Friday, April 15, 2011

Some more ways to increase traffic to your store

Getting the attention of potential buyers to your site is a huge challenge. Consider the following options if your not already doing them - they should be a regular part of your online store marketing strategy.

  1. Newsletters! Building and maintaining a quality subscriber base, then sending regular updates on specials and new products keeps potential buyers informed. It also helps customers remember your still there. Subscribers signed up because they want to hear from you - so make sure you keep them informed.
  2. Utilise social networking buttons - Tweet buttons and Facebook "like" buttons get your fans telling their friends without you needing to do any work.
  3. Continually revise and extend your product descriptions and website content. Google wants to list quality sites - not copies of other sites. Don't go copying and pasting manufacturer product descriptions - it's lazy and will lessen the rank of your site in search engines.
  4. Encourage interaction. Introduce reviews, and user interaction such as customer photos using your products. Write blog articles about your products and encourage user comments. It gives a reason for people to come back to the site, and is great for repeat purchasing.
  5. Identify high traffic forums within your store's niche - and participate as an expert. Put your link (if allowed) in your profile - and be careful not to spam users and get yourself blocked. Most of these forums have rules, give them a read over, then get to work. Your mere presence in these forums, being helpful to users will get attention and visitors paid back to your site.
  6. Similar to the forum idea - establish yourself as an authority on twitter. Create lists of like minded people, follow and engage. Don't be too mechanical, do it with humour, but present yourself as an expert. Link your website appropriately in your profile, but be careful not to spam. When you help people out asking the right questions on twitter, you see your traffic jump in correlation with your efforts.
  7. If you've got capacity in stock or service - every now and then consider a coupon site such as Groupon, Cudo or Stardeals. These high subscription sites will inject a spike of activity back to your site if you've got a compelling deal to offer.
Taking the time to engage with potential customers will see increases in traffic. It's always the first sale that is the hardest to get, and once you've got them there - the repeat business will pay dividends.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Australian Government has launched a handy resource for business wanting to get online and start selling or using productivity tools. It details the basics of what you need to know to get up and running, safely and securely, and gives out plain old good advice.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Advantages of hosted shopping carts

Many people will ask the question of themselves when getting a new shopping cart website up and running - why should I get a hosted system as opposed to one I install myself? The following are some of the many advantages of going hosted.
  1. Server infrastructure is already managed for you. It's also of a high grade industrial standard - hosted in power redundant, high bandwidth, high availability, highly expandable world class quality data centers.
  2. Your online store is a business critical front to your customers. You need to know it's got the backing of professionals, and is installed on high grade cloud based hosting, and not being run out of a backyard operation.
  3. Hosted shopping carts are run by people who know what they're doing. They are handling many other web stores like your own which are now the livelihood of their store owners. There's a lot at stake and they know what it takes to keep such systems not only live, but running seamlessly and smoothly from day to day.
  4. Hosted shopping cart systems are feature rich, and are always improving the platform on which they run. The systems get improvements based off the feedback of store owners, and are proactive in building better features continually. There is no "set and forget" - no business should be. There is always improvement and refinement to be done.
  5. Security is already handled in hosted shopping carts. You have peace of mind that sensitive data such as credit card data will be handled professionally, and the security should be of a standard expected by the Payment Card Industry.
  6. Contrary to popular belief - hosted carts can be very flexible in order processing and design integration. Cow Command for example, will handle any design thrown at it, and if unique requirements are needed, they can be easily built in.
  7. The content management system is pre-installed, and pre-configured. It's already got easy product content management built in, plus the good ones have blogs and buyers guides and a whole host of other bells and whistles already integrated.
  8. The admin panel should be easy to use - Cow Command is built with simplicity in mind, but still offers an extremely powerful and flexible platform by which your store can be managed.
  9. All the hard work of integrating financial and shipping services is already done for you.
  10. Hosted shopping carts such as Cow Command help increase incoming traffic out of the box due to already optimised pages for better search engine rankings.
  11. Systems such as Cow Command do not take ownership of your store designs, content or data. You can export product data or customer data to manipulate as needed for use in external systems.
  12. Spend your time running your store, not maintaining or building it. It's the age old question: Shouldn't you be working on your business, not in it?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Just Launched on Cow Command - Oakwood Products

Oakwood Products has launched their online store using the Cow Command eCommerce platform. They offer quality leather care products, pet care, household care and automotive care.

The online store / shopping cart features deployed include:
  • Multiple high quality design templates
  • Currency Conversion
  • Ease of use
  • Integration with secure payment gateways, and shipping providers


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Location is dead in retail

In the world of retail, location matters not anymore. At least not in the traditional sense of shopping malls and home maker centres. Westfield, Stockland, and Harvey Norman - please take note. It's more about logistics, and proximity to major shipping routes for fast delivery.

No longer do you need a physical presence. Retailers can still offer great service, and better choice online. Even the barrier of being able to try something on in store has been addressed through better managed return policies, and Ezibuy and Zappos are a great testament to this mantra.

People are also preferring shopping in their own home rather than going out. Appalling parking, pushy crowds, annoying shop assistants, and the "I'm better than you" or "Are you really going to buy anything in my elite store" snobbery that can occur in the physical retail spaces can be easily avoided. How? By a nice online store offering everything you were after and more.

Better bargains can now always be found online. Better products can now be found online, through public voting review systems or star ratings, or quality "choice" reviews. Why buy a 1 star rated product when a 5 star rated product is obviously better? But where are the star ratings in a bricks and mortar store? I wont buy a book anymore from Borders or Angus and Robertson unless it has a good Amazon rating. I also just got a Kindle, which lets me buy highly rated books almost instantly.

Often, a bricks and mortar store now only serves the purpose of a "hold in the hand" evaluation, which can be further researched and bought elsewhere online. I just bought $1400 worth of baby gear (cot, pram, car seat, etc) online after checking out reviews and a couple of inspections. I saved $600 off the in store price, for the same products.

There's also the obvious benefit of convenience. Need to get a present for a birthday, for someone living far away? Choose the gift wrapping option and get it sent direct. No more worrying about buying wrapping paper, sticky tape, cards, ribbon and going to the post office. It's all done for you, and you can be back to doing your own thing in no time.

Store owners should be seriously asking themselves, why pay rent? A good online store can now be a much cheaper and more intelligent investment.


Friday, November 27, 2009

What payment gateway should I use?

A payment gateway, when attached to your online store, allows you to accept real time credit card payments and not have to worry about storing credit card details. They're great because you are also freed up from all the security baggage that comes with it. Use of a payment gateway enables you to qualify for adherence to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS), because payment gateways get audited for the PCI DSS, taking the load (and expense) off you.

There are a number of Australian payment gateway solutions, each with their own way of getting to the end result of money in your bank account. There are 3 basic types of payment gateways to consider:
  1. Third Party Payment companies (e.g. PayPal, Paymate)
  2. Third Party Syndication (e.g. eWAY, SecurePay)
  3. Direct to Bank (Westpac, ANZ, St George, NAB, Commonwealth Bank)
The main reason to consider Paypal or Paymate is avoidance of a merchant account. Generally this is good for small stores with low transaction volumes, and people who have a hard time getting approval from banks for their online store idea. They are a more expensive solution though, and take a percentage of the transaction amount. They also have the ability to freeze accounts or force charge backs, and while it is protecting consumers, it must be something to consider for store owners. Australians don't yet have the options of Google Checkout or Amazon payments at the time of writing.

Using a third party syndication company such as eWAY or SecurePay is a good solution and takes the effort away from having to build your own interface to the bank, because they've already done it. Their administration consoles give the full range of services including batch payments, refunds, recurring payments, and exports to accounting systems. They generally have a setup or annual fee, plus a fixed per transaction cost (15 to 50c), depending on the company and your transaction volume on top of merchant costs from the bank.

Direct to bank is the most cost effective solution however, and cuts out the middleman. To do this you must go with one of the big 5 banks in Australia who offer payment gateway products. Each offering generally has all the functions needed (once off, refund, batch, recurring, exports). Going direct to the bank means no unnecessary fee from a syndication company is slapped on top of your merchant fees, and could save you thousands of dollars.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Silly season preparation

If you haven't started preparing your online store for the Christmas season like a month ago, drop everything and get stuck into it. Some quick tips:
  • Prepare festive graphics, promos. Don't overdo it.
  • Make sure the orders can be shipped on time. It's the worst deadline to miss if your customer's present isn't under the right tree.
  • If you're a high order volume store, have staff on over the holiday period to handle the service load.
  • Up sell appropriately. Does the toy need batteries? Bundle them in for a few extra bucks.
  • Perform preventative maintenance now, especially if you the store owner are having a few days off. Make sure your domains and SSL certificates are renewed, that there's enough hosting space available, and that your hosting company is going to be contactable.