid to cancel it if things don’t add up.
4. What’s the Best Thing You Can do to Help Your Customers Immediately?
You absolutely need to be very clear on your offers and shipping policies. Nothing’s too obvious to say anywhere on your website. Make things crystal clear – so clear that even a 6th grader could understand what to do.
5. What Security Steps Do I Need to Take?
Your website must have its own unique SSL certificate. All you have to do is Google the term to find issuers of this, and plenty of options will come up.
6. How do You Charge Enough for Shipping?
This is actually fairly difficult. First, you have to know which companies you’re going to use. They do offer tools that integrate with your website to help you make these calculations automatically.
You don’t want to calculate the shipping at the time of the sale, as that makes customers angry. What you’ll have to do is come as close as possible, but then add in some room for error as well.
7. Can You Stop Customers from Abandoning Their Shopping Carts?
You cannot control this, but you can make it less likely it will happen. By making their shopping cart experience as smooth and simple as possible, that helps reduce shopping cart abandonment.
You can also install a feature that sends them an e-mail a few days after they abandon their shopping cart, asking them if they remember that they did this. You could also offer them a 10% discount for following through on their order to encourage them to buy.
Hope those answers to common e-commerce questions help, and think about all the time (and stress) you could save!
If you had a magic crystal ball that told the future, wouldn’t that be the most incredible competitive advantage ever? Well, I can’t give that to you.
But I can tell you why many e-commerce stores fail. Pay attention to these reasons carefully – they come from careful research. If you learn from the mistakes of others now and get to know what direction to go into, you’ll save yourself so much time, frustration, and aggravation.
With that in mind, here are some of the main reasons e-commerce stores fail:
1. No USP
Do you know what your unique selling proposition is? It’s the main reason that differentiates you from all other competitors. Now, you can come up with a USP that’s not really a USP. It has to be a USP in the minds of your target customers.
For example, a “full selection of skincare products” is not a USP. Full selection is nice, but it’s not enough to really make yourself different. If you offered luxury skincare products for successful business professionals, you’re much closer to a true USP.
2. Not Adjusting to Market Conditions
If you’re standing still, you’re doing something wrong. There’s no shame in trying and failing. But the fact of the matter is your competitors are always trying to do things better. And your customer’s needs are changing.
You have to constantly stay in tune with what your market really wants and what your competition is doing in order to stay competitive.
3. Not Meeting Your Customer’s Service Expectations
Most companies do not put their customers first, despite the fact most say that they do. Remember, “When you help other people get enough of what they want, they’ll help you get what you want.”
Your customer service will never be perfect. But you have to be as close to perfect as possible to remain successful. Research “Zappos customer service stories” for exceptional examples. They’ve done things like purchasing products they don’t have from competitors and shipping them to customers the same day – for free.
They don’t do that for everybody. But, it goes to show you that leading e-commerce companies do take their customer service seriously, and they do succeed in large part because of it.
4. Not Enough Payment Options
Yes, you can save money by not offering credit card payment options. But, that saves money short-term and loses you customers long-term.
They could care less about your costs, and they’ll just go to another site to get what they need. Make sure they can pay by any method they want.
If somebody wants to give you money, make it easy for them!
Nobody Wants to Fail!
…But if you take certain actions, you increase the chances it will happen.
Are your revenues where you want them to be? Have you ever wondered if there are some easy techniques you could use to increase your revenues at your e-commerce store?
There are some. Every business has ways it can do things a little bit better. Think about some of these and see if they apply to your e-commerce store:
Most customers come to your e-commerce store with a certain budget in mind they’re not willing to exceed. Upselling is when you successfully convince them to buy more than they intended.
A simple technique to do this is to “display the next model up.” If you sell a 55″ television, show your customers a photo of the 60″ version for just $200 more.
If your customers get a certain quantity of a product for $40, give them 50% more for just $10 extra. They’ll spend more, but get more for the price.
If your customers go to a website and buy an iPhone, don’t show them the iPhone again when they return. That’s what everyone sees. Instead, allow them to see a case, charger, or headphones.
It makes more sense to them to see these items, and they’ll be more likely to buy.
3. Use a Search Bar¬†
E-commerce users do use these to find the products they need. Make sure your search function shows products relevant to what your customers are really looking for.
4. Make Shipping Costs Clear
Let your customers know as early as possible how much shipping costs will add to the final cost of their item. The earlier they know about this, the less likely they are to abandon your shopping cart.
5. Add Supporting Services
If you sell products, consider adding services to sell. You could include gift wrapping, handwritten notes, or even live chat support 24 hours per day.
6. Give Your Current Customers a 10% Discount
One of the truest business maxims out there is that it costs more to get new customers than to keep your current ones. Send out an e-mail that offers a 10% discount to past customers who haven’t bought from you in a while.
7. Let Your Customers Create Accounts After They Purchase
If you make them create an account before they purchase, it makes purchasing harder. Guess what? They’ll purchase more if you give them the option to create an account after purchasing.
Most of those methods do not take a long time to implement. ¬†Think about them all, and consider which could help improve your revenues.
Struggling for business ideas? Struggle no more! It’s up to you to execute them, but here are a few hot product niches in the coming years that might be your next big business idea:
1. Unusual Products
These always sell. But what you can define as “unusual” changes. Think of the website Etsy, where self-promoted artists sell their work online. If you can create a marketplace for that, or if you have an unusual product of your own to sell, that’s a great niche idea.
2. Luxury Items
Think outrageously large diamonds here. Luxury handbags also sell well. The same goes for clothes of any kind. In one sense, you could also call these “unusual” products, as they are not typically found available for the average consumer.
3. Extra Large Shoes
If you’re a women with a shoe size larger than 11 or a man with a shoe size larger than 14, you understand the need for this market. eBay actually gets great conversion rates for the sale of these kinds of shoes.
4. Heart Rate Monitors¬†
The whole societal trend towards living healthier makes these a potentially good choice. Athletes use them to make sure they’re getting the right aerobic strain to increase physical endurance. People with heart disease wear them to keep aware that their heart rate is not getting too high.
Most people just wear them to monitor their heart rate while working out. These again sell well on eBay. People are always going to need them, so they may not be a bad niche idea.
Actually, “collectibles” are a huge market. What’s niche is a certain subset of collectibles. Your store could sell Disney collectibles, historical military equipment, replica swords and daggers, stamps, coins, or jewelry.
6. Hard-to-Find Consumer Electronics
Don’t try to sell iPhones or MP3 players. The competition from the big companies is way too intense. But, you can go for unique electronics like rare iPhone cases. You could also sell Atari games or original Nintendo games.
7. Hobby Items
Think of things adults would collect that are modern. This could include Game of Thrones figurines, model airplanes, or remote-controlled cars.
That’s a Starting Point…
So that’s a good place to start, if you really have no idea what you want to sell at your e-commerce store. Remember, these are only beginning ideas. You should research your idea in greater depth before moving forward with your e-commerce idea.
Search Engine RoundTable tells us what they call Panda 4.0 has now been rolled out this month. In our last post, we told you about Penguin 3.0!
What the update is doesn’t matter because Google will keep changing its algorithm. The general trend from a links perspective will always remain the same:
You must earn links and have the webmaster review and post them, versus placing them on another website yourself. ¬†With that in mind, let’s talk about some more ways you can earn natural links in today’s search environment:
1. Get to know key influencers, and ask them to promote your content. Figure out who they are in your industry. Follow them (usually on Twitter), or on Facebook. Share their stuff. Comment on their blog. Let them know you do it.
When you have an awesome piece of content you’re sure their audience will love, ask them to share it with their social followers. The result: natural links.
2. Create an expert roundup blog post. Ask a simple question, and have the responders provide a 100-word answer or so. Talk to about 100-150 experts in your community. You’ll get around 50 responses.
This goes for you even if you have a small, unknown blog. You’ll get natural links and a nice surge of traffic. You also might get a fair amount of social followers and e-mail subscribers.
3. Optimize your content. It’s tough, really tough, to rank your content in the top 10 of Google. But, with enough links to deep pages and posts in your website, you can rank on the first page of Google.
The first step to doing that is to optimize your blog posts for 3-5 keywords or so. You have to use very natural language. If you’re a technical type and need numbers, you’ll want a keyword density of less than 1.0%.
The main keyword you want to rank for should go in your blog’s title and meta description. Supporting keywords should go in H2′s and the body content. Not every heading needs to be optimized, though. The language begins to sound awkward if you do that.
4. Link to your latest blog post in your e-mail signature. This one’s pretty straightforward. Make sure you and all your employees do it. You’re probably not going to get a ton of links this way, but it’s easy to do.
Remember, the keys to getting links are to contribute value to the web and to target quality websites that you believe will never get penalized by Google in the future. If you attract links with those points in mind, you’ll survive any algorithm update Google makes.
Inbound marketing thought leader Neil Patel believes we may be on the verge of experiencing Penguin 3.0.¬† I respect his opinion greatly, so I want to pass the information on to you.
Now, it’s important to note that to everyone’s knowledge, this has not been released yet.¬† However, you’re better off preparing for it now and avoiding a Google Penalty than you are getting penalized and taking corrective action.
Most likely Google will take the steps he’s predicting.¬† It’s just a matter of when.
Here’s what he thinks you should do to stay free of what Penguin 3.0 may address:
1.¬† Avoid optimizing your anchor text.¬† This goes both for links on your website and links pointing to your site from others.¬† He says you should not be doing this at all.¬† You can probably get away with a few here and there, but that’s it.
Instead, you should focus on using more natural text, and then using industry keywords surrounding the term (technically called “co-occurrence”).¬† If you write a guest post on another website, the anchor text in your byline would be “click here” or “visit our site,” and you would say things like “buy women’s hats” near those anchors.
To diversify anchor texts, you can also use things like your URL and brand name.
2.¬† Stay away from low-quality websites at all costs.¬† Neil’s saying to not even have a single link coming from a website inside of a “bad neighborhood.”¬† I’ve never seen a specific definition of “bad neighborhood,” but I take it to mean websites that have a number of bad links pointing to their site.
3.¬† Avoid guest blogging networks.¬† Google penalized My Blog Guest and all the websites participating in it.¬† If you have any links from any websites within this network, or any other, ask the webmaster to remove them.¬† Any website that does anything similar, just be safe and stay away from it.
4.¬† How will guest blogging work?¬† Guest blogging is actually still okay, but you have to be careful how you do it.¬† Matt Cutts recently released a blog post describing what you should do.
However, when you do it, you should do so with a mindset of getting exposure on a popular blog with an active community.¬† You should not write guest posts with the intention of only getting the link.¬† Stay away from low-quality, inactive, and otherwise spammy websites.
Also, make sure guest blogging is just one of many techniques you use to attract links.
What Action Should You Take?
Well, it’s not easy, and it’s fairly time-consuming.¬† But, you should audit your link profile and on-site SEO.¬† Basically, Neil Patel says to do this:
1.¬† Remove all optimized anchor texts, and replace with more natural anchor text
2.¬† Identify any low-quality websites linking to you and request to have your links removed (and keep a record that you did so)
3.¬† If you have participated in a guest blogging network, get links from those sites removed
4.¬† If you do have many links from guest posts built especially for search optimization, get those links removed or no-followed
In the future, to get links, promote your content on social media and by reaching out to webmasters.¬† This gives you a 100% natural link profile and generally results in links from high-quality websites.
If you short the IRS, they’ll let you know about it. ¬†If they short you, it’s on you to raise the issue and prove it. ¬†The IRS only checks to see if you’re not paying enough, not the other way around.
Don’t short yourself! ¬†You can save some serious capital you could use to grow your business or to make those early days a little less stressful. ¬†Here are some common tax deductions every e-commerce site owner should check to make sure they’re using:
1. ¬†Home Office Deduction
If you run your business from home, you can qualify for this deduction. ¬†The major stipulation is you have to use a dedicated room to run your business, and that room can ONLY be used for running your business.
What you do is calculate the square footage your office space uses, and divide it by the total square footage of your living space. ¬†Then, you can deduct that portion of you rent (or mortgage) and utilities from your taxes.
So if you live in 1,500 square foot home and your office space uses 100 square feet, you divide 100/1500 to get a percentage of 6.66%. ¬†Then, 6.66% of your mortgage and utilities can be deducted from your taxes. ¬†It’s very important to be honest and accurate in this regard – the IRS checks this carefully to see if an audit is needed.
2. ¬†Make Expenditures after You Start Your Business
This sounds strange, but this CPA says you can probably only deduct the first $5,000 of expenditures towards your business if you make the purchases before your business officially begins operating. ¬†So, start your business first, and then make any purchases needed.
3. ¬†Cell Phone and Internet
Yes, you use these for personal purposes too. ¬†But they are also tax deductible. ¬†Track them in a spreadsheet, and also make sure ¬†you notify your accountant or report them on your Schedule C at the end of the year. ¬†You deduce them by the percentage you calculated for your home office space (6.66%) you calculated earlier.
4. ¬†Shipping Expenses
Any expenses you use to operate and do business can be deducted from your taxes. ¬†If you have to drive to the post office to make a shipment, you can deduct the mileage to and from the post office, as well as the cost to make the shipment.
Mileage gets deducted based on the “standard” mileage rate as defined by the IRS. ¬†This changes every year, but for 2014 is 56 cents per mile. ¬†Visit this URL to check the standard mileage rate each year.
Don’t miss those deductions! ¬†Instead, use the money to pay off personal expenses or to help grow your business.
Okay, so you hear how everyone praises content as the greatest thing in the world. ¬†And it is a good thing when you use it well. ¬†But how should you use it for your e-commerce website?
Here are some ideas:
1. ¬†Product Descriptions
Let’s get the easy one out of the way. ¬†Product descriptions should tell your customers why they would want to buy that product, or why they should buy your product instead of similar versions at other websites.
Facts about the product help to sell. ¬†But what sells even better is benefits, and those are things like saving you money or time, or helping you reduce your weight fast.
The more thorough they are, the better they sell.
2. ¬†Use Lots of Visuals
This can include both images and videos. ¬†And you can use both in your blog and product descriptions. ¬†With images, the clearer and more professional they are, the better.
With videos, the more value you deliver, the more effective they are. ¬†For example, you might create a “how-to” video showing additional uses for the product.
3. ¬†Optimize Everything
Yes, some people are preaching “SEO is dead.” ¬†But, that’s not true. ¬†It’s just changed so much that what used to be SEO looks much different than modern SEO.
When you think about it logically, though, Google’s always going to need words to understand what people look for. ¬†So, it makes sense to optimize your videos, web pages, blog posts – everything.
Just make sure you keep the language sounding natural. ¬†Read your content out loud, and if it sounds awkward, revise it until it sounds natural.
4. ¬†Optimize for User Experience
While keywords are important, the user experience is too. ¬†When you blog, for example, use lots of images to make the whole post more interesting. ¬†Besides that, make sure you compress the images so they’re smaller and they take less time to download.
Make all the menus sensible and easy to navigate. ¬†Accept all forms of credit card payment. ¬†Clearly state your shipping and refund policies.
Think about everything that frustrates or bugs you about other websites, and then make sure you don’t do those things on your e-commerce site.
5. ¬†Have a Documented Strategy
Are you trying to increase your newsletter subscribers? ¬†Would you like to reduce your time spent on customer service? ¬†What about increasing your sales?
You can accomplish all of these with a content marketing strategy. ¬†Make sure you document yours. ¬†Test it out. ¬†See what happens. ¬†Revise and try to understand why you did or did not meet your goals.
Unless you already have a large social media following, content marketing takes some time, usually several months, to pay off. ¬†Be patient, try out new things, take a long-term perspective, and you’ll experience results.
E-mail marketing may not be glamorous, but it sure is effective. ¬†Yes, it still works well, even in today’s world of overcrowded inboxes.
And there’s no reason to believe it won’t work well in the future. ¬†You just have to use personalization and attractive subject-line writing to get the opens and clicks.
But what shouldn’t you do? ¬†Here are a few common mistakes to avoid:
1. ¬†Using Common Spam Phrases
Act now, click now, open immediately, and FREE often get tripped by spam filters. ¬†Avoid using them.
2. ¬†Using Numbers in Place of Letters
People want to know who an e-mail is from and what it’s about. ¬†Make it any more difficult for them to understanding who’s contacting them than that, and they’ll delete your e-mail in a rush.
Avoid being creative and saying things like H3LLO or FR33.
3. ¬†Addressing the Subscriber as “Subscriber”
Personalization always wins out with e-mail marketing. ¬†If you don’t address the reader at all, or if you just say “Dear Newsletter Subscriber,” you’re losing out on an opportunity to build a relationship with them.
You’ll get fewer sales and more unsubscribes from your e-mail newsletter list.
4. ¬†Not Doing a Test E-mail First
Your e-mail can look mindblowing when in preview mode. ¬†Then, when you actually send it, Gmail butchers it. ¬†Do a test send to Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook before you send the official mailing.
It could save you tons of headaches and embarrassment.
5. ¬†Forgetting to Let Readers Know Important things about Your E-mails
When they sign up, they want to know what they’re going to get, how often, and at what time. ¬†When you set these expectations, follow them to a T.
Your reputation is at stake here, so treat it with care.
6. ¬†Not Segmenting Your E-mail Newsletter
At first, you’ll have to start with sending every e-mail to the same list. ¬†However, over time, it may become clear that your customers fall into different categories.
When you’re aware of such information, create separate newsletters so each segment can read information more relevant to them. ¬†You get better click-through and open rates this way.
7. ¬†Irrelevant Content
Make sure you send the most relevant messaging possible to your list. ¬†In your analytics, regularly check your open rates. ¬†Then, for any URLs inside, make sure you’re also aware of your click rates.
Typical open rates average around 15.0%, while standard click rates are around 2.0%
If you can avoid those 7 mistakes, you’ll put yourself in good position for long-term e-mail marketing success.
You’ve probably heard about Amazon’s Jeff Bezos talking about using drones to deliver products. ¬†That’s the possible future for some of the big guys, but it’s not too likely for SMBs.
In fact, what will the future of e-commerce look like for the typical small business?
Here’s a few ideas:
1. ¬†Showrooming is the Norm
If you do happen to have a physical location, it will be almost for showrooming only. ¬†Your customers will try on a piece of sample clothing, ¬†scan and order it online, and then have the clothing delivered to their home just hours later.
2. ¬†Clothing will Gain a Bigger Market Share
Some experts estimate up to 1/3 of all online purchases will be related to clothing and fashion within the next decade. ¬†Because the competition is so intense, and will only continue to get tighter, the real point of differentiation will be how well the product meets the market’s expectations.
This could be good news for small businesses who cannot afford to use other marketing tactics like celebrity endorsements.
3. ¬†Remarketing Continues to Grow
We do some of this ourselves. ¬†It’s simply the practice of paying Google Adsense to continue to show your ad to the same user as they visit other sites in the corporation’s Adsense network.
As people frequently see your ad, they become more familiar with you and are more likely to purchase from you.
4. ¬†Cross-Channel Marketing Gets Streamlined and Emphasized
It’s tough to manage all those different social media profiles, your website, your products, your blog, and any guest posts you make on other blogs, isn’t it? ¬†Well, that’s going to get a heck of a lot easier in the future, and you’ll find SMBs doing it more consistently and with greater frequency.
5. ¬†Focusing More on Assessing their Scalability
It’s easy to scale an e-commerce website. ¬†But, it’s not so easy to scale the shipping and fulfillment functions. ¬†In the coming years, you’re going to find more innovation among SMBs in this regard.
6. ¬†Adding a Human Element
Most websites are fairly generic and stale in their approach. ¬†However, the more you can humanize your website and develop a personal connection with your visitor, the better. ¬†The big brands are really good at this, so research some of the market leaders and create your own personality for your business that reflects what ¬†your customers want to see.
We can’t make accurate predictions. ¬†And who knows? ¬†Some of these might even be way off. ¬†But, we’re reasonably sure they’ll come into play for SMBs for years into the future.