Posts Tagged ‘eCommerce’

Making Money with Your Online Store (Part 2)

October 21st, 2013

Once you get your online store up and running, how do you get the word out and keep those folks coming back? While there’s no magic solution, here are our tips on promoting your eCommerce site and maintaining a customer base.

Make Friends with Social Networking

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These days, everyone and their goldfish have a Facebook page, so why shouldn’t you? Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are great way to gain fans and customers – but remember to only get started if you plan to keep your accounts active. It won’t be too hard to think of ways to maintain your social networking page: you can encourage your fans to advertise for you by offering freebies, discount codes, or contests to those who share your products or page. A social networking page could also be great platform for your customers to share their pictures or reviews of your products. And of course, don’t forget the power of a good old-fashioned post where you can share updates, news, or anything you like!

Check out our 3 blog posts on enhancing Facebook business page engagement.

Online Advertising

If you have money within your budget, online advertising can significantly boost your eCommerce site traffic and establish your image. Some popular advertising programs include Google Adwords, Amazon Product Ad, or Facebook Ads. Think of your target demographic when you decide where to advertise – placing ads for your luxury auto parts business on a coupon-hunting site might not be the best move. After you’ve planted a few ads, continue to analyze your site statistics to identify the most effective placements by making use of Google Analytics.

Don’t Be Wary of Large Marketplaces

You don’t need to compete with the big guys. Well, in a sense you do, but use them to help you out as well! Online Marketplaces like Etsy, Amazon and eBay have a lot to offer. You can get your name out there by hitching on: they are known, trusted, and most importantly, they have a large built-in customer base. Try adding links to redirect visitors to your site whenever possible, and make sure that your product catalog is easily found.

Pay Attention to SEO

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Don’t underestimate the importance of SEO in the eCommerce game! Consider starting a blog where you can create relevant and compelling content. This can drive traffic to your site and encourage others to link and share your information. Also, stay active in relevant forums, but DON’T cross the line into Suzie Spammer territory. You don’t want to brashly post links to your site anywhere and everywhere: the goal is to establish yourself in the forum community, gain contacts, and keep up to date with industry news.

Site Performance and Speed

Your website speed and performance directly impact your bounce rate, visitor satisfaction and store reputation. With eCommerce and other image-heavy websites, initial page loading times can be especially slooow, and potential customers might not stick around for the wait. Here at Doteasy, we’ve been pondering the best way to offer exceptionally fast hosting to our clients, and we’ve come out with a SSD hosting plan. Not just any SSD hosting: we have a 100 GB plan that entirely uses a Solid State Drive for storage… at the lowest price in the world. That means load times for SSD sites can be up to 30X faster than traditional HDD counterparts. We believe in SSD hosting so strongly that we’re offering our plan for only US$4.95/ month for the first year: it should be accessible to everyone.

So get out there and start raking in the dough with your online store! Yes, there will be work involved and the beginning might be slow-going, but with patience and diligence, the pay-off can be huge.

Bonus tip: Don’t want to deal with setting up an online store? We can do it for you with our Doteasy eCommerce Solution.

Making Money with Your Online Store (Part 1)

October 16th, 2013

When thinking of “online store” or “eCommerce,” sites like Amazon.com and images of glitter and cash stacks come to mind. Well, at least for some people. For the rest of us, an eCommerce store can seem like an intimidating venture, with questions of how to get started and how to keep it from failing. Here are our tips on how to start and cultivate a successful online store. Who knows? Glitter and stacks of cash could be your future.

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Have a Business Plan

Yes, we think “business plan” sounds all official and boring, but creating one is not as difficult as you might think. You’ve probably already subconsciously created one! However, really knowing your plan can help you design all aspects of your eCommerce site. Questions to ask yourself include: What are you selling? Who are you selling to? What does your target audience need? How does your shop offer the solution to their needs? Who are your competitors? How do you differ?

These questions can help you develop a strategy to plan the layout of your site, prepare your advertising materials, and build a brand for your store.

Think Like Your Customer

Now that you know who your target customer is, it’s time to get inside their head. What would be the most logical way to display your products from a consumer’s viewpoint? Putting those plungers next to the lip balms might not be the best choice. Categorize similar product styles together, and consider putting complementary items side by side to potentially increase your sales. Above all, make your product page easy to navigate so customers can find what they’re looking for.

No One Likes a Sketchy Display

The look of your product display is arguably the most important aspect of an online store. A good look will assure your potential customers of the quality and legitimacy of your shop. Use attractive, high resolution images that can clearly show colours, materials, or relative size. Add detailed descriptions that can help potential customers trust that they’re making an informed purchase!  Remember that you want your products to make a good first impression. If you ever catch yourself uttering the phrase (or any variation of): “this picture is good enough for now,” chances are, it’s not.

Give it Away!

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Entice your customers to make a purchase with great promos. Buy 1 Get 1 Free, a free item with purchase, or free shipping are great offers that can tempt your customers to the checkout.

KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!)

As you pay attention to the look, quality, and advertising methods of your eCommerce shop, never forget the importance of keeping your site simple and easy to navigate. It would be useless if your site looks amazingly attractive, but your customers can’t find their way to the checkout! Also, put your shipping cost and return policy information in an easy-to-find spot to settle uneasy potential customers.

These are a few tips that focus on the branding and usability of your eCommerce site. We’ll be coming out with more tips on how to promote your online store, so check back soon!

Take your business online (Part 4 of 4): PayPal Cart, Zen Cart and Doteasy Commerce

November 29th, 2007

Doteasy eCommerce: The Shopping Cart

So now comes the big question – which shopping cart should you use?

As we have mentioned in our Shopping Cart section, whichever cart you choose depends on how well it fits your needs, your budget and your experience with scripts and databases.

PayPal Shopping Cart

Free shopping cart software by PayPal. With a PayPal Cart, you don’t need a SSL certificate or scripting knowledge. PayPal provides with a store HTML link that basically directs your customers to your store on the PayPal server. All SSL and scripting functionality as well as payment processing is handled by PayPal.

Downsides of the PayPal cart include its limited features and customization capability. For example, PayPal’s standard cart does not support inventory management, or direct links to USPS or UPS shipping methods.

PayPal is good for small stores that have minimal products and minimal monthly transactions.

Zen Cart

Zen Cart is a free, open-source shopping cart. By saying that, the Zen Cart script is free to use and its source codes are open for anyone to modify or customize. This allows for the improvements and further developments of the software with other programmers and designers. Unfortunately, free and open-source also means there are chances of being hacked.

Zen Cart is acclaimed for being user-friendly, with it’s easily installation and extensive FAQ and help via forums.Because you will need to upload the scripts onto your server, you will need to make sure your hosting plan offers the required scripting and database support (PHP and MySQL). You will also need a SSL certificate, a payment gateway service, and a merchant account.

For information, including the installation guide, can be found here.

Compared with the PayPal Cart, with the Zen Cart, you will be getting more features and functionality (either built-in or through add-ons that you have to install separately). But, you will need a powerful hosting package that offers scripting and database support and you will need to install the scripts.

Doteasy Commerce

While many shopping carts seem to be a little too technical for the average non-technical user, the Doteasy Commerce is easy to use. We do all the installation and configuration for you.

The Doteasy Commerce has the features that you’ll see in the open-source carts, but because it is focused on sales and marketing, you will find more marketing features, such as product recommendation, promotional codes and discounts, email newsletters and product update communication, search-engine friendly meta data and tags, etc.

The Doteasy Commerce is not an open-source shopping cart. In fact, your source codes are compiled. This acts as an extra security feature. Say, if someone taps onto your store will ill intentions, they will not be able to tamper with your shopping cart’s codes. You do, however, have access to your storefront files – allowing for advanced storefront customization.

Doteasy Commerce allows you to setup real-time shipping inquiries for UPS, FedEx, USPS and Canada Post. Supported payment gateways include Authorize.net, 2Checkout, HSBC, Moneris, and more. Of course, if you want to use the PayPal gateway, you don’t need to worry about purchasing a SSL certificate.

So, considering the same basic requirements (advanced hosting plan, SSL certificate, payment gateway and merchant account) and the same basic functionality, why choose the Doteasy Commerce and not a free open-source shopping cart?

  • Many of the free open-source shopping carts are often geared towards a business owner who is technically proficient. Because the average user may not be tech-savvy, they might not have implemented their shopping cart correctly. The shopping cart is your interface between you and your customers. You want to make sure they see the professional side of you and your business, and a poorly implemented cart will not do justice.
  • Most free carts rely on support from other users via forums. Unfortunately, uptime means sales generated, downtime means sales lost. Support is an important issue and with a pay-shopping cart, you’re guaranteed support

More information on the Doteasy Commerce, including features, demo, and how to order.

Taking Your Business Online (Part 3 of 4): Payment Process

November 29th, 2007

This refers to the process of obtaining the money from your customer and transferring it into your account.

Payment processing can be online or offline.

Offline payment processing is recommended for sites with minimal volume of transactions. With offline payment processing, you will be handling your payments manually: depositing a cheque or money-order sent by the client, or manually processing credit card transitions via your Point of Sales (POS) terminal.

Online payment processing is recommended for sites with high volume of transactions. With online payment processing, payment will be taken automatically via an online payment gateway and a merchant account for higher efficiency. With automation, they do not have to manually process or handle transaction payments. When a customer submits their credit card information on your website, the information is then transferred to the payment gateway. The information is then validated and funds transferred directly into your merchant account.

Questions you might have:

  1. What are merchant accounts? Do I need one?
  2. What is a payment gateway? Do I need it?

You do not need a merchant account to do business online. But if you are planning to accept credit card payments on your online store, you will need an online merchant account. You can setup an online merchant account through a Merchant Service Provider (MSP) or through your local bank.

A payment gateway is a service provider that automates the payment transaction between your customer and you. They act as the bridge between your online store and your bank.

To understand how it works (click to enlarge image):

Payment Process

You will need an online merchant account if you would like your customers to be able to pay you in a real-time environment (ie. online) with their credit cards.

If you do not want to accept orders via credit card or you want to accept credit cards but you will be manually processing the payment transactions offline, then you will not need a payment gateway nor an online merchant account.

Next, we’ll examine a few of the shopping carts support on our Doteasy hosting services: PayPal Cart, Zen Cart and Doteasy Commerce.