So how do you go about opening your store for business?
Follow these 5 steps to have an unforgettable online store opening: More…
@joepalko is the CMO of 3dcart. Prior to joining 3dcart in 2011, Joe was a true internet pioneer co-founding his first e-commerce website in 1994 which later sold to America's largest mail order pet supply retailer in 2007. Joe also co-founded Solid Cactus in 2001, which was later sold to the Web.com Group in 2009.
A proposed Internet retail tax has online merchants scrambling. The new plan would require online stores to collect taxes that satisfy the buyer’s home state requirements. Read More!
Ever wonder how online retailers get their product images looking perfect? You don’t need to invest hundreds of dollars in a digital camera and you do not need to have any photography experience to take professional photographs of your products. One of the biggest mistakes we see for those just starting out with an online store, is having poor product images. Amy has posted a great tutorial that takes only a few minutes, and costs less than $5.00 and will have your products looking like they’re ready to jump off of the page.
Here are some things to keep in mind when taking pictures of your products:
- Disable your camera’s built-in flash when taking a photo. The built-in flash produces a glare on the photo and makes your products look two-dimensional.
- Use your camera’s “Macro Focus” feature to take close-ups of your product.
- Use a tripod when taking pictures of your product. The tripod stabilizes your camera and eliminates blurry photos.
- Photograph your products at an angle.
- Take more than one photo of each item.
- Understand how your camera works. Take a few test photographs and rearrange your lighting or the product if you have to. Read your user manual and find out how to customize the white balance feature on your camera, which will control the background. Also figure out how to set the ISO and start at 100 or 200. This controls the amount of light entering the lens.
- NEVER rush on this part of your store design. you can have a stellar online store, and if your product pictures look like they were taken with a camera phone, you’ll see poor sales.
Customers search for products in different phases of the purchasing process. They be browsing, considering a purchase, comparison shopping or they could be ready to buy NOW!
Unfortunately PPC doesn’t allow the “only show to purchase-ready searchers” option, so if you aren’t careful and strategic you can end up paying a lot for users without any purchase intent.
While you can’t know for certain a user’s position in the purchase process, you can choose keywords that are indicative of their placement. Consumers’ searches follow a pretty standard pattern as they move down the conversion funnel.
You have to find the keywords that accompany the purchase-ready stage or the buyer keywords.
- Betty’s looking for a laptop. She searches:” best laptops” or “laptop reviews”
Those keywords can be good, but for the most part users are just beginning their purchase journey. Lets say Betty went to those review sites and realized she she was probably more interested in a Macbook.
- Armed with more specific inquiries, Betty has further moved down the conversion funnel – she knows exactly what she wants and shes ready to buy. She searches: “Buy Macbooks” “Buy Macbooks Cheap” “Macbooks under $100″ “Budget Macbooks”
Without knowing Betty’s journey, you These keywords are indict
Matt Carter lists some great examples of buyer keywords on his blog.
- low cost
- low priced
- model numbers
- brand names
PageRank refers to Google’s algorithm for assessing the relevance and value of every webpage. of every webpage. Different pages within a particular website are given different pagerank evaluations which Google assigns a number from 0-10.
Main factors that affect pagerank:
- How long the page has existed
- Internal inks
- Site structure
- Page load time
- Quality and number of external links pointing the page
For tips on increasing your PageRank, click here.
Googles PageRank affects its search results or SERPs but it is not the only or the main factor.
SERP’s refers to where your website appears on Google’s search results on any given keyword.
Google’s SERP are based on value of content, keywords ( SEO), and then on the pagerank. Google has done a good job of ensuring fairness in SERPS so that a site doesn’t have to have tons of traffic and backlinks to rank well for a keyword. SERPS are why on-page SEO is so important.
Main factors that affect SERPS:
- Optimized Key Phrases **Tip: Use keywords and internal links at the beginning of content
- Title tags
- Page URL
- Meta Description (Page Description/Summary)
- Anchor text
- Page Length
PageRank vs SERPS
High pagerank is based mostly on quality and number of backlinks and SERPS are mostly affected by on-page and off-page SEO. SERP rankings can also help your pagerank but you don’t neccesarily have to have good SERPs for Google to rank you high.
Which one should I care about more?
Well, thats a complicated question. Since Google’s Panda update, experts are noticing that pagerank is starting to affect SERPS more than it had perviously. While it’s no one’s favorite answer, you should care about both. Google’s althorgithm is always in flux and every now and then the search king throws a curveball like the Panda update so its best consider both.
Divide your focus between SERPS and PageRank – make sure your content is keyword optimized, uses anchor text but also work on gaining quality backlinks by guest blo
gging or forum commenting. The good news is, with two factors to consider your store wont live and die by pagerank. Just like all things worth working towards in life, SEO takes patience and focus but in the end is totally worth your time
The digital revolution didn’t just revolution how you shop, it also revolutionized what you shop. Instead of physical goods, many merchants are selling bits & bytes in the form of e-books, mp3 music files, downloadable images, software, videos, & product keys. With a different form of product, comes a different method of marketing.
5 tips for selling digital merchandise
Focus on a niche
The key to selling digital downloads is focus. Focusing on a specific good , topic or service, allows you to better market your products, promote your products to a specialized target audience and build strong SEO on industry keywords.
Use standard file formats
I know it doesn’t sound like marketing, but using standard file formats(PDF for ebooks, MP3 for audio files, etc.) ensures all users will be able to easily download and use your products. If you choose to use a format that is not standard, you cut you could cut your customer base in half.
Give your customers a little taste of the digital product before purchase. For example allowing your customer to read two chapters of your ebook, playing the first level of your gaming software, or listening to samples of your music before downloading. Pick your previews wisely. You know your products – make sure the preview of your merchandise are as alluring as possible. If your third chapter is really gripping include it in the preview. If your song has three chart toppers, allow those as previews.
A considerable upside for customers buying digital downloads rather than physical products is immediate access to the product. Promote the immediate accessibility to your customers by marketing your products as an “easy, no wait” solution.
Secure downloads with serial numbers or keys
If you are selling software, consider implementing serial numbers or keys validation. Adding a validation process protects your businesses from digital piracy. Serial numbers & keys also communicate to the buyer that a purchase is necessary i.e. they can”t find the product on an illegal downloading site. 3dcart allows you to upload a list of serial numbers and distribute each one of these as orders are received on your website. You can have just a preset number of keys and reuse them between customers—or, you can actually enter a unique serial number for each customer and eep track of who activates your software online.
Five Reasons Why Anyone with a Computer Can Start an Online Store
Virtualization has turned ecommerce into one of the simplest ways to become an entrepreneur. Today’s technology has made it simple for anyone to start their own online store and manage it solo on a shoestring budget—and as an ecommerce provider, we’ve seen tons of proof.
Even if you have zero entrepreneurial experience, ecommerce software puts all of the tools and resources you need to start an online retail store at your fingertips. Below you’ll find five reasons why anyone with a computer can start an online store.
Remember when licensing software required thousands of dollars a year? Today, you can acquire your own shopping cart platform for less than $20 a month. That’s an insanely low barrier to entry that requires little overhead to get your store started. You may need a little cash up front to buy product, but that’ll be the bulk of your upfront investment.
3DCart’s business model only charges $19.95/month for our lowest package, a cost that covers hosting. There’s no setup fee and no per-sale fees.
2. You won’t need specialists when you have automated end-to-end features.
In the past, retail businesses would usually require hiring professionals in marketing, sales, accounting, logistics and more. Today, shopping cart software solutions include features that cover all of your bases. Want to integrate your online retail store with Quickbooks? No problem. Planning a social media campaign and access analytics directly from a central dashboard? Piece of cake! Need to collect and archive customer data in an easy-to-access database? We have built-in customer relationship managers for that.
You won’t need a staff—just a little business experience and an adventurous spirit.
Hold the phone—don’t rent out that storage facility just yet. If you’re getting started with a small amount of stock, you can hire a virtual warehouse and fulfillment manager to store everything. Instead of piling your stock in your living room, simply outsource your storage to a fulfillment service provider at low fees. When orders come through, the fulfillment center will automatically ship the product for you.
It’s nice to have technical experience if you’re starting your first online store, but it isn’t required. Today’s proprietary ecommerce software solution makes using features, managing content and integrating third-party services a snap without requiring you to hire a developer to customize your store.
Software used to live on your computer, but now you can access your software and data directly from your web browser from a secure login page. The personal data of your customers is safe, and you can manage your store from your desktop, laptop, tablet—even your mobile device.
Ever been excited about a big sale, only to see how much you paid in credit card processing fees? Stop seeing your margin erode with high processing fees. There may be things you can do to lower your rate. You know that by offering credit card acceptance you win more sales. Multiply this effect by lowering your processing costs. To get the best rates on every transaction, your merchant account needs to be configured correctly. You also need to handle transactions in a specific way. Your merchant bank is charging you based on the type of credit card you run, the way you run these transactions, and your type of business.
Use These Best Practices as applicable to Your Business
- Settle your batch within 2 business days of transaction date. This ensures that the cards you authorize are charged in a reasonable time frame. Your customers expect this. If you hold authorizations for too long, customers are likely to forget their purchase, and not recognize your transaction when it does come through on their statement. It may sound like it will never happen to you, but this can result in a chargeback. Knowing this risk, the card associations reward merchants who follow this best practice with lower rates.
- Unless you are set up with a special merchant account type such as a restaurant or beauty parlor, never modify the transaction amount after receiving an authorization.
Internet Merchants (and Key Entry)
- Perform address verification (AVS) on every transaction. When the AVS response is “match”, you know that the person entering the transaction knows the correct billing address on the credit card. This provides you some assurance that the cardholder is the one making the purchase. Your merchant bank may qualify more of your cards for your best rate.
- Enter an invoice number or purchase ID number, and send it with every settlement transaction. Visa recognizes this number, and it helps in customer communication. Most eCommerce providers will automatically include an invoice number, but make sure to check with them that this is the case for your shopping cart.
- Settle transactions within 7 business days of the original order date, and hold them in your gateway queue in the interim.
Best Practices to Avoid Incidental Costs
Incidental costs are costs incurred after the transaction has processed, and are additional to the processing fee. They may include chargeback fees, retrieval fees, PCI non-compliance fees, and ACH rejection fees.
- Require that your customers read and agree to your return/refund policy prior to checkout.
- Check the AVS response for each transaction, and follow these steps to avoid chargebacks:
- Look more closely at the entire transaction if the response is “no match”.
- If suspicious, ask for further information from the customer, such as the name of the bank on the front of the card, to validate the charge. Your merchant processing bank or the issuing bank can then tell you if that matches.
- If your instincts still tell you something is wrong, void the charge, and do not ship the product. Merchants learn from experience that if something feels wrong, it probably is.
- Check to see if the shipping address matches the billing address.
- Require a signature on delivery (SOD). Again, this provides further protection to you in the event of a chargeback.
- When you change your business name, make sure that you inform your payment processor. They will need to update your record so that your new name travels with your card charges. If you leave your old name in that spot, customers will not recognize the transaction.
- Make sure that your business is Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliant. The cost to you for a data breach can be over $100,000 per incident.
Your Merchant Bank and Vendor Responsibilities
- Your acquirer needs to include specific data within each settlement, identifying you as the merchant. This ensures that a cardholder can contact you if they are unclear about the charge they are seeing on their credit card.
- Any vendor storing, transmitting, or processing cardholder data – even if only for a nanosecond – also needs to validate their compliance with the PCI DSS. Be sure you are using compliant providers.
How to Shop for the Best Rates
- Get a quote that’s specific to how your business processes transactions.
- If you have two distinct methods of processing, you may need a quote for each.
- Ask if AVS is available.
- Understand Visa’s rules regarding location and merchant processing type, as these factors contribute to how your rates are determined.
- Ask questions about any set up fees, annual fees, cancelation fees, etc. You may find a merchant account with low discount rates, but be careful that your savings are not eroded by recurring fees.
- If it’s been a while since you set up your merchant account, research current industry rates, and then ask your merchant bank for a rate review.
Good payment processing practices boil down to common sense. Train your staff to always think about the customer, and their expectations. They expect to be charged the amount that they authorized. They expect their card to be charged within a reasonable time frame after the order, and they expect you to ship product in a timely manner. Your procedures should be right in line with these considerations. The credit card associations, similarly, expect you to use these best practices. They can, and do, penalize you with higher rates for not following them. In the long run, it will create happy customers, save you money in processing and incidental fees, and reduce your risk of chargebacks.
Understand that the measures you take to get the best rates should save you money on processing costs. At the same time, not every transaction you run will qualify for your lowest rate. Many factors contribute to how your rate on any one card is determined. You may be a merchant selling primarily to consumers, and have a fabulous low rate for qualified credit cards. When you do take the occasional order from a business, their corporate credit card may downgrade to a higher rate. This is the case even when you perform AVS and settle your batches in a timely manner. To be within Visa rules, most merchants need to accept any card with a Visa logo on it, regardless of type. You also can not charge more or penalize a customer for the type of card they give you. The exception would be if you decide not to honor a sale, due to suspected fraud, lack of inventory, or the like. In these cases, you may void the authorization. However, if it is solely a matter of processing costs that may be incurred, Visa frowns on penalizing a customer for offering you their chosen payment type. Instead, use all of the tips above consistently for a higher chance that more of your cards will qualify for a low rate.
About the Autor:
Our guest author, Mary Clare Ferber is Account Manager at BankCardServices Worldwide. For more information about Merchant Services, visit http://www.3dcartmerchant.com