The One Thing You Shouldn’t be Operating an E-Commerce Community Without

March 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Social Media

You are part of a community. Right here, on this site, you’ve chosen to be a member of the eCommerce Optimization Community.

See how easy that was? The similar thread all readers of this site share is the hunger for practical how-to information for increasing eCommerce sales. Your customers have the same common thread for your products or services.

Let’s continue the community conversation by digging further into how product and service organizations keep themselves in business.

As mentioned, online communities are not much different than physical ones. To be successful, you need to let folks know who you are and what you sell. Once you’ve got them in the door, you need a plan for turning one-time customers into repeat customers.

The key for turning one-timers into repeaters: Interaction.

You wouldn’t let an in-person customer walk through your store without saying a word to them so why do it online? One of the best things you can do for your E-commerce site is to offer opportunities to interact.

Here are five great opportunities for you to create community interaction on your site:

1. Blog. Post information related to your products, services, staff, life, etc. Keep it as serious or light-hearted as you want. Your goal is to have a space where you can post items that may not be not be considered relevant on the rest of your site. Need inspiration? Check out the Zappos.com blogs as an example.
2. Offer Voting Privileges. Consider adding voting or recommendation capabilities to your site. Allow users to suggest options for other users. Consumers will almost always go with peer recommendations over what they perceive are targeted marketing campaigns.
3. Add Widgets. The name may be cute, but their role on your site could make a huge difference. Add widgets to your front page, your check-out page and other popular pages to promote new products or services.
4. Host Fan Clubs. This can be part of your blog or a separate entity all together. Because your customers are your greatest fans, give them an opportunity to create their own “club.” Create online buttons or catch phrases your customers can use on their own sites, blogs or e-mails. There’s no better advertising than free advertising.
5. Host forums. Depending on your product or service, you may have customers with questions. Creating a space where users can ask and answer questions is a great way see what people think of your products and services as well as your own customer service.

And of course, concoct creative combinations of the previous 5 opportunities. Let your imagination run wild. Let’s say your site sells cat toys. Why not set up a contest where customers vote on the most popular cat toys. Ask your Fan Club members to write reviews for the top five vote getters. Post the reviews on your blog, forum or front page and let the e-commerce begin!

Community Holds the Key to Social Media Success

March 10, 2009 by  
Filed under Social Media

In a time not so long ago, the term ‘community’ referred to the neighborhood or town you lived in. From neighbors to businesses, communities always served a role as its residents’ support system.

With the creation of social media, communities became global. Residents didn’t need to have the same zip code, just a common thread.

Social media has afforded e-commerce website the opportunity to not only sell, but also to become part of the community.

Here’s how:

Social Networking Sites. You may have assumed Facebook and MySpace were reserved for high school kids. While Facebook was created as a means to connect college kids, it has exploded into a site that Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Nieces, Nephews and your Third Grade teacher all frequent. Facebook has become the new watering hole where by which we all gather around to exchange stories and catch up with one another. MySpace is run in a similar vein; however, its users trend toward the more creative (musicians and artists) or the young (teen-agers).

Blogging. Web Logging, or Blogging, has become one of the most popular forms of self-publishing in the 21st century. The only tool necessary to blog is an internet connection. Many people and businesses become flustered over deciding whether to blog. Most aren’t sure what to blog about or how much to reveal. One of the advantages of a blog is that unless you are writing under a corporate directive, you can do as much — or as little — with your blog as you want.

Microblogging. Microblogging sites like Twitter and Friendfeed have married blogging with social media to create a finished product that looks something like a community bulletin board. Users friend, follow and post using a “Telephone” game-like principles.

How can social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and blogs translate into dollars for an e-commerce site? If you guessed community, you’d be correct.

All social media sites are created around the tenet that everyone in them is part of a community. Within each community, there are groups and subgroups of users with specific interests. This is true for Facebook and MySpace, where one can joing a group dedicated to a topic of their choice; with bloggers, where like-minded bloggers congregate on similar sites; and with microblogging sites like Twitter, where users tend to follow based on keywords and comments.

For an e-commerce site to be successful in the social media world, it needs to become part the community of which it is trying to sell. Join, or create, groups; launch a blog; begin to Twitter. Each of these social media outlets will bring you closer to where you want to be — in your community.

4 Ways to Increase Customer Average Order Value

March 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Marketing Strategies

Generating more revenue for your online store is undoubtedly one of the me most important long term goals of any business owner. Careful planning and proper implementation combine to help see that goal is met.

Although many business owners have an idea of what they want to reach in revenues (just saying “I want growth” or “I want more sales” will get you no where), many do not actually put that idea in to actual and measurable numbers. This is one key to reaching them int he first place.

How can you plan properly to reach a goal if that goal has not been measured in the first place and furthermore has not been tested to see if it is reasonable? The answer is you can’t. You can not manage what you do not measure.

I know you are looking for the ways to increase order value so let’s skip ahead here. Just keep in mind that unless you have a plan, and unless you have a reachable and realistic end goal, and unless all those figures are measurable, you might have a hard time getting anywhere fast.

What I’m saying is you likely will be able to increase your sales using these 4 strategies but reaching your end goal in the amount of time you wish may be difficult if you have not planned properly.

Reaching revenue goals can happen several ways.

1) Increase traffic to your site at your current conversion rate.
2) Increase the customer average order value working with the traffic you already have.

I’ll be focusing on #2 for this article. In short, point two above says that you can increase the revenue your store generates without increasing traffic at all, but by increasing the average order value based on the amount of traffic your site already receives.

Here are 4 ways to increase your customers average order value.

1) Increase Product Price
This is the most obvious method off increasing revenue yet you must understand what your market is willing to pay and be conscience what any competitors price their product at. You can offer a similar or same product at a premium price to competitors (I’ve done this a number of times with great success) as long as you differentiate yourself in some form from them. You must make the customer see that the perceived value of your product is better than that which they would receive from a competitor. This can be accomplished a number of ways.

2) Cross Selling of Similar Products
Cross selling products just because you can is a bad idea. I often see store owners cross selling unrelated products in an effort to increase sales. I ask them why and the majority come back with the same answer. They are convinced that if the customer does not like the first product they were viewing they will click on another product that might interest them. This works when the products are related but often has the opposite effect when the products have little in common.

The question I ask is would you click on a pack of batteries that were being cross sold to you if the original product you were viewing was a shirt and pants? I doubt it as the two are completely unrelated. The primary goal of a cross sell should be to increase the customer’s average order value by offering them a related item which they can add to their cart in addition to the item they are currently looking at.

3) Free Shipping offers with constraints.
It’s no hidden secret that free shipping works. In fact the majority of internet shoppers expect free shipping in some form. You can take advantage of this and also increase your average order value by offering free shipping for orders that reach a certain threshold. If you want your average order value to be $45 for example then you may want to consider offering free shipping for all orders $45 and over.

4) Create product bundles.
A great way to increase your average order value is to develop combinations of products that when bought separately would cost more. For example, let’s say you sell Apple ipods. You have an ipod Nano for $149.95 and a car adapter priced at $54.95 (a separate cross sell). These items are likely to be purchased together yet when purchased as individual items a customer would have to pay a total of $204.90.

By creating a bundled product which includes both items for just $175, you increase your order value from what could have been just $149.95 to a better $175. Think of it as cross selling at a discount. Providing you’ve priced it correctly, your customers will see it as a deal that can’t be passed up.

These are just a few examples of the ways you can increase the average order value of your customers and thus increase the revenue your store generates. With proper planning you can get an average order value that based on the current number of visitors your site receives in relation to its conversion rate will put you well on your way toward reaching your ultimate revenue goals.