Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Your Ecommerce Prep Checklist

Terrapin Art & Design: Your Ecommerce Prep ChecklistCongratulations! You’ve given the green light to implement ecommerce for your small business! Good call; global ecommerce joined the trillion-dollar industry club in 2012.

This number will only go up in 2013 (projected at $1.2 trillion) and a chunk of that is yours for the making. But where the heck do you start? Short answer, get organized. Long answer, read on.

Ecomm: Start with a Spreadsheet

Start with a Spreadsheet
Yes, the dreaded spreadsheet. Where ever your product information is stored (in Quickbooks, on paper or in your head) start breaking it out via data export or a fresh new Excel doc.

Your web developer needs your best and most thorough understanding of your business according to your existing printed catalog or other collateral. All criteria you want assigned to your products online require their own column in the spreadsheet:
  • Product Categories and Sub-Categories
  •  Unique Product Name/Product Number or SKU
  •  Price
  • Keywords and Detailed Product Description
  •  Product Image Name
  •  Sizes & Colors
  • Shipping Options and Fees
Remember, your list must be written and structured based on your business and your products or services. Your ecommercesystem needs to fit your business, not the other way around.

Organize Your Product Images for your Ecomm System

Organize Your Product Images
Ever comb endlessly and aimlessly through your hard drive for that one family photo you want to print and frame? Nothing is named, nothing is organized, and you’re ready to lose it. Spare your ecommerce developers the same torment.  

Label every product photo that will be part of your ecomm system. Establish a consistent and simple labelling formula of words and numbers. Don’t get too cute or carried away with underscores and hyphens. This isn’t just for the sake of your web guy’s sanity; it keeps your ecommerce project on track and on budget.

Getting Paid through Ecommerce

Getting You Paid
As a small business owner, you’ve swiped your share of credit cards. You know which cards you take and turn away. Your to-do list on the credit card end of ecommerce is a short one:
  • Know what credit card associations (Visa/Mastercard etc) you plan to take
  • Compile your merchant account info and reach out to your account contact person
If you’re unsure of what you need, your web developer can advise you on the requirements. From there, you just need to make the call to get started.

When you reach out to your account rep, ask them to establish a “payment gateway.” This makes your account person the gatekeeper between your customer and the credit card company in the payment process.

Shipping through your Ecommerce System

From the Web to the Customers’ Door
Order packaging and shipment is another common occurrence in your small business’ day-to-day. Yet again, your preferences simply carry over to your ecommerce system.

The shipping options you offer customers over the phone are plugged into your ecommerce system. It’s your call, from shipping method (USPS, FedEx, UPS) to delivery time (Standard, overnight, 2-day etc).  

Start Selling with your Ecommerce System from Terrapin

Let’s Get Selling
Considering the potential customers and revenue, you can’t afford to exclude ecommerce to your small business. Think of a successful, profitable ecommerce system as a roadtrip destination. Your web design company is behind the wheel, and you’re supplying the GPS.

There might be some annoying “re-calculating” moments and wrong turns, but if you punch in the correct information, you’ll get there via a relatively smooth trip.  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ecommerce: The Next Necessity?

Terrapin Art & Design Ecommerce WebsiteThe small business world and its customers are constantly changing, so you are always changing. Your company has kept up with the trends and changes in how customers pay for products and services.  From cash-only to checks to credit cards - you've adapted your business & systems accordingly.

Everything came down to a business decision. Is the money there? Is the timing right? Will this keep my existing customers happy AND bring in new ones? The new question - is adding ecommerce capabilities to your website the next necessity?

Ecommerce is a product of economic and tech evolution

Beyond Ebay & Amazon
Ecommerce is a product of economic and tech evolution. In most minds, ecommerce = Ebay and Amazon. As these companies boomed, people started trusting their credit card information to the web. With their popularity, Ebay and Amazon blazed the trail for any product based company to sell online.

Consumer acceptance has now opened the door for service-based companies to add online payments to their repertoire.  Gym memberships, insurance instalments, account / bill payments, donations; now you can accept payments for any service with an ecommerce system.

Keeping Up with Convenience

Keeping Up with Convenience
Our need for convenience set off the ecommerce boom. This accessibility brings benefits to both your company and customer. Ecommerce takes the sales & customer service pressure off your business. The customer in turn controls the buying & payment process on their terms. It’s a win-win:

·         Your win: A crucial selling tool and added revenue.
·         Your customers’ win: Getting what they need, when they need it, on THEIR time.

US consumers will spend an average of $1,472 per year online

The Consumer Has Spoken
The trend is clear and the statistics are staggering: US consumers will spend an average of $1,472 per year online between now and 2016. Ecommerce has done nothing but grow in recent years: 

·         In 2011, the total tally of US online receipts hit $202 billion
·         It climbed to $226 billion in 2012
·         Ecomm spending projects to spike another 45% to $327 billion in 2016
·         In 2012, total worldwide ecommerce spending reached $1 TRILLION 

Is Ecommerce right for your business?

Is Ecommerce right for your business?
There is no better time than right now to weigh your options.  Start by researching ecommerce systems that are specific to your industry.  Look at your competitors' websites to see if they have incorporated online purchasing or payments.  Print up an Accounts Receivables report to see if ecommerce can help streamline the payment process.  Get input from employees & customers.  Ultimately if you determine that now is NOT the right time for ecommerce, it's something that should stay on your radar to be re-evaluated every couple of years if not more frequently.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Missing Links in Your Search Engine Marketing Strategy

Before Google Backlinks Ruled the WebBack before the dawn of Google, backlinks ruled the web. Through internet natural selection, the search engine evolved into the dominant species. Despite its authority, the search engine has yet to phase out backlinks; they are a crucial tool for small businesses.

A backlink is any link that is directed toward your website from another website

Background on Backlinks
A backlink is any link that is directed toward your website from another website. Examples:
  • A blogger raving about and linking to a newly discovered site
  • A link posted to Facebook or Twitter
Backlinks lost their corner office, but are still an important cog in Google’s grand scheme. The more quality backlinks your site has, the more popular Google considers it, improving your search engine rankings. Think of backlinking as a petition for Google to recognize your site. Quality links are the signatures.

Digitize Your Networking Efforts

Digitize Your Networking Efforts
You’re always in networking mode for your business. This means a steady stream of business cards flowing from your wallet. Backlinks are digital business cards leading back to your company.

Research and interact on popular blogs or forum sites relevant to your industry. Contact the blogger and let them know about your business and the quality, relevant content you can add to the conversation. This tactic can get the link train moving.

Be conservative in distributing your backlinks

Keep it Relevant
Like with their paper counterpart, be conservative in distributing your backlinks. You don’t pass your card to everyone in sight; you strike up conversations to see who might want your services.

When working the room that is the web, seek out blogs and forums related to what you offer. Like chatting it up with potential customers in person, you’re seeking quality business interactions, not a saturation bombing of your company information.

When playing the good cop, “quality” is Google’s favorite word. If you blindly unload a dumptruck of links (known as linkspam) on irrelevant sites, they send in the bad cop. This side of Google could slap your site with the “spam” label for snubbing their quality guidelines. Even if you’re sharing your link to a relevant site, don’t get carried away; over-linking can also incur Google’s wrath.

Well written, detailed content & Attractive photos, layouts and visuals

Lean Toward Natural Links
Actively backlinking your site is useful, but can become a crutch. These backlinks are lab-grown; focus on the organic equivalent. Cater to your visitors with your site content . This includes filling your site up with:
  • Well-written, detailed content
  • Attractive photos, layout and visuals
Work toward a site with a strong base of visitors. This will spur organic link-building through these dedicated traffic drivers. Web devotees post at every opportunity, EVERY day. Whether it’s to their own blog, Twitter, Facebook etc, if they like your content, the links will be there. 

Beware the Black Hat

Beware the Black Hat
At this point you might be saying, “This sounds time-consuming, I’m gonna farm it out.” Not a bad idea, but be careful.

Many SEO services offer backlinking, but some known as “black hats” will build yours with spam. Google’s spam bloodhounds will sniff out these links, blow them off the web and impose punishment on your site. 

Market, Market, Market!

Market, Market, Market!
In the end, you win with a good website. Refine and perfect your content marketing techniques, and with quality web content comes quality backlinks. Inject content into the web that demands interactivity and the backlinks, and improved Google rankings, will come.