The holiday season is underway which means it’s time to start shopping for your friends and families. Regardless of which holiday you celebrate, the joyous season is a great time to express your gratitude, appreciation, and care for those in your life.
The 2020 BigCommerce Holiday Gift Guide
More than ever, consumers are paying attention to the brands they shop with — not just the product. At BigCommerce, a holiday gift guide isn’t complete without sharing the story behind the brands you shop with. Go on, shop with the following merchants this season and find the perfect gift for everyone you love.
Muniq is the perfect gift for your health lovers — the only meal replacement shake with resistant starch to improve blood sugars and weight loss sent directly to your doorstep. After losing his younger sister to health complications Founder & CEO, Marc Washington, sought to create a solution to help others take back control of their health. Muniq offers eight different shake flavors (vegan options included), so you can’t go wrong. Take their quiz to learn more about what products and what options may be best for you, or someone you love. We recommend trying their Variety Pack to get started.
2. Dana Rebecca Designs
Jewelry always makes a great holiday gift. Dana Rebecca Designs‘ collection features earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and more. The brand also recently teamed up with Chicago-based influencer, Liz Adams, to create a special collection. This collection embodies more than beautiful designs, but how brands can get creative with influencer partnerships. For a behind-the-scenes look at the making of their collection, read more here. You can shop Dana Rebecca Designs with buy now, pay later functionality — powered by Affirm — and prices range from $130-$10k+.
3. 86 and Norman
Calling all home goods fans! 86 and Norman is not only the perfect place to shop for plant holders, but also clutch bags and accessories. DIY-er turned Small Business Owner, Cheryl Williams, began her business in 2015 as a way to give women more variety and options that reflected their personal style. In 2019, she re-branded to 86 & Norman. Aside from the vibrant, hand-crafted products, we are also big fans of the brand’s rewards program!
4. Solo Stove
In 2020, we’ve all found different ways to stay busy at home. Solo Stove believes that their products are simply the tools for those that want to reconnect to what matters in their lives. The brand offers portable ultra-efficient wood-burning fire pits and grills that you can enjoy at home or on a camping trip. You can also shop accessories, clothing, and camp stoves. We love the digital experience the brand provides, plus all of their great blog content spanning from recipes to customer stories. Whether it’s for your backyard s’mores night or a camping adventure, these products will definitely make for a memorable holiday gift.
5. A Gentleman’s Trove
How many times have you stumbled on what to get your brother, father, or husband for the holidays? Perhaps, one too many. A Gentleman’s Trove is an amazing online store to find the perfect gift. Customers can choose from gift boxing options to a la carte products — and even search by occasion or interests. One of our favorite things about the store in particular is their Custom Gift Concierge Service, where you are paired with a ‘Gift Whisperer’ to help you find and deliver the perfect gift.
Cruelty-free face and body skincare is an easy reason to love the brand, Bliss. But, their online experience and commitment to 100% recycled materials makes us love them even more. For the holiday season, they’ve handcrafted holiday gift guides — including everything from stocking stuffers to sale items — to make your shopping journey a little bit easier. To learn what skincare products are right for you, take their quiz.
LARQ is innovative, sustainable, and a great personable gift (thanks to their customizable options). The innovative self-cleaning water bottle has gained popularity from major online stores such as Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, and Goop. On their website, you’ll find their entire product offering along with information on how the technology works, reviews, and their resourceful blog, basq by LARQ, that covers topics like LARQ news, sustainability, travel, wellness and more. Bonus: you can also shop their products using Instagram Shopping (try it below!).
8. Woodland Hills Wine Company
2020 might be the year where we became our own at-home sommeliers. If you are shopping for a wine lover, consider purchasing from Woodland Hills Wine Company, a family owned business since 1978. On their website, you’ll find wines from all over the world — including a selection of spirits. But, their true specialty lies in their collector-based wines.
If you are looking for a great stocking stuffer, these stockings will literally do just the trick. Meet Heist, a UK-based women’s intimates and shapewear brand designed with body inclusivity in mind. Their product offering ranges from bras to socks and everything in between. What also makes Heist stand out from its competitors is their commitment to sustainability and transparency — and most recently, taking a stand on social change with their Anti-Racism Action Plan. But, the commitment to their brand and customers doesn’t stop there. Heist is continuously engaging with their customers on social media — and even highlighting them with user-generated content.
10. Cordova Outdoors
Ready for hunting season or have a friend who loves the great outdoors? A cooler is a necessity. Handcrafted in Idaho, Cordova Outdoors offers a wide variety of coolers and accessories including hard-sided coolers, soft-sided backpacks, drinkware, and more. The online store also offers exclusive discounts for military, first responders, medical staff, and teachers.
11. Dress Up
If you are shopping for a woman who loves fashion, Dress Up is the perfect online store for you. With new arrivals launching two to three times per week, there’s a fit for everyone. This year, they’re offering Holiday Daily Deals, so customers can take advantage of the best sales. Plus, there’s no need to break the bank with all items priced under $50. Bonus: shop on Facebook and share your wishlist items with friends and family.
12. Plain Jane
Calling all CBD lovers! Plain Jane is accessible, affordable, and natural CBD brand offering a wide variety of CBD products, like gummies and oils. The company is based in Southern Oregon and licensed by the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Plus, all of their products are sourced from small American family farms. Must be 21+ years of age to shop.
Tired of leaning down to tie your shoelaces? Meet Hickies: the first tie-free shoelaces to hit the market. With styles for both children and adults, the brand offers many different options, including metallics, matching mini me sets, and more. In addition to enabling Google Pay and Google Shopping, you can always shop the brand with Instagram Shopping.
There’s something for everyone at Tyler’s, a Texas-based clothing store carrying brands like Patagonia, Yeti, Sorel, Z Supply, and more. Most recently, the company also launched a wide offering of face masks including holiday-themed designs.
15. UPLIFT Desk
Many professionals from around the world had a new way of working this year: from their home. For many, it meant working late nights at the kitchen counter or taking video conference calls from their bedroom. Treat yourself or your quarantine partner this holiday season to an UPLIFT Desk or a standing desk converter. Need convincing? These standing desks were selected by Wirecutter as the #1 best standing desk for the past two years in a row. Bonus fun fact: our BigCommerce HQ uses these desks — and our employees definitely miss them!
With consumers spending more time at home this year, many have turned to cooking to pass the time. CuttingBoard offers — you guessed it — a plethora of cutting boards including cheese, butcher, and carving boards as well. The best part? Many are customizable, making a practical gift that much more special. You may also consider bringing the merriment of the season to the kitchen with their new holiday collection.
17. La Perla
If you’re looking for a luxurious, feminine gift this holiday season, La Perla is the online store for you. The brand’s roots go all the way back to 1954 when Ada Masotti, an Italian woman full of talent and courage, began the journey towards her dream of creating her own atelier of corsetry. Today, La Perla offers many styles ranging from lingerie to sleepwear. Plus, their silk robes even make for great bridesmaids gifts. Their recent global website re-design on BigCommerce is in itself a reason to visit their online store.
18. Jeni’s Ice Cream
What are the holidays without sweet treats to accompany them? The company was founded in 2002 by Jeni Britton Bauer, an American ice cream maker and entrepreneur. Jeni’s Ice Cream is a year-round delight for any ice cream lover, but we can’t deny our love for their Grand Holiday Collection. Curious to learn how to make the ice cream yourself? You can also shop one of Jeni’s very own cookbooks.
19. P.E Nation
Born in Sydney, Australia in March 2016, P.E NATION is a multi-faceted active and street wear line created by Pip Edwards and Claire Tregoning. The brand has shared its mission toward conscious fashion by using recycled, sustainable, low-impact, conscious and compostable materials. Shop their Holiday Gifting Edit to find the perfect gift for a trendsetter, athlete or eco-conscious friend. Bonus: If you’re looking for a more interactive shopping experience, head over to their Instagram to tap into their virtual fitting room using their Instagram Story Filters. Below is our Brand Manager, Leah, trying them out!
20. Savannah Bee Company
This next gift is the bee’s knees — literally and figuratively. Savannah Bee Company was founded by Ted Dennard, President and Head Beekeeper, with the goal of sharing the world of bees with consumers by introducing new honeybee products to market. This year, they have holiday gifts ranging from The Buzz Honey Flute Gift Set to the Well-Beeing Kit. Be sure to also checkout their recipes to learn all the different ways you can use honey.
21. Bon Bon Bon
Chocolate lovers, this one’s for you. Bon Bon Bon is based in the heart of Detroit, Michigan. These chocolate delicacies are sold in a variety of flavors. But, don’t fear if you can’t choose just one! Use the Bon Builder to customize your own box of chocolates. Good news: they ship to anywhere in the United States.
22. Oyin Handmade
Oyin Handmade is a black-owned business founded in 2001 by Jamyla Bennu after she struggled to find natural and organic products for her highly textured, natural hair. Their products contain no petroleum, silicones, sulfates, parabens, non-nourishing fillers and are cruelty-free. Oyin Handmade’s Burnt Sugar Pomade was most recently highlighted in Allure Magazine’s 2020 Best In Beauty Awards in the Clean Beauty category!
23. Sara Campbell
Like many other offline retailers, women’s clothing brand, Sara Campbell, was impacted greatly by the coronavirus pandemic. But, after working with our partner, Groove Commerce, to get launched online quickly, the brand hit record-breaking ecommerce goals in just a few months. Tune into Groove’s Make it Big 2020 session to learn more about their story. Meanwhile, shop their new online store this season, especially their new holiday collection.
There are so many businesses you can shop with this holiday shopping season. We hope our holiday gift guide can help you find the perfect gift for the people on your shopping list. To learn more about how BigCommerce is helping our merchants succeed, read our case studies. And, most importantly, we hope you have a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season.
Charting a New Path Forward: How to Plan Your Ecommerce Investments for the Future
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It’s not often that widespread change happens overnight, but that’s how it felt for much of the U.S. in mid-March 2020, when the World Health Organization first characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic.
Nonessential brick-and-mortar storefronts closed their doors. 42% of the U.S. workforce started working from home. Needs, priorities, and — for a very large sector of the population — incomes all shifted.
Suddenly, ecommerce became a lot more important. As businesses grappled with the changes, positive and otherwise, it became clear that the strategic plan they brought with them into 2020 needed to be reevaluated.
To better understand the impact of COVID-19 on ecommerce retailers’ investments and strategies, BigCommerce partnered with Retail Dive’s Brand Studio to survey 140 retail executives about their investment behavior before and after the pandemic.
The findings revealed several interesting observations about the state of ecommerce today, as well as clear areas of increase and decrease across various areas of investment.
COVID-19’s Impact on Ecommerce Performance
By and large, the pandemic has had a positive impact on ecommerce. Two out of three ecommerce executives say that the impact was very or slightly positive, while fewer than one-third report a slightly or very negative impact.
The most positively impacted metrics were:
- Website traffic,
- Revenue, and
- Number of transactions.
Fortunately, 79% of retailers believe their technology capabilities set them up to manage the circumstances of 2020 so far — but investment decisions going forward would still have to shift in response to changing shopper needs and behaviors.
Shifting Priorities for the Future
Prior to COVID-19, the top two areas of increasing investments were website experience (66%) and marketing and advertising (58%).
Going forward, website experience (67%) and marketing and advertising (53%) still rose to the top, though at decreased percentages. Gaining increased investment include:
- Logistics and supply chain: +11 percentage points
- Inventory management: +8 percentage points
- Omnichannel selling: +3 percentage points
Fewer executives will be investing in internal operations (-10 percentage points) and third-party relationships (-7).
Executives most frequently reported hiring as the area having decreased investment in 2019 (19%) and moving forward (26%). While marketing and advertising remains a top area of investment, it also saw a rise among executives as an area of decreasing investment in 2019 (10%) and moving forward (20%).
When asked about possible ecommerce changes as a result of COVID-19, there was executive consensus around investments such as:
- Migrating to a new platform
- Not migrating to a new platform/staying the course
- Discussing changes or tweaking current processes
- Freezing wages, streamlining headcount, or other savings strategies
- New delivery modalities
- More social media use
- Changing in-store/online mix
Let’s take a closer look at the three areas with the highest investment priority moving forward:
1. Website experience.
In the context of increased traffic, it makes sense that website experience would continue to be an important priority for retailers that want to continue to develop customer relationships. Today’s digital-first shopping environment means that a retailer’s website is a powerful vehicle for providing a compelling customer experience, meeting demand, and moving products.
“There are three fundamental parts of a retailer’s value chain: capturing traffic effectively, converting prospects into buyers, and maximizing the post-purchase experience,”says Russ Klein, Chief Commercial Officer at BigCommerce. “All three of these critical points of customer experience take place on or in relation to a retailer’s online experience.”
“As such, any investment in that experience should enable a retailer to sell or attract prospective buyers everywhere that those prospective buyers want to be.” — Russ Klein, CCO, BigCommerce
2. Marketing and advertising.
While the majority of buyers adjusted or paused their advertising efforts as an initial response to COVID-19, those who kept investing found the cost on many platforms was going down — and conversion rates were going up.
“Many of the merchants who leaned into the lower cost of advertising and increased their budgets are seeing remarkable results.” — Sharon Gee, General Manager, Omnichannel at BigCommerce
“Many of the merchants who leaned into the lower cost of advertising and increased their budgets are seeing remarkable results, such as Cordova Outdoors, who saw a 3,500% return on ad spend,” said Gee.
3. Logistics and fulfillment strategies.
The drastic year-over-year increase in ecommerce orders, as well as impact on the workforce, created an increase in outages and transit delays for major carriers.
And, while many people see logistics and fulfillment as the technical side of ecommerce, it can actually have a big impact on the customer experience.
“COVID-19 revealed opportunities to streamline and improve the supply chain and shipping and logistics, and retailers must move quickly to address those gaps to remain competitive.” — Matt Crawford, General Manager, Shipping at BigCommerce.
Charting Your New Path Forward
COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the way retailers look at their sales channels, but the goal remains the same: serve the best possible product to as many customers as possible — and make sure they have an extraordinary experience in the process.
The pandemic has not introduced any new themes into the ecommerce space; it simply accelerated the timeline of consumer demand and highlighted gaps and oversights in many retailers’ ecommerce operations.
Retailers today must reassess whether they’re making investments that support the best possible performance of their website experience, marketing and advertising, and logistics and fulfillment — and if not, bravely change course to chart this new path forward.
Take a deeper look at our retail investment survey results. Watch our webinar here.
With dozens of social media channels to choose from, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Messenger and SMS, why should you focus on email marketing?
Contrary to popular belief, email has significantly more users than social media, and it also has a better ROI.
Looking at the numbers, Twitter has 330 million active users as of the first quarter of 2019. Meanwhile, Facebook has over 2.6 billion monthly active users as of the start of 2020.
However, email outnumbers Facebook and Twitter combined.
In 2019, email users worldwide amounted to 3.9 billion users and could possibly reach 4.3 billion by 2023. Almost half of the world has an active email address!
Email still dominates the online space, and almost every online activity requires an email address—from making an online purchase to signing up for a social media account.
Don’t believe the myth that social media is replacing email. Nobody’s abandoning email. In fact, email marketing is one of the best ways to reach your customers today.
In this post, we discuss why email outperforms other channels, why it’s critical for business, steps to take to build a list, and what to do with your list once it is made.
Why Is an Email List Critical For Your Ecommerce Business?
When it comes to running an ecommerce business, email marketing will likely be your most profitable channel. According to the National Client Email Report, the average email marketing program generates a 38x ROI. As a result, more than 59% of marketers cite email as their biggest source of ROI.
Here’s why email is so effective.
1. Email is personal, purposeful and targeted.
With the proper email segmentation strategy, you can send emails that truly resonate with your customer and provide a sense of connection. For example, I run an ecommerce store that sells handkerchiefs and linens for special occasions.
Whenever a customer purchases from us for the first time, we send out an email with a personal thank you note.
Even though this email is 100% automated, our first time customers love the personal touch and often reply to this message telling us how impressed they are with our customer service.
2. You own your email list.
When you market your business via social media, you have no control over your audience. And for the past several years, Facebook and Instagram have significantly reduced organic reach, forcing you to pay for advertising.
Additionally, when you rely on Facebook and Instagram, you may also get suspended if you accidentally violate their terms of service.
However with email marketing, you own your customer list and no one can ever take that away from you.
As a result, email marketing provides your business with a sense of stability and a foundation for repeat sales.
3. People use email several times a day.
Due to the rise of smartphones, people often check their emails multiple times throughout the day. Almost 50% of individuals check their inbox 1-3 times a day.
11 Steps For Building Your Email List
Because email is so powerful, the best way to scale your sales is to grow your list. After all, the more subscribers you have, the more revenue you can generate.
Especially if you sell on Amazon, building your email list is one of the best ways to launch new products, future proof your business and establish your own brand.
But if you’re starting from scratch, building a sizable email list can seem like a daunting task.
By following the 12 strategies below, you can exponentially grow your email list in a short period of time and increase your earnings.
1. Encourage subscribers to share and forward emails.
One of the best ways to boost your subscriber list is through word of mouth. As a result, you should always include an “Email this to a Friend” button at the end of your marketing emails.
If your content is useful and shareable, your existing fans will forward your emails to their friends and colleagues. In my experience, the best place to put your share link is in the P.S. section of your email.
Noah Kagan of Sumo.com uses this strategy extensively in his email broadcasts.
2. Add a link to your employees’ signatures.
Your email signature is also an effective place to put a call to action to an email sign-up form or list.
Here’s what mine looks like:
My primary call to action in my email signature is to a special landing page that entices people to sign up for my free 6-day ecommerce mini course.
3. Promote a contest on social media.
Launching a giveaway is probably the fastest way to grow your email list. And for most contests, the bigger the prize, the more likely you’ll attract new subscribers.
In general, you should choose a prize worth at least $150 but the greater the value, the better. Also, stay away from generic prizes like Amazon gift cards and iPads, otherwise you’ll attract a bunch of untargeted freebie seekers.
Once you have your prize in place, you can amplify your giveaway with software that encourages social sharing.
Using a tool like Viral Sweep, you can easily make your contest go viral by giving away additional contest tries when contestants share your giveaway with friends.
In the photo above from my last contest, I gave away bonus contest entries to people who shared and liked the contest on Facebook, referred friends via email, shared on Twitter and made purchases from my shop.
4. Add a call to action on your Facebook business page.
If you’re on social media, people are probably checking out your Facebook business page.
Do not let these people leave without giving you their email address. By adding a call to action button on your page, you can direct people to a custom landing page with an email offer and sign up form.
Here’s what mine looks like:
And, here is the associated landing page:
5. Ask website visitors for feedback.
On every page of your website, you can place a live-chat widget on your site that encourages visitors to ask questions about your business.
Then, when a customer engages with your live chat widget, ask for their email address so that you can “follow up” if needed.
In addition, you can incentivize visitors to give their email by offering them discounts or promotions with products from your ecommerce shop.
6. Link to offers across your website that capture email signups.
Many of your visitors actually want to hear from you, so don’t make it difficult for them to sign up for your list.
All of your email sign up forms should be placed front and center on multiple pages of your website. For example, on our ecommerce store blog, we include multiple forms on every single page.
In the sidebar:
In the byline:
You should also include signup forms on your About Us page as well as your Contact page.
7. Host an online webinar or Facebook Live.
Webinars can be an effective way to generate sales and collect email addresses. As long as what you are presenting is valuable to your targeted audience, you can attract email subscribers in return for the information you are providing for free.
Popular makeup brands often use this strategy to teach their customers how to apply their cosmetics, and they require an email to sign up.
You can also use Facebook Live to quickly make sales and grow your email list. Tiffany Ivanovsky of Emma Lou’s Boutique makes millions per year by hosting daily Facebook live webinars to sell their products much like an infomercial.
When users comment on their Facebook posts, a Facebook Messenger bot is employed to gather email subscribers at the click of a button.
8. Run a group promotion with a partner website or email newsletter.
Group promotions involve working with brands with similar audiences to generate buzz in your niche.
And the fastest way to build your email list with a group promotion is by running a joint giveaway.
Here’s how it works:
- You partner with a similar brand in your niche and contribute a gift card from your online store. Ideally, your partner should not be a direct competitor but share a common audience. For example, it makes sense for my wedding linens shop to partner up with a wedding florist. Our client base is the same but we don’t compete directly.
- Your partner also contributes a similar sized gift card and the offers are combined into one massive sweepstakes giveaway.
- Both of you then send out an email to your list promoting the giveaway..
- Interested recipients enter their email and receive special offers from your company.
- At the end, a grand prize winner is selected.
At the end of the giveaway, both you and your partner keep the entire email list.
Group giveaways are extremely effective because the prize pool is so large and you and your partner walk away with an expanded list of targeted prospects.
9. Use an interactive pop-up form.
Pop-up forms are one of the most effective ways to get more subscribers and grow your email list.
And whether or not you find pop ups annoying, they do in fact work. According to Sumo.com who looked at 1,754,957,675 popups in their study, the average conversion rate for all popups is 3.09%. This is extremely high.
The most straightforward pop-up form you can implement for your ecommerce store is to offer a coupon in exchange for an email.
But the highest converting pop-up form offers usually involve gamification or a laser-focused lead magnet.
For example, here’s a pop-up form I set up for users who visit my linen towel and napkin-related pages on BumblebeeLinens.com that converts 25% better than a standard coupon popup.
But the highest converting email popup on my ecommerce store is my gamified popup.
Gamified pop-up forms work because everyone craves the potential to win something big. I use a spin-to-win popup to give customers a chance to win significant discounts from my store.
By using a spin-to-win form over a generic coupon popup, my email sign-up rate increased by 131%.
10. Collect emails at checkout.
The post-purchase email flow for your ecommerce store will generate the bulk of your email marketing revenue after your welcome series. As a result, you should add all of your paying customers to your email list during the checkout process.
For my store, I create custom autoresponder sequences for my customers, depending on what they purchased.
In the diagram above, depending on whether a customer buys hankies, napkins, towels or aprons, I send them down a different path of cross sells and upsells related to their purchase.
By collecting emails during checkout, you can also send abandoned cart email sequences and potentially recover 19% of your lost customers.
11. Create a referral program.
Most customers who shop online ask a friend or family member for a recommendation before making a purchase.
In fact, according to Nielsen, 92% of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.
The best way to implement a referral program to build your email list is to create a special link that directs a referral to a dedicated email landing page where they can claim their referral bonus.
Here’s how it works:
- Choose a reward for referring customers and referred friends. This can be a discount or a gift card from your shop.
- Have your existing customer refer their friends (with a special tracking link) to a dedicated discount landing page.
- Referred customers must provide their email to claim the discount, and if they make a purchase, both the referrer and the referred get a reward.
I Have an Email List, Now What?
Once you’ve built up a decent-sized email list, it’s time to start generating traffic and sales. Especially if you sell on Amazon, you can use your email list to launch new products and quickly gather Amazon reviews.
But it’s important to not blast your entire list with the same generic message.
Email is personal and should be utilized as such.
1. Segment your audiences.
Email list segmentation is the process of categorizing subscribers into logical groups so that you can send personalized and relevant emails.
A good segmentation strategy will increase your open rates, click-through rates and improve your email deliverability as well.
While there are many different ways to segment your audience, depending on what products you carry in your shop, here are some high-level segmentation strategies that apply to most online stores.
First, you should never send the same email to your entire list. At a bare minimum, you should segment your list based on the following parameters:
- The last time they opened your email, and how engaged they are with your content. Customers who open more often can be emailed more often. On the flip side, customers who are less engaged should be emailed less or pruned away because inactive subscribers can hurt your deliverability.
- How many times they’ve purchased. Repeat purchasers should be placed in their own category and treated like royalty. Meanwhile, first-time purchasers should be encouraged to buy again. In general, you should apply different promotions and incentives to different customer groups.
- What they purchased. If someone is interested in women’s clothing, don’t send them emails about mens boots. Generic product emails rarely convert well.
2. Measure engagement.
The beauty of email marketing is that everything is measurable. Keep track of your open rates, click-through rates and conversions.
Depending on your industry, you can compare your performance against other companies selling similar products.
If you are curious how well your email marketing campaigns are performing, you can refer to this handy comparison chart put out by Constant Contact.
3. Create an email marketing strategy.
When it comes to formulating an email marketing strategy for your online store, the most important factor is consistency.
Pick a frequency to email your customer list, stick with it, and email your customers at least once per week.
Most new email marketers don’t email their list often enough, so what you’ll find is that your subscriber list is more resilient than you think.
Also, you should leverage email autoresponders as much as possible to automate your email correspondence.
Autoresponders are the most powerful tools for making sales because they are set it and forget it. Once you’ve created a solid email sequence, it will run forever, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your business.
Contrary to what the media has been saying for years, email marketing is not dead — it’s not even close.
Not only does email marketing allow you to reach a large group of people, but the personalization aspects of email are unmatched by any other marketing medium.
Implemented correctly, email marketing will be one of the most important channels for your store for both nurturing new sales and attracting repeat business.
There are currently 7.1 million online retailers in the world with 1.8 million in the United States alone. And more are opening all the time.
In the midst of all this opportunity, how do you know if opening an online store is something you should do? You’ve heard of others who succeeded but how do you know if you’ll also succeed?
Maybe you’ve been on the verge of starting your own business, but you’ve allowed fear to hold you back. Or, maybe you think you don’t have the qualifications to make it as an online entrepreneur.
The only way to know for sure is to do it yourself. And the fact that you know of others who succeeded means the odds are in your favor of making it, too.
In this article, we’ll take all the guesswork out of starting your own business. We’ll also provide you with all the tips and information you need to ensure you are able to operate a successful online store.
It’s Never Been Easier to Start an Online Store
If you’ve ever dreamed of starting an online store, there’s no better time to begin than right now. According to emarketer US consumers will spend $709.78 billion on ecommerce in 2020, which represents an increase of 18.0%. And these are the estimated numbers in spite of everything that’s going on in the world.
But there are more reasons you shouldn’t wait. We’ll talk about them more below.
1. More resources than ever.
There are a ton of resources available to point you in the right direction and answer any questions you may have. Youtube is an especially helpful resource where you can find videos of people showing you step by step how to open up an online store and stock it full of products.
Another helpful resource are Facebook groups. Here you can connect with other like-minded, ecommerce website owners and gain helpful, expert advice.
2. Endless amount of online store builders and features.
Online ecommerce platforms are beginner-friendly and easy to use. They take the guesswork out of designing an online store by providing a selection of pre-made, ready-to-use templates. Another great thing about these templates is that they’re easily accessible, giving you the freedom and functionality to make changes to your site whenever you see fit.
3 Signs You’re Ready to Start Your Own Ecommerce Store
Below we included a few indications that you may be ready to open your own online store. These are just some things that, if you’ve experienced them, you may consider moving forward and taking the plunge to start your small business.
1. You are interested in running an online business.
Are you intrigued by the thought of running an online operation? Maybe you’ve already begun researching the idea or asked the opinion of a few friends. If this is the case, starting an online business may be something you’re ready for.
2. You want to diversify and add another revenue stream.
Maybe you’re somebody who’s only looking to create an additional stream of income. If this is the case, an online store might be the perfect choice for you.
Online stores allow you the flexibility to operate them full-time or on a part-time basis. The decision on how to run yours depends entirely on you and your financial goals.
3. Your needs have become more sophisticated.
If you are someone who makes your own products to sell in person, runs a brick-and-mortar storefront or if you’re already selling on platforms like Amazon or Ebay an online shop may be your next logical step. Opening one will be in your best interest. It will allow you to meet the needs of your growing business and extend your reach to new audiences.
All Your Questions Answered for How to Start an Online Store
Starting an online store can feel like a daunting task. In an effort to simplify the process, we included these step-by-step instructions to help you get started.
- Establish a business strategy.
- Create a brand.
- Choose your online store builder.
- Build your online store.
- Set up email marketing automation.
- Promote your brand and website.
Establish a Business Strategy
Every successful operation starts with a business plan. Ironing out your strategy now will help you outline your goals and ensure you stay on track.
1. Choose a business model.
Before you go into business online, you first have to decide on a model. This should be chosen based on your knowledge, expertise and the specific product you want to sell.
Here we’ve outlined some popular ecommerce business models worth looking into.
- Dropshipping: This allows you to be free from the hassles of stocking products and managing inventory. With this model, you only purchase items after the customer has bought them from your store. Then, you order the merchandise from the manufacturer and have the items shipped directly to your customer.
- Wholesaling: This is when you buy products in bulk and have them stored in a warehouse. This model is encouraged for established businesses that sell products in volume. Wholesaling is often done in the B2B market with businesses that sell products to other businesses.
- White Labeling: With this model, products are manufactured by a third party. But, instead of using the manufacturer’s logo and branding on the finished products, you would use your own. This is done in large part by clothing and beauty brands.
- Subscription: This allows customers to subscribe to receive services or products on an ongoing basis. This model is great because it can increase your customer lifetime value and provide you with a steady, consistent income.
- Print on Demand: Similar to dropshipping, print on demand frees you from stocking and managing inventory. With POD, you sell customized products that are printed after an order is placed. Then, the order is shipped directly to your customer.
All these models have their own pros and cons. You should look into each of them and select the option that best suits your current and future business needs.
2. Choose a catchy name and get your business license and LLC.
If you haven’t already named your business, there are a number of free tools that will help you do it. You want to choose a business name that’s catchy, but you should avoid names that are hard to spell, difficult to pronounce or that will limit your business growth. If you have an existing small business, you should check and see if the dot com version of your business name is available.
The online Seafood retailer, Boston Sword and Tuna, has chosen a catchy name that is easy to understand. Their name signifies what they do and who they are. Therefore, customers know what to expect.
It’s important to note that when starting your business, you should always check with your city, county and state to see what sorts of sales tax licenses or home business licenses are required. This is essential because different locations have different regulations.
Starting an LLC is a great option because this structure protects your personal assets so they won’t be at risk in cases of bankruptcy or lawsuits.
3. Research deep into your target audience and build personas.
The next thing you want to do is thoroughly research your target market and study your potential customers. Creating buyer personas may prove to be beneficial and help you in doing this.
Buyer personas are semi-fictional detailed representations of your ideal customers. These profiles will aid you in nailing down your target audience.
4. Iron out your startup costs, variable costs and revenue projections.
One of the most important things to consider is how much money it will cost you to get started. You don’t necessarily need a ton of cash, but it’s important to be honest about what you have to work with.
You should also set realistic projection goals and consider all your expenses. You also want to keep track of all your operating costs and consider everything from web hosting to the cost of goods. Some other important expenses to take into account are variable costs, which are the costs of raw materials and packaging that often fluctuate depending on your company’s production volume. These should be factored into your budget since they are essential operating costs.
5. Check out your competitors to see their monetization strategies.
There are a number of paid tools you can use to check out your competitors but we suggest Google Alerts because it’s simple and free. You can also set it up to send you an email report every time one of your competitors gets a mention.
To start using Google Alerts all you have to do is sign into your Google account and enter the names of any competitors you want to track.
Create a Brand
Branding is a way of distinguishing yourself and setting yourself apart. This is a necessary component of online marketing as it helps customers see the uniqueness of your company.
1. Develop brand imagery.
Brand imagery is the aesthetic appearance along with any images that are associated with your brand. It includes all of your brand’s visual assets. These images take a variety of forms from social media posts to images seen in ads and on websites.
Some examples of brand imagery are the McDonald’s red french fry container or the blue Tiffany’s jewelry box. These things influence how customers see and perceive your brand.
The imagery you select also serves the purpose of connecting customers with your brand. To create your brand imagery start by thinking about your ideal customers’ profiles. Consider personal information like age, profession, hobbies and what a typical day looks like for them.
Then source images with those factors in mind. You should also color coordinate your visuals to ensure a harmonious theme.
2. Differentiate your brand.
Creating a brand name and making yourself stand out is especially important for businesses that sell products readily available throughout the web. A simple way to do this is by using the About page on your website.
Your About page serves a separate function from other pages like the homepage and product pages so it should be treated as such. You can use your About page to connect with new customers, telling them why you got into business and giving a behind the scenes look into your process.
Remember, your products may be similar to another company, but your story is your own. Use it to your advantage so that you leave a lasting impression on your customers.
This is something the online retailer, Bliss World does well. On their About page, they specifically state what they do and who they are.
Choose Your Online Store Builder
The online store builder you choose plays an important role in the success of your website. Your decision of who to go with should be made with careful consideration, weighing all your options.
1. Features needed for your online store builder.
Your website builder should include a selection of free and premium themes to choose from. Responsive, mobile-friendly designs are also important because mobile viewing makes up a great majority of website views.
You also need a site that maintains good service and offers 24/7 customer support. If you intend to sell on other platforms like Amazon or Ebay you will need an online store builder who seamlessly integrates with these different marketing platforms. Below we’ve included a few additional features that will prove beneficial to your online success.
- An onsite blog: Blogging is loaded with benefits, especially for online merchants. Having one will help improve your SEO rankings and drive more traffic to your store. The ability to operate your blog from your ecommerce platform instead of hosting it elsewhere will be much more convenient for you.
- Loyal customer incentives: This feature helps you win new customers and reward loyal shoppers. It gives you the ability to offer buyer favorites like percentage discounts, product bundling and buy one get one free promotions.
- Simple inventory management: Your inventory represents a major financial investment. You need an easy way to manage stock and keep track of what you have in inventory. You also need a tool that integrates seamlessly with other inventory management channels.
- Resources and training: Once you launch your store, you want to ensure it stays up and running while continuing to thrive. You need a platform that provides a library of resources ready for you to tap into. You also want to learn from people who are experts in the industry and who possess the knowledge you need to get your business to the next level.
2. Online store builders cost money…but how much?
Many platforms allow you to sign up for monthly or yearly plans. The general price a beginner store owner can expect to pay is around $30/month. Pricing for larger stores with more revenue can be up to $300/month.
3. There are so many online store builders to choose from, where do I start?
With the vast amount of options available for your online store, we chose to highlight a few of them, giving you the pros and cons of each one.
- Pro: BigCommerce has robust out-of-the-box features included with every plan and a large ecosystem of Agency and Technology Partners
- Con: While BigCommerce has a wide range of paid themes, there are only five free themes
Pro: One of Woocommerce stand out features includes a large community of WooCommerce Meetup groups that you can tap into for help managing your store.
Con: With WooCommerce you do need to cover the costs of hosting, an SSL certificate and other features that ecommerce platforms like BigCommerce and Shopify include with their pricing.
- Pro: Shopify has more than 4,100 integrated apps to help you add additional features and functionality to your online store.
- Con: Shopify has limited customizations to product and content pages.
- Pro: Magento has routine site maintenance, security patches and software upgrades.
- Con: Magento does not have “no-hassle” automatic updates & upgrades.
Build Your Online Store
After you’ve gone through the steps above, you’re ready to build your store. This is often one of the most exciting parts, allowing you to express your creativity and bring your vision to life.
1. Choose a template that connects with your business and customers.
When choosing your online template, keep in mind the type of product you offer and select one that you feel is the best representation of your brand. You may even choose to look up what other people have to say about the template before making your selection. Then, you should narrow down your choices. This is important because some online platforms have hundreds of template options to choose from.
On many sites, however, templates are grouped into categories. If you’re budget conscious like so many people are in the beginning stages, you may choose to view free template options. If not, and you prefer to view themes built specifically for your industry you can do that, too.
Your theme should complement your offerings and allow customers to view them in the best way possible. As you browse through the different themes take into consideration which ones will best represent your products and your brand. Try to envision your offerings and content in place of what is shown in the template. Then, view the template’s appearance on mobile and desktop to ensure you’re happy with the look.
The retailer Belli Skincare has chosen a template that fits perfectly with their brand. Their theme is simple, allowing their products to remain front and center with no distracting elements.
2. Set up payment gateways.
Payment gateways are merchant services that process credit card payments. Although there are others, some of the more popular ones are Paypal, Stripe and Square.
Having multiple payment gateways is essential for both you and your customers. Shoppers will like it because it makes the checkout process more convenient, allowing them to pay how they want. For you, multiple payment gateways ensure that if one gateway goes down, you are still able to accept payments from customers.
Setting up payment gateways is important to ensure your ecommerce site has multiple methods of accepting payments from customers. Integrating them into an online store is usually a simple process and can be done through your online store settings.
3. Modify your shipping settings.
Most online providers include pre-built shipping settings in every store. You should, however, customize these settings to suit the needs of your business.
Every platform is different, but usually to change the shipping settings you have to go into your back office store settings. From there, you can create shipping rules, set shipping costs and make other shipping related changes.
4. Add your content and products to your online store.
After you have completed the design process, you’ll be ready to add new products to your store. Make sure to include exciting, SEO-optimized product descriptions that accurately describe your offerings and bring them to life.
Product descriptions are important because they enhance the customer experience, which takes place 100% online. Your descriptions also give your store a more professional appearance and, when done correctly, position your product as the perfect solution to your customer’s problem.
When writing your product descriptions the more details you include, the better. This is what Artbeads.com does a great job at. On the product page for their Bianca pendant necklace, they describe everything a shopper needs to know. They also are aware of who their customers are: artistic people who are avid crafters and who want to recreate the jewelry items themselves. That’s why on their product page, in addition to a description they include step-by-step instructions along with the necessary materials required to recreate the piece.
You should also see your product descriptions as an opportunity to stand out and further differentiate your brand. When writing your descriptions aim for around 300 words and lead with benefits over features. Then, fill your product pages with multiple high-quality images that demonstrate your product being used in real-life situations. This is important because it will help customers envision what it’s like to use your product.
If you don’t have images that demonstrate actual people using your product, opt for close-up shots that show the quality of your product. Then, use your description to explain how the item can or should be used in real life.
5. Have a clear return and refund policy.
Return policies put visitors at ease. When shoppers arrive on your site and see that you have a return policy in place, it makes them far more comfortable about making a purchase. It also builds the trust factor and increases the likelihood of them buying from your store.
There are a number of return policy templates you can use but the last thing you want to do is copy and paste the policy of another business. Your policy should be specific to what you do and who you are as a company so you may opt instead to write your own.
When creating your return policy, keep it simple, straightforward and easy to understand. A good example can be seen on the Badgley Mischka website. They have a page dedicated to how to handle returns and their policy is broken down into a few short paragraphs. On their website, they explain how customers can initiate the return process, where to ship the items to and how long returns and exchanges can take.
Set Up Email Marketing Automations
Email marketing is essential and segmenting your subscriber list into groups will help you serve your customers better. Emails should be factored into your overall ecommerce content marketing strategy.
1. Have a pre-purchase email sequence.
The pre-purchase emails you send should target potential customers who are a good fit for your products but who haven’t yet bought anything from you. There are a number of popular tools like MailChimp and Constant Contact that integrate with online website building platforms to help you get started.
Some pre-purchase emails you could send are to thank someone for signing up to your email list, to announce a sale or to offer an exclusive discount.
2. Set up abandoned cart emails.
Abandoned cart emails are sent to shoppers who have added items to a shopping cart but for whatever reason, not checked out. These emails are usually sent informing customers of the items that remain in their carts and prompting them to make a purchase.
In your abandoned cart emails, you may also decide to include a discount or coupon code to encourage customers to buy the items they have placed in their shopping carts. Offering limited discounts will cause them to act more promptly and complete the checkout process as soon as possible.
3. Have an after-purchase email series.
Post-purchase emails nurture customers and oftentimes result in repeat sales. These are sent after a customer has made a purchase in your online store. They usually include order information, along with a message that thanks the customer for making a purchase.
Promote Your Brand and Website
A promotional strategy should never be ignored. Promoting your brand and website are essential components of your online success.
1. Test to ensure that everything works.
Before going live with your website, make sure everything is functioning properly. All your buttons and forms should be completely operational.
To ensure this, test them out by clicking on the links and filling out the forms. You should also go through the checkout process and make sure your live chat is up and running.
2. Start running FB ads.
Facebook ads are very inexpensive, which is why so many people decide to use them. They allow you to get started with as little as $5/day.
Another great thing about Facebook is that its advertising platform allows you to focus on particular users. You can target your specific customers and filter your ads by location, age, gender and other demographics.
To get started with Facebook ads you first need to create a Facebook business account. From there, you will be able to set up and run ads through their ads management system.
3. Promote your products on Instagram.
If you want to reach a younger audience, Instagram may be your best bet because it allows you to connect with Influencers. These influencers, who often have large followings, will promote your products to their audience for an agreed-upon fee. Many online retailers choose to go this route.
You can also do shoppable posts from your own Instagram account to encourage buyers to purchase your products. This is a great option because it allows shoppers a way to buy from you without ever leaving Instagram.
Tips for Maintaining Your New Online Store
Like anything, your new online store needs to be maintained. It’s up to you to check from time to time to ensure proper working order.
1. Check for content updates.
You should always be looking for ways to improve your online store. One way of doing this is ensuring your content is kept up to date. This is essential because it ensures customers are receiving the most up-to-date information each and every time they visit.
2. Perform backups.
It’s important to ensure that your website files are backed up frequently. And many times, it’s not enough to rely on your web host provider to do it for you as such backups are not frequent enough. Therefore, to be safe, it’s best to keep a copy of your website on your own computer at all times and backed-up on a regular basis
3. Evaluate links.
Both internal and external links should be checked on a regular basis as well. This is especially important when you have outgoing links that connect to other websites since many times, the URL on the destination website might change or may have been deleted.
Now that you’ve been armed with all these tools, what is your plan for moving forward? Are you going to step out and open your online store or will decide to stand still and look for more sources of information?
You may never be 100% ready. So, if you’re waiting for perfect conditions to line up before you get started, your online store may never open.
Here we’ve given you all the tips and tools you need to be successful. What you do now is completely up to you, but here’s a word of advice: go for it!
Cyber Week is a great opportunity to increase holiday sales and maximize revenue and it’s never too early or too late to get involved in the special time of year.
Holiday email marketing is the perfect way to start gathering interest and to help you capture a percentage of that revenue.
Via email, you are reaching out to your most engaged audience — customers and subscribers you already have — and you can also create campaigns to reach out to leads. Showing any of these audiences the value that your store offers, particularly within the holiday period, is the secret to conversions.
Let’s delve deeper and explore a few holiday email marketing tips, including:
- Reviewing some real-world examples.
- Analyzing some possible email optimizations.
- Discussing holiday email marketing campaign tips.
- Reviewing the tools you should be using to optimize your email marketing for the holiday season.
It’s time to drill down on your holiday email marketing strategy and make sure it’s running smoothly for the upcoming holiday season.
Email Can Help You Have Holiday Success
Email marketing can receive a bad reputation for being an oversaturated solution. However, the secret to email marketing success lies in your email content. Here’s an overview of how you can achieve holiday email success.
1. Point customers to buy now.
The holidays are a busy time for your customers, so do your best to add convenience wherever possible. Plus, a sense of urgency helps incentivize customers to purchase, so be sure to share your promotions in an exciting way. Consider adding ‘buy now’ buttons in emails that feature limited time deals, taking customers directly to the products. This streamlines the purchasing journey while delighting your customers.
2. Reach customers where they are very active.
Consumers have never been more distracted which is why it’s important to communicate with your customers when they are listening. Dive into your customer insights to learn when they are most active and what emails receive the highest open and click-through rates. What do they have in common? Ignite your conversations with customers by meeting them where they are with magical holiday messaging.
3. Support all holiday campaigns.
Emails must be part of your greater marketing plan. Alone, they don’t have the power to convert your customers overnight. Whether you want to promote sales, invite email subscribers to holiday events, showcase unique gift ideas or even gift guides—use your email newsletter to further engage your customers.
Types of Emails to Optimize During the Holidays
Gone are the days of looking at email marketing campaigns with a “set it and forget it” mentality.
To ensure your campaigns are effective, you need to consider your audiences, your goals, and your possible return on investment (ROI) — and you need to track these results to help you improve each and every campaign.
As you prepare for the holiday season, take the time to review and update these three key holiday emails:
- Welcome emails.
- Relevant promotional emails.
- Abandoned cart emails.
Let’s break each of these down.
1. Welcome emails.
With traditionally higher open rates, it’s clear that welcome emails are a vital marketing tool. For starters, they help you to kick-off the personal connection with your customer, which in turn will have an impact on their customer lifetime value (CLV). They’re also an opportunity for you to coax your customers back to your store through loyalty program reminders, product updates, special offers and recommendations.
And, when your customers’ open your emails, it’s a signal to their email service provider (ESP) that you are a welcomed sender — this way you don’t end up in the spam folder.
How do you craft a successful welcome email?
Here are a few quick tactics you can implement to optimize your welcome emails:
- Send it immediately, usually from the moment they have made their first purchase with you.
- Make sure it’s recognizable — a simple, high-resolution logo placed at the top reminds your customers of exactly who is contacting them.
- Ask your customers to engage. Think small; for example, product recommendations with a ‘continue shopping’ at the bottom prompts them to redirect to your store.
- Give the recipient an incentive to engage with your email. Coupon codes and exclusive offers are a great way to initiate this.
- A bonus during the holiday season is to give estimated shipping times or, better yet, tracked shipping and real-time shipping updates.
Let’s look at how The Mountain crafts a welcome email.
The welcome email is instantly recognizable with The Mountain’s crisp logo, complemented by consistent brand colors throughout the email. Notice how the theme of a deep forest green complimented by orange accents throughout the entire email is reminiscent of the brand logo. The imagery throughout is also high-quality, clearly displaying their products while also supporting their company ethos of sustainability and green manufacturing.
Subject lines are important, and The Mountain makes sure they remain recognizable and that their reason for contact is clear. The email then goes on to link to sections that give further insight into The Mountain’s brand and ethos, including ‘Green Manufacturing’. With customer segments that will be influenced simply by the sustainable production aspect for The Mountain’s products, adding these details is a clever marketing tool to help engage a variety of their customer groups.
The bottom of the email features links to The Mountain’s social media channels and to their blog. Customers are far more likely to engage with these content sources if they’re easy to find and easy to navigate; by adding these links, The Mountain ensures this is the case.
Here is another example of how Skullcandy effectively uses a welcome email.
Let’s break down what Skullcandy did well.
The colloquial street-style vibe is core to their branding and their welcome email subject line perfectly captures their brand. With a black background and white typeface, Skullcandy’s email stands out straight away. They’ve also made sure to keep their email concise by not including so much content that readers are inclined to just scroll past it.
The only image within the email is crisp, eye-catching and clearly shows off one of their top-selling products being used by the model – a pair of their wireless headphones.
One of the first pieces of content within the email is a small sentence which states that standard shipping is free for orders that amount to more than $100. This will inevitably help convince customers to consider making a purchase, and furthermore, to consider making a purchase over $100.
By offering a discount code (10%) and following that with a ‘SHOP NOW’ button, Skullcandy have created email content that actively engages their newsletter recipients and encourages them to complete the Call To Action (CTA) and follow the links to complete a purchase.
2. Relevant promotional emails.
Give your holiday shoppers insights and set expectations on what promotions you are running during the holiday season.
Here are a few things to include in your promotional emails to subscribers:
- Shipping info (including final delivery dates)
- Gift card services
- Gift wrapping options
- Customer service contact details
3. Abandoned cart emails.
An abandoned cart is the last thing you want.
Usually, it means that something was wrong with or missing from the customers’ shopping experience.
Imagine what proportion of these you could convert just by setting up a compelling and automated abandoned cart email flow.
During the holidays, here are three of the main reasons people abandon their carts (and what your email needs to answer to solve for them):
- Shipping costs: Is it feasible for you to offer free shipping? Do you track parcels?
- Better deal elsewhere: Tempt customers back with price, sales and emotional cues.
- Out-of-stock: How can you capitalize once your products become available again?
For these people, it is crucial that you trigger automatic and instant abandoned cart emails that address their needs.
Let’s look at each, and what you can do to address them.
Reducing shipping costs.
Offering free shipping is one way to reduce cart abandonment. For many businesses, however, offering free shipping just isn’t an option, especially if you’re shipping items across the United States.
Large companies like Amazon can offer free shipping simply because of their size, but what about small-to-medium-sized businesses? When and how can they start to offer free shipping, or shipping at a rate that doesn’t put customers off?
- If you’re a seller competing primarily on the uniqueness of your product, try increasing the average order value (AOV) by offering free shipping after certain conditions have been met. You’ll often see this as a floating banner on websites stating something like: “Free shipping on orders over $100.”
- If you’re competing on price and are not willing to absorb the cost of shipping as a marketing expense, then you’ll need to raise the price of your products to cover shipping. Remember though, price rises can be a recipe for losing valuable loyal customers, so make sure you think carefully about how you’ll do this.
- If you are willing to absorb the cost, then do so.
- If you’re somewhere in the middle, and you’re based within the United States, try offering free shipping to certain locations only.
- Do you offer expedited shipping? If so, including a surcharge for this service could help eat some of the deficit.
Better deal elsewhere.
If your customers are finding better deals somewhere else, all is not lost.
Sure, sometimes customers genuinely find a better deal; however, they could be playing hard to get. Some shoppers will abandon their carts on purpose, in order to trigger a discount or deal email. Before you start offering discounts in your abandoned cart email, there is little evidence to prove that offering a discount in abandoned cart emails works.
Figure out what your customers want from you. If your abandoned cart email conversion rates are too good to be true, perhaps consider readjusting your flow or adding certain conditions such as the discount only applying if the customer spends over a certain amount.
If you are losing a lot of customers to competitors with cheaper prices, then you might have a bigger problem than your price point.
What should you do instead?
- Create scarcity and the fear of missing out. Remember the email above from Harry’s? Language is key: clear “Back-in-stock” language reminds your customers that this item often isn’t in stock. Buttons which allow customers to sign up for alerts for when items are back in stock give you even more opportunity to maximize on this.
- Use influencers. Offer your product for review to a well-known person in your industry so they can put you ahead of your competitors, or you can also use micro-influencers to drive increased awareness of your product. With the changes to major influencer platforms like Instagram, you need to be increasingly careful who you approach with influencer offers and make sure that their audience is your audience, too — but get it right and you could see very fast results.
- Bundle products together. By offering key products together you can sell more than what shoppers were originally looking for, and they usually save money either on shipping or on the products themselves.
Out of stock.
You should have ample inventory to make sure items don’t go out of stock. While BigCommerce has the functionality to ensure that out-of-stock items are removed immediately if something does become unavailable, then responding to customers in the right way can make or break a sale.
You can (and should) plan for people potentially abandoning their carts due to stock issues by keeping your inventory in check. If you have plans to move a particular product in its entirety and you’re prepared for BigCommerce to remove it once it goes out of stock, then prioritizing scarcity and urgency should be your focus.
Tips For Your 2020 Holiday Email Marketing Campaigns
We’ve optimized emails, now let’s look at some holiday campaign strategies and tactics you can implement this holiday season.
1. Check out last year’s trends.
Why reinvent the wheel?
In 2019, there were some noteworthy email marketing holiday trends:
- Holiday gift guides. A roll-over from previous years, but the gift guide is a goodie bag in itself, and for good reason.
- Winback emails. Been a while since you’ve seen a certain group of customers? Send that segment an email reminding them what you’ve got on offer this season.
- Mobile-friendly content. We’ve already touched on this but can’t express the importance enough.
- Holiday-centric themes and imagery. This is an easy one… remind your customers why you’re getting in contact and that there’s something in it for them with on-brand imagery that references the holiday season.
Holiday gift guides.
Holiday gift guides are the perfect opportunity to curate your best sellers, top-rated, and other top products in your inventory for your target audiences.
Using dynamic content, you can create digital gift guides that show relevant products to specific audiences that will help you cross-sell and upsell based on a user’s price sensitivity, demographic, and personal interest.
Winback email campaigns target customers who previously showed an interest in purchasing from you, but some time has passed since they’ve engaged with you. These campaigns are the perfect way to re-engage. Remind these customers why they were interested in you in the first place and even introduce one of those countdown timers we mentioned earlier.
The email should focus on:
- Reminding them about your brand.
- Reminding them why they initially showed interest in purchasing from you.
- Showing what product or related products they viewed.
Focus on getting the basics right:
- Clear, high quality images that have been compressed to allow for fast loading.
- Concise content that grabs the customer’s attention and entices them to engage.
- CTAs that invite customers to your store.
- Website compatibility on mobile is core to the success of this. If completing an order on your store is a nightmare with a smartphone, don’t bank on any of the above.
Holiday-centric themes and imagery.
This is a simple one. Get your customer in the spirit with themed content, just as long as it’s on brand.
2. Start planning early.
You may have heard, “Poor planning on your part does not necessitate an emergency on mine.”
For a holiday email marketing strategy, this saying could be, “Poor planning on your part does not necessitate a purchase from a customer.”
Planning your holiday email marketing strategy and teasing it out is important so your customers know what offers they might expect.
By planning out in advance you are able to:
- Create the various pieces of content necessary to improve conversions.
- Review content and strategies that led to high conversions previously and implement them.
- Ensure you are tracking important micro- and macro-conversion points for future data analysis.
3. Segment your list.
Segmenting your email list is crucial.
Break out your email list into various segments that allows you to show relevant products to each segment. This can be a big job with a lot of factors to consider, but some email marketing apps like Marsello do this organization for you.
Customer segmentation creates an opportunity to cross-sell and upsell your customers, but it goes beyond that, you can use these groups to create lead campaigns and even use the same lists with your social media marketing.
Holiday email marketing segments to consider are:
- VIP customers.
- High average order value customers.
- High total transaction customers.
- Lapsed-purchase customers.
- Subscribers who have not made a purchase.
- Customers who haven’t bought recently: 30 days, 90 days, and 180 days ago.
- Demographics: age, location, income.
Creating targeted messaging for each of these customer segments will improve your conversion rate compared to a generic, cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all email.
Improve your customer targeting with BigCommerce customer groups. Offer your important customers discounts, access to special products, and more by creating Customer Groups within BigCommerce’s control panel. No apps are necessary. Learn how to set up customer groups and the effective ways you can use them.
Black Friday Email Examples
1. Murad’s on-brand excitement.
It may be Black Friday, but Murad got into the spirit in a colorful way. This big, bright image puts a festive touch on Murad’s typically more neutral aesthetic, but does it in a way that still stays on brand — choosing colors that complement the products’ packaging.
The email subject line — “Ready. Set. Black Friday!” — capitalizes on the excitement of Black Friday as the starting line to the holiday shopping race.
The primary message inside, “All About the Present,” and accompanying CTA of “Shop Now,” connect back to that excitement and sense of urgency and provide a clear path to the product category featuring gift sets. And the bit of clever wordplay reinforces the email’s light, fun tone without going overboard.
2. Kelty’s Bright Idea.
Black Friday can have a negative connotation: mobs of shoppers looking to scrap and claw their way to a great deal.
Kelty does a great job of putting a fun spin on Black Friday by calling it Bright Friday Savings.
Beyond the wordplay, they also make their customers feel smarter by taking advantage of the various discounts and free shipping they are offering.
They show a selection of products and at the bottom of the email also offer a gift guide their customers can use to find the right products for their friends and family.
Cyber Monday Email Examples
1. Mario Badescu Skin Care brings clarity.
This Cyber Monday email from Mario Badescu Skin Care opted to forgo any unnecessary cleverness for a clean but festive holiday look and clear, direct messaging — packed with incentives.
The subject line gets straight to the point. “20% off + Free Gift | Today Only | Cyber Monday is Back.” This email works to cut through the noise and tell you exactly why it’s worth your time to shop today.
Discounts of 20%, 15%, or 10%, depending on how much you spend, are compounded by the promise of a free gift. In addition, free U.S. shipping eliminates the risk of cart abandonment due to high shipping costs.
2. Cutter & Buck cutting to the chase.
Simplicity can be effective.
Cutter & Buck keeps their email simple:
- They provide a discount code.
- A large SHOP NOW call-to-action is front and center.
- They include a soft call-to-action: Free ground shipping for $100 or more spent.
Cut to the heart of what your customers want to know: what discount do I get, and is there free shipping?
Christmas Email Examples
1. Precision Gift Giving.
Precision Camera & Video focus on their major offerings: products, classes, and gift cards.
The core focus of the email is on their affordable and lower-priced last-minute gifts, but they do toss in one mid-range priced product.
They note upcoming classes they offer, allowing their customers to provide continuing education as a gift. This is perfect when you consider the amount of customers they’d capture who know someone that wants to learn more about photography.
Finally, for gift givers who are not sure what a photographer or videographer may want or need, they can simply get a gift card. Never underestimate the power of a gift card, particularly during the Christmas gift-giving season.
2. Kelty Gifts by Christmas.
This is a great email for last-minute gift givers.
Kelty’s Christmas email starts off with a clear subject line,
Ends Soon: Free Next Day Shipping, Guaranteed by Xmas.
The sense of urgency and offer of a guaranteed solution would generate a high open rate.
Once open, Kelty sets the expectations of when customers should order by (date and time) to ensure their gifts are delivered by Christmas. Additionally, they clearly mark off what shipping options are no longer available if the customer wants the shipping guarantee.
Top Email Software For Holiday Campaigns
Finally, we’ve picked out some of the most useful third-party app and service integrations available with BigCommerce.
Use these to build better campaigns both on-site before visitors become subscribers, and when you’re sending those important holiday emails.
Marsello is a high-powered email marketing companion for ecommerce and POS retailers. With features such as customer segmentation, loyalty marketing, pre-designed automated email flows, customer feedback collection, and one-off email campaigns.
We’ve touched on it — customer segmentation is the secret to mastering email marketing, and by appealing to your customers with exactly what relates to them, you’ll see your conversion rates climb.
Marsello creates customer segments based on your customers’ shopping history and site interactions, grouping them into such segments as ‘Lost,’ ‘At Risk,’ ‘Best,’ ‘Loyal,’ ‘Promising,’ and ‘New,’ making it so much easier to target each group. And as we’ve mentioned, you can even export these segments into social media and carry your campaigns through to your social media plans.
Here’s everything you get with Marsello and BigCommerce:
- Customer segmentation: RFM-based segmentation is almost an industry standard, and Marsello’s AI groups your customers into the segments above, making it easy to drill down and develop targeted marketing.
- Automated email flows: With pre-designed, optimized email flows such as Welcome email and Win-back campaigns, Marsello makes it pain-free to start targeting customers with automated emails that trigger instantly. It’s as easy as adding your branding, enabling the emails, reviewing them and then saving. And should you wish to, these email flows are fully customizable.
- Loyalty program: Promote customer loyalty and increase sales by prompting customers to join your branded loyalty program. With the ability to add tiers and customize the program to suit your branding, your loyalty program is quick and easy to set up.
- One-off email campaigns: Want to let your customers or a specific customer segment know about product updates for a flash sale? It’s a lot easier when you can create one-off email campaigns. Marsello makes this easy with segments, drag-and-drop email builders and saved branding.
- Customer feedback: Understand your customers, what they think of your store, and how they rate their experience by collecting feedback. Customer feedback is an important tool for business development, and Marsello’s feedback tool makes it easy to regularly gather feedback.
Springbot does some seriously cool data manipulation for BigCommerce store owners.
Using your out-of-the-box analytics or your Insights (or both), Springbot layers on additional user data and provides actionable steps you can take to segment your lists and make more money. Some customers are raving: “This is the best app ever!”
Here’s everything you get:
- Marketing dashboard: Robust data and analytics based on your customer and product data.
- Email marketing: Integration with your favorite email service provider so you can easily send personalized emails to customers as well as automated emails triggered by your customers’ actions.
- Social media: Schedule, edit and review your social media posts across Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Also, make your Instagram shoppable.
- Online ads: Re-engage visitors who view but don’t purchase your items by showing them a display ad on the web, mobile and social through our integration with AdRoll.
- Marketplaces: With Amazon Marketplaces, expand your products’ reach by quickly migrating your listings to Amazon. Match your store’s products, set pricing and optimize listings to win the Buy Box, as well as manage product listings, inventory and shipping updates.
- Onboarding and training: Once Springbot is installed on your site, you are assigned your very own Customer Onboarding Manager. They will help you get up and running to get the most out of Springbot.
With dotmailer, you can:
- Make contact, product and order data automatically flow into your account to supercharge your email marketing.
- Use the data you hold in dotmailer to better target users and create powerful multi-channel automation without the need to code.
- Send personalized campaigns powered by customers’ order history, web behavior and more.
4. Constant Contact.
With Constant Contact, you can:
- Create mobile-responsive emails customized to your brand that look great on any device.
- Set up an automated email series to send your customers personalized welcome, birthday and anniversary emails.
- Track results in real time, and build your list with free list-growth.
- Ensure your emails get delivered to inboxes, not spam folders.
With MailChimp, you can:
- Send personalized product recommendations to individual customers in just a few clicks.
- Follow up with, delight and re-engage your customers using our preset customer lifecycle automation workflows.
- Create targeted campaigns that get the right messages in front of the right customers at the right time.
- Monitor our robust campaign reports to measure ROI, see what’s working, and learn how you can get better.
With Privy, you can:
- Rapidly grow your email list and store sales with high-converting pop-ups, spin to win, and offers with bulk and unique coupon codes.
- Trigger popups using exit intent, time on site, scroll, cart size and more.
- A/B test campaigns to continually optimize performance.
- Sync new contacts to all email marketing platforms including MailChimp, Bronto, Klaviyo, Soundest, Constant Contact, SendGrid, Adroll, Zapier and more.
7. Happy Email.
With Happy Email, you can:
- Automatically send a thank-you email from store founder/owner to new customers.
- Connect, make your customers happy and build trust for your brand.
- No need to worry what to write to your customers. We’ve done it all for you.
Hailed by many brands as the most powerful free app in the marketplace, JustUno helps you to collect more emails so you can better segment, grow sales and increase lifetime loyalty.
Here are just a few of the things they offer:
- Email pop-ups: The simplest and most effective way to build your email list and generate sales opportunities.
- Exit pop-ups: Add exit intent pop ups to your site to capture emails before your visitor leaves.
- Mobile-optimized pop-ups (SEO-friendly): Engage and convert mobile traffic with mobile-specific pop-ups. In compliance with Google’s recent mobile SEO policies.
- Cart and checkout abandonment offers: Prevent cart abandonment with targeted offers proven to convert shoppers into customers.
- Banners, bars and slide-ins: Use for email capture, sale notifications and effective website messaging.
- Form integrations: Add the emails you capture to any list from MailChimp, Bronto, Klaviyo, Hubspot, Constant Contact, Rejoiner and more. Plus, add any HTML form to your pop-ups, banners and slide-ins.
9. In Stock Reminder.
With In Stock Reminder for BigCommerce, you can add a customized subscriber box to any product page, which, when completed, will inform customers by email when that item is back in stock.
Email marketing is irrefutably important and can be a high-converting traffic channel for your business, especially during the holiday season.
Take the time to:
- Optimize key emails to drive conversations, and ensure you account for mobile compatibility.
- Plan and strategize for the holiday season far in advance.
- Select the right email marketing tools for your business.
Now that you have the information, it’s time to start working on optimizing your holiday email marketing strategy and making sure it’s geared to get the results you want. Start by taking a look at the welcome emails from stores like yours and see how you can make the most out of your marketing.
In 2019, U.S. online holiday sales reached $135.35 billion and average order value reached $152.95.The infamous Cyber Monday continues to play a large role in holiday shopping success.
Mobile shopping has become increasingly important for retailers who want to make a digital splash during the holidays. While some customers still shop brick-and-mortar for the holidays, online stores have seen significant growth over the past few years — and we predict to see this continue in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, holiday shopping won’t be strictly limited to digital. Consider combining online and offline shopping by adding options like BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store).
With a lot of traffic and revenue on the line, it makes sense that retailers start preparing for Cyber Monday during the summer — months before the day takes place. After all, a significant amount of your revenue can be earned in that short 24 hours.
A lot of companies who have yet to fully embrace their online stores use the holidays as an opportunity to make their first entrance into the digital world. And folks that have been selling online for decades also use it as a chance to reinvigorate their branding and capture new clients.
Regardless of your company’s involvement in the digital landscape, Cyber Monday represents one of the single most important days of the year for any marketer who earns revenue during the holiday season.
It’s not just desktop and in-person sales, however. More and more customers are turning to their mobile phones to complete their holiday shopping.
So where did this ever-important holiday get its roots?
The History of Cyber Monday
2020 marks the 15th anniversary of the Cyber Monday holiday.
After seeing that the Monday after Thanksgiving in 2004 was the 12th-biggest online shopping day historically, they realized that the day was perfect for online shopping. Fresh out of the Thanksgiving holiday, shoppers are returning to work (which typically offered faster internet speeds at the time than did at-home connections) and have a bit of spending money in their wallets to prep them for the holidays.
Despite having roots in the United States, companies from across the globe are now creating campaigns around Cyber Monday.
When Is Cyber Monday 2020?
This year, Cyber Monday falls on Monday, November 30, 2020.
But that’s not to say that’s when it shows up every year.
As the Monday following Thanksgiving, this retail holiday can go late – like it did last year in 2019 on December 2.
Next year, in 2021, the holiday kickoff will also finish up at the end of November, with Cyber Monday falling on November 29.
2020 Cyber Monday Predictions and Expectations
This year has been full of unexpected challenges, but what we do know is that ecommerce is here to stay. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan for Cyber Monday 2020.
1. Increase in online traffic and sales.
With most of the world shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, online sales have continued to soar. While we will still see offline sales, particularly with curbside or BOPIS (buy online, pick-up in store) promotions, there’s no doubt that an online holiday strategy is essential.
With more digital sales comes more digital expectations. As you plan for Cyber Monday, be sure to evaluate your current ecommerce store to make sure you have an optimal experience for your customers. Plus, more traffic means more orders, so make sure to have your order fulfillment process set.
2. Reach new customers.
With more consumers shopping online, this year is a great time to tap into new demographics. Particularly, we’ve seen older demographics spending more time online now. As you build out your marketing strategies, don’t just spend money targeting these demographics. Rather, brainstorm ways to engage and tap further into that audience. What do they value? How do they prefer to communicate?
Understanding your target audience will help you win big this holiday season.
3. More competition.
With a majority of sales moving online this year, competition has never been stronger. As you plan for Cyber Monday, think about how you can set yourself a part from competitors. Can you provide a better user experience? Are your products more sustainable? Drive your selling points home in creative ways — like magical holiday messaging and engaging email copy.
4. Engage your customers with storytelling.
The holidays are always a season full of merriment and joy — and it’s exactly what consumers are looking forward to after a tough year. Create holiday magic with engaging storytelling to promote your brand and products. Help your customers envision how your products fit into the season and their everyday lives. Plus, consider adding gift guides to prepare your customers for Cyber Monday deals.
Getting Your Site Ready for Cyber Monday
Think of Cyber Monday as a digital rush to your website: you might not be able to see the traffic coming through your door, but your online shop better be able to handle it.
When Cyber Monday rolls around, you’ll want your site to be responsive, mobile-compatible, and, most importantly, up and running.
Here are some tools to help you prepare:
- Site speed: Check out Google’s developmental tools to run a speed test and get to the bottom of what might be causing load times to lag.
- Uptime: Nothing works unless your site does — but you won’t always be there to check. Use a service like Uptime Robot to begin monitoring your site for downtime.
- Mobile compatibility: With a majority of Cyber Monday purchases potentially coming through mobile channels, it’s never been more important to ensure your site can handle mobile traffic. Run a mobile compatibility test with Google. Even if you’re ready to handle mobile purchases, this site will help you diagnose slow-loading pages.
Cyber Monday Marketing Ideas
There’s no better way to learn how to market your brand during the holidays than to sit down and talk with the experts.
They’re the ones who have been through this year after year. They’ve seen brands fail and win during the holidays simply due to their strategy around Cyber Monday.
We sat down with seven experts and got the details: What are some of the best Cyber Monday marketing ideas for 2020?
1. Create a dedicated landing page.
Make your customers’ journey easier by making a dedicated landing page for your Cyber Monday promotions. The holidays can be very stressful, especially for consumers who are looking for many gifts to give. By having a dedicated page, you create an easier and stress-free experience for them to find just what they’re looking for. Plus, a dedicated URL can have great SEO benefits.
2. Create gift guides by price-point.
Holiday shoppers are trained to hunt for the best deals, and they also have a rough estimate of the amount they want to spend on gifts.
Make it easy for them to discover options within their price-point with a gift guide that segments gifts per price range.
“Providing consumers with a quick list of gifts for under $50, under $75 and so forth. These quick price point lists can help retain a digital visitor longer on the site and stimulate ideas for consideration.” — Ron Smith, The Digital Outdoorsman
3. Increase ad spend.
With more online sales comes added online competition. Consider increasing your ad spend this year to capitalize on your digital strategy. Take it a step further by personalizing your customer segments and targeting new customer segments to expand your reach — and sales.
4. Offer something very exclusive.
In 2018, popular shoe brand Allbirds released a limited-edition sneaker for Cyber Monday.
The result? They sold out — fast.
In fact, Allbirds decided not to offer discounts whatsoever during the holidays — a move that we often see with modern direct-to-consumer brands.
“The reason that Cyber Monday or any of the other big sales days garner so many sales is that they have offers and deals that you don’t normally get, So, the best thing to do is create a one-day-only deal or offer that is simply too good to refuse. A limited-time offer creates a sense of urgency, while the discount itself is motivation enough for people to buy. If you do this, there’s actually not much else that you need to do for Cyber Monday or Black Friday or any other sales day.” — Tessa Wuertz, Director of Marketing, Efelle Creative
5. Consider partnering with another brand.
Brand partnerships make a splash during the holidays every year. Just look at 2018, where sustainable sock brand Bombas partnered up with Sesame Street to create a run of themed socks.
6. Think about bundling products together.
“Take the opportunity to introduce your customers to products they wouldn’t have otherwise wanted to purchase. Bundles are great examples because it allows you to market it and generate lasting interest in your product lineup long after Cyber Monday is over.” — David Feng, Co-Founder at Re:amaze.
Consider offering a set of sample products on Cyber Monday. It will give new customers a chance to check out your products, and returning customers a chance to stock up on their favorites.
7. Run a social media campaign.
While this year is a great year to tap into new segments, it’s also important to cultivate your current customer community. Not only will you delight your existing customer base, but you’ll likely attract new visitors as well. Engage your audience by encouraging them to use a brand hashtag or launch giveaways. Better yet, encourage your customers to share your content or promotions with their friends and family.
And, of course, have fun with it! Social media is a great way to tap into your brand’s creativity and share your mission. Give customers a reason to join your community this holiday.
8. Send emails before, during, and after.
Email marketing is essential to any holiday campaign. But, a mistake that’s often made is only sending emails during Cyber Monday. It’s important to engage your audience before the big day, during, and after. Get customers excited by releasing deals early — and perhaps delight and surprise them with a small promotion after the event if they didn’t convert.
So is your business ready for Cyber Monday?
Let’s run through the checklist:
- Understand the potential of Cyber Monday. This is the day when mobile and desktop users are at maximum alert while searching for deals on new purchases. You need to be in a place where you can win those orders
- Prepare your site technically. Your website is the jumping off point for all Cyber Monday sales. Run a few tests and prepare your site for an increase of traffic — even if you don’t expect it.
- Market your business and create incentives for Cyber Monday with creative holiday marketing. It’s not enough to show up for Cyber Monday — you need to participate. Create the deals and incentives that will drive customers to checkout.
Once Cyber Monday ends, the holiday shopping season is still in full swing — but the choicest opportunities for online shops have ended.
Don’t let 2020’s Cyber Monday pass without a few extra sales coming your way.
Ever since the pandemic came to town, our reliance on the internet has reached an all time high. With screen time on the rise and more opportunities to research purchasing options, brand reputations, and the latest corporate social responsibility scandal — to say that brands and retailers will be under the microscope this holiday season would be an understatement.
While higher customer expectations around the holidays is nothing new, there are plenty of fresh variables at play this year. As COVID-19 infection rates continue to fluctuate in tandem with retail sales and disposable income, plenty of uncertainty remains in 2020.
Will consumers tighten their purse strings given the economic downturn? Or will considerations like vacation cancelations, fewer restaurant and bar tabs, and the urge to end the year on a high note mean more spent on holiday gifts this year?
And perhaps most importantly for those selling holiday gifts in saturated ecommerce categories: how will consumers decide what to buy, and from whom to buy it?
With even more at stake than usual this year, savvy holiday shoppers will be on the lookout for indicators that your brand will meet their expectations before they even consider clicking ‘BUY’.
So, let’s start by taking a look at why a trustworthy brand reputation is more important than ever as we ride out 2020 — and wrap up with some actions you can take to ensure your online presence glows with trustworthiness wherever consumers are looking for you.
The Rising Tides of Consumer Expectations for Holiday Shopping
Consumers have been on high alert since lockdown began. On top of the obvious mass uncertainty, the pandemic has also caused a global recession, disrupted industry supply chains, and exposed major ecommerce categories like health and beauty to reselling fraud and counterfeiting — leading 33% of US consumers to be more cautious about products in these categories due to online misinformation.
All of this uncertainty has called not only products, but entire brands, into question — reflecting a new high water mark for consumer wariness, as well as consumer expectations.
According to the experts at McKinsey, the pandemic has led to a new consumer behavior pattern that retailers can expect to see through the holidays: shoppers are more focused than ever on the perceived value of their purchases.
So what can you do to level up the perceived value of your products, and clear a higher bar for consumer expectations?
Brands and retailers take note: There’s a direct correlation between your brand reputation and consumers’ perception of value.
And when it comes to brand reputation, trustworthiness should be your goal.
A Trustworthy Brand Reputation Begins With Your Online Presence
Chances are that over the last decade, you’ve focused on growing your brand on relevant social media platforms, ensured your visibility in search results, basked in the glow of positive online comments — and maybe even received some negative feedback.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that your brand’s online presence has become more important with each passing year. That’s because your online presence is your primary channel for capturing social proof, a marketing asset that’s been around since the dawn of advertising.
And while yesterday’s social proof looked like testimonials quoted in print ads, the social proof that carries the most weight today takes the form of online trust signals like social media comments and customer reviews.
Consumer research has uncovered that social proof is even more important to consumers during the pandemic — from stronger urges to see what others are buying to navigate unprecedented circumstances, to more skepticism directed at unfamiliar businesses.
Smart shoppers want to confirm that a brand can be trusted before they buy, whether it’s a matter of life or death, or simply adapting to a new lifestyle:
- 34% of consumers report checking reviews of businesses and services more frequently than they did before lockdown
- 73% of consumers want to see how companies have been handling the virus
- 23% of consumers report decreased trust in companies since the outbreak
- And 55% of consumers are more worried about online scams than they were prior to the pandemic
The writing’s on the wall: this is the year to make sure your brand’s online presence is trustworthy.
7 Steps to a Trustworthy Online Presence in Time for the Holidays
Trustworthy brands are about the long game, but chances are you already have a good foundation of brand equity to highlight across your online presence. Below are some actionable steps you can take to meet consumer expectations for a trustworthy brand reputation leading up to the holiday rush — and beyond.
1. Make sure your brand has online reviews by November.
In general, every brand should be collecting reviews in 2020.
To make your online presence as powerful as possible leading up to peak shopping season, make sure your brand has customer reviews discoverable online by early November.
Bliss World displays their hard-earned customer feedback on third-party review sites.
Traffic to third-party review platforms sees a swift uptick each year between October and November, as shoppers start planning their holiday hauls and looking to the wisdom of their peers to find out which online stores will meet their expectations.
In fact, traffic to the reviews on Trustpilot grew between the 2018 and 2019 peak shopping seasons. This year it’s safe to say there will be an even bigger spike in light of consumer behavior trends during the pandemic, so make sure you have reviews in place as soon as possible.
2. Make time to respond to customer feedback during the holiday shopping rush.
Consumer review data shows that shoppers write the most reviews between November 1st and New Years. Unsurprisingly, more transactions during holiday preparations lead to more feedback from customers, and that’s a golden opportunity for brands.
According to Trustpilot’s 2020 Consumer Insights Report, shoppers leave the most reviews from November to January, and they expect a reply.
More feedback means more chances to show off what your customers love about shopping with you, and ultimately convey your trustworthy brand reputation.
But more feedback can also mean a bigger spotlight on where your business can improve, and your future customers are just as interested in how you respond to any issues raised as they are in your positive reviews.
Making time to respond to your feedback — regardless of the sentiment — shows potential customers that you’re a brand with integrity, and that you’re safe to buy from.
Skullcandy builds trust in their brand by publicly replying to reviews on third-party review platforms.
And for a bonus tip — if you’re sitting on a mountain of unanswered reviews from last year’s holiday rush, don’t miss the opportunity to reply retroactively. Deep down shoppers know that no one’s perfect, so a late reply is better than no reply.
You could even score some extra points by showing your sense of humor and acknowledging your delayed response.
3. Level up your customer service experience.
If you’ve ever wondered what matters most to shoppers during the holiday season, you’re not alone. Here are your answers.
According to Trustpilot’s 2020 Consumer Insights Report, “Customer Service” is mentioned most frequently in positive feedback, appearing in 5.5% of 4 and 5-star reviews.
For positive reviews left during the holiday shopping season over the last two years, “Excellent Service” and “Customer Service” got the most mentions, appearing in about 5.5% of all reviews.
According to Trustpilot’s 2020 Consumer Insights Report, “Customer Service” is also mentioned most frequently in negative feedback, appearing in 20% of 1 and 2-star reviews.
As far as negative reviews, “Customer Service” was again most frequently mentioned, appearing in about 20% of reviews from the same time period.
Given its prevalence across the best-of-the-best and the worst-of-the-worst customer feedback, it’s safe to say that your customer service experience can have a huge impact on the perception of your brand online.
While this holiday season might present some unavoidable logistical challenges, you can still impress your customers by offering more details about your shipping options, and taking care to update the fulfillment times on your website. At the end of the day, they just want to manage their expectations.
And if it’s feasible, consider planning ahead for holiday complexities by investing in customer service resources before and during peak shopping season. Even a temporary investment in additional customer services resources can pay in dividends by earning you a loyal customer for life.
4. Highlight your brand reputation on product pages.
Instilling trust at the very top of the buying journey is a huge part of making more sales this holiday season — but let’s not overlook the importance of highlighting your reviews and ratings right on your product pages.
805Consumer review data shows that impressions on review widgets spike year after year during peak shopping season, but they’ve also soared 34% since lockdown began — especially in competitive categories like fashion and home and garden.
Highlighting your reviews on your website not only improves conversions, but also increases order value — and decreases cart abandonment.
Vitabath displays product reviews right on the product page to instill customer confidence when it matters most.
If you want to showcase your brand reputation where it matters, make sure to display your reviews not only on product pages, but across any landing page your future customers might encounter along the buying journey.
5. Level up your trustworthiness in organic search results with structured data.
Your organic search presence is a great way to capture the attention of savvy shoppers who might be deterred by listings labeled “ad” — and it’s even more important to consider as consumers begin flocking to Google to find the best holiday shopping options.
You’re probably thinking: Can my organic search listings really stand a chance next to the strategic PPC ads highlighting their star ratings at the top of the page?
The answer is yes, definitely — because product reviews can make you eligible for rich results (read: star ratings) in organic search.
On top of building your brand reputation in the eyes of almighty search engines, product reviews help Google gain a deeper understanding about not only your product offerings, but your brand. That’s because generally, product reviews are marked up with structured data.
Stick with us…
Structured data is how your website communicates its content and metadata (think: how much people love your products) to search engines. Search engines rely on this to extract information from each page and serve up the best listings in organic search results.
Vitabath’s product pages stand out with star ratings in organic search thanks to structured product review data.
So if you’re hoping to improve the credibility of your listings in organic search — structured data is exactly what you need to make sure that Google sees your reviews, and that your star ratings display as review snippets on the SERPs.
Something to keep in mind: the way your organic listings appear in search results is up to Google’s discretion, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with their latest guidelines for implementing structured data:
6. Show off Google Seller Ratings on your Google Ads.
With so much shopping taking place online since the pandemic started, the competition in paid search is getting steeper by the day. Regardless, many ecommerce companies continue to allocate a huge part of their digital marketing budget to paid search without seeing the results they intended.
But thanks to Google Seller Ratings, there’s plenty of hope for merchants aiming to improve their paid search performance in time for the holidays.
A close relative of the organic review snippet stars discussed above, Google Seller Ratings are an automated Google Ads extension designed to show your potential customers that other shoppers trust your brand and have had a good experience with you — right on the ad listing itself.
Again, whether Google displays Seller Ratings on your paid search listings is entirely up to their discretion. Their latest guidelines state that Seller Ratings are displayed on a per-country basis and require at least 100 reviews per country over the last 12 months, and a rating of at least 3.5 out of 5-stars, in order for star ratings to appear.
Collecting reviews through a trusted Google Review Partner is a great first step towards qualifying.
You can find a full list of review providers to consider in the official Google Seller Rating support materials.
7. Convey trustworthiness in your Google Shopping listings.
For those who haven’t taken the plunge into Google Shopping, it basically provides shoppers with a round up of products from advertisers and merchants who have chosen to feature their products on this convenient new channel.
Most importantly, it offers shoppers a side-by-side comparison of relevant products and in some cases, even lets them buy the product without leaving Google.
Initially, participating merchants paid certain fees and commissions depending on their usage, but Google announced in April 2020 that it’s now free to sell on Google Shopping in the US. This was meant to give smaller businesses more exposure during the pandemic and level out the playing field of selling online, and these changes will take effect globally by the end of 2020.
So, now is the time to cultivate your online presence on Google Shopping, no matter where you’re located.
Vitabath makes sure their glowing reputation carries over to Google Shopping by maintaining their Google Seller Ratings.
Your brand reputation is particularly important in the context of Google Shopping because this channel sets up consumers to make a snap judgment about your product listing without referring to your website or social channels.
Once again, star ratings are here to help. If you want to stand out in Google Shopping for the holiday rush, focus on earning and maintaining your Google Seller Ratings.
Consider this a holiday gift to yourself: If you qualify for Google Seller Ratings, stars will automatically appear on your Google Shopping listings with no action needed from you.
No matter how much we innovate, cultivating a trustworthy brand reputation will always be a long game. You can’t just claim that you’re a trustworthy brand — it has to be earned.
There might not be a switch you can flip to achieve widespread brand affinity overnight, but there are a number of ways you can instill trust in holiday shoppers throughout the buying journey. If your customers have had good experiences buying from you, it won’t be hard to convey that across your online presence.
In practice, building up a trustworthy brand will look different for each ecommerce business. No matter what tactics make sense for you, keep in mind that consumers gravitate towards transparent brands that aren’t afraid to engage with their customers.
In the wake of the global pandemic and human rights movements this year, expect holiday shoppers to be more skeptical as we close out 2020. On top of seeking the best customer experience for their money, they’ll likely prefer to support the brands who lived by their values, took a stance on important issues, and did right by their customer base — even when times were tough.
So as we head into the holiday rush of a high stakes year, try to keep your online presence top of mind. Make sure you convey that your brand won’t be the source of any headaches this holiday season. Let them know you’re a brand they can feel great about supporting, when each transaction means more to everyone.
When you ask an ecommerce business owner, what’s the least favorite part of their job — most will say ‘accounting.’
(If you are that rare gem who loves accounting, virtual high-five to you!)
And yet 41% of small business owners handle their books without any help.
But here’s the deal: as your ecommerce business grows, your finances will get more complicated. Sales, returns, supplier payments, banking fees — all of the in-and-out money movements will need to be properly categorized, analyzed, and then reported to the tax authorities.
Without proper accounting systems in place, you can quickly get overwhelmed with all the financial data you are up against.
Also, compound this with the fact that:
19% of those who perceived themselves as having high financial literacy are financially literate.
We don’t mean to discourage you from doing your own accounting with that data.
But we really want to get your full attention. Because accounting is important. But learning to love it is hard. In this guide, we explain everything you need to know about ecommerce accounting without any dread.
Ecommerce Accounting vs Bookkeeping: What’s the Difference?
Let’s start with the basics and recap who is who in the accounting field.
Bookkeeping is the baseline accounting practice of maintaining a neat record of financial documents and transactions. The purpose of this practice is to describe and organize the state of your finances.
Key bookkeeping tasks include:
- Transaction categorization.
- Account reconciliation.
- Balance sheets preparation.
- Payroll management.
- Account payables and receivables management.
Accounting is a practice of analyzing all the financial records, produced by the bookkeeper, to create financial reports, models, and forecasts. So that you could understand the current level of your finances and plan for the future.
The main accounting tasks include:
- Preparation of adjusted entries.
- Financial information audits.
- Tax planning and reporting.
- Financial forecasting and risk analysis.
- Preparation of financial statements, reports, and models.
The purpose of accounting is to equip you with financial knowledge to make smarter business decisions.
The 2 Types of Accounting for Your Ecommerce Business
Systemization is essential in accounting. To keep your ecommerce financials organized, you can use either of the two types of popular accounting systems.
1. Cash basis accounting.
When using the cash method of accounting, you add a new record whenever the cash lands in your bank account or leaves it as an expense. This way your books mirror all the transactional information, stored across your payment methods and bank accounts.
Here’s a quick example of cash basis accounting record:
+$555 (T-shirt sales)
-$75 (shipping costs)
+$200 (Hoodie sales)
-$65 (packaging fees)
Biweekly income: $615
Cash basis accounting is a ‘starter’ choice for most small ecommerce businesses. Because it’s a simple system to maintain — you just report on all money movements as they happen. Plus, you always know how much cash you have at your disposal right now.
Another boon of cash basis accounting is this: when reporting your business taxes at the end of the year, you won’t need to pay income taxes on the payments you haven’t received yet. So your tax bill can be smaller.
Cash basis accounting works for:
However, this accounting method isn’t the best choice for larger ecommerce operations since it does not recognize future account receivables and accounts payables.
Due to that, avoid cash-based accounting if you:
- Run an ecommerce business with high stock levels and multiple suppliers.
- Plan to apply for financing or secure a loan for your business.
- Want to bring auditors on-board and get audited financial statements.
2. Accrual method.
Accrual accounting, on the contrary, prompts you to record each sale or expense once it takes place, regardless of when the money reaches (or leaves) your bank account.
Let’s take a look at his sample record:
$2,500 (online furniture sales)
$800 (subcontractor wage, due on Nov, 1st)
$5,000 (in-store pick up, cash on delivery)
$100 (shipping costs)
Biweekly income: $6,600
The business made $2,500 in online sales. That money already landed in the bank account. But that bigger $5K check hasn’t cleared yet and is due to arrive on Week 3. Same with expenses — shipping costs were paid out immediately. But the contractor payment is due next month, meaning that $800 will be still sitting in the bank account till then.
Accrual accounting is often known as the traditional accounting method as it’s the system most financial institutions use. Think lenders, auditors, investors, tax planners, or anyone else interested in learning about the state of your company’s finances.
On the surface, accrual accounting seems more confusing than cash-basis accounting. You have to think about the money you haven’t earned yet (account receivables) and subtract costs you are yet to incur (account payables).
But once you get past that, this accounting system starts making more sense. Since it provides a more realistic representation of your business income every month. Plus it allows making more accurate financial projections as you take into account your present and future financial obligations.
The con of accrual accounting, however, is that this way of record-keeping shifts the focus from how much money you have to how much money you move. By counting in future payments/expenses, accrual accounting can make your operations look more profitable than they actually are. So you’ll need to keep closer tabs on your cash flow.
Should you switch to accrual accounting as an ecommerce entrepreneur?
The short answer is — yes. You’ll have to adopt this accounting system as your operations scale. Cash basis method for tax reporting is only permitted for companies with an average annual growth receipt of $5 million or less.
What You Need to Start Doing Accounting for Your Ecommerce Store
No matter which accounting system you go with first, you’ll need to have three things ready:
1. Business tax ID number.
If you operate as a corporation or a partnership, you’ll need to request an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. It’s a unique 9-digit identifier of your business to use in all your tax documents. You can apply for it online and receive it immediately by email. Sole traders can use their Social Security Number (SSN) for the same purpose.
2. Business bank account.
Keeping your business and personal finances separate is the first golden rule of accounting. Open a dedicated business bank account for your ecommerce store. Set up business versions of popular payment apps (e.g. PayPal). And make sure that you don’t spend any money from your business account on your personal needs (unless these qualify as deductible business expenses).
On the other hand, you can spend money from your personal account to cover your business expenses. You can then claim them back as ‘out of pocket’ expenses. Again, this should be reasonable business spending. Or you’ll risk regulatory questioning.
3. Accounting software.
Accounting apps and online services can save you heaps of time on sales recording, expense management, report generation, and other bookkeeping tasks. That’s why 50% of small businesses use them.
Popular accounting apps for small ecommerce stores are:
5 Important Ecommerce Accounting Tasks to Start With
With all the tools lined up, let’s take a look at the key accounting tasks you’ll need to do on a weekly/monthly basis:
- Categorize all transactions.
- Maintain a business budget.
- Stay up-to-date with taxes.
- Distinguish between returns and chargebacks.
- Practice accurate recordkeeping.
Being diligent with each of them will help you understand your cash flow and prepare for the tax season.
Categorize All Your Transactions
Transaction categorization is the baseline practice of ecommerce bookkeeping. You should mark every transaction on your cash flow statement as either income or expense. Most accounting apps will auto-sort the transactions for you, so you should just review them and assign correct extra categories (e.g. salary, marketing, returns, etc).
Categorizing your transactions helps you estimate your:
- Regular and one-off expenses
- Monthly revenues
You can then use these figures to assess your online business income statement, plan for your taxes, and create a business budget.
Maintain Your Business Budget
A business budget is a tally of all your business spendings and other financial obligations, neatly summed up and stacked against your regular revenues. The total number tells you how much cash you need to break-even or make a profit.
The goal of a budget is to help you:
- Monitor your cash flow patterns.
- Stay atop of all recurring and unplanned expenses.
- Know when to splurge and when to pedal back.
- Set some income aside for the rainy day (and taxes).
- Avoid or reduce business debt.
- Stay focused on long-term financial goals.
Considering that 2020 was a tough year for small ecommerce businesses, budgeting can be a good practice to pick up and stick to. Here’s how:
1. Review your cash flow.
To budget effectively, you need to know when and where your money goes and how much comes in regularly.
Recording your spendings first since most of these will be recurring. Note how much you spend on:
- Inventory purchases.
- Supplier payments.
- Employee salaries/subcontractors.
- Packaging and handling.
- Postage and shipping.
- Payment processing fees.
- Business banking.
- Software, apps, subscriptions.
- Website hosting.
Then factor in (un)planned one-off expenses. The total number you’ll get is your budget baseline — a sum you need to break even every month.
Since ecommerce sales volumes can zig and zag due to price fluctuations, changes in demand, seasonality, and other market conditions, your revenues can fluctuate. So you may end up having negative cash flow months — that is when you earned less than you’ve spent.
That’s another reason for having a budget and setting some extra income aside.
2. Create a weekly budget calculator.
To maintain positive cash flow, especially as at early growth stages, you need to be mindful of every cent you spend.
One way to do so is by setting up separate ‘pockets of cash’ for different weekly spending categories and updating them regularly. This way you’ll know exactly how much you’ve spent and can cut down on non-essential ones during the next week.
You can keep a similar spreadsheet where you list all your expenses and weekly revenue to estimate your cash flow dynamics:
Revenue (before tax)
Stay Up-to-Date with Taxes
Ecommerce business owners have two tax categories to mind — business income taxes and sales taxes.
Navigating sales taxes can be challenging since you need to factor in both:
- State-level sales taxes (collected in 45 states and the District of Columbia).
- Local sales taxes (collected in 38 states).
Source: Tax Foundation
1. Make sure your tax rates are correct for customers.
Depending on which ecommerce platform you are using for your store, you can either add all sales taxes manually to the checkout form or have these automatically calculated, based on the customers’ shipping address. The second option is less error-prone.
2. Pay estimated quarterly business taxes.
All ecommerce businesses who may owe more than $1,000 in taxes by the end of the year are expected to make quarterly estimated tax payments. The IRS calculates your dues based on the last return and expects payment according to the calendar.
3. File sales taxes.
You need to maintain clear records that you’ve collected sales tax for every customer invoice. All of these records will have to be filled with your local tax jurisdiction according to the due date. The filling frequency varies from state-to-state, but typically it’s by mid- or end of each month.
Distinguish Between Returns and Chargebacks
Customer returns and chargebacks are two different types of expenses that need separate recording.
1. Store return.
Ecommerce stores can have one or several return policies and this should reflect in your accounting:
- Store credit: Record the original transaction as an expense and add it to the accounts payable list.
- Full refund: Once the product arrives back to you, categorize the refund transaction under “Returns and Allowances” and subtract it directly for your revenue.
2. Store chargeback.
Chargebacks happen when a customer disputes a transaction with their bank by claiming that it was fraudulent. Sadly, such ‘friendly fraud’ accounts for 40%-to-80% of all fraud losses among e-tailers.
Categorize all the chargebacks as “Returns and Allowances.” Also, if the chargeback included an extra fee, mark it as a business expense.
Practice Accurate Recordkeeping for Your Ecommerce Store
Accounting is the art of maintaining financial records that tell a complete financial story of your business (for yourself and anyone else who asks).
Since you are self-reporting your financials and taxes to the authorities, you need to maintain proof of all your claims. That means you should store the following records for your ecommerce business accounting:
- Receipts, bills, and invoices.
- Canceled and bounced checks.
- Previous tax returns.
- W2 and 1099 forms.
- Bank account, debit/credit card statements.
- Account statements from online payment wallets.
- Revenue records from your ecommerce platform such as BigCommerce.
All of these records should be kept for at least 3 years.
Seems like a lot? Well, it’s best to pay some extra for cloud storage, then face possible fines if you cannot back up your financial claims during an audit.
3 Quick Accounting Best Practices to Remember
Doing those five accounting tasks for your ecommerce store can be overwhelming, especially when you are just getting started.
Remember: you don’t need to go into financial guru mode and try to create fancy cash flow projections or use multi-step formulas to calculate your profitability index.
Keep your accounting simple and to the point:
1. Forecast for major expenses.
Keep a straight record of all regular account payables, along with a weekly budget Excel spreadsheet. This way you’ll always know your dues and can work around with the remaining income to accommodate a bigger expense — a new warehouse building, more advertising, or extra inventory.
2. Set money (and time) aside for taxes.
Tax season can be hectic if you come offhanded. One-third of small business owners spend over 80 hours (= two work weeks) per year on preparing their federal tax returns. Your commitment to maintaining neat records throughout the year will pay off massively.
As for the money, put aside 30%-40% of your business income towards end-of-year tax payments.
3. Supervise your inventory management.
The US retail sector faces $50 billion in losses per year due to the unmoving inventory. Don’t add up to those numbers as unnecessary inventory buildup impacts your liquidity and will reflect badly on all your assets and your bottom line.
The same goes for raw materials — don’t be tempted to over-buy unless you know that you can make use of all the stock. Storage costs will end up overeating any type of bulk discount you are getting.
To run lean operations, set a minimal and maximum volume of inventory that you can keep, based on your budgets and cash flow projections.
The Two Common Ecommerce Accounting Problems To Account For
To get even better in doing your accounts, don’t get lured into the following behaviors:
1. Waiting till the last minute to review financial statements.
Don’t postpone expense categorization till the end of the month, or worse — end of the reporting year. With thousands of records to sift through, you will miss something important. That can be something minor such as an unclaimed deduction. Or a major omission that may require corrections in your tax returns.
What to do instead: Block 2-3 hours each month when you sit down and review all the financial documents, organize them by category, and then do a bank account reconciliation.
2. Missing errors (due to the lack of time).
When you do your books in a hurry, mistakes will creep in. Having errors in your bookkeeping records can eschew your financial projections and result in financial losses. If those are left unattended, they can pass onto your tax fillings. Then you’ll need to file an amended tax return. Which again, isn’t the most fun thing to do.
What to do instead: Automate your accounting to prevent manual mistakes and inconsistencies. Once you have a budget, hire a chief financial officer (CFO), CPA (certified public accountant), or an in-house ecommerce accountant to help you with tax reporting.
You don’t have to be a certified accountant to stay atop of your ecommerce finances.
With the right accounting system in place, a supporting accounting app, and proper diligence you can get a good hang of your accounting, and learn to love the practice of analyzing your financials. Especially, when those insights translate to higher income!
Shopify has almost become synonymous with ecommerce. For good reason. It’s one of the most popular ecommerce platforms on the market, powering over one million businesses in more than 175 countries.
However, just because something is popular, that doesn’t mean it’s always the best solution for you. As you’re probably well aware since you’re searching for alternatives to Shopify.
Whether you’re a current Shopify customer looking for other options or just starting to research what ecommerce platforms are out there, we can help.
We’ll review the best Shopify alternatives, including the pros and cons of each ecommerce solution, and learn why some business owners have migrated away from Shopify to BigCommerce.
What is Shopify?
Shopify is ecommerce software that allows you to operate an online store. Through the platform, you can build your website, manage products, calculate shipping rates, sell across multiple channels and more.
Additionally, since Shopify is a cloud-based, hosted solution (also called a SaaS or software-as-a-service), you’re not responsible for maintaining the software.
Shopify also serves both small businesses and larger enterprises with its Shopify and Shopify Plus ecommerce plans.
- Shopify: This is for small businesses. With three pricing tiers — Basic, Shopify and Advanced — you get access to different features, depending on the plan you choose.
- Shopify Plus: This is for enterprise businesses. Based on custom pricing (a percentage of revenue with a minimum of $2,000 per month), Shopify Plus customers get access to more advanced features, designed for higher volume stores.
Additionally, while there is no free plan, Shopify does offer Shopify Lite as an option if you want to include a buy button on your existing website or blog.
4 Reasons Why You’re Probably Looking for a Shopify Alternative
Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s review why you might be interested in a different platform to run your ecommerce business.
1. Don’t want to use Shopify Payments.
One reason is the ability to choose your payment gateway without any additional fees. With Shopify, if you don’t use their proprietary payment gateway, Shopify Payments (which is powered by Stripe), you can be charged transaction fees of up to 2% of each sale.
Plus, by not using Shopify Payments you are giving up access to some features, such as the ability to transact in multiple currencies. Additionally, if you sell a higher risk product, such as vaporizers, even if you want to use Shopify Payments, you can’t.
2. Want more control over site SEO.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a big part of the marketing features offered with an ecommerce solution. And while Shopify does a good job of handling basic SEO tasks, you might want more control over your website — especially if you rely heavily on organic search.
For example, Shopify doesn’t allow users to access and edit robot.txt files. For those unfamiliar, this is the file you use to tell Google how to index your site so that only the webpages you want show up in the search engine results.
While in the beginning this may not be a problem for you, eventually as your site grows, you’ll probably want more say in how Google crawls and indexes your website.
3. Have a large complex catalog.
Let’s say you have a clothing store and you’re making an effort to be very inclusive. So you offer:
- A range of sizes, from extra small all the way up to 6XL
- Multiple color options for every item
- Various designs, such as tank tops and long sleeves
- Options for men, women, children and babies
Your product catalog is quickly going to get very complex — and Shopify might not be able to keep up since you’re capped at 100 SKUs per product and only three options per product.
4. You’re frustrated in some form or fashion.
Maybe there’s something else you’re frustrated with that’s prompting you to research other ecommerce platforms. Perhaps you just don’t like the design of the Shopify Help Center, you’re frustrated with customer support, or maybe you’ve heard about someone else’s bad experience and you’re worried the same thing could happen to you. Whatever the reason, you’ve got other options available to you.
Features You Should Consider on Your Next Ecommerce Platform
No matter what obstacles you’re facing with Shopify, you should make sure your next platform solves those problems without creating new ones. And while every online business is different, here are some features that you might want to take into consideration.
1. Multiple payment options.
Every customer has their preferred way to pay. One person might want to use their Visa so that they can rack up points while another person may want to use PayPal because they can make a purchase without the need to manually enter in their card number.
So when you’re evaluating new platforms, make sure they have a wide variety of payment processing providers to choose from. For example, BigCommerce supports over 55 payment gateways. Plus, once you start getting bigger, you can typically get better rates, which will reduce your costs.
Even if you aren’t selling cross-border now, don’t box yourself out of international expansion later. Consider platforms that offer payment gateways that can transact and settle in multiple currencies.
2. Customization opportunities.
Your business is totally unique to you, and you want to convey that to your customers. Plus, how you manage your business is probably different than how someone else manages theirs. That’s why customization is so important for web design.
When selecting your ecommerce platform, make sure you can easily make changes that work for your business model and your specific customers. If you’re a coder itching to create unique functionality, make that your priority.
On the other hand, if you’re not an expert website designer, take into account ease of use. So exactly how much time and effort it will take for you to make changes?
For instance, if you’re building an about us page, how do you add elements that aren’t text? Can you easily re-arrange pictures and videos?
If you don’t want to spend all of your time building your website, a drag-and-drop website builder, can give you all the functionality you need to make these changes — without the additional coding requirements.
3. A catalog that can grow as you grow.
We’ve already mentioned an example where you might have a large catalog, but what if your catalog is very small? Then, Shopify might work great for you. However, don’t let where you are now dictate where you’ll be in the future.
As a business owner, you need to anticipate growth. Think about the different types of technology you’ll need to implement. And then ask yourself if your ecommerce platform can work with those technologies.
6 Great Shopify Alternatives
Once you have a better idea of the features you do want for your next ecommerce platform, it’s time to evaluate Shopify competitors.
While we didn’t include every single ecommerce solution on the market, such as Volusion, Weebly or OpenCart, this list should give you a good idea of some of the most popular ecommerce platforms on the market today.
Founded in 2009, BigCommerce is a flexible, open SaaS ecommerce platform that enables businesses of all sizes to build and scale their online stores.
While Shopify is great for getting started, if you’re looking to grow and scale your business BigCommerce is the better choice.
- Robust out-of-the-box features included with every plan.
- Support for over 55 payment gateways with no additional transaction fees.
- Page Builder, the drag-and-drop visual editor, doesn’t require any coding knowledge.
- Omni-channel selling abilities, including an in-app checkout for social media platform Instagram.
- Extensive SEO capabilities, such as fully customizable URLs.
- Support available 24/7 with over 85% of issues resolved on the first phone call.
- A large ecosystem of Agency and Technology Partners.
- While BigCommerce has a wide range of paid themes, there are only five free themes, compared to the nine that Shopify offers.
- Compared to Shopify, there’s a slight learning curve because you get so many more out-of-the-box features.
Launched in 2011, WooCommerce is an open-source plugin designed to transform WordPress websites and blogs into ecommerce websites.This makes WooCommerce a good alternative to Shopify if you’re already familiar with WordPress.
However, if you’re worried you can only use WooCommerce with your WordPress blog, don’t be. For instance, BigCommerce has an easy-to-use extension that will integrate with your existing WordPress site.
- The plugin itself is completely free to use with any WordPress site.
- It’s easy to integrate with any existing WordPress site.
- Because it’s open source, you can fully customize your store’s code.
- You have access to hundreds of free and paid extensions.
- Even though the plugin is free, you’re still responsible for the costs of domain hosting, a SSL certificate, finding an email provider and other features.
- To make the most of your ecommerce store, you’ll probably need the help of a dedicated developer or designer if you don’t know HTML or CSS.
- Adding core features to WooCommerce requires plug-ins—leading to more complexity and lower site performance.
First released in 2007, Magento is an ecommerce platform built on open source technology. Acquired by Adobe in 2018, Magento offers Magento Commerce for enterprise and Magento Open Source for small businesses.
So if you’re a big fan of Adobe’s other products and have extensive developer skills, you might prefer Magento to Shopify.
- Because it’s open source, you have access to the backend to customize everything in your store.
- Magento has a large network of over 260,000 developers worldwide creating additional functionality for the platform.
- Enterprise businesses on Magento Commerce have the option of a cloud-hosted solution as part of the package hosted on AWS or a self-hosted solution.
- You get access to a large partner ecosystem for third-party apps and add-ons.
- Magento Open Source is strictly on-premise, so you either need to host it yourself or go through a third-party web hosting provider.
- While Magento provides patches and upgrades, you are responsible for installing and managing these updates.
- No matter which version you choose or how you host your website, you’ll need a developer, in-house IT team and/or an agency to manage the build and maintenance.
- Magento has an extremely extensive setup, which leads to high costs to complete the builds.
Started in 2003, PinnacleCart is a shopping cart solution designed for small to mid-sized businesses with a strong focus on marketing.
As a Shopify alternative, it’s a great choice if you’re looking for more control over your storefront, as well as additional SEO features.
- You can either choose hosting on PinnacleCart or you can choose to manage hosting on your own.
- SEO-friendly features, such as schema.org tags and custom URLs.
- Unlimited products and categories on every plan.
- If you choose to host with PinnacleCart, there are caps on bandwidth and storage for their lowest $79.95 plan, so as you get more traffic you are going to pay extra or have to upgrade to a more expensive plan that offers unlimited bandwidth.
- Because PinnacleCart has versions, you’ll need to manage upgrades.
- There’s a very limited partner network, as it only integrates with 64 apps.
- Unlike Shopify’s wide selection of themes, PinnacleCart only has 12 themes available.
Since 1997, 3dcart has offered ecommerce software with a focus on SEO.
So if you’re an SEO junkie and you rely heavily on organic search, you might prefer 3dcart to Shopify.
- Wide variety of SEO tools, like Google AMP for products and 301 redirects.
- Built-in blogging platform included with every plan.
- For very small stores, you can get a full ecommerce platform for less than the Basic plan on Shopify.
- Over 100 online payment solutions, including international processors.
- Limited number of staff users, costing an additional $10 a month per user.
- There’s a steep learning curve, making it sometimes difficult to navigate the store builder and find the tools you need.
- The free themes all have a very similar design that’s not as modern as the themes offered by Shopify or BigCommerce.
Founded in 2006, Wix makes it easy for anyone to build a website — and offers business plans ideal for ecommerce businesses.
If you have limited experience and want an extremely simple web builder, Wix could be a better option than Shopify.
- A drag-and-drop website builder makes it easy to get your store up and running quickly.
- You get support for 6 options per product and a total of 300 variants SKUs.
- Wix has a robust, well-organized Help Center that’s easy to search.
- Each of their premium plans for ecommerce sites offers a free domain for one year.
- Unless you’re on an enterprise plan with custom storage space, you’re limited to a maximum of 50GB.
- Wix doesn’t offer Apple Pay or Amazon Payments as payment providers.
- There’s currently no support via chat, so you’ll need to call or submit a ticket.
- Searching through the app store can be challenging since Wix offers so many different website options that aren’t focused on ecommerce.
Choose BigCommerce as Your Alternative
We know you have a lot of options to choose from, but since you’re reading the BigCommerce blog, maybe you’re interested in learning more about what sets us apart from the other platforms.
And since we’ve already covered the highlights, it might be nice to hear from our Agency Partners why they would choose BigCommerce.
“After working with BigCommerce and other ecommerce platforms for more than a decade, we often find the platform offers a comparably advantageous solution for SMB merchants. BigCommerce’s native (non-app or customization dependent) featureset is one of the most complete, supporting nearly all verticals, selling models, and target audiences. Paired with a highly competitive pricing model, lack of transaction fees or significant app billings, BigCommerce defines an exceptional value. If a merchant is serious about ecommerce, and serious about a platform that provides an existing road map for growth, BigCommerce is an easy choice.” — Jordan Brannon, President at Coalition Technologies
“When compared to the other major ecommerce platforms available for SMB, BigCommerce excels with having an open templating framework which enables us to create customer experiences which drive engagement and commerce. Creating easily shoppable, brand relevant experiences is what sets SMB owned ecommerce apart from the large online marketplaces. Additionally, we often see a reduction in TOC after migrating to BigCommerce based on lower required maintenance allowing our ongoing support efforts to focus on initiatives which have a direct effect on constantly improving the business. Combining those qualities with an easy to use platform and strong customer service, makes BigCommerce a leader for helping create success for businesses of all sizes.” — Keith Karlick, Principal at Mercutio
3 Examples of Shopify Merchants Who Have Migrated to BigCommerce
To dive in a little deeper, take a look at the following brands and hear in their words why they made the switch from Shopify to BigCommerce.
1. Ideal Drape Makers.
Unlike many of their competitors, Ideal Drape Makers saw the potential of ecommerce. After launching their online store on Shopify, the small business quickly realized they were missing vital features and functionality that come out-of-the-box with BigCommerce — specifically the ability to handle faceted search and a large catalog of 60,000 products.
After making the switch to BigCommerce, Ideal Drape Makers was able to create a truly great visitor experience that increased revenue by 41%.
“I like having a single platform where you have all of the features already built in that you need and a single support point of contact.” — Nancy Vamvakas, Owner of Ideal Drape Makers.
2. Veppo Vape Shop.
In a bid to improve customer experience, Veppo Vape Shop bought into the marketing hype of Shopify Plus and switched over to them from BigCommerce. However, at the time they switched, they experienced challenges modifying orders and accurately tracking inventory, which ultimately led to a decline in customer satisfaction.
Once Veppo Vape Shop moved back to BigCommerce, they were able to increase company efficiency and customer satisfaction thanks to the built-in features, such as bulk pricing, and heavy customizations to checkout that enabled a more seamless process for subscription orders.
“Throughout our trials and tribulations, we discovered that BigCommerce has the most integrated system available and designed for an exceptional customer experience.” — Sabina King, Co-Founder & CEO at Veppocig.com
After using Shopify for a few years, Hickies grew frustrated with the numerous limitations on continuing to expand internationally, including the fact that Shopify Payments didn’t operate in many of the countries in their system. Additionally, Hickie’s wanted to easily launch Google Pay to make the checkout processes faster for their customers.
Once they made the jump to BigCommerce, the company experienced an 804% increase in total online sales month over month.
“Adding Google Pay to our storefront was super quick and seamless — it was literally flipping on a switch… The fact that it was so easy to implement and required no additional work to get it working was huge for us.” — Jonathan Segev, Hickies Director of Technology
While Shopify might be right for some people, it doesn’t work for everyone. And that’s perfectly fine. There are a lot of ecommerce platforms out there that will help you build and grow your online business.
Make sure you consider the ecommerce features that will have the biggest impact, whether that’s offering multiple payment processors, limiting transaction fees, real-time inventory management, setting up dropshipping or a user-friendly interface. And then, take some time to evaluate and test each platform. For instance with BigCommerce, you can sign up for a 15-day free trial with no credit card required.
At the end of the day, we know we’re a great option for most businesses, but the most important thing to remember is that you have to choose what’s right for you.
Have you ever dreamt of starting an online business but were confronted with a few small problems?
Having no time, little startup investment, and most importantly, no products to sell seem like major hurdles holding you back from that poolside office.
However, that didn’t stop Amazon, Wayfair, or even Etsy from becoming the ecommerce giants they are today. They all started off by selling products that they didn’t produce, and managed to scale by offering a unique value proposition with aggressive marketing strategies.
Ecommerce has seen tremendous growth since 2017 with projected sales to be 4.9 Trillion by next year alone. With online purchasing becoming a new norm, it has created a once in a lifetime opportunity for entrepreneurs like you to start an online business by dropshipping.
This is not your run-of-the-mill guide on starting a dropshipping business. With this guide, you’ll not only be fully knowledgeable on starting a dropshipping business, but you’ll know where to find products, how to pick them, and most importantly; how to be successful.
Before getting started, you might be asking yourself: What is dropshipping?
How Does a Dropshipping Business Model Work?
Dropshipping was born from the pains entrepreneurs face when wanting to start an online business. Dropshipping is a business model that removes the inventory aspect of retail. A customer’s order is sent directly to the dropship supplier to be fulfilled and delivered.
Here’s the dropshipping model in three simple steps:
- Your customer purchases a product on your store
- The order is sent directly to the supplier for processing
- The supplier ships the product to your customer
You’ll never have to worry about holding inventory and dealing with the products yourself. You’ll only have to focus on marketing your store and products, and building a customer experience unlike any other. In other words, the fun stuff.
Dropshipping Statistics: Numbers You Need to Know
Times are always changing, and staying on top of trends to making data-driven decisions are critical to staying in the game. We wanted to share five facts on what’s going on in the world of ecommerce, and give you a heads up on your research.
With these five facts, you’ll have a general idea of consumer trends, and how you can stay relevant and competitive while starting your dropshipping business.
- 61% of millenials and 55% of Gen X say that they would pay more for products that are eco-friendly.
- By the end of 2020, mobile sales are projected to be 45% of all ecommerce sales, totaling in a $284 billion segment.
- 80% of sales and marketing leaders say that they already use chatbots in customer interactions or plan to do so by the end of 2020
- 85% of millenials make a purchase after watching a video of the products
- 54% of social media users browse a brands products on their social pages
5 Reasons to Start a Dropshipping Business
So, why should you start dropshipping?
We’ll be honest with you. There is a lot of competition in the world of ecommerce. Starting a dropshipping business requires a lot of work, patience, and failing fast in order to succeed faster.
But just like other small business ideas, it’s worth it. We know that starting a small business takes a leap of faith, so we’ve outlined five reasons why you should consider starting a dropshipping business.
1. Limited capital needed.
The days of saving up to start a business are long gone. The great thing about ecommerce and dropshipping is that you don’t need to save up a lot of money to make it happen!
You can still keep your day job as you start your business, and eventually transition from side hustle to a full-time business owner when you’ve established yourself.
The initial capital you need is the subscription fees to your domain, an ecommerce platform, and any dropshipping platform you may choose to use. It may take lots of time to really build yourself up, but if you devote yourself to growth, the outcome can be financial and remote freedom. The cost of starting a dropshipping business is much less than the initial costs you would need to build an inventory of items and sell them. The inventory aspect is completely erased.
2. Scalable business model.
Scaling your business means having a business model that easily molds to increasing sales as well as customer inquiries and demands.
Dropshipping is easily scalable. You only need to worry about your inventory and supplier relationships, as well as keeping your customers happy and informed. Thanks to emerging technology trends, your customer service can be easily automated, and there are tons of options for automating different aspects of your business.
3. Low business overhead.
Before dropshipping, you would have had to scour the internet and wholesalers for products, order them in bulk, and store them in your home in hopes of selling them all. You’d have to do inventory, manage delivery for each customer, and create a system for keeping track of it all.
With dropshipping, the process is simplified, as you only manage the orders that come through, and your relationship with your supplier. You’ve eliminated the upfront cost in both time and money of storing and organizing these items, and dealing with the delivery of each product to your customers.
All you need to start is the fee you pay for your domain and your ecommerce platform, and your advertising costs to start. If you’ve got a dream and some grit, you can get started right away.
4. Can find new markets with low risk.
In December of 2019, the trend for face masks and self-care items started rising consistently.
By the beginning of March 2020, it became a fortified necessity, with face masks becoming absolutely essential to everyday life.
By dropshipping, you’re able to adjust your online store to suit the needs of your customers easily, and build a versatile product catalogue that’s relevant, unique, and high quality. Adapting is easy, and you won’t have to restructure your business to tailor to changing needs.
5. Start selling faster.
With dropshipping, you would have been able to add face masks (and other new essentials) to your product catalogue overnight, and started running ads and campaigns immediately. This would have won you thousands of new customers, and tons of leads for potential marketing and recurring customers.
Trends like these happen consistently over time, and with dropshipping, you’re able to start selling items as you see them rise in popularity. More on how to discover these trends later.
How to Start Your Dropshipping Business
The beginning of something great always starts out small. Getting started on your dropshipping store requires that you first enter a state of mind that embodies learning, entrepreneurship, and positive growth.
There will be failure, there will be fear, but there will also be an opportunity to grow because of them. Like most successful entrepreneurs, you’ll need to learn how to fail fast and use failure as the fuel to making better decisions. Be positive, be proactive, and be bold in pursuit of creating the best possible online store for your niche.
To start dropshipping, you’ll need an ecommerce platform that supports your growth, a reliable supplier and something to sell. Once you’ve ironed out the details of your business registration and sales tax ID, we’ve outlined the following five steps you need to take in order to hit the ground running.
Get your notepad ready, these 5 steps will help you build a solid foundation for a successful dropshipping business plan.
- Iron out your business operations.
- Determine your niche.
- Find the right supplier.
- Choose and build your ecommerce business.
- Promote your dropshipping business.
Iron out Your Business Operations
Build a solid foundation for how you’re going to run your dropshipping business. As a fairly new and non-traditional method of doing business, you have to be diligent and make sure your details are all ironed out.
1. Decide on your business structure.
To build, or not to build
Will you be creating your own website, or relying on an ecommerce platform?
Will you be finding and vetting dropshipping suppliers on your own or will you use a dropshipping platform?
Do your research in terms of time spent and the cost of having these services done for you. If you choose to use BigCommerce as your dropshipping business platform, you can start your business today.
On the other hand, building a converting ecommerce website from scratch requires a lot of time and technical know-how. Not to mention researching high converting tips for website design. In the end, the choice will be yours, but don’t forget that your time and energy could be spent on marketing and building a product catalogue.
Choose your dropshipping structure
In terms of dropshipping, the concept of spending time and energy applies heavily.
Finding these potential suppliers and building relationships with them is not easy, and it takes time. Vetting them for quality products and communication is another critical criteria to meet.
Platforms like Spocket seamlessly integrate with your BigCommerce store, and allow you to browse products from the US and Europe with reliable suppliers. All that leaves for you, is to find products within your niche that you’d like to sell, and from there, you’ll be one click away from a one-of-a-kind product catalogue.
2. Select and register your business name.
Your business name will be a critical part of your brand, and it’s important to spend a lot of time and thought picking something that resonates with you, your niche, and your potential customers.
The elements of a good business name are somewhat scientific, and revolve around aesthetically pleasing lettering, lengths and syllables.
Make sure to consider including an SEO keyword that makes it easy for your customers to find you. For example, if you’re selling beautiful handmade jewelry, include the word “jewel” or “jewelry” in your business name. For example: “The Rebel Jewel”
It’s not a must, but it sure helps in marketing efforts on google. In fact, it could save you a lot of money and effort in the future!
Next, make sure you pick and register your domain name as soon as you’re certain. You can do this through BigCommerce, or you can transfer an existing one you’ve already purchased. Try aiming for a .com domain, as it’s known to be more trusted and used in search. Discoverability is important for a burgeoning online store!
3. Acquire an EIN (depending on your location).
Getting an EIN is both a legal obligation and a free way to secure your business. This can be easily done through your government’s application portal that prompts you through the necessary steps.
This is also a great way to build trust with your customers, and let them know that you’re a legitimate small business and that you’re local.
4. Apply for a business license and permit (depending on where you are located).
Depending on your location, you may be required to get a business license in order to operate.
Before you can start on the fun stuff of building and running a dropshipping business, make sure your legal obligations are covered, so that you can sail smoothly into a successful small business.
This not only protects you, it gives your small business legitimacy and fortifies your stance as a small business in your country. Make sure to mention these on your website, so potential customers are aware that you’re legitimate and completely safe.
Determine Your Product Niche
We’re not trying to be corny when we say to choose something you love. Choosing a niche you love means that you’re already a part of this audience, and that you’re passionate and experienced in what people like yourself want.
This gives you an edge over everyone else, and a jump start into choosing the right products and the right marketing strategies.
Let’s say you’re a new mom. Motherhood is an exciting time that can always do with products that make raising curious little people easier. From hip seats to potty training tools, you’ll always find new moms looking to simplify life with kids.
For the new dog owners, you can build a store on gadgets and tutorials on training and “puppy-proofing” your home. No one likes to see their shoes chewed to shreds, and that’s where you come in with amazingly durable dog toys!
1. Look at google trends.
Google trends is a free tool that gives you a leg up on market research and insight into what people are looking for. Naturally, when we want answers or solutions, we turn to Google.
This tool will be one of the first things you turn to when looking for popular niches, trends and products. Simply plug in a keyword someone in your niche might be looking for, and see the results for yourself. This keyword can be anything related to your niche.
For example: “dog collars” for the pet niche or “bath bombs” for the self-care niche.
As an example, let’s take a look at “Dog Collar” for the pet niche:
There are a few important questions you should ask when looking at the results.
- Is the search demand steady? Search demand should always be steady for your niche of choice. In the example above, it’s evident that people love their pets, and they will always love their pets. It’s never going out of style, and it’s not a temporary fad. Great news for the pet niche!
- Are searches increasing or decreasing? Important to note if the searches for products in your niche are increasing or steadily decreasing. This gives you insight into the future of your niche, and the stability of your customers and revenue. Choose products and a niche that have a steady search volume, or even better, an increasing one.
- Who’s searching for this? When starting a dropshipping business, the hardest part of marketing is pinpointing the perfect target market segment. Some of them convert into sales, and others don’t. With Google Trends, you can see who searches the most for these items and you can target them specifically. West Virginia seems to have the most searches, so why not direct your social campaigns to people from that area?
All in all, keep in mind that trends and times are always changing. Keep your eye on the news and on what’s happening in the world of your customers. With the help of google trends and social media, you can make data-driven decisions about what to sell, and who to sell it to.
2. See what is selling online.
Use ecommerce giants like Amazon, Etsy, Pinterest and eBay to see what people are buying the most. In the case of Amazon, you can check out their “Most Wished For in Pet Supplies” to get an idea of what people want, and how you can carve out a place for yourself there.
As for Etsy, you can filter by “Top Customer Reviews” and discover products customers love, and most importantly, why. Take a look at the top sellers for “dog collar” and make sure to look at what people are saying about why they love these products.
You’ll gain insight into why these products are successful, and how you can leverage this for your own store.
This is by no means a one-time task. You have to constantly check what’s selling to stay competitive and relevant in your respective niche. If you can’t do it every day, do it once a week at least. This way, you’re always in the loop on best sellers.
3. Conduct a competitor analysis.
Conducting a competitor analysis is critical for a small business that hasn’t established itself yet. Think about it, no one has heard of you yet, and you’re trying to break into an industry that already has some key players taking the market share. Ask yourself:
- How will you compete?
- What will be your value proposition?
- How can you be better than your competitors?
Start off by conducting a SWOT analysis and identifying what your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are. For this part, you’ll need to focus on your weaknesses.
From there, you’re one Google and Facebook search away from finding your competitors. Or better yet, them finding you.
Look up “dog collars” and see the vast amounts of online stores competing for your attention. Pick the top 10, and make sure you keep a tidy spreadsheet of their names, links, top products, and sales propositions along with their ad campaigns.
Then, move your search to Facebook.
Look up your competitors on Facebook and then look up dog collars in Facebook Marketplace. You won’t have to do much work, as shortly after, you’ll notice Facebook is displaying ads of your competitors to you. Make sure to note them all and keep track of their offerings and marketing strategies.
This way, you’ll always have the advantage of knowing exactly what you’re up against and how you can compete. This step needs constant work, and should be an integral part of your marketing strategy. As Don Corleone said: keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.
Pro Tip: When conducting competitor research, look up the reviews for their store and specific products, and look for the worst ratings. Take a look at what people are complaining about, and make your store stronger in those aspects. This way, you’ll be directly offering what your competitors can’t.
Find the Right Dropshipping Product Supplier
Finding the perfect dropshipping suppliers is a do or die part of running your business. Even if you get every aspect of running your dropshipping business right, you need the right product supplier in order to succeed.
Your dropshipping suppliers must be reliable, communicative, and have high-quality products with decent shipping costs and fast delivery time. Make sure to test order a product before deciding on a supplier, you need to know the process from start to finish to understand your customer journey better.
1. Places to find suppliers.
You can find dropshipping suppliers by searching for wholesale suppliers of your specific niche. You can use directories such as Wholesale Central to find suppliers and start your process of weeding out the ones you want to work with. It’s a long and time-consuming process, but it’s in your best interest to find suppliers that are worth working with. Otherwise, you could set yourself up for disappointed customers, bad reviews, and a suffering business.
You can also bypass the process and sign up for a dropshipping platform that has already done all of the work for you. For a subscription feel, you’ll instantly be able to push products to your store, and discover new products and suppliers without any effort.
2. Evaluate suppliers.
Once you have a healthy list of wholesale suppliers, it’s time to test order products, and document your journey from start to finish in terms of communication, tracking number, shipping time and quality of the delivery and product. Rate them based on the following criteria:
- Product Selection
- Shipping time
- Wholesale Prices
Order their products and test their entire process. This way, you’ll know what expectations to set and you’ll be able to work with this supplier from one order, to thousands. Make sure to keep an eye out for the wholesale prices as well.
Ideally, you’d like to make a 30% profit margin on each product and still be able to offer affordable pricing for your target market.
Choose and Build Your Ecommerce Site
1. Ecommerce marketplaces.
Using the dropshipping model for your ecommerce store can save you time, effort and a lot of upfront costs when starting your business.
But what would dropshipping look like in an ecommerce marketplace? If you’ve ever looked at Amazon and eBay, the products are listed in an uninspiring, and simple grid that makes them easy to find. There are no marketing tactics and no value proposition. The items are similar, with few ways to differentiate which one to buy other than customer review filters.
There’s no denying that ecommerce marketplaces like Amazon or ebay are great for getting your product out there. But if your product isn’t one of a kind and incredibly unique, how will you appear as a suggested product to your customers? You become another brick in the wall, and have very little opportunity to build a brand, share a story, and really differentiate yourself. To top it off, you have to compete for similarly (or cheaper) priced competitors from Alibaba on a daily basis.
This approach can work if you have a one of a kind product with an incredible value proposition, but keep in mind – your marketplace competitors are working night and day to outperform you and build a product that will trump yours in both price and function.
2. Ecommerce platforms.
Ecommerce platforms were built to help small business owners like yourself jumpstart their online business and create an incredible brand with your own unique story.
With built-in high converting website templates and an already secure payment portal, your customers won’t be hesitant to easily pay with their credit card and sign up for your offers. The benefits of using an ecommerce platform include:
- You can build your own brand.
- You can offer unique value propositions.
- Your payment portal is already secure.
- Website templates are already available to you.
- You can easily adapt to changing times and trends.
- You don’t have to be dependent on an ecommerce marketplace.
BigCommerce boasts a comprehensive suite of tools from marketing to analytics, high caliber design options, and plenty of support from the pros. You can always use free website builders such as WordPress, but you’d be putting yourself through the school of design for high converting features.
If you don’t have the time or expertise, choosing an ecommerce platform is an easy and quick way to save time and money in the long run.
Promote Your Dropshipping Business
Now that you’ve built a beautiful website, added incredible products and solidified the small details of your dropshipping business, it’s time for people to see it. Promoting your dropshipping business is one of the most important aspects of running a successful online store.
You’ll need to use all of the information you learned from your competitors and build a marketing strategy that excels. You can start off with these four critical steps:
1. Send emails.
You’ll want to start off your email marketing by getting a solid email list from the people that visit your website. Capturing emails from the people that visit your online store is critical to developing leads – and sales. An amazing way to do this, is by offering a one time “40%” off banner or pop-up if they sign up for your email promotions. Another great tidbit is offering a free t-shirt with every first time purchase. This is a great way to have people do the marketing for you.
This way, your visitors will not only be enticed to make a purchase, but they’re giving you their email, so you can continue nurturing the relationship. This means creating an amazing email campaign that uses their information to personalize the content.
For example, if someone purchased baby clothes for a newborn, why not email them a few months later with clothes for a 6-month-old? Same goes with purchases of clothing. If a customer bought a sweater dress in the winter, why not email them with spring picks and promotions a few weeks later? Personalization matters.
2. Create social posts.
If you haven’t noticed, social shopping is now a full-blown trend on all social media platforms. In fact, 87% of ecommerce shoppers believe social media helps them make a shopping decision.
Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest all have the capability to create a “Shop” with products in-app. This means you have a breadth of opportunity to create incredible content, and build your own brand through these platforms. You can start making sales right on your social profile!
But before the excitement can begin, you need to create a content marketing strategy and social posts that really draw your viewers’ attention.
- Choose a brand color palette: Make all of your images and aesthetic uniform. You can do this by either always using the same filter, or by making sure the images you take have that same simplicity and color palette. Don’t be afraid to use photoshop otherwise!
- Create a lifestyle: Share the lifestyle your store and niche embodies. Are you selling minimalistic clothing? Create a story with your images around the simplicity of life. Show customers how clothing can bring clarity and peace. Show them how you can change their lives.
- Use hashtags, location and tags: Once you’ve created some beautiful posts, you need to make sure that people can see them. You can run ads, and you can also make sure you add appropriate hashtags and tag lifestyle accounts to your page.
You can use this opportunity to also announce promotions, sales, as well as a discount if they sign up for your email newsletter.
3. Advertise on Facebook and Google.
It may sound like a no brainer, but advertising on Facebook and Google is tricky, and requires a lot of adjusting and retargeting.
Be patient, and keep running ads until you have a good idea of who your exact audience is. Don’t be discouraged when you don’t make a sale right away, it takes time to collect enough data from your segment to actually target a high-converting group of people.
Don’t make the mistake of cutting Facebook ads short because you aren’t seeing many conversions. When making changes and retargeting, it can take your dropshipping business 14 to 30 days before you start seeing conversion rates changes.
Realistically, your ads need to make 4+ impressions on a single viewer before they are convinced to buy something from your online store. Make sure your ad copy and images are appealing.
4. Optimize your ecommerce store.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Search Engine Optimization.
From your landing pages to your product descriptions, you need to think about using search engine friendly terminology when it comes to any form of writing on your website.
If you sell jewelry, make sure the language you use to title and describe your products and categories are a direct reflection of your SEO research. You can use Google Keyword Planner to find these keywords and incorporate them.
Lastly, make sure that you create a FAQ page so that your visitors know that you’re legitimate, and you avoid the same redundant questions that your customers ask. It’s a simple way to build trust and make your life easier when managing customer support inquiries.
So there you have it! A complete step by step guide on starting a dropshipping business, and taking life by the horns on your journey to entrepreneurial freedom.
With the resources available through BigCommerce and our integration with Spocket, you’ll be able to start dropshipping in a few hours, and build an online store that you can be proud of. We’re here to support you every step of the way, and provide you with the right tools to be successful. Ecommerce shows no signs of slowing down, so it’s time to hit the ground running and build a business that services your niche and community.