James O’Brien – The BigCommerce Blog https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog Ecommerce Blog delivering news, strategy and success stories to power 2x growth for scaling brands. Wed, 14 Mar 2018 19:41:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.4 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/cropped-e8d7fa0a-3b0e-4069-91b1-78460a4d4af1-150x150.png James O’Brien – The BigCommerce Blog https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog 32 32 5 Ways to Increase Revenue Through Subscription Services https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/5-ways-increase-revenue-subscription-services/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/5-ways-increase-revenue-subscription-services/#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2014 20:13:37 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=9287 Recent data tells us that not only do more than half of U.S. adults pay regularly for online services, they’d do…]]>

Recent data tells us that not only do more than half of U.S. adults pay regularly for online services, they’d do so more often if the enterprises behind those services ramped up features and premiums. What consumers want is greater subscription flexibility, and more options in general, when it comes to functionality on almost every level.

To help you tap into that additional revenue stream, we’ll look at five steps ecommerce entrepreneurs can take to boost their online store’s sales. We’ll break out strategies with the help of one startup founder who has made a successful run with selling subscriptions since he got his foot in the door a few months ago.

Meeting ‘needs and desires’: Five key ideas for subscription services

Dan Oleson, founder of Ankle Swagger, has built a growing enterprise within a swiftly expanding market for online men’s sock subscriptions.  With a subscription to Ankle Swagger, every three months a customer receives three pairs of dress socks. Bright colors and edgy designs, all designed to sync seamlessly with the well-dressed businessman’s ensemble.

As blogger Liz Cadman recently asked: “Are sock subscription boxes the new subscription box trend?” It looks like they might well be. In fact, sales in the sector increased 29% over 12 months, as measured in the fourth quarter, last year.

But what Oleson knows is that a one-and-done model isn’t optimal in the online-services space. He understands that accommodating the numerous ways people purchase services like his is key to what drives success.

“The thing that I’ve come to find, and something we can improve on, even now, is providing the customer options when it comes to what level of service they’d like to subscribe to,” Oleson said. And that prompts the first item on our list.

1. Flexibility is a tool for the customer and the enterprise.

Consider Harry’s, for example, an online service that delivers blades and shaving cream to subscribers every two, three, or five months. That’s fairly flexible. But for customers who keep track of how rapidly they use up those products, they can set their own quantities and delivery schedules—now that’s accommodating the consumer.

In another example, Ankle Swagger’s model suggests that flexibility can also prompt favorable deals on both sides of the table. Oleson’s company lets you set your sock-delivery duration at twice per year, four times, or as an ongoing plan. The price, however, gets better for the customer the longer they choose to sign on. “Basically, a customer is rewarded, through a lower cost, by committing to a longer-term agreement with Ankle Swagger.” Smart business. Everybody wins.

 2. Customer reviews help define the service experience.

Ankle Swagger uses Bigcommerce functionality to automatically send customers a prompt for feedback. That happens after every order, 15 days following processing. The review is then integrated within the Ankle Swagger website. Later, potential subscribers can see what their predecessors had to say. “It allows customers to relate,” to the service, Oleson said. “It shows there’s an emotion behind not only making the order but receiving the order — confirming that it’s everything they thought it would be, and more.”

When your enterprise is asking its base to sign on to a periodic service, this kind of validation can be crucial.

 3. Quality content turns resources into community.

When it comes to creating a reason to rely upon an online-services company, Julibox is leveraging the power of content.  The curated cocktail-ingredients subscription service offers a mix of how-to videos and expert commentary. That’s a tactic of which Oleson says enterprises would do well to take note. “We can really socialize the business,” he said. “I think when companies do that they find their sweet spot…to not just provide a service but find themselves to be a resource for information, a soundboard for needs and desires.”

If online-service business leaders are listening they’re getting a message: Their success is based on a kind of conversation. What customers want, and how to link them to not only your products but to rich-content resources—and each other—is deeply a part of the recipe for success.

 4. Customers want a spectrum of available payment types.

If a buyer wanted to pay with PayPal, but they can’t, then the service enterprise has just stopped offering its very namesake. Making your checkout as customer-friendly as possible is about acknowledging that not everyone wants to use a debit card, credit card, or online transfer option to the same degree. And it’s about capturing that commerce, not watching it go elsewhere because your site failed to provide.

5. Three words: mobile, mobile, mobile.

“If you can pull a customer onto your site while they’re sitting on the bus, on the way to work, you could gain an additional 30% in sales,” said Oleson, “if you have a mobile-optimized website.” Fulfilling orders in a car, on a bus, everywhere the mobile-savvy consumer might be—that’s also essential to the services-enterprise proposition.

Incorporate these five strategies, and your online services enterprise will be poised to get your subscribers talking to the next prospect, and the next, about what it is you’re doing right.

Photo: Flickr, Howard Lake

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5 Holiday Email Marketing Tips to Kickstart Your Christmas Campaign Right Now https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/holiday-email-marketing-tips-kickstart-christmas-campaign-now/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/holiday-email-marketing-tips-kickstart-christmas-campaign-now/#respond Mon, 21 Jul 2014 22:48:17 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=9123 The holidays are no longer a two-month affair. In 2013, shoppers took to the stores with gift lists in hand…]]>

The holidays are no longer a two-month affair. In 2013, shoppers took to the stores with gift lists in hand starting in early September, according to Time, and retailers were working their audiences with promotions before summer’s end. By the end of December, consumers spent some $46.5 billion during the season—up 10% from 2012. And so, getting your share of those holiday shopping budgets means planning earlier than ever.

Let’s look at how you can plan a mobile strategy that brings an increasingly advanced holiday crowd to your business this fall. Mid-summer is the time to begin planning your marketing strategy, one that will reach customers right as thoughts of Labor Day drift toward the start of school.

The Holiday Stakes: Email Marketing and the Mobile Consumer

One key approach to the early holiday shopper is to find them where they live—and where they spend their money—and that’s increasingly online. And it’s increasingly online via mobile devices and through an effective email marketing strategy.

Recent reports tell us that there’s a $294 billion world, out there, when it comes to ecommerce, and 29.5% of that happens on smartphones and tablets. Furthermore, purchases via mobile devices jumped 22%, in 2013, according to a new report from Campaigner.

But that doesn’t mean that every enterprise simply gets to press “send”. Reaching the online and mobile shopper takes having the right message in the first place—and then getting it out in a way that prompts consumers to click-through and buy, or show up in person for your excellent offer.

Email marketing is one way to go about that — 64% of decision-making mobile consumers read their email on a mobile device — so your holiday marketing campaign could reach them in just the right spot. But with that idea come some relevant cautions. To understand what those are, we turn to stats from the Campaigner study, showing what consumers said they want from brands that come to them with offers via their inbox.

  • 45% of respondents said they open mobile marketing emails that feature both compelling text and graphics.
  • Only 2% said they are motivated by graphics alone.
  • 42% stick to what they know, reading promotional emails on their mobile devices primarily based on the familiarity of the sender’s name.
  • 21% indicated that an awareness of an ongoing deal or price promotion is a primary driver to read promotional emails on their mobile device.
  • 20% cited the email subject line as the main reason they decide to read marketing emails on their mobile device.

This paints a picture of the mobile consumer, ones who are receptive to marketing emails, as being a fairly sophisticated — and particular — audience. In these cases, enterprise leaders looking to effectively reach customers have to become marketers of the same kind — savvy enough to build an email campaign that hits the visual and storytelling marks, and also able to leverage the right audience in the right way to bring in conversions around their holiday push.

Getting Past ‘Open’: How Enterprise Can Build a Better Email Campaign

“Retailers have a significant opportunity to embrace the growing market for mobile shoppers this holiday season,” said EJ McGowan, general manager at Campaigner. But it’s an opportunity that comes with a catch.

“While consumers are more interactive with mobile content and purchasing, [some] marketers are still providing a lackluster mobile experience,” McGowan said. “Some consumers feel content is not personalized, underscoring the importance of relevant content to increase sales and effectively engage with consumers.”

To get you thinking about the relevant and personalized touches that customers desire, check out the following key ideas for crafting outreach:

5 summertime tips for building a better email campaign, this season and all year round:

  1. Build a campaign around environments. The 2014 survey found that 56% of participants read promotional emails while relaxing or watching TV, and 28% do so at work. The summer months are the perfect time to create and test various messages, subject lines, and mobile designs. Prepare to cultivate multiple environments and so increase your chances of reaching your customers in the perfect way, at the perfect moment.
  2. Implement responsive design. Marketers should take the summer to review their responsive-design strategy. Spend time with the analytics surrounding your previous mobile email campaigns. Where you see flagging open rates, freshly encourage mobile interaction by emphasizing those measurably important subject lines. Lean into the image-text combination that mobile customers say they prefer.
  3. Streamline content. Nearly 22% of survey respondents said that too much text, or hard-to-read text, irritates them most about reading marketing emails on mobile devices. Shorten and simplify your message.
  4. Conduct A/B split testing. Once you’ve crafted compelling subject lines and responsive, streamlined content, test these elements of your campaign. Create an A/B split-test on multiple subject lines and then watch in real time as variations go head-to-head.
  5. Focus on established and key customers. Keep a version of the 80/20 rule in mind. That is, don’t waste your time on — and/or alienate — the 80% of consumers who won’t drive revenue for your enterprise. Focus instead on the 20% of consumers who do spend time and money with your brand. And then , encourage a continued relationship with that segment by providing rewards, loyalty programs, and great deals for the holidays.

Creating a mobile email approach in the run-up to the holidays doesn’t have to include elements of the impersonal and bland. It doesn’t have to be ineffective because of common and easy-to-avoid mistakes. By working with the above five ideas in your planning, this summer, you’ll hit the digital ground running with an effective email marketing campaign.

And your holiday sales success story? It just might start this month.

Photo by AForestFrolic used under Creative Commons

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The ultimate guide to attracting more customers with Vine videos https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/the-ultimate-guide-to-attracting-more-customers-with-vine-videos/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/the-ultimate-guide-to-attracting-more-customers-with-vine-videos/#respond Fri, 25 Apr 2014 16:42:29 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=8688 There are three things you can say for sure about Vine, the six-second video social network acquired by Twitter. One, Vine…]]>

There are three things you can say for sure about Vine, the six-second video social network acquired by Twitter. One, Vine has more than survived its first year since launch: the video app has matured into a 40-million-user mainstay among the 10 to 22-year-old demographic. Two, within that niche, in some cases it’s become a way to make a living for highly creative and influential users. And three, it’s a space where brands and businesses stand to push boundaries and grow audiences — if they understand what Vine does best for brands.

“It’s extremely powerful,” says Evan Aaronson, founder of Boomopolis, regarding Vine and brand outreach. But he’s found that companies struggle to understand what the short-form videos can do.

“What generally happens is these business contact me and they’re initially a little bit gun shy,” Aaronson says. “They want to understand, what is it? They end up dipping their toes in the water a little bit — they spend a little bit of money — and then after they see the results they tell me that Vine is amazing, and they can’t believe how well it did for them. And then they quadruple their spend.”

Let’s dig in to what Vine does for brands and how it creates the enthusiasm Aaronson sees from his clients. We’ll turn to some examples of brands using Vine to great effect, and then look at some advice you can incorporate into your first (or renewed) efforts with Vine.

Businesses that are breaking out with Vine

Vine has only been in the spotlight for about a year. Twitter scooped it up from a tiny shop of startup developers in October 2012, before Vine had even launched, and then presented the app to the world in January 2013. Within six months, it held the top spot in Apple’s App Store.

While some have been slow to adopt Vine, huge brans like Major League Baseball have been tapping into mini-videos for the past 14 months in some aggressive and innovative ways.

“There’s a huge opportunity, in that it’s a very interesting kind of viewer that looks at Vine,” Erik Reitmeyer, social media coordinator for MLB Advanced Media, told Sports Business Daily in March. “There are a lot of different ways that you can tell a story on it, so we’ll go a little off brand and just experiment.”

Brands can conduct a Vine campaign in smaller ways — and with successful results. Here’s a trio of cases that run the gamut from modest-size businesses to up-and-coming larger players in the Vine ecosystem. Each of them has a lesson to teach.

Example 1: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

This booming small business has nailed some of the key ideas that can drive a successful Vine-and-brand pairing: tell a story, keep it simple and don’t force your videos to be traditional ads. On the company’s Vine page, six-second shorts make Jeni’s delicious products the star. By going behind the the scenes, these videos show the quality and care that is put in to each dessert. No surprise they’ll also leave you craving sweets.


Example 2: The Hunt

Let’s talk about user-generated content. Vine is a hotbed of opportunities for brands in that some of the funniest, hippest, and most resourceful creatives are among a brand’s own audience. Style-advice app The Hunt has leveraged its smart and fashion-conscious followers by offering in-Vine promotion and prizes for the best user-created videos. “A bunch of kids will make these Vines about The Hunt or about a specific feature of The Hunt,” says Aaronson. From there, re-Vines can generate a reach of up to 30,000 users at a time, each following the original Viner and helping to further spread the brand’s message.

Example 3: Thomas More University

Vine works with all kinds of brands. The product that a university offers is certainly more abstract than ice cream or clothing, but Viners love an original idea. Thomas More University gets that, and their stop-motion style videos bring the concept of learning and computers together in clever explorations of what the school creates for technology students.

What brands need to know about Viners

Early data suggests Vine’s average user is 20.2 years old. So the sweet spot for brands, according to Stephanie Schwab, principal at Crackerjack Marketing, is often products and ideas that will reach young people.

“Given the demographic, fashion and retail brands have done extremely well with Vine, as have food brands,” Schwab says. “Oreo, Dunkin Donuts and Taco Bell are some of my favorite food brands on Vine. And Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom and Marc Jacobs are great for fashion.”

Beyond making their own content, or tapping their own audience, one way that brands can reach the young and the hip is to bring on known Vine influencers.

A swiftly growing market, what are typically youthful super-users — meaning that they are 16-26 years old and have Vine followers in the 250,000-plus range — are paid to create Vine videos promoting a product, event, or other idea to their base. Some influencers, says Aaronson, clear more than a quarter-million in earnings annually. Brands can get into the influencer game for as little as $1,000, he says, or they can spend tens of thousands on a campaign.

And then there’s Vine Messages. The new component, announced in April, allows Viners to send the videos they make as private direct messages to both users and non-users. What it means isn’t as clear to experts such as Aaronson — at least, not yet.

“I don’t know if it means much for brands but it certainly means a lot for Vine,” he says, “in terms of people sending messages to people not on Vine — and that person not on Vine may go ‘oh, what’s this?’ … and then they’ll become aware of Vine.”

If those new discoveries lead to new users, then brands can reap the collateral benefit of the newly added ranks. But they’ll still need a Vine-specific strategy to reach them. Let’s turn to some tips that can get that ball rolling.

Tips for brands looking to grow their Vine audience

If you’re starting your own Vine efforts, pay attention to these key concepts along the way. No matter what you’re brand’s budget, the following advice will help you craft a smarter strategy.

1. Follow what’s trending on Vine. Brands should pay attention to the popular songs, phrases, and other sharable ideas that are getting traction on Vine. Incorporating trends, when appropriate, and looking at the tags of those trends so they can use them in their own Vines, will lead to more people finding their brand.

2. Create real-world interactions with Vine. Using Viners to make public appearances at brick-and-mortar businesses has been vastly under utilized, according to Aaronson. Grand openings, festivals, movie premieres — having a Viner announce that they will be at your establishment to meet their fans not only stands to get a huge number of people in the door, but also to make a ton of teenagers aware of your business.

3. The audience is the audience. Businesses can get hung up on the actual influencers they reach out to for a Vine campaign, worrying about which one is better for their brand. But the audience demographic of each individual influencer only varies a little bit. Barring an obvious style or background conflict, focus instead on how many followers you want to reach and then evaluate the engagement of an influencer — how many likes, re-Vines, and comments they’ve garnered in past efforts.

Finally, note that in Vine you’re not able to include clickable links, so the way businesses can tell if a Vine campaign is working is either by implementing a coupon code or isolating the campaign so you’re not doing any other big promotions simultaneously. When the campaign runs, brands should note the increase in incoming traffic or sales. Many businesses aren’t crazy about not being able to track their Vine campaign more precisely, but when you see that spike, you’ll start to appreciate how Vine can bring new audiences to brands that want to get noticed.

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