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Ecommerce Blog - Fortune3

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

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

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

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 – you 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:

• 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

• Sell very specific products like “silver owl pendant clock necklace” and not “clock necklaces”

• Avoid seasonal items

• Sell small items because they cost you less to ship

• 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