You walk into a store and are greeted by a customer service representative with a smile on their face, holding a tablet POS device.
“How can I help you?” they ask. And this time they really mean it.
Retail sales in particular are being positively impacted by use of tablet devices for onsite payment processing, also known as Tablet POS, which stands for Tablet Point of Sale.
There are good reasons for the transition to Tablet POS for retail and other merchants. Businesses can integrate Tablet POS with their existing accounting systems to process sales and returns, do inventory and price checks and even accept returns on merchandise. It’s all possible using “tablets” as mobile devices. That mobility is reshaping how many businesses interact with customers from the moment they walk in the door, often saving valuable time for customer and salesperson alike by eliminating the need for checkout lines.
The Benefits are Real
Imagine you want to check availability of your shoe size for a style on display at the store. Rather than sending the salesperson on a goose chase back into the bowels of the store, they can check availability of a shoe in that size and style on the spot with a Tablet POS device. If the customer tries it on and is happy, they can make the purchase then and there. That’s Tablet POS efficiency in action.
Even small merchants are using secure payment processing because customer data is immediately processed and typically encrypted through software that is compliant with PCI (Payment Card Industry) security standards. That is one of the first measures any merchant should use in assessing Tablet POS.
Tablet POS is an effective way to increase customer satisfaction with a better sales experience for merchants of all sizes, from those with just one location, all the way up to national chains.
Guest author Karen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, a credit card processing firm, and also serves on its Board of Directors. She has more than 15 years experience in the bankcard industry in direct sales, sales management and marketing.
A longtime ZippyCart favorite, the Americommerce Hosted Shopping Cart Solution is making headlines again with some big changes and updates. They’ve always been one of the few top ranked eCommerce solutions to offer multiple store fronts but now, with a slew of new features and updates, they’re offering up an eCommerce shopping cart that’s more attractive than even before. I wanted the inside scoop so I got a hold of Americommerce‘s Business Development & Marketing Manager, Justin McCullough, for an interview and here is what was found out! Q: ZippyCart has been a longtime fan of the Americommerce Hosted Shopping Cart Solution and lately, we’ve noticed you guys have a new logo and look with your website. What new updates and features have you rolled out this year?
A: It’s been an amazing year actually. For us to just be a small team of 30 people, we’ve covered a lot of ground in the last nine months from launching our new logo, rebranding everything from end to end include a newly designed website and tons of new features. We landed on the Inc. 5,000 list for the second year in a row and early in the year we completed our PCI DSS Level 1 with Trustwave and we’re now officially recognized as a PCI Certified ecommerce platform. Amazing progress!
As for features, back in February we launched our embedded ecommerce tools, a full blogging system, and a customer rewards and points system. Then in April we launched our new logo and rebranded everything from business cards to a newly designed website. We’ve also rolled out new integrations for partners like Lexity, Nextopia, Riskified, Justuno, Referral Candy, and e Fulfillment Services.
Q: And just in general, what are the strengths and features that attract most online business owners to the Americommerce Hosted Shopping Cart Solution?
A: Honestly, it’s the fact that we invest in a deeper feature set, more settings, and total control over what you can do with your store from advanced design needs to integration and even custom development for specific features.
As an industry, everyone talks about getting online easily, quickly, and getting your store up over the weekend. We tend to go the opposite direction and talk about pro-grade tools for sophisticated online retailers who want more control over their store, being able to run more than one store from the same admin and lots of powerful tools – not light features.
I’d say the fact that you can run multiple stores, a Facebook store, and add ecommerce to any existing site or social network is a good reason people come to us.
Q3: Can you share what you guys have going on behind the scenes right now? Give ZippyCart readers a sneak peek idea of what’s coming up soon from the Americommerce Hosted Shopping Cart Solution!
A: You bet! Two things!
On September 3rd, we’ll do an early release of our new responsive admin which is full of new features like drag and drop dashboard widgets, menu builder, file manager and a user interface that’s totally responsive for tablet and desktop users. Our early test users have been saying this new admin is a game changer, so that’s been really encouraging.
As for a look behind the scenes, we’re rolling out a plan to have totally responsive themes available in our theme gallery. This means new themes for AmeriCommerce users and those themes will look great on an iPad or tablet right from the start.
And, I’m not sure if we can get into all the details, but AmeriCommerce is acquiring another company and that will wrap up soon.
Q4: With an eye on next year, what do the team at Americommerce Hosted Shopping Cart Solution feel will be the top trends in eCommerce for 2014?
A: Mobile will continue to trend up. So will more small hyper-focused apps and integration software that does one thing extremely well and uses API’s to integrate with others.
Q5: Any words of wisdom for newbie eMerchants, who are just entering the world of eCommerce?
A: Pick the right platform for growth. Ecommerce as an industry is hard, so be ready to get competitive and savvy about how the web works and how shoppers shop online. From the very beginning be thinking about how you will be running your new store to generate traffic, buyers, repeat buyers
We find a lot of people are looking for fast and easy, but often regret it when they start to really manage their store and they can’t do things that drive their conversions, sales, traffic, and promotions.
And lastly, do something you like and build a store you can love!
If you’re interested in learning more about Americommerce Hosted Shopping Cart Solution, feel free to leave your questions and thoughts in the comment selection below or feel free to contact them directly! If you already use Americommerce Hosted Shopping Cart Solution, please tell us about your experience with them!
A day to celebrate! Mother’s Day is a wonderful tradition that is shared between mothers, grandmothers, aunties and other caregivers, with the children and loved ones who have come under their care. This celebration, in it’s many different forms, has spanned since early time but has been recognized in the USA as “Mother’s Day” since the early 20th century.
Simply put, Mother’s Day is a day to spoil your mom. If you still don’t know what to get her however, here are a few quick and easy suggestions. In fact, you can do all of them on the computer, right now!
Help Mom Organize Her Memories
This is a great, last minute idea for Mother’s Day! Bring your old, treasured images out of storage and into the limelight with digital scanning services. Just mail them in and PhotoBin will scan them with the option of online archiving for one year and a free DVD or CD for sharing and safekeeping. You’ll be able to view them online, email them to friends and family, upload them to Facebook, have them enlarged for framing, or turn them into video slideshows. Plus, professional scanning is a surefire way to protect priceless memories from time, elements, and curious toddlers. National: Professional Scanning Services ($109 Value)
Show Your Mom That She’s a Star to You!
Another special last minute Mother’s Day idea can be found when you look to the night sky. Dedicate a star to the one you love for the entire world to see. Your Star Forever allows you to gift an actual star from the universe to someone you care about, so that the person’s name and a shared personal message is associated with it for eternity Every dedication includes a printable certificate of ownership, a personal photo, a personal video, a personal message, and a scheduled email or text delivery of the exciting news. Your choice of photo, video, star name, and message will be included in the registrar forever, so anyone who comes across your star will be able to see your heartfelt tribute. National: Dedicate A Star To Someone Special (89% Off)
Let Mom Pick the Movie… and the Eats!
Oooh, most mothers would love to have a night out with pre-paid gift cards on Mother’s Day. Just in time to plan your next date night, get a Restaurant.com eGift Certificate, two movie tickets and a $5 Dinner and the Movies Gift Code. Enjoy an intimate dinner for two at one of over 18,000 restaurants nationwide and then head to the movie of your choice. The movie tickets are accepted at almost every theater in the US. It’s the perfect way to save on date night with your sweetie or birthday treat! National: Dinner And A Movie For Two (64% Off)
Help Mom Take Better Pictures!
Would your mom like some help with her photography skills this last minute Mother’s Day? Capture stunning shots and develop a whole new outlook on photography with Mom and Pop Photo School. Designed for parents who want beautiful photos of their family, this course will help you feel confident stepping out of AUTO mode. MORE_START In the Mom’s Guide to Great Photos, you’ll learn the secrets of finding the right light and how to get any kid to cooperate—even your own! You’ll learn how to make photography fun with tips on how to stress less, go easy on yourself, and how to best use whichever camera you have – whether it’s a DSLR, point-and-shoot or even a phone camera. National: Mom’s Guide to Great Photos ($19 Value)
Give the Kiva Gift That Keeps Giving
Charity is something that my mom stressed to me so she loves it when I give her a gift that let’s her help others. Every year we exchange a few Heifer International or Kiva gift cards… and then have fun finding new places to volunteer. If you don’t have the funds for a gift card this year, maybe you could simply take your mom to a place and volunteer with her. That special time will always be remembered well.
Give your mom the ability to help another mother in need.
We’d love to hear your last minute ideas for the perfect Mother’s Day gift in the comments!
Have your online business within reach at all times with a mobile dash board app!
It’s become standard these days for eCommerce shopping cart platforms to have some kind of eCommerce dashboard feature. So standard in fact, that it’s easy to assume every eCommerce dashboard is basically the same, and to overlook the true power and convenience that can be offered by this tool. Not all eCommerce 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.
An eCommerce 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? An eCommerce 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 eCommerce 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 having the eCommerce dashboard information 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.
Like it or not, summer is drawing to a close and the holiday season is right around the corner. All the ecommerce sites out there are starting to stock up on the latest and greatest Halloween costumes for the 2011 holiday. The costume parties seem to begin just as soon as the month of October comes around, so everyone needs to be prepared for the festivities. And complimenting couples costumes are always an amusing perk of the holiday. But let’s say you’ve been out of the loop this past year, and need some great ideas for the perfect Halloween costume. Don’t worry, we’ve got you (and your other half) covered this Halloween.
While the young ones are usually the main business for costume designers, the adults are the interested in the biggest and baddest costumes to impress at the company party or take home the prize for best costume at the bar. Here’s your opportunity to get a head start on your competition. When it comes to Halloween costumes ideas for couples, there are a multitude of options, but we’ve picked out the best combos and the best ways to save you money when you get a hold of them online.
Buy Costumes boasts one of the largest online costume catalogs, and frequently offer Halloween enthusiasts a great deal on the latest costumes. Use coupon code SAVE15 by 9/30 to save 15% off your order of $75 or more. This can turn into some serious savings if buying costumes for the whole family! Some of the best couples ideas from Buy Costumes:
Optimus Prime and Sexy Bumble Bee
Mario and Waluigi or Luigi and Princess Peach
Darth Vader & Princess Leia
Wonder Women & Captain America
Hercules and Medusa
Dorthy and the Tin Man (The Wizard of Oz)
Of course, Spirit Halloween also offers a great selection of Halloween get-ups that are sure to impress. Get the costume shopping out of the way early and leave more time for planning your Halloween party. Spirit Halloween is offering a fantastic discount for its customers that will take some of the sting off of your costume purchase: Use coupon code SPAFF20 by 10/26 and receive 20% off a single item in your shopping cart. Some of the great couple’s costume choices from Spirit Halloween:
Zombie Prom King and Queen
Witch and Warlock
Snookie and the Situation (The Jersey Shore)
Inky and Blinky (Pac-Man)
Vampire and Vampiress
Gangster and Flirty Flapper
Maybe you’re looking to get the absolute best deal on a Halloween costume this year. Costume Discounters offers a price match guarantee, where if you find the same costume for a lower price, the ecommerce site will match that price. Not only that, but Costume Discounters is offering free shipping for any order over $60. Just use the coupon code: FREE60. And for orders of $150 or more, use code 15MORE for 15% off. Or for 10% off $35 or more use 35SPRING. And if you order the wrong size, the site will pay for return shipping. So go ahead and confidently order any one of these great costume ideas for couples:
Ring Master and Sexy Circus Ring Master Mistress
Pebbles and Bam-Bam
Uncle Sam and Statue of Liberty
Snow White and Storybook Prince
Red Riding Hood and The Big Bad Wolf
Matadorable and Torro the Terri-bull
Costume Kingdom also offers a wide variety of costumes, ranging from Vampire outfits to costumes emulating famous Pop Stars. Along with the large amount of kids costumes, the site offers a vast collection of adult costumes, many of which can be paired together to form an awesome couples costume. Costume Kingdom offers tons of pop-culture couple outfits, things that are sure to get a laugh at all the Halloween parties. Save 10% on any purchase with coupon code CK10 when you buy through 9/30/11. Just a few ideas:
The world of ecommerce solutions encompasses a lot of different types of businesses, of all kinds – large and small. While each business is different, there are certain things that they all have in common, techniques and skills that come in handy no matter how big you are or how long you’ve been in business.
First off, one thing that every business needs, at some point in its life/growth cycle, is to hire more people. Right now, many of you reading this may be struggling to survive or grow, but with proper social media efforts (we’ll talk about that more later) and a little luck, you could find yourself dealing with a flood of orders and capital, and find yourself needing to expand.
There’s the rub: right now you’re small. Sure you might wish for more revenue, but with more money come more problems. The only solution can be, in some cases, to expand your staff. But you can’t just rush out and hire the first person who replies to your Craigslist ad. You need to carefully select every member of your team – especially when you’re small. As you grow out your core team, the new member you add will become the core of future success.
But just because you think that you know what you need to power your store (and you probably do), doesn’t mean you automatically know how to attract, interview, and ultimately hire the right talent for the job. That’s where Udemy comes in. We’ve got a special deal lined up for Zippycart readers for Udemy’s turbocharged “How to Hire and Interview the Best People” course for a whopping 60% the usual price.
This course gives you insight from industry greats like Auren Hoffman, who helped build the “hiring machine” the continues to power RapLeaf. They attribute their high grade corporate culture to their ability to secure “A Players.” Don’t you want A Players? Of course you do! Even in these harsh economic times, great talent isn’t out there just sitting around waiting for you to come look for it. The best and brightest are out there knocking down doors at places like Google and Twitter, who will gladly start a bidding war with 7-figure signing bonuses for the right person.
Maybe you feel like you can’t compete with the likes of these giants, but with guidance from Auren, Russ Fradin (executive, early employee, or founded at 4 different companies that each sold for over $100 million), Dan Arkind (Silicon Valley hiring guru) and four other industry pros, you’ll be able to confidently leverage your own company’s offerings to get you the strongest players around. The seven-part PowerPoint program will give you the skills you need.
But a strong team isn’t enough! Just because you have a great product or service or ecommerce solution doesn’t mean that you’re on a smooth track to success and big payoffs. Just the opposite – when you’ve got something really great you need to hustle and make sure that everybody knows about it! Brand loyalists and fans will help build a vibrant consumer base and keep people talking, but unless you help power the social media conversation around your business, you’re going to be sitting up late, listening to your computer hum and wondering why no one is clicking “buy” on your ecommerce solution.
Udemy’s “Social Marketing for Startups” crash course, powered by Sprouter heavyweight Dan Martell will tell you everything you need to know (and didn’t even know you needed to know) about using social media to skyrocket your product or service to high visibility in what is becoming an increasingly crowded (but still super important) space: social media.
Everybody and their cat (literally!) has a Facebook Page, Twitter account, Tumblr micro blog, a LinkedIn profile (that they either update WAY too much or never bother to update at all) and is scrambling for a Google+ invite that they have no idea what to do with. Dan is here to show you what you’re doing right and what you should be doing that you’re not thinking about. For 60% off and an untold amount of ROI, can you really afford to turn down this great offer?
Google+ has become Google’s foray into the social media world. Recently launched this week, Google+ is an invite-only, Facebook-like, social network that has rapidly evolved into a social club that everyone wants into, but at this point in time, no one can.
According to the site, it had exceeded its current capacity and thus put a halt to letting its existing users send invites to their friends. The site currently reads, “Thanks for stopping by. We’re still ironing out a few kinks in Google+, so it’s not quite ready for everyone to climb aboard. But, if you want, we’ll let you know the minute the doors are open for real. Cool? Cool” (yes Google, we’re cool).
The ‘good news’ is that there’s a waiting list to be part of the Google+ in-crowd, and the stranger news is that people are selling invites on eBay for those desperate to join now. Most invite offers are starting at $0.99 with “instant delivery,” whereas a handful are being priced at up to $100!
Hopefully those considering putting an invite into their eBay shopping cart will question just how legitimate the invite really is and if it’s worth the cash. However, whenever a product or service is invitation-only, a certain kind of exclusivity can draw out the impulsive side of the consumer and perhaps, a flash back to high school. People want what they can’t have and everyone wants to be a part of the ‘in-crowd.’
So what’s so amazing about Google+ that people are willing to bid on an invite that in a number of days will be free, or otherwise can get their social fix on Facebook in the meantime?
So far it seems Google+ is a hybrid version of Facebook. Many users say the interface is reminiscent of the giant social network but its design complements Google.com’s new look.
Users can ‘hang out’ through G-chat, or video chat with friends. There’s an interactive navigation bar, and so far, there are no advertisements on the sidebars (or at least for now). Of course there’s the Facebook Google+ friend streams where users can like “+1” a post, comment or photo, a friend management tool called “Circles,” and what’s leading the pack is the data management. Users can pick up all the data they have collected on Google+ and walk away if they choose. It’s a win-win on privacy issues as well.
Rumor has it that Google+ will also be adding social games like FarmVille, CityVille, and the other ‘villes’ to its platform dubbed Google+ Games. It seems like a natural move for Google to make since investing more than $100 million in Zynga in 2010 and the runaway success Zynga has become.
Google+ has potential to compete head on with Facebook, some users even go as far as to say it could be a Facebook killer and fade away like MySpace My [_____]. Google+ will be a project worth watching because success doesn’t come over night. It’s obvious, even now, Google+ has a few kinks to work out and develop distinguishable functions to prove it’s a better alternative to Facebook. For any social network, it will take time to build a loyal user base and features, that is if people can get an invite.
It has nothing to do with ecommerce solutions, but here is an adorable puppy.
Everything is local these days when it comes to ecommerce solutions. When online commerce first started gaining strength, it worked in the opposite manner: people were attracted to great deals and could get them from anywhere. If a store in another town or another state had a better price on a product you wanted and time wasn’t a factor, then you’d order it through their ecommerce solution and wait.
Nowadays people have become so accustomed to buying online that good deals are no longer enough. The backlash against online sites offering deep discounts on everyday and specialty items led to campaigns (many backed by local Chambers of Commerce and other local business organizations) encouraging shoppers to “buy local.” Enter the Groupon. The rise of hyperlocal deals led to a slew of copycats which has only fueled the daily/local/targeted deals marketplace.
Well eBay is taking that local deals energy and throwing it behind their own ecommerce solution. They were one of the first big names to partner with Groupon, even though it was initially unclear how their business model would jibe with Groupon’s. They did recently run a pretty decent offer allowing Groupon members to get a $15 eBay gift card for only $7. When it comes to true hyper-local offers through eBay, their current initiative with Milo and their new Fetch product may be a step closer.
eBay acquired Milo in December of 2010 for 75 million dollars. The Milo platform helps local, brick-and-mortar businesses post their inventories online where they can be accessed by shoppers far and wide. This helps bridge the gap between online retailers and main street shops. eBay’s latest move has been to leverage the Milo platform into the Fetch service. Fetch which will direct users of the eBay ecommerce solution towards local retailers.
Moves like this are what separates eBay so drastically from Amazon.com says Christopher Payne , eBay’s president for North America. According to him, both ecommerce solutions offer independent retailers a chance to sell online, but only eBay does it without directly competing with consumers. With this new local functionality, eBay could be set to recruit a whole slew of new retailers.
Recently, XenonProject, retailers of die-cast and radio controlled vehicles, shot ZippyCart a little gift in the form of a 1:24 scale Lamborghini Murcielago LP670-4 SV, and asked us to perform a rigorous formal product review. As our company’s business model is based on providing non-biased, detailed evaluations on ecommerce software sources, we were more than happy to oblige XenonProject’s request and give tangible products a shot. Here’s what we came up with:
Before opening even the package, you are immediately drawn in by the car’s color, which is an almost exact match for Lamborghini’s custom “Super Fly Yellow 2CT” paint job. It makes this model look as if it actually could do the Murcielago’s standard 0-to-60 in 2.6 seconds.
The chassis itself is extremely well detailed. From the positioning of the aerodynamic side-skirts, all the way down to the raging bull emblem on the hood and rims, this R/C car has every element of the original Lambo’s design. Tack on the blacked out windows with matching wheels and spoiler, and this replicated miracle of Italian engineering already has a BA (bad ass) presence about it before the box is even opened.
Pop The Top:
Once the Lambo is released from its cardboard hoosegow, you can really soak in all its glorious detail by taking advantage of yet another sense: touch. Though the car may have come from a mold, it’s a very well detailed mold, sporting all the grooves and notches of the original SV.
It’s also noteworthy that there are zero stickers on this guy. Every decal has either been painted or hot-pressed on the car (not sure which one), ensuring longevity of its BA status and permanently detaching itself from the realm of cheesy R/C replicas.
Open The Choke and Pull The Chord:
Now is the time where we switch gears, throw formalities out the window and roast our tires on the tarmac to see just how well this 49 MHz gremlin handles the ZippyCart test track.
-Test 1, Handling: The Lambo’s steering was decently tuned, but tended to veer just slightly to the left, a bit frustrating when trying trying to shoot gaps. It wasn’t that bad, though, considering we took the car straight from the box to the street, and ignored the paper detailing instructions on proper use and various functions. Now if we had taken the time to read the directions, we would have known about the steering adjustment lever between the front wheels that would have fixed our initial drifting situation.
-Test 2, Speed: For a 49 MHz R/C car weighing roughly a pound and running on only three double-A batteries, we weren’t expecting much in the way of speed. Boy were we wrong. This bad boy was clocked in at a max speed of 3-feet-per-second, or just a little over 2 miles an hour.
-Test 3, Frank The Tank: Now, this next test may seem a bit unorthodox, but I assure you it was a necessary evil to assess the overall structural integrity of the vehicle (although, we admittedly derived a certain guilty pleasure while performing said test). In fact, the importance of this test can’t even be explained in mere text; as such, we have included video documentation for future researchers, and mild entertainment. Enjoy!
Here at Zippycart, we like to showcase new and innovative businesses in the ecommerce space, especially when those businesses use ecommerce solutions featured here on the site. It’s a great way to show electronic entrepreneurs in action, using the tools you can find right here to get the job done. Tom Baker, co-founder of HighKey Camera Straps, uses Shopify to keep his business running smoothly. As an avid amateur photographer myself, I was really keen to sit down with Tom and hear about how he and his business partner Andie came up with the idea for HighKey, and how they use the Shopify ecommerce solution to handle the various aspects of their daily business routine. Here’s what I found out:
Q. Why did you choose to go with Shopify for your ecommerce solution? What have you liked best about it so far? Anything you do not like? Did you try any other solutions before going with Shopify, or seriously consider any others?
We chose Shopify because the previous ecommerce service we were using was charging us an arm and a leg for everything. Shopify offers unlimited bandwith (our biggest factor in choosing them), great templates (half of them are free, ours was $120) and the fastest/nicest customer service I’ve ever seen. The one thing we’d like to see changed are the options available inside of our store. Right now the set-up seems very basic, and an example of something we’d like to see is the option to automatically sell and redeem gift cards.
Q. Are people with DSLR your primary audience, or what kind of insight do you have into which kinds of cameras customer have?
DSLR shooters are our primary audience. All of these large cameras have the same size camera strap, so it’s easy to sell to customers regardless of what brand their camera is. We’ve also heard of people using our straps for binoculars, but that’s not very often.
Q. It sounds like you and your business partner Andie are also photographers. What kind of durability tests have you put the straps through? I assume you two have used them more than almost any other person, so would be great to hear more insight into how they have been field tested.
We use these straps every day with heavy gear and sometimes in nasty conditions, and they have held up perfectly the whole time we’ve been in business. We’re planning some demonstration videos in the near future to show the strength and durability, but they’re definitely holding up to everything we put them through.
Q. What kinds of things do you promote or discuss in your newsletter?
We like to feature other photographers around the web doing fun projects, cool gadgets and gear, and any other topics that might be interesting to photographers. We don’t really talk about ourselves, because we do that enough on our website.
Q. How do you decide which new designs to try, and which designs to phase out?
A lot of our newer designs are based on customer input. Facebook has been a huge help in getting feedback on new ideas we’re interested in launching. When we first started, we chose all the styles ourselves, and since then we’ve phased out a majority of our first run straps. Some styles are made by various artists which we offer only as a limited edition, so when those are sold out we remove them from our website.
Q. How long have you had the custom strap component to the site? How popular is it?
The custom straps have been around for almost a year, and account for about 40% of our sales (and growing!).
Q. You call out international shipping, what kind of traction do you have outside the US? Are any countries outside the US buying a lot of custom straps?
Oh yes! International orders make up half of our shipments, and we ship internationally every single day. I think our last count was that we’ve shipped straps to over 60 different countries. It’s really fun seeing the different custom straps with words in all different languages, and then shipping them to places you rarely ever hear about.
Q. You look to be active on FB and Twitter. How have those helped your business grow? It looks like FB has more traction in comparison to Twitter.
We are doing a better job maintaining our Facebook account than we are our Twitter. With Facebook we’re able to post photos of new straps, customers can post photos of their straps, etc, and it’s much easier to interact. Twitter seems like a good place for making announcements, but the interaction level is very low.
Q. Anything new planned in 2011 you can tell us about?
Oh yes! We’re in the process of creating some custom 100% leather straps (just purchased a laser machine!) while also giving customers the option to design their own. Also on our list of things to do this year is to release our coming line of camera wrist straps and straps for smaller cameras.
Q. What is an average day like for the High Key Camera team?
In terms of running the business, we’re inundated with emails every day, and we spend a lot of time answering them. It’s actually quite surprising how many questions people have about camera straps, even with our extensive FAQ. We’ve been trying to get people to read the FAQ before they email us because that would cut down on 90% of our emails, but it’s not working very well. Besides email, we spend a few hours packaging and shipping the straps, and we like to devote the rest of our time finding, creating, and getting feedback on new styles. Also, a big secret of where our creativity comes from is frequent trips to Jamba Juice and 5 Guys Burgers.
Advances in technology have made it easy to obtain shopping cart software to start an online business, but the ones that succeed often have a great marketing strategy that helps to drive people to their website. Sites like Zappos.com differentiated themselves from the rest of the pack with great customer service and amazing relationship marketing, which allowed them to generate the substantial revenues that attracted Amazon to purchase them for almost $1 billion. This is just one example of a company that jumped into a crowded online niche, and become a major success story.
There are a number of different marketing techniques like using pay per click advertising or SEO to attract more consumers to your online business, but there are other effective methods of promoting your business in a fun way. Word-of-mouth marketing encompasses a variety of techniques which work to create a buzz among consumers, and get them interested in learning more about your online business. One easy but effective approach to promote your online business is to use custom stickers and custom skins to spread the word about your website and create interest among consumers. You can add stickers into a customer’s shipping box on their first order, or pass them out to friends, family, and employees. The custom vinyl skins can be used to cover your laptop, iPhone, iPod, or iPad, so you can show off your online business wherever you go.
There are many places online where you can purchase custom stickers and custom skins. However some of these sites look very outdated, and do not give the impression that they can create amazing stickers for your online business. When you Google “custom stickers” you will find one ecommerce site on the first page of results that seems to set themselves apart from the competition. This new entrant into the custom sticker scene is Stickermule.com, who launched their ecommerce business earlier this year. They started work on their ecommerce site in February this year, and in working with Railsdog.com, they were able to quickly announce their official debut on their blog in late March. Rails Dog covered Sticker Mule on their blog just a week later and highlighted how easy the ecommerce site is to use for consumers, in addition to a number of technical features about site. Custom images are stored in the cloud with Amazon, and the site is running on the Ruby on Rails based open-source e-commerce platform, Spree, which was created by Rails Dog CEO, Sean Schofield.
When you arrive at the site, you will instantly enjoy the sleek design and straightforward layout that makes it easy to understand and use when creating custom stickers and custom skins. They have colorful homepage images that help show off how nice their creations look upon completion, and have three big boxes below that highlight their different product lines. Consumers can either choose custom stickers, die-cut stickers, or custom skins. When it comes to custom stickers, they have a number of different shapes and sizes to choose from, so you can get the right design to match you brand’s logo. Die-cut stickers are very cool, as they maintain the shape of your logo. The die-cut sticker example throughout the site is the mule from the Sticker Mule logo, but they also showoff a number of other design samples. Custom vinyl skins allow you to upload your design, and have it replicated on a skin that can be used for a laptop, iPhone, iPod, or iPad, They can be easily attached and removed whenever you like. The only downside here is that you have to order multiple skins at once, but Sticker Mule is discussing the option of adding one-off orders in the future.
If you have an online business, you need to make sure that you continually experiment with new marketing techniques. While the custom stickers and custom skins approach might not be right for all online business, it is definitely a great idea that most ecommerce sites can test for little money.