How your offline sales drive the expectations of your online customers

 

It can be easy to group your customers online and offline, providing different purchasing experiences for each. For example, you may think your online customers want to be able to checkout quickly, while your local customers want the expert advice of your store staff and will spend longer in the store than they would expect to online, or you may set up impulse buy zones, or strategically sell related items inside your store, but won’t set the same up online.

 

We understand. It can be much harder to picture your customers shopping online than when they’re in the store so making that important addition to your physical store is often obvious and easy.   Good news: Your customers online are the same as those in your store, and their expectations are often very similar and driven by choices you’ve made in your store or stores in your industry.

 

Your website should be as informative as your staff

 

Many people view their online site as a place for customers to find products and check out as quickly as possible. Although it’s important to intuitively allow customers to complete their purchase quickly, they will need all the information they would normally get in the store. With the ability to pick up the product, no box to view, and no staff asking if they have any questions, they’re often left to fend for themselves.

 

Ask your staff what the most common questions they receive are and use this information to populate an FAQ, your product page, or even a knowledge base for an AI-based chat.

 

Organize your products like a brick and mortar store

 

When organizing your brick and mortar store it’s likely that you know which items are commonly purchased with other items, which items are going to be popular, and which items are purchased as the result of an impulse buy decision. You may also move certain items closer to your staff when you anticipate questions, or close to other related items because you know they’ll be purchased together.


When your customers begin shopping online at your store they will expect the same sort of organization and assistance. Take a look around your store to see what selling organizational techniques are working for you. Does grouping all accessories into one aisle make it easier for your customers or do they prefer accessories for an item to be placed next to the item itself? Are the products in your store group by season, activity, type of product? If it’s working well in your store, you may want to do the same online.

 

Don’t be afraid to drive your extra sales in the same way

 

When organizing your store you’re always conscious of ways to get those extra sales, from adding the right products by your till, tucking away impulse items on the end of the aisle or presenting your best sellers or big sales right at the front of your store. 

Here are some key suggestions for accomplishing this on your website:

 

  1. Highlighting sale items on your home page is a great way to move some top-selling products. Try adding a carousel that’s consistently updated with popular on-sale items.
  2. By adding related items in a carousel on your product page, or creating dynamic searches for related products you’ll make it easy to find groups of products you normally place near each other.
  3. Just like in your brick and mortar store you can have products in more than one place. An outdoor GPS unit could show up in your sales section, in related products, in your GPS category and in your outdoor electronics category all at once! 

 

It should be just as easy for your customers to get more information 

 

One of the biggest benefits to a customer entering your store is the ability to instantly get advice and feedback from staff who know your products best. The biggest advantage you have when competing against big-box retailers online is that you are much more equipped to offer this same service online.

 

  1. Offer chat during the hours that your store is open. Incredibly likely that the majority of your online sales will be during the hours that you are open.
  2. Do you have products without a given price? If you’re not sure how to sell these items online, offer the ability for your customers to request a quote, book a call, or otherwise receive the same help they would receive in-store.

 

There are only a few suggestions here, but you know your customers best. We recommend that you survey and talk to your local customers about what keeps them coming to the store, what they gain from you and what gives your local store the advantage of other local and online stores. Be creative, and find ways to offer those benefits online as well.

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Preparing your accounting software for an integrated website

When building an integrated ecommerce website you’re going to need to have certain key information prepared. It’s important to remember that what’s in your accounting system will sync to your site, and this means that any notes you may be placed in your product descriptions, or funny pictures you’ve uploaded could also end up on your site. You will also be shifting from using your accounting software exclusively for accounting, to populating the data on your online business presence as well.  Before launching a product line on an integrated ecommerce site, check to make sure you’ve completed the following steps:

1. Know your customers

Before you begin setting up your products you’ll want to understand your customers and the type of information they’ll need to make a purchasing decision.

Gather the important specifications, brands, and even the categories they expect to shop before you start. Take the time to understand what additional products may pair well with each other and what angles or features need to be highlighted in product images.

2. The Basics

Start by performing an internal data audit of all SKUs you will be selling online.  Each SKU should have the basics, including a name (short description), long description, and images. This is the bare minimum required to have your products online. If you’re not looking to have filters or advanced searches, you can include all of the specs and information you’ve determined to be required into your long description. If you want to build a better experience, move on to the next step.

The way you manage and describe your products will likely change from how you had done so previously. Where you previously were considering only an accounting-related context for your information, you should now consider almost exclusively how the information will appear on the web when displayed for your customers.

3. Getting the most out of your integration

It’s extremely likely that when you surveyed your customers and users of your store you discovered that by adding filters, properly categorizing your products, and prominently displayed key product specs can make the purchasing process. Many accounting packages will allow you to create custom attributes and associate them with the product. If you’re selling clothing, consider adding size, or material. If you’re selling electronics you may add voltage or wattage as some options.

Categorizing your product in your accounting software can also save time when setting up products online. Your product category structure should resemble how your customers expect to find product, and not reflect your account processes.  Remember, products don’t have to only belong to one category. If you think your customers may search by use type, item type, even activity, you’re often able to put one product in many categories, making your products easier to find.

4. Pricing

You will no longer be managing prices in several places, which will offer you increased flexibility in managing your pricing. Features supported in accounting packages such as customer-specific pricing, sales and discounts, and margin-based pricing can all utilized on your new website. Ensure you’ve set up your accounting software so that each product has a price designated for your site. If you’re operating with customer-specific pricing, ensure all your customers are seeing the appropriate price. 

5. Start saving time

Go ahead, launch your website. You’re about to reduce the administrative cost of your orders and begin making it easier to reach a wider audience. Enjoy!

A Guide To Drop-shipping for Beginners

 

Choose your products and build your brand

Your brand and your website will be defined by both you and your products. Before you’re able to build your site, you’ll need to first decide which products you’ll sell, how they’ll be curated, and how to build your brand around these products.

 

Choose products you love

You’re going to be spending a great deal of time supporting, selling, and advertising the products on your site. Without a passion, you’re unlikely to enjoy your work or pursue the business for an extended period of time. Your customers will know whether you’re passionate, and by sharing their passion you’ll drive sales and build a business you enjoy being a part of.

 

Choose products you know

Though you’re not producing or even shipping the item, you will still be the face of the products and the company and you’ll be required to support the products. Having a great understanding of the products and how they’ll be used, as well as the type of customers who purchase your products will ensure you can provide quality service and support.

 

Build a brand image that your customers can relate to

Your design, your branding, the context of the text on your site, and the way you advertise to your customers will all be driven by the product you sell and the type of customers that will attract. 

This is the time to be creative and set yourself apart from your competitors. Survey potential customers, join forums and communities and understand who you’ll be selling your product to.

Find your suppliers

 

Once you’ve chosen your products it’s now time to find suppliers who support dropshipping. First, you’ll need to define where you want the products to come from, the margins your business will require, and then begin reaching out to your suppliers, getting samples, and building your product offering.

 

Shipping Speed

One of the most popular choices for dropshipping products is to order direct from distributors and producers in China. This has very recently taken off with sites like Wish, and services such as Oberlo. Though these are incredibly convenient from a seller’s perspective, it’s undoubtedly complex from a shipping perspective. Yes, it’s free, but taxes and duties could be incurred, and shipping can take several months. Your shop is likely competing with Amazon, Walmart, and other online retailers, which means you’ll need to compete to provide products equally fast and offer the same types of prices. Thankfully, you do not require the same level of staff or warehouses as many of your competitors. 

 

Margin

 

Similar to competing on popular marketplaces, by competing as a dropshipper you’re likely to be competing against others selling the same or similar products. Only a few things can set you apart from your competitors, with the price being one of the most important factors. Keeping prices down will require you do both reduce overhead and the cost of shipping. If your distributor has multiple warehouses or, numerous shipping options, or options for packaging or distribution, consider collecting data as early as possible to improve optimizations down the road.

Quality

By using sellers within your nation, or even local sellers, you can easily build relationships that ensure the quality of your products is maintained.

Some key drawbacks to importing products is that it can often be difficult to receive samples, shipping can be expensive, and quality can vary wildly. When dropshipping products, make sure you have a distributor whose quality you can trust. Ask yourself this: Would you recommend your products to a friend? If the answer is yes, you’ve found a great distributor.

Building your website

Building a site that fits into the niche you’re selling is going to be key, but ensuring the right products are on your site is important as well. Your distributors will likely have tens of thousands of products or more, and you’ll need to decide which of those will be selling on your site, which you’ll support, and which products do not fit in.

If you’re entering products manually, writing descriptions, and uploading images, there is an investment for each item added to the site. You’ll need to choose each item carefully.

Integrating your website to your supplier feed allows you to automatically add thousands of products, reducing the investment and allowing you to offer a catalog of products. By receiving information directly from the supplier you’ll be able to easily add new products as they become available, ensure the accuracy of the information, and reduce the investment required for the sale of each product.

There are a few ways to do this, including direct integrations, applications, and EDI. When choosing who to integrate, ensure you research your competition. If the supplier data is highly accessible, such as with many integration apps with pre-integrated suppliers, you’re likely to have considerable competition cutting into your margins.
EDI allows you to connect with nearly any supplier online and handles all documents and information that will need to be exchanged between your site and your supplier, eliminating manual risk. 
Now that you have your suppliers, products, and your site, you’re all set!

Begin selling!

 

Eleven ways to quickly improve e-commerce conversion

Tips on Improving E-commerce Conversion

Know your customers

Before you begin working to improve your conversion rate you’ll first need to understand your customers. Ensure you have analytics set up with the proper sales funnels, and consider sending out surveys to find out how your customers want to engage with you, what can entice them to make a sale, and how frequently they want to be contacted.

Keep value propositions above the fold

Keeping the information above the fold means ensuring your customers won’t have to scroll to find what they’re looking for. Your top selling products often have a few key selling points that often make them such great sellers. By keeping this above the fold you ensure that anyone entering your site or landing on the product page knows why they’re there and how you can help them.

Abandoned cart emails really do work

It can often be difficult to convert a first time visitor into a buyer. By sending follow up emails you can bring users that may not have converted back to your site for another look. If you’re concerned some users may be looking at the wrong products try sending out a reminder of the product they have in their cart as well as some related items. Know your customers love coupons? Send out a discount code to users to entice them to return.

Product suggestions are key

Help your customers find the products they need by showing them other, related products.  These suggestions aren’t just for your abandoned cart emails, try displaying them in the cart at check out, or under the product details on your product pages.

Create targeted newsletters

Email advertising isn’t a one size fits all solution. By using an intelligent mail service, or by providing a survey. If you’re selling clothing, make sure that people are receiving clothing appropriate to the gender they’ve selected, or go one step further and send them newsletters based around their personal style.

Make shipping easier

Take another look at the analytics we asked you to collect above. If you’re losing a large number of users at the checkout stage it’s likely because of unexpected shipping costs. Ensure your shipping is simple, so users who are adding products to their cart have a clear idea

Incentivize the buyer to purchase today

Flash sales, weekend sales, and sale countdowns on your site will encourage your users to purchase a product now, without ever leaving the site.

Increase your Google Ad targetting

Vague Google Ads can lead to low conversion rates among new customers. Try creating ad groups with only a single ad, targetting specific products or categories with specific, highly searched language for that product.

Multiple payment options

A sale can quickly be lost in the final stages by not offering a quick and convenient way for your customers to pay. If you’re already offering credit card payments, consider offering PayPal, which can be convenient if the customer doesn’t have their Credit Card on hand.

Check your hosting plan

Several studies have shown that by improving site speed you can improve your conversion rates. A sale is often earned by having a quicker and simpler site than your competitors, make sure your hosting plan isn’t a bottleneck in your e-commerce equation.

Focus on mobile users

If you haven’t updated the look or functionality of your site in several years chances are you’re ignoring over half of your potential customers. Ensure your site is mobile optimized and easily navigated by those on a mobile phone or tablet.

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Six questions to ask your team before finding your next e-commerce platform.

You’ve likely known for a while that you need a new ecommerce website or to update your current site. Knowing that you need it is only half the battle. In order to search for a new platform properly you’ll need to know what to search for in an ecommerce platform. After all, there are dozens of unique plans but only one that is best for you.

Before you begin your search, meet internally to decide what you want to accomplish with the site and how that meets the needs of your customers. To get you started, here are a few questions.

1. Who will be purchasing my products?

In order to build a website that will improve overall sales and revenue you’ll need to first understand who will be purchasing your products, and then begin to design your site to make this process as frictionless as possible.

Prior to beginning the website design and deployment process, it’s recommended that you survey your customers and staff to better understand your customers. What countries are they in? How will they want to receive the product? What are your best sellers and why? Is your client base even comfortable buying online, and how can you ease the transition?

2. What information is required in order for your customers to make a purchasing decision?

Your products and your customer’s purchasing journey are unique and your website should reflect that. Consider asking your customers what’s important to them, what information is required to compare your products, and what they feel may be missing from other sites.

You’ll find that many products show generic information – UPC, Description, part number. Try and focus on what’s unique to your industry and your customers. Product or expiry dates, dimensions,  voltage, and region compatibility are all examples of attributes and information your customers may need.

3. What information is required in order to ship and deliver my products?

Depending on the products, customers, and regions you sell in, shipping can be simple or incredibly complex.

One of the most important things to remember in the consumer market is that the simpler the shipping model, the higher your conversation rate for customers, with the most obvious and best shipping model being one that’s free.

Consider gathering shipping analytics from a previous site or transactions. Can the cost of shipping be rolled into your products? Is there a sales threshold that warrants offering free shipping?

If you’re selling direct to businesses or ship a variety of large or difficult to ship items the only viable option may be an integration. By Integrating your store with shipping providers, and maintaining size and weight information for your products you can guarantee that shipping will be accurate, and fair. One significant drawback to this approach is that many customers work within a budget, and may not be happy with a shipping rate that’s unpredictable.

4. Aside from book price, are there any other prices the customer may need to see?

Do your customers need the option for bulk pricing? What about the ability to purchase packs of products, view their discounted price, or request a quote.

Not all stores sell only at MSRP. Your customers will expect to receive the same price they would as when purchasing from their sales rep. If your pricing is specific to each customer, requires price levels or other complexities, consider maintaining pricing using an integration, or an integrated e-commerce platform.

5. What products may need to be associated with one another?

You can both increase sales and encourage customers to buy a complete complement of products directly from your store by bringing products together in creative ways.

“Customers also bought” is a great way to encourage your customers to purchase similar items. You can also manually set up carousels that will allow you to add associated products to a page.  Treat your online store like your physical store, and consider what little additions may help your customers purchase multiple products easily.

6. How are people going to find your products, and how will they expect them to be organized? 

Perhaps the most difficult and important question you’ll ask is how will your customers be looking for your products. By anticipating their journey towards a purchase, you can build promotions, categories, and your homepage to correctly direct customers towards the product or information they are looking for.

Will your customers be looking for certain brands, categories, or use-cases for the product?  If the answer is only of these, then I would recommend building your category structure around this.

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Integrating Your Webstore with Sage X3

 What is integrated e-commerce?

Integrated e-commerce is the process of managing your online store by using data from your accounting software, inventory, ERP, or other key process software.

By creating a connection between these platforms you can begin using data you’re already managing to run your online store.

How can I integrate my website with Sage X3?

There are two popular methods of creating an integrated ecommerce platform. The first is by installing a plugin on a pre-existing website or platform. Plugins typically have a limited set of integration points and rarely interact with other features and plugins on your site.

The second, and most often recommended, is to build your site on a fully integrated ecommerce platform, such as zeckoShop. A fully integrated platform allows you to sync more data fields, utilize more features from Sage, and ensure you’re taking advantage of Sage 

Getting Started

Ready!

Preparation is always the most important part of any large project. Start by setting goals — Whether it’s to improve your design, automate otherwise time-consuming processes, or begin selling to new markets, it’s important to define your priorities before you start.

Find the right platform

Once you know your goals, reach out to e-commerce services providers to receive quotes and find a platform that works for you.

Choose your design and feature needs

Set aside some time to decide what type of information your clients will need to make an informed purchasing decision, what type of actions they’ll want to take when finding products and adding it to cart, and how you can make their shopping experience more efficient. The more you can utilize data that’s already in Sage, the faster your set-up will be for products

Set!

Choose what to integrate

So you’re ready to move to the web? It’s time to decide what you want to bring with you from Sage, and what you’d like to manage manually. Order history, pricing, customer data, item names, and custom fields can all sync up to the web. Make sure the data you’re syncing to the web is determined with your customers in mind.

Install and set up

It’s time to find a platform that respects your time. Many platforms force you to pay exorbitant fees for support and training or force you to watch dozens of hours of videos, read through manuals or hire staff experienced in the platform. Thankfully, many platforms will either take care of the hard work for you, provide extensive one-on-one training, or both! Consider what type of user you are and ensure the install and set-up process is tailored to you.

Launch!

Begin automating your order to cash process and enjoying your new store!

No really, it’s that easy.

Click here to start the process!

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How To Get Started With Multi-Channel Selling

What is multi-channel selling?

Multi-channel selling is the act of selling a single product on multiple websites and marketplaces. Many large retailers are partnering with third-party sellers to sell their products on their sites. This includes all of the largest online stores such as Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot, Staples, and New Egg.

Why you need to start multi-channel selling

Larger Audience

Google is a great place for consumers to find products but search page ranking can be competitive and advertising can be competitive. On a marketplace, you’re guaranteed to have some of the largest audiences. Many of the largest online web stores now allow for marketplace sellers.  Amazon’s annual revenue was over $250bn in 2018, 30% higher than the previous year, making it one of North America’s largest retailers

Increased Trust

Amazon, along with many large retailers have earned the trust of their customers through exceptional support. This trust can be leveraged while on their marketplace, making sales easier. Recent surveys show that a large portion of the population trust Amazon as much or more than their bank, and in some cases more than their government. Amazon has a universally positive perception, which makes users more comfortable when purchasing from their marketplace, and prospective customers.

What are some difficulties of multi-channel selling?

Data Management

You have thousands of products, descriptions, images, and prices and several marketplaces you’d like to sell them on. One of the most difficult parts of getting started with multi-channel selling is getting your products from your accounting software, your current eCommerce site, or anywhere else to the web.

To do so effectively there are several options.

Spreadsheet upload

Amazon, Walmart, and several other marketplaces allow you to upload products via spreadsheets. You can assign a column to each attribute, and tie it all back to a unifying number such as Amazon’s ASIN.

Benefits:

  • Anyone can do it. The skills required to produce and maintain this data over time are common in nearly every office. The data required to sell the product is enough to list it in your stores.
  • Exports from your accounting software or suppliers can often be converted and fulfill most of the data requirements from the marketplace.

Drawbacks:

  • There is still a fair amount of manual work involved. Whether you receive the information from a supplier or other data source there will often still need to be manual transformation and data uploads.
  • Stock and pricing updates will not be automatic, and there could be data inconsistencies between marketplaces, your accounting software, and your retail or online stores.

Automated integrations

Integrations are generally the preferred method of maintaining marketplace data. An integration will look for changes in your accounting software, SKU data management tools, or even supplier data feeds and automatically push updates to and from the marketplace. In most instances marketplace integrations offer the largest form of automation in your processes, allowing you to charge less and compete better.

Benefits:

  • Integration tools can automate many of the cumbersome aspects of maintaining product data, including updating pricing to multiple locations, updating stock on every store once the product has been purchased, and even ensuring descriptions are the same on each store.
  • A quality integration can dramatically lower overhead costs and logistical efforts, allowing you to lower prices and to gain the coveted buy box on Amazon.
  • Fees are typically on a per transaction basis, so you only pay more when you make more.

Margin

Managing margin is one of the most difficult and competitive areas of selling online. Margins are often considerably slimmer when selling on a marketplace due to the fee structures imposed by the marketplace providers.

Reducing operating costs involved in the order is paramount to maintain the profitability of your marketplace sales. There are two key ways in which this can be done:

Automated order processing 

Stores with high order volume can involve a substantial amount of manual data entry. From entering orders, updating prices, and monitoring and updating stock levels.

Warehouse Logistics Optimization

Shipping can make or break the margin on a sale. Remember to always check all available shipping providers before shipping out a product. 

For high volume sellers, make sure you’re consistently negotiating the best rates for the business. 

For low volume sellers, you can find yourself at a disadvantage for shipping providers. Find yourself a service like eShipper or ShipStation that combines many low volume sellers and offers a more competitive rate. Note that if your business volume increases substantially, you won’t be getting credit on your own business account for these sales when you go to negotiate rates later on.

So, now what?

You’re now ready to easily add product, ship products, and make money on Amazon, NewEgg, Walmart, and other popular marketplaces. 

Armed with more knowledge it’s time to start planning and turning those plans into action!

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The 10 E-commerce Statistics To Know In 2019

1. Amazon and eBay receive over 310M unique visitors monthly (Statistica)

It’s nearly impossible to not notice the popularity of Amazon eBay, it’s up to you whether this will help or hurt your business. By leveraging marketplace integrations to some of the biggest online stores a retailer can access a wider audience than ever before. There has never been a better time to consider selling on new marketplaces.

2. 84% of distributors plan to spend more on e-commerce this year (Statistica).

The vast majority of distributors are taking their B2B sales online to save time and money while making their products more accessible. Distributor pricing and shipping models can be incredibly complex, preventing many people to make the jump to online. Most distributors are now utilizing platforms directly integrated with the accounting software, reducing the initial set-up and maintenance of their site long term.

3. You can increase your checkout rate by 70% just by offering the right payment options (Nielson)

Most websites allow for credit card payments, but only 42% of people prefer to pay with credit card (Statistica). What about the other half? Ensuring you provide the right payment solution reduces the number of customers you lose at check out. When considering your next ecommerce solution, consider one that offers multiple payment providers, including PayPal, your favorite Credit Card process, and even debit.

4. Generation X Shop More Online Than Baby Boomers and Millennials (KPMG)

The greatest purchasing influences for Gen X are no longer online reviews, lengthy articles or recommendations from family and friends — Decisions are made while browsing social media, through influencers, and YouTube. Have you adapted your marketing strategy to take your product to the forefront of 2019’s biggest spenders?

5. 55% of people will abandon their cart due to unexpected additional fees, such as shipping and duties. [Baymard]

Flat rate and free shipping are going to ensure you keep the most customers through checkout. Free shipping doesn’t work in your industry? Integrate with several shipping providers to provide accurate, predictable rates while giving your customers the option that works best for them.

 6. 64% of consumers will click on a Google ad when they’re looking to make an online purchase [Wordstream]

Over half of those actively looking to purchase products have no issue with clicking an ad on Google, making investments in Google advertising and analytics a no-brainer when planning your next marketing movings.

7. 65% of customers will price check on their phone while in a physical store[KPMG]

You don’t have to be down the street to compete, you just need a great mobile theme. By making your prices easy to find and mobile-friendly you’ll be competing around the clock with brick and mortar and web competitors. 36% of people say their decisions are primarily based on price, make sure yours are easy to find.

8. E-mail marketing has an ROI over 4400% [Campaign Monitor]

We’ve all wondered how sending more emails might increase traffic, or whether the subscription to an email marketing site will see the returns we hope for. The numbers are in, and the answer is obvious: Start your campaign now. Not sure where to start? Try integrating your site with Constant Contact or MailChimp to easily build a list of clients.

9. Mobile users have a cart abandonment rate of 85%[Barilliance]

Every ecommerce store needs to address cart abandonment, what’s your strategy? Retargeting ads, abandoned cart notification, clear shipping, and product costs, and a simple, one-page checkout process are all easy ways to ensure your customers.

10. 54% of people will purchase a product they previously abandoned [VWO]

Nearly half of your abandoned carts can be recovered if your customers stay informed. Combine your e-mail marketing campaign and abandoned carts data to ensure your customers stay informed about sales, coupons on price reductions.