Author: Jessica McDonald

Preparing your business for Small Business Saturday

Small business Saturday

What is Small Business Saturday?

Black Friday and Cyber Monday tend to be dominated by big businesses. Small Business Saturday was introduced by American Express, in an attempt to redress the balance. Initially introduced in the US 7 years ago, an impressive 72 percent of U.S. consumers now know about Small Business Saturday. In 2016, an estimated112 million shoppers showed their support for small businesses on the seventh annual Small Business Saturday, setting a new record for the retail event in the US. Introduced to the UK five years ago, last year’s event in the UK is estimated to have earned smaller businesses an additional £717m of sales, up 15 percent on 2015.

This year’s small business Saturday will be November 25th in the US, and December 2nd in the UK.

Here’s our advice on getting ready to cash in on what is set to be the biggest Small Business Saturday yet:

Plan

Make a point of including Small Business Saturday in your plans for the season. Think of your goals and how the day can help you. It could be as straightforward as using the day to increase awareness of your business or to grow your email list by encouraging customers to sign up for special offers and news.

Your goals will help drive your tactics, so spend time researching and planning these.

Create a Special Offer

This is a great day to rally your customers and attract new ones by enticing them with special offers like a one-day coupon code, or a free sample. Whatever you do, go above and beyond to make your customers feel special and give them a compelling reason to keep coming back throughout the holidays and beyond. If you have a physical store, make sure any offers can be redeemed both in-store and via e-commerce as well.

Use Free Shop Small Resources

American Express, who founded Small Business Saturday in 2010, offers a number of free marketing materials to help you promote your involvement. These can be easily customized for your own business and include printable signage, free online ads, sample email templates and social posts and Shop Small logos. If you’re an American Express merchant, then you can also use the Shop Small map to make it easy for people to discover and locate your business.

Shop Small resources US

Shop Small resources UK

Be social

Between Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media tools, it’s hard to keep up. But don’t despair; social media can be your greatest asset if used correctly. The Small Business Saturday page on Facebook has more than three million fans, making it a great resource. Always use the #SmallBizSat or #ShopSmall hashtags on Twitter and Instagram to highlight special offers or discounts when the topics are trending.

Be Local

Update your Adwords by optimizing or adding keywords to match whatever deals you’re running for the big shopping days. These strategic changes, while minor, can really help you attract customers come Small Business Saturday. In addition, consider using geographic targeting. Geo-targeted messages on Twitter and Facebook will help you attract customers on the go.

Stock Up

Stock up on potentially popular items. The last thing you’ll want is to run out of your most popular merchandise before the season is over. It’s critical to understand your product or service demands during the holiday season. Look at what you sold during previous holiday seasons, and make sure that you order enough stock to cover you for additional events and promotions this year.

7 signs your e-commerce website design needs to change

e-commerce website design

An online store’s appearance, usability, and features should convey trustworthiness and professionalism. How an e-commerce site looks and behaves speaks to its safety and credibility. The essential element of good e-commerce website design is understanding what makes your website enjoyable for a customer to use. The moment your website stops making customers feel good about doing business with you is the moment it is hurting your business.

If your e-commerce site is experiencing any of the following seven signs, it may be time to upgrade.

1. Your site is slow

The cardinal sin of e-commerce website design has to be slow load time. Customers hate slow loading websites. It has always been this way, but with fast connections now being the norm even on mobile devices, customers are becoming even less patient.

40% of customers will leave a website and not return after waiting three seconds or longer for loading. Source

If your site is slow, it may be time for a new site or at least some site improvements.

We have written a free guide to improving your site’s load speed which you can download for practical advice on improving your site speed.

2. Your site is difficult to maintain

If changing the home page banner or updating product information on your site requires a developer or is just difficult, you may need a new website.

E-commerce platforms such as BigCommerce or Shopify have many functions, not the least of which is to manage content — whether that content is product information, images, or blog posts. Your business should be able to make rapid changes in a few easy clicks.

3. Your Code Base Is Out of Date

It is the golden age of web development. Almost daily there are new capabilities, new APIs, new frameworks, or new libraries available. It can be hard to keep up. Unfortunately, being behind isn’t just a matter of missing out on features or performance. From a security point of view, out of date code is often vulnerable code.

E-commerce websites need regular maintenance to ensure safe code is used. If your site has an old code base, a new website could be in order.

4. Your Site Is Hard to Navigate

Shopping online should be easy. A good e-commerce website design needs a functional search tool that returns relevant results in a flash. It also needs product categories that customers can use to filter down to the products they want. Layered and faceted navigation is needed to help make it easy to sort through your offerings.

Customers won’t always tell you when your site navigation is bad. They will just leave. If conversion rates or time on site stats are poor, a possible navigation problem should be one of the first you investigate.

Long drop-down menus are a notorious conversion killer. This is obviously a problem for merchants with a wide inventory. A mega menu is a solution to this issue. A type of expandable menu in which many choices are displayed in a two-dimensional layout. Navigation is structured through typography and everything is visible at once, eliminating the need for scrolling.

Good e-commerce site navigation, like this header menu on wildaboutcarts.com ; an e-commerce website design created by Frooition BigCommerce developers.

e-commerce website design

5. Your Site Is Difficult to Expand

It should be easy to integrate your e-commerce platform with third-party services. Want to start using a great new order processing software suite? You should be able to tie into it via an application programming interface (API). If your site or platform can’t, you are at a competitive disadvantage.

If your goal is to increase turnover and profits, then your website must be easy to extend and integrate. If it is not, you might need a new site.

6. You’ve just turned over your first million

The e-commerce platform that got you your first million in online sales may not be the best choice to get you to 10 million.

Online shops with annual sales below a million are grouped as small e-commerce retailers, and often face significantly different challenges to larger online sellers. Because of this, it only makes sense that you might need a different e-commerce platform to make that jump from small to medium e-commerce.

Look for a solution that helps you automate processes.

When your business had ten orders a day, as an example, it was simple to look out for fraud. When you have 1,000 orders per day, fraud prevention may need to be integrated into your site.

When your business grows, your site must evolve too.

If you are interested in seeing more live e-commerce website design examples, check out our Shopify and BigCommerce portfolios.

Cross-selling in eBay listings

cross selling in eBay

Some of the biggest retailers of all time owe much of their growth to cross-selling. Cross-selling can help companies nurture and maximize relationships with current customers, increasing profits and efficiency. From the sweeties at the supermarket checkout, to the plant pots in Ikea displayed with a plant sold separately ready placed inside, cross-selling is every retailer’s favorite profit-boosting trick.

McDonald’s have built an empire from cross-selling; never failing to ask if you would like fries or a drink with your burger. Online, Amazon has leveraged the power of cross-selling to help them become one of the largest retailers of all time. Both the “Frequently Bought Together” and “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” sections on Amazon product pages promote products related to the item that you are currently viewing. Amazon’s “customers who bought this also bought” is especially clever, because it combines social proof (telling you others bought it) with cross-selling related items. This technique is so effective, that Amazon has previously attributed as much as 35% of their total revenue to cross-selling.

But how can we profit from cross-selling in eBay listings?

Regardless of where it is, the best cross-selling identifies products that satisfy additional, complementary needs that are unfulfilled by the original item. For example, a case could be cross-sold to a customer purchasing a laptop. When items suggested by cross-selling are relevant, they help the customer and enhance the shopping experience.

Cross-selling often points users to products they would have purchased anyway; by showing them at the right time, a store ensures they make the sale. The best place to cross-sell is on a product page. When on the product page, the customer is already in buying mode, and it is at this point that cross-selling can offer genuine benefit to a customer, enabling them to buy all the items they need at once, from a seller they trust. This is why cross-selling in eBay listings is so effective.

cross-selling in eBay listings

To cross-sell effectively, the most important point is to think about those products that naturally pair well, like shoes and socks. You must decide, what is the sock to the “shoe” that you’re selling? Pay special attention to the price points of the items you pair, and cross-sell products are typically similar in cost. If you are selling a laptop for $1,200 a printer for $100 would be a logical cross-sell, but if you are selling the printer, the laptop would be too big a purchase for the cross-sell. Better to suggest a pack of paper, or extra ink cartridges.

Pro Tip: If you don’t offer free shipping, combined shipping on multiple items is a powerful extra incentive for customers to buy from cross-selling.

Some of the biggest sellers on eBay have grown using cross-selling in eBay listings to increase basket value. Changes to eBay policy mean that many of the coding techniques people previously used to create dynamic cross-selling galleries are no longer permitted on eBay, but it is still possible to cross-sell your own items within your own listings and stay within eBay’s policy guidelines. Frooition cross promotion is eBay certified and totally dynamic. This means that it automatically shows relevant items based on criteria you set and instantly updates itself when those items are no longer available or listings are no longer live.

GolfMad have a Frooition custom design and make excellent use of its cross-selling features. The item shown below is a golf bag, and the items cross-promoted with it are other small accessories that a golf player who has just bought a bag is likely to buy; a bag rain cover, straps, and an umbrella holder even. These are not disposable items, but their price point makes them likely to be a less considered purchase than the item they are viewing.
cross-selling in eBay listings

 

As GolfMad already offer free delivery to encourage sales, they use eBay’s promotion manager to offer an additional 5% off for customers who buy three or more items. Positioning this offer alongside the cross promotion makes a very strong proposition for a customer.

If you would like to learn more about leveraging the power of dynamic cross-promotion in your listings, leave an enquiry on our website and one of our eBay certified advisors will be in touch.

eBay Links Policy 2017

eBay links policy

eBay links policy

 

From October 2017, eBay links policy states that sellers are no longer allowed to share contact information in item descriptions, images or eBay Shops.

Ebay sellers now need to remove contact information from both active and new listings. This includes information included in images such as phone number, email, or even a store physical address. Ebay messaging tools, such as My Messages or Best Offer, make it easy to communicate with customers and create a clear record of interaction in case of disputes.

Fraud on eBay is very low, but scams still happen, and eBay want to stop them completely. Most fraudulent eBay sales happen because a customer has been convinced to take the sale off eBay. When a sale is made away from eBay, the security of eBay and PayPal is not there, and the customer is vulnerable. Fraud on eBay erodes customer’s trust in the platform and ultimately hurts all sellers. By getting rid of outside links, eBay is protecting customers from scammers who try to lure them away from the safety of the platform.

Links that direct customers to a site other than eBay are only permitted from approved domains as long as they link to:

  1. Information on delivery services.
  2. Product videos, e.g. reviews, product demonstrations or installation.
  3. Other legally required information.

Any links which take you to another page on eBay are fine, and updates to eBay’s links policy do not affect externally hosted pictures and CSS media files.

Updating hyperlinks in item descriptions

For the links that you are permitted to use in your listings, be sure to use the target=”_blank” attribute in your HTML item description.

Until the end of 2017, eBay say that they will temporarily auto-correct any links that do not contain the target=”_blank” attribute.

We recommend you update your compliant hyperlinks at your earliest convenience to ensure they continue to work correctly in the future.

If you have lots of listings with links in, the quickest and easiest way to remove them is to use the Frooition link rescue service. Enquire today about having your listings made policy compliant.

Getting started with SEO for BigCommerce

BigCommerce SEO

BigCommerce SEO Basics

Your BigCommerce is your own unique e-commerce area of the internet. It is your responsibility as a merchant to market your site and get customers to visit. Search engine optimization (SEO) is only one part of that marketing mix, but most online shoppers start the buying process by using a search engine, so it’s an important one. If you have a well-optimized site, you’ll rank higher in search results and increase the chance of a potential shopper finding and shopping with you.

SEO is important whether you’re just starting to sell online, or have been selling online for years. Optimizing your site should be a continuous process, as search engines are constantly remapping the internet to index and rank pages. Although BigCommerce has a lot of SEO features built in to help you (like optimized URLs, automated canonical tags, and many other technical elements), you’ll need to work to improve your place in the search engine rankings and keep that improved place.

Give pages title tags

Having multiple tabs open would be very confusing if the pages didn’t each have titles, like “Inbox” or “Boots, Women’s Shoes: ASOS.” Title tabs help customers navigate pages within their browser.

These titles also show up in search engine results.

BigCommerce SEO title tag

Because potential customers will use the page title to decide if your store is relevant to their search, choosing an accurate, concise, and relevant one is crucial.

The title tag is doubly important because search engines use it to understand what your page is about.

Using BigCommerce, you can set title tags for each of your website pages. Here’s how to write a good one:

Keep it short:

50-60 characters is the optimal length. Most search engines won’t display anything longer.

Add your store name:

Having the store name in your title tag gives you credibility with search engine users and helps tie your product to your brand. Include it at the end of your page title after a separation symbol, such as a dash ( – ) or vertical line ( | ).

Use Keywords:

Make sure your target keywords are somewhere in your title tag, preferably close to the beginning.

Meta descriptions for BigCommerce

Search engines don’t factor the meta description into their rankings.

But search results are read by humans, and humans want a clear, concise description of what they will find on a page to help them decide if they should click on it or not. A compelling meta description means they’re likelier to visit your store.

Also, because search engines do use site popularity in their rankings, meta descriptions do indirectly affect your SEO.

  • Specify title tags and meta descriptions on every page
  • Include keywords in title tags and meta descriptions
  • Use action-oriented meta descriptions to call readers to “Find quality [product name here]”

Meta descriptions should include keywords, but don’t simply restate your title tag. Finally, keep it accurate and under 160 characters.

The meta description can be edited in the Settings section of the BigCommerce admin portal. This video shows you how to create title tags and meta descriptions in BigCommerce.

Page Headings

In HTML, the page heading is the H1 heading. This tells search engines what the page is about. Although there are exceptions, generally speaking, and for simplicity, each page should only ever have one H1 element.

The title tag also labels the page, but the H1 header only shows up on the actual web page. It’s usually the largest text element on the page.For strong page titles; include your main keywords in the names of your store’s products, collections, pages, and blog posts.

For strong page titles; include your main keywords in the names of your store’s products, collections, pages, and blog posts.

Writing specific alt tags and file names

An image’s alt text is just a short description to describes the visual. This short description shows in place of an image if the image fails to load, gives visually impaired customers an idea of what is on the screen, and matters when it comes to SEO. Search engines can’t read pictures the same way they can read

Search engines can’t read pictures the same way they can read text, so you need to use alt tags to tell search engines about their subject matter.

Because shopping online is highly visual, image alt text is even more important. Your site will probably have a lot of graphics—and when people search relevant keywords online, you want those graphics to show up.

Like your title tags and meta descriptions, alt text should be as descriptive and accurate as possible.

Bad:No alt text

OK:“swimsuit”

Better:“Speedo swimsuit”

Best:“Speedo ladies high leg swimsuit”

To edit an image’s alt text, hover over it and click the “Alt” option.

Along similar lines, make sure you’re titling your images appropriately. When you upload them, their file name might be something generic like “untitled.jpg” which tells you nothing about the actual image. Google uses the filename to learn more about the image, so something like “speedo-womens-high-leg-swimsuit.jpg” is far more useful. (Make sure you use dashes to separate words, or Google will interpret the entire file name as a single word.)

Maintaining a fresh store

Keeping fresh store is excellent for SEO. First, search engines consider how fresh and up-to-date websites are. Every time you announce a new product or post something new to your blog, you tell search engines that your site is current.

In addition, every product gives you a chance to rank for a different keyword. For instance, say you sell musical instruments. One of your products gives you the chance to rank for a specific keyword, say “left-handed electric guitar.” Someone who’s in the process of selecting a product might Google that term, find your product, pick up some handy info, and ultimately buy it.

Keeping product descriptions fresh and informative is important. Don’t try to cheat the system by writing down every keyword you’d like to rank for and go to town. Shoving as many words as you can into a piece without paying any attention to quality or context is called key word stuffing. It gives a poor customer experience, and will only make search engines penalize your pages by pushing them down search result rankings.

Another great opportunity to get quality traffic is to build and keep an active blog with fresh content. It can be a time-consuming investment, but it’s a worthy one as it allows you to show your expertise, gain trust and make more sales.

Video in BigCommerce

Video appears in 14% of internet search results, and helps results to stand out.

Help your customer feel more confident about their purchase by also adding video to your product page. The video can be basic information about your product, a tutorial video on ways to use the product to get results, or testimonials from people who have used the product. Video reviews are probably the most powerful form of social proof and increase session duration by 340% when featured on product pages.

Video reviews are probably the most powerful form of social proof and increase session duration by 340% when featured on product pages. Search engines monitor time that users spend on your site, and having a lower bounce rate and higher time on page will help your ranking.

Installing Google Webmaster Tools

Google Webmasters offers a free suite of tools to help you improve your site for both visitors and search engines.

To set it up, go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/ and make an account. Then, type your BigCommerce URL and click “Add a Site.”

Select the “Alternate Methods” tab, then click “HTML tag.” Google will create a unique meta tag that you can insert into your template. Here are detailed instructions for inserting your meta tag into your BigCommerce template.

Once you’ve done so, go back to Google Webmaster and select “Verify.”

Optimizing your BigCommerce store for SEO takes effort. But making it much easier for consumers to find your products will improve your traffic and ultimately, your revenue.

Achieving economies of scale in e-commerce

economies of scale e-commerce

The dream of anyone setting up their own online e-commerce business is that it will grow and grow and, to paraphrase Only Fools and Horses’ Del Boy, “One day we’ll be millionaires”. But growth has some other ‘cushdy’ advantages outside of riches – economies of scale.

The idea is a simple one: the bigger you get, the lower the unit price per item you need becomes – be it raw materials, storage, packaging, shipping, premises, overheads and even technology. Suppliers like to shift large numbers of things, not individual ones and so as you grow so you can reap a small discount on unit price as you go.

And over time, this can really start to add up.

So, how can you achieve such economies of scale in your e-commerce business? Let’s see what impact it can have on various aspects of a typical business.

Shipping

If I, as an individual want to ship a box I use the mail. For the one box it is relatively inexpensive, but if you scale that up across hundreds or even thousands of boxes it becomes prohibitively expensive. This is why we have carriers that specialise in e-commerce fulfilment. Here the economies of scale are obvious: if you have 50 boxes to shift a carrier will see a van-load and, crucially, just the one trip and offer you a good price per box. Scale this up further and you get a lorry full and so on – each box becomes relatively cheap to transport.

What is interesting about shipping at volume is that once you have sufficient volume you can work with a business courier service to access a range of delivery options – next day, 2-3 working day or even every two hours. Here, if you have enough volume of each delivery category, you can achieve economies of scale across all delivery options making each affordable.

This helps the business as, increasingly, shipping options are becoming the battle ground between etailers who can no longer compete on price alone.

The key here is to talk to shipping companies and compare the best prices, asking about how the economies of scale can be attained across a range of delivery options, not just the unit cost of shipping items in one way. Many carriers will give you access to software that can help you manage how you use them, or indeed you can use independent software to manage it and reap the best economies of scale (see Technology, below)

Packaging

As with shipping, buying in packaging materials is an easy one to see economies of scale in. Buying one box to package up something is cost effective if you just have the one thing, but replicate that over the thousands of items you probably want to send and it ceases to be so. If you have the demand and can guarantee the need for multiple boxes – even of a variety of sizes, shapes and materials – then suppliers are going to do you a good price. It cost them less to produce as they too bring in economies of scale when buying the raw materials to satisfy your order.

The real advantage here is that by cutting away the unit cost of your packaging you can afford to add in specialised printing, better packaging materials and even unique bespoke packaging (each with its own economies of scale efficiency) to differentiate your business. Bespoke and delightful packaging can make you stand out from the crowd, offering a nice unboxing experience for the customer. This can tip sales in your favour.

If what you sell is not really dependent on a nice unboxing experience, then the economies of scale on packaging are simply something that shows up, magnificently, on your bottom line.

Again talk to your suppliers about how to get the best deal on scale and how that deal can be grown as you expand.

Technology

Technology, too, can be subject to economies of scale, but in a different way. Buying in order management software to help run your business is usually priced in terms of users or volumes – much like software you may buy for your PC. If it’s just you using it, then it has a unit cost much higher than if three people use it. The idea is the same as with shipping or packaging.

However, these days, many business technologies are delivered to businesses in what is known as Software as a Service (SaaS) model. This is where the company using the software, be it order management software, CRM software, or even Microsoft Office software, pays a monthly fee and gains online access to that software. The model is usually priced so that the more you use it, or the more sites you have that use it, or indeed the more volume of use you get from it, the more you are charged.

This seems to go against the theme of economies of scale, but in practice it doesn’t: the cost goes up but the unit cost of using it per transaction, per user or per unit volume, or whatever it is, comes down.

The interesting part is that within the fee that you pay, you get software that has minimum downtime, is regularly updated and its maintenance and reliability are the responsibility of the software vendor not you the user.

This is why SaaS is becoming the standard way that businesses use technology. It offers the usual economies of scale, but it also allows for business expansion, fixed monthly costs and takes away much of the cost and issues with managing one’s own IT. So, in effect, it delivers economies of scale not just in terms of ‘buying’ the tech, but also in managing it and keeping your business running.

Product sourcing

Bringing Del Boy back into the equation for a moment, he could sell cheap, hooky watches out of his battered old suitcase down Peckham Market, because he ‘bought’ a job lot of them. The same applies to your e-commerce business. If you are, say a T-shirt printer, then the more blank Ts you can buy in one go, the cheaper the unit price will be. This is because the economies of scale go all the way back along the value chain to the initial supplier of the raw materials.

Reaping economies of scale for product sourcing is perhaps the area where you can save the most money – but also takes perhaps the most amount of donkey work. For starters you need to find the suppliers that have what you are looking for – and then negotiate. They too are going to want to benefit from economies of scale, so the bigger orders you can make the better price you will get.

However, you don’t want to get caught out with vast amounts of inventory that you can’t shift, or which you have to heavily discount to move on. So, what is the answer? Here you need to turn to technology. You could just hit Google, but there are tools out there that you can use to help you understand what the market is for what you have to sell – giving you an idea of volume. There are also tools that can help you evaluate which products are the best for the price. Then there are tools that can help you evaluate products more specifically. There are also tools to help you search for inventory coming from liquidation and wholesale outposts.

Business premesis

Property, certainly in the UK, is one of the biggest costs faced by business. Economies of scale with property don’t necessarily apply per se in the same way as they do in other aspects of business. The bigger you become, the more real-estate you need, the more it costs. True, there costs per square foot of warehousing can decline with volume but it comes with other costs.

One answer which does offer an economy of scale factor is to use a third party eCommerce fulfilment provider. Having someone else handle your warehousing can yield huge economies of scale as your business grows. The more space you use the less per unit area you pay.

But what makes using a third party company so interesting is that often they don’t just rent you storage space: they will also help with everything else in that you need. Companies such as Mail Workshop provide the shelf space, but will also provide the inventory management, ecommerce picking, packing, printing and even distribution.

The economies of scale here are multiple – and multiply across all these factors. The more you scale up, the bigger the savings you can potentially make in not just business premises costs, but also management, technology, packaging, labelling and distribution.

Together these elements of an ecommerce business can all be scaled up – and you will want to scale them up as you grow. But growth can be costly, so always look for the cost saving economies of scale that you can make at every stage of your business process and your business’s evolution. Make it part of your business plan and your whole philosophy, and before you know it Peckham will be a distant memory.

Parcelhub is a multi-carrier shipping and customer services solution. Flexible and scalable, it integrates seamlessly with order management systems, providing hundreds of eCommerce and wholesale businesses with one access point to many of the largest UK and international parcel carriers.

Multi-channel eCommerce platforms are easily integrated and dedicated pro-active parcel management comes as standard.

Distributing more than 4.5 million parcels on its own carrier contracts every year, Parcelhub’s free
multi-carrier shipping software grants hundreds of national and global businesses access to ‘pooled volume’ discounted rates from its carefully selected range of carrier partners, including; Yodel, Hermes, DPD, UK Mail, DHL, Whistl, UPS, DX, Parcelforce, CollectPlus, SkyNet, Panther Logistics, Direct Link and Palletforce.

2017 Important Holiday Season Dates For E-Commerce

e-commerce holiday dates

During the five day period from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday in 2016 consumers spent a total of $12.8 billion online in the U.S, according to Adobe Digital Insights. That represents a 15% increase over 2015. Nevertheless, that figure pales compared to the $17.8 billion spent online on China’s 2016 Singles Day on November 11th 2016.

Non-traditional shopping dates, pioneered by e-commerce merchants, are increasingly dominating the holiday period for retail.

What follows are day-by-day breakdowns of the major e-commerce holiday dates as well as emerging trends.

Halloween – 31st October

Halloween has been increasingly growing in financial importance year on year and even more so in the UK. In 2016, it was estimated to be worth £466m for the UK alone, thanks to the purchasing of costumes, food, and decorations. Mintel recently reported that Halloween did, in fact, overtake the spend for Valentine’s Day.

Even if your business doesn’t have a direct link to the day it could be worth adding some Halloween-themed offers to your shop.

Veteran’s Day – November 10th

Veteran’s day is a day to honor military veterans who have served in the US armed forces. Show your appreciation by offering special promotions and discounts exclusively to veterans.

Single’s Day – 11th November

What started as a shopping day for single people in China has now become a massive online retail event. $17.8 billion spent online on 2016 Singles Day. Why not start a promotional offer for singles or focus your campaigns on the benefits of shopping early to kick off your holiday sales?

Thanksgiving – 23rd November

Last year, consumers spent $1.93 billion online during Thanksgiving in the U.S. Traditionally one of the biggest days in retail, the 2016 revenue was less than experts had predicted, probably due to many customers taking advantage of early promotions the day before, as well as deep discounting on the day itself.

Thanksgiving Day had its best ever results on mobile, with a record $449 million in U.S. revenue, according to Adobe Digital Insights. Likewise, ChannelAdvisor reported that smartphones accounted for nearly 70 percent of Thanksgiving Day traffic, with tablets contributing another eight percent. ChannelAdvisor said that for the first time, mobile e-commerce orders surpassed desktop orders, with 53 percent of all orders on Thanksgiving Day completed on a mobile device.

Black Friday – 24th November

Black Friday was originally an American shopping holiday, though as e-commerce has grown, the phenomenon has spread to become an international event. It is typically seen as the start of the Christmas shopping season and so is a good benchmark for you to ensure that your website is fully prepared for Christmas shoppers.

U.S. Black Friday revenue reached a record $3.34 billion in 2016.

Interestingly, Black Friday 2016 was the first day to generate more than a billion dollars in online sales from mobile devices, according to Adobe. The $1.2 billion spent via mobile devices was an increase of 33 percent from the previous year.

Here are a few good ideas that you can use to boost your traffic and conversions on Black Friday:

  • Write Black Friday-related content for your blog. If you run a blog alongside your e-commerce business, you should begin to write posts at least two to three weeks before Black Friday. Aim for about one a week; you don’t want to overwhelm your readers with information about it, but you also don’t want them to forget the date. Find a balance that you think works for your blog.
  • Send out topical emails a few weeks before. If you don’t have a blog, then you should use email marketing to your advantage here. Amazon is a good example for this. Year on year, they completely monopolize Black Friday because of how effective their marketing is. If you’ve shopped from Amazon in the past, you will have likely received emails from them detailing various Black Friday promotions. Use these techniques yourself and you could share in their success.
  • Run a countdown. Do you remember how, in the Valentine’s Day and Father’s Day sections, a lot of emphasis was put on creating a feeling of urgency? Chances are you do. Having a countdown on your homepage that tells visitors how long until Black Friday sales start will create a sense of anticipation and drive them back to your site on the day.

Small business Saturday (US) – 25th Nov

An impressive 72 percent of U.S. consumers now know about Small Business Saturday. In 2016, an estimated112 million shoppers showed their support for Main Street on the seventh annual Small Business Saturday, setting a new record for the retail event.

Over 130,000 tweets were sent on the day itself reaching more than 120 million people, with Small Business Saturday UK trending at number one in the UK and at number 5 globally.

80% of Local Authorities and hundreds of MPs supported the campaign.

These statistics are expected to rise drastically in 2017.

Manic Monday – 4th December

After the madness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and with December upon them, customers are in full gift buying mode.

Traditionally a high-spending time of year, people are doing more of their Christmas shopping online and 2016 figures beat those of the previous year by a considerable amount. According to figures from the ReD (Retail Decisions) at 13:34 on Monday 7 December shoppers spent a massive £1.4 million in one single minute on online shopping. Dubbed Manic Monday, this was an increase of 61% from the same minute in 2015, and during the hour from 13:00, sales hit their highest peak of £33m, which was 21% higher than the previous year.

Green Monday – 11th December

Mondays are known to be strong online shopping days throughout the year, and during the holidays this notion is even more pronounced. Cyber Monday is the obvious driver of the trend, but Green Monday is now the third biggest of the e-commerce holiday dates, and should not be overlooked.

The name “green Monday” refers to the color of money; not the environment, and was coined by eBay to describe its best sales day in December, usually the second Monday of December.

As shoppers enter into full gift-giving mode, gift messaging done correctly can take the place of price-slashing.

Free Shipping day – 15th December

Buying Christmas presents late has become part of the festive tradition. Gone are the days where people had finished buying presents before they had flipped their calendar to December – your customers will still be shopping for their gifts about 10 days before Christmas.

The idea behind the event, aside from being another way to attract customers during the busiest e-commerce season of the year, is to guarantee free shipping before Christmas Eve.

The deadline for guaranteed delivery by Christmas should be well-advertised on your site so your customers have a deadline for their orders.

Implement a countdown clock on your landing page, allow website visitors to sign up for reminder emails or place clear reminders during the checkout process to relay a sense of urgency in placing a timely order.

Christmas Eve – 24th Dec

We’ve all been there; It’s the day before Christmas, and you’ve already wrapped up all your gifts, only to realize that you completely forgot one person’s gift.

Knowing this, deploy a few campaigns towards the end of the month featuring your digital gift cards. Your customers will thank you.

Christmas day – 25th

Consumers spent 91 billion in the run to Christmas in 2016 and e-commerce sales grew by 11% compared to last year. It might be an obvious one but be organized and prepare yourself and your business for one of the busiest times of year for commerce.

Be sure to maximise your sales by combining Christmas themed banners and ads with strong CTA’s that will really draw in your customers. You should be doing this at least 6 weeks before the 25th December.

Boxing day – 26th Dec

New year’s eve – 31st Dec

This year’s holiday period is set to be the biggest ever for e-commerce. With thorough preparation, you can ensure that this holiday season is your most profitable yet.

Seller Focus – Destination Treasures

Frooition has been creating custom eBay store design for longer than any other design company. We have watched eBay evolve as a platform, and learned so much along the way. This blog was created as a way to share that knowledge with sellers. But we learn just as much from sellers and their stories as they learn from us! Working with thousands of individual sellers from all over the globe, hearing their amazing business stories and helping them to meet their goals is really the biggest privilege for anyone working at Frooition. Being an entrepreneur is not easy. It takes a lot of work and determination, and the stories of our sellers never fail to inspire us.

We are proud of our clients; of the incredible things they achieve, and of the little bit we did to help them along the way. So we have decided to start sharing some of their stories; to celebrate their successes, and to share their advice with other sellers.

The first seller in this blog series is Pamela Zaniewski from Destination Treasures. Pamela has been selling on eBay since 2000, and has evolved from hobby seller to a full-time professional seller, building a collectibles business on eBay with 100% positive feedback, and hundreds of customers following her store.

bonnie-carole

1. How has your store changed since you started selling on eBay?

When I first started selling on eBay my store name then was Disneylove99942.  Little did I know that someday this would be my living or I would be selling some luxury handbags and accessories or I would never have gone with a name like that! I finally took a deep breath and decided on my new name, Destination Treasures in 2016, and then later had Frooition create my logo and new eBay store design with it.

Lesson from the seller:

  • Your eBay ID will be an important part of your business. Consider it carefully.
  • Don’t delay changing the things that could hold your business back in future. – Pamela made sure that she had a store name she was happy with before she invested in the branding work to make it recognizable and memorable.

 eBay store design

2. How did you decide what you would sell?

I started selling because I had Disney collections that I didn’t want anymore.  I enjoyed the experience of selling on eBay, so I then started buying things that I thought would sell, and it grew from there.

 

3. At what point did you decide to eBay full time?

My eBay selling was almost full time while I was still working a full-time job.  I would work by day and list and prepare to ship by night. When I was laid off from my job in 2011, I applied for new jobs and worked a couple of contract jobs as well, but as time went by I realized that I could make my living on eBay.  I decided to dedicate all of my time to building my eBay business, and I haven’t looked back!  It’s scary sometimes when business is slow and there are bills to pay but I love the travel that I do to purchase some of the convention exclusive collectibles that I sell in my store, and I love the freedom of working for myself.

 

4. How do you promote your business?

Pretty much when I list it brings new customers in and that’s what drives my sales.  I do believe that the cross selling feature in my Frooition eBay store design has helped to increase my sales.

Lessons from the seller:

  • Maximise the opportunities and exposure from the platform you are selling on before you start focusing on other ways to find new customers.
  • Listing your items correctly will help the ranking of your listing on eBay.
  • Installing design features to keep customers browsing your items for longer will help to get more sales and higher basket value from the traffic your listings get.

 

5. What do you think makes a great listing?

One of the most important things is a complete and honest description. I absolutely hate when a seller describes an item in 1 or 2 sentences.  eBay seminars have indicated I’m too wordy so I’m trying to find a balance. Personally, I would rather buy from someone who has a complete description, reveals even the tiniest of flaws and provides multiple pictures when the item calls for it.

I create my listings as I would want to see them if I was buying.  I will actually pay more to someone who has a description vs. not because I trust the seller who has made the effort to inform me about the product.

My reputation and customer service are important to me and critical in this business.  I know some buyers have paid a little more to me because I have been in the business so long, have 100% positive feedback and I have the Top Seller status.  People feel more comfortable buying from me because they can see that I’m trustworthy.

 

6. What do you do to try and make buying from you special and create customer loyalty?

It’s a lot of little things that make great customer service and I believe that is very important.

eBay has everything automated now. But I still always thank the buyer personally for their purchase and tell them where they can see the tracking number once I purchase the postage.  The message is usually pretty much the same, but I change it a little if there was a special request or I recognize them from a previous purchase.

I pack with a lot of care.  For luxury items, I try to pack like Neiman Marcus or Harrods would.   According to my eBay seller stats, I have sold 8,370 items since I’ve started and I have only had one item break or get damaged in shipping and that was when I was a beginner.

Speedy service is important and even though my shipping says one business day for shipping, if an order comes in before I leave for the post office I will try to squeeze that one in and ship same day.

If I ship international and can save money on the shipping, I give part refunds so I am not making a profit on the shipping.

Lesson from the seller:

Stick to your promises and exceed customer expectations when you can, to build a loyal customer base.

Promoting your e-commerce for the holidays

e-commerce

Summertime is drawing to a close and the holiday season is just around the corner – also known as the busiest quarter of the retailing year.

Starting with Halloween at the end of October, and now incorporating some of the biggest dates in the retail calendar such as singles day and Black Friday, the holiday period is now more important to retail than ever before.

This is a period of great opportunity, but also fierce competition.

Here’s our advice on promoting your e-commerce store to ensure you get the most from this highly profitable time of year:

Sell Everywhere

Marketplaces are the central point of e-commerce. Many people now search eBay or Amazon for products before searching Google. A presence on key marketplaces is essential for retailers who want to sell to these marketplace loyal customers.

For customers who don’t like to shop on marketplaces, you should have your own dedicated e-commerce website. This does not have to be anywhere near as daunting or complex as it sounds. Frooition has partnered with both Shopify and BigCommerce to offer custom designed e-commerce sites that offer a superb shopping experience, along side scalability and simplicity for the merchant.

Be easy to find

The closer you are to the top result when someone searches for an item, the more likely the customer is to look at your item. For your own website, this means submitting your site to search engines like Google so that it shows up in results for related searches. You can improve your position in these results by learning about SEO and making sure that your pages are easy for both humans and search engines to read. Ebay has its own search engine, and we have written a separate post on how to improve your ranking within eBay.

Leverage social media.

Remember when we used to say ‘brb’ when we were going offline? We don’t say it anymore, because now we live online. According to a new survey from the tech analyst company ReportLinker, 46 percent of Americans check their smartphones before they even get out of bed in morning. Most of this compulsive phone usage is checking social media.

If your store isn’t represented on social media, you could be missing a huge opportunity.

Decide on which social media channels make the most sense for you—or experiment with a few and see what works best. Start building your following now and you’ll have a dedicated audience to market to during the holiday season.

Social media costs nothing and can be a great asset to anyone selling online. We have written a seperate post for advice on social media for small businesses.

Email for repeat business.

It is far easier to sell to an existing customer than to sell to a new one.

Klaviyo has been researching the optimum amount of holiday-related marketing emails for e-commerce companies. Taking into account the average revenue generated by emails sent, it found that companies across industries including fashion, beauty, and food saw the most success when sending in the range of 21-30 emails over the holiday period. Brands within this bracket saw an increase in revenue of up to 77 times compared to sending between 1-10 emails.

Create a cart abandonment strategy

Browsing activity increases before and during the holiday season. People are looking at different gift options and also comparison shopping for price. Cart abandonment increases massively at this time of year, and a good cart abandonment strategy could potentially save lots of otherwise lost sales. We have written a separate post on advice for creating a successful cart abandonment strategy. 

Make it relevant

Conversant’s 2017 Holiday Retail Outlook Report has revealed that 65% of consumers say they are sent too many irrelevant messages from brands.

Most consumers want personalized communication, with 87% of those aged 25-34 saying they’d be more likely shop with a retailer if it offered personalized offers, and 60% of younger shoppers wanting these personalized offers on mobile.

Creating a mailing list which you can segment by the kind of previous purchases a customer has made from you is nowhere near as complex as it sounds, and is a great asset to personalizing your marketing campaigns.

Cassini eBay search engine guide

cassini

Cassini is eBay’s internal search engine. Rolled out in 2013, Cassini has been programmed to gather data regarding human search, engagement, and purchasing behavior.

When a person visits eBay and searches for “running shoes” the eBay search engine tracks behavior including                           (but not limited to):

  • What is your return policy
  • What is your response time to customer questions
  • Do you have complete product info
  • Do you have quality pictures of your products
  • What is your feedback quality score
  • What are your shipping policies, prices, and delivery times
  • Do you have valuable and accurate product descriptions
  • What prices are you asking for products
  • At what price point are you starting bidding
  • What are your click-through and sell-through ratios

Based on the data gathered, Cassini is programmed assign scores to each listing based on how well a listing meets the customer’s search criteria and preferences based on their own previous behavior.

In the past, it was easy to cheat search engines (eBay’s included) by “stuffing” keywords all over the place. Search engines are now incredibly sophisticated and it’s pretty much impossible to fool them. Nobody outside of the programmers who create Cassini’s algorithm even knows exactly how it works.

What we do know is that eBay strives to create what they call “customer-centered commerce.” This means that they make the customers wants and needs the focus of all their decisions. Your goal as an eBay seller should be no different, and the Cassini search engine helps you achieve that goal.

The Cassini search engine is completely modeled around customer behavior. When a customer comes to eBay and types a keyword into the search box, eBay will show them every listing with that keyword in the title. This could be hundreds of thousands of listings, so the Cassini engine sorts them to try and show the most relevant results first.

Listings are “scored” based upon 4 key metrics:

  1. Item title
  2. Item specifics
  3. Category
  4. Catalogues

Each of these metrics has a whole host of best practices which must be followed to ensure that your product ranks well.

There is no golden rule for how to rank well with Cassini, but by understanding how it works, you can tailor listings to better meet Cassini’s requirements for a top result.

The first and most important thing to understand is that eBay wants to show customers results that are relevant to them, and that they will want to buy from. There is no point in showing laptops to someone who is only looking for a case. That said, eBay has studied buyer behavior and know that most customers want lots of results from a primary broad search, which they can then narrow down. Some customers will filter by adding keywords to their search, others will use the filters in the left-hand column. Either way, results will be determined by title and item specifics.

It is important to have full and correct category and item-specific information, as these really drive the filter engine in search results. Often, you may filter and see a list of brands, colors or sizes on the left-hand side, and then at the bottom will be ‘unspecified’. If you do not fill in item specifics, then your item will be in with the ‘unspecified’ and go unseen.

The importance of a good title

A good item title uses core product key words that describe the item.

Ebay gives you 80 characters to write your product title. Many people advise to try and fill these 80 characters with as many key words as possible. This is not always a good idea though, as Cassini bases your ranking not only on your listing, but also on how customers engage with it.

Every time a customer searches a key word which brings up your listing, Cassini counts this as an impression. Even if you are result twenty-two on a page where the customer only looks at the first two results, if you are on the page, it is counted as an impression. If the customer then adds another key word or uses the category filters, and your listing is a result again, that would be a second impression. The number of impressions your listing has is compared to the level of engagement your listing has, and this determines how relevant your listing is, and where it ranks.

If you pad out your item description with broader search terms, you increase exposure but dilute customer engagement, so damage your ranking.

One of the very best ways to find those specific keywords and keyword phrases that customers use to search for an item is to use the eBay keyword research tool –Terapeak.

Titles should be written for buyers. Writing in a smooth, readable way will get you a better engagement rate than a pile of keywords thrown together.

Qualifiers such as designer, material or color are helpful to a customer and search. But using other brand names with phrases such as “just like” breaches eBay rules and will result in your listings being taken down by eBay. Even if eBay did not remove them, this weakens customer engagement and so would damage your ranking.

Special characters are still sometimes seen in eBay titles. This outdated technique for catching customer attention only irritates modern customers and is seen by Cassini as a bad practice, so will not help your ranking at all.

Engagement

Engagement is what Cassini values over everything else. It’s a broad term, but for Cassini it means how much time customers spend on your listings, and how many of them engage with is by watching or bidding. High buyer engagement will improve the ranking of your listings. There are many things which are proven to increase buyer engagement. Some key areas are:

    • High-quality photographs
    • Well written product description
    • Free delivery
    • Free returns

By creating listings that are more attractive to customers, you will increase the time customers spend looking at your listings, as well as how many choose to watch or bid. This in itself can only be a positive thing, but it will also increase the ranking of your listings.

The format of listings can also influence engagement. Single quantity fixed price presents one item to appeal to the millions of eBay customers. If you consolidate listings, incorporating multiple sizes and colors into one listing, you increase the amount of buyer engagement on that one listing.

Driving traffic from social media is one way to increase engagement on your listings. Froo apps smart social is a free app which allows you to automatically promote items on Facebook and Twitter, and keeps to set popular times to avoid spamming.

The bottom line

Cassini is a sophisticated search engine, designed to reward sellers who strive to answer the needs of their customers with integrity and an earnest desire to engage in transactions that are good for all parties involved. Honest and clear, informative listings, categorized correctly and supported with excellent customer service, will always rank well.