Welcome to the Merchandizer eCommerce Blog
Thursday, April 20, 2006
It could be a number of reasons, discount them all before you decide the product that you did all that marketing research on is a dud. Check these three main areas to see if you might need to make some improvements.
Make sure that your product is presented in a good light. Do you have clear photographs on your website? Is the product adequately described? Selling on the web is no time to be vague. You need to be as detailed as possible and try to give your potential customers all the information you can about what you are selling.
Does your website load quickly? Do you have screaming graphics or annoying pop up ads assaulting your website visitors? All of these are big turn offs for many people and they will click their back buttons never to return. Make sure your website is fast loading and easy to read.
Your Shopping Cart
Does your shopping cart program work correctly? Does it ask for everything but first-born child's name and blood type from your customers? Intrusive shopping carts were rated to be a huge turn off with customers. A Shopping cart from Merchandizer is fast loading and only asks the minimum of information from your customers to get the sale and delivery of their items handled. More customers rated this type of shopping cart program a pleasant shopping experience.
Give your website the once over and see if you have any places you can improve to make the shopping experience more positive for your potential customers and watch your products sell!
Well not really, but research by Clickz, the internet statistics firm, shows that on the average, most web browser make the decision to buy or not buy from a firm in the first 46 seconds they are at a website. There are huge numbers of online businesses on the web and more opening every single day. You will want your business to stand out, but how?
First of all, make sure you have a different business model. Don't just copy a competitor website and all. What works for your competitor may not work for you. Find an aspect of the business, also known as "Targeting the Untargeted". One big success story involves two guys who owned ferrets and they had great difficulty finding food in their town to feed the ferrets. They started an online business selling ferret food. It soon caught on and they were selling not online ferret food, but other exotic pet foods and care products as well. That is a bright example of opening up a niche market successfully.
Make sure your ecommerce software is customer friendly. People hate shopping cart programs that are page after page of personal questions. Merchandizer designed their shopping cart program with just that in mind and made an easy to use, low information, non-intrusive ecommerce program that customers prefer. Make sure your website states clearly what you sell, tell about your products and give your customers the best shopping experience possible.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
You've been collecting email address in an acceptable way. You had a raffle at your last trade event and in exchange for a change to win an Ipod, people filled out a form with their first names and email address and you also have been building a good sales listing of email address to send a marketing email newsletter to.
You wrote a newsletter about who won the Ipod in the raffle, talk about a few items in your store, an upcoming sale on a few products and even threw in a joke that wouldn't offend anyone and was legitimately funny. But you didn't proof read it or check your links and you just sent out a newsletter to 10,000 people with broken or worse incorrect links to supposed products on your website and a misspelled word here or there will change the entire meaning of a sentence.
Double-check your imbedded links and your newsletter. You want to look like the professional you are and not some bumbling soul. Sending out items that look badly will leave the impression that if you can't get a newsletter together, how on earth will you handle an order? One of the best ways to proofread is to read your newsletter out loud. You might miss a word if you're reading silently. Reading aloud really makes you listen and you will find nearly all grammatical errors this way. Your marketing is an extension of your company. Make sure your company is always presented in a sparkling, competent light.
You would think that people are fairly immune to receiving emails from business, but statistics say nearly 43% of online businesses use email in their marketing campaigns and they do it successfully.
One way to get more sales results from emails is to not make it a readily recognizable email, make it a newsletter. It doesn't have to read like a best selling novel, just something newsy and informative. Tell about a new product, new sale, recent events around the store (even if you're an online business only), or other little newsworthy items. Email campaigns still carry a lot of weight with people if they are well written.
Don't purchase a list from a marketing agency, many times those email addresses are old and you probably aren't reaching your intended demographic area of potential customers. Instead, put a box out at an event and collect email addresses and names in exchange for entry into a contest. Another way is to put a sign up box right on your website. Either way you are reaching people who asked you to contact them and they won't likely report you to your ISP for spamming. This is called "Permission Based Marketing" and it works.
Send out a newsletter on a regular basis, offer discounts for referrals. This is a huge way to bring in fresh traffic to your website. Don't get left behind, get in on the email marketing revolution and watch your sales soar!
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
In general, a corporation is a business entity that is given many of the same legal rights as an actual person. A corporation may be a single person or a group of people, known as sole corporations or aggregate corporations. Corporations exist as virtual or fictitious persons, granting some protection to the actual people involved in the business. The limitation of liability is one of the many advantages to incorporation, and is a draw for smaller business to incorporate.
A corporation may issue stock, either private or public, or may be classified as a non stock corporation. If stock is issued, then the corporation will usually be governed by its shareholders, either directly or indirectly. The most common model is a board of directors which makes major decisions, serving the best interests of the shareholders. In the United States, there are three major types of corporations, Close, C, and S.
Close corporations issue stock, but the amount of shareholders is limited, usually to less than thirty. Normally all shareholders are involved in decision making, and the transfer and sale of stock is tightly controlled.
C Corporations are the most common type in the United States. They allow for theoretically unlimited amounts of stock to be issued, and usually have a smaller board of directors that make decisions. C Corporations pay taxes at the corporate and personal levels.
S Corporations are nearly identical to C corporations, except that they have special tax status with the IRS. S Corporations are only required to tax their dividends, the corporation itself does not need to pay taxes.
Working from home sounds like everyone’s dream job! There are many myths floating around out there about home businesses. Here are just a few, and the real facts on those topics.
Myth #1: You must be a sales person to be successful
Home businesses come in all types. Plenty of home based sales opportunities out there, but that is just a small part of the home business world. Although being a good salesperson is helpful for getting your business off the ground, it is not a requirement…let your products speak for themselves! There are many non sales businesses and careers out there that can be done from home. For example:
Myth #2: You can’t work with kids at home.
Kids certainly put their own demands on a home business, but the belief that you cannot work with kids at home simply is not true. Here are a few tips for making it work.
-Find a flexible location for your office, where you can shut out all distractions when you need to, or monitor children, if needed.
-Set a regular business schedule that accommodates the needs of your family, but that your customers can rely on as well.
-Ask for help from your spouse or relatives when you need it!
-Bring a babysitter into the home during work hours. Even a few hours a day can be a huge help!
Myth #3: You’ll get rich quick.
A home business is like any other business. It takes a lot of hard work and time to build sufficient income from home. It would be wise to ignore all of the promises of “get rich quick” schemes out there. If it sounds too good to be true…well you know the rest!
Myth #4: You cannot make any money.
Recently, a research firm found that income generating home based businesses can bring in, on average, $63,000 per year. Money is there to be made, with hard work, a product people want, and lots of heart and soul! One key element is to find something you love doing!
Myth #5: Home businesses are not real businesses.
A business is a commercial or industrial establishment, a store, factory, etc., according to Webster’s. Businesses are not defined by how many cash registers they have or where they are located. In fact, the term “brick and mortar” had to be coined to distinguish between traditional storefronts and home businesses.
Myth #6: Home businesses are cheap.
Some businesses can be started on the cheap, using things you already may have (like a phone, computer, etc). Some also require a substantial investment of both time and money.
Myth #7: If you are at home, you aren’t working.
Most home business owners feel the effects of this myth at some point. Anyone who works at home can tell you however, that nothing could be farther from the truth. This fact still doesn’t stop friends and relatives from calling, visiting, and generally acting as if you have nothing better to do all afternoon than talk. If you find this to be a problem, then set regular business hours, and tell these people what they are. Use separate phone lines, and answer only your business line during these hours. Don’t fall into the trap of running errands for people or babysitting during your work day just to be nice. Don’t be shy. Be polite, but firm as well, and let non-business callers know that you are busy working, and you will call them back when you take a break. Time really is money. If you treat your home business as such, others will as well.
Monday, April 17, 2006
Staring a home business can be a complicated task, and for many people, can seem overwhelming. Folloring this simple checklist will cover the most important points that you need to consider, and will help you to remain focused as you try to get started:
Step 1: Create a Business Plan
Even though you are the only one who will ever read it, it is important to plan out your business and the important milestones that you want to accomplish. Think of this like the baby book for your business.
Step 2: Establish your Business Entity
You will need to decide how you want to run your business. You can run this as a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or a corporation.
Step 3: Get your License or Reseller Certificate
Make sure that you are in compliance with local, state, and federal laws, and get a business license or reseller certificate if required.
Step 4: Check with Your Local Zoning Commission
You do not want to have your business shut down prematurely because of zoning laws. Make sure that you can legally run your business from your home before you put in too much time and effort.
Step 5: Purchase Insurance
Determine what kind of insurance you need, and purchase it before you actually open up your new home based business.
Step 6: Organize your Office
A well organized office space will not only make your life easier, but it also leads to a successful home business. Make sure that your office is in a place where you will be able to focus with minimal distraction.
Step 7: Purchase Equipment
Make sure that you purchase any required equipment ahead of time. You will avoid embarrassing moments if your customer, for example, wants to fax an order and you don’t have proper equipment ready.
Step 8: Set up Your Web Site
You will need to purchase a domain and set up your site so that it is ready to go live when you open for business. By planning carefully, you will be able to include your domain name on your business’s promotional materials.
Step 9: Make your Schedule
Even if you don’t want to work 9 to 5, you will need a schedule that follows somewhat normal business hours so that your customers can reach you.
Step 10: Organize Inventory and get Shipping Supplies ready
If you plan on stocking merchandise, make sure it’s well organized to facilitate quick turnaround time. If you are a smoker, make certain your inventory is in a smoke free area. You should not have to scour your home for a padded envelope either. Gether all of the supplies you will need for mailing ahead of time.
Step 11: Open your Doors
The only thing left, now that you are completely prepared, is to open up your doors for business! Good luck!
Buying a new computer for your home business is simple, all you have to do is figure out what you need to buy and where to buy it right? That might seem like an overwhelming task in itself for many people. With new technology emerging each and every day, it’s often hard to distinguish what’s enough from what’s too much, especially for those on a budget. As a rule, the computers you need for your business are the same as the computers you see at big box retailers and mail order ads.
Look all you want at the prominently displayed new computers. Study their spec sheets, and decide which features are really important to you. For example, a DVD-ROM might add quite a bit to the price of a new computer, but do you need to be able to watch DVDs on it? Probably not. The point is that for most people, having the newest, fastest, and best simply is not necessary. An important thing to remember is that most new computers have at least twice the power they need to run standard office software, like word processors, spreadsheets, and accounting programs. Look for computers that come with as much of the software you’ll need already installed, that way you will save money because you won’t have to buy all of those programs.
For the absolute best prices, you’ve generally got to go online. In addition to being a great place to research, the web is a great source of bargains. Your choices range from auction sites to surplus stores to build to order companies. Spend a few hours exploring your options, and you are likely to find the exact computer you need, for much less than you would pay at a superstore.
Your long-term customers can be your greatest sales force. They know your URL to your website by heart, they recommend your product to their friends, and they generally spread the good word about your business.
But that is only a small section of your sales, how do you stay in the forefront of your one-time and single purchase customer's minds? The answer is "Gimmes". They are small free promotional items that you put in with your orders, coupons, small booklets and other items.
One online art supply has an entire envelope of "stuff" they include with every order. The more the customer orders, the more "gimmes" they get. They include a card with a donkey tail barometer ("if donkey's tail is moving - it is windy, if donkey's tail is wet - it is raining....), there are painting tips and tricks from the pros and more. These gimmes are wildly popular.
If you are a start up and you cannot afford to buy products such as pens, mirrors, and other daily use items with your company name imprinting upon the items, make your own coupons. They don't have to be anything fancy, just something you're happy with.
Include them and if you have an inspirational poem, newsletter or sales page, include it. All of these things will keep your company in the front of your customer's minds and when they need your product again or know someone that does, you'll be who they come to!
Friday, April 14, 2006
Your ecommerce site is up and running and you're now listed on Google and Yahoo and other search engines and the website traffic is starting to happen at a good speed, but when you check your website sites for last month, you see that you had 800 unique visitors but you only made about 100 sales.
Where is it going wrong? There are a number of factors that could be causing this. Is your website fast loading and easy to read? Did you use a Merchandizer shopping cart system to make making purchases easy for your customers?
Are you items on your website fresh and well displayed. First impressions are indeed everything and never more so than on the web. If your photographs of your products are dark or hazy and don't show your product in its true light, you won't sell very much.
People are standoffish about buying products they can not see or hold unless you have complete descriptions, photographs - show a couple of angles, and testimonials work well too.
If you have a good product, tell the world about it in every detail. The more you explain about your product the more credibility you have with your website visitor and the more chance you have of turning that humble website visitor in to a happy customer.
Also, make sure every page has a contact page for yourself in case someone has questions, the more available you are - the more honest your web business looks. People look at doing business with websites they don't know very warily for the most part. Post your full company contact information complete with email and phone numbers.
Give your website the once-over and tighten up any loose areas that may be causing you to lose sales. In doing so, you'll increase your web presence and raise your sales.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Everything can be clicking for you in your e-commerce venture, but if you're not shipping products to the supreme satisfaction of your customers, you're dead in the water. What should take center stage in your mind is making sure that your products are shipped on time and that they arrive in one piece.
Everything about e-commerce is about trust. It is impossible for your customer to know your business other than the service you provide, and the ease of web shopping makes it easy for the customer to move on to the next supplier if you're not up for the challenge of good customer service. Job one is for you to find and retain your customers. The following are some good tools that will help you win the game. No doubt, the most important advantage you'll need is good data management and the accompanying skills--especially if you manage your own business and the shipping is done in house.
Two of the most reliable names you can depend on are Fed X and UPS. These entities make it convenient for the e-commerce storeowner by handling practically all of the shipping needs. Another excellent consideration, if you ship the customer's order directly from a supplier or manufacturer-is to use software that has a drop-ship module. This allows both the retailer and the customer to have vital and up to date information of products that have been shipped.
It doesn't hurt to have some type of protection for the customer as well if the goods shipped are lost or damaged. These are all simple considerations, but they can save you time and money when shipping your customer's products.
A primary consideration for making it through the front door online is to first know what it is that you want to sell. There are millions of products and services, but only one may be right for you. You can start by taking stock of your inner values. If you can match these up with a product or service that's needed-you may have found a winning combination.
Try to determine early on what the content and functionality of your website will be. Down the line, you will be able to measure and analyze results much more effectively. This is why the development of brand awareness should take center stage. One project leads to next, and as time goes by, consent, design, and your overall online advertising plan will come into sharper focus.
Web consultants/designers can help in this initial stage of brainstorming. However, it's important not to be overwhelmed by the latest software or techno-wizardry on the market. Keep the original business plan and your overall goals in mind during the initial developmental stage. Make sure that you spend money on the elements that are in the original financial guidelines.
Crystal clear business objectives should be especially well thought out for any Internet project. Spend quality time and lay the groundwork for success. In the end, you should be able to ask yourself important questions such as, "Can the project be effectively measured, is it in line with the original intent, is the project cost effective, and what is the real return on investment".
It's not overly difficult to gain entrance through the front door-but it is substantially harder to maintain your presence once there.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
A good way of attracting and retaining customers is to focus on user-friendly elements in your web site design. Taking on such a task is an art, whether from the standpoint of the designer, or client having the site created. Every good website has basic principles that have to be followed if it is to be a success. A well-designed site will tell the prospective customer that you care about the product or service being offered. This at once creates a degree of trust in the prospect.
Consider a good domain name that's easy to remember, and easy to reach. The web site title is equally important as well. These essential elements will hopefully stick out in the mind of the individual. If these elements aren't attention grabbers, you won't have to worry about individuals spending time at your site-or returning. Experimenting with website colors is also a good idea. Get to know the colors that will be user-friendly. This is information that can be researched and experimented with until you come up with the best combinations.
Pay close attention to the links that you provide. Make sure that the information is flowing so that the reader will stay on the page as long as possible. The Internet is a bit different from reading a newspaper. It's fast reading, and you have about ten seconds to convince the reader to stay for a spell.
Rotating your content is also very important. Web sites are graded on fresh content, and will get a high ranking for keyword access if you keep this in mind. If you can't personally keep the website vibrant and fresh with new information, then check into hiring a company that can provide you with good keyword content on a regular basis.
Customer service is that "thing" that makes or breaks a business. There are businesses with inferior products that thrive because of excellent service-and there are businesses with superior products that fail because of disgruntled customers. Customers call in all shapes and sizes, but the one thing they all have in common is a need to be serviced. These are the people that you'll be asking to buy into an idea, a product, or a service. What you ask in return from them is their time and money!
It's really all about the balance of exchange. A customer has to feel that they are getting an even exchange. In fact, there will be many customers that will need to feel they are actually getting more than they are giving from the exchange. And then, and only then will they make the purchase.
It's easy to link good customer service with continued repeat business. Make sure that your customer service programs are adding value to the product or service as well. If your customers aren't buying time and time again, you should check and find out why. Follow up is a key element in repeat sales. It informs you if your services are a satisfying experience for the buyer. There's no one-way to follow up on the sale of a product or service: it can by phone, letter, or email. The key is to make sure your appreciation for their continued business is heart-felt.
Keep those customers happy and they'll make it a point to keep you in business.