Saturday, March 28, 2009

10 Mistakes to Avoid for E-Commerce Start-ups

#1 - Blowing the budget on web development and neglecting marketing:

In the brick and mortar world, you get free traffic just by setting up shop on the street corner. The same does not apply for eCommerce. The “if you build it, they will come” mentality still exists in the minds of zealous, first time internet entrepreneurs. If you want a successful website, plan on spending as much on marketing and optimization in the first year as you pay for developing the site.

#2 - Getting Stuck in Endless Cycles of Design Revisions:

In traditional marketing or store operations, you have to get it right the first time, because it’s too expensive to redo your store signage a week after you open. However, the tools available to you online allow you to easily evolve and optimize your website overtime. As General George Patton once said, “A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.” The same applies to websites. Don’t expect a perfect website on day one. Rather than focusing on perfection, make a commitment to optimization after the website launches.

#3 - Forgetting people can’t touch your products:

This point may seem painfully obvious, but its often overlooked because companies know their products a little too well. It’s amazing how many eCommerce sites neglect appropriate zoom-in photos, contextual photos, and product descriptions. Take a look at the top performing websites in your niche, and pay close attention to how they describe and picture their products.

#4 - Not realizing website visitors aren’t as committed as store visitors

It’s easy for business owners to imagine a website visitor in the same way they perceive an in-store visitor. This is a serious mistake. While it’s not uncommon for retail stores to experience conversion rates of over 50% (half of the people who enter the store buy). a 3% conversion rate for website, would be considered acceptable. Why this disparity? It all comes down to commitment. The amount of commitment required to get in the car and drive yourself to a retail store is much greater than the commitment from a casual surfer who clicks on your website from Google. In the physical world, your competitor is 10 minutes away. Online, they’re a few clicks away.

What does this mean? It means that any obstacle, large or small, that gets in the way of buying process will cause lost sales. It also means that you must add value to the customer experience, especially if you sell the same products as your competitors.

#5 - Using Print media for online media:

You know that killer flyer you made for your big sale event? Odds are it makes a terrible email blast. What about the retail catalog you invested so much on? It too, is likely very ineffective as an online version. Print and online media may be similar in some ways, but there are more differences than similarities. When choosing a designer for your website or online marketing projects, make sure they have significant experience with online creative, not just print media.

#6 - Ignoring Online Trust Issues:

In the face to face real world security, and privacy are rarely top concerns for customers. eCommerce, however, is inherently “taxed” with a low-trust environment, causing visitors to doubt the legitimacy of your site. You must go the extra mile to assuage these perfectly rational fears. This includes assuring customers of their information is secure, and that you value their privacy.

#7 - Having a “Home Page equals the Website” mentality:

In countless situations, I have seen companies place too much emphasis on the homepage, particularly the graphics, and woefully neglect other critical pages such as the product or category pages. A recent company I work with was surprised to learn that total pageviews of their homepage represented less than 4% of overall pageviews on their website. Yes, the homepage is important, but don’t go overboard and ignore other essentials.

#8 -Chasing After Every Internet Fad

Don’t go chasing after the latest and greatest internet marketing tactic or ecommerce feature. Yes, there are many exciting new tools and marketing tactics out there, but focus on the sure-fire methods first, such as search marketing, email marketing, and website usability. There’s much to be said about innovation and trying new things, but take every opportunity with a grain of salt, considering the opportunity cost.

#9 - Not Understanding or Caring about Web Analytics:

You can read a balance sheet, now make a commitment to understanding basic website analytics. In a physical store, the idea of analyzing customer activity is far fetched and impractical. For this reason, business owners often never realize the potential of not just monitoring but acting upon web analytics data. It’s vital that someone in the organization can understand and interpret web analytics.

#10 - Failing to Integrate your In-Store & Online Channels Early on:

Many large click-and-mortar retailers are still struggling to seamlessly integrate their in-store and online channels. Channel conflict, price discrepancies, and a siloing mentality are common, causing brand confusion for your customers. Many store managers believe promoting an eCommerce website will steal store sales. Make sure to educate your store staffers early on, highlighting the many synergies of online and in-store retailing.

Thanks to Justin Palmer for putting this together.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Social Retailing - Change Catalyst - Part 1

Social retailing, will grow rapidly. Social network platforms will act as an "agent" on behalf of small groups and large communities, now certain to influence and power the next-evolution in e-commerce..Expansion of social networking platforms will allow Twitter followers to organize quickly around a targeted call to action, linking the purchasing power of one, with many...enabling the group to maximize value from products and services, essentially "buying closer to the source" more "directly", Value Up...Prices Down...Win Win....


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

eCommerce Strategies

Here are 7 ecommerce strategies for standing out in a digital world.

1. Use expanded descriptions, multiple product views to convey the real value of your products. You wouldn’t nail down shirts in a clothing store so why would you only offer one view of your products? This doesn’t have to use elaborate or expensive technology, multiple views, close-ups and live use photos can provide a lot of information other stores don’t bother to share.

2. Invite customer opinion with customer product reviews and real life testimonials. Consider adding customer comments as audio clips. Adding customers audio testimonials can be a simple as taping a phone conversation. (With permission of course) Using audio clips is simple, inexpensive and does not require technical expertise or expensive online tools. By itself an audio testimonial may not make the sale but it is a very effective tipping tool, helping to nudge reticent buyers over their hesitation and into a sale.

3. Offer relevant information that doesn’t sell. You heard me right, give people information for free without trying to sell them anything. Remember that the main reason people are online is to get information -period. That is the primary goal especially before they buy. Statistics show that the longer people stay on your website the more likely they are to buy from your store (even if they decide to buy at a brick and mortar store) Use an irresistible giveaway to capture emails of people not yet ready to buy and use your content to keep them engaged until they are ready.

You can write articles, give teleclasses, offer whitepapers, provide downloads, share interviews, recipes or helpful hints. Make sure the information is informative, entertaining and relevant to your customers rather than a veiled attempt to sell. People can smell hype a mile away and this is the kiss of death online. Always remember your competitors are only a click away.

4. Get into video. A brief welcome message that shares your value proposition can give s a call to action can engage visitors and move them down the buying path. Use videos to educate your visitors on product uses or assembly. Create a short comparing product features or demonstrate the product in use. Keep your videos short (under 3 minutes) and clear. Host your videos on public sites like Viddler or Youtube and post them on your website. Here are a few examples talking about connecting with your website visitors.

It might seem that video clips within product descriptions are a luxury but I foresee video product descriptions as being the norm within 5 years. According to Internet tracking firm comScore’s Video Metrix, Americans watched about 14.8 billion videos in January 2009, or roughly 101 videos per U.S. Internet user. Todays online shoppers are using alternate avenues like YouTube to research product. Get a jump on the competition by giving your online shoppers a bigger experience, not by lowering your prices.

5. Put a face on your store - people buy form people not computers. Yes they use the computer to do it but they want to know there are real people who will back up their purchases, especially with higher ticket items, or products they are not sure they need. This will become increasingly important in a slow economy because buyers are not as willing to risk a purchase if they feel their concerns will get lost in cyberspace.

Consider adding human pictures to your about us page. Include staff picks or reviews and encourage your employees to write on the blog, social media sites and to contribute articles. After all these are the people your virtual customers will interact with. Don’t hide behind a virtual storefront - don’t be afraid to let your customers get to know the people they are buying from.

6. Make sure your online store has a clear value proposition that speaks to your target market. This value statement must answer the question that is on your best customers mind; “Why should I buy form you over the other guys?” If your website cannot convey this critical piece of information then your visitors will definitely miss it. Your ideal customer should immediately recognize that they are in the perfect place when they land on your ecommerce site.

Many online stores resist crafting a clear value proposition that targets a particular type of customer for fear of alienating other visitors. Look at your statistics and you might see that you make most of your money from a niche group or groups. A clear value proposition targets these customers and tells them exactly why you are the best solution to their problem.

7. Use social media to establish relationships and get feedback. Believe it or not your customers are hanging out in communities online. No, you may not visit Facebook or Linked in but social media sites are doubling every year. They aren’t just for teenagers anymore. The purpose of social media sites is to share opinions and interests. Connect with target market through blogs, twitter, linked in, Facebook, Stumbleupon or any of the dozens of niche social media sites.

Your customers are having conversations with or without you so schedule in an hour a week to schmooze online. This is a way to make connections, not sales - keep it authentic , informative and reap the benefits of worldwide word of mouth referrals.

The way people buy has changed forever with internet ecommerce. The world is literally your marketplace and customers can live just about anywhere. Using just one of these suggestions could immediately increase your ecommerce store profits. Now imagine what implementing all 7 could do!

These simple ecommerce strategies can help your online store stand out in a digital world.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Power of Social Media

Chris Brogan makes a good point recently when he reminds us that "we have inexpensive tools for production and distribution of media, and that these tools permit a whole new era of gatejumping, where we can build awareness, reputation, and trust into a whole new path by which to build relationships. That’s the secret."

2009 is a year for inspiration and action...As I often mention to my clients, associates, and friends..."The Conversation Begins Now". The real work ahead is in doing the work, practicing the craft each, day, and in applying the tools to achieve the objectives each and every business has, mobilizing their staff to carry out a mission, deliver on a value proposition that is relevant, maintain a high level of service, keep prices competitive and be in "action" mode...not planning mode.Planning is doing....thats my mantra...for the balance of the year. I say lets get to work...and I am ready to help!


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Social Media Strategy - Doing the Work

During the past six months, I have been conducting tutorials on social media for a diverse mix of entrepreneurs, business leaders, and close associates in order to develop an approach for the design, and implementation of an impactful social media strategy. I was right. Sitting down, one on one, helping smart people become better informed to the social media landscape,doing a walk-thru of Twitter and other tools, has proven invaluable. Sharing the value proposition, interacting, and simply "listening" to each question, providing answers, has helped me illustrate a key mantra for long-term success: the importance of establishing "trust".

Here is a distillation of how I am now working with clients:


embrace the art of listening
participate in the conversation
share value and inform
attention is scarce - more valuable than cash
focus on the Return of Influence - the new ROI
we are going to constantly all learn together

Social media is a sustainable process not an event. It is less about the numbers, than it is the quality of the associations and the interactions you have with customers, members, and fans.


transparency, authenticity, trust.

Depending on the size of the enterprise, we then focus on creating a primary
set of goals or "Calls to Action" - These goals can then be measured against
a set of tasks implemented in a thoughtful set of stages. Social media becomes more effective when implemented in phases, allowing time for evaluation,measurement, and insuring a positive rhythm and flow for the organization and essential for success.

For more information on what we are learning, or to engage in a tutorial,
simply reach out and be in touch.

Stay tuned for consistent updates and reporting from the field...


Thursday, March 19, 2009

How do you budget the idea of "Free"?

I like Chris Anderson, editor of wired, and respected for his seminal work "The Long Tail". Marketers, particularly retailers, must position their brands for a new and completely inverse value proposition whereas up to now, 5% of what they market has been given away free (the 95% balance sold at a price) to a value proposition whereby 95% of what they market is given away for free, and (5% is paid for). Now, as a former merchant, I know this concept is difficult to grasp. However, I believe it is an inevitable fact. We are entering the age of "free". Chris calls it "Freemium"...
My clients keep asking me, well "how do you budget for free? Ironically, I see it
as the new cost center. It is the creative and technical resources to manage the
marketing and distribution of "free" which has a cost. I believe, for many marketerss, a primary strategic benefit for the immediate implementation of a social media strategy is to insure that the costs associated with "free" are leveraged, that social currency is earned, groups of individuals with shared interests are identified, communities are formed, and the marketer can maintain a following for the products and services offered. This will certainly evolve traditional pricing structures to a point where discounting as we know it will fade!!
Stay tuned for more.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Getting Things Done

Write down ideas
Define the next step
Make sure that step can be done in two minutes
Label information and make it accessible
Review lists regularly


Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Cult of Done - Retailers" Pay Attention

Cult of Done Manifesto: a name for my disease
Posted by Cory Doctorow, March 3, 2009 11:44 AM | permalink

1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
3. There is no editing stage.
4. Pretending you know what you're doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you're doing even if you don't and do it.
5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
7. Once you're done you can throw it away.
8. Laugh at perfection. It's boring and keeps you from being done.
9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
11. Destruction is a variant of done.
12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
13. Done is the engine of more.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Heading to Austin

It was a sort of worlds-collide surprise when I heard recently from a few guys from my hometown whom I've known since college. They wanted to talk to me about this month's South by Southwest Interactive Festival, that annual everyone-goes-there ...;title#comments


Monday, March 9, 2009

Why Online Retailers Should Blog

As marketers move to put social media infrastructure into place, blogging remains a key component of the overall strategy.

Here are the highlights:

Overall Blogging Benefit for Online Retailers: Blogs help you…

Build strong brand
Gain competitive edge
Establish yourself as an expert in your industry
Get Search engine rankings
Inexpensive online marketing campaign
Get new ideas to improve your online business
Build good customer relationship
Provide better online shopping experience to your audience
Get quick exposure
Reach new audience
Gain authenticity

For the complete article:


Sunday, March 8, 2009

What's Up with Larry Gagosian

David Segal wrote a story on the state of affairs with Larry Gagosian, the big-time art dealer, which was published today in the NY Sunday Times. The fact that Larry would not comment for an article of this importance, during a period, where one would expect that he would be grateful for the opportunity to communicate a message stirs suspicion and makes me wonder. A man of his stature in the art world should be encouraging us to go out and invest in art, to find ways in our business's to put artists to get out and enjoy art in our museums....
But no, The fact is, there is simply "no comment", business as usual. Whats up with this?


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Design Time Calculated

Design is 70% dealing with people, 3% the idea, 2% selling the idea, 2% the brief, 2% being pig headed, 1% printing, 3% eye for detail, .6% invoices, 2% coffee, .7% tracking, .1% warm glow, .6% panic, 1% 4am, .6% staring, .2% checking, 1% letting go, .8% keeping hold, .7% estimates, .3% checking, .4% proofs, .1% colour, .9% understanding, .4% marketing, 1% checking, .8% beach ball, .5% mice, .3% keynotes, .4% persuasion, .2% bragging, .5% smiling, 2% knowing when to stop.”
Duane King
Anyone bold enough to offer a different mix of percentages?


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Social Media for Retailers - Why Now?

It’s the perfect storm; economic contraction, declining revenues, budget cutbacks, and limited staff resources. In light of this environment, Executive leadership is exhibiting reluctance to begin new projects or explore new approaches. As traditional media continues to decline, social media is ramping and accelerating. Realize now that there are new skill sets to be recruited. Training of existing staff is crucial. Social media requires an investment, commitment, and will demand a focus. The benefits are many, here are some reasons why start now.
Increased Brand Awareness
Content can be created and spread through social media to improve public perception of your brand by evoking specific qualities which make it distinct from others. For new websites or businesses, this pervasive visibility generates brand familiarity. Social media channels can rapidly generate word of mouth and buzz for most brands.
Reputation Management
The goal here is to positively influence the way a potential and existing customer/audience perceives your brand. Leaders must get involved in the conversation taking place around their brands. Monitoring search results, public forums and feedback channels to track and address what is commented upon. Some view this as social media optimization, although it is often classified as pull-marketing.
Improved Search Engine Rankings
When considered within a larger SEO and link building framework, content can be creatively developed and promoted for the purpose of obtaining links from the members of the social news websites. This means you should primarily target social sites with the highest potential to give you links, instead of smaller-sized communities which only offer interested traffic. While important, your site’s profile need not be entirely relevant to the social media website in question; content can be created specifically to appeal to different audiences.
Increased Relevant Visitor Traffic.
Invest time and resources to engage with social communities which have a high topical relevance. The social site’s topical focus should be inline with what your site covers/offers. For example, instead of promoting your Internet marketing articles through wide platforms, try placing the content on smaller, targeted sites associated most closely with the appropriate communities, which will result in a higher conversion around more lively “conversations”.
Improve Sales for a Product or Service.
Increase your product sales, by associating with topics that insure attraction to the goods and services you are interested in promoting. Attempt to connect with leaders, and experts who carry influence. Hard selling a social media audience through an overtly commercial profile is not advisable because it will come across as marketing spam. One solution is to segment the market and focus on being the number one solution for specific user problems. Naturally, you should mostly target communities which are highly relevant to your niche focus because this increases the likelihood for traffic to convert


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