Every member of your work force should have basic, professional customer service skills!
By Wayne Baumgartner
May 20, 2013
Perhaps the most valuable service or product that any business can offer is its customer service. Through the client, a business grows, expands, and succeeds. This means that customer service skills should be required from all staff members, regardless of their position within a business.
While your entire workforce is responsible in helping the customer reach their goal, to the best ability, it is the sole duty of an individual representative to ensure consistent and effective handling of the customer. There are several skills that can be incorporated into your staff that will make or break a loyal relationship.
Initially, you must always be ready to handle both complaint and compliment positively. For the most part, complaints are the most popular topic of conversation, but it is equally important to know how to react to a compliment.
- For the best customer retention, put yourself in their shoes
Consider what the customer wants from you. Empathize with them. How do they feel? Can you relate yourself to their situation? The practical thing to do here is to humanize yourself while still representing your business. In most scenarios, the customer simply wants you to listen to them. Rather than hearing nothing but solutions, they want you to listen to their particular scenario – because it’s what they know right now.
You must also be able to give the customer control of the situation to enable their confidence in you. Help them trust you. How can you help them help you? One of the best questions you can ask your customer is: “What can I do to resolve this situation?” Rather than simply saying: “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do,” go the distance and listen to their solution. Can you compromise? Are they reasonable? When the customer feels they have charge, they are often far easier to satisfy.
- Right what they feel is wrong
Argument is never the direction to go. You shouldn’t try to convince them that there is nothing wrong or they’re making too much of a situation. Instead, you must focus on righting what they feel is wrong to keep your existing customers on-board It’s well-known that customer retention costs an online business owner much less than customer acquisition does so, think about how your customer may feel at the end of the conversation. It is up to you to define what it is that makes your business strong by keeping the customer satisfied. You must build your business and online reputation in a positive and proactive way that will carry beyond one single interaction.
- An ongoing relationship will increase customer loyalty
Following up afterwards is perhaps one of the most powerful of all customer service techniques. Issues don’t often get resolved as soon as the headset goes down, and not all feelings of satisfaction are established immediately.
A simple call can make all the difference in any situation. If there’s been an issue previously, they may be encountering it again. It is up to you, as a representative for your business, to ensure their ongoing satisfaction and customer loyalty. It’s an ongoing process that never ends and satisfaction comes from knowing that your business is always there for them, through the good and the bad.
Customer loyalty and strong relationships are developed through good customer service. And while customers will often call with complaints, when you treat them with respect, they’re likely to call back with compliments as well.
Guest author Wayne Baumgartner is a small business owner who takes care of customers using old fashion customer service skills and specializes in one industry -headsets!
By Mary Weinstein
May 13, 2013
Every sales quarter, CPC Strategy conducts a study on the top shopping channels, including Google Shopping on seller metrics such as traffic and revenue. For Q1, Google shopping traffic almost doubled.
CPC Strategy’s 2012 Ecommerce Industry Report compares Google Shopping against rival shopping engine Amazon Product Ads. It analyzes the sales data of more than 200 online retailers with a buying power of more than $5 billion.
- Google Shopping conversion rates dropped for the fourth straight quarter, decreasing from 3.0931% in Q4 2011 to 2.4018% in Q4 2012, a YoY decrease of 22.35%.
- In Q4 2011 Google Shopping was sending merchants 79% of the traffic Amazon Product Ads was sending. In Q4 2012, Google Shopping now sends merchants nearly double the traffic that Amazon Product Ads does, 96.08% more.
- Google Shopping was on average 32.77% more cost-effective for merchants during Q3 and Q4 2012 than Amazon Product Ads.
To read more, feel free to head over to this Q4 CSE Rankings article
Google Shopping is a shopping engine which warrants merchant attention. An increase in traffic such as we seen from Q4 2012 to Q1 2013 is just another reminder of how important the paid campaign is for online marketers.
Guest author Mary Weinstein is Content Manager at CPC Strategy, with extensive experience in all things Ecommerce, comparison shopping (CSE) management, Google Shopping and digital marketing. A NY native, Mary spends her time discussing CSE strategy with online merchants, hiking and drinking copious amounts of coffee.
By Lanette Willis
May 6, 2013
Have your online business within reach at all times with a mobile dash board app!
It’s become standard these days for eCommerce platforms to have some kind of dashboard feature. So standard in fact, that it’s easy to assume every dashboard is basically the same, and to overlook the true power and convenience that can be offered by this tool. Not all eCommerce solution dashboards out there are the same. With the right mix of data, a great dashboard should offer you an unparalleled ability to keep an eye on your store’s performance, alert you to trends, identify opportunities for growth, uncover and resolve breaks in your sales funnel, and give you peace of mind – all in an instant.
A dashboard must deliver important statistics quickly and easily. This is not necessarily for heavy reporting, but rather the place for information at a glance. Thus, one critical component is the ability see data instantly when you open the dashboard. You shouldn’t need to click anything, and the data should just be in front of you.
Easy to read graphs are also key. They say a picture speaks a thousand words, and your dashboard also needs to do this! Bar charts, line graphs, and pie charts allow you to see and process the essence of the data in seconds.
Having the ability to see performance over time (month, week, day, etc.) allows for comparison & trending, and should definitely be included. How were your sales last month, versus this month? Are sales increasing steadily across the last 3 months? A dashboard should be able to show you this.
A great dashboard offers the user the ability to change time frame of graphics (year, month, day, etc.). For example, typically you may be interested in seeing your sales data across the last 2 months, but if you’re running a promotion, you might be more interested in studying a day or week’s data to track the success of your promotion.
Sales data and visitor data should be offered in the dashboard, and both should be visible across an adjustable time period. Knowing that you’ve made $x for the year allows you to tell if you’re on target. How is your traffic? Usually, traffic is tied to sales. If you just released a promotion, you should see the spike in visitors, letting you know that your promotion is working. Likewise, if you don’t see this spike, it could alert you to a problem along the line. If you were only tracking sales, and not visitors, you might think there was some other on-site conversion problem.
We’ve already discussed the importance of the dashboard information to be presented quickly and clearly. It’s all about instant information. The ability to have palm-of-your-hand mobile access to your dashboard takes it to a new level.
If you’re in the interested in previewing a topnotch eCommerce dashboard, you may want to check-out, Nexternal, one of ZippyCart’s top reviewed eCommerce solution. This shopping cart software has just released a Dashboard Plus for iPhone and iPad users, so you don’t even need to boot up a computer to check in on your online business. Grab your iPhone, click a button, and there are all your stats, and peace of mind. Dashboard Plus is available for free in Apple’s App Store and can be downloaded here.
Guest author Lanette Willis is a Senior Account Manager at Nexternal. Before joining Nexternal she spent nearly a decade working in market research and professional services marketing, before running her own successful eCommerce apparel business. Lanette is passionate about both marketing and eCommerce.
Pick a regular time each week to handle bookkeeping responsibilities so they do not pile up.
By Cara Aley
April 22, 2013
Bookkeeping is one of what many would consider the necessary evils of running a successful business. But it doesn’t need to come with the stresses that so many of us associate with financial management. We’re here to provide some pointers for making the process a bit easier, and hopefully eliminate some of the pain from the process!
Consistency is key. The worst time to handle bookkeeping, and the time when many of us do it, is when things pile up so high that we finally feel we have to. Or, we are driven by some deadline that comes upon us and handle the work at the last minute. Tax time, anyone?
By setting aside a few hours on a particular day or two every week to handle your bookkeeping responsibilities consistently, you will feel less of the stress of the pile-up and will get into a healthy habit both for you personally and for your business.
Make sure your payables are up to date. The stress of having vendors call you to remind you that you still owe them is one that can be avoided by keeping your bills paid and up to date. With much of the accounting software available today, you can schedule reminders to pay your bills. Alternately, if you are setting aside time each week to handle this responsibility, then you won’t risk falling behind.
Make sure your receivables are up to date. There is nothing like running your AR report to find that many of your customers are overdue on their payments. This means a bigger effort to reach out to folks to remind them that payments are due than if you did it consistently. You can also purchase software that automatically emails customers when their bill has slipped past its due date.
Hire someone a professional to do your bookkeeping work more efficiently, resulting in less stress for you!
Hire someone to assist you with the more administrative work. Hiring someone to help you with your bookkeeping could be an incredibly worthwhile investment. Consider that you could otherwise be doing business development and making more money for the company than toiling over your financial management practices, and also consider that someone with experience in bookkeeping might be far more efficient than you.
Bookkeeping does not have to be the great stressor that so many business owners feel it is. Consider handling bookkeeping on a more regular basis so that the work doesn’t pile up so much. Additionally, ensuring that your bills are paid to others and that your customers are paying you are two great ways to reduce the stresses associated with both! Finally, there is the option of actually hiring someone with experience to handle the work for you. They might be able to do it faster and better than you, and free you up to do both what you love and are best at.
So don’t let bookkeeping get the best of you. While it is a critical part of your business, and keeping up to date on it is extremely important, there are numerous ways to make the experience less painful!
Have tips for lowering stress levels associated with bookkeeping? We want to hear them!
Guest author Cara Aley is a freelance writer who covers a wide variety of topics from bookkeeping tips to online reputation management.
By Kinjal Adeshara
March 25, 2013
Nowadays, small and large product based business need ecommerce sites. In 2013, will be flooded with new technologies and it’s important to make sure you online business pages shine. Ecommerce websites will only be considered well structured when users can search for a product easily with smooth navigation. Having a custom ecommerce site will help develope a personal connection with your target audience and online shoppers.
Guest blogger Kinjal Adeshara is a web enthusiastic and blogger who interested in all things software, web design & development… especially ecommerce site development. She is working with Rightway Solution which is offshore software development company. She loved to write articles and shares new, exciting and informative content with users.
By Debbie Allen
March 18, 2013
Businesses of all sizes can use payroll software programs to handle the processing and calculations of its payroll. In addition to computing payrolls, these software programs can also be used to keep accurate records. In other words, payroll software programs streamline the payroll process. Even in large companies, the programs make the task of handling payroll very manageable.
Although outsourcing payroll requirements is a viable option, keeping the process in-house offers the advantage of standardized flexibility. The company can easily make changes according to its specific needs. This can be especially helpful for such things as keeping up with employee reimbursements for travel and similar expenses.
Even if a company chooses to use professional payroll services, it is still a good idea to have an in-house payroll software program. An automated system can ensure that the appropriate information will always be gathered and sent to the payroll service in a timely manner. This provides peace of mind for all concerned.
In this way, everyone can rest assured that checks will be received on schedule. This will happen even if a key player is out due to sickness or on a vacation. The payroll software program can do the work it is programmed to do.
Payroll Software means less work for the person responsible for payroll tasks.
There are several payroll software programs available to choose from. Some can be used to print checks or even to make direct deposit payments. Other programs can interact with human resource files. This means less work for the person responsible for payroll tasks. The program can gather essential information from the human resource files.
Not only does this save time and work, it also eliminates some human errors. In addition, some payroll programs can handle tax forms. This helps ensure employees receive their W-2s as required.
Before buying payroll software programs, it is wise to do a little research. One of the first considerations is deciding exactly what it is that is needed from the program. For instance, a large construction company will have different needs than a hair salon. Regardless of the type or size of business the program is being purchased for, scalability is also important.
The program should offer room for growth and flexibility. Every company needs the ability to customize their payroll software program.
In addition, the payroll should be compatible with other accounting software programs in use. Plus, it should interact with human resources files. This is especially important in larger companies. Payment options such as direct deposit are also important. This option eliminates paperwork – which saves time and money.
Online payroll software programs are an excellent choice. These programs are always current and well-maintained.
The bottom line is, payroll software programs are cost-effective tools that save time and provide peace of mind. As long as the program purchased meets the needs of the company and works with other software programs already in use, a payroll software program is a great investment.
Debbie Allen is a freelance writer that likes sharing tips about topics like how to choose a quality payroll service provider. Images courtesy of Stuart Miles, David Castillo Dominici and xedos4 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
By Kinjal Adeshara
March 11, 2013
“Ecommerce” will continue to be a buzz word in 2013 and while this comes as no surprise, what needs to be seen is what will be the trends that will power this domain. Ecommerce will definitely evolve as it did in the past years but this evolutionary process is going to accelerate.
- More Personalized Services
No, personalized services may not something that is fresh or unique but, this is going to be a continuing popular trend. The focus, however, will be on offering as personalized a product or service as possible. There are new technologies that will monitor and analyze the buying pattern of consumers to bring forth some startling revelations as far as consumers buying decisions are concerned. This will help you personalize the content to suit the specific needs and requirements of your target audience.
- Ecommerce will align with Mcommerce Again this is a trend that we are witnessing, but this alignment will happen far more seamlessly this year. Your site will need to be mobile compliant, that’s a given, but that’s not something that will have you laughing to the bank. What your future buyers will look forward to is a better, more intuitive and highly engaging shopping experience that makes shopping a largely interactive process. They are looking to form a deep connect with the product or service they want to buy and they will expect this from an integration of web and mobility.
- Augmented Reality The adoption of this technology will come of age this year and the years beyond. The first trend that I mentioned was that Ecommerce will become more personal, well it is this technology that will play an important role in bringing this about. So, the next time you are moving through a particular store, don’t be surprised if you start getting information about the store, the various products it has on offer and the various offers on the same; all this, as you keep moving through the different parts of the store. 2013 will be shopping at its finest yet.
- Cross Channel Targeting of the Same Consumer Right, you have a product and you believe that an SEO campaign is the best fit, as far as its online promotion is concerned. Well, while SEO is important, this kind of thinking will have competition in 2013 as you will be forced to target your consumer through various marketing channels. Yes, it will be the same consumer, but you will be keeping at him, from all directions. So, yes, there will be an SEO campaign that will be launched, but also of importance will be a presence on social media, and you of course wouldn’t want to miss out on targeting him through his mobile device. Integrated marketing campaigns will be the name of the game.
- More focus on Social Network Integration Can’t miss out on this one can we? There will be more and better social network integration than ever before. As we keep using social media for marketing our products and services, we are getting better and better at it. Social media channels like Facebook and Twitter keep getting better and better and new ones like Pinterest allow us to explore new avenues for establishing a social media footprint for business benefit. The integration of social media with an Ecommerce solution will become even more intensive and incisive in 2013. What’s more, with the plethora of options on hand, you will be hard pressed to choose the one that suits your needs and requirements best
- Customization of Products and Services – Consumer in Charge Heard about ‘Web-to-Print’, ‘Design your own T-shirt’ etc.? These are all examples of the kind of solutions that put the consumer in charge of the designing and customization process of the product that he/she wants to buy. Yes, customization was, is and will always be important to sell products and services, but now the merchant will increasingly allow the target consumers to tailor make the product, as per their specifications. Ecommerce as its stands will never be the same again.
- Content What you say, will become even more important this year. As competition increases and the need for accurate information become even more paramount, the significance of content will keep getting bigger and bigger. The presentation of your content in terms of form, style, tone and facts will decide whether the sales of your products and/or services increase or remain stagnant or for that matter go down.
- Think Global but Go Local Even if you are targeting a global market, the focus will still be on thinking ‘local’. Niche oriented Ecommerce will rule as people will keep looking for products and services through local search. So, even an enterprise level organization will need to ensure that its marketing is focused on specific locations/regions; if they want they can target different markets with different campaigns, with each campaign keeping in mind the needs, interests, preferences and buying behavior of the local population.
- Responsive Ecommerce You have heard of responsive design (it will be huge in 2013), but as an online business owner, what you also need to take note of is responsive Ecommerce. All eMerchants will need to quickly respond to the needs of their target consumers and if they cannot, they will need to adapt to the changing demands of the market to respond as their consumers expect them to.
- Keep it Simple At the end of the day, the lesser the complications, the better you can control a particular process. So, Ecommerce will become more compartmentalized, where merchants and marketers will not try and do a lot of things, but will want to do a few of the things perfectly. As can be imagined, each aspect of Ecommerce is going to be consumer focused and it’s upon the merchants to identify which is that collection of strategies that will help them zero in on a profit generating Ecommerce campaign.
Guest author Kinjal Adeshara is a web enthusiastic and blogger who interested in all things, software, web design especially ecommerce website development. She is also work with Rightway Solution which is offshore Software Development Company. She loved to write articles and shares new, exciting and informative content with users.
The most important factor in the eCommerce path to success – navigation and design:
By Paul Rufus
March 4, 2013
On a regular basis, I’m asked to evaluate a prospective clients’ e-commerce store. Often they are frustrated by lower than expected conversion rates or declining sales.
Question number one tends to be something along the lines of why have you designed and built your e-commerce store? Question two: So, why have you made it so difficult for users to actually buy from your site?
A research reported released by Brand Perfect on online shopping habits and consumer opinion in both the UK and United States revealed the biggest irritations when shopping online and what would make them abandon their purchase.
It makes for interesting reading.
For online shoppers in the UK, 67% of over 1,500 respondents said that pages or product images were slow to load and that was the top reason they’d abandon a purchase. In the US this figure is 51%.
A significant proportion of factors relate specifically to the user experience on the site. Site navigation and difficulty finding products was referred to by 50% of UK respondents. 40% of UK respondents cited too many steps to purchase, with a further 34% saying that having to register caused irritation. Poor design accounted for 29%, while 20% mentioned the site’s payment process.
Brand Perfect says that bricks and mortar retailers should invest more in design expertise when embarking on digital services for their customers, to maintain brand consistency across online and offline activities, and to have the expertise on hand to properly consider user experience.
In the report, Gerry Leonidas, a senior lecturer with the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication at the University of Reading emphasised the importance of designing an effective user experience is essential for developing a successful e-commerce store:
‘Even in well-established brands that enjoy considerable trust by consumers, an online experience that is inconsistent, unintuitive, or off-brand will either turn people off online shopping, or lead to abandoned browsing and purchasing’.
This is further underlined by research from ’I Spy Marketing’ that pointed to a number of key success factors for e-commerce stores. The most important – navigation and design:
‘75% of consumers say they would not continue to shop on a website which was difficult to navigate or poorly designed’
What can retailers (and website designers and developers) do to ensure that the shopping experience is better for customers? In my opinion the feedback from US-based respondents is not difficult to implement (in order):
- Ensure the site is easy to browse and navigate (61%)
- Ensure the site is secure (59%)
- Make sure the site loads quickly and functions properly (52%)
- Fonts should be clearly legible (44%)
- Site should be well designed (43%)
- Mobile and tablet versions should be as easy to use as the main website (42%)
- Site should link to the users account and enable quick shopping (28%)
- Site looks and feels authentic (26% – I believe this links with the well designed observation above)
The price of not taking notice of what consumers are telling us and making it difficult for consumers to make a purchase? They’ll simply go to the next website on Google and buy it from there.
Guest author Paul Rufus is responsible for marketing and business development for Yetti, a cloud-based e-commerce and content management platform.
Let’s take a closer look at 3 of the top eCommerce solutions on the market!
By Halyna Yefymchuk
Feb 25, 2013
Hosted shopping carts have rapidly gained popularity on the market because of their reasonable price and ease-of use. The most confusing part of them is… which one to pick?! Common questions that merchants ask regard the difference in platforms functionality and pricing, as many of the top ranked carts seem to be pretty much the same. Hosted environment, reasonable monthly pricing, standard set of eCommerce features, free trial periods – this is what you will find in almost all of ZippyCart’s hosted solutions. However, a closer look at the platform will definitely show the difference. To satisfy your interest let’s consider three popular shopping carts and answer all your whys, whats and hows.
What is Pinnacle?
Pinnacle is a shopping platform developed by Desert Dog Software LLC. It comes with both hosted and licensed versions, which is a huge plus when considering scalability, but for now, we will concentrate on hosted Pinnacle cart.
When did it appear on the market?
The exact date of the appearance of hosted shopping cart cannot be followed, however official sources show that the software developers of Pinnacle cart already had 20 years of experience in the Internet industry when they launches the platform in 2003.
How much does it cost?
The minimal pricing plan costs $30 per month. However, the plan is limited allowing 1GB of traffic and disc space of 100 MB. The amount of products however is unlimited, and all of the basic eCommerce features are included. This minimal plan also requires set up fee in the amount of $49. The benefit of pricing system is that you can change your plan whenever you need that.
Who can use the shopping cart?
Newbies and eCommerce experts both love Pinnacle Cart’s shopping cart as it satisfies the needs of large or small business owners. It is especially popular with stores looking to upgrade as their store grows but is suitable for startups also, as it is user friendly and makes store launch easy.
Why choose Pinnacle cart for your business?
Pinnacle shopping platform offers a number of beneficial features among which are daily backups, high quality support, total control of storefront design with “Design Mode” toolbar, digital and physical products, guest checkout and advanced SEO tools. In fact, they offer the one of the most generus feature sets on the market. Pinnacle Cart is a complete eCommerce solution that is extremely secure. They go the extra mile in guaranteeing their online stores have top notch security with their PA-DSS compliance.
Where can I get Pinnacle cart?
Just follow the links on ZippyCart’s comparison carts or review pages!
What is Core Commerce?
CoreCommerce is a hosted SaaS currently used to create over 13 000 web stores. The solution is developed by a company CoreCommerce Inc., based in Franklin, TN.
When did it appear on the market?
The shopping cart was created in 2001. First the company launched a licensed platform digiSHOP, and in 2008 it version was adapted to create hosted solution CoreCommerce.
How much does it cost?
The monthly pricing plan starts from $24.99 and includes all the basic platform functionality. It charges no setup and transaction fees, however limits the number of products you can sell to 150. The bandwidth is also limited to 2GB. All pricing plans include Support that claims to be a “legendary one”.
Who can use the shopping cart?
The shopping cart usability and high quality customer service the shopping cart combined with 0ther scalable offerings make this software a great option for start ups and already experienced store owners.
Why choose CoreCommerce?
First of all, CoreCommerce is extremely customer oriented. The company reacts to customer suggestions and provides updates based on them. As a result, new features or improvements are released often. Also the merchant can benefit from vast possibilities of integration. CoreCommerce can be integrated with Google Checkout, Checkout by Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, eBay, SEO tools, Shopzilla, Google product search, Amazon, etc. Among other great features are Image Zoom, design editing via CSS and HTML, real-time shipping, customer groups.
Where can I get CoreCommerce?
To find CoreCommerce, please follow the links on ZippyCart’s comparison carts or review pages!
What is 3DCart?
3DCart is a Margate, FL-based hosted cart developed by 3Dcart Shopping Carts.
When did it appear on the market?
The company is in eCommerce business since 1997. First it developed custom eCommerce solutions, but in 2001 introduced their own shopping cart software. Currently the platform powers over 5 000 stores.
How much does it cost?
The platform offers a ‘mini’ package for $19.99, which appears to be the cheapest solution out of the three listed in this article, extras not considered. This plan is limited to 100 products and allows low traffic rates. However it offers hundreds of featuress and over 50 marketing tools.
Who can use the shopping cart?
The aim of the developers was to create a shopping cart suitable for merchants with little or no programming knowledge to make their store launch easy and quick. However the set of powerful features will satisfy experienced users and webmasters. Thus the owners of small to large business can use the platform equally beneficially.
Why choose 3DCart?
Having solid experience in the industry, 3DCart is flexible to different business requirements. The advanced features that you will get with 3DCart include mCommerce templates and Social Commerce integration, product reviews, rich set of inventory management features and over 25 SEO tools to get high rankings. Apart from that, 3DCart can boast of exclusive features: image 3dZoom, gift registry, auto follow up and integrated blog.
Where can I get 3DCart?
Just follow the links on ZippyCart’s comparison carts or review pages!
Now that you’ve got the answers on basic questions you may go ahead and make deeper research of features that are included in each hosted shopping cart. Or choose the suitable solution immediately and start developing your business with a new eCommerce solution!
Guest author Halyna Yefymchuk is a Marketing Assistant at MagneticOne, developer of Cart2Cart – an automated shopping cart migration service. Find out more information about migration to/from PinnacleCartSoftware, CoreCommerceSoftware and 3DCartSoftware.
By Matt DeLong, CEO of CoreCommerce
Feb 25, 2013
Google prefers responsive design sites because it “crawls” the site more efficiently and helps keep the site’s information up to date.
The use of tablets or smartphones to surf online has been a driving force for a movement in web development called responsive design. Simply put, responsive design is a single web design that adapts itself to multiple screen sizes, no matter which type of device, tablet or smartphone is used. According to ComScore, the number of mobile internet users is expected to grow rapidly over the next few years, to a projected 1.9 billion in 2015. That is a lot of potential customers with a variety of devices for your website to accommodate!
Before responsive design, there were separate, multiple “mobile optimized” versions of your online store for desktop, tablet or smartphone, unlike responsive design which uses the same version of your store for all devices. Most online stores would automatically detect what kind of device you were using to access the site to tell whether to display the mobile or desktop version of an online store. Many websites are still “mobile optimized” but the movement towards responsive design is growing fast.
So why make the transition from mobile optimized stores to responsive design? The main benefit of using responsive web design is that you no longer have to manage multiple versions of your online store. With responsive web design, CSS3 media-selectors can be used to define min-width & max-width rules for handling portrait and landscape views, regardless of how your customers access your online store. Not only that but Google prefers responsive design sites because it “crawls” the site more efficiently and helps keep the site’s information up to date.
Another reason to design responsively is to allow for a site to be be easily adaptable to ever changing phone and tablet sizes now and in the future. Every time a new device is introduced, you won’t need to rethink how your store displays or how that translates on a potential customer’s tablet or smartphone, saving time and money in the long run. Ultimately, the goal of responsive design for a web based business to ensure an enjoyable experience for the customer, no matter what kind of device they’re using.
If you are developing your website, remember that it’s much easier to build a responsive site from the start versus attempting to retrofit a non-responsive or “mobile optimized” store to make it responsive. This year will be an interesting year in e-commerce, as mobile devices are slated to take over PCs as the dominant platform and online sales continue to grow. Good luck as you develop your responsive site!
Guest author Matt DeLong is the CEO and founder of SumEffect Software, Inc., the developers of e-commerce shopping cart, CoreCommerce. He has 15 years of experience with programming and software and started Sum Effect Software in 2001 when he created Digishop. When Matt isn’t working on cool new features or updates for CoreCommerce, he enjoys racing sailing boats and watching movies with his family.
By Stitch Labs
Febuary 18, 2013
As a small owner business owner, it can be difficult to sift out what metrics you should be focusing on in your business and what you should leave to your accountant. Most eCommerce options do an excellent job keeping track of metrics, including conversion, cart abandonment, and overall profit, to help you gauge the health of your business. However, every online merchant should pay attention to these three key metrics even when software is doing a lot of the heavy lifting.
- Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)
Primarily an accounting term, COGS describes the total value of your products sold during a specified time period.
This is the value to you, the seller, and not the sale price.
There are multiple approaches to calculating COGS, but the number includes the costs in bringing the inventory to your shelf and getting it into sellable condition. So, this can include materials, shipping from vendors, equipment, overhead, etc.
While calculating COGS is necessary for taxes, it is also required to figure out our next metric: Inventory Turn.
Inventory Turnover is the number of times your inventory is sold in a given time period. It is an important metric in understanding the rhythm of your business, but it should be noted that it shouldn’t be relied on as a sole measure of success.
Consider it a must-know metric for all business owners and a starting point for digging in deeper to your data. Changes in gross margin and surprises in sales can affect turn and there are more detailed ways to evaluate turn to account for these additional factors. Potential investors will want to know about inventory turnover and you should be fluent in the concept if you’re looking toward investment.
To calculate inventory turn, divide your cost of goods sold by inventory. Here, inventory is determined by the average cost of inventory on hand.
The equation for calculating inventory turn is:
Inventory Turnover = Cost of Goods Sold/Inventory
For example, if your COGS for the year was $100,000 and your average inventory on hand during the year was $10,000, your Inventory Turn would be 10. This would represent selling your total inventory 10 times over during the year. Real numbers will vary by retailer and industry.
You’ll see Inventory Turnover referred to quite a few ways. It can also be called inventory turns, stock turnover, stock turns, or several other similar variations.
Many retailers pay attention to conversion rate from visit to purchase, but often neglect repeat customer rate. This metric is more clear from its name and is the rate at which customers make additional purchases.
Repeat customers are important to understanding your business as they establish patterns and reveal more about your audience and their wants. These repeat sales can also reveal which products or product families are your strength. Additionally, it is often less expensive to sell to loyal customer than to depend on new customer acquisition.
Calculate repeat customer rate by dividing your total customers by the number of customers who’ve made two or more purchases. This can be calculated for the life of your business or a specified time frame.
As an example of how this number is useful, let’s say you produce adult sportswear, but you notice that your repeat buyers are women. As you drill down in your reports, you see that it’s not just women’s sportswear that shows repeat sales, but the items sized XS. From here, you have some interesting choices to make. Do you try to reproduce the same fan base in other product lines? Or, do you hone your focus and become a petite women’s sportswear company instead?
Your repeat customer rate informs you about more than just successful products. Other factors could come into play. You may find that you have a higher repeat rate with a specific sales channel or maybe a lower repeat rate in a time zone where you have less customer service coverage.
Comparing repeat rates against every piece of data you have about your customers provides a wide array of actionable insight.
Cost of Goods Sold and Inventory Turnover reveal what you’re spending to put products on your shelves and the rate at which you’re making sales and refilling those shelves. Your Repeat Customer Rate reveals where you’re succeeding, and possibly failing, with customers.
Going beyond traditional metrics and mastering these is a must for online sellers and they will serve as a springboard for more sophisticated analysis as you grow.
Guest post contributed by Brandon Levey of Stitch Labs, provider of an online application for simple inventory management, order fulfillment, invoicing, expense reporting and business analytics.
By Sarah Grayson
Febuary 11, 2013
The eCommerce industry has grown tremendously in the last few years, with online sales surpassing $40 Billion dollars for the first time this holiday season. However, as more and more businesses take advantage of the eCommerce marketplace, cyber criminals are following suit. There were a number of high profile breaches in 2012 alone, with countless financial records exposed as a result. The prevalence of phishing scams and bogus websites has led consumers to be more uncertain than ever about the security of the websites they interact with and buy from. Building trust is one of the greatest challenges for merchants today, and because of this, businesses must find ways to assuage doubts and keep financial information secure.
This is where Trustmarks come in. Generally taking the form of a living icon or logo on your website, Trustmarks can help convince wary shoppers that your site is secure, as well as provide additional benefits like vulnerability scanning and SSL encryption. When it comes to eCommerce, consumer trust can mean the difference between success and failure, and when achieved, is what will ultimately turn a browser into a buyer. In this infographic, McAfee SECURE breaks down Trustmarks by the numbers and illustrates potential consequences of not having them on your site.
Guest author Sarah Grayson is the Senior Marketing Manager for the Web Security Group. She has over 15 years of experience in high technology sales and marketing. Sarah focuses on the ecommerce community and network of partners in the hosting, SEO and website design market. She has been with McAfee for over 5 years and works extensively with the internal sales and engineering teams to promote safe shopping and provide knowledge and guidance around PCI and website vulnerability scanning.
By Igor Soshkin, CEO of ShoppingCartElite
February 4, 2013
Are you working 70 hours each week, and you are not getting anywhere with your business? Welcome to reality.
How did this happen, you ask? Well let me explain it to you in simple English.
When you first started your business, you were wearing all the hats. You were CEO, salesman, customer support representative, and even the janitor. Your official title was “the entrepreneur”, the position with no title and all the titles.
Every business has many different operations. I am not going to get into great detail, but here is a list of the main operations of any business:
- Product or Service – Whatever you are selling
- Marketing – Getting customers to your website
- Sales – Closing the sale after you get the customer to your website
- Operations – Customer Service
- Finances – Paying bills and budgeting
When you first started you probably did not even consider Operations or Finances. You thought you were good in sales, and you were confident you got the right product to sell. The main thing that was on your mind was marketing, and your answer to marketing was SEO! Your perception of successful SEO was to hire someone for a couple of hundred dollars per month and everything will be done for you. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
So you wonder how is it possible that one year later you are working 70 hours every week and you are not seeing any growth. There is nothing wrong with working 70 hours per week. In fact, I usually say that if you are not working 70 hours every week, than you’re not working. However, if you work 70 hours per week, earning less than minimum wage and not seeing any growth, then there is a big problem that you need to solve.
Let me shine the light from the end of the tunnel at you, and hopefully it will give you a direction of where to go.
You are one person, and you have 100% capacity of how much work you can do every week. Some people say I can work at 110%. In reality, 110% is impossible because if you do that extra 10% than something else out of the 100% has to suffer.
When you first started your business you might have been working part time 20 hours per week, and you were mainly focusing on marketing. Soon you realized that you can’t finish anything in 20 hours per week. So you took the risk and went into your business working full time at 40 hours per week. You used the extra hours to do more marketing, which in result your business started getting more sales. Just when you found yourself excelling towards bursting through the ceiling and expanding your company to the next level, you had to start to wear other hats in order to sustain your business.
When a product sells, you need to order it, make sure it ships, answer customer service emails, etc. When this happens all your attention shifts from marketing to operations. So you start putting more hours to accommodate for operations of the business. You are now putting 50 hours per week to catch up to everything that you have on your plate. Then as, more orders come in, you have to invest even more time in operations and finances. Finances are important because if you don’t pay your bills, check orders for fraud, and pay your suppliers then the company operations can’t function. All of a sudden you are working 60 hours per week, but you are producing the same volume of sales as when you were working 40 hours per week. In other words, you put more hours every week into your business without getting paid more and instead of growing you are standing still. This all happened because you underestimated how much time all the different operations will really take and you didn’t prepare to scale them. Now you are stuck because you need to learn how to scale them, but you have no time.
Today, you are running around like a chicken without a head. You are doing redundant and boring tasks, and for the few hours that you have available every week you wonder what you are doing wrong and why you are not growing. You try to get help from others expecting them to give you a magic bullet, unfortunately, no magic bullet will help you. Does this sound like you?
Regardless of your company size, we all try to work at 100% of our capacity.
It is normal for the owner of a startup to do absolutely everything in their business. It is also normal that as the business grows, the owner will experience their full work capacity which is called “the ceiling”. In order for the company to expand the owner must burst through the ceiling in order to reach the next level.
Growing a company is like playing a video game, you need knowledge and tools to get past level 1 and into level 2.
LIGHT IN THE TUNNEL
REALIZE the fact that you are working at 100% capacity and that you are a human being. Which means you can’t work more than you can handle.
ADMIT that you don’t know everything because if you did, you would be running a multimillion dollar company by now.
Once you come to the realization that you need help because you can’t do this on your own. Here is my advice to you:
KNOWLEDGE: Most of us do not have time to read books, but everyone has time to listen to one. If you have a smart phone (If not go get one), you can download an application called Audible. For $7.50/mo, you can subscribe to receive one audio book per month. For $7.50/mo, you can get a book that can cost as much as $40.00.
A typical audio book is 10 hours long. Audible has an option to speed up the audio by 100% or 200%. This means you can go through the whole marketing book in 3-5 hours. Instead of wasting your time on CNN, reading about politicians and psychos killing everyone, instead of spending hours on Facebook or watching a pointless sitcom, go and read a marketing book that will actually change your life and your business.
I personally listen to one marketing audio book every two weeks. When I can I try to listen to one audio book every week. Most of the books I read are best sellers written by very successful business owners. If I had to pay some of these authors for consulting, it would’ve cost me thousands of dollars.
These books are my mentors, and I am grateful that I can listen to them on my free time using a service like Audible. You can take the audio book anywhere with you, shopping, driving, waiting, business trips, vacations, etc.
By Sarah Brooks
February 4, 2013
People use the internet for almost everything nowadays, which makes a business’s online reputation very important!
People use the internet for literally everything nowadays – whether to look up a recipe, find an old classmate, diagnose your own illness, or gather information on a business.
If you’re a business, managing your online reputation is crucial to your success. If you’re a small company and think you don’t need an internet presence, think again. If a company’s not online, customers will turn to its competitors. If it’s online but has a bad reputation, customers will once again turn to its competitors.
For these reasons and more, managing your online reputation is something that needs to be done to succeed in today’s world.
A good online reputation helps you gain customers
Having a good online reputation will most definitely help you gain customers. Potential customers will do their research – they’ll look at your company website and read your reviews, along with the websites and reviews of your competitors. If you have a well-built, engaging website and plenty of positive reviews, these potential customers will more than likely become actual customers.
The key to building a good online reputation is getting your customers to trust you. If they trust you, they will not only do business with you but they will tell their friends and continue coming back for more.
Tips for having a good online reputation:
- Respond to negative reviews. View negative reviews as a way to improve your company. Seek to fix the problem and get back to the customer who left the negative review. Hopefully, the customer will consider doing business with you again because you strived to meet their needs.
- Ask good customers to write reviews. Get in the habit of asking satisfied customers to write a review for you online. They can submit reviews directly onto your company’s website or on third-party websites, as well.
- Be a good business. The best way to get a good online reputation is to have a good reputation in general. Always seek to meet your customers’ needs and always be willing to improve. In other words, simply show you care.
A bad online reputation makes you lose customers
A surefire way to lose customers and possibly go out of business is to have a bad online reputation. If all of your reviews are negative, customers will guaranteed go elsewhere. If you don’t have a website or if it’s not user-friendly, again, customers will go elsewhere.
Did you know – if a customer has a good experience, they will tell only a few people, but if they have a bad experience they will tell 30! They will also be more inclined to write a negative review online.
Tips to restoring your online reputation:
- Utilize all forms of social media. In addition to a company website, create a company Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a LinkedIn page. When potential customers Google your company, all of these accounts should show up, allowing the person to see exactly what it is you do.
- Learn the cause of the problems. There must be reasons for all the negativity – learn what they are and attack the problems head-on.
- Ask customers how you can improve. Remember that without the customer, you wouldn’t have a business. Continually conduct surveys or ask them directly how you can improve, and follow through.
- Be patient. When it comes to improving your online reputation, don’t expect a miracle to happen overnight. It can take a minimum of a few months to get your reputation where it needs to be.
Most importantly, remember to simply be a good business. If your customers trust you and feel that you care, you will succeed.
Sarah Brooks is a freelance writer covering a wide variety of topics from online business reputation to personal finance.