How to Choose the Right Shipping Carrier for Your Online Store

Choosing a shipping carrier for your online store may not seem like an important decision, but it’s one that could make or break your business. How fast and in what condition your products arrive can boost or tarnish your business’s reputation.

Of course, speed isn’t the only factor that makes for great shipping – price is important, too. In fact, shipping cost is the leading cause for cart abandonment, with 44% of customers not completing a purchase because they were scared away by high costs. Today’s demanding customers want a remarkable shopping experience, and for many that means affordable shipping.

As an online merchant, you should want fast, reliable, and affordable shipping that’ll have customers returning to your store and recommending your products to their friends and family. Not sure where to start looking? Here are seven important things you’ll want to consider before choosing a shipping carrier for your online store.

1. Where will you be shipping?
Where you plan to ship your products is one of the most important factors to determining which carrier will best meet your store’s needs. Will you be shipping domestically, internationally, or both? You may find that you’re able to secure affordable delivery through a local courier company, or that you’re in need of country-specific carriers such as Canada Post and Royal Mail.

2. What type of products are you shipping?
Many carriers have limitations on what they’ll deliver, which means not every provider may be able to ship your goods. Some carriers impose restrictions that forbid certain sizes, shapes, and products, while others refuse to ship fragile or extremely expensive items. If you’re shipping mainly small items, USPS’s flat-rate boxes and envelopes may meet your needs, while freight shipping may be necessary for very large products.

3. How will you get your packages to the carrier?
If you’re looking to save time and cut costs, consider a carrier that can pick up your packages from your home, office, or warehouse. Prefer to use a carrier’s drop-off location instead? Find out where the nearest one is, and if its location and hours of operation work well with your schedule.

4. Does the carrier offer tracking?
Today’s customers want to know where their package is at all times. They want to know when it has left the shipping bay, where it’s in transit, and at what time of day they can expect to receive it. Allow customers to monitor their orders at all times by using a carrier that makes it easy to track packages.

5.Will your packages be insured?
Not every carrier offers insurance, yet a large number of customers find this service indispensable. Customers that live in regions known for issues with delivery will want the peace of mind afforded by insurance.

6.Will you offer live rates?
Live shipping rates are computed based on details such as product weight, destination, and carrier fees, and are an essential component to ensuring a great shopping experience. If you’re using an eCommerce provider, you’ll want to verify that their platform supports live rates for your desired carrier, and what other options are available should your store develop further needs down the road.

7.Which carrier offers the best prices?

The right shipping solution will not only offer customers a great shipping experience, it won’t cut too much into your margins either. Once you’ve narrowed down your search, you’ll want to compare prices to determine which carrier will have the biggest impact on your bottom line. Refer to each carrier’s website and calculate which solution offers the best rates based on your product’s size, weight, and the locations you’re selling to.

Choosing your store’s carrier is an important decision that can affect your business in big and unexpected ways. Take the time to thoroughly research all of your available option to ensure your customers have the best shopping experience possible.
By Ashley Duke, content creator at 3dcart

Posted in E-Commerce by George. No Comments

King Webmaster now offers a W3C validation service.

Did you know that in a study by Opera, researchers found that only an estimated 4.3% of websites are W3C-Compliant, and that only 50% of sites with a validation badge are actually valid? If you want to know if you are among this 4.3%, check your site for errors here.

The W3C states that its goal is to render all web content available to all people; regardless of their geographical location, language, preferred browser, or physical and mental ability. Don’t you want to ensure that your online store can be accessed by anyone, anywhere? Validation will broaden your customer base, improve user experience, and in effect, make your job easier.

5 reasons you need to validate:

(1)  Project professionalism and improve user experience:

Customers take validation as a sign that not only are you serious about user experience, but that you have also successfully forged a relationship with a diverse group of customers.

(2)  Consistent results: It’s hard to apply design features consistently when a site has a lot of coding errors. With validation, you can guarantee that your site will look the same in every browser, every day. Every customer will experience your site as you designed it.

(3)  Increase search engine ranking by decreasing site-load time. Even if your coding errors are not currently costing you consistent display, they are adding seconds to minutes to your site-load time and adversely affecting your ranking.

(4)  Streamlined maintenance and development: your code will be shorter and easier to read, updates will not affect your display, and web applications will interact with your site as designed.

(5)  Accessibility: Validation is the first step toward making your site accessible to those with disabilities, which is not only good for business but also required by law in many countries.

A few notes about our validation service:

  • We will not fix the following errors:  code in content/product descriptions, Yahoo! code, and 3rd party scripts.
  • Errors will be fixed in accordance with your current DOCTYPE.
  • The average cost is $500 per template (i.e. category pages, item pages, etc.), but every store is different. Please submit your store for an exact quote.
Posted in E-Commerce by Kaitlyn. No Comments

Web Design Elements that Increase Conversion Rates

No matter where you go, everyone seems to be talking about conversion rates and how you can improve them. Furthermore, everyone is claiming that they have found the panacea for conversion: SEO, Branding, Social Media, etc. While all such tools are effective, they are no panacea–especially for new store owners. Too many store owners rely on them either too early or exclusively, without considering the basic components of a positive customer experience. If your customers can’t easily navigate your site, they won’t stay–and they definitely won’t buy.  What’s the point of attracting new customers if you don’t have an experience to sell them on?

Pamela Hazelton of Practical E-commerce discusses this in her article Shopability First, Then Social:

The problem is, garnering more traffic doesn’t necessarily translate into an increase in sales. Just as you shouldn’t pour money into a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaign or SEO campaign until your store pages are completely shopable, you shouldn’t spend all your time on social media if the average visitor is spending but a few seconds on your site.

How easy is it to shop in your store? You need to ask yourself that question before you start spending money on SEO, branding, PPC, etc.

Here are some ideas for improving your site’s navigability:

(1) Install a floating shopping cart so customers can view it anywhere on the site

(2) Use Breadcrumbs so customers can easily backtrack without referring to their history

(3) Recently Viewed Items so customers can go back to items they’re considering

(4) Price/Product Comparison

(5) Single page check-out: Multi-Page checkouts have lower conversion rates

(6) Shipping Method Populator on Product Page so the customer has an estimate before they check out

(7) Advanced Search

(8) Product Ratings and Reviews

The key word is Simplicity. Online Shopping is about convenience and availability of information. Satisfy these needs by making sure that all information is not only available, but also highly accessible.

The Easy Way to Test your Site in Multiple Browsers

(1) Go to http://browsershots.org/

(2) Enter the URL of your site

(3) Wait for the shots to load

(4) Examine the appearance of your store in all possible browsers

(5) Check Google Analytics for your top 3 browsers

(6) Go through the links/buttons/search functions in all three browsers

Posted in E-Commerce by Kaitlyn. No Comments

Your Online Store Needs a Stress Test

The Holidays are so close that it’s almost too late to talk about preparation. However, there some things you can do right now to ensure a successful holiday season. Your Traffic will increase during the next two months, and if you’re a new store–it will likely be heavier than ever. How do you know that your store is ready? How can you be sure that when the customers come, your site will be able to handle their business?

Don’t leave that up to chance. There are some really good Open Source (Free!) Site Load Test Programs that will simulate a high-volume situation and show you where your site is weakest.You can set the number of users and set the ideal think-time between requests. It will give you much-needed peace of mind.

Customers gave StresStimulus particularly good reviews for being user-friendly. For more information, follow this link: http://stresstimulus.stimulustechnology.com/

Posted in E-Commerce by Kaitlyn. No Comments

Good News for Small Online Retailers

If you are ever immobilized by the comparison between yourself and Amazon—don’t worry. There is not only hope, but quite a bit of promise.

Rule # 1: Forget about Amazon

I was reading an article on the Exclusive Concepts blog earlier. It said that the main problem for new businesses is not that they can’t market, but that they spend too much time worrying about what their biggest competitor is and isn’t doing.

Rule # 2: Get to know your Customers

Rely on your familiarity with the product and your personal reasons for wanting to sell it. Pictures of you with your merchandise can go a long way. If you are a clothing store, for example, you can upload pictures of you and your friends wearing your merchandise. I know a fitness instructor who has an enormously successful online store that sells fitness wear and gym bags.  Her items sell because of the personal connection she forged with her customers. She loves and wears what she sells, which serves as the foundation of trust in the transaction.

Rule #3 Build a Community (Forums, Chat Rooms, etc.)

Small online stores sell especially well when there is a community attached to them. My recommendation is that you follow her lead, and get involved with your products. That is what competes with and wins against Amazon.

Rule #4: Do use Social Media

Build your fan page on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and have your customers send in pictures of them using your products. Modcloth does that, and it’s one of the main reasons why I buy from them–besides their adorably unique designs! Each Customer can opt whether or not to leave their body measurements so that others can get a better idea of whether or not it would look good on them.

So, get involved with your customers—talk to them, hear their stores, and share what they’ve shared. If you do that, you will definitely make your Mom & Pop a competitor in it’s own right.

Rule #5:  Admire your Handiwork

Posted in E-Commerce by Kaitlyn. No Comments

Customer Testimonial

Perhaps you have already seen this testimonial on our Centrifuge site, but it’s one of my favorite. Sometime you get a testimonial that really speaks to the mission of your company–and for us, this is it:

“It has been a dream of mine to be able to use live inventory information from Stone Edge, combine that with multiple inventory files from our drop ship suppliers and display inventory status on the product detail page. Our customers no longer need to add items to the cart to find out they are not available. My web team doesn’t need to spend time updating the site to show which drop ship items are available and which ones are not. This creates a much better shopping experience for the customer. What’s cool too is that if a product is not in stock the visitor can enter their email address. When the item comes back in stock a triggered email is sent out to notify the customer.

I analyzed our sales, backorders, phone calls, etc for the black friday / cyber monday weekend compared to last year and the numbers are incredible. Sales were up double digits, backorders were minimal and phone calls were down 39% over last year. That means people were buying items that were in stock so we didn’t have calls from people wondering where their orders were. Most of the time we would get calls for order status on drop ship items. Now that we have our drop ship suppliers on live inventory the calls are way down. Now our call center can take more orders and spend less time with complaints and order status questions. We also have better inventory management and are selling what we have.

If you use Stone Edge and have drop ship suppliers, then this would really help your customer experience and also save tons of time in the back-end.”

- Mike Neff, Sports Unlimited
http://www.sportsunlimitedinc.com/


How about you? Which of your testimonials really spoke to your mission? Please leave in the comments below.

It Will Be Here Before We Know It

It is twelve weeks before Christmas and EIGHT weeks before Cyber Monday.

What are you doing to prepare?

KingWebmaster has partnered with GlobalShopex

KingWebmaster has partnered with GlobalShopex, a leading company for international shipping, to offer the lowest international shipping rates in your store for your international market.

Expanding international eCommerce can be a very complex task and is often avoided by USA retailers. Yet… about 80% of internet shoppers are outside the US. The typical barriers include (but are not limited to):

  • The inability to calculate duties and taxes
  • International payment processing
  • Fraud
  • High international rates
  • Customs brokering and paperwork
  • International language barriers, etc.

GlobalShopex is a fully integrated solution that enables you to sell worldwide without any risk. Once the international customer adds your product to the cart and chooses the International Checkout button they are transferred to a localized checkout page to finalize their order.

The checkout is tailored to each individual country. Customers can view their guaranteed shipping and duties and taxes fees in local currency and pay with various international payment methods.

GlobalShopex will return to your website to place the order manually or via an automated method depending on volume. Your customers will handle international orders just as they would a USA order.

Items will be consolidated to one box if needed. We will take care of customs paperwork and ship the order out to the customer the same day. All orders are trackable and delivered on an average of four business days.

GlobalShopex – International Checkout

Posted in E-Commerce by Beverly. No Comments

Time to Get Ready for the Holidays!

A few days ago I got an e-mail from Practical eCommerce with a Bronto White Paper attached titled, The Top Twelve Marketing Tips for the Holidays. Then I started thinking about how rushed we all get around the holidays and of our unheeded vows year after year to start preparing early. Yes, it is July…but we need to start preparing NOW!

Then I started thinking about how I could take these twelve tips and apply them to how we could help our customers.  If you start now you will be ahead of the game. You can be assured that your competitors are already planning!

The tip I am most excited about is Mobile Opportunities. I know that I will be spending way more money than is in my budget because my smart phone is rarely more than two feet away and I can pick it up anytime and spend away. I am so good throughout the year (yeah…right!) that I can grant myself this one guilty pleasure.

Before starting on your Holiday Blitz, a great deal of planning and preparation is needed:

  • What worked/didn’t work last year
  • Are there trends for, day of week or time of day that you see your strongest sales?  – Launch your best promotions in conjunction with these times.
  • Create a “Holiday Emergency Contact List” of everyone involved in keeping your site going
  • Do you have enough stock…can you let people know when an item will be available if it is out of stock?
  • Ensure that your website is coordinated with your emails
  • If your site isn’t ready with the features you need, call us to redesign or add features

Here are the 12 tips:

Write an Email Production and Crisis Management Plan

  • Use a strong subject line.  Best to have 15 characters or less.
  • Featured products.  Promote the hot items that will sell.
  • New Banners and some redesign of your site can help here. Let your emails have a similar holiday feel
  • Feature your promotions in the email as well as on your site.
  • Ensure that you do not leave out the high price point shoppers…Tis the season for a bit more extravagance.

Maximize the Footer

  • Use the footers of your emails and site to provide additional opportunities.
  • Use the footers for shipping deadlines

Re-mail Strategically

  • The frequency of emails can result in increased revenues, but it can also increase complaints and un-subscription rates. Be sure to segment your subscribers who wish to be engaged.
  • Ask customers if they want to opt-in for special holiday promotions

Launch a Countdown Promotion

  • Deal of the Day – feature a single product with a significant discount
  • Countdown Promotions – Similar to a Deal of the Day, but with more urgency

Offer a Flash Sale

  • Promote limited time offers during peak mailing seasons
  • Don’t forget to accommodate all time zones of your customer base

Streamline Social

  • Get the “Like” and give a discount/free shipping/free item
  • Include comments from other followers (with their permission)

Identify Mobile Opportunities

  • The possibilities are endless… from scanning products in-store to social interaction like FourSquare check-ins
  • Social and Email: Give the customer a chance to shop from their purse or back pocket
  • SMS Coupons: Can be used in Brick and Mortar stores or your online store. No need to cut and carry around coupons. They are right in your Smart Phone!
  • Lines too long in the Brick and Mortar store??? No Problem! Order on your Smart Phone

Solidify Segmentation Strategy

  • Who are my best customers? Introduce special offers for your VIP customers.
  • What did customers buy last year? There are some products that people like to send out year after year. Utilize these items as main product shots to drive repeat purchases this year

Send Holiday Cards

  • Take time to say thank you to your customers – it can be promotional or non-promotional
  • Send out a card on Christmas Day. After opening gifts and eating a hearty meal, people will go online to order the items they did not receive

Build Post Holiday and New Year’s Strategies

  • Don’t forget the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. The purchasing hasn’t stopped.  People who got gift cards or money will have itchy palms waiting to spend it.
  • Didn’t get what you want?  Do a ” Get what you REALLY Want” promo

Send Shipping Focused Messages

  • Dedicate one message just to shipping cut-offs:
    • Last Day  for Standard Shipping
    • Last Day for Priority Shipping
    • Last Day for Overnight Shipping
    • All Shipping Guarantees Expired
    • Online Gift Cards

We, at KingWebmaster, are looking forward to helping you get your site “Holiday Ready”.  How can we help?

Advanced Shipping Manager – Upgrade to Version 2 if you are not using it now. Also check out our Add-On Features to make your life easier at the busiest shipping time of the year.

Promo Manager is nearly a necessity. This is the time to maximize the potential of your store.

Do you have good control of your stock? Avoid customer disappointment, and save yourself unnecessary customer service with Centrifuge.

Again my favorite, Mobile Commerce! I am hoping that all my favorite stores make it that easy to shop.

Do you want to give your store a spiffy new look? Our talented team of designers will give your store a well designed feel that will make it easy for people to shop.

Posted in E-Commerce by Beverly. No Comments