Ecommerce Technology – The BigCommerce 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 Ecommerce Technology – The BigCommerce Blog 32 32 Your Free Ecommerce RFP Template + 176 Questions to Ask Before You Migrate Wed, 07 Feb 2018 15:00:51 +0000 You’ve reached the tipping point. One last major site outage. One bug undetected for months that could have cost you…]]>

You’ve reached the tipping point.

  • One last major site outage.
  • One bug undetected for months that could have cost you millions (but you thankfully caught!).
  • One more feature that will cost way too much and take much too long to build.
  • One last peak season losing sleep wondering if the infrastructure will hold this time around.

It’s time to switch ecommerce platforms. It’s time to get it right this time.

It’s time to empower your brand to focus on marketing and selling your goods, not on being technologists just trying to keep your site alive.

Now what?

It’s time to find the right ecommerce platform fit for your unique business, which means it’s time to issue an RFP.

What is an RFP?

An RFP (Request for Proposal) standardizes your evaluation criteria across the 3-5 select vendors you choose to send it to.

It effectively puts every platform out there on an equal playing field. You are, after all, asking each vendor the same questions. You can then benchmark answers directly against one another –– without any sales chatter to trip you up.

Implied in this is something rather simple:

If you don’t send an RFP, each vendor will likely sell you on what they have –– removing your ability to judge each platform effectively across the business critical requirements of your brand.

RFPs help you minimize the number of platforms you bring into phase 2 of your re-platforming project: platform demo presentations.

Simply by a vendor responding to an RFP, you are clearly shortlisting which solution will work best for your unique requirements, which vendor took the process seriously and which have already committed to winning your business.

But RFPs aren’t easy. They aren’t designed to be.

The questions you want to ask each vendor span internal departments and needs –– and even within those have various prioritizations.

To help you begin this process as easily as possible, my team is giving away the templatized RFP we offer to large merchants we speak with who are just beginning on this journey.

How to Use an RFP

When handing this document off to brands, I typically accompany it with a few best practices to help them navigate the waters. Here’s what I share with them.

The effort a vendor puts into the RFP is also a signal of their commitment to your requirements.

  • Pay attention to the quality of responses you get.
  • Make sure the platforms you speak with are putting some skin in the game.

In the RFP itself, there is a column of priority. That’s the first column after the question. For that part, be sure to get internal sign off on which aspects are business critical and which others might not be as important.

This will help you to determine the right platform for your needs, and guide the platforms you send the RFP to on which items are the most important to properly explain. Be sure the priorities are set right for each question before you send it off.

Use this as a starting point. Please personalize it to your business requirements.

  • There might be migration questions that are not relevant to you and there might be questions missing that might be important to your business.
  • Look through each section and confirm that these are your most business critical requirements.
  • Be sure the priorities are set right for each question – BEFORE you send it off.

This is an RFP template that helps you to get started. It is definitely best accompanied with a cover letter with further details on pricing needs and services requirements.

Traditionally, this part is done in a Word document, not Excel, and includes business scope, pricing expectations and service requirements.

Here are the 176 questions you’ll want clarity on before you begin to narrow down your ecommerce platform choices when approaching a migration.

Your Free RFP Template

The hard work of an RFP shouldn’t be on you. It should be on the sales engineers at the technology companies you are vetting out.

That’s why we’re giving away the RFP template we recommend to large brands looking to move ecommerce platforms, including:

  • More than 176 ecommerce questions.
  • A convenient Google Spreadsheet format that you can easily convert to Excel

Make your platform providers work for you. Below are recommended questions to ask ecommerce providers.

Get your RFP template now.

Company Overview Questions

  1. How is your company structured? (Public / Private, Partnership, Joint Venture, Subsidiary, etc.)
  2. How long has your company been in business?
  3. Please list your top competitors and their respective market share. What are your key differentiators from competitors?
  4. Please describe your product(s)
  5. What is the most current version of your product and when was the last release date?
  6. Please list all external 3rd party applications your product integrates with
  7. Please list any formal partnerships you have with other technology vendors
  8. How many merchants are currently using your software?
  9. Please provide the size & scope of your top 5 clients. List 3 customers that are similar in size and scope to us.
  10. How many people do you employ and in how many locations?
  11. How do you price your application? Describe your license methodology or structure.

Site Design, Development and UX Questions

  1. Please describe how our team will make storefront design and user experience changes on your platform?
  2. Do you offer full access to HTML & CSS?
  3. How is In-browser editing of theme files supported?
  4. How much control do we have over customizing the checkout experience?
  5. Please describe Themes/Storefront Templates available for us to select a design from
  6. Are themes customizable? What can we not customize?
  7. Local development environment to manage code customizations prior to publishing
  8. Are themes Standards Compliant?
  9. Can we preview our product catalog in any theme, without purchasing the theme?
  10. What 3rd Party Developers/Designers would be available to us?
  11. Would we have the ability to Install & use Web Fonts?
  12. Would we have the ability to install additional Plug-Ins or Apps?
  13. Do you enable Persistent Shopping Cart?
  14. Where do you store all our images and content?
  15. How is Geo Targeting implemented?
  16. How much of the design customizations can be done in a local development environment vs in-browser editing?
  17. Are your designs Mobile Responsive?
  18. List all 3rd party programming languages required to make theme changes
  19. Do you offer Mobile Optimized Checkout out-of-the-box?
  20. How many template themes are available for us to choose from?
  21. Do you provide feature upgrades to any themes we purchase?
  22. Describe the ability to publish storefronts in multiple languages.

IT + Hosting Questions For Ecommerce Providers

  1. Describe how the software is hosted.
  2. How do you manage automatic backups? How often do you backup?
  3. Define your Server Redundancy process
  4. List your most recent uptime results. What uptime did you experience during the last holiday season?
  5. How many environments (dev/test/uat/etc) does a typical client use to manage the implementation of enhancements?
  6. Describe how the software can be monitored (at all tiers) for availability and performance.
  7. Describe how the software can be scaled to support additional user and API load.
  8. Describe how high availability and disaster recovery are addressed.
  9. What controls are used to protect against malicious code?
  10. How often are upgrades delivered to clients?
  11. What browsers and devices does the software support?
  12. Describe how Import/Export of data can be scheduled.

Important Ecommerce Security + PCI Compliance Questions

  1. Is the software PCI compliant?
  2. Describe how the software supports federated identity and Single Sign On (SAML/OpenID/OAuth/etc).
  3. Describe how security roles are defined and what access restrictions can be managed by role.
  4. Describe how Personally Identifiable Information (PII) such as customer names, addresses, preferences and shopping habits are stored and handled in a secure manner.
  5. Describe how data access and change is audited.
  6. Will your employees, contractors or support personnel have access to Client, customer, order or shopping data?
  7. Describe how security vulnerabilities are identified and mitigated.
  8. Describe any additional data protection, audit or financial control features of the software.
  9. Are SSL Certificates included?

Administration + Ease of Use Questions

  1. Please describe how we can manage our product catalog within your system.
  2. How do you import/export catalog & customer data?
  3. Is there a WYSIWYG editor available?
  4. Do you provide a Drag & Drop Editor?
  5. Can Product & Price lists be Imported/Exported in bulk?
  6. Do you provide a Staging & Preview environment so we can test before launch?
  7. What admin roles & permissions are available for Users?
  8. What types of reports and analytics are included?
  9. How do we configure Site Search Rewrites & Redirects?
  10. Do you provide a CMS for Content Pages & Blogs?
  11. How much of the store administration can be done from a mobile device?
  12. Do you provide URL Redirects?
  13. Do you offer your own POS System or integrate with an existing one? List all POS systems you integrate with.

Customer Service Questions

  1. How can we segment our customers and members into separate groups?
  2. Can customers access “Saved Addresses” during the checkout process?
  3. How can our customers manage and view order history?
  4. List all order management capabilities
  5. How can we reorder the products on behalf of a customer?
  6. Do you support Wish Lists?
  7. How are refunds/partial refunds managed?
  8. How do you manage Rewards/Points?

Ecommerce Analytics Questions

  1. Do you provide a Dashboard with business critical metrics?
  2. Does your solution offer built-In Analytics or via 3rd party app?
  3. Is Google Analytics integrated?
  4. How do you support Google Tag Manager Integration?
  5. Do you provide analytics and insights for metrics including customer LTV?
  6. Is there a report for Total Revenue/Sales?
  7. How can we report on product and merchandising?
  8. How would be generate a Tax Report?
  9. What types of shipping and fulfillment reports are available?
  10. Can we generate a low stock inventory report?

Checkout + Payment Option Questions

  1. Is mobile optimized, single-page checkout supported?
  2. Can customers pay using Amazon Pay?
  3. Can users pay in browser and on mobile with Apple Pay?
  4. Can Customers Check Out as a Guest?
  5. Are customers able to use stored credit cards and shipping addresses during checkout?
  6. Are there options for both Authorize & Capture and Authorize Only?
  7. Can Customers Save their Shopping Cart?
  8. Are Tax & Shipping Estimates provided to Customers?
  9. Can Customers Ship to Multiple Addresses?
  10. How do you support recurring payments and box-of-the-month orders?

Marketing + Promotions Questions

  1. Can we manage marketing promotions and banners separately for each category?
  2. How extensive are your cart-level discounts and promotions? Is any coding required to set these up?
  3. How can promotions be limited to specific products?
  4. Is there the ability to run Shipping Promotions?
  5. Can promotions be scheduled to launch and end at a date and time?
  6. Describe how multi-tier pricing for quantity discounts works.
  7. Are coupon codes supported?
  8. Can promotions be limited based on customer groups or audience segments?
  9. How do you support bundled products?
  10. Can the platform handle product exclusions for promotions?
  11. Can bonus products be added to the cart as a result of the cart contents?
  12. Does the platform support online and offline Gift Cards cards through the same system?
  13. Is a gift registry or wishlist supported?
  14. Is gift wrapping an option customers can choose?
  15. Can gift messaging be added to orders?
  16. How do you manage abandoned carts? Can we include offers in abandoned cart emails?
  17. How do you support Google Trusted Stores?

Email Marketing Questions

  1. Are Transactional Emails native to the platform? Can these be fully turned off if we want to use an external Email Marketing Automation application?
  2. Can we integrate with a 3rd Party ESP?
  3. How are Abandoned Cart emails handled?
  4. Can we create an email-signup form?
  5. How can we create a Contact Us form?
  6. Are Email Templates mobile responsive?
  7. What 3rd party email applications are integrated? MailChimp and ConstantContact integrations available?

SEO + SEM Questions

  1. Can product meta-tags be customized?
  2. How do you support 301 Redirects?
  3. Are SEO-Friendly URLs auto-generated for products and category pages?
  4. Can URLs be customized?
  5. What type of blog management is included in your solution?
  6. Is a sitemap included?
  7. Do you support canonical tags?
  8. What is the process to disallow URLs in robots.txt?
  9. How can we export product feed from your platform?
  10. Do you support Google AMP integration to optimize mobile search results?

Social Media Questions

  1. Does your product meta data include Open Graph Tags?
  2. Please describe how we can publish our product catalog to Facebook Shop. Is there an additional cost for this service?
  3. Are social media sharing links on PDP supported?
  4. Are social media sharing links displayed post-purchase?
  5. Can customers or end users login to our storefront using Social Login (Facebook, Amazon, Google, etc)?
  6. How can we display User Generated Content such as Pinterest or reviews in our store?

Products + Categories Questions

  1. Can we add multiple images per product? Is there a limit to the number or size of images?
  2. Do you support SKU level images with image switching on variation selection?
  3. Is Product Image Zoom enabled by default?
  4. How easy is it to add video to PDP? Is there a limit on the size and length of videos we can upload?
  5. Please describe how product options and option sets are managed in your system
  6. Please describe how variations or options can be configured?
  7. Is there a quick edit option available to modify stock levels or pricing change?
  8. Do you support both digital and physical products?
  9. Is Inventory Management built-in?
  10. How do you support real-time Inventory sync within multiple channels?
  11. Can inventory be tracked at variation level?
  12. Does the shipping system understand and support Dimensional Weight?
  13. Are Custom Product Attributes supported?
  14. Can you configure related items?
  15. Is it possible for related items to be automatically generated?
  16. Do you allow pre-orders?
  17. How do you support custom Product Pages? Can these be configured per category?
  18. Are Product Reviews built-in?
  19. Is it easy for customers to share products with friends from the PDP?
  20. Is Site Search predictive?
  21. Can Categories be sorted manually in the Control Panel?
  22. Can Categories be used for Private Sales?
  23. Are Category Filters supported?
  24. Do Categories & Products have Breadcrumbs?
  25. Are Page/Product/Category URLs auto-generated?
  26. How can we customize the product and category level URLs?
  27. Does the platform support multi-level category navigation?

Ecommerce Questions About Omnichannel

  1. List all 3rd party marketplaces you are currently integrated with.
  2. How would we manage catalog publishing with specific pricing and product information per channel?
  3. Can users check out within Facebook or would they be re-directed to our online store?
  4. Do you support publishing catalog to eBay? Is it restricted to specific verticals or categories?
  5. Is there a centralized view of all our orders across all channels?
  6. Do you support publishing product catalog to Amazon?
  7. How can we promote our products via Google Shopping?
  8. Describe your integration to 3rd party channel management applications like Channel Advisor?
  9. What additional marketplaces do you plan to integrate with in the next 6 months to a year?
  10. Do you support Pinterest buy buttons?

Services Questions

  1. Please provide details about your on-boarding processes for new clients.
  2. Please provide an example of an implementation timeline.
  3. Do you provide training and user documentation for the entire platform?
  4. Please describe your support process (including tools) along with standard SLA’s.
  5. Please describe your change management processes including the system audit logging capabilities.
  6. How does our historical data (orders, customers, products) migrate to your solution?
  7. List all Services resources who will be dedicated to our business.
  8. Provide an example of a QBR or Customer Success Plan you offer your customers
  9. Do you have extended support hours for supporting an event’s onsite operation?

Ecommerce Questions About Customer Support

  1. How big is your customer support team and where are they located?
  2. Please detail your Phone Support offering. Is it available 24/7? Is there an additional cost associated with this service?
  3. What are your average wait/response times for phone support?
  4. Is there a priority queue available for urgent and time-sensitive requests?
  5. Can we get a dedicated Support Representative if needed?
  6. What ticketing system do you use? How can we track status of our tickets?
  7. What are your Support SLAs

If you’ve made it this far down the page, you are clearly ready to take a look at a new platform.

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The Ultimate Guide to Ecommerce Replatforming and Data Migration Tue, 23 Jan 2018 15:00:17 +0000 Whether you’re a developer, marketer, entrepreneur or Fortune 500 CEO, there’s an inkling in the back of your mind that…]]>

Whether you’re a developer, marketer, entrepreneur or Fortune 500 CEO, there’s an inkling in the back of your mind that perhaps, in the near future, your job or company may be obsolete.

It’s not an unfounded fear.

The rules to success for nearly all industries in today’s economy are fleeting, at best.

Everything keeps changing, and the best of the best have to be able to pivot –– quickly and competently –– in order to keep up.

Of course, to keep up with the newest skill sets and execute on the most modern of campaigns, you often need 2 things:

  1. Money.
  2. Headcount.

This need positions the biggest brands of the world well, enabling them to form monopolies, of sorts – in theory at least.

Yet, that isn’t what we’re seeing take shape.

Large organization move too slowly to pivot quick enough to execute well on trends.

Instead, those companies end up buying the brands that do (re: Walmart acquiring and Unilever buying Dollar Shave Club).

What enables those up-and-comers to take on their legacy competitors (i.e. Amazon and Gillette)?

Agile marketing that gets these brands to the forefront of customer conversion in a more compelling way than traditional companies.

This guide will walk you through what I believe to be the first step toward agile marketing for large enterprises.

Here is what I’ll cover:

What’s in Our Ecommerce Replatforming Guide

  1. Startups focus on marketing, because their technology is covered: Enterprise brands can do this, too. I explain how.
  2. There are 3 pain points that often forces brands to migrate to new technology – and all of them are signals that you should have done it much, much sooner. But I believe in staring at a problem. We’ll walk through how you can do it right now.
  3. Your 3 options when it comes to ecommerce technology. Not every solution is right for every brand. But there are ones that will eliminate the need for you to migrate ever again –– and ones that will force this process time and time again. We’ll go through the cost/benefit analysis of these.
  4. The 6 steps to an ecommerce re-platforming and migration. The biggest 2 of which are issuing the RFP and transferring the data. I’ll give you an RFP template you can print out and use right now –– and introduce you to the free services teams that will migrate your data for you. Yes, free. Seriously.
  5. A primer on what NOT to do during a shopping cart migration. Again, I don’t like to admire problems. I address them. This is the elephant in the room. The #1 rule? Don’t over invest. The point of your technology is to enable better and more effective marketing and sales. Whizzbang is nice, but not necessary.
  6. I’ll give you an ecommerce replatforming checklist. If you it this far in the piece, I’m assuming you, like me, like to get things done. This list will let you mark off one by one the steps you and your team need to take to do it first the first time, and then never again.  
  7. I’ll teach you how to put platforms to the test. Sure, you issue an RFP and sure, you get answers back. But do not buy before you try. Do not buy before your developers try. Do not buy before your legal tries. DO NOT BUY BEFORE YOU TRY.
  8. Another word on data migration services – because some platforms offer them for free, some services are self-serve and others are just plain worth the dollars to make sure your data transfers effectively. It is how you upset. It is how you better target marketing. It is how you know how your business is running up and to the right and not vice versa. It matters, so it gets its own section.
  9. Finally, I’ll debunk the most common data migration myths out there. Just for fun.

Let’s get started.

Ready to begin the RFP process?

Issuing an RFP is the next step for brands considering a re-platform. However, RFPs can be tricky – and what you include in them makes a world of difference in terms of what you get from your new platform (and also in making the right choice to begin with).

This free RFP includes 188 questions, from big ideas to minutiae, so you don’t miss a thing. 

Download your free RFP template.

Successful Brands Focus on Marketing

What allows these companies to focus on marketing is their choice of technology stack from the onset.

Or, if not from the onset, these companies are quick to replatform to a better solution, so that website maintenance and bug patches are not taking priority over marketing activities.

  • The latter leads to sales, growth and revenue.
  • The former doesn’t have to be business as usual.

That is why you must pick the right ecommerce platform – because you need to focus on marketing and growth.

After all, marketing is expensive, competitive, and requires a lot of time.

It is pay-to-play in so many channels:

  • Adwords.
  • Facebook.
  • TV.
  • Radio.

In the ones where it isn’t – say, SEO – you’re competing against a gamut of competitors and bigger brands, often with a much bigger head start.

And, each of these channels are getting more and more saturated everyday. So why are you spending your time and money on a “good enough” ecommerce solution?


  • The Carolina Panthers: Making the switch from Yahoo to BigCommerce meant a 16% decrease in site bounce rate, 83% increase in mobile conversion rate and a 37% increase in conversion across the board. And that was just after launching.
  • Henna Caravan: Making the switch from Magento to BigCommerce gave Henna Caravan a 33% increase in revenue through SEO and a 2X industry average conversion rate, all within 2 weeks of launch.
  • Veppo: Making the switch from Shopify Plus to BigCommerce saved Veppo thousands in revenue and reduced manual work hours by 40%.
  • Awesome GTI: Making the switch from Magento to BigCommerce increased Awesome GTI’s YoY revenue more than 95%, saw conversion rates increase nearly 15% and nearly a 17% increase in AOV YoY.
  • NaturallyCurly: Making the switch from Lemonstand to BigCommerce gave NaturallyCurly the ability to sync their ERP and storefront, saving the company 520 hours of manual work a week.

Modern ecommerce platforms are the equivalent of a marketing technology, development and IT staff – all in one.

It’s Moore’s law.

Likely when you first launched your brand, ecommerce platforms were cumbersome, expensive and required hours of extra work you ended up taking on internally or that you’ve outsourced to platform experts.

Today, there are ecommerce platforms out there that take all the technical heavy lifting off your hands –– allowing your team and business the time and financial resources needed to capitalize on the market with strategic and engaging campaigns.

This is how you win.

  • You set yourself up for success.
  • You think about the future.

Would you still be using a Nokia brick phone today?

No. The Capt’n Crunch-size chip used in there is now the size of your fingernail –– and it stores a whole lot more.

Upward mobility requires change. Future-proofing is how you blockade against antiquation or even worse, extinction.

The line is drawn in the sand. It’s time you choose your side.

Do 1 or More of These Issues Apply to You?

In a perfect world, a site replatforming project would be a year in planning. You would have allotted budget and defined clear goals.

In reality, replatforming isn’t something companies proactively plan. Most often, there’s some driving issue — or a number of them — forcing a company to migrate.

Our team sees these issues regularly – and have compiled a string list of the most common below.

Go ahead, check off right next to the ones that apply to your business. Check off more than one, and it’s time to replatform.

Financial Issues Related to Your Ecommerce Platform

  • We can’t afford to continue doing business with our existing ecommerce platform due to the high maintenance costs.
  • We experienced a recent merger or acquisition, allowing for consolidation and review of current platforms for efficiency gains.
  • We’re working on new initiatives such as launching new brands, product lines or launching into new markets. With new launches, we want to test out more cost-effective solutions in order to prove out concept. We’ve begun to see that the more cost-effective platforms outperform our legacy platform the main brand is using.

Technical Issues Related to Your Ecommerce Platform

  • Our old solution has grown unstable under peak traffic conditions, resulting in slow site performance and bad customer experience.
  • The catalogue database can’t handle the physical number of SKUs we’ve added to the catalogue over the years.
  • The platform only captures a limited number of attributes, can only associate a limited number of product related assets, has a limited call volume on APIs or, as in some cases, can’t handle certain types of content such as video.
  • It takes too long to develop new features on the old platform and the backlog of projects in IT is becoming unmanageable and cost prohibitive.


Marketing Issues Related to Your Ecommerce Platform

  • In our organization, our marketing team is the tip of the spear for online growth. Our marketing team is tasked with not only reaching potential customers and driving traffic to the site, but also converting at the highest rate possible. We want something more intuitive, allowing us to be more creative and quick in our GTM execution.
  • Our old ecommerce platform prevents our marketing team from converting visitors that otherwise might have converted on a newer, more featured platform. Worse still, our old platform prevents us from competing in key areas entirely. Some of the key features and capabilities that our marketing team is looking for include
    • Improved Site Search: Directed and faceted. Marketing wants to be able to control search results for the best possible user experience.
    • Personalization: Dynamic content presentation and optimization based on multiple visitor personas.
    • Mobile Commerce: Specific design and funnel for mobile devices in the wake of mobile-first customer expectations.
    • Social Media: Hooks for marketing on the top social sites, easy share-ability and social commerce capabilities.
    • Tag Management: Re-tagging the site for efficient digital marketing, increased search functionality and better SEO based on Google’s indexing of the site map.

Any one of these requirements could be justification enough for a new platform.

Most companies looking to re-platform, however, have multiple of these issues.

Take mobile commerce, for example.

Mobile revenue has jumped dramatically with the combination of social media platforms and powerful mobile devices, over 50% for many retailers.

Not having your ecommerce website support mobile visitors cuts out a large selling opportunity, not to mention the SEO hit you take from Google’s newest search algorithms, which reward mobile readiness and penalize sites that don’t support mobile.

In fact, beginning July 2018, Google will make mobile site speed also a ranking factor for mobile algorithms.

This means your not only need to have a mobile-friendly site, but that it needs to be fast. Really fast.

Not having this one feature (which is really 2: mobile-friendly site and mobile page load speed), which takes months of coding for an on-premise or custom solution, is reason enough to switch — not to mention the financials of having to pay for such coding work.

And that’s just a basic example. What about integration with new payment solutions like digital wallets?

  • Do you want to have to build out your individual brand integration with Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, PayPal One Touch, etc?
  • Or would you rather your platform build that out, test it and ensure it works, take on the PCI compliance and ultimately just have you be able to click, one and done it’s live on the product?

It’s your choice.

The Best Ecommerce Platform Options

Before I begin to outline the process for a replatform, it’s important that you understand your ecommerce platform options:

  • Homegrown.
  • Onsite or on premise.
  • Cloud.
  • SaaS.

Below is an outline of each, including pros and cons based on your particular business needs.

This is the basic background information you’ll need for issuing a complete and structured ecommerce RFP to a technology provider, the details of which I’ll get into in a moment.

Homegrown Technology

This is usually a custom LAMP or .NET-based implementation supplemented by various middleware, the origins of which you may or may not know.

Quite often, these platforms are also connected to backend systems running custom-built ERP software.

In my experience, I’ve even run across the occasional IBM AS400 mainframe locked away in the deep recesses of IT.

This middleware could easily be replaced by your smartphone today, but nobody dare touch it lest it breaks and brings the whole site down.

Homegrown Ecommerce Pros and Cons:
  • Pros: The pros of a homegrown platform are that you have the potential for ultimate flexibility. You can customize each feature exactly the way you want, without the constraint of a template. Although in reality, real world resource constraints can mean that potential flexibility isn’t realized.
  • Cons: The cons with a homegrown platform are that you are a customer of one and every feature you want to add has to be developed from the ground up. Homegrown platforms are also often expensive to maintain on a day-to-day basis.

Focus on Brand Building, Not Building Tech.

“We knew it was going to take us 5 years to get caught up with everyone else if we went with open source or custom build.

We needed a platform that had everything we needed right then already built-in, and one with extensible APIs we could connect to our home grown ERP system.

That meant we were looking at a SaaS solution.”

– Jason Boyce, CEO and Co-Founder, Dazadi

Read the Dazadi Story.

Onsite or On Premise Technology

With onsite, sometimes called on premise technology, the ecommerce platform is licensed from and then hosted on the client’s internal network.

The client, or business owner, is then responsible for managing all ecommerce aspects including:

Commonly deployed onsite platforms include Websphere, Oracle Commerce and Magento Enterprise.

On Premise Ecommerce Pros and Cons:
  • Pros: The pros of this option are less obvious. There’s a perception of improved security, but I’ll let the security experts weigh in. “As online shopping continues to overpower in-store shopping, ecommerce sites are increasingly targeted by hackers as they have become a gold mine for credit card information,” said Shahar Tal, Malware and Vulnerability Research Manager at Check Point Software Technologies. “The vulnerability we uncovered [on Magento] represents a significant threat not to just one store, but to all of the retail brands that use the Magento platform for their online stores – which represents about 30% of the ecommerce market.”
  • Cons: The cons of onsite deployments are that you need a small army of IT staff to run, maintain and sometimes update the platform. Also, quite often, companies customize their deployments to the point that they get off of the platform upgrade path and are then stuck on an old version of the ecommerce platform. The cost of these upgrades and maintenance, however, is likely the biggest con. A scaling ecommerce business can spend anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000 per year to ensure an onsite solution is functioning properly. Here’s a calculator you can use to see what your overall costs would be if you were to migrate to or stay on an on premise solution.

Less Headaches. More Sales.

“When I first bought Spectrum Audio, it was on Magento and I was literally paying developers every couple of days to fix something.

Our overhead on Magento was more than $2,000 a month alone, just between server costs and paying developers. And the sales weren’t near where they are today.

To be a successful store owner, I can’t afford to have this huge team of developers that know everything. You can have someone on the inside for small fixes, but really we can’t be an ecommerce platform on top of being an online store.”

– John McCann, CEO of Spectrum Audio.

Read the Spectrum Audio Story.

Cloud Ecommerce Technology

There’s currently a lot of confusion in market about the difference between cloud ecommerce and SaaS ecommerce.

Let’s put that confusion to rest right now.

SaaS and Cloud ecommerce are not the same.

With Cloud ecommerce, you still pay extra in licensing fees, as well as to patch vulnerabilities and to complete upgrades.

This aspect of cloud ecommerce is similar to on-premise.

In fact, many on-premise ecommerce technologies are those that are launching cloud solutions.

The difference, however, is that the server is hosted and maintained by a third-party, similar to how it is done in the SaaS model.

Here are the differences between SaaS and cloud broken out.

Differences Between Cloud Ecommerce and SaaS:

  • Server tainted and hosted by a third party.
    • SaaS: Yes
    • Cloud: Yes
  • No need to install or keep up with software editions.
    • SaaS: Yes
    • Cloud: No
  • PCI compliance and security handled for you.
    • SaaS: Yes
    • Cloud: No
  • Automatic software upgrades.
    • SaaS: Yes
    • Cloud: No
  • No downtime with new software versions.
    • SaaS: Yes
    • Cloud: No, there will be downtime during versioning updates

SaaS Ecommerce Technology

Before we hop into this realm, know that there are multiple versions of SaaS ecommerce platforms.

  • Multi-tenant: customers share the same instance of the application and receive upgrades simultaneously.
  • Single tenant: customers have their own instance of the application, upgrades are up to the customer
  • Hybrid models: customers share the same instance with simultaneous upgrades, with open APIs for custom iterations

Multi-tenant architecture is one of the main reasons that SaaS ecommerce platforms have cost advantages over homegrown or onsite implementations.

Single tenant SaaS platforms take into account the need for specific brand customizability, but it’s easy to end up off the upgrade path and expose your brand to vulnerabilities (similar to on-premise technology).

A hybrid model is the best option for brands, allowing for low total cost of ownership, simultaneous platform upgrades and open APIs for extreme customizability without falling off an upgrade path.

In other words, business owners get the lower cost of the multi-tenant deployment with the custom capabilities of a single tenant deployment.

An example of a hybrid ecommerce platform would be BigCommerce, where you can have a customized version of the platform but still benefit from the SaaS implementation.

The main aspect all SaaS deployments have in common is their pricing model. Business owners enter into a monthly payment agreement.

Some portions of the first year’s fees are usually due up front, but not always.

Pricing terms vary widely depending on the client’s circumstances, for instance:

  • Number of SKUs
  • Monthly sales
  • Monthly traffic and more.
SaaS Ecommerce Pros and Cons:
  • Pros: The pros of implementing a SaaS platform are primarily based on cost and ease of management. With SaaS, the vendor is developing features for multiple customers and so the expense is amortized across the entire customer base, which keeps costs down for everyone. The SaaS vendor’s roadmap is also usually driven by demand from their customers, so you’re pooling requirements across multiple segments of the industry. This leads to a robust product feature roadmap, which meets and often exceeds the requirements of most clients.
  • Cons: The cons of a SaaS deployment are that you are restricted to some degree by the nature of the fact that the platform is usually multi-tenant. This means that the flexibility you might have with a homegrown or on premise platform is not necessarily there. Many SaaS providers, however, have open APIs, which allow for third-party integrators that often function similarly to if you were integrating the software on your owned and operated system. As the SaaS ecommerce industry evolves, this con is much less of concern thanks to open and malleable APIs. In fact, BigCommerce allows for 100’s of API calls per second, letting retailers sync 25,000 product inventory from an ERP in only 60 seconds.

OK, now that you know you need to switch and you know what your options are, it’s time to issue an RFP.

Your Ecommerce Replatform Strategy

Do you know the #1 reason why brands migrate from their ecommerce platform?

It’s not just about money – but that is a big consideration.

It isn’t just about being able to execute cooler, more impactful marketing campaigns – but of course everything that exists on a RFP is getting at the end goal.

No, the #1 reason is empowerment.

Ecommerce marketing is harder than ever before. It’s also more costly. Brands can’t afford to move slowly. They can’t afford to NOT be agile.

And yet, the vast majority of ecommerce platforms tie your marketing team’s hands behind their back – leaving them bobbing for conversion apples they could on other platforms simply just pick up.

OK, that might not be the best metaphor. So, let’s dive in to the real work: issuing an RFP.

This will allow you switch from one ecommerce platform to another – all without losing your SEO rankings or customized design or legally required security protocol.

1. Get ready to issue an RFP (request for proposal).

A proper Request for Proposal (RFP) process will help dramatically reduce your frustrations or concerns as you determine which SaaS provider is right for your growing business.

RFPs are used by scaling and enterprise brands looking to properly evaluate key stakeholder needs, scope and goals in large-scale projects which will affect the operation of an entire organization.

The more information you provide in the RFP process, the less room there is for confusion later on.

A sloppy RFP could cost you months in wasted time, so be detailed, clear and over communicate your needs. This post will provide everything you need to do so.


For ecommerce platforms, you should issue an RFP. This because of the various attributes unique to online businesses that must be accounted for.

Each ecommerce platform handles these needs a bit differently. You want to see their proposal, along with a quote, not just a quote for typical services.

RFPs generally require more work on both parties –– and this guide will explain your part, as the business.


Get your free RFP template.

2. Write the RFP.

Before you start committing the rest of the organization to an ecommerce replatforming project, you should conduct an initial ROI modeling session and begin internally mapping out the RFP process.

This is the first step to writing a RFP.

Sit down with finance and do an honest review of the ecommerce business. Before you can begin developing a detailed set of requirements and an RFP, you will need to have the numbers for your business locked down.

These include the usual:

  • Unique Visitors
  • Gross Revenue
  • Average Order Value (AOV)
  • Conversion rates
  • Number of transactions
  • Number of units per transaction
  • Gross Margin
  • Net Margin

If you decide to go down the SaaS platform route, you will be sharing this information with the vendor so they can calculate anticipated usage and pricing.

3. Forecast revenue and total cost of ownership.

Next, create a three year forecasted improvement on the above metrics if you were to deploy a new platform.

Allow six months post launch for site optimization. Don’t forecast any lift during those six months.

Here’s a sample walkthrough of how you might achieve this for your own business.

The numbers below are based on a last 90 day calculation. The forecast based on 57% overall ecommerce growth by 2018.

Conservative numbers are used here.

Once you figure out your business forecast, look into how much each ecommerce technology solution will cost.

You can use our Total Cost of Ownership Calculator here, or take a look at the sample chart below for reference, based on a business making at least $2,500,000 in revenue annually.

Then, calculate your savings, and figure out the average cost for services like SEO, social media and more.

Finally, add in the revenue lift generally seen by these services, and the upside associated with it for your business’ revenue.

Again, you can use our calculator to do this automatically for you, or take a look at our sample below.

Through this analysis, you will have determined the amount of investment you can reasonably afford for your website replatforming project.

This will save you time later on and help you to avoid looking too far into platforms that you simply cannot afford.


Many ecommerce platforms will pass you off to a partner for transferring your catalog and customer data (what many people refer to as “data migration”), adding anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 to your initial launch fee and 6 weeks to 6 months in go-to-market timing.

That’s a lot of money and time – and can significantly affect total cost of ownership.

BigCommerce offers free transfer services with a 4 week GTM timeline when coming from non-custom solutions.

Ask the platforms you’re considering about their options and account for this in your ROI model.

Free data migration services.

4. Investigate built-in functionality vs. third-party apps and integrations.

A technical replatforming project is an opportunity to change and improve your efficiencies in other areas of the business.

To make sure you get the most, then, out of the RFP process, take a look at all existing business processes and determine if there are better ways to achieve the same results.

I also suggest taking a look at the various third-party apps that you have undoubtedly accumulated through the years, including:

  • Automated order notifications
  • Product filtering and faceted search
  • Automatic sales tax calculated at checkout

Many of these can be replaced with features that now come standard on modern ecommerce platforms.

Add the savings from these projected changes into your budget.

For example, 68% of online carts are abandoned and SaaS platforms like BigCommerce now recover on average 15% of those.

Be sure to calculate that revenue in your model. Here is a calculator you can use to do so.

Try to use a fact-based measurement criteria during this discovery process. I prefer projected savings, revenue or ROI.

This phase of the process can be contentious since you’re talking about eliminating tools, processes and potentially people.

The measurement criteria helps to keep the emotion out of the process.

A note on steering committees

I know many people recommend setting up steering committees for this process, but they’re not for everyone and they can definitely slow the replatforming process down.

I prefer to have one decision maker leading the project from the client side and have them ensure that all stakeholder requirements are captured and ranked.

There will, of course, be the need for stakeholder reviews, but they’re different from establishing an actual committee, specifically in the area of final decision-making.

For the fastest and most effective GTM strategy, avoid committees and appoint a project head.

5. Scope integration redirects and initiation.

This is the stage of the replatforming process where you should spend significant time and effort mapping out every touch point between the ecommerce platform and all other systems at your company.

Create a list of each integration point and determine what will happen to that integration during replatforming.

It’s at this crucial stage that you determine what’s in scope for the project and what is not.

Also include a review of any catalog transfers that will be necessary and make sure to include them in the RFP, including:

  • Customer data files
  • Product catalogues
  • Assets or content such as product images

Proper due diligence at this stage of the process will save time and money later on. Review everything 2 or 3 times to make sure that nothing has been left out.

6. Meet with all potential stakeholders.

Confirm that all stakeholders have been given ample opportunity to share their requirements as well as all business processes that interface with the ecommerce platform.

Stakeholders are usually from the following departments/disciplines.

What Not to Do in the Replatform Process

On a very large project I personally worked on, after numerous sessions with all necessary stakeholders, I asked one last time if we had covered every process, integration point and application that would interface with the new ecommerce platform.

Everyone nodded in acknowledgement … until one voice at the back of the room asked if we had accounted for the two guys in Turkey.

I thought he was joking.

He explained that those two guys performed a critical database conversion on the global master product data file on a nightly basis.

True story.

Don’t forget about the two guys in turkey!

But don’t go overboard, either.

I’ve seen countless million – tens of millions of dollars actually – wasted on high priced consulting firms more concerned about billable hours than finding the absolute best solution for the client.

Don’t fall into the trap of over engineering your solution.

I’ve also seen architecture scoped out on PowerPoint slides that look amazing but are entirely unrealistic in the real world, either because they would run too slow, cost too much or just not integrate properly.

It’s a myth that you can take the “best in breed” products in various categories and try to make them all fit together.

It’s much better to get one good platform and use it to the fullest extent possible.

I’d be lying if I said I’ve never seen a company scope out a behemoth of integrated apps only to spend tens of millions of dollars and never see it run properly.

True story:

Recently, a company I know of spent millions of dollars (high teens) to deploy a large, well known ecommerce platform.

Problem is, that by the time they got done engineering their idea of nirvana, the ecommerce platform’s role was basically relegated to that of a shopping cart!

  • A state of the art full-blown platform operating at maybe 20% of its potential.
  • Millions of dollars wasted
  • An unnecessarily complicated architecture that took way too long to implement

What they ended up with could have been replaced with at most, a $3 million alternative.

This was a CIO gone wild. And this isn’t an isolated case. I’ve seen it way too often.

A Handy Ecommerce Replatforming Checklist

There are numerous ecommerce platforms available today, everything from simple carts to enterprise grade platforms that include strong search, personalization and CMS capabilities.

For our purposes, let’s say that there are about 30 different platforms to choose from. That’s far too many to engage in an RFP.

You should be able to narrow down your RFP list to 5-8 vendors based on your:

  • Current online revenue
  • SKUs
  • Ratio of traffic vs. transactions
  • Average order value
  • Units per order
  • Any unique elements specific to your business such as hard goods vs. soft goods, continuity/subscription business or complex configuration capabilities

At JCH, we use a process called the Accelerated Vendor Selection Process (AVSP).

This process is based on our experience and knowledge of ecommerce platforms, and this helps us to narrow the focus of the RFP down to the key features that are most important to the client.

Our RFPs contain over 150 questions to confirm vendor capabilities and for use in vendor comparison charts.

This may seem like a lot, but let’s put it into context: a mid-tier SaaS platform contains over 280 features.

That doesn’t include third party integrations, catalog transfer services, systems architecture or security compliance issues — all of which will need to be addressed in the RFP process.

Ecommerce Migration Checklist:
  1. Determine the best platform options for your business.
  2. Issue an RFP to those platforms.
  3. Forecast revenue and total cost of ownership.
  4. Investigate built-in functionality vs. third-party apps.
  5. Determine integration redirects and initiation.
  6. Meet with all potential stakeholders and put platforms to the test.
  7. Determine data shopping cart migration service and launch migration.
  8. Redesign site, relaunch in beta and QA with stakeholders.
  9. Relaunch site publicly, and redirect URLs.

How to Put Platforms to the Test

Based on the responses to your RFP, you should now have a short list of 3-5 potential vendors.

The next step is to create a detailed set of use cases to be performed by the vendor, via webex for smaller opportunities and onsite for larger deployments.

There are a couple reasons for this:

  1. Stakeholders get to see what a day in the life of using the platform will be like for them. Their feedback is invaluable. They get to see the different ways various vendors have chosen to execute various tasks in the platform and can see which methodologies might suit their particular requirements better. Lastly, maybe most importantly, they feel a sense of ownership in the process and an appreciation for the final vendor selection.
  2. The more important reason for these tests is to make the vendor demonstrate their capabilities live. It’s easy for a vendor to say that they support a feature, but when it comes time to demonstrate it, the finer details are revealed. For example, a vendor may say they support a certain feature but in reality it requires a separate customization to actually deploy it in the field.

The list of use cases that you develop will depend on the size of deployment, but for the larger ones, it is advisable to schedule about four hours.

Some scenarios take 10 minutes to run through, others can take 30 minutes.

It’s very important that each vendor be given the same list and allotted time to complete their scenarios.

This creates a level playing field upon which comparisons can be more easily made, especially for the stakeholders who are new to the process.

You can use this checklist and agenda for your teams and the platform you are testing. This covers the majority of common needs during a replatform.

Download a printable version here. 

We also allow half an hour at the beginning of the meeting for a general company sales pitch presentation, and about 20 minutes at the end for closing remarks and a final pitch.

Here is what our top level agenda looks like, simplified.

Don’t Forget About Data Migration Services

Transferring your product, category and customer data is perhaps the most overlooked aspect of an ecommerce replatforming or replatforming applications, in general.

Accurate data is essential to running your business.

A poor transfer could result in:

  • Incorrect product mapping.
  • Incorrect product commendations.
  • Incorrect product options.
  • Incorrect product images.
  • Inaccurate customer data.
  • Poor syncing with ERP or POS (think Square or Netsuite).

And those are only to name a few.

You’d be stuck going through each individual SKU and updating all information for product data that was transferred or migrated incorrectly.

For customer data, it would just be lost forever. I cannot stress enough how big of a deal this is.

Again, I’m preaching to the choir.

So, once you’ve decided which platform, or have narrowed it down to two, you will switch to, ask immediately about migration and transfer services.

And don’t let an unclear answer pass.

Many ecommerce platforms will pass you off to a partner for catalog transfer services, adding anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 to your initial launch fee and 6 weeks to 6 months in go-to-market timing.

That’s a lot of money and time – and can significantly affect total cost of ownership.

Do not sign a contract until you have this information. If you are passed off to partner, talk to that partner immediately.

Get a solid understanding of how the catalog transfer or data migration will be done and similar stores they have already transferred, ideally from the same platform you are on. Reach out to that brand, too, and ask about the service.

Better yet, choose an ecommerce platform that provides this service in-house.

At BigCommerce, they have a team of dedicated experts with a combined 30+ years in ecommerce and 15+ years in catalog transfer services.

In the last three years alone, they have transferred more than 20,000 online stores from 50 different ecommerce technology platforms. The service typically take 4-8 weeks for GTM.

This comes at little to no additional cost to a brand.

Because their team has worked with so many brands, they’ve learned that every single online store is unique, and that as they’ve scaled, so has their service.

To ensure catalog & customer data is transferred successfully, our catalog transfer services team implements a 3 steps quality assurance process.

This process includes spot checking the data on your new BigCommerce store. The team’s goal is to transfer these items safely, swiftly and securely.

Top 5 Data Migration Myths Debunked

In the course of performing so many transfers, our team has spoken to a diverse group of business owners, walking them through the process of moving to a new platform.

Below are the top five myths they’ve heard about catalog transfers.

1. Data Migration Myth #1: We miss out on sales while you transfer our data.

Your store won’t go offline during the transfer process.

We do all the work on your new BigCommerce store backend, then give you as much time as you need to customize your settings, test your site and train your team.

When you’re ready, and only when you’re ready, you can launch your new ecommerce storefront — complete with updated data already uploaded into your backend.

This allows you to continue business as usual from day one.

While all of this is happening, your original store stays live on your current platform. We don’t require that it come down, and BigCommerce and our global network of partners actually advise against it.

We understand that uptime is one of the most crucial factors to gaining and maintaining consumer trust, so all our work can happen with no downtime required.

2. Data Migration Myth #2: We’ll lose our design if we replatform.

Worrying about losing your beautiful, custom design? Don’t.

BigCommerce’s open template files allow you to bring custom design elements to your new store, and our design partners, ensure that it happens seamlessly.

Check out a full list of BigCommerce’s best designed customer sites – and how those designs have increased conversion.

3. Data Migration Myth #3: When we move the store to a new host, we’ll lose all our traffic.

It is true that moving to a new server, even when using the same domain name, can impact search engine rankings if done improperly.

The good news, though, is that people move servers all the time, and search engines like Google have best practices which mitigate the effects.

We follow those best practices to minimize all controllable risk. We properly implement 301 redirects for your product and category pages.

Our goal is to move your product data with the same search ranking foundation you had built on your previous platform.

That way, our SEO-friendly platform can quickly drive your traffic to new heights.

4. Data Migration Myth #4: Replatforming means we can clone our store exactly.

No, you cannot clone your store exactly.

You can, however, transfer a majority of your existing data from your current ecommerce store to your new backend. In fact, we make sure that happens without opening you up to any potential issues or liabilities.

As for your store’s look and feel, you’re probably thinking about leaving your current platform because it’s lacking in some way, so why would you want to recreate those same shortfalls?

The quicker you embrace the idea that it requires some change to improve your online business, the quicker you can benefit from transferring to a fully featured enterprise solution like BigCommerce.

We offer a wealth of next-level features that will ensure your transition is as painless — and profitable — as possible.

For instance, with dozens of integrated payment gateways, you’ll rarely need a payment option we don’t offer. Chances are that we have an integration with the payment gateway you are using right now, and you may even find new options like Square and PayPal powered by Braintree that you like more.

In all, BigCommerce offers more than 250 one-click integrations with leading software providers like Survey Monkey, HubSpot, Alibaba and Salesforce. That makes it easy to integrate with the tools you already use.

Plus, our open and unrestricted API blows our competitors out of the water.

Seamlessly connect to critical business software with a powerful API that processes updates up to 100x faster than Shopify Plus.

BigCommerce can handle 100’s of API calls per second. Shopify Plus limits you to 10 per second. Performing an ERP inventory sync of 25,000 products and variants on BigCommerce would take 60 seconds, compared to 2hrs using the Shopify Plus API.

5. Data Migration Myth #5: We have great engineers. We can do it ourselves.

Even if you’re a great developer, our experience has taught us that the first time you undertake an unfamiliar task like this, it rarely goes according to plan.

Anybody who has tried to renovate their own house knows how steep the learning curve can be.

Wouldn’t your time be better spent growing your business and serving your customers while delegating your transfer to veteran engineers who can get it done quickly and correctly?

Your data isn’t something you want to risk, and we’ve heard our fair share of self-transfer horror stories.

When you’re talking about securing and improving your financial future, you can’t afford to let your ego get in the way. Instead, trust your migration to an industry-leading team with more than 20,000 successful migrations completed.

For more information on BigCommerce’s transfer services, read our support documentation on how to move your store to BigCommerce.

And know, this is only documentation. You’ll have an account manager and on-boarding consultant by your side, handling all the heavy lifting, every step of the way.

Tools to Help You Make the Move Now

In all, figuring out which ecommerce platform is right for your business is a time consuming task. But a proper replatforming project is well worth the wait.

A modern ecommerce backend allows you to streamline processes while increasing site speed, stability and security to outperform industry standards.

SaaS works the way technology should – behind the scenes.

Plus, it does so cost effectively, allowing you to invest in marketing initiatives that drive growth for your brand.

Take BigCommerce on a test drive.

Learn more about self-migrating from the following platforms:

Want more insights like this?

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]]> 3
How 5 Online Businesses Already Increased Revenue Up to 96.44% – Just By Selling on eBay Thu, 13 Jul 2017 17:37:31 +0000 For online brands looking to expand into new markets, eBay is often overlooked in favor of Amazon or selling on…]]>

For online brands looking to expand into new markets, eBay is often overlooked in favor of Amazon or selling on Facebook.

And that’s leaving massive amounts of revenue on the table for those businesses who do look to eBay for expansion.

After all, eBay has a total 167 million shoppers, whom of which spent $84 billion in 2016 alone. That’s not measly amount of cash –– not even for multi-million dollar online stores.

In fact, eBay has quite a few things going for it in comparison to other channels you might consider.

  1. It’s much easier to get set up on. In fact, it takes minutes.
  2. Fraud reportedly occurs less often on the marketplace –– saving you time and frustration
  3. Due to less competition, it is easier to rank and grow sales quickly, as in less than 3 months.

That’s why in November 2016, BigCommerce and eBay partnered up to make getting set up that much easier –– and increase revenue for savvy brands looking to grow sales without much work.

That integration remains the industry’s only active native integration enabling you to increase sales by selling directly to eBay’s massive customer base, right from your BigCommerce control panel.

And, manage it all in your order panel.

The use cases vary from brand to brand, but hundreds of stores are already connected and pulling in additional revenue with very little additional work.

Below are just 5 eBay business success stories — and how they did it.

Start Selling on eBay Now

Don’t wait until right before the holiday season to test out the eBay channel. Get started now.

Jen Thomas, Owner, Smudgy Monkey Gifts & Accessories

  • 96.44% increase in revenue through eBay + BigCommerce integration as of 2017

Ten years ago, my husband was laid off so I started a business to sell items on eBay to fill the gap while he was looking for work.

I was fortunate to find a niche product that was trending at the time and my business experienced growth each year.

Eventually I opened an ecommerce store off eBay. While I continue to sell on eBay through that store, I am hopeful to swing the buyers from eBay to my ecommerce store and make them customers who will return to Smudgy Monkey when they are looking for a thoughtful gifts from a store that offers exceptional customer service and value.

That said, establishing credibility through sales on eBay with an emphasis on great customer service has been my most successful marketing tactic to date.

Clive de Sousa, CEO, Glory Cycles

  • 1.5% increase in revenue through eBay + BigCommerce integration as of 2017

I saw a notification my BigCommerce dashboard in 2016 that there was a new integration with eBay. I thought: “Why not go for it If it’s going to be quick and easy?” So, I went ahead and installed it and went from there.

The process was very simple and easy to use. The only challenge we ran into was that our own data not been sufficient for what eBay needed. We had to update that.

But the integration itself works fantastic for us! It has open some sales opportunities we were not aware of and we have expanded these.

Although we haven’t even yet expanded our data to what the BigCommerce system is capable of doing, we can confirm our eBay sales are up by more than 50% on what we were doing for very little additional work. Plus, overall revenue is up 1.5% –– again, with very little work.

I’d recommend the integration for sure! In fact this might be better the other way around: I would suggest BigCommerce to any eBay store owners.

Damon Didier, VP of Marketing at Office Furniture Source

  • 46.7% increase in revenue through eBay + BigCommerce integration as of 2017

BigCommerce’s connections to eBay and Amazon have driven considerable online sales for us, and strong SEO has helped to drive both online and in-store sales.

Nikole Smith, Office Manager & Customer Service Manager, Hawk Supplements

  • 100% increase in revenue through eBay + BigCommerce integration as of 2017

The biggest drivers of sales for us this year have been advertising on Facebook and selling on eBay!

Nick Borrelli, Ecommerce Marketing Director, Nu Wave Marine

  • .13% increase in revenue through eBay + BigCommerce integration as of 2017

Before I started my shop, I was selling motorcycle and got in a bad crash while delivering one. After, I was fired from my job and I had to move back home with my dad.

At the time, my dad owned a small marine mechanic shop. I started digging through his piles of parts and selling them on eBay.

I had no ecommerce experience and no boating experience, but I was successful! So, I started listing new products on eBay and before you knew it, it was a full time operation.

The logical next step was to cut out the middleman (eBay) so that we could make more profit. That’s when I met BigCommerce, built a site, taught myself SEO and PPC. eBay still drives sales for us, though, and contributes to overall bottom line.

Final Word

Not selling yet on eBay? You’re leaving money on the table. It’s quick. It’s easy. It works. If you’re looking for even more inspiration to help you get started, here’s how one company escalated to more than $100,000 in monthly sales.

Start Selling on eBay Now

Don’t wait until right before the holiday season to test out the eBay channel. Get started now.

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.

]]> 0
How 5 Brands Grew Their Customer Lifetime Value 2X in Less Than 1 Year with Loyalty Programs Tue, 13 Jun 2017 17:58:47 +0000 Retaining customers isn’t easy, but it’s important to do for businesses of every size. After all, the sure fire sign…]]>

Retaining customers isn’t easy, but it’s important to do for businesses of every size. After all, the sure fire sign of a healthy brand is a growing number of repeat purchases from already existing customers.

The above is a screenshot of BigCommerce’s out-of-the-box ecommerce analytics Customer report. You can clearly see the number of new vs. returning customers. A 50/50 split like the one above is a great place to be for a brand. And you can clearly see this particular brand is heavily focused on increasing returning customer spend. 

This is because earn net new customers is expensive. It often takes advertising to acquire –– and if they don’t come back to purchase again, you’re return on ad spend stays steady, rather than increasing over time. It also means your customer lifetime value is low (which decreases how much you will be willing to spend on advertising –– and thus will limit your ad visibility).

Growing your customer lifetime value and building long term customer loyalty takes time, though. It can’t be created overnight.

It also isn’t rocket science.

Earning increased repeat business and building customer lifetime value is doable –– and you can start right now.

First, know that it takes business investment to make LTV a core and measured metric. It must be part of your overall business strategy. This isn’t about a monetary investment. No, you need to invest time in building ways to track and measure your LTV over time.

How 5 Brands Made Customer Lifetime Value a Business Priority

There are many ways to build customer lifetime value, but first, let’s define it to make sure we are all on the same page.

What is Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

Customer lifetime value, commonly referred to as LTV or CLV, is a business metric that estimates the total predictable repeat purchase rate of a customer over the lifetime of their time with your brand.

The higher your brand’s LTV (lifetime value) is, the more valuable it is considered in the market. This is because acquiring net new customers is expensive –– and if a customer only purchases from you once, your return on ad spend (ROAS) doesn’t increase over time.

How to Calculate Customer Lifetime Value

Customer lifetime value informs nearly every business decision, but none more than ad and marketing spend.

First, you need to nail down the CLV that will be your north star. There are several ways to do this, but more importantly than which method you go with is consistency once that decision is made (for more on manually calculating CLV, Ometria has an excellent tutorial).

If you are a BigCommerce customer, you can use your Analytics to download and then sort your customers by purchase date.

Easily configure customer lifetime value (LTV) by exporting your customer groups and viewing total spend with your company on a customer cohort level. You can even do it by each individual customer.

Better yet, if you are an Insights customer, you get immediate cohort access to customer LTV in a variety of reports.

BigCommerce Insights offers 6 LTV reports with easily downloadable cohorts you can use to target ads or emails to increase repeat purchasing rates, or find lookalike customers. 

If you aren’t using BigCommerce, you can still get at this information by using your store analytics tool to download customer purchase and order history, and then match repeat customers. You may need to build out your own formula or combine multiple sets of data to get at your customer repeat purchase rate.

How to Use CLV — and Why it Matters

CLV (or LTV) should inform nearly every business decision, but none more so than ad spend. The bang you get for your advertising buck is inextricably tied to what you can expect every customer to bring you in the long term — not just their first time purchasing from your store.

When you combine LTV with other metrics like retention rate, customer acquisition cost, churn rate, net profit and ROAS, you start to get a very clear picture of what you can do to improve margins.

A low average ROAS will influence how much you spend on advertising –– likely meaning you won’t be able to afford to bring on net new customers at scale in the long run.

When you spend your business resources on an ad, the goal is to make sure that ad produces as much revenue as possible. Here’s a quick way to calculate ROAS:

Gross Revenue from Ad campaign

ROAS = _______________________

Cost of Ad Campaign

For example, a company that spends $2,000 on an online advertising campaign in a single month. In this month, the campaign results in revenue of $10,000. Therefore, the ROAS is a ratio of 5 to 1 (or 500%) as $10,000 divided by $2,000 = $5.

Revenue: $10,000

Cost: $2000

ROAS = $5 OR 5:1

For every dollar that the company spends on its advertising campaign, it generates $5 worth of revenue.

What is a good ROAS?

An acceptable ROAS is influenced by profit margins, operating expenses, and the overall health of the business.

While there’s no “right” answer, a common ROAS benchmark is a 4:1 ratio — $4 revenue to $1 in ad spend. Cash-strapped start-ups may require higher margins, while online stores committed to growth can afford higher advertising costs.

This is where LTV comes in. The higher your LTV is, the low your ROAS ratio can be for the short-term (understanding that the ratio will increase over time as the customer purchases additional items).

Some businesses require an ROAS of 10:1 in order to stay profitable, and others can grow substantially at just 3:1. A business can only gauge its ROAS goal when it has a defined budget and firm handle on its profit margins.

A large margin means that the business can survive a low ROAS; smaller margins are an indication the business must maintain low advertising costs. An ecommerce store in this situation must achieve a relatively high ROAS to reach profitability. In other words, if you have a low margin, LTV is more important to your business in order to achieve a higher ROAS ratio over time.

Now, let’s take a look at 5 brands who are using S Loyalty, among other tools and tactics, to build customer loyalty and repeat purchases –– two measurements of a healthy LTV.

Get S Loyalty Now to Increase Your LTV

Start using what more than 200 online stores use to drive customer loyalty and repeat purchases. All in one click.

1. How to Increase CLV & LTV in a Crowded Online Industry

The Cloud Alchemist is a boutique vapor liquid brand based out of Seattle, WA. They design and produce their own products, from initial design, down to laboratory production.

After speaking with Trevor Taylor, founder of The Cloud Alchemist, I learned that their customer loyalty strategy is all about being personable and connecting with their customers, as demonstrated by how frequently they engage directly with their customers to add value.

“I’ve talked with people about the birth of a new child, buying their first house, and losing jobs.

I gave store credit to a customer who’s hard up, sent spare hard drives to someone building computers for those in need, and even traded a t-shirt in exchange for someone’s home-made jerky.

This is not something you can fake, you have to be genuine, but the response to opening up and being human with customers is immeasurable.”

– Trevor Taylor, Cloud Alchemist

They’re active in their community, participating in Reddit groups, gatherings, Facebook communities, and more. Their team is always transparent about who they work for and where their biases lie. But, getting in front of potential customers as often as possible helps your brand to be seen as a thought leader and a helper –– making that customer’s next purchase decision more likely to be with you.

Here are a few other things The Cloud Alchemist does to increase customer lifetime value.

Send relevant, transparent emails

A big part of being engaging is being relevant.

Being relevant doesn’t mean you have to send an individualized and personalized email to every single customer. Instead, it means that we set up your automation streams to address people by their given name (if your form collects it) and prompts them to take an action relevant to the action they’ve just taken on your site.

For instance, The Cloud Alchemist team emails new customers after a purchase, encouraging them to review the product for the vape community JuiceDB.

JuiceDB is a leading community review site for the vape industry, and The Cloud Alchemist makes it clear to customers that their review –– good or bad –– cannot be altered by their team. Instead, the brand is dedicated to making sure the best flavors have the highest reviews in the community, despite which ones those are.

After all, it helps to educate the entire industry.

Here’s what that email looks like:

This is a great way for The Cloud Alchemist to get feedback, see what can be improved, improve customer satisfaction, and also gain exposure with public feedback that’s shared with the community.

Deliver a personal touch

With every order that goes out, The Cloud Alchemist team includes a handwritten thank you message on their packing slips.

Included alongside stickers, cards, and other branded items, they take this opportunity to thank the customer personally for this business. After all, every customer has a choice, and their choice impacts your bottom line. If they choose to do with you, especially in a crowded industry, take that extra step to thank them for their time and prove your dedication to them as a customer. It will often be returned.

Reward customers for their loyalty

The Cloud Alchemist uses S Loyalty for their customer loyalty program solution. Like their approach to personalized emails, for their loyalty program, The Cloud Alchemist has turned on storefront notifications to showcase relevant reminders to shoppers about the loyalty program as they visit their site.

Enabling notifications has helped them with more consistent loyalty program engagement and has increased engagement outside of the segment of users that already engaging with the program.

Here’s what Trevor had to say about it:

“There were a handful of customers that religiously used their points as they accrued them (mostly at the $10-20 reward mark), but this year we also turned on the email feature to remind customers that they had points to spend 14 days after earning enough to redeem.

It has been my personal impression that, since setting it up, we’ve had a marked uptick in returning customers using redeemed rewards and having those orders come through at a more regular and even pace (vs a tendency to have “hot” days where stacks of orders come in, generally on Fridays/paydays).”

Each of these customer loyalty strategies builds customer lifetime value for The Cloud Alchemist. This is especially important in a crowded industry, where customers have a plethora of choices when it comes to where to purchase.

Be sure to give your customers a feeling of personalization so that when they buy again, they buy from you.

2. How to Earn LTV Utilizing a Quality at Quantity Strategy

Super Hair Pieces is a direct-to-consumer hair piece store. Providing a wide assortment of styles, sizes, and colors, they have one of the largest inventories of hair pieces available online.

When I spoke with George Li about how they attracted a loyal following of repeat customers, it immediately became clear that their strategy is all about the product.

By delivering great hairpieces at the best possible prices, Super Hair Pieces has created a fighting force within the hair pieces industry.

The money they save with a lean strategy, they pass on to their customers. Here’s how it works.

Lower prices for increase loyalty

When a new potential customer comes to your site, it is better that they come at the recommendation of a friend rather than through an ad.


Because social proof is incredibly valuable, and people believe that brands they are recommended to are better than others –– often even if they aren’t.

Here are a couple stats for you to chew on:

  • People are 4x more likely to buy something when recommended by a friend
  • 67% of consumers modify the brands/companies they purchase from in order to maximize points.

Added both of those stats up –– and getting a loyalty program up and running for your business can mean serious $$$.

Super Hair Pieces implemented a loyalty program two year ago. The savings that George can offer through points and rewards encourages customer retention, as well as referrals, and allows the brand to focus on delivering what they do best (selling a great product as an affordable price).

Today, a healthy part of Super Hair Pieces’ customer base are loyal, repeat customers –– all without any major marketing campaigns.

3. How a Niche Brand Makes Gains on Industry-Wide LTV

Swiss Rasoi is an online specialty grocery store that sells Indian spices and ingredients. They’re based in Switzerland and serve the Swiss market with free delivery, and a vast selection of spices and staples needed for Indian cuisine.

They’ve created a colorful brand filled with quality images that reflect their product offerings –– i.e. Quality ingredients. This brand design is consistent across their online store, as well as, their social media channels, helping to reinforce a consistent, trustworthy message.

Here’s are a couple more stats for you:

  • 83% of consumers say loyalty is driven primarily by trust
  • 26% of consumers mention the terms “trust” and “consistency” as an important element of brand loyalty

Swiss Rasoi offers traditional products delivered right to your doorstep. With added conveniences like free delivery, unbeatable prices, and access to hard-to-find ingredients, they’ve created a brand where an increasing number of their customers come back to buy more.

Beautiful, resonating content for their community

The Swiss community for authentic Indian spices and ingredients might have started as a small niche, but Swiss Rasoi is creating brand recognition throughout the Swiss food industry. By delivering their color branded images which reflect their offerings, they create content that’s immediately recognizable with clear callouts.

In addition, every month, Swiss Rasoi hosts flash sales you can only find on their social media channels –– specifically Facebook.

By offering discounts on their already great prices, flash sales create an urgency for their customers to come back, make more purchases, and add to the brand’s overall LTV value.

How to Use Psychology to Drive Sales

The 6 tactics you need to know to make more $$$.

More savings for loyal customers

In addition to offering their customers savings from offers and flash sales, Swiss Rasoi a loyalty program to give their best customers another avenue for saving on their quality ingredients.

When free shipping and low prices are standard, offering additional discounts through a loyalty program is something extra that Swiss Rasoi can give back to their loyal customers.

The more your purchase, the less you pay.

4. How to Play on the Power of Convenience for Increased LTV

Based in New Jersey, DBDPet became the largest dry goods vendor at reptile shows after just 6 years in business.

It’s a classic startup story: they started in a garage with one bearded dragon that laid eggs. Now they are expanding beyond a 5,000 sq ft warehouse by breeding exotic animals, and offering supplies for every kind of pet.

DBDPet realized, however, that it was difficult to explain where to buy supplies for the pets they sold. Today, they strive to be a one-stop shop for all reptile supplies while providing accurate and useful information about the nurturing and care for these pets.

For DBDPet, their path to customer loyalty was built from their expertise and the steady stream of advice and content they deliver to their community.

Offering expert advice through social media

Customers that shop at DBDPet come for the supplies, but stay for the advice and knowledge.

Social media became a way for Buddy and his team to spread their wisdom learned through years of experience in exotic pets.

They create a constant stream of content for Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, which are essential for them to keep their current customers engaged, while helping to reach new ones.

A loyalty program for a one-stop shop

As DBDPet became a one-stop shop for exotic pets, their knowledge and expertise became the foundation of their customer loyalty strategy.

By offering a broad range of products, they cater to every need of their customers. You can say they are the Amazon of exotic pet supplies –– and we all know how loyal Amazon shoppers are.

DBDPet uses a loyalty program to further encourage customers to who their one-stop shop for all exotic pet and pet supply needs.

5. Florida Colors Nursery

Florida Colors Nursery is a staple in the Plumeria community. Currently offering more than 1,200 varieties, many of which are their own, they also focus on providing extensive knowledge on growing, grafting, and cultivating Plumeria plants.

I briefly spoke with Tex Norwood, and it’s obvious that he and his team are fanatics about Plumeria flowers. Their customer loyalty comes from their thought leadership in the shared community around these flowers.

More than a thousand varieties shared on social media

Alongside multiple properties about Plumeria, Social Media has been a primary outlet for sharing the beautiful photos of these plants. With so many colors, combinations, shapes, and sizes, each one is best cared for a little differently than the next.

They’ve built a loyal following by sharing their latest cultivations, while providing best practices on how to care and keep them healthy. In total, they have thousands of followers within their community engaged with their Facebook page, community websites, and store.

It’s immediately obvious that Tex and his business partners are experts when it comes to Plumeria. Customers can find an endless bucket of wisdom and knowledge to best grow, graft, cultivate, and enjoy these flowers.

As for their loyalty program, customers are rewarded each time they buy, adding up to store credit and lower overall cost for the customer (plus great social referrals for the brand).

Final Word

These five stores each have a different approach to customer retention and customer loyalty –– ultimately leading to increased LTV –– which proves that there’s no one right way of keeping your customers engaged.

However, the one thing that all of these have in common is that they offer something that resonates well with their customers.

Whether that’s a wealth of expertise, affordable prices, or being passionate and personable; the lesson here is to treat your customers well, and they’ll return the favor.

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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Your Guide to the 3 Ecommerce Fulfillment Options: Drop-Shipping, 3PL or Self-Fulfillment Thu, 08 Jun 2017 16:38:38 +0000 You’ve got a killer product, nailed down your marketing strategy, and are finally getting in front of customers. The orders…]]>

You’ve got a killer product, nailed down your marketing strategy, and are finally getting in front of customers. The orders are rolling in and your business is primed for explosive growth.

That’s it, right?

Not so fast. While product-market fit and user acquisition are undoubtedly crucial to your business, ecommerce order fulfillment is the engine that keeps your car running.

Let’s start from the beginning.

What is order fulfillment?

Fulfillment encompasses the entire process of receiving an order and delivering it to a customer. As anyone well-versed in operational ecommerce is aware, this actually encompasses a number of complex steps throughout the supply chain that all play a significant role in how customers perceive your business.

To name only a few of the steps, proper fulfillment requires:

  1. Warehouse organization
  2. Order management
  3. Packaging
  4. Shipping
  5. Customer communication

But you may not have to do some — or all — of those processes in-house.

If you are a medium-sized or growing business, it’s likely that you have begun to investigate order fulfillment services, and might have experimented with one already. While small businesses can often manage their inventory, packing, and shipping, as the operation scales up, additional support is needed and beneficial.

Product fulfillment is the most important artery supporting the overall health of a quickly growing ecommerce business. Understanding what options are out there, how they can help, and which is best for your business is a critical decision-making process.

In this guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know about three of the most popular strategies:

  1. Drop-shipping
  2. Third-party ecommerce fulfillment
  3. Self-fulfillment

And we’ll look specifically at the following in regards to each of your options:

  • How to define the various industry terms
  • The advantages and disadvantages of each technique
  • For which companies or business models dropshipping makes the most sense (and why)
  • For which companies or business models third-party fulfillment makes the most sense (and why)
  • How to choose an order fulfillment system
  • When it’s time to establish your own product fulfilment and distribution center
  • Next steps for your business right now

The ultimate goal with this guide is that you understand what each fulfillment technique is, when to use it, how it works, and how to get started. You can then select the right solution to take your company to the next level and ultimately sell more. Let’s dive in.

Defining Order Fulfillment Terms

Let’s take a look at how the order fulfillment process works in three common models.


With dropshipping, inventory is not owned before the sale is made.

The seller is a middleman, often never actually seeing or “possessing” the product, but rather focusing on marketing it to customers and making sales.

Once goods are sold, the seller has them shipped directly to the customer from a dedicated dropshipper, or the manufacturer.

Stores that drop ship deal exclusively with marketing and branding, but outsource the logistics of ecommerce, i.e. the fulfillment.

There are a variety of dropshipping types –– and in all of which you, the seller, remain the middleman.

Say you sell furniture that you market through both your website and a brick-and-mortar showroom. With the dropshipping model, every time a customer places an order, you would then place an order with your source.

By doing so, you keep nothing on hand and your profit is made from the difference between your retail price and the price you pay your source for each product (along with any other associated costs).

Here is your profit calculation for this model:

Profit = Retail Price – Price Per Product Bought from Dropshipper

The dropshipping benefit:

It isn’t just startups using dropshipping. Brands like Macy’s and Lord & Taylor use dropshipping from their suppliers to alleviate risk (i.e. the risk of buying too much of a product that just won’t sell).

Dropshipping helps both startups and larger organizations understand what the market wants before committing fully to creating a custom item, or buying in bulk.

Third-Party Fulfillment

With third-party fulfillment, inventory is owned before the sale is made. The seller often purchases or manufactures the product, stores the inventory with the third-party company, and then markets the product in order to sell it.

When an order is processed, the third party (NOT the online store) packages the order and ships it to the customer. Third parties also usually help with COGS and economies of scale.

Let’s continue with the same example of a furniture business. With third-party ecommerce fulfillment, you may still have a website and showroom for marketing, but when a customer places an order, you already have the inventory.

Your third-party logistics provider (3PL) is contacted (this can be automated on your ecommerce platform), and they package the product and ship it to the customer. Your profit will be the remaining difference between the retail price, the price you pay per product, and the fees you pay your third-party provider.

Here is what that looks like:

Profit = Retail Price – Price Per Product – 3PL fees

The 3PL benefit:

Using a 3PL to outsource picking, packing and shipping frees up your time to focus on marketing, finding net new customers, nurturing repeat customers and more.

Brands of all sizes use third party fulfillment, and most 3PLs integrate directly with ecommerce platform like BigCommerce, so once someone places an order, the system alerts the 3PL to pick, pack and ship –– no manual work on your end needing to be done.

3PLs are best for brands which have their own, unique product (in dropshipping, you are using a supplier’s product), no inventory space and want to focus on acquisition rather than shipping.

Self-Fulfillment & Shipping

With self-fulfillment (or “direct fulfillment”), you own the inventory and fulfill orders yourself — no outside party involved.

Often, a warehouse is leased where pickers and packers handle the orders and a WMS (Warehouse Management Software) is purchased as well. The warehouse usually acts as the distribution center, or “hub” for all of your fulfillment.

In our same furniture business example, you have your own warehouse space for storing inventory and handle fulfilling the orders in-house. You might even use your own workforce to pack and ship items.

In the self-fulfillment model, profit is the difference between your retail price and the costs associated with buying inventory, storing it, and fulfilling orders.

Profit= Retail Price – Inventory Buying – Inventory Storing – Fulfillment costs

The self-fulfillment benefit:

With self-fulfillment, you are in control. For startups, choosing self-fulfillment may save you money (though certainly will cost you in time) as you pick, pack and ship items yourself.

For larger organizations, self-fulfillment gives you control over exactly how your items are picked and packed, and when they are shipped to meet customer expectations.

Brands choosing self-fulfillment are often particular about the delivery experience, which means more control during packing is required.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Each Fulfillment Technique


Although a drop-shipping model creates an easy and inexpensive way to add products to your online store, those same low barriers to entry are a double-edged sword.

This can be a great way to get going, and for efficient operations, can even sustain growth. Understanding the pros and cons before you start is crucial to drop-shipping success.


  • Easy to start: Drop-shippers provide the products and the shipping, so all you need to do is focus on sales.
  • Minimal business development: You’re leveraging the network of your drop-shipper, instead of personally building the relationships with every supplier. Essentially, every new partner allows you to grow by a significantly large number of new products.
  • More products, faster: Growth in ecommerce begins with adding more products to your website. Integrating a drop-shipper’s products with your business is simple and straightforward because all you’re doing is supporting the links and learning the prices—not lining up any other part of the logistics.This allows more people to discover you and increases the number of touchpoints by which interested shoppers can encounter your brand.
  • Affordable: Low overhead makes drop shipping a great starting place for online retailers. All you do is pay for inventory when a sale is made, so you avoid operational expenses like warehousing. Profitability is not guaranteed, though, which we’ll get to in the next section.
  • Test before committing: Since you don’t incur overhead, you can test out the viability of new markets for existing products anywhere you can establish a drop-shipper service.
  • Focus on what you do well: The convenience of a hands-off product fulfillment experience thereby enables businesses to focus on other priorities, which is especially advantageous to new companies.


  • No customization: Drop shipping usually means virtually no support for custom products. To achieve this type of support and customization, your dropshipper would have to function as a warehouse.  Unfortunately, this is not likely unless their margins on custom products were worth the time and effort — in which case, the margins would likely not make sense for you.
  • Lower quality control: Since the seller is removed from the fulfillment process, you’re entrusting your brand’s reputation to another party — while maintaining accountability. Buyers usually don’t think about fulfillment models or drop shippers. If a defective product arrives or there is a miscommunication about the shipment, your customer doesn’t want to hear that it was out of your control; all they care about is the overall experience.
  • Reduced brand power: Your products are produced by others, so it’s more difficult to establish a unique brand. The reduced quality control only increases the risk to your brand.
  • Competitive (dis)advantage: Low barriers to entry mean it’s hard to establish a competitive advantage over other businesses. You’re competing on price, and that can easily become a losing game.
  • Scale: Logistics can become challenging as a business scales up, especially when coordinating with multiple drop-shippers.

Get Started with a Dropshipper Now

Third-Party Ecommerce Fulfillment

Third party fulfillment and warehousing can provide you with a national or even global footprint of warehouses, allowing you to reach out customers faster while taking advantage of shipping discounts.

However, picking, packing, and storage fees can cut into your profit margin, particularly for slim-margin stores.


  • Inventory can be purchased in bulk in order to improve profit margins.
  • No investment is required for warehouse space/real estate, WMS software, or a workforce to pick and pack orders.
  • There is an added convenience of outsourcing the process to a trusted professional.
  • Shipping discounts can be much better than if you were to negotiate on your own.
    • I.e: Your business ships 5,000 packages per month, but the third-party ecommerce fulfillment company may be handling 150,000 orders per month. They’re going to be able to get better shipping rates with FedEx/UPS than you can alone.


  • Quality can be compromised.
    • You have to do your due diligence: a third-party ecommerce fulfillment company controls your ecommerce business’s final handoff of value to your customers. In other words, they have the opportunity to make or break your customer satisfaction levels, which affects the lifetime value of these customers on your business.

Get Started with a 3PL Now


Self-fulfillment, when done correctly, can add a huge competitive advantage to you store.

The problem is it can be extremely capital intensive (given the warehousing), and one needs to think carefully about the location of their warehouse, as well as the time it will take to operate your own logistical process on a day-to-day basis.


  • It offers 100% control of inventory and the pick, pack, and ship process.
  • It can be low-cost when the business is small because you are just paying for shipping (and doing the work yourself).
  • Anyone can do it. You don’t need any contacts (as long as you have space to store products, address labels, and packing resources such as packing slips).
  • For businesses shipping significant volume, negotiated shipping rates through FedEx, UPS, and/or USPS can become a competitive advantage.


  • It is time-consuming. Packing all of the products yourself will take time. As orders increase, this can take up most of your day.
  • It is costly as the business grows and can be very burdensome for a young business. You need the following:
    • Warehouse space
    • Warehouse equipment
    • Additional staff
    • Order fulfillment software requirements

With these pros and cons in mind, let’s look more closely at how each technique works, situations where each is most beneficial, and tips on getting started.

Brands Using the Self-Fulfillment Model

When Does a Drop-Shipping Model Make Sense?

Being that drop-shipping has a low price of entry and therefore presents a limited amount of risk, it can be a good solution for a lean startup looking to break into a market, or for an established business that wants to test out a new market.

Let’s dig into how this technique can be utilized for companies of your size.

Drop-Shipping for Startups

Let’s say you’re a travel blogger with tens of thousands of followers. A lot of your followers want to get your “swag,” such as hats, t-shirts, and the new travel bag that you designed.

You’re not sure if you want to invest a ton of time and money into a new ecommerce business, but you find an on-demand tee-shirt printer and hat embroiderer who will drop-ship orders for you.

By utilizing them, you can start processing orders and have the drop-shipper print and embroider your products as the orders come in. If orders really take off, great, then you know the idea will work and you can look into ordering your shirts, hats, and whatever new products you want to buy in bulk.

If they don’t take off, then you’re not in a bad position because you haven’t built up an inventory.

Drop-shipping allows you a chance to break into a market, establish your brand, and generate a small amount of income that you can use to fuel bulk purchase orders and eventually increase your profit margins.

It can be a smart tactic for startups, but you should note that this isn’t the same path you’d take if you were an existing company looking to try out a new market.

Use Printful for Custom Swag Drop-Shipping

Create and drop ship custom items on demand.

Drop-Shipping for Existing Companies

Let’s say you run an ecommerce store selling high-quality children’s toys. You’re great at what you do and have earned a very loyal following with your customer base.

Plus, you have a wonderful relationship with your third-party fulfillment provider, which handles all your inventory coming in from suppliers overseas, as well as a few boutique suppliers in the U.S.

You decide that you want to explore other channels that the company can enter with new products. Given the strong customer base your business already has, you decide to test out sales for quality child strollers.

At this point, you could look for a mass supplier for strollers, invest in an initial bulk order, and begin marketing them to test customer interest. However, you are then at risk of losing your investment if the products don’t sell, or at a minimum, tying up cash in a bunch of inventory that sells very slowly.

On the other hand, you could use the “bullets before cannonballs” approach, where you test the waters before going in full-force.

Do this by hiring a drop-shipper and beginning to market the new product lines to test customer interest before investing in the products.

multi channel fulfillment

This strategy effectively removes the risk, allowing your established business to remain agile while testing a new market.

Sure, your profit margins may be lower on a per-unit basis, but partnering with a drop-shipper allows you to instantly launch a new product on your online store and test your assumptions before making a big cash investment — no warehousing required.

Lando Landis, founder of RockerRags, sells apparel for those seeking a rock-and-roll lifestyle.

Most of his apparel sells for less than $30, but customers were still eager to purchase versions of the classic Pan Am luggage sets.

ecommerce platform

Rather than tie up several thousand dollars in the Pan Am inventory, Lando established a drop-shipping relationship with the manufacturer to handle the order fulfillment for the Pan Am merchandise.

 As Lando explained,

“This ended up being a great move because demand for the Pan Am product line tends to be pretty cyclical. Around the holidays it spikes, and sometimes in the spring. Because of the drop-shipper, I don’t have to worry about allocating cash to buy inventory up front but I still get the advantages of offering the products for sale online.”

How to Land Your Drop-Shipping Partnership

Dave Hermansen, who operates StoreCoach, helps businesses and entrepreneurs establish and operate their online stores.

Dave operates nearly 60 independent stores of his own, 80% of which utilize drop-shipping fulfillment to some extent.

logistics company

Dave has the following tips:

  1. Find the top ranking specialty store for the product you want to drop-ship: Do research on the Google search volume for these products and the top selling brands, to better understand what opportunity exists if you were to acquire a small % of total search volume and sales.
  2. Go to the root: Use Google to find the manufacturer for the product/brand. Most of the time the brand and the manufacturing company use the same name, (think Sony products and Sony manufacturing) but other times things may be less obvious. A simple (or advanced) Google search is the best place to start. You want to find the company who owns the manufacturing process of the products you want to sell, and then get the contact information for their sales team. Cross-referencing the manufacturer’s company name with Linkedin is an easy way to accomplish this.
  3. Engage with the Sales Team, but leave out all mention of drop-shipping at first: The reality is manufacturers are bombarded with drop-shipping requests every week. Dave suggests intentionally leaving out all mention of drop-shipping at first. Instead, once you’ve developed a relationship with the sales rep, use a phrase like this:
    • “..we really want to add your brand to our store, but we want to see what products sells best for your product line… Do you mind if the manufacturer ships direct for the first 90 days, as we test out the new product line…?”
  4. Sometimes the manufacturer will refuse, if so, ask for the contact details for their 2-3 largest distributors: Then, use this information to repeat step 3.
    • Often times, dealing with a distributor can be more advantageous than dealing with the manufacturer because distributors likely deal with multiple brands, giving you an even wider opportunity to add products via a drop-shiping model to your store!

A Drop-Shipping Drawback for Larger Brands

There comes a point in the life of every business where customers take a risk on a new idea because of your brand. You’ve got a lot of existing, loyal customers who will hold anything new to your old standards of quality and care.

One concern with drop-shipping for established businesses is that you’re handing control of your products and customer service over to another company. This will limit your ability to brand an offer and may ultimately cut against your larger marketing efforts if your next product is an extension of an existing line.

Drop-shipping can cause this to get away from you because you’re sourcing and selling from multiple warehouses, which could cause inventory shortages. Plus, you’re no longer sticking to your branding; you’re selling something that any other company can partner with your drop-shipper to sell.

We often hear larger companies pitched about using drop-shipping when they want to expand and test a new market. It is cheaper than creating deals, but you ultimately are trading in name recognition for early, low-margin sales.

Every ecommerce brand knows that good reviews sell. If you look through your highest-rated reviews and find mentions not only of your products, but also your customer service teams and shipping times, drop-shipping may take away what your customers have come to appreciate and expect.

3 Chief Drop-Ship Considerations

So what can you expect when hiring a drop-shipper? Here are a few of the common practices.

1) Predefined Product Selection

Each drop-shipper will give you a list of products that you can sell based on their manufacturing partners. Exclusive are sometimes available, but opportunities tend to be limited.

Drop-shippers should tell you the minimum price you can set for a product (when set by the manufacturer), which will allow you to make some revenue off of each sale.

2) Drop-Ship Fee

There is a standard fee in the industry, which is typically charged on a per-item basis to cover the drop-shipper’s costs for packing and shipping an item. The amount typically ranges from $2 to $5, but can be higher, depending on the type of product.

Fees can be paid as soon as an order is placed, or within a certain time frame set out in your invoice terms.

3) Minimum Monthly Order

Many drop-shippers require a minimum amount on your initial order to weed out the less serious customers. For example, you may encounter a $200 minimum order when your product only costs $50.

This is normal.

You can simply deposit the minimum amount, and it will be a credit in your account.

What to Look for in a Drop-Shipper

When choosing a drop-shipper, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  • If you know which product you want to sell, contact the manufacturer directly and ask for their wholesale distributors. Then, contact the distributors on the list and ask if they drop-ship.
  • Look for up-to-date technology such as a thorough online catalog, real-time inventory management, online searchable purchase history, and the like. These will help to enable a seamless experience for you and your customers.
  • Ask how they process orders. It’s very convenient to place orders by email. However, some providers are limited to taking orders over the phone or strictly through the website. Depending on your level of order automation, you’ll likely want to find a drop-shipper that can match or enhance your ordering process.
  • Good location is important. The distance your drop-shipper is from your customers will affect delivery time and their satisfaction levels.
  • Look for good customer support. It is best if you have your own customer service representative assigned to you and any issues you may have.

In summary, drop-shipping is a low-risk technique that is good for breaking into new markets. As you saw in both the examples, it can lead you to the place where it makes sense to invest in bulk purchasing. When that happens, third-party ecommerce fulfillment can help.

When to Partner with a Third-Party Fulfillment Company

Understanding when and how to choose a fulfillment solution partner are critical steps to a successful online business.

third party freight

Take the story of Craig Rabin, the inventor of The AirHook, who was astonished when his innovative airline cup and electronics holder took off on KickStarter faster than a jet plane.

His $15,000 goal was fully reached in 73 hours, and within 30 days, over $78,000 worth of orders had been placed!

These are great problems to have, but problems nonetheless.

With so many orders placed, the question of how Craig was single-handedly going to fulfill over 4,000 orders to his eager customers became a primary concern.

With the daunting task of over 4,000 orders to be fulfilled, Craig partnered with a fulfillment specialist in the eastern part of the country to complement his location in Seattle, Washington.

Craig explained:

“the fulfillment company was a huge help with the massive number of orders placed on KickStarter, but once those orders were fulfilled, I realized that having only one product (in five different colors), along with smaller quantities of orders streaming in after the KickStarter campaign, it was fairly easy for me to handle most of the fulfillment on my own.”

Now Craig leverages his fulfillment partner for other benefits, such as the discounted shipping rates for international shipments, or spikes in order volume.

“My 3PL was able to provide significantly better international shipping rates, so they handle all non-domestic orders, and sometimes international orders if volume spikes,” Craig said.

While AirHook’s surge in KickStarter orders is a great problem to be dealing with, it’s critical for growing and established brands to understand what core competencies are driving their business growth, and to ensure that your company is able to focus on those functions that will continue to “move the needle” for your online store

Having a dependable fulfillment partner, either a supplement to your drop shipping or self-fulfillment operations, or to handle your order fulfillment altogether, is a great way to ensure that your time is spent on those core competencies. Let’s take a closer look at when it’s a good idea to partner with a 3PL and the factors you should consider when choosing one.

  1. If you are a growing startup that’s finally hit enough buyers to outgrow storing and shipping products out of your mom’s basement (congrats!), it’s a good time to turn to a 3PL.
  2. If you are an existing small- to mid-size established business (with online revenue in the high seven or low eight figures) and your distribution network is not a core competency, 3PL will also be helpful.

Choosing a 3PL means not having to deal with the major financial and logistical demands that come with fulfillment. Instead of investing in forklifts and other expensive, constantly depreciating equipment, you can focus on growing your marketing exposure.

You won’t need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on warehouse space, employees that present liability, and expensive software, but can instead focus on existing product design and testing.

A 3PL is a surefire way to loosen up cash flow back into more important functions that increase your revenue in the long run.

How Third-Party Fulfillment Providers Work

Billing from one provider to the next may vary greatly, but they generally will include the following fulfillment operations and billing charges.

Fulfillment Operations

The invoice that a third party logistics provider sends you might list a dozen separate charges, but most of them tend to fall into one of three broad categories.

1. Receiving Fees

Receiving fees cover the cost of (drumroll, please) receiving containers full of products that need to be properly inventoried. They can be assessed in a number of ways. You may be charged:

  • An hourly labor fee to unload a container
  • A flat fee for the task
  • By the pallet, box, or even item

If you sell small items like iPhone cover cases, getting charged by the item (even if it’s something piddling like $0.25) might end up being much more expensive than simply paying a flat fee to unload a whole container full of them. You’ll have to do the math and factor in the volume you sell to determine which rate makes the most sense for you.

2. Storage

The other major fee—and this can be a big one—is for storage. Some companies charge by the pallet, while others go by the cubic foot. It’s also good to know that prices can fluctuate throughout the year.

Amazon, for example, is known for charging more for storage in the peak holiday shopping season, between October and January; other e-fulfillment services have followed this demand-based model and have higher prices for storing inventory when there’s less available space in warehouses.

3. Picking

A lot of time goes into finding one particular product in a warehouse that may be the size of 10 football fields (or more), and it still needs to be shuttled over and packed after it’s found. That’s why a common fee charged by 3PL providers is for picking a product off the shelf and running it over to the packing station.

Again, the pricing model itself may vary.

While some companies may charge you a flat per-item fee, others might charge extra if an item is over a certain weight limit or is especially fragile, since heavier or delicate items require extra labor to ensure proper handling.

4. Packing

Once the package has been removed from its shelf in inventory, it goes to the packing stage. Some 3PLs include packing as part of their picking services. Others charge additional fees for basic packing supplies like boxes and padding.

Make sure to ask about what sort of packaging your partner uses.

Envelopes weigh less and take up less space than cardboard boxes, but sacrifice security in the process. Some of your products might involve kitting, such as combining three SKUs into one box.

When that happens, a 3PL might charge you a small fee to cover the extra labor involved. Additional packing-related charges include fulfillment fees, order insert fees, and outbound shipping fees (more on shipping fees below).

5. Shipping Rates

One of the major advantages offered by 3PLs is the discounted rate for shipping, which is passed on to clients.

Chances are your business isn’t moving the same volume of goods as an entire fulfillment warehouse, so it’s beneficial to let a 3PL take control of your operation and pass along those savings to you.

Instead of going directly to UPS or FedEx, letting the 3PL negotiate rates for you can save you a hefty chunk of change, particularly if your volume is not at a level where it’s a negotiating asset for you with the carriers.

3PL’s can also help you secure discounted freight shipments, both from the port to the fulfilment house, better DIM weight factors, and for international shipments.

Once you begin to shop around and compare providers, you’ll find that different providers cater to different needs. For example, check out these niche ecommerce fulfillment services.

6. Niche Fulfillment Services

One of the best ways to identify a successful fulfillment partner is to look for a fulfillment warehouse that specializes in your product type’s niche.

  • Do all of your products contain a lithium-ion battery, thus making them fall under a hazmat classification?
  • Are you shipping mostly small, lightweight bi-fold wallets?
  • Or large electronics?

As you can imagine, the pick, pack, and ship operations for an online store selling t-shirts is going to look and operate very differently than a warehouse picking and shipping boxed furniture. If your products fall under a hazmat classification, it can be especially important to find a fulfillment partner who can ensure that your shipments don’t break any laws.

For example, companies like Printful specialize in on-demand printing and fulfillment of posters, apparel, and accessories.

If you already have your apparel printed and ready to distribute, Whiplash Fulfillment is a perfect match, particularly with their low USPS rates for those lightweight packages.

On the other end of the spectrum, Red Stag Fulfillment specializes in ecommerce stores with an average parcel weight greater than 5 pounds and hazmat products that ship via FedEx or UPS.

By identifying a fulfillment provider that fits your niche, your business can not only save a significant amount of money with tailored shipping discounts, but can also avoid major headaches down the road, and even legal liabilities such as hazmat compliance.

7. Location of Your Fulfillment Partner

Another critical but often overlooked question is choosing the location of your fulfillment center. In order to keep shipping costs down, it’s best to choose a provider that is strategically located near your customers.

This is great for smaller shops with relatively concentrated (geographically) customers, but for larger shops who ship products across the country, your outbound shipping information likely mirrors the general populous of the U.S.

Let’s say you live and operate your ecommerce store from Miami Florida. One of the worst things you can do is limit your search for a drop-shipper, your own warehouse space, or a 3rd party fulfillment partner, to only the Miami, FL area.

Besides having some pretty expensive land, Miami is located in a far corner of the country meaning your parcels are going to take longer, and cost more to reach your customer’s addresses.

If your volume is high enough, another factor to consider is sales tax nexus. Most states add on sales tax based on the destination of the items you ship, but there are a few exceptions

Notably, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Montana don’t levy sales tax on remote sellers (neither does Alaska, but it goes without saying that you probably want to have your logistics HQ somewhere in the lower 48).

Those states offer close proximity to major populations centers on the East Coast, West Coast, and Upper Midwest.

Lastly, on the subject of location, there’s no rule saying that your entire fulfillment operation has to be centered in just one place. If you have about equal demand on both sides of the country or in both the Far East and Europe — it’s sensible to stock your items in multiple locations.

With this understanding of the structure of 3PLs and how they work, here’s some advice on what to look for in potential providers.

Interview Questions for 3PLs

The provider you choose will determine the quality experienced by your customers, which is vital to the success of your business.

Being so, a lengthy interview process should be the norm. Here are 20 questions to ask your potential fulfillment partner during the interview process:

  1. Removing price from the equation, why does your company stand out from the competition?
  2. What sort of new technology have you introduced in the last year, and has it enhanced processes?
  3. How does your employee turnover compare to industry levels, and what do you do to ensure a secure, productive, and safe environment? Do you offer incentives for high performance?
  4. What sort of plans do you have in place for peak-demand scenarios such as Black Friday or other major product rushes?
  5. Do you have compliance and KPI reporting that allows us to view shipping in real time?
  6. How do you deal with freight claims, returns, and other less-than-ideal outcomes?
  7. If there was a natural disaster, power outage, software hack, or other major disruption, how would your company react?
  8. How do you coordinate with third party freight companies to manage shipping and account for lost or damage claims?
  9. Can you provide references from clients with a similar business profile/history?
  10. How many current customers do you have, how many warehouses (and where are they), and who’s on the executive team?
  11. Which shipping carriers do you work with? Do you handle international shipping? What are your rates?
  12. What fees do you charge? What about the “hidden” ones?
  13. Do you have in-house IT and hardware repair specialists to make sure all software and equipment is running smoothly?
  14. When is your cut-off time? What about operating hours?
  15. What sort of value-added services, such as kitting and SKU management, do you offer?
  16. What software do you use for inventory management purposes, and can you integrate on the back end of my company’s ecommerce platform? (Magento, SquareSpace, Shopify, etc.)
  17. Do I sign a month-to-month contract or is it long-term?
  18. How much of the U.S. can you reach within two days via ground shipping? Three days?
  19. Do you provide email notifications to customers when an item has shipped?
  20. Can you guarantee that you won’t ever be responsible for delayed, damaged, or lost items?

Download The Questionnaire

If you’d like a thorough questionnaire, here’s a helpful printable resource.

Once you have the answers to these questions, analyze whether the provider looks like a good option. If they do, it would be wise to visit the fulfillment facility and see it for yourself.

Also, it can’t hurt to do a split test. Ask for a 30-day trial period with two, or even three different fulfillment centers so you can compare them head-to-head and decide which one is best for your business.

By following these guidelines, businesses will be able to find a 3PL that helps their business scale up, improve profit margins, and deliver high-quality products to their customers.

While a 3PL is the right solution for many businesses, there are some cases where establishing your own product distribution may be advantageous. Let’s take a closer look at what is involved in this third technique and when it’s a good idea.

When to Establish Your Own Product Distribution

The reality is, your target market may not leave drop-shipping or a third-party fulfillment partnership as viable options.

If your ecommerce store sells high-end, one-off, leather briefcases with custom lining, unique pocket placements, and tailored embroidery, then your business model is simply not suited for sending pallets of your product off to a fulfillment warehouse.

When Kayde Johnson-Anderson first founded LaBu, her goal was to create a successful side business, selling handcrafted jewelry and home goods.

Like many other startups, Kayde set up her fulfillment operation from her home in California in order to have easy access to photographing new products being added to the store and to be able to ensure adequate packaging for her first orders.

While Kayde has recently gone full-time operating and growing the online store, she knows she’s not quite to the point where hiring her first full-time employee to handle the pick, pack, and ship operations is a worthwhile investment.

Black n Bianco, an online store selling children’s formal wear, started out as a retail store in California before launching its BigCommerce shop online.

When sales began to fall for the brick-and-mortar storefront, the Black n Bianco team decided to focus on developing the company’s online presence by expanding to multiple sales channels and marketplaces, including Sears, eBay, and Kmart.

Robert, the company’s web manager, explained that:

“managing the inventory of a brick-and-mortar store, along with the retail store, meant that we had most of the assets (including two full-time employees to handle picking and packing) in place to handle our own fulfillment. That said, using order fulfillment software tools like ChannelAdvisor to manage multi-channel fulfillment and inventory across more than one platform was a critical feature we were missing.

As businesses grow, many companies choose to vertically integrate their operations with a desire to cut costs and maintain a higher level of control over processes. This can be a great business decision for a company, but with a capital-intensive investment such as an in-house fulfillment operation, businesses should wholly evaluate the total cost of such an endeavor.

Understanding which online businesses benefit from a fulfillment partner, versus keeping operations in-house, is a critical evaluation step that should be thoroughly carried out before buying warehouse space. Let’s take a look at some of the issues that could be faced starting your own in-house fulfillment operation.

Understanding the Costs of Self-Fulfillment: Both Financial & Time

For bigger businesses looking to establish their own fulfillment operation (also called “direct order fulfillment”), the sheer number of costs and new liabilities can be overwhelming when setting up your own fulfillment center.

Below, we’ve outlined some of the primary consideration to look into.

Land & Warehouse Space

Rental Rate: $4 to $14 (per sq. ft.)

Besides the base square footage cost, the term length of your lease contract is another primary issue to consider.

Tax implications

Having a physical presence may change your requirement to charge sales tax to your customers. See the BigCommerce guide on ecommerce sales taxes for more information on navigating the spider web of state taxes.


If your ecommerce store is purchasing or leasing warehouse space, chances are you’re looking in your immediate area. Check back to our earlier section, Location of Your Fulfillment Partner, for a guide on how to evaluate the best location for your product distribution.

It’s also fairly unlikely that you’ll have multiple warehouses of your own, at least at first. If you’re located on one of the coasts or one extreme corner of the country, you need to weight the increased cost of shipping your orders to customers further away, as well as the extended time it may take for your customers to receive an order. Ask yourself, “How valuable is being able to reach all of my customers in two days?”

Operational Capital Expenditures

  • Pallet Racking: $50 to $80 per pallet position (not including installation)
  • Forklifts: $800 to $1,100 per Month
  • Trailer loading docks: $250,000 per Dock
  • Conveyors: Belted ($150 to $200 per foot), Gravity ($50 to $120 per foot.)
  • Computers/Tablets/Phones: (for integration with new warehouse management software) $1,000+


Figuring out what software tools are needed to plug in with your BigCommerce store and manage with warehouse operations can be a daunting task.

Platforms such as ShipHero can be a lifesaver versus the time and expense of trying to create your own software program. Furthermore, software solutions such as Skubana and ShipStation are a great if you need to consolidate orders from multiple storefronts or marketplaces, or sync availability with a drop-shipper or third-party fulfillment partner.

Other apps, such as AfterShip, can be a lifesaver by passing all parcel tracking information along to your customers.

The necessary software solutions exist in the BigCommerce App store. Sure, there’s usually a monthly or per-order cost associated with each one, but the real cost to consider is the day-to-day managing of integrations between multiple apps, your storefront, and your customers, which in itself can create a need for a new full-time tech guru at your company.


How easy will it be for you to hire and train (plus training materials and SOP documentation) a workforce to run your warehouse? You may only need two or three additional people, but depending on the size of your existing workforce, an increase in headcount could have other implications on your business.


If you’re going to be hiring new people, you need to have a plan in place to deal with seasonality, particularly around the holidays.

Shipping Rate Discounts with Carriers

Negotiating your own shipping discounts can be a hard mountain to climb, but once established, these discounts can serve as a competitive advantage and even an additional profit center for your business.

The primary factor when weighing your negotiating power is your monthly order volume

The more you ship, the more negotiating power you’ll have with carriers. A secondary factor is the weight distribution of your volume.

If the majority of your outbound parcels are within a 5-pound weight bracket, this concentration of volume can help you earn the best discounts where it will save you the most money. Keep in mind that thanks to the ongoing changes to dimensional weight, your 3-pound container of protein may actually end up being billed at 7 or 8 pounds.

On the other hand, for businesses who have low volume, or whose volume is spread thin across the weight tables, a profitable ecommerce shipping strategy may be hard to establish.

Changes to Core Competency

The biggest question to ask is,

“Will setting up my own fulfillment operation give me a unique competitive advantage?”

Going back to Craig Rabin’s example with the launch of The AirHook, when your ecommerce store hits it big and sees a massive uptick in orders, it’s critical that you take advantage of this positive trend and fulfill orders in such a way that your customers’ expectations are exceeded (or, at a minimum, met), in order to ensure a continued relationship with these customers.

Often, this means offering free two-day shipping, with orders shipped on the same day, 100% perfectly picked orders, and fast return processing.

For most ecommerce stores, these areas of focus are outside the core competencies that created the growth in order volume in the first place. Since The AirHook only sells a single product in a handful of different colors, Craig is able to manage the month-to-month domestic order fulfillment following the KickStarter surge.

But for ecommerce stores with hundreds or even thousands of SKUs, a valuable third-party fulfillment provider is a critical partnership to have to ensure that your time is spent handling the primary drivers of your business, such as growing your online traffic, or carrying out innovative new marketing tactics.

Final Word

Now that you understand the three main options for ecommerce fulfillment — including when to use them and how to get started — you’re ready to take a look at your business and decide which is the best fit.

The first step is to understand what your goals are if you’re evaluating a new fulfillment technique.

  • Are you looking to improve your warehouse/pick, pack, ship efficiency?
  • Are you looking to save on shipping cost?
  • Are you looking to expand your product offerings?

Also, understand what stage your business is in, and where you hope a new order fulfillment model will help to evolve.

  • Are you a startup on a lean budget looking to start making sales? Or an established business that wants to test out a new market?
    • Is your goal to grow your business over the next 5 years and then sell the company? Or are you long-term focused and looking to find a fulfilment partner that can enable your company to grow for decades?
  • For medium-sized businesses that already have demand for their products or services and have the capital to invest in inventory, 3PLs are a great fit. You can outsource all of the hassle to experts, increase your profit margins, and focus on the parts of your business that will impact your bottom line the most.
  • Lastly, if your online store specializes in high-end speciality items, self-fulfillment is often the way to go. Just understand all that’s involved from a time and capital perspective before committing to this model.

The right solution for you is going to depend on what type of product or services you are selling and where your business is in its development.

Keep this guide on hand to refer back to and identify the right technique based on your unique situation. If you have any questions, send them over in the comments section below.

Order fulfillment is a truly integrated part of your supply chain that all other business aspects depend on, so choose wisely!

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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The Power of Popup Design: 6 Rules to 10X Your Subscription Rate, and an App to Do It for You Tue, 30 May 2017 17:00:28 +0000 There are two things you absolutely MUST do as an online store owner: Get people to visit your store. Do…]]>

There are two things you absolutely MUST do as an online store owner:

  1. Get people to visit your store.
  2. Do everything in your power to turn those visitors into customers.

The former usually requires a fair chunk of time and money, which puts even more emphasis and importance on the latter.

It’s not enough to just have quality products and a good-looking storefront: you need to engage your visitors and stand out from the competition.

One of the most common ways online stores engage customers is with popups and banners. These on-screen interactions aren’t so different from a sale sign in the front window of a brick-and-mortar store, or a sales clerk asking if you’d like to join their loyalty program.

Popups aren’t a recent invention, of course.

The first popup ad flashed onto the scene in the mid-’90s, and since then online marketers have weighed the downsides of using popups — annoying customers, interrupting user experience, even slowing down page speeds — with the fact that popups are really, really effective.

How effective?

One study found that switching from a sidebar form to a lightbox-style popup design increased email signups by 1,375%.

One study found that switching from a sidebar form to a lightbox-style popup increased email signups by 1,375%. Another business tried using a popup to capture email signups and saw a 10x increase in subscription rate.

Whether you’re a fan or not, using popups is a surefire way of attracting visitors’ attention, whether it’s to collect an email address, promote a sale, or something else. Even the ugliest popups generally convert well — which is why nearly every website uses them.

While popups aren’t a new phenomenon, what is relatively recent is the development and proliferation of more elegant, more manageable popup solutions.

In 2017, not only do users expect to see popups when they visit websites, but marketers, including online store owners, have tools for creating popups that look great and serve their customers’ interests.

That last point is key to using popups well, and it’s something we’ll expand on later in this post when we share some best practices for using popups in your store.

For now, just remember that popups should always offer the customer a benefit. As an online store owner, if you don’t have a mutually beneficial reason for showing a popup, then it’s probably not worth it.

If you don’t have a mutually beneficial reason for showing a popup to a customer, then it’s not worth it.

When we designed Pixelpop, our goal was to give online businesses a way of doubling down on the world-class customer experience we had in mind when we designed all 67 Stencil themes currently in the BigCommerce theme store. We wanted to help merchants get the most out of every person who visits their store, whether that means converting them into sales now or collecting their email to increase the chance of converting them in the future.

In the end, we built a popup app that’s incredibly easy to use, and that makes it easy for any store owner to create an assortment of great-looking popup designs and banners designed to engage visitors, boost conversions, and drive sales.

Over the past year, we’ve thought a lot about what it means to create a winning engagement strategy, from the popup types and options you should consider, to exactly how to match your popup to your brand and BigCommerce theme.

In this post we’ll share what we’ve learned and give you the tools necessary to make sure you’re engaging every visitor in the best way possible.

Get Started Now

Check out Pixelpop in the BigCommerce App Store.

Rule #1. Start collecting email addresses

If you’re already doing this, kudos! You’re off to a great start.

If not, now is the time to add Pixelpop to your store (it takes two seconds) and create an email signup popup. Go on, add the app right now. We’ll be here when you come back.

Here’s what it should look like right before you launch.

pop up window

So why is collecting email addresses so important? For one thing, no matter how great your products are, no matter what special deals you’re offering, you’re never going to convert every shopper who visits your store.

The vast majority are going to poke around for a bit, see what you have to offer, and then bounce off in search of the next great deal.

By using an email signup popup, you give yourself a chance at re-engaging those visitors and selling to them in the future — not just once, but over and over again.

And if you’re one of those people who believe email marketing is dead? Consider this:

The point is, if you’re not using a popup to collect email addresses, you’re missing out on a big opportunity and an even bigger chunk of sales.

In 10 minutes, you can create an email signup popup and sync it to MailChimp or Conversio so that signups are automatically added to your mailing list of choice. If you use a different email service provider, you can also download a CSV file with collected email addresses.

ecommerce pop up design

Easily style your pop-up to fit your brand and needs. 

When the busy shopping periods hit and it becomes even more expensive to acquire traffic, you’ll be glad to have a list of customers who are familiar with your brand and products, who you can target with specialized sales and offers.

Rule #2. Run popups with planned campaigns

Pixelpop supports more than just email signups. In fact, it offers 7 popup types in total:

  1. Email Signup
  2. Announcement
  3. Page Promotion
  4. Coupon Code
  5. Social Follow
  6. Custom Image
  7. Cookie Disclaimer

Now, you’re obviously not going to run all of these things at once, but you can pick and choose what and when to promote, and how to work popups into your various campaigns.

Free Shipping Banners & Popups

For example, if you offer free shipping, it’s always a good idea to announce that loud and proud at the top or bottom of the page. BigCommerce themes offer a built-in banner area that works well for this, but its customization is rather limited compared to the diversity of options supported by Pixelpop.

how to create popups

You can see the built-in BigCommerce banner at the bottom of the above screenshot.

To create a shipping banner that really grabs customers’ attention, you’ll need a solution from the app store. There are standalone apps dedicated to this functionality, but with Pixelpop all you need to do is create an announcement popup and select “bar” when picking your shape.

create a pop up with Pixelpop

The Pixelpop version of a banner on a BigCommerce store. These can replace the out-of-the-box banners. 

Can you afford to offer free shipping?

If you don’t offer free shipping, you should take a moment to consider if it could be a good option for your store. Start by calculating your average order value for the past few months, increase that by 10-20%, and try offering free shipping on any order over that amount.

Sales & Promotion Banners & Popups

Similar to free shipping, if you’re running a holiday sale or any other promotion, you’ll want to make sure visitors know about it the moment they land on your page.

Using a page promotion popup, you can direct traffic to a featured or discounted product page, or even a special piece of content like a sales page or gift guide.

Here’s an example view while the pop-up is in build mode.

Coupon Code Banners & Popups

96% of U.S. shoppers say they look for and use coupons.

The coupon code popup is also ideal for promotions, as it displays a coupon code that visitors can use to get a discount at checkout. (And if you don’t believe in coupons, consider the 96% of U.S. shoppers who report using coupons!)

You can create pop-ups that take up the entire screen, but still mesh with your brand. 

Versatility was key when we were designing Pixelpop. We wanted to give merchants an all-in-one tool they could use in conjunction with every campaign, whether that meant building their mailing list, getting more social followers, or clearing out inventory with a weekend sale.

If you’re doing something special for your store, don’t just sit back and expect customers to find out about it. Create a popup and deliver your message loud and clear.

Rule #3. Time your popups effectively

Before publishing a popup, review the settings available and make sure each popup is appearing in the right place, at the right time. Pixelpop offers a range of scheduling and delay options, which you can use to refine your engagement strategy.

Here is what that interface looks like:

Scheduling is simple enough — choose a start and end date for your popup window to appear — but there’s plenty of room for finesse when it comes to delays.

With Pixelpop, you have your choice of several types of delays, including page delays (number of pages viewed), scroll delays (percentage of page scrolled), timed delays (amount of time spent on page), and every online marketer’s favorite: exit-intent delays (we’ll explain those in a sec).

Using a slight delay gives potential customers a chance to see what your store is offering before you try to sign them up for anything.

In the case of sales and special offers, you generally want to show those popups as soon as possible, which means not using any delays. However, with other popups, such as email signups and coupon code offers, it can be better to hold off for a little bit.

Using a page delay of 2-5 pages, using a scroll delay of 60-70%, or using a timed delay of 10-20 seconds is a good way of letting your visitors look around before asking for their email address. Using a slight delay gives potential customers a chance to see what your store is offering before you try to sign them up for anything.

Exit-Intent Popups

Delaying a coupon code popup is a similar way of building incentive, and it’s also a perfect use case for the much-ballyhooed exit-intent popup. If you haven’t heard of these little beauties, basically what they do is wait until the last possible moment before the visitor is about to leave your store, and then pop onto the scene in all their conversion-driving glory.

Here is an example:

The reason exit-intent works so well with coupon code popups (and email signups, for that matter) is because you give the visitor the maximum amount of time to get interested in your products without interrupting their experience, and then, right when they’re about to leave, you get a perfect opportunity to convert them.

In a brick-and-mortar world, that would be like having a clairvoyant sales associate who knows exactly how long to leave the customer on their own before engaging them with an offer.

So how effective are exit-intent delays?

Consider that the current global cart abandonment rate hovers somewhere around 77%. Studies have shown that exit-intent offers can recover a significant chunk of lost sales by convincing shoppers to stick around or come back later with a special coupon code or email marketing campaign.

Try creating a coupon code popup in the shape of a “full-screen takeover,” enable exit-intent to offer customers a 10% discount, and see what kind of conversion lift you get.

How Much More Can You Make?

Use this free Abandoned Cart Calculator to see how much more money you could be making if you could email customers to drive them back to purchase.

Rule #4. Use advanced targeting for even better results

Speaking of refining your engagement strategy, you can tailor popups for certain audience segments. If you want to only show it to people from a certain country, or only on certain pages, or only to people arriving from a certain email campaign — more power to you.

There’s lots you can do with Pixelpop’s targeting options. If you want to customize your messaging or offers for different global audiences, or run regional sales based around national holidays (Cinco de Mayo sale, anyone?), you can enable geo-targeting with the “Target by location” option.

Here is what that interface looks like:

If you want to draw attention to a sale on a individual product, you can create a special popup that appears only on that product page using the “Target By Page” option.

Again, here is what that interface looks like:

One highly effective way you can use advanced targeting is with the “Target By URL/UTM Parameter” option. What this means is the popup will only show to customers arriving at your site from a specified URL (or partial URL).

If your customer is arriving from an email or ad campaign, you can use a banner or popup to welcome them to your site and reiterate an offer or promote a product they’ve seen before. This creates a more cohesive link between your emails, ads, promotions, etc. and your online store – and often increases conversions.

And again, what the interface looks like:

Next time you send an email to your mailing list, create an accompanying popup with a coupon for 10% off as a thanks for being a loyal subscriber, and add a UTM parameter which you can then paste into your targeting options.

Similarly, if you’re running an ad with a specific product featured in it, create a popup on your store advertising a discount on that product, and then attach a UTM parameter to both your ad and your popup’s targeting options.

Rule #5. Match your popups to your theme

One of the best things about Pixelpop is its rich, easy-to-use popup editor that lets you pick from a range of popup themes and custom fonts, colors, shapes, sizes, and styles. A live preview lets you see how your popup looks in your store as you edit it, including the option to preview what it looks like on mobile devices and tablets.

Easily customize your pop-up to match your site’s theme and branding across all devices.

If you’re a Stencil user, all the better, because now is a good time to remind you that Pixel Union, the ecommerce design agency behind Pixelpop, is the same team that designed all 67 themes currently available in the BigCommerce Theme Store.

What that means is you’re working with the very same design ethos that went into creating your BigCommerce storefront. Not only that, but you have access to Pixel Union’s customer support team, the same nice folks you would contact if you ever needed help with your theme.

If you’re a Blueprint user, don’t despair: Pixelpop is fully compatible with all Blueprint themes, and its versatility makes it easy to boost engagement with a popup that matches your store.

Which Popup Styles to Use with Your Stencil Theme

On that note, picking the right popup design for your store is important. Take an image-heavy theme like Geneva or Lookbook, for example. To complement its full-width design, you’ll want a clean, crisp popup that doesn’t detract from your beautiful product photography. A solid black or white background, depending on the tone of your images, is always a good call.

On the the other hand, if you use a more classic, grid-based theme like Foundry or Venture, you can be a bit more daring in your popup design. You still want it to complement the page’s fonts and colors, but don’t be afraid to design a popup that grabs the customer’s attention.

Also think about where on the page your popups appear and how that will affect your theme. If you use a theme like Merchant, which has a modal-shaped feature area and CTA button designed right into the carousel, avoid modal-shaped homepage popups and stick to bars, cards, and full-screen takeovers.

Conversely, a dual-column theme like Capacity is perfect for a nicely designed modal.

Pixelpop’s full-screen editor features a color picker with hex code support so you can easily implement your brand’s color scheme. Every popup theme also comes with an assortment of hand-picked font options, so you can find one that complements your theme.

At the end of the day, you’ll dramatically improve your customers’ experience and build trust by making sure your popups look professional and match the look and feel of your store.

Rule #6. Follow best practices for creating popups

Before we sign off with our final call to go try our popup maker, Pixelpop, (that one doesn’t count), we thought we’d lay down a few final ground rules or best practices for using popups.

  1. Keep your messaging clear and succinct. We could easily have included this as part of the last rule, as succinct copy has a lot to do with good design. Do everything you can to avoid having your copy go on for more than a couple of lines. More importantly, make sure your messaging is clear, engaging, and consistent with your brand’s voice. Don’t be afraid to be funny!
  2. Don’t clutter the page with popups. How would you like to visit an online store and find popup ads popping up all over the place? Well, neither would your customers. As a rule, stick to a maximum of two popups on any given page, and never use the same shape twice on a single page. Bar-shaped popups are the easiest to pair with additional popups.
  3. Integrate with a mailing service like MailChimp or Conversio. Who wants to deal with CSV files and manual imports and exports? Not us. Connect your Email Signup popup to MailChimp or Conversio to have all new signups be automatically synced to your mailing list of choice.
  4. Test it, including on mobile. Whatever popup solution you’re using, don’t make the mistake of publishing a popup without testing it first. That means double-checking links and checking to see how it looks on mobile. Pixelpop’s live preview lets you see right in the editor how it will appear on tablet and mobile phones, which can save you a ton of time.
  5. Make sure it meets Google’s mobile-friendliness guidelines. On that note, if you didn’t hear, Google rolled out some changes to its algorithm earlier this year with the goal of making the web more friendly to mobile users. Pixelpop’s “Google Mobile-Friendly” setting makes sure your popups comply with these new guidelines, automatically condensing your popups into bars when loaded on mobile devices, so you don’t need to worry about taking an SEO hit.
  6. Make sure it offers a benefit to the customer. We mentioned this near the start of the post, and truth be told, it’s the one piece of advice we want every merchant to keep in mind when creating popups for their store. If you’re going to disrupt a visitor’s browsing experience, you should make sure you’re doing it in a way that will make them say “Thanks!” and not “Go away!”

Fortunately, there are lots of ways you can engage visitors in a mutually beneficial way — offering a discount or special promotion, telling them about a product they might find interesting, linking to a piece of content you’ve written to help them find what they’re looking for, and so on.

At their core, popups are a way of bringing you closer to your customers — giving you what you both want, and making everyone happy.

Get Started Now

Check out Pixelpop in the BigCommerce App Store.

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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The Inside Scoop on eBay Channel Management: Proven to Save Time, Increase Sales Wed, 13 Jan 2016 10:00:52 +0000 Ecommerce as we once knew it no longer exists. Gone are the days in which brands had the luxury of…]]>

Ecommerce as we once knew it no longer exists. Gone are the days in which brands had the luxury of choosing which selling channel best fit their specific needs. While today you can still opt to focus more intently on a specific channel, for the most part, the most successfully scaling retailers are those which place products in front of customers, no matter where they are.

This often means that a brand must strategically utilize all channels –– or what many in the commerce industry call maintaining an “omnichannel presence” –– including hosting operations via a brick-and-mortar location, an ecommerce site, social commerce and marketplace participation with giants like Amazon, eBay, Rakuten and

The channels with the steepest learning curves are marketplaces –– specifically eBay and Amazon.
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In a nutshell, everything is commerce these days. And while that may mean your business has the unique opportunity to capitalize on actively shopping audiences, you first need to ensure that your time spent with each channel is worth the investment. In other words, you need to get each channel up and running efficiently before you can confidently push shoppers to those brand extensions.

For many mid-market brands, the channels with the steepest learning curves are marketplaces –– specifically eBay and Amazon. Luckily, there are software solutions out there which have been built entirely around these channels with one goal in mind: to ease the complexity.

READ MORE: 230+ Amazon Seller Software Solution Providers

Today, we’re highlighting one such company: inkFrog, an eBay channel manager and one of Bigcommerce’s most utilized applications within our marketplace. The app helps to:

  • Sync inventory between your online store and eBay
  • Manage your entire eBay business from one application
  • List to eBay using a template and profile builder
  • Manage multiple eBay IDs from one app
  • List to any eBay channel including,,,,,,,, opening your business up to international opportunities
  • Manage auto relist and other post sale rules
  • Send/receive eBay messages directly from inside the application

Below, we talk to three retailers about their inkFrog usage and how it has helped grow their business. Note: all of these stores sell both on Amazon and eBay. inkFrog is specifically for eBay listing management.

Could you describe your experience using inkFrog?

Richard Sault, Owner at Salt Dog Cycling: inkFrog is easy to use with the Bigcommerce and eBay integration, and the product page templates work well and are simple to set up. There are a few marketing tools which are also a bonus. Also, compared to some of the alternative applications, inkFrog is cheaper. It’s recently gone to a paid version, but it is still affordable and brings in a lot more business than the price of the app.

Kathy Ruddell, Owner at The Next Best Thing: [The application is] extremely easy to use. You can get your listing to a sales channel within a minute once all your templates are set up. And, my inventory [management] has been spot on.

Joe Peyton, Director of Marketing at Creative Play, which manages the online site Folding Chairs and Tables: We’ve been selling our products on eBay for several years. Prior to inkFrog, we were having to process orders from multiple channels. This app allows us to process orders from one area through Bigcommerce. We’ve been using InkFrog since it was originally a free app. Although it’s growth in popularity has required them to charge for the service, it’s still a wonderful app for our eBay order fulfillment.

What are some of the main business benefits of using inkFrog?

Sault: I’m using inkFrog to sell on eBay and, at the same time, keep track of stock. I think it’s definitely one of the best apps on Bigcommerce and, turnover wise, we now do about the same [amount of business] on eBay as we do on the website –– although the fees on eBay are a big pain. Certain products sell better on eBay than they do on the website.

Ruddell: The templates make the listing look more professional and it’s worth the small fee you pay to have your inventory in line.

Peyton: The templates we’ve created through inkFrog allow us to quickly add, edit and remove products from eBay without needing to navigate through eBay’s website. Also, printing packing slips from eBay doesn’t provide us the branding we would like. inkFrog allows us to print customized packing slips with our logo on them so our customers know the company they ordered from on eBay.

Do you have any advice to offer for those just getting started with the app or with the eBay marketplace in general?

Sault, whose company uses eBay to push traffic back to the ecommerce site: We integrate our eBay PayPal account with MailChimp to help collect customer email addresses so we can market the website. We’ve also added details like a phone number and website address in our eBay banner to try and get customers to buy from our website or a least take a look. It’s a tricky area on eBay using website addresses and phone numbers, but this is how we do it.

Ruddell: Patience. It takes some time, but once you are a top rated seller, your products sell much faster.

Peyton: Test different products. Consider the fees included when listing through eBay when figuring pricing. Unless you have an eBay store account, don’t list one product with multiple quantities. You’re limited by how much you can list so start with smaller quantities until you start to see certain products sell. Also, make sure to keep track of products with color or size variations that have quantities set on them so they don’t sell out.

And finally, are there any other application and integrations you use for your Bigcommerce store?

Sault: The only other app I’m using on the website is Remarkety, which I think is good for keeping in touch with customers. It’s still fairly early days for us using this, so I don’t feel I can fully review it, but I think it’s good and we are building a few re-marketing campaigns.

Ruddell: I haven’t really tried out very many, but I do use Sweet Tooth. I love the free plan.


  • Yotpo for product reviews: We especially like how customers can post reviews straight from the email sent rather than clicking a link to another page to post a review.
  • ShipperHQ: We ship a lot of freight, and we’ve used this app to integrate our carriers to display real time freight rates.
  • JustUno: This has increased our newsletter subscribers 300% since signing up.
  • We ship several orders by USPS each day and this app allows us to batch and print multiple shipment labels at once and automatically upload tracking. Saves us time.
  • Sift Science Fraud Prevention: This app is fairly new for us, but helps rate and catch fraudulent orders. It has saved us from two fraudulent orders totaling over $4,000.

Bigcommerce customers can download the inkFrog application here.

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How Retailers Can Use Pinterest to Increase Social Media Reach and Engagement Tue, 22 Dec 2015 15:00:56 +0000 Everyone talks about being “social” these days in order to drive brand awareness. There are endless posts and theories about…]]>

Everyone talks about being “social” these days in order to drive brand awareness. There are endless posts and theories about how to monetize Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and whatever flavor of the month network is getting press (i.e. Periscope, Snapchat, Vine, Quora, Reddit, etc). There’s social media fatigue setting in for many brand owners, retailers and marketers, and you can’t blame them. “Brand awareness” is a nebulous term, and its value is difficult to quantify, much less its ROI.

What social networks even matter? What social network isn’t resource intensive, isn’t likely to generate backlash from a flippant community manager, and offers a measurable return on investment? Pinterest.

There are three major reasons to take a long hard look at Pinterest.

1. Pinterest is Big

Business Insider reported that in the second quarter of 2013, “Pinterest accounted for 23% of global social-mediated e-commerce sales.” That was almost equal to Facebook, despite a userbase five times smaller. The network itself is massively larger today than 2013. From March 2014 to March 2015, Pinterest’s user base climbed 25% year-over-year to 72.8 million monthly active users.” Its userbase is now estimated to have passed 100 million active users.

2. Pinterest Actually Drives Sales

Pinterest isn’t just big; it actually drives ecommerce sales. According to a fascinating and insightful Curalate whitepaper, Pinterest is the second largest referral traffic driver to retail sites. It drives more traffic to than Reddit, YouTube, and Twitter combined!

Plus, Pinterest users have an average order value 75% greater than Facebook users, and the average shopping cart size of a Pinterest user is $170 — making Pinterest marketing a high-ROI activity.


Pinterest helps users make purchases in all categories.

People use Pinterest specifically to shop; for many, it functions as a cross-site wishlist. A Millward Brown study found that 93% of Pinterest users use Pinterest to plan for purchases, and 87% said Pinterest helped them decide what to purchase.


Pinterest users have more than twice the buying power of an average Internet user.

Pinterest also delivers an affluent audience. comScore finds that Pinterest users spend twice as much online as the average Internet user, and a BizRate Insights survey found that 30% of users had an annual household income over $100,000.

3. Pinterest is Easy and Uses Your Already Existing Site

Perhaps most importantly, there’s a super low threshold to entry with Pinterest. The beauty of Pinterest is that it doesn’t take hiring another community manager to capitalize on the opportunity.

Unlike Facebook or Twitter, 85% of brand engagement comes from a brand’s website and not their page on Pinterest. All you need to do is optimize your product images and prepare for Pins from your website.


Every product image on your website is a potential Pin –– which on average is Repinned 8 times.

Customers will Pin images from your website, whether you facilitate it or not. If you’re not prepared, a Pin will take your image out of context and you will lose out on potential customers. You should ensure your product images are the highest quality and follow these Pinterest best practices.

5 Hugely Important Pinterest Best Practices


Customers can buy directly from Pinterest if you set up Buyable Pins. img source:

There’s a lot of ways to use Pinterest as a business. Here’s how to get started.

1. Optimize your product images

Pinterest users Pin images to boards, like an Internet version of old school magazine clippings. As an retailer, you’ve already got thousands of product images on your website that you’re eager to get in front of as wide of an audience as possible. Every single image on your site could be Pinned by a potential customer; in fact, it may already have been Pinned.


Consistency is quality for product images.

Make sure your images are as professional as possible. Consistency is quality when it comes to product images. You want all your images to be perfectly lit, in full focus and processed identically. They should be aligned, cropped consistently, color corrected, shadowed optimally and be as appealing as possible to your customer.


You can use your smartphone to take high quality images on a budget. Img source:

You don’t have to spend a bundle to have quality images. You can setup a minimal photography studio, build out a production team, and run an efficient product photography studio on a budget. You can even even take professional photos with a smartphone.


Use the proper aperture, ISO, and white balance for your studio conditions. Img source:

If you have the budget for a DSLR camera, lighting setup and studio space, awesome! Ensure you have the correct camera settings. Your aperture, ISO and white balance are major factors in your ultimate image quality.

Prepare your product with simple styling and cleaning techniques, use a white or neutral background and consider how to effectively use shadows.

Also, se responsive design to optimize your site and product images for the mobile web. The modern web is largely mobile, and Pinterest is no exception. In fact, they’re an extreme case: Venturebeat reports that 80% of Pinterest traffic is mobile. Make sure you optimize your product images for mobile with responsive design.

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 7.35.35 AM

The Pixelz app for Bigcommerce makes post-production image processing a breeze.

Ensure your images are of the highest quality by processing them consistently and professionally in post-production. If you don’t have the time or knowledge to perform post-production processing at scale, use Pixelz. You can install the Pixelz Bigcommerce app and pull images directly from your store for editing, then publish them back without repetitive uploading and downloading. A 24-hour turnaround guarantee makes post-production quick and easy.

2. Add the Pin It button to your website

After optimizing your product images, adding the Pin It button is the single most important thing you can do. It’s easy, it’s quick, it brings more impressions and traffic, and you get data on what people are Pinning. If you do nothing else, do this.


The Pin It button only takes a single line of code.

Pinterest makes it simple. Create a business account. Go to Bigcommerce and verify your store. Then, get a Pin It button. It’s a single line of code, and now you’ve amplified your reach tremendously. You’ll have access to analytics, and your logo will be added to any Pin from your website.


Your logo is added to Pins from your website after you set up the Pin It button.

Now it’s both easier for people to Pin your images AND identify the source with your logo. That means someone who sees your product images from a Pin or Repin is more likely to find your store and make a purchase.

3. Set up Product Pins (Rich Pins)

Website owners can add more information using Rich Pins. For ecommerce store owners, Rich Pins are particularly useful for Product Pins, like these. They make it easier for people to buy from you.


Product Pins add real time pricing, availability, and purchase location into a Pin.

A Product Pin includes real time pricing, availability and where to buy. They take a lot more work than the Pin It button does, but the value is obvious. If you look at your analytics and are seeing real traction from Pinterest, then it’s worth investing some developer time into the meta tag markup that enables Product Pins.

Note: Bigcommerce customers can use our Pinterest Rich Pins plugin to assist with this process.

4. Create Targeted Pinterest Boards

While most Pins will come directly from your website, if you have the resources, you should build out your own Pinterest page. It will increase Pins of your product, allow you to react to analytics, provide you the opportunity to create targeted boards and you can create a brand identity by engaging socially.

Be social. Don’t just Pin your own product images. You’ll quickly be tuned out if you only care about yourself and are endlessly self-promoting. Engage with the community and Repin relevant inspirational content; like and comment on Pins that are related to your business.


Madewell’s top December boards are themed around gifting, holiday parties, and cold weather.

Create multiple boards and organize them logically. You can base a board around a theme, like holidays and seasons, around product categories, or anything else that provides targeted content. You can have as many boards as you want, so it makes sense to refine your boards and make them snackable. Just make sure there are enough Pins to give the board some weight, and choose an attractive cover that accurately represents the board.


Sephora has boards themed around daily Pins to provide followers regular content.

You can provide current content with boards that are focused on in-the-moment happenings, like “Trending Now.” A board like Sephora’s “Makeup of the Day” is especially effective because it enables them to Pin user content and engage with their customers.

Note that Sephora has two daily boards side-by-side: one is user content (“Makeup of the Day”), and the other is product images (“Today’s Obsession”). If someone is following both boards, a connection is drawn from the product to its use in real life, context that increases the likelihood of converting a sale.


Tory Burch categorizes boards by color for creative collections.

Color based collections are popular and effective, which makes sense if you consider the keyword based nature of search. If someone searches for “yellow purse,” it’s good to put as many as possible in front of them.

What colors get the most shares? A Curalate study of image characteristics found that reddish-orange colored photos are shared the most, and that images with multiple dominant colors get more shares. They also found that shares drop from 200-400% if your image has 40% or more background, and that images without faces get 23% more shares.

Remember to use taller images for Pins, because they look better on mobile. Your images should be at least 600px wide and have as little text as possible on the image itself.


Lowe’s uses boards to provide DIY inspiration.

Pinterest is based around aspiration and inspiration, so boards with creative images that provide context for your product are always a good idea. Lowe’s home improvement has boards that are entirely product images, but they also have inspirational project boards. Show your customers why they want your product by demonstrating the results of a purchase.

Pin what’s popular, based on your own Pinterest analytics. If you see an image is performing well, try Pinning similarly themed images. Make sure you use a clear and fun description, because that will make it easier for users to find when searching. Include keywords, even if visually obvious, in order to optimize for search. Use hashtags.

5. Sell directly from Pinterest with Buyable Pins

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 7.42.40 AM

Buyable Pins let users buy directly from the Pinterest app.

Buyable Pins let you sell directly from the Pinterest app for iOS and Android. It doesn’t have any effect outside of the app, but remember that 80% of Pinterest use is mobile.

Keep in mind that this is a new feature, so right now it only works for some select brands and users of a handful of ecommerce platforms. Bigcommerce merchants can sign up for Buyable Pin testing to make it easy for shoppers to buy on Pinterest.

Be “Pinteresting”

It’s pretty hard to get away from puns on the internet, but Pinterest is so proud of their “Pinteresting” piece of wordplay. It’s a dad joke, but it’s also good advice. Increasing Pins of your content, especially product images, will increase your sales.

If you can expand your reach, increase engagement and improve conversion rates –– and all with just a couple lines of code –– you have to do it. Optimize your product images, add the Pin It button, and embrace the pun. Be Pinteresting.

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5 Types of Fraud to Watch for in the New Year Mon, 21 Dec 2015 15:00:28 +0000 The good news: it’s a great time to be an online retailer. In fact, this year’s Black Friday saw a…]]>

The good news: it’s a great time to be an online retailer. In fact, this year’s Black Friday saw a record number of online shoppers. For the first time in history, online sales exceeded transactions in brick-and-mortar shops.

The not-so-good news? There are more fraudsters than ever targeting online businesses. Credit card fraud attempts grew from 2014 to 2015, and thanks to the October EMV roll-out that makes physical credit cards much harder to counterfeit, experts predict that more criminals will move online. When examining the numbers from other countries that implemented EMV cards, retailers saw exponential growth in online ecommerce fraud in the following years, increasing anywhere from 30-60%.

Retailers saw growth in online fraud following EMV activation, increasing anywhere from 30-60%.
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So, what can merchants operating online do to prepare for the inevitable flood of shoppers, both good and bad? Knowing how to spot the suspicious shoppers is key, and we’ve pulled together the most common types of fraud that you might encounter.

Big Spenders


If you notice a user purchasing many high-value goods or many variations of the same product (for example, 15 gold watches or 20 silver rings in varying sizes), you might have a fraudster looking to maximize a stolen credit card number before it’s cancelled. The fraudster behind this type of order often purchases as many items as possible that can be easily resold, within a short time frame.

Of course, sometimes your shoppers are just exceptionally generous gifters or opulent buyers. Follow up on these transactions with excellent and thorough customer service. Arming yourself with lots of data can quicken the decision to process such orders right away or cancel them. If you have a fraud prevention solution in place, it can help you pull social media links, email account age and purchase history to verify a shopper’s identity.


Reshippers are fraudsters that use an intermediary to make their orders look less suspicious. As buying and selling online grew more popular, retailers quickly learned that international orders could be riskier than domestic ones. To avoid the pain of chargebacks or black market reselling, many retailers may make business rules to automatically ban any overseas orders.

In order to get around this barrier, fraudsters based abroad make purchases (usually with stolen credit card information) and use individuals or freight companies in the same country as the store to act as the shipping address for orders. Then the packages are forwarded along to their final destinations, where their contents may be sold on the black market. When scammers use a reshipper, they’re able to bypass basic static fraud detection rules.

Read up on Doral, FL and research some of the other common reshipper postal codes in order to quickly separate out the potential reshipper fraudsters from the legitimate shoppers.

Credit Card Testing


If a cyber-crook has a stash of stolen credit card numbers, you may notice a series of unusually small purchases from a user or two. The goal of credit card testing isn’t really to buy a bunch of things; rather, the fraudster is trying to determine which credit card numbers are still valid and which have been canceled. Especially if you offer free shipping or a “guest” check-out process, credit card testers may be drawn to your shop to try out as many cards as possible before going in to buy the big-ticket items.

Smart fraud solutions can highlight suspicious IP address activity or device fingerprints. Keep an eye on accounts that either prefer guest checkout, that have suspicious characteristics or exhibit unusual buying behavior.

Refund Fraud

Imagine being thrown in jail for a crime that you didn’t commit … without a trial. That’s what refund abuse can feel like for online merchants. This type of fraud occurs when a customer bypasses the retailer by going straight to their bank to dispute a purchase. The customer may say that the order never arrived (even when it did) or that their credit card was stolen (when it wasn’t). The bank will issue a refund to the customer and deduct the transaction from the merchant, often with an added fee.

The shoppers that commit refund fraud look and act like legitimate customers.
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This type of fraud is a challenge, since the fraudsters skip the merchant altogether. Often falling under the umbrella of “friendly fraud,” the shoppers that commit refund fraud look and act like legitimate customers. Retailers that suspect refund fraud may add identity verification steps, like signature-required delivery and phone-call follow-ups.

Promo and Coupon Abuse

If you offer coupons or promotional credit for shoppers to invite friends, you may be opening yourself up to promo code abuse. Whether it’s a sale deal or a loyalty code for inviting friends, abuse of these promotions lose you money –– if you offer $5 in store credit for every friend that a shopper refers, a fraudster can create hundreds of fake email addresses, and gather all of that free credit on your site.

Identifying fake and linked accounts is the key to avoid losing money on promo code abuse. Employing an anti-fraud solution that uses machine learning to actively learn and dynamically adapt to changing fraudster tactics can keep retailers ahead of the scammers.


It may be familiar advice, but communication is key to keeping legitimate customers happy and reducing the number of scammers on your site. Open, frequent dialogue between your marketing, customer service and risk departments will protect your bottom line while growing your top line. Start off your new year right by staying ahead of these fraudsters; your bank account and legitimate customer-base will thank you.

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10 New Tools and Strategies for Brick-and-Mortar Businesses Looking to Grow Online Mon, 14 Dec 2015 15:53:42 +0000 Ecommerce solutions have come a long way in just a few years. A lot of brick-and-mortar businesses have already tried…]]>

Ecommerce solutions have come a long way in just a few years. A lot of brick-and-mortar businesses have already tried to go online with limited results. If your last website was built in 1998, 2005 or even in 2011, the odds are high that you are using a solution that does less, costs more and takes more maintenance than some of the newer solutions.

New tools offer polished branding and more engaging customer experiences. Inventory management has become easier and detailed reporting helps business owners make well-informed decisions. Businesses are tracking their customers while saving time and getting better insights into their business. Most importantly, success no longer requires technical expertise with platforms dedicated to ease-of-use and service. As a result, it’s more important than ever to transform your business from a brick-and-mortar to a brick-and-click.

Businesses are now saving time and getting better insights into their business.
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There is no perfect-for-everyone solution, so make sure you are thinking about what makes your business unique. There are many new industry-standard features that can help almost any business.

Built for Sales

Your business exists to make money. Your ecommerce site exists to generate sales. Almost any website can accept credit cards, but that does not make it an ecommerce store. One of the biggest differences between a website and an ecommerce platform is that an ecommerce platform is built for sales every step of the way.

Your business exists to make money. Your ecommerce site exists to generate sales.
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The engineers and designers working behind the scenes at ecommerce platform companies spend years thinking about the way that your customers navigate through pages, the various design themes you can choose from, the focus on images and descriptions and the one-page checkout experience. Every step is made to say, “I am valuable, interesting and trustworthy.” The best even have extra tools like Bigcommerce’s Abandoned Cart, which automatically emails anyone who starts to checkout and then leaves without finishing their purchase. This tool alone saves an average of 15% of would-be-lost sales.

Just getting on a platform built with that philosophy can boost your conversion rate instantly.

Easy-to-Use, High Quality Branding

Before online customers consider paying for anything, they are going to see your site’s design. Its look and feel will affect their opinions whether they want it to or not.

Your site’s look and feel will affect consumer opinions on whether they want to purchase or not.
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Professional design shops can cost thousands of dollars. They are great for taking your image to the next level, but new ecommerce solutions give business owners access to slick, professional site design with free or low-cost templates that you can install with no technical expertise. With hundreds of templates to choose from, businesses can find a look that matches the personality of the shop.

Also, having a mobile friendly site is more important than ever. Customers want to look at your site while on-the-go or while standing in your brick-and-mortar shop. Mobile use is so common that Google factors it in when deciding how high to rank your site. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, you will slide lower on Google rankings, making it harder for customers to find you.

Integrated Inventory Tracking

For a business selling in multiple places, integration is key. If you use the wrong tools, it could be like running two businesses at the same time. You’ll be managing two different inventories, managing different sales lists and accidentally selling items you don’t have in stock anymore. That mistake creates negative customer experiences and wastes everyone’s time.

For a business selling in multiple places, integration is key.
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New integrated tools allow you to automatically sync up your product details and stock levels. Customers will be able to see what’s in stock, when it’s in stock –– without you paying attention every second of the day.

Remote Access & Reporting

SaaS systems offer incredible freedom to business owners. Remote access means that as a business owner or manager, you can login to your management system from anywhere and see how your business is performing, identify inventory issues, help resolve mistake or just track sales performance. You are free to get things done wherever you are and not be tethered to any one location. Check out this ROI calculator for on-premise versus SaaS solutions to get an idea of your cost savings, too.

SaaS systems offer incredible freedom to business owners.
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Better yet, get an advanced reporting system that will let you closely track how your products are performing. You can make quick adjustments to inventory or prices to get the most out of your product line. Maybe your best selling online products are different from your best in-store products.

Customer Tracking & Loyalty

The best ecommerce and in-store tools will help you gather detailed information about your customers. The most basic tool is collecting contact information. Those details will help you create long lasting relationships and grow your customer base. But, even more than that, you will be able to see how your best and worst customers behave, identify patterns and test new promotions or behaviors to start creating more loyal customers and drive more referrals.

The best ecommerce tools will help you gather detailed information about your customers.
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Don’t forget about content, either. Let your customers write content for you by posting reviews of your products right on the site itself. This strategy is one of the easiest ways to build trust.

Unified Accounting

Having multiple systems never gets more complicated than during tax season. If you can find a system that will automatically update your sales and accounting information into one place, you will save hours of frustration. You may also save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in accounting fees.

The Right Growth Patterns for Your Business

Make a one-, five-, and ten-year plan. There are a lot of different strategies that successful businesses use to expand online. It may be overwhelming to take all of them in at once. And, something that worked for someone else may not be the best fit for your particular business.

What makes your business unique? What are some key strengths?

Below are some examples of common growth opportunities that will be relevant to some businesses, but not to others. If any of them sound familiar, be sure to think about how your software solutions will help or hinder your growth down the road.

Trade Shows & Pop-up Shops

There are often opportunities in your area to reach new local customers without committing too much extra investment. Do your products travel well? Are there tourist events in the area? You may consider hiring an employee to represent your business at a temporary location. If you do, try to find an integrated POS system that can go mobile and stay connected to your website.

Changing Your “Home Base”

Will the way you do business change in the next five years? When selecting your next software solution, you will probably be thinking about one system as more important and the others as less important. Maybe you are 95% in-store and you don’t really care about your online solution right now, so anything will do as long as it works with your in-store solution.

Find a platform with lots of growth options through partners and integrations.
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We have seen this equation change when folks don’t expect it. An online side project becomes a fully grown ecommerce success story, taking over 50% or more of the business’s revenue. You don’t need to make huge sacrifices, but make sure you consider the whole platform and potential future success. If you can, find a platform with lots of growth options through partners and integrations.

Opening a Second Location or Warehouse

If you are storing all your products in one place now, will that always be the case? Maybe in a few years a second retail location will become available. Maybe your website will be so successful that you start storing separate ecommerce inventory in a warehouse. Some platforms can manage multiple locations much easier than others.

Selling to Different Audiences Online

As you learn more about your online customers, you may realize that there are a couple of different audiences you want to speak to at once. This will be especially true for businesses that combine retail and wholesale. Will you need a second website? Can your website segment your customers with different content and prices?

The above copy is a chapter from a free Bigcommerce eBook. For more information and advice on how to bring your brick-and-mortar online, download the book: 5 Steps to Scaling Your Brick-and-Mortar.

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