David Callaway – The BigCommerce Blog https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog Ecommerce Blog delivering news, strategy and success stories to power 2x growth for scaling brands. Tue, 19 Jun 2018 22:21:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/cropped-e8d7fa0a-3b0e-4069-91b1-78460a4d4af1-150x150.png David Callaway – The BigCommerce Blog https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog 32 32 How to Build a Recognizable, Consistent Brand: Lessons from Airbnb and Virgin Airlines https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/building-consistent-brand/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/building-consistent-brand/#respond Wed, 12 Aug 2015 18:16:05 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=14263 I went to MozCon, and all I got was this massive amount of marketing and SEO knowledge. If you’re unfamiliar,…]]>

I went to MozCon, and all I got was this massive amount of marketing and SEO knowledge.

If you’re unfamiliar, MozCon is an annual three-day conference of forward-thinking, actionable sessions in SEO, social media, community building, content marketing, brand development, the mobile landscape and analytics. It’s a great conference for anyone building a brand online and looking to solidify that brand’s status on search engines, as well as in the mind of customers.

This year, there was a lot of talk about disruption. Almost every speaker mentioned it — new business models disrupting old, new strategy and tactics disrupting traditional marketing, and even Google constantly disrupting themselves (and SEO). It was easy to be a little freaked out by the idea that you need to constantly be innovating to keep up.

New business models are disrupting old, making it difficult for brands to build consistency.
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But the message was ultimately hopeful, because there are certain things that always matter. Things that, when done right, are really hard to disrupt. And then you don’t need to worry about what Google is doing or what tech changes are coming down the road, because you’ll have a solid foundation upon which to add new tactics. Here’s how to build a consistent, “undisruptable” brand.

Why Building a Consistent Brand Matters

Will Reynolds gave two great examples of why brand matters, showing why investing the time to build a brand that people like and remember can be much more effective than time spent getting top search results placement for a keyword.

The first is VRBO vs. Airbnb. If you type “vacation rentals” into Google, VRBO is the top placement. They probably put in a lot of work to get there.

Airbnb, on the other hand, is about eight places down. But they invested resources in building a great brand, one that has become synonymous with vacationing. For instance, they create these fantastic neighborhood guides:

From Will Reynolds’ MozCon 2015 deck

And when you type “London neighborhood” into Google, you get this:

From Will Reynolds’ MozCon 2015 deck

While VRBO was focused on rankings, Airbnb was focused on vacations. They understand what their customers are looking for, what their needs are, and in response, want to solve problems for them. After all, solving problems for people never goes out of style.

The results?

From Will Reynolds’ MozCon 2015 deck

Building a great brand is playing the long game. It takes a while to get it right, but the benefits far outweigh the costs.

The other example Will gave is United vs. Virgin Airlines. Both play videos at the start of a flight. The United video is basic, boring and features their CEO. Here’s the Virgin video:

Travel is a slog. So why not make it fun with a catchy song and dance number? Virgin is a beloved brand because they think through those types of details, and people go out of their way to fly Virgin over other airlines.

Of course, it’s not just the video. Virgin does an outstanding job of creating a consistent brand, from buying tickets on their site, to their gates at the airport, to their in-flight experience. All of it is fun and memorable down to the last detail.

Tips for creating a brand strategy

As Dana DiTomaso said, your brand is your promise. Your promise needs to match your reality at every touchpoint you have with customers. Virgin excels at that.

From Dana DiTomaso’s MozCon 2015 deck

So how do you do that for your own company? Create a brand strategy.

Even the smallest company can (and should) create a brand strategy. And the bigger you are, the more important it is, because it becomes much harder to control your brand if you have more touchpoints but no game plan in place.

The bigger you are, the more important creating a brand strategy is.
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Here are Dana’s tips.

  • Start with Your Core Values: What do you and your company stand for? It helps to think about your brand as a person, and recognize both the good and the bad.
  • The Brand Is/Is Not: Now that you know what you stand for, figure out what your brand is, what it isn’t and what it will be in the future. Card sorting is a good way to do this. Write down about 40 attributes related to your business on individual notecards, and have employees or others close to the company pick from them. Each participant will choose two cards for each category: “is”, “is not” and “will be.” It’s actually easiest to start with “is not.” It’s best to do this individually rather than in a focus group so that you avoid groupthink. Once you have the results, you can compile them and see which terms stick out.
  • Create a Brand Voice: Using your core values, is/is not results and your knowledge of your audience, you can create your brand voice. Figure out how you want to present yourself and how you’ll talk to customers and prospects. Give concrete examples of how the voice should be used and how it shouldn’t, and explain why.
  • Now Carry it Out Everywhere: Share your brand with everyone in your organization, and make a plan to ensure that it’s reflected in each touchpoint. Your HR team should only hire people who fit the brand. Your customer service teams should only use the approved brand voice when talking to customers. Your marketing should reflect your brand whether on your site, in emails or in advertising. That consistent experience is what really makes a brand.
  • Show the Dream: The best way to get everyone on board is to show them the ideal experience. Illustrate every step of the buyer journey from your new brand — from a tweet that first makes a consumer aware of your brand, to the metadata she sees when she types your name into Google, to your site, to your in-store experience, to your purchase follow-up, to a customer service interaction. Being specific about every touchpoint is the best way to create consistency.

Bigger companies can spend a lot of time and money researching their audiences to get brand right. But Dana’s tips can jump start your branding efforts no matter what size your company.

Have questions about this or other topics you may have seen from MozCon? Let me know in the comments.

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How to start an online business: 4 tips every store owner should know https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/start-successful-ecommerce-store-4-tips-every-new-store-owner-know/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/start-successful-ecommerce-store-4-tips-every-new-store-owner-know/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 20:53:22 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=9083 Jeff and Tabatha Conarko turned a passion for European food culture and a desire to work for themselves into a…]]>

Jeff and Tabatha Conarko turned a passion for European food culture and a desire to work for themselves into a booming multi-channel business. After traveling to Italy in 2007 and tasting higher quality oils and vinegars, they opened Con’ Olio Oils & Vinegars, a brick-and-mortar tasting room for ultra-premium oils and vinegars. After a few months, they discovered there was a strong demand demand for the products in the US. With that in mind, they quickly built and launched their own ecommerce site.

Over the last few years, the Conarkos have learned a lot as they’ve grown their business. To help you learn from their experience, we’ve rounded up their top 4 tips every new store owner should know. If you’d like to learn more about the Conarkos’ rapid expansion, including how switching to Bigcommerce increased sales by 20%, check out our Bigcommerce case study on Con’ Olio Oils & Vinegars.

4 tips every online store owner should know

1. Build and sustain great customer relationships

Repeat customers are the greatest resource of any merchant, so make sure you’re marketing to people who already like you and your products.

“Using Bigcommerce, we’re able to integrate our email service, Mailchimp, so we can easily export customer data,” said Tabatha. “Because of that, email marketing — specifically our newsletter — has been our most effective way to drive traffic to the site.

2. Shipping matters

It’s easy to get caught up in the fun parts of ecommerce like site design and adding products. But getting your backend processes like shipping and fulfillment right can really impact your bottom line.

“The other functionality that I love, which was a huge one for us, was integrating our shipping partner,” said Tabatha. “Before we had that, we were just coming up with a canned shipping rate. Now customers can actually get a real, live shipping rate based on what they’re buying. Instead of losing money on shipping, we’re actually covering our costs.”

3. Do what you’re passionate about

Find something that you care about, then make a business out of it. For the Conarkos, it was the health benefits of their products and the desire for a better quality of life.

“One thing that’s very close to our hearts is the health benefits of these products,” said Jeff. “In 2007, I was diagnosed with leukemia. As a life change, we decided to lower our stress, eat healthy and exercise. The health benefits of real olive oil and balsamic vinegar are tremendous, and it was something that we wanted to share with other people as well.”

4. Learn as you go

Jump in to starting a business with both feet, and develop the new skills you need as you grow.

“Don’t hesitate to start your own business just because you may not know every little thing you think you need to,” said Jeff. “Just move forward with the knowledge you have at the time and learn everything else as you go. And you should always find out how to do things yourself as much as possible, rather than relying on someone else.”

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The Bigcommerce Android app lets you manage your store on the go https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/bigcommerce-android-app/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/bigcommerce-android-app/#comments Wed, 22 Jan 2014 16:16:51 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=8084 We have some exciting news for all of you Bigcommerce merchants out there who happen to be Android users: Now…]]>

We have some exciting news for all of you Bigcommerce merchants out there who happen to be Android users: Now you too can manage your store no matter where you are with the new Bigcommerce Android app.

We’ve told you before that speed of service is the leading factor in determining great customer service. And that it costs five times more to attract a new customer than keep an existing one. While we released the Bigcommerce iPhone app last year to help you improve speed of service and customer satisfaction, we know that Android has a bigger market share worldwide.

The new Android app lets you use a phone or tablet to manage your store from wherever you are. You can use it at home, in the warehouse, when you’re kicking back on the beach or while hang-gliding in the Alps (warning: not advisable, but possible). Use the app to:

  • Get notifications when new orders arrive
  • Process an order once it comes in
  • See all of your order details at a glance
  • Update products, including title, price and images (you can even take a photo and upload it)
  • See how your store’s doing with current and historical analytics on visitors, orders and revenue
  • View customer data like order history and billing info, plus call or email customers directly from the app

The end result is that you no longer have to wait until you’re in front of a computer to manage your store, meaning you can ship orders faster. And when you ship orders quickly, you’re like an e-commerce hero to your customers. So download the Bigcommerce Android app today and be a hero!

Here are a couple of clients who dig the new app:

“Works fantastically. Very well designed and gives me insight into my store on the go.”

— Bill DAlessandro

“Yes! So glad u guys finally made this app.”

— Heather Gray

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Shark Tank Success Stories: The Smart Baker https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/inside-the-shark-tank-the-smart-baker/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/inside-the-shark-tank-the-smart-baker/#respond Fri, 04 Oct 2013 16:38:10 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/ecommerce-blog/?p=7175 Shark Tank is incredibly popular with entrepreneurs and small business owners (and around the Bigcommerce offices), and we’re proud to…]]>

Shark Tank is incredibly popular with entrepreneurs and small business owners (and around the Bigcommerce offices), and we’re proud to say that several of our clients have appeared on the show.

We wanted to dig in to the process, how it can help a growing business take off and what business owners who appeared on the show learned from it, so we asked Daniel and Stephanie Rensing of The Smart Baker a few questions. Here’s what Daniel had to say.

How did you get on the show?

I’ve always been a big fan of the show Shark Tank on ABC and while Stephanie was in the kitchen baking, yet again, I said to her, “Hey, want to apply to be on Shark Tank?” I got a straight and serious “No” from her. Little did she know that as she was mixing her batter, I was searching the web to see if there was going to be a season 3 of Shark Tank. It was perfect timing. ABC was casting and, unbeknownst to my wife, I quickly sent in my introduction email to their casting email address. It was a brief summary of The Smart Baker and it’s products, along with a photo of Stephanie and I. I wanted to send in the cutest, most adorable photo we had, so I used our engagement photo. It worked, and within a few weeks I received a call from the casting company wanting to see if we wanted to continue the process and complete the formal applications and video submissions. Luckily when I finally filled Stephanie in on what I did, she was thrilled and not that mad at me.

Once selected, what did you have to do to prepare for your appearance?

After getting through the initial round, we moved on to the official application process and Skype calls, we had to work on our pitch and our presentation. We had to decide what we were going to do and say to “hook” not only the casting companies, ABC and Sony, but the sharks as well. It took months, but we finally nailed it down and planned out our presentation. Finally, we were asked to fly out to Culver City, CA to film our pitch. There were many nervous days in our hotel room as we waited for our filming slot. We got the call and headed to the studio to present to the sharks. One take is all we got, so it had to be perfect.

What did you do after filming to prepare your business?

After you film your segment, you are quickly sent home. Even though you filmed, it didn’t mean you would air so again, we had to sit and wait for that all-important phone call. Sometime in Nov/Dec. we were informed that our segment would air, but still no firm date. How do you prepare a home-based business for primetime television? How much inventory do you buy, how are you going to handle the website traffic? Are you going to be able to quickly process orders and fulfill them? All these questions and more immediately started running through our heads. The first thing we did was take a huge risk and invested in inventory. As e-commerce continues to grow, we didn’t want to disappoint our customers with a 4-6 week turnaround time on orders, so we made sure we had the inventory in house to ship ASAP. The next most important thing was to make sure we had a stable site for our potential customers to visit and place an order. I was constantly in communication with the great support ninjas at Bigcommerce to make sure we had the bandwidth available, as well as an emergency team available to keep an eye on the site and jump on any issues that may have arisen. Luckily, this was not needed and we had a very quick-loading, no-crash site that was complimented by other Shark Tank entrepreneurs. Even companies that had the resources from their sharks available experienced downtime, and this was not the case with The Smart Baker and Bigcommerce. On top of that, there were no additional costs incurred for this, whereas many others had to spend thousands for the necessary computer power to handle the increase of traffic.

What was the scariest part of the process?

We often get asked if we were scared or nervous during the pitch. Stephanie would tell you “absolutely”, but for me, I was so comfortable with knowing all the answers to any question they could ask. It was an adrenaline rush and time seemed to fly by for me. There are definitely some nerves and anxiety as you’re stewing waiting for your chance to impress these investors, but excited nerves.

When did your episode air, and did you get funded?

Our episode aired on March 2nd, 2012 and although we accepted a deal on air with Barbara Corcoran for a $75,000 investment, we did not close the deal afterward. It ended up being a better option for us to continue on the path we were on and not bring on a partner for that equity stake.

How did appearing on the show impact your business?

Since our airing on Shark Tank, we’ve seen tremendous growth. Compared to the same month the previous year, we saw an increase of over 5,000% in sales in the month of March alone. Q1 of 2012 had much greater revenue than all of 2011. Website traffic increased by 1,200%, and we had a great conversion rate.

Overall, we had a fantastic experience with Shark Tank. The Smart Baker would not be in the position it is in now without it. We’ve closed our first retail deal with JoAnn Stores, our wholesale exploded and our brand is much more well know all because of our airings.

What did you learn from the sharks?

One of the most important lessons from being on the show is that you need to have a passion for what you are doing. If you don’t have the passion or the drive, you will get slaughtered in the tank and it could ultimately be the downfall to the growth of your business.

What advice would you give other business owners who want to go on the show?

If you are thinking that Shark Tank is the place to go to get an investment and become a millionaire, you’re wrong. Shark Tank forces you to look at every aspect of your business and it may force you out of your comfort zone personally. This is needed in order to prepare you for the pitch, so it is more of a personal and business learning experience than it is about money and fame.

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Good grammar can help your sales. Really! https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/good-grammar-online-sales/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/good-grammar-online-sales/#comments Mon, 16 Sep 2013 20:54:25 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/ecommerce-blog/?p=7016 As someone who writes for a living, reading content online (especially message boards and comment sections) can be a cringe-inducing affair. But I always refrain from acting as the Internet Grammar Police, because nobody likes that guy.

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Now, however, it has been verified by science-types who own beakers and graduated cylinders and such that fixing bad grammar and spelling in product reviews improves sales. And we’ve known for a while that content that’s considered more reputable by Google features better spelling and grammar. It may even be part of Google’s ranking algorithm now or in the near future.

So now that we know grammar can help your SEO and sales, does that mean you have to write dry, robotic product descriptions and other site copy that reads like a textbook? No! I always recommend that site copy for e-commerce should be conversational. You don’t have to adhere to the most arcane or outdated rules — you can end sentences with prepositions rather than needlessly contort them, and even use split infinitives (“to boldly go” is the most popular example).

Just following some grammar basics will help improve your online store’s credibility with shoppers and search engines alike. Here are a few common mistakes to watch out for, compiled from many years of hard internetting.

There vs. their vs. they’re

I get it — homophones are tough, especially when you’re writing in a hurry. For quick reference:

  • There: An adverb that represents a place or indicates existence. Examples: “I want to go to there.”, “There is a new version available now.”
  • Their: The possessive of “they.” Example: “That’s their main benefit.”
  • They’re: The contraction of “they are.” Example: “They’re the best around!”

Your vs. you’re

More tricky homophones.

  • Your: The possessive of “you.” Example: “Your life will never be the same after buying this amazing product.”
  • You’re: The contraction of “you are.” Example: “You’re not going to believe how easy it is.”

Its vs. it’s

This is one of the reasons people hate learning English. It establishes a pretty great rule — in this case that an apostrophe indicates a personal possessive (“David’s blog post”, etc.) — then shamelessly breaks it for no good reason. When it comes to “it”, the apostrophe only indicates a contraction.

  • Its: The possessive of “it.” Example: This camera is known for its easy-to-use features.”
  • It’s: The contraction of “it is.” Example: “It’s going to be your favorite new thing.”

Complement vs. compliment

This happens a lot on e-commerce sites when recommending additional products.

  • Complement: To go well with something. Example: “This will complement your existing collection.”
  • Compliment: To praise. Example: “Recommending my store is the highest compliment you can pay me.”

Peek vs. peak

Although if everybody got this right, there’d be no need for one of my favorite Twitter accounts, Stealth Mountain.

  • Peek: A glimpse or preview. Example: “Reply to this email to get a sneak peek.”
  • Peak: A pointed projection or the highest level. Example: “The peak of the mountain is 14,000 feet.”

Lose vs. loose

  • Lose: To not be able to find something, to suffer a loss. Example: “Grammarians often lose their minds on the internet.”
  • Loose: The opposite of tight. Example: “Make sure the screw isn’t loose.”

“And I” vs. “and me”

Despite what most people semi-remember from elementary school, you shouldn’t always use “and I”.

  • And I: Used when you are one of the sentence subjects. Example: “You and I need to talk.”
  • And me: Used when you are one of the sentence objects. Example: “Do you want to have a meeting with Walt and me?”

When in doubt, remove the other object in the sentence and see what sounds correct when said aloud. “Do you want to have a meeting with me?” seems correct, right? While “Me need to talk.” sounds pretty goofy.

A lot

This is an easy one: “alot” is not a word, so you never have to worry about when to use it. Example: “This mistake is made a lot online.”

Something can’t be “very unique”

This drives English teachers and old school copy editors insane. Unique means, literally, one of a kind. So there aren’t any levels to it: one thing can’t be “more unique” than another, etc.

An apostrophe doesn’t make a word plural

Just a plain old “s” usually does that. Example: “These are the best sprocket’s you’ll ever own.” These are the best sprockets you’ll ever own.”

That vs. who

Use “who” to refer to people and “that” to refer to things. Examples: “People who use our products are happier and healthier.”, “Products that incorporate this feature are easier to use.”

Skip the …

The ellipsis, or “dot-dot-dot”, has for some reason become a very popular punctuation recently, but it’s almost always used incorrectly. It’s meant to be used to indicate the omission of words from a quote, or sometimes to indicate someone trailing off at the end of a sentence.

Most people, however, use it incorrectly as a pause. If you’re looking to insert a pause into a sentence, you’re much better off going with a comma, colon or semicolon (depending on sentence structure), or — my favorite — an em dash.

Don’t double space after periods

Okay, this isn’t really a grammar rule, but double spacing after a period looks weird and is just wrong. If you ever took a typing class, you probably learned to double space from your military-strict teacher, and now PTSD prevents you from even considering single spaces.

The truth is, double spacing after a period is a holdover from the days of typewriters, when fonts were spaced differently than today. Will using a single space after a period improve SEO and sales? Probably not. But it will let everyone know that you’re totally hip. And will also make me feel better.


Of course, if you discover any spelling or grammar errors in this post, those are typos. Any grammar mistakes you see a lot online, or have a question about how something should be worded? Please leave a comment!

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To coupon or not to coupon for your online store? https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/to-coupon-or-not-to-coupon-for-your-online-store/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/to-coupon-or-not-to-coupon-for-your-online-store/#comments Thu, 11 Jul 2013 13:38:29 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/ecommerce-blog/?p=6284 Welcome to the latest installment of our E-Commerce Checklist series. Previous posts have focused on what you can do to…]]>

Welcome to the latest installment of our E-Commerce Checklist series. Previous posts have focused on what you can do to your online store to improve conversion and traffic, including creating awesome product pages and optimizing your design and layout. We have a couple more posts in the hopper that tackle on-site improvements, but I wanted to take a break to focus on driving traffic externally since we get a lot of questions about that. Coupons are a great place to start.

There are a lot of debates about whether and how online stores should offer coupons. They can help increase awareness, traffic and sales, but many merchants worry about them negatively impacting the bottom line.

While Bigcommerce doesn’t offer coupons on our own service for a variety of reasons, we do build them into our platform and encourage our clients to try using them for their e-commerce businesses. Done properly, they can be a major driver of sales.

Types of coupons to try

Not all coupons will work for all types of online stores. I recommend trying out a few different kinds to see what moves the needle for you, then refine the offers as you go. Of course, it’s important to carefully look at your profit margins in order to come up with an offer that you can afford to make. After all, the point of a coupon is to ultimately increase your sales. Price appropriately for your margins and then test away!

Free shipping

This is one of the most popular options out there with merchants and customers alike. As shipping is one of the biggest pain points for online consumers (remember: 44% of carts are abandoned because of shipping costs), it makes sense to address it in the form of a handy coupon. If you’re worried you may end up paying too much shipping yourself, or if you tend to sell larger items and picking up the shipping is cost prohibitive, you can still offer free shipping by limiting it to certain order amounts, like “Free shipping on orders $99 and over”. It’s also a great way to increase your average order size.

Flat amount off

Another standard is a flat dollar amount off an order total, like “$10 off your next order”. This tends to convert best if your store has an average order total of less than $100.

Percentage off

The “10% off your next order” type of coupon generally does better for stores with an average order total above $100. Consumers don’t perceive as much of a value for a percentage off lower order totals.

Minimum purchase  

If you’re scared of discounting the way I’m scared of clowns (vague sense of terror), tying a minimum purchase amount to your offer is a good way to ease into the wonderful world of coupons. Something like “Get $5 off your next order of $30 or more” acts as a security blanket, guaranteeing you a certain profit level. If tested and tweaked a little, the minimum purchase amount can also entice customers to add more to their carts. But it’s important not to go overboard with that strategy. Try starting with your average order total as the minimum amount and combine it with a discount you can live with, then go from there.

Buy X, get Y

Also known as “The Old Tit for Tat” (not really), this is another good way to dip a toe into couponing, because you’re assuring yourself of a certain order total before the discount. Whether it’s “Buy 2, get 1 free” or “Buy 4, get 10% off”, the pricing of the items involved is key. It’s a good idea to test it on a certain item or category, unless you happen to sell a bunch of different styles of the same basic item.

Loyalty coupons

Once you’ve been in business a while, hopefully you’ll have a list of people who know you, your products, and your level of service: your previous customers. Because a lot of the hard work is already done for you (they know who you are and what you do), sometimes all they need is a little coaxing to become repeat customers.

Try emailing anyone who has purchased from you in the past with a special offer. Any of the coupon types above would work; just make sure you spell out that it’s because they bought from you in the past, like “Exclusive offer: Returning customers get 20% off”. Regularly sending deals to those who have supported you in the past is also an easy way to build loyalty.

Another way of doing this is the referral coupon: offer your customers one coupon code, and in the same email give them another code that they can pass on to a friend. If they like you and your products, hopefully you’ll get two initial sales and another regular customer out of the deal.

Daily coupons

For the couponphobic, offering a coupon good for one day only is another way to limit your exposure. It also creates a greater sense of urgency and lends itself well to promoting through social media (more on that in a bit). Some sites offer a different deal each day. While it can be a bit of a hassle to manually update promotions, apps like Daily Deal Bar can help. Or you can try doing weekly instead of daily deals.

Holiday-based deals

Certain holidays like Labor Day and Memorial Day are associated with sales, while others like Christmas see a ton more online shopping traffic and a promotion can help you stand out. These are the times shoppers expect and are seeking out deals, so try any or all of the above ideas to see what works best during certain holidays. You can also get a little fun and/or cheeseball with your promotions during these times, like offering 17.76% off for Independence Day or giving a discount on Christmas presents for fathers using the coupon code feliznaviDAD. I just made that one up — feel free to use it!

Pre-launch coupons

If you’re launching a new online store, promote it to a select list of people before you officially open, and offer them a coupon to become one of your first customers. This can help build loyalty early on, plus acts as a good trial run for your store.

Evangelist coupons

Find the people in your space that have large social media followings or are active on other online platforms and give them special coupons with significant discounts. The idea is to get them to try your product. If they like it, hopefully they’ll tell their followers all about you and the amazing stuff you sell. You probably already know of a few people with influence in your market, but you can also use tools like Klout or Traackr to find key online influencers.


Sure you can hire a skywriter or pay a dude to tattoo your offer and logo on his bald head, but there are three basic, easy ways to get the word out about a deal you’re offering.


Tried and true, email should be your go-to method for disseminating coupons. Keep them short and sweet, putting the focus on the offer and the coupon code. The subject line is incredibly important, as that’s the main driver of open rates. You want to communicate that there’s a fabulous offer inside, but words like “free” and “% off” can either trigger spam filters or simply decrease opens. MailChimp has some solid advice on subject lines.

Social Media

As long as you’re not limiting a coupon to a select group, social media is another way to raise awareness of an offer and drive some traffic. And it’s free! Unlike email subject lines, copy for a Tweet or Facebook post should say exactly what the deal is, and if possible any exclusions or other relevant details.

One method to try is to offer an exclusive deal to your followers and fans, like “Exclusively for our Facebook fans: 20% off any order this week” (just make sure it’s actually exclusive; i.e., don’t email or put the code on your site). It’s another way of building loyalty and repeat business, plus people like the idea of exclusivity. That’s why yacht clubs are so popular (I hear).


If you want to open up the discount to anyone that wanders by your online store or remind shoppers about a regular promotion, featuring it on your site is the way to go. If you have a homepage carousel, that makes a perfect place for a large, eye-catching promo graphic. Otherwise you can try banner ads in various places around your site or even a chic, modern promo strip in the header.

No matter how you display it, the graphic should clearly state the deal and provide the promo code and instructions: “Save 25% on any order! Enter promo code MEGASAVE at checkout.” If you have a landing page or category associated with the deal, the graphic should link to it and be clearly clickable (including a button or underlined link text helps). And of course the graphic should be easily seen by anyone who looks on the page.

Here are a couple of examples I like:

Both link to a category page that includes all on-sale items. The first promo really catches the eye with a high-contrast background color and large type, while the second places a focus on the offer, includes an end date to add a sense of urgency, features a product shot and loves America.

Other things to keep in mind

  • Keep the offer simple: the more complex the offer, the harder it is to communicate and understand. Stick to the basics outlined above, especially if you’re just starting out.

  • Keep the coupon code simple: You want something that’s easy to read, remember and type. Use actual words/phrases, keep it under 10 characters (preferably 6), and try to avoid using lookalike characters if you mix in numbers (the dreaded “Is that a 0 or an O?” conundrum). If at all possible, don’t make codes case sensitive.

  • Including is easier than excluding: That sounds like a Sesame Street lesson, but what I really mean is that it’s easier to offer a sitewide discount or deal than it is to limit it to one category or item. Plus the more you limit the deal, the more you limit your potential pool of takers. It can make sense to restrict discounts by item, etc. but just give it some thought first.

  • Use a landing page: If you do decide to limit to a category or set of items, it’s a much better experience to land shoppers on a page that shows all the eligible products. Not forcing people to hunt around for them will improve your conversion.

  • Add an expiration date: Expiring coupons within a reasonable amount of time not only makes it easier to track the results, but creates a sense of urgency for shoppers. Make sure you communicate the expiration clearly.

I hope this post helped ease the minds of any couponphobics out there and gave you a few ideas of how to try them in your own business. Future E-Commerce Checklist posts will discuss checkout optimization and SEO, plus more marketing strategies. Happy discounting, everybody!

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Why and how to use product reviews on Bigcommerce (spoiler: they increase sales) https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/use-product-reviews-on-bigcommerce/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/use-product-reviews-on-bigcommerce/#comments Tue, 28 May 2013 18:36:43 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/ecommerce-blog/?p=5825 You’ve probably heard that product reviews are important for any online store. That’s why we built them into our platform. “But why are they so important?” you may be wondering. You are a keen asker of questions.

Let me overwhelm you with data:

  • According to Reevoo, reviews produce an average 18% increase in sales, and having 50 or more reviews on a product can increase its conversion by 4.6%

  • A MarketingSherpa study found that 58% of consumers prefer sites that offer reviews

  • iPerceptions claims that 63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site which has user reviews

  • EXPO Communications found that consumer reviews are nearly 12 times more trusted than descriptions that come from manufacturers

  • Bazaarvoice says that visitors who read reviews have a 6% higher average order value than those who don’t

And that doesn’t even take into account the SEO bump you’ll receive from featuring reviews. Search engines love unique, regularly updated content on pages, and rank them higher accordingly. Every time a shopper leaves a new review, it counts as a new piece of content on that product page.

How to use reviews on Bigcommerce

At this point, you probably get that product reviews are a good thing. But how do you add them to your Bigcommerce store? It’s simple!


First make sure product reviews are enabled. From your control panel, go to Apps -> Comments -> Built-in, then check Product Reviews.

See that secondary checkbox below that says “Only accept product reviews from past customers”? I highly recommend checking it, because it requires anyone who wants to leave a review to enter an email address. Then we verify that address against your orders to make sure the person has actually purchased from you. We recently put this in place to fight spam reviews, and it really helps.

If you’ve made any changes, be sure to hit Save before you move on.

So now when shoppers go to a product review page, they’ll see a Reviews section and be able to leave a comment, similar to the example above.

Once the reviews start flooding in, you’ll need to curate them. Each new review will come in as Pending, and you’ll have to approve before all can see it. We’ve made it as painless as possible for you to add review approvals into your normal workflow.

When you bring up your control panel, you’ll see any pending reviews in the Events section up top. Just click the “product reviews” link to go to the approval section (you can also get there from Products -> Product Reviews).

To approve a review, click the checkbox next to it and click the Approve Selected button. In the example above, I’m approving a review about some magnificent shipping containers.

Now that my effusive review is approved, it appears in the Reviews section on the product page. Easy, right? For even more details, check out our Product Review KnowledgeBase article.

Actively cultivate reviews

Now that customers can leave reviews, you want to actively cultivate them. The best and easiest way to do this is to automatically email customers after they make a purchase and ask them to review the products they bought. Luckily, we’ve built that in, too.

To make sure the product review email is on and adjust the time that it sends, go to your control panel and click Settings -> Store -> Miscellaneous. The default send time is 7 days after an order is completed. We chose that because it gives the customer enough time to receive and use the product before asking for a review. But you can change it to whatever works best for you.

We let you fully customize the email, which you can do by clicking Design -> Emails, then clicking the gear icon for product_review_email.html and choosing Edit.

You can find more info in our Product Review Email KB article.

Protip: Be balanced

It’s tempting to only approve good reviews while leaving less-than-stellar comments to rot in Pending limbo. But I’d advise against that for a couple of reasons.

1) It’s important to be transparent to your shoppers. If someone posts a review with legitimate concerns or advice, you should allow everyone to see it. You can always respond to it politely with any counterpoints you might have. Of course, if someone posts a completely false review, it’s up to you whether you want to delete it or approve it and reply.

2) Balanced reviews help you sell more. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s true. Data from Revoo show that consumers who seek out bad reviews convert 67% more than normal shoppers.

So it’s definitely worth your while to allow those less-than-glowing reviews. Especially if you can answer them and provide great customer service.

Now that you’ve got the knowledge, go forth and gather reviews! And enjoy the bump in SEO and sales.

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Client Spotlight: Pearl Southern Couture https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/client-spotlight-pearl-southern-couture/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/client-spotlight-pearl-southern-couture/#respond Thu, 18 Apr 2013 12:02:15 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/ecommerce-blog/?p=5379 Amber Perley has known she wanted to be a fashion designer since she was six years old, when she made…]]>

Amber Perley has known she wanted to be a fashion designer since she was six years old, when she made her own clothing by stapling fabric together. And now she’s living out her dream through her store Pearl Southern Couture and a successful run on NBC’s Fashion Star.

Amber launched her Southern-inspired clothing line in 2008. Since then, she’s tried selling online via several solutions, but never found one that worked for her. She consistently had issues with online security and lack of support. Last year, before switching to another service, she decided to do some thorough research.

Amber searched online for the top-rated e-commerce platforms, then tried each of them out. Since customer service was high on her list of priorities, part of her test was to call each company’s support team as an “existing customer” and see how long it took to talk to someone.

She waited on hold for as long as 45 minutes for other platforms, but it only took five minutes to get ahold of a Bigcommerce support representative. The great customer support she received — plus the built-in features and user-friendly interface — led her to choose Bigcommerce for the latest incarnation of her store.

Since launching, she’s seen an increase in sales, which she attributes to how easy her new site makes it for shoppers to both browse and buy. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she’s been featured on the nationally televised reality competition Fashion Star for the past month.

Amber saw the first season of the show and liked that it was about designers selling clothes to real clothing retailers seeking new lines. She decided to try out for the show, and made it on after a grueling four-month application process.

During her time on the show, Amber sold hundreds of thousands of dollars in merchandise to major retail outlets like Saks Fifth Avenue and Express. Although she’s no longer competing for the top spot, the expanded audience and free screen time have significantly increased traffic to her site and set her up for even greater success in the long term.

E-commerce advice

What has Amber learned on her e-commerce journey?

“You need to give your customers a polished, fully-thought-out shopping experience on your site. It’s very important to do your homework before choosing a platform — from market research to manufacturing and fulfillment. Then build a clean, well-organized site with all of that in mind.”

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Client Spotlight: Rock Revival https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/client-spotlight-rock-revival/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/client-spotlight-rock-revival/#respond Tue, 02 Apr 2013 15:52:31 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/ecommerce-blog/?p=5207 Rock Revival is a fashion-forward jeans company based in Los Angeles. In addition to selling their finely crafted denim in…]]>

Rock Revival is a fashion-forward jeans company based in Los Angeles. In addition to selling their finely crafted denim in national retailers like Bloomingdale’s, Buckle, M. Fredric, Metropark and Nordstrom, they also have a gorgeous online store powered by Bigcommerce.

Matthew Connors, Rock Revival’s E-commerce Business Manager, was already running the online store for women’s fashion brand Miss Me on the Bigcommerce platform. While he was happy with the results, he wanted to explore all his options when the company created Rock Revival as a separate brand.

After researching and trying out several competitors, Matthew and his team decided Bigcommerce was the right choice for the new store. Why stick with us?

“Bigcommerce combines full design capabilities with the powerful backend features we needed for our large product catalog,” said Connors. “It supports advanced search and reporting, plus we knew that help with any of the more complex features was always just a quick call or email away.”

Matthew also liked that Bigcommerce allows for full customization of a site’s design, layout and functionality, meaning you can truly create your own unique store. That was especially important for Rock Revival, because the site was completely designed and developed by Connors and the company’s lead developer/designer, Loren Khulusi.

The result is a beautiful store and user experience that all of our own web designers have been salivating over. And we’re not the only ones who dig it — Rock Revival won a CSS Award for its use of CSS3 for mobile compatibility.

E-commerce advice

Matthew’s advice for other online sellers?

“Make sure you really do your research and check out all the features your platform offers before you start building your store. When my predecessor built Miss Me, he didn’t realize all the great backend features that Bigcommerce has to help make building and managing sites easy. We took full advantage of them with Rock Revival, and as a result it’s been much easier to manage.”

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10 Ecommerce Optimization Tips to Increase Your Store’s Conversion Rate in 2018 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/how-to-optimize-your-online-store-increase-conversion-rates/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/how-to-optimize-your-online-store-increase-conversion-rates/#comments Tue, 19 Mar 2013 14:00:41 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/ecommerce-blog/?p=5043 Welcome back to our Ecommerce Checklist series. In the first installment, I told you how to step up your product pages…]]>

Welcome back to our Ecommerce Checklist series. In the first installment, I told you how to step up your product pages by writing better names/descriptions, using better images, adding product reviews and harnessing the power of video.

This second installment shows you easy, implementable steps to increase your conversion rate of your ecommerce website by focusing on your it’s look, feel and overall user experience — also known as ecommerce optimization.

Before you invest any money in paid search campaigns, display advertising or social media ads, it’s imperative that you get your homepage and site structure down cold. You can drive all the traffic in the world, but if you don’t optimize your site design for conversion, you won’t get a return on that investment.

Turning shoppers into buyers starts with a quick glance at your homepage.

The 3-second test

Put on your “customer hat” (mine is a customer fez) and take a look at your homepage. Now ask yourself two questions:

  • Can shoppers tell what you sell within three seconds?
  • Would a shopper trust his or her credit card to you?

If you answer no to either or both questions, it’s time to work on your site. There are a number of areas you can improve to impact conversion, but let’s start with the most basic: design.

Use a clean design that focuses on your products

When someone visits your online store, it should be painfully obvious what you sell. The best way to do this it to keep your store design clean and professional, with lots of large, high-quality images. A busy, cluttered design distracts shoppers from what you want them to do: view — and ultimately buy — your wonderful products.

Here are two examples of stores selling the same products in very different ways.

Example A:

Example B:

It’s a pretty stark difference. Example A is almost all text. You really have to look around for clues that they sell bicycles. That doesn’t get you excited about buying from them. Meanwhile, Example B has bikes all over the place. Plus they use the word “bicycle” in their logo, tagline and various other places around the site. There’s no way someone will think they sell organic dog cologne or sleeveless tuxedos (both ideas are copyrighted by me — no stealing!)

Note the use of a rotating image container on Example B (we call this a “carousel” in the biz). This is a great way to show off your products. At Bigcommerce, we have a carousel builder that lets you easily add images and text to show off your goods. If you sadly don’t use our platform, you can find some bolt-on carousel solutions or have a programmer/developer add one to your site. Another great way to use a carousel is to display promotions — more on that a bit later.

In a consumer study by Oneupweb, 70.8% of shoppers said that having products displayed on the homepage is an influential factor in purchasing. When choosing images to feature, remember that it’s a proven best practice to display your most popular products. It may seem a little counterintuitive at first: after all, if they’re so popular, why not promote a product that doesn’t get as much love? It’s because you want to show off products that are proven crowd-pleasers so they help increase a shopper’s interest in your store. Hopefully you already know your bestsellers; if not, you can use tools like SumAll or Google Analytics to figure it out.

Another important difference between the two sites is that Example B has a much cleaner, professional design. Not only is it product-focused, but it looks like they spent some time and money in building it. That really helps credibility. That same Oneupweb study found that 76.5% of those asked rated a site looking credible and trustworthy as an important influence in purchasing, and 66.7% said that a site needs to be visually appealing.

A final reason why Example B wins in our Conversion Optimization Thunderdome (two pages enter, one page leaves): it features simple, easy-to-use navigation. There are just a few major categories on the top nav row, and each expands on mouse-over to show all the related sub-categories. Contrast that to Example A, which throws every subcategory on a left-hand nav column. It not only looks messy, but it turns browsing into hunting. You’re not trying to overwhelm shoppers with the width and breadth of your catalog; you’re trying to make it easy for them to peruse your site and find products they like.

One final point so I don’t seem like I’m throwing the fine folks at Example A under the bus: the image I’m using is from an older design. They’ve since reworked their site to make it more product-focused and navigable. Good for them!

Want more examples of beautiful ecommerce design? Check out our breathtaking list of 78 stores who showcase the best in online store design, or view the winners of the 2017 BigCommerce Best Ecommerce Site Design awards.

Make it easy to call you

Another way to help increase your credibility with shoppers is to display your phone number prominently on every page, preferably right in the site header. This lets people know you’re not a fly-by-night operation, and that they can buy from you with confidence. It also gives them the sense that if they have any issues with your products or your store, help is just a phone call away.

Here are a couple of BigCommerce stores who have implemented this quick ecommerce optimization:

Address Pain Points

You may have noticed that some of my site examples have copy that calls out certain policies or features, like free shipping or a return policy. That’s a great way of addressing possible objections someone might have about buying from you before they even think to raise them.

Here’s another example to refresh your memory:

See how they mention free shipping, their easy return policy and their low-price guarantee at the top of the site for all to see? Those are all potential pain points that they’ve addressed so visitors can shop without worrying about them.

Shipping is the most important to address, because it’s the top reason shoppers abandon a shopping cart. A Forrester study showed that 44% of carts are abandoned because of high shipping costs. And of course price is always an issue, and return policies are a big deal for online stores.

If you offer free shipping, have a great return policy, offer a price guarantee or do anything else that can help shoppers decide to buy from you, make sure to display them loud and proud on your homepage. And try to make them as detailed as possible given the small space. It’s much better to say “Free shipping on $99+ orders” than just “Free shipping*.” Be as clear as possible about your consumer-friendly policies so that the expectations are properly set from the start. Nobody wants to be surprised by shipping costs at the last minute because their order didn’t meet your minimum.

Clearly Display Prices and Shipping

And speaking of unexpected surprises, another thing nobody likes is feeling deceived by prices or shipping costs. It’s important to be as clear as possible in your pricing.

You already know that 44% of carts are abandoned because of high shipping costs, but the same study showed that 25% were abandoned because the product cost more than expected and 22% because shipping costs were listed too late in the process. So a full 91% of carts are abandoned for price- or shipping-related reasons.

If that wasn’t enough to convince you, in the Oneupweb consumer study I mentioned earlier, a crazy-high (but completely understandable) 95.5% of respondents cited clearly stated pricing and shipping information as an influential factor in making a purchase decision. Don’t be a victim!

Make sure a product’s price is clearly stated, whether on your homepage or on the product page itself. If at all possible, try to calculate taxes and shipping on add to cart so that your shoppers know the final price before they ever get to checkout.


Remember how I told you earlier that 76.5% of shoppers surveyed said that a site looking credible and trustworthy was an important factor in their decision to buy? One easy way to improve your credibility is by borrowing some from trusted organizations.

By associating your store with groups and brands shoppers trust, some of that trust rubs off on you. Studies by McAfee and VeriSign show that online sales can increase by up to 36% when a retail site displays familiar trustmarks.

So get validated by groups that represent security and good business practices such as VeriSign, TRUSTe and the Better Business Bureau, then display their logos prominently in your site’s header or footer. It’s also a good idea to add logos of the major credit cards and other payment methods you accept, as well as those of major brands you sell.

Some more examples from our fantastic clients:


Reviews and Testimonials

If you read the first entry in this series, you already know that featuring product reviews can improve sales by up to 18%. And my favorite study ever by Oneupweb showed that customer reviews and testimonials are considered an important purchasing factor by 40.9% of respondents. But why save all that goodness for your product pages?

One easy ecommerce optimization opportunity: you can pull a few of your most effusive reviews and add them right to your homepage in the form of testimonial quotes. Bonus points if you can get a photo to go along with the quote and customer name — seeing that real people have purchased and liked your products or services will increase your credibility with shoppers.

Here’s a familiar example:

As you can see, this incredibly sexy website uses testimonials on the homepage, all with great quotes, customer names and images.

About Us Page

One way to set your store apart from the literally bajillions (okay, that’s literally not a number) of people selling online is to tell your unique story. The easiest way to do that is with an About Us page that you link to in your site nav. With Bigcommerce it’s especially easy, because we build in an About Us page. But even if your platform of choice doesn’t, it’s worth the effort.

Here are a couple of BigCommerce clients who understand the awesome might of the About Us page:

If you click through on each image, you’ll see that both owners tell a personal story about how and why they started their stores. That builds a connection with shoppers and gives them a good reason to buy from these stores over others.

Think about what makes your e-commerce story unique, endearing, funny or memorable. Then tell your shoppers on an About Us page.

Homepage Promo

Another way to optimize your site that entices shoppers to buy from you — especially new customers — is to display a promotional offer on your homepage. Everybody loves a deal, and when you offer a percentage off certain items or discounted/free shipping, a new customer is more likely to give you a try. After they experience your amazing service and delightful products, they’ll come back for more at full price.

If you have a homepage carousel like we talked about earlier, it’s easy to create simple graphics that display your special offer. If the offer is a percentage off items in a certain category, make sure you link to that category right form the promo image so shoppers know exactly what they can get the discount on. If the offer requires a promo code, display that in the graphic largely and in chargely.

Here are a couple of promos that I like:

Why? Both link to a category page that includes all on-sale items. The first promo really catches the eye with a high-contrast background color and large type, while the second places a focus on the offer, includes an end date to add a sense of urgency, features a product shot and loves America.

Another type of promotional graphic that’s become increasingly popular lately is the promo strip. The nice thing about that option is that it sits right under your main nav bar, meaning it’s visible on every page of your site.

No matter how you decide to display your offer, picking the offer itself is critical. How do you choose? Testing! Start with something you know you can afford — like 20% off one of your higher-margin products — then test multiple variations until you find something that hits the sweet spot. When looking at your analytics, focus on sales from new visitors, as that’s who you’re really targeting with offers.

Even after you find a deal that converts, don’t just set it and forget it. You need to regularly refresh your promo creative and continue to test new deals.

Happy ecommerce optimizing!

Hopefully that will give you plenty to work on until the next post in our series. Future installments will focus on marketing, SEO and more. Thanks for reading! Please pose questions, offer comments or write e-commerce-related haikus below.

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