How to Offer Free Shipping on a Small Budget

May 25th, 2016 Comments off

267203_Blog-Free-Shipping-on-a-Small-Business-BudgetJust as e-commerce evolves, so do its shoppers. Online shoppers span across generations, interests and buying habits. Though we all tend to browse for products a little differently, there’s something just about all online buyers look for when shopping – free shipping. In fact, they almost demand it. One comScore report found the following data regarding free shipping for e-commerce orders:

– 81% of consumers would rate free shipping as a top priority
– 93% of shoppers would take some type of action (add more items to their cart, search online for promo codes, etc.) to qualify for free shipping
– 58% would add items to their cart to qualify for free shipping
– 83% are willing to wait two extra days for delivery, if the item would ship for free

separate report by comScore found that Free Shipping Day 2012 helped increase sales the final week before Christmas by 16% compared to the previous year. That was a boost kicked off from a single day promotion. Imagine what your profit margins would look like if you offered free shipping all the time.

Great stats aside, a small business doesn’t have the budget that an enterprise might, and therefore may not be able to offer free shipping year round. Free shipping is too great an opportunity to pass up, and even small businesses can partake in it. Here are five ways a small e-commerce business can offer free shipping without breaking the bank.

Offer free shipping during holidays
Allowing free shipping during the holidays is a great alternative to offering it all the time, and won’t cost you beyond what you’re able to spend. Orders will be higher during this season, which will help eat the cost of shipping goods for free. Another option is to offer free shipping during a specific holiday. One-day sales and free shipping incentives are popular on Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve/Day, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

Set a minimum cart value
Target does it. There’s no reason you can’t, too. Determine the minimum order value a buyer must purchase in order to qualify for free shipping, and offer it under those conditions. A case study found that when one company added a minimum shopping cart threshold to earn free shipping, orders increased by 90%. Moreover, the average order value also increased by 7.32%. Pull together some numbers to help determine a minimum order value that would work for your business. You need to know:

– Total Orders Received
– Average Order Value
– Average Profit Margin
– Shipping Fees per Order
– Shipping Costs per Order

Once you have these variables, plug them into this calculator, which will tell you your shopping profit. You can then find your minimum shopping cart threshold for free shipping with the following equation:

[(Minimum Cart Value – Average Order Value) x Gross Profit Margin] – Shipping Cost = Minimum Order Value

Plug and play with different estimated Minimum Cart Values to find an order value that works for you.

Offer it to email subscribers
Extending free shipping to customers on your distribution list is essentially creating long-term profits. Subscribers will be the first to be notified of new products, sales, offers and marketing efforts. These customers are already your biggest source of revenue. E-commerce businesses that have 40% of their customers making repeat purchases generate nearly 50% more revenue than other sellers with only 10% of their customers returning. By offering free shipping to your most loyal buyers, you’re encouraging them to make new purchases and shop from you long-term.

Free shipping for returns
More and more online businesses are implementing free returns as part of their return policy. Zappos offers free, unconditional returns for all products (in addition to free shipping). Offering free returns works for small businesses for two reasons: 1) you will pay for return postage only sparingly, and 2) free returns create buyer trust and encourage shoppers to follow through with a purchase…which they likely won’t return, anyways. Researchers found that businesses that offered free shipping on returns saw sales increase by up to 357%. Even if you have to bite the bullet and pay for a few returns, you’ll more than make up that cost with better profits.

Make it available for certain products
If you don’t have room in your budget to offer free shipping on all your products, try making it available for just a few. Have any product you need to move in order to make room for new inventory? Offer to ship it for free. In industry speak, this is called order-level shipping. Offer free shipping on best sellers, sale items, or products that will be popular during a given event. If you’re an online florist, you could offer free shipping on red roses in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day. Or, if you ordered some new stock and want to test its popularity, advertise it with a free-shipping guarantee. You’ll incentivize people to buy it. If it does well, you’ll feel safe ordering a large quantity from your supplier.

Free shipping positively impacts profit margins and customer relations. It is increasingly becoming the norm across e-commerce industries, and shoppers are growing to expect it. Offer free shipping in a modified way that makes sense for your business, and you can reap the benefits too.

ecomdash_logo_smallEcomdash is an award-winning multichannel inventory software for e-commerce retailers. It offers an end-to-end e-commerce solution to complete workflow, including inventory and sales order management, product listing, dropshipping and fulfillment management, reporting and more.

 

3 Steps to an Easy Returns Process

July 24th, 2015 Comments off

We hear you – managing returns is frustrating. It can feel complex, time consuming, or even like the death of a sale. That said, 60% of shoppers who make at least one return to an online store, a whopping 95% of them will purchase from that store again if the return experience is positive. Moreover, if those shoppers feel that their return or exchange was an easy process, 64% of them will refer that online shop to friends. So even though returns may feel like an e-retailer’s nightmare, they can actually be the catalyst for more sales and new customers. In order to win back those sales, you have to make sure your return process is a walk in the park.

Here are 3 simple ways to guarantee a better return experience for your customers:

#1. Make It Clear
Your return policy must be easy to find on your site, with all policy information clearly stated. Be detailed and include all rules, like what you will provide (return postage, for example), and a step-by-step guide on how to proceed with the return. If you’d like an example, Zappos.com has a detailed and clearly outlined returns process that appears simple for the customer. Model your return policy webpage after theirs.

Zappos

#2. Know The Worth Of Returns vs. Customer Service
Figure out ahead of time the value of letting buyers keep the original item and sending them a replacement, vs. asking that they go through the return process. There are some cases where it is actually better for your company’s reputation, even if you end up eating some of your profit. See below for an example from Practical Ecommerce’s 4 Tips for Better Ecommerce Returns and Exchanges where this special circumstance played out:

A guitarist for a popular party and event band recently ordered a new guitar strap from a merchant on the Amazon marketplace. Unfortunately, there was an error in the shipment, and the merchant apparently sent a shorter strap than expected. When this guitarist contacted the seller about an exchange, he was told that a new strap would be shipped that day and that he could simply keep the smaller strap.

This solution was great for the customer, who did not have to repackage the strap or arrange for a carrier to pick it up. He was generally happy with the experience. This was probably also better for the merchant, who might have simply been able to order a new guitar strap from its distributor for about the same cost as having the strap returned.

In order to determine whether or not you can provide this kind of special customer service, you need to know all applicable variables. This includes cost of return shipping, cost of processing the return and profit lost on the item. Sometimes, a small (or fairly insignificant) loss will lead to a huge gain later. A customer could be so impressed with your service that they will not only shop from you again, but they’ll refer friends. Don’t forget, 64% of buyers will speak highly of retailers that gave them a positive return experience.

#3. Bring The Policy To Them
You already know not to bury your return policy landing page somewhere on your website where shoppers will have a hard time finding it. To keep them in the loop, consider posting (just once) on your social media sites either a link to your return policy page or a cliff notes version for them to quickly scan. Doing this will communicate that you are on their side and want them to be happy with their purchase – and if there is an issue, you want to make the return easy for them. This can be especially timely during the holiday season, and may be a smart post for December 26th. Drive it home with a follow up post inviting social media followers to share pictures of themselves with their new products. The more you can establish an emotional connection between your business and your buyers, the better your business will perform. According to a 10-year study conducted by Hiebing, brands that evoke a strong emotional response can sell more, drive customer loyalty and successfully charge up to 200% more than competitors.

With these tips in your back pocket, you can simplify the return process for your e-commerce store. Your buyers will appreciate it, and so will your bottom line. Of all the customers who make returns, are you ready to bring back the 95% who will shop from you again?

ecomdash_logo_smallEcomdash is an award-winning multichannel inventory software for ecommerce retailers. It offers an end-to-end ecommerce solution to complete workflow, including inventory and sales order management, product listing, dropshipping and fulfillment management, reporting and more.

8 Online Store Mistakes that Can Turn Off Shoppers

May 14th, 2014 Comments off
Couple In Kitchen Using Laptop with Yellow Oops Road Sign on the Screen.

Don’t let these common shopping cart mistakes turn away shoppers from your site

It’s essential to inspect and evaluate your online store every now and then. You never know when you’re doing something wrong or missing out on something important that’s making you lose a huge amount of traffic and potential profit every single day.

Here’s a wake-up call to alert you on common online store mistakes that actually turn off shoppers.

Mistake #1 – Not Having a Contact Page
This may sound like a far-off mistake for many online entrepreneurs. But if you’re a newbie in the biz, there’s a great chance you were not able to include a contact page in your online store. Perhaps the details are there somewhere in your website, but there’s no separate or dedicated contact page.

Even if you’re running your business from your own home, you should at least mention the city and state and provide a valid phone number with voice mail service. This way, shoppers are more assured that you’re a legit site.

Mistake #2 – Showing Distorted Photos
Even if you used a professional camera and originally had spectacular photos of your products, if you don’t resize them to suit the thumbnails or required size on your store, they won’t appear so spectacular after they’re uploaded. They might actually look distorted or stretched, surely turning off customers.

Remember that visuals are BIG when it comes to online businesses. Make sure to resize your photos to be a perfect fit. Check them out before publishing.

Mistake #3 – Having a Slow Responding Website
Many are not aware that the leading cause of a slow responding online store is high resolution pictures. Of course you want your photos to look professional, but this can be done even without the use of large files! Some stores make use of 2MB photos which appear really good and do not cause any delays when visitors click on tabs or move from one picture to another. A lengthy loading time can bore and exasperate shoppers, especially if they actually have good Internet connection in the first place.

Mistake #4 – Forgetting to Renew Your SSL Certificate
How would you feel if you visited a website and got the “This Connection is Untrusted” sign? Definitely frustrated and turned off. New visitors will especially tend to head on over to your competitors’ websites! Even returning customers may get ticked off.

This happens when you don’t renew your SSL certificate. People are likely to find your business suspicious and will not want to buy anything from your store. Furthermore, there’s a risk on the personal information released by buyers because of the unencrypted data.

Mistake #5 – Including Plenty of Pop-Ups
What’s another reason to turn off shoppers? Annoying pop-ups! It’s like having a poster flashed onto your face or a billboard spring up from the floor without warning while you’re looking through the items in a physical shop. Now that can be a major turn-off, especially if it occurs more than once or if web users can’t even find the X button easily.

Mistake #6 – Requiring Registration Upon Checkout
When a customer is about to pay for an item but is asked first to fill out a registration form upon checkout, there’s a great chance that he or she will just leave. You don’t want to risk this, right? So it’s definitely better to provide the option to check out as a guest rather than lose a sale.

Mistake #7 – Presenting a Lot of Confusing Buttons to Click
Many merchants love offering a one-click checkout option, which customers have repeatedly appreciated. When you have plenty of options, each one with an individual button, it can get confusing and overwhelming. Even if you offer different payment methods, it’s essential to keep everything clean and simple.

Mistake #8 – Utilizing a No-Charge Shopping Cart Software
Some start-up companies and newbie entrepreneurs on the Internet opt to use a free shopping cart software online. It’s definitely a turn-off because you won’t seem so legit and professional in the eyes of shoppers. Furthermore, there are numerous wonderful features you’ll be missing out on which can significantly boost the experience for your store visitors.

You’re fortunate to have gone through these common mistakes that many online store owners have committed in the past. At least you can make sure to avoid them in order to increase traffic to your store, improve your conversion rate, and boost your online reputation.

logo_3dcartJoe Palko is the CMO of 3dcart. Prior to joining 3dcart in 2011, Joe was a true internet pioneer co-founding his first e-commerce website in 1994 which later sold to America’s largest mail order pet supply retailer in 2007. Joe also co-founded Solid Cactus in 2001, which was later sold to the Web.com Group in 2009.

5 Ways to Make Your Freelance Business Look More Professional

July 9th, 2013 Comments off

blog_freelancerIf you have a specific, marketable skill, you can build a business by doing freelance work for businesses and individuals. Getting your freelance business off the ground takes a lot of networking, personal marketing, and chutzpah. You can increase your credibility to potential clients by adding these professional elements to your business communications.

#1 Upgrade Your Phone System

Your clients need several different ways to get in contact with you. Even if you complete your work entirely online, clients will want to contact you by telephone. Instead of directing them to your home phone line, install a separate line specifically for your business. Having a business phone number that differs from your mobile and home phone lines gives your business an air of professionalism that can be difficult to attain as a freelance worker.

  • VoIP small business phone systems can be very affordable while offering you big-business features like caller ID and directories, conference and multiparty calls, and call parking, transfer, forwarding, and hold.

#2 Hire a Virtual Assistant

Companies may outsource projects to your consulting business – and you, in turn, can outsource some of your own administrative functions. Hire a virtual assistant to handle your business calls, take messages, and divert calls to your mobile phone as needed.

  • Since your virtual assistant may work for several clients at once, you only pay for the work they do for you – a much cheaper option than having an in-house receptionist to handle your low volume of incoming calls.

#3 Use Your Website Email Address

Are you emailing your customers and business associates from a free email client? Don’t. For just a few dollars, purchase a domain for your business and set up an email address and website. Not only is this more professional, but it also is good preparation for the future, as many free email clients begin to shut down their services.

If you run your freelance business from home, consider renting a PO Box for your business  instead of using your residential address. Or, you can take advantage of new mail services that enable you to use an actual street address (“105 Main Street,” for example) in place of a PO Box number.

#4 Change How You Send Your Postal Mail

Speaking of mail – how many pieces of mail do you send out per day, week, or month? If you find yourself repeatedly running to the post office, hand-addressing envelopes until you get a cramp, or using the latest novelty stamps plastered with images of characters from “The Simpsons,” you may benefit from using custom online postage instead.

  • Print your postage online or order custom stamps to be delivered straight to your door.

#5 Your Website & Social Profiles

The first thing a potential client or customer will do when looking for your business is search for your online presence. Fill your website and social media profiles with relevant content, company information, and, most importantly, contact information. They don’t have to be fancy – but they have to be current, functional, and informative.

When you run a freelance business, the most important thing you do is communicate. If your communications – online, over the phone, and through the mail – are unprofessional, that will have a negative effect on your ability to attract and keep clients. Make your communications more professional, and watch your business grow.

blog_272x77_resource-nationMegan Webb-Morgan is a business blogger, focusing on a variety of topics ranging from social technology to online marketing. She writes for ResourceNation.com, a B2B lead generation company. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook, too.

Image: Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Social Technology Your Business Can’t Miss

April 17th, 2013 Comments off

blog_social-media-technologyMaintaining your company’s Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest, and other social accounts in tandem can be a labor-intensive undertaking. However, social technology tools exist that make posting content, monitoring mentions, and providing service an easy, innovative, streamlined process. From your improving your online marketing efforts, to empowering your sales team – read on to see how social can make your business better in every way.

Social Automation
The companies who have the most followers and online engagement on Twitter tend to send approximately 22 tweets over the course of each day. Since it’s considered poor conduct to send all 22 tweets at once, you need to find a way to space them out.

Marketing automation software makes it easy to post content to all of your social profiles in a consistent, timely manner. You pre-populate the software with content and schedule it to post to your accounts at a rate and time of your choosing. Social automation software can also:

  • Send a pre-written direct message to your new followers
  • Post a link to your profiles every time your blog has a new post
  • Schedule updates for all of your accounts or only for specific profiles.

Remember that in order to produce effective and engaging marketing, consistently adding content to your social profiles is only half the battle. It’s up to you and your marketing team to make sure that your posts are interesting to your audience, appropriate for your company, and effective in turning followers into customers.

Social Customer Service
A recent Oracle report found that more than half of Twitter users expect a response within two hours of tweeting a complaint, but 58% of users who tweet about a bad experience will never receive a response from the company (Bluewolf). When you monitor mentions of your company over social media, you have the opportunity to respond to customer service issues immediately – just as you would with a customer calling on the phone.

  • Much like call center software, social media monitoring software transfers every social media comment or mention into a helpdesk ticketing system. Your customer service agents can assess whether each mention merits a response, and immediately send appropriate responses through the portal.
  • Software that uses this ticketing system makes for responsive, accurate, and consistent customer interactions that benefit both your marketing and your customer satisfaction.

Social Monitoring
Social media isn’t only about output. Just as it’s important for your company to produce and post content to your social profiles, it’s integral that you monitor what is being said about you in the social sphere.

Posts about your company can be opportunities for positive marketing and customer service; but if left unaddressed, they can damage your company’s reputation. Social monitoring software listens for mentions of your company and alerts you to instances that need to be directly addressed by your company.

  • Social listening software monitors conversations, analyzes the content for relevance, and helps you take the appropriate action to provide a positive customer experience.
  • Most software will automatically search for and collate @ mentions of your company. However, many times customers don’t use the @ when speaking about your company. You should program your software to listen for mentions of your company with and without the @ mention, as well as #brandname. You should also listen for common misspellings of your company name.

According to the Bain & Co. report “Putting Social Media to Work,” when companies engage with customers and provide responses to customer service requests over social media, those customers end up spending 20% to 40% more money with the company. Look into social media automation and monitoring technology to streamline and optimize your company’s social media presence.

blog_272x77_resource-nationMegan Webb-Morgan is a business blogger, focusing on a variety of topics ranging from social technology to online marketing. She writes for ResourceNation.com, a B2B lead generation company. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook, too.

Image: Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Call us toll-free at 1-888-434-0055

Monday–Friday, 6am–6pm Pacific Time