How to Sell Online

The Shopify Ecommerce Blog has over many articles about selling products online. From learning how to sell online to advanced tips and tricks, we cover everything you need to know to run a successful online business. Here are some recent posts that talk about selling online:

10 Best Comparison Shopping Engines to Increase Ecommerce Sales

Comparison shopping engines (CSE's) give ecommerce merchants the opportunity to attract new customers, increase sales, and go head-to-head…

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Comparison shopping engines (CSE's) give ecommerce merchants the opportunity to attract new customers, increase sales, and go head-to-head against the competition.

This is an important guide that will explain what comparison shopping engines are, tell you the 10 best, and show you how to get your products listed.  

What are Comparison Shopping Engines?

Comparison shopping engines collect product information, including pricing, from participating retailers and then display that collective information on a single results page in response to a shopper's search query. In this way, shoppers can compare each retailer's price, shipping options, and service on a single page and choose the merchant that offers the best overall value.

Example: Lets say I want to buy a Rubik's Cube and want to see what my options are. I go to Google Shopping (one of the most popular CSE's around) and do a search. Here's what comes up: 

For ecommerce merchants, comparison shopping engines are an opportunity to put your products in front of very interested buyers. These are not people perusing a virtual storefront like a window shopper at the mall, rather CSE users typically have already made the decision to buy and are simply looking for the best deal.

10 Popular Comparison Shopping Engines 

1. Google Shopping



Google Shopping is probably the largest and best know comparison shopping engine. Products submitted to Google Shopping will also be displayed on standard Google search results and are integrated with Google's pay-per-click platform, Adwords.

2. Nextag


Nextag has been in operation since 1999 and has as many as 30 million visitors each month. Nextag is consistently a top performer for traffic and conversions on CPC Strategy's quarterly review of leading CSE's. You can list products, event tickets, real estate, and even travel bookings. 

3. PriceGrabber


In addition to presenting products on its site, PriceGrabber has a market research tool, Market Report, that allows retailers to track consumer purchase and product pricing trends. When you list your products on PriceGrabber, you'll also be listed on Yahoo Shopping which is a nice added bonus.

4. Shopping.com


Shopping.com is part of eBay's family of companies and is another great channel for merchants to put their products in front of perspective buyers. Shopping.com also partners with The Find, another CSE on this list.

5. Shopzilla


With about 40 million month visitors and a pedigree dating back to 1996, Shopzilla is one of the best choices for ecommerce merchants looking for some extra sales. This comparison shopping engine has an impressive 100+ million products listed. 

6. Become


Become is another leader in the CSE space, allowing thrifty shoppers to compare prices, read or write product reviews, and simply search for the best possible online shopping deals.

7. Bing Shopping (Free)


Bing Shopping offers free product listings that appear directly on Bing search results pages. Bing Shopping has earned a lot of consumer praise for doing an excellent job of providing consumer friendly results. The service does not accept new merchant feeds during high-traffic shopping seasons, so get started early with Bing in 2013.

8. Pronto


With about 70 million product listings sorted into various retail verticals and millions of visitors monthly, Pronto certainly merits consideration for any retailer's 2013 CSE campaigns.

9. The Find (Free)


In addition to showing product and price comparisons, The Find can help shoppers discover new products with personalized results.

10. Amazon Product Ads

Amazon isn't technically a comparison shopping engine, but they work in a similar fashion. When you register for Product Ads you can upload your products manually or via FTP. Amazon will then create ads for your products using the information provided in your product file. When you set your budget, your ads will go live and you'll pay-per-click.

The Cost of Comparison Shopping Engines 

Although some of the CSE's are free, most are going to charge you per click-through or per action. With pay-per-click, sellers pay a set fee or bid each time that a potential customer clicks on that merchant's link. Here's an example using Amazon:

In a pay-per-action model, retailers will pay a percentage of the value of a sale made as a result of being listed on the CSE. No one pricing model is best, so choose which works best for you. 

How to get Products Listed in Comparison Shopping Engines

Most CSE's require retailers to submit a formatted product feed. This feed must meet a CSE-defined specification and should be updated frequently. The CSE uses scripts to parse and ingest the data from the feed, displaying the included information on results pages as appropriate.

Shopify merchants have several apps available that make submitting product feeds to CSE's easier and in some cases, automatic. For example, RetailTower is a free Shopify app that can help prepare feeds for many of the top CSE's listed here. Regardless of how a feed is created, smart merchants will work to optimize descriptions and prices get the most sales possible.

Learn 50 Ways to Make Your 1st Sale

My Mantra to Blogging that Made $20,000: Remix, Reuse, and Republish

For the last three months, I’ve been focused on one question: How do I publish at least one…

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By: Walter Chen

For the last three months, I’ve been focused on one question: How do I publish at least one high quality article every single day that will increase sales? 

In learning how to answer that question, I sold $20,000 of my product (iDoneThis) with content marketing alone. I'm going to share with you the 3 tricks to blogging that I learned over the last three months - all of these strategies can be easily applied to your ecommerce business. My mantra is simple: remix, reuse, and republish.

1.  Don’t create content, remix “de-risked” content

I used to fall into the trap of thinking that every time I sat down to write a blog post, I had to rewrite Ulysses from scratch. That meant that I usually just stared at my screen, unable to write down a single word.

Leo Widrich of Buffer advises the exact opposite approach: “Copy the hell out of others.”  While you should never steal another person’s writing, you should always look at what content has been successful in your area and mimic it while making it your own.

I wrote a blog post that over 30,000 people read in less than an hour using Leo’s technique. My product, iDoneThis, helps make people and teams more productive. So I knew that I wanted to write a blog post about personal productivity. Instead of racking my brain for ideas, I took to Hacker News, a popular link-sharing site, and searched "productivity".


The two links that got by far the most attention were: Marc Andreessen’s Guide to Personal Productivity and Jerry Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret. I pulled out one interesting tip from Andreessen’s guide on how he stays productive and made that interesting nugget an entire blog post. Then I played on the title of the successful Seinfeld post by calling my article, “Marc Andreessen’s Productivity Trick to Feeling Marvelously Efficient.”  

I had no doubt that people would love my post because the content had already been de-risked. Sure enough, tens of thousands of people read, shared, and learned a valuable productivity technique from the article.

2.  Reuse, reuse, reuse: one successful blog post is another successful blog post that’s yet to be written.

Writing just one blog post that strikes a chord with your audience is a huge accomplishment. Given how hard it is to write a single blog post that tens of thousands of people love, I used to feel paralyzed by the huge challenge of writing yet another post.

Then I began to wonder, had every single one of my potential customers seen my blog post? Wouldn’t that snippet of knowledge that I’d shared also be useful and interesting to people who weren’t on the receiving end of the distribution channels that I’d initially used?

This is how I began to realize that if I wrote just one successful blog post, I had the seeds to write many more successful blog posts.

For example, I wrote this blog post for my company blog: Silicon Valley’s Productivity Secret, which over 40,000 people read, but I struggled for months afterwards to write another post that would achieve comparable success. I started to think I was a one-hit wonder.

That’s when I realized that there were many people out there that hadn’t read that one hit. I rewrote the article, condensing the originally longer narrative post into an easily digestible, useful “tips” post. It was published on Business Insider as 4 Secrets To Silicon Valley's Productivity where over 2,000 people read it:



The best part about all of this? It took less than an hour to write. As this process becomes more and more natural, you’ll produce content that’s of higher quality because it will become more and more refined around what’s interesting about the article. And remember, it’s absolutely vital that you never unexpectedly give a publisher content that has been published elsewhere, because that will make your contact look foolish and that channel will likely be closed to you.

3.  Republishing creates leverage — it’s like creating clones of yourself


The deeper I got into this content game, the more I noticed how professional content publishers leveraged the techniques I described above. Buzzfeed and Business Insider are two publishers that have elevated content remixing to an art form.

When I was browsing around Business Insider one day, I was surprised to discover that much of their content is actually republished content from other publishers. In turn, Business Insider articles are also republished on other sites.

I had an idea: even though my company iDoneThis was not in the content publishing game, wouldn’t it be awesome if the iDoneThis blog could get in on this republishing game plan? Then I wouldn’t have to remix or reuse articles, and they would automatically get republished for broader consumption.

I pitched the contributors editor at Business Insider with a simple value proposition. I have 5 articles that 10,000+ people have read, and I’m producing more high quality content every single day. Do you want my valuable, de-risked content for free?  

She said yes, and now our best articles go on to Business Insider regularly, which helps spread the word about what we’re doing at iDoneThis to thousands of people every day, and I don’t have to lift a finger.

Conclusion: More content, more community, more profit

Content helps you stand out from the fray, creates communities and trust in your voice, improves search optimization, and gets the word out and people in the door, whether that’s a virtual or brick-and-mortar door. 

Use the remix, reuse, and republish strategy to leverage the existence of great original content and your resources to maximize the ability to pique people’s interest to click, try, and buy, and understand who you are and what you do.


Walter Chen is the CEO and founder of iDoneThis, an easy way for companies to track and celebrate what's getting done.  He blogs about productivity, management, and starting a company on the iDoneThis Blog.  Follow him on Twitter at @smalter.


The Stalker's Guide to Highly Effective Guest Posting

This is the story of how I stalked the writer of this blog, convinced him to let me…

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This is a guest post by Andrew Youderian of eCommerceFuel.com

This is the story of how I stalked the writer of this blog, convinced him to let me write regularly for Shopify and generated thousands of visits to my site – all as a blogging newbie. 

What follows is a behind-the-scenes look at how to land high-profile guest posting opportunities. I'm going to give you a step-by-step process, and show you all my secret tricks. While my goal was to promote my new blog, the guest posting tactics discussed are an incredibly effective way to market any business online, including ecommerce sites.  

Guest Blogging Prerequisites

Before getting started, it's crucial that you have something of quality online to offer. This could be a
blog, an ecommerce business or a site for your consulting services. It doesn't need to be expansive, but it does need to be high-quality material that showcases your writing abilities. 

I only had five or so posts published when I started pursuing the Shopify opportunity, but I'd spent up
to eight hours on each. If you don't have a track record of content creation, you need to make up for it
with quality work.    

Step 1: Identify High-Profile Blogging Opportunities

You want to identify guest posting opportunities on sites that:

  1. Target the specific audience you want to reach. 
  2. Have a significant amount of traffic and/or authority.
If you're familiar with your market, a few opportunities should immediately come to mind. If not, use
sites like Technorati and Alltop to find popular blogs in your niche. If you're unsure how popular or authoritative a blog is, use stats from Alexa and Compete to determine approximate traffic levels.   

Shopify is a well-known leader in the ecommerce space and its blog was one I'd followed for a while,  so it was an obvious opportunity I wanted to pursue.  

Step 2: Identify Your Target Blog Owner / Editor 

I'm pleased to introduce you to my target: Mark Hayes, head of public relations and the guy behind the Shopify blog. You may have noticed his byline on the articles, but do you really know who he is?



I didn't, so I set out to learn as much as I could about him. I did some digging online, followed him on
Twitter and started to uncover a portrait of a Canadian pinball fanatic who also writes for Urban Male
magazine and is a sucker for long, romantic walks along the Ottawa River. (Sorry ladies, I think he's
spoken for.)  

A bit creepy? Slightly stalker-esque? Perhaps. But it's also critically important to understand the person you're trying to connect with. The best networkers and marketers in the world are experts at relating to people. You need to be, too.  

Step 3: Start Promoting Their Content 

The best way to tactfully get noticed by high-profile bloggers is to share and promote their posts. If
you're consistent about promoting and sharing their content, they'll eventually start to recognize your
name. More importantly, you'll likely start to bank up some goodwill due to the human law of
reciprocity: the innate desire we feel to help those who help us.   

In the course of promoting Mark's Shopify posts, I shared posts socially, left blog comments and
mentioned him on other sites I wrote for. Here's what you need to do to get on a blog owner / editors radar.

A. Sharing Post Socially

Sharing socially via Facebook or Twitter is the easiest way to help but the least likely to be noticed. A
few tips to consider when sharing:

  • Make sure to include the author's handle, not just the company handle. This way, the author will be more likely to notice your mention.
  • Instead of simply re-sharing the headline as is, add your own insights or title to the piece. This shows that you really DID read it and took the time to write a custom title for your audience. 
  • Ensure there's a link to your site in your social media profile, so the blogger can easily learn more about you if s/he investigates.  

B. Leave High-Quality Comments 

Leaving insightful, well-written comments is a great way to connect with a blogger and help him build
a dynamic community. Though it's more time-consuming than sharing, commenting is more effective at
building a relationship and name recognition, as there's usually less competition for attention.  

Quality definitely trumps quantity when it comes to commenting. Loads of people leave short “Great
post! Love it” comments; that's not the goal. If you want to get noticed, take the time to leave a quality
comment that adds value. 

Here's a comment I left on Mark's article about researching competition:


C.  Mention the Blogger in Other Posts

Mentioning the blogger in another guest post is a great way to connect and build rapport. Not only will
the blogger appreciate the attention, but it also builds your credibility when s/he sees you being
featured on other sites.  

In a guest post for Practical eCommerce (you can see it here), I listed Shopify as one of the top five blogs to follow online. Here's what I wrote about the Shopify blog: 
The Shopify blog frequently has great articles on ecommerce marketing and operations. But they stand out as my go-to site for inspiration due to the number of beautifully designed ecommerce shops often profiled.
You can see Mark's reaction below, which definitely helped put me on his radar:  


A Caveat: Be Genuine!!

Throughout all this sharing, commenting and promoting, you need to make sure you're being genuine
in what you write and promote. Following a long-term plan for building relationships doesn't give you
a license to make things up, over-indulge or flatter solely for the purpose of winning attention. 

You need to make sure the content you're promoting IS high-quality material. Otherwise, your reputation – especially with those who follow you – will suffer.

Step 4: Be Patient and Personable



It's going to take more than a few tweets and a single comment to get the attention of a well-known
blogger. You should plan on following a share/comment/mention strategy for at least four weeks before pitching a post for well-known, selective sites.

A few weeks into your campaign, it's time to transition from an in-the-shadows stalker to a friendly
acquaintance. Twitter is a great platform for this. For example, one of Mark's tweets about the new
Shopify pinball table led me to initiate this conversation:



Again, be authentic. Yes, we're trying to build a relationship with the end goal of landing a guest post,
but you also need to take a genuine interest in the person. I actually do love pinball, so this was an easy conversation to begin.

As hard as it is, avoid the temptation to pitch your content too soon. Otherwise, you run the chance of
ruining all the goodwill you've banked up. I made this mistake when Mark replied to one of my early
Tweets promoting his story. Knowing I'd fostered some engagement, I figured I'd try to “pitch” him on covering one of my existing articles:



His response? Dead silence, which is what I should have expected. I had tried to pitch something too early before our relationships had developed. I quickly realized my mistake and fortunately didn't make it again. Instead, I simply focused on continuing to share his quality material on the Shopify blog.

Step 5: How To Make Your Pitch

After weeks of commenting, sharing and interacting via Twitter, I was surprised when Mark approached me about doing a guest post on the Shopify blog. While I was thrilled at my good luck, you'll almost always need to proactively pitch a guest post.

When pitching a guest post, keep the following 5 tricks in mind:

  1. Keep the email short and to the point. Long, unsolicited emails rarely get read by busy people.
  2. Always try to pitch via email. If you don't have the blogger's email, use this trick to find it.
  3. Lead off with a specific compliment about the blog and/or a recent article to reinforce that you know and appreciate the blogger's work.
  4. Clearly state that you'd like to guest post for the blog and offer three potential guest post ideas.
  5. Link to a sample of your writing online and share any applicable credentials.
Had I needed to write Mark a pitch, it would have gone something like this:

Guest Blog Pitch Email Template 



It's short, to the point and offers three post ideas to easily choose from. Even if you get turned down, a
direct email like this will often elicit a reply from even popular bloggers.

Step 6: Writing a Killer Guest Post

Congratulations! You've successfully landed a guest post on a high-profile blog. Now it's time to write
an absolutely killer post.

Creating a high-quality post has a number of advantages. It shows the blogger you appreciate his/her
audience and significantly increases the likelihood that you'll be invited to do a follow-up post. Plus,
the quality of your post will determine how many people click through to YOUR website. With great
content, readers will want to learn more about you.

I spent between six and eight hours writing my first Shopify guest post titled “Don't Follow Your



It went viral and received more than 200 tweets, 75 likes, 20 comments and resulted in more than 200 new subscribers (not visitors, subscribers) to my blog in a matter of days.  

Best of all was the invitation from Mark to become a regular writer – an opportunity to highlight my blog on a monthly basis to Shopify readers. All this because I invested the time to write a high-quality piece after landing the initial post.

RESULTS: Is It Really Worth It?

Alright, so tweets are one thing and 200 new subscribers is great, but what are the other benefits? Identifying, securing and writing high-profile guest posts like the ones I submit here at Shopify is obviously a LOT of work. It takes months of planning to establish a relationship and hours of actual writing time. It's pretty reasonable to wonder if it's worthwhile to invest all this time just to land a guest post or two.  

To help answer that question, I'd like to share some actual traffic and conversion statistics from my own
ecommerce blog, eCommerceFuel.com.  

Traffic Statistics

The traffic stats listed below are from the three-month period immediately after the publication of my
initial guest post. Over the period shown, I had three guest posts published on the Shopify blog.  


Despite having only three guest posts published, traffic from the Shopify blog made up the fourth
largest traffic stream to my blog, sending nearly 2,400 visits! Even more important, the Shopify readers
were the most engaged, spending significantly more time on my site than direct or Google visitors.

Conversions

The conversion data was even more impressive. My analytics are set up to track conversions/goals as anyone who subscribes to my blog by downloading my eBook. You can see the conversion stats below:



Despite being #4 in traffic, Shopify visitors were the second biggest source of subscribers – even
beating out visitors from Google! Over three months, those few articles generated more than 550
subscribers.  

SEO Benefits

The Shopify blog carries a lot of authority with the almighty Google – authority that's passed along to
my blog every time I write a post and link back to my site. These valuable links boost my rankings and
reputation in Google, which leads to an increase in free organic traffic over time. And the guest posts
themselves will continually drive visitors to my blog as long as Shopify is around.  

I launched eCommerceFuel back in April 2012. Like most new sites, it was ranked a PageRank 0 by
Google. Fast forward just seven months and it's now a PageRank 4 – a stunning rise for such a new
site. I've worked for nearly five years on some sites that are still only a PageRank 4.  

While I've received links from other high-profile sites during that period, the numerous inbound links
from Shopify definitely contributed to the rapid rise in authority and will help with future traffic from
Google.  

Credibility

Being a regular writer for the Shopify blog is great professional experience and helps me build
credibility with others. When I'm trying to land an interview, I can let people know I'm a contributing
writer for the Shopify blog, along with my other credentials.  

Even if the interviewees don't know me, they're likely to know the Shopify brand and its sterling
reputation. Most will then assume that if the editors at Shopify let me write for them, I can't be too
shady a character.

Yep, It's DEFINITELY Worth It 

So is this high-commitment guest posting strategy a quick-and-easy path to massive traffic and
exposure? Definitely not. It takes significant time, effort and commitment to execute correctly. But if
you're willing to invest in your content, promote others and nurture relationships, it's one of the most
effective marketing methods available. Just make sure you reserve your newly developed stalker skills
purely for professional use.


Written by Andrew Youderian.  Andrew is an ecommerce entrepreneur and blogger, and is not nearly as creepy as this article might imply. It you enjoyed this piece, you'll love his 15-minute guide to ecommerce SEO. He's also the author of a popular, well-reviewed eBook on launching a profitable ecommerce business

4 Ways Opena Case Changed Their Marketing To Optimize For Holiday Shopping

You might remember that Opena Case was one of the winners of our Build-A-Business Competition last year. They…

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You might remember that Opena Case was one of the winners of our Build-A-Business Competition last year. They won $25,000 cash, $7,500 in Google Adwords Credits, plus a VIP trip to New York to have lunch with Seth Godin. The founders of Opena, Rob and Chris, sold a massive amount iPhone case beer bottle openers - most of which leading up to Christmas.  

Since the holiday shopping season is almost upon us, I asked Rob and Chris what they did to sell so many products. 

Here are their 4 tips to help you prepare for the busiest time of the year:

1. Tell Customers Your Product Is The Perfect Gift

Spread the word that your product makes a great gift! Don’t assume that everyone will make the connection -  you have to tell them. This is what we have front and center on our homepage: 


There is no room for subtlety here. Visitors to our homepage may not be personally interested our product, so we remind them that they have a whole bunch of shopping to do. They might not want a beer bottle opening iPhone case for themselves, but someone they know may want one.

2. Market To The Gift BUYER, Not The Receiver 

Keep in mind that the majority of products purchased during the holiday season will be gifts, so a change in marketing strategies may be necessary. For example, we know that our demographic is beer loving, iPhone using men between 20-35 years old. Throughout the year, that's who we market to. But around the holidays, we don't market to them.... we market to the people who are going to buy our demographic gifts. 

  • The girl on the left is how we market Opena year-round. 
  • The girl on the right is how we market Opena around the holiday season. We changed the target demographic to the gift BUYER - usually, women between 20 and 50 years old who are in a relationship. 


You'll notice that we ditched the girl in a bikini and opted for a girl dressed in a Christmas outfit holding our product, and a Coke.  

It's vitally important to focus your marketing efforts on who's buying the gift, and that's not always the same year-round.

3. Get Featured In Gift Guides 

Last Christmas our iPhone case was featured in a number of both online and print gift buying guides. These press ops converted really well because they're timed perfect with the holiday season, and most people who read them are looking for gift ideas. 

Everybody has that person that’s impossible to buy for and these lists are a good way to get your products, price, and purchase information in front of that potential customer from a source that they trust. You'll see Opena Case in the bottom right hand corner of Campus Talk:


4. Clearly Define Your Shipping Policies

Make sure that you can deliver on time! As the majority of the stock sold during Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the days leading up to Christmas are gifts, it’s more important than ever to be able to get your products to the customer as fast as possible. We state our shipping practices and policies clearly on our site. 

Here's what we have on our Opena product pages: 

You'll notice we mention that goods ship out of Hong Kong, United Kingdom, USA, and Australia. Since we ship from multiple counties, we're able to quickly deliver anywhere in the world. Make sure your customers know what you offer, and how long they should expect shipping to take. 

Check out Opena Case and all their clever marketing strategies here

How to Engineer Increased Sales & Happy Customers With Behavioral Psychology

When it comes to acquiring and keeping satisfied customers, smart entrepreneurs must understand what's going on inside their customers…

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When it comes to acquiring and keeping satisfied customers, smart entrepreneurs must understand what's going on inside their customers mind's. Just as we saw how neuroeconomics can be used for smarter pricing tactics, small business owners can benefit from insightful research in behavioral psychology to increase sales and provide exceptional customer service.

Today, you're going to see some research that reveals how marketers and ecommerce entrepreneurs can use implicit egotism, social constructs, and appeals to social inclusion to create stronger brand engagement, keep customers happy, and increase their bottom line. 

Increase Customer Happiness By Slowing Down Service

Too many businesses focus on improving only a single customer service metric: speed. Recently though, numerous forms of behavioral and consumer research have shown that customers value quality time with service providers more so than "quick" service. Comprehensive studies by the Gallup group and RightNow have shown that customers look for competent, "complete" service when deciding to stick with or abandon a certain brand:
Customer perceptions of the [service provider's] courtesy and their apparent willingness to help were far more important than speed of service in generating customer engagement.

Here are two case-studies that prove in most cases, people value slow (but courteous, thoughtful, and thorough) customer service to speed and quality of service. 

Evidence 1: Doctors Malpractice


In his popular book Blink, Malcom Gladwell reveals some startling research that shows "customers" of all types take time-spent with service providers VERY seriously. Gladwell reveals some interesting data to start things off: despite how most people view malpractice lawsuits, statistically, the majority of people who suffer an injury due to a faulty medical procedure do not sue their doctors. 

Surprising in itself, but things get weirder. The #1 common factor among people who did sue their doctor was the belief that the didn't get enough time with their doctor, and that they felt their treatment was "rushed, ignored, and poorly diagnosed." 

Evidence 2: Fairness of Jail Sentence 


In similarly shocking research, the Brafman brothers analyzed feedback on how "fair" convicted felons had felt their jail sentences had been, in order to find any recurring factors. The most common factor they found wasn't all that surprising: time served (length of sentence) played the biggest role in the felons rating their punishment. 

What was surprising though, was the second most common factor. According to the data, face-to-face time with their lawyers played a pivotal role in determining how each felon viewed the "fairness" of their sentencing: the more time they spent with their lawyer, the fairer they viewed their sentence. This was true across cases with similar sentence lengths as well. The Brafman brothers noted that:
...Although the outcome might be exactly the same [in length of sentence], when we don't get to voice our concerns, we perceive the overall fairness of the experience quite differently.

How To Slow Down Your Customer Service

Spending more time with customers is critical in creating a lasting relationship with them. Rushing them out the door with "fast" service can backfire, big time. One success story of implementing the mindset of spending more time with customers can be found in how Derek Sivers ran CDBaby, before selling the company for over $20 million:
I used to request all my employees to intentionally take a little longer on customers calls. I would ask them to pull up customers albums and catalogues; have a look at their pictures and gears - to learn a bit about them. Imagine how powerful it is for a customer to know that he is listening to somebody who is a musician that gets him, than something like, 'Thank you customer 4325. How may I quickly handle your problem?
While this strategy worked for CDBaby, there are some businesses and situations where the "more time with customers" approach won't work.

Some services rely on solving problems immediately. Ecommerce merchants need to figure out when they can spend time with customers and when to act quick. If a customer is calling with a complaint about service or product, you need to gauge their disposition and act accordingly. But if a potential customer is inquiring about product features, shipping rates, or something of that nature, you have a great chance to give them their answer and also build a positive relationship with that person. Like the case study above proves, service should never be "rushed, ignored, and poorly diagnosed."

Increase Sales By Appealing To Customer's Implicit Egotism


Despite the fact that most people desire to be viewed as humble, science shows us that, in general, people love themselves. So much so that they are biased towards characteristics that relate to them. It's a construct called Implicit Egotism, and it's been used to explain a lot of oddities in the human mind in relation to personal preference, such as why we are susceptible to ownership bias

Just how far does this effect go? Absurdly far. Consider these three examples: 

  1. Academic research has revealed that people's names are likely to affect their life choices, for instance, there are more people (statistically) named Louis in the city of St. Louis, and people named Dennis or Denise are dentists more often than other names. 
  2. People who shared the same birthday with the "mad monk" Grigori Rasputin were revealed to be far more favorable of him and his acts throughout history thanks to a Journal of Personality and Social Psychology study
Here's how to apply these findings to your ecommerce marketing to better engage potential customers.

Construct Your USP Around Your Ideal Customer


Would you use Betty White to advertise your product? You should construct your unique selling position (USP) around your ideal customer. Identify which customers are right for YOUR product, and craft your brand, testimonials, and marketing efforts to play on those traits favorable to this customer. 

For example, a flashy "explainer" video on your homepage might work well for a tech startup, but it will throw people off if you're selling hearing aids. Similarly, is it any wonder why Gillette would grab celebrities like Adrien Brody & Andre 3000, while the AARP reaches out to people like Betty White?

AARP knows their demographic. They're well known to use celebrities in their 60's and up, because nobody would want to listen to a young person discussing the difficulties of preparing for retirement. 

You can also take a page from political campaigns. Have you ever noticed that no matter how rich a candidate is, they run as an average Joe? Despite having wealth and business experience, many politicians choose to showcase the traits that appeal and relate to the most amount of voters. 

As an online store owner, it's vitally important to define who your best audience is, and market to them.

Conclusion

I hope you found this article useful. More and more these days fields like Behavioral Psychology are producing research that can be used to help ecommerce store owners build a successful online business. Lets talk in the comments. 


This is a guest post by Gregory Ciotti. He's the content strategist for Help Scout, the nifty invisible help desk software that makes email support a breeze for you and your customers. Get more from Greg on the Help Scout blog.

5 Quick Tips to Get Your Ecommerce Store Holiday Ready

The holiday season is swiftly approaching, and online store owners should start planning and executing their marketing campaigns…

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The holiday season is swiftly approaching, and online store owners should start planning and executing their marketing campaigns now. Black Friday and Cyber Monday mark the start of the holiday shopping season for millions of  shoppers - and they're just around the corner.

Here are 5 quick tips to get you started: 

1. Create a Gift Guide

The holiday season is all about purchasing and giving gifts. We're all expected to purchase items for loved-ones, friends, and even co-workers, but how do we know what to buy? Not everyone makes a wish-list anymore, so many online shoppers are starving for gift giving advice. Take a look at Amazon's Gift Central below - this is a smart way to suggest items to purchase for every type of person.


This is called a holiday gift guide, and they can take the form of lookbooks, blog posts, or even magazine-like articles. Amazon does a great job at suggesting gift ideas, but also check out RedEnvelope's Christmas Gift section, or the holiday gift guide I published last year on the Shopify blog.

2. Offer a Shipping Calendar

Not only are consumers rushing to buy presents for everyone on their shopping lists, but they also have to manage the logistics of getting those presents to their destinations on a deadline.

If a shopper orders a pair of slim fit organic denim jeans from the Hiut Denim Company (awesome Shopify store), when will the jeans arrive in San Diego, California? Will the order arrive before Christmas? 

Include a holiday shipping chart somewhere prominent in your ecommerce store. Let your visitors know exactly what type of shipping is required to ensure that an order will arrive on time. Take a look at Net-A-Porter's holiday shipping cut-off chart:


It's well designed, clear, and has all the information a hesitant shopper needs to know. Also check out this Holiday Shipping 2012 Infographic from ShipStation will help you put together a shipping calendar for your online store.

3. Offer Black Friday & Cyber Monday Discounts

Shoppers expect to see sale prices during the holidays, and this is especially true on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Not offering a discount on either of these days is the retail equivalent of Santa dropping a lump of coal in someone's stocking. You don't need to discount every product, but make sure you run some type of promotion. 

Also, it's a good idea to start early. Tell customers on your mailing list about your sales early on to get people excited early. Amazon already has a live countdown to Christmas and Black Friday and Cyber Monday: 

It's all about anticipation. If you're going to send an email blast before Black Friday and Cyber Monday- don't reveal all your discounts. Give them details on a few of your juiciest deals, and encourage them to visit your store to find out the rest. That way, they'll be more inclined to actually visit your site, rather than deleting the email after digesting all of the information. 

4. Add Live Chat

In 2012, holiday shoppers have lots of choices, and ecommerce retailers need to standout, particularly in the areas of customer service and responsiveness.

Offering live chat, gives online store owners an opportunity to connect with interested site visitors as they are making buying decisions. Live chat can significantly boost conversion rates and help to identify bottle necks in a site's sales funnel.

Check out how Shopify store Vielle & Frances has a "contact us" live-chat tab on every page: 


The Shopify App Store has several live chat integration options, including Olark, LiveChat, and UserPulse. Remember, you don't have to offer live chat year-round, it's okay to simply offer it during the busiest shopping season.

5. Collect Emails For Year-Round Customers

November and December are usually the best months for selling products, but they're also a great time to acquire long-term customers. With the influx in traffic to your online store, it's the perfect opportunity to start collecting emails so you can market to them all year-round. 

Shopify store HOLSTEE collects emails with a stylish field in their footer: 


Include a signup field on your home page. You might want to offer visitors an incentive by way of a free ebook, downloadable report, or a discount on goods purchased. If you integrate with Mailchimp, it's super easy to cut and paste the liquid code into your theme. For more tips on email marketing, check out MailChimp's awesome "Email Marketing Field Guide" - a comprehensive guide that will teach you all the basics.


How Small Companies Can Compete With Amazon

Few companies can strike fear into the hearts of ecommerce merchants like Amazon. Its massive scale and focus…

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This is a guest post by Andrew Youderian of eCommerceFuel.com

Few companies can strike fear into the hearts of ecommerce merchants like Amazon. Its massive scale and focus on growth over profits allows Amazon to offer pricing that many smaller merchants simply can't compete with.

As an ecommerce entrepreneur myself, I would have an easier time hating on Amazon if it wasn't such an outstanding company. But unlike many huge organizations, it does a great job of providing quality customer service. And if you're an Amazon Prime member – like I am, full disclosure – you get free, fast shipping on just about anything you'd ever want.

So how can small merchants like us compete with such an appealing giant? 

Brand Yourself as a Specialist

Amazon's massive size allows it to benefit from economies of scale, but such a wide scope can also be a weakness. With so many products for sale, it's impossible for Amazon to offer specialized, expert guidance.  

SonicsOnline founder Dave Huckabay has taken the opposite approach, choosing instead to become laser-focused with his ecommerce catalog. He focuses exclusively on ultrasonic cleaners for jewelry and industrial use, a niche most people probably don't even know exists.

Take a product found on both his site and Amazon: the GemOro Ultrasonic Jewelry Cleaner. The item costs $120 on SonicsOnline, almost double the $67.95 it's listed for on Amazon. Yet it still manages to sell well on Dave's site. 

Amazon


SonicsOnline


So how does SonicsOnline compete with Amazon? Though not professionally designed, the SonicsOnline page is chock full of information, including videos, manuals and detailed specs. Perhaps most important is that customers know they're buying from a company with highly focused niche expertise. They can get specialized help for specific questions or problems. 

The combination of quality information and industry expertise is powerful and has helped SonicsOnline grow to approximately $300,000 in annual revenues. When asked about successfully competing with Amazon, Huckabay said:

When done properly, real expertise comes across in a website. You can't fake it, and reviews by your customers are not a substitute.

By becoming a true niche expert – and successfully conveying that through your ecommerce store – you'll be much better equipped to compete against Amazon without having to rely on razor-thin pricing.

Create Your Own Products

Creating your own product is undeniably the hardest (and most expensive) way to get started with eCommerce. But if you have a great idea and the resources to pull it off, it's probably the best way to build a highly profitable business and successfully compete against Amazon.

Just ask Dan Andrews of ModernCatDesigns.com. He and his business partner, Ian Schoen, were surprised at how expensive – and ugly – cat furniture was. So they decided to create their own line that would blend in with modern homes. Here's their popular 'modern kitty litter box' as an example: 


One of the biggest advantages of manufacturing their own product was drastically better margins, which led to increased profits and growth opportunities. While many small resellers don't have enough margin to profitably advertise, pay-per-click has been an integral part of helping Modern Cat Designs grow to approximately $120,000 in annual revenues, despite having a catalog of only eight products.

Perhaps best of all, manufacturing allows you to control product distribution and set pricing guidelines to protect your margin. On competing with Amazon and pricing issues, Andrews said:

People buy from us because our products are unique. You just can't find them on Amazon. We also make sure that the dealers we do sell through follow strict pricing guidelines to prevent pricing wars.

Creating your own product isn't for everyone, but it's a great way to successfully compete against Amazon. 

Sell With a Deeper Purpose

By connecting with the core values of your customers, you can build a loyal and passionate customer base that isn't shopping based on price alone. A quick Amazon search reveals more than 330,000 different shoes for sale. Yet Tom's Shoes has built a successful business based on the premise of donating a pair of shoes for each pair sold.

Hipcycle.com is another site with a deeper purpose: to reduce waste by selling products made from previously discarded material. The concept, called “upcycling,” is used to turn bike sprockets into bowls and computer waste into light fixtures. Here is one of their most popular products, Grey Goose Vodka rocks glasses:


Founded barely a year ago by Andrew Sell, the company already has two full-time employees and a sizable presence on Facebook. 

When asked how Hipcycle positions itself to compete against Amazon, Sell replied:

We are passionate about diverting materials from landfills, and our customers want to support that. And we're definitely in the business of building the company one customer at a time and turning them into evangelists for our brand and for waste diversion.

Notice that he didn't mention fast shipping or insanely low prices. Instead, Hipcycle connects with customers over a deeper purpose – one that can't be found on Amazon.

Opportunities Still Exist for Small Merchants


Amazon's rapid growth, scale and pricing power make it a force to be reckoned with online. But despite its sizable influence, it's still very possible to succeed as a small merchant. You just have to be smart about how you position yourself in the market.  

So how do you plan to compete against Amazon? Let us know in the comments. 


Written by Andrew Youderian. For more on successfully competing with Amazon, download  Andrew's popular free eBook on growing a successful ecommerce business. You can also follow him on his blog, eCommerceFuel.com

9 Elements You Need to Conversion Test

Operating an ecommerce store without conversion testing is like running blind.  In this article we're going to cover…

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Operating an ecommerce store without conversion testing is like running blind. 

In this article we're going to cover what conversion testing is, why it’s important for online store owners, and give you nine popular tests you can start running on your store today.

What Is Conversion Testing?

Simply put, conversion testing is the process of testing various elements on your website to ensure maximum conversion rates. 

Why Is Conversion Testing Important for Online Stores? 

Without conversion testing you're making important decisions based on intuition, instead of fact. There are countless case studies that show how a minor change resulted in x% increase in sales. Conversion testing is all about optimization. You make small changes, measure the results, rinse and repeat. Monetate put together a diagram that shows the most popular tests: 



Since all these various website elements can direct a visitor to the checkout page, it’s imperative that you test again and again to ensure the highest posible conversion rate. 

9 Elements You Need to Conversion Test

One of the biggest challenges with conversion testing is figuring out what to test. Here's a list of nine elements every ecommerce store owner should conversion test. Use this list as a starting point, and remember there are plenty of other elements to test - this list is just a good place to start. 

1. Front Page 

Begin by looking at your front page. Most potential customers land on your front page first, so it's vitally important to optimize the heck out of it. What is the first thing a visitor sees? Which product (s) do you feature? How strong are your call-to-actions? Should you feature seasonal sales? Showcase free shipping? There is no right or wrong answer to these questions - the point is to make changes, measure the results, and optimize. 

2. Color Scheme 

This element might not seem like an important consideration at first glance, but you might be surprised how colors affect an action online. KISSmetrics ran a study on how people reacted to the various colors of call-to-action buttons. Color made a huge difference.



The winning color in this particular study was orange, but others have found blue to be the strongest call-to-action. So although the color of a button may seem trivial, it plays a role in the overall scheme of things. But as with all these various website elements, there’s no one size fits all. It varies by niche, that’s why it’s important to test.

3. Navigation 

What is at the top of your ecommerce site should naturally field a visitor to the basic actions they will likely want to make. You should know what customers in your specific vertical are looking for. Shopify store Good As Gold has chosen to put a heavy emphasis on mens and womens clothing, brand search, and their blog. You'll notice they put less emphasis on their Lookbook, shipping policy, about page, and contact form.



Play around with your main navigation bar. For Good As Gold, it obviously makes sense to immediately segment customers by gender, but perhaps your vertical requires a different type of segmentation. 

4. Wishlists 

One thing I personally get peeved about is the lack of a wishlist or save for later feature. If I happen to come across a product I'm interested in, but really just want to save the item for later because maybe it’s a high ticket item or because I am intending to buy it as a birthday gift in a few weeks, then the “save for later” feature is a must. 



Shopify merchants can choose from a few different wishlist / save-for-later apps, including: Wishery, and WANT Button.

5. Available Payment Methods

Not every online store accepts all forms of payment, so it's generally good practice to display the methods of payment you accept. Most ecommerce store owners know that it's a good idea to put credit card icons on their product page, but where else should they go? How big should they be? Which ones should you include? Shopify store Gatorade UK chose to put five payment icons on their homepage, not just their product pages: 



Try a few different payment method display options and see what works best. If you need some credit card icons, check these out.

6. Phone Number 

In a recent article here on the Shopify Blog, an author made a case for merchants to stop offering telephone support. He stopped advertising his 1-800 number and reduced his workload by 50%. He took the savings, both in terms of time and money, and put it to improving his site. 

Try measuring the impact removing your phone number has on conversions. Also, try moving the location of your phone number around a bit. Instead of displaying it on your homepage, try putting it on your "Contact Us" page, or in the shopping cart, where only qualified prospects will see it. 

7. Security 

It wasn’t that long ago when online shopping was considered an unsafe activity and many consumers shied away from it. However trust and reliability has gained foothold and now online shopping is no longer consider an unsafe activity. Or is it? Fact is, some segments of the population still consider placing a web order something to be quite cautious about, and will think twice before entering sensitive information on an unknown website. 

Alleviate these concerns and fears by making sure your security policy, badges and other details are well displayed. Remember, you don't need to put a giant ugly logo on your site. Check out how Shopify store DODOcase keeps things stylish with a subtle security badge in their footer. 


8. Return Policy

It goes without saying that you should have a return policy, but how exactly should it be drafted? Furthermore, where and how should it be displayed on your ecommerce store? Try displaying your warranty or money-back guarantee in various locations and see what works best for you. If you need help creating a return policy, check this out

9. Social Media 

A lot of online stores let their customers share their purchases via social media. Test social media buttons on your site and see how it works, what it does, where it directs a visitor and what a potential visitor sees. Does it flow well, does it lead the visitor where you want them led, and do they increase awareness and sales? Here is an example from Shopify store Violent Lips.



Most Shopify Themes are optimized for social media. Shopify also has plenty of social media apps that merchants can plug into their store. 

Conclusion

Hopefully this article has given you a good understanding of what conversion testing is, along with a few good starting points for ecommerce store owners. We're going to be digging deeper into conversion testing on the Shopify blog soon. In the meantime, to learn more, I recommend Crazy Egg's blog The Daily Egg which posts great articles on conversion optimization. 


By Missy Diaz, G34 Media.

Manage Your Google AdWords Campaigns More Efficiently With Dynamic Search Ads

This is Part 4 of our Google AdWords series by ex-Googler Anton McCarthy.  Part 1: Five Ecommerce Google…

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This is Part 4 of our Google AdWords series by ex-Googler Anton McCarthy. 

Are you an online store owner who has to manage a site with dozens, hundreds or perhaps even thousands of products? Managing your ads and keywords to reflect the availability of your products in stock takes a lot of time. Do you wish there were a quicker, easier way to manage your campaigns, freeing you up to spend less time on AdWords - and more time on your business?

Well, Google has a solution for you. Introducing: Dynamic Search Ads.

What Are Google Dynamic Search Ads?

Simply put, Dynamic Search Ads are ads that are automatically generated for you by Google. Unlike traditional Google AdWords ads which rely on you inputting lists of keywords, Dynamic Search Ads allow you to target users using the content on various pages of your website. This means that you don’t need to choose keywords that a user might use to find your product. Instead, Google automatically scans your website to determine which searches are a good match for the products on your website.

When a customer’s search is relevant to one of your products, Google dynamically generates an ad headline that includes words from the customer’s search and the content of the landing page on your website. The result is a dynamic search ad. Here's an example:


Why Use Dynamic Search Ads?

Dynamic Search Ads are a great time-saver for busy ecommerce merchants. Let’s say that you have a large variety of products to advertise, and are finding it difficult to find the time to manage all of your AdWords campaigns. Instead of having to invest lots of time matching keywords to landing pages and creating corresponding ad text, you can let Google generate relevant ads which match the searches users are performing to find the products you sell.

You also have full control in that you choose which pages on your website are to be used to generate ads. You can limit these pages to specific categories, e.g. your ‘Blue Widgets’ landing page, or you can choose all pages on your website. In addition, you can prevent ads from showing for products that are out of stock, reducing the need to monitor and then update your ads in such a manual fashion as before.

How Dynamic Search Ads Work

As mentioned, instead of using keywords to target your ads to searches, Dynamic Search Ads use content from your website to target ads to searches. You begin by letting Google know whether you wish to target ads to your entire website, or to specific sections:

  • Pages belonging to specific categories
  • Pages with titles containing certain words
  • Pages with URLs containing certain strings
  • Pages containing certain words

Once you have chosen your ad targets, Google then determines which searches might be relevant to the products listed on your website. When their technology locates searches that are a good fit for your dynamic ad targets, a headline is generated for your ad.

This headline includes text from the search phrase, and content from the landing page chosen for your ad. The remainder of the ad (i.e. the two description lines) is a template that you write when you first set up the campaign.

Dynamic Search Ads and Your Account

How do Dynamic Search Ads work relative to your regular keyword-targeted AdWords ads? 

Here are 5 important things to note:

1. Same Ranking As Normal Ads

The position or ranking of Dynamic Search Ads is determined in the same way as regular keyword-based ads. Dynamic Search Ads enter the auction as equals to keyword-based ads, with the position of your ads ultimately decided by the usual factors - the maximum cost-per-click bid you have selected for the dynamic ad target, and the dynamic search ad’s Quality Score.

2. Interactions With Keyword-Based Ads

If a customer’s search term is an exact match for one of your keywords, your dynamic search ad won’t show. An example is: [red shoes]. If a customer searches using this exact term, your text-based ad will display instead of a dynamic search ad. However, Google may show your dynamic search ad if there is a broad or phrase match with one of your keywords, and when your dynamic search ad has a higher Quality Score than your text-based ad.

3. Full Control and Flexibility

One of the big advantages of Dynamic Search Ads is the time-saving and efficiency they permit. For example, you ideally don't want ads to show which will lead the user to a ‘sold-out’ or ‘out of stock’ page. With keyword-based ads, it can be time-consuming and difficult to track each ad that might lead to such a page, especially if your site contains hundreds or even thousands of products. With Dynamic Search Ads, however, you can prevent your ads from showing when you add dynamic ad targets that exclude landing pages which contain these words.

4. Reporting and Statistics

You still get a full set of statistics and reports for your Dynamic Search Ads as with regular keyword-based ads, e.g. conversion rate data, click-through rates, cost-per-click averages, and so on. This means you can run analyses and compare how your Dynamic Search Ads are performing alongside your keyword-based ads - helping you to increase the performance of your AdWords campaigns and gain additional insight into your overall ROI.

5. Don't Forget Negative Keywords

If you're going to use Google Dynamic Search Ads, it's important to understand negative keywords. Further information on negative keywords can be found here. Best results will be generated when they're used with extensive negative keyword lists, otherwise, Google could match your site to anything.
 

Conclusion

I hope that this post provides you with a good overview of the benefits of Dynamic Search Ads, and how they could work for your ecommerce store. For more on the specifics of how to set up Dynamic Search Ads in your campaigns, please refer to Google’s useful Help Centre material for further information, and as always, feel free to ask a question in the comments!


Have you used Dynamic Search Ads? How have you found them? Do you have any useful hints or tips to share?


This is a guest post by ex-Googler Anton McCarthy. Currently, Anton is an online marketing specialist and entrepreneur who loves all things digital. You can find him blogging at antonmccarthy.com and Tweak Your Biz. Also follow Anton on Twitter.

Stop Obsessing Over Revenue: 3 Proven Strategies for Increasing Profitability

People LOVE to talk about revenues. The numbers are big, impressive and easy to fixate on. But when…

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This is a guest post by Andrew Youderian of eCommerceFuel.com 

People LOVE to talk about revenues. The numbers are big, impressive and easy to fixate on. But when was the last time you heard someone bragging about growing their margins or improving business efficiency?

These metrics aren't nearly as sexy, but they're immensely important. As the saying goes, “It doesn't matter how much you make. It matters how much you keep.” With that mantra in mind, here are three highly-effective and unintuitive strategies to improve your business's bottom line.

Raise Your Prices

Raising prices is a terrifying prospect. As entrepreneurs, we assume that customers will abandon us, sales will dry up and our business will collapse into the dust-heap of failure. But like most fears, we tend to grossly overexaggerate the consequences and underestimate the benefits. Especially if you're reselling an existing product in your ecommerce store, a small increase in price can do miracles for your bottom line. 

Imagine the following scenario for a popular item in your online store: 

  • Item Retail Cost:  $100
  • Wholesale Cost:   $80
  • Profit:                   $20
  • Profit Margin:      25% ($20 profit / $80 cost)

Now image that, after being inspired by an article on the Shopify blog, you re-priced this item at $110:

  • Item Retail Cost:  $110
  • Wholesale Cost:   $80
  • Profit:                   $30
  • Profit Margin:      37.5% ($30 profit / $80 cost)

Our minor 10% increase in prices resulted in a massive 50% increase in profits and gross margin!

Under the best-case circumstances – assuming you have a strong unique selling proposition and aren't competing on price – your conversion rates won't dive and you'll have achieved an instant 50% increase in your overall profits. Even with a significant 30% drop in conversions, you'd still be making more money than under your old pricing model, but with fewer customer servicing costs to consider. 

I successfully used this approach with my own ecommerce store to instantly increase my bottom line by 25%. It was, bar none, the most effective technique I've ever used to increase profitability. 

When implementing this strategy, keep the following in mind: Make sure you test different pricing levels. While raising prices is often very effective, you'll need to confirm it for your market/business.

If you have a large catalog, testing pricing on thousands of products can be a tall task. Start out testing pricing on only your best-selling products instead.

This strategy relies on having a unique selling proposition and offering value to your customers. The more price-sensitive your customers, the less effective this will be. If you don't have a unique selling proposition, you need to get one.  

Don't Obsess About Per-Order Profits

Many businesses are unwilling to lose money on an order, even if that means ending the relationship with an unhappy or dissatisfied customer. You may have had a similar experience, which often goes something like this:

“I'm sorry, sir. We only made $X on your purchase, so if we (fill in your reasonable request here), we'd lose money on your business. I hope you understand.”

This is a penny-wise but pound-foolish approach, and a terrible way to do business in today's highly social and connected world. If you're not consistently losing money on orders to quickly and pro-actively resolve customer problems, you're missing out on the chance to improve your bottom line.

Customers are so accustomed to mediocre service that when a business goes out of its way to proactively resolve a problem – without charging them – they're blown away. Apart from the life-long value of that customer, you'll receive valuable referral marketing and recommendations that are impossible to purchase.

If you're running an ecommerce store, here are four ways you can invest in the future of your business and, ultimately, your long-term bottom line:

  1. Did something inexpensive break? Ship customers a free replacement immediately without requiring them to hassle with the return.
  2. If an expensive item needs to be returned, ship them a replacement as soon as they submit tracking confirmation of the return, instead of waiting until it hits your warehouse.
  3. If a long-time customer needs something ASAP, overnight it to them at no charge.
  4. If a customer wasn’t happy with a purchase, proactively issue a partial refund to help compensate him for the disappointment.

Serving customers like this will cost a bit more in the short term, but will pay incredible dividends as you build a loyal and highly vocal fan base that results in a very healthy bottom line.

Reconsider Offering Phone Support

Would you be willing to reduce your workload by 50% if it meant only giving up 15% of your business? I would, and did, when I stopped advertising my toll-free sales number on one of my sites.  

We were able to take the savings – both in terms of time and money – and pour them into better serving our online customers and improving our site. While phone support is a rarity among many online businesses, it seems that a disproportionate number of ecommerce merchants still feel it's necessary. 

After the previous section, which championed outstanding customer support, this may seem like a major contradiction. But great customer service doesn't mean being all things to all people. It simply means taking outstanding care of the customers you've chosen to do business with. Based on your product and market – especially if your price point is lower - offering phone sales support may or may not be a wise use of your time.

Try measuring the impact removing your phone number has on conversions. You'll likely be surprised that the vast majority of people simply order online. If you do decide to offer a sales line, try to place it in strategic places such on the “Contact Us” page or in the shopping cart, where only qualified prospects will see it. If you serve both individuals and businesses, you can also experiment with a business-only phone line.

If you decide to scale back your phone support, make sure to:

  1. Be honest with customers and let them know WHY you don't list a telephone number. Tell them you prefer to invest in a quality website and outstanding customer service for your existing clients.
  2. Ensure you have a highly detailed, informative website to answer customers' questions.
  3. Have fantastic email support if customers can't reach you easily via phone. Using a help desk like Desk.com, HelpjuiceZendesk, or Kayako will ensure that your email correspondence is top-notch, and that requests don't go unanswered.

Also, don't write off the phone entirely. If a customer requests a call back, or if you need to resolve issues that require personal attention, make sure to pick up the phone.

The Biggest Danger Is Inaction

Change is always scary, and you may be reluctant to implement these suggestions for fear of what might happen to your business. But experimenting with these ideas will likely go unnoticed by most of your customers, especially those new to your business. If the changes aren't beneficial, you can always revert back to your old policies and pricing.

Without taking action, you'll never know how much money could be added to your bottom line. 


By Andrew Youderian, an ecommerce entrepreneur and the owner of numerous online stores. You can learn how to create a profitable online store with his free 55-page eBook. Also check out his blog, eCommercefuel.com.

 

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