John Yarbrough – The BigCommerce Blog Ecommerce Blog delivering news, strategy and success stories to power 2x growth for scaling brands. Fri, 15 Jun 2018 16:19:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 John Yarbrough – The BigCommerce Blog 32 32 Automating Image Optimization: Akamai Image Manager Now Available for BigCommerce Merchants Tue, 30 Jan 2018 14:00:09 +0000 If you’re selling online, you already know that when it comes to page load times — speed kills.   In…]]>

If you’re selling online, you already know that when it comes to page load times — speed kills.  

In fact, just last week Google announced a new ranking algorithm for mobile search —dubbed the “Speed Update”— which will use mobile page load speeds as a ranking factor.

This means that faster loading sites will benefit from improved visibility (Google started using site speed in desktop web search rankings in 2010).

Meanwhile, in recent years ecommerce websites have become more complex with retailers incorporating more functionality and higher-quality, immersive imagery in an effort to engage shoppers.

So how do brands create beautiful, immersive websites while also ensuring fast page load times for shoppers?

Introducing Akamai Image Manager

Today, we’re excited to announce Akamai Image Manager is now available for all Stencil stores worldwide.

What’s Akamai Image Manager?

Akamai Image Manager is an automated image optimizer for device size to help your site load faster no matter the browser’s origin.

This is free for BigCommerce customers – and available at cost for online stores across the web.

BigCommerce merchants using Akamai Image Manager as part of a closed beta for the past several months saw as much as 70% improvement in site load times.

Beginning today, we’ll be automatically enabling Akamai Image Manager for all eligible stores.

BigCommerce has already optimized all images on our CDN, meaning there’s no additional work for you to take advantage of Akamai’s image optimization capabilities, widely regarded as the best in the industry.

Best yet — there is no additional cost to use the feature and it is available across all plan types.

Improving Page Performance Without Compromising Customer Experience

Images play a critical role in ecommerce, addressing one of the inherent issues with shopping online — consumers’ inability to touch, feel or experience the product in person prior to making a purchase.

78% of U.S. consumers also say they expect compelling product images when shopping online.

To combat this, ecommerce brands have spent years looking for opportunities to make products more tangible, both through video and high-quality images, which are prominently featured across their websites.

As a result, the average website page size eclipsed 3MB in 2017, up from less than 1MB in 2011.

The graph below depicts how much ‘page weight’ is contributed by images.


See It in Action

If you’re using the Chrome browser, this handy tool will show you exactly how Akamai Image Manager is helping to optimize your site.

Get the tool now.

With websites becoming more reliant on imagery, ensuring a fast-loading shopping experience has become a more complicated challenge.

This is especially difficult on mobile where brands have to contend with a fractured mobile landscape with thousands of devices — each with different specs, browsers and screen sizes — making it necessary to convert images to a multitude of sizes and resolutions in order to optimize for each.

With Akamai Image Manager, BigCommerce merchants no longer need to worry about manually managing or resizing images to ensure shoppers get the best possible performance.

Starting today, all BigCommerce stores will benefit from:

  • Automatic image conversion. Detect and instantly convert online images to software-specific image formats to capitalize on advanced levels of compression  provided through WebP, JPEG-XR and JPEG 2000 native to popular operating systems and browsers.
  • Intelligent image delivery across devices. Automatically deliver resized, mobile-optimized images to mobile shoppers, reducing large files that slow site performance and significantly decreasing the amount of time spent personalizing image variants.
  • Faster page load speeds. Using Akamai’s perceptual quality algorithm, Image Manager lightens the weight of digital images while maintaining the improved gains in performance, especially when viewing sites from a mobile device. Additionally, better performance leads to higher mobile usage and increased conversion rates.

More information about Akamai Image Manager

Want more insights like this?

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Introducing Channel Manager: Seamless Multi-channel Selling with BigCommerce Wed, 01 Jun 2016 14:00:31 +0000 Today, we’re excited to announce BigCommerce Channel Manager, a new addition to our platform designed to help merchants grow sales…]]>

Today, we’re excited to announce BigCommerce Channel Manager, a new addition to our platform designed to help merchants grow sales while making multi-channel selling easier than ever. Beginning this week, merchants will see a new ‘Channel Manager’ menu in the sidebar navigation within the BigCommerce control panel. To get started, simply select it and follow the prompts, after which you’ll see options to connect your store and begin selling on Facebook and Pinterest. You can also sign up to be notified as we add support for addition social channels, like eBay, which will be added later this year.


For merchants looking to attract new customers and grow sales through third-party sales channels, Channel Manager is designed to streamline workflows and help you test new channels efficiently. For example, today merchants can use Channel Manager to:

  • Discover and integrate with leading third-party sales channels. With Channel Manager, merchants now have a single destination to discover and integrate with third-party sales channels directly within BigCommerce. Connecting to existing channels or adding new ones requires just a few clicks.
  • Reach more customers across multiple channels. Native integrations with Facebook, Pinterest and leading marketplaces (coming soon) allow merchants to rapidly amplify their potential reach to millions of shoppers. Seamless onboarding and catalog syncing means you can test the right channel mix for your business without introducing unnecessary complexity or risk.
  • Remove barriers and unify channels. Channel Manager’s built-in bulk export and inventory syncing means merchants can avoid countless hours spent listing products on third-party sales channels by using product information already stored in their BigCommerce catalogs.

Additional information about multi-channel selling with Channel Manager can be found here.

Why Channel Manager

Statistically speaking, there has never been a better time to sell online. According to estimates from the U.S. Commerce Department, online sales during Q1 2016 approached $93 billion, a whopping 15% increase compared to the same period last year. This means ecommerce accounted for roughly 30% of all retail sales growth in the first quarter after factoring for specialty items (e.g. cars, fuel, etc.) not typically purchased online.

But capitalizing on this explosion in online sales remains complex, particularly for growing businesses looking for high-impact opportunities to increase market share. Recently, many BigCommerce customers have noted rising competition caused by new market entrants and renewed focus from larger players looking to grow online sales. With so much noise in the marketplace, capturing prospective customers’ attention requires brands find ways to make products accessible when and where shoppers want to buy. Where there’s demand, the supplier wins. In a recent blog post, industry analyst and author Brian Solis captured this sentiment saying, “Customers today are ‘accidental narcissists’…they have lost patience. We want things now.”

Because of this, selling online is no longer just about attracting customers to your online store. Online retailers are increasingly faced with trying to reach and convert customers wherever they want to shop, whether that be through their online store(s), physical retail, marketplaces, social selling platforms or elsewhere. This proliferation of available sales channels has forced retailers to consider new, unforeseen inventory and order management challenges as well as to make difficult choices about opportunity costs associated with exploring potential new avenues to attract customers and grow sales.

“With purchases taking place across so many different channels — online stores, social networks, physical retail locations and marketplaces — Channel Manager gives retailers a comprehensive way to manage their entire online business,” said Michael Burk, Senior Director of Product, BigCommerce. “We created Channel Manager with the intent to help merchants run their businesses more efficiently and empower them with a complete overview of their sales, allowing them to make changes to listings, pricing and availability in real-time.”

Additionally, as new sales channels are integrated with Channel Manager, merchants can easily experiment to determine fit and customer demand without the need for time-intensive, manual data entry or specialty third-party listing tools.

Coming Soon

This is just the start. This summer, we’ll be adding support for additional channels as well as new functionality to Channel Manager to make adding and selling on multiple channels seamless, including more control over customizing individual product listings.

Stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks or feel free to leave your questions in the comments.

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BigCommerce Merchants Can Now Sell on Pinterest Fri, 27 May 2016 13:27:32 +0000 We’re excited to announce that, beginning today, even more BigCommerce merchants can take advantage of Buyable Pins on Pinterest, providing…]]>

We’re excited to announce that, beginning today, even more BigCommerce merchants can take advantage of Buyable Pins on Pinterest, providing shoppers the ability to browse and purchase products directly on Pinterest. The feature will be rolling out to all stores in the U.S. beginning today and will appear in the control panel when available.

Using Buyable Pins to Reach Customers and Improve Mobile Conversions

As you may recall, Buyable Pins, which were announced last year,  enable more than 100 million monthly active Pinners to purchase eligible products directly on Pinterest’s mobile apps providing a seamless checkout experience without the need to leave the app. Since first partnering with Pinterest in October to bring Buyable Pins to a select group of merchants, we’ve seen Buyable Pins help businesses reach new customers, improve mobile conversions and drive incremental website traffic.


Just like Regular Pins, Buyable Pins show up right in Pinners’ feeds based on their interests but also include pricing information making them instantly identifiable. Also worth noting, Pins with prices get 36% more engagement than those without. Once selected, Pinners have the option to either save or click the blue ‘Buy It’ button to purchase in as little as two clicks. Buyable Pins also appear in Pinterest’s dedicated Shop section, which is accessible by clicking the explore icon, then tapping Shop.

According to a broad survey of U.S. consumers conducted by BigCommerce and research firm Kelton Global, 30% of all online shoppers say they would be likely to make a purchase directly on social platforms. Additionally, more than 1 in 5 consumers are now following and engaging with brands on Pinterest. According to the research, younger shoppers — specifically Gen Xers and Millennials — are particularly fond of using Pinterest for both product discovery and shopping, with 26% saying they would likely purchase a product directly on Pinterest if provided the option.

Using Buyable Pins with BigCommerce

To begin using Buyable Pins, you’ll first need to connect your store to Pinterest in the BigCommerce control panel using your Pinterest business account. If you don’t yet have a business account with Pinterest, you can either create one or convert an existing account into a business account. Creating a business account has the added benefit of providing access to other great tools such as Pinterest Analytics and Pinterest’s ad product, Promoted Pins.


Once you’ve completed setup, you’ll then be able to send your BigCommerce product catalog to Pinterest along with your listing application. Please note, the application process can take up to a week (five business days).


After your store has been approved, your Pinterest profile will automatically be updated with a “Shop Pins from” button and existing product Pins will begin appearing blue, showing customers they can now purchase them directly on Pinterest.

Orders generated through Pinterest Buyable Pins will appear in the control panel alongside those from your online store (designated by a Pinterest logo), and inventory is synced automatically allowing you to use existing workflows for processing and fulfillment.  If you’d like to see a complete list of orders from Pinterest, you can do so in the View Orders section of your store by selecting the ‘Orders from Pinterest’ custom view.

Buyable Pins Requirements

For now, Buyable Pins are only available to merchants selling in the U.S. that meet Pinterest’s policies and advertising guidelines for merchants. You’ll also want to review other requirements for Buyable Pins, such as eligible payment gateways (currently Buyable Pins are limited to merchants using PayPal powered by Braintree; support for additional gateways will be added in the coming weeks).

For merchants that are just starting selling online and interested in using Buyable Pins with BigCommerce, now is the perfect time to create an online store.

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New BigCommerce Themes Offer More Options for Small and Mid-Sized Stores Thu, 19 May 2016 13:00:14 +0000 Earlier this year we announced 67 new BigCommerce storefront designs developed by Pixel Union, a leading ecommerce design agency whose themes…]]>

Earlier this year we announced 67 new BigCommerce storefront designs developed by Pixel Union, a leading ecommerce design agency whose themes have been used by millions of people and brands, from budding entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 companies.

Since then, we have gathered a lot of feedback from our community on the new designs and seen hundreds of stores adopt them to provide customers with an even better shopping experience. Today, four new themes are being released, each with four distinct variations (16 new theme variations overall), specifically tailored to support a wide range of product types and catalog sizes.

Key additions include eight long-awaited theme variations (Exhibit and Runway) which feature a sidebar navigation, in addition to four additional theme variations (Hero) designed for larger catalog sizes. Here’s a top-level view of the new additions:

  • Exhibit: Key benefits include sidebar navigation and featured content slots including multi-level categories, brands or pages.
  • Runway: Key benefits include sidebar navigation and support for full-width images designed to invite customer engagement.
  • Hero: Key benefits include a traditional drop down or a ‘mega menu’ capable of supporting very large catalogs.
  • Atelier: Key benefits include high-quality editorial aesthetic, unique navigation and stunning homepage product grid.

Exhibit Theme

Specifically designed for retailers with small and medium-sized product catalogs, this theme combines a “Classic” sidebar navigation with a clean, modern grid layout providing easy navigation for consumers. Each of Exhibit’s four variations are highly brandable, providing merchants with a malleable template to present their brand and products exactly as they envision.

The Exhibit theme can be purchased for $170 USD and comes in classic, organic, minimal and bold variations. It is recommended for merchants selling Electronics, Fashion/Apparel or Home Goods.

Runway Theme

Similar to Exhibit, the Runway theme also features a persistent left-hand sidebar making site navigation a breeze for first-time and returning customers. Additionally, each of Runway’s four variations takes advantage of full-width images in the homepage carousel, providing the perfect backdrop for your products. The theme also makes great use of space on both category and product pages, ensuring for a great browsing experience on all device types.

The Runway theme can be purchased for $170 USD comes in bold, bright, minimal and warm variations. It is recommended for merchants selling Fashion/Apparel, Gifts or Specialty products.

Hero Theme

Hero comes with added flexibility within the theme editor, providing merchants additional options such as additional granularity for color editing across the theme, carousel customizations and other features to help you with fine tuning your store. Each Hero variation effectively uses white space to call attention to your products, while seamlessly integrating editorial content to convey your brand’s story. Additionally, this theme features the ability to toggle between a traditional dropdown category menu and a ‘mega menu’ capable of supporting large product catalogs.

The Hero theme can be purchased for $170 USD and comes in minimal, warm, clean and bright variations. It is recommended for merchants selling Sports/Outdoors wares, as well as Clothing and Apparel brands.

Atelier Theme

The Atelier theme is unlike any other available in the market, featuring a unique navigation menu and high-quality editorial feel that puts a premium on stunning, full-width imagery. Ideal for stores with small catalogs and high-res images, each Atelier variation makes use of category and subcategory images, along with category descriptions, in lieu of a traditional carousel on the homepage, begging visitors to explore your collections.

The Atelier theme can be purchased for $235 and comes in minimal, bright, classic and modern variations. It is recommended for merchants selling home goods, boutique or bespoke handmade products, as well as clothing and apparel brands.

As with the previous releases, these new themes are unique to the BigCommerce platform and  fully-responsive so they look great on all modern device types and operating systems

For more information you can browse all available themes in the Theme Marketplace.

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Brand Building: How to Select a PR Agency That Gets You Noticed Mon, 29 Jun 2015 14:04:03 +0000 Whether you are just starting an online business or working to grow a brand already selling millions per year, securing…]]>

Whether you are just starting an online business or working to grow a brand already selling millions per year, securing favorable press coverage is one of the most impactful things you can do to reach new audiences and attract customers. In fact, Bill Gates once famously said, “If I was down to the last dollar of my marketing budget, I’d spend it on PR!”

Of course, the world’s richest man’s love affair with PR isn’t altogether surprising. What’s not to like about PR, right? After all, media coverage, as opposed to paid advertising, is ‘free’ and typically perceived by consumers to be more credible than any other form of marketing. Michael Levine, a renowned publicist and author of Guerilla P.R. and A Branded World, estimates that “an article is between 10x and 100x more valuable than an advertisement.” This sentiment was further validated by a 2014 Nielsen study that concluded PR is almost 90% more effective than advertising.

An article is between 10x and 100x more valuable than an advertisement.
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As consumers, this is intuitive as most of us are conditioned to trust and listen to individuals we see as experts, whereas we are naturally skeptical of ads, which increasingly permeate every aspect of our lives. According to some estimates, the average American now encounters as many as 5,000 advertisements every day. With so many brands vying for our attention, it’s little wonder that we naturally seek out the advice and recommendations of those we perceive to be most knowledgeable about the products we are considering purchasing.

Levine compares the value of public relations to gift wrapping. Speaking with Forbes, Levine explains, “If I went to visit a woman today and gave her a gift in a Tiffany box, it would have higher perceived value than if I just gave it to her plain.” Simply by virtue of being discussed, recommended or written about by respected news outlets, as consumers we are naturally more inclined to consider a given product more strongly. That’s the power of PR.

Recognizing the value of PR and actually getting good press are not one in the same.
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Unfortunately, recognizing the value of PR and actually getting good press are not one in the same. In an effort to secure this type of ‘gift wrapping’ for their brand and products, many businesses ultimately opt to hire a PR agency to assist with generating favorable press coverage, product reviews, gift guide placements and other accolades. Yet, navigating the confusing world of PR agency retainers and finding the right complement to your business is often easier said than done. As a result, business owners frequently get burned by entrusting this important marketing function to a third-party firm.

To help you navigate those choppy waters, here are four tips to help you select a PR agency that will generate headlines, and sales, for your company.

1. Determine Your Goals

Getting ROI from PR, like most aspects of running a business, begins with goal setting. The most common, and often most damaging, mistake business owners make when outsourcing PR is failing to determine goals in advance of the vetting process. This will come back to haunt you on two fronts.

First, without pre-determining the goals of your PR program, it’s likely you’re going to get very general recommendations and responses from the PR pros you encounter during the agency search. Without some specificity about what you are looking for and questions to help separate the wheat from the chaff (see #4), it may not be readily apparent which firms truly understand your industry and are able to produce results and which are merely skilled ‘pitchmen’ ready to move on to the next opportunity as soon as it arises.

The better you can articulate goals, the more efficient and cost-effective your agency can be.
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Secondly, for PR agencies — as with many other service providers (e.g. lawyers, accountants, etc.) — time is money. And if there’s one thing all PR agencies are exceptional at doing, it’s making sure they are compensated for their time. That’s not to say PR pros are trying to swindle you or bill you for more than what is due to them. After all, every hour spent consulting you on PR or representing your business to the press is an hour away from another client (or potential client). Simply put, the better you can articulate goals, the more efficient and cost-effective your agency can be on your behalf.

Even a world-class PR agency or consultant will struggle to meet or beat expectations if they aren’t clear on your expectations and the business problem they are working to solve. So whether your goals are securing reviews from influential reporters and bloggers to generate demand and improve conversions or getting your company featured on Good Morning America to build brand awareness, make sure to set goals in advance and regularly revisit them with your PR agency so time is spent on activities that map to the broader goals for the business.

2. Set a budget

Let’s address the elephant in the room and talk about budgets, shall we? One of the biggest misconceptions about hiring a PR agency is that only massive brands with deep pockets can afford to hire professional PR support. Having worked at both a large, global PR agency representing Fortune 500 brands and at a small, boutique agency supporting startups and early-stage businesses, I can speak from personal experience that there are virtually limitless agency options for businesses, and budgets, of all sizes.

First assess which agency billing model is best suited for the goals you’ve established.
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As you begin to narrow your list of potential PR agency partners, it’s helpful to first assess which agency billing model is best suited for the goals you’ve established. To that end, it’s important to know PR agencies typically charge clients in one of three ways:

  1. Monthly Retainer
  2. Project Basis
  3. Hourly (also referred to as “time and materials”)

The Retainer Model

Often when you hear someone remark that “Hiring a PR agency is too expensive,” or “Startups spending on PR are wasting money,” it’s from those that have had poor experiences with an agency on retainer. Retainers, which can range from as little as a few thousand dollars to millions of dollars per month, are best suited for companies that need and expect a near constant drumbeat of press coverage and exposure supported by a steady stream of product launches, announcements and other marketing activity.

In this model, businesses are tapping into agencies’ talent pool, saving overhead costs.
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In this model, businesses are tapping into agencies’ talent pool, saving overhead costs, while also taking advantage, theoretically, of access to a team with expansive professional networks encompassing press, analysts, bloggers, influencers and the like. The higher the budget the more likely that both the business and agency require a statement of work (SOW) tied to a specific term, usually a year or longer, to provide stability. Unfortunately, when agency results begin to lag behind expectations, it can lead to an uncomfortable, and oftentimes messy, parting of ways (breakups are always hard, right?). In other words, the retainer model isn’t for the faint of heart, no matter which side of the aisle you represent.

Project-based Billing

For businesses with more modest budgets or sporadic needs, project-based billing and hourly models are great options. For projects, setting goals and establishing clear expectations about the SOW (both the project scope itself as well as the timeline to deliver) are equally important as with a retainer model; however, in the event that plans go awry, both sides have more flexibility to part ways or invest in other initiatives, whether that be different marketing tactics or funding manufacturing of a new addition to your product catalog.

In the event that plans go awry, both sides have more flexibility to part ways or invest elsewhere.
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PR agency project budgets typically start at around $2,000 for basic services (e.g. press release development, media list development, pitching, etc.) and scale up based on the SOW. For agencies with strong credentials and reputations, you should expect to pay roughly $100 per hour of service, which is typically a mix of senior-level and junior talent.

Going the Freelance Route

Lastly, for the business owner that needs or wants PR support but not necessarily as a full-time function, there are literally thousands of highly-qualified consultants and freelancers for hire around the world. Freelance rates vary considerably with well-known PR practitioners and publicists billing fees upwards of $300 per hour and newly independent PR pros often charging anywhere from $50-150 per hour as they work to build their book of business.

3. Narrow Your Search

To recap, you’ve now established goals, set a budget and decided which model is best suited for your business. Congratulations, you’re now ready to find a PR agency! But, how do you find them?

The Odwyers database and rankings are a great resource to identify firms with experience.
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For starters, the Odwyers database and rankings are a great resource to identify firms with experience relevant to your industry. Another benefit to Odwyers’ database is the ability to filter based on geography, a particularly useful tool for business owners that prefer to interact face-to-face. For freelance or project-based work, directories like Solo PR Pro and are a good place to familiarize yourself with current rates.

4. Ask Questions Before You Make a Hire

In an ideal world, your PR agency should function as a high-performing extension of your business that introduces and represents your brand to relevant audiences, painting you and your products in the most favorable light. To create this dynamic, it’s incredibly important that you understand what skills and capabilities you are getting after you select a PR agency. This starts with asking the right questions before you sign on a firm or consultant.

The most effective thing you can do to select the right PR partner is to clearly state goals.
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Entrepreneur and popular PR blog Spin Sucks both have great lists of questions you should ask prospective PR agencies or consultants during the vetting process. Again, the most effective thing business owners can do to ensure they select the right PR partner is to clearly state their goals and expectations. From there, any qualified firm should be ready to explain how they will help you meet those goals within the agreed upon budget and timeframe.


To quote Richard Branson, “Publicity is absolutely critical. A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad.” Regardless of whether you are a new to PR and need guidance getting started or a large business looking for an agency partner to scale your marketing and revamp your brand image, there are no shortage of options and resources to help. Just make sure you first know what your goals are and have time to find the perfect PR partner that can make you, your brand and your products the next big thing.

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