Getting Started Selling Online

It’s finally time to launch that eCommerce business that you’ve been thinking about for years. Setting up your website can feel like a daunting endeavor, but this process can be broken down into small manageable steps. This guide will support you in building your website and have you well on your way to your first online sale!

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • Choosing a Platform
  • Theme & Brand
  • Adding Products
  • Shipping & Taxes
  • Email Marketing
  • Conversion tips

Already have a website and want to add an online store? If your website is built with WordPress, Squarespace, Weebly, or Wix they can pretty easily add that component. If not, you would have to set up an online store & link to it from your existing site. Questions? Ask us.

Choosing a Platform

The first part of this journey is choosing the appropriate platform to host your eCommerce website. There are a multitude of options! Among the most popular are BigCommerce, Shopify, WooCommerce (WordPress), Squarespace, and Wix.

Pricing

One of the first things to consider when choosing a platform is pricing. Most companies charge a monthly fee to host your website. In order to accommodate the needs of diverse business, many platforms offer a tiered system of pricing. There is a base product that’s offered and then the price increases when additional features are added. When researching different tiers it is good to maintain a clear vision of your company’s needs. Often first and second-tier options fit the needs of an online store beginner as it covers the basic functions while you navigate online business.

Plugins

The next thing to consider are the plugins that are offered by each platform. A plugin is a software component that adds a specific function to a computer program. For example, there is a plugin I like called smile.io that allows you to set up your own branded rewards program and use that on your website. There are also plugins that help with marketing, fulfillment, data transfer, and other services for your website. Websites ordinarily offer a list of plugins that are compatible with their software. Here you’ll find an example of this type of list for the company BigCommerce. Not all plugins will be right for your brand, so, again it is important to be mindful of your companies specific online goals. 

Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a process to help increase the quality and quantity of traffic to your website. Building a strong SEO for your website can be a complex and ever-evolving process. The most important things to consider when you are starting out are a platform that allows you to have a custom domain name, captions/descriptions of photos, and a platform that allows you to convert SEO URL structures. If you’re new to SEO there are applications and plugins that will help you start out. We suggest checking out Yoast SEO if you are using WordPress.

Customer Service

Finally, implementing a customer service function will be instrumental early on in case any issues arise for shoppers. Issues with online shopping could range from photos not loading to the homepage to customers not being able to submit payment when checking out. Whatever the issue is, we recommend finding a platform that offers 24/7 customer support. For more information on choosing the best-fitting platform, check out our article here. 

Theme & Brand

Once you have chosen a platform, it’s time to move onto the theme and overall brand of your business. Themes are used to make your website aesthetically pleasing while also providing an organized design for you and your customers. Themes help to set up your store quickly and avoid fees associated with web design. Many of the eCommerce platforms we mentioned above offer both free and paid themes to choose from. 

Choosing a theme is similar to choosing a platform. Themes are meant to serve your company’s unique needs! We listed below aspects that are important to consider when choosing a websites theme:

  • Themes that are mobile friendly 
  • Support SEO
  • Menu Navigation
  • Allows you to customize 
  • Has technical support 
  • A theme that your targeted customers will enjoy

Below we’ve provided an example of theme options through the themes at BigCommerce. You’ll notice, there are filters you can set for your specific requirements in order to sift the large selection and find the best fit.

Branding is the process of creating a strong and positive perception of the company. Your theme and website layout will be a reflection of your brand. When building your website consider your target demographic and how you want to present your company. Make sure to fill your website and theme with photos and styles that you would associate with your brand. Consult a few friends or fellow entrepreneurs to see if they agree with your branding before you publish and go public. 

Another consideration when creating your brand is the importance of consistency. Maintaining similar brand strategies for your website, social media channels, and advertisements makes you memorable. Developing your brand will continue as long as the company does, so you can expect evolution over time. However, creating a solid baseline strategy before you launch the website will be highly beneficial.

Adding Products

Once you have started building your website, it’s time to add product photos to your website. Customers are going to want to see what they are purchasing before they spend their money. Effective use of photos can help to increase sales and draw attention to the products.

Before you add the photos, you first have to take them. There are a few options when considering what camera to use. The first is using a smartphone camera and the second is a digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR). DSLR cameras are high performing, quality camera. DSLR cameras have multiple lens options that allow you to customize photos for specific product photos. These cameras are great, but they aren’t necessary for taking product photos. While smartphones may not have the same capacity as a DSLR, they have come a long way. We recommend exploring what settings and capabilities your smartphone has to produce excellent photos. It will save money to start there.

Once you have the camera, it is time to take the photo. Background is an important aspect that is sometimes overlooked. There are two types that we are going to cover the first are white backgrounds, and the second are lifestyle backgrounds.

  1. White backgrounds

White backgrounds are exactly like they sound, they show the product and the entire background is white. This is used to highlight the product from multiple angles. Setting up white backgrounds has become increasingly easier over the years. If you have smaller products you can purchase a portable studio box that has a white background. It is essentially an enclosed box with one opening for you to place products on the inside. It has its own lighting and makes the photo-taking process quite easy. If you have larger products, we suggest getting a roll of deli paper using this as a background. Below is an example of a jacket with a white background. 

  1. Lifestyle backgrounds

Lifestyle backgrounds are used to help highlight the intended use of the product. For example, if you’re shopping for a sleeping bag to use when camping, the company might have a photo of an individual using the sleeping bag in the wilderness. This attaches an image of use to the consumer’s mind, while showing off the product’s capabilities. The photo below shows a lifestyle photo of a sleeping bag from Sierra Designs. 

Finally, lighting can affect the final outcome of the product photo. Natural light often looks great but can be inconsistent and hard to come by. Using natural light requires the photographer to have flexible availability as the weather won’t always corporate. As mentioned above, you can use a lighting box if you have smaller products. If you are shooting photos for larger products we recommend that you use strong 5000k bulbs, and make sure that all of the bulbs are the same color! Avoid lighting in a way that casts shadows on the surface of the product. Placing the light source behind the camera should minimize most shadows. Additional photo advice can be found here.

Shipping & Taxes

SHIPPING

Shipping is an interesting aspect of the eCommerce world. It is the one aspect that you, as a business owner, do not have 100% control of as you are not physically there to deliver the product. So, you’ll want to make the process as seamless as possible. A bad delivery could be the difference between a customer reordering or recommending your business or deciding not to. 

The first steps that we recommend here at Uptown Cow is to decide what type of shipping you want to offer to your customers. There are three basic types of shipping that we recommend considering. 

  1. Free Shipping

This is exactly what it sounds like. For this first shipping type, you offer free shipping to your customers. This is important to consider if you will be competing with a tech giant like Amazon. They are notorious for free 2-day shipping for certain customers, and others are starting to follow along. Consider the costs that you will incur by offering free shipping to your customers. Another consideration for free shipping is to have a minimum order value to qualify for free shipping. Having this order value encourages customers to spend more on your website.

  1. Flat Rate Shipping 

Flat rate shipping is a simple way to offer shipping to customers. You can set up one or two rates that are available. You can have a cheaper option with a longer deliver time, and a more expensive option with a quicker deliver. This allows the consumer to choose the shipping method that works best with their timeline. Flat rate shipping is an affordable approach for businesses providing shipping.

  1. Real Time Shipping Rates (Carrier Calculated)

Plugins and applications can provide a great deal of support in shipping There are specific shipping applications that are capable of calculating shipping rates in real-time. After the customer has entered the shipping location, the application will consider the distance the package must be shipped, the desired delivery speed, and the weight of the items. Using these variables together the program will compute a shipping price for the customers. From there the customer is able to adjust the variables to end up at a price that they are happy with. 

These programs will also give the customer an estimated delivery date for their package. This gives the customer a better idea of when to expect the package and to adjust the shipping if they need it any earlier. 

Packaging

Luckily packaging is much easier than setting up shipping. This, like many other parts of eCommerce, depends on the types of products that you’re selling. Hypothetically when your product is packaged it should be able to survive a drop of a few feet, just in case this happens on the journey to its final destination. 

There are multiple ways to package your items. Some companies wrap their products in a single box, and surround the item with packing peanuts or a similar protective product. Some companies use air filled plastic bags or bubble wrap. For more fragile items, you should consider a two box packing solution. This is essentially a box inside of a box, to offer additional protection to the product during shipping. When considering the two box solution you should note that the package will be heavier and it will be more expensive to ship.

Taxes

Taxes, one of our favorite parts of having an eCommerce business!! Just joking, but it is a very important aspect of selling products online. With newer laws & regulations, this is often overlooked. Luckily, many platforms offer automatic tax calculations based on where your customers are. The steps you take to include taxes are specific to your products so our main bit of advice is simply to not forget them!

Email Marketing

Your website is all set up, congrats! Now it’s time to start pushing conversions on your website. A reliable form of communication with your customers is through email marketing. Email is still one of the most used forms of online communication and can be a very profitable practice when done effectively. There are two helpful types of emails to use when you are launching a new website.

The first is welcome campaigns. Welcome campaigns are sent to a customer when they first acquire their email address. We suggest that the first email should have a short description of your company and a message of gratitude for subscribing to emails. After this, you should add labeled photos of products with short descriptions to draw the customer in. You may consider placing a few product reviews in the email as well. Welcome emails allow you to highlight some of the most popular products your unique brand has to offer.

The second campaign that you should set up are abandoned cart emails. These messages are sent to the consumers when they place a product in their cart and then exit the website. It is a message to remind them that they have a product waiting for them that is intended to convince them to complete their transaction. These messages can be sent in many different ways, knowing your customer demographic will help to find the best message. 

You will want to set up a timeframe for when the messages should be sent. Some companies do it a few hours after the customer leaves the website, others will wait a day or two. Adjust the time frame and see what works best for your company. Once you find the right timeline, the emails will be sent automatically. If you have multiple demographics visiting your site you can make multiple, more specific, abandoned cart campaigns. 

The hardest portion of abandoned cart emails is that you will already need the contact information of that customer prior to sending the email. This means that the customer will already have to be an existing customer, have an account on your website, or have subscribed to your newsletter. 

Conversion tips

We cannot emphasize enough the relevance of conversion. A conversion is more than just a customer checking out with a product in their cart. A conversion rate could be:

  • Product added to cart 
  • A completed transaction
  • Email signup 
  • Sharing a product on social media 
  • Many more statistics

It is important to know when starting out, that most conversions are quite small, around 1-2% for the average company. If you believe your conversions are quite low, don’t worry! The online marketplace is a very competitive place. If you’re wondering how to find and analyze conversion rates, we recommend using Google Analytics, we have more info on that here. It is also important to note that other companies will have their own analytic software to play around with as well, BigCommerce Analytics is a strong and reliable analytic program. 

Now we do have a few tips to help you get your conversion rates up on your website.

Email Pop Ups

If you’re looking to get more emails from your customers, an effective tool to use is email pop ups. These are pop ups that appear on the screen when a customer first enters a website, usually on the homepage. They are used to gather information by offering an incentive for filling out the appropriate information. For example, some companies will offer a code for free shipping or a percentage off of their first order. These pop ups take up a large portion and don’t disappear until the customer either click out or if they enter their information. This is a fantastic way to get individuals signed up for a newsletter. Take a look at your email and notice how many companies you get emails from that were likely the result of homepage pop ups!

Live Chat

This is a great tool that many eCommerce sites have started to use. Live Chat helps to increase multiple types of conversion. Live chat can be used to help shorten the entire sales process. It provides customers with a quick way to communicate with your brand and to get questions answered, it’s much quicker than email. 

Another great thing about Live Chat is that you can integrate artificial intelligence (AI) to work with your program. This will allow you to set up automated responses to customers when there isn’t an actual human to respond to the customers. The AI can collect information and schedule a specific time to speak with a representative from your company. A negative part of the bots is that they usually can’t recommend a specific product and don’t usually close a deal. If you don’t feel comfortable using AI you can always restrict the hours that customers are allowed to use the chat features on your website. Make sure the whichever chat system you choose integrates with your platform.

Listed below are a few live chat softwares that you should check out:

  • LiveChat
  • Tidio 
  • Facebook Live Chat
  • Zopim
  • Olark

Wrapping up

After all that hard work, you should have your website set up and ready to go! Your journey to eCommerce greatness has just begun, but hopefully now you’re feeling better about your website and your online business. We hope that this guide helped you and answered and potential questions that came up. If you’re looking for additional information on setting up an eCommerce website you can check out our articles here. If you have any additional questions, feel free to reach out to our team at any time. 

How To Take Product Photos Like A Pro

There are five senses that we use in our daily lives, and one of the most important is sight. This is why photos are such an important aspect of your ecommerce website. A good or bad product photo could be the reason that a customer purchases a product or goes to another website. Luckily you don’t need to invest a lot of capital or hire a professional to take quality photos that will help drive sales. In this article we are going to go into the important aspects to consider when taking photos for your ecommerce website. It might seem quite daunting to start the process if you’ve never done it before. But not to worry, if you take into consideration the different aspects we are going to cover below, you will be a pro at taking photos in no time!

Camera

A high quality camera will help your photos come out looking sharp and detailed. Many companies will use a DSLR camera. DSLR is also known as a digital single-lense reflex camera. These are high quality cameras, and a big appeal is that you can switch your lenses depending on what you’re trying to capture a photo of. When considering what DSLR to get you should also look into the video capabilities of the camera. 

Even though having a DSLR is nice to have for taking photos, it is not necessary. In this day and age almost everyone has a capable camera in the palm of their hands. Smartphones have changed the game and provide the average user with the capability to take beautiful photos. Before spending money on a DSLR, play around with the settings on your phone under the conditions explained below and see how the photos come out.

Background

There are two types of backgrounds that are used for eCommerce photos, white backgrounds and lifestyle photos. White backgrounds are used to show off multiple angles of the product and are probably what you think of when it comes to product photos. You can buy a portable studio box that has a white background and lighting. All you need to do is place the products in a box. They can be quite affordable as well, here is one that we found for under $15 dollars on Amazon. The photo below is from an outdoor retailer named Sierra Designs. In this first photo they use the white background to distinctly show the product and its design.

Unlike standard product photos, lifestyle photos are used to show off a specific function of the product. For example, if you have a phone mount for a bike, you might show off the phone being held in place on the bike. This shows the product but also gives the consumer an idea of how it would function in their daily life. The photo below is for the same product listed above. But this time Sierra Designs took the product out and had a photo shoot in a setting where the product would be used by the consumer. It provides the consumer with ideas of how they can use the product.

Lights

Lighting is another important factor to consider when taking photos and something that should be given thought especially when taking white background product photos. You can obviously use natural light, but sometimes this can be tricky to come by depending on where you’re located. To combat this you can use artificial light and be able to take photos at any time during the day. As mentioned earlier in the article, you can use a product box that has lighting included. If you find yourself shooting larger products you will have to set up your own lights. We would recommend using at least two lights, and having an adjustable stand to raise or lower the lights. We would also recommend using strong 5000k bulbs, make sure that they are the same exact color!

Avoid any sort of setup that will cast a shadow on the surface of the object. It is important that you avoid shadows so the entire product will show up in the photo. To avoid this it helps to keep the lighting on the same side of the product as the camera or slightly off to the side. 

Accessories 

There are many accessories that can help to enhance the photo taking experience. A tripod, extra lights, and travel equipment are just a few that will certainly come in handy from time to time. Many of these accessories are not essential, but they will make the entire process easier.

Wrapping Up 

Taking quality photos for your eCommerce site is not as challenging as it may seem. After following the tips and tricks listed above, you will have clean, engaging photos to upload to your website. It might take a little time to get used to the equipment, but make sure to be patient and give it some time. If you run into any bumps in the road or have any questions, please reach out to us. 

P.S. Make sure to subscribe, I’ve heard we will be talking about editing photos soon

How To Automate Your Sales

In today’s fast paced world, most things have automation in them. We have automated switches for our lights, production of products, and even automated cars. Automation is an important, time saving aspect of modern life.

Automation isn’t specific to consumers and large manufacturing though, in fact it may have a place in your sales process. You and your team could be spending excess time each week on sales and converting leads that could be resolved with just a few lines of code. We have gathered together some tips and tricks to help with sales automation to help you put that wasted time towards better use. 

Email Sign Ups

This is a great way to get contact information from prospective customers. The most effective way to gather this is either a footer listed on each webpage or a popup. 

A popup is used when consumers first enter on the website, usually on the homepage. Popups should be large and attractive to grab a customer’s attention. Many companies add an incentive to persuade customers to add their name / email into the popup, such as a discount on a first order or free shipping. The companies know that customers are much more likely to add their info when they are getting something out of the transaction. 

Most pop ups require physically clicking out of them which is a good tactic to make the customers spend a few extra seconds on your popup. When the consumer has to spend this extra time on your popup, they are more likely to add their information. 

Footers are much easier compared to popups. For most sites it is now standard to have a newsletter sign up on the bottom of each webpage. You can still add a small message to try and entice your visitors. Below is an example of a footer from one of our favorite websites, UnTapped.cc. 

Welcome Series

Want to show your new customers some of the most popular items on your website? The items that really make your brand stick out? The perfect time to highlight things like this would be with a welcome series. 

A welcome series is an email(s) that you can send automatically once you gain access to a customer’s email address. In this email it is best to start with a brief description of your brand while also thanking the customer for subscribing to the newsletter. Then add products that will become your welcome series. You should have the name of the product, an attractive photo, and then also a short description. This welcome series will help show the customer some of your most popular products and can lead to a purchase. 

Abandoned Cart Conversion

Abandoned cart conversion is when you send an email to convince a consumer to complete a purchase of an item they left in their cart. When setting this up you need to specify a timeframe for the email to be sent, what you would like it to say, and if you want multiple versions. Once you have all of this set up, the process will be automated. The emails will be automatically sent when applicable, and will be another tool added to your sales automation toolkit.

The one downside of an abandoned cart email is that you need to have the individuals contact information for it to work. It works best once that customer has already created an account on your website or provided their email for a newsletter.

Live Chat

This is a popular feature that many e-commerce websites have started to use. Live chat can help to automate by converting visitors on your website into leads while helping to shorten the entire sales process. Live chat provides customers a quick way to get their questions answered and a faster way to communicate when compared to email.

Another useful feature about live chat is that you can use bots when no one is available to respond. Using artificial intelligence (AI) and bots allow you to collect more information from your customers, and can help customers schedule a time to speak to a human representative. The only downside is that bots can’t recommend specific products or close a deal, but they still help to keep customers engaged and to provide you with a time to hopefully convert the customer

Wrapping Up

Automation is a key component that you can add to your sales process to help your company save time, and hopefully make more conversions. The four sales automation tips we talked about take a little time to set up. But once they are set up, there is very little you have to do after that. If you want help setting up your own sales automation or have any additional questions, please reach out to us.

New Year’s Resolutions to Boost your Work Productivity

It’s a new year and you know what that means, it’s time to drop bad habits and pick up good ones. No matter the size of your company, there are always things that you and your employees can do to increase their effectiveness. Many of you might have already made new year’s resolutions, or have been given advice from mentors. We love these and they’re important for the big picture, but if you are looking for a few things to help you right now, check out these five tips that we think will make a big change for increasing your work productivity in 2020.

Stop Multitasking

Contrary to popular belief, multitasking won’t help you get more done in the office. In a study conducted by Gloria Mark, who studies digital distraction at UC Irvine, it was found that once interrupted when performing a task it can take up to 25 minutes to resume that task. This means that if you are trying to complete multiple tasks at once, it won’t be as effective as you might think. 

To make sure that you and other employees are getting the most work done, you should focus on one task at a time to increase your work productivity and quality of work.

Attend an Event – Or Host One

It can be quite easy in this digital day to use social media as your main outlet for networking. This can be good, but it’s important to continue to network in person. These events are great ways to build relationships with others in your field. If you can’t find a relevant event in your area, it’s time for you to set up your own! You can easily set up your own networking event or an open house. Find a space, get the word out, make some horderves and voila! You’re an event hoster. 

Master The Tools You’re Using

Companies use all types of online tools for accounting, marketing, social media, and so much more. But how well are you really using these tools? Are you as proficient as you could/should be? Many online tools have certifications and online courses to help you become better acquainted with them. Microsoft office, Google, and Hubspot have many certifications you can get to help you increase efficiency and performance.

Cleanse Your Schedule

Mindless tasks just might be ruining your life. If you think there aren’t enough hours in the day it’s probably because the hours you do have are being jammed with tasks that are slowing you down instead of propelling you forward! One way to increase your work productivity and efficiency is by prioritizing tasks. Too many of our “obligations” just consume or waste our time. Imagine you had only 2 hours in the work day, what would you do first? Expand that thought to your weeks and months at work. Try to eliminate or condense the tasks that wouldn’t fall in that 2 hour work day. 

Some of those tasks you’re trying to eliminate might be email or meetings, so we wanted to give you a few tips on how to do that. Close out that email tab! Checking email throughout the day is a mega time waster. Choose one or two 30 minute blocks dedicated to email and forget about it the rest of the day, you’ll be amazed with how much better off you’ll be. Meetings can be another source of schedule frustration. Half the time you can’t tell if it’s an enforced social hour or if you’re actually there to get work done. Try giving meetings an enforced cutoff time, “Hey guys, I only have 5 minutes to chat so what do I need to know?”. Avoiding meetings all together is another solution. Ask whoever wants to meet to condense what they wanted to say into an email, it’s amazing how 1 hour of talking can fit in just a few paragraphs. Want to learn more about cleaning your schedule? Check out where these ideas came from here.

Work Hard, Play Hard

This is a saying that we can all get behind, but you should make it a priority for the culture at your business. Make sure to work hard when at work, but don’t work your life away. Escape the office and blow off some steam. It is important to have other passions and interests outside of work. 

We here at Uptown Cow have a fantastic work hard, play hard ethic. When we aren’t working you can find our employees playing in the mountains, exploring cities, or traveling the world. 

In Conclusion

New Year’s Resolutions often get too much attention and not enough action. It’s important to remember that these goals and resolutions aren’t punishments to be resisted but opportunities to be embraced. So have fun, try your hardest, and don’t get too upset when you fall off the path. Just dust yourself off and get right back on!


Still need help? Check out our article on accomplishing goals here.

How To Sell On Amazon

Looking to improve your eCommerce business and reach more customers? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. One of the best ways to do this is by selling on Amazon. This will help you reach a much larger audience and hopefully generate more sales. 

The process of listing products on Amazon can seem quite daunting when you first start but after a few listings you’ll be a pro. But for first starting out, we wanted to share some important information you should have ready prior to listing an item. Listed below are steps to help you understand what information is needed, and some of the steps to start listing products.

Create an Amazon Seller Central Account

The first thing that you will need to do is to set up an amazon seller central account, you can do so here. By setting this up, you can start listing and selling products. It is important to note that to create one of these accounts, it will cost you $39.99 a month + selling fees.

Decide What Category

The next crucial step is to decide what category your product falls into. This is an important step because your product will sell much better if listed in the correct location on Amazon. There are over 20 categories that are available and many sub-categories. If you aren’t sure which category to place your product into, Amazon will help you. When you search for your product in the search bar, it will provide you with suggestions on where similar products are placed. 

Obtain a UPC Code

A UPC code is a unique identifier for your product. This is typically a code that has a lot of numbers and a barcode on it. There are many websites you can use to purchase a UPC Code, Amazon recommends using a website known as GS11. In certain circumstances, you can make a request to avoid this step. Pop us an email & we’ll help you out.

Photographs 

Next up is photos! Make sure to take nice photos of your products because it’s your main selling point. Listed below are a few of Amazon’s photo guidelines: 

  • Products must fill at least 85% of the image
  • Main images must have a plain white background
  • Images must not exceed 10000 pixels on the longest side
  • JPEG is the preferred image format

Dimensions

The next thing that you will do to sell a product on Amazon is fill out the dimensions of your product. This will be used to help calculate shipping when a customer purchases your item. Take out the tape measure for the dimensions and then get its weight. 

Product Description

This is another very important part to have ready when listing products for sale. The product description can actually be broken down into two different parts, the key product features, and the product description. 

The key product features will be right below the product options. It is bullet point style information to cover quick and important key features of the product that you are selling. The product description can be found further down the page. The product description is a longer and more comprehensive area to talk about your products. Usually for the product description you will focus on the benefits of your product, and put the features in the key features section. Want to learn more about product descriptions, you can find a whole article on them here.

Key Words

Keywords are one of the last things that you’ll be plugging in before your product will be listed on Amazon. Keywords are target words within the listing a potential buyer will search when looking for a product. These can fall into multiple categories such as search terms, target audience, subject matter, and also the intended use. Having strong keywords will help your customers find you on Amazon. 

Wrapping Up

Amazon is the biggest contender in online retail, and there is no sign of that changing anytime soon. Selling on Amazon allows you to stay on top of trends and use some of the most up to date technology. It will also help you reach a much larger customer base and increase your sales volume. Amazon has incredible resources to help you set up and maintain selling products with them. If you have any questions please make sure to reach out to our team! 

E-Commerce Shipping

For the majority of your customer’s experience, you are in control. You make the ads, the website, take photos, and perform many other tasks to help your products and website appeal to your consumers. But once an order is placed, your product is handed off to someone so it can complete its journey to the consumers. This journey could make or break the entire experience for the customer so it’s important to have a good shipping strategy that helps create a good experience from start to finish.

How To Package Items

We all know that you have to package the item(s) before you send it to the customer. But there are some important factors to consider when picking packaging for your customers. The first thing you should consider is how heavy the type of packaging is. The heavier it is, the more expensive it will be. Lighter is better, but you don’t want to compromise the protection of the product. Consider how fragile your products are, and what types of padding you will want in the package. Many companies will use bubble wrap or packing peanuts to help keep the impact on the items to a minimum. There are also more eco-friendly ways to package items, such as using newspaper or recyclable materials. These are a great option because it helps your bottom line and shows customers that you care about the environment. It’s fine if this takes some time and different trials to make a final decision, it’s important and shouldn’t be rushed!

Types of Shipping

Listed below are different shipping options that you can consider using to send out your products. We will first cover a few general ways to ship, and then dive into shipping on Shopify, our favorite eCommerce platform.

Free Shipping

This is one popular option that businesses will use to help increase their number of customers. In the age of Amazon Prime many customers have come to expect this option which is absolutely something to consider. While this is consumer’s favorite option you have to be aware of how free shipping will affect your profit. It is important you know that you will be taking on the cost of shipping when you include free shipping to your customers. Many businesses will either make a minimum order price for free shipping, or they will increase the price of products by a small amount to decrease the profit lost. 

Real Time Shipping Rates

Many eCommerce websites now have different widgets or applications that can calculate the rate in real time for customers. Once the customer puts in their address, the program will consider how far the package needs to go, the speed at which the parcel is desired, and also the weight of the package. Using all three of these units the program will generate a price for the customer. They can adjust the price by picking slower/faster delivery and potentially choosing different items. 

Many of these programs will also give the estimated delivery date for the customer. Because of this it will help them know when their package will arrive if it is needed by a certain date. 

Flat Rate Shipping

Assigning one or two flat rates across your entire product offerings with a set price and delivery time. If you can’t afford free shipping and don’t have the time to setup real time shipping rates than this is the option for you. It’s a great way to save time without hurting your profits too much. 

Shipping on Shopify

As we know, a lot of ecommerce companies are hosted using Shopify. If you are unfamiliar with Shopify and would like to learn more, you can find out more here

To set up shipping in Shopify, the first thing you need to do is log into your store, and then head down to settings. Within this tab, there is a specific link to click to bring you to shipping. The first thing you will fill out, is the “Shipping Origin.” This is where your products will be sent from. 

There are three different types of shipping styles you can choose from on Shopify.

  1. Price Based Rates – These rates are based on the total amount of money spent in an order by customers. It will be a flat rate depending on how much the customer spends. Many times companies will offer free shipping if a certain total is hit. This will usually be between $25-$100 dollars for the order. Each site has a different preference. But this can sometimes encourage additional spending by your customers.  
  1. Weight Based Rates – Weight range rates are not as common, but it is still an important consideration when setting up shipping rates for your Shopify store. When setting this up, you set up weight ranges and this will have a flat rate for your customers. This is a good technique to use if many of your products are quite heavy. 
  1. Calculated Rates – The calculated rate is one of the easiest types of shipping to set up. When you click on this tab, you select what carrier and what type of shipping services you would like available for your customers. Then the carrier will create a calculated rate every time a customer checks out. This will be based on the weight of the package, where they want to send it, and what type of services they selected at checkout. Many businesses will choose this rate if they are fulfilling products by themselves. 

There are also third party shipping apps that can be used in conjunction with your Shopify account if the built in features don’t match your needs!

Final Considerations

We’ve covered a lot about shipping so far, but there are a few more considerations when setting up shipping for your ecommerce store. There are different duties and taxes that should be considered, especially if you are shipping internationally. Duty and taxes are usually paid for by the individual receiving the item, but there can also be fees directed towards the merchant as well. These fees will depend on the item, its origin, value, and other things. Consider what the fees will be before you open up new areas to ship to.

There are also restrictions both domestic and international you should be aware of. Certain products are not allowed to be sent to specific states or countries based on rules and regulations that are in place. When shipping to a country with these rules, a shipment could be stopped and held at customs. To avoid this, make sure to do adequate research on the shipping restrictions before you open up sales to new regions. 

Wrapping Up 

Shipping is one of the hardest parts of eCommerce to nail down. But once you strategize and give it some time, you will be able to find a system that works with you and your business. If you have any questions, please make sure to reach out to us.

Shopify Apps To Boost Your E-Commerce Store

Shopify is a complete commerce platform that a large percentage of business owners use to help grow their business. It has many great features and if you are considering a platform for your eCommerce business, it is a good option to consider. If you are looking for a complete overview of Shopify, we covered it here

A big plus of Shopify is that there are plenty of applications that can be used with it. There are actually over 2000 different applications that can be used with Shopify. There are applications for marketing, sales, customer support, inventory management, and many other topics. Some are free and others will additional costs on top of your Shopify account. A general overview of the app will be available in the Shopify App Store, and how much it will cost to use the app.

It can be daunting to choose what apps will work best with your business. In this article we are going to cover our top 8 applications that we like to integrate with Shopify stores. 

Top Apps:

Listed below are our top 8 applications to use with Shopify: 

Hubspot CRM

This is the app you need if you want to organize, track, and communicate with leads and existing customers. Hubspot CRM syncs with your Shopify store and collects the data associated with it. This will help you fine tune your email and marketing campaigns. 

Hubspot CRM tracks all of the interactions that you have with leads and customers, saving them under their own customer contact. In each contact you are able to create notes, track conversations, and schedule meetings to stay on top of everything. Hubspot will quickly organize and store this information in a timeline that is easy to interpret and understand. Hubspot CRM is completely free and will always be free. 

Aftership – Track & Notify

Aftership is a tracking platform that helps you keep customers informed on where an order is once they place it. You can create your own branded tracking page with photos, marketing banners, and other media to help to engage and upsell your customers. 

Have you ever had a customer contact you multiple times for an update on a package? Aftership allows your customers to sign up for shipping notifications. As the package arrives at different locations, it will provide your customer with up to date information either via email or text. This application will help to eliminate customer frustration while also enhancing the customer experience. The application has a free version that allows you to track 100 packages a month, and then it is tiered pricing after that. 

Consistent Cart

Consistent Cart is an all in one multi-channel marketing solution. Consistent Cart offers a plethora of features that are designed to be the only app you need for your marketing. These features are used to increase the conversions with your business. A few of the features that Consistent Cart offers are:

  • Abandoned Cart Emails
  • SMS Notifications
  • Push Notifications
  • Customer Thank You Emails 
  • Happy Birthday Emails
  • Many more options

Consistent Cart is free to download, and provides users with a 14-day free trial. After that you will be charged 29$ USD per month. 

Privy

Privy is a subscription-based application that provides pop-ups, flyers, bars, and banners that can show up on your website. You can use these to promote various parts of your business while consumers are browsing your website.

Privy provides you with real time reporting to let you understand what is effective for your consumer base. The dashboards will provide you access to a number of key metrics. Privy will help you better manage abandoned carts and hopefully increase conversion. 

Coin Currency Converter 

Coin is an application specifically designed to allow you to offer multiple currency options for your customers to pay with. The app can switch the currency automatically based on IP address or the consumer can use the drop down menu and choose what currency they prefer. 

The app supports over 193 different currencies that can be used by your store and customers. If you know you only have traffic from specific countries, you are able to edit the currencies available. The exchange rates for Coin are updated throughout the day using multiple financial resources. Coin also works with other Shopify applications to make the transition into your store easier. The app offers a 14-day free trial and then charges $4.99 per month. 

Xero

Xero is a cloud based accounting software that offers a plethora of options at a good price point. It is specifically marketed towards small and medium sized businesses. The program provides features such as invoicing, payroll processing, inventory management, and others. It is starting to gain popularity with more and more bookkeepers and accountants. Many are now Xero partners. 

Xero has three different types of plans that your business can use. Prices start as low as $9 USD / Month. 

Product Reviews

Shopify product reviews allows you to add customer reviews to products. This provides your customers with an area for them to write how they feel about your product. These reviews will help you engage with customers and receive feedback on products. Good reviews can also help encourage other consumers that are on the fence about the purchase. 

This application has theme-friendly designs and and easily allows for customization. It also provides you with the option to import or export reviews from a CSV file. This is a completely free application that will help you become more engaged with your customers.

Size Matters

If you sell any sort of apparel items on your Shopify store, you should install the Size Matters application. This is a completely free app that is designed to help you create size charts for the products on your website. 

When using Size Matters, you are able to create size charts without any advanced coding knowledge. You create each chart using the table generator that’s in the app. Once that is done you add a small amount of code and product tag to finish it off. When using the app you are able to create as many size charts as you need, there is not limit. You can also customize the look of the charts for better integration with the theme of your Shopify store. 

Takeaways

With such a large library of applications, it can be hard to decide which ones to use with your Shopify store. Hopefully this article will help you add some applications to your tool kit, and increase conversions and revenue for your Shopify store. If you have any Shopify applications you would recommend please leave them in the comments below. 
If you need any help with these applications, or have any questions, please reach out to our team at any time!

Accounting Services for E-Commerce

Let’s all face it, accounting isn’t the most exciting part of running your business. But with that being said, it’s an important and can’t be ignored. With the rise in technology many different types of accounting software has been created. If you are just starting a business, or looking for a new software to use, look no further. Listed below are a few of our favorite accounting software options for your eCommerce business. 

Xero

Xero is a cloud based accounting software that offers a plethora of options at a good price point. It is specifically marketed towards small and medium sized businesses. The program provides features such as invoicing, payroll processing, inventory management, and others. It is starting to gain popularity with more and more bookkeepers and accountants. Many are now Xero partners. Xero also has the ability to pair with over seven-hundred different apps to help keep track of everything. If you’re trying to integrate directly, Xero does support direct integration with BigCommere and Shopify.

Xero has three different types of plans that your business can use. Prices start as low as $9 USD / Month. 

QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks is an accounting software package that was created by Intuit. This is a popular software that has been around for quite some time. Quickbooks online is perfect for small to medium sized businesses. Quickbooks has been made to optimize the user experience with a user-friendly navigation and it has many features that can be accessible by just one click. There is also a mobile application which will allow you to do accounting when you don’t have access to your laptop or desktop. Quickbooks offers a direct integration with Shopfiy and BigCommerce for those looking to make the process as seamless as possible.

There are many online videos and resources to help you better understand Quickbooks and all of the features that it has to offer. If you need any additional help with QuickBooks, they offer a strong online support. QuickBooks is tiered and offers multiple plans, they start as low as $10 USD / Month. 

Wave Accounting

Wave Accounting is an online accounting software that is designed for small businesses and entrepreneurs. It is a perfect program to use if you are just starting out or if you have a small budget. Wave offers many of the features that the programs above do, it is very simple and has  mobile application that you can download. If you would like to use Wave with Shopify or Bigcommerce, there is no direct integration available but it is possible to use third party apps.

Wave has a tiered pricing, just like many of the other programs. The most basic level of the program is free. 

FreeAgent

This is another cloud-based accounting software. It has been designed to be very simple, with no hassle to manage your business’s accounting. FreeAgent has a few unique features that other programs do not. One of the features, is hassle-free expense tracking. You can take a photo of the receipt on the application, and it will upload it into your documents. FreeAgent also provides you with the option to link in your bank statements, for easier viewing of all of your spending. 

It is important to note that FreeAgent doesn’t include some features that larger businesses may use more regularly. For example, it doesn’t have purchase order tracking, or inventory management. If you would like to use FreeAgent with Shopify or Bigcommerce, there is no direct integration available but it is possible to use third party apps.

FreeAgent doesn’t have tiered pricing like many of the other programs. It is $12 USD for the first six months, and then after that it is $24 USD / month. 

Wrapping Up

Accounting isn’t the most glorious part of a business but it must be done. Hopefully after examining a few of the programs, you are on your way to choosing a new program to help with the nitty gritty part of your business. Remember before you commit to any particular accounting program to do your research and see how it will work with your sales platform. If you have any questions, please reach out to our team. 

How To Choose An E-Commerce Platform

Setting up and building an e-Commerce business isn’t as easy as some people view it from the outside, some think you just upload products to the internet and you will start making money. Unfortunately starting an e-Commerce business isn’t that easy. There are a lot of different steps that you must go through and consider before you have a site up and running. One of the most important things to consider is the platform that you are going to use to host your e-Commerce site. In this article we are going to examine some of the factors you should consider when choosing your e-Commerce platform.

Pricing

This is one of the first and most important aspects that a business will consider when choosing the right platform. If you are just starting out, you probably have a limited budget and won’t be able to afford a costly monthly fee. Many e-Commerce platforms offer a tiered pricing system, many have a budget level that still offers the majority of the features. Then it will go up and more features will be unlocked with each step up. It’s important to compare the features you can get on each.

Depending on the pricing it will also affect the types of payments you will be allowed to process when customers are placing orders. Some platforms will accept certain types of payment, and others will not. Sometimes you have to pay extra to allow third-party payments such as PayPal. Look into the types of payments you would like to be able to process before choosing a platform. 

Mobile Integration

Phones have become a large part of our everyday life, and now it has become a part of our online shopping routine. It is important to consider platforms that allow an easy transition from desktop to mobile. Some perform this transition better than others, take a look at websites that are already running on platforms that you are considering. Compare the desktop version to your phone. 

Is it as responsive? Are all of the images still loading? How user friendly is it? Putting yourself in the customer’s shoes will help you enhance the experience on your own site. 

Plugins

Another important thing to look into when choosing a platform is the integration that it can have with other programs. These other tools and programs can help you run your business in a much smoother way. Shopify and Bigcommerce, for example, both have plenty of plugins to allow you to use other applications with your platform. Bigcommerce has a page showing all of the different plugins that are available, and which ones they recommend as well. 

If you have certain applications that you already use, or applications you know will be critical to your site, take a look at the platforms plugin options before committing.

Customer Service

As much as we like to think that this is a perfect world, it sadly is not, and not everything will go as planned. A site will go down, servers can freeze, payment can’t be processed, there is a whole number of things that can go wrong. This is why it is so crucial to read reviews and see how each platform deals with these situations as they arise. 

When reading about the customer service there are a few things you should consider:

  • How often are they available, is it all day everyday?
  • What methods can you use to contact the support team?
  • How quickly do issues usually get resolved?

Takeaways

It is going to take you a lot of time, money, and effort to set up your e-Commerce website. Make sure that this time and money isn’t being wasted! Nothing is more frustrating than setting up your website, and a few months later deciding to switch the e-Commerce platform that you’ve been using. The factors we listed above are just a few of the things you should consider. Make sure to take your time, and if you need any help, please let us know. 

Google Ads Academy

30 years ago the internet was a passing fad, it has since grown into a critical component of everyday life. All this growth has changed how many of us market online and the skills we need to do so. A key player in this game is Google. The tools Google provides for businesses, such as Adwords and Analytics, are popular resources that almost every business is now using. This has inspired Google to create a set of certifications to help individuals get better at using these products, and to help use them more efficiently for their business.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a popular web analytics tool created by Google. It provides you with information on traffic to your website, how consumers interact with your website, purchasing information, and many more topics. If you are new to Google Analytics, Google has created the Google Analytics Academy to help you start using this program for your online business. This is also a great tool for anyone in the marketing field to become more familiar with this popular tool. The Google Analytics Academy is the resource you need to be using if you use Google Analytics for your website analytics. The academy provides 6 different certifications that you can complete, starting from the very basics and moving up to the more complicated ways to use the program. If you are looking for additional information on Google Analytics you can find it here and here.

Google Ads

Google Ads is an online advertising program created by Google for the Google ad network. This includes the Google search engine, websites, and any mobile applications that Google has created. It allows companies to display short ads, product listings, videos, and other forms of advertising on the Google network. This network has a massive audience and could be very beneficial for your company. Like Google Analytics, there is a Google Ads Academy. There are multiple different lessons you can take to give you a better understanding of how to use the program and how it can benefit your business. Personally I think that the Google Ads Mobile, Search, and Display are the first few lessons that you should complete. You can find more info on Google Ads here.

Other Programs

Google offers additional programs on top of the Google Ads and Analytics training. Google has another academy known as Google Digital Academy. This program offers a wide range of programs to help companies to stay ahead of changes. They provide this information in videos on Youtube and articles that can be accessed online. Google also has a physical Academy space in London, so if you live in England or are visiting, it would be worth stopping in for a class or two. Are you still looking to learn more? Google has made a mobile application called Primer. The main focus of primer is to provide you with quick, easy, and interactive ways to continue learning new marketing strategies. It provides lessons on the ever changing marketing world, and also provides refresher lessons on more basic, but essential topics. There are over 18 topics available on Primer. The best part about Primer is that you can take the lessons anywhere and at anytime, you can even use the application if you don’t have service.

Wrapping Up

With the ever changing world of marketing, Google is going to have a significant impact on how you choose to run your online business. Google has multiple tools that can help take your business to the next level. Luckily they have made these products free, and the training and resources associated with them as well. If you have any questions about Google’s products and how to use them, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.