ProStores eCommerce Blog

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11 posts from January 2010

Ecommerce Links Roundup

No time to follow the latest ecommerce news, tips, articles, videos, tweets and blog posts that are out there on the web? Here's a roundup of some of the most interesting links we found this week:

  • Marketing to Moms? Better get on Facebook and Twitter and even MySpace because Moms" like to talk":  http://ow.ly/11s6y
  • What Obama said about small businesses during the State of the Union. An overview of his proposals here:  http://ow.ly/11rHC
  • Consumers `clipped` 92% more coupons from the web last year, study says. http://bit.ly/aAhCVL
  • Tips for improving the effectiveness of your PPC Advertising campaigns: http://ow.ly/10Erg
  • Ways to improve your ranking using email and social bookmarking tools: http://ow.ly/10Fw9
  • A new report by the market research analysis firm IBISWorld projects best and worst performing industries in the next decade. Ecommerce and Online Auctions comes in the 4th Best Performing Industry 2010-1019:  http://ow.ly/10Ejn
  • Four distinct post-recession consumer segments: Steadfast Frugalists, Involuntary Penny Pinchers, Pragmatic Spenders & Apathetic Materialists:  http://ow.ly/YYZD
  • Thinking of giving your store a makeover? Here are some questions to ask before redesigning your site: http://ow.ly/11WBV
Do you have more links you want to share? Add them to the comments below or share them with us on Twitter (@prostores).
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B2B Marketing for Your Online Storefront

Owner of Collegiate Living and Internet marketing expert Chris Surovick has been sharing with us his best practices for promoting an online storefront.  In this last post, he tells us how merchants can build business-to-business relationships.

His advice: Be generous, talk to your community, and share information.

“All of the things I do, I learn from others," he says.  "Now I’m seeing some success online.  Why wouldn’t I want to share it?  That’s the point of social media and growing your network of friends and businesses.  The fact that, through Twitter, I can talk to Matt Cutts, the biggest marketing director at Google, and he’s willing to share information – that’s priceless."

In the spirit of sharing, here are some of Chris’ favorite Internet marketing blogs and websites.

Picture 3www.wilsonweb.com

www.readwriteweb.com

www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog

www.mattcutts.com/blog/ 

http://sem-group.net/search-engine-optimization-blog/

“Online marketing changes every day," Chris says.  "Social media changes every day.  How can you know everything about something that changes every day?  The only way is to listen, observe others, and stay up on it.”

 

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Social Media Marketing: Promote Your Web Storefront

This is our penultimate post in a series of marketing tips from ProStores merchant and Internet marketing expert Chris Surovick.  Besides SEO, blogs, and article writing, Chris recommends that web storefront owners use social media marketing to drive traffic.

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Facebook

Chris uses his company's Facebook page to communicate with his customers and post discounts.  “It's so simple.  Everyone should be doing it.  It creates a community feel and gives you legitimacy.  There are so many web stores—people want to know that if they purchase from you, they can find you later.  It shows you’re not hiding from anyone.”  Make sure your shoppers can find your Facebook page by cross-promoting it on your web storefront homepage.  


Twitter

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Chris uses Twitter not only to promote his web storefront, but also to connect with the small business community.  When marketing, he incorporates the 80/20 rule.  In 80 percent of his tweets, he shares news and information, while marketing tweets only account for 20 percent.  For instance, since Chris' web storefront Collegiate Living sells sports products, he posts a lot of sports news.  “If you keep firing off discounts, people will lose interest, but if you offer information, then it keeps people interested.” 

Chris also keeps up with the latest SEO and Internet marketing trends.  “Twitter is extremely powerful for small businesses.  You can get and share information with some of the industry’s most important leaders, like Google’s SEO guru, Matt Cutts.  Connections that once took years to build are now almost instantaneous.  In some ways, Twitter is more powerful on a business-to-business level than a business-to-consumer level.”

Other Social Media

Check out Digg, Delicious, and StumbleUpon for more social media marketing possibilities. 

Also, don't forget to follow ProStores on Twitter and Facebook!

 

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Merchant Spotlight: Detroit Institute of Arts and Cyberboutique

Here are two great examples of museums selling online: Detroit Institute of Arts and Cyberboutique (online store for the Canadian War Museum). Note use of Member Discounts with DIA and use of French and English store versions for Cyberboutique. Nice!

Screenshot_detroitinstitute 


Screenshot_cyberboutique

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Extra! Extra! Get the Word Out About Your Web Store

Earlier this month, ProStores merchant and Internet marketing expert Chris Surovick discussed SEO and blog marketing. He continues this week with his top tips for marketing your web store. 

Today's topic: the press.

Article Marketing

“Article marketing enables you say ‘I’m an expert in this field', says Chris.  "It builds credibility and helps you attract an audience to your web store."

You write stories related to your industry and then publish them for free with links to your web store.  Publishers can then find the stories on article marketing websites and use them in their ezines and email newsletters.  RSS feeds allow your loyal readers and shoppers to follow your work.  

Chris also recommends writing for online how-to publishers eHow and wikiHow.  You can tell people how to do something related to what you sell (e.g. if you sell car accessories, you can write about how to install a car stereo), and the two sites will publish it.  eHow.com will even pay you for your submissions.

Picture 2     Picture 3

 

Electronic PR

Picture 1Another way to get news out about your web store or product is through electronic press releases.  Companies like PR Newswire will publish your releases and distribute them to blogs, newswires, websites, journalists, and trade media.  They also offer templates that help you write effective ones. 

“Google loves press releases,” says Chris.  “PR Newswire sends Google what they think is newsworthy.  Then Google puts it on page one.  Remember, everything you do should be for Google.  If you’re maximized with Google, then Bing, MSN and Yahoo will like you, too.”

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Conversion Tips: Add Product Reviews To Product Pages On Your Web Store

Research has proven that customers are more likely to purchase a product from your store if you include customer reviews. If you want to increase your on store sales, then start allowing your customers to leave feedback about the product they are purchasing and showcase these reviews to other customers when they buy! Reviews generated by your customers will also drive more traffic as you optimize your store for natural search with fresh content.

For ProStores merchants, we've integrated with PowerReviews Express so that you can quickly and easily implement customer reviews.

Be sure to check out this article from ecommerce-guide.com which gives tips on soliciting product reviews. ProStores merchants like Curry Simple and Peppy Parents have been using PowerReviews and have used email marketing newsletters like those from Sales in a Click (a ProStores-compatible tool) to help solicit reviews from their customers.

drawing of free merchandise, announced to our newsletter list -- where the entry is writing a product review for something purchased. That's been very effective.

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Use a Third Party Call Center to Improve Your Web Store’s Customer Service

Earlier this week I got a call from a furniture web store.  I had left them a voice message with questions about a glider/ottoman set I was interested in purchasing.  I would have appreciated the return call, but it came 10 days after I had placed my inquiry!  By that time, I had already found another glider and purchased it.  The web store had missed a sale.

Picture 1

ProStores merchant Lara Roberts of Red Couch Inc., also owns an online furniture store -- Home Furniture and Patio – in addition to two other ProStores web stores.  To ensure her customers don’t experience what I did, she uses Solid Cactus Call Center.  Solid Cactus helps her run a toll free call center and live chat program, so customers have access to customer service from 8 am to midnight weekdays and 9am to 9pm weekends.  It helps her web store retain customers and convert more sales.

“People think that if you use a third party call center, it becomes impersonal, but a lot of the Solid Cactus agents have been with our web store since the beginning,” says Lara.  “We know all of them.  They do extensive training on our site.  If I need them to call a customer when there’s a back order or delay, they’ll do it.  Ultimately, it’s more cost efficient for us.  We wanted a professional voice answering those calls, and they hire people who have the training to deal with customers.”
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Market Your Web Store Through Blogs

In our last blog post, Chris Surovick, Internet marketing expert and owner of web store Collegiate Living, said that the first step of any marketing plan is optimizing one’s web store.  After establishing your SEO, he says, “your next step depends on what you’re willing to do and what you’re trying to get out of it.”

One way to drive traffic is blog marketing.  “It’s amazing the power of blogs today,” says Chris. “Everyone is reading them so you might as well leave comments.  It’s free, easy, and it gets your name out there.”  Every time you leave your name, web address, and comment on a blog, you create an anchor text link.  Google then crawls that blog, and your web store gets credit for the backlink, which helps raise your PageRank.  

Another benefit to leaving comments is direct click traffic -- readers clicking your link to visit your homepage.  

Picture 5 There are some caveats, however.  “Do not just flood blogs to create backlinks," says Chris.  "Seek the highest ranked blogs and leave comments there.  Google then sees your web store as more legitimate.  It’s harder, though, to get comments accepted on higher ranked blogs, so make sure your comments are topical and your web store is relevant.  You’re promoting your thoughts, not your web store.”  For example, Chris, who sells college, NFL, and MLB products positions himself as a small business expert or sports junkie, depending on the blog. 

Besides backlinks, Chris also writes his own blog and builds two-way links by reaching out to other bloggers.  They then exchange links to promote each other.  “This practice is also a must to build your reputation and grow stronger through Google relevancy,” he says.

  

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Marketing Step One: Optimize Your Web Store

ProStores merchant Chris Surovick was working in Internet marketing for Dow Jones when he started his web store Collegiate Living in 2007.  His expertise helped him grow an incredibly successful business that has seen 100 percent growth year to year. 

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We asked Chris for his top Internet marketing tips, and his first piece of advice was to prioritize.  “You don’t want to spend time and effort social marketing, blogging and article marketing, unless your web store is fully optimized," he says.  "The first thing any business needs to do is to take care of its website.  Marketing starts and ends with a SEO-friendly site.

“If you don’t remain at the top of Google page one, there’s no way you’ll make a dent in the eCommerce world.  Your meta tags and title tags have to be perfect."   

For new eCommerce merchants, Christopher recommends starting “slow and steady.”  He adds, “Organic search is free, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of time.  It’s easy to do, but often neglected -- that's the number one reason why web stores fail.  It’s unfortunate because a lot of people spend a lot of time pushing their sites in other ways.  If you do SEO the right way, the other stuff will follow.” 

To get started with SEO, Chris recommends a few of his favorite resources:

Web Resources

Books

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Once you get your web store optimized, Chris has great tips on other marketing efforts, such as the aforementioned blogging, article marketing, and social networking.  Check back for more in an upcoming series of posts.  

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Don't Lose a Sale: Keep Up-to-Date Listings on Your Web Storefront

Lara Roberts of Red Couch, Inc. recently gave us some eCommerce advice about using call centers and live chat to improve customer service.

Another thing she recommends is providing accurate listings that include up-to-date availability.  It may sound like common sense, but in the online shopping world, many a sale is lost due to incomplete descriptions or inaccurate stock information. 

Picture 2 Lara makes sure she keeps her listings current for all 20,000 products on her three web storefronts My Urban Child, Home Furniture and Patio, and Home and Patio Lighting.  Her listings include precise product information, shipping times, and even manufacturer details.

“Customers are happiest if their item ships within three days.  We also make sure they’re getting the exact colors and dimensions listed in the description.  If something is listed incorrectly, we’ll still honor it.  For example, we offered free shipping on some products and then realized we would lose money, but we still stood behind the offer.  If we make a mistake, we do what we can so that customers get what they want.  If they get what they think they're going to get, on time, they’ll come back.”

And when Lara advises keeping listings current, she means up to the minute.  “You have to fight for every sale.  When I send an update for stock availability, it goes up immediately on the site.  On the other hand, if things go out of stock and we don’t update immediately, we could lose a customer for life, and we’ve wasted our company's time and money.”

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