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?Â
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 TradeKeyÂ 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:
â€˘ 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
â€˘Â Sell very specific products like “silver owl pendant clock necklace” and not “clock necklaces”
â€˘Â Avoid seasonal items
â€˘Â Sell small items because they cost you less to ship
â€˘Â 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, Â 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.
Be thorough, and once you’ve found that awesome product, dive head-first in!
Does your website convert as well as you had hoped?
If it doesn’t, this Q&A may hold the solution to your questions.
1. Q: What should I test?Â
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?Â
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!
When you hear the word “brand,” what company names come to mind?
Disney, Apple, GE, Toyota, and Nike might be just a few of the names.
You have your own favorite brands that first come to mind. But how did they get there in the first place? There’s a number of different paths they took.
Fortunately, you don’t need millions of dollars to create an enduring brand name.
With the web and micro-targeting, you can build a small, targeted one that endures for many years.
Here are some tips for doing it:
1. When Creating Your Slogan, Focus on 3 Value Propositions
For example, if you run a company that sells designer purses, you might say: Gorgeous. Compact. Luxurious. You do that because that’s what your customer wants to buy.
That may not be the perfect 3 words to use, but you get the point.
2. What Makes You Different?
It doesn’t have to be a lot, but you have to focus on whatever small differences there are between you and your competitors. For example, if you look at jeans, what’s the difference between any brand?
They’re all basically the same at the end of the day right – they’re jeans aren’t they? And yet there’s several large brands.
Going back to the purse example, yours may be different because it’s so small and easy to carry around. Your marketing must focus on that difference to stay interesting to your target market.
3. What’s Your Promise?Â
With every product or result, your target market gets something out of it. With these promises, they look gorgeous while also being compact. So, your purses should be getting your customers compliments from their family and friends. And your market themselves should feel like they’re high-class Americans.
If you deliver on that promise, your brand grows exponentially.
4. Be Consistent in All Your Marketing
This one has a caveat. You still need to be creative in your marketing approaches and deliveries. But, you don’t want to say the exact same thing in about the same way all the time. You’ll put your market to sleep if you do!
Watch the big brands for innovative marketing techniques. They have to stay creative, or they start to lose business.
5. Talk with Your Customers RegularlyÂ
Don’t you know your business the best? Nope – the customers are the experts. That’s because they ultimately vote in our free marketplace with their wallets.
Think of a gigantic corporation as having “$600 billion” in votes.
Therefore, it’s important that you constantly maintain a dialogue with them. Fortunately, the internet makes it easy. You can ask outright on your Facebook page or send surveys in your e-mail.
Decades ago, corporations would pay millions for this kind of research, but you can do it all for next to nothing!
Anyway, if you follow through on those points, you’ll be well on your way to creating a recognizable brand your customers are happy to buy from.
“Popup” often brings negative, unpleasant feelings for most.
But popups aren’t something typically left to shady, obnoxious, and spammy websites. In fact, popups work quite well for good websites if you use them right.
So, today, let me explain the difference between the case for and against popups:
Why You Should Use Popups
Tests show that even though popups are very annoying to some users, they shoot your e-mail subscribership through the roof. One test found them to increase e-mail captures 1,375% more than a sidebar form.
E-mail converts with a higher ROI than any other form of digital marketing too. That includes social media, PPC, organic search rankings, retargeting, remarketing, and anything else you can think of.
So if you can figure out how to use them right, then you should do pretty darn well with your business, right?
Why You Shouldn’t Use Popups
Well as you know, the obvious reason is that they’re so obnoxious that some people leave your website the instant they see them (but that’s because you’re using them wrong…more on that later).
And they do slow your page load times down. The more you slow them down, the more people leave and don’t buy from your site. Page load time is also a huge organic search ranking factor, so your rankings suffer if you slow it down too much.
If you deliver the wrong popup with the wrong message, you also cause more people to get annoyed and possibly not come back.
How to Use Them
Using popups isn’t easy. Here are some of the key factors to using them successfully:
1. Time them RightÂ
Using the popup as soon as people visit your website – big mistake! They don’t know anything about you and have no relationship with you, so they’re going to leave ASAP and not sign up.
Instead, there’s a couple things you can do:
â€˘ Release the popup after a certain time period – A good on-site time is 2 minutes, but 60 seconds is decent enough too. You’ll get more signups with this type of popup because people are browsing and reading on your website, which means they like you to some extent. They’re less likely to be bothered and more likely to sign up.
â€˘ Show your popup at the bottom of your blog posts – This means they read the entire post and again like the information you have to offer. It’s a great time to show your popup.
2. Show a Benefit and Have a Strong Call to Action!
You have to hit your market with a powerful message they’re likely to respond to. “Subscribe and Save 25% on Your Next Purchase” may be a good one.
Who wouldn’t want that? Then, you have 1-2 lines of text below detailing how they’ll be the first to know about all your special deals in the future.
You know your website the best, though, so think of a compelling offer that might work.
You Don’t Have to Use Popups!
But you definitely have to use e-mail marketing. And if you do choose to use popups, use them strategically so you don’t scare away your good customers.
What’s SEO going to look like in 2015 and beyond? Think of the SEO of 2000 – 2005 or so.
What did it look like then?
Back in those days, you could spam the living daylights out of keywords all over a web page and then rank for that keyword just a few days/weeks later. If only you knew that then!
But alas, SEO is now incredibly complex! In fact, SEO consultants can’t really do it singlehandedly anymore. Nope, it takes at least a small team to do the work for you.
Or, if you’re doing it yourself, you can pull it off to some degree (although you get better results with a highly reputable agency).
What’s 2015′s SEO going to look like?
Let’s take a look at a few expert predictions:
1. Earning Links Instead of Building Them
This one’s already happening. Â But going forward, it’s really your only option. You used to be able to get away with some link building in the past.
So now, more than ever, you have to influence popular blogs and social media leaders in your niche and get your content in front of their audience. Content promotion, as well as creation, now becomes a vitally important to skill.
Why earn links this way?
Because it’s guaranteed they appear 100% natural to Google. The search giant does not like keyword-rich anchor text anymore, though, so that’s one thing you have to make sure the sites you connect with avoid using.
2. Keyword Research Becomes More Important than Ever
Going after keywords that are too irrelevant or lack purchasing intent kills the months of time and thousands of dollars you spend ranking for them. Because Google now makes it harder than ever to rank, it’s important that you target those keywords that have lower competition, but more buying intent.
A long-tail keyword like “buy Cuisinart coffee maker” means people are very close to being ready to buy. If you target “coffee maker,” it takes months to rank (if you ever do), and you make less sales because people searching for that term are doing research (they’re not quite ready to buy yet).
3. You Will Fail if You Don’t Focus on ContentÂ
Technical SEO – the keyword research, on-page optimization, and all the nitty-gritty detail work is important for you to succeed. But even more critical is the content your site produces.
SEO experts now say 50% of your search ranking position is due to content. And that number will increase in the future. What matters so much is not just any content, but how useful it is to consumers in your niche.
Find the most useful piece of content on a given subject in your niche.Then top it by 5 to 10 times, and promote the living daylights out of it. That’s what keeps your search rankings high because you’ll earn all those natural links and social shares.
So that’s SEO from a high level. It’s time-consuming, and you will have to spend hours doing it yourself. In fact, it may be a full-time job (or at least part-time) all its own.
But do it right the first time, and you will reap the rewards.
So today, we’re going to take a look back on some of the top e-commerce innovations in the past few years.
You take these things all for granted now, but at one time they were fresh and innovative.
And thank goodness you have them…because they’ve made running your e-commerce business oh-so-much easier than ever before.
Here they are in random order:
1. Live Chat/Live Video Assistance
Yikes – remember what it was like to be browsing an e-commerce store all alone? Have you ever been to a physical store and were unable to find a sales associate to answer your questions?
Your customers love using this e-commerce innovation! Unfortunately, you do have to be prepared to deal with the occasional jokesters…
2. OneClick Buying
This one comes straight from the bigboy – Amazon. Customers love ease, and purchasing doesn’t get any easier than making just a single click.
What better way to offer proof that what your customer is considering buying is awesome than by showing them positive reviews from other customers? They’re a huge online sales tool – and it’s great all e-commerce stores have them now (or should anyway).
4. Affordable A/B Testing
What website doesn’t need this? It’s important for every website to have, but especially so for e-commerce sites. It costs so little these days too. Optimizely actually lets you get started for free too.
Many e-commerce businesses do not use this, but it’s growing in popularity. You pay ad networks to re-display your ads as people browse them, capturing people who quickly left your store.
6. 360Â° Product Views
Let’s keep the obvious in mind: buying online is much different than buying in person. 360Â° product views help your customers decide whether the product’s worth their money. Also, as a reminder, for some products where size is important, make sure you show your customers its scale.
7. Order Online, Pick Up in Store
Wal*Mart offers this. It’s not an easy feature to integrate because the logistics required to support this feature are fairly complex. But it’s a great feature to have if you own a physical location.
8. Price Drop AlertÂ
If your customers are willing to give you their e-mail address, you can allow them to take advantage of this feature. They’ve already shown an interest in your product, so it’s much more likely they’ll buy later on if you notify them of a price drop that beats the competition’s.
9. Customer Product Images
The photos you use to sell your products meet that human ideal of “perfection.” But not all your customers will look the same if they buy that shirt. Some websites, like Petco, let customers upload images when they use their own products. That helps boost sales when customers have a hard time envisioning how your product will look in their lives.
So there’s only about a million more e-commerce features available that are just as useful for your site as these…which of these, or others, are you most thankful for?
How can the bootstrapping startup possibly contend with a highly competitive online marketplace?
Well, fortunately, there’s a ton of things you can do. And today, we’re going to show you how to get some good press coverage, even if you don’t have any budget to do it.
But you gotta be clever about it because journalists get pitches all the time.
Here are some ways to do it:
1. Hit Up Leading Online Influencers
They can send a drove of traffic to your website. Check the number of social shares they get on their average blog posts. You can try for the A-listers – the clear leaders in your niche.
But, you might have an easier time getting publicity with blogs that aren’t the leaders in your niche, but maybe just a step or two away. Let the influencer have a free sample of your product to review. Once you’ve established a reputation at that level, then you’ll have an easier time hitting up the A-list blogs
Most of all, make sure the blog and its audience would benefit from your product. Influencers’ number one complaint is they get completely irrelevant pitches.
2. Use HARO (Help a Reporter Out)
Now you won’t get to pitch your products directly to any of these journalists. However, you can get on some pretty high-profile websites (like Forbes or Huffington Post) with these.
They send you a daily e-mail digest you can customize, and then you respond to the appropriate story ideas. You can get featured as a knowledgeable expert, and then earn some sales as a result.
3. Check Your Competitor’s Link Profile
This is simple – just use Moz’s OpenSiteExplorer.org. This doesn’t give you a complete link profile, but no online tool does. The rest is simple: check out all the places your competitors get links online and see if you can create a compelling pitch to get featured on the same sites.
4. Focus on Providing Value, Not the Number of Pitches
“Sales is a numbers game” – isn’t it?
Or is it?
It is, because you’re going to have to reach out to some extent. But your focus when pitching shouldn’t be to “get it done” and move on to the next one. You’ll have an astronomically low success rate and will end up wasting most of your time going that route.
Custom-construct the pitch for each website’s owner and audience. Show why your product or company benefits them better than any other out there.
Remember, when you show them you understand and want to form a relationship with them (not just wanting to get money), you’ll experience much more success.
5. Write a Press Release
Okay, so this one isn’t technically free. But it is very low cost. You can write and distribute a press release at sites like PR Web for just $160. That’s not a huge cost, and you can get a fairly significant amount of benefit in return.
If you have Â a great product and focus on what it does for your market as you promote it, you’re going to sell more of it using these methods.
If you have a physical store, have you ever felt that you are “showrooming” to your customers? Do all indicators look good, and then suddenly, when it’s time to buy, they decide to walk away and go somewhere else?
Best Buy was struggling with the “showrooming” effect in late Fall and early Winter of 2012. Its stock price bottomed out at around $11.00 back then, and now it’s made a nice comeback, as it sits around $35.50.
It tried an ad campaign that actually encouraged people to use it for showrooming. But what really worked was a guarantee to match any prices consumers found on Amazon.
But can you match the low prices found on that website? For small and micro businesses, price-matching is generally a total nightmare bound to drive you out of business at one time or another. Amazon also uses a system that allows it to successfully sell some items below cost because turnover is so quick!
That’s not something you want to match…
If you think showrooming hurts your bottom line, here’s what to do about it:
1. Price Match Yourself
If you have thousands of items on sale both in and outside of your store, sometimes your own pricing may be inconsistent. If customers point this out to you, be willing to sell the in-store item for the lower online price.
2. Build a Successful Loyalty Program
Give your customers points for shopping with you. But, loyalty programs aren’t that simple. You’ll have to figure out what kinds of perks and rewards your customers enjoy most. It’ll almost be like building a new micro-business from the ground up.
3. Have Extensive Reviews & Product Details Available
If your customers can get all the information they need about your product from your online store, they don’t have the need to go anywhere else. Make your product detail the most attractive and in-depth available.
4. Make Your Store Experience Awesome
What’s the feeling you get when you walk into one of Apple’s stores? Now you may not be able to mimic that experience in yours.
But you can definitely make it more appealing than other small competitors. Think of what your customers want and like and give them an awesome in-store experience.
5. Follow That up with Legendary Customer Service
If you have to get in your car and drive halfway across the nation to deliver a product in time, do it! Most companies give mediocre customer service at best.
Make sure your customer service people have the power to make a decision that leaves your customers ecstatic. Word will spread far and wide you truly do care about your customers.
So anyway, if you do those things, you can do a lot to overcome showrooming. It’s impossible to eliminate entirely, but you can minimize its effects.
To consumers, the words “customer service” often take on a negative bent. That brings up thoughts of waiting forever on hold, not getting a good answer, and leaving the situation even more frustrated than before.
Customer service can be stressful, draining work. But if you’re doing it right, it shouldn’t be a bad thing.
So if you’re having a hard time getting through it, here are some inspiring quotes to pick you back up:
1. The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but legendary.
- Sam Walton, Founder of Wal-Mart
2.Â In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts.
â€“ Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon.com
3. Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.
- Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft
4.Â Spend a lot of time talking to customers face to face. Youâ€™d be amazed how many companies donâ€™t listen to their customers.
- Ross Perot
5.Â Customers donâ€™t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.
- Donald Porter, British Airways
6. There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.
- Sam Walton (It was such a great quote that Sam Walton gets 2!)
7. I don’t know what your destiny will be. But one thing I know: the ones among you who will be really happy are those have sought and found how to serve.
- Albert Schweitzer, German Theologian
8.Â Youâ€™ll never have a product or price advantage again. They can be easily duplicated, but a strong customer service culture canâ€™t be copied.
- Jerry Fritz, Professional Business Speaker
9.Â â€śA customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.â€ť
â€“ Mahatma Gandhi
10.Â â€śThe key is to set realistic customer expectations, and then not to just meet them, but to exceed them â€” preferably in unexpected and helpful ways.â€ť
â€“ Richard Branson, Investor & Founder of Virgin Group
11.Â He profits most who serves best.
- Arthur F. Sheldon, Teacher & Philosopher
12.Â Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves. Â
- Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple
13.Â One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others.
- Lewis Carroll, English Writer
14.Â When people talk about successful retailers and those that are not so successful, the customer determines at the end of the day who is successful and for what reason.
-Â Jerry Harvey, American Sound Engineer & Founder of JH Audio
15.Â If you work just for money, youâ€™ll never make it, but if you love what youâ€™re doing and you always put the customer first, success will be yours.
- Ray Kroc, Founder of McDonald’s
So if you’ve been struggling with customer service, those quotes should set you on the right track and take your customer service from so-so to legendary.
You’ve heard about Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, and how it raised $25 billion in its IPO, right?
That made it the biggest IPO in history.
And it’s responsible for much of Yahoo’s success because Yahoo owns around 23% of Alibaba.
So what does Alibaba know that no one else does?
We can’t say for sure, but these are some things they do that maybe not all e-commerce companies do themselves:
1. They Combine Many Major Services Into One Company
Alibaba is really like eBay, Amazon, Paypal, and WhatsApp (multi-platform mobile messaging that doesn’t use SMS) all rolled into one. It’s really shocking what this single company does all itself.
Lesson for You: Are there multiple services your customers use that they have to get from several different businesses? Could you offer all of those at your company?
2. Awesomely Good Timing
Did Jack Ma know the explosion in cell phone ownership would happen in nice coordination with the founding of his company? It certainly happened that way.
Lesson for You: Are there overwhelming market forces out there Â you can piggyback on?
3. They Solve a Unique Market Problem
One of the main challenges in China is trust. How can you trust other people? They don’t have a well-organized credit system like we do here in America.
Alibaba solves that. They use their own transaction data to build credit profiles for all users.
And if that’s not enough, Alibaba’s attempting to reform the financial system for the average Chinese citizen. It’s able to give customers twice the interest of the average bank in the country.
Lesson for You: Wow, this one’s very individual. But think about the various problems that your customers have, and consider how you could solve those in a way never seen before.
4. It Responds to Market Needs Better than Any Other Company
The average Chinese citizen is highly concerned with being able to negotiate and bargain on prices. One of Alibaba’s platforms, Taobao, allows that.
There’s also an optional escrow system that lets buyers only pay for goods after they’ve gotten them and confirmed they are in good condition.
Lesson for You: How well do you truly understand your market? Keep working at it every day!
5. Preserving Culture While Also ScalingÂ
You hear the talk about “culture” so much, and it always sounds so cliche. But, when it’s executed to perfection in reality, it makes a huge difference in the growth of a company.
With Alibaba, one aspect of their culture they’ve preserved quite well is growing companies from their startup phase to national or global scale.
They also enforce values of “embracing change” and “teaching and learning.”
Lesson for You: Find 4-6 core values for your company (even if it’s just you), and stick with them. They’ll take you far.
You can do a lot of good things with your e-commerce company. And hopefully these 5 secrets of Alibaba’s success get your mind turning so you take your business to bigger and better places.