Ecommerce Platforms https://ecommerce-platforms.com unbiased reviews and comparisons of online shopping cart software Thu, 18 Jan 2018 23:04:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.2 A Return Policy Template to Refund & Skyrocket Sales on Your Store https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/return-policy-template https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/return-policy-template#respond Wed, 17 Jan 2018 10:00:35 +0000 https://ecommerce-platforms.com/?p=13624 If you're a returning visitor, you might have realized that this website is filled with various guides to increase your online sales. From improving engagement with your online store to boosting sales during the holiday season, ecommerce professionals are constantly…

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If you're a returning visitor, you might have realized that this website is filled with various guides to increase your online sales. From improving engagement with your online store to boosting sales during the holiday season, ecommerce professionals are constantly on the lookout for the next best way to make a tweak and pad those margins.

But did you ever think about how that return and refund policy could really help out your customers?

Wouldn't it be nice to have a tested return policy template that's known to help out with sales?

It's easy to compare to Amazon, but in this respect, it makes a lot of sense.

Amazon doesn't do anything fancy, but its return policy is hard to beat. In fact, as long as you live a few blocks from a UPS there's almost nothing to it when returning an item. Most items are given a 30-day return policy, and Amazon extends this policy during the holiday season. Oh yeah, and if you pass that threshold Amazon still allows customers to trade-in or sell back their products.

Now, let's take a look at LL Bean. The company is famous for having one of the best return policies in the world, so it makes sense that LL Bean has so many loyal customers. In short, LL Bean does state that it can reject a return or exchange at any time, but most customers report being able to return used items, items without tags, items without receipts, and more. In fact, many times the company is fully willing to let you exchange a product used for years.

So, where does that leave you?

It leaves you with two choices:

Would you like to set up a return policy template that makes it easy for your customers, or are you more interested in wowing customers with how flexible you are?

In order to communicate a decent policy to your users, it's important to display it on your website. That's why we've put together the ideal return policy template for you to start off with.

Elements of a Great Return Policy Template to Build Trust with Customers

Not every return policy is going to look the same. Obviously, you would want to customize the policy with your company name and other specifics, but in general, you should focus on a policy with the following elements:

Keep it Short and Sweet

Take a Look at the LL Bean Return Policy.

return policy template

It doesn't go much longer than the screen, so technically the customer doesn't have to scroll down if they're only looking for the rules. It outlines the details and special conditions ( which is only a short list of bullet points,) along with what happens if you try to misuse the flexible policy.

In addition, LL Bean has the company philosophy towards the top, pretty much stating that you can return or exchange the majority of products, even after being worn.

And that's how it should be. If you plan on having a return policy that looks like a long privacy or security policy, no one is going to read it.

Have a Quick Link to Print a Return Form and Shipping Label

There's a UPS no more than a block away from my house in Chicago. Therefore, when I want to return an Amazon package all I have to do is print out the shipping label, walk it over to UPS, and hand it to the person at the counter. If I already have it in a box they'll tape it up for me. If not, a box is provided. It's just about the simplest return process I've ever encountered.

return policy example

Every return policy template requires a quick link to print a return form and shipping label. You should also test out the process with your own items to see how quickly UPS employees take the package and box it up. If they look confused then maybe there's something wrong with your labels.

Consider Unlimited Time for Returns (Or Something Close)

Want to beat out the big dogs like Amazon? Consider giving your customers an unlimited time window to bring in their items. We already talked about how LL Bean does this, but you can also see this in other stores like Costco and REI. Costco doesn't allow this on some items like TVs and other electronics, but most other items are included.

refund policy template

If this seems impossible for your business, take some advice from Kohls and stick to a one-year return policy. At least this is 12-times better than what customers get on Amazon.

Offer In-store Returns

This only applies to online shops with retail stores as well. It's one of the main reasons places like Walmart and Target still have an advantage over Amazon. REI does a wonderful job of this as well. Why? Because it's much easier to hand a return to a person than it is to print out that shipping label and work with UPS or the post office.

Some additional rules when devising a return policy:

  • Never copy and paste a return policy template like this. It's only going to cause problems down the road for your SEO, since you'll have duplicate content on your website. Instead, take a template and use it as a guide, then completely rewrite it for your company.
  • Avoid intimidating statements like “you must” or “it is required.” These statements don't build trust at all. Instead, they sound like your customers are being forced to do something.
  • Make sure your entire staff knows and is educated about the policies. Otherwise, you're going to have some unsettling conversations between staff and customers.
  • Advertise your policy. You should be proud of your return policy, so there's no reason to hide it like you would a privacy policy. That's not to say you're embarrassed by a privacy policy, but that's typically a more intimidating document to read.

A Return Policy Template That Can Help With Sales

And now for the template you've all been waiting for. In theory, it's not all that difficult to formulate one of these. It's more a matter of whether or not your operations are ready for what you promise on the policy. For instance, you can write about how you're willing to accept returns within a year's time, but can your staff manage that?

Anyway, here's our favorite return policy template for online stores:

Full disclosure, this template is based off the LL Bean policy, since it's such as well-shaped outline:

(Include a paragraph that explains your company philosophy about returns. Is your company all about letting people use the products then return them? Are you trying to create an environment where the return process is fast and easy?)

In order to protect all customers and ensure that all returns and exchanges are handled fairly, (insert company name) may require a receipt or decline your return or exchange in some situations, such as: 

  • Products that were not bought directly from (insert company name) – like from a thrift store
  • Products that have been defaced
  • Products with missing labels
  • Products without receipts or store IDs
  • Products that haven't been cleaned
  • Products that have been lost or damaged to the point where they aren't usable

Make a Return or Exchange through the Mail

Do you need to make an exchange immediately?

Order online or call (insert phone number) for the fastest delivery.

The Refund details

It will take up to (how many weeks) to receive a full refund. Gifts receive a merchandise credit, but most of the time we reimburse you with the payment method used.

1. Find the Packing Slip

Find and complete the form printed on the packing slip that came with your order. (You might also have a link for the customer to print out a new one.)

2. Prepare the Package

Include the item, receipt, and packing slip. Use the original packaging or something similar.

3. Attach the Shipping Label

Include a link here for them to print out the shipping label. You might also need to specify how much the return shipping will cost them. 

 4. Ship Us Your Package

Take the package to a UPS location. (Include a link for them to find locations to UPS, or something like USPS or FedEx).

(If Needed) Include a Section About Returning to a Store

It doesn't matter whether you purchased your item at an (insert company name) retail store or online. You can always bring the item into one of the stores for a full refund. 

Final Note

Places like Shopify have return policy generators, but once again, you should only use this as a starting point. Stray away from copying and pasting, since it's only going to make your policy sound generic, and you're most likely going to hurt yourself in the SEO game.

Do You Have a Refund Policy Template That'll Actually Help Your Business?

This return policy template is sure to get you started, but don't forget about making it your own.

And when I say that, I'm talking about more than just changing the fields (company name and contact information). Think about what makes your store unique and how you can get customers talking about your return policy over others.

We encourage you to take this template as a building block, then utilize some of the tips we've talked about in this article.

There are also plenty of other real-world return policy examples you can search for on Google and check out when you're shopping.

Have you come across any good return policy examples? Please do share the templates!

If you have any questions about our return policy template, or how to formulate a quality policy, let us know in the comments section below.


Feature Image by Marcus

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Buying From Alibaba: How to Have a Secure Buying Experience https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/buying-from-alibaba https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/buying-from-alibaba#respond Mon, 15 Jan 2018 10:00:17 +0000 https://ecommerce-platforms.com/?p=13804 Oh, the wonderful world of Alibaba! Just like the old tale, a trip to Alibaba’s website can either unearth many treasures or lead you down a path to destruction. Either way, buying from Alibaba can be quite the adventure. Your…

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Oh, the wonderful world of Alibaba!

Just like the old tale, a trip to Alibaba’s website can either unearth many treasures or lead you down a path to destruction.

Either way, buying from Alibaba can be quite the adventure.

Your first visit to Alibaba can be a little intimidating. You’ve probably heard stories of people being scammed on the website and are probably wondering if it could happen to you.

Here’s the truth:

Shopping from Alibaba is relatively safe if you know where to shop from. There are good and honest suppliers on Alibaba, but there are also a few undesirables lurking on the platform. That's a usual sight in any marketplace.

What if I told you that there is a way for you to have an enjoyable, secure, and profitable experience through Alibaba by spending an extra two minutes? I can guarantee your safety.

Well, here's how you can have a great buying experience from Alibaba:

Trade Assurance Can Save You Money

Trade Assurance Screencap

So there you are, ready to search for your next business supplier.

You will now be presented with a filter underneath the search box- make sure you tick all three of them, especially ‘Trade Assurance'. These three boxes are pretty much the first steps to finding good suppliers on Alibaba.

Trade Assurance can be considered escrow protection as the money you send will go directly to the supplier's bank account, but if something goes wrong you’ll have some form of protection.

Choose Gold Suppliers

What’s so special about Gold Suppliers? I'm glad you asked.

Gold Suppliers Screencap

The truth is:

There are still some nasty gold suppliers that can get your order wrong or give you a hard time, but a Gold supplier is a membership that’s exclusive to select sellers on Alibaba. They get more product exposure and other perks from Alibaba.

The Gold Supplier membership is expensive, so it should offer a baseline of protection against scammers. After all, they worked hard to get there. A better way of using the Gold Supplier rating is to use it in conjunction with the number of years they have been aGold Supplier for.

The longer the better, like these guys for instance:

ecommerce return policy

Make Sure That There Has Been a Supplier Assessment

Here is the third of those three magical checkboxes and quite possibly the most important one out of the three.

Some say that the onsite check is alright, but if you really want that added layer of trust, it won’t hurt to only select suppliers that have had a Supplier Assessment.

A Supplier Assessment basically means that a third party has checked out the company and their factory. Getting this assessment is difficult, but you can sleep better at night knowing that you’re dealing with a business that has gone over and beyond to be recognized for their export prowess.

Supplier Assessment Screencap

For example, this company when viewed shows that it has been verified onsite by a third party inspection company.

To the left, you’ll find details about their capabilities, business performance and some other additional information such as the trade shows they have been a part of.

Validate What They’re Saying About Themselves

If you have a contact in China that can validate the company, great! If you can go to the factory itself, even better!

However, most of us will find that going to China would defeat our economies of scale altogether, but there are ways to validate a company without leaving your couch.

You’ve ticked off Supplier Assessment and are sure about your third-party validation.

Another way to validate the company is to check out their phone numbers through a call, their website or domain through whois search, and the Chinese Yellowpages directories like www.chinaeall.com and www.cnaic.org.cn.

WHOIS Lookup

A whois lookup will shed some light on the ownership of their website, check out their email and see if anything is suspicious.

You can also use Google to check out their company name alongside the word “scam” or “fraud” in quotes.

What Are Other People Saying About Your Supplier

Let's stop for a second:

Remember how you asked around about that special someone before you got married/started dating?

It’s the same thing with business and dealing with suppliers on Alibaba. Asking around is generally a good practice especially if you want to start a business relationship.

There are plenty of forums, but a good forum to check out a supplier, a category or a product is the Alibaba forum itself.

A simple Google search such as the one shown in the below screenshot isolates all your queries using quotation marks to the respective Alibaba forum.

Don't you just love these search engine operators?

Search Engine Operators

You Cannot, I Repeat, Cannot Buy Branded Items Wholesale From Alibaba

Here’s the deal:

If you’re buying branded items from Alibaba, keep a strict eye on your supplier.

Parent companies of branded items have strict distribution policies with their factories in China.

So if someone claims that they can export branded items in bulk, it's probably a scam.

Check Out The Company’s History

Use this at your own discretion. Next to the information on the specific product that you’re looking at you’ll find this:

Supplier Diamonds

These diamonds are an indication of transaction-level points obtained by the company for their transactions awarded by Alibaba.

Alibaba explains these:

Alibaba Diamond Guide

According to Alibaba, the Trading Level is, “based on an accumulated score awarded for total online transaction volume and amount”.

The higher the score, the better the volume and amount so to speak.

Also, when you go the company page there is usually a section called Transaction History. Here you’ll find a summary of how many transactions they’ve processed in the year.

Supplier Transaction History

There are two ways to interpret this data, one is that you can probably trust a company that has made a lot of transactions in the past.

I mean, why won’t you?

Bigger transactions pretty much mean that they’re currently in the business and that they’ve been in the business for a while now.

You could also be looking for a new and reliable company which doesn't involve in scamming practices and really sells quality stuff.

The decision is entirely up to you, but usually, I'd almost always pick those with substantial transaction history.

There’s a Difference Between Manufacturers and Traders

I understand. So many choices.

A manufacturer will be able to offer you a better deal since what a trader does is, well, just trading. If you’re looking for a long-term supplier you’re better off looking for a manufacturer rather than a trader of goods.

They’ll be able to offer you more competitive prices and you’ll be able to develop a relationship with them in the long run- which comes with a lot of benefits!

Order a Sample Before You Go All Out

Don’t be part of the statistic. We know a lot of people who’ll find a great deal from a legitimate supplier and just start ordering 100,000 units without even having a first evaluation. It doesn’t work like that.

Ever bought a suit or a dress without trying it on? Nope. Everyone has an “it looked different online” story and you don’t want one, especially in any large-scale business deal.

It’s the same thing, you’ll want to be a good business owner and part of that process is verifying that your product lives up to your standards. Failure to do so is a recipe for an early loss of revenue.

It’s All About The Money

This is a part that you don’t want to mess up, so pay attention. A bonafide company will have multiple options for you to pay, and like we said earlier it’s sometimes more desirable to transact with companies that offer escrow via Trade Assurance.

Make sure you’re very clear about everything that’s been stipulated in your negotiation including any hidden costs or anything in fine print.

You’ll receive an invoice once you’re done negotiating the odds and ends of your supply and make sure that all the details match as what's mentioned in Alibaba.

If Paypal is an option, then pay via Paypal.

Make Sure You’re Ready To Receive The Shipment

Take a moment to think about how the goods will reach their destination.

You’ll have practice with the sample product you’ve asked them to ship you if that’s the case. Some vendors will be able to arrange all the shipping for you, but you have to make sure that they do.

You can hire a shipping broker to help you out should you have any specific concerns about importing and what not.

However, a quick way to find out more information is to ask the vendor itself. The price of shipping may surprise you, but sometimes you’ll find that they have bundled it along with the cost of your goods.

So, there you have it, if you follow these simple rules, you’re on a good track to find your ideal supplier, whilst being on the safe side. Remember, trust your instincts, and your gut is usually correct.

Alibaba can help you set up your own dropshipping business easily when done right! Also, ensure that the supplier has a return policy, before placing the order. Things can go wrong and if the shipment never arrives, you'll have to raise a dispute with the shipping agent.

Buying from Alibaba is an easy task but you have to do it with precision.

What have you bought from Alibaba in the past? How long did it take? How was the process? Share your Alibaba stories in the comments below.


Feature image by HOHO

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How to Hire a Copywriter For Your Ecommerce Business https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/how-to-hire-a-copywriter https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/how-to-hire-a-copywriter#respond Wed, 10 Jan 2018 10:00:23 +0000 https://ecommerce-platforms.com/?p=13597 If there was ever a task that most ecommerce professionals don't think about before launching a store, it's copywriting. Small, medium-sized, and large business owners realize that they have to wear multiple hats, from accountant to marketing pro, but copywriter?…

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If there was ever a task that most ecommerce professionals don't think about before launching a store, it's copywriting.

Small, medium-sized, and large business owners realize that they have to wear multiple hats, from accountant to marketing pro, but copywriter? Sounds a bit tedious, especially if you have dozens of pages on your website paired with hundreds of products.

In this guide, we'll walk you through how to find a copywriter that fits your company culture, even if it's only a freelancer who's going to be working with you on an “as needed” basis.

Why Do You Need to Find a Good Copywriter for an Ecommerce Store?

When you hire a copywriter online it requires you to look through resumes, portfolios, and whatever else the copywriter offers you.

Vetting your copywriter is extremely important because this writing (on your product pages, homepage, contact page, About Us page, and everywhere else on your website) builds the entire foundation for your SEO.

If the copywriter doesn't sound natural or she's trying to cram in too many buzzwords or keywords, Google's gonna notice and bump your site results down a notch. Or, you're simply not going to be seen as a credible place to shop.

It's also essential to appease your human site visitors.

Obviously, you want to grab attention on places like the homepage, but the product descriptions are where the real magic happens.

Now, obviously there are several ways to write product descriptions on a platform such as Shopify or any other, but that's why it's so important to find someone who understands your company culture and customer base or hire someone who is willing to learn.

Take, BPI Sports for instance. The copywriter clearly understands what bodybuilders and athletic people care about in their supplements, so she highlighted the most important nutritional facts above the entire product description. Then, the secondary information is nicely organized into bullet points.

how to hire a copywriter

Method Home has a wildly different customer base, so it makes sense that they would hire a copywriter who thinks about artists, creative people, and those who might want to help out non-profits. It's a simple handsoap, but this focus on the company makes it stand out.

find a copywriter

Choose Good Places to Share Your ‘Copywriter Wanted' Ads

Here's a fact:

You don't always need to hire the best copywriter.

For instance, some product descriptions only need a little editing, or sometimes you're only trying to get some products onto your website without spending an arm and a leg.

In this case, one-off freelancing services found on places like Upwork and Freelancer.com are completely fine. Freelancer.com is a cluttered mess of a site, but you'll find plenty of decent copywriters.

hire copywriters online

As for the more experienced copywriters, this is when you turn to focused, niche job boards. It's definitely worth completing a Google search to locate some on your own (and you'll find some local job boards that can be helpful as well,) but we have a few favorites to start with:

Examples of Job Post Templates

There's no reason to paste a copywriting job post template into this article since there are tons of them online. Not only that, but yours should be modified to work well with your company needs.

For instance, Workable, ZipRecruiter, and Upwork all have copywriter job description templates for you to start with. However, I would focus more on looking through job boards to see what other companies have shared as well.

That said, we do have some rules to follow when you're making your job post:

  • Choose a niche – If a copywriter claims to do everything from blog posts to marketing materials and product descriptions, try looking elsewhere. For instance, if all you need are blog posts, find someone who specializes in that. Hopefully in your own niche.
  • Decide on the skill level – Not all copywriters are as good as others, so sometimes you can save a little cash if you're only in need of basic product descriptions.
  • Don't hire SEO pros – These self-proclaimed SEO pros are never going to be better than an experienced writer who knows the basics of how to insert the right keywords into their copy. Most “SEO pros” are terrible writers.
  • Don't harp on conversion rates – A quality writer isn't an analytics professional. You're hiring them to make engaging, fun, or professional content. They might sprinkle in some keywords for you, but the best writers aren't going to work for you if you expect them to hit conversion numbers. That's your job, or someone else's you hire.

How to Hire a Copywriter: Vet Applicants

As you start sharing your job listing on certain boards or freelancer communities, waves of applications are going to start coming in.

It's fine to glance at CVs and resumes, but that's not all that important when hiring a copywriter.

People can say anything on a resume, so you'd rather test out the writer like you would if you were hiring a chef for a restaurant.

Round 1

The first round is where you ask the candidates to complete a test. This test doesn't have questions, but rather some tasks for them to work on.

Only focus on the projects they would be doing if hired. For instance, if the job requires them to write product descriptions, pay them a little cash to work on five to ten descriptions just for your company.

If they're going to be completing blog posts on a regular basis, ask for one or two full-length posts they think would work well on your blog.

Round 2

After you've chosen your favorites, you might need to still cut out a few people. If so, send each candidate some edits or things they might be able to do better. You might not be doing this that much during the actual work process, but it can really weed out the bad copywriters since the good ones are willing to hear feedback and make edits.

Follow These Methods to Find a Copywriter Your Needs

The process isn't all that complicated once you get the hang of it, but the main point to remember is that you're trying to make your brand sound unique. Forget about SEO and ROI, but rather find a writer who knows the language and grammar, but also makes your company sound unique.

What factors do you take into account when you hire a copywriter? Share with us in the comment section below!

Let us know if you have any questions in the comments section.


Feature Image by Clea Hernandez

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5 Killer Facebook Advertising Strategies For Your Ecommerce Store https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/ecommerce-facebook-advertising-strategies https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/ecommerce-facebook-advertising-strategies#respond Wed, 10 Jan 2018 10:00:09 +0000 https://ecommerce-platforms.com/?p=13629 As Facebook seems to make changes to its algorithms on a daily basis, it can be tough to keep up with what you can do on your Facebook page and what you can't. In my opinion, the best plan is…

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As Facebook seems to make changes to its algorithms on a daily basis, it can be tough to keep up with what you can do on your Facebook page and what you can't.

In my opinion, the best plan is to stick to relevant, fun content that's not going to constantly spam people with stuff they don't want. The easiest way to measure this is by seeing how many likes, comments, and shares you get for each post.

The reason we like Facebook for ecommerce advertising so much is because it's a completely free way to test out those ads beforehand. You can send out a feeler for an ad, then see if any of your regular followers find it interesting.

For your well-performing posts, it's a seamless process jumping from a regular Facebook post to a promotion. It certainly helps that Facebook has made it extremely easy for you to give them money.

But that poses the question: what are some of the best Facebook advertising strategies for your ecommerce store?

You can't simply hit the publish button and hope for the best since that's either leaving money on the table or making you look silly because you're not targeting the right people. You might also find that the original post design could use some tweaks before publishing it as an ad.

All sorts of Facebook advertising strategies are littered throughout the internet, so we'd like to cover ones that are not only unique, but they actually work.

Therefore, keep reading to learn more about these ecommerce Facebook advertising strategies, and make sure you follow the Golden Rule (below) before implementing any of them.

The Golden Rule: Build a Sales Funnel and Email List

Let's say you start posting Facebook ads and the response is exceptional. The sales start rolling in, your staff has plenty of work to do, and you're in that wonderful situation where you have too many orders to fill, so it's stressing you out.

Awesome! Congratulations.

But then a few months pass by and you're starting to notice a dropoff in sales. You try out a few more Facebook ads, but every time you reboot the ad campaign those sales seem to trickle off a little more.

The problem is that you haven't established an email list to get those customers coming back to your store. There's also a chance that your sales funnel isn't that great so the customer has no interest in returning.

In short, Facebook ads are just a starting point for your customer. If the funnel doesn't guide them through your store with ease and prevent abandoned carts in the process, you're going to have trouble capitalizing on the ads you pay for. It's far easier and cheaper to keep a previous customer around than it is to seek out a new one, so there's tons of value in having an email list.

Furthermore, you're spending way too much money for the ads if your site doesn't have an email list.

This way, you can send out reminder, receipt, promotional, and newsletter emails to hundreds or thousands of customers. Sometimes this is completely free, but most of the time it costs you a little for the email service and your time.

That's why this is the Golden Rule. Your Facebook ads are nothing without an efficient sales funnel and email subscription form and list.

Now that that has been addressed, keep reading to find the best Facebook ad strategies for ecommerce advertising.

5 Killer Facebook Advertising Strategies

The first step to handling Facebook advertising is to understand how drastically different it is compared to Google advertising. When a person searches through Google they often have an intent to buy.

For instance, they'll search for something like garden gnomes. Then, Google serves up the natural results and the sponsored ones. There's no reason to think that the customer might find some of the ads appealing.

However, with Facebook, the user goes there to see what their friends are up to. They might see a cute garden gnome and click through to check it out, but the chances of them leaving are much higher.

Why is that so?

Because people don't go to Facebook to shop. So, these strategies are built around getting folks to shop when they didn't intend to.

1. Give Customers The Excitement of the Product

ecommerce facebook advertising strategies

What's the most exciting moment of the product lifecycle? With most products, it's typically the unboxing and revealing of what's inside. People love the idea of receiving a product on the front stoop, then ripping it open to see the contents.

So why not attract more customer by showing them the best part of buying an item? This is rather common in the subscription box world, but it works for all ecommerce businesses. Take the example of Try The World; this Facebook advertising strategy utilizes beautiful images of the unboxing.

We see hands examining the products and showing what's inside. It's almost as if the customer can grasp the products and see them. This ties into consumer emotions, but it also helps that a free Paris Box is thrown in when you buy a Thailand box.

I absolutely love this combination, since it provides an incentive, but the photos also mimic the visual and “feeling” nature of a retail store.

2. Show Contrast For Customizable Products and Items With Multiple Variants

facebook ad strategy

Studies show that high contrast ads often improve click-through rates. So what does Nike do with this information? It creates a multi-product Facebook ad with popping colors, each of which contrasts with the others.

In fact, you could do this with the exact same shoes, where the customer would scroll through a barrage of different colors, thus producing a stunning ad which also shows them the variants in your shop.

Keep in mind that this ad's effectiveness can't only be attributed to the contrast between product colors. Notice how the background colors and bold fonts are also fighting for attention. These carousels are perfect for showcasing a wide range of your products, but it's also important to place a link in the ad text.

Finally, both product variants and customizable products work well in this Facebook ad format. For instance, you might show an embroidered shirt with a red color in one picture and place that next to the same embroidered shirt with a different color and wording.

3. Take Advantage of the Competition's Fame

ecommerce advertising

If your product is truly better than a competitor, or there is some sort of feature involved that some people might enjoy better, why not talk about it in your ad?

There are several good things about having reputable, more famous, competitors. And that all ties into the fact that people like seeing recognizable brands. So, if you talk about that recognizable brand, then state that there's something better about your product, you have a better chance at grabbing their attention.

Let's take a look at Microsoft. It's obviously a well-known brand, but people, in general, think that MacBooks are better products. Mac sells perceived value, in that the products are often not much better, but customers think different.

So, Microsoft takes care of that by showing that the Surface actually has more pixels than the MacBook. Throw in some savings and you're bound to get more customers.

4. Establish a Before and After

This ties into the first point we made in this article, but it puts your product into action. After someone opens the package they're excited about using it.

ecommerce advertising

Blue Apron is known for displaying Facebook ads with its food box being opened, along with the “after” picture of the meal ready to eat. The great thing about this strategy is that every single product is taken out of the box and utilized in some way. And when you share before and after pictures, it helps people visualize how the product works.

Let's say you sell razors. You could have the razor coming out of the box paired with a man shaving his face and smiling. The same goes for running shoes. A shoe on a shelf sounds like a good “before” picture, but someone running through a beautiful landscape sounds great as well.

It also helps that Blue Apron has the promotion where the first order is free. As you can see, some of the best Facebook advertising strategies pair clever images with incentives.

5. Create a Sense of Exclusivity

The Facebook company knows all too well about how exclusivity works to its advantage. By nature, people want to belong. That's why Dollar Shave Club talks about its “members” and its “club” quite a bit in Facebook ads.

This not only allows you to tell a great story about your business, but it creates a situation where your customers are wondering what they're missing.

Are You Equipped With the Best Ecommerce Facebook Advertising Strategies?

Here's something that you should know- not all Facebook strategies work right off the bat. In fact, some of them don't work at all for some online stores. The key is to make educated guesses and think about what your customers want more than anything.

Invest some time to research, gather ideas, and customize the ads based on the products you're selling and the customers you're targetting. What are your favourite Facebook advertising strategies? Leave a comment below

It's easy to slap together any old Facebook post and hope that it gains tractions, but it all starts with the email list and sales funnel, then you should be inclined to utilize some of the strategies we outlined above.


 

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How to Sell Furniture Online: The Epic Guide https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/how-to-sell-furniture-online https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/how-to-sell-furniture-online#respond Mon, 08 Jan 2018 10:00:35 +0000 https://ecommerce-platforms.com/?p=13637 Similar to the jewelry or bottled water businesses, furniture stores have little secrets kept hidden from you in their drawers. Have you ever wondered what those could be? Well, there's a good chance they're buying furniture for a few hundred…

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Similar to the jewelry or bottled water businesses, furniture stores have little secrets kept hidden from you in their drawers.

Have you ever wondered what those could be?

Well, there's a good chance they're buying furniture for a few hundred dollars and selling it for several thousand.

It might anger you a bit as a consumer when you see markups like this, but it brings up a wonderful business opportunity.

Historically, furniture stores have had extremely low overhead, and the profit margins pretty much explain why you see so many fine furniture and bedding retail stores.

Yet, when you learn how to sell furniture online, the margins can increase even more.

Like all online business, it's not all that simple to start making tons of money right off the bat. However, the furniture industry is a logical one to get into since the rewards can be considerably higher than that of other industries.

Trust me on this one. The furniture business has a lot of untapped potential.

Another reason we like the idea of selling furniture online is because of the necessity. Kids are constantly heading off to college in need of new or used furniture. The same can be said for when they graduate. And when they buy a new home. And when they start a family.

Chairs, couches, tables, desks, and every other type of furniture you can think of are required in order to lead a normal (and easier) life. Your business doesn't have to worry about running out of buyers because every single person in the world is technically a buyer.

Because of how rewarding the furniture industry can be, I want to walk you through the methods on how to sell furniture online. We'll talk about locating the right suppliers and wholesalers, then we'll outline things like dropshipping, building a store, and marketing the store to customers.

Step 1: Find a Reputable and Quality Furniture Wholesaler

how to sell furniture online

As with all products sold online, you need to first locate a reputable supplier that's going to either sell to you at wholesale or dropship your products.

With furniture, it gets a little tricky since we're talking about large pieces of merchandise. You can't really grow a furniture business by storing all of the inventory in your apartment.

However, there's a chance you can swing that for the short-term, then opt for a warehouse or storage facility as you grow. So, those are your options when purchasing from a wholesaler. It's not impossible to pull off, and you're most definitely going to make good money if you can move the inventory, but you mustn't forget about storage.

When it comes to finding a wholesaler, it depends on what type of furniture you would like to sell. If you're selling vintage furniture, that's going to involve you seeking out random items online, going to thrift shops, and scouring antique stores.

New items can be acquired by contacting wholesalers in your area or by going the Alibaba route.

ecommerce furniture business

The search for furniture on Alibaba delivers thousands of results. I recommend searching based on your desired product type. That way, you have no need to sift through the endless list of suppliers who sell furniture.

selling furniture online

What's great about Alibaba is that when you land on a supplier you can typically buy multiple products from them. What's even better is the fact that the website reveals things like ratings and how long the supplier has been on Alibaba.

As for dropshipping, this is much easier. However, you must remember that your profit margins are going to decrease because of the setup. Once you locate a product you like, contact the supplier to learn more about them. And, make sure you get the relevant contact information since it would require you to potentially speak with them over the phone as well.

A piece of advice which you've probably heard a million times:

Always try to establish a good relationship with the suppliers because the chances are you'll be purchasing more from them in the future.

Whether you select wholesale buying or dropshipping, you should always follow the same rules:

  1. Establish a point person who you'll always be speaking with.
  2. Get samples from the supplier. Since this is furniture you might have to settle for a smaller product, but most suppliers should be able to accommodate this. If not, simply buy a few products at wholesale price, then sell them to your customers.
  3. Do your research. Look at reviews, product quality, and any information you can find about the company online. Many of these companies don't have websites, so it's a huge plus if they do.
  4. Establish conditions on payment, delivery times, and how much you're going to purchase.

If you're considering dropshipping, the place to go is AliExpress. It's similar to Alibaba except that you can get wholesale prices without buying multiple items at once. In addition, you can hook a Shopify site up to the Oberlo app to streamline the dropshipping process and automatically pull product information into your website.

After a sale is made, Oberlo sends the information to the supplier, who then packages the product and sends it to the customer.

You might be wondering: what if the furniture is too big to ship? Well, your research of suppliers and wholesalers on places like Alibaba and AliExpress should give you a good idea as to the types of furniture that can be shipped and that will help scale your ecommerce furniture business in the long run.

Sure, it's a given that there are plenty of furniture items that probably need to be picked up or shipped in a special way, but if the Alibaba suppliers are shipping a bed somehow, this means that you'll be able to ship it as well. Or the supplier will simply dropship it for you.

Step 2: Set up an Online Store Made Just For Furniture

Making a furniture sales website is much easier than it used to be. Nowadays you don't need a development degree or have much knowledge about coding at all.

Instead, you can utilize an ecommerce platform, which provides the hosting, design tools, marketing features, and payment gateways to start selling online today.

We have a solid list of the best ecommerce platforms, some of which include Shopify, Bigcommerce, and Volusion.

Feel free to research each one of them, but for this explanation, we're going to walk you through building a furniture ecommerce store with Shopify.

The main reason we like Shopify is because you can use the Oberlo plugin for dropshipping. Not only that, but sellers who buy wholesale can choose a theme, create products, and start selling within a matter of a few hours.

So, go to the Shopify theme store and start browsing themes that might work for a furniture store.

There's a Furniture category under the Industry tab, so that's just about the perfect place to begin. Some of the themes are free, and some of them you have to pay for.

I like the Split theme after scrolling through, since I'm thinking about selling chairs and stools, and I want a modern design.

Once you settle upon a theme that suits you, create a Shopify account. There's a free trial so you have no need to launch a site right off the bat. Eventually, you'll pay for the monthly service, which includes everything from hosting to design tools and marketing options to integrations.

In this case, I'm selecting a paid theme, but remember, there are plenty of free themes available. Just try and look around for a bit to find one that suits well.

After signing up for the free trial you have an impressive amount of features to play around with. I suggest building your store with the following steps:

  1. Install your theme so that it looks like an actual website.
  2. Add or transfer over a domain that's going to reflect what your business is all about.
  3. Create your products and potentially connect Oberlo if you plan on running a drop shipping operation.
  4. Create a beautiful homepage with product galleries, your logo, Buy buttons, and whatever else you want to show.
  5. Connect a payment gateway so that customers can stop by your store and make purchases.
  6. Launch your store and start marketing!

Step 3: Learn How to Sell Furniture Online with Pro Marketing Strategies

Marketing furniture is slightly different than other products.

Although you'll try out marketing strategies to see what works, here are some tips for when you launch your startup:

  • The first task you should complete is making an email list and placing email subscription forms on your site. This way you can send out receipts, newsletters, blog post updates, and other emails to get people coming back to your store.
  • Although furniture doesn't perform that well on social media, it all depends on who you target. Plenty of people are into home improvement and interior design. So, think about this when making Facebook ads and Instagram posts.
  • Partner with interior designers and real estate professionals to get your products in front of customers.
  • Utilize frequent promotions and coupons to establish a customer base when getting started.

Selling Furniture Online is a Piece of Cake, Right?

In this guide, we've covered how to find furniture suppliers, along with options for dropshipping and wholesale buying. You also know what it takes to configure an online store and start marketing your products.

There's obviously much more to running an online store, but these are the basics to get everything in motion. The furniture industry is, and will always be, a gold mine. The question is whether or not you're willing to put in the work to make your store a reality.

Based on your experiences, what pieces of furniture do you think will sell?

If you have any questions about how to sell furniture online or any helpful advice, share your thoughts in the comments section below.


Feature Image by Giga

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How to Sell Food Online: A Comprehensive Guide https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/how-to-sell-food-online https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/how-to-sell-food-online#respond Wed, 03 Jan 2018 10:00:24 +0000 https://ecommerce-platforms.com/?p=13639 More often than not, a new ecommerce entrepreneur is thinking about a cool invention for solving problems somewhere around the house. Or maybe they're considering ways to source products for their online stores from China and amaze customers with service, speed, and quality.…

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More often than not, a new ecommerce entrepreneur is thinking about a cool invention for solving problems somewhere around the house. Or maybe they're considering ways to source products for their online stores from China and amaze customers with service, speed, and quality.

Yet, it's not too often you hear about selling food online.

And since this is the case, there's a limited amount of information on learning how to sell food online.

Grocery stores are beginning to figure out ways to deliver batches of food to doorsteps.

The reality is- this has been around for awhile with Peapod, but companies like Amazon and Imperfect Produce are getting in on the action as well. Even more common would be less perishable foods, such as frozen hot dogs and beef, subscription boxes with trail mix (think Nature Box,) beef jerky, and the wide range of other foods you might be able to find at your grocery store.

I bet you might have noticed full meals prepared or separated into servings for you to cook later (like Blue Apron).

Regardless of the type of food that you plan on sending out to customers, there are conventional rules to be followed. The easy part is thinking about what to sell, and it isn't that difficult configure your own online store.

And now, I'll still go over those steps, but ensure that you pay attention to the legal and licensing aspects of the entire operation. Otherwise, you might end up in legal trouble and worst case scenario, behind bars.

So, keep reading to learn how to sell food online.

Step 1: Legal and Licensing Aspects to Know Before You Learn How to Sell Food Online

how to sell food online   

The regulations for selling baked goods, non-perishable goods, or just about any type of food online is a little tricky. The main reason behind this is because it completely depends on where your kitchen is located.

Confused? Well, in simpler words, the rules I mentioned earlier varies based on regions.

However, there are some general rules you can follow that I'll cover here.

Before we get started, you need to know the basic laws behind selling food online.

For instance, any person in the United States who plans on selling food out of their home (whether it be online or by going to trade shows or street markets) needs to follow the Cottage Food Regulations. You can learn more about those, but we also recommend completing a Google search for your state's Cottage Food Laws.

We suggest reading through your state Cottage Food Laws (because they all vary,) but most of them follow the same basic principles:

  • You must have proper storage for all food, cold and dry.
  • You're not allowed to have pets in your kitchen.
  • You need a state business license.
  • You must obtain zoning clearance and all needed permits from your local government.
  • You're required to have a kitchen inspection at least once a year. This is done by the health department.

When questions arise, you should reach out to your local health department and the local Department of Agriculture. In fact, it's a good idea to do this regardless. As for those selling in the EU, there's a whole different set of laws you need to think about.

What About Permits and Certification for Selling Baked Goods?

Now that the primary legal parts are done with, it's time for you to consider which permits and certifications you need for your company.

As always, it depends on where your kitchen is located. That said, we recommend getting the following:

  • Go through some sort of food handling training to become a certified food handler. This type of training teaches you how to properly handle food, at which temperatures to store at, at which temperatures to cook at, how to wash your hands and dishes, and much more.
  • Get a local permit for your kitchen. This often involves reaching out to your county or other local government. You need to check with them to make sure that your home kitchen meets zoning and food safety laws. If your home ends up not meeting the requirements you'll have to find a commercial kitchen.
  • License your business in the state. This licensing can usually be done on the SBA website. Most of the time you're not technically allowed to make a sale online until you register with the state.

Step 2: Find a Reputable Supplier

Yes, you might be making your meals or food products from scratch, but at some point, you may have to reach out to a supplier for the ingredients.

Since the food industry has so many shady companies (where you might not get what you order,) it's essential to track the supply chain before you commit to a supplier.

The most reputable suppliers are listed on reputable directories (imagine that!) We recommend starting with the Ingredient Supplier Directory for the US. You can also find several other directories online for other countries.

Once you select a few suppliers that match up with your ingredients needs, begin looking into their certifications and supply chain. Making connections is a big part of this, but you can typically ask for references and browse the internet to see if, say, an organic provider has the right certifications.

In addition, you can always start out producing small batches with food from Costco or a similar warehouse store.

Step 3: Consider What Your Packaging and Labeling Is Going to Be Like

Want more regulations? I have some for you.

Did you know that it's extremely important to get your food labels right?

According to US law, every food product should have labels and a complete disclosure of the ingredients. You should also have net quantity, the weight of all ingredients combined, and a mention of the name and location of the producer (most notably your company and the supplier).

You should have this labeling on your packaging and in your online product descriptions. This way you're following the law and your customers won't keep asking questions.

When making your ingredients lists, start with the largest quantity ingredients first and work down from there. You should also highlight specific food allergens that might affect people such as peanuts or soy beans.

When shipping your products, non-refrigerated products usually only need a label of some sort that states “perishable” or “fragile.”

However, if your food requires some sort of refrigeration or the food items are altered in some way due to heat or cold, it's essential that you find a shipper that offers climate controlled shipments. This way you'll have a happy health inspector and customers.

Step 4: Set Up Your Online Store

We mentioned that the online store is one of the easiest parts of selling food online. That's true since you don't have to be a computer genius or coder to setup your site. In fact, places like Shopify, Bigcommerce, Squarespace, and Volusion all have everything you need to launch a website.

We're going to use Shopify for this example, but we recommend checking out some of the top ecommerce platforms to make a sound decision. Each of them has their own pros and cons.

As a jumping off point, go to the Shopify theme store, then select the Food and Drink industry.

 

This reveals all sorts of free and paid themes, many of which are designed just for certain industries, while others can be customized to fit any type of company.

For instance, let's say my company wants to sell cookies. I'm going to opt for the Focal theme since it fits my needs perfectly. It costs $170, but this is one of the only costs you have in the design area of things. And you also have the option to choose a free theme.

This is a beautiful theme with a slider, collection galleries, email subscription forms, and social media links.

After you choose your theme and signup for Shopify all you have to do is add your products and connect the payment processor of your choice. All of your products can then be purchased for the price you set. What's more is that things like hosting and domain names are all handled through Shopify, so you won't have to think much about the technical aspects of your business.

Doesn't that sound simple enough?

Buy or prepare the food, take snaps and add them to the cart! And then, you're almost done with half of the work!

Step 5: Start Marketing For Foodies

Okay, so let's assume that your online store is ready. It doesn't end there.

In fact, we're only getting started. This step can turn out to be a nightmare because it takes effort and understanding of the various processes if you're a newbie to online marketing.

But, have no fear. Here are some tips.

When marketing for your food business, much of it can be done through local markets and street fests. However, the online work should all start with your email list. This way you can start grabbing customer information right from the beginning.

In addition, we recommend launching a food or recipe blog, where you occasionally share recipes your customers can make with the ingredients you sell on your site. This not only provides content for your blog, email newsletter, and social media pages, but it's a great way to recommend your products.

Social media marketing is great, but coupons, blogs, and local events are key for food sales. Some people are going to stumble upon your recipes and blog posts by chance, and that's a great way to get the word out.

Let's Sell Food Online!

Now that we've gone through the rules, laws, regulations, permits, and design aspects of selling food online, you should be ready to get creative and start making money.

Have you ever tried to sell baked goods? If yes, what kind of food did you choose and which platform did you use?

It would be cool if you can share the strategies you adopted.

If you have any further questions on how to sell food online, please let me know in the comment section below.


Feature Image by Nahid Hossain

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Product Listing Ads: The A-Z Guide for Boosting Sales Using Ads https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/product-listing-ads https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/product-listing-ads#respond Mon, 01 Jan 2018 10:00:33 +0000 https://ecommerce-platforms.com/?p=13658 Product listing ads are also known as PLA ads or Google Shopping ads. In short, they're online advertisements that companies pay for on a cost per click (CPC) basis. Therefore, if your online store were to take out a product listing…

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Product listing ads are also known as PLA ads or Google Shopping ads. In short, they're online advertisements that companies pay for on a cost per click (CPC) basis. Therefore, if your online store were to take out a product listing ad on Google, you would only pay for the times when a user clicked on that ad. No payments are made when users see the ad but don't decide to click.

In general, merchants purchase these product listing ads through Google AdWords. It's the most popular ad network in the world, but there are some smaller ones you can also look into.

You don't have to pay anything to signup for AdWords, so the only costs that come in are when users make those clicks. As for the location of the ads, they're placed on the side of Google search results and on the top.

Here's an example:

If someone were to search for cheap futons (and you target this keyword,) your ad would be placed before, or to the side, of the natural search results.

The best thing about product listing ads is that Google does a great job at making them look as natural as possible. It's true that Google places a little “Sponsored” tag by the product listing ad, but it often goes unnoticed and many customers don't even care about that.

However, product listing ads use images, so they do stand out a bit compared to standard AdWords advertisements.

What's the physical nature of a product listing ad?

product listing ads

Compared to other online and offline ads, Google Shopping ads have the following:

  • A product image
  • Some sort of product information like the price.
  • They're focused more on products and product categories as opposed to specific keywords.

The reason I'm talking about the differences is that although you use AdWords to setup product listing ads, regular AdWords advertisements are quite different.

AdWords ads typically only contain text, and they can have other elements like a more extensive description. Adword advertisements are shown below:

Some Other Differences Between Standard Google Ads and Product Listing Ads

It can get a little confusing since both types are created and managed in the AdWords interface. However, AdWords also has a section for Google Shopping. This is where you'll handle your product listing ads.

So, technically regular Google ads can be used by all companies and organizations, from blogs to small retail businesses. But the Google Shopping product listing ads are only for those brands selling products online.

Finally, the fees for product listing ads are based on which ads groups (for products and products categories) you choose to bid on. Regular AdWords ad costs are based on which keywords you bid on.

So, for a product listing ad, you might bid on a category like “Jackets” or “Jackets under $40,” where an AdWords ad has all sorts of keywords you could bid on, like “buy men's blue jackets.”

How Much ROI Can You Expect From Product Listing Ads?

Well, there's no way to project the ROI for every person reading this article.

However, I can give you some tips for increasing your ROI:

  • Consider posting product listing ads once your store starts selling over 500 items. You're going to have a much better time seeing results since Google is able to serve up a wide range of options to customers. It's not a bad idea to try it out if you have a smaller store, but a shop with 10 items isn't going to get much exposure (unless those items are extremely popular).
  • As you get used to the Google Shopping interface, expect to increase your spending limit. You should start to see returns that make up for this increased budget. The problem occurs when companies don't ever increase their budgets. It's limiting to your potential growth.
  • Make sure your website is amazing. If Google notices your visitors leave within ten seconds and don't buy much, it's going to stop serving up the ads.
  • If you have extremely small margins, Google Products is most likely not right for you. The only advice we can give is to keep the budget low as to not blow your margins.

Major Brands That Use Product Listing Ads

Tons of big brands use product listing ads. In fact, you could argue that they'd be silly not to. Most big brands have the budgets to play around with these ads, and they have the large inventories to serve up ads at all times.

For instance, a quick search I made for power tools revealed Google Shopping ads from Home Depot and Target.

A “kids clothing” search brought up the Gap and Abercrombie & Fitch.

Big name brands use these ads, and that's one of the main reasons it can work for smaller online stores. Your money is just as good as theirs, and with this, you don't have to compete on SEO.

How to Setup Product Listing Ads

Before creating your ads, a few steps have to be completed in order to pull the right information from your store.

Trust me, you got this.

Step 1: Create a Google Merchant Center Account

Go to the Google Merchant Center Website. There's a chance you already have an account, so either sign in or create a new account. The reason you'll need a Google Merchant Center account is because the dashboard lets you link to your ecommerce account and regularly import product data. This way, you don't have to do it manually.

It depends on the platform you're using, but for Bigcommerce, all you have to do is go to the app store and install the Google Shopping app.

Other platforms, Shopify, require you to import product data with a data feed. There's a great guide on how to do that here, and the video below provides a quick explanation from Google:

Anyway, right now we only want to link your Google Merchant Center account to your AdWords account.

You can link the accounts in either AdWords or the Google Merchant Center, but since we're currently in the Merchant Center, let's do it there.

Start by clicking the triple dot button in the upper right-hand corner of the dashboard. You'll see an option for Account Linking. Click on that.

The account linking page should reveal an option to link to your available AdWords account. If you don't see an account, it's most likely because you're not logged into both AdWords and the Merchant Center using the same email.

Click on the Link button. This should take no more than a few seconds and reveal a change to Linked status.

Step 2: Create a New Shopping Campaign

Navigate to Google AdWords and select the “+Campaign” button. Below this, you'll see a list of all past and current campaigns, but you can ignore these for now. There's also a chance that this list is empty.

After clicking the button, a few options appear since there are several campaigns you can run. For the Google Shopping ads we're talking about today, you're going to want to click on the Shopping option.

Step 3: Make a Campaign Name and Set Shop Settings

This brings you to the campaign settings page, where you create a campaign name that's easy to remember. It's important to realize that you may end up having multiple product ad campaigns in the future, so you need to distinguish between all of them.

The Shopping type is already selected for you, but there is also the option to load settings from an existing campaign. This speeds up the process in the future, but it's not necessary right now.

The merchant identifier is also loaded since we linked the Google Merchant Center account earlier. Make sure you select your country of sale. After that, you'll see some advanced Shopping Settings. This has tools for filtering, setting local inventory ads, and for campaign priority. None of them is all that relevant if you're only doing one campaign, but the campaign priority is great for when you have multiple campaigns running.

For instance, a store may have several campaigns running for one product category.

In that case, the store probably wants to run one over the other, or maybe test out which one works the best. So, you can set it so that one has priority over the other.

Step 4: Walk Through the Defaults

This area of the settings page is pretty much all set for you. The networks field checks off the Google Search Network and included search partners. This gives you the most exposure.

The Devices section specifies that all compatible devices which will display your ads. So, if someone completes a Google search on a smartphone or tablet, they will still be able to view your ads.

The Locations section is one of the most important since there's a chance you don't sell to people outside of your country.

For this example, I'm only targeting customers in the US and Canada. However, a global online business could choose all countries and territories, or you can even type in your own country to target one.

You'll also find an Advanced Locations Option section, where it asks you exactly who you would like to target based on your previously set location settings. So, for instance, my hypothetical company only sells to people who live in the US and Canada. Therefore, I would most likely switch it to “People in my targeted location.”

Step 5: Set Your Bid and Budget

Most of the time you'll choose the manual CPC option, so you can leave that for now. This means that you get to set your bids manually and let them run as long as you like. There's a more automated version that Google provides, but that gets tricky when you're on a budget.

So, skip to the Default Bid field and type in how much you would like to bid for each ad. There's a thorough explanation of how this works when you scroll over the “?”.

As for the budget, this all depends on how much you're looking to spend.  With a well-planned campaign, I would consider starting out with a $10 per day budget. Just keep in mind that Google might go 20% over that budget if it feels the ads are doing well at that point.

Once that's completed, hit the Save and Continue button.

You can also see a Schedule option under the Advanced Settings. Although you don't have to do this, I find that setting a start and end date is a great way to keep tabs on your budget.

Step 6: Set Product Groups

The next page asks whether or not you would like to create multiple product groups based on the product attributes you choose.

You have that option, but most people will start simple and go with the one product group with a single bid for all products. After that, you can start separating everything into different groups.

Step 7: View Your Campaign

Once your campaign settings are complete you can view that campaign on the main list.

Keep in mind that if you haven't linked to your Bigcommerce account in the Google Merchant Center, or you haven't set up your product data feed for any other eCommerce platforms, the campaign won't start.

Once the campaign has begun, you'll able to view prime metrics such as clicks, impressions, CTR, average CPC, and the total cost of the campaign.

That's It! Are You Ready to Start Making Product Listing Ads?

Google Shopping ads are far less intimidating than they seem. In fact, it's rather simple once you get that product data imported into the system. You don't have to design the ads like you typically would have to in Google AdWords, and it's entirely up to you to figure out the budget you would like to set.

As for handling your Google Shopping ads, we recommend starting with only one product group, but after that, you're more than welcome to expand and test out which product group and categories work the best.

All of the stats are available for comparison in the dashboard, so it's pretty clear which products are performing the best.

Get ready to increase conversions using product listing ads! Share your insights by leaving a comment below.

If you have any questions about how to setup product listing ads, or if you have any advice to give newbies to the Google Shopping interface, feel free to do so.


Feature Image by Ismail Pelasayed

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5 Ecommerce Trends for 2018 & How to Capitalise on Them https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/ecommerce-trends-2018 https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/ecommerce-trends-2018#respond Wed, 27 Dec 2017 09:10:13 +0000 https://ecommerce-platforms.com/?p=13678 This won’t be just another trends article that brushes on speculations. I've read those too. And I agree- most of them make you wonder about how fast the industry is progressing. In this post, the focus won't be just on…

Continue reading 5 Ecommerce Trends for 2018 & How to Capitalise on Them

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This won’t be just another trends article that brushes on speculations.

I've read those too. And I agree- most of them make you wonder about how fast the industry is progressing.

In this post, the focus won't be just on predicting trends that may/may not happen. The focus will be on showing you what trends will sweep over the eCommerce industry in 2018, and how you can take advantage of them today.

I'll be covering three areas of each trend:

  1. What the trend is
  2. The data backing it, and
  3. How ecommerce marketers can take advantage of them

Let's dive right in:

The most important ecommerce trends in 2018 are:

  1. Voice Search Share Will Increase
  2. Augmented Reality for Improved Ecommerce UX
  3. Video Will Go Into Mainstream Content Strategies of Ecommerce Brands
  4. Amazon will become a big player in digital advertising
  5. Widespread Adoption of Crypto Payment Processors

1.Voice Search Share Will Increase 

Voice search is growing at an alarming rate, and there are several stats pointing this out:

ComScore reported that 50% of search will be via voice by 2020. And FYI- that's just two years ahead. We're looking at a drastic change in how we use the internet and consume and interact with content.

And the growth of voice search proves this stat- Deloitte reports that 11% of smartphone users use voice search regularly, and more than half of them started using them a year back. And Google's stats show that 20% of searches within the US al=re already via voice.

The argument that the tech to support voice search isn't ready yet isn't true either.

Usage of voice assistants is rapidly growing. HubSpot, in their State of Inbound 2017 report, says that 37% use Siri, 23% use Microsoft’s Cortana AI, and 19% use Amazon’s Alexa AI at least monthly.

And about voice assistants- CIRP reports that 5.1 million units of smart speakers have been sold by Amazon since their launch in 2014. Half a million units of Google Home were shipped in 2016 alone.

And now you might be wondering:

The tech is coming, and the tech is selling, but will people actually switch to voice?

I thought so too until I came across this post from Geomarketing that showed how 65 percent of people who own an Amazon Echo or Google Home can’t imagine to going back to the days before they had a smart speaker. 42 percent of the same group say the voice-activated devices have quickly become “essential” to their lives.

It isn't surprising. The average typing speed is 40 words a minute. The average speech rate is 150 words per minute. You can get your question answered way faster by voice.

voice search reasons

Source

The only issue in the past was nasty errors and inability of the voice assistants to understand complex terms and phrases. And that's changing too:

smart assistants

Google is now reporting an almost human level accuracy for their AI- 95%.

Now, onto how this affects us marketers.

And here's an interesting fact:

Voice search is 3x more likely to have a local focus than normal text searches. Attention local businesses!

And guess what?

Voice search doesn't really exist.

What we all see and use as voice text today is simple voice-text search where our voice is converted into text and then processed the same way as any text search.

And this is exactly how we marketers can capitalize on this trend:

Featured Snippets.

Ever wondered where Google pulls all that data when someone asks a question to the Google Voice Assistant? It's mostly from search snippets.

Proof?

If Google's doing it that way, I can guarantee that Amazon and Apple are doing it that way too with Echo and Siri.

But first, what is a featured snippet?

A featured snippet is simply a block of text that answers a user's query right from the SERP. This data or text is pulled from websites that are optimized for that query (mostly already ranking in the top 10).

Take a look at the below example when we search for “what is matcha good for”

matcha tea featured snippet example

Notice how the Featured Snippet of Natural Living Ideas is ranking above the #1 listing? Studies show that a featured snippet listing can capture anywhere upto 50% of the clicks for a keyword. To put that into perspective, the #1 position receives 33% of clicks on average for a search.

It's estimated that Google shows featured snippets for about one-third of all searches. High-time to start capturing those snippets don't you think?

You guessed right.

Optimising for search snippets and questions is the best thing you can do right now to capitalize on the voice search trend.

And here's how you do it:

How to Find and Get Featured Snippets

Let's start with the structuring.

There are three types of featured snippets.

  1. Paragraph snippets, where the answer to the searched query is presented in a box with or without an image. The above screenshot shows a paragraph snippet.
  2. List snippets that are mostly used to answer DIY processes or steps to do something list snippet example
  3. Table snippets that display data as a table.table featured snippet example

Now, before we get into the real optimisation process, let's take a look at the stats:

  1. Featured snippets are 45 words on average.
  2. Google shows featured snippets mostly for conversational what, why, when, how and long tail queries (and most voice queries fall into these categories too)
  3. Ahrefs reports that more than 99% of all featured snippets are from websites already ranking in the top 10
  4. There are certain types of queries that get the most feature snippets in the results:
    • Processes
    • Mathematical Queries
    • Finance or Economics Related
    • Health Queries

How to Identify Opportunities

You can go about identifying opportunities for features snippets in your niche in three ways:

  1. Find out low-hanging fruit

Remember the Ahrefs study that we talked about above stating only results in the top 10 getting featured snippet placements?

Well, you can always find ranking positions for your existing content from Google search console:

Let's take a look at the search console data for Ecommerce Platforms as an example:

Login to Google Search Console and open the Search Analytics tab in Search Traffic.

Check Clicks, Impressions, CTR, and Position:

EP search console search analytics

You'll be able to see the queries for which you rank well, and the CTR and impressions data.

Let's export the whole thing:

download search analytics data

 

And then import it into Google Sheets(or Excel). Let's also filter the impressions column for queries that have impressions greater than 1000. You can alternatively just sort the impressions column Z-A and delete all the rows that have impressions lower than 1000.

 filter search console data

Now- why do we filter for impressions?

Impressions are the views a particular query gets. Note that even if a user doesn't ‘see' your result, it's counted as an impression if your search engine listing is somewhere on the SERP page for that query. So in essence, you can relate it to the search volume for that query.

Optimizing existing posts for feature snippets takes time, and we don't want to optimize for queries that get a low search volume, do we?

The next step is to filter/remove queries for which we have a CTR greater than 50%.

Why?

Because we may already have featured snippets for these queries.

queries featured snippets filter CTR

We have featured snippets for all the three highlighted queries- notice how the CTRs are high for them?

Now, you have a

Pro tip:

The ones at the bottom of the list are the queries where you're missing the most traffic out on. These are queries where you're at the top of the SERPs and have a feature snippet right above you just because someone ranking below you optimized their content for snippets.

2. Find out good queries and long tail keywords that have featured snippets in the SERPs.

We first gather a list of keywords that we can create content around and rank for.

And there are several ways to do this. But we're growth hackers, and we like to work smart, so I'll show you how we can steal keywords from our competitors. We've written about this in the past in our post on growing traffic to ecommerce stores using Semrush, and now I'll show to how to this with Ahrefs- step by step.

First, let's gather a list of our competitors:

Use the Competing domains section in Ahrefs Site Explorer to find your immediate competitors based on Ahrefs keyword data:

ahrefs competing domains

This pulls up a long list of all our competitors:

our competitors

 

Go through each website one by one, take a look at the content on their blog, and decide if they're a valid competitor. Sometimes, some irrelevant sites (like Financesonline above) may creep into your list simply because you both rank for some keywords.

Pro tip:

In case Ahrefs doesn't show a lot of competitors because you don't have a lot of content on your website, all you need to do is check the Competing domains section in Ahrefs Site Explorer for the websites that Ahrefs shows you, and you'll get relevant competing domains. Nifty, huh ?

 

You can also use the “Related:yourdomain.com” search engine operator to find related websites in your niche, but I prefer the Ahrefs way, because IMO it returns more relevant results.

I then add all the relevant competing domains to a list. Aim for alteast 50 competing domains.

The next step is to mine the relevant keywords that these domains are ranking for with content.

Head over to the Batch Analysis tool in the More tab at the top, and copy/paste the competitor list you just collected into the box, and click Start Analysis.

Now, look for domains with DRs (Domain Rating) with a value that is within the + 10 range of your own domain's Ahrefs DR value.

For example, Ecommerce Platforms has a DR of 59, so I'd look for any competitors in the 49-69 range.

And why do we do this?

Because just by finding a good keyword, we might not be able to rank for them. Many of our competitors may have very authoritative domains and backlink profiles. An example of such a competitor in our case would be Shopify.

By finding which competitors have keywords in the vicinity of ours, we have a good chance of ranking for those keywords is our content is good enough. And remember- we need to rank in the top 10 if we want to capture the features snippet.

Based on the number of competitor domains you've collected you can manually eliminate domains from your list based on the above DR criteria. Since I plan content for several months in advance (and because I'm super lazy), I collect large lists of competitors and use the ‘Export' feature in the Batch Analysis section to export the DRs of all my competitors and just sort and delete the high DR or low DR ones using Google Sheets.

Now that we have a good list of competitors, let's snipe keywords of these competitors one by one. Let's try to snipe the keywords of Shopify for this example:

top pages of competitors

This pulls up all the top content for Shopify that drive a lot of traffic to their website. There are two things you need to do next:

  • filter for traffic: As long as your niche doesn't sell super-high ticket products, you don't want keywords/queries that have below say, 50 searches per month at least (the low search volume ranges in between 100-300 will have a lot of long-tail keyword variations in them)
  • export the data

For example, for the Ecommerce Platforms blog, this is how I would filter, and export:

shopify top content filtering and export

After you're done exporting, import it again into Google sheets (or open it in Excel):

shopify featured snippets

You seeing what I'm seeing?

Ahrefs just handed you all the keywords that Shopify has a featured snippet for on a silver platter. If you sort that column- Page URL inside A-Z, you can get a list of all the keywords for which Shopify has a featured snippet for.

Imagine the number of keywords you'll have when you comb through the Top pages report for all the competitors in your list!

Now, we have a huge list of keywords and queries that have feature snippets, let's take a look at some killer optimization strategies that you can use to get those featured snippets:

How to Optimize Your Content for Featured Snippets

Here's how you should optimize your content:

  1. Format them the right way( as paragraphs, lists or tables)

The first step in optimizing your content for all those featured snippets is to format it the right way.

Remember when I told you there are three types of snippets?

They're paragraph, list, and table.

If you're optimizing for, say, paragraph snippets, your answer (which is what'll appear in the featured snippet box) will obviously have to be within a <p> tag.

Paragraph snippets would usually only contain text that answers the query, but in paragraph containers (<p>) only.

So go ahead and add a relevant question/query to your content, and answer the question in a paragraph right below it in <p> tags. Simple.

In the same way, you need to format your content as bulleted lists or tables below a relevant question/query respectively for list snippets or table snippets.

2. Use H2 and H3 header tags properly

This is a problem that I have too, consistently. At times, I feel too lazy to go through a lengthy post and structure the headers correctly.

The thing is- h2 and h3 headers are super important for SEO. Google uses them to understand your content more, and now they're also using them for featured snippets.

If you're optimizing a list post, make sure all the points on the list are H2 or H3 tags. This can get you a featured snippet with the header tags as the points in a list snippet.

3. Add summary sections at the top of blog posts

You can capture a lot of featured snippets simply by adding a short summary section at the topic that summarizes the content of the entire posts in lists or paragraphs.

Have you noticed how most skyscraper list posts that are well over 3000 words have summary sections at the top with anchor links to each list item?

Guess what:

These aren't just to make it easier to navigate. They're also for getting a featured snippet.

Add a summary section at the top of all your long-form posts, period.

 

4. Create Youtube videos with descriptions.

Seems Google loves to pull video descriptions for featured snippets.

In fact:

Ahrefs found that YouTube is the #7 most “featured” website:

ahrefs top 20 featured snippets domains

And these aren't the big knowledge graph panels when you search for Bieber videos (no offense), Youtube has featured snippets for keywords like these:

 youtube featured snippet

Guess where the paragraph is from?

You're right- the video description:

youtube video snippet video description

 

So create videos (more on this later), upload them on Youtube, and write descriptions that answer the query!

Wow- now that was actionable wasn't it? The best part of the above strategy is that you can use them to identify and capture voice search traffic for transactional queries with high buyer intent 🙂

Let's move on to the next trend that'll shape ecommerce in 2018:

2. Augmented Reality for Improved Ecommerce UX

I agree- there's been a lot of hype around AR and Augmented Reality ever since the technology was introduced to the market a few years back.

But imagine this:

What if you could give your customers a storelike shopping experience with virtual reality?

And Ikea is one of the first brands in the world to brilliantly employ this innovation:

They've used augmented reality to offer customers the ability to see what they're home would look like if they had the furniture in there. Genius.

And this is just the start.

Imagine the possible innovations in this area. I can think of hundreds of opportunities in the fashion industry alone.

You could see how that new pair of Rayban aviators would look on your face. You could quickly find out what size of clothing would fit you. You could see how those green chinos would blend in with that red blazer you just bought. The possibilities are endless.

How to Deliver an AR experience for your Customers

The obvious way is to get started with Apple's and Google's AR solutions for developers: ARKit, and ARCore.

You can get started with your first iOS AR app here, and Android app here.

3. Video Will Go Into Mainstream Content Strategies of Ecommerce Brands

I actually wanted to use this as the #1 trend but decided not to for a simple reason: the trend has been constant for a few years now.

Video can't be ignored. CISCO, in their VNI Complete Forecast, predicts that 80% of all internet traffic will be video.

I'll repeat that: 80% of ALL internet traffic will be video. That trumps every other content type you can imagine.

The data is clear, and let me ask you a simple question:

How much video do you use in your content marketing strategy?

Well, the data shows that you should be doing this a lot.

 

How to Get Started With Video Content Marketing

Getting started is easy. There are tons of free tools out there that you can start using today?

Here's an example:

Not bad for a free tool huh?

I created the above video using Lumen5. It allows you to create simple videos easily from existing blog posts for free. And guess what- several press biggies like Entrepreneur and Inc are using similar tools to automate video content creation.

Here's how you can use Lumen5 to create a video:

  • Enter the URL of a post for which you'd like a video created:

 lumen blogpost url

After you add a URL, Lumen5 will pull up all the text from the post, and display it in a touch-to-select Storyboard editor screen that looks like this:

lumen5 editor

All you need to do is click on sentences from the left section, and Lumen5 will add it as a selector to the left  Storyboard section where you'll have the option to edit it.

You'll also have the option to see how the video will look like during this by clicking on the “Preview” button at the top right.

After you create the Storyboard by selecting sentences from your post, click on Continue at the top, and Lumen5 will start generating the video:

generate video lumen5

 

After the video is generated, you'll have the option to add images to slides and add any music or branding:

add images or branding lumen5

You can add images from your posts, Lumen5's database of free images and icons or upload others to illustrate each slide in your video.

You also have the option to add music from their library, or upload your own:

add music in lumen5

After you're done, click on Continue at the top.

You can publish videos in two formats:

Without frame and with a frame as shown in the screenshot (now you know how all those captioned facebook videos were created):

create videos using lumen5

Wasn't that pretty easy? You can use such videos for amplifying your reach on social and for repurposing your existing content for other channels.

Besides that, we've always been proponents of video descriptions for ecommerce stores. They're better for both UX and SEO, and the video will also provide another avenue for traffic.

The next trend, which IMO is a growing monopoly than a trend:

4. Amazon will become a big player in digital advertising

Spoiler: This isn't because Jeff Bezos recently became the World's richest man. 

It's because over the past few years Amazon has expanded their product line to include more avenues for marketing than you can comprehend.

Google is the undisputed king in online advertising. No question with that.

But over the past few years with the introduction of logistic centers and Prime, Amazon has been able to build trust among its users- and not just in the US, but all over the world where they have a presence. Amazon offers hassle-free returns and has a very widespread logistics network that results in quick delivery times.

Google used to be at the top f the buying funnel in the past. Users would search in Google for product recommendations and reviews and then buy.

But Amazon has turned the tables by building trust and options over the years. Many users now search on Amazon first, and if they're unable to find good options, they use Google. This very trend worries Google a lot.

And in between all this, Amazon has been slowly building a digital advertising network behind the scenes far advanced than that of Google.

I'll explain:

Think of Amazon's product line:

They've got Twitch TV, Audible, Prime, Kindle, Amazon Home Services, Alexa, Prime day (more on why this a product line later), Dash button, and Echo.

Most of us look at these as a product line up.

Guess what?

They're advertising channels that are targeted at each step of the sales funnel.

Here's how:

For the awareness level, they've got Twitch TV, Audible and the robust Amazon display network.

For the discovery level, they've got Kindle and Fire ads, Amazon Prime Now and Home Services.

For the sales level, they've got Alexa Deals, Amazon coupons and discount codes, and events (Amazon Prime).

For retention, they've got options like subscribe and save, Echo skills and the dash button that growing in popularity.

Geddit?

Their network is still in infancy, but if you're in the ecommerce space, you need to get into Amazon's network asap.

The only way for this is to get super savvy about Amazon's budding marketing channels fast.

Here's an actionable checklist you can follow:

 

1. Get started with Amazon display advertising fast:

amazon display ads

Head over to Amazon Marketing Services and register your brand/agency on the display ad platform.

You can then select a product, and set your bids and define target segments to start your ad campaign.

The Amazon Marketing Services platform essentially allows you to run pay-per-click ads right on Amazon.com. and this can be a good option if you sell physical products.

They offer two types of targeting:

  • Keyword targeting: They'll give you suggestions for the best keywords to bid on based on the search and shopping history of customers.
  • Product targeting: You can simply select products similar or related to your own and target that way.

They're also offering 100 USD in free credits for new advertisers.

2. Start using Amazon Advertising Solutions

While Amazon Marketing Services is primarily targeted at product sellers, AAS has options for advertising all types of brands.

amazon advertising services

 

Here are some examples on how you can use the platform to sell more:

a. Increase book sales:

This is one of the well-kept secrets among publishers, but Amazon provides a dizzying range of marketing options for books.

Here are some options the platform provides you if you want to sell more books:

1. Promote titles alongside similar books and authors

2. You can feature new releases to start driving sales as soon as they publish

3. You can run continuous blacklist campaigns so that you can attract new readers all the time ( this one is gold).

4. Targeting options based on keywords, genres, titles, and authors.

 

b. Increase app downloads:

I bet you didn't know you could advertise apps on Amazon. Well, I didn't.

amazon app advertising

They have two options for app advertising. You can either use self-serve ads that are displayed on Fire and Android devices:

app advertising locations

Or opt for premium ads to boost your install rates. Premium ads cover additional channels like Amazon Prime, besides Android, Kindle and iOS devices:

amazon premium app advertising- prime

amazon premium app advertising- kindle

 

 

 

 

 

 

c. Advertise external brands:

Besides allowing you to boost sales of products listed on the Amazon store, they also allow you to drive traffic outside to your own website for selling off of Amazon.

In addition to traditional display and video placements on Amazon like shown in the screenshot below, they also allow you to advertise on partner websites like IMDB, and also offer some unique offline options like lockers, boxes and more.

amazon advertise external businesses

While the options are all available, you wouldn't want to get into this one just yet, because the entry fee is prohibitive.

External brand advertising campaigns are managed by an Amazon Advertising consultant and require a budget of $35,000 or more in the US. Besides they only offer advertising options in 8 countries as of now: US, Canada, United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, and Japan.

Want to learn more right away? Here's the Webinar archive from Amazon where they walk you through the features and all the targeting.

5. Widespread Adoption of Crypto Payment Processors

At the time of writing this post, Bitcoin is all the rage, and usage of all cryptocurrencies are spiking at an alarming rate.

We've talked about why you need to start accepting Bitcoin payments on your store and how to do it, but let's set all that aside and look at the facts:

The blockchain is here to stay. Cryptocurrencies are going to survive as long as the blockchain survives. Never before has a decentralized ledger concept gained so much traction before.

Bitcoin may or may not be a bubble, but almost all the major cryptocurrencies are seeing explosive growth. It could be called a fad if it was something that crept up recently. But cryptocurrencies have been around for 8 years now, and they've only grown.

Its high time you capitalize on this trend.

And I'd like to emphasize on this: Crypto commerce may not be a trend in 2019. But it's sure is one of the top trends that will affect ecommerce as a whole in 2018.

Start accepting crypto payments on your store. I'd love to show you how to do it step by step, but I've already done that here:

Everything You Need to Know About Bitcoin and Blockchain in Ecommerce 

That sums up the Ecommerce Platforms official ecommerce trends report for 2018. While we don't guarantee that these will be pathbreaking trends that transform the industry this year, we do guarantee that these trends will play a major role this year in shaping ecommerce for the better- more reach for us marketers, and more options for our customers.

What trends do you think will shape eCommerce in 2018? Share your opinions in the comments below!

Feature image by Dimitrii

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11 Best Open Source Ecommerce Platforms for 2017 https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/open-source-ecommerce-platforms https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/open-source-ecommerce-platforms#respond Mon, 25 Dec 2017 10:00:03 +0000 https://ecommerce-platforms.com/?p=13517 If you're looking for a cheap or free open source ecommerce platform, you've come to the right place. Well, technically, you could choose just about any ecommerce framework, since the majority of them are rather inexpensive as it is. However,…

Continue reading 11 Best Open Source Ecommerce Platforms for 2017

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If you're looking for a cheap or free open source ecommerce platform, you've come to the right place.

Well, technically, you could choose just about any ecommerce framework, since the majority of them are rather inexpensive as it is.

However, the open source model has brought about all sorts of praise from the people who use it, especially considering these online store systems are completely free, they're managed and developed by numerous people around the world, and you can typically find lots of documentation and blog posts to guide you along your way.

When researching and choosing any of these ecommerce frameworks, it's important to decide the type of development experience you're looking for.

Here are a few questions you should consider asking yourself:

Are you interested in self-hosting?

Or would you rather pay a small fee per month to have hosting and all ecommerce features wrapped up in one nice package?

One of the main decisions is whether you'd like one of the open source (free) ecommerce platforms or a more user-friendly one that involves a monthly fee.

For instance, you could opt to pay as little as $9 per month for an ecommerce platform like Shopify, which has everything like hosting, a website builder, plugins, marketing tools, and inventory options included.

I personally would always go with an option like Shopify over an open source system, but there are some reasons to consider the latter:

  • Open source ecommerce frameworks are free.
  • You often have more creative control over the design and how the store works.
  • Open source solutions are often packed with more unique features because they are constantly being developed.
  • You can control things like hosting, plugins and themes that would go into your store.

As always, there are several downsides to open source:

  • Open source ecommerce platforms typically require more development or coding knowledge (but you can always hire a developer).
  • You have to look around to find a server for hosting by yourself.
  • All the site related operations such as maintenance, security, and speed optimization have to be done by you.
  • The website designers are usually less user-friendly compared to ones in major ecommerce frameworks like Shopify.
  • You don't get dedicated support. So, if you're someone who needs to call or email a support rep, open source might not be for you.

It's entirely up to you to decide which type of platform is right for you, but for now, let's talk about the best open source ecommerce platforms on the market.

1. WooCommerce (On WordPress)

an open source ecommerce platform

WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin, so you'll have to install WordPress (open source) on your host, then install the WooCommerce plugin onto your site. It automatically turns any WordPress website into a fully functional online store, with inventory management, coupons, and product pages.

Benefits:

  • The plugin is free to download and install. Many stores don't need anything more than the plugin.
  • It connects to all major payment gateways.
  • With a WooCommerce theme, you hardly have to do any work besides adding content.
  • You can offer coupons and discounts, along with adding multiple other features with the help of the extension library.

Downsides:

  • There are plenty of extra expenses such as a WooCommerce theme, extra extensions, hosting, and domain name.
  • WooCommerce has several moving parts. On the surface, it requires hosting + WordPress + the WooCommerce plugin. Beginners can get intimidated by this, especially with tasks like SEO, security, hosting, and caching.
  • WooCommerce technically works with all WordPress themes, but it's kind of a joke unless you get one made just for WooCommerce.

2. X-Cart

X-Cart has helped to create over 35,000 online stores, and this has been growing over the past years. As with all of these ecommerce platforms on the list, it's free, open source, and self-hosted.

X-Cart is often considered one of the fastest open source platforms on the market, and it also has an incredible number of features for you to sink your teeth into. There's also a free trial for the premium plan, which goes for $495 (one-time payment).

Benefits:

  • It depends on the package you go with, but you can often get full multilingual and multi-currency support.
  • It's free and open source.
  • The most advanced developers will have all the control they need with X-Cart. It's pretty fun to play around with.
  • You can integrate your shopping cart with the most reputable payment gateways in the world.
  • You can also rest easy knowing that X-Cart is completely secure and PCI Compliant.

Downsides:

  • You have no access to direct customer support unless you pay an extra fee.
  • You even have to pay for hosting if you opt for one of the paid plans.
  • Although the premium plan is only $495 for a lifetime, this still looks somewhat high compared to other options.
  • There's a good chance you'll have to utilize some sort of manual coding when setting up your store.

3. Zen Cart

The whole reason Zen Cart was created was so that people without development degrees could build their own online stores.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that you don't need any coding knowledge, but it's pretty close.

But, I can assure you this:

Zen Cart is more user-friendly than many of the other open source ecommerce platforms, so it might be worth looking into if you want to scale up quickly but you don't have advanced skills.

Benefits

  • Zen Cart is known as a rather secure software, so you know that your site and customer information is protected.
  • Zen Cart is also great for scaling up a store because of its wide range of features and full customization options.
  • You can send out HTML emails directly from your website.

Downsides

  • The platform doesn't provide any dedicated support.
  • It can sometimes be difficult to upgrade your software.
  • There aren't many add-ons or extensions.
  • The templates are far from impressive, but you can still find some made by third parties.

4. Magento Open Source

Magento is one of the most popular open source ecommerce platforms, and for good reason.

To start, it has more features than you can ever expect to use. However, this opens up all sorts of avenues when it comes to marketing to your customers and creating things like membership plans, recurring payments, and discounts.

Do you seek complete control over the design and functionality of the site?

If the answer is a solid yes, consider Magento Open Source. It's very similar to that of WordPress, where the community is strong, you can choose from hundreds of thousands of themes, and there are plenty of extensions to get your hands on.

Benefits:

  • It's free, and there's a paid version if you want to upgrade.
  • You almost never need to look for an extension with Magento, since the feature list is overwhelming.
  • You can send out product alerts to customers for automated marketing.
  • The platform lets you make separate multi-lingual sites that load up depending on the user's location.
  • You can customize the user interface however you want.

Downsides:

  • Magento is packed with features, but that can also make it clunky and resource-hungry. Therefore, you might have to allocate a decent amount of money and time for optimization.
  • Although you can learn how to use Magento, the main reason you would consider it is if you had development skills. Larger companies are known to go with Magento because they have the access and money to get a developer who knows code.

5. OpenCart

Compared to other open source platforms, OpenCart is actually pretty easy to use and lightweight. It's free and there is a decent community to turn to if you have problems when designing your store.

I recommend it for startups since it doesn't take too much time to customize the website from scratch.

Due to the ease of use, the overall cost of setting up a store typically decreases.

For instance, you don't have to pay for a special developer, the themes aren't expensive, and you definitely don't need any plugins.

Benefits

  • The startup costs are pretty low.
  • The features are solid, and the large catalog functionality works wonders for order processing.
  • The average person should be fine with setting up OpenCart. Not to mention, it doesn't suck down resources like Magento.

Downsides

  • When you look at the feature list of Magento compared to OpenCart, it's no comparison. Magento wins by a landslide.
  • Performance is not a strong suit with OpenCart, so sometimes you have to get an extra plugin for this.
  • Although it's easier to use for beginnners, this means that the customization options are also fewer. You might consider OpenCart as one of the few open source ecommerce platforms that experienced developers would rather avoid.

6. PrestaShop

PrestaShop is a somewhat new in the ecommerce platform game, but it's made a name for itself with its ease of use and the beautiful interface. Another thing to consider is that it doesn't take much experience to install the plugin.

Therefore, beginners and intermediates will find it pretty easy to get started.

Benefits:

  • PrestaShop has a user-friendly interface with effortless inventory management and a process for store maintenance that anyone could understand.
  • PrestaShop provides a beautiful interface for establishing different websites for multiple languages and currencies.
  • This is a fairly lightweight ecommerce platform so you don't have to worry about it slowing down your site or running slowly when you design the site on your computer.
  • It has multi-vendor support if that's what you're looking for.

Downsides:

  • PrestaShop isn't as robust as other options like Magento, so the scalability isn't quite there. You could expand into a large, international store using the software, if necessary. However, it's really suited for small to mid-sized businesses.
  • It's not required to install any extra modules for a regular online store, but more often than not it seems like you'll need to pay for some sort of extension. And they aren't cheap.
  • The default theme provided isn't nearly as nice looking as you would find on other open source software.
  • PrestaShop is a little lightweight in terms of marketing tools. For instance, you can't cross-sell products (at the time of this article).

7. osCommerce

With osCommerce, you have access to a thriving community of developers and users, with a wonderful forum to check out solutions to your problems and talk with other people. Almost 300,000 online stores are made with osCommerce, so you know there are plenty of companies that already find it suitable.

The pricing is obviously a plus since you don't have to pay a dime to launch an online store. I would also give it top marks for the features, online support, and ease of use.

Benefits:

  • The online support is pretty amazing. Obviously, you're not going to be getting direct support, but the osCommerce forum has millions of active conversations that you can search. You also have the option to share your own thoughts or questions.
  • Similar to WordPress, the strong community means that you also have access to many plugins and add-ons. Developers mostly give these out for free, but you'll also find some that you have to pay for, or somewhere you might need to upgrade in order to get better features.
  • One of the great things about osCommerce is that it's easy to open up and make more advanced customizations to. Even less experienced developers can go in there and make modifications rather easily. In addition, you shouldn't have any problem finding and paying a developer to work with osCommerce.

Downsides:

  • The main reason you might consider going with something different like Magento is due to the reason that osCommerce isn't known to scale that well. It's entirely possible to make a larger ecommerce website, but I recommend it purely for small to midsized stores.
  • The osCommerce software requires more maintenance than other platforms. This means that you'll have to spend more time making updates, keeping the site secure, and working on things like SEO.
  • Because of your ability to really play around with the code in osCommerce, it can be more prone to errors and breakages. You probably don't want an ecommerce site to ever break, so it's important to find an excellent developer who knows how to protect the site.

8. JigoShop

JigoShop often gets compared to WooCommerce because of its ease of use and clean interface. You can also expand the functionality of the site with a wide range of plugins and add-ons, making your website far easier to scale up.

Overall, the development of JigoShop has improved over the years, so you'll find that JigoShop is pretty easy to pick up, even as a beginner. You'll find a basic dashboard, incredible themes (which are better than most themes from other platforms,) and a speedy interface when adding anything from products to promotions.

Benefits:

  • You can't find an easier to use open source ecommerce platform than this. Other than WooCommerce, this would also be on my list for beginners or intermediates.
  • You can choose from a large selection of themes, many of which are some of the best-looking themes on the market.
  • It's fairly easy to edit the code for your site, and you shouldn't have any problems finding a developer who's comfortable with JigoShop.
  • The integrations are aplenty, similar to that of WordPress where you can search online for the type of add-ons you want and it returns dozens of solutions.

Downsides:

  • You don't get any options for customer support. You're left to the forums and blog posts online.
  • The initial feature set isn't all that plentiful so you are expected to install some add-ons. Some of them are free, while others are not.
  • Although the themes look wonderful you'll have a hard time locating themes for free. You can find some free solutions, but these are usually a little watered down. Therefore, if you go with JigoShop you should keep the theme expenses in your mind.

9. Drupal Commerce

Drupal is one of the most common options to go with when designing any kind of website. It's one of the close competitors of WordPress since a strong percentage of the internet is powered by Drupal.

Not to mention, you can make pretty much any type of website with it.

As for Drupal Commerce, this is a separate module that allows you to build your ecommerce site rapidly, and it's one of the best solutions if you plan on scaling up quickly.

The bonus is- there's a huge community of people behind Drupal, so you can turn to the forums, social pages, and blogs for support.

Benefits:

  • Drupal was designed with the idea that only professionals were going to use it. This is why if you're a developer you'll feel right at home. The initial goal of Drupal has carried over throughout the years and it's one of the main reasons it's so powerful.
  • It has built-in caching, so the overall speed and performance are much better than other open source ecommerce platforms.
  • Unlike many other free open source solutions, Drupal Commerce has its own security system built in. It also gets updated frequently so you should be fine when protecting your site.
  • The online community is always there to help you along your way.

Downsides:

  • You're going to have a tough time running an online store if you're new to Drupal Commerce. It's hard to learn and most of the discussion in the community is coming from more experienced developers.
  • Drupal Commerce websites can become resource hogs since they often turn into large sites with lots of components and modifications.
  • Even if you're an experienced developer, you might find the interface to be complicated.
  • There's no chance of paying for a low price host with Drupal Commerce. You need high power and speed, preferably a VPS or dedicated server.

10. WP eCommerce

WP Ecommerce is the overshadowed cousin of WooCommerce. They're not technically related at all, but it's a solid WordPress plugin that doesn't get nearly as much attention as WooCommerce.

Let me tell you how it works. First, you install WordPress on your hosting server, followed by the WP eCommerce plugin.

This transforms a regular WordPress dashboard into an ecommerce control center. So, you can add products, run promotions, create categories, and more.

As simple as that!

Smaller sites will be fine with the plugin, but you have to install paid add-ons for extra functionality.

Benefits::

  • You actually get direct support if you pay for an add-on. Apparently, that support is only good for the add-on you purchased, but you might be able to get information out of a rep that's not related.
  • The plugin supports about a dozen payment gateways, but WP eCommerce provides support if you need to go with a gateway that isn't in the system.
  • The backend is easy to navigate and the frontend results look pretty clean and modern. What's more is that you can customize all of this easily with some simple CSS and HTML.
  • You can pay for direct customer support.

Downsides:

  • There aren't many add-ons.
  • The multi-lingual tools are just okay. Apparently, there are more advanced multilingual and multi-currency tools coming in the near future, so I'll see how that goes.
  • You're not going to find nearly as many WordPress themes for WP eCommerce as you are for WooCommerce.

11. Ubercart

Ubercart is often compared to Drupal Commerce in blog posts.

Drupal Commerce was created by an old Ubercart developer. Therefore, many people argue that Ubercart is the best because it's the original and has more features to play around with, while others state that Drupal Commerce is the more improved version of Ubercart.

This is what you can normally find when an employee leaves his or her company to create an own and fire up the competition.

But, there are significant differences, making it rather important to find the one that fits your business the best. It would be a pain to migrate from one to the other after making a wrong choice.

In short, both are highly customizable, but Drupal Commerce is more geared towards complex customizations. Most of the differences can be found in the extensions and add-ons, since some extensions just aren't available in each library.

That's why it's essential to research which add-ons are needed for your company before pulling the trigger on an ecommerce platform like this.

Benefits:

  • The activity logging in Ubercart is a fancy way to locate order statues no matter where a customer is in the purchasing process.
  • Although both Ubercart and Drupal Commerce are developer friendly, I'd argue that Ubercart is better for less experienced users.
  • It's simple enough to work well for smaller stores, but you do have the capabilities to expand.
  • Payment modules and shipping options are all packaged into the open source ecommerce platform. Therefore, you don't have to think much about that when launching.

Downsides:

  • The customization controls are less powerful in Ubercart when compared to Drupal Commerce. This can be a good thing for newer developers, but some more advanced users might want more.
  • Although you can scale up to support lots of products and product variants, Drupal Commerce is definitely more suitable for a large online store.
  • The SKUs are not as cut and dry as the competition, so users may have trouble when working with weight calculations for shipping.

Is An Open Source Ecommerce Platform Right for You?

I just want you to know that there are many other open source software which I haven't mentioned.

The best part is every single one of these is free and constantly in development. That's a huge plus if you'd like to save a little money in the short term and scale up easily in the long term.

Even though open source ecommerce platforms have their advantages, you should seriously consider a non-open source solution like Shopify, Bigcommerce, or Volusion. With these platforms you only pay a small monthly fee, you don't have to maintain your site as much or look for hosting, and always get dedicated customer support.

In my opinion, this type of ecommerce frameworks is for rapidly scaling companies that are going to hire a developer (or a team of developers) to run the entire website. But if you don't have the money for this type of employee, you're better off scaling up with something like Shopify.

If you have any questions about this take on open source ecommerce platforms, let us know in the comments below.


Feature Image by Damian Kidd

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How to Find the Ideal Target Market Demographic For Your Store https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/target-market-demographic https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/target-market-demographic#respond Wed, 20 Dec 2017 15:01:32 +0000 https://ecommerce-platforms.com/?p=13581 Building an ecommerce store is easy. Getting people to buy is hard. Or is it? The fact is: It all boils down to your customers. This is how most marketers and business owners play it out: They ‘think' that people would…

Continue reading How to Find the Ideal Target Market Demographic For Your Store

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Building an ecommerce store is easy.

Getting people to buy is hard.

Or is it?

The fact is:

It all boils down to your customers.

This is how most marketers and business owners play it out:

They ‘think' that people would be interested in cat socks. No problem.

Then they imagine that girls in the age range of 8-16 would be interested in buying cat socks.

They build out an entire business targeting girls with an age range of 8-16. They then wonder why they're not making sales.

The fundamental issue here is that the thought process is flawed.

Everything you see and hear is perspective.

Such perspectives may not be correct all the time. And building business based on perspectives is a bad idea.

Business and marketing business should be data-backed. You need real data showing you where and what your target audience is.

And in this post, I'm going to show you how to get that data- step by step.

The 3 Steps to Nailing Target Market Demographics

Demographics are simply the statistical characteristics of a sample set of people. If you're able to identify:

  • where your ideal customers hang out online
  • what they read
  • how they compare products, and
  • where they buy from

you have an unfair advantage compared to your competitors.

I'll cover the process of finding the ideal target market demographic for your ecommerce store in 3 steps:

  1. Start with the keywords

Okay, I might be a biased here, but think about it:

All search activity starts with a keyword.

So when you're trying to identify the target market demographic that'll result in sales for your keyword, it's only sensible that you start your research with keywords.

Let's consider the bitcoin and cryptocurrency niche for example.

First, you need to so some KW research:

Let's use the free Google Keyword Planner:

Let's just search for keyword ideas related to ‘bitcoin price' for now:

This should pull some solid keyword ideas around the base keyword, that we can use for further research. And since we're trying to uncover communities where our target customers hang out, let's look for keywords that people might discuss in such communities:

bitcoin price keyword ideas GKP

 

Now, it's time to find out where your target customers hang out, which is Step 2.

Forums

First, let's do a google search for online communities around cat socks.

Simply run a google search with any of the following Google search operators:

keyword “forum”
keyword “powered by Fireboard”
keyword “powered by ip.board”
keyword “powered by phpbb”
keyword “powered by phpbb3”
keyword “powered by SMF”
keyword “powered by vbulletin”
keyword forum
keyword intitle:forum
keyword inurl:forum

When I do a search for bitcoin price “forum”, it pulls up a number of forums with raging discussions on bitcoin price fluctuations.

Before we proceed, make sure you install the SEO quake chrome extension, which has a great SERP overlay feature that shows you how much Semrush traffic each forum gets directly from the SERPs:

bitcoin price forums search

I prefer to choose forums that get at least 50K searches for competitive niches like bitcoin, and at least 20k for moderate yet awesome niches like cat socks 🙂

Now, go ahead and signup to 4 of the best forums you can find from the SERPs.

Bonus Tip: Since I like to do this once in a while to identify new interests and market demographics, I create a separate Google chrome user and signup to forums in that niche using that user account. This way, I just have to open that chrome user window anytime I want to do research.

After you've created accounts on 4 of the best forums you can find this way, login to them one by one and spend some time on each of them.

And these are our goals:

  • look for relevant threads and find the pain points for people in the niche that we can try to solve
  • find the characteristics of people sharing their problems in the forums
  • note anything else that can help us

For example, I just logged into Bitcointalk.org, one of the prominent forums in the bitcoin niche, and found this relevant thread:

bitcoin thread

There are several insights in the first page alone (there are 28 pages full of comments):

  1. Users frequent preev.com and epsilon.one to check prices.
  2. Some users use alert services to keep track of prices
  3. Some users hold multiple cryptocurrencies and check the prices of those too.
  4. The users who check for bitcoin prices the most are traders who do short-term or scalp trading.
  5. Some users are crazy about checking BTC prices all the time

Whoa! Those were new insights even for me. To be frank, I check BTC prices daily too, and I've never even heard of preev.com and epsilon.one.

Although we can take a look at the forum profiles of the members who posted these comments, I generally don't trust forum profile data. For uncovering demographic and user data, let's take a look at relevant Facebook groups.

Facebook Groups

Login to Facebook, and search for Bitcoin price forums.

bitcoin_price fb groups

Join the top 3 and look around just like you did on forums.

Now, onto the final step:

The grunt work begins:

The goal of this step is not to identify topics or pain points of BTC enthusiasts. It's to identify the characteristics of users who are interested in constant price checking.

First, start looking at posts from at least a month back in these groups and list down (or open in new tabs) profiles of actual users who talk about bitcoin prices. Don't check profiles of the folks sharing price update links (these are marketers like you and me :))

Next, there are two plays you can use:

Open each profile and look for commonalities in characteristics:

  • Is he/she a millennial?
  • Are they working?
  • What profile/field do they work in?
  • Are they active on Facebook (check their timelines)?
  • Have they listed any other websites/social profiles in their about section?
  • Any websites/blogs they share regularly (this one is gold)

I typically just create a Google sheet and list the profile links of at least 50 users who look like my target customer/user.

I then create columns for each of the above data points and fill them one by one.

Well, actually – I just list the profile links and get my VA to fill them out 🙂

And to be brutally frank, I just scrape the user list from groups and copy/paste them into a Google sheet, but that strategy is for another day 🙂

When you're done, you should have a hardcore DB of target users and some solid data on them.

These are the data points that I pay most attention to for ecommerce stores:

  1. Job profiles (are they working and where?)
  2. Age ranges
  3. Facebook activity
  4. Blogs/websites they share regularly

50 is just a target for you to get started. There is nothing wrong with having a considerably larger list.

The more data we have, the more accurate the commonalities we find will be.

Just take a look at the data you've collected from user profiles.

Here's the data I found:

  1. Most users are from the US and Russia.
  2. Most are millennials and in the age range of 25-36
  3. Most of them are not active on Facebook (duh)
  4. They share price update posts about sudden crypto price spikes

Do you get where we're getting to? All the above points are demographics 😀

You can target users on almost any paid platform using all this data, and we now also know the interests of people interested in the ‘bitcoin price' niche.

Wondering how all that insight will help us craft a content strategy for our store (or blog in this example)?

Here's how:

-they like to read price updates multiple times a day- which means you should try to push out atleast 2 posts on price updates every day

-Our target market demographic includes millennials, so use millenial-targeted copy for your ads and CTAs.

-Publish guest posts on websites frequented by target audience

 

Want to take it a step further?

What if I told you that you can outreach to your target users and invite them to surveys so that you can gather data at scale?

And this is how you can do it:

After you create a list (or scrape) of users fitting your ideal customer/user persona, send them a message on Facebook Messenger.

Do not invite them to an interview or survey straight away.

Start with a personalized question like this:

 

Hey {{Name}},

Noticed that you're active in the group. Thought I'd reach out and connect. 

What websites do you use to keep track of the price?

If they reply, respond with this message:

Thanks a ton {{Name}}!

I'm actually thinking about starting a BTC blog- I spend most of my time reading about it anyway.

However, I've no idea about what our community may be looking for online, so I put together a short 2-minute questionnaire to find out.

Do you mind spending 2 minutes to fill it out: Questionnaire link.

If you're too busy, I understand 🙂

Thanks again,

{{Your name}}

 

Wondering how to set up the questionnaire? You should be easily able to set one up for free using TypeForm.

typeform questionnaire example

And I'm lazier than you, so I also set up a Zapier integration so that every single time someone fills out and submits a questionnaire, it gets added to a Google sheet as a new row.

Nifty, huh?

Going all in- In-Depth Customer Research

Warning: this strategy may not be well suited for well-known niches.

But for cases where target users may not be very active online, or where you need more granular and in-depth demographic data, it's actually a good idea to physically interact with actual customers!

The folks over at Food On the Table (now Genius Kitchen) created the first version of their website after they followed an actaul mom around for three staggering weeks to understand her shopping and buying habits.

Food on the Table now has over a million users. That's the grunt work paying off.

 

Before I sign off, there are 3 key points to remember:

-this is the step in researching and finding your target market. Set aside some time for it.

-forums are a goldmine (or bitcoin mine lol) of data about your target market demographic andaudience. Don't avoid them because you hate creating accounts

-grunt work really pays off 🙂

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