Adventures in Shopping

Have you run into a brick wall when it comes to growing your Facebook fan base? This week as I completed a purchase at Hayneedle, I encountered a great way to for e-commerce merchants to use the checkout process to get more Facebook fans.

Right after completing my order that I was really excited about because I got a fantastic price, this little pop-up appeared:

Yes, I had enjoyed shopping with them! How did they know?

Presenting a shopper with the option to “Like” your brand immediate after a purchase is a great idea. Try adding an incentive by offering a discount on their next purchase for “liking” your store to really encourage them.

Another nice surprise I had was related to shipping. They have a shipping method populator with delivery estimate and my estimated delivery date was Wednesday the 15th. Yesterday I got the shipping confirmation with the tracking number and the delivery date is now scheduled for Saturday the 11th! Am I happy? Yes! I’m such a satisfied customer that I’m sharing the story with you and I haven’t even received the order yet – the only thing better than your order being delivered on the scheduled date is getting your order before the scheduled date.

I know that the big companies may have more resources and the smaller stores, but that doesn’t mean than you can’t take some cues from them to stay competitive.

2012 Holidays and Observances

I have compiled a list of holidays and observances to help plan your promotions for the coming year. I have included the more prominent holidays and observances and if I have overlooked any, please feel free to post those in the comments section.

Have fun with your promotions and experiment with test groups and different ideas to see what works the best. Make use of social networks and give your followers and fans a reason to connect with your brand.

If you feel that you aren’t getting the most out of marketing with coupon codes or feel limited by types of promotions you can run, you may be ready to try out the Promo Manager. In addition to promo codes, this promotional tool gives you the flexibility to create a myriad of promotions that you can base on cart contents, cart value, shipping addresses, dates, times and days of the week.

To learn more, visit PromoManager.com.

February

Feb. 2 – Groundhog Day

Feb. 20 – President’s Day

Feb. 14 – Valentine’s Day

Feb. 21 – Mardi Gras

March

Mar. 17 – St. Patty’s Day

Mar. 20 – Vernal/Spring Equinox

April

Apr. 1 – April Fools Day

Apr. 6 – Good Friday

Apr. 6 to 14 – Passover

Apr. 8 – Easter Sunday

Apr. 22 – Earth Day

May

May 5 – Cinco de Mayo

May 13 – Mother’s Day

May 28 – Memorial Day

June

Jun. 17 – Father’s Day

Jun. 20 – Summer Solstice

July

Jul. 4 – Independence Day

Jul. 20 – Ramadan begins

Jul. 22 – Parents Day

September

Sep. 3 – Labor Day

Sep. 9 – Grandparents Day

Sep. 17 – Rosh Hashanah

Sep. 22 – Autumn Equinox

Sep. 26 – Yom Kippur

October

Oct. 8 – Columbus Day

Oct. 20 – Sweetest Day

Oct. 31 Halloween

November

Nov. 6 – Election Day

Nov. 11 – Veterans Day

Nov. 12 – Veterans Day observed

Nov. 15 – Islamic New Year

Nov. 22 – Thanksgiving

Nov. 23 – Black Friday

Nov. 26 – Cyber Monday

December

Dec. 9 – 1st day of Chanukah

Dec. 16 – Last day of Chanukah

Dec. 21 – Winter Solstice

Dec. 21 – End of the Mayan calendar, I predict this will be used for MANY promotions

Dec. 24 – Christmas Eve

Dec. 25 – Christmas

Dec. 26 – 1st day of Kwanzaa (until Jan 1)

Dec. 26 – Boxing Day (CA, GB, AU, NZ)

Dec. 31 – New Year’s Eve

2011 Holiday Season in Review

According to comScore, the sales period from November 1st – December 25th 2011 experienced a 15 percent increase in sales over the same period in 2010. Although the numbers aren’t in yet, The National Retail Federation is expecting total online sales to be up approximately 3.8 percent over last year’s holiday shopping season.

comScore speculates that the increased spending could be related to the increase in consumer spending and borrowing. Increased spending could also be tied to the report recently released by the Federal Government that found that borrowing on installment loan debt like credit cards and car loans rose at a seasonal adjusted rate of 9.9 percent in November. That is the largest monthly increase since November 2001.

An increase in spending could also be tied to aggressive promotional campaigns that started earlier than ever. As expected, free shipping offers dominated the percentage of e-commerce transactions with 56 percent of purchases being free shipping offers; this is up from a 50-50 split in 2010. Free shipping purchases also had higher order totals with an average order value of $118. Non free shipping orders averaged $100 in 2011.

A fairly significant shift in time of day for spending on Cyber Monday occurred in 2011 as well. A higher percentage of sales occurred before 9am and after 5pm than in 2010. As a result, workday spending between 9-5 decreased by 19 percent when compared to 2010.

To ready the complete report by comScore, click here.

Google Your World

I’m as guilty as anyone for seriously ignoring my Google+ profile, but the new search feature they rolled out today may give all us procrastinators a few new reasons to start using Google’s social network.

Today Google announced their latest innovation called Search plus Your World which introduces three new features to their Social Search function which will be available when you are signed in with your Google+ account.

Personal Results will display search results specifically for you and sourced from information such as photos and posts shared by or for you and you alone.

Profiles in Search will allow you to find those you are close to or may want to follow and provide a way to get in touch with them.

People and Pages will help you find profiles and Google+ pages that relate to a topic or area of interest you are searching for.

From the Google blog:

Search plus Your World will become available over the next few days to people who are signed in and searching on https://www.google.com in English.

While there may be 7 billion people and 197 million square miles on Earth, a septillion stars and a trillion webpages, we spend our short, precious lives living in a particular town, with particular friends and family, orbiting a single star and relying on a tiny slice of the world’s information. Our dream is to have technology enable everyone to experience the richness of all their information and people around them.

We named our company after the mathematical number googol as an aspiration toward indexing the countless answers on webpages, but that’s only part of the picture. The other part is people, and that’s what Search plus Your World is all about.

-View original source.

Get off to a running start in 2012

The first of the year is a great time for reviewing and revising your business model and practices. Make sure 2012 is your most successful year yet and follow these suggestions to perform a business evaluation.

***Review the goals you set at the beginning of 2011 – if you have reached them, congratulations! If not, do you need to change your approach or has the goal evolved?

***Track finances over the past year – did you spend more than expected on one area, less in another – why? Having the proper program or system that allows you to easily track income and expenses makes this process much easier. If you don’t have a suitable system in place, maybe that could be goal #1 for this year.

***Shipping – Have you negotiated your shipping rates and/or assessed your couriers? If you are still using published rates, look into negotiating the best rate available. If you currently use negotiated rates, make sure you are getting the best rate available.

***Sales Performance – Identify your best and worst performing products, there is a lesson to be learned there. Optimize your inventory for maximum profits.

***Marketing Plan – Evaluate your online reputation; are you doing enough to be present in social media circles, do customers view you in a positive light?  Make the most of email campaigns, track their progress over the year and zero in on your best performing promotions. Tweak and adjust PPC campaigns compare to previous year and compare performances. What did you do right, what did you do wrong and what can you do better?

***Business Operations – Did you notice any deficiencies in a particular area of operations? Can you make improvements to the way you handle order processing, inventory or shipping management?

***Review any vendors, suppliers or dropshippers you use and see if new fees and/or rates can be negotiated, or if there are better options for your business.

***Staffing Needs – Even in this market, it can take a long time to find and train the right person. Don’t wait until you are forced into hiring someone quickly – you will probably regret it later.

***Insurance – Good time to review policy rates and coverage and possibly save on premiums or get more for your money.

***Payment processing – The bane of retailers everywhere, credit card processing is a must for e-commerce merchant. Check your current rates, ask colleagues who they use and see what else is out there; you may be able to get a better rate than the one you currently have.

On a final note, be sure to keep an eye on your competition AND on what the “big guys” are doing. Although you probably don’t have their budget, the top internet retailers can be a great resource to see what features and functionalities you need to start adopting in order to stay competitive.

An Introduction to Pinterest

I haven’t payed too much attention to Pineterest, but this morning I decided to set up my account and thought some may be interested in seeing what this newish social site is about.

For the initiated, Pineterest is a kind of internet “pin” board to post collections of things of interest to you. It is still in beta so you have to be sent an invitation in order to set-up an account. It took about two weeks for me to receive approval after submitting my request.

Although a social site, I don’t see this as competition for Facebook or Twitter as users are “pinning” collections of ideas, products and images that remain fairly static on their profiles.

After taking the link in my invitation, I was taken to this screen where you select some of your interests. This is for the site to suggest people for you to follow.

After choosing your categories, you are given suggestions of people to follow. You are not required to choose anyone to follow. But when you create your account, you can sign-in with your Facebook profile and automatically start following any friends that also have a Pinterest profile.

The next page is where you create topics for your own Pinboards. There are five default topics that you can keep, edit and/or add to.

After you have set your Pinboards, you can add a “Pin It” button onto your bookmark toolbar. As you come across something you want to pin, just click the button and a window with the image will pop-up with a box for you to add your own caption and choose which category to pin it to.


This is what your categories look like. As you can see,  I have only pinned a few things. You can pin items from around the web, or from the Pinterest website.

Below is what the Gardening page looked like. It shows the image along with a username and any captions.

Although many e-commerce store owners are still getting their feet wet with Facebook, Twitter and the rest, Pinterest could provide yet another way for your products to be shared. Pinterest’s advantage is that it isn’t as susceptible to the information loss that occurs with the rapidly changing News Feeds.

To request an invitation, you can visit Pinterest.com or find a friend that already has a profile. Happy Pinning!

Tweeting for dollars

One question that many of our clients have is, “how do I make social networking work for my e-commerce business?” Business owners know that there is value to be gained, but many just aren’t sure how to cultivate it.

Or, they are active on Facebook but haven’t figured out how to monetize their Twitter profile. Luckily I just came across this post from the Get Elastic blog that profiles 17 different kinds of Twitter posts for e-retailers and even gives examples for each type.

Transactional Tweets

Broadcast your current specials and promotions with:

1 – Deals and Promotions

2 – Product announcements and promos

Customer Service

Reach out to customers by providing useful information and alternative ways for customers to contact you:

3 – Reputation management / social “listening”

4 – Product usage tips

PR

Cement your company personality and philosophy:

5 – Business information

6 – Philanthropy

7 – Social responsibility

8 – News of the weird, human interest

9 – Name dropping

10 – Events

11 – Human face

Engaging Tweets

Social media is all about engaging conversation, get your followers involved:

12 – Entertainment

13 – Engaging questions

14 – Contests

15 – Share with your network

16 – RT fan tweets

17 – Promote other content

Click here to read the original post and start Tweeting your way into the New Year!

Gordon Ramsay, Website Consultant?

We thought that this post from our friend Scott Sanfilippo that imagines what would happen if Gordon Ramsay got into e-commerce was spot on and wanted to share it with our readers. Enjoy!

“When Gordon Ramsay walks into your restaurant with the crew from Kitchen Nightmares, more than likely he’s a little too late.

I’m sure you’ve seen at least one episode of the reality show where failing restaurant owners call upon the bombastic Chef Ramsay for one last shot at saving their sinking ship. Unfortunately, most of the restauranteurs turned a blind eye to their problems long before they called Gordon.

It’s only natural that nobody wants to admit failure, but there are times when you just have to suck up to the fact that your food is crap, the décor is outdated and your service leaves a lot to be desired. But episode after episode, restaurant owners sit back and wonder why their business is failing when the answer is right in front of their eyes.”

-Read full article.

Free Shipping Day 2011 – A Boon for Online Merchants

With one week to go until the fourth annual Free Shipping Day, participating e-merchants are bracing for an onslaught of orders and putting their plan in place to ensure all orders are received by Christmas Eve.

According to the merchants interviewed for a recent article at Entrepreneur.com, attracting new customers is one of the biggest perks of participating in Free Shipping Day. Although, with hundreds of new businesses participating every year, some fear they will be lost in the crowd.

Jeffrey Dinslage from Nature Hills Nursery explains the reason why his company will be a third year participant, “It really comes down to attracting new customers; that is 95% of the reason we offer free shipping,” says co-owner Jeffrey Dinslage. “The other 5% is getting rid of, or reducing, inventory.” He estimates he has attracted between 50 and 75 new customers by participating in Free Shipping Day. You can read the full article by clicking here.

Is your store equipped to offer free shipping?

Are you able to set exclusions to you free shipping rules? If not, you may be interested in the Advanced Shipping Manager. The ability to set exclusions is only the beginning of what you can do with this powerful web-based system.

With the Advanced Shipping Manager, you can:

***Offer real-time rates for UPS, USPS, FedEx and others.

***Set markups and/or markdowns for individual items and/or shipping rates.

***Offer Saturday delivery for UPS Next Day Air, FedEx Priority Overnight and FedEx First Overnight.

Those are just a few of the Advanced Shipping Manager’s features, to see the full feature list, visit AdvancedShippingManager.com today.

For a limited time, we are offering FREE INSTALATION of the Advanced Shipping Manager – that is a savings of $250! This offer is good until 12/31/2011 for new Advanced Shipping Manger customers only. Contact us at 888.546.4932 or at info@kingwebmaster.com today!

Holiday 2011 – Early Stats and Promotional Tips

According to data collected from 500 retailers by IBM, sales for Cyber Monday 2011 grew by 33% over last year. Some early data also shows what a difference a year made for mobile shopping –  mobile sales jumped to 6.6% of all online purchases from only 2.3% last year and shoppers using mobile devices to access online stores grew even more from 3.9% in 2010 to 10.8% this year.

Predictably, a range of promotions were used by e-commerce retailers to drive sales. Minimum order amounts needed to qualify for free shipping were lowered by large retailers such as Khol’s and J.C. Penny and others like The Gap slashed storewide prices by up to 30%.

Staying competitive is vital for any business and especially important for small to mid-sized e-commerce stores. With almost three more weeks to make the bulk of your holiday sales, the need to keep promotions fresh and attractive is crucial. If your inspiration well starts to run dry, try some of the following suggestions.

-Buy $25 or more of “x” brand and receive a free gift – you choose.

-All orders ship for free.

-Take 30% a single item OR get free shipping on your order.

-Shop by price Set up sections for different price points, this makes shopping for neighbors, teachers, coworkers and other casual acquaintances quick and easy. Some common thresholds you could use are gifts under $25, under $50, under $75 and under $100.

-Shop by recipient Setting up sections where shoppers can quickly find gifts for Dads, Moms and Grandparents is another way to quickly get visitors shopping.

-Take 10% off your order Or receive free shipping – you choose!

-Delivery schedule page Keep your customers from wondering if their gift is going to arrive in time by showing them when each of your shipping methods will arrive and what the order deadline is.

-Spend over $75 and get a special gift.

-Create a page where shoppers can view all of your specially priced items and public promotions.

Be sure not to underestimate the power of your mailing list and social following either! This could very well be the time of year they are searching their inbox for your deals – or for that matter, monitoring their Facebook feed to see what you have to offer. While we are on the topic of mailing lists, you can also use the bump in traffic to your advantage by offering a special giveaway. When visitors sign up for the contest, you collect their email address and add it to your mailing list. Be sure to give full disclosure and add a note that lets them know that they are also signing up to get coupons and other special offers too.

Occasionally, retailers find that their e-commerce platform doesn’t support some of the promotional campaigns that they would like to offer, that’s why we created the Promo Manager. It gives Yahoo! Stores unprecedented control over the types of promotions they can offer. To see if the Promo Manager is right for you, visit PromoManger.com.