Katey Ferenzi – 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 Katey Ferenzi – The BigCommerce Blog https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog 32 32 What to Sell in 2018: How to Find a Product Niche and Start Selling Online https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/find-product-niche-start-selling-online/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/find-product-niche-start-selling-online/#comments Fri, 02 Feb 2018 14:00:42 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=11372 Think of starting an ecommerce website? Online competition is fiercer than ever. This is why figuring out what to sell…]]>

Think of starting an ecommerce website?

Online competition is fiercer than ever.

This is why figuring out what to sell online is a strategy in and of itself.

You’d be surprised how many people set up a store before identifying ecommerce opportunities. This is setting yourself up for failure.

Choosing the right products to sell will impact every other business decision you make.

They’re all important, but the most important thing you must get right from the very beginning is exactly what you sell and how you price those products.

Finding The Best Products To Sell Online:

Need ideas for what to sell online?

No matter what industry you pick, there are really only two kinds of products to sell:

  1. Commoditized products.
  2. Niche products.

how to sell online

First, there’s what we call commoditized products. These are the products everybody needs.

Commoditized products are the most popular products sold online.

Think of anything you buy at Walmart or Amazon that has a big brand behind it — food, golf clubs, clothes, kids toys, etc.

Now think of the brands — Heinz, Callaway, Levi, Fisher-Price.

Niche products are goods or services that serve a specific segment of customers.

In many instances, these are unique and one-of-a-kind, handmade products, making them some of the most popular items bought online.

Niche products are often made in small batch runs or on demand. Think of a unique beaded necklace, handmade frozen yogurt or leather iPad cases.

Many brands sell a combination of commoditized products and unique, niche products.

Take a look at Spearmint Love, for instance.

This site aggregates baby clothes from across the web (commoditized), as well as offers a few unique products of their own.

Offering only commoditized items, especially if those items are brand name or already sold on major marketplaces like Amazon or Walmart, will make it extremely difficult to be successful.

Amazon and Walmart can buy items in large quantities, lowering the price of the product. Your startup likely won’t be able to compete.

However, if you can offer unique products alongside commoditized ones (think of using Etsy Wholesale or reaching out to makers on Instagram) and build a great brand experience along the way, you are setting yourself up for success.

Coming up with unique products can be difficult, though.

The Value in Unique

The motivation behind launching our business was a combination of wanting to be in charge of our own destiny and the thrill of making a high quality American-made product that others would enjoy and value.

In 2004, we saw an opportunity in a updating an existing apparel accessory that had not really changed in decades.

At that time you could still purchase the same style ribbon belt your father and grandfather purchased 20 year before: a simple repeated clip art designs finished with low quality materials.

After a couple years use it was worn out and you needed to purchase a new one.

So, we decided to up the game.

We started by using local artists as designers and constructed our belts using the highest quality raw materials.

The result has been much higher quality and longer lasting product adorned with unique whimsical designs.

We started our business because we wanted to create something new, fun and of value.

We’ve achieved that.

– Jim Taylor, President & Owner, Belted Cow

Here are six different ways to generate ideas when trying to decide what to sell online.

1. Identify or create products that solve a problem.

We’ve all heard the saying: necessity is the mother of invention.

Taking this tack when generating ideas for a product or service is a reliable avenue to kickstart a successful business.

Opportunities may exist in a few forms, including an improved product feature, a market unrealized by your competitors, or even unique marketing.

Try tuning into your everyday tasks. What things put a hitch in your giddyup?

Those small annoyances can turn out to be a brilliant business idea. Pinpoint a problem and conveniently solve it.

Your product or service doesn’t necessarily need to be a huge, complicated endeavor.

It can be quite simple, yet exceptionally effective.

As an example, look at the story behind Karen Rzepecki’s invention of the reCAP Mason Jars Pour Cap.


“Our story began with salad dressing,” she writes. “After creating yet another oily mess with the lid and ring, I searched for a pour cap that would fit my Mason Jars and allow me to shake, pour, and store dressing.”

Rzepecki realized there wasn’t one, so she went ahead and created something all her own.

As many do, Rzepecki used reusable, eco-friendly mason jars for food storage.

However, when trying to shake, pour and store items, things got sticky.

To alleviate the issue, Rzepecki created a simple lid with a spout that fit both large- and small-mouth mason jars and took her new product online.

Today, she owns a successful online store and is diversifying her product offering to scale her ROI.

“Our sales have increased this year, and we are spending a lot more time relooking at our SEO,” says Rzepecki. “Just recently we switched over to PayPal by Braintree so we could take advantage of the simplified checkout as well as selling on Pinterest. With that, our checkout was immediately improved. It’s all part of our work to improve our customer experience as much as we can.”

Taking Matters Into Your Own Hands

The founder of Sinus Support began having sinus congestion when she moved to Sonoma County, California in 1996.

Nothing relieved the nasal pressure, and she was increasingly more miserable at night.

As luck would have it, her mother mailed her a neti pot.

For weeks the tiny “teapot” sat in her bathroom.

Finally in desperation, she tried it.

After one rinse she got such relief she began telling everyone.

That’s when her entrepreneurial spirit kicked in and she decided she could make a better ceramic neti pot right here in California.

Within a few years, Baraka Neti Pots were selling in herbal stores, co-ops and natural grocery stores all over the U.S.!

– Estelle Letizia, Shipping Mgr., Sinus Support

2. Find products you and other people are passionate about.

Let’s be honest, starting your own business means long hours, likely some rocky terrain and the occasional, if not frequent, sacrifice.

Being passionate about what you do will not only help you see the forest through the trees during the hard times, but it will also help you in crafting a brand that speaks to people in a way that is meaningful and engaging.

Putting Love and Life to Work

Evan Streusand launched his very first business years ago after a trip to South America.

There, he found a group of shoemakers working in a fair wage factory.

He made friends, had drinks, and when he came back to the U.S., he launched Fortress of Inca to help support the efforts of his new friends.

Today, he sells those shoes to brands like Anthropologie and Free People.

Before Thanksgiving 2016, he decided to open an additional venture – this time with his wife.

The launch story was oddly similar.

  • The two traveled to West Texas. They stumbled upon a pair of robes in an outpost, and over the course of their vacation, found themselves not wanting to take them off.
  • They had drinks with the locals – in their robes. They went out two-stepping – in their robes.
  • They stargazed and watched the Texas sun rise over the butt of the Rocky Mountains –– in their robes.
  • When they came back to Austin, with new friends and experiences in their pockets, they launched Highway Robery.

“Highway Robery really feels like an extension of who we are and our personalities,” says Evan. “We love coming up with new ideas, and this particular project has got our minds going in a million different directions. From the fabrics we want to use to the photo shoots we’re planning down to the text we want to use on our website –– it’s all exciting at the moment.

Oh, and puns. We love puns. Expect us to use a lot of them, be they good or bad!”


Combining Niche with Passion

I made a 26.2 Runner Girl anklet to commemorate my 1st Marathon.

When other runners saw it, they wanted one.

I realized that you can’t wear your race medal around to show off your accomplishment, so I create a new line of running themed jewelry and presented the line to a local running race director for her opinion on whether or not she thought this would be well received.

Her comment was “You got something special here! Go for it”  

She allowed me to showcase and sell my line of running jewelry at her local race expos and it was a huge hit!

At the time no one else was doing this commercially!

–  Melody Tabman, Owner & Designer at Milestones Sports Jewelry.

3. Find products with branding potential.

Creating a brand that resonates is particularly important if you’re thinking of pursuing a competitive ecommerce industry.

Crafting a recognizable and memorable brand means you’ll need to put in the time to research and truly understand your target audience.

Your brand should speak to your potential customers in a way that both resonates and compels them to come back.

In other words, you want to build loyalty based on audience identity.

Some great questions to start with here are:

  • How does your target audience like to be addressed?
  • How will you position your product?
  • How will you design your website to communicate your brand and appeal to your potential customers through layout, color scheme and calls to action?

When a Brand Becomes a Lifestyle

When it comes to crafting a brand and experience that resonate, Tyler Merritt of Nine Line Apparel is an expert.

Merritt’s goal when launching Nine Line, a patriotic apparel company, was to cater to his fellow veterans and those still serving in the armed forces.

He quickly realized, however, that this patriotic flair hit a resonating tone with his fellow Americans as a whole.

“We like to promote patriotism,” says Tyler. “We believe in certain things that might be considered controversial. We don’t think they should be. You can not agree with public policy, but to service members and other individuals, the American flag represents something that’s sacred. That’s our personal opinion.”

Tyler promotes the Nine Line brand through every single aspect of the business, from the t-shirts to well designed emails and product packaging.

The patriotic and respectful spirit even flows through his hiring processes. The company hires 100% veterans.


Read More

From deployment to police raids, the Nine Line founders have been through it all –– and live to tell the tale. Learn how they secretly became the fastest growing retailer in the U.S.

4. Hop on trends early.

Carving out a place for your brand within an emerging market is ideal.

To do this, it is pivotal that you stay up-to-date on recent, trending products and services –– and then launch an ecommerce site to capitalize on them before they hit peak popularity.

Suzanne Moore started an online rubber stamp store right as the creative market was booming, and her business grew so fast that she was able to sell the store and launch a new venture helping other online entrepreneurs grow their own businesses.

SoSuzyStamps Aloha Stamp

This business angle can be a slippery slope, given that many trends don’t last.

However, the upside can be tremendous for a small business owner, as you’ll have a leg up on SEO and establish yourself as a leader within the industry from early on.

Start thinking of products or services that have been trending up in recent years (e.g., technology, survival gear, vintage, healthy living, flash tattoos).

Launch Before the Craze

Serving as proof that launching in the right market at the right time leads to success, online store Fugoo was built on the backs of team members who played integral roles at Acer, eMachines, Harmon Kardon, JBL and Toshiba.

The Fugoo team even won “Best of CES” awards in 2015. These awards given out typically to brands like Apple and Google when they show off new, unseen technology and products.

“Fugoo’s team is comprised of award-winning industry leaders who have been integral in the creation of many key technology industry milestones, including driving the development and industry adoption of Bluetooth,” reads their website.

In all, the Fugoo team used their skills and industry knowledge to launch the Fugoo Bluetooth wireless speaker just before the bigger technology brands caught on to the trend.


Read More

With 300% growth YoY and #1 placement in Google search results, see how Fugoo used BigCommerce to grow their global brand.

5. Find products that fulfill guilty pleasures.

Another solid business avenue to pursue is catering to customers’ passions, or even their vices.

Shoppers often spend more on their guilty pleasures, developing deep loyalty to brands that understand their obsessions.

Take Jeni’s Ice Cream for example. Founder Jeni Britton Bauer has been making ice cream professionally for decades, and founded her own brand in 2002.

Sure, she was ahead of the organic and all-natural trends, using whole ingredients and dairy from grass-matured cows from the very beginning.

She also added an artistic flair to her flavors, calling on every ice cream lover’s guilty pleasure – trying the newest, creamiest versions.

Today, customers can order ice cream online and have it shipped to their door, removing all barriers to getting that creamy goodness to their mouths faster than ever possible before.


Jeni’s Mission Statement:

“We are absolutely devoted to making better ice creams and bringing people together. It’s what gets us out of bed in the morning and keeps us up late at night.

We believe that you can grow a business as a community of people, with artful attention to detail and the customer experience, and get continuously better at the same time. That REALLY great ice cream served perfectly in a sparkling and beautiful space, with attentive and in-the-moment service (we believe service is an art) brings people together and helps them connect. And that sometimes sparks fly. And that there should be more sparks flying, generally.

We like to make people feel good.”

Turning Strife into Comfort Food

In the 2008 housing bust, I was laid off as engineer and soon developed health concerns that lead to a new direction in my life and an opportunity to take advantage of the growth of gluten-free foods demand.

Over the years, I’ve used my engineering skills to test and formulate a bread product that is gluten-free, vegan, tastes really good and has wonderful texture like comfort foods should.

We use half the ingredients of other popular commercial brands, with twice the taste!  

Consumers LOVE our product!

– Owner, Chief Bakery Engineer (CBE), Gluten Free Things

6. Identify and serve niche segments.

Niche segments often spell success for ecommerce.

Take, for example, Berkey Water.

Berkey Water is a water purification system unlike anything else on the market. You could put radioactive sludge in it and it would pull out drinkable water for you.

It is that good.

And because it is that good, it has niche markets which are increasingly loyal to the brand.

For instance, the prepper market –– full of individuals who are readying for disaster 24/7. Or, the health and cancer recovery segment –– where individuals are looking for the absolute cleanest water possible.

Plenty of other shopping segments love the Berkey Water filter, as well, but their success has long been hinged on markets on the lookout for the absolute best in water purification.

And the love that these segments have for the product is proven in their testimonials:


10 Ideas For Niche Products To Sell Online:
  1. Unique beaded necklaces.
  2. Hand-made frozen yogurt.
  3. Leather iPad cases.
  4. Bluetooth wireless speakers.
  5. Baby clothes.
  6. Mason jar pour caps.
  7. Fidget spinners.
  8. Organic beard oil.
  9. Bow ties.
  10. Wood apparel.

Niche Crafting Over Generations

The desire to honor my father and other farmers who provide seasonal organic food was the main motivation behind starting CORKY’S NUTS.

Growing up on our walnut farm, I witnessed the care and passion my father put into growing his walnuts.

It seemed only natural for me to create a company which allows people to experience what fresh organic walnuts taste like just after harvest, rather than walnuts that sit on store shelves for unknown periods of time.

–  Nicole Facciuto. Founder, CORKY’S NUTS

7. Spot business opportunities absolutely everywhere.

If the above suggestions aren’t resonating, here are a few ways to find great business ideas in your everyday life.

  • Start taking people seriously when they give you compliments. What is it that people tell you you’re great at? Perhaps family and friends can’t get get enough of your online reviews. This is exactly how Spearmint Love started. Founder Shari Lott was a once-time baby clothes blogger and reviewer. Soon, she realized she was gaining more traffic and praise than many of the brands she promoted. So, she decided to start calling in wholesale orders and selling the goods herself. Today, Spearmint Love is a wildly successful brand, and Sheri is a well-known trend-spotter in the industry.
  • Start snooping around websites like eBay, Amazon and Etsy. You’ll be amazed at the simple things being sold online, including vintage items found at a thrift store, party lights, dog toys, tablecloths, decorative pillows and wedding decor. Checkout a site like GolfEtail which uses eBay as an additional sales channel to significantly increase overall brand revenue.
  • Think about a new spin for old items. Even just giving something a new paint job can turn a $5 item into a $50 gem. Check out the angle Bread & Jam took on standard items you’d likely find anywhere, turning them into treasured pieces.
  • Consider impulse buys or items people buy regularly. This could include items like incense, candles, novelties and DVDs. NatoMounts, for instance, sells phone holders for cars –– which about 80% of their audience buys from their phone (but hopefully not in the car!).

Start Where You’re At and Build From There

I didn’t wake up thinking, “I’m going to sell medical supplies for a living!”

I started a Youtube vlog as a journal to hold myself accountable while trying yet another diet –– not thinking anyone one would be interested in my vlog and not realizing people were actually following me!

After losing 65 pounds in less than 6 months, people asked me for help. Long story short, MMS was born out of helping people be able to easily and inexpensively do the HCG diet.

It is all about helping people.

– April Rowden, Owner, Missouri Medical Supplies

Continue on to learn how to evaluate your list of business ideas to better understand what is realistic, feasible and market-ready.

FAQs About Selling Online:

How do you sell products online?

If you are interested in selling products online, we suggest the following steps to increase your chances of success.

It is rare that you will find any easy product to sell.

It takes work both pre and post-launch to successfully sell products online.

  1. Do market research.
  2. Finalize products to sell.
  3. Choose which platforms to sell on such as your own online store, Amazon, eBay, Facebook and other sites customers buy from.
  4. Market to your potential customers to drive traffic to product listings.

Where can I sell my products?

For many B2C ecommerce merchants, branded stores, along with Amazon and eBay account for over 90% of all sales.

Below are several places to sell your products online:

  • Your own branded store.
  • Amazon.
  • eBay.
  • Google Shopping.
  • Facebook.
  • Instagram.
  • Pinterest.
  • Etsy.
  • Craigslist.
  • Email.
  • Affiliate sites.

How do you start selling on Amazon?

  1. Decide what you want to sell.
  2. Choose either the Professional plan (sell an unlimited number of products at $39.99 per month or Individuals plan (pay $0.99 per item sold).
  3. Register and start listing products.
  4. Improve product visibility on Amazon.
  5. Drive traffic to your products.

After you list your products, customers will be able to purchase them on Amazon.com. However, you need to be strategic about helping customers find your products.

We suggest improving visibility of your products with tactics such as an Amazon SEO strategy.

We also recommend reading The Definitive Guide to Selling on Amazon for more ideas to help you start selling on Amazon.

Additional Resources:

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

As a budding online entrepreneur, there’s quite a bit of homework and first steps to take before you begin making money.

Each of the articles in these sections will walk you through how to set yourself up for long term online selling success. 

Successful Ecommerce Business Basics.

Designing Your Store.

Accepting Payments

Configuring Shipping.

Protecting Customer Data.

Make Your First Sale:

Once you have your site set up for success, it’s time to start driving traffic and converting visitors into customers. Here’s everything you need to increase your brand’s visibility and then stay top of mind (and wallet) with customers.

Driving Traffic.

Converting Shoppers.

Retaining Customers With Marketing.

Measuring Success.

Sell Everywhere:

The fastest growing business on the BigCommerce platform view themselves similarly to a stock portfolio: diversification is key to success.

Smart brands have multiple revenue streams to supplement their ecommmerce website. Better yet, modern consumers are agnostic to their final purchase destination.

This means that a customer has no preference on whether they shop on Amazon or your webstore. A consumer’s only preference is convenience. So, if you aren’t selling across channels, you could lose the sale to a competitor who has better diversified.

Here’s all the information you need to know to expand your revenue portfolio and 10x sales.

Selling on Amazon.

Selling on eBay.

Selling on Google.

Selling on Facebook.

Selling on Pinterest.

Selling on Twitter.

15 Ecommerce Success Stories:

The best how-to articles come right from the source – those business owners who have been knee deep in the day-in and day-out activities of success.

Learn below from 15 businesses who grew exponentially over the last 2 years – and read what they have in store for the year ahead.

  1. How Classified T-Shirts Secretly Became the Fastest Growing Retailer in the U.S.
  2. How Vivino Went from Store Launch to Profitability in 2 Months
  3. How to Build an Organic Baby Formula Empire in 2 Years or Less
  4. One Business’s Humble Attempt to Undo the Impact of Fast Fashion and Loose Labor Laws
  5. What Happens When Olympic Athletes Set Their Sights on Abolishing a Monopoly
  6. The Economics of Direct to Consumer Selling
  7. A Beauty Experiment for Beards Goes Viral – And It’s Badass
  8. Oh the Places Your Purchase Will Go – and the 10,000 Girls It Will Educate
  9. The Significance of Sneakers and the Definitive End to Toe Creases
  10. A (Nursing) Bra of a Different Comfort
  11. The Adult Coloring Book Craze is Coming to a T-Shirt Near You
  12. How a $1,000,000 Loss Turned into a $22,000,000 Gain
  13. How I Grew, Valued and Sold My Ecommerce Business
  14. How to Go From Idea to 1,000 Orders in 9 Months
  15. How to Drive 364% Revenue Growth from SEO

What’s Next?

Ideas are great, but it is all about execution.

It is now time to finalize the products you are going to sell, launch your online store and start driving traffic to your website. Good luck!

Know of any other trending products to sell online? Let us know in the comments below!

Want more insights like this?

We’re on a mission to provide businesses like yours marketing and sales tips, tricks and industry leading knowledge to build the next house-hold name brand. Don’t miss a post. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/find-product-niche-start-selling-online/feed/ 14
How to Evaluate Market Viability for Your Products https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/evaluate-product-market-viability/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/evaluate-product-market-viability/#respond Thu, 01 Feb 2018 14:00:39 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=11486 There are many things to consider when discussing the market potential for your product, including the ability for your business…]]>

There are many things to consider when discussing the market potential for your product, including the ability for your business to produce profit and ultimately scale (as BombTech Golf did it in 1 year!)

Formal research tools like concept testing, prototype testing, test markets and focus groups can help determine the market viability of a product.

However, these can be complex, expensive and time-consuming.

To make it easier, we’ve compiled a list of things to consider when determining if there’s a commercial market for your product.

Things to Consider During a Product Viability Analysis

To start, you’ll need to ask yourself some serious strategic questions about your product’s viability.

  • Is the idea practical?
  • What obstacles lie ahead?
  • Will it need support services of some kind to ensure customer satisfaction?

After you answer those, it’s time to consider the more tactical aspects of your product and business.

1. Consider product size and weight.

The size and weight of your product will have an impact on how much you sell.

If the product you’re considering is large, awkwardly shaped or heavy, you’re going to have some high shipping costs. UPS & FedEx rates and prices fluctuate, which could further impact your costs.

Think you can pass the cost of shipping on to your customers?

Not necessarily so.

Shipping cost is a top reason for cart abandonment.

Online retailers that offer free shipping have  increased conversion, and free shipping is now even considered the norm by many in the industry.

Free shipping however is tightening profit margins across all industries. In order to stay competitive while generating revenue, your best bet is to keep your product small and minimize shipping costs.

How to Market Your Shipping Policy

“Getting ship done” as they say is – well, hard. Consumer shipping expectations are consistently pushed to new limits every year. Not to worry though. Our shipping profitability guide will give you multiple strategies you can use to make sure you come out with your margins intact. 

Get the Guide

2. Consider product fragility.

Fragile products need extra attention when shipping to ensure they arrive in perfect condition.

Typically, durable products cost less to ship and lighten your customer service and reparation burden for products that break en route to the consumer.

They also usually cost less to store.

Fragility shouldn’t completely dissuade you from offering a certain product, but just keep in mind that opting to sell fragile goods will increase costs for shipping, inventory and customer service.

The Dryer Test

I always tell first time entrepreneurs to test out their shipping by putting their most fragile product in a box and packaging it correctly.

Then, put that box in the dryer.

Then, put a couple shoes or books in it.

Then, turn the dryer on and see what happens.

That’s going to be the shipping life of your product.

Make sure yours can pass the test!

–  Mindy Regnell, Product Marketing Specialist, BigCommerce.

3. Consider SKUs.

Many entrepreneurs forget that a single item can often contain multiple SKUs.

A SKU, stock keeping unit, typically refers to color, size and other variations of a single product.

In general, the more SKUs you have, the more attention, time and money you will need to spend in tracking and maintaining inventory.

Let’s look at how a t-shirt breaks down in SKUs to get a good idea of the process.

You’ll not only need to stock a variety of sizes (small, medium, large)…

But also colors in each size (small and red, medium and red, etc.)…

And perhaps even male, female and children’s sizes (small, red and women’s; medium, gray and children’s; large, blue and men’s).

Don’t let SKUs discourage you, but do be aware of the additional costs and reparations for product mix ups during fulfillment.

Also be aware that there are plenty of tools and resources to help you with inventory management to streamline this process.

Have a large catalog

See how BigCommerce helps brands with more than 9,000 SKUs manage growth across the board.

Read Bulk Apothecary's Story

4. Consider product lifespan.

Having a consumable or disposable product is great from a business perspective, because it provides you a better opportunity to earn consumer trust and build your business off of repeat sales.

Think of the grocery store model. Inventory churn is high, competition is fierce, but location and price point generate loyalty, pulling in consumers on a weekly basis.

Better yet, consider the subscription box business model, in which your customer signs up for monthly deliveries and payments.

Think recurring, if possible, when considering your product offering. Overall this can help lower your marketing costs and increase your average customer lifetime value.

The Possibility in Perishables

Selling perishable products isn’t impossible.

See how specialty gourmet cheese brand Di Bruno Bros runs both their brick-and-mortar and ecommerce business to drive top line growth.

Read Di Bruno Bros' Story

The Downside of Pursuing Perishable Products

There are many successful businesses out there that sell perishable products, including:

However, there are some obstacles to overcome with this type of product, including storage, shipping and production.

You’ll need to set proper expectations for clients on timelines and cost to help overcome reservations around purchasing.

Tortoise Supply does a particularly good job of providing details around who they are, how they care for and ship the animals they sell, how customers should care for them, and more.

As a result, they’re considered a thought leader in the pet shop space, offering a personalized and convenient experience that their customers prefer to local pet shops.

5. Consider seasonality.

Seasonality means that there are different levels of demand for a product throughout the year.

  • Do you buy sunscreen in winter?
  • How about holiday decorations in the summer?

Of course, there are different aspects to consider, including where your target audience is located (your winter could be their summer).

Seasonality is not at all an exact science and there are multiple solutions to the issue, including running timely promotions and shipping internationally.

Seasonality does affect revenue for all online stores, making seasons like the holidays much more profitable for some –– whereas a back-to-school event could be more profitable for others.

You’ll need to determine your own business downtime, and work to off-set expectations and costs during those periods.

Back to School Marketing Tips

The back-to-school season is a notoriously seasonally-driven shopping period.

Here are 14 tips to maximize your sales for this ready-to-purchase audience.

Get The Tips

6. Consider solving for pain points.

Selling a product that solves for a pain point doesn’t necessarily prevent you from offering a luxury item.

Check out Luxury of Watches, Ballettonet and Coast of New Zealand for some examples of lovely luxury items that are also functional.

That said, if you choose to pursue a product that solves a pain point or services a passion, you’ll naturally find it’s much easier to acquire customers than if you sell a luxury item.

Rock Tape solves a literal pain point for a large consumer segment –– athletes and those in physical therapy –– by producing a product that alleviates physical pain and discomfort.

7. Consider competition.

If your items are sold locally and readily available in major retail stores like Target, WalMart, Amazon or other online outlets, your ecommerce journey just became an uphill, snow-covered journey from the get-go.

That’s not to say that you can’t be successful selling a commonly found item, but the more niche your products, the less competition you’ll have.

Don’t let this deter you – after all, competition can be a good thing – just be sure to let it inform your market viability research.

Know your competition, but don’t focus on them

Be naive. Don’t turn your head for a second to focus on your competition.

Understand what it is that sets you apart and roll with it.

If you spend too much time trying to knock someone off or invest in a battle with competition, you’ve already lost.

– Steven Kocerka Owner, Declaration & Co. 

8. Consider yourself.

Yes, on top of choosing a product that’s viable in the market, you should select one that you actually enjoy yourself.

Building a successful business often requires long hours, and those can either fly by or drag on endlessly depending on how passionate you are about what you’re selling.

Be passionate, find yourself a niche and start selling to other passionate people just like you.

Next up, we’ll dive into some areas that tend to get folks hung up when starting an online store.

Grow Your Own Dream

Get started. The most important “secret” of business is picking something you are passionate about and working at it every day.

Use cost effective testing, learn from each test and keep going. Avoid “bet the ranch” type actions. Instead, use lots of small bets.

Use BigCommerce and all the help they and the internet have to offer.

Because being able to build something that is yours if invaluable. We live in an amazing country that affords everyone the opportunity to build their own dream.

With companies like BigCommerce, MailChimp, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest it is easier than ever to start and grow your own dream.

– Shari Lott, Spearmint LOVE

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How to Source and Manufacture Products for Your Online Business https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/source-products-online-business/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/source-products-online-business/#respond Thu, 01 Feb 2018 14:00:37 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=11443 Congrats, you’ve gotten through the most critical first step of starting an online store — selecting the perfect products to…]]>

Congrats, you’ve gotten through the most critical first step of starting an online store — selecting the perfect products to sell.

Now you need to figure out how you’ll source those products.

How you source products will serve as the foundation for your business, guiding your day-to-day activities.

In this chapter, you’ll learn about your options for sourcing: the perks, common pitfalls and the steps to successfully selling online.

What is Product Sourcing?

Product sourcing is the process by which a business attains a product to sell. There are a variety of methods by which sellers source their products. Most sellers use a combination of methods including dropshipping, wholesale, print of demand and custom manufactured.

Types of Product Sourcing:

You have three primary sourcing options to consider.

  1. DIY products or services.
  2. Work with a manufacturer or wholesaler.
  3. Hire a dropshipper.

No option is inherently better than another, but there are a variety of factors to weigh when determining which works best for your business –– and for you.

1. DIY products or services.

The idea of crafting your own product dates back centuries.

Today, thanks to the internet, you now have a much wider reach for selling handmade goods.

But if you’re thinking about creating your own products, there are some factors to consider.

Perks and Pitfalls:

You will have full control over your brand and will likely be coming into the space with something new.

Startup costs are typically low, although you’re going to need to put time and energy into your business, which is a sacrifice in and of itself.

You’ll want to make sure you’re always thinking ahead about how you will scale and possibly grow your product line over time in order to stay competitive and offer your customer base something new.

Tasks to Get Started:

  • Source materials: It could be from your local flea market, craft stores, estate sales, an established retailer or even friends and family. Identify your materials, where you’ll get them and how much they’ll cost.
  • Determine how you’ll ship orders: Will you be running to the post office or UPS store yourself, or would hiring a shipping service be worth saving time and energy?
  • Learn what it will take to ship: Give thought to packaging, since it will have downstream effects on total costs and could create shipping challenges later on.
  • Calculate how long your products take to make: You should know exactly how long it takes to make a product. Also give some thought as to whether or not you will make items to order or if you want to keep inventory on hand. Be sure to document any labor costs, whether it’s money spent or time spent.
  • Consider where you’ll store your inventory: Even if you’re lucky enough to have an empty room in your home, that probably won’t scale with your business. Look into alternatives like renting a space, opening a storefront or using 3PL.
  • Make a plan for communicating timelines: Your website should set expectations on how long it takes to craft a product and complete an order. You can do this in places like your product description and shipping and returns policy, plus reiterate in your transactional emails. It’s always better to be transparent and upfront so your shoppers feel confident purchasing from you.

Passion + DIY

The motivation for starting my business was a sudden realization that the beauty industry is not what it pretends to be – that false advertising and marketing tactics based on fear were methods employed by the larger companies.

I felt that people were taken advantage of and that companies manufacturing products of high quality with healthy beneficial ingredients were scarce.

There was a need in the market and since I was already making some products for my own use and that of my friends, formulating more products was an easy next step.

I knew I would make a better product and I felt called to share the information I know and deliver healthier and better products for my customers and for the planet.

– Mira Herman, Owner, Rosemira

2. Working with a manufacturer or wholesaler.

Working with a manufacturer or wholesaler means you’re essentially hiring a partner to develop your product.

This is a great option if you aren’t able to make a product yourself, or when you’re ready to scale your DIY product by hiring someone else to make it for you, or to supplement for higher than planned sales.

Perks and Pitfalls:

While this gives you the option to pursue a unique idea or sell popular products without making anything yourself, you may need to invest more heavily upfront.

You can still have control over your brand and the quality of your product, plus get a great deal of assistance with production.

Items to Consider:

  • Finding products: This can be as simple as forming a business relationship with a friend who makes a product you’d like to sell, product sourcing using Alibaba, partnering with an existing company and taking their business online or from B2B to B2C, hiring a manufacturer, building relationships with makers on Instagram or using Etsy Wholesale. If you’re looking for a manufacturer to make your products, you can easily research options online. Finding the right partner can take some time, so don’t get discouraged.
  • Checking references: As with any business, you need to make sure you’re dealing with someone who is legit. Reach out to others who have used the manufacturer or wholesaler, and maybe do a little digging at the Better Business Bureau. It’s a good sign if the company you’re researching asks for information that proves that you have a legitimate business, too. Be prepared to provide necessary licences or tax information.
  • Evaluating your options: Be sure to ask questions of each company you’re considering so you can make the best decision.
    • What will the total cost be? Take into consideration production, shipping and potential hidden fees.
    • How long will it take for them to make/ship the product?
    • What does shipping and inventory management look like? Will you need to ship and store or is that included as part of their service? Is there any additional cost? What are the timelines and conditions? Do you have control over package branding?
    • What do the contracts and terms look like? Is there any wiggle room for things your business or customers need? Is there an evaluation period or terms for termination?
    • What do support and communication look like? How frequently will you be updated on information like inventory, product changes or even discounts?
    • What are the minimum order quantities? Will you have to commit to a certain number of units or spend a minimum amount?
  • Getting a sample: Before you sign on with anyone, make sure their products meet your expectations. While some manufacturers will charge a fee to send you a sample, you can often negotiate a deal to only pay for it if you keep it.
  • Picking one: Weigh your options and get going! You want to ensure you’re making a smart decision, but that doesn’t mean you should sit in research mode forever. Worst case, you pivot and go another direction.

How You Run Business is How You Give Back

I run my business to honor the memory of my father & hero Arnold who was a Vietnam Veteran.

I do this in 3 ways:

  • Give back 5% of my net profits each year to nonprofits serving Veterans,
  • Offer 15% off entire store to Veterans and Active Duty military
  • I support the American Manufacturers. 99% of my product offering is 100% Made in the U.S.A.

– Philip Kauppinen, Owner, Grand New Flag

3. Hiring a dropshipper.

Dropshipping is a method of product sourcing that lets you purchase from a vendor and list their products on your online store.

The vendor charges you for the products as they are sold, and typically ships orders on your behalf.

It’s a great option for starting a new online business, but is also good for expanding the product catalog of an existing store.

Perks and Pitfalls:

Dropshipping means you don’t need to deal with inventory, packaging or fulfilment.

The catch is that you’ll typically have more competition, as many of the products offered by dropshippers are readily available all over the internet.

However, most have a wide selection of products from which you can choose. Dropshipping usually gives you a lower profit margin, so you’ll need to sell a lot before making a good profit.

Items to Consider:

The steps to find a dropshipping supplier or aggregate dropshipper (a dropshipper that works with a variety of dropshippers for you) are nearly the same as those you’d follow for the manufacturing option.

  • Find some options
  • Check their references
  • Evaluate all of your options
  • Ask for samples
  • Pick one and go

Please note that, as with anything, there are always fringe cases.

Don’t get discouraged or give up on an idea just because it doesn’t fit into any of the above scenarios. These are intended to serve as a guide to help you begin research and bubble up your most profitable and realistic business ideas.

Continue on to learn about how to choose an ecommerce platform and finally launch.

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How to Identify and Analyze Your Target Market in 2018 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/target-market-analysis/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/target-market-analysis/#comments Thu, 01 Feb 2018 14:00:35 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=11816 Although your products might appeal to a large group of people, it doesn’t make sense to market to everyone. Your…]]>

Although your products might appeal to a large group of people, it doesn’t make sense to market to everyone.

Your brand will have what is called a “target market.”

What is a Target Market?

You need to identify the people who really want or need what you’re offering.

Targeting, or “segmenting” these people means you’ll be able to build your store for the right audience, efficiently using your resources to impress and attract your potential customers.

  1. First, figure out the need for your product or service, focusing on what problem it can solve.
  2. Then refine your target market by identifying who has bought your product or service already. This includes target demographics, audience type, and any other attributes about your target customer segment. If your product or service is brand new, a good alternative might be looking at your competitors to get additional insights.

The toughest part of this process is you must avoid making assumptions.

For example, if you want to start a handmade pet biscuit business, you are probably an expert on their many benefits.

But don’t assume consumers know these things as well. They may not even know such a product exists.

As tempting as this is to fill in the blanks, you should engage with your potential customers and conduct as much research as possible.

As your business grows you should continue to evaluate and possibly change your target market.

Your target market is absolutely dynamic.

For instance, down the road you may want to expand and sell internationally.

Or you might think you are catering specifically to men, when in actuality you are selling to wives and girlfriends who are shopping for their fellas.

Knowing who you’re targeting, and continually refining it, will ensure you’re on the right track.

How to Identify and Analyze Your Target Market

In this chapter, you’ll learn how to conduct the research to find ecommerce business opportunities and accurately answer the following questions:

  • What are the features of your business, products or services?
  • What are the benefits of these features?
  • How do the benefits help the user?
  • How does your target market shop?
  • What is the typical age and gender of your target market? Do they usually have children? What is their average income and education?
  • What are their common interests? These can include attitudes, values and lifestyle.
  • Is your target market comfortable with online? What web and offline marketing methods engage them?

Let’s dive in to target market analysis.

1. Gather intel.

Clearly defining your target audience — whether it’s senior citizens, busy moms or millennials in California — can help you answer questions and overcome obstacles as you kickstart your online store.

Some of the business questions you’ll be addressing include:

  • Is the potential market for your product or service large enough?
  • Do you need to alter your business idea to best appeal to this audience?
  • Should you tailor your product or service in some way to maximize effectiveness?
  • How can you target your marketing efforts to optimize reach with the most promising potential buyers?

The Right Action Takes Time

“I was running ads on Facebook with custom audiences and I was having a drop off. I would have a campaign and it would work really, really well at first, and then it would start fading,” says John Lott, partner at Spearmint Ventures.

“My initial inclination was that the ad was just getting stale, but I was wrong. Where I was wrong was that actually what was happening was the people were changing. The mom who was buying that product was no longer in the same life stage. I had to adjust my audiences to be attentive. That took me six months to figure out.”

See how they did it.

2. Create customer profiles and market segments.

Those consumers who find your product or service appealing often share similar characteristics, which will help you fine-tune your messaging from top to bottom.

You can craft a customer profile to uncover those shared traits. This includes psychographic data about how they behave, and basic information to help you identify your audience.

Demographic criteria will get you started:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Gender
  • Income level
  • Education level
  • Marital or family status
  • Occupation
  • Ethnic background

Psychographic criteria goes a little deeper, painting a more complete picture of your audience:

  • Interests
  • Hobbies
  • Values
  • Attitudes
  • Behaviors
  • Lifestyle preferences

Every industry, business and product is different, so these lists are by no means the end-all-be-all — more of a starting point to evaluate market segment size and opportunity.

Don’t be afraid to make adjustments and include criteria that add interesting layers to your profiles — the better you know your customer, the better you can sell to them.

3. Be specific.

Narrowly defining your target customer is more of an art than a science.

As you get started, try to be as specific as possible.

By starting with a detailed customer profile, you’ll be able to make the most educated decisions when it comes to building custom audiences and crafting compelling advertising and marketing campaigns.

New entrepreneurs often worry that they’ll be too specific as they conduct their research, fearing that it will limit their reach.

In reality, identifying a specific target audience helps ensure that you make decisions that are dictated by your customers, which sets you up for long-term success.

Drill down to who your audience truly is:

  • Their attitudes
  • Beliefs
  • Pain points

Understanding their age and income is the first step, but drilling down to the core customer problem is what will help set your products — and brand — apart from the competition.

4. Tap existing resources.

If you do a quick search online, you’ll often find existing resources that can help you pull together information about your industry, the market segment, your competition and your ideal potential customer.

The best part is, someone has already done the work.

In most instances, the information you gather won’t cost you a thing.

However, the downside is that the research you find may not be as focused or useful as you’d like.

Below are a few resources to help get you started:

  • Quantcast provides free, accurate and dependable audience insights for over 100 million web and mobile destinations
  • Alexa transforms raw data into meaningful insights that will help you find your competitive advantage
  • Google Trends uncovers where your target customers are predominantly located
  • Ahrefs provides a tool to help you identify all the backlinks to any competitors, showing you which industries and third-party websites may be the most interested in what you have to offer. This is one of the best tools for finding SEO and online marketing opportunities.

All of this information will help you learn more about your target audience so you can develop a strong brand identity.

5. Look at your competition.

In the last chapter, we showed you how to complete a competitive analysis. Now take all you learned in your research and ask yourself these questions about your competitors:

  • What’s their market positioning? What are customers actually purchasing from them?
  • How about their pricing? What are their customers willing to pay? Would they pay more if you offered something extra?
  • What are customers saying on social media? What social media channels are they interacting with the most? What other interests do they list on their personal social media pages? What do they do for a living? What are their hobbies? How are they describing their business and products?
  • Are reviews screaming with opportunity? What weaknesses did you identify from their reviews that you may be able to address with your business?

Depending on how well your competitor is doing, you may not want to go after the same exact market segment.

On the other hand, if their customers are extremely unsatisfied with current offerings, you may want to jump in.

A smart business person will identify competitors’ weaknesses and overlooked areas of the market, and capitalize on them to drive business success and concentrate marketing efforts.

6. Conduct your own primary research.

You can learn a lot about your target audience through primary research, which involves gathering data directly from consumers.

Although primary research can be a little more expensive than other methods, it allows you to truly hear the voice of your customer and get answers to specific questions about your business.

Here are some things you can try out:

  • Distribute surveys: Send surveys to existing and potential customers via mail, email or a web-based service like SurveyMonkey.
  • Conduct interviews: Talk to consumers who might fit in your target market. For example, you could stand in a high-traffic area at a trade show and ask attendees to answer a few short questions.
  • Assemble focus groups: Get feedback from a small group of consumers who fit your ideal customer profile via Q&A sessions and group discussions.

7. Look at your business in a fresh light.

Now that you have some serious insight into who you are selling to, it’s time to ask yourself a series questions.

  • Do you feel there are enough potential customers within your target audience to start a brand new business?
  • Will your target market benefit from your product or service?
  • Will this target market see a true need for it? Will they come back repeatedly to purchase?
  • Do you understand what drives your target market to make buying decisions?
  • Can your target market afford your product or service? If so, how frequently can they buy?
  • Can you reach your market with your message? How easily accessible are they?

Answering these questions will help you understand if you are truly ready to jump into business or if you need to pivot your online store (and its potential products) to appeal to a different market.

It will also enable you to perform targeted marketing efforts that put the right message in front of key segments.

You’ll want to keep data on your target audience up to date.

Every six to 12 months, conduct additional primary research and refine your customer profile accordingly. This will help you refine your product strategy and brand voice.

As the marketplace shifts and evolves, your ideal clientele may change. Get ahead of the curve, and you’ll also be one step ahead of your competition.

Check out the SBA’s target market analysis page for more tips.

Want more insights like this?

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How to Conduct a Competitive Analysis for Your Online Business [with Templates] https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/how-perform-competitive-analysis/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/how-perform-competitive-analysis/#comments Thu, 01 Feb 2018 14:00:16 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=11767 By analyzing your competition and then monitoring them on an ongoing basis, you’ll get to know their behavior, enabling you…]]>

By analyzing your competition and then monitoring them on an ongoing basis, you’ll get to know their behavior, enabling you to anticipate their actions and stay one step ahead.

This is known as competitive analysis.

You want to make sure shoppers have a reason to pick you over everyone else.

Although performing a competitive analysis isn’t rocket science, it does go beyond the few simple Google searches needed to identify and categorize your competitors.

In this chapter, you’ll learn how to dissect each competitor’s website and understand their overall approach so that you can develop and sustain a competitive advantage.

Respect Your Competition

While growing up my father, who also was a small business owner, had a wall plaque in his office that essentially echoed the sentiments of the importance of embracing, appreciating and understanding your competition.

This personally stuck with me and is something I have continually practiced in the 14 years we have operated as an ecommerce company.

– Ken Sadowsky, Co-Owner, Ribbon Warehouse

Why is it Important to Research Competitors?

The research you gather about your competitors is often referred to as: “Competitive Research.”

This kind of research is crucial to your success as a business because it arms you with the ability to quickly identify industry trends and adapt to competitor campaigns or strategies in order to maintain a foothold or out-compete them entirely.

Don’t Start in What You Don’t Know

Learn your industry and your competition before you start.

– Carl Koop, Owner, Bijou Basin Ranch

How to Conduct Your Competitive Analysis

1. Categorize your competitors.

Whether you want to admit it or not, competitors are out there and they’re likely just as hungry as you are.

This chapter details a simple, easy-to-use process that will help you conduct a competitor analysis that discovers and keep tabs on other retailers in your space.

Afterward, you’ll be able to:

  • Capitalize on their weaknesses and strengths to help start your  business.
  • Have a better understanding of the landscape, plus learn how to best position your business for success.
  • Identify, understand and keep tabs on your competition so you never have to worry about them sneaking up behind you.

This process is known as competitive intelligence gathering.

Find Your Competitors

There are many ways to identify key competitors in your industry, but Google and Amazon will likely be where you do most of your legwork.

Start with a simple search for your business name, product ideas and overarching business idea.

From there, check out different social media channels, organizations and online communities.

Other resources you can use to dig up information on your competitors include Alexa, Keyword Spy, Hoovers, Ahrefs and ReferenceUSA.

Your ultimate goal at this stage should be to cast a wide net and get a comprehensive view of the competitive landscape.

Categorize Your Competitors

As you find competitors, you’ll want to categorize them into various levels, from direct competitors to businesses that don’t currently compete with you, but could easy pivot.

Here is an easy way to categorize sellers in your industry:

  • Primary Competition: These are your direct competitors, which means they’re either targeting the same audience or have a similar product — or both.
  • Secondary Competition: These competitors may offer a high- or low-end version of your product, or sell something similar to a completely different audience. If you’re selling Timex watches, a secondary competitor might be a Rolex retailer.
  • Tertiary Competition: This category includes businesses that are tangentially related to yours, and really comes in handy when you’re looking to expand your product catalog. These could be related products and services that are trending, as well as businesses that may be beneficial to partner with further down the line. For instance, if you sell jewelry, a tertiary competitor may sell gems and stones.

As you conduct your research, keep things organized in a spreadsheet or database.

To start, track the basics; name of store, location, mission statement (if they have one), product offering, strengths and weaknesses of their business, and category of competition.

Get Started Now

Here’s a downloadable Competitive Analysis Template spreadsheet you can use to track your competitors and stay organized as you do your competitive research.

Get the template now.

2. Examine your competitor’s website & customer experience.

Once you’ve identified your competitors, you’ll want to analyze their websites.

To start, take a close look at the following items:

  • How solid is their product photography? How do they display their products and help communicate details?
  • How detailed are their product descriptions? What information do they include? What information is missing?
  • Where are their calls to action throughout the online shopping experience? Are they obvious or do they get lost due to a poor color scheme or positioning?
  • Are they trying to build an email list with a newsletter sign-up prompt? How prominent is it?
  • Where are their social media icons positioned?
  • Do they have a blog? How frequently do they post? What type of information do they tackle?
  • Is their site optimized for mobile?
  • What methods for contact do they offer? Do they have limited hours for phone support?
  • How long does it take them to respond to email, live chat and contact form submissions?
  • Do they have an abandoned cart saver feature? If so, at what cadence do they send the emails and what messaging is included?
  • What information is included in their marketing banners and callouts? This may help you start uncovering their competitive positioning within the market.
  • How frequently are they running promotions? What benefits do those promotions provide to their customers and potential shoppers, as well as their business?

Again, these are just to get you started.

Each website will be different depending on the market they are trying to reach and the products or services they are selling.

The goal here is to not only get a handle on their strengths and weaknesses (which can also be done with a SWOT analysis), but to help you start thinking as a dynamic business owner.

From there, you’ll be able to identify your competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Keep Tabs But Don’t Obsess

Design, create and promote your product/service in an authentic manner.

Keep tabs on the competition but don’t let it distract from your own vision and endeavors.

– Anne, Owner, Santa Barbara Gift Baskets

3. Identify your competitor’s market positioning.

By identifying your competitor’s positioning strategy, you’ll start to get a feel for your market’s demands and expectations.

Take a look at their website and marketing messaging and ask the following:

  • What are customers really buying from them? Are they going for price? Experience?
  • How are they differentiating their product from their competition? What features and benefits do they highlight the most in their marketing copy?
  • What makes their product or service unique (according to them)?

These questions will help you understand to whom your competitors are speaking and how they position themselves within the market, which will pay dividends as you work on how you’ll position yourself against or alongside them.

To gather as much information as possible, be sure to:

  • Sign up for their newsletter: Get an understanding of their business and examples of communication, which say a lot about the competitive environment.
  • Subscribe to and follow their blog: See what types of content they are covering and at what cadence
  • Follow them on social media: Get a feel for how they speak to and serve their customers
  • Purchase a product: Check out the product itself, but also note the time it takes to ship and how their packaging looks
  • Put an item in your cart and abandon the checkout process: Monitor whether or not they send an abandoned cart email series and note what language and structure they use for their emails

How Will Your Brand Stand Out?

Since the apparel industry is fiercely competitive, it is important to create a brand with a unique message that cuts through the noise, separates you from the rest and resonates with the community of customers you would like to serve.

It is your unique message and mission that will make the difference since, assuming the pricing, quality and durability of your apparel items may remain the same as your competition.

– Erik Brandon, Founder, Fall3nWarrior

4. Take a peek at pricing.

Your pricing strategy is going to be one of the most important aspects of your online business — and potentially a competitive advantage.

There are several factors to be considered when setting prices for your products.

The best place to start is to look at how your competitors have priced their products. You’ll learn what your target market is willing to pay and get an understanding of what prices might work well for your business.

Be sure to look at their prices across a variety of channels, first Google and Amazon, as well as eBay and Alibaba (for the B2B sector).

Your prices don’t necessarily have to be less than your competition.

Look at the information you gathered on market positioning and figure out what it is you’re actually selling to your customers.

Your target market may be willing to pay more for peace of mind, expedited shipping or just overall website experience.

Remember to consider all the research you’ve been completing around general startup and business costs as we’ve walked through in previous posts.

You must maintain profitable margins in order to run your business. You cannot compromise in this arena.

Make Pricing Your Strength

Our biggest strength is that we provide great products at better prices than our huge, mega-million dollar competitors through aggressive pricing, a wonderfully clean and easy to shop website, and a “mom and pop” sense of comfort.

– Jeff Saporito, Vice President & Co-Founder, Affordable Vet

5. Problem solve for shipping.

As with pricing, at this point in time, you’ll just want to gather intel as to how your competition handles shipping, as well as how they communicate expectations.

Because shipping is a top reason for cart abandonment, having reasonable, competitive shipping costs is extremely important for your online store’s success.

If you can’t afford to set competitive shipping prices at the start, what little things can you offer or do differently to set yourself up for success, e.g, personalization, gift cards, etc.?

Strategies to Make Ship Work For You

Free shipping isn’t viable for every business. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be competitive with shipping offers to drive higher AOV and increased conversions.

This guide by shipping experts ShipperHQ will walk you through everything you need to know.

Get your guide here.

6. Take a temperature check with reviews.

This is just a no-brainer.

Take the time to find as many reviews of your competitors as possible, including everything from product reviews on their website to business reviews on social media to comments left on their blog.

Get a temperature check from their audience as to how healthy and client-centric their business is and decide if it’s a strength or weakness you can capitalize on.

You may see an opportunity to let your customer service shine above the other players in your competitive environment.

If you find a lot of reviews on a product similar to one you’ll sell, it’s a good sign that people are interested in buying it.

If the reviews are from customers who aren’t happy with the service provided, the condition in which the product arrived, or the product quality, those could be ways to help differentiate your business.

Community Built. Community Proud

Our Facebook page has almost 16,000 fans! Our email blasts go out to 7,000 regular customers.

We ship worldwide and offer above and beyond customer service.

Also our rewards program has driven sales to us from customers who normally purchase from our competitors.

Our community is our #1 most successful growth tactic.

– Jeffrey Silver – Managing Partner, Awesome Diecast

7. Review social media.

Looking at your competitors’ social media accounts has multiple benefits.

If they have many followers, and especially if they are actively engaged, it’s a good sign that there is a market for your products.

Plus you’ll get a good idea of how customers feel about their business, and see what works well and what doesn’t for engaging with your own client base.

Of course, if a competitor does social really well, it also means that you’ll need to step up your game and come up with a new way of engaging your market — or possibly choose a different mix of customers all together.

If your competitors don’t have a decent following, it could indicate that the market is weak, your target market doesn’t use social media, or simply that there is room for your business to take the lead at engaging with customers.

Take a look at all of the social media channels you can think of — including Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit and Twitter — and ask:

  • What is their social media presence like overall?
  • Which social media channels do they use the most?
  • How do they speak with their client base?
  • How often do they interact with their following?
  • How frequently do they post something new?
  • Which social media channels are they missing? Is there opportunity for you there?
  • What are they posting?
  • What percentage of posts are about their business?
  • What percentage is solely meant to increase engagement or gain followers?

Last but not least, check out some alternative social channels as well.

This could include things like knitting groups, forums, meet up groups, blogs and beyond.

Also use tools like Ahrefs to gauge the amount of organic traffic your competitors are receiving.

It may show you opportunities to optimize your site for keywords that you’re currently not targeting.

Think Outside the Box to Win Big Online

TreadBands growth has happened by word of mouth highlighted with social media, specifically Instagram, to help entice a new buyer.

Instead of traditional wholesale methods to bring our product to market –– like SEO, for instance –– we went the route of traveling to events to speak to our potential customers and educate them about the product.

From here people started buying the product, telling their friends and searching online for more info.

We put our efforts in social media to tell the story through pictures and creating a brand around idea of adventure because you can wear a TreadBand literally anywhere.

That small difference and the time we took to get in front of people help us grow so much!

– Laura Maring, Founder and Creative Director, Treadband

8. Use these bonus items and tools for competitive analysis.

  • Get the gritty details: Want to know how long your competitors have been in business? How about the date they registered their domain, their contact information, server statistics and more? Check out WHOis.net.
  • See if they’re hiring: Find out what positions they’re hiring for, if any. This can indicate the health of the business, plus give you a feel for the company culture.
  • Find out about funding: Are they seeking additional funding? This can tell you how well they’re doing and give you ideas on how to position yourself. Be sure to look on Crunchbase for their investment portfolio. Also, Check out places like Indiegogo and Kickstarter.
  • Stay updated: Google Alerts will send you email updates based on keywords. Setting up alerts for your competitors in addition to your own business will help you keep up with any news you need to know. Also set up alerts for industry terms to monitor new market developments that could affect your business.

Remember, regularly performing a competitive analysis doesn’t mean you need to watch your competitors like a hawk or let them keep you up at night, but you should keep tabs on how their businesses are changing and watch for new challengers in your space.

With all this information, you can put together a competitive strategy that highlights your strengths — which generally align with weaknesses from your competition.

Now you’re one step closer to claiming market share and growing sales.

Continue on to learn how to identify your target market and begin promoting your business to potential customers.

Want more insights like this?

We’re on a mission to provide businesses like yours marketing and sales tips, tricks and industry leading knowledge to build the next house-hold name brand. Don’t miss a post. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

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10 Online Business Laws You Need to Know for Internet Selling [Updated 2018] https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/online-business-laws/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/online-business-laws/#comments Thu, 01 Feb 2018 14:00:04 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=11568 After you’ve evaluated your online store idea and have a plan for product sourcing, it’s wise to research the restrictions…]]>

After you’ve evaluated your online store idea and have a plan for product sourcing, it’s wise to research the restrictions and regulations that may affect you when opening an ecommerce store.

Understanding these issues before you try to start selling online will help you plan wisely and save you time, energy and money.

In this chapter, we’ll highlight some of the obstacles that may lie ahead for your business.

Many of these issues are just part of the cost of selling products on the internet, but some may come as a surprise.

Knowing about them ahead of time is the key to working through them.

1. Taxes.

First, know that every state and country has different expectations and standards when it comes to taxes.

That means you have to conduct some research and understand your target market.

For instance, if your store’s demographic is located in the U.S., you’ll likely want to display your prices exclusive of tax. However, if your target market is Australia, where shoppers are accustomed to seeing all-inclusive prices, you’ll want to include tax.

Other issues are related to what you are selling and where you are selling it from.

For instance:

  • If you are located in New York and want to sell clothing, know that clothing is taxed in your state.
  • In Britain, VAT tax applies to all non-essential goods.
  • In California, items you sell in plastic bottles will carry a $0.11 recycling free, in addition to other taxes.

To cover all your bases, talk to a tax professional or whatever local authority is available to you.

They will be able to help you understand specific instances that may affect your product or business, give you insights on how you need to charge tax for your business’s location and help you apply for necessities like a tax ID, as well as let you know if you qualify for sales tax exemption and reseller certificates.

Keep in mind, too, that this information — and the regulations around it — is constantly changing.

This is just one of the many reasons why having a tax professional on hand or working with your local tax authority will be an important aspect of running a healthy business. Or, you can use an app to automate much of the process.

Have a Business Blueprint from Shipping to Taxes

Make sure that you have a blueprint for your business, even if you do not have a full business plan.

Make sure you have a life cycle written out of how you will market/source/sell and get your product to the customer.

Also when your sales ramp up, invest in an online shipping tool to automate shipping. This cut our cycle time significantly.

Be sure to set up your business bank account to keep everything separate from your personal business. Unless you are extremely good at accounting, find a good bookkeeper to record all of your expenses and hire a CPA that can file your taxes. If your record keeping is timely, it will save you money on your taxes.

All of these steps will set up a framework that will allow your business to grow.

– Laura LeMond, CEO/ Ownerm, Mosaic Weighted Blankets

2. Payment gateways.

There are many payment gateways available for ecommerce businesses.

Don’t feel limited by the fact that many of them will have restrictions on specific products or services you may want to sell.

When you’re vetting payment gateways, just be sure to ask if they have any limitations around certain products, in addition to whether they are hosted or non-hosted, include anti-fraud features, or require transaction fees, termination fees, monthly fees or setup fees.

BigCommerce connects with multiple payment gateways so you can choose which is right for your business. Learn more about the most commonly used:

The Power of Payment Choice

Our most successful growth tactic to date has been the ability to offer multiple channels of markets and utilizing accepted payment programs through integration.

– Marshall Murdough, Manager Ecommerce, Simplay3

3. Trademarks, patents and copyrights.

There tends to be some common misconceptions about what these words actually mean, with must-know legalities and laws around each one.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office defines them as the following:

  • Trademark: A word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.
  • Patent: A limited duration property right relating to an invention, granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in exchange for public disclosure of the invention.
  • Copyright: Protects works of authorship, such as writings, music and works of art that have been tangibly expressed.

Depending on what product you plan to sell, you may or may not want to apply for one of these.

Doing so isn’t strictly necessary, but you should at least check to make sure you’re not infringing on other patents or trademarks with your products or business.

For instance, if you want to sell t-shirts with Star Wars characters on them, you’re going to run into trouble.

Simply make sure to research with the appropriate copyright, patent and trademark organization. They’ll help you start off on the right foot.

Invention is the Mother of Entrepreneurship

For Emily Ironi, as for the founder of Spanx, an innovation turned into an invention – which spawned a business life all of it’s own.

Read the Dairy Fairy story.

4. Shipping restrictions.

Most shipping companies clearly note their restricted items.

Not all shippers restrict the same items, so you should have options — just do a little research to see if there’s a provider that will take on your product.

Typically restrictions are placed on items like:

  • Aerosols
  • Air bags
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Ammunition
  • Animals
  • Cigarettes
  • Dry ice
  • Explosives
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Hazardous materials
  • Nail polish
  • Perfumes
  • Perishables
  • Poison

Also note that some providers may allow you to ship usually-restricted items, but will require some extra paperwork and fees. You’ll want to take this into consideration as you evaluate your provider.

For information on shipping internationally, check out the Federal Trade Commission’s Electronic Commerce: Selling Internationally guide, which will help answer questions about taxes, duties and customs laws.

5. Inventory.

If you’ll be holding substantial inventory, you should also check your lease, deed or zoning codes to see if there are any prohibitions on running a business like the one you’re contemplating out of your home.

Zoning Laws Matter

When Nine Line first launched, orders began coming in more quickly than they expected. Soon, they moved inventory and shipping to a foreclosed home they bought for the storage.

From the local police’s point of view, however, it wasn’t t-shirt shipping the squad first assumed when they staked out the house.

Find out how Nine Line overcame a police raid in Florida, and used it to help bolster their business.

Read the Nine Line story.

6. Age restrictions.

Anytime you launch a website, it’s essential to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

This act includes quite a few regulations, but the one that will likely apply to your site is the inability to collect any personal information from a child under the age of 13.

If you’re planning on selling a product or service that tailors specifically to a young audience, you’ll need to abide by COPPA regulations.

As far as age verification requirements for ecommerce stores selling age-restricted items, you should look into your country’s specific codes.

Sites selling items like vapes or alcohol, for instance, need to have age verification tools before checkout in order to be legally sold, for instance.

Every country is different as far as their demands on how to run a business, and things get especially tricky when it comes to age restrictions on products.

Do your research and stay on top of legislation to ensure your business is on the up-and-up.

7. Business insurance.

There are multiple types of insurance for small businesses, including general liability, product liability, professional liability, commercial liability and home-based insurance.

Reach out to your local provider to find out which type would be best for your business and location.

During your vetting process, it’s a good idea to at least take a look at product liability insurance. It’s intended for companies that manufacture, wholesale, distribute and retail a product and may be liable for its safety.

Also look into professional liability insurance (also known as errors and omissions insurance), which protects your business against malpractice, error and negligence.

8. Licenses and permits.

Depending on which product you decide to offer, you may need a license to sell it.

This varies based on the country in which you’re located, so contact your local licensing department.

Legal Zoom is also a great resource that can not only help with licensing, but also with some of the other red-tape items in this section.

“If you’re selling special products to a regulated industry (e.g., medical devices or holistic health care supplements), you’ll need to check with your state to see if you need to be licensed to provide those kinds of products or service,” wrote Nina Kauman for Entrepreneur.

“But generally, the sale of digital information, clothing or handcrafted items (made in the USA) doesn’t require a special business license. Rather, the business licensing required for an online retail business is not substantially different than that of a storefront business.”

A Business License At Any Age

At 11, I started selling Bubblicious Bubble Gum to fellow students at school and on the school bus. I would buy a pack of 5 pieces for $0.25, then sold each piece individually for $0.25, grossing $1.25 a pack.

I built it up to a consistent $40 a day in gum sales before the school shut me down. They said I “needed a business license.”

More likely it was because I was creating too big of a distraction for”learning. It was an awesome learning experience for me though!

I was 26 when I started me first real business –– this time with a license.

– David Skeen, Owner, Matboard Plus

9. PCI compliance.

PCI compliance is a necessary protection for online sellers, and nearly all SaaS ecommerce platforms have it baked in to some degree.

Online businesses tend to be prime targets for data theft, which is why ecommerce providers take it so seriously.

However, make sure to educate yourself.

Being PCI compliant doesn’t just mean providing a secure, encrypted checkout experience — you’ll also need to avoid storing any purchasing information on paper or via recording (e.g., if someone were to give you their card number over the phone).

BigCommerce has your covered.

BigCommerce takes care of the vast majority of your PCI Compliance needs. Our Cardholder Data Environment is PCI DSS 3.1 Level 1 certified as both a Merchant and a Service Provider. This protects against credit card data breaches and eliminates the significant cost and hassle of compliance.

What it takes to become PCI Compliant.

10. What you didn’t know you needed to know.

There are also individual platform requirements that you may need to be aware of before starting your business.

For instance, when you download Facebook Messenger (which you can now use to transfer payments!), you are agreeing to have Facebook listen to you and serve ads based on what you say.

No, you were not imagining ads popping up after having a conversation with your spouse in the kitchen earlier that night.

Understanding the implications of all these laws is essential for the health of your business — and the protection of consumers who become your customers.

Continue on to the next chapter to learn how to conduct market research to ensure that your product idea is not only feasible, but profitable, too.

Want more insights like this?

We’re on a mission to provide businesses like yours marketing and sales tips, tricks and industry leading knowledge to build the next house-hold name brand. Don’t miss a post. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

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10 Proven Steps For Online Promotions That Actually Drive Sales [VIDEO] https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/10-proven-steps-online-promotions-actually-drive-sales-video/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/10-proven-steps-online-promotions-actually-drive-sales-video/#comments Thu, 15 Oct 2015 12:40:43 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=10595 Wondering why your online store’s promotions are not taking off like you’d like? You’ve got to understand that an ecommerce promotional…]]>

Wondering why your online store’s promotions are not taking off like you’d like? You’ve got to understand that an ecommerce promotional campaign is not just about sprinkling in some social or sending an email to your client base. It takes a strategy that targets every touchpoint, from beginning to end.

Watch this week’s #SellMore video to find out 10 steps to running a powerful promotion. After all, you want to build a better mousetrap and catch more customers, right? Scroll down to see the steps broken out.


Don’t misunderstand what I’m about to show you. You can absolutely mix and match, experiment and run exclusive promotions “for our Facebook Fans only” or partner with blogs to deliver special deals to readers throughout the entire year (not just holidays). However, the following checklist is chock-full of items and channels you should consider when planning a promotion for your ecommerce website. Do them all, and you’ve built a better mousetrap.

10 proven steps for online promotions that actually drive sales

  1. Determine your goal: Before you figure out what to do, you need to determine the goal of the campaign. Are you trying to increase your number of customers, increase the number of orders placed by existing customers or increase your average order value? Each goal will help you figure out the best plan of attack.
  2. Get your design together: Creating a unified branded experience adds to the level of professionalism of your store. It also builds continuing excitement around your campaign. Pull together a design to be used across your website, social, email, etc. and keep it simple. Make sure your date ranges and other relevant information including calls to action are clearly displayed.
  3. Crank it up with carousel images: Call attention to the promotion as soon as a shopper hits your website. At least one image on your carousel will do.
  4. Work it with website banners: Don’t just stop at the carousel. Continue your promotion throughout your site. This is particularly important in areas like the category or brand the promotion affects.
  5. Give it some PPC kick:  Want to get your discount code, coupon or promotion in front of highly qualified shoppers? You’ve got to run a PPC campaign. It’s a no brainer!
  6. Strut it with an email blast: An email blast gets the word out, but are you sending the best message to the right audience? How are you segmenting your client base? Who are you targeting and why? Figure this out and develop segmented email campaigns.
  7. Step it up with a blog post: Is it possible to create great content around your store and announce to your shoppers there is a promotion? Perhaps you can explain the benefits of your product or service. Your own? Are you guest blogging?
  8. Slide in some social: Decide what your posting schedule is going to be across your social media channels. Make sure all posts are planned, lined up and ready to roll. If this promo goes off like you want, you won’t have the time to dream up cute tweets
  9. Pick it up product packing: Product packaging is a perfect way to wow your customer post sale. First of all, make the unvieling an experience that separates you from the big box retailers. Also, make sure you thank your customer for purchasing with some sort of drop in.
  10. Wash it down with some follow up: Leverage this new relationship by keeping up regular contact. This will continue to remind customers that your online store is the place to browse and purchase items when they are in the buying mood.

Want to go the extra mile? Check out these BONUS Pro Tips:

  • Tracking: Create individual coupon codes for each outlet you decide to use. This will give you additional tracking insights for what’s working and what’s not.
  • Prep the backend: Be sure to update and double check pricing on products on your online store products and stock up your inventory beforehand (you can always run a clearance sale later on).

Special thanks to some of our expert clients for their insight, including Melanie of Poppy Sports, Jennifer from The Eczema Company, Christopher from West of Cali, Melissa fromMel Jens Design and Taryn fromPicture it Creations for your words of wisdom during Bigcommerce’s community hangout on coupon codes and discounts.

Want to ask a question or suggest a topic for a future #SellMore video? Tweet @Bigcommerce or comment below to let us know! Tune in next week for our next #SellMore video for tips just like this!



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Product Options: The Most Commonly Overlooked Ecommerce Element Likely Affecting Your SEO and Conversions https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/product-options/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/product-options/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 18:17:28 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=12802 Your product pages are one of the most important elements of your ecommerce website. Every successful online store owner knows…]]>

Your product pages are one of the most important elements of your ecommerce website. Every successful online store owner knows the essential elements of a highly converting product page –– but to give you a quick refresher, here they are:

Currently absent from this list, however, is one critical element even the ecommerce pros often miss –– the proper use and implementation of product options. Online store owners either have too many, too few or neglect to include options on their product pages altogether, which can have rather large implications when it comes to SEO and your search engine rankings. So, let’s dive in to fix the problem.

What are Product Options?

Product options allow you to add variations to individual products. Popular examples include different colors, sizes, yes/no checkboxes or custom text fields indicating a specific size, fabric or what have you. Here are a few examples:

US Paint Supply

This online store has a simple, yet robust set of options. Not only do they include the basic options needed to purchase paint online –– i.e. color, size and sheen –– but they have scaled their customer base enough to also include a customized “Color Picker” on certain products, like their C2 LUXE Paint.


Tiny Pies

Tiny Pies not only allows for you to select your flavor, but you can also specify what day you would like to pick up your item or have it delivered.

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 10.09.13 AM

Son of a Sailor

Meanwhile Son of a Sailor keeps their product options a little more traditional, using three different kinds of options including; color swatches, radio button and a drop down menu on their  Goomsman Gift | Shave Kit.


The Benefits of Product Options

Many online store owners feel product options are complicated or not worth their time. However, by ignoring product options, these merchants are missing a huge opportunity to set themselves up for success. The return on investment is significant when you consider how product options help you streamline order fulfillment and order management, boost your store’s conversion rate and even help your search engine ranking.

Per usual, though, don’t just take my word for it. Here are some examples of exactly why product options are worth the time and effort.

Easier Order Fulfillment and Inventory Management

In setting up product options for your product or service, you also gain the ability to set up inventory tracking per product SKU. Not only can this help you stay organized when fulfilling orders, this can also streamline your ability to work with a third-party order fulfillment service.

Insight into your high-selling and static products is key to developing a business strategy.
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In addition, you’ll gain an understanding of your product catalog’s performance on a granular level. For instance, your small, red dog bed may be selling like hot cakes while your large, blue dog bed might just be taking up space in your storage facility. By tracking this, you can then know to discontinue your large, blue dog bed to possibly make room for inventory that is actually moving, increasing your potential revenue rather than decreasing it by taking up storage space.

As you can imagine, understanding your business on this level is instrumental in growing and scaling. Gaining insight into the high-selling and static products in your store is key to developing a profitable business strategy. It is also one of the best ways to keep your finger on the pulse of what your customers want.

Increase Your Conversion Rate

By implementing product options, you’ll be working to improve the shopping experience for your customers and a better user experience leads to increased conversion rates. However, this is not to say that you should overwhelm shoppers with too many options as this could actually lower your conversions.

Too many options can be overwhelming, while not enough can make your customers feel pigeonholed.
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Too many options can be overwhelming, while not enough can make your customers feel as though they are being pigeonholed. So, where’s the goldilocks zone? A study conducted by the New York Times, run on two different Saturdays, found that when they offered 24 different flavor options for jam, there was a conversion rate of 3%. In contrast, when they offered six flavor options, the conversion rate jumped to 30%. The median option variations, then, seems to lay somewhere between more than three and less than 10.

Impact Your Search Engine Ranking

Quite often, ecommerce store owners do not leverage product options and instead create a single product page for each option. By having a dedicated product page for their item that’s available in orange and having another separate product pages for the same product that’s available in blue, store owners are actually running the risk of harming their search engine ranking.

Take a look at the following two product page examples. Each of these pages are nearly identical product pages. The product name is nearly identical along with the product description and imagery. The only difference is the color.

PicMonkey Collage

Search engines will view this as duplicate content, potentially dinging your site and lowering your rankings. In addition, shoppers will need to flip back and forth between pages to figure out which option they like best –– which creates a less than optimal customer experience. All of this can be avoided with proper use of product options. Here, you’ll find a single page allowing for shoppers to easily select the size and color of the product, generating better SEO as well as an improved customer experience.


Worried You Have Duplicate Content Issues?

Arguably, the most important aspect of your ecommerce store are your product pages. Also, it’s likely your product pages make up the bulk of your website. As a quick, easy and free spotcheck tip, you can simply export your products and use conditional formatting to find out if you have duplicate product titles, descriptions, image descriptions, etc. Once you edit them, go ahead and import them back into your store and –– voila –– you’ve rid yourself of duplicate content issues!

Be warned, you will also find a great deal of free tools out there –– like Siteliner.com –– that can help you identify duplicate content. These resources will not only identify duplicate content issues, but they can also identify broken links, which can impact your customer experience, as well. We recommend using these free tools sparingly, as many of them want you to sign up for accounts or loop you into paying for some sort of service that may or may not provide you with accurate, actionable results. So, use these with caution.

Are you looking for a sure thing? Feel free to reach out to our expert marketing partners. They can help to make sure you’re on the right track. Many of them also offer a free consultation to ensure you feel comfortable working with them and will take the time to understand the dual expectations required for working together.

How to Implement Product Options on Your Bigcommerce Store

If you’re interested in getting started with product options right now or simply want to spruce up those options you already provide to your shoppers, check out our Product Options: Getting Started video on Bigcommerce University. We’ll walk you through the essentials and make sure you get going on the right foot. Bigcommerce provides a great deal of built-in options for you to leverage, including:

You can also learn about fancy tools that come in addition to product options and can allow you to even further enhance the customer experience. Once such addition is the ability to have an automatic image or price change when a new option is selected, much like the below.


If you’re looking to streamline your business on the back-end and make your life easier, check out the Product Options: Tracking Inventory video. Here, you’ll learn about the advantages of SKUs, how to generate SKUs automatically and how to begin tracking inventory by options so you can grow and scale your business –– quickly and successfully.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for our next #SellMore post! If you’re a Bigcommerce client and want to ask specific questions about your business and gain insight from our experts, click on the link below. We’d love to help you sell more!

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Off-site Branding 101: How to Optimize Title Tags and Meta Descriptions to Generate Increased Traffic https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/branding-title-tags-meta-data/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/branding-title-tags-meta-data/#comments Tue, 09 Jun 2015 14:00:37 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=12689 Every time you type something into a search engine, the results you receive are a result of a series of…]]>

Every time you type something into a search engine, the results you receive are a result of a series of title tags and meta descriptions. For online brands, it’s critical to properly customize and brand these tags. After all, they are essentially your organic search advertising offering, and you want them to pull in traffic that converts into sales.

By implementing best practices and displaying powerful and descriptive information, you are seizing the opportunity to set yourself apart in search engine results and entice shoppers to enter the “front door” of your online business.

How do you make yourself the most compelling? How do you know where to place the keywords and which ones to target? Where do you start so you can begin ranking well? How can you add customer-centric information including product reviews and prices to these search results? Never fear, we have those answers.


Optimize Your Title Tags

Title tags have long been revered as one of the most important SEO elements. Implementing best practices for title tags is a low-effort, high-impact SEO task. Not only do they represent each of your pages’ content, they can be leveraged in three key ways: in search engine results, on browser tabs and on external websites like social media networks.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 4.25.19 PM

Example: Search Engine Results

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 4.25.02 PM

Example: Browser Tabs

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 4.24.52 PM

Example: External Websites

Formatting Guidelines for Title Tags

Since title tags play such a pivotal role in search engine optimization, it’s very important to follow the specific guidelines that have been set. Here are recommendations for optimizing title tags for search engines as well as for potential shoppers:

  • Length: Keep the length of your title tag between 50-60 characters. If the title is too long, engines will show an ellipsis –– “…” –– to indicate that a title tag has been cut off.
  • Keyword placement: Place primary keywords that you’d like to target toward the front of your title tag. This will not only help you rank, but it also will boost your click-through rate.
  • Brand name placement: If your brand is well known enough to be recognized, you’ll want to target it as a keyword as well by placing it toward the front of the title tag. If you’re just starting to sell online, you’ll want to think about either not including your brand name or keeping it at the end of your tag.

In short, keep it simple and don’t over think it. Here is a good structure to adhere to;

“Primary Keywords Secondary Keywords | Brand Name”

Garlic Olive Oil – Organic | Con’ Olio Oils & Vinegars

Optimize Your Meta Descriptions

Your meta descriptions can really work to draw potential shoppers to your website from search engines results. This is quite an important marketing tool. Crafting a readable, compelling description using your target keywords will help to improve your click-through rate.

Here are some things can help set yourself apart.

Formatting Guidelines for Meta Descriptions

Be aware, as of 2009, meta descriptions are not technically a ranking factor. However, this does not mean there are not best practices you can follow to receive the very best results.

  • Length: Meta descriptions can be any length, but search engines generally truncate snippets longer than 160 characters. It is best to keep meta descriptions between 150 and 160 characters.
  • Keyword placement: Again, despite the fact that meta descriptions do not technically help you better rank with search engines, you do want to place your primary keywords that describe what can be found on the page in which it represents. This will help to make for a more user-friendly experience.
  • Include perks: Use this section to share some of the advantages of shopping with you over your competitors. Include things detailing how you have been a family owned business since 1972, offer free shipping or even donate a percentage of your earnings to a charity. Whatever sets you apart, include it here as it will entice potential shoppers with whom you message resonates.

How to Start Optimizing

Although search engines typically extract information from your pages and can generate information for you, you should work to customize and brand title tags and meta descriptions for all of your website’s pages.

A best practice for online stores is to start with your homepage and then dive in on your most popular product pages. This plan of action works best for store owners who are looking to build brand awareness, but don’t necessarily have a team dedicated to optimizing their title tags and meta descriptions.

Remember, if you’re just starting your online store, potential shoppers will not be typing in your store’s name to find out. After all, they don’t know it! Instead, they will be typing long-tail keywords into a search box, for example “mens running sneaker size 8.”

Note: Search engines will likely display your best product pages and bring the shopper to that page. This means your product pages will likely see higher user entrances than your other site pages. This is a good thing and when you see this occurring in your analytics, it’s a sign that your product page title tags and meta descriptions are working.

Where to Complete These Fields

No matter what ecommerce platform you are using to sell online, these are the main areas in which you should focus on customizing and branding your title tags and meta descriptions. If you’re on Bigcommerce, we’ve included specifics as to where you can find each field.

  • Homepage: Settings > Store Settings > Search Engine Optimization section
  • Category pages: Products > Product Categories > Edit > Search Engine Optimization section
  • Product Pages: Edit any product or add a product > Other Details Tab > Search Engine Optimization
    • You can also export your products into a CSV and complete these fields from a spreadsheet. Remember, each title tag and meta description should be unique so that search engines won’t view it as duplicate content and potentially penalized your site
  • Web Content Pages: Content > Web Pages > Edit > here you will find that the title of your page will serve as your title tag. The meta description field lives at the bottom of this page.
  • Blog Posts: Content > Blog > here you will find that the title of your post will serve as your title tag. The meta description field lives at the bottom of this page.

Bonus: Include MicroData for the Win

Looking for something a little more advanced? Consider adding microdata to boost your products’ search results. Microdata allows for search engines to include ecommerce details such as product ratings, reviews, price and availability. The benefits are infinite.

You’ll be providing a better shopping experience long before someone even comes to your site, ensuring that your search results stand out and reducing bounce rate for click-throughs. Check out how to take advantage of micro data on Bigcommerce.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for our next #SellMore post! If you’re a Bigcommerce client and want to ask specific questions about your business and gain insight from our experts, click on the link below. We’d love to help you sell more!

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Conversion Rate Optimization: 22 Ways to Increase Ecommerce Website Speed, Performance and Security to Improve Customer Trust https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/conversion-rate-optimization-site-speed/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/conversion-rate-optimization-site-speed/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 14:00:16 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=12585 This is the fifth and final post in our #SellMore series around Conversion Rate Optimization. We’ve explained why conversion rate…]]>

This is the fifth and final post in our #SellMore series around Conversion Rate Optimization. We’ve explained why conversion rate is important for ecommerce, how to uncover and optimize your conversion funnel, how to retarget and re-engage those conversions you’re losing, and offered 25 tips on how to improve conversions right now. This week, we’re continuing to help you fine-tune your online store’s conversion funnel in order to boost your conversion rate overall.

Nearly every single effort on the part of an online business owner is a step toward increasing or optimizing their conversion rate. After all, you can be buying ads across the internet and pulling in hoards of traffic, but if none of those people convert –– all of that money is wasted.

Beyond site design and opening up a transparent and convenient line of communication with customers –– all of which we covered in our previous post –– there are additional, more site performance-related issues that could be negatively affecting how many of your site visitors turn into actual customers. These include SEO, site speed and security –– all of which help users find your store and use it without getting frustrated about long load times, as well as encourages them to finalize the sales based on their level of trust for your business.

Below, we’ve outlined 22 ways you can continue to optimize your online store to cater to a customer’s desire for quick and easy browsing and buying.

Leverage Overlooked Touch Points

Your online store offers multiple customer touchpoints, many of which include instant chat, your blog and your social media channels. Beyond these more obvious ways in which you speak to and attain customers, be sure to also consider those points that occur often a bit more overlooked, including SEO, email marketing and cleaning up old links that now lead to 404 pages.

Here are some of the touchpoints many online sellers forget to optimize:

  • Write solid meta tags and descriptions: Title tags and and meta descriptions are often the first branded contact you have with potential customers. They serve as an entry point from search engines to your store’s web pages. Learn how to craft meta tags that boost your click-through rate. Also know this: you can use Google Webmaster Tools (Traffic > Search Queries) to check the click-through rate of the keywords that your store is ranking for so you can make adjustments as needed. Typically, it’s suggested that if the average position of a keyword is within the top 10, but the click-through rate of the keyword is low, the meta tag of that page might need some love.
  • Offer a stellar shipping policy and display it: The way you handle the shipping and returns of your products plays a critical role in deciding the conversion rate of your business. If you can offer free shipping (yes, free shipping can be profitable!), which is ideal to most online shoppers, or even offer free shipping over a certain threshold (i.e. “all orders over $99 get free shipping”), you can boost your average order value and offset the overall loss to your business. Whatever shipping set up you decide on, make sure it’s displayed clearly throughout your website, especially during checkout. No one likes surprise costs. Plus, if you do decide to offer free shipping, be sure to showcase that prominently on your site! It is absolutely a marketing expense, so be sure to market it.
  • Offer a returns or exchange policy and display it: A returns & exchange policy can make or break many online sales. Roughly 95% of customers will likely buy again once they’ve experienced a “positive return.” So, although it can feel costly to a small business, providing a comprehensive policy and upholding your returns and exchange policy instills confidence in you, your business and your products. The more a customer trusts your store, the more likely they are to purchase. In fact, 63% of shoppers abandon sites because they didn’t trust them. Don’t let your site be one of them.
  • Scrutinize your emails: Whether it’s a registration email, newsletter email, order confirmation email, order shipped email, order refunded email, abandoned cart email, password reset email, thank you email, the list goes on and on –– be sure to check them. Make sure all of your information is correct including the proper links out to your social channels, the proper dates for an extended sale, or that you’re correctly sending those personalized emails to the people they are personalized for. Scrutinizing your emails is wise, as email is one of the least expensive, highest-ROI marketing and conversion tools at your finger tips. Ensuring that your emails reflect your brand, drive home the reasons you’re contacting them and are personalized can improve nearly all metrics associated with your store, including average order value (AOV), customer lifetime value (LTV) and more.
  • Love on your informational pages: Blog posts and additional web pages (i.e. About Us, Contact Us, Testimonials, Shipping and Returns, etc.) are areas which many online store owner’s neglect. What call-to-action do you want for your potential buyers to take on these pages? Are you directing them to a product, encouraging them to sign up for your newsletter, or requesting that they share your thoughts and perspective with their community? The possibilities are endless, but the point is that you don’t want to waste any opportunity to turn a site visitor into a customer. This might feel like “dirty marketing” to some, but I assure you it is not. You just want to have purpose behind what you are doing and, although you may not convert a customer from a blog post, setting goals as to where you send shoppers after reading a blog post can really impact the shopper’s journey toward checkout.
  • Spruce up any 404 pages: Ideally, you will set up 301 redirects for pages that no longer exist on your site so that they direct to a new page. However, there are often times where a 404 page might need to exist. If so, give it some love by including a friendly error message, a search box, contact information or even some link options to get them moving past the 404 page. Check out how Mashable does it for some cute and friendly inspiration:

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 3.06.52 PM

Improve Your Page Load Speed

A large perk of using the internet to shop is convenience. If your store’s pages take forever to load, not only will customers be annoyed, but your Google ranking may be affected as well. Google does, however, offers tools and resources to analyze and test your web page speed and show you where issues are occurring both on mobile devices and desktops. They’ll even provide you a list of what speed issues and user experience issues you should fix as well as steps to get it done. So, definitely check it out.

Here are some of the bigger issues new online store owners encounter and some additional tools to use to help mitigate the problems:

  • Run your pages through Pingdom: Pingdom is a great place to start as an alternative to Google’s Tools. All you need to do is enter a URL to test the load time of that page, analyze it and find bottlenecks.
  • Use images sizes that are appropriate: Any online image needs to be no more than 1,000 pixels to display well. Anything above that range is wasting precious rendering time. You can either update your one-off instance (typically people go overboard on their carousel sliders) or compress your images using sites like TinyPNG or JPEGOptimizer.
  • Speaking of, don’t use a PNG when a JPEG will do: High-quality images are ideal and present a more professional aesthetic on your site. However, JPEGs take less time to load, and load time plays a crucial role in your conversion rate. If you can’t help but use a PNG file, be sure to use TinyPNG to locate, sort and compress large images.
  • Utilize a CDN: A CDN, or Content Delivery Network, allows for you to copy all of your images and other files (static assets) from your online store to different data centers (CDN nodes) around the world. Then, instead of loading these files from main data centers only, your files are loaded from the data center that is closest to where your shoppers are located. If you’re on Bigcommerce, you can switch assets to the Bigcommerce CDN in a snap.
  • Limit the use of Redirects: HTTP redirects from one URL to another cut out additional wait time for users.

Streamline Your Checkout Page

Checkout is quite possibly the most vulnerable point in the conversion funnel. The first step of your checkout process sets the tone for the entire experience, according to a three-month long KissMetrics study in which 58.1% of shoppers abandoned checkout before the completing the first step.

The smallest amount of friction can send a shopper away from your site. Having an Abandoned Cart Saver email setup helps to pull those shoppers back in, but you should also focus on optimizing your checkout process and minimizing your abandoned cart altogether. Here are some great ideas to get you started:

  • Offer guest check out: This is a huge bonus for many online shoppers. Often, the first step of a checkout experience is creating an account. And remember, 58.1% of shoppers abandon cart at this step of the process. So, eliminate it and offer a guest checkout for those who don’t want to create a full account just yet.
  • Display security seals: Let users know that your website is secure and that their privacy will never be compromised. This is something you should likely have in the footer of your website, but make sure it is also clearly displayed throughout your checkout process to increase customer trust and finalize the sale.
  • Offer multiple payment methods: Offer your customers as many popular checkout options as possible. In general, allowing for checkout with PayPal and the major credit card brands covers all the bases.
  • Answer those FAQs: Beyond displaying shipping information and linking to your returns & exchange policy, answer common FAQs concerning your product and link to any guarantees and warranty information you may offer. If you don’t cover or display the information, at least clearly link to the location where customers can get more information. Again, this is a trust building exercise, and trust is paramount for online shoppers.
  • Set expectations: Be transparent with pricing and ensure your tax is calculating properly. Additionally, you’ll want to display your shipping details and explain the cost, the carrier, order fulfillment as well as delivery timelines. It’s a great idea to do this throughout your entire website. Most online stores link to this information in their top and bottom navigation, and some even list the information on their product pages, especially if there is a production timeline that will delay the shipping of the product (i.e. if the goods are handmade).
  • Pre-populate information wherever you can: If a customer has already provided some information in step one of the checkout process, don’t ask for it again in step three. Allow for your checkout flow to automatically pre-fill fields so that the user doesn’t have to enter it again. Convenience helps to close sales, and any small setback during the checkout process (like having to re-enter information) can easily cause an abandoned cart. For sites powered by Bigcommerce, thanks to a partnership with Paypal powered by Braintree, online shoppers can now pay across more than 90,000 online stores with a single touch, never having to re-enter payment information.
  • Clearly mark fields as mandatory: Simply include an asterisk (*) for fields that are required, even if all of them are required. This helps to create an easier user experience. In general, marking form fields as required has become an industry best practice given that many online users simply expect to see it. It’s a simple fix, and worth it even it helps to close just one sale.
  • Give immediate validation: Providing step validation (i.e. a check mark) next to a field once it’s completed correctly can be extremely useful for shoppers. This helps them to feel as though they are seamlessly flowing through the process, and serves as a sort of progress bar –– encouraging shoppers to keep rolling right along.
  • Don’t add on extra costs abruptly: If users suddenly see an increased cost as they continue down the checkout process, they can feel swindled. Let users know about any extra costs including shipping and handling charges or taxes in advance or on the product page itself. Never surprise them in the checkout flow.

Boost Your Mobile Experience

M-commerce is growing rapidly. People are making more impulse purchases than ever before from mobile-optimized ecommerce websites, which is great news (particularly for niche online store owners). Due to Google’s recent algorithm update, you will now, more than ever, need to ensure that your website is optimized for mobile. The mobile shopping audience is growing and although mobile optimization and best practices are simple, it can be easy to neglect them. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Responsive design: A responsive site design ensures that your site displays correctly across any and all devices. This is a huge benefit seeing as 74% of mobile users opt to use a search engine with the intention of purchasing and 85% of them intend to make a purchase within 24 hours, according to Google mobile path study. Both your site and your checkout process need to be mobile optimized for both browsing customers and those who are deciding to fully convert.
  • Offer easy ways to pay: Offer check out options that will allow your customers to check out with just a few clicks. Again, convenience and speed helps to push customers through the checkout process. Any step that requires time or effort will likely be abandoned. One-click checkout options solve for this pain point.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for our next #SellMore post! If you’re a Bigcommerce client and want to ask specific questions about your business and gain insight from our experts, click on the link below. We’d love to help you sell more!

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