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.
By Susan D
January 30, 2013
With social media participation on the rise and mobile devices that keep us connected with our friends, family and colleagues almost all the time, it’s quite easy to get distracted while you are at work. Because of this, it’s important to avoid the personal clutter and tune your work day to its fullest potential (between FB breaks). Work requires calls to your clients or customers, social media marketing, scheduling press releases, attracting new clients, taking care of the existing ones, checking your inbox etc.
How are you going to manage your time efficiently?
Will you take a time management class? Well, you don’t need to do that (and who has the time?). Given below are some of the best tips that will help you make the most of your time and schedule your day for maximum coverage.
- Schedule Your Day You’re mistaken if you think breakfast is the first thing to do in the morning. In order to manage your time efficiently, you can use the time before breakfast to plan your entire day, every day. Before you chow down, you can quickly scan your emails so you will have a general idea of the expectations the beginning of your day may bring.
- Keep a Time-Sheet In order to build healthy time management habits, start keeping a time sheet. This gives you accountability (to yourself) and lets you see if you are really as busy as you think you are.
Be honest! Assign the start and end time for each task. Since there’s so much to do every day, you have a high risk of spending your time unproductively or thinking you’ve been more dedicated than you actually have. By assigning time to each of the task on your everyday’s To-do list, you can quickly manage your time and get more done in a specific amount of time.
- Prioritize When you have your time sheet to reference, you can more easily start to prioritize the tasks on your to-do list and allot the proper amounts of time for each task. Assigning points to each of the tasks that you’re required to do may help keep them organized. For example, you can rate the importance of a specific task on a scale of 1-10. A task that has a rating of 9.5 or 9.8 or 10 must be done immediately.
- Identify Your Most Productive Hours A time sheet will also help you identify those hours when you feel most energized or active… and the hours when you are sluggish and easily distracted. These peak hours are different for everyone. Some people get most productive during the early hours of the day or the first half of the day while there are others who feel more focused in the evening hours. Identify your peak and get most of your work done during that time.
- Plan Your Interruptions As mentioned above also, it’s quite easy to get interrupted or distracted. While you are engrossed at work, you should make sure that no one disturbs or diverts your attention from what you are doing. Therefore, it’s also a good idea to plan your interruptions in advance, so that you can work while you work and play while you play. After all, taking a break is also vital for recharging your batteries. Consult your time sheet and look for your sluggish hours. Take a brisk walk or take a break with some techo (headphone required) if necessary… whatever helps you regroup.
- Keep Track of Your Progress The best thing about keeping a to-do list is that you get to scratch things off of it. Since you’ve prioritized the tasks of your day, make sure you are crossing off the high ranked ones and not just skipping ahead to the easy stuff. Balance is key and helps keep you motivated. Keeping track of the completed tasks and what needs to be done next is essential for maximizing your workday productivity.
How do you schedule your day for making the most of your time while at work? Please feel free to share your own opinions and thoughts.
By Laura Burkley
January 28, 2013
Vacations keep us sane. Without unplugging every once in a while, people can get burned out no matter how much they love their jobs. Yes, even small business owners.
Everyone needs a change of scenery, whether it’s during the holidays or a heat wave. While it might be unfathomable for you to leave your company in even the most capable hands, it must be done. Just once a year, if necessary.
The fortunate part of owning an online business is that you’re always a click away. Well, a click away if you have a smartphone or laptop and wireless Internet. Unplugging completely for an extended period of time might not be feasible, but here are a few tips that can help you unwind but not unravel.
Buy a calling card
A calling card or international SIM card allows calling the office easier on the bank account. Google Voice is one alternative where the phone number rings through the cell phone, and it’s one of the least expensive options.
With an online business, cameras that hook up the computer are a must-have. On a regular basis, you’re able to have face-to-face conferences with your clients when you can’t physically be there. On vacation, you can check in with your staff. Skype can be a mobile or desktop app that connects over Wi-Fi. One tip to remember: Set your phone to airplane mode (even on the ground) to avoid international roaming charges. Skype also has screen-sharing capabilities.
It’s impossible to have every document on-hand. No laptop has that much storage space, and it’s easy to lose jump drives. Box.net gives you access to digital content online using a file and folder system. There is an app for Android and Apple smartphones, as well.
LogMeIn is another remote access program and is perfect for small businesses. Files can be securely accessed through a computer and wireless connection. LogMeIn Ignition is the companion product that allows access from a smartphone.
Social networking sites are an online business’s lifeline to current and potential clients. The free version of SocialOomph offers a way to schedule tweets. The Pro version, which carries a fee, allows you to schedule Facebook posts, monitor Twitter @mentions, Facebook wall posts, blog comments, and more.
Hootsuite is another program that enables you to schedule posts for Twitter and Facebook and monitor posts both on the computer and as a mobile app. Similarly to SocialOomph, the paid version boasts more capabilities.
You’ve Got Mail
For many entrepreneurs, the deliveries don’t stop while you’re away. Delivery Status touch for the iPhone and iPad tracks packages from companies, including UPS, FedEx, USPS, DHL, Canada Post, Royal Mail, and more. Never be caught in the dark when a client emails or calls to ask when a package will arrive.
As technology evolves, the world seems to get smaller and smaller. As an online business owner, having the capabilities to keep your business running smoothly is paramount to your success and to avoiding burnout. Whether it’s a business trip or a vacation, give your customers, your staff, and yourself the tools to stay the course with the company.
Laura Burkey is a freelancer who has visited numerous cities including Madrid and Rome, but she has never stayed in a Waikiki hotel.
By the ZippyCart eCom team
January 24, 2013
Regardless of the target audience you cater to, you should always make sure that your online store is made to deliver performance round the clock. With the competition continuously rising in the retail industry, it’s vital to take good care of your online shoppers so that they don’t turn to your competitors. Today’s online shoppers are smarter, more intelligent and less patient.
So, are you ready to fulfill (and exceed) the expectations of online shoppers as they visit your online store?
If not, it’s high time to prepare! Your online store needs to run to a point where you are 100% confident that you won’t lose any of your online browsers when they hit your landing page. That’s exactly how you can get your online store ready for global domination and beat out the competition.
An online store ready for global domination translates to ‘more sales’.
Given below are a couple of tips that you can use to make your online store more efficient and increase the number of sales.
Offer Global Quality
When you are looking to dominate on a global level, you’ll need to focus on quality. Most of the e-commerce website owners see their online store as a mere collection of a range of products, which is a big mistake. Your audience is never going to buy your products until they are really convinced that they will get good value out of it. That’s where quality content comes into play.
No matter what kind of products you sell, you should pay close attention to the kind of content you feature on your website. Whether it’s the product description, other textual elements, graphics or images, they should be of high quality so that they quickly build loyalty among the target audience.
So, take a closer look on the content of your online store pages.
Easy Checkout for a Diverse Audience
The checkout system of an online store has a huge role to play. As the owner of an online store, you must make sure that the checkout system on your e-commerce website includes the least number of steps possible and is easy to navigate. If your checkout process asks too many questions or requires registration before a purchase, you should minimize it without any delay. ZippyCart features many shopping cart software solutions that offer the fastest 1-page check-out, and other convenient options.
Even minor tweaks can sometimes make a big difference. Reducing the time it takes from browsing to purchase completion is essential and is especially important for a global audience as English may not be a 1st language. The easier the check-out is, the more sales you’ll complete!
Multiple Payment Options
While preparing your online store for global domination, the next important thing that you should pay attention to is the number payment options that you offer. If your online store doesn’t offer payment options that your customers actually want to use, you can easily lose the game. Give them the convenience of payment by all major credit cards as well as PayPal, Amazon and others. Research the areas you have potential areas in and make sure their major form of payment is accepted on your site.
Clear and Concise Store Navigation
Complex layout does an excellent job of confusing the visitors of your e-commerce website. Ask a couple of your friends to try your online store and give you their feedback about the ease of use. If you’re still unsure, evaluate the quality of your online store’s pages by consulting an expert and make necessary changes to make each of the pages very clear and concise. Simplifying the navigation of your online store should be constantly updated – it’s like the show that must go on for continued better results.
Is your online store really ready for global domination? Take a microscopic look and let me know in comments.
By Sarah Brooks
Jan 21, 2013
Unique ways to get your business out there
Marketing used to be easy. It used to be simple. There were essentially three ways to go about it – placing your ad in a newspaper or magazine, picking up the phone and calling potential clients, or good ol’ fashioned face-to-face communication.
Now, we’re living in a digital world. Marketing has become so complicated that most companies, even smaller ones, have to hire experts to do the job. The media is no longer just print and telemarketing. It’s a complicated minefield of both multimedia and social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and online ad campaigns.
Let’s take a look at some of the best ways you can market your business in today’s digital world:
Pinterest recently hit 10 million unique monthly visitors and continues to grow faster than any other independent site in history. Utilize this! It’s a free way to get your business known and recognized. Ways to market yourself via Pinterest include pinning your videos (like “how to” educational videos), creating an “events” board to showcase your guest speakers (who will also re-pin your pin), networking with other businesses similar to your own, and creating visuals that link back to your website or blog.
Create a Facebook page
Create a Facebook page specifically for your business and update it regularly. Facebook is a powerful tool for marketing your business and will create incredible results if you put forth a good amount of time and effort. Post pictures regularly, update your followers on any upcoming events or products, and always respond to emails and questions in a timely manner. You can also pay to use Facebook Ads to help bring in new customers.
Always follow up
Following up with customers may not seem like a way to market, but it can be very effective if you’re consistent with it. Always call or email your customers a few weeks after they’ve made a purchase to make sure they’re satisfied. First, this shows strong customer skills and a genuine care for your customers and business. Second, it puts your company back in the mind of your customer. Whether they buy another product from you or pass your company information on to a friend, you’re creating new business by simply following up.
A webinar is a business-related seminar conducted via the internet. Since they’re free to host, don’t charge potential customers to attend. Feature guest speakers, valuable information about your business, and something that will draw the potential customers in, like a “how to” guide. Host webinars often so customers will visit your site regularly. If possible, conduct them daily.
If your business can afford to, it’s always good to hire the help of professionals to ensure successful marketing techniques are in place. Companies like Vidicom use branded video content to get your brand talked about in conversation. They specialize in satellite media tours, web media tours, branded video distribution, and public service announcements.
Continually anticipate change
No longer can businesses expect to do the same things to continue to grow their sales. Always stay up-to-date on effective marketing strategies and continually change and offer your customers new and improved products. Anticipate change and take action immediately. If you wait to take action until your sales decline, it’s too late.
Remember, the best and most effective way to market your business is by staying in the game.
Guest author Sarah Brooks is a freelance writer providing information on a variety of companies and subjects such as Vidicom, personal finance, and marketing strategies.
By Kelly Ford
January 14, 2013
According to recent research by SundaySky, online video marketing and personalized customer strategy are safe trends for 2013!
The last 12 months have been pivotal for the US online video industry. The following State of Video in E-Commerce infographic is a compilation of US online video industry key trends and metrics, as well as outlook and perspective for 2013. The collective findings and data shared in this report are sourced from industry leaders and experts, specifically Adap.tv, comScore, eMarketer, Forrester, Nielsen, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Pew Internet, and SundaySky’s forthcoming 2013 SmartVideo Index.
- · Online video consumption shows record-breaking numbers of content videos being watched and video ads viewed
- · Personally relevant video foster higher engagement
- · Video advertising market recognized ROI, and hence, increases spending
- · Mobile video viewing reaches an all-time high, and is forecasted for continued growth
- · Use of video among online retailers enriches on-site experience for visitors
- · 2013 online video trends include personalized customer experience and engagement strategies
Guest blogger Kelly Ford, Vice President of Marketing, SundaySky Bio:
A product of both established and emerging organizations, Kelly is a technology marketer and optimist who has built a 18-year career on a passion for breaking new ground. She comes to SundaySky from Operative Media, where, as Senior Vice President of Marketing, she led initiatives to establish and scale the company as the leader in advertising business management, including the acquisition and integration of its primary competitor. Prior to Operative, Kelly headed marketing for LivePerson, leading go-to-market and demand generation initiatives that resulted in 85 percent revenue growth during her tenure. Kelly also previously held senior management roles at Oriel, Groove Networks (now Microsoft) and IBM.
As Vice President of Marketing, Ford sets and executes strategies that build presence and pipeline for SundaySky, and ensure SmartVideo category leadership. Kelly received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Michigan State University.
By Stanley Harper
January 14, 2013
A year later, the Panda update is still hurting legitimate eCom businesses.
A year later… many ecommerce websites are still suffering.
Google released the Panda update back in February 2011 and this was an attempt by the search engine to get rid of web spam and link farms. However, in its aftermath, a huge majority of those hit, apart from the link farms were legitimate ecommerce websites. Largely, it was because of the duplicated nature most ecommerce platforms were designed which made them susceptible to the changes in the Google algorithms.
These platforms give ecommerce sites so many pages which offer nothing new, valuable or unique. These were some of the main reasons ecommerce sites lost up to 90% of their search traffic when the Panda was rolled out. If your site was hit by the Panda update, the following are some of the things you can do to recover your rankings.
Adding content to product pages
The Panda update targeted or devalued pages that had thin content. Most product pages on ecommerce sites have no content and if they have, then the content is mere product photos. There are different ways to add content to product pages and one of the most effective one is writing product reviews for product pages. As long as the content you add to each product page is unique and useful , the page can regain the rankings fast.
Duplicate content checker
This is a great instrument you can use, such as PlagSpotter, to check for duplicate content on your website to ensure it’s not blacklisted by Google. This site has a tool that will enable you determine the health of your ecommerce website and devise the means to save it from the Panda update.
Using variations to cut the number of product pages
The number of valueless pages on many ecommerce platforms is often high and as a ecommerce SEO, you can decide to reduce these pages. Congregating similar pages in broader categories is one way you can employ to reduce the number of similar pages. Having a rolling cat with different collectible products on the same page can also help you improve performance, conversions and sales on the page.
Removing poorly performing pages
Naturally, the Google Panda update hated so many pages on the website. If you have an ecommerce website with products that are not performing or getting attention, the Panda also feels they are useless. The best way to deal with these pages is to look at them in the main dashboard of the Google analytics and removing. This will leave your site with pages that are valuable and hence boost online presence and performance.
Removing product pages
Product pages are some of the worst pages on the ecommerce website because in most cases, they are duplicates or add no value to the searchers. This means that all the shallow pages are reduced or at least removed from the website to pave way for the valuable, sharable and performing pages.
No index tag on the product pages
The other way of dealing with negative product pages is by protecting them from the Google index. These ones can be shielded from indexing with the no index tag on the top pages.
Google ranking tips
- Innovating with the site links options on the Google AdWords is another creative way to leverage your optimization. This feature is rather new and as a newbie, you can gain tremendously by tapping more into this for online success and to sell more.
- Explore every content source you can find. Whether its Google news, images, videos, etc. ensure your website appears in some of the site links for news on a regular basis because Google has increased indexing for news articles and posts.
- If you want to rank highly in Google, it’s best if you can keep up as a member if the Google product family. Google Plus, Google merchant center are just some of the best places to start to rank high in Google and get more success.
- Get social because nowadays, every business needs a social handle whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus. There are more related, custom search results than they were before.
Guest author Stanley Harper is a freelance writer, loves writng SEO tips and tricks.
By the ZippyCart eCom Team
January 9, 2013
The social media landscape has changed quite a lot over the last one year. While there are many start-ups that have yet to embrace social media, you should gear up, anticipate current trends and include social media into your overall marketing plan as soon as possible. To develop a powerful social strategy, however, you’ll also need to abide by some essential guidelines and best practices.
Given below are thirteen tips that start-ups should use to get the most out of their social media marketing efforts in 2013.
#1. Go Beyond Facebook and Twitter
Most of the startups think that social media is all about Facebook and Twitter, which is not true at all. Though these two online platforms have proven to be big players in the social media arena, they are not all that is needed. As a smart start-up, you should also devote time to other potential social platforms like YouTube, Google+, Linkedin, Pinterest etc. At the same time, you shouldn’t hesitate to experiment with a new platform as it emerges on the social media scene.
#2. Invest in a Blog
While talking about owned media, starting a self-hosted business blog is the best that you can do. If you are really serious about giving your competitors a hard time in 2013 and beyond, you should have a blog up and running before late. It’s also advisable to hire an experienced blog or content writer so that your blog stays fresh, relevant and keeps visitors coming. Blogs are an easy addition to any eCommerce site and if you’re in eCom sales and own an online store, your eCommerce solution should be providing one for you.
#3. Make Your Site Mobile-Friendly
Mobile is today’s buzzword. The number of mobile device users continues to swell with each passing day. If your site is not accessible via mobile devices appropriately, you are in serious trouble. Take action right away. Again, look to your eCommerce solution (aka Shopping Cart Software) as they should be making your transition into mobile an easy one.
#4. Know Your Customers
Understanding the needs of your customers is always at the core of a social marketing strategy. If you want to achieve success with your social media marketing efforts, you must know what an ideal customer for your business looks like. Who is included in your target audience? Focus is important for successful marketing.
#5. Continue to Educate Yourself
Knowledge is the ultimate power. In order to create original and unique content, you need to keep yourself abreast of all the latest changes and developments in a niche you cater to. Devote adequate time reading blogs, books and magazines so that you are always ahead of others. Go ahead… subscribe to our RSS feed. ;-)
#6. Define Your Goals
Before you get started with social media marketing, make sure you know what your business goals are. It’s only when you clearly know your goals that you can efficiently track your progress.
#7. Improve Your Email Marketing
Don’t get surprised. As we enter into 2013, we have an urgent need to integrate social, content and email. Provided you integrate them appropriately, you can gain a huge edge over your competition as far as social media marketing is concerned.
#8. Create Quality Products
No matter how much effort you put into marketing, you won’t be able to make an impact if your product doesn’t have quality. Whether you are offering a product or a service, you should make sure it does an excellent job of solving the day-to-day problems of your target audience.
There’s so much that you can learn only if you listen to your customers.
#10. Skip Blatant Promotion
You’ll need to skip promotional speak immediately, if you want to achieve success with social media marketing in 2013. By doing blatant promotion, you’ll lose the trust of your customers even before you build it.
#11. Use Pictures
While creating social media content, you should focus on using pictures or images more and more. Creating engagement among the audience becomes easier with original, top quality images. Use them to your benefits.
#12. Connect with Influencers
First of all, locate the major influencers in an industry you cater to. Then find good ways to reach out to them and connect. Building relationships with industry experts and top professionals can bring you so many benefits.
#13. Memorize All of the Above.
Do you want to share an opinion? Feel free to comment below!
By Craig Fox, Founder of PinnacleCart
January 7, 2013
Remarketing techniques can help you recapture abandoned shopping carts.
It’s clear that more than 71% of customers abandon shopping carts. We only have to look at the combined findings from Forrester’s Understanding Shopping Cart Abandonment Report and The Science of Shopping Cart Abandonment research report to understand the facts behind that. Those reports will show us that customers leave for a variety of reasons. They leave citing price, the timing of their purchase, or the fact that they are not ready to commit.
An important conclusion of the above-mentioned research has been that:
“Not all shopping cart abandonment is bad. In fact, shopping cart abandonment is an important part of the normal buying cycle for many customers and many types of purchase”
SeeWhy’s research also points to the fact that a whopping 75% of customers actually return to purchase, to abandon the shopping cart again, or perhaps just push products into their wish list.
They do return, however, and it’s important to streamline that “return” process for customers. Here’s how to do it:
Understand the Truth about marketing
Marketers and businesses get it all wrong: consumers don’t buy because you showed up; they buy when they are ready to buy and when a complex set of parameters fall into place for them.
Marketing is all about being where customers are looking for you when they are ready. Customers abandon shopping carts for tons of reasons.
As Helen Leggatt of Bizreport.com points out, perhaps it’s the prohibitive cost of shipping or high prices? Could it be because they were just comparison-shopping or maybe they were just unprepared to purchase due to other reasons?
They have their reasons all right. As eCommerce merchants and business owners, our job is to streamline their “return” process. It’s our responsibility to help them find their way back to us – when they are ready, of course.
Developing an inbound marketing strategy, using content marketing, deploying drift marketing techniques, remarketing, launching retargeting ads, and leveraging social media are two commonly used methods to keep them hooked while they get ready for their purchase.
What is drift marketing, you might ask?
Essentially, drift marketing is a type of marketing where marketers or businesses can take action to bring back a customer to your storefront or business website to complete their order. It involves sending out automated, custom emails to reach out to customers/readers who already visited your website or eCommerce store.
Develop an Outreach Program for Quitters
If you publish, will they come? Not always.
That’s why it makes sense not to sit and wait for customers to show up. Especially not when your competitors are busy wooing your customers too. Customers quitting shopping carts are special breed – they came up to the point of no return, only to “possibly” return. Yet, they were interested and they took action. Only, they didn’t finish what they started.
Use custom email marketing tools and concepts like drift marketing to develop a “quitters outreach program”. Make all out efforts to incentivize them, give them more reasons to come back, or probably just show up in their inboxes to let them know that you exist and that there are important to you.
Be there, without really being there
Armando Roggio of Practical eCommerce offers a few tips on managing shopping cart abandonment. We especially concur with his point on “support the buying decision”. Although we are talking about a virtual environment, there are ways to “almost” be there for your customers.
Put up phone numbers, toll-free numbers, live chat buttons, twitter buttons to allow them to reach out to you by Twitter so that you can respond immediately, and email buttons next to every product or service listing on your store.
Highly responsive, live support is the key to keep your customers engaged. Lapses in response times will make them run for the next eCommerce site in their vicinity.
Pull customers in using social proof
Social Proof drives sales and pushes “returning shoppers” to reconsider abandonment. When there’s enough evidence of social proof for your products and services, your offer becomes that much more compelling.
Customers can see that someone “they know” likes the product, or someone important “likes” the product, or thousands of “others” swear by the product. Further, there are celebrity endorsements to boot.
Social proof provides instant assurance and smashes pre-purchase doubts for customers.
Further, you don’t have to limit social proof to your product landing pages alone; you may use social proof in your drift marketing emails to get them to return to your eCommerce store.
How about some inspiration to give you ideas? Getelastic.com published 5 Dimensions of Social Proof on eCommerce Stores showing examples of how social proof is being used to provide customers the assurance they need.
Your eCommerce provider is likely to have tools to help you manage your shopping cart abandonment rates and to allow you to create custom remarketing emails exclusively to customers who’ve abandoned their carts. Use them to your advantage.
Drift marketing brings obtrusive persistence to your marketing efforts. Are you reaching out enough?
Guest Blog Author Craig Fox is the founder and Chief Evangelist at PinnacleCart. With over 15 years of online sales and marketing experience, Craig is one of the driving factors behind Pinnacle Cart, one of the best eCommerce shopping cart solutions on the web. PinnacleCart eCom software specializes in drift marketing and has one of the most robust feature sets available today.
By Paul Rufus
January 7, 2013
Which platform is best for your business needs?
According to international IT advisors, Gartner ‘by 2013, 90% of e-commerce sites will subscribe to an SaaS-based service’.
Now that’s a very bold statement bearing in mind that the e-commerce market in the US alone was valued at $3,260 billion in 2011 (around 10% of the total US retail market). The UK has the highest proportion of online spending in the world, with web purchases accounting for just over 13% of all retail sales in 2012 (Centre for Retail Research) and by 2022, a third of purchases will be made online (The Economist Intelligence Unit).
That’s an awful lot of transactions taking place across one particular delivery model. But, what is SaaS and what are the potential advantages of an e-commerce platform based on the model as opposed to a more traditional platform?
Software-as-a-Service (or SaaS for short) is a software delivery model in which the software and associated data are centrally hosted on the ‘Cloud’ (describing what the ‘Cloud’ is would be a whole technical blog in itself. If you really want to know, I’d advise you to read the comprehensive description on Wikipedia).
Instead of retailers being provided with a platform as a single entity, SaaS-based platforms are developed and maintained by a provider and, in most cases, accessed via a web browser by either the retailer or site developer and with some packages, both.
As an organisation, we’ve been very heavily involved with SaaS products for a number of years, obviously as a provider, but also as a consumer. Internally, we use Saas-based platforms such as Basecamp, Lighhouse, WorkEtc, GitHub and Google Drive to help run our business.
And what do we love about these platforms?
Firstly, we literally don’t have to do anything to make use of them. In comparison to traditional server based products, for a relatively small monthly fee, we get easy access to all the benefits without the headache of maintaining them in-house.
Secondly there’s no IT staff to pay and the tools we need are available from anywhere with a web connection. We can also switch them on and off with little more than a months notice – and benefit from regular updates and improvements.
The same benefits we experience in our chosen platforms, can be found in cloud-based SaaS e-commerce platforms:
- Quick route to market: SaaS-based platforms require no software or hardware installations or internal retailer maintenance. As a result deployment times can be reduced to minutes rather than months (we even built a fully functioning e-commerce shop in just over an hour to prove the point).
- Reduced resources: significantly, the lack of software, hardware and internal maintenance can significantly reduce the drain on already stretched IT resources – both physically and financially. As SaaS providers manage and maintain the servers on behalf of the retailer, they don’t have to wrestle with the day-to-day operational, performance and scalability issues of traditional platforms. Retailers can therefore concentrate on delivering a first-class e-commerce experience – and making sales.
- Scalability: using the cloud for e-commerce sites enables retailers to instantly scale sites to meet changing demands – which can be especially useful during the run up to the holiday seasons when demands on sites can increase massively. The cloud offers a flexible, cost-effective approach, as retailers don’t need to make large upfront capital investments, try to predict usage patterns, or install expensive hardware or software to meet changing demands. We’ve also found that smaller retailers and those start-up businesses love the fact that they can start small and flex as and when demand increases.
- Data backups: unlike traditional software, which often requires costly and laborious backups, using a SaaS platform removes this particular task as they provide automatic backups without the need of a retailers intervention: meaning the integrity of site data is always protected.
- Constant upgrades: retailers will benefit from regular upgrades and updates to the platforms functionality. As SaaS platforms operate a single instance, which powers every site, then updates and improvements roll out to every retailer at exactly the same time.
- Easy to manage and use: SaaS platforms also make it possible to work on sites from anywhere that has an Internet connection – enabling teams to work more effectively and efficiently no matter where they are based. Reputable SaaS platform providers will also provide PCI compliance within the package, reducing a further headache from the equation.
So if you’re thinking about the pros and cons of a SaaS solution versus a traditional full delivery based or bespoke platform, then you should really ask yourself if you’d rather own something that you’re entirely responsible for and have to shoulder all of the burden of keeping it running and up-to-date; or if it’s better to forego a degree of your IP in favour of a far lower initial investment and continuous maintenance for one small on-going monthly fee. The choice is yours.
Which platform do you prefer? Tell us about it in the comments below!
Guest author Paul Rufus is responsible for marketing and business development for Yetti, a cloud-based e-commerce and content management platform.
Pinterest will continue to be a powerful marketing tool in 2013.
By Kim Willington
January 7, 2013
Pinterest is one of the fastest-growing social-networking sites, and it has quickly become the third largest social network. The site is responsible for more referral traffic than LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+ combined.
It is plain to see how much marketing potential the site offers for online businesses and particularly e-commerce sites. Learning how to tap into that potential can help you to drive sales and possibly even take your business to the next level.
Here are a few ways that you can use Pinterest to drive your e-commerce sales:
- Take Amazing Photos Pinterest is a visual site. The chief function of the site is to create a visual pin board of websites and ideas that users want to bookmark. The most visually stunning and interesting photos are the ones that are pinned and re-pinned.
Improve your chances of getting your photos shared by taking the time to take really amazing photos of your products. The more unique and the more compelling the photos are, the greater the chance that they will be shared on the site. The more your photos are shared, the greater the chance that users will follow the link through to your site, and the greater the chance that they will buy your products.
- Add a ‘Pin It’ Button to Your Items Make it easy for your site visitors to share your content on Pinterest by adding a “pin it” button to all your items. This subtle call to action will increase the likelihood that users will pin your items, which will get you more exposure on the site. The more items you have pinned to the site, the more likely users are to re-pin your content. The more your content is re-pinned, the more visitors you are likely to get to your site, and the more sales you are likely to get. Simply encouraging your users to share your content by adding this subtle visual nudge to your site can help you get more exposure on Pinterest, which feeds a positive marketing cycle that can lead to more sales.
- Pin Your Own Items Take charge of what is shared on Pinterest by pinning some of your own best products. By doing so, you can also optimize your pins with keywords and compelling descriptions. Pinterest has also added a feature whereby you can mark your pins as gifts and can include a banner over the picture that shows the price.Choose some of your best items, and pin them in a slow and steady trickle so that you regularly appear in your followers’ news feeds. Pinning all your content in a single burst can create spam that will turn away your followers.
- Create Boards with Complementary Products Pinning too much of your own content can make you seem overly self-promotional, which can turn away your followers and cause you to lose sales. You can diversify and share content that is both useful to your readers and benefits you.
You can do this by create pin boards that feature complementary products. For example, if you sell record players, you can create boards of your favorite albums by genre or era. If you sell women’s jeans, you can create boards of your favorite jewelry, handbags and shoes. These boards may not directly sell your products, but they will give users more reason to follow you, and while they are looking at some of this complementary boards, they may also take a look at your products and even buy a few of them.
- Create Boards that Reflect Your Style Maybe what you sell doesn’t have a lot of natural complementary products. For example, if you sell acoustic guitars, there isn’t much else that goes with them except other guitars or guitar picks and cases. That limits your possibilities for a lot of boards.
What you can do instead is create boards that reflect your company’s style and brand. So if you sell acoustic guitars, you may create boards that show off your favorite street styles, ideas for mixed cocktails, rockstar home design, jewelry, and more. Again, your additional boards may get more followers, which could then learn more about your products and even buy them.
Pinterest is a great tool for marketing your e-commerce site. Use these tips and you can drive more traffic and more sales.
Do you use Pinterest to market your e-commerce site? Share your tips for success in the comments!
Guest author Kim Willington is a freelance writer and researcher for Helpdesksoftware.org. In her spare time, she enjoys antiquing and taking long walks with her retriever, Spencer.