October 25, 2011

Ultimate Online Shop Pre-Holiday Checklist

Filed under: Ecommerce — Tags: , , — Meredith @ 11:13 am

The holiday rush is about to begin in the retail world. Are you ready for your busy season? Here’s a handy checklist of things you should make sure you’ve completed before the rush begins:

Your Marketing
__ Pitches to gift guides (Deadlines for most print outlets have passed, they are probably working on Valentine’s day, but online outlets are still accepting pitches and online placements are pretty awesome in my book.)

__ Plan your advertising (where will you advertise, what’s your projected ROI, what will the ads look like/what messaging will they contain, will you be testing ad variations, how will you be tracking ad performance)

__ Plan your promotional offers (will you be doing a Black Friday special, what will the offer be, is the offer compelling and easy to take advantage of, are the promotions you’re offering in line with the price you need to charge for your products)

__ Schedule your email blasts (what dates and times will you be contacting your newsletter subscribers, what content will you include in those mailings)

__ Make sure your products can be found on Google Shopping and Bing Shopping

__ Include marketing in your shipping procedures

Your Site

__ Make site ready for the season (Make sure all the copy and promotions are relevant to the time of year. Dress up your home page with seasonal themes/promotions. While you’re at it, make sure your site isn’t annoying or otherwise crappy.)

__ Make sure your product photos and product descriptions are at their best (make sure you are using human models where appropriate)

__ Make sure products are merchandised for easy browsing in ways customers like to shop (and don’t forget about cross-sells)

__ Post shipping date cut offs for Christmas delivery (and make sure this info is easy to find)

__Verify that your site answers questions customers commonly ask (and make sure the answers are listed in places customers would intuitively look for them)

__ Make sure your site is set up to encourage secondary conversions. Customers who don’t buy now for gifts make come back after the holidays to get something for themselves, you want to encourage them to take actions so you can keep in touch.

__ Offer gift cards for sale that customers can instantly download and print (great for last minute shoppers)

__ Offer free printables

Your Headquarters

__ Make sure you are adequately stocked with products to fill order demand

__ Make sure your shipping area is organized and stocked with supplies you need.

__ Streamline your shipping process

__ Be prepared to handle international shipping

__ Make sure you’ve set up an easy way for customers to do returns and exchanges

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August 26, 2010

Calling All Holiday Advertising Partners

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 9:05 am

I’ve been quiet here lately because I’ve been crazy busy getting ready for the holidays. It might seem eons away, but in retail terms, the holidays are almost here. I am trying to wrap up my website enhancements for my own ecommerce website this week and I’ll be sharing my changes next week.

In the meantime, I want to call your attention to holiday advertising. As many of you know, I run co-op advertising websites though Smaller Box. These co-ops allow indie designers to share the cost of advertising and buy expensive ad space we can’t afford on our own. For my own ecommerce business, this form of advertising has been tremendously successful. That’s why I’m looking for partners to advertise with for the holidays.

My goal is to set up a special holiday advertising co-op website and gather enough members to split the cost of ads on sites like  Dlisted, Cute Overload, and Design Sponge. These blogs get millions of views during the holiday months and would bring a deluge of new customers, Facebook fans, newsletter subscribers, word of mouth, etc. It’s the kind of reach I could never afford to deliver for my brand on my own, which is why finding partners is a priority.

My goal is to offer membership to this co-op for a flat rate around $500.00 for the full year. (Meaning this one time payment gets your brand into the co-op for 12 months.) Those dues would be used to run ads from early October to end of December. Members would have their products featured on the co-op website all year long, even after the ads stop running. Members would also be able to promote on the co-op newsletters all year long.

Speaking of which, I plan to use the new co-op to get a new mailing list together. All co-op members would be welcome to share their promotions on this new mailing list, plus my existing lists (which go to thousands of indie shopping fans each month). I will be doing a special Cyber Monday mailing in November to the lists and all co-op members will be encouraged to share promotions. I will also be establishing a Twitter account and Facebook fan page for the new co-op so you’ll have even more avenues to promote all year long.

If you’re interested in becoming a part of this new co-op please enter your email address below. Once I get enough co-op members together I’ll email you with more details.  Space will be limited so if you’re interested please sign up now:

Your Email:

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August 18, 2010

Preparing To Ship for the Holidays

Filed under: Ecommerce — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 11:43 am

The holiday season is both the most lucrative and stressful time of the year for online retailers. A big part of the aggravation comes from shipping. Customers have high expectations and they often want you to do what’s beyond your control. To avoid the wrath of your customers, here are a few things you can do to minimize your shipping woes:

1. Encourage Early Birds
The best way to guarantee holiday delivery is by getting customers to order early. You can do this by offering special incentives for early birds. Send out Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions to your mailing list contacts and social media contacts. Offer a special coupon code for customers who order before December 1st.

This offer may get your biggest fans to order early. This will get them their orders in plenty of time and keep your company in their good graces.

2. Post Shipping Deadlines Clearly
Figure out what the dates are that you must have orders in by in order to offer delivery by Christmas, and then post this information on EVERY page of your website. Your home page is NOT sufficient. People will enter your site from product pages and may never see your home page. This is why it’s so important that customers are able to find these deadlines from every page.

You may need to create a table like this:

US First Class Mail December 13th
US Priority Mail December 16th
US Express Mail December 20th
International First Class Mail December 1st
International Express Mail December 15th

This will allow customers to easily see the options they have available.  Be sure that the dates you select not only account for delivery time, but also for the time you’ll need to get your orders ready to ship. Your business will be busier than ever and you may not be able to get orders packed the day they come in.

3. Offer Multiple Shipping Options
If at all possible, allow customers to select an upgraded faster shipping method, in case they’re ordering later in the month. This will be a more expensive option, but it still gives the procrastinators the option to get their order delivered on time.

4. Be Honest With International Customers
International shipping is by far the most problematic part of holiday shipping. Global customs and postal agencies are flooded with packages and it’s very hard to know how fast your order will be delivered. I had a package arrive at a Canadian customer’s home over a month after I shipped last year. I shipped at the end of November and the package didn’t show up until mid January!

The honest truth about international shipping is that the only way you can 100% guarantee delivery by a certain date is by using a private courier like UPS or FedEx. These services will not only charge a hefty delivery fee, they’ll also charge a hefty fee for expediting your package through customs. If you offer this option to customers, be sure to warn them about these charges.

If you go with USPS international shipping, using Priority or Express options will help get your package to the destination country faster, but it can’t force your package through the destination country’s local customs and postal offices by a certain date.  Be honest with international customers about your international shipping offerings. You can tell them how long it should take to get their order with your chosen delivery method, but unless you use a private service, do not make iron-clad guarantees.

5. Offer Gift Cards
Gift cards are the perfect solution to holiday shipping woes. They can be delivered as late as Christmas Eve, and they make a great gift since the recipient can pick exactly what they want.

I link my gift card page on my shipping deadlines page. That way I can send customers to the gift cards if they’ve missed cut off dates.

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August 16, 2010

4 Ways to Merchandise for the Holidays

Fall is drawing close and that means holiday season isn’t far behind. To maximize your sales, it’s best to plan early for holiday merchandising. You want to make it easy for customers to find the perfect gifts. Presenting your products in a gift guide format also gives you some built-in search engine optimization and landing pages for your ad campaigns. Here are some ways to present your wares:

1. Under $25.00, $10.00, $5.00
Everyone’s on a budget, sometimes we even get into Secret Santa pools with set budgets we have to stick to. That’s why it’s a good idea to present merchandise by price. It immediately allows a site visitor to peruse products within his or her budget. Clicking products just to see prices can get frustrating. I’ve abandoned more than a few sites for this reason alone.

2. Gifts for Him/Her/Kids
Help your customers find something perfect for everyone on their shopping list by breaking items down into categories for gift recipients.  Be sure to think about different groups like co-workers, men, women, teens, children, babies, mom, dad, grandma and grandpa.

3. Gifts for Artists/Foodies/Runners
If you have items in your inventory that appeal to niche interests make separate gift guides for those people. This type of categorization is fantastic for search engine optimization. Such specific phrases tend to convert well and have lower levels of competition. Think about all the different specific niche audiences out there who might enjoy your products and do a gift guide for each one.

4. Stocking Stuffers
Small, inexpensive products are perfect for categorizing as stocking stuffers. Think of items like notepads, buttons, hair accessories and other fun little items people can fit into a stocking for a low price.

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April 20, 2010

The Best Thing I Did For My Business Part 6: Well-Timed Campaigns

Filed under: Case Studies — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 6:22 am

In past articles, I’ve written about the importance of timing your promotions for the season and planning your promotional calendar in advance. OverstockArt.com has done just this with their Mother’s Day promotions.

Overstock Art is one of the Web’s leading distributors of reproduction oil paintings. To boost Mother’s Day sales the company sent out a special discount code for 40% off on oil paintings featured in their Mother’s Day gallery.

The company rounded out their plan with pitches to publications writing Mother’s Day gift guides and a blog post featuring the ten most popular oil paintings featuring images of motherhood. These efforts are a perfect example of promotions, PR and SEO all working in unison to help boost sales for a holiday.

Do It Yourself:
Make a list of upcoming holidays and events and brainstorm for ways to incorporate your products. Think about special promotions you can offer via email and social media. Think about how you can get press. Consider how you can improve your SEO to optimize for traffic and sales at various times of the year.

For more ideas read my article on planning your promotional calendar in advance.

Tried This Tactic?
Have you successfully run a marketing campaign based around a season or holiday? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

<< Read Part 1: Self-Promotion
<< Read Part 2: Twitter
<< Read Part 3: Giving Customers VIP Deals
<< Read Part 4: Expanding Your Line
<< Read Part 5: Success by Association
Read Part 7: Stimulating the Senses >>
Read Part 8: Harnessing the Press >>

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