Results for 'diy ecommerce'

DIY Efficient Ecommerce Order Fulfillment

Not every ecommerce store is big enough to require the services of a fulfillment center like ShipWire, or…

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Not every ecommerce store is big enough to require the services of a fulfillment center like ShipWire, or Amazon Fulfillment. Many Shopify merchants handle the packaging and shipping of orders themselves. DIY order fulfillment means you have substantially more control over the process, and you should constantly work to optimize your workflow. 

Here are six tips you can implement to help make your fulfillment as efficient as possible.

1. Set Up a Routine

Get into the habit of fulfilling orders on a regular schedule. If you fulfill orders everyday, make sure to do it at the same time each day. This helps take away the drudgery that many people feel when fulfilling orders. When you do it the same time each day it becomes a task like brushing your teeth, after a while it just's second nature. This becomes particularly useful when you need to get other things done during the day. Block off a set time when you handle fulfillment and make sure to get it done during this time. Like any other task, having a set timeframe to finish your packaging will make you work more quickly in order to finish on time. 
Another advantage of fulfilling orders based on a set routine is that you will feel generally more confident that your orders were shipped correctly. When you are rushing to ship out a bunch of orders you've been putting off for a week or two, it's easy to overlook something. When you fulfill and ship your orders on a regular cycle, you can feel confident that everything has gone smoothly and no one was forgotten.
Fulfilling orders is a skill just like any other. People rarely become great at something by putting bursts of effort in every couple of weeks. We learn to be better by consistently performing the task at hand. Keep to the routine and it will certainly pay off. In no time, you will be fulfilling orders like a pro.

2. Don't Let Special Requests Bottleneck Your Flow

If you are packaging a large number of orders, you'll surely get into a good flow. This is when your efficiency is at it's peak and you should do whatever you can to avoid disturbing it. Don't let special requests or weird orders bottleneck your fulfillment flow. If you have to leave your fulfillment zone, spend an excessive amount of time, or any other activity that will put a kink in your packaging rhythm, skip the order and return to it once all of the regular ones are finished. When you have to switch mind sets to complete little tasks required by outliers you greatly decrease your efficiency. 

3. Define Your Workspace

It's hard to be as productive as a fulfillment center since you don't have a warehouse dedicated to the task at hand. You can help level the playing field by creating a designated space for you fulfillment tasks. It's terribly difficult to package orders if you have to move things from one side of you couch to the other. This doesn't mean you need to own a dedicated office just for fulfillment. What you need to do, though, is clear off enough space to comfortably do your packaging before you start. Eliminating the obstacles that force you to fall out of your packing rhythm will instantly increase your efficiency.

4. Study Your Fulfillment Process

Every step in the fulfillment process is an opportunity to make it even more efficient. This is the secret to insanely efficient organizations. They actively spend time identifying weak points and make noticeable improvements whenever possible. The more you are conscious of the steps required to complete your oder fulfillment, the greater the chance of improving it are. Make it your goal to refine something each week and you will see the improvements in your order fulfillment in no time. 

5. Grab a Friend

If at all possible, you should find someone to help you with your fulfillment duties. Nothing makes a not-so-appealing task seem even less glamourous than being the only one who has to complete it. Having more than one person fulfill orders also reduces the likelihood of taking excessive breaks and loosing focus. When there are multiple people working on packing orders, no one wants to be the person slowing down the process. 

6. Try Using a Shopify App

If you're a Shopify merchant, there are plenty of apps available to make DIY order fulfillment easy. For example, PixelPrinter is a free lightweight option that generates and prints invoices and packing slips and other documentation needed for shipping.

Inbound Marketing for Ecommerce

While some forms of marketing march up and place their room key on the bar, inbound marketing takes…

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While some forms of marketing march up and place their room key on the bar, inbound marketing takes the subtle approach. It takes you out for a nice dinner, strikes up a thought provoking conversation, and kisses you goodnight on the cheek. The result? A long-term, valuable relationship that will eventually lead to... sales.

In this article I'm going to define inbound and outbound marketing. I'll give you the reasons that outbound marketing is on the decline, and I'll also give you 6 reasons you should consider using inbound marketing techniques for your ecommerce store.

What Is Inbound Marketing?

Simply put, inbound marketing is marketing that's focused on getting found by customers. It's the antithesis of the annoying telemarketer that calls you at precisely the worst possible moment. Inbound marketing doesn't aggressively steal your attention, it earns it by providing you with interesting and useful information. Inbound marketing waits for you to discover it, then it offers something valuable in exchange for a few moments of your time. Here are some examples of inbound marketing: 

  • Blogs
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • YouTube Videos
  • Webinars / Podcasts
  • White Papers
  • Infographics

What is Outbound Marketing?

Most people consider outbound marketing to be the more traditional and less technologically savvy way to acquire customers. It's where companies focus their marketing endeavors on actively finding customers. At times, it can be difficult to target properly, and oftentimes it's expensive. Here are some examples of outbound marketing:

  • Print Ads
  • Television / Radio Commercials
  • Telemarketing
  • E-mail Blasts
  • Trade Shows

The Problem With Outbound Marketing

Over the past few years there has been a steady decline in effectiveness of outbound marketing, especially when it comes to online companies. There has been a fundamental shift in consumer tolerance for "interruptive" advertising, and some consumers are starting to revolt. For example, according to a study by HubSpot, 84% of 25-34 year olds have left a favorite website because of intrusive or irrelevant advertising. Here are some more reasons outbound marketing is becoming decreasingly relevant:

Inbound Marketing for Ecommerce

Inbound marketing is an effective way to attract potential customers to your online store and massage them until they turn into customers. For an ecommerce store to effectively use inbound marketing it starts with good content that's optimized for search and tempting for people to share.
By investing resources into inbound marketing, ecommerce merchants will see the following 6 benefits:

 

1. Become a Thought Leader

By creating and publishing thought provoking content on a regular basis, you'll quickly get your name out there as a thought leader. Shopify store Wingset has a blog that compliments their online store perfectly. They sell organic health products, and their blog is an emporium of articles dedicated to helpful information about nutrition and wellness. Thousands of people go their ecommerce store for content: DIY projects, recipes, warnings, and even some myth busters. They have become an authority in the wellness industry and people go to them for information, help, and advice. Sales always follow. 

 

2. Save Some Money

Have you seen the prices of print ads? Or even a display booth at a major trade show? For the most part, outbound marketing is expensive! How much does good content backed by a strong social presence cost? Start small and it won't cost much at all. Give yourself a reasonable goal like publishing one valuable blog post per week. Spend a few hours writing something that people in your industry will find interesting, then spend a few hours promoting it through your social networks. Although inbound marketing takes more effort than simply buying a newspaper ad, its costs run an impressive 61% less per lead than traditional marketing.

 

3. Target Self-Qualified Customers    

Do you think buying a giant roadside billboard for a month would be an effective way to promote your online store? I'll give you a hint and save you some money - it's not. The net ia too big and the vast majority of people looking at the advertisement aren't qualified. Same goes for cold-calling, buying email lists, and other forms of outbound marketing... they're all poorly targeted. With inbound marketing, you only approach people who self-qualify themselves. They show an interest in your content, so it's quite likely that they will be interested in the product you're selling.  

 

4. Increase Organic Search

It's no secret that Google loves fresh content. When you publish search optimized content on a regular basis that gets a bit of social media attention, your ranking will increase. Good search engine rankings are essential for a successful ecommerce store. You want to get your store on page one for as many of your terms as possible, because studies show that the second page of a Google search only receives 0.85% of the traffic. Furthermore, 61% of consumers use search engines to read about products before making a purchase. 

 

5. Boost Social Presence

It's been proven that prospective customers who are linked to your social media platforms show increased loyalty. Studies show that 41% of B2B companies have acquired a customer through Facebook, 42% through Twitter, and 57% through their company blog.  When you're promoting good content through your social networks, you'll naturally gain a larger social following. When it comes to your social presence, make sure all your guns are firing: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, Pinterest, and all the others. 

 

6. Recover Abandoned Shopping Carts

Prospects sometimes abandon their shopping cart before a sale is closed. It can be for any number of reasons: high shipping prices, a long checkout process, or they simply get distracted by something else. With traditional marketing, you focus your efforts on acquiring people who have never been to your ecommerce store, or people who have already made a purchase - but that's leaving out a whole demographic of those who have almost made a purchase. With inbound marketing you can cultivate their interest over time by having an active blog, engaging social media sites, or by providing them with free resources via email marketing. You can also use a cart abandonment tool to identify those who have jumped ship and re-engage them. Shopify merchants can choose from Abandon AppElasso, or Jilt to recover lost sales.

The Anatomy of a $122.5 Million Venture-Funded Ecommerce Website

How do you get more sales and repeat customers for your ecommerce business? That’s the number one question…

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How do you get more sales and repeat customers for your ecommerce business?

That’s the number one question most online store owners want answered. Most of the time, it comes down to making small improvements and optimizations to your site over time.

But where do you start? 

To give you some ideas and inspiration, we decided to take a look at Harry's, a 12-month old ecommerce business powered by $122.5M in venture capital funding. Harry's sells razors and grooming products for men and was founded by Jeffrey Raider and Andy Katz-Mayfield. Raider was one of the cofounders behind Warby Parker, the popular ecommerce service for eyeglasses founded in 2010 and currently rumored to be valued at around $500 million.

Surely with all that money and experience they must be doing something right.

Let's find out :) 

The Homepage

The design of the Harry's website is clean and uncluttered. It's a simple but effective aesthetic that's built around excellent product photography.

Having an attractive ecommerce website with high quality photos is important because it helps to make your products appear more valuable and helps your business appear more trustworthy. Remember, people can't touch and feel your products in an online buying environment like they can in a physical retail location so you need to make sure you're showcasing your products in the best possible light – something Harry's does particularly well. 

The Harry's website is also mobile responsive and looks great on any device – something that's now mission critical for online stores. In fact, a recent survey found that 83% of global shoppers who use mobile devices plan to make a mobile purchase in the coming year. To make sure your website looks sharp and is optimized for all screen sizes, consider investing in a premium mobile responsive theme or hiring an ecommerce web designer

On previous visits to the Harry's site, they were using a carousel that displayed a rotating selection of hero photos which showcased a mix of products and information about the company. At the time of this writing, the carousel is no longer being used and they're instead employing a static hero image. This could be something they're A/B testing or it could just be that they no longer wish to highlight certain products and information as prominently anymore.  

In any case, large hero images are definitely "in" right now and are typically used to display lifestyle photos featuring the product in action. If you decide to use a carousel on your site, make sure you test it as they've been shown to reduce conversion rates.  

Update: Matthew Tully from Harry's confirmed they did indeed run an a/b test and the static image won:


If we continue down the Harry's homepage, we can see they've chosen to display their flagship products followed by a selection of content including their online magazine, pop-up shop and manufacturing story.  Making sure you tell your story on your website and communicating what makes your business unique and remarkable is more important than ever with Amazon a click away. 

Finally, in the footer there are some important trust-boosting elements including links to email and phone support as well as social media profiles.    

The Product Page

The Harry's product page is exceptionally well done. Studies show that larger product images can increase online sales by up to 9% and Harry's takes full advantage. 

Their free shipping offer is easy to spot and their add to cart button is prominent and obvious. Offering your customers free shipping can be an effective way to improve conversions on your site – especially when you consider that shipping and handling fees have been shown to be the number one factor driving shopping cart abandonment

Harry's product descriptions are relatively brief but they bolster them by beautifully presenting more information about the product's features below the fold. In addition, they do an excellent job of communicating their "quality and craftsmanship story" by offering a look into their factory. 

Confirmation / Success / Thank You Page

Every step of the buying process is a chance to impress your customers, build customer loyalty and showcase the voice of your brand. In other words, don't neglect the transactional elements of your website like your order confirmation page.

Harry's put this page to use by including the following:

  • Customer order information
  • Delivery information
  • Customer support information
  • Brand personality
  • Social media links
  • A customer survey

This is a nice mix of elements that make their customers feel confident about their purchase while at the same time helping Harry's improve their business by gathering customer feedback.  

Other things you could consider presenting on this page include:

  • Cross selling other products
  • Newsletter sign-up
  • Resources on how to use your product
  • Request for a product review

Take a look at every page on your site that your customer is required to interact with and ask yourself how you can improve it. 

Order Confirmation Email

When most online retailers think about email marketing, they often just think about sending monthly newsletters or information about sales. However, your transactional emails are just as important as your transactional website pages.

In fact, every email you send to a potential, current, or former customer is an opportunity to provide value and have a sales conversation. 

Customer Lifetime Value Optimization

A month or so after I made my purchase with Harry's, they sent me the above email asking if I needed more blades. This is a great example of how to increase the lifetime value of your customer. If you sell a consumable, anticipate when your typical customer will run out of your product and then get in touch with them. If you don't sell a consumable, figure out other offers and products that you can build into your business. 

This is something that can be automated with email marketing software. Increasing customer lifetime value is one of the best things you can do for your business. 

What's Missing? 

There's no question Harry's is doing a lot of things right. But there's always room for improvement. Below are some opportunities and tactics Harry's are not taking advantage of that could help them boost conversion. Harry's may be aware of these opportunities and are simply choosing not to deploy them because they're not "on brand" or for other reasons.

User Generated Images

Professional product photos are great. But what they don't do is actually prove that people are buying and using your product. That's where user generated product photos come in.

A new study recently found that putting user-generated image content into the context of ecommerce is a big opportunity for brands. According to the research, brands experience a 5 to 7 percent increase in conversion rate and a 2 percent increase in average order value when they incorporate, or link to, user-generated content on product pages.

Check out how Black Milk Clothing incorporates Instagram photos from their customers on their site.

If this is something you want to test on your own site, check out the Instagration app

Reviews and Testimonials

When it comes to making buying decisions online, customer reviews and testimonials can be the deciding factor that make or break a sale. Displaying positive feedback from your customers on your website demonstrates that you have existing sales and provides social proof for potential customers who are thinking about buying from you.

In fact, word-of-mouth is the primary factor behind 20 to 50 percent of all purchases, while 63 percent of online customers say they're more likely to buy on sites with positive reviews. Harry's currently doesn't display customer testimonials but it might be something for them to consider as a newer ecommerce brand. 

Abandoned Cart Emails

The most surprising thing about the Harry's shopping experience is that they don't send abandoned cart emails to shoppers who've exited the site right before buying. Considering that studies have shown as many as 67.45% of online shopping carts are abandoned, this is a big missed opportunity for them.

If you’re on the Shopify Professional or Unlimited plans, you can find out how to set up abandoned checkout recovery emails here.

In addition, there are several well-reviewed apps that can give you other sorts of functionality.

If you’re not on Shopify, you still have options. These include:

Summary

All in all, Harry's is setting the ecommerce bar pretty high. Their website provides lots to draw inspiration from if you're looking to improve and optimize your own website and buying experience.

Let us know in the comments if you plan to implement any of the ideas in this post.


About the Author: Mark Macdonald is the Content Manager at Shopify. Get more from Mark on Twitter and Google+.

Creative Ways To Improve Ecommerce Customer Experience (That Also Boost Loyalty And Sales)

In the perpetual struggle of battling the bear that is Amazon.com, small online shops find success with a)…

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This is a guest post by Gregory Ciotti from Help Scout.

In the perpetual struggle of battling the bear that is Amazon.com, small online shops find success with a) a unique product, and b) a memorable customer experience.

If you've already set up your online store, you've likely checked off #1. Now, how do you improve the customer experience for an online store?

It's easy to imagine changes for a brick-and-mortar operation: I think many of us have had that fantasy of running a super hip coffee nook (or whatever else) that takes care of customers like nobodies business.

While the in-person element may be absent, there are ways to improve your customer experience online by adding that little something extra to the right channels.

Stop Thinking "Brand," Start Thinking Personality

A brand is like a reputation – it's built on what other people think of you, not what you think of you.

You influence your brand by taking care of customers and building a superior product, but you don't control your brand. You do control your personality.

This becomes important when you realize that brand loyalty is built on personality, and not on superficial metrics like engagement. Take a look at this research from the Harvard Business Review that debunks a few classic myths:

The myths:


  • Customers want to have relationships with brands. The truth: 77 percent don’t.
  • An increase in interactions is always the answer. The truth: Your customers can suffer from information overload.
  • Loyalty comes from regularly engaging with a brand. The truth: Brand loyalty is built on shared values.


All of this should start with your ideal customer. Man Crates, a company that sells crates packed with stuff guys like (surprise!), showcases a hilarious use of personality.

If you go to their "Help" section, which is supposed to have instructions on how to open your crate, you are instead greeted with this:

Better yet, they incorporate their macho personality into the actual product, by allowing you the option of shipping your "man crate" as a gift wrapped in duct tape. This makes it incredibly hard to open, which would be absurd for nearly any gift other than one made for guys that is meant to be sent to other guys!

Instead it's a friendly jab and perfectly fits with the Man Crates "brand." While their reputation will still be built on whether or not they can deliver a quality product, their personality goes a long way in winning over prospective customers.

Utilize the Customer Service Tone

There's a concept I've named the Customer Service Tone that emphasizes on casual, personable copy on pages that only your customers will see. For example your checkout success page and your transaction emails.

These are easy opportunities to apply the customer service tone. Someone just spent money with you, so this page is for customers only – you might as well add some personality to it. All you need to ensure is that customers know what just happened or what will happen, after that, feel free to add a little humor with a casual writing style.

Here's a great, personable checkout page:

I get the information I need, but I also get a candid thanks from the founder. It may be automated, but it's nice to see a real "Thanks!" instead of the robotic YOUR ORDER #4328 IS COMPLETE.

Where can you apply this friendly writing style to your store's shopping experience?

Analyze and Improve Your Emails

Automatic or transactional emails are some of the most important pieces of copy that you'll ever write – perhaps just as important as the copy on your website itself.

The reason being is that these emails scale to see many eyes. Whatever you write in them will be seen by anyone who starts the process (ie, a new sale), so they can potentially be seen by thousands and thousands of customers.

Check out how Nuts.com writes their follow-up emails after you've complete a purchase:

Brilliant, aren't they? You just want to give the team a high five, they feel so upbeat and friendly.

Tweaking your "behavioral" emails like this can have a huge impact on retention, churn, and overall goodwill to your company.

Here's how Planscope, a project management software company, uses behavioral emails to their advantage as explained by their founder Brennan Dunn:

Another behavior email you could add to the mix: reach out the first time someone “kicks ass” with your product. In Planscope’s case, when you close your first estimate or pass a certain billing amount, an automated congratulatory email (from me) goes out. My goal here is to… gently remind them that Planscope had a role in making them more money, and these emails have been *crazy* effective.

If this seems like a strategy for SaaS only, that's only because you aren't thinking creatively! :)

Instead, imagine a follow-up email for an ecommerce scenario – you schedule an email to auto-send 30 days after a customer completes a purchase of one of your products. This would be especially powerful if the product was a "beginner's kit."

A great example of a follow up email from an ecommerce company I remember getting an email just like this from a shaving company I purchased from. I forgot to save the email, but it went something like: "Hey Greg, have we totally won you over yet? I just wanted to check in to make sure you didn't make the mistake of going back to Gillette, and to see how you're enjoying the product!"

I laughed out, but most importantly it reminded me to repurchase some of their shaving cream. If you're interesting in long term customer loyalty, getting your emails right will go a long way, because this is how you'll be doing most of your communicating with customers.

Give Better Support by Stepping Back

Great customer support should always be available, even when you are not.

Surprisingly, the cost-effective approach of offering "DIY support" doesn’t seem to bother customers too much, as long as the online help content is accurate and useful. In fact, according to this 2010 study:

72% of customers prefer self-service to resolve their support issues over picking up the phone or sending an email.

For ecommerce shops, this means having a knowledge base, or a collection of "FAQ" style articles that address common issues people may have. It helps decrease the amount of tickets you receive, and increases the amount of happy customers, as they now have the option to solve small difficulties on their own.

Imagine running a menswear store that sells leather goods, and being able to avoid the dozens of "How do I take care of my leather?" questions that likely arise every week.

Whatever software you use, next you should do some quick reading on creating help content that people will actually want to ‘engage’ with.

Here are a few links to get you started:

Last but not least (since many articles won’t mention this), I highly recommend that you keep tabs on your knowledge base content, either through built in analytics like with Wistia’s service, or through an installation like KISSmetrics.

You’ll quickly find out which articles and videos people are instantly bouncing from–which will paint a very clear picture that something is wrong on your end.

"Big" Content that Educates + Motivates

Many businesses avoid content marketing because running a blog is a ton of work.

That's why for ecommerce businesses who don't have a regular content/marketing person, I instead recommend you go big.

One piece of highly visual content that solves a major problem, and motivates the customer to shop with you.

This is admittedly tough to do if you're selling something like boat motors, but if you are in a space with high social currency like men's fashion, a comprehensive and highly visual piece of "big" content can do you a whole lot of good.

We're a B2B company that sells help desk software and we only have one writer, so we pursue this strategy ourselves.

Instead of trying to crank out a bunch of shoddy customer service articles every single day, we wait, and put out massive pieces of content that attract a ton of people at once.

Our latest example is The Art of Customer Loyalty, a huge (free) guide that shows businesses how to create and increase their number of loyal customers. It shows why customer loyalty is important, and motivates people to use our support software.

Another example of big content is Shopify's Ultimate Guide to Dropshipping

I've been in the content marketing space for a long time, so trust me when I say that if you don't have a regular blogger on your team, it's far better to take your time and put out a big piece of content that will have your ideal shoppers flocking to you all at once.

Care to share your thoughts?

I love hearing from founders of ecommerce stores on any and all advice they have on improving the customer experience. What sort of little extras does your company employ to keep customer coming back?


About The Author

Gregory Ciotti is the marketing strategist at Help Scout, the email support software that's perfect for your ecommerce business. Find out why Help Scout is better than regular email for customer service by clicking here.

The Ultimate DIY Guide to Beautiful Product Photography

  This guest post is by Jeff Delacruz a founding member & photographer at Products On White Photography.…

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This guest post is by Jeff Delacruz a founding member & photographer at Products On White Photography.

If there’s one thing that’s true when it comes to ecommerce, it's that the perceived value of your products and the trustworthiness of your business is often judged by the quality of your web design. And a big part of having an attractive website these days also means having high-quality, beautiful product photography.

But it's not just aesthetics we're talking about. Showcasing your products with high-quality images can also be the winning difference between a conversion and no sale at all. This is particularly true if you’re also distributing your products on marketplace sites like Amazon where they are displayed alongside those of your competitors.

But when you're just starting out, getting your product photos shot can be an intimidating prospect because good photography can be expensive. There are hundreds of product photography tools to help you get the job done yourself. As business owners with lean start-up roots, we understand this more than anyone, and as a company that works with small businesses everyday, we also know that sometimes the money’s just not there. If that’s you, and your budget is tight, have you thought about taking the DIY approach to taking your own images? It’s not as hard as you might think.

There are lots of techniques for shooting successful product photography, but the one I’m going to show you is commonly known as The Window Light Technique.  From someone who photographs products everyday, this tutorial has been specifically crafted for business owners on a budget, and it’s been designed to be simple while producing excellent high quality results with most product types.

Enjoy!

What You’re Going to Need

Gear is at the heart of photography and can be really exciting, but typically it’s the aspect that most people become confused about.

There’s no necessity to spend a large portion of your budget on high-tech equipment, so keep an open mind and try not to overspend on gadgets that do the same job lighting your product as a $5 piece of card can do.  You can probably do this window light setup for $20 or less if you already own a camera.

You’re only going to need a few things for this setup:

1. Camera

You don’t need a crazy camera system. While shooting images with a Nikon D800 ($2796) sporting a 105mm f1.4 lens ($740) is awesome, it’s also totally unnecessary.

Still, if you’re feeling excited, and have the budget to stretch to a new camera system for this project, I suggest reading a post I wrote on quora which offers tips to help you pick out a good camera for product photography.  

When I did the test images for this, I started with my older model (2008), beat-to-hell Canon G10 point-and-shoot.  I love the Canon G series point-and-shoots because they can go full manual and they shoot a really nice raw file. I picked this camera because it’s definitely not top of the line anymore, allowing me to demonstrate that even with modest equipment, good results are attainable.

So what camera do you need?  I would just start out with whatever you have handy and see what the results are. It’s a common myth that it’s the camera that takes the pictures, but in reality the camera is only one piece of the whole.  A photograph is made up of series of choices that incorporates lighting, exposure, styling and post processing decisions.

2. Tripod

Not to get too technical, but you’re going to set your camera to a very small aperture so that you can have the most depth of field your camera is capable of.  

The width of the depth of field defines the area of sharp focus, and to get to that you need the largest f/stop number your camera can obtain. Shutter speed and f/stop are related, and since a larger f/stop number like f/8 lets in less light, you’ll need to counter than by using a slower shutter speed to allow more light through.  

When a camera has a slow shutter, you can’t hand hold it or the subject will be blurry – so a tripod is your answer. If you’re interested in learning more about the fundamentals of photography, check out this video I did with Harrington College of Design last year.  

I realize that most point-and-shoots may not allow you to choose your f/stop.  That’s ok and there are ways to get around this which we’ll discuss in the step-by-step.

Again, you shouldn’t need to spend a whole lot of money on a tripod at this point in your adventure, and there are many, many options out there that are under $30.  I did a quick search on Amazon and found something that would work for $20.  

3. White Background

There are lots of options for a white background and if you’re going to be shooting a lot, you may want to go to your local photography store and get a small white sweep

If you’re not in an area with a good photography store, you can always head over to your frame shop/art store and get a 32x40 sheet of their thinnest white Mat Board, which is what we’re using in this example. 

Look for something that you can bend a little bit to create a sweep.  You can usually get this for under $7.  Remember to look for pure white as off-white or cream, while cool, will be more difficult to make pure white.

4. White Bounce Cards Made of Foamcore

While you’re at the art store/frame shop, ask them if they have any extra scraps of white foamcore you can buy.  You only need a piece roughly the height of your product, and about 3x the width. Typically, a letter size will work.  We like to bend ours in half, like in the above example, so that it will stand up on its own.  Its purpose is to bounce light back onto the product.  

5. Table

A standard folding table works best, and a width that’s between 24 and 27 inch wide is ideal.

6. Tape

Depending on the table you end up with, you can use tape or clamps to secure down your board so that it sweeps properly.

7. The Right Room

A room with windows next to a wall is perfect, and the bigger the window, the more light you’ll get in.

How to Photograph Your Product on a White Background

Alright, let's get into the step by step process for shooting your photos. 

Step 1: Set Up Your Table

Once you have collected your gear together, it’s time to set up your shooting area.  Place your table as close to the window as possible without intersecting the shadow from the windowsill.  You’ll want to start with the window 90 degrees to the right or left of your setup.  The closer you are to the window and the larger the window, the softer the light will be.  

Also, remember to turn off all other lights inside the room you’re shooting in as other light will contaminate the set.

Variations:

You can try rotating the set so the window is at 45 degrees to the set, or try it with the window straight onto the set for a different style of lighting.  Food photography is often shot with a window behind the setup and the camera shooting into the window for a more dramatic setup.  Another variation is setting up in a garage with the door open, it will have the same qualities of light as a window, just without the glass.

Tips:

You do not want direct sunlight hitting your set. Direct sunlight is harsh and looks bad on most people and products.



Step 2:  Set Up Your Sweep

There are a lot of ways to do this, but the ultimate goal is to have your mat board sweep from being flat on your table to being vertical.  You may need to roll up the board to help it reach that shape.
In my set-up, we placed the table against the wall and taped the sweep to the wall and the table. If you don’t have a wall, you’re going to have make something to secure the back of the sweep to. Some bricks or a wooden block would work well.

Place your product in the center on the flat part of the sweep and leave enough room to sneak your white reflector card in later. In this case, our product is a cool Skyrim & Doom toy available from Symbiote Studios. Thanks guys!

Step 3: Set Up Your Camera



  1. Set Your White Balance (WB) to Auto.  

  2. Turn your flash setting to off

  3. Image Settings – set it to the largest quality settings:

    • Set it to raw if you have it.  Most point and shoot cameras don’t have this setting, but if you do then use it.  This file is the largest file the camera can shoot, and utilizes the full bitdepth of the camera.  You will have to edit in a software that reads raw imagery though, like Photoshop, Bridge, Lightroom or Aperture.

    • If you don’t have raw, set it to the largest JPG setting you have.  In my canon there are 2 settings to look out for:

      Size –  sometimes L (large), M- (medium) S- (small)  Pick large.  This setting determines the file size, and you almost always want to shoot it at its largest file size for optimal image quality.  You can always shrink an image once it is take but you can’t make it larger.

      Quality – S (Superfine), F (fine), N ( normal). You should always set it to Superfine.  This setting determines the number of pixels that are used on the camera sensor.  Not using all the available pixels will render a lower quality image.

  4. Set your ISO to 100:  The ISO controls the sensitivity of the sensor.  The higher the ISO the more noise there is.  Typically, the lowest ISO you can set your camera to is ISO 100, so set it there if you can.

  5. Exposure Settings

    Option A:  Set your camera to Manual (M)
    This is the best setting for this type of work because nothing will be moving or changing as you take the pictures.  In manual, change your f/stop to the highest number, which will give you the greatest depth of field.

    Preview the image on the back of the camera through liveview.  Everything is probably pretty dark, which is ok.  Now, switch to your shutter speed and rotate the dial to make it bright enough that the image is properly exposed.  Your shutter number should be going down.  For example, your number may go from 1/60th to ¼ .  These are fractions of a second that your shutter will be open for and as the number lowers it will let more light in.  Adjust this number until the preview of the image is correct.

    Option B:  Use Aperture Priority, Av…
    Your camera may not have this either, but if it does, change the f/stop to the highest number.  This should automatically adjust the shutter to be what the camera thinks it should be.  This may be wrong and you may need to use the exposure compensation dial to add light.

    Option C: Auto Exposure
    If you’re stuck in the all-auto world, there may not be much you can do.  Don’t fret, it’s not a big deal.  If you have an exposure compensation dial, you will most likely need to add +1 or +1 ½ to get the correct exposure.  If all you have is the running man images to choose from, try picking something like sunset. With the iPhone, just tap the area you want exposed properly.

    Use the Histogram on the back of the camera.  You’re looking for the slope to be closer to the right hand side like in the image above.

    Exposure Tip:  Don’t trust the image on the back of the camera, instead pay attention to the histogram to know if your exposure is correct.  The far right hand side is white, and left is black.  In the example image there is a little gap on the right hand side which means that there is no pure white.  Adjust the exposure till the part of the curve representing the white background is touching the right edge without going over.  In this example, you would probably need to add 1/3 of a stop, or one click for more light.

  6. Zoom In
    Cameras typically have an optical zoom and a digital zoom.  Don’t use the digital zoom as this will lower the quality of the image - it’s essentially just cropping the digital image.  If you have an optical zoom, try zooming in as far as you can without going digital zoom.  A longer zoom will remove distortion caused by a wide angle lens.

Step 5:  Set Up Your Product in the Middle of the Surface

Setting up your product is one of those things that seems simple, but can take time to position correctly.  If it’s a bottle, pay attention to keeping the label type centered.  Many times there are lots of tiny movements needed to get everything lining up perfectly.

Step 6: Set Up the Reflector Card

This simple white card is the single most important light modifier we have in our studio and we use it with everything.  The light will bounce off the card and fill in all the shadows.  How you position this card is matter of taste, so try it at different angles to the product.

Step 7:  Take the Picture and Evaluate

Once you take the picture, take some time and really look at what you’ve created.  This is where experience and education comes into play – what’s working, what isn’t working and what can you do to make it bettser.  Experiment with different ways of making your image better and over time you’re skills will naturally improve.

Upload your images onto your computer to get a better idea of how they look. The back of your camera is never very accurate. I suggest using Adobe Lightroom to organize all your images, and it can be used to do almost all of your editing except very advanced processes.  You’ll no doubt need to make some adjustments to the images to get them to look right.  

Post production software like Adobe Lightroom is very in-depth and we won’t have time to go into the details of using it because it’s just too much.



Step 8: Get Your Pictures Retouched

Once you’ve got a final image you’re happy with, it’s time to get it retouched. If you photographed your product correctly, the product should be exposed properly and your background a light grey.  It should look something like the un-retouched image above, and comparing it to retouched version shows you how important this step of the process actually is.

The retouching tasks associated with on-white photography, for someone without a lot of training, can be tricky, and tend to be the weak link for most people trying to photograph products themselves.  So, instead of trying to teach you advanced Photoshop, I’m going to show you how to outsource it.
You’d be surprised how affordable this can be. From around $4 - $10 an image, you can have a professional retouching company improve your images for you.  Finding a good company can be tough, but one company that works best for consumers is Mister Clipping. They have an office in New York City, so you’re not trying to correspond with someone overseas, and they’re super-friendly.  

Their process is simple. Just create an account, upload your images and they’ll give you a quote.

For the directions write:

Make the background 255 white. Keep the hard shadow under the product and fade the long shadow. Enhance the product contrast and correct for color.  Spot product and fix damaged areas. Correct for distortion. Deliver Full resolution jpegs with no compression.


Step 9: Upload Your Pictures to Your Website

Once you get your images back, it’s time to upload them to your site.  

If you’re using Shopify you’re lucky, as it resizes the images for you. You have no idea how many websites I see where the image is the wrong size.  When this happens the image becomes skewed and stretched, ruining all the work you put into the image.  

With Shopify, completed images will be ready to load directly into your store, thanks to some handy software that prepares and resizes the images automatically for you. Some other CMS platforms, like Wordpress, also have this capability.

Uploading Images to your Site for Non-Shopify Site Owners

If your online store doesn’t resize the images for you - perhaps you have a custom built site - you’ll need to crop your images to the correct dimensions and then resize the image.

Step 1:  Find Your Image Size

Images, particularly jpegs, do not enlarge well, so you want your final image to start as large as your camera will shoot it. If your camera shoots a 4416 x 3312 pixels size image than this means that you can shrink this image by cropping or down-resizing (shrinking it proportionally) to a smaller size. The not so technical industry term is down-rezing referring to lowering the resolution.  


To find your image size, right click on the image on your website to inspect the image.  You’ll see the dimensions in two areas. Each browser’s ‘inspect element’ is a little different.  I’m using Safari in the above image example.

Step 2:  Crop Your Images to Size in Lightroom

Chances are your images will need to be cropped to fit the exact dimensions required by your website, but thankfully this is something you can manage easily in Lightroom, but entering a custom crop size.

 



With your images in Lightroom, click the image you want to crop and go into the ‘develop’ menu.  Click where it says ‘original’ next to the lock icon, and click again on ‘custom’.  In ‘custom’, enter in the size you acquired from ‘inspect element’, and click ok to crop your image.  


Step 3: Export Your Images to the New Size Using Lightroom

Once you’ve cropped the image, it’s time to export the final cropped image for upload to your site.  Start by right clicking and selecting ‘export’.  The important part is how you set the file settings and image sizing:

  • Image Format: Jpeg
  • Quality: Between 70 – 90, 100 is typically not necessary.
  • Colorspace: Srgb (anything on the web must have this colorspace set)
  • Resize to fit: Width and Height – match your crop size
  • Resolution: 72 pixels per inch (this is a standard screen res)

Everything else is up to you, or self-explanatory.  Press ‘export’ and upload your images.  

Conclusion

There you have it!  The simple ‘how to take your own products on white photography the easy way, without having to buy tons of gear and complicated lighting’ article.

If you try this, please post an image of your setup and a final image so everyone can see what you did.  We’d love to see the results!  


About The Author

Jeff Delacruz is co-founder of Products On White Photography, a super easy way to get professional photographs of your products for your ecommerce website. You can follow Jeff’s photo exploits on Google+ or connect with us on the POW! Facebook Page.

Everything You Need to Know About Twitter Cards for Ecommerce

Twitter is once again upping its game for ecommerce brands. Last year, the social network announced that it's…

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Twitter is once again upping its game for ecommerce brands.

Earlier this year they announced analytics for Twitter Cards which allow you to add images, videos and product descriptions to your tweets. This can significantly increase the amount of people who retweet your content, click your links and check out products on your website.

In fact, HubSpot A/B testing found that tweets with images received a 36% increase in clicks, a 41% increase in retweets and a 55% increase in leads. 

Let’s take a look at how to use Twitter Cards to get more retweets, clicks and sales for your online store.

What Are Twitter Cards?

Twitter Cards allow you to add rich media to your tweets making them much more appealing and engaging. Here’s an example of what you’re probably used to seeing on Twitter:

And here is what the same tweet looks like when it’s enhanced with a Twitter Product Card:

In addition to the regular tweet, you can now see an image of the T-shirt and a short description. Twitter allows up to 200 characters for product descriptions, which is a 43% increase in the amount of characters you can use in a regular tweet.

Twitter also lets you include up to two other pieces of information about your product – such as its price, availability or size. In this case, ModCloth has added the T-shirt’s customer star rating.

Ecommerce brands can get big benefits from Twitter Product Cards, as they give your followers an easy way to share your products with their followers, and allow them to view and share your latest deals and promotions without visiting your website.

5 Creative Ways Ecommerce Brands Can Use Twitter Cards

In addition to product cards, Twitter has a variety of other cards that can help you increase follower engagement. In addition to showcasing products, you can also use Twitter Cards to:

Promote Contests

Take a cue from Urban Outfitters and feature your next contest on a Twitter Card. Adding images to your tweets can help you stand out from the crowd and attract more entrants.

Introduce New Products

Next time you have a new product to announce, spend a little extra time coming up with an attractive image to accompany your tweet. Not only will it make your tweet more noticeable in timelines but it will also make it more enticing by offering your followers a sneak peek at your new stuff.

Share Resources

Lowes used a Twitter Card to direct its followers to a guide on how to design a home gym. You can also use images to encourage followers to visit your website, read one of your blog posts or check out your latest resource.

Piggyback on Current Events

This tweet got “Orange is the New Black” over 12,000 retweets. It’s timely, funny and relates perfectly to the show. Although this example is from a TV show, retailers can also use this technique to drive follower engagement.

Share Videos

Player Cards allow you to embed video and audio files in your tweets. This means your followers can view your educational videos, product demos or customer videos without leaving Twitter.

Generate Leads

Twitter now offers Lead Generation Cards, so you can collect email addresses directly from your tweets. According to Twitter, “When someone expands your Tweet, they see a description of the offer and a call to action. Their name, @username, and email address are already pre-filled within the Card. The user simply clicks a button to send this information directly (and securely) to you.”

Here’s an example of how Dropwines is using a Lead Generation Card to get its Twitter followers to opt-in for its content. When a follower clicks the “Find out more” button, they will be added to Dropwine’s list.

Discover How Well Your Content Is Performing With the New Twitter Card Analytics

Twitter recently announced analytics for Twitter Cards, so you can see how your Cards and multimedia content are performing. You can track things such as clicks and retweets. You can also see how your different card types are performing and find out which influencers are sharing your content.

For more information about the new marketing analytics for Twitter Cards, check out this video from Twitter:

To learn more about Twitter Cards analytics, visit analytics.twitter.com.

How Much Do Twitter Cards Cost?

Most Twitter Cards – including Product Cards – are free. However, Lead Generation Cards are part of Twitter’s advertising program and can only be used within Promoted Tweets. The cost depends on your advertising budget and how much you want to bid for each engagement. An “engagement” is an action someone takes after they view your Lead Generation Card, such as clicking a link, retweeting it or following you.

How to Get Started with Twitter Cards

To start reaping the benefits of Product Cards, you need a product web page with an image that is at least 160 x 160 pixels and preferably square (odd-sized images can be cropped). Once you have an image, visit Twitter’s Developer site and check out the Product Card documentation. The documentation page contains the meta tags that you must include on your website.

After you place the meta tags on your product page, check them against Twitter’s Card Validator tool and submit them for approval. According to Sylvain Carle, Developer Advocate at Twitter, it can take 5-10 days for Twitter to review and approve a Card if you implement it correctly. Plus, it could take another 5-10 days to get approval on a Product Card. 

If you use Shopify, you can find out how to get Twitter cards working for your store by following these instructions

For more information on Twitter Cards, visit https://dev.twitter.com/docs/cards.

6 Ingredients for a Good Ecommerce Blog

There are a few key ingredients to improve your blog and make it something worth sharing. Although it…

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There are a few key ingredients to improve your blog and make it something worth sharing. Although it may be increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd, it's still very important to have an awesome blog that compliments your online store. 

Here are 6 ingredients that make up a good ecommerce blog with Shopify stores as examples:

1. Offer Good & Relevant Content

Good and relevant content keeps people coming back. Provide highly engaging and relevant content. Shopify store Wingsets has a blog that compliments their online store perfectly! They sell organic health products, and their blog is an emporium of articles dedicted to helpful information about nutrition and wellness. They have fun DIY projects, recipes, warnings, and even some myth busters. 

2. Make it Pretty (or Handsome)

Don't kid yourself - your blog needs to be visually appealing. Shopify store Taylor Stitch has a gorgeous blog called Sailor Twitch: The Adventures & Discoveries of Taylor Stitch. The content is great and the design is spot on. They even designed a special logo just for their blog. Very handome.

3. Show Your Product in Action

This is your chance to show your product off. You can do this using images or video, and feel free to encourage your customers to send you pictures of them using/wearing your product. Shopify store The Wallee has a popular blog where they upload pictures submitted by their customers. Below you'll see they've published a picture from a local espresso bar that's using The Wallee iPad mount in their restaurant office.

 

4. Keep it Short and Snappy

Keeping your content short and snappy is a good way to ensure people read your posts. In this day and age where  millions of bloggers are competing for everyone’s attention, you can rarely get away with huge paragraphs that just ramble on. Shopify store Good As Gold is great at posting lots of quick and fun posts. Notice the post below is quick, it's got awesome visuals and even a special deal with a link to their store. 

5. Go Behind the Scenes

Here's a great opportunity to give people a glimpse behind the scenes of your shop, and if you're comfortable with it, your life. Shopify store HAVEN has two separate blogs, one for their shop, and one for their staff. This encourages customers to build personal relationships with the staff (and company), which makes repeat visits (and purchases) far more likely.


6. Social Media

It's incredible to consider that just five years ago virtually no one had even heard of Twitter or Facebook. The influence of social media extends to almost every aspect of our lives now, so it's vital that you let people share your articles. Include share buttons  to Twitter, Facebook, and LinedIn at the minimum.  Check out the social media buttons we use here on the Shopify blog. I don't really need to put a screen shot, but hey... why not?

Are These 6 Ecommerce Copywriting Mistakes Costing You Sales?

You’re writing, and writing, and writing. You’re polishing your category pages. You’re slaving over endless product descriptions. You…

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This is a guest post by Henneke Duistermaat from Enchanting Marketing.

You’re writing, and writing, and writing.

You’re polishing your category pages. You’re slaving over endless product descriptions. You worry about keywords and Google.

But let’s admit it. Sometimes you wonder… is your copy working hard enough? Are you persuading web visitors to buy?

Let’s look at six ecommerce copywriting mistakes that might be costing you business (and how you can fix them).

Copywriting Blunder #1: Too Much Product Focus

This mistake is easily made.

Even experienced copywriters make it.

As a sales person and business owner you’re excited to share how special your products are (of course!). You want to talk about unique features and splendid specifications.

But you know what?

Your buyers aren’t interested in all these features and specs. Buyers want to know what’s in it for them. Each time you list a feature such as a thread count of 400, add a benefit such as for a luxurious feel that provides a better sleep.

A product feature is a fact about your product, while a benefit explains what’s in it for the buyer. A benefit explains how your product increases pleasure or takes away pain. And that’s exactly what your customers are most interested in.

Your oven, for instance, might have a fast pre-heat system (feature) which makes you more relaxed about getting dinner ready in time (this benefit is an increase in pleasure—feeling more relaxed) and it makes cooking less stressful (this benefit is taking away the pain of stress).

Before you start writing your product descriptions create a comprehensive list of features and benefits. Consider benefits that increase pleasure and benefits that take away problems, pain, and hassle. Planning what you need to write helps you write more persuasive copy, and it helps you to write faster.

Copywriting Blunder #2: Meaningless Drivel is Soiling Your Pages

Words like world-class, market-leading, and innovative are used so frequently that they have lost much of their impact. They’re just filler—taking up space without adding meaning.

Put on your devil’s advocate hat, and ask yourself for each sentence and each word: what does this mean? If you can’t come up with a specific answer immediately, then cut or rephrase until your text is concrete and meaningful.

Meaningless drivel:

Innovative office chairs from a world-leading manufacturer.

Try instead:

Office chairs with lumbar support used in over 150,000 offices in the US.

Meaningless drivel distracts and wears your reader down. In contrast, facts and figures increase your credibility. Where possible, include numbers and write them as digits (7) rather than words (seven) because numerals stop wandering eyes.

Copywriting Blunder #3: You’ve Taken an Adjective Overdose

Adjectives help us to explain what our products look like (appearance), what they do (features), and how they make our buyers feel (benefits).

In moderation adjectives are useful, but an overdose gives your reader a headache, because it makes your content hard to read. An example:

This relaxed, romantic collection of beautiful cookware has a unique look, right up to date yet completely classic with a result that’s perfect for your kitchen.

The problem with so many adjectives is that it slows your reader down and confuses them. What about simply saying:

This romantic cookware collection suits most kitchen styles.

When using adjectives, follow these 3 essential tips:

  • Use only one adjective before a noun. Rather than relaxed, romantic collection, go for romantic collection.
  • Don’t use adjectives to state the obvious. Don’t simply describe what a product looks like if you’re showing it on a picture.
  • Choose sensory or emotional words because they make your reader feel something. Words like nice, good, or effective are rather bland. Opt for delightful, dazzling, or tantalizing instead.

Adjectives are like alcohol. Too many adjectives make your copy slurred and incomprehensible, but in moderation adjectives make your copy yummy and seductive.

Copywriting Blunder #4: Over Reliance on Factual Information

Facts give stories substance. Stories give facts meaning. — Lee Lefever

When potential buyers read stories, they forget that they’re being sold something. Their barriers to your sales messages go down and your content becomes more engaging and persuasive.

People don’t think in abstract terms and facts. Our brains are wired to think in stories. Stories make your content meaningful as they help your readers visualize using your product.

A story can be ultra-short. Imagine you’re selling an office chair with lumbar support. You can tell a simple story about a customer who tries different chairs and continues to suffer from back pain. Meet Sarah. Sarah finds it hard to concentrate on her work. She paces around during meetings. She’s grumpy.

Then one day Sarah buys your chair and after just 1 month her back pain is finally gone. Her colleagues notice she’s more cheerful at work. Her boss remarks she’s more productive. And when she gets home she’s not as tired and cranky as she used to be. Even her dog notices it.

A simple story can help potential buyers visualize the benefits of your products—especially if they’re complicated; but stories also add personality. You can tell stories about the development, testing, or sourcing of your products to make your products more fascinating or to increase the perception of quality.

Follow these tips to apply the seductive power of mini-stories:

  • Learn from investigative journalists and dig deeper to uncover fascinating details. Talk to your designers, suppliers and customer service advisors. The more you learn the more stories you have to tell.
  • Keep your stories concise and concrete. Focus your story on just one simple idea.
  • Avoid the obvious. Tell unexpected stories to engage, entertain, and sell.

We’ve all been educated to focus on data, figures, and facts. Facts increase the credibility of your product description, but facts on their own don’t make your content persuasive. Facts are cold. Facts don’t have soul or personality.

The most persuasive product descriptions include both story and fact. Stories engage your reader, while facts help justify their purchase.

Copywriting Blunder #5: Lack of Personality

Many big ecommerce sites sound like what they are: big corporations without a soul. They don’t connect, they don’t engage, they hardly sell the value of the products they offer. They simply provide bread, butter, beer, and toothpaste.

But nobody likes chatting with a faceless corporation. Nobody likes ringing a soulless call center. So why create text that sounds like a dull corporation?

To connect with your readers, you need a dash of personality on your ecommerce site. Think about your tone of voice – if your website was a real salesperson talking to a customer, how would you like him to sound? What stories would he tell? What jokes would he crack? Which words would he choose?

Consider these two contrasting examples:

You lean against a boardwalk railing, being sultry and licking ice cream at the same time, holding your shoes.

“You shouldn't be dressed that way,” he says. Pretending sternness.

“What way? It's just a dress.” Pretending innocence.

You've been married for two decades but still know how to get each other's pulses pounding.

When you wear this dress, the rhinestone trim on the shoulders accentuated in the evening light, you're aware that your walk liquefies, your pace slows and nuanced gestures emerge.

Refuse the second rate. Refuse the untimeless.

He'd break windows to get to you.

— The J Peterman Company

Guitar picks are small, and we have to admit, sometimes we lose 'em. And sometimes, you just discover you need one at the strangest times (impromptu flashmob jam sessions, raucous children's parties, boring company meetings, etc.). Well, the good news is: if you have a DIY Guitar Pick Punch and some imagination, you'll never be without a guitar pick again.

Just insert the material you want a pick out of into the DIY Guitar Pick Punch, and... well... squeeze. Instant guitar pick! — Think Geek

Before you define your tone of voice, consider who you are writing for. Try to visualize one buyer and consider how you’d talk to her in real life.

Don’t sound like a big corporation. Be human. Because that’s how you engage potential buyers.

Copywriting Blunder #6: You Edit in Less Than 5 Minutes

Professional copywriters can’t write in one go. They plan. They write. They edit.

Unless you’re superhuman you need to carefully edit your content:

  • Imagine you’re talking with your favorite customer. Now, read your copy aloud. Is your favorite customer laughing at your bombastic phrases? Does she start to glance at her phone because you’re boring her? Re-write and polish your text until you’re able to persuade your favorite customer to buy your product.
  • What objections does your favorite customer have to buying your product? Have you addressed each objection?
  • Price can often be an issue, so be sure to justify your price by explaining how much value your customer will get.
  • Check your engagement level. Is your content focused on your customer? Count the number of times you’ve used I, me, we and us versus you.
  • Ensure you’ve included a benefit for each feature.
  • Cut unnecessary words. Reduce the number of adjectives. Kill adverbs like just, really, and actually because they don’t add meaning.
  • Read your text backwards as this makes it easier to spot spelling and grammar errors. Even better: ask a colleague or professional to proofread your text for you.

Whether or not you’re a good writer doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re a good editor and that you understand the differences between crappy, good, and great copy. Once you know what makes copy good, you can get to work to improve yours over time.

The Truth About Ecommerce Copywriting

Many big ecommerce sites sound like big corporations without a soul who treat their web visitors like numbers.

You have a huge opportunity to be different. To be human. To have personality. To engage and delight potential buyers.

Your starting point should always be your ideal customer. Sell the benefits he enjoys. Help him fulfil his desires.

Always remember who you’re writing for. And don’t speak at him. Instead, try having a conversation. Give advice. Be helpful.


About the author: Henneke Duistermaat is an irreverent copywriter and marketer on a mission to stamp out gobbledygook. Sign up for your weekly dose of tantalizing writing tips and receive a free copy of the uber-useful 21 Tips to Turbocharge Your Web Copy and Win More Customers.

How a Childhood Passion Evolved Into a $1K per Week Ecommerce Business

Chris Dammacco bought his first video game console, the Nintendo Entertainment System, at the age of 6. His…

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Chris Dammacco bought his first video game console, the Nintendo Entertainment System, at the age of 6. His grandmother gave him $100 as a birthday present and told him to go buy an NES.

From that moment on he was a gamer.

That passion has never faded. Last year Chris started Windy Gaming, a business around vintage, or retro, video games as a side-project while working full-time. Today the childhood passion and side-project has turned into a full-time ecommerce business that yields him about $1,000 per week. What’s even more amazing is that he’s managed to accomplish all this with a basic website, a modest following on social media, and a very DIY approach to product photography.

We document that journey and draw out the lessons you might apply to turn your own passions into a successful (and profitable) full-time business.

Step 1: Tap Into Your Community

If you were a kid in the ‘80s, then these games probably bring back some after-school memories: Duck Hunt, Zelda, Contra, Super Mario Bros., StarTropics, and Donkey Kong.

Some people grew up and never lost touch with those memories.

Chris started Windy Gaming in October of 2012 while he worked full-time as a cheesebroker in Chicago. A friend shipped him a big box of video games from Japan, and he wanted to sell them online.

He tapped into retro video gaming forums online, where he was already an active participant and where potential customers were congregating. He posted about the video games he had, and people immediately started to buy them via PayPal. This happened a few more times before he realized there was enough demand to set up a Facebook page to better handle orders.

 

When orders continued to pile up, he knew that he needed to upgrade to an actual ecommerce website.

In only three months Chris reached self-sufficiency and no longer needed to keep putting in money to invest in the company. And soon afterwards, he found himself being able to pay his monthly bills with this revenue.

Here’s the lesson: If you participate actively on an online discussion board around a dedicated topic, it becomes easier to identify product opportunities based around what people need and what people lack.

Plus, adding value to the community will help you build goodwill and relationships that will come in handy when it comes time to make your first sale.

Here’s some places to help you discover where your community hangs out online:

Reddit

Reddit is the largest social media news aggregator and online community site on the internet. It describes itself as the front page of the internet and has millions of active users. Reddit has thousands of “subreddits” which are sub-sections of the site about various topics and and areas of interest.

Simply type your keyword(s) into the search area and Reddit will return a list of sub-reddits related to your niche. Chances are you’ll find an engaged community waiting for you there.

You also start to find product opportunities based on the questions and pain points they identify.

Alltop

Alltop is a news aggregator that offers a curated list of the top blogs from various categories across the web.

You can search Alltop for a list blogs related to your niche that you can use to engage with people in your community by being active in comments or even guest posting.

Finally, there are thousands of independent forums online with people discussing every topic imaginable.

To find forums related to your passion, simply search for “[keyword] + forum” and you should find a number of good places to start interacting with your target audience.

Step 2: Listen to Your Community and Improve Your Offering

It’s not just that Chris has found a deep fanbase for his products. He listens to them actively and is always figuring out new ways to adapt and please them. And that makes for good business, too.

For example, he observed that most game sellers were charging too much, delivering too little customer service, and weren’t always true fans themselves. He felt that a lot of the sellers were there to make a profit and rip up off fans. He wanted his customers to know that he's one of them.

Chris has tried hard to treat his customers very, very well. That means not being condescending when they talk about their interests and not plumbing for a sale at every opportunity he gets. He also regularly prices his games about 10% to 15% less than what you might find on eBay.

Listening to his customers and engaging with them regularly are useful not only because the people who want retro games will be more likely to buy from him, but it also means that he has a finger on the pulse of the community, which gives him a better sense of what’s in demand.

“It’s because I’m on the forums that I know that some of the early shooter games are popular now,” says Chris. “Games like Gradius and R-Type that are really big now.”

His reward? A dedicated fanbase which trusts him as a knowledgeable dealer and knows that he’ll give them what they’re looking for.

Here’s the lesson: It’s not enough to find the deep community around the product you’re selling. When you engage actively, you get instant feedback which helps you improve your product offering and your business.

Step 3: Be Creative With Product Ideas and Finding Suppliers

Chris has had to get most of his merchandise from Japan simply because that’s where most retro video games come from.

But there are a lot of cool product opportunities overseas. Far too many people stick to selling things they can source locally instead of exploring more broadly for product ideas.

Don’t be afraid to test out new markets and new ideas. There are still many underexplored areas. One of these areas include bringing over goods from overseas.

Chris started Windy Gaming by giving a few hundred dollars to a friend who was in Japan and asked him to send him some retro games back. He got a big box of games, as well as a broken PC Engine LT. He sold all the games, fixed up the PC Engine LT, and then sold that for $700. Once his sales picked up, he started contacting suppliers directly. At this point Chris has a sophisticated network of trusted intermediaries.

Not all of us have friends abroad who can help out like this.

There are some amazing opportunities from out of the country. Pura Vida Bracelets brings bracelets back from Costa Rica. SokoGlam imports beauty products from Korea. And inkkas sells handmade shoes from South America. Try to make international contacts, or just make keep an eye out for interesting products the next time you leave the country. And even if you won’t go abroad any time soon, there are lots of places to look for finding interesting products.

For example, take a look at Alibaba, a site that offers goods mainly from China and also from around the world. You won’t find most of these things in such quantities on Craigslist.

Here’s the lesson: Don’t be caught up by the idea that only the businesses on your doorstep are good suppliers. Very often you’ll find something better further away if only you’re willing to do the legwork. Take a look around.

Step 4: Show Customers That You Care – They Can Tell

Windy Gaming goods are imported in batches from Japan. They’re not sold individually and shipped from Japan every time someone makes an order. So Chris is able to be offer the newest imports at the lowest prices to his customers. But he doesn’t really identify price as a key business differentiator.

“Treating your customers really well means delivering a good experience,” he says.

Chris uses only fresh cardboard for his shipping boxes, and handwraps all of his merchandise in bubblewrap. With each shipment, Chris includes two business cards (the second one is for a friend), and most importantly, a handwritten thank-you note.

“The handwritten notes have paid off in spades,” says Chris. “I’ve had people show me the notes I’ve written them. “They seek me out at conventions and show me what I’ve written them.”

It’s not price, but these little touches that turn fans into dedicated customers. It’s all part of showing people that he cares. He may be selling more cheaply than the dealers on eBay and he may know better than anyone what the community is thinking at any moment, but showing his customers that he cares about them is his truest competitive advantage.

“I want to treat everybody like a human being. You should really get to know your customers and deliver stellar service. They’ll feel it and appreciate it.”

Here’s the lesson: Your customers know when they’re being treated well. There are lots of ways to show that you care, from handwritten notes to checking in with the product experience. These little touches further endear you to your community.

Step 5: Take It Offline

The marketing efforts of ecommerce businesses typically involve engaging on social media, content marketing, and spending money on social media advertising as well as on Adwords.

If you’re active with all four of these, great. But there are other opportunities beyond the usual online marketing tactics. Think of these as the beginning, not the end, of your marketing.

Chris knows that video gamers like to meet not only on forums and discussion boards, but also in person for conventions.

Chris goes to these conventions, not only because he’s a passionate gamer but also because he wants to meet his customers. This is just one more way he connects with fans and stays ahead of trends.

He uses these conventions as an opportunity for offline marketing. He’s started to give out “Windy swag”: t-shirts and and stickers with his logo. These have been enormously popular, which has come as a surprise even to him.

Chris has an unconventional PR strategy. Instead of going after print media or even niche blogs, he’s been talking to Youtube hosts who have shows about video games, many of whom don’t have huge followings. He’s been interviewed at some prominent gamer conventions, but more importantly, video bloggers are eager to offer testimonials for him, and to discuss what it’s like to get his games.

Finally, just as businesses sponsor athletes at sporting events, Chris sponsors gamers who display his logo at competitions.

Here’s the lesson: You shouldn’t stop your marketing efforts at writing content, putting out ads, and engaging on social media. Figure out where people gather in the industry and who the trendsetters are, and go after them to promote your products.

Conclusion

What happened in a year? Chris has turned a passion project into a profitable full-time business. He started by selling Japanese video games, has recently brought in American video games, and is about to roll out big video arcade machines later this year.

“Chase the dream,” advises Chris. “Don’t quit. As long as you’re passionate, you can make this work.”

Chris is no longer a cheesebroker. Instead, his childhood passion is now his day job. The business was self-sufficient in three months, and he went from making $1K a month to $1K a week. Soon he’ll be expanding his business and bringing even more great retro games to his fans.

Chase the dream, guys.

 


About The Author

Dan Wang is a Content Specialist at Shopify. Get more from Dan on Twitter.

How to Design an Online Store Logo

At Shopify, we find that online stores that have gone the extra mile on branding and awesome online…

At Shopify, we find that online stores that have gone the extra mile on branding and awesome online store logos bring in a significant amount more in revenue compared to those that haven’t. 

The fundamentals to creating and running a successful online business are taken care of by Shopify, offering up a fast and reliable service worldwide, with quality themes to make the shopping experience really enjoyable. What Shopify can’t do, is give your shop a personality, deliver a message, or make your brand really stick out from the competition. That's where branding and a great online store logo come into play.

The importance of online store logo design

There’s no better way to give your site an immediate personality than with an awesome logo. For the average shopper a brand is just a product identifier — it isn’t just another iPad case, it’s a DODOcase. The logo is a pivotal piece to this branding, and shouldn’t be overlooked. Fret over the details with it, make sure it appeals to your target market and conveys your primary message. Logos are best kept simple; great typography or a pictogram is often more than enough.

How to Create an Online Store Logo

Of course, everyone isn’t a designer, and even some designers have difficulty with branding. So how are online businesses going to get a timeless, quality logo? Here are 3 resources to help you design a logo for your ecommerce store:

1. Hire a Designer

The best quality will always come from a one-on-one contract with an experienced designer. We’re not talking about your uncle’s twice removed step-father who has a ‘good eye for this kind of thing,’ we’re talking about a real designer with an actual branding portfolio. You can find plenty of great designers in Shopify Experts.

2. Crowd-Sourcing

Although somewhat frowned upon by many designers, crowd-design sites like 99Designs, and LogoTournament are a resource that can't be ignored. The concept is simple, all you have to do is describe your target audience, style preference, slogan or mission statement, and provide a budget. Several designers will create their vision of the logo, and you pick the winner. Many designers get their start working in the crowd-design scene to get lots of relevant work experience at a relatively fast pace (LogoTournament helped my logo skills immensely when I first started), so this is a solid choice for those with a smaller budget.

3. DIY Online Store Logo

Plenty of Shopify folks are natural DIY’ers, and if you follow some simple guidelines and put the time in to learn something new, there is no question that you can make a decent logo for free. Most logos are made in vector, so you’ll need some software to work in this format. In perfect DIY form, you’ll want to pick up InkScape, which is an open-source project and quite feature-rich for a program that is entirely free. The key to creating a great logo is choosing a great typeface, so head over to sites like Lost Type Co-Op or The League of Moveable Type for some amazing, hand-selected fonts that are pay-what-you-like. The rest relies on your creative juices, so get them flowing.

Here are a few examples of effective logos from Shopify stores:

LuhseTea

Luhse Tea's online store logo design

LuhseTea’s logo is only the very beginning of the amazing things they are doing to create a strong brand, but this simple circle logo starts them off on the right foot. An art deco font, a grainy texture to give some tactility, and a simple tea cup silhouette. It screams artsy, classy, and most importantly conveys that they sell tea. It pairs perfectly with their “Tea Bag Prohibition” slogan, resembling a glowing moon in the night sky.

Twelve Saturdays

Twelve Saturday's online store logo design

Twelve Saturdays’ logo is as exemplary as they come. This clothing brand is attempting to fuse college football with great fashion for women — and this logo nails it. It’s a playful choice of type with sporty influences like a swooshed ‘y’ similar to those found on baseball jerseys, and a football shape for the twelve.

CXXVI

CXXVI's online store logo design

The CXXVI site creates a tactile feel like no other. This hand-drawn logo by Brooklyn artist Jon Contino, known for his 1930’s chalkboard style typography, gives the brand that perfect hand-made feel. The anvil isn’t as literal as the previous two examples, but it works well with the tailored goods ideology.

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