Ecwid | E-Commerce Shopping Cart https://www.ecwid.com Ecwid: shopping cart when and where you need it Mon, 19 Feb 2018 14:54:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.4 6 Facebook Marketing Mistakes That Are Holding You Back https://www.ecwid.com/blog/6-facebook-marketing-mistakes-that-are-holding-you-back.html https://www.ecwid.com/blog/6-facebook-marketing-mistakes-that-are-holding-you-back.html#respond Mon, 19 Feb 2018 14:54:00 +0000 https://www.ecwid.com/?p=19663

With more than 2 billion active users, Facebook can be something of a social media marketing powerhouse. As with all such things, if done poorly, a Facebook marketing campaign can still fall flat, or even worse, act as a detriment to your brand.

So how do you protect yourself from committing a Facebook faux pas? To help you navigate the digital landscape, we’ve put together a quick list of six marketing mistakes that you should avoid in order to make your campaign a success.

1. Using Engagement-Bait

It’s all too tempting to lace your Facebook posts with lines such as "Comment on this post if you think wasps are mean." Too much of this can act more as a deterrent than a lure. Users quickly tire of seeing the same old thing, and many are now wise to the spammy engagement hacks of the past.

Facebook itself recently announced that it was going to crack down on empty clickbait posts in its algorithm, so think carefully before you ask users to "Like" and "Share".

That’s not to say you can’t encourage users to like, share, or comment on your content. Just don’t be that brand that uses the same line to open every post. There are plenty of ways to work your CTA into your copy, so get creative, and give your followers a real reason to engage with your brand.

Take a look at this post from a popular mobile game:

DML instagram ad

Credit: DML

They give followers a chance to win in-game currency by voting using Facebook reactions. They then follow up with a question that users can answer in the comments. But rather than opening the post with these requests, the first paragraph gives information about an upcoming event, which has value even to those who choose not to participate in the sweepstake.

2. Neglecting Facebook Groups

In addition to your business page, it can be a huge boost to your community to create and manage Facebook groups. These groups enable sub-demographics of your audience to form highly engaged and valuable communities that spark meaningful conversations about your brand.

These individuals are often called "super-fans" as their dedication to your brand means they are often very willing to interact with your content, discuss your business, and submit their own opinions, feedback, and content offerings. Their enthusiasm acts as powerful social proof, and when united as part of a community group, they magnify each other’s positive feeling.

One great example of using Facebook groups is Selena Robinson, an Ecwid merchant. She sells digital educational products for homeschooling. In addition to her online store+blog website and her Facebook business page, she runs a closed Facebook group to form a community of homeschooling parents and teachers.

Learn more: "Look! We’re Learning!": How to Sell Digital Goods for Homeschooling

3. Failing To Balance Automation With Interaction

You can’t be everywhere at once, or even in one place all the time. That means that at some point your Facebook accounts could be neglected, which can have severe consequences for your brand’s reputation.

Whether they are commenting positively or negatively, your followers expect acknowledgment within a certain timeframe, and a stagnant page can quickly begin to erode faith in your brand.

Automation is a great way to free up some time and ensure your content arrives on schedule. However, it is also essential that your audience knows when you will be around to respond to their posts. Otherwise, they may begin to lose interest for your content, because their comments go unanswered, and ultimately lose meaning.

A right balance of automation and interaction means there’s always something new for your audience to look at, but that they also feel that they are interacting directly with your brand. So whether you man the page yourself, or hire some VAs to ensure there’s someone to give your business its voice, take care not to leave your Facebook page unattended for too long.

4. Doing Nothing But Selling

If customers just want to see what you’re selling, they’ll go directly to your store. Of course, they almost certainly do want to hear about the new product line or that limited discount. However, these posts should be interspersed with others that provide insightful, interesting, or entertaining content.

Your business page should act as a hub that not only drives sales but also builds trust and familiarity with your brand. If every post is a sales post, all it tells your audience is that you only care about selling. Whereas if you share useful content that relates to your brand, it suggests you care about the products you sell and the people that use them.

Lush UK (an ethical beauty brand) often share content about nature, arts, and culture on Facebook. They know that just plugging their latest product release wouldn’t go down too well, so they put their efforts into meaningful content curation instead:

Lush Facebook ads

Credit: Lush UK

5. Not Using Paid Content

Paid advertising should not be the only avenue for your social media marketing efforts, but it still plays a part. Set aside a portion of your budget for Facebook Ads, so you can give your content a better chance of reaching the right audiences. That will become more important than ever once the platform restructures the way it delivers content to users’ news feeds. (Here are some tips on how to use Facebook Pixel on your Ecwid store).

Of course, it is possible to spend a significant amount for very little return if you do not correctly structure your campaign. Take the time to research your target demographics. What sort of content do they prefer? Are they even Facebook users? Once you know what your audience needs, you will be better equipped to deliver impactful content that engages with the right people at the right time.

6. Not Keeping Up With The Times

Staying current is essential when it comes to marketing. You need to be on top of growing trends, public feeling, seasonal events, and industry news. After all, if you want your content to be interesting and engaging, it needs to offer something that is useful to your audience. No one wants to read old news.

On top of all this, you also need to stay abreast of changes to critical algorithms that impact the visibility of your brand. That includes everything from search engine prioritization algorithms, to social media recommendation assignations.

One to keep in mind in the coming months is the impending change to the way Facebook structures its newsfeeds. Changes in the platform’s recommendation algorithms will mean that branded and public content will have less organic reach than it currently does. The aim is to enable users to see more content from friends and family than from companies.

To stay ahead of these changes, remind your followers that they can select the "see first" option on your Facebook page, so they will still see your posts.

See first option on Facebook

You can also drive visibility by encouraging user-generated content. As this will be shared and posted by individuals rather than by your business page, it is more likely to show up in the news feeds of potential customers, providing they are connected with those creating and interacting with said content.

Every business runs into marketing hurdles once in a while, and not every Facebook campaign will be a sterling success. However, even when your marketing efforts fall flat, you can learn from these failings, and improve your future endeavors as a consequence.

The six tips above are all essential to keep in mind as you work to promote your brand in 2018. However, there are many other pitfalls to watch out for, so it is vital to pay close attention to the success or failure of your Facebook interactions and act on this information as swiftly as possible.

Over time, you will become more familiar with your audience, and better able to cater to their needs. And if something does go wrong, always be accountable. Your audience is far more likely to be forgiving if you are prepared to own up and make amends, than if you bury your head in the sand.

There is a lot to be gained from successful social media marketing, so don’t let the list above deter you from investing in this platform. While it will take time and dedication to make your Facebook marketing success, the returns on your efforts will be more than worth it.

]]>
https://www.ecwid.com/blog/6-facebook-marketing-mistakes-that-are-holding-you-back.html/feed 0
10 E-Commerce Marketing Trends to Watch in 2018 https://www.ecwid.com/blog/10-e-commerce-marketing-trends-to-watch-in-2018.html https://www.ecwid.com/blog/10-e-commerce-marketing-trends-to-watch-in-2018.html#respond Tue, 13 Feb 2018 06:27:00 +0000 https://www.ecwid.com/?p=19643

Mobile commerce has been trending for the last few years and is still high on the agenda. Online stores should be adapted for smartphones and tablets, and ideally, have an app. But even if you have already taken care of that, you shouldn’t stop engaging mobile users.

We’re going to tell you about this e-commerce marketing trend and nine more. Which trend do you think will influence your business most in 2018? Which ones are you going to follow, and which ones are you going to skip? Let’s discuss in the comments to this post.

Micro-Moments

Micro-moments are intent-driven moments when users feel the urge or need to find information or a place, order a product or a service, and use their smartphones for that. It happens impulsively, and decisions are made fast.

Your goal as a seller is to provide the required information when needed. To do that, you have to understand when customers might need information about your product or business.

Adido summarizes Google stats

Adido summarizes Google stats

User requests and intentions are divided into four categories, and each one requires a different sort of information:

"I want to know"

A person is looking around and finds a product but isn’t ready to buy it yet. "Are gluten-free products more healthy?", "How do I choose a vacuum cleaner?", "Which cars are more fuel-efficient?" — people look for information on a smartphone in their free time. They don’t plan ahead because the info is always at hand. If a brand’s website has such information, it attracts customers faster.

"I want to go"

A person is looking for a specific product or a shop nearby. If you have a brick-and-mortar shop, you need to get in front of this group at the right time.

"I want to do"

Before or after the purchase, your customer might need a tutorial to master a new skill. In this case, video content wins: this format lets customers learn new things at their own pace, step by step — visually and easily.

"I want to buy"

It’s the most important micro-moment for businesses. A person is ready to make a purchase or needs assistance while choosing a product or placing an order. You need to offer help fast and provide all the information they need to contact you and make a purchase.

Read more to learn how to use micro-moments in mobile marketing.

How can I use micro-moments for my online store?

Try to help customers who are looking for information about your product or a related topic.

Find out what customers ask about your product. Use search suggestions and keyword search services like Google AdWords. Explore the most popular search requests on your topic and requests like "how to," "what to wear with," "how to choose," "how useful is," and so on.

Create a blog for your online store and write articles with answers to all the questions you could find. Try to optimize these articles for search engines: write meta-tags, add keywords to headlines.

If you have a brick-and-mortar store, locate it in guides like Google My Business (your company will be displayed on Google Maps).

Users can find all the information they need in the Google Maps app

Users can find all the information they need in the Google Maps app

Add product instructions to your blog (how to use, what to wear with, how to wash, and so on). A video will be better, of course. Read more to learn how to increase sales with a YouTube channel.

Provide your customers with all the possible ways to contact you: phone, messenger, email, live chat. Answer as fast as possible. Add an FAQ page to your website and explain how to use your product, how to place an order, how to make a return, the delivery details, etc.

Make placing an order as fast as possible so that your customers don’t abandon their cart halfway through.

Don’t forget to make all your content (blog articles, store, video pages) responsive.

Video Content

YouTube is the second largest search engine. You should use it to attract more customers in 2018.

Users like to watch videos in social media posts and stories because they are more "alive" and realistic than posed photos. Videos on a store page are the best way to study the product from every angle.

How do I follow this trend?

Simply start creating videos. At the very least, use your smartphone to make a video showing every side of your product and add it to the description in your online store. Practice more and make videos yourself if you can’t hire a professional. Our tips will help you:

Long Sales

Did you notice that last year promotional emails came well ahead of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and New Year? Everyone tries to outrun each other and be the first to sell their product to customers. As a result, sales last 1-2 months.

What can my online store do?

If you decide to follow the global e-commerce marketing trend in 2018, then you’ll have to prepare for your sales even more seriously. Stock products earlier, think through the delivery details. Read how to prepare your store for holiday success.

Does that sound too hard? Remember that sometimes you can do well without any discounts.

User-Generated Content

UG content is an old hat, but this year, it’s driven by external circumstances:

  • Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook was going to show more posts from users’ families and friends, and fewer updates from news and brand pages. Other social media platforms may follow the lead. That means a decrease in branded content reach.
  • Competition among advertisers is growing. At the same time, consumers are fed up with straightforward ads. Promotion is getting more expensive, but the effect is decreasing.

Encourage users to create content (reviews, videos, comments, photos) and mention your brand.

How can I get more user-generated content?

A positive shopping experience is paramount here. Without quality products and customer care, it’s impossible to make people praise your business.

If your customers are happy with your service and products, here is how you can get user-generated content:

  • Send an email to your customer after the order has arrived to them and ask them to leave feedback.
  • Run a contest where users need to shoot a video or a photo about your brand. For example, apparel sellers might ask to create a look with a piece of clothing from their brand. Offer valuable prizes that are relevant to your target audience to get maximum participants.
  • Sponsor or organize an event in an allied industry. If you make it interesting, people will share it on social media, and your company will come into the spotlight.
  • Invite customers to test your product. Encourage them to post pictures and videos.
  • Add cute or unusual gifts to every order.

Lapka arts

@lapka_arts adds a letter and a chocolate to every order, and customers can’t help sharing it on Instagram

Always thank customers for every positive review and share the reviews on your business profiles and your website. Social proof is necessary for attracting new customers.

Personalization

The e-commerce marketing trend isn’t new, but it’s getting hotter every year. The better you can guess customers’ needs and the more appealing you can make your offers, the faster they buy it.

To understand what customers want, you have to analyze all kinds of data: look through the purchase history, run polls, take demographics into account.

Also read: Online Store Analytics: Managing Reports and Sales Stats in Ecwid

Another way is to offer more product variations. For example, if you sell tables, let the customer choose size and color. If you sell accessories, offer custom engraving. More expensive tactics are:

  • A product constructor
  • A personal manager
  • VR technology (for example, trying on glasses on the website — different models are placed on a customer’s video image).

How can I personalize the shopping experience in my store?

Don’t hurry, it is impossible to personalize everything at once. Start small:

  • Choose complementary items for every product and the "what people usually buy it with" section. In Ecwid, you can do this with the Smart Recommendations App. It shows personalized recommendations to your customers based on the things they bought and viewed before.
  • Segment your newsletter subscribers into 2-3 groups (based on age, gender, number of orders, or any other characteristic). Experiment with email contents and groups.
  • Create a separate landing page for each marketing campaign.

A simple way to personalize experience in your online store is to send your customers a reminder when they are running out of the products they bought before. For example, if a person bought flowers for a birthday, send them a reminder the following year on the same day. If you sell pet products, remind your customers when it is time to fill up the stock.

Denwin Dental

A friendly appointment reminder from Denwin Dental shows that they care about their customers

Also read: Ecwid + Convead: 9 Simple Ways of Using Visitor Segmentation to Grow Sales

Faster Shipping

Services work faster and faster every day. We get used to it: it is already annoying to wait for a page to download even for three seconds.

Same with delivery. When you can get anything from big companies like Amazon in two days, you think twice before buying something in a small shop that delivers within seven days.

Same-day delivery is a standard that big companies strive for.

How can I speed up shipping?

Add different options for delivery: cheap but takes long (for example USPS), or fast but pricier (courier services). This way, customers will be able to choose the most convenient option.

When you choose a courier service, check not only the delivery time within the country but also in big cities. People in megalopolises are used to getting orders fast, within one-two days. If you can’t find a contractor that delivers fast everywhere, work with several services.

There’s an alternative — in-store pickup and automated parcel terminals like Packcity. They usually have pick-up points in almost every big city, and they work as fast as courier services. Moreover, a customer can pick up their order when they have time without having to change their plans to meet the courier.

Also, make placing an order faster:

  • Shorten the process to a few steps: press "Buy"→ go to a cart → fill in the information → choose delivery and payment method → pay.
  • Make a short registration form with a minimal number of fields (name, address, phone number, or email).
  • Add step-by-step progress bar to an order page so that the customer knows how many steps are left before they complete their order.

Topshop

Topshop has a progress bar which shows that a customer is only one step away from making a purchase

Promote Your Content, Not Your Store

How to catch a customer in a micro-moment? They must notice your content before the content of competitors. All the instructions, video tutorials, tips, and reviews should be promoted as much as product pages so that you catch customers as early as the search stage.

How can I make my content stand out?

To make sure customers see your useful content, do the following:

  • Schedule social media posting. Use services like Amplifr so that you don’t have to add a new post to all platforms manually.
  • Optimize content for search engines as much as you can: write meta-tags for blog posts, work on headlines, keywords, and descriptions for YouTube videos, write descriptions to pictures, and add alt-tags to them.
  • If your budget allows it, promote articles and videos in search advertising services like Google AdWords or through paid Facebook ads. Advisory search requests like "how to," "compare," and others are less expensive than the commercial ones.

snippets on Google

The more specific a search is, the less competition there is. There are fewer people who make specific requests, but they are the most engaged

Give Up Photoshop

Body positivity and naturalness is on trend: famous models post photos without makeup, big brands do photoshoots with ordinary people of different sizes, celebrities refuse to undergo plastic surgery and promote natural aging.

CVS beauty mark

CVS will inform customers whether ads for products were photoshopped

A person on such a product shot looks natural and doesn’t differ drastically from the customer looking at this picture. People stop envying glamorous, perfect people and think of a brand as a friendly one.

How can I take beautiful pictures without Photoshop?

Look for charismatic models instead, as they will attract attention — not with a porcelain skin, but with a conspicuous appearance.

This e-commerce marketing trend is especially popular among young people. If they are your targeted audience, learn how to work with non-professional models.

Big Data

To personalize your content heavily, you need to know who your customers are and what they do. Data and analytics will help you to find out.

Big companies use Big Data. Those are instruments, methods, approaches, and modes of processing a large amount of unstructured data. Processing the results helps to predict demand and customer behavior.

The technology is expensive, and not everyone can afford it. But small stores also can collect customer data and make useful conclusions.

What can I do to understand my store data better?

Collect statistics about your shop’s performance using analytics services. Google Analytics is the most popular one.

The service has a tutorial that teaches you to analyze the collected data, draw conclusions, and make business decisions based on them. Take a course to understand your business better.

Take a look at your Facebook Insights, keep an eye on Instagram stats, go through your email service, and collect all the data in one spreadsheet. You’ll be able to notice new patterns and come up with a new plan.

Specializing in One Niche

Big offline retailers like IKEA are opening online stores and taking over the market. Even without them, the competition is getting more serious every day. Your advantage can be focusing on one product or service and doing your work better than anyone else.

You can even outride big players with these benefits:

  • Flexible approach to customer requests and personal attention to their problems and communication with a customer.
  • An opportunity to create and offer exclusive products that mass manufacturers don’t have.

How can I improve my product?

Think of how you can make your product or service unique. Then tell customers about it in such a way that they understand your advantages. Our tips will help you to do this in the best possible way:

***

Competition in e-commerce is growing, but there’s still room for newcomers. If you’ve been eager to start selling online for a long time, it’s worth trying it right now.

]]>
https://www.ecwid.com/blog/10-e-commerce-marketing-trends-to-watch-in-2018.html/feed 0
How to Secure Your Online Business from Fraudulent Customers https://www.ecwid.com/blog/how-to-secure-your-online-business-from-fraudulent-customers.html https://www.ecwid.com/blog/how-to-secure-your-online-business-from-fraudulent-customers.html#respond Mon, 12 Feb 2018 14:18:00 +0000 https://www.ecwid.com/?p=19586

The default thinking of any business owner is that the customer is always right. It’s a perfect undercover for malicious customers. They have laws, banks, and the power of online reviews on their side.

Some scam methods migrated from in-person commerce, others are typical only for online shops. The most common cases include refunds and credit card fraud.

We are going to explain how some malicious customers can take advantage of you and what you can do to minimize your risks.

Overpayment Scams

Receiving a suspiciously generous sum for your products or services should be a warning sign. Some scammers pay more than the estimated price to ask you to refund the difference. They call it a mistake or think of some other excuse.

There are three ways to recognize these scammers:

  • You haven’t received any money. The customer can claim that the money is being held until you return the extra payment.
  • The receipt looks weird (they can send you a fake one).
  • The customer wants you to send the money to a specific bank account or using a wire transfer.

A situation like this usually involves chatting with the scammer personally, so it’s hard to miss the signs once you’ve learned about this type of crime. Here’s what you can do to protect your business from overpayment scams.

Use trusted payment providers

Accept payments according to the estimated order given by your payment provider. If you suspect a scam, you should never send the money back to the customer using cryptocurrencies, wire transfer, or a pre-loaded card. It’ll be next to impossible for you to return the money.

If you sell with Ecwid, you can choose from 50+ trusted payment providers from all over the world.

Limit staff members in charge of payment operations

If you are a solopreneur, that is probably out of the question. However, if you have a co-founder, a friend, or a family member who helps you with customer care, make sure everyone who has access to payments is aware of scam protection methods.

Swapping

Today you can buy a fake copy of almost everything and sometimes for a fraction of the price. It’s often quite hard to tell the difference.

A swapper is someone who makes a return but substitutes your product for a cheaper or an older one. This scheme is especially dangerous for sellers of expensive goods.

Dolce&Gabbana fake vs original

This Dolce & Gabbana bag costs $1,599. A fake copy costs $291.

Another widespread type of fraud is a substitution for a defective product. If you sell household appliances and electronics, you should watch out for this. These people will replace a new product with a broken one and even get the money back.

It is not easy to fight "swappers." A customer may claim it’s all the fault of the courier service or simply blame you for it. If you don’t know your product in detail and if you have no proof that it was fine, whole, and sound, you won’t be able to expose scammers. That’s why it’s better to take these precautions beforehand:

Check products before sending them to clients

Make sure your products don’t have any defects or damages. If it is a device, always check if it works. When you aren’t loaded with orders, you can even take pictures or videos of the packaging so that you have evidence of sending quality goods.

Pack it thoroughly to prevent damage. Read our guide on flawless packaging.

If you are sure you sent a proper-quality product but your customer claims the opposite, you can perform an expert examination to prove that the customer is lying and deny the refund. Or you can give them the refund without hassle but put this person on your blacklist.

Record stock

Use barcodes or come up with your own marking. Add a product number to an order receipt. This way anyone can check the products’ authenticity — a delivery person, the postal service, and your employees.

Payment providers (PayPal, for example) use such evidence to protect you from fraudulent transactions.

Provide employees with clear instructions

Come up with your return policy, give clear instructions to your employees, and make them follow them strictly.

Your return policy must be clear, not only for customers but also for employees who process refunds. Think through the whole procedure, from checking the return and the product’s authenticity to paying back.

If you offer refunds and the delivery person deals with returns, explain to them how to tell an original product from a fake one.

Wardrobing

This scheme is very popular in the fashion industry, especially in shops which sell evening gowns, accessories, or jewels. A customer can order an expensive dress, wear it for a New Year’s Eve party, and then return it as if it didn’t fit. Almost ¾ of US sellers suffer from such customers. They are called "wardrobers."

Fraud research

Fraud occurs 10 times more often if items are returned without a receipt

A professional wardrober can spruce up worn clothes, so it can be very hard to expose them. However, that doesn’t mean you should let things slide.

Call customers back

Confirm orders on the phone to ask if the customer chose the right size and color. Personal attention can scare away scammers. You can also call them the day after the delivery to check if they are satisfied with a product.

Tie up money till order confirmation

If you accept credit cards, ask your payment provider if it is possible to tie up money on a payer’s credit card.

This is how it works: a сustomer makes an order in an online shop, the required sum is put on hold on their bank account. You call the customer back, and if he or she confirms the order, the money is debited from the card.

It helps to prevent paying back in case a customer doesn’t confirm the order or you can’t get through to them.

Think through your return policy

92% of people will shop again at the store which accepted a product back without a problem. However, don’t dance to the tune of the stats trying to make your return policy a breeze.

Amazon's packaging instructions

Amazon gives simple instructions but also provides a detailed Returns & Refunds policy

Specify the conditions for a return: limit the return period, give a list of documents for purchase confirmation, ask to fill in a return form.

Who pays for shipping expenses? Free returns attract customers, but paying return postage creates a hassle for scammers. They will probably move on to other stores.

US federal laws don’t affect returns and refunds. Laws may vary from state to state. Whatever country you sell in, check out your local laws to avoid problems.

Pretending the Order Didn’t Arrive

Customers may take advantage of postal services’ weaknesses. Some time after the product is shipped, a customer complains to the online store that they have never received the order and asks to get money back. If a store can’t prove that the product was delivered, it has to obey.

It is not that difficult to prove the product was delivered:

Track parcels

Most postal services provide customers with track numbers. Plus, an ID is required to accept a parcel. If you use a major shipping provider, you’ll have the proof and no customer will be able to trick you, pretending that they didn’t receive the order.

USPS parcel tracking

Customers can track their parcels on the USPS website

Chargeback (Friendly) Fraud

Friendly fraud means that a rightful cardholder places an order and then lies that it wasn’t them. When the product has already been shipped, an online store gets a refund request from the "true" cardholder, who says the card was stolen and it wasn’t them who shopped at the store.

If the bank takes the side of the customer, you have to pay the money back. In this case, a seller suffers double damage because a product is lost and money has to be paid to the scammer.

Companies that accept recurring payments often suffer from this type of fraud. Customers forget (or don’t read) the policy document which states that recurring payments for subscription are to be debited from their card.

Chargebacks911

2017 chargeback stats from Chargebacks911.com

Confirm orders before shipping them

If a customer confirmed their order by phone or email, they can’t claim that they didn’t buy it.
Make a formal offer and clearly describe the payment terms.

If you sell service subscriptions, state the conditions for extension and unsubscription. Ask your customers to agree with the formal offer.

Accept cryptocurrencies

Accepting Bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies) eliminates chargeback fraud. Once a client has paid for your product or service, the money is, and will stay, in your account. Bitcoin payments are final. The customer can’t contest them because they didn’t like your service. Unlike credit card payments, charges cannot be reversed.

If you want to accept Bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies) in Ecwid, use the CoinPayments app (available for free on all paid Ecwid plans).

Purchase with a Stolen Bank Card (Deliberate Fraud)

46% of Americans have been the victim of credit card fraud.

Scammers often pay for orders in online shops with stolen cards. If you accept credit cards, pay attention to the anti-fraud technologies of your payment service provider:

Customer identity authentication via SMS (3-D secure protocol)

One more authentication step is added to a purchase payment in an online store. Typically, it is a request to type the code from an SMS to a customer’s phone. Visa, Mastercard, and American Express use this way of transaction protection.

3-D protocol minimizes the risk of stolen card fraud.

3-D secure flow

3-D Secure Flow (Image credit: By GPayments, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Fraud monitoring and detection systems (AntiFraud)

This system checks transactions automatically, and if it looks suspicious, the system requires a manual check or cancels the transaction.

Transactions are being checked in many ways, from the computer’s IP address to a card’s payment statistics. The aim of the system is to confirm that a user is a true cardholder who shops at this online store.

For example, if a transaction is performed in the US by a US cardholder, and the order’s sum doesn’t exceed the average order value of a shop, then the transaction will be approved. If a customer tries to pay for an order that exceeds the AOV by a lot, then the transaction is considered suspicious.

AntiFraud principles can be used even if you don’t use payment services. Create a portrait of your typical customer: age, AOV, location. If some features don’t coincide with your portrait, it’s better to call your customer and confirm the order.

Cash Fraud

Along with other payment methods, you can allow paying in cash in your online store. Scammers take advantage of that, too.

So here’s a Guy Richie-worth scenario: A scammer can ask you to meet them in the street (so that they can run away if exposed.) They pay, you count the money and notice it’s not enough. The scammer apologizes, takes money back, supposedly adds the lacking banknote, and gives it back to you. Of course, the sum is wrong again because the scammer has already taken some money out or replaced them with fake banknotes.

If you count money again and detect the scam, such a customer will try to leave as fast as possible. But if you don’t count the money again, it’ll be almost impossible to find and blame the scammer.

Do you see where we’re going with this one?

Have strict instructions for cash payments

Whoever takes payments in cash (you, your courier service, your employees) have the rule to count the customer’s money (no matter where you meet). Ask your team to avoid meeting in the street, lobbies, and places like that.

***

Don’t let scammers get away with their crime. Not only can they steal your particular profits. On a large scale, malicious customer behavior has more negative effects. Retailers try to compensate the losses caused by scammers, which leads to increased prices and cost-cutting. Eventually, we can all end up with fewer jobs and more expensive products.

Have you ever been scammed by a customer? What do you do to avoid such situations? Please, share your experience in the comments.

Also read: Online Store Security: 8 Must-Complete Steps Against Web Threats

]]>
https://www.ecwid.com/blog/how-to-secure-your-online-business-from-fraudulent-customers.html/feed 0
How to Find Distributors for Your Product https://www.ecwid.com/blog/how-to-find-distributors-for-product.html https://www.ecwid.com/blog/how-to-find-distributors-for-product.html#respond Fri, 09 Feb 2018 06:27:43 +0000 https://www.ecwid.com/?p=19774

You’ve created a great new product and you can’t wait to get it before customers. You’ve already started an online store and established a presence on leading marketplaces. The next step is to get the product into as many retail stores as possible.

To do this, you need the help of a distributor. Distributors work with retailers and get your product into stores across the country. The right partner can dramatically increase your sales and help you reach untapped market.

This article will help you find the perfect distributors for your product.

Why Use Distributors?

The first thing you need to understand is the role distributors play in retail and the value they add.

A distributor is essentially a wholesaler that stocks a large number of products and sells them to retailers. Instead of dealing with each product manufacturer individually, a retailer can negotiate a single deal with the distributor and get access to a range of products.

For retailers, the value is clear. Dealing with a distributor saves them from the burden of product selection and negotiating with dozens of manufacturers. In many cases, distributors will also take back unsold products, extend credit, and help retailers sell more.

For manufacturers and product creators such as yourself, distributors offer easy access to a network of retailers. Instead of approaching hundreds of different stores, you can negotiate a deal with a single distributor. The distributor will then work to get your product placed in retail stores that buy from it.

Moreover, distributors take over the responsibility of storing and shipping products from you. Instead of packaging and shipping everything yourself, you can simply sell the product to the distributor which, in turn, will ship them to retailers.

If you care about reaching more customers and getting access to lucrative markets, you’ll want to use distributors. However, as you’ll learn below, you might not need distributors in some cases.

Do You Need Distributors?

Before you start your search, you need to figure out whether you even need distributors. This wouldn’t have been a question in the pre-internet age. However, at a time when selling directly to customers is easier than ever, the need for distributors isn’t always clear.

Broadly speaking, there are a few different ways to sell your products:

  • Sell directly to customers through your own store (physical or online)
  • Sell directly to customers through a marketplace such as Amazon
  • Sell to retail stores (such as WalMart) which then sell to customers
  • Sell to distributors who then sell to retail stores

The more intermediaries there are between you and the customer, the lower your profit margin. You might make $5 on a $10 product if you sell directly to customers. As you add more middlemen — a retailer, a distributor — they’ll take their cut and eat into your profits.

To figure out whether you need these middlemen or whether you can sell directly to customers, you need to consider the following:

Your Product Category

Not every product does well online. For example, food and beverages, a trillion dollar market offline, make up a small portion of e-commerce sales.

This graph shows the distribution of e-commerce revenues across different product categories (Source)

This graph shows the distribution of e-commerce revenues across different product categories (Source)

If your product is perishable, difficult to transport, needs to be experienced or has limited online demand, you’ll want to sell via physical stores. And to reach these stores, you’ll want to use a distributor.

Your Target Customers

The key to sales is to be where your customers are. If your target customers don’t shop at retail stores, you have no reason to patronize them either.

Usually, if your customers are older and less tech-savvy, you’ll want to target physical stores.

Online Demand

How strong is the current online demand for your product? An easy way to gauge this is to check the competition on a large retailer like Amazon. If you have a number of competing products, it probably means that there is customer demand.

Another tactic is to find the search volume for your product using a tool like SearchVolume.io If a large number of people search for the product keyword, there is a good chance some of them will turn into buyers.

This screenshot shows the monthly search volume for three different shoe related keywords

This screenshot shows the monthly search volume for three different shoe related keywords

Manufacturing Capabilities

When you sell directly to customers, you can take products off the market in case you run into any supply issues. Distributors, however, will expect you to have enough volume to meet retailers’ demands.

If you’re unsure of your manufacturing capabilities, you might want to stick to your owned channels initially.

Target Retailers

Large retailers such as WalMart, Costco or Target often ink deals directly with manufacturers. Non-chain retailers, however, will usually avoid dealing directly with manufacturers since it increases their administrative burden.

If your target market has mostly chain retailers, you can think of approaching them directly. If it is mostly small stores, you’ll have to go through a distributor.

Once you’ve figured out that you do indeed need distributors, you can go about finding the right one for your products.

Finding Distributors for Your Product

The distributor isn’t just a company you sell your products to. It is a partner in your business’ growth. Picking the right distributor is crucial for long-term success.

There are a number of ways you can find distributors for your product:

Trade Associations

Most industries have local trade associations where manufacturers, retailers, and distributors can come together. This should be the first stop on your journey to find a distributing partner.

In the US, the National Association of Wholesalers (NAW) offers a list of regional and local chapters of different trade associations. Use this to find distributors that serve your industry and region.

Marketing Mentor has another list of trade associations for different industries. Find an association that serves your industry and become a member.

Once you join a trade association, try to find how other manufacturers sell their products. What distributors do they use? What markets do they target? What kind of results do they get from their efforts?

In most industries, there will be best practices, proven players, and established channels. Adopting these best practices is recommended for any new entrant.

Trade Shows

Another way to find distributing partners is to attend trade shows that target your industry. A large trade show can bring together hundreds of distributors and manufacturers under the same roof. Attending one can give you a quick idea of the distribution landscape, available options, and industry best practices.

AbsoluteExhibits has a trade show calendar covering major shows in different industries.

Use the trade show calendar to find shows that cover your industry

Use the trade show calendar to find shows that cover your industry

ExpoDatabase has a more comprehensive list of trade shows, though many of these are smaller shows targeting local markets.

As with trade organizations, try to interact with other businesses in the industry (preferably nondirect competitors). Figure out who the top distributors are, what are their requirements, and what kind of results they get. Try to get a referral or an introduction. Good word of mouth matters a lot in this decision.

Wholesale Directories

A wholesaler is essentially the retail-facing side of a distributor. There are plenty of directories where you can find wholesalers who cover your industry. While they’re usually positioned towards retailers, they’ll be happy to hear from manufacturers wanting to work with them.

WholesaleCentral.com has a good list of wholesalers across different verticals.

Search on WholesaleCentral to find wholesale distributors covering your product category

Search on WholesaleCentral to find wholesale distributors covering your product category

Google Search

When the above approaches fail, you can fall back on good "ol Google.

Search for keywords like the following:
[Product Category] distributors
[Product Category] distributors in [local market]

You’ll usually find wholesalers and distributors covering your industry at the top of the search results. Get in touch with them and ask about their requirements, terms and results.

Social Networks

Lastly, you can always turn to social media — Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, forums, etc. — to find distributors. Find groups on Facebook, LinkedIn or forums that cover your industry. Ask how other product creators found distributors and what were their results like.

How to Evaluate Distributors

Simply getting a list of distributors isn’t enough; you also have to make sure that they’re the right fit for your business.

Start by creating a list of your own requirements. Understand deeply what kind of business you want to run, your capabilities, and goals — both long-term and short-term.

Once you’ve figured this out, develop an 'ideal' distributor profile based on these requirements. This should be based on:

  • Distributor size: You want to work with a distributor that can accommodate your business without ignoring it. If the distributor is extremely large, you might not get the attention your business needs.
  • Distributor expertise: A general-purpose distributor might work well for generic products. If your product requires niche knowledge to sell, however, you’ll want a distributor with proven expertise. For example, if you’re selling a revolutionary new bike, you’ll want distributors who understand the business and technical aspects of bikes thoroughly.
  • Business goals and values: Pick a distributor that aligns with your goals and values. If you want to work with small stores and focus on sustainable growth, pick a distributor that prioritizes these goals. If you want to get into big-box retailers and unlock exponential profits, pick accordingly.

Search for the distributor on sites such as BBB.org and Google to see what others think about them

Search for the distributor on sites such as BBB.org and Google to see what others think about them

Once you’ve figured out your requirements, start evaluating distributors on the following factors:

  • Business stability: How stable are the distributor’s finances and operations? Does it have a history of on-time payments? How long has it been in business?
  • Sales competence: A good distributor will have a strong sales force. Evaluate them on the size of their sales team (both inside and outside sales), how they generate leads, and overall sales vs. sales team size.
  • Marketing capabilities: Ask how the distributor markets its business to prospective retailers. What channels does it use? Does it do any online marketing? If yes, evaluate it for quality, competence, and results.
  • Market knowledge: How well does the distributor know the local market? Does it know all the major retailers in the market and the kind of products they carry? A good distributor would have inside-out knowledge of the local market conditions.
  • Inventory management & logistics: How does the distributor handle inventory? How large are its warehouses? Does it have its own fleet for shipping? If yes, what is the fleet size? What other logistics partners does it use?
  • Management: What kind of personnel does the distributor have? Does it have professional managers and managerial practices in place? What is the founder(s)" background and experience?
  • Fit: Does the distributor align with your expectations? Does it fit into your ideal distributor profile? Evaluate the distributor on this all important factor — overall fit.

Doing this exercise will help you find distributors who can benefit your business in the long-run.

The only thing you have to do is to convince them to work with you.

How to Get Distributors to Work With You

While you evaluate distributors for fit and competence, distributors will also assess your business. Effective distributors don’t want to work with just any supplier. They want to partner with businesses with proven product demand, sales, and effectiveness.

There are a few things you can do to convince distributors to work with you:

  • Demonstrate knowledge: Show that you understand your own market as well as the distributor’s goals. Develop your pitch along the distributor’s business goals and market approach.
  • Show customer demand: Demonstrate that there is actual customer demand for your product. The best way to do this is to show sales figures from your own online store. If not, use data from existing retailers and marketplaces.
  • Develop a brand: Distributors want to work with businesses that take themselves and their brand seriously. A strong brand — in design, copy, presence, and customer experience — will leave as big an impression on distributors as it does on your customers.
  • Show intent: Distributors don’t want to work with a "hobbyists" who might leave the business if the going gets rough. Prove that you’re ready for the long-haul by demonstrating your investment (in time and money) into the business.
  • Get referrals: If you can get a referral or an introduction from someone the distributor trust — such as an existing partner — it will become much easier to strike a deal.

Think of this as dating where both parties evaluate each other for the right fit. Once you find someone who wants to work with as much as you want to work with them, you know you’ve found the right distributing partner.

While you continue your search for the right distributor, don’t forget to create an online store and start making sales. Even if you don’t prioritize online channels, proof of sales and customer demand will make it much easier to get picked up by a top distributor.

Have you ever worked with a distributor? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below!

]]>
https://www.ecwid.com/blog/how-to-find-distributors-for-product.html/feed 0
How to Figure Out Where to Sell Your Products https://www.ecwid.com/blog/how-to-figure-out-where-to-sell-your-products.html https://www.ecwid.com/blog/how-to-figure-out-where-to-sell-your-products.html#respond Tue, 06 Feb 2018 18:21:58 +0000 https://www.ecwid.com/?p=19712

As a retailer, you obviously want more sales. And to get these sales, you want to be everywhere your customers are: on your online store, Facebook, Instagram, and even your own physical outlet.

This is the promise of omnichannel retail — the ability to give customers a seamless experience across every sales channel. But how do you decide where to sell which products? If you are short on resources, which channels should you prioritize?

In this guide, we’ll discuss the top sales channels and help you decide which ones to choose.

Online Store

When you think of "e-commerce", you usually think of an online store. This is typically a branded store where you sell products from your own inventory. A huge establishment such as Amazon is an "online store", as is a small startup such as Kant.

An online store might be on your own domain or on a mobile app. The mobile app acts as an extension of the website.

Let’s look at some key trends, challenges, and opportunities for selling via an online store.

Online store trends and statistics

Running an online store is one of the oldest ways to sell anything on the internet. In fact, Amazon, one of the biggest online stores in the world, was launched way back in 1995.

From those humble beginnings, these stores have gobbled up a huge share of the total online retail market. The top 10 stores in the US alone account for over $150B in annual sales. Amazon leads the pack with a whopping $94B in e-commerce sales.

Top retailers in the US

This screenshot from WWD shows the top retailers in the US and their annual sales

E-commerce itself continues to significantly outpace physical retail sales. In the US, e-commerce has constantly clocked in double-digit growth while physical retail barely touches the 2% growth mark.

US retail sales growth rate by channel

This figure illustrates the wide disparity in growth rates of physical and digital retail

Of course, not all of this can be attributed to online stores alone — there are a number of marketplaces in the mix as well. We’ll cover marketplaces — including mixed marketplaces — in the next section.

E-commerce growth isn’t uniform across verticals, of course. As this report from BI shows, some sectors such as electronics and hobby goods are poised to grow at a much faster rate than others.

Persent of retail sales attribute to online in selected merchandise categories

This report from BusinessInsider shows the difference in growth rates for different verticals

The growth in total number of e-commerce buyers also coincides with the growth in internet users. As more people join the internet, they turn to online stores to experience digital shopping.

Number of digital buyers worldwide

This graph shows the rise in total digital buyers over six years

Growth isn’t uniform by geography either. China and India, two of the fastest growing internet markets are also leaders in e-commerce growth with average growth in the double digits over the last several years.

B2C ecommerce sales growth wordlwide by country

China and India lead the charge in growth of e-commerce

For a retailer, the key takeaways are:

  • Industries: Perishable products that require quick shipping (such as groceries) are harder to sell via online stores as compared to electronics, sporting goods, etc.
  • Geographies: Emerging markets such as India, China, Mexico and Latin America offer significantly more growth opportunities. Consider entering these markets via marketplaces instead of your own branded online store.
  • Growth rate: Online stores, and e-commerce as a whole, will continue to grow significantly faster than physical retail, especially in mature markets such as the US.

Advantages

There are several advantages to selling via an online store:

  • Ownership: If you sell via social media or a marketplace platform, any traffic you build is essentially going to the platform. If you own the store, however, you also own the traffic. This opens up new opportunities for monetization and marketing. It also helps you develop brand equity and resellability.
  • Data collection: Owning your store makes it possible to collect detailed customer data. You can collect email addresses, track website visitors, and learn much more about your customers. This, in turn, will help you develop a customer experience that leads to higher sales.
  • Control: An online store gives you the freedom to sell whatever you want, however you want it. You don’t have to play by any marketplace’s rules.
  • Branding: With a marketplace or social media, your brand is inherently tied to the platform and its limitations. With an independent store, however, you can create a unique customer experience that aligns with your brand values.
  • Marketing: Owning your store makes marketing easier. You can direct visitors to dedicated landing pages and create custom offers. A separate URL also makes it easier to market offline (say, a billboard featuring a URL vs. one featuring a social media account).
  • Customer expectations: Lastly, customers have come to expect brands to have their own online stores. Even if they shop from you on marketplaces or social media, they might look for your online store for additional products or discounts.

Kade spade deals


WIth your own store, you can collect email addresses and create custom offers such as the pop-up shown above

Challenges

Selling via an online store offers many advantages, but there are also some challenges:

  • Startup costs: Although trivial for small businesses, setting up an online store does require some initial investment, mostly for a domain and e-commerce software.
  • Learning curve: Running an online store has a shallow but noticeable learning curve. Generally speaking, the more control you have over the store, the steeper this learning curve. This is also why marketplaces, which offer limited control, are easier to start selling on.
  • Attracting customers: With an online store, you’re responsible for attracting traffic to your website. There is no "built-in" traffic as you would get on social media or a large marketplace. This can be a major challenge, especially if you struggle with marketing.
  • Technical issues: If you’re using self-hosted e-commerce software (i.e. software hosted on your own servers), you’re also responsible for keeping it updated. You can easily get around this problem, however, by using a hosted e-commerce solution like Ecwid.
  • Legal issues: Since you own the store, you’re also responsible for all legal issues. You’ll also have to make sure that you stay clear of your country’s privacy and data collection laws.
  • Shipping: Some marketplaces offer shipping services to their merchants (such as Amazon FBA). With your own store, however, you’re responsible for shipping the product to the customer.

An online store should be a must in your e-commerce strategy. This is where you eventually want to direct all customers, even if they find you through marketplaces or social media. The ownership of the traffic and data makes it possible to understand customers and create better products.

Regardless of where you initially start selling, you should consider setting up your own online store as soon as possible.

If you’re just testing the market, have extremely limited technical know-how, or work in industries with complex legal, shipping or payment-related requirements, it might be better to keep your store on the backburner.

For example, if you’re just checking the market appetite for your handmade craft items, you’ll be better served by a marketplace like Etsy than a full-fledged online store.

Similarly, if your customers are all on mobile but you (or your e-commerce software) can’t offer a strong mobile shopping experience, you should prioritize a mobile-optimized marketplace or social network instead.

Misli studio

MisliStudio is a small online store selling shoes from a single brand

Overstock

Overstock.com is a huge store selling millions of products from thousands of brands

Online Marketplaces

A marketplace brings together different merchants under a single roof. Think of it as a mall where different retailers can sell different products. The retailer can be a large established business (such as on Amazon), a small business (as on Etsy), or even an individual (as on eBay).

Broadly speaking, marketplaces can be of two types:

  • Mixed marketplaces: This is a hybrid between an online store and a marketplace. The marketplace sells products from its own inventory while also allowing other merchants to sell their products. Amazon is a great example of a mixed marketplace.
  • Pure marketplaces: These are marketplaces that operate solely as platforms to help merchants reach customers. The marketplace might curate products, but it doesn’t sell anything from its own inventory. Etsy and eBay are examples of "pure" marketplaces.

Amazon retailer


Amazon sells products from its own inventory as well as different merchants such as "Electronics Club" as shown above

Marketplaces give retailers easy access to hungry buyers, but they also give you limited control and ownership as we’ll see below.

Online marketplace trends

The marketplace model has seen rapid growth in the last few years. For instance, third-party sellers account for more than half of Amazon’s total e-commerce sales.

Amazon sales

51% of Amazon’s sales come from third-party sellers, up from just 26% in 2007

A growing number of retailers have also switched to selling exclusively on marketplaces according to one survey.

Sales by platforms


This graph shows the percentage of retailers who sell only on one platform

Another survey found that 77% of retailers sell on multiple platforms with eBay as the top choice.

Amazon seller survey 2016


eBay is the preferred marketplace for most sellers followed by their own online store

The rise of omnichannel retail means that sellers can easily run an online store while also offering their products on different marketplaces.

Advantages

Selling on marketplaces offers some clear benefits to retailers, such as:

  • Low startup costs: Besides the inventory itself, the cost to sell on a marketplace are low (though it varies from marketplace to marketplace). Anyone can get started as long as they have something to sell.
  • Built-in audience: Established marketplaces usually have a large audience of hungry buyers. Instead of having to attract traffic yourself, you can tap into this audience to kickstart your sales.
  • Trust: Customers are more likely to trust a large brand such as eBay or Amazon than an unknown online store when handing over their financial data. If you’re a new retailer, selling on a marketplace can help you overcome this trust hurdle.
  • SEO-friendliness: Large marketplaces have a big SEO footprint and search-optimized site structure. This makes it easier for customers to find your products via search engines.
  • Ease of use: When you sell on a marketplace, you only have to worry about selling; everything else — payment processors, design, layout, etc. — is taken care of for you. This makes it easier to get started, especially for non-tech savvy retailers.

Challenges

For all the advantages, there are also quite a few challenges in selling on marketplaces:

  • Competition: The low barrier to entry and large existing audience means that the competition on marketplaces is intense. This is particularly true if you’re targeting popular product categories. You often have to either offer lower prices (which cuts your profit margins) or compete in extremely niche categories to get customers.
  • Fees: Most marketplaces will take a cut of the selling price as their fees. Others might charge an upfront listing fee. This cuts into your profit margins and makes the already stiff competition even harder.
  • No ownership: Any traffic you build to your marketplace store is actually owned and controlled by the marketplace itself. The moment you leave the marketplace, the audience, and any brand loyalty you might have built up disappears as well.
  • Limitations: The marketplace determines everything from the kind of products you can sell to the kind of data you can collect. This often limits your marketing capabilities and customer understanding.

Online marketplaces work best for retailers who:

  • Want to test an idea or gauge market appetite for a product
  • Have a niche product with limited competition.

Want to get started quickly without the development effort of a conventional store (such as domain, design, SEO, etc.)

Operate in an industry with significant trust hurdles or limited customer demand (such as niche handicrafts).

Selling on a marketplace isn’t recommended for any business with long-term ambitions. You don’t own the traffic nor do you get to collect substantial data about your customers. While it might be a good place to get started, you should look to build your own audience on your store as soon as possible.

Keep marketplaces as a part of your omnichannel strategy. Once you have the resources, however, you should prioritize your own store.

Etsy marketplace


Etsy is an example of a large niche marketplace that offers products from a range of small sellers

Alibaba


Alibaba is an example of a huge B2B marketplace that offers a vast range of products for businesses

Also read: Sell Your Products on Amazon With Real-Time Inventory Synchronization

Social Commerce

Social commerce is one of the newest ways to sell around, led by the emergence of Facebook and Instagram. The idea is simple: instead of running a fully fledged store, you sell to customers on social media.

The social store, in this case, acts more as a discovery tool than a sales tool. Customers can tap a "buy now" button and be taken off-network to complete the purchase. In some cases (such as a Facebook store) the purchase can be completed without leaving the store).

If you’re directing customers away from the network, you’ll obviously need a way to collect payments. A conventional online store works well here.

Social commerce should be a key part of your sales strategy, especially if you sell apparel, hobby goods, and any product that requires "discovery".

Social commerce trends

Most businesses use social media as a platform to acquire customers. Nearly 50% of Facebook users say that they’ve bought something directly as a result of a post on the network.

Purchases from social media


This graph shows the percentage of people on each network who’ve bought something as a result of posts on that network

Facebook’s dominance is also visible in its adoption among business owners — 94% of social businesses use Facebook.

Percentage of social businesses


This graph shows the percentage of social businesses using each social network

Customers enjoy social commerce as well; 80% of Instagram’s users voluntarily connect with brands to discover their latest offerings.

In fact, Instagram leads the pack when it comes to engagement — 4.21% of a brand’s followers engage with its posts on average as compared to just 0.07% of Facebook followers.

Engagement rate on social media


This graph shows the percentage of a brand’s followers engaging with its content on average

Of course, this isn’t uniform across all categories. When you look at influencers, you’ll find that niches with highly visual content get more engagement than others.

Average engagement rate by influencer vertical


Photography, art and travel lead the pack in terms of engagement

For retailers, the takeaways are clear:

  • Consumers voluntarily follow brands on social media to discover new products and find offers
  • Consumer-facing visual niches do particularly well on Instagram
  • More and more customers are buying products because of ads and posts on social networks.

Advantages

Social commerce offers several advantages:

  • Targeting: Social networks like Facebook have tons of data on their users (with tools like the Facebook pixel). You can use this data to create hyper-targeted campaigns and higher sales.
  • Ease of use: A social network essentially works as a very large and rudimentary marketplace. With apps such as Ecwid’s Facebook commerce, you can create a fully-fledged store in hours. On other networks such as Instagram, creating a social store is as easy as sharing pictures of your product with a link to your website in the bio.
  • Discovery: Social networks, because of their visual nature, are great for helping customers discover your products. This works particularly well if your product is highly visual or needs to be demonstrated (such as apparel).
  • Trust: Just like a marketplace, running a store on a social network imbues some of the trustworthiness of the network to your store.

Challenges

Selling on social networks comes with its own share of challenges:

  • Ownership: As with marketplaces, you don’t own any of the traffic or data you drive to your store. If the social network decides to cut you off, you’ll have to essentially start from scratch.
  • Changing rules: Social networks can change their rules overnight (as in the case of Facebook’s algorithm), effectively killing your business.
  • Limitations: You have to abide by the social network’s rules in terms of both content and offers. You can’t collect email addresses or any other customer data either.

If you sell clothing & accessories, hobby and gift items, innovative electronics, or anything with a strong visual component, developing a social presence should be a key part of your sales strategy.

As for selecting the right social network, ask yourself: "are my target customers on this network?". If the answer is yes, you should be on it as well.

If your customers aren’t on social media or if your product doesn’t have a visual component (such as a digital product), social commerce should be low on your priority list. You should still try to maintain a presence on top social networks for customer acquisition, but it shouldn’t clash with your commitment to more lucrative channels such as marketplaces and your own store.

Flow movement


FlowMovement offers customers a selection of its products right on its Facebook page

Karbon speed


KarbonSpeed offers its products for sale right from its Facebook page

Offline Commerce

You’re all familiar with offline commerce — walking into a store, picking a product, and paying for it with cash or a credit card. E-commerce might be growing at breakneck pace but offline commerce still dominates the world in terms of total revenue.

Whether you sell offline or not will depend greatly on your access to a local market and your ability to create a store. There are several challenges, but some key benefits as well.

Offline commerce trends

Offline commerce depends heavily on the local market. In saturated markets such as the US, growth rate is slow but steady, hovering around the 4% mark.

Total US retail market


Total US retail market and its growth rate

In China, where the retail market is still maturing, the growth rate is substantially higher in the late single digits.

Retail revenue in China from 2006 to 2016


This graph shows the growth of China’s retail market. Note that all figures are in Yuan

As such, it is difficult to generalize offline commerce trends. Some sectors might be booming in one market, stagnating in others. Your ability to enter the market will also depend on local trends. If retail space is expensive in your city, you might want to focus on cheaper online channels first.

Advantages

Offline commerce offers some benefits when compared to other channels:

  • Customer experience: With a physical retail space, you have complete control over the customer experience. You can let customers touch and try your products and create an environment that amplifies your brand values.
  • Access to customers: Most retail stores will attract walk-in customers. If you have a good location, you won’t have to spend much on marketing.
  • Brand vision: A store gives you the freedom to express your brand vision much more clearly than an online space. How you want customers to experience or use your products is much easier to demonstrate in-person than online. This is one of the reasons why a number of successful e-commerce brands are opening physical stores.

Challenges

As you would know, running an offline commerce venture comes with a huge list of challenges such as:
Initial investment: Between renting a physical space, interior decoration, and hiring retail workers, the initial investment to build an offline store can be enormous. You also have to pay high ongoing maintenance costs.

  • Legal issues: You might require a number of permits and licenses from your local authorities to run a physical store. This can add to the already high initial costs.
  • Location: Physical stores depend heavily on location for their success. A location with poor accessibility or walk-in traffic can doom a store before it even opens.

Running an offline store makes sense only in a handful of circumstances:

  • You have access to a cheap retail space in a good location
  • Your product requires an in-person experience to sell
  • You want customers to understand and experience your brand vision.

If you’re starting out and don’t have a strong budget, have never operated a business before, or don’t understand market demand for your products, an offline store should be low on your priority list. It’s much better to test the market demand online before investing thousands of dollars into a physical retail space.

Pop us shops


Pop-up shops offer an alternative to traditional retail by helping you create a temporary store

Other Ways to Sell

Besides the above, there are several other places to sell your products such as mobile apps or your blog.

Mobile apps

Think of a mobile app as an extension of your online store, except that it’s in a mobile-friendly format. Instead of logging into your website via a browser, customers can install your app and shop directly from their phones.

Mobile apps offer a superior shopping experience for online customers. However, they aren’t without their challenges.

Advantages:

  • Better experience: A mobile app is designed for mobile devices. As such, it offers a better customer experience than logging into a website via a browser. You can also customize the shopping experience to suit mobile customer needs (such as offering larger pictures and bigger buttons for usability).
  • Customer loyalty: Mobile users are wary of installing a large number of apps. If you can get them to install yours, they’re less likely to use apps or websites from your competitors. This can help in creating a more loyal customer base.

Challenges:

  • User acquisition: Mobile users are installing fewer and fewer apps. Instead, they’re turning to mobile websites. This makes it much harder to get customers to install your app.
  • Development and maintenance: A dedicated mobile app is one more platform for you to develop and maintain. This can be expensive and resource consuming (but doesn’t have to be).
  • No significant benefit over website: Mobile websites today can nearly replicate the experience of native mobile apps. You can even package these websites as "apps". This makes mobile apps redundant for most businesses.

Mobile apps work best if you have a lot of returning customers or offer a wide range of products. They are also recommended for businesses with younger customers who shop mostly on mobile.

Instead of creating a dedicated mobile app, however, you can use a solution such as Ecwid to create a mobile app from your existing store.

Avoid mobile apps if your customers are older, don’t use smartphones, or if you have a very limited product catalog. In such instances, a responsive website will serve you well enough.

Blog

Besides mobile apps, you can also sell through your blog via a "Buy Now" button. This button can be added to virtually any page (including your blog posts). It gives customers the option to buy from a small selection of products without visiting your store.

Well produced wins


The "Buy Now" button on WellProducedWins.com plugs into the blog and lets customers buy a single product

The content-focused nature of a blog means that you have ample space to tell the story of the product and its benefits.

Selling on your blog is a great option for businesses who don’t want to maintain a full-fledged store, or want to educate their customers before they buy.

A blog doesn’t work well if you have a large selection of products or if you want to offer a more traditional e-commerce experience.

Conclusion

With the number of channels available to you, figuring out where to sell your products can be a challenge. Marketplaces give you easy access to hungry buyers but limit your freedom. Your own store is easy and affordable to run but requires strong marketing capabilities.

Ideally, you should have a presence on multiple channels. Give customers the option to buy your products wherever they are — on marketplaces, social media, offline, or on your own store.

Where do you sell your products? Do you target multiple channels or focus on just one? Let us know in the comments below.

Also read: How to Make Ecwid’s Omnichannel Potential Work For You

]]>
https://www.ecwid.com/blog/how-to-figure-out-where-to-sell-your-products.html/feed 0
What You Should Know Before Buying an Online Business https://www.ecwid.com/blog/what-you-should-know-before-buying-an-online-business.html https://www.ecwid.com/blog/what-you-should-know-before-buying-an-online-business.html#respond Wed, 31 Jan 2018 13:20:00 +0000 https://www.ecwid.com/?p=19553

The cost of opening an online store is lower than ever before. Yet, launching a new business carries a certain amount of risk. Any number of things can go wrong: your marketing plan might not pan out as expected, you can run into inventory issues, or people might simply not like what you have to sell.

One way to reduce the risk with an online store is to buy an existing online business. Instead of testing the waters with an unproven idea, you can buy a store with established customers and proven demand.

If you choose this option, you have to do your due diligence and double check all the seller’s claims. Follow this checklist to ensure that you buy a proven business.

Basic Audit

Before you evaluate the store’s traffic, financials and operations, check the following:

  • What’s included in the sale: At the bare minimum, you should get the domain, website, customer list, and all social accounts associated with the site. Check if you also get existing inventory, staff, accounts receivables, and IP.
  • Financial documents: You should have access to verified bank statements, PayPal statements, or any other documents that show the business’ revenues and expenses.
  • Legal: How is the business structured — LLC, LLP, or corporation? Are there multiple owners? Are the business and the store domain owned by the same person? Check that you understand all the legal issues associated with the business.
  • Business model: What business model does the store employ — dropshipping, wholesaling or manufacturing? Do you get the contacts of suppliers?
  • Sales channels: How does the business sell its products — through its own store, marketplaces (like Amazon FBA), or physical stores? Are its marketplace listings and accounts included in the sale?
  • Profitability: Whether the store is profitable after paying all wages, taxes, and shipping, and inventory costs. You’ll map the profitability trends later when you run a financial audit.
    • Store Audit

      Start your business audit by evaluating the store. Go through a number of pages to get a feel for the products, copy, and design. Try placing a test order. Ideally, this experience should be smooth and error-free.

      There are a number of things to look for when you audit the store:

      Website performance

      Enter the website domain on GTMetrix. This will test the website from a number of locations and evaluate its speed, mobile responsiveness, and overall performance.

      Store performance report

      Strong website performance indicates that the store is well-run and optimized

      Store content

      Besides checking the store’s UI/UX, take some time to verify the authenticity of any pictures or copy used on the store. A store using fake reviews or text is a big red flag.

      Ask the owner about the following:

      • How are the pictures of each product sourced? Are there any copyright issues associated with the images?
      • Who writes the copy of each product? Is the copy original or copy-pasted from a dropshipper or wholesaler? Check for originality by using a tool such as Copyscape.
      • How are reviews collected? Are the reviews from verified customers?

      Online reviews and complaints

      Finally, check how the store is perceived online. Google the store’s name and URL. Look for any complaints, reviews, and testimonials.

      • Have any bloggers or media sites written about the store? If yes, what were their opinions?
      • What are the business’ ratings on Better Business Bureau (especially for US/Canada based businesses)?
      • Has the store won any industry awards or trust certifications?
      • Are there any scam reports associated with the business? Search for "[business name] + scam" to find these reports.

      Traffic Audit

      It can take months, even years to build-up traffic to a website. If a store has existing traffic, you get a strong foundation for future growth.

      Traffic is one of the top things you should analyze when you buy an online store. Ask for access to the store’s analytics (usually Google Analytics) to get a detailed picture of the store’s audience.

      Here are a few things you should evaluate:

      Traffic trends

      Evaluate the store’s traffic over multiple periods — a year, a quarter, a month, a week and even a day. Look for any distinct trends. Ask the following questions:

      • Is the traffic going up or down year over year and month over month?
      • Does the traffic spike during any specific period? If yes, why?
      • If there is a traffic spike, does it correlate to increased revenue? If yes, can it be repeated?

      Traffic audit

      Studying traffic trends can give you a general picture of the store’s performance

      Every store will have some traffic patterns (higher traffic on weekends, after work hours, etc.). What you should look for are general traffic trends and scalable sources of new traffic.

      Traffic composition

      While an upward trend in traffic is nice, you also want to have the right kind of traffic.

      Store traffic in Google Analytics

      Find the store’s traffic data by going to Acquisition ⟶ Overview in Google Analytics

      Dig through the traffic sources in Google Analytics and ask the following questions:

      • What are the top sources of traffic to the website?
      • Does the store depend too much on a particular source? If yes, is this traffic sustainable?
      • How much of the traffic is from scalable sources (such as paid advertising)? How much of it is organic (such as SEO)?
      • Does the store get a lot direct type-in traffic? This can imply that the store has a strong brand recall with its audience.
      • What are the trends for each traffic channel? Is organic traffic increasing/decreasing?

      Ideally, the store should get traffic from multiple sources in proportionate amounts. You should be able to scale traffic if possible. It should also not rely too much on any specific channel.

      Traffic quality

      Besides trends and sources, you should also evaluate the quality of the traffic. This includes the bounce rate, average time on site, and new vs. returning visitors.

      A few questions to consider here:

      • What is the store’s overall bounce rate? What is the bounce rate on product and checkout pages?
      • How many visitors come back to the store?
      • How many pages does each visitor view on average? How much time do they spend on each page?

      A high bounce rate (anything above 70-80%) on product pages can indicate that people don’t like the products. If very few of them come back, it can mean that you won’t have a lot of repeat purchases.

      Traffic source

      Finally, evaluate the traffic for the following:

      • Geographical location of the traffic: Does the store get traffic from your target geographical location? Is there a lot of low quality (high bounce rate, low average time on site) from some countries? The latter can indicate spam traffic.
      • Mobile vs. desktop traffic: What percentage of the store’s traffic comes from mobile? Does the mobile traffic have a high bounce rate? If yes, it can indicate that the store doesn’t have an optimized mobile experience.

      Once you’ve evaluated the store’s traffic, you can move on to the most important part of any business — its financial data.

      Financial Audit

      If traffic data tells the story of the store’s audience, financial data tells you the story of its paying customers. There should be a correlation between traffic and financial data. Strong traffic without sales is a red flag, as is the opposite — little traffic but strong sales.

      There are a number of things you should consider when evaluating the business’ financials, such as:

      Revenue trends

      Start by analyzing the business’ revenue. Is the revenue going up or down? Are there any periods of particularly high or low revenue?

      Map revenue trends against traffic trends. See if there is any clear correlation between the two. Does revenue go up with traffic? If yes, where is this new traffic coming from? Can you get more such traffic in the future?

      Besides the above, use revenue trends to figure out the following:

      • The business’ primary selling seasons
      • Revenue over holiday periods
      • Revenue over sale periods (such as Black Friday).

      If the store’s sales are highly seasonal, it can impact your growth.

      Revenue by customer

      As a business owner, you want diversified revenue. If too many of your sales come from a handful of customers, you put yourself at risk.

      Analyze the store’s revenue by customer and ask the following questions:

      • What is the average order value per customer?
      • What percentage of customers make repeat purchases? How does it correlate to new vs. returning visitors in the store’s traffic analytics?
      • How often do customers come back for repeat purchases? Are repeat purchases periodic (monthly, weekly, etc.)? What is the average order value for repeat purchases?
      • What is the profit margin per customer after including discounts?
      • Is the revenue diversified? Are there any customer’s accounting for a large number of orders?

      A large number of repeat purchases, diversified customer base, and high average order value are all signs of a healthy business.

      Revenue by product

      Your store’s revenues should come from a wide range of products. If you depend too heavily on a single product for your sales, you risk losing money in case the product becomes unpopular.

      Map the store’s revenue by each product and product category, then consider the following:

      • What are the store’s top-selling products? How much of the store’s revenues do they account for?
      • What are the demand trends for the top-selling products? Are sales up/down YoY?
      • How stable is the supply of the top-selling products? Do you have access to alternative suppliers?
      • What kind of promos does the store run for its top products? How do these promos affect sales?
      • Are there any low selling products in your inventory with a growing demand?

      A store with a large range of popular products and growing sales YoY reduces your risk exposure.

      Also read: 11 Trending Product Ideas for 2018 that Require Minimal Investment

      Cost analysis

      Cost analysis involves mapping the cost of acquiring, stocking, selling, and shipping each product. It also includes the cost of refunds and restocking returned products. Essentially, it tells you how much profit you make for each product sold. It’s a vital metric for evaluating any store.

      A few things you should consider when running a cost analysis:

      • What is the cost to buy each product? What is the minimum order quantity? Are there any alternate suppliers offering lower prices?
      • What is the average shipping cost for each product?
      • Do the products require warehousing? If yes, what are the stocking charges?
      • What is the profit margin on wholesale for each product (especially the top-selling products)?

      Returns and chargebacks

      If too many people are returning products, it can mean that they’re unhappy with the product quality. It also tells you that the customer base is low quality.

      The average return rate for e-commerce stores is about 30%, though this is mostly due to apparel where return rates can be disproportionately high. Among top retailers, the median return rate is as low as 3%. Compare the store’s return rate against these benchmarks.

      If the return rate is too high, ask the owner about the cause. An owner unwilling to discuss returns is a big red flag.


      Open an online store for free

      Technical Audit

      After evaluating the store’s finances, it’s time to do a quick technical audit of the store. Figure out what kind of software the store runs on. Do you have the technical skills to run this software? If not, what is the software’s learning curve like?

      Here are a few things you should consider in your technical audit:

      E-commerce software

      The store’s e-commerce software is the heart of the business. If the software is expensive, laggy, or lacks key features, it will impact your growth potential.
      Consider the following when evaluating the store’s e-commerce software:

      • How much does the software cost?
      • Is the software hosted or self-hosted? If self-hosted, does the software have any special hosting requirements?
      • Does the software integrate with any current tools you use? If not, does it offer an API for easy integration?
      • What hard is it to learn the software? Are there any free training courses to help you along?
      • Can you migrate to another e-commerce software such as Ecwid?
      • What payment processors and shipping integrations does the software currently support?

      Marketing software

      Besides the e-commerce software, you also need to make a list of all the marketing tools used by the store owner. Use the same evaluation criteria as you used above — the software cost, learning curve, special requirements, and integrations.

      Pay special attention to the following:

      • Content management system (CMS) such as WordPress
      • Email marketing software such as MailChimp, Aweber, etc.
      • Customer support tools such as ZenDesk
      • Social media marketing tools such as HootSuite
      • Any other marketing tools used.

      Domain details

      Although not essential, matching the domain’s details to the owner’s claims should also be a part of your technical audit.

      Namely, you should check the following:

      • Domain age: Use a tool such as Whois.net to check the domain’s original registration date. Enter the domain into the search box and look for the "Creation date".

        Domain info

        The domain’s "creation date" tells you the domain’s age

      • Domain history: What was on the domain before the current store? Lookup the domain on Archive.org to dig through its history. Go through a few records to see what the domain looked like over the years.

      If you see any dubious or spammy sites on the domain before the current store, ask the owner about it.

      • Domain blacklists: Sometimes, mail servers and search engines blacklist a domain for spamming. Check MXToolBox’s domain health report to confirm that the domain isn’t blacklisted.

        MXToolBox

        MXToolBox tells you if the domain is cleared by search engines and mail servers

      Besides the above, you can also ask the owner how he acquired the domain and how he used it in the past.

      Marketing Audit

      Buying an existing store gives you a strong marketing foundation for growth. Even a failing store would have some search engine traffic and social media following. This makes it much easier to scale growth than starting from scratch.

      Consider the following in your marketing audit:

      SEO

      It’s much easier to get organic traffic if the store already has a strong SEO foundation. If possible, get access to the store’s Google Webmaster data. This will give you deep insight into the store’s organic traffic and rankings.

      Here are a few things to consider when evaluating the store’s SEO:

      • Domain rating and backlinks: Enter the domain in a backlink analyzer tool such as Moz Open Site Explorer (free) or Ahrefs (paid). Look for a domain authority (DA) of at least 30+ with a low spam score.

        Domain Authority (in Moz)

        Domain Authority (in Moz) or Domain Rating (in Ahrefs) gives you a picture of the site’s SEO fundamentals

      • Keywords: Check what keywords the store currently ranks for. You can plug the domain into SEMRush to find this data. Alternatively, use data from Google Webmaster Tools to check the site’s top ranking keywords.

        Google WebMaster


        Google Webmaster Tools gives you a ton of insight into the domain’s ranking keywords

      Keep an eye out for any lucrative keywords the site already ranks for on the first or second pages. With some push, the store could easily rank in the first three results and get a lot more organic traffic.

      Map the keyword data against the organic traffic in Google Analytics. There should be a clear correlation between the two.

      Social media

      A social media audit should focus on the following:

      • The number of followers/fans on the top social networks (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.)
      • The posting frequency on each social network
      • Top performing content on each network (and whether you can create more of the same)
      • Traffic from each social network
      • Sales from each social network.

      Look out for any signs of organic traction on social media — an Instagram post that goes "viral" or a tweet with a lot of retweets. Ask if you can recreate this traffic.

      Also, evaluate the social performance of the store’s on-site content. Look up the domain on Buzzsumo to find the more shared content on different social networks.

      Buzzsumo

      Buzzsumo tells you how well the site’s content performs on different social sites

      Email marketing and referrals

      Besides social media and search, the two biggest sources of traffic to online stores are email and referrals. When evaluating these two, consider the following:

      • The number of email subscribers, email open rates, and CTRs
      • Top performing emails and their content-type (promotion, news, content, etc.)
      • Top sources of referral traffic and their effect on sales
      • The sustainability of referral traffic.

      For example, a store might get a lot of referral traffic after one of their blog posts goes viral on Reddit. However, this traffic isn’t sustainable — as soon as the Reddit link gets old, it will stop sending traffic to your site.

      Your goal should be to look for referral traffic that is more long-term. For short-term referral traffic, ask whether you can replicate the effect with similar content.

      Besides the above, you should also evaluate any paid traffic, its cost, and its effectiveness. If the owner advertises on AdWords or Facebook, ask for access to their data.

      Staff, Suppliers, and Owner Audit

      An online business isn’t just the sum of its products and marketing; it is also the relationships it has with staff and suppliers.

      In the final part of your online business buying checklist, evaluate the store’s staff, suppliers, and owner.

      Staff

      Does the store have any full-time employees? If yes, what are their wages? Where are they based out of? What are their responsibilities?

      If the store has full-time staff, you’ll want to be thorough with all these questions. Ask the owner to interview staff members.

      You’ll have to decide whether you want to bring in existing staff in or replace them with your own hires. If you choose the latter option, factor in the legal ramifications of firing them as well as the training cost of new hires.

      Do the same for any freelancers used by the business. Figure out their wages, their responsibilities, and how the owner works with them.

      Suppliers

      The success of an e-commerce store often depends on the relationships it has with its suppliers. A reliable and cost-effective supplier can make running the store a breeze.

      In your supplier evaluation, consider the following:

      • How many suppliers does the store use?
      • How long has each supplier been working with the store?
      • What are the terms of the agreement with each supplier, especially regarding cancellation, refunds and shipping?
      • Are there any alternate suppliers for the top-selling products?
      • What are the standard procedures for re-ordering products?

      Inventory

      Assuming the store is being run on a wholesale model, evaluate the store’s inventory. Look for the following:

      • The number of SKUs on offer
      • The quantity of each product in the inventory
      • Stocking costs, if any, for the inventory
      • The process for returning unsold inventory
      • The process for re-ordering new inventory.

      Owner

      Finally, assess the owner, their reason for selling and the willingness to help you with the transition. An online store can be a big purchase; you want to find someone who you can trust and work well with.

      Here are a few things to ask the business owner:

      • The reason for selling the store
      • Any legal issues associated with the business
      • Whether they’ll help you with the transition
      • Whether they’ll introduce you to their existing relationships with suppliers, freelancers, etc.

      Besides the above, also evaluate how important the owner is to the business. If the owner is indispensable (the store is named after the owner, or the product was invented by the owner), you might want to look elsewhere.

      Buying an online business can be expensive, exhausting, but also exciting. Instead of building everything from scratch, you get a "business in a box" with proven sales, established products, and pre-existing relationships. The more money you spend on the business, the more you should invest in due diligence.

      Of course, if you are adventurous and prefer to build everything yourself, you can start an online store for free with Ecwid.

      ]]> https://www.ecwid.com/blog/what-you-should-know-before-buying-an-online-business.html/feed 0 8 Must-Have Elements of a Great Abandoned Cart Email https://www.ecwid.com/blog/8-must-have-elements-of-a-great-abandoned-cart-email.html https://www.ecwid.com/blog/8-must-have-elements-of-a-great-abandoned-cart-email.html#respond Fri, 26 Jan 2018 14:27:55 +0000 https://www.ecwid.com/?p=19498

      It can be cheaper to convince someone who has already shown up in your store to return than to look for a new customer. Especially if that person had a serious intention to buy from you, but something went wrong. That’s the twofold nature of abandoned carts — a sale you didn’t make on one side, and the opportunity to sell on the other.

      An abandoned cart email is a surefire way to bring customers back. These emails recover about 15% of abandoned carts, according to our statistics.

      But what can you write in an abandoned cart email for the best results? We’ve studied how big brands do it. Here are eight must-have principles of abandoned cart emails.

      Related: Abandoned Cart Recovery for Ecwid Stores: Bring Customers Back With Automated Emails

      1. Come Up With a Creative Subject Line

      Your store’s name and a friendly reminder are a perfect match. You can try informal, cheerful phrases like "I’m waiting for you" or "Looks like you forgot something." A classier "You left products in a cart" is also a good one.

      Test different subject lines. As long as your subject line idea makes the email stand out and goes well with your brand, it’s worth testing.

      Abandoned cart email preview

      ”A name + a reminder” combination can be both formal and informal

      The text after the subject line is your email preview. It also influences your open rate. Ideally, the preview text should be a co-pilot of your subject line, supporting the idea and engaging the recipients in the message.

      As a bare minimum, make sure the preview and the subject line are not similar.

      A default subject line for an abandoned cart email in Ecwid looks like this:

      Abandoned cart email subject line

      If you sell online with Ecwid, you can use your own subject line in the abandoned cart email template.

      2. Add Your Store’s Logo

      Usually, brands put logos at the top of the email. It helps their customers to remember the purchase they almost made.

      Abandoned cart email mango

      Mango customers will recognize the shop at once

      A default template in Ecwid displays the store logo at the top right corner automatically.

      Abandoned cart email sample

      Tip: you can change your logo in Settings → Mail.

      3. Differentiate Your Brand With Copy

      Let’s be honest, your email will unlikely be the first abandoned cart email in your customers’ lives. So your copy should stand out to increase the conversion rate.

      Abandoned cart email madwell

      Try to make it fun, not just to push sales

      Mention that you saved the whole cart for the customer and you’re waiting for them to come back soon. Create a bit of FOMO by clarifying it’s a limited offer.

      Abandoned cart email template forever 21

      Forever 21 creates fear of missing out

      If you want to rewrite the copy in Ecwid’s abandoned cart email template, go to My sales → Abandoned carts and press the "Send email" button. Type the text in the popup. That will change the copy for one email.

      If you don’t want to edit it manually every time, you can also change the template. This option fits those who have switched on automated abandoned cart email delivery. Here’s a quick how-to:

      1. In My sales → Abandoned carts, follow the link "Edit template".
      2. Find this part:Editing abandoned cart email template in EcwidUnder this caption, you’ll see the body text of your abandoned cart email written in black. Edit the black text as you like. You shouldn’t change the rest of the code.

        Abandoned cart email template 2

        Feel free to edit text in black, but don’t change text in different colors

      4. Offer a Discount Coupon

      Some customers are so used to getting discounts for coming back that they abandon their carts on purpose. They will be looking forward to a special offer in your abandoned cart email.

      Abandoned cart email levis

      Levi’s gives a discount and warns customers about the expiry date

      Some sellers don’t give a discount for this exact product, but they add information about special offers. In general, discounts work better for bringing customers back.

      In Ecwid, you can create discount coupons and add them to your abandoned cart email copy.

      5. List All the Products in the Cart

      Their titles and beautiful pictures will remind the customer how badly they wanted that stuff. Don’t forget to link each item to its product page in the store.

      Abandoned cart email puma

      Levi’s gives a discount and warns customers about the expiry date

      The list of the items for an abandoned cart email in Ecwid is generated automatically. You don’t have to do anything here.

      Abandoned cart email in Ecwid

      6. Add a Call-to-Action

      A CTA button is the culmination of your abandoned cart email. Everything that goes before it should be convincing enough to make people click.

      The button itself matters, too. Make it bright, distinctive, and add short and simple copy. Experiment with different CTAs, as this can dramatically increase the conversion level. 30% of tests on vwo.com involve a call to action.

      Abandoned cart email nasty gal

      Nasty Gal makes going back irresistible

      In Ecwid, the abandoned cart email template already has the "Complete Your Order" button; you don’t have to add it separately, but you can experiment with the CTA.

      7. Add Your Contact Info

      Show your phone number and email address. You can also add links to your shop’s social media pages.

      Consider this scenario: A customer is ready to finish the order, but they aren’t sure whether the order arrives in time. Or the discount coupon doesn’t work. Or they want to ask a few more questions. There must be someone customers can address with their problem.

      Specify the department (“Customer Care,” "Returns," "Shipping Issues") so that your customers know when they should call and what to expect when your team picks up the phone.

      Abandoned cart email template example

      The Body Shop customers know how to contact customer service

      Ecwid includes your store’s email address in the abandoned cart email template. You can change your email in Ecwid Control Panel → Settings → General.

      You can add your phone number to the template by editing the black text at the bottom:Abandoned cart email template 3

      8. Do It Your Way

      You can design your abandoned cart email in corporate colors, write an official message, use a couple of set phrases.

      Or you can send a friendly letter, as if you wrote it on your way to the office, waiting in traffic — without logos and decorations. Such reminders look more personal. They are perfect for small and "cozy" shops.

      Abandoned cart email template simple example

      Customers will appreciate the service. Even if they don’t complete their order, they can share some valuable feedback, if they feel the email was written by a real person. As for big brands, they don’t often send such letters.

      You can transform your Ecwid abandoned cart email template to look like that. Edit the abandoned cart email template in Settings → Mail. Select the whole template and delete it. Paste the text you want to send (change it as you like):

      ‹br› Hello, my name is Anna.
      ‹br›
      ‹br› I work in Diagon Alley shop. We noticed that you added products to the cart, but didn’t finish the order. Did you have problems with placing the order?
      ‹br›
      ‹br›If you need help, please call us at 8-900-123-45-67, or send an email to anna@gmail.com. My colleagues and I will help you to work it out.

      IMPORTANT: If you have changed the template’s text and then want to go back to it, copy it first and save it in a text document. You can always go back to the Ecwid’s standard template. Just follow the link "Back to the standard template".

      Have you ever completed your order because of a timely and cool abandoned cart email? Tell us in the comments!

      ]]>
      https://www.ecwid.com/blog/8-must-have-elements-of-a-great-abandoned-cart-email.html/feed 0
      19 Customer Appreciation Gift Ideas to Thank Your Customers https://www.ecwid.com/blog/19-customer-appreciation-gift-ideas-to-thank-your-customers.html https://www.ecwid.com/blog/19-customer-appreciation-gift-ideas-to-thank-your-customers.html#respond Wed, 24 Jan 2018 18:00:24 +0000 https://www.ecwid.com/?p=19466

      What better way to show customers that you care than to send them a customer appreciation gift? Your competitors might try to win over customers with stale "thank you" emails. You, on the other hand, can leave a deep impression.

      The trouble with customer appreciation gifts is figuring out what to send. You can’t choose something that’s too expensive, nor can you pick something that might be seen as worthless. You have to walk a thin line between price and practicality when selecting customer gift ideas.

      In this article, you’ll learn:

      1. How to Use Gifts for Marketing

        Gifts or discouts? Secret gifts or explicit ones? Should you give them to every customer or to certain customer groups? How do you maximize the impact of gifting?

      2. How to Select Customer Appreciation Gifts

        What makes a perfect customer appreciation gift? How to figure it out for your business?

      3. 19 Gift Ideas that Your Customers Will Love

        A handy list of gift ideas — from simple to sophisticated, from economic to spectacular.

      How to Use Gifts for Marketing

      While the explicit purpose of a customer appreciation gift is to show you care, it has another motive as well: to market your online store. You certainly want customers to feel happy and appreciated, but it would also be nice if they were to recommend your store to their friends.

      To use customer appreciation gifts as a marketing tactic, there are a number of things you need to keep in mind.

      Gifts vs. discounts

      Using discounts and offers to maximize sales is old hat in e-commerce. The question to ask is: how does a discount compare against a gift in terms of marketing impact?

      To answer this question, you’ll have to consider two things:

      • How often you offer discounts: The perceived value of a discount depends on how frequently you offer it. If you have frequent sales and offers, customers might not be too enthusiastic about yet another discount, no matter how steep.
      • Discount value and conditions: A steep discount with liberal terms might end up costing you more than a free gift. On the other hand, if the discount is too low with strict terms, customers might not be interested.

      Interestingly, research in consumer psychology indicates that people prefer to get more rather than spend less. A free gift might have higher perceived value since it gives them more.

      Of course, this only applies if you’re actually telling customers that you’re giving them a gift. This brings us to the next point.

      Explicit vs. secret gifts

      Should you tell customers about the gift or should you just send them a surprise?

      There are pros and cons to each approach. Telling customers upfront might convince them to make a purchase, especially if they see the gift as a "deal". At the same time, it robs you of the customer delight that comes with a surprise gift.

      Philosophy, the makeup brand

      This makeup brand advertises its free gifts to attract customers (Image source)

      What approach you use will depend on what you hope to achieve with the gift. If your goal is to delight customers, build loyalty, and increase word of mouth (including social media), choose a surprise gift.

      On the other hand, if you want to use gifts as an incentive to buy more, tell customers about it upfront.

      Gifting to some vs. gifting to all customers

      Another dilemma is figuring out who to gift — some customers or all of them?

      Gifting everyone has the obvious cost disadvantage. You might also not realize many benefits from gifting people who are inactive on social media or unlikely to recommend you to friends.

      At the same time, gifting only a few customers might make them feel special — at the cost of other customers. Customer B might wonder why Customer A got a gift and he didn’t. This can create resentment for your brand — the exact opposite purpose of gifting.

      A better approach is to use the Pareto Principle and target your top 20% best customers. These are either customers who are active on social media or correspond to your ideal customer profile. Since you want more such customers, targeting them can yield better results.

      Also read: How to Create Customer Personas for an E-commerce Store

      Maximize the impact of gifting

      To get the most out of your customer appreciation gifts, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

      • Customers buy more when there is a "mystery" involved in the purchase, as one University of Miami study discovered. Keeping the gift a secret can help in this regard.
      • Customers who receive something free and unexpected are driven to shop more, according to one study. Thus, it might be worth it to lose money upfront on a sale by giving a gift. You can make up for it with repeat purchases.
      • Giving away a freebie creates immediate word of mouth, according to an article in the Journal of Marketing. That is especially true if the gift is the first experience the customer has with your brand. Thus, besides your top customers, you can also target first-time buyers when giving away gifts to create a positive first impression.
      • Focus on gifting customers who are active on social media or have a history of sharing your stuff. Prompt them — gently — to upload pictures with their gifts on their favorite social network.
      • Consider donating to charity on behalf of the customer instead of giving away a gift. Research suggests that charity donations work better than a practical gift, especially when the original purchase is frivolous in nature.

      Sephora gifts


      Your customers like to share pictures of free gifts, as in this example of a birthday gift sent to a customer by Sephora

      These are just some tactics to maximize the impact of your gifting. Your next challenge is to select the right gift. We’ll share some rules for gift selection below.

      How to Select Customer Appreciation Gifts

      A customer appreciation gift is usually something physical, useful, and related to your business in some capacity. It has a simple purpose: to thank customers for their business. Whether the gift elicits a "wow" or "eh" will depend on the quality of the gift.

      There are a number of rules you must follow when selecting a customer appreciation gift:

      It should have perceived value: Above everything else, the gift must have perceived value. Even if it is cheap, it must fulfill a need or appear valuable to the customer.

      It should be useful: A good gift is usually one that serves some practical purpose. Souvenirs and trinkets that only take up space are easily forgotten. A useful gift will remind the customer of your business every time they use it.

      It should be easy to store and transport: No customer wants to deal with an unwanted gift that takes up too much storage space. Neither do you want to worry about the hassle of transporting a large gift. Always pick something that is small and easy to transport.

      It should be durable and lasting: A gift that is perishable or easy to destroy will quickly lose its value. Avoid fragile items or anything that might spoil over a couple of weeks.

      It should be related to the business: An ideal gift is related to the business in some way so that it reminds the customer of you. If you run a fashion store, select a fashion accessory, not a book on macroeconomics.

      It should be harmless: Lastly, the gift shouldn’t trigger allergies, have dangerous, sharp edges, or pose a choking hazard to children. Ask: can this gift cause problems for anyone in my customer’s household (especially old people and children)? If the answer is "yes", pick something else.

      When selecting gifts, keep your customer personas in mind. Ask yourself: what would someone from this demographic enjoy? For instance, if your target customers make over $200,000/year and live in a wealthy suburb, a cheap gift card to a discount store wouldn’t work.

      Make demographics the centerpiece of your gift selection process and you’ll seldom go wrong.

      19 Customer Appreciation Gift Ideas

      Now that you have a list of rules for selecting gifts, here are a few ideas you can choose from.

      Related: 11 Trending Product Ideas for 2018 that Require Minimal Investment

      Write personalized handwritten notes

      A popular and extremely affordable gifting option is to simply send a personalized handwritten note to your customers. Make the message unique, personalized, and most importantly, authentic. Use pen and paper, not a printed message. It costs next to nothing except for your time.

      Strange Bikinis, handwritten notes

      Ali Conway, an Ecwid merchant, writes personalized handwritten notes for every order

      Also read: 4 Tips to Maximize the Impact of Handwritten Notes

      Send flowers

      Although perishable, flowers are a universally liked gift item. They’re also mostly brand agnostic, i.e. you don’t have to worry whether they align with your brand. Plus, the visual spectacle of a bunch of free flowers makes for a good photo opportunity and the social shares that go with it. Giving flowers to every customer is expensive, but if you pick the recipients (the most loyal customers, those with huge follower base on social media) and the occasion (birthday, Women’s Day) flowers can do magic.

      The only time flowers won’t work is if you’re targeting young, single male customer groups who usually don’t have an affinity for them. Remember to pick non-allergic flowers for your gifts.

      Offer books

      Books might not make an obvious choice for a gift, but for the right customer group, they can be a fantastic option. A relevant book not only shows that you understand the customer, but it will also stick with them for a long time, reminding them of your brand.

      Further, books have a brand of their own. Sending a non-fiction book that pioneers new ideas can get customers to think of your brand as "innovative" as well. For best results, send non-fiction and non-controversial books.

      Give charitable gifts

      Making a charitable donation on behalf of the customer can work well as a gift idea, especially if your customers are eco-conscious and philanthropically-inclined. Just make sure that the charity is well-recognized, and that there is sufficient proof of the donation.

      Private Spa Shop donations

      Private Spa Shop allows their customers to choose from several charity organizations

      Offer surprise upgrades

      Win over customers by offering them a free upgrade to their existing purchase. This works particularly well if the upgrade is similar to but better than their current purchase. Just ensure that you ask customers before making the upgrade — some might specifically want a lower-tier model.

      Help customers learn something

      One of the best gifts you can give customers is the gift of learning. Perhaps you can put together a series of lessons to help them make the most of the purchase (such as a guitar store gifting free music lesson CDs). Or perhaps you can offer them courses on topics that complement the purchase (such as a handicrafts store offering a free pottery class).

      Gift an experience

      An experience — a spa package, tickets to a local event, etc. — is a great way to make yourself memorable. Ensure that the experience aligns with your brand and customer profile, i.e. don’t gift tickets to a metal concert if your customers are 50-year old women. Also, pick an experience that is easy to reach, has broad appeal, and doesn’t cost too much to dent your profitability.

      Send a birthday gift

      Sending customers gifts on special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries can help you win customer loyalty. It shows that you care enough to remember them.

      Remember that once you start sending birthday gifts, customers might come to expect them every year. So pick something that is affordable enough for repeat gifting. A simple handwritten card works well enough for most customers.

      Offer a treat

      Cookies, chocolates, candy — sweet, customizable, and widely-loved treats make for a fantastic customer appreciation gift. Most customers will appreciate a tin of freshly baked cookies along with their purchase. You can even customize the packaging to include a personalized message or your brand logo.

      The only thing you have to look out for is food allergies. Try to avoid any treat with common allergens such as peanuts.

      Feature customers on social media

      Everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame, and your customers are no different. If you have a popular social channel, featuring your customers or their projects can be an unusual "gift". This tactic works best if the customer has uploaded a picture of your product or interacted with you on social media before. It tells them — and your social media audience — that you’re listening.

      Share local products

      Gifting customers local products (such as a locally sourced food item) works wonderfully well for two reasons:

      • It portrays your business as a "friend" to other local small businesses, thus improving your brand perception.
      • It shows customers that you care enough about them to personalize the gift as per their location.

      Partner up with a local business to offer these products. Your customers will appreciate them, as will local businesses.

      Create an exclusive group

      How can you make your customers feel special? Simple: by creating an exclusive, invite-only group for your top customers. This can be something as simple as a closed Facebook group. Offer deep discounts unavailable elsewhere to emphasize the exclusivity of the group.

      Offer a free consultation

      Valuable advice can be a type of gift as well, especially in industries known to be difficult to approach. If you sell clothes, for instance, you can offer a freestyle consultation. If you sell fitness equipment, you can offer a custom diet plan and workout routine.

      Send coupons to local businesses

      Sending customers coupons to local businesses has the same effect as gifting local products. It shows customers that you care about small businesses. It also demonstrates that you’re willing to personalize gifts for each customer.

      Find a local business that can offer something related (but not competitive) to your brand. Work out a deal with them where your customers can get a discount on future purchases.

      Fredericton Playhouse

      Fredericton Playhouse partners with a number of local restaurants and offers coupons to spur customer purchases

      Give away a free product from your catalog

      A perennial gifting favorite is to simply give away a cheap but useful product from your product catalog. This product should be low cost yet must have perceived value to the customer. Also make sure that it is related to the original purchase, example: free socks with a pair of shoes.

      Urbanrituelle

      A great promotional page onUrban Rituelle

      Throw a party for special customers

      Another way to make customers feel special is to throw a party or host a meetup. This works best if you have a lot of customers in the same location. Warm-up customers to the idea of a party by inviting them to an exclusive group first (such as a Facebook first). Once they’ve all gotten to know each other a bit, invite them out to a party.

      It might be expensive, but it will be an experience your customers won’t forget. Plus, all the social media updates from it will do wonders for your word of mouth.

      Gift a low-maintenance potted plant

      A small potted plant makes for a great gift. Something low maintenance and hardy — such as a cactus — not only looks good but also emphasizes your "green" credentials. If your customers are eco-conscious, this can be an affordable and memorable gift to send.

      Alternatively, send customers plant seeds or even small DIY growing kits ( with seeds, soil, and pot).

      Give away free swag

      A staple in gifting is to give away free swag — t-shirts, bags, notebooks, etc. Try not to include your logo on them. Doing so turns the swag from a gift to an overt marketing tool. Instead, pick something that reflects your brand’s values or products yet can be worn publicly.

      Also read: Checklist: How to Find the Right Supplier on AliExpress

      Make one customer feel special

      Instead of sending an ordinary gift to every customer, you can get a lot of social media mileage out of making a single customer feel truly special. Pick a customer who has been exceptionally loyal to your brand, then make a gesture that goes far beyond a standard "gift".

      For example, Honda found out that one of its customers was about to hit 1 million miles in one of its cars. To make the customer feel special about this major milestone, Honda gave him a free new car and made a video about it.

      So there you have it — 20 fresh customer appreciation gift ideas you can use to market your online store. Use them wisely as gift costs can add up quickly. At the same time, consider the long-term impact of a gift on your future sales.

      Have you sent your customers any gifts so far? If yes, which one is your favorite? Share with us in the comments below.

      Also read: 25 Proven Contest Ideas to Promote Your Online Business

      ]]>
      https://www.ecwid.com/blog/19-customer-appreciation-gift-ideas-to-thank-your-customers.html/feed 0
      How to Handle Negative Feedback: A Practical Guide https://www.ecwid.com/blog/how-to-handle-negative-feedback-a-practical-guide.html https://www.ecwid.com/blog/how-to-handle-negative-feedback-a-practical-guide.html#respond Fri, 19 Jan 2018 12:45:55 +0000 https://www.ecwid.com/?p=19428

      Where there is light, there is shadow too. This describes online reviews in a nutshell. When it comes to reputation management, it is essential to react to negative reviews.

      You probably struggle to respond to negative feedback because you don’t know how to react, what the appropriate language is, or what happens if you disagree with the reviewer. However, responding can not only save your reputation. When handled right, negative customer experiences can even have a positive effect on your business.

      Serious Reasons to Care About Negative Reviews

      Your customers are more likely to leave a review if they had a poor experience than if they had a positive one. Let’s face it, negative reviews are inevitable.

      Negative reviews Apple

      Even a big brand like Apple can get negative reviews

      Such reviews can impact the traffic you get from Google, because star ratings are used in its search results. Google gets this information from online reviews on its own platform — Google My Business — as well as from third-party platforms like Trustpilot.

      Google My Business panel with reviews

      Google My Business panel with reviews from Google, Facebook, and HomeAdvisor

      If you have a poor rating, or if you don’t have any ratings, you can be sure that other websites will appear in the search results. Your listings won’t stand out, and Google users might not click through to your website. Every time it happens, it costs you money, because your customers will choose a competitor who does have (good) star ratings.

      Organic search results without reviews

      Organic search results with reviews

      Organic search results with and without Google stars

      This lack of click-throughs can then have an impact on your website’s overall ranking in Google. SEO experts say that Google is either already using customer experiences as a ranking factor or is looking for ways to consider them in the future.

      However, negative reviews are necessary. Our experience in Trustami is that many online shops ask especially for showing 99.97% instead of 100%. If the score is not perfect, that is better for the shop’s authenticity. The best-working score should be at least near 100% and not 90% or lower.

      Summing it up:

      • Negative reviews are inevitable, so you should have a strategy for them.
      • A solid star rating makes you more visible in search results.
      • A perfect 100% score is worse than a more authentic 99% score.

      How to Track Negative Reviews

      When your business grows, the number of ratings normally grows with it. Successful medium-sized online businesses can have more than 100,000 ratings spread across multiple platforms (see karry24 or lets-sell). In this stage, it is not so easy to notice every review and react to it.

      Online shop Lets-sell with nine connected review networks and over 1 million reviews

      Online shop Lets-sell with nine connected review networks and over 1 million reviews

      You get two opportunities to read your negative reviews and respond to them.

      The first one is to manually track the platforms. When you don’t have many customers reviewing you, that might be manageable. Here’s how to do it:

      The drawback of this method is that reviews are not necessarily in the Google index, so you can spend a lot of time searching and still miss something.

      When you gain more customers, the number of ratings you get increases, as well as the number of platforms where they appear. The professional way to manage reviews then is to get a service to do it for you. You can do it for free with Trustami if you want. Trustami can send you an automatic review alert on a daily basis if you get a negative rating somewhere.

      How to Make Negative Reviews Work for You

      Here we’ll give you a step-by-step plan that you can use when a negative review takes you by surprise.

      1. Decide whether it’s a fair one

      If you see a malicious message and feel the review is unfair, don’t give up right away. You can try to get the review removed. Address the platform but be ready to have good reasons for the removal request. Some reasons may be inappropriate language, wrong review target, or an unverified transaction.

      Deleting an unfair review

      You can request the deletion of unfair negative reviews

      2. Respond to the reviewer directly

      Your goal is to get the reviewer to change the comment or at least to protect yourself from future bad ratings.

      A perfect reply to a negative review clearly shows that you:

      • Acknowledge the issue and apologize.
      • Help the customer with their issues.
      • Are authentic and personal.
      • Tactfully promote a positive image of your business.
      • Learn from it and promise to prevent future issues.

      Replying to negative feedback

      Angela tactfully promotes her salon’s features

      Sometimes a negative review can be very aggressive, or completely unfair, but it still doesn’t violate any terms of the review website. In such a nail-biting situation:

      • Don’t ignore a bad comment. It can be tempting to put it on the back burner, but you shouldn’t leave the website until you resolve the issue.
      • Don’t take it personally. Focus on helping your customer.
      • Don’t react right away. Haste often results in an emotional or unprepared response. Before answering, take a second to think about it and, if necessary, consult your staff. You should obtain as many details as possible regarding the issue.
      • Don’t start a long discussion publicly. Your message on the public-facing platform should contain facts, an explanation, and an offer to discuss this issue with the customer in more detail through direct messaging. However, try to say a little bit more than "I am sorry, give me a call and we can resolve the situation," but also reply to every statement about the circumstances.
      • Don’t be defensive or too apologetic. Try not to blame someone or to repeat how sorry you are, but figure out a way to prevent this from happening again.

      A good example of customer care

      Respond to negative reviews by answering the concern, offering an explanation, and showing your willingness to discuss the issue

      Some Practice

      Below are two real-life cases of companies working with negative reviews. See how companies reacted to the issues and think of how you could improve their answers. You can drop your suggestions in the comments.

      Case 1: Network issues

      Disturbed data connections and call cancellations are not uncommon in metropolitan areas. If problems arise, it is up to mobile operators to appease angry customers and fix the cause of the problem as quickly as possible.

      The trigger was a blog post by IT developer Matthias Bauer, who complained about network issues and got this answer:

      O2 answer on Twitter

      O2 answer on Twitter

      With the heading "We are an isolated case," O2 customer Bauer published an angry blog post. He addressed the recurring provider response that the connection problems are only individual cases. The blogger then invited everyone with the same problem to enroll in his blog. After a short time, over 6,000 people enrolled and the topic went viral.

      In the end, O2 said sorry and promised to expand their infrastructure. But that happened after the shitstorm was already there, and the reputation took a large blow.

      What do you think would be the best way to prevent it? Leave a comment below.

      Case 2: A caterpillar in the salad

      A visitor to the franchise Vapiano found a caterpillar in their salad and posted a video on Facebook. Of course, some visitors did not find it that funny. Many users also sympathized with the caterpillar and interpreted it as an indication of fresh food.

      Within 24 hours, the user’s public status had reached more than 40,000 hits and had been shared more than 14,000 times.

      Facebook post with caterpillar in salad

      The original complaint on Facebook

      The PR agency that supervised Vapiano responded to this situation in order to slightly reduce the negative impact of the posting: "You could see this as proof of the freshness of our salads." Their message also said: "On the contrary, we take this very, very seriously, such a thing must not happen to us!", followed by an apology.

      Response to the caterpillar issue on Vapiano’s Facebook page

      Response to the caterpillar issue on Vapiano’s Facebook page

      The result: an impending shitstorm is now developing into a pro-caterpillar movement.

      Some comments were:
      "it’s just a caterpillar!"
      "You A …. I would rather have saved the animal instead of leaving it in the vinegar bath!"
      "Nobody dies of it. Everyone survived in the jungle camp."

      At the end, this event could have been a huge reputation setback, but due to the clever reaction, it turned out as positive publicity.

      Let’s Revise

      Negative reviews are not as bad as you think. You can even transfer them to enhance your business and gain your customers’ trust. It is normal that nothing is perfect and mistakes, as well as problems, happen in every business.

      This is what you’ve learned in this post:

      1. Watch your review channels regularly.
      2. Don’t panic if a customer writes a negative review.
      3. Get directly in touch with the writer.
      4. Respond to a bad comment publicly.
      5. Learn from negative customer feedback.

      You should try to set up a regular stream of positive reviews about your business as a part of your reputation management. If you do this on the main review websites, the negative reviews will not be as significant. If you have between 10 and 100 positive reviews per one negative rating, the potentially harmful impact of this negative review will be mitigated.

      Learn how to get more reviews in our previous post.

      ***

      Do you already have reviews, likes, or followers on several platforms like Yelp, Facebook, Amazon, eBay, Trustpilot, Etsy, and many more?

      Register your Trustami Account for free and pool all trust signals with just a few clicks in less than five minutes. This is the easiest way to keep track of all your review channels and manage your reputation in an efficient way. ]]> https://www.ecwid.com/blog/how-to-handle-negative-feedback-a-practical-guide.html/feed 0 Mac Users, Meet Our E-Commerce Plugin for RapidWeaver Websites https://www.ecwid.com/blog/mac-users-meet-our-e-commerce-plugin-for-rapidweaver-websites.html https://www.ecwid.com/blog/mac-users-meet-our-e-commerce-plugin-for-rapidweaver-websites.html#respond Tue, 16 Jan 2018 13:46:45 +0000 https://www.ecwid.com/?p=19387

      There are countless ways to build a website. One of them is to use the desktop site builder application RapidWeaver for Mac. With our new e-commerce plugin for RapidWeaver, you can now add an online store to your website.


      Get the plugin

      For those of you who haven’t heard about this e-commerce website-building toolkit, we will answer the most common questions in this post. Don’t hesitate to ask any additional questions in the comments.

      Does the Ecwid + RapidWeaver e-commerce website work for my business?

      Totally, if you are an Apple head who wants:

      • An online store for a small business
      • A classic website structure (for example, "Home/Store/About/Gallery/Blog/Contact Us")
      • Little or no coding
      • Hassle-free SEO.

      RapidWeaver has 50+ built-in themes with different customization levels, so you can choose between a no-brainer setup and more sophisticated adjustments. Coding is allowed but not required. If you’re used to the Mac interface, it’ll be very easy for you to understand the editor.

      Drag and drop tool in RapidWeaver

      Drag and drop tool in RapidWeaver

      If you need more features, RapidWeaver supports a lot of third-party add-ons, including our e-commerce plugin.

      Installed Ecwid plugin for RapidWeaver

      Installed Ecwid plugin for RapidWeaver

      With Ecwid, you can sell physical and digital products in 175 countries, using various payment methods (e.g. credit cards, online wallets, cryptocurrencies, cash), shipping options (global shipping, local delivery, in-store pickup), and tools for promotion (discount coupons, BOGO promotions, upsells, and cross-sells).

      Place your storefront on as many websites as you want. Besides your RapidWeaver website, you can also sell on Facebook, on marketplaces like Amazon or eBay, in-person with the Ecwid Mobile Control Panel, or on partner websites.

      Omnichannel selling

      How to add an Ecwid online store to RapidWeaver websites

      Use RapidWeaver on macOS 10.11 or a more recent version (find out here how to check what version you have).

      The application is not pre-installed on your Mac; if you haven’t used it, download RapidWeaver from their website. You’ll get a .zip file — open it to install the app.

      RapidWeaver has a comprehensive set of video tutorials explaining how to work in the app. In a nutshell, the file-based system allows you to add content to your website by simply dragging and dropping files from your Mac (images, text files, etc.) to the editor.

      Ready with the basics? Let’s move on to adding an online store.

      1. Download the Ecwid e-commerce plugin for RapidWeaver. It comes as a .zip archive too, so click on it to install the plugin. Restart RapidWeaver to see the installed plugin in the app.

        This is where you should see the Ecwid plugin

        This is where you should see the Ecwid plugin

      2. After clicking on "Online Store," you’ll move to the store page. As long as you’re still setting up your store, a demo store will display on your store page. Check it out (switch to the preview mode at the top of the editor) to see how your future store fits the store page.

        Demo products

        Demo products

        Switch back to the "Edit" mode and select "Create new store" (or connect an existing store in case you have one).Adding Ecwid to RapidWeaver

      3. Walk through creating an Ecwid account. The setup wizard will show your progress with all the necessary steps: adding products, setting up shipping and payments.

        Setting up an Ecwid online store

        Ecwid setup wizard

        Learn more about the Ecwid Control Panel.

      4. As soon as you are ready with setting up your store, go back to RapidWeaver. Add other website pages (via "Add") and change their layout (via "Inspector"). When you are ready, publish your website directly to the server.

      Watch a step-by-step video tutorial about setting up your e-commerce website with RapidWeaver and Ecwid:

      Helpful links

      Running an online store with Ecwid doesn’t require special skills, yet we have resources to help you maximize the use of Ecwid’s features.

      Also, make sure you know about other ways to sell with Ecwid:

      ]]>
      https://www.ecwid.com/blog/mac-users-meet-our-e-commerce-plugin-for-rapidweaver-websites.html/feed 0
      11 Trending Product Ideas for 2018 that Require Minimal Investment https://www.ecwid.com/blog/11-trending-low-cost-product-ideas-for-2018.html https://www.ecwid.com/blog/11-trending-low-cost-product-ideas-for-2018.html#respond Mon, 15 Jan 2018 13:34:34 +0000 https://www.ecwid.com/?p=19318

      A new year brings new tastes and trends. What worked well in 2017 can suddenly be out of fashion in 2018.

      We showed you how to spot product trends before. We then used the same methodology to find the hottest products to sell in 2017.

      In this new year, we want to help you find products and niche ideas that don’t require a huge investment to sell. Whether you’re starting a new online store or restocking your existing one, these ideas will help you get started with minimal outlay.

      Dryer Balls

      If you could shave a few dollars off your electricity costs each month for a one-time investment of $5, wouldn’t you?

      That’s precisely the promise of dryer balls. These are fabric (usually wool) balls used in dryers to help dry clothes faster. The balls fill up with water, become heavy, and get in-between clothes, preventing them from sticking together in the dryer. As a result, there is more hot air circulation in-between clothes. This helps clothes dry faster, saving you time and electricity.

      Dryer balls have been around for years but have grown in popularity recently. This is partly due to increasing awareness of the environmental impact of electricity wastage.

      Dryer balls google trends

      Google Trends data shows a slow but steady increase in search interest for "dryer balls"

      Fortunately, this is a cheap product to buy. You can buy them in wholesale from Alibaba for just a few cents.

      Dryer balls on Alibaba

      At under $1 from some wholesalers on Alibaba, dryer balls are quite affordable

      With the eco-friendly promise, this is a great product to sell in 2018.

      Related: The Science of Contacting Suppliers When You’re Starting a Business

      Car Air Purifier

      It’s no secret that air pollution levels are at an all-time high in major cities across the world. Your customers are obviously concerned about air pollutants in their private spaces — their homes, offices, and cars.

      In this context, car air purifiers are a fantastic product to carry in 2018. Increasing demand has brought down costs, especially for ionic air purifiers. New innovations have also helped reduce the form factor. Modern purifiers can plug into your car’s lighter socket without any modifications. Some even double up as a charging port.

      Car air pufifier on google trends


      This Google Trends screenshot shows search interest for "car air purifiers"

      While not as cheap as some of the other products on this list, car air purifiers are still affordable for a starting business, as seen on Alibaba:

      Car Air Purifier

      Ionic car air purifiers wholesale for under $5 on Alibaba

      Given that air pollution shows no sign of abating, you can bet demand will continue to increase in the coming few years.

      Related: How to Work With Focus Groups to Test Your Niche or Business Idea

      Dog Water Bottle

      Being out on a long walk with your four-legged friend is amazing. The only hitch? You have a strut around a backpack with your dog’s water bowl. Then you have to remember to dry it off before you pack it in again.

      Dog water bottles promise a simple solution to this problem. These are bottles with a foldable tray attached to them. When your dog needs water, just pull down the tray and pour in the water. When you’re ready to go, pull the tray back in and off you go. This simple innovation has been ramping up the popularity charts:

      Dog water bottle google trends

      Google Trends shows a gradual increase in search interest for this product

      It helps that the product itself is incredibly cheap. As this screenshot from Alibaba shows you, you can get a bottle for under $2 wholesale.

      Dog water bottle on Alibaba

      At under $3 per piece on Alibaba, dog water bottles are a low-cost business

      Moreover, this isn’t a product with a trending demand. People will continue to keep dogs and dogs will continue to get thirsty. This makes dog water bottles a great product to stock in 2018 and beyond.

      Related: 7 Ways to Sell With Ecwid’s "Buy Now" Button

      Bluetooth Earbuds

      They get in the way of your workout, fall out of your pockets, and somehow always end up in a jumbled mess.

      We’re talking about wired earphones, of course. There are few things as universally disliked as jumbled earphone wires, especially during any athletic activity. Fortunately, there is a solution now — Bluetooth earbuds.

      Although wireless sports earbuds have been around for quite some time, better technology has brought down costs drastically. Battery life and sound quality have also improved. What used to be a niche product is now accessible to anyone. This is reflected in the demand for Bluetooth earbuds as well:

      Bluetooth earbuds on google trends

      Google Trends data shows a steady incline in search interest for "Bluetooth earbuds

      You can get an idea of their affordability for general consumers when you look at their wholesale price on Alibaba:

      Bluetooth earbuds on Alibaba

      Although not cheap, wireless earbuds still wholesale for under $10

      This product is in a hot niche — mobile phone accessories — and should continue to see growing demand for years to come.

      Wireless Charging Pad

      Speaking of wireless mobile phone products, how would you like to charge your phone without fiddling with charging cables?

      That’s exactly what wireless charging pads have promised for years. Working on inductive charging technology, these pads deliver juice to your phone’s battery without any cables. The only requirement is that the phone is placed on the pad screen-up.

      Thanks to everyone from Apple to Samsung adopting wireless charging technology, the cost of these pads has dropped drastically. Demand, on the other hand, has gone up:

      Wireless charging pad on google trends

      Search interest for this product has increased sharply in the last few months

      For a fairly sophisticated tech product, wireless charging pads are quite cheap on wholesale. At the lower end, you can buy them for under $5/piece.

      Wireless charging PAD on Alibaba

      This screenshot from Alibaba shows the relatively low price of wireless charging pads

      This is another popular product in a hot niche. Keep an eye on it if you want trending product ideas for 2018.

      Touchscreen Gloves

      With record-breaking winter temperatures, you can bet people are struggling to use their phones with cold, numb fingers. It doesn’t help that conventional gloves are completely useless when interacting with a touchscreen.

      The solution: touchscreen gloves. These are specially designed gloves that allow users to operate their phones without exposing their hands. A small conductor built into the fingertips allows the gloves to conduct electricity, which is necessary for using smartphones. The demand for these gloves has shot up with dropping temperatures.

      Touchscreen gloves google trends

      Demand for touchscreen gloves sees a spike every winter as this Google Trends screenshot shows

      The good part is that touchscreen gloves are affordable — both for retailers and customers. You can buy a pair from wholesalers on Alibaba for as low as $0.25/pair.

      Touchscreen gloves on Alibaba

      Touchscreen gloves wholesale for under $1 on Alibaba.com

      You can even diversify into multiple sub-categories such as women’s touchscreen gloves, gloves for extreme cold, etc. But hurry up, the demand for this product is seasonal.

      Related: Checklist: How to Find the Right Supplier on AliExpress

      Cold Brew Coffee Maker

      Espressos, cappuccinos, lattes, and now, cold brews.

      This is the latest trend that’s taking over the coffee drinking world. Cold brew coffee is made by letting coffee grounds infuse in water for hours (often overnight). There is no hot water involved at any stage — a big departure from traditional coffee making methods.

      The good news for you is that cold brew coffee makers are a) in demand, and b) easy to retail. Usually made from glass or food-safe clear plastic, these coffee makers have a built-in 'infusion chamber' for keeping ground coffee. Pop a couple of tablespoons of coffee, fill the bottle with water, and get a cup of cold, refreshing coffee in a few hours.

      Demand has been strong:

      Cold brew coffee maker

      There has been a gradual interest in search interest for cold brew coffee makers in the last 3 years

      The price, meanwhile, keeps dropping. You can buy cheap coffee makers wholesale for under $2.

      Cold Brew Coffee Maker on Alibaba

      Although prices vary depending on the material (glass or plastic), cold brew coffee makers are relatively cheap as this screenshot from Alibaba shows

      Given the world’s undying love for coffee, this is sure to be a hit product in 2018.

      Vape Cartridge

      You probably already know that vaporizers are immensely popular. We even included them on our hottest product list last year.

      The latest trend in vaporizers is to use vape cartridges. These can be either used in an eVape pen or a conventional vaporizer. Some of them are pre-filled with vaporizing liquids. Others can be filled with any liquid of your choice.

      This relatively new product has built up immense demand in the last couple of years. Just look at this Google Trends chart as an example:

      Vape cartridge google trends

      Vape oil cartridges have seen a sharp increase in search interest in the last two years

      Plenty of wholesalers will sell vape cartridges for $1 per piece (or even lower).

      Vape cartridge on Alibaba

      Vape oil cartridges wholesale for cheap. Plenty of sellers on Alibaba also ship low quantities

      If you’re looking for a low budget product with guaranteed demand in 2018, this should be one of your top picks.

      Related: Should You Make, Manufacture, Wholesale or Dropship Your Product? The Definitive Answer for eCommerce Store Owners

      Microfiber Towel

      Light, affordable, and incredibly absorbent. That’s microfiber towels for you in a nutshell.

      Microfiber cloths have typically been used for cleaning purposes. The microscopic fibers that make up the cloth trap dirt and moisture, making cleaning a breeze.

      Now thanks to technological improvements, microfiber is affordable enough to be used even in large sizes, such as towels. As a result, microfiber towels have seen a steady increase in demand over the last few years, as Google Trends data indicates:

      Microfiber towel on google trends

      Although not an immediate spike, search interest for microfiber towels has been on a steady incline

      The price is competitive as well. Wholesale rates for standard-sized towels start as low as $1 and below.

      Microfiber towel on Alibaba


      Microfiber towel prices have come down drastically, as this listing from Alibaba shows

      Moreover, this isn’t just a single product; it’s an entire category. You can easily expand to a number of related microfiber products — cleaning cloths, mops, dusters, etc.

      Reflective Dog Harness

      Yet another product targeted at man’s best friend. This one is a new take on the standard dog harness.

      This dog harness is either made of a reflective material or has built-in LED lights. This makes it easy for others to spot the dog when you’re out on a walk after dark. If the harness has LED lights, it can also act as an ambient light.

      Reflective dog harnesses have seen a slow but steady growth in demand as shown below:

      reflective dog harness google trends


      Search interest for reflective dog harnesses has been on a slow but steady upward curve

      Your initial investment will depend on the product type, but you can usually find wholesalers selling LED harnesses for under $5/piece.

      Dog harness on Alibaba

      LED dog harnesses wholesale for under $2 from some sellers on Alibaba

      Given the size of the pet industry (for example, the average UK dog owner spends 1,252 GBP on their dogs each year), this is a niche with a lot of growth potential. You can easily expand beyond dog harnesses to cover related dog products.

      Also read: New Ecwid Starter Site: A Great Look For Your Online Store From Day One

      Fanny Packs

      From the latest Thor: Ragnarok to the success of the Stranger Things TV series, all trends show that things from the '80s are making a huge comeback. One of these things, of course, is fashion. And when we talk of '80s fashion, it is impossible to forget the unmissable fanny pack:

      Fanny Pack

      Fanny packs, an '80s staple, are coming back in vogue (Image source: Pinterest)

      For all their practicality, fanny packs had earned a bad reputation in fashion circles in the last few years. However, thanks to the re-emergence of '80s nostalgia, fanny packs have come back in vogue. Just look at this chart from Google Trends:

      Fanny pack google trends

      Google Trends data shows a steady increase in search interest for fanny packs

      This is a great product to stock since you can choose from a huge range of designs. You don’t need a huge investment either — wholesale prices are usually under $5/piece.

      Fanny Pack on Alibaba

      Not only are fanny packs available in a huge range of designs, they are quite affordable as well

      Taking the '80s resurgence into account, investing in a quintessential fashion product from the decade seems like a smart choice.

      ***

      Picking a low-investment trending product to start your store is a good way to improve your chances of success. What matters more is how you grow your store after the initial product selection. Some product ideas can easily be expanded to cover entire themes or categories (such as an '80s themed store).

      The beginning of a new year is a great time to test out these product ideas. Go ahead and create your free online store to start selling!

      ]]>
      https://www.ecwid.com/blog/11-trending-low-cost-product-ideas-for-2018.html/feed 0
      Why Your Online Store Needs a YouTube Channel in 2018 (And How to Start) https://www.ecwid.com/blog/why-your-online-store-needs-a-youtube-channel-in-2018-and-how-to-start.html https://www.ecwid.com/blog/why-your-online-store-needs-a-youtube-channel-in-2018-and-how-to-start.html#respond Thu, 11 Jan 2018 06:15:22 +0000 https://www.ecwid.com/?p=19291

      Having your own YouTube channel sounds hot and tempting. The existing YouTube stars look fun and easy-going, as if it’s a no-brainer to get in front of a million eyes. Even a simple unboxing video of a cool new gadget can go viral.

      The thing is, millennials are primarily looking for information on YouTube, not in search engines. If you have a teenage kid around, you can easily prove it: just ask them to help you decide on your new smartphone. The first thing they’ll do is watch some video reviews.

      YouTube has become a separate search engine, so it’s time to get in these waters. Writing your first video script takes courage, we get it. However, just like with any content creation, making videos for your YouTube channel becomes simpler with a step-by-step plan.

      But first, realize what a YouTube channel can do for your online store:

      • It helps attract customers, especially a young audience.
      • It works for your branding.
      • It allows you to show the product as clearly as possible and create an effect of presence (the product cannot yet be touched, unlike in physical stores, but you can show it from all sides and in action).
      • It works as an additional (and sometimes as the main) channel of communication with customers.
      • It gives a long-term effect: the video hangs on the channel for a long time and the number of views only increases (unlike with Instagram posts).

      Discover more reasons to promote your store with content marketing.

      This post will help you organize the creation of your video channel, even if you’re not very familiar with YouTube.

      Before you start: Do not chase millions of views. For the YouTube channel of an online store, followers and views are less important than website visits and conversions. One hundred views with ten purchases is better than one hundred thousand views and no purchases.

      1. Analyze Your Competitors

      Take a look at what others are up to. Search for video channels in your niche to find out what content they publish and which videos get the most views.

      Let’s take a bike shop as an example. Enter "bicycles" in the YouTube search bar. You will see the three main channels of bicycle shops on the first page of search results among the entertainment channels: Global Cycling Network (over a million subscribers), Specialized Bicycles (250,000+ subscribers), Inspired Bicycles Ltd (53,000 subscribers).

      YuoTube videos about bicycles

      We didn’t look further into the other store channels, but you should evaluate all the major competitors to see the big picture.

      Evaluate their main content elements:

      Genres and titles

      The videos by Specialized Bicycles are more like short movies. They are cinematographic, outdoor, and almost speechless. The company features the bike model in the title, as well as in a pretty straightforward description.

      Inspired Bicycles shares extreme trip videos with riding tricks. They feature several bikes at a time and encourage their viewers to learn more about the featured bikes on their website. The title promotes the company name but doesn’t say anything about the bikes.

      The last one, Global Cycling Network, posts helpful content, such as "5 Killer Cycling Workouts for 2018." It looks like their store is just an addition to their channel, not vice versa. Well, people love helpful content. Good job, Global Cycling Network.

      Popularity

      Global Cycling Network’s "Cheap eBay Bikes — Which Is Best?" comes forward with 215K views versus their "How Much Can Bicycles Change Communities?" with only 25K views. The first video has more practical value to the audience.

      Inspired Bicycles’ most popular video (754K views) features Danny MacAskill, a famous trails bike rider. Unless you’ve got a celeb friend, inviting someone famous to shoot for your brand new YouTube channel can be next to impossible, but keep this in mind as a viral topic.

      Specialized Bicycles got a video with over a million views. It’s a short dramatic piece of footage about riding in New York. Featuring the busiest city in the world in the title and editing your video properly are good ways to attract a huge audience.

      Do the same for the competitors in your niche. Pay attention not only to their best videos but also to the weakest. Don’t try to remake a video that has already failed on someone else’s channel — focus on something that has been proven to work. Do the research from time to time, not just before launching your YouTube channel.

      2. Shape Your Target Audience

      This is a very important step. Understanding the needs of your customers is necessary for creating relevant and engaging videos. So try to use the three ways below to understand your target audience on YouTube.

      Create the semantic core

      "Wow, easy, Ecwid blog," you may think. Okay, maybe that sounds a bit too academic, but here’s all you should do: choose exactly those keywords that are close to making a purchase.

      Such requests include the words "how to choose" or the names of specific products. You can use Keyword Tool to do it — it integrates the keywords from the search engines and YouTube search suggestions and then displays them in one window.

      Learn more: How to Build Killer Keywords Lists for AdWords

      Dive into your analytics

      Accumulate information from your existing or potential customers, employees, and store analytics data:

      • Interview your customers. Drop a survey to your email subscribers to find out which topics are relevant to them.
      • Analyze your customer care stats. Whether you respond to customer requests yourself or have a whole team for it, collect the most popular questions and issues to put them on your list of topic ideas.
      • Learn more about your store visitors. Set up tracking for your site search requests to learn what keywords people use to find your products. Select those keywords that convert the most.

      Analyze popular topics

      Use the BuzzSumo service to spot video content that collects the most likes and shares. A monthly subscription costs $79, but the first ten most popular topics for a keyword are free. After entering the request, you will see some of the popular content pieces on this topic with the largest number of likes and shares.

      The most popular articles for the keyword

      The most popular articles for the keyword "bicycle" (in the last six months)

      Videos on popular topics attract attention. However, attention is not always equal to sales, so it is important to estimate the potential profitability of the topic.

      To choose a topic with commercial value for your video, make sure it meets the requests of the ready-to-buy segment of the audience.

      For example, people who make purchases on your website came there by the request "How to choose a mountain bicycle." Therefore, that topic has commercial value for you. But be careful with investing into a "bicycle tricks" video because those who are interested in tricks are not necessarily ready to buy a bike.

      If you want more from your YouTube channel than just sales (branding, for example), you can use a wider range of topics that will help you to increase the recognition of your brand. Video marketing provides ample opportunities to work with the target audience.

      As seen in section one, a bicycle shop selling bicycles for extreme riding can publish videos from competitions, training videos, and entertainment videos. Such topics will help you to create an image of experts in extreme cycling and inspire people to get into it.

      3. Make a Content Plan

      Write down the following for each content idea:

      • A publication date
      • A topic/category
      • A title.

      Make a plan for at least a month ahead and periodically change it, tracking the popularity and effectiveness of the content.

      You need to update the channel regularly, at least once a week, so that the YouTube algorithm ranks your videos higher in the search results.

      Here are some YouTube video content ideas.

      An answer to a question. Give answers to common questions of your customers or people in the comments.

      Product reviews. This is a popular type of content for online stores. It helps to demonstrate the properties of the product to potential buyers.

      Office backstage. Customers are curious to look behind the scenes and find out how and what your products are made of.

      Interview with experts. Your employees, as well as guest gurus, can share a lot of insights. Inviting an offsite expert will draw their audience’s attention to your video.

      Life hacks and guides. These are videos with useful information for potential buyers.

      Entertaining content. From "best summer looks" to "10 potatoes that look like Channing Tatum," everything that can make your audience nod, laugh, say "wow", or get motivated, will do. But make sure it doesn’t harm your brand.

      Stories. Just like those YouTube channels about biking mentioned above, you can shoot stories about pretty much everything that resonates with your brand. Talk to interesting people in your city, tell a customer success story, visit a public fest.

      Crash tests. If your product (and budget) can survive it, shoot a crash test. You can find many examples on YouTube.

      News. These are videos about company and industry news, reports from events, and reviews of new products and prereleases.

      There are more video content types, but keep focused on pushing viewers towards making a purchase. Your videos should convince them that your store is the best place to buy your products. Take notes of what people say in the comments and follow their advice.

      Before you publish anything, practise ignoring trolls. To define constructive criticism, check the comment for specific claims. If a person writes negatively for the sake of negativity, you have the full right to filter (delete) such comments. Don’t ever start a discussion with these people. Trolls can use every dirty word to piss you off — and if you are pissed off publicly, it can kill your brand reputation.

      4. Create Your Videos

      You can organize video production in three ways:

      • Building your own video studio requires equipment, employees, and if you don’t have a room, you’ll have to rent it.
      • Buying the service of a professional studio is the most expensive option.
      • Amateur shooting on a simple camera or phone camera is the best choice for a small business.

      "We sometimes shoot up to 20 videos per night, we don’t do much editing. We post it gradually: first, on the website, right away, later on YouTube, 1-3 videos per week," says Max Oransky, co-founder of Shanti-shanti.rf (an Ecwid store, Russia).

      Great content is more important to your audience than the professionalism of the shooting (cat videos stay cute and funny, even at 0.3 megapixels). Just make sure you have a quiet room without extra noise, a good built-in or external microphone, and enough light.

      Learn more: How to Create a Professional-Looking Promotional Video With Your Smartphone

      5. Optimize Your YouTube Channel

      Optimization will help people find your video channel in their search results. Use the same keywords that you used for composing the content plan (the keywords of people that are close to the purchase).

      Use keywords in the title and description of the video, as well as in the subtitles and tags.

      Keywords in the title of the video and the description

      Keywords in the title of the video and the description

      Take a look at YouTube’s ranking factors to understand what affects your video rankings. Keywords are not a cure-all. Many users view the content that YouTube displays in the list of similar and recommended videos. Therefore, you shouldn’t rely only on optimization, but you can’t abandon it.

      6. Engage Your Viewers

      YouTube doesn’t tolerate weaknesses when it comes to content quality. If your videos start to get fewer views, they will go down in the YouTube ranking and get even fewer views. Likes and comments also count for ranking — the more, the higher.

      So here’s how to keep a hungry, but easily distracted YouTube audience engaged.

      Don’t make super long videos

      The video length should be equal to the viewer’s interest in it. The next Tarantino movie can last three hours, but who cares? A long promotional video might not be appreciated so well. Relatively short videos (4-20 minutes) usually gain more views.

      Engage your viewers with:

      • Up-to-date, trending content
      • An involving, intriguing script
      • Clear, distinctive speech and suitable music
      • A transparent headline
      • A relevant description.

      It’s easier said than done, so we’ll show you an example.This reviewer of the thinnest Acer laptop doesn’t simply read out its parameters. He makes a sensation out of it with the help of intonation, funny lines, and video editing.

      Laptop review on YouTube

      Be this excited about your videos and people will love you

      Offer exclusives and bonuses:

      • Promise to reveal a secret at the end of the video
      • Drop a contest in the comments (“How do you want us to test this product? Submit your idea to the comments and we’ll do the one we like the most”)
      • Use YouTube’s interactive video ads to link to more content
      • Mention a coupon code somewhere in the video, etc.

      Related: 25 Proven Contest Ideas to Promote Your Online Business

      Use YouTube Analytics to improve your content: see at what moment viewers give up on watching your videos.

      For example, if your viewers tend to leave from the very beginning, there can be two reasons: the wrong audience or a boring intro. If the video is turned off in the middle, it’s possible that the script is not dynamic enough.

      7. Stimulate the Clicks to Your Store

      The video channel doesn’t sell itself — sales will occur only after viewers go to the online store. They’ll be reluctant to leave YouTube, so make it super easy for them to find and buy your products.

      Keep the store link visible

      Be sure to add a link to your site to the description of each video and to your channel description so that customers can go over it and make a purchase.

      The homepage link is good for the channel description, but it’s better to give a specific link (to product page/category) under the video that mentions the products from that category.

      Linking in YouTube video descriptions

      Link your video descriptions like a pro (product pages, time on video, social media)

      Add a call-to-action to your video

      Encourage people to click the link below to learn more about the product multiple times per video. Use all the kinds of links that the player provides.

      There were other tools earlier on YouTube that helped to convert viewers. Annotations have been disabled since May 2017. Interactive tips and end screens are now available only to channels with monetization enabled, that is, those who allow YouTube to use their videos for the advertising of other products or services. But it’s unprofitable for most business channels to post other people’s advertisements in their video.

      To lead the first viewers to your YouTube channel, try paid advertising. The bids on YouTube depend on the topic and category of the video. The higher the competition, the higher the price. Also, different ad types have different bids.

      Advertising is configured in your Google AdWords account. There you set up the target audience, the budget, the period, and the places where the ad will be broadcast: in the search, before watching the video, or on the Display Network.

      Learn more: YouTube Director: How to Create Video Ads for Your Store

      9. Track Performance

      Track the performance of each video. Use separate UTM tags for each video to understand where exactly store visitors come from and which videos work best. You can adjust an inefficient video, too (add an overlay, graphic elements, divide a long story into several short parts, etc.).

      "We add a link to our store in every video and in their descriptions. These links generate 500-1,000 visitors a week. Conversion to the checkout from YouTube videos is not very big (1.5 times less than the store average), but often, it’s visitors from YouTube who buy expensive products.

      Also, we place videos on the product pages. About 10% of the site visitors watch them, some of them make a purchase after viewing. Some people don’t notice links to the site on YouTube, they watch the video on the channel and then Google the store name. Those visitors are harder to track." — Max Oransky, co-founder of Shanti-shanti.rf.

      ***

      To sum up, here’s how to start selling on your YouTube channel:

      1. Analyze your competitors and the needs of your audience, find out which topics are the most relevant.
      2. Make a content plan, select the topics, and set the keywords for shooting the videos.
      3. Consider how to keep viewers engaged.
      4. Arrange, curate, and optimize your videos.
      5. Advertise to generate the first views on your channel.
      6. Regularly analyze the progress and look for improvements.
      ]]>
      https://www.ecwid.com/blog/why-your-online-store-needs-a-youtube-channel-in-2018-and-how-to-start.html/feed 0
      Why and How We Updated the Ecwid Control Panel https://www.ecwid.com/blog/why-and-how-we-updated-the-ecwid-control-panel.html https://www.ecwid.com/blog/why-and-how-we-updated-the-ecwid-control-panel.html#respond Mon, 08 Jan 2018 12:57:00 +0000 https://www.ecwid.com/?p=19259

      Your Ecwid store can have many storefronts — a single Control Panel makes it easy to manage them. It contains all the settings and tools for sales; you use many of them every day, and you can regularly discover new features. We are constantly improving the Control Panel to keep it both professional and handy.

      We’ve released a bunch of Control Panel updates lately, and we’d like to tell you everything about them from start to finish. Refreshed design, improved navigation, and new functionalities have affected the following sections:

      • A vertical menu
      • The "Products" page with filters
      • The "Order Details" page
      • The "Shipping" page
      • The "Reports" page.

      We’re not done with the redesign yet, but the major updates have been rolled out. If you’ve been with Ecwid for over six months, check them out and share your feedback in the comments.

      Why the Changes?

      Ecwid has been around for eight years, with new features emerging all the time. One day, they flooded the old Control Panel, and there was no room for more tabs and buttons. We fixed that. The new navigation makes it possible for the CP to contain many sections and stay extendable.

      The updated sections are responsive, which means you can comfortably work in your Control Panel from any device.

      Finally, the Ecwid Control Panel now looks much cleaner, more consistent, and more intuitive thanks to the design updates.

      We’ll explain below what’s so great about each improvement.

      A Vertical Menu

      The Control Panel menu is now on the left instead of being on top. That way you can access the necessary tab in fewer clicks:

      • All the sections are right in front of you, and subsections are displayed when you hover the cursor over them. No need to navigate to the top of your Control Panel to change the tab.  
      • The menu adapts to the browser screen size and takes the optimal space for different screen sizes. If the screen is small, you’ll see icons instead of sections’ titles.

      The new vertical menu

      The new vertical menu

      A New Order of Tabs in the Menu

      We have rearranged the order of the tabs based on the data on how often Ecwid merchants use each of them. The most frequently used sections are now at the top of the list, while the one-time settings like store design are further down.

      1. Everyday store management

      The tabs you need every day are now at the top of the list:

      • My Sales. Here you can view and edit orders, track abandoned carts (and enable automated recovery emails), and see the customers’ list.
      • Catalog. Your storefront settings are here: add and edit products, split them into categories, assign featured products to your homepage.
      • Discounts. Use this section to run promotions: create discount and free shipping coupons with thresholds, assign them to certain customer groups (e.g. loyal customers).
      • Reports. Track your store performance with different sales analytics tools to stay effective and grow your sales. Connect Google Analytics, heatmaps, measure your revenue, sales channels performance, and other vital metrics.

      2. Sales channels

      You can sell in many different ways with Ecwid: on several websites at once, on blogs, on Facebook, in marketplaces, etc. You get all the sales data and manage the store from one and the same Control Panel.

      Ways to sell are called sales channels. Connect those sales channels to reach more customers, no matter where or when they want to buy your products.

      Sell on:

      The “Marketplaces” tab in the Control Panel

      The "Marketplaces" tab in the Control Panel

      Learn more about omnichannel selling.

      3. One-time settings

      Changes to shipping, payments, and storefront design settings are occasional. Those tabs are now in the bottom of the list and don’t distract you from everyday routine in your online store.

      If you need to extend your store’s functionalities (for example, connect accounting tools, add a promo bar, or install a live chat), go to the Apps section where you will find 100+ applications for your Ecwid store. The App Market is available for Ecwid merchants on paid plans.

      Related: Best New Apps 12/17: Sell on eBay, Upsell, Add Cookie Banner

      New in the "Products" Section

      Editing your products and product details is an ongoing task. Here are three improvements of the "Products" section that will speed up your workflow.

      1. The important info put forward

      You don’t have to open the product editor for each product to check stock or product pictures. The main product info is displayed on the product list:

      • A product picture. It’ll help you visualize your products for easier searches.
      • Enabled/Disabled
      • In stock (how many)/Out of stock
      • SKU
      • Other product info: shipping conditions, attached downloadable files, number of options.

      Product list in Ecwid

      2. Product filters

      Now you can filter your product list by category, availability, and stock status. To do that, click "Filter" on the left of your product list.

      New product filters

      Use the filters to quickly access and edit your products. Say you’ve sold out your products promoted on the store homepage. Switch on the filter and disable them altogether.

      Bulk product update in Ecwid

      Bulk product update in Ecwid

      We will add more filters with other parameters in the future.

      3. Mobile adaptiveness

      The new "Products" tab adapts to all screen sizes. View and edit your products from your smartphone or tablet without any hassle.

      New in the "Orders" section

      Though your "Orders" list has been transformed quite a while ago, it’s still a part of this project, so let’s revise what’s so cool about it. But that’s not all. We’ll introduce you to a brand new "Order details" page, too.

      1. Order list with new filters

      It’s a mobile-responsive, clean page with new features like mass updates and an order editor.

      The look of the ‘Orders’ list

      The look of the "Orders" list

      In My Sales → Orders, you’ll find refreshed, handy filters by date, payment and fulfillment status, and payment and delivery methods.

      There are many use cases for filters. You can start your workday by filtering the orders that are awaiting fulfillment to cover them in time. Or compare your holiday sales from year to year.

      2. New "Order Details" page

      Order details are critical for getting an order to the customer quickly. We have re-ordered the details so that they make semantic groups. It helps you perceive the info.

      Ecwid new order details page

      Here you’ll find:

      1. The main order info is at the top. It allows you to understand the order status (e.g. Has it been paid? Has it been processed?) on the fly.
      2. The second block displays customer comments that are necessary for fulfilling the order as soon as possible. Holiday wrapping, no onions in the burger, an additional phone number — this block displays whatever your customer needed to specify. As before, you can add a comment for your staff. Your customers won’t see it.
      3. The block with order items comes third, showing you a list of products a customer has purchased. The info is aligned with your actions when you fulfill an order.
      4. The block on the left has comprehensive customer data like name, shipping address, phone number, or even a tracking number. If you want to specify something about your customer, you’ll have their profile at your fingertips.

      ***

      We’ve tried to make the Control Panel more attractive and handy — let us know what you think about the updates in the comments below.

      ]]>
      https://www.ecwid.com/blog/why-and-how-we-updated-the-ecwid-control-panel.html/feed 0
      How to Work With Focus Groups to Test Your Niche or Business Idea https://www.ecwid.com/blog/how-to-work-with-focus-groups-to-test-your-niche-or-business-idea.html https://www.ecwid.com/blog/how-to-work-with-focus-groups-to-test-your-niche-or-business-idea.html#respond Wed, 03 Jan 2018 10:48:00 +0000 https://www.ecwid.com/?p=19077

      Do you have an idea for a product or a retail niche but aren’t sure if there is a market for it? Do you hesitate to launch because you don’t have enough validation that your idea will succeed?

      If you answered "yes" to these questions, you need to test your niche through focus groups.

      A focus group is a small group of consumers that reflects your intended target market. By pitching your idea to them and analyzing their responses, you can gauge the viability of your idea and make changes accordingly.

      As we’ll show you below, it’s both accessible and affordable to put together a focus group to test your niche. You’ll learn how to find the right people for your focus group, what to ask them, and how to analyze their answers.

      What is a Focus Group?

      A focus group is usually 7-10 people who are unfamiliar with each other but fit into a specific demographic profile. A moderator, usually someone unaffiliated with the business, asks the group a series of focused questions and records their responses.

      Analyzing these responses gives the business insight into the way the group perceives the idea or product.

      Roughly 70% of all market research dollars in Fortune 500 companies are spent on focus groups, according to Marketing Research Association.

      Primarily, focus groups give you qualitative insight into an idea, product, person (such as politicians) or even a piece of art.

      The use cases are extensive. Businesses (especially in the FMCG sector) frequently use them to test everything from packaging to new product categories. Movie studios use them to test early cuts of blockbuster movies. Even government organizations use focus groups to assess their public-facing messaging, education initiatives, etc.

      What focus groups can tell you:

      • How a highly-specific demographic thinks or feels about a product
      • Why people feel the way they feel about an idea or product
      • How you can change a product or idea to serve the target market’s needs better
      • How you can market the product or idea to its intended audience.

      What focus groups can’t tell you:

      • How individuals would react to your product or idea
      • How individual preferences can change over time or the product’s evolution
      • Whether learnings from one group apply to another demographic

      Although they have their flaws — notably, groupthink and management issues — focus groups remain one of the best sources of qualitative research for any business. Combined with in-depth one-on-one interviews, these groups can tell you a lot about the viability of your niche idea.

      In the next section, we’ll discuss how to create your focus group.

      Related: Need Help Figuring Out What to Sell Online?

      How to Work With a Focus Group

      Qualitative research through focus groups involves four steps:

      1. Planning and researching the focus group
      2. Finding appropriate participants
      3. Developing a set of questions
      4. Analyzing group responses for actionable insight.

      Let’s look at each of these steps in more detail below.

      1. Plan the focus group study

      A focus group study involves extensive planning and research. You have to research your target audience and zoom-in on a narrow demographic that would respond to your idea.

      To do this, you have first to nail your value proposition. Unless you do it, you can’t figure out who to pitch your idea to.

      Start by listing down the following:

      • Why you sell: As Simon Sinek says, "start with 'why'." List the core reason for the business’ existence and the philosophy behind it.
      • What you sell: Mention your exact product names and their categories.
      • Where you plan to sell: Specify all your target channels (e-commerce, social media, physical stores, online marketplaces, direct sales, etc.)
      • Which needs you fulfill: List the key issues your business and its products solve. Do this for the company as a whole and each product in your catalog.

      Your goal is to figure out your target market from this data.

      One way to do this is by digging through your competitors. We’ll show you two ways to do this below:

      Audience research with Amazon

      Amazon is an excellent place to start your research. Head over to the full store directory and look for your broad product category.

      For example, if you sell gardening tools, you would select "Garden & Outdoors" as your home category.

      Narrow your niche further on the next screen by selecting a sub-category.

      Amazon’s site directory

      Amazon’s site directory is a great way to figure out what specific categories your products belong to

      Amazon will let you zoom-in even further by selecting particular product categories.

      Amazon’s listings

      Use Amazon’s listings to figure out your product’s home category, sub-category and product category

      Thus, you now have your home category (“Garden & Outdoors), sub-category (“Lawn & Garden Care”) and product category (“Gardening Tool Sets”).

      Your next step is to analyze how your competitors are advertising their products.

      Turn to Amazon again to find the best-selling products in your target category. Analyze each product’s description. Look for keywords that indicate the product’s target market. Ask yourself: is this product meant for a hobbyist or a professional? Is it targeting a specific niche? What is the target gender and age group?

      For example, this gardening tool set mentions "comfort grip handles for arthritis" in the description. This indicates that the target market is likely older (since younger people are unlikely to have arthritis).

      Amazon product descriptions

      Look for keywords that indicate the product’s target audience

      Make a note of these for all your products. Your objective is to build a demographic sketch of the kind of person who would buy your products.

      Audience research with Facebook

      Another free source of market research is Facebook. Head over to the Audience Insights tool in the ad manager.

      Facebook audience insignts

      Facebook’s Audience Insights is a fantastic tool for gathering demographic data

      Choose "Everyone on Facebook" on the next screen.

      Start your research by adding your principal competitors in the "Interest" field. In case the competitor doesn’t show up (common in small niches), look for a leading publication in the niche instead.

      For example, if you’re selling high-end men’s formal shoes, you might look up a famous competitor like Allen Edmonds. Facebook will show you the demographics of people who’ve liked or followed this brand on Facebook.

      competitor in Audience Insights

      Search for a competitor in Audience Insights to find its target demographic

      Look for job titles, education level, location, household income, home ownership, etc. Also look at their page likes to see what other brands and activities they’re interested in.

      Competitors insights on Facebook

      Your competitor’s audience’s interests can help you figure out the target market’s hobbies, interests, and even education/income levels

      Use this data to create a rough sketch of your target demographic. This will help you in the next step where you find and recruit your focus group audience.

      2. Find participants for the focus group

      The research you conducted in the above step should give you a good idea of who you should include in your focus group. At the very least, you should have the following information:

      • Average age
      • Location (rural, urban, city size, state, etc.)
      • Household income and education level.

      You’ll use this when selecting candidates for the focus group. Limit your group size to 6-10 participants. More than that and you’ll struggle to maintain order. Anything lower than six impacts the quality of discussion.

      There are several places where you can find participants, such as:

      Craigslist: Suitable for consumer-focused ideas, especially those that target the low and mid-segment of the market.

      Craigslist’s large audience

      Craigslist’s massive audience and open nature makes it a great place to recruit participants

      Facebook Groups: Search Facebook for your target niche keywords to find dedicated groups. Look for active groups that have the same audience profile as identified above.

      For example, here are some searches for "men’s shoes":

      Facebook Groups

      Facebook Groups are a good place to look for participants, especially for niche product categories

      LinkedIn Groups: Search for your target keyword on LinkedIn. Select "Groups" in the top down menu to limit your search to groups instead of people or companies. Look for a group with the same target audience.

      Here’s an example search for "shoes":

      LinkedIn groups

      LinkedIn groups can help you find participants for B2B focus groups

      Reddit: Reddit’s subreddits (or sub-forums) are a great place to find people for focus groups. Search for your target keyword, then look for a subreddit that fits the audience description.

      For example, here’s a search for "shoes." Both the first two results look promising:

      Reddit’s large audience

      Similar to Craigslist, Reddit’s large audience and open nature makes it a great place to recruit participants

      Once you find your target groups or pages, you can either try to contact its members individually or join the group and post your requirements. The former is more time consuming but will give you better results.

      A few things to keep in mind when you post your requirements:

      • Include a monetary award for participation. Make this substantial enough that people feel their time is valued, but not so much that you get participation just for the money.
      • Specify your requirements (concerning demographics and interests) very clearly.
      • Mention that they’ll be asked to appear together in a recorded group-interview setting via webcam.
      • Specify the purpose of the focus group. Write a brief description of your product/company.
      • Specify the tentative date, time and length of the interview. Confirm that the participants are available during that time.

      To screen candidates, ask them to fill out a form (use Google Forms or Typeform) with their demographics and interest details. Only invite people who meet your requirements.

      Conduct the Focus Group

      Conventionally, focus groups are conducted with all the participants in the same room. The proceedings are recorded so that the responses can be analyzed further.

      This approach works for large businesses but can be cost prohibitive for small companies.

      A workaround is to use a video chat tool such as Google Hangouts or Zoom. Whatever tool you use should have a) recording capability, and b) ability to host all your participants (plus the moderator) at once.

      Google Hangouts

      Google Hangouts is a free tool for conducting group video chats — perfect for remote focus group studies

      Ensure that the tool is accessible to your selected participants. Avoid anything that requires special software.

      The next step is to create a list of questions for the focus group. These questions should focus on the participants’ interest in the idea, their opinions, concerns, likes, dislikes, etc.

      Here are a few tips for creating your questions:

      • Be clear: Every question should focus on a specific issue and should solicit a single answer. Participants should not doubt as to what the question asks of them.
      • Be open-ended: Your questions should focus on a specific topic, yet encourage discussion. Think in terms of broad qualities — benefits, flaws, things that can be improved, etc. — and ask questions related to them.
      • Encourage discussion: Your primary goal is to get people to start talking. The more diverse the range of opinions, the better. In case the conversation stalls, don’t ask additional questions to solicit responses.

      You can even group your questions into separate categories, such as:

      • Product-related: "What features do you like about the product? What do you dislike?"
      • Sales-related: "Would you buy this product? Would you recommend this product to a friend? If yes, why? If no, why not?"
      • Results-related: "What results or benefits do you expect from using this product? What side-effects or inconveniences are you worried about?"
      • Change-related: "How could this product be improved? What specific changes would convince you to buy it?"
      • Pricing-related: "How much would you be willing to pay for this product? What could convince you to pay more?"

      Ideally, you want a minimum of 10 minutes for each question. The larger the group, the more time you want to reserve for discussion.

      A List of Questions for Conducting a Focus Group

      Please enter a valid email address

      By entering your email you'll receive weekly Ecwid blog updates and resources to help you build your successful e-commerce business.

      Lastly, you want to get a moderator to conduct the discussion. This moderator should be unaffiliated to your business or have a minimum stake in it. You or your employees are too close to the business and will likely influence the discussion with your biases.

      A friend or relative with people management skills and some business know-how (but no relation to your business) would be ideal for the moderator role.

      Once you have your questions and the moderator, get your participants to join-in via video chat. Ask the moderator to initiate the discussion and record the session for future viewing.

      It goes without saying that if you can get participants to meet in the same room together, you can skip the entire video chat process.

      3. Analyze and implement the feedback

      The final step is to analyze and implement the feedback from the discussion.

      Start by asking the moderator about his/her general feelings about the focus group. Did the discussion go as planned? Did everyone get to participate or did one person dominate? Was there a diversity of opinion or did they fall into groupthink? What findings, if any, would the moderator draw from the responses?

      Next, go through the discussion recording. You can analyze the answers in two ways:

      • Individual-focused: Gather every participant’s responses to the questions. Map these responses against the participant’s demographic profile. Analyze how the participant’s interests, biases, income, age, and education impact his/her answers.
      • Question-focused: Gather all the answers to a single question. Condense them into a few short takeaways. Analyze these against the average profile of the whole group. Compare them to individual responses. Does the average opinion of the group clash with personal views? If yes, why?

      It’s a good practice to adopt both these approaches. You want an understanding of what the target market thinks as a group as well as individual customer responses.

      Finally, draw a few takeaways from your analysis. List the following:

      • Key benefits of the product
      • Key flaws and shortcomings
      • Things that can be improved
      • Things that should stay the same
      • Resistance to pricing
      • Estimated market demand.

      With this feedback, you can start implementing changes before launching your niche idea.

      Conclusion

      Launching a new product or business is seldom easy. You never know how the market might respond to the idea. You can estimate demand based on competitors’ sales and research reports, but nothing beats sold qualitative research.

      One of the best ways to conduct this qualitative research is through focus groups. By asking a carefully selected group of people about your niche, you can get a reasonable estimate of market demand, buying preferences and potential pitfalls.

      That can help you save money before you launch and ensure that you have an idea that’s vetted by your target market.

      Have you ever conducted a focus group study? If yes, we’d learn to love your experience in the comments!

      ]]>
      https://www.ecwid.com/blog/how-to-work-with-focus-groups-to-test-your-niche-or-business-idea.html/feed 0
      12 Tips for Navigating the January Sales Tax Perfect Storm https://www.ecwid.com/blog/12-tips-fpr-navigating-the-january-sales-tax-perfect-storm.html https://www.ecwid.com/blog/12-tips-fpr-navigating-the-january-sales-tax-perfect-storm.html#respond Tue, 02 Jan 2018 13:11:00 +0000 https://www.ecwid.com/?p=13069

      Nearly every online seller will have a sales tax return due in January no matter if you file annually, monthly, or quarterly. For this reason at TaxJar we like to call January the "Sales Tax Perfect Storm."

      Just like when a hurricane or winter blizzard hits, no one likes to be caught unprepared, so we’ve assembled a list of our best tips to get you ready for the oncoming storm. Let’s dig in!

      S_Accounting_blueprint_Cover

      Accounting, Finance & Legal E-Commerce Blueprint

      A pack of 22 educational resources answering the most common questions small business owners may have on legal, accounting and finance

      Please enter a valid email address

      By entering your email you'll receive weekly Ecwid blog updates and resources to help you build your successful e-commerce business.

      Find Your Sales Tax Due Dates

      Each one of the 45 states (plus the District of Columbia) that collects sales tax is slightly different when it comes to sales tax filing due dates.

      In general, most states set the 20th as their due date, but others want you to file by the 15th, the 25th, or the first or last day of the month following the closing of your filing period. Make sure to check your state’s sales tax due dates to make sure that you file on time to avoid fees or penalties.

      Related: Taxes 101 For E-commerce Business Owners

      Check Your Sales Tax Nexus

      Nexus is defined as "significant presence," and if you have nexus in a state that means you are required to collect and file sales tax in that state.

      You’ll always have nexus in your home state, but you could also have nexus from a remote employee, stocking your products in a warehouse, or selling at craft shows.

      Here’s a handy checklist to help you determine if you have sales tax nexus in a given state:

      1. Do I have a location, warehouse or other physical presence in a state?
      2. Do I have an employee, contractor, salesperson, installer or other person working for me in a state?
      3. Do I have products stored in a state?
      4. Do I have a drop shipping relationship with a vendor in a state?
      5. Do I have an affiliate program with affiliates in various states?
      6. Do I cross state lines to sell my products at a trade show, craft fair or another event?

      If you answered yes to any of these questions, explore whether you have nexus by doing one or all of the following:

      1. Find out about nexus by reading the state’s sales tax nexus laws.
      2. Contact the state’s taxing authority and ask for a nexus determination in writing.
      3. Contact a vetted sales tax expert.

      Register for Sales Tax Permits as Soon as You Discover You Have Nexus

      As soon as you’ve established nexus in a new state the best practice is to register for a sales tax permit in that state as soon as possible so you can begin collecting sales tax right away.

      Also read: Why Do U.S. Sales Tax Rates Vary So Much?

      Discontinue Sales Tax Registration if You No Longer Have Nexus

      Sometimes you may discover you no longer have nexus in a given state — perhaps your remote employee left the company or you no longer sell at that craft show 10 hours from home.

      When that happens you should contact that state’s department of revenue and let them know you’re ending your business relationship with that state.

      Keep in mind that some states have a practice called "trailing nexus" where you must keep filing for a certain period of time after your cause of nexus has ceased.

      Related: New Automatic Tax Calculations in Ecwid

      Make Sure You’re Collecting Sales Tax on All Sales Channels

      Sure, Ecwid is your primary shopping cart but you may also sell on eBay or Amazon from time to time. One of the biggest mistakes we see at TaxJar is when a business forgets to collect sales tax on all of their sales channels.

      Every so often you should go through the sales tax collection settings for each of your platforms to make sure that you’re collecting from all the states where you have nexus.

      Know if You Sell any Non-Taxable Items

      Most items sold in the United States are taxable, but not always. Some states do not tax sales of clothing and many states charge a lower sales tax rate (or none at all) on groceries.

      Sales tax compliance is governed at the state level and you’ll want to check with your state’s taxing authority to see if any of the items you’re selling in that state aren’t taxable.

      Not sure if your products are taxable? Check out this interactive U.S. map to help you find out!

      Related: Tax Differences Between LLCs, C Corporations, and S Corporations

      Determine How Much Sales Tax You’ve Collected

      I’ll be honest, this is usually the biggest headache in the sales tax compliance process, but it’s important to deal with and not procrastinate.

      You’ll need to go through Ecwid and each and every one of your other sales channels and figure out how much sales tax you’ve collected from customers in each state.

      After that, you’ll need to break down those amounts not just by state, but by county, city, and any other special taxing districts. This is exactly why we recommend having a sales tax automation service to take care of all of this bookkeeping automatically.

      Also read: 5 Steps to Sales Tax Compliance for Ecwid Merchants

      Check for Changes to Sales Tax Rates

      Always keep in mind that state and local sales taxes are subject to change at any time and you’ll need to update the rates of your store if you discover a change.

      Most rate changes happen either at the first of the year, in July, or in October. You can always double-check a sales tax rate by entering the ZIP code into a Sales Tax Calculator.

      Here’s an example:

      Figure out Your Filing Options for Each State

      Most states prefer that you file online using the sales tax portal for each site — you’ll fill out their online forms and then create an account in a separate payment processing system to remit collected taxes.

      You can still file sales tax returns by mail in several states but many are discontinuing that option. You can find out on the same sales tax portal for that state.

      If you don’t want to deal with filling out forms or navigating payment gateways, you can get TaxJar to automatically file your sales tax returns in most states using the AutoFile service that takes care of all the work. It’s even smart enough to figure out if the state has a discount for filing sales tax on time and will apply the discount to you automatically.

      File a Return Even if you Don’t Owe any Taxes

      You’ll want to make sure you file a return for every state where you’ve registered for a sales tax permit, even if you didn’t end up actually collecting any sales taxes for that state.

      Failing to file in states where you’re registered can result in fines or even having your sales tax permit revoked.

      Related: Tax Exempt: Improve Tax Settings in Your Ecwid Store

      Review or Change Your Filing Frequency

      In many states, your business will begin filing monthly for the first year after you register for your sales tax permit, and following that first year, the state may change your filing frequency to quarterly or annually.

      This usually (but not always) linked to your sales volume. After some time filing with the state, some states will even allow you to change your filing frequency if you ask. Most sellers prefer to file annually or quarterly when possible so it can definitely pay to contact your state taxing authority to see if this might be an option for your business.

      Some states also require that you renew your sales tax permit periodically. For example, Arizona sales tax filers are required to renew their sales tax permits every January 1, though this process is free if nothing about your business has changed.

      On the other hand, Colorado requires businesses to renew their sales tax permits every two years. The most recent sales tax renewal due date is January 1, 2018. This applies to every business with sales tax nexus in Colorado and costs $16 per sales tax permit renewal.

      Get a Jump on Next Year’s Sales Tax Storm

      We know that as soon as you’ve filed for each of your states in January you’ll be ready to not think about sales tax compliance for a quite a while, but keep in mind that periodically thinking about whether you’ve gained nexus in a state or made sure that your sales channels are all set to withhold in the proper states and at the correct rate will help keep your business running smoothly throughout the year and make next year’s "Perfect Storm" easier to bear.

      Now that you have a dozen tax tips we hope you’re in a much better position to weather the upcoming January storm. For more about sales tax check out our Sales Tax 101 for Online Sellers Guide.

      ***

      If you have questions about sales tax or want to take this administrative hassle totally off your plate, join us for a "Sales Tax 101" webinar with TaxJar.
      The sales tax experts at TaxJar will explain the basics of sales tax, how to collect sales tax (and from which customers), how to troubleshoot sales tax issues and more.

      TaxJar is a service that makes sales tax reporting and filing simple for more than 10,000 online sellers.  Try a 30-day-free trial of TaxJar today and eliminate sales tax compliance headaches from your life!

      ]]>
      https://www.ecwid.com/blog/12-tips-fpr-navigating-the-january-sales-tax-perfect-storm.html/feed 0