Ecommerce Success Stories – The BigCommerce Blog Ecommerce Blog delivering news, strategy and success stories to power 2x growth for scaling brands. Wed, 20 Jun 2018 15:29:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Ecommerce Success Stories – The BigCommerce Blog 32 32 Top 18 Ecommerce Fashion Websites to Watch in 2018 Tue, 29 May 2018 14:00:49 +0000 U.S. retail ecommerce sales of apparel and accessories is expected to surpass $103 billion in 2018. That comprises nearly 20%…]]>

U.S. retail ecommerce sales of apparel and accessories is expected to surpass $103 billion in 2018.

That comprises nearly 20% of total retail ecommerce sales this year and makes apparel and accessories the largest single product category in the ecommerce industry.

The next few years look even better for apparel and accessories ecommerce retailers, as sales are projected to top $170 billion by 2022.

ecommerce fashion apparel accessories sales trends

If you want your share of the massive profits in this category, your ecommerce site is going to have to be best-in-class because the competition is fierce.

The following fashion brands have built exceptional ecommerce sites around giving customers the best shopping experience possible.

Follow their lead and you’ll be well on your way to ecommerce success.

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Best Fashion Ecommerce Sites

Fashion brands face stiff competition online.

From large, established brands like Louis Vuitton to smaller brands like Verge Girl, fashion ecommerce sites are all vying for shoppers’ attention.

Regardless of their size or niche, the best fashion brands have a few things in common.


  • Are good at visually communicating with their customers
  • Use product descriptions to give character to their products
  • Tell an appealing story with their About page
  • Avoid selling on their homepage
  • Regularly introduce new products
  • Sell a specific look
  • Make it easy for shoppers to buy the right size and fitting
  • Invite customers to be part of their community
  • Leverage user-generated content (customer reviews) to help sell their products

We’ve selected the following 18 brands to show how some of the best fashion ecommerce sites use these tactics to engage their customers:

  1. Tabitha Simmons.
  2. Verge Girl.
  3. Réalisation Par.
  4. Tucker Blair.
  5. Rollie Nation.
  6. Natori.
  7. TYLER’S.
  8. Olive Clothing.
  9. Bohemian Traders.
  10. Revelry.
  11. Yala Designs.
  12. Cutter & Buck.
  13. The Mountain.
  14. TRUE Linkswear.
  15. Fortress of Inca.
  16. The Pink Lily Boutique.
  17. Stormy Kromer.
  18. Seriously Silly Socks.

Let’s take a closer look at these fashion ecommerce sites to see exactly how they do it.

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1. Tabitha Simmons.

Tabitha Simmons

Tabitha Simmons sells fashionable women’s footwear made from the finest materials.

Its homepage stands out for its big, beautiful banners featuring premium photography. Product pages display high-quality images of Tabitha Simmons’ elegant shoes.

Shoppers can view size and fit information for each shoe, as well as use the site’s visualization tools to view shoes in different colors.

2. Verge Girl.

verge girl

Verge Girl is an online women’s fashion store with a sassy and irreverent style and attitude. The ecommerce site sells dresses, jeans, jackets, and accessories from Australian and international designers.

Each product page displays:

  1. Multiple high-quality images featuring a model wearing the product in various poses
  2. A product description
  3. Size guide
  4. An Afterpay option that allows you to pay for your purchase in several installments.

Shoppers can also read articles on the ecommerce site’s fashion blog.

3. Réalisation Par.

Realisation Par

Réalisation Par is a clothing label founded by Alexandra Spencer & Teale Talbot.

The ecommerce site specializes in dresses, skirts, and tops and features multiple views of each product, “the story” of each piece of clothing, and a sizing chart.

The site is also geared towards Instagram, with “dream girl” customers showing off their purchases in photos posted on the site.

4. Tucker Blair.

tucker blair

Tucker Blair is an online retailer of handmade needlepoint accessories featuring classic American styles.

From belts and sunglass straps to beach totes and hats, shoppers can zoom in on the intricacies of the products’ needlepoint work, read customer reviews, and view related products.

“Our site allows us to be everywhere for a lot of people,” said Matthew Tara, CEO of Tucker Blair.

“The biggest challenge of being a really good online brand is to have continuity and make your site feel like it’s not just a transaction — that there’s an experience.”

Tucker Blair improved online conversions by 75%.

Learn how they grew sales while also saving time on BigCommerce Enterprise.

5. Rollie Nation.

Rollie Nation

Rollie Nation designs and sells shoes online.

The company’s homepage includes images of unusual and compelling dioramas like the one above that feature Rollie Nation’s shoes.

Product pages feature multiple high-quality images of each shoe as well as a short video with a model walking in them.

Shoppers can also view details about each shoe, read customer reviews, and see related products.

“I chose BigCommerce because I felt the platform offered the best combination of ease-of-use and flexibility,” said Vince Lebon, founder of Rollie Nation.

“BigCommerce is a serious platform for online stores. The extensive built-in features, coupled with great complementary integrations and apps, is an excellent fit for fast-growth businesses like ours.”

Rollie Nation grows revenue 200% year-over-year.

Discover how Rollie Nation used enterprise-grade prouct filtering and search to drive sales growth.

6. Natori.


Natori’s ecommerce site is as elegant and beautiful as the fashionable apparel it sells.

The site gives customers an excellent shopping experience by providing:

  1. Faceted search to quickly sort products
  2. Multiple product views with the ability to zoom
  3. Detailed product descriptions with customer reviews
  4. Recommended product accessories
  5. A size guide
  6. Live chat for quick and easy support.

“Our old platform was just too limiting,” said Heidi Maughan, Director of Ecommerce at Natori.

“We’re set up for success now that we’ve moved over to BigCommerce.”

Natori spends more on AI to increase sports bra sales.

Learn how Natori saw a 500% ROAS using an AI media buying platform.



TYLER’S sells a wide selection of athletic and lifestyle apparel, footwear, and accessories from nine retail locations in Texas.

The company’s extensive but easy-to-navigate ecommerce site provides:

  1. Advanced search capabilities
  2. Detailed product descriptions with multiple images
  3. Customer reviews to boost shopper confidence.

“BigCommerce has made it a lot more efficient for us to update product information, images, add and remove items on the website, and adjust items for sale prices,” said Ken Ward, Director of Ecommerce at TYLER’S.

“BigCommerce has helped our small team to get a lot more work done in the most efficient way.”


8. Olive Clothing.

olive clothing

Olive Clothing is a British contemporary clothing brand. The company’s ecommerce site offers many different styles that “combine heritage with modernity, simplicity with playfulness, and street style with understated elegance.”

The site’s homepage draws a visitor in with a full screen photograph, and the site features faceted search to more easily navigate the company’s extensive catalog.

Product pages display multiple product images, product descriptions, clothing size and care information, information about delivery and returns, and related products.

“BigCommerce’s API has enabled us to build the kind of integrations necessary to create end-to-end operational workflows that might not otherwise have been possible,” said Rohan Moore, Managing Director at Olive Clothing.

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9. Bohemian Traders.

Bohemian Traders

Bohemian Traders is one of Australia’s most beloved online fashion and apparel brands featuring classic styles for the modern bohemian.

Shoppers can see multiple views of each product, rate products, read reviews, and get styling recommendations.

One of the most unique features of the site is that models appear in different outfits with a product to show shoppers different ways it can be worn.

“With BigCommerce, everything is just very easy to use. It’s intuitive and it’s scalable,” said David Berlach, CEO of Bohemian Traders.

“Since our first year of operation, we have grown 166% YoY and undoubtedly part of that growth can be attributed to the switch to BigCommerce.”

Bohemian Traders drives 309% customer growth.

Bohemian Traders knew BigCommerce’s ability to scale with their brand was beneficial and led to a 166% YoY growth.

10. Revelry.


Revelry produces custom, affordable, trendy, designer-quality bridesmaid dresses while offering an unparalleled online shopping experience.

The company’s ecommerce site offers customers a sample box program that allows them to try on multiple dresses in the comfort of their homes.

When customers decide on a dress, each Revelry garment is made-to-order.

“BigCommerce offers so many integrations that really help us run a smooth operation,” said Michelle DeLoach, owner and founder of Revelry.

“BigCommerce is always adding features and staying on the cutting-edge of ecommerce.”


11. Yala Designs.

Yala Designs

Yala Designs incorporates its love of travel into all of its bamboo, organic, and fair trade clothing.

In addition to the company’s focus on sustainability and responsibility, its ecommerce site stands out for its “feel good” photography.

Shoppers can use the site’s visualization tools to zoom in on clothing products and view them in different colors.

The site also offers product recommendations “to complete the look” and provides a Fabric & Care Guide.

12. Cutter & Buck.

Cutter and Buck

From business attire to casual clothing to sportswear, Cutter & Buck sells high-quality apparel for men and women.

Shoppers can easily browse this well-designed ecommerce site using faceted search, narrowing down their search by type of clothing, size, price, and color.

Once they arrive on a product page, shoppers can read and write reviews, view related products, and use the site’s visualization tools to view products in different colors.

13. The Mountain.

the mountain

The Mountain sells art apparel from 30 retail locations and is well-known for its popular line of “Big Face” t-shirts.

Although the company has a large product catalog, faceted search makes navigating the site a breeze.

The Mountain’s site boasts high-quality images of its artwear, lets customers zoom in on products, and uses dynamic pricing to automatically update a product’s price when a shopper chooses a different apparel size.

“We chose BigCommerce because we needed a platform that had the capability to grow with us,” said Lindsey Reis, Marketing Manager at The Mountain.

“In just 30 days after launching our redesigned site on BigCommerce, we experienced a 33% MoM increase in conversion rate.”

The Mountain increases month-over-month conversion rate by 33%.

In 30 days after launch on BigCommerce, The Mountain saw a jump in conversions! Read more about their story.

14. TRUE Linkswear.

true linkswear

TRUE Linkswear is a truly unique online golf shoe and accessories seller with style and attitude.

The company notes that they want their shoes to be your favorite shoes, not just your favorite golf shoes.

A shopper can quickly jump to the exact product they want using faceted search, see each shoe from multiple angles, use visualization tools to see shoes in different colors, read and write reviews, and view shoe care and sizing guides.

“In a 24-hour period, we created a basic BigCommerce theme and got our most important inventory plugins working,” said Jason Moore, VP of Product Development at TRUE Linkswear.

“It was so easy to integrate our logistics solutions and operations into the BigCommerce platform – from inventory management tools to shipping integrations to account solutions, as well as the plug-and-play abilities with all of the third-party apps that we use.”

15. Fortress of Inca.

Fortress of Inca

Fortress of Inca is a Peruvian shoe manufacturer that is focused on fair labor practices and pricing, premium natural materials, and sustainability.

The company’s ecommerce site shows shoppers multiple product images with the ability to zoom, related products, sizing charts, and even a blog to aid their shopping journey.

“Our sales and traffic increased 20% when we moved to BigCommerce,” said Evan Streusand, founder of Fortress of Inca.

“Integrating with other platforms and ecommerce apps is also a huge help. Apps like Stitch Labs and ShipStation, which we use to run our business, all work seamlessly with BigCommerce to help our processes run smoothly.”

Fortress of Inca increased monthly transactions by 43%.

Fortress of Inca utilized the backend functionality and features of BigCommerce to drive 20% more traffic and sales when they switched.

16. The Pink Lily Boutique.

The Pink Lily Boutique

The Pink Lily Boutique is one of the fastest growing online fashion boutiques in the country.

High-quality photography separates this ecommerce site from its competitors, as does its fashion-forward design.

To help navigate a large product catalog, shoppers can use faceted search to sort products by size, price, rating, color, style, material, and more.

Product pages feature multiple product views, detailed product descriptions, related products, and customer reviews.

“All of our business metrics have increased significantly since we switched to BigCommerce,” said Chris Gerbig, cofounder of The Pink Lily Boutique.

“BigCommerce’s integrations with ShipStation and InStockNotify have made it possible for our team to perform functions that would have previously taken days or even weeks in a matter of minutes.”

Pink Lily Boutique achieves 600+ orders per day.

Switching to BigCommerce helped Pink Lily Boutique reach $1 Million in monthly sales, read their full story here.

17. Stormy Kromer.

Stormy Kromer

Stormy Kromer has been selling its iconic winter railroad cap since 1903, and also sells clothing, bags, and accessories from its ecommerce site.

The beautifully designed site features excellent photography and gives visitors an optimal online shopping experience.

Product pages are loaded with features and information, enabling shoppers to view products in different colors, see images of people wearing the product in the “real world,” watch a video to help them determine their cap size, read customer reviews, and jump to related products.

18. Seriously Silly Socks.

Seriously Silly Socks

Seriously Silly Socks is an online retailer that sells a wide variety of, you guessed it, socks.

The user-friendly site provides shoppers with a broad range of features, such as:

  1. Faceted search so they can quickly sort through the company’s large catalog
  2. Multiple product views, the ability to compare products side by side
  3. A size guide
  4. Customer reviews
  5. The company’s Twitter feed.

“I’ve been with BigCommerce for five years now,” said Andrew Gill, owner of Seriously Silly Socks.

“I’ve looked into Magento and Shopify. When I compare BigCommerce versus either of them, I’m happy with the choice I made and would make the same decision again.”

Seriously Silly Socks reaches a 5.3% conversion rate.

Using BigCommerce and Yotpoo, Serioulsy Silly Socks was able to add the social proof needed to drive more sales.

Executive Summary

The apparel and accessories category is expected to reach $170.52 billion in sales by 2022 after topping $103 billion this year.

To capture their share of sales, leading fashion brands are building ecommerce sites that delight shoppers and turn them into loyal customers.

The 18 ecommerce brands above are dazzling the fashion sector by using some tried and true tactics on their sites:

  • Displaying images of products at various angles
  • Using professional photography
  • Enabling visualization tools so shoppers can zoom in on products and see them in different colors
  • Providing faceted search
  • Highlighting customer reviews

Competition in this ecommerce category is fierce, so you have to dress your site for success.

Follow the lead of these fashion brands using ecommerce best practices to provide exceptional online shopping experiences for your customers.

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The Delicate Balance Between Speed & Safety: Why These Enterprise Brands Chose SaaS Ecommerce Technology Wed, 11 Apr 2018 16:11:22 +0000 The retail space is competitive and ever-changing. No one wants to be held to a 12-month launch timeline costing half…]]>

The retail space is competitive and ever-changing.

No one wants to be held to a 12-month launch timeline costing half a million dollars or more for an ecommerce campaign, website or headless commerce initiative.

Now, enterprise brands are no longer strapped to expensive site launches to support ecommerce channel business initiatives.

  • Whether you are going direct-to-consumer and need a site to test new product launches before wholesaling to Target and Walmart…
  • Or need to take your B2B operations online and provide Target and Walmart’s new millennial B2B buyers with a more streamlined, custom B2B buying experience… 

Ecommerce technology is no longer a money pit.

Balancing Speed & Safety

Retail organization become more complex as they scale.

Brand IT teams, engineers and developers must maintain brand safety while also balancing the need for speed from the marketing organization.

Historically, getting to market quickly has implied the giving up of safety.

Or, conversely, making sure the ecommerce technology is safe, reliable and resilient meant slowing down the pace of innovation.

This push and pull between IT and marketing teams has often made ecommerce scalability and innovation for established brands a longed for dream. Something that just was not possible.

As a result, disruptive brands have gone direct-to-consumer with new business models and similar products, building community and brand equity along the way.

And these brands have done so using SaaS ecommerce technologies that lower the cost barrier to launching and scaling an ecommerce business.

Now, more and more enterprise brands are looking to SaaS to better compete in the modern retail ecosystem.

But not all SaaS platforms are the same.

Fred Lebhart, CEO, efelle creative

“Companies looking to run a more effective online business are increasingly making the move to SaaS for its flexibility, scalability, and operational efficiency, and in this regard, BigCommerce is a true industry leader.

They have an unparalleled commitment to their customers, and built a platform that not only meets, but anticipates, the needs of today’s mid-market brands. As an Enterprise ecommerce solution, they’ve thought of everything.”

The Most Popular SaaS Models & Their Security Implications

SaaS platforms are multi-tenant software solutions hosted in the cloud. Their extensibility functions on the use and call power of APIs – which enable micro-service architecture.

It is the APIs which allow the marketing team their innovation, and the business operations teams the proper system syncing.

This is how you build end-to-end systems that enable innovation at speed and don’t break already established internal best business practices.

But, for the IT team, security still needs to be addressed.

All SaaS platforms maintain Level 1 3.2 PCI Compliance, which protocols how to encrypt and manage sensitive credit card information.

But SaaS platforms handle personal data aside from credit card information differently.

Multi-Tenant Differences Between Platforms:

BigCommerce is multi-tenant, but not at the database level.

Our firewalls, load balancers and application servers can accept requests for any store on the platform, but they have to pull that data from the store’s database using a unique set of credentials for authentication.

This means it’s highly unlikely, nearly impossible, for a developer to accidentally expose one store’s data to another.

BigCommerce also does encryption at rest, in which, upon customer request, we will encrypt the data at AES-128 encryption level in database tables that contain Personal Data.

Shopify is multi-tenant all the way down to the database level.

Shopify does not do encryption at rest, but will soon use Disk Encryption, which will do encryption at rest at the filesystem level.

If someone cracked the filesystem encryption, the database would be exposed (unlikely, but a possibility).

Demandware creates bespoke solutions so it is likely to vary per customer.

It is this difference in multi-tenant data security, in combination with API strength and call volume limitations that win over IT teams from established retailers.

SaaS Use Cases for Established Retailers

But, how then do these retailers implement their new, cost-effective systems?

It varies by brand and their particular problem to solve, but there are 6 typical ways this is done.

  1. Direct-to-Consumer Implementations
  2. Online B2B Deployment and Personalization
  3. B2E & Internal Collateral
  4. Education & Publishing Vertical Deployments
  5. Operating Division GTM
  6. Headless Commerce (API-First)
Big Brands Using SaaS Ecommerce in Their Tech Stack:
  1. Bliss.
  2. SkullCandy.
  3. Toyota.
  5. Sony.
  6. CamelBak.
  7. Ben & Jerry’s.
  8. Paul Mitchell.
  9. Sharp Electronics.
  10. Avery Dennison.
  11. Freund.
  12. Cargill.
  13. Old Spice.
  14. Natori.
  15. Ford.
  16. QVC.
  17. Georgia Pacific.
  18. Kohler.
  19. Rand McNally.
  20. Dupont.
  21. Assurant’s My Wit.
  22. Powell’s Bookstore.
  23. Delaware North.
  24. Carolina Panthers.
  25. Grand Canyon.
  26. Detroit Pistons.
  27. New Chapter.

The Use Case Booklet

From Toyota to Skullcandy and everyone in between, Fortune 500 and enterprise retailers are exploring SaaS ecommerce options for fast GTM while maintaining necessary security protocol.

See who they are, how they are doing it and test drive your own sandbox site.

Download your use case guide now.

Direct-to-Consumer & B2C Implementations

Legacy B2B and wholesale brands are needing to launch additional B2C channels.

Here are the top reasons why established brands like Chapstick and Natori are launching direct-to-consumer sites alongside their highly profitable wholesale channel.

Top 2 Reasons Brands Go Direct:
  • Test new products in new regions: Being able to test new products in new regions by swinging up sites in those new areas gives established retailers ample testing power, saving them time and money on expensive in-country deployments.
  • Build a direct line to what customers are asking: Brands without a direct-to-consumer channel have a huge lapse in time from when they develop an item to when Walmart (or their wholesale partners) will sell it. Why? Because the brand has no way to prove the customer will want the new item. With a direct-to-consumer site, these brands can get imperial evidence in a short period of time by collecting tons of customer data points. For instance, would Heinz have launched purple ketchup if they could have tested it on a direct-to-consumer site?

These direct-to-consumer sites must be cost-effective, meet modern UX standards and pass procurement’s strict requirements for stability and security.

See how these enterprise brands make this work.

1. Bliss World

2. SkullCandy

3. Toyota


5. CamelBak

6. Ben & Jerry’s

7. Paul Mitchell

8. Sharp Electronics

9. Hisense

10. Natori

11. Kohler

14. Ford

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Bringing B2B Online

As the new generation of buyers ages into management positions, more and more B2B customers buy online –– and expect the same B2C UX experience they get elsewhere.

This market is expected to account for $6.7 trillion by 2020 – 27% of all B2B sales.

Heavy reliance on a single source of truth OMS or ERP has historically halted B2B brands from online initiatives.

Not anymore.

Robust APIs with unlimited call volumes make BigCommerce agnostic to your single source of truth.

Make millions online, without tripping up your delicate backend balance.

See how these B2B brands make it work.

1. Avery Dennison

2. Freund

3. Clarion Safety

4. Dupont

5. Ingredion

Peter Wokwicz, COO, Alpine Consulting

“Our retail clients are increasingly looking for an ecommerce platform that enables the business to focus on generating sales instead of maintenance and integration costs.

At Alpine, our goal is to provide superior service and solutions, and working with BigCommerce’s industry experts enables us to deploy even the most complex B2B ecommerce solutions with ease.”

B2E & Internal Collateral

Employee benefits at large organizations include first access to company deals and percentages off merchandise or company-required purchases from uniforms to equipment.

Your HR team doesn’t have time to also be a tech center.

Now, using SSO/SAML to authenticate employees, you can launch an un-indexed site no one can find, and no non-employee can enter.

From Assurant to Sony to Pepsi, see how these enterprise brands launched B2E deployments so successful, they then launched B2C sites.

1. PepsiCo Healthy Living

2. Assurant’s My Wit

3. Sony

The Use Case Booklet

From Toyota to Skullcandy and everyone in between, Fortune 500 and enterprise retailers are exploring SaaS ecommerce options for fast GTM while maintaining necessary security protocol.

See who they are, how they are doing it and test drive your own sandbox site.

Download your use case guide now.

Education & Publishing Vertical

Ecommerce has disrupted the business model of every industry – and the education industry is no different.

This is why universities, traditional textbook suppliers and online publishers partner with BigCommerce.

From launching a direct to consumer site to sell books and downloadables to leveraging a site for B2B deployments, see how these brands are pre-populating negotiated prices, selling in bulk and building educated communities online.

1. Harvard Law

2. Rand McNally

3. PSI

4. Nautilus

Operating Divisions

Delaware North is one of the largest hospitality and food service companies in the world.

Founded in 1915, the family-owned and privately-held company has global operations at high-profile places such as sports and entertainment venues, national and state parks, destination resorts and restaurants, airports, and regional casinos.

Delaware North has annual revenues of $3 billion in the sports, travel hospitality, restaurants and catering, parks, resorts, gaming, and specialty retail industries.

Several of Delaware North’s clients and operating locations –– including the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium and the National Park Service at Grand Canyon National Park –– use BigCommerce to power their fan sites and drive additional online revenue from loyal consumers.  

1. Carolina Panthers

2. Grand Canyon

3. Detroit Pistons

The Use Case Booklet

From Toyota to Skullcandy and everyone in between, Fortune 500 and enterprise retailers are exploring SaaS ecommerce options for fast GTM while maintaining necessary security protocol.

See who they are, how they are doing it and test drive your own sandbox site.

Download your use case guide now.

Headless Commerce (API-First)

Technology shouldn’t hinder your proven processes nor your future innovations.

You own your brand experience and operational best practices.

That’s why we’ve taken an API-first approach – called Headless Commerce – to allow brands of all sizes to plug us in and ramp up sales without disrupting established protocols for which both employees and customers recognize your brand.

You can’t actually see headless commerce in action, though.

It is a set of API usage and backend processes by which brands increase speed to market, data security and user experience for employees and customers alike.

Here are a few brands currently implementing headless commerce on BigCommerce.

  1. SkullCandy (Direct-to-Consumer End-to-End Solutioning)
  2. Freund (Online B2BEnd-to-End Solutioning)
  3. Avery Dennison (Online B2BEnd-to-End Solutioning)

Ecommerce Flexibility on Time and on Budget

The industry is constantly changing. Disruptive brands (micro-brands) are growing.

Your business needs to build brand equity – safely and quickly.

SaaS is how. Multi-tenant is how. The devil is in the details.

Get a free sandbox store to test drive it yourself now.

Daniel Townsend, Founding Partner, The Plum Tree Group

“We’re seeing a trend with large brands leveraging SaaS ecommerce platforms to design shopping experiences in a fraction of the time and cost as legacy systems without compromising requirements.

These shopping experiences vary from creating unique direct to consumer shopping channels on social media to custom purchasing portals that serve a B2B customer segment. This is all representing a shift in approach, ‘agile commerce’, that brands are taking in order to keep pace with rapidly evolving customer needs.  

We’re excited because The BigCommerce Enterprise platform is uniquely positioned to support large brands’ unique challenges of being agile while meeting enterprise requirements of performance, security and flexibility at scale.”

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The Benefits of B2B Ecommerce: “We Now Have a Thriving Business Thanks to the Internet” Thu, 15 Mar 2018 16:03:15 +0000 It’s no secret that the rise of the internet heavily disrupted nearly all industries. Suddenly, earning customers wasn’t just about…]]>

It’s no secret that the rise of the internet heavily disrupted nearly all industries.

As consumers gained immediate access to brand and product information, business sales cycles were thrown off.

Suddenly, earning customers wasn’t just about putting your number in the Yellow Pages or driving to a new city and taking potential customers out for drinks.

The sales cycle changed – from outbound to inbound.

  • Inbound marketing is now a no-brainer for successful businesses with online storefronts.
  • Outbound marketing is falling more and more by the wayside.
What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is the process of producing valuable information and content in an effort to increase your search engine rankings and therefore increasing traffic to your site as well as brand discoverability.

This is an important shift in how selling has long been accomplished.

Few salesmen travel door to door anymore. Few even do so much as leave their home office.

Now, customers call upon businesses – and they often do this when presented with helpful, educational content that earns their trust.

Sure, sales people do still call out and talk to potential customers, but…

Inbound marketing is an undeniable business need in today’s world.

And, nearly all industries are taking full advantage.

This why the number of blog posts produced each day is so high (2 million) and why the SEO game has gotten so competitive.

Writers aren’t cheap, and good writers can be difficult to find. Plus, you need more than a writer to make an inbound strategy effective.

You need the whole company to sign on to the effort.

Lagging behind on this, however, are often businesses in the B2B space.

Estimates predict that online B2B selling will top $1.18 trillion by 2021.

But it isn’t that these businesses are going to necessarily boom unexpectedly.

It’s instead that they have yet to fully implement modern success strategies the B2C world has long known produce incrementally high ROI.

These include launching:

  • Online storefronts.
  • Optimizing for SEO.
  • Putting a smart inbound strategy in place.

Texas America Safety Company (T.A.S.C.O.) knows just how well online and inbound can work.

The team launched their online store in 1996, and immediately saw the business benefit.

I caught up with Gary Brownlee, Vice President at T.A.S.C.O. to talk about:

  • Their online selling success as a B2B brand.
  • What they’ve learned over the last two decades online.
  • What they are planning for the future.

Read the full interview below.

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When did you first launch your B2B ecommerce site?

Texas America Safety Company (T.A.S.C.O.) started business almost 20 years ago selling occupational safety supplies through the oil patch in West Texas.

For many years, we visited as many customers as possible with our delivery van and sold our products directly from the vehicle.

Around 1996, we opened up our first website and soon thereafter discovered the B2B ecommerce benefits of selling online.

No more spending hours driving the countryside to visit a few customers. Now, the customers could shop our products 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Adding our products online and effectively marketing our website was able to dramatically increase our sales.

We now have a thriving business thanks to the internet.

Has online B2B customer behavior changed in the last 22 years?

Our main website was designed using older HTML, and for 16 years had performed exceptionally well on the search engines.

The code was written free hand using the best tools of the time.

Over the last few years, however, the search engine algorithms and customer expectations have changed.

Customers and search engines now want a more integrated website design that is mobile friendly and more responsive to customer wants and needs.

T.A.S.C.O.’s mobile site.

We noticed our online clicks and sales had started to slip a little at a time.

Over the last year, it became obvious that no amount of modification to the old design was going to help recover our search engine relevance.

It was time to find new tools that are the best of our time to make sure we continued to see the benefits of b2b ecommerce.

What B2B ecommerce features did you need?

It was a difficult decision to move from our old tried and trusted platform, but after quite a bit of research we choose BigCommerce to host our new ecommerce site.

I was able to visit their facility and meet some of the people that would help us with our account.

Both the BigCommerce wholesale ecommerce platform and their staff was top notch and very helpful with the change over.

When we did have a question, we were able to quickly answer them with a simple chat or email ticket.

In addition, the interface was easy to use, and the batch import/export features greatly sped up the migration.

The wide range of templates helped us to construct a site that perfectly fit our needs.

We still maintained the look and feel from our old site, but with all of the all of the tools and b2b ecommerce benefits of a modern platform.

Finally, we were ready to make the switch.

We then re-launched our flagship website and right away starting seeing positive results.

Compare Your B2B Solution Options

B2B features are complex. Compare your options to find what works for your business. 

Compare now.

Were there any moments of fear during migration?

Moving the site was very worrisome.

However, with help from BigCommerce, the new site launched without a hitch.

We were able to seamlessly transfer to the new ecommerce site without any loss of sales or down time.

In addition, our existing customers have sent all positive messages concerning the change-over and are happy with the new site.

We also noticed the shopping cart was much better now.  

T.A.S.C.O.’s checkout keeps users on the same site with navigation, showing customers additional upsell options for all their safety needs.

We have been able to recover many more orders with the shopping cart abandonment feature.

All in all, the analytics are showing a measurable improvement.

What trends are you seeing in B2B ecommerce right now?

It would seem customers now prefer to have specialized goods and not just a one size fits all approach.

Since there are so many online re-sellers, price has become much more competitive as well.

Each company needs to find what they do best and try to capitalize on their strengths.

For us, we have introduced several new types of products that are not highly marketed online.  

  • We have started our own line of hydro dipped custom made hard hats.
  • Also, we’re adding several new colors and designs of safety vests that we think will be a hit.
  • We also have been offering more customization services with much lower minimum quantities: hard hat custom logos and screen printing on vests, for example.

Customization options like this are easy to add via product variants.

What are you doing to grow B2B sales this year?

Over the next month, we plan on improving the site one product at a time with:

  • Better images.
  • Videos.
  • Better text and usage tips.

Doing this for our 4,000+ plus products will take some time if it’s done right.

We are trying to incorporate information and tips in prominent areas of the site and not just cramming the page full of hundreds of products.

In addition, we are trying to focus the pages around a central theme and keyword in the hopes of offering the customer a usable, informative and attractive shopping place.

T.A.S.C.O.’s Construction Safety 101 guide includes 13 chapters and is only one of more than 10 guides offered on the site.

We want to offer service and information in addition to our products.

Then, once a purchase is made, we want to make sure the customer receives shipping information and delivery status in a simple and non-obtrusive form.

It’s not just about the online shopping experience for us. We also want to supply trust and comfort with the fulfillment aspects of the transaction.

In addition, we are looking to improve our product selection to stay on top of modern trends. In some instances we are hoping to open new markets in our safety arena.

Do you have advice for other B2B brands in launching online?

My advice is to be patient and consistent.

Be sure to concentrate on offering the end user the best shopping experience, and then deliver the products or services promptly.

In addition, make sure the businesses back end systems are as prioritized as the sales and marketing.

Don’t just concentrate on selling, and then have little time, energy, and/or inventory to actually deliver the goods.

4 Keys to B2B Ecommerce Benefits and Sales

Gary Brownlee identified 4 keys to achieving high search ranking and high conversions in the B2B ecommerce space.

These 4 tactics have set his business up for success over the last 22 years –– with tweaks every couple of years to account for algorithm changes and industry updates.

Here is what your B2B business should focus on now:

  1. Mobile-friendly website.
  2. Product customization.
  3. Educational guides for SEO and to prove industry expertise.
  4. Easy checkout and payment options (PayPal + Consumer Credit).

If you take nothing else away from this piece, let those 4 tenants guide you to the benefits of B2B ecommerce for your own brand.

Recommended Posts

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]]> 1
7 Brands Discuss the Benefits of the New Cashless Economy and Apple Pay’s Growing Ubiquity Tue, 13 Mar 2018 14:00:37 +0000 Technology is restructuring how money moves. From crypto-currencies to peer-topper payments and one-click checkouts, modern innovations are shifting the basic…]]>

Technology is restructuring how money moves.

From crypto-currencies to peer-topper payments and one-click checkouts, modern innovations are shifting the basic payment infrastructure of our economy.

The gadget we carry in our pockets is becoming more than ever thought possible. And the wallet is its next target.

Adii Pienaar, Founder of Conversio and WooThemes (later acquired by WooCommerce), sums this up best:

Customers worldwide are using their mobile devices for online shopping more often.

Depending on who you want to believe, it’s estimated that since late-2014 more than 50% of all online purchases are made from mobile devices. Apple / iOS has about a 15% market share of mobile devices, which is a huge potential user base for Apple Pay.

The attraction of Apple Pay is the convenience of already having your credit card details on your device. Your customers are also already familiar with spending money on their Apple devices (even if it’s just via iTunes or the App Store).

In general, there’s a trend where customers are spending more dollars when they can act impulsively and with a low-level of friction.

Think about how easy Amazon makes this with their 1-Click Purchases.

From a historical standpoint, Apple Pay, was announced in 2014. But it wasn’t the first of its kind.

The Evolution of Mobile Payments:

A brief history of mobile payments, according to TechCrunch:

  • 1983: David Chaum, an American cryptographer, starts work on creating digital cash by inventing “the blinding formula, which is an extension of the RSA algorithm still used in the web’s encryption.” This is the beginning of cryptocurrencies.

  • 1994: Although this is disputed, some believe that the first online purchase, a pepperoni and mushroom pizza from Pizza Hut, occurs in this year.

  • 1998: PayPal is founded.

  • 1999: Thanks to Ericsson and Telnor Mobil, mobile phones could be used to purchase movie tickets.

  • 2003: 95 million cell phone users worldwide made a purchase via their mobile device.

  • 2007: Both the iPhone and the Droid operating system are released.

  • 2008: Bitcoin is invented.

  • 2011: Google Wallet is released.

  • 2014: Apple Pay is launched, followed a year later by Android and Samsung Pay.

  • 2020: 90% of smartphone users will have made a mobile payment. 

At the time of Apple Pay’s release (years following Google’s own Wallet application), Apple CEO Tim Cook described the magnetic stripe card payment process as broken for its reliance on plastic cards’:

  • Outdated and vulnerable magnetic interface

  • Exposed numbers

  • Insecure security codes

Since then, the same technology Apple uses for Apple Pay has become ubiquitous worldwide: EMV, a payment tokenization specification.

It is why your credit card has a chip in it.

Still, digital payment methods remain more secure than physical cards. They can’t be stolen, for one.

“Payments like Apple Pay are the the most secure payment method out there. Apple Pay contains multiple layers of dynamic encryption and is also protected by TouchID, Apple’s fingerprint technology,” says Jennifer Pollock, Content Marketing Editorial Lead, Square.

But digital payment methods like Apple Pay have another upside: emerging generations with cash flow and raised on cell phones prefer them.

From a study conducted by The Washington Post.

And by 2030, those surveyed expect digital wallets to be the primary source of payments.

“Obviously, consumers are nervous about credit card security so offering the many payment choices is a good idea. Apple Pay means they don’t even have to pull out their credit card at a register,” says Rieva Lesonsky, CEO,

To see how these trends are vying in 2018, I’ve interviewed 7 BigCommerce brands using the technology to understand their use case, their data and thoughts.

These two questions reigned supreme:

  1. Are people using Apple Pay?

  2. Would you recommend Apple Pay?

Here’s how their experience shook out.

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SerengeTee Targets Its College-Aged Audience

Experience SerengeTee’s site.

Why did you add the Apple Pay button?

We have a young demographic made up of high school and college students. We’ve noticed a spike in mobile usage so this made all the sense in the world.

It makes the checkout process incredibly easy.

How was the implementation process?

Not bad at all. We had our developer do some simple styling, but that was about it.

Can you quantify the results?

We are continuing to see more and more users using mobile and fewer bounces in our cart. We can’t quantify Apple Pay effectiveness just yet, but we think that’s a helpful piece of the puzzle.

Would you recommend Apple Pay?

Absolutely, especially if the analytics are showing high mobile and iPhone usage.

Apple Pay is a solution to those low mobile conversions.

Typing in address and credit card info is an awful experience on desktop, never mind mobile devices. Add to that the fact that most people are on the go while using their mobile device and it’s not hard to understand why mobile conversions remain so low.

Adding Apple Pay gives your customers a frictionless way to instantly make a purchase without thinking twice about it.

– Richard Lazazzera, Founder, A Better Lemonade Stand

Spearmint LOVE Sees Mobile Orders Take Off

Experience SpearmintLOVE’s site.

Why did you add the Apple Pay button?

Our traffic is now over 80% mobile. Any technology that improves the user experience for mobile users is something we consider testing.

Apple Pay makes the checkout process seamless and improves conversion.

How was the implementation process?

Like most native features on BigCommerce, implementation was easy. It took less than 10 minutes and required no developer time.

How has the button been working?

Our customers love it and we have had no technical issues since we implemented Apple Pay.  It is a core part of our mobile checkout process.

Would you recommend Apple Pay?

Yes, if you have high mobile traffic it is a must have feature.

One Click to One-Touch Checkout

Around 68% of all shopping carts are abandoned, and complicated checkouts are a major factor.

The Apple Pay integration streamlines the checkout process, increases security and decreases cart abandonment for mobile and desktop shoppers.

Plus, integration is a breeze. 

Activate Apple Pay Now.

CocoWeb Increases Conversion Rate 15% Across Devices

Experience CocoWeb’s site.

Why did you add the Apple Pay button?

As a small ecommerce business, we feel the brand of “Apple Pay” will surely help our credibility as our customers checkout.

Needless to say, we also believed that the technology and user base would help us increase conversions.

How was the implementation process?

BigCommerce had been amazing in providing the support and technology for a smooth implementation process.

It literally took us less than an hour to implement and fully test Apple Pay on our website.

How has the button been working?

It has worked wonderfully.

In particular, it has help us increase our mobile conversion by more than 20% and our desktop by 15%.

Would you recommend Apple Pay?

I think it is no-brainer to use Apple Pay for any serious ecommerce business, especially those small stores in which any additional conversion counts.

Apple Pay Exists Both On and Offline

It’s also worth mentioning that Apple Pay should help shrink the divide between online and offline sales, since customers can use it for both types of purchases.

Therefore, you may end up getting better sale management options along with more sales in general.

– Catalin Zorzini, Founder, 

Zin Home Grows Mobile Sales 20%, AOV 10%

Experience ZinHome’s site.

Why did you add the Apple Pay button?

We added the Apple Pay button to allow customers a better, and more convenient, purchasing option.

We had noticed an increase in sales from mobile devices, and knew that by providing apple pay as an option, it would only increase them further.

How was the implementation process?

The implementation process was quite simple. When we switched to Paypal Braintree, and with the BigCommerce platform, it was as simple as flicking a switch to implement Apple Pay.

It couldn’t have been simpler.

How has the button been working?

Since implementing Apple Pay, we have seen a steady increase in the number of sales in which customers have selected it as their payment option.

We also know that as more people grow accustomed to using it, they will expect to find it on all online retailers as an option.

For us, providing that kind of ease of use, and the added security it gives our customers, is an important element of having an ecommerce business.

Can you quantify the results?

In the time since we implemented Apple Pay, we have seen a 10-20% increase in sales on mobile devices.

In addition, it should also be noted that there has been a decrease in abandoned orders that had been started on a mobile device.

Although we did not expect it to be impacted by the implementation, we have also seen an 5-10% increase in AOV on mobile orders.

Would you recommend Apple Pay?

The answer is a simple one — we would absolutely recommend Apply Pay to other online stores.

The demand for such convenience is only going to grow, and the ease of implementation makes it a simple task to complete.

In addition, our increase in AOV and conversion rate are a testament to the smooth, seamless shopping experience that Apple Pay provides.

Less Mobile Abandoned Cart

One of the major hindrances to mobile buying has always been the checkout.

It’s easy to browse, it’s easy to add-to-cart, but the checkout process has always been cumbersome on mobile. Apple Pay streamlines the checkout and makes it easier.

– Allen Burt, Founder & CEO, Blue Stout

Natomounts Eliminates Chargebacks with Apple Pay

Experience NatoMounts site.

Why did you add the Apple Pay button?

From a text to a call or even an Instagram notification, just about anything can take a visitor from our website.

We wanted to add a payment option that would allow someone to check out in seconds, so they can get back to whatever they were doing before linking to our site.

How was the implementation process?

Easier than I expected. BigCommerce and Stripe’s integration made it so we were up and running in literally minutes.

How has the button been working?

The integration has been working flawlessly and chargebacks for that card-type are practically non-existent.

Would you recommend Apple Pay?

Implementing Apple Pay has only helped our website conversions, bounce rates, checkout process, and chargebacks.

I have yet to see a downside to enabling one of the easiest checkout processes we’ve ever implemented on our website.

Apple Pay is truly frictionless commerce.

Apple Pay is truly frictionless commerce geared to increasing mobile transactions.

My advice to retailers would be to run a thorough mobile UX audit and deliver a truly mobile first user experience to shoppers and customers.

Now that the mobile checkout has been more or less ‘fixed’ with Apple Pay (with Android Pay to follow), mobile devices will becoming the primary de facto online shopping device.

– Kunle Campbell, Founder, 2X Ecommerce

See how Natomounts created a mobile-first experience.

Giant Teddy Sees Faster Checkout, Higher Conversions

Experience Giant Teddy’s site. 

Why did you integrate the Apple Pay?

We decided to add the Apple Pay button due to the smooth transition offered during the checkout process.

Customers are now able to quickly proceed to check out and pay for their desired item – much more quickly than pulling out a credit card.

Apple Pay already has their billing, shipping and contact information saved to avoiding having to re-enter. This leads to easier navigation for our customers.

Can you quantify the results?

We have seen an overall increase in conversion since adding the Apple Pay button along with a few other additions were made to the website.

We can’t say for certain it was the Apple Pay button, but it certainly helps.

Would you recommend Apple Pay?

We would definitely recommend Apple Pay to other stores for many reasons.

The biggest one is the security and safety it brings to the customers at checkout, especially for smaller businesses.

The button allows a business to offer a very fast and efficient payment method. It also is great for mobile users. So many people are already on their phone so much, so paying with it just makes it that much more convenient.

Speed + Trust

Speed and trust: the less info you need a consumer to enter on your site, the more likely it is that they will complete the transaction with you.

Services like Apple Pay help take that mental roadblock of manually giving you their credit card info out of the equation. Really, it is all about convenience.

– Chris Van Dussen, CEO, Parcon Media 

Nine Line Processes +600 Sales Immediately Through Apple Pay

Experience Nine Line’s site.

Why did you add the Apple Pay button?

Apple Pay has become increasingly popular over the years.

Offering new ways for our users to checkout allows us to stay ahead of the curve.

Since 80% of our traffic is mobile or tablet, it made sense to offer payment options that are baked into those devices.

We really want to offer our users the ability to check out faster without too much manual input. Apple Pay offers a much more speedy checkout process.

How was the implementation process?

The implementation process was pretty straightforward. We were able to get the payment method live in under an hour.

All we had to do was enable the feature and do some minor HTML adjustments to our checkout.

The implementation is incredible easy and can be integrated without a developer.

Can you quantify the results?

Just this year (2018), we’ve captured over 600 sales with Apple Pay. It has made up 2.5% of our orders in 2018 and we expect that number to increase as Apple Pay becomes more popular.

Would you recommend Apple Pay?

I would highly recommend implementing Apple Pay.

For a successful ecommerce strategy, implementing multiple payment methods allows you to capture more orders and streamline the customer journey.

We’ve noticed a huge spike in our mobile traffic, and implementing features such as Apple Pay only enhance that experience.

Because of the easy implementation and low risk, there is no reason not to offer this option.  

More Options, More Sales

Every time you add a payment solution, you make it easier for a related customer segment to buy and improve their conversion rates.

If you offer an impulse buy product, have a lot of mobile shoppers, or have items with lower AOVs, the Apple Pay user segment is probably not insignificant.

Go get them!

– Drew Sanocki, Private Equity Operating Partner, Empire Growth Group

Raney’s Keeps Up with Payment Trends with Apple Pay

Browse Raney’s website.

Why did you add the Apple Pay button?

When we saw that BigCommerce was releasing a seamless plug and play option to add ApplePay to our  store, it was a no brainer. 

Mobile is the future and this eliminates pain points for customers. 

It gets us closer to competing with Amazon’s one touch payment as well.  They are on everyone’s radar and it is important to keep up with them.

How was the implementation process?

Extremely easy.  If I remember correctly, we were up the day it was released and it took less than an hour to set up.

Can you quantify the results?

The percentage of our customers that use Apple Pay right now is too small in comparison to other checkout methods to quantify any changes in AOV or conversion rate. 

We have received feedback from customers though that they are happy we have it and has improved their shopping experience.

Would you recommend Apple Pay?

Absolutely. BigCommerce makes it very easy to setup and it is free.

Why would you not add something to your store for free that makes your customers happy?

One Click to One-Touch Checkout

Around 68% of all shopping carts are abandoned, and complicated checkouts are a major factor.

The Apple Pay integration streamlines the checkout process, increases security and decreases cart abandonment for mobile and desktop shoppers.

Plus, integration is a breeze. 

Activate Apple Pay Now.

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]]> 6
How I Turned My Father’s 90s B2B Business into California’s Fastest Growing Online Succulent Seller Tue, 06 Mar 2018 18:08:16 +0000 When my father bought and launched a succulent company called Mountain Crest Gardens to complement his tree seedling business back…]]>

When my father bought and launched a succulent company called Mountain Crest Gardens to complement his tree seedling business back in the 1990s, it wasn’t a main focus of his.

Instead, it was a natural extension for his contract-based conifer tree seedling business:

A small side hustle that sometimes broke even and sometimes was a tax-write off when it wasn’t profitable.

Mountain Crest Gardens was a very different type of business than the type my father had grown to be an expert at.

In the beginning, the company he bought that became Mountain Crest Gardens sold plants via print catalog and mailing lists.

He tried to make it a wholesale operation. But working with big box stores, distribution centers, and large garden centers was such a pain.

He gave up by the early 2000s and decided to move the business online to sell and ship plants directly to customers.

That’s when he reached out to me – his son with a computer science and marketing degree living more than 500 miles away from home.

It was mostly my initiative to help with advertising and remaking the website. I was naturally drawn to the competitive and creative nature of retail business.

Initially, I saw it as more of a hobby and “helping our family business out a little bit” than as a viable career path.

That was the early 2000s, back when we had a funky website on an old platform. Didn’t everyone then?  

I was helping to make sure our Google Adwords were up and running and that we weren’t overspending our budget.

That was about it – and things putted along.

I still had a full time job in Southern California. My father still had his full-time B2B family business.

You might have two guys going after a side-hustle, but that doesn’t produce the outcomes of a full time focus. Sales were flat throughout the 2000s.

Nothing really happened.

Nothing might of ever happened, if it weren’t for Magento Go shutting down and recommending their customers to BigCommerce.

Today, Mountain Crest Gardens is California’s fastest growing online succulent seller. And, we’re getting better and more efficient than ever.

In 2017, we saw a 45% increase in revenue with a decrease in Google ad spend vs. 2016. That’s huge!

Here’s how we got there.

The Sunset of Magento Go Meant a New Day with New Tech

In 2012, I decided it was time to turn that funky old website into something semi-usable. I found Magento Go and used my computer science background to rebuild the site.

  • Sales went up that first year.
  • They went up even more that second year.

That’s when I started to realize:

“Oh, maybe this can be an actual job for me.”

And then, 2014 – Magento Go announced that they were shutting down.

The email they sent to alert us recommended BigCommerce. To me, it was an opportunity to seriously reconsider the mechanics of building an online brand that complemented the offline side business.

Suddenly, I was putting more and more hours into my side-gig, getting more and more serious about this website that was turning a profit despite our reluctance.

After all, things had been complicated on Magento Go.

Yes, we saw an increase in sales, but:

  • Changes required my dedicated time and attention.
  • Any new features needed to be integrated –– by me.
  • Small changes were a big demand on my already limited time.

There were a lot of reasons to not put too many eggs in the online business basket.

But then things changed – fast.

The reason? On the new platform, our sales skyrocketed.

We quickly grew from a team of three to a team of 20 – and in just about four years, our sales are up 10x.

By that time, I had already quit the corporate job, but the growth had me moving back home to Northern California to grow the team and build a world-class brand.

Today, I’m an executive at Mountain Crest Gardens and I oversee all our operations.

So how’d we get there?

How did I go from an interesting, family side hustle to bring my father’s B2B business (which we still operate) to a consumer audience via the web?

Well, that’s a story about fear, Amazon and making sure my father’s legacy survives beyond my generation.

Sunset Magento for Your Brand.

Magento doesn’t have to sunset for you to experience the success. Migrate your data over, for free and on your own time, to test out the benefits for BigCommerce. 

Test drive BigCommerce, no commitment.

David v. Goliath, or: Buffering a Family Business from Amazon

Things were going well after our initial transition to BigCommerce:

  • Traffic went up
  • Conversions went up

But there was still an elephant in the room: Amazon.

I was well aware that Amazon was (and is) taking over every industry.

I knew that it behooves small businesses like us to build out communities and lifestyles NOW before Amazon comes for our segment.

I knew I needed to buffer the brand from Amazon ASAP. This meant a shift in focus around our marketing efforts.

We specifically needed to leverage our community through:

  • Content marketing.
  • User-generated content.
  • Social content.

Because here was the thing: until I could make the elephant in the room more of a mouse, I wouldn’t be able to grow the Mountain Crest Garden brand effectively.

I needed to buffer us, and secure us from Amazon’s overarching reach.

And to get that security, I needed a community.

To build that community, well – I needed content, and lots of it.

Uncovering Amazon’s Achilles Heel

Amazon’s business model rewards cheapness of product over anything else, something that doesn’t really fly for most people in the world of live plants.

You can’t palletize and store plants in a Prime warehouse without quality suffering, for example. Amazon also can’t do community and lifestyle like niche segments can.

They can’t harness the passion and experience of my father, which he passed down to me, and that I can now share with our customers.

This is where the biggest problem comes in for brands like me (and I’m assuming like you).

How do you create the content needed to build a community to beat out Amazon?

Back in 2015, I was getting emails like crazy from apps and tool companies trying to get me to use their service.

I ignored almost all of them.

After all, sales were going up, traffic was going up. You only have so much time in the day.

But when I realized I needed content to build the community necessary to bumper ourselves in from the impact of Amazon, I knew I needed help.

That’s when I looked back into a company that had reached out a few months earlier.

Rivet Works had come to me via email with a content-based marketing solution they said helped brands promote user-generated content.

The first time they reached out, I was too busy. Google AdWords was working, and I was heads down in the day to day.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the potential was there.

It was automated user-generated content via reviews. Their pitch was this:

  1. Scrap regular text-based reviews.
  2. Ask customers for it all: a review, a photo of their product in the wild, and a star rating.
  3. Get their permission to use all of the above for marketing purposes.
  4. Automatically update those images and reviews to the correct product pages –– and then launch social advertising campaigns with the content sent in by users, and their own reviews of the goods.

It was intriguing – though to be fair, I still don’t 100% buy in to the idea of completely scraping text-based reviews. 

On top of Rivet Works, I also use Shopper Approved (which automates a survey as well for text-based reviews).

It’s an all-in reviews strategy: get quick text reviews to establish popularity, but also get photo based reviews for social proof and great original content.

Shopper Approved does indeed net a larger number of reviews overall than Rivet Works,

They are just less exciting.

With Rivet Works, I got photo proof that people liked my products – with no extra work on my end.

And at the time, I had gotten good at Google AdWords. I figured that if the rest of the process could be automated and all I needed to do was learn a new advertising platform (Facebook), it was like a win-win.

So we moved on it.

I pushed Google AdWords management to an agency (Logical Position shout out here because it’s working great!), built out our team, and we leaned into a new marketing strategy.

Here’s what happened next.

Automation, User-Generated Content + Becoming BIG

A big part of our new strategy included leveraging social proof through user-generated content.

We wanted to start gathering user-generated content that:

  • Added context around how our products are used in buyers’ everyday lives
  • Were instances of real, authentic social proof
  • Accommodated the seasonality of our business

With Rivet’s help, we started doing just that.

We began spotlighting photos of what customers were actually doing with our plants.

Within a year, we gathered more than 2,000 user-generated photos, and began highlighting them all over our website, videos, blog and on our social accounts.

To encourage submissions, Rivet helped us incentivize this process via a contest in which customers who submit images are entered to win a $100 gift certificate once a month.

Today, we’re still doing this – and it’s working.

Year over year, we are seeing a 40% increase in customer engagement and submission.

  • February 2017: 90 photos and videos submitted.
  • February 2018: 125 photos and videos submitted.

And, February is still very much our off-season. Last year we had 119 photos and videos for March, 204 for April… then it skyrocketed to 494 for May!

So, apply 40% gains for those months, and you’ll get an idea of what we expect this year.

Then, we repackage this user-generated content as social media material.

On the average Facebook post that features one of our customer photos, we see high organic engagements: 100+ likes, a handful of shares, and 3,000+ reached.

It’s effortless organic marketing for us – and the sales keep rolling in.

The Secret to a 20-Person, 7-Figure Brand: Automation

Along with user-generated photos, we also put a big focus on collecting customer feedback and reviews, which we then leverage for both our internal and external marketing efforts.

We encourage all new customers to complete our short pop-up survey through Shopper Approved, which asks questions about why the shopper selected a particular product and why they’re buying from us.

Once they’ve received the product, we follow up with a full email survey, which again helps us gather important elements of social proof like testimonials and reviews – while also helping us better understand our customers.

The best part of all of these efforts: They’re largely automated.

That means we can remain hands-off and watch this rich, relevant content roll in month after month.

The Next Generation of Our Family’s Legacy: From Seedling to Success

Looking back at where we started, it’s incredible to see how far we’ve come.

This business didn’t take off overnight. For years, it was just…there.

It wasn’t until I was able to put my full attention into this operation and we started using automated user-generated content that it transformed from a mere side hustle into a growing, profitable operation.

Not only did this growth enable me to leave my corporate job, but it’s also now something I can pour myself into 100%.

  • That I can experiment with.
  • That I can watch grow.

It’s an opportunity to build something that lasts – as an extension of the family business.

And while I focus heavily on site design and UGC, these aren’t the only tools I use to turn what was once a 1990’s offline, B2B succulent farm into California’s most successful succulent site for both our traditional B2B customers and whole new, growing segment of B2C consumers.

I obsess about these things even more than marketing:

  1. Constant re-evaluation of all business procedures and expenses, looking for inefficiencies.
  2. Take advantage of a great ecommerce benefit: constant experimenting with pricing, new products, names, description, and onsite information.
  3. Landing pages, landing experience, and on-site SEO are supercritical! An area where sweating the small stuff really pays off.
  4. For aesthetic products like plants, obsess about the quality of your main product photos (angles, background, lenses, lighting, post processing and editing, and realism).
  5. Be honest about the luck involved with good timing in a particular market. Maybe you had a great idea but the time just wasn’t quite right! I’m not sure how Mountain Crest Gardens would have grown 10 years ago when succulents were mostly known as “cactus” and novelty collector plants – even if we had all this same tech!

In the end, though, we’re building our community. We’re buffering against Amazon. We’re bringing this family business into the next decade.

And I couldn’t be more proud.

Want more insights like this?

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]]> 3
How One Pillow Manufacturer Is Putting Amazon Fraudsters to Bed, One Scammer at a Time Wed, 13 Dec 2017 19:09:30 +0000 In 1990, my dad set up shop with my mom, selling this pillow with a hole in the middle. He’s…]]>

In 1990, my dad set up shop with my mom, selling this pillow with a hole in the middle.

He’s a dermatologist, and made the pillow to provide relief to patients of his suffering from tender ears caused by a condition called Chondrodermatitis Nodularis Helicis (CNH for short).

They’ve been in business ever since then, and up until this year when my husband and I bought the business from them, they did everything exactly the same as they did back in 1990.

That means no advertising, marketing or sales channel changes in almost 30 years.

So, my husband I took over in January and have since changed everything (it is 2017, after all!)

That’s when our sales doubled!

My parents were shocked. “That’s the power of Amazon!” I told them.

We were going to be the next big Amazon success story –– I just knew it. And then, our listing was deactivated.

Someone else had the lowest price.

“OK,’ I said to my husband, “that’s impossible. Nobody else can have the lowest price for this pillow, because nobody else has this pillow. My dad invented it. We have the lowest price, because we have the only price.”

I was freaking out.

It was the first time either of us had ever experienced fraud — and I had no idea what was going on.  

But that was then.

I’ve since learned that the kind of fraud we were subject to is a huge problem on Amazon.

I’ve also gone through all the necessary steps each and every time to make it stop. And for my business, I have it down to a science.

Let’s start with what not to do.

Take This Book With You

This full guide (all +17 chapters and +50 experts and their insights) is more than 35,000 words. That’s a lot to read on a screen.

So don’t! Download the guide below to print it out, take it with you, and start selling more on Amazon.

Download Now

What Happens When You Call Amazon About a Fraudulent Seller?

After that first incident, in my panic mode, I called Amazon customer service.

At that point, I had tried to do everything I could within seller central.

Nothing was working. So, I picked up the phone.

They wouldn’t tell me anything about the other seller.

I supposed that it made sense, after all, it’s private and it could be “somebody else’s business,” in theory.

But we’re the only ones who make this pillow, remember?

So I told Amazon:

“This person says they’re selling my product and they can’t be! Nobody else has my product. It’s my own product. Nobody has it.”

To be fair, they were very calm about the whole thing and let me freak out over the phone. They asked me to explain the issue entirely –– and that they’d look into it. So, I did.

Here’s what I told them:

  • Another seller listed my item
  • They used my picture with my hand on the pillow
  • They used the description that I wrote myself
  • They had *our* customer service number on there
  • And worst of all, they lowered the price to $5.47 –– when the cost is $59.95.

Let’s get transparent on the pricing part.

Our pillow costs us $20-something to make it. There’s no way somebody could have made a similar or knockoff product for even close to $5.

Of course, they weren’t saying it was a knockoff.

  • They were saying it was the real deal.
  • Our product.
  • Our custom-made, copyrighted product.

It was frightening, but Amazon was able to take that seller down decently quickly.

Problem solved, right?


As soon as that seller was taken down, a few hours later another one popped right up again. It’s part of the scam.

Beware the Amazon Seller Scam

Several years ago, Amazon had a big push to become a global marketplace, and so they opened themselves up and made it super easy for international groups or people to sell and open up a store on the platform.

Essentially, almost anybody, almost anywhere, can sell on Amazon within minutes.

It goes like this…  

One scammer somewhere in the world says to a want-to-be Amazon merchant:

“Pay us a certain amount of money, and we’ll set you up with a store on Amazon. You pay us and we’ll set you up with a store with 20,000 items for sale. People buy the items from you, and all you have to do is drop ship. You never actually hold any items in stock at all.”

Now, I can only assume that somebody has a program which allows a “seller” to select many items at once and set a price that’s some very low percentage of the price that is originally on there.

It’s why our $59.95 pillow was listed at a little over $5.

I say that this is the case because when you go to the storefronts of these fraudulent sellers, they have hundreds, if not thousands of products listed, all at insanely low prices.

I’m at the storefront for HairWOW. You can see at the top left this newly launched store has 114,976 products! Including mine. Hopefully lots of other vigilant sellers are also reporting them. You’ll need the link to this storefront page to put in the email you send to Amazon.

The products they list alongside might be related, or not.

In our case, there was the CNH pillow, plus a lot of other bedding, and then a lot random stuff.

It’s almost always the case, however, that the scammers will target ‘Just Launched’ items, from genuine sellers with few or no ratings.

Yep, there’s my product, being “sold” by another seller and me. HairWOW is on top because of their lower price, and I’m second. If there was another lower price before mine, I would be bumped completely off the page. If that happens, just repeat all the steps in this article with each fraudulent seller. Usually the seller will be Just Launched, as in this case, and offer free shipping.

This has something to do with the way Amazon lists products.

If I’m a new seller (a genuine one) with no reviews, and I’m ‘competing’ as it were with two scammers, listing my product for a fraction of the price, then even though none of us has any reviews, the scammers will appear above me because their offering is less expensive.

Why Does the Scam Work In the First Place?

The scam works in part purely because of the sheer size of the Amazon marketplace.

Even if Amazon had a team dedicated to tracking down the scammers, it would be incredibly difficult to catch them all at launch.

In practice, the scam works because:

  • Before shoppers buy one of these fake items, they’re told it will ship from inside the U.S.
  • Then, as soon as they place the order, the fake seller changes the shipping information from U.S. Post, to China Post, and attaches a tracking number.

How do they attach a tracking number when there’s no product to send?

Yep, it’s fake, too.

Why put a tracking number in the first place?

Amazon pays sellers every two weeks. Items posted from China take between three and four weeks to arrive.

The plan is that they’ll get paid in two weeks, then, when in four week’s time the customer hasn’t received their item, that customer will complain to Amazon.

The customer will be refunded by Amazon, but by then the fake seller has already been removed, and set up shop as somebody completely different.

Even if they succeed in getting a small fraction of those sales to work, the scammers are making money. The customer wastes time, but they eventually get their money back.

In the end, it’s the seller who’s losing out, because:

  • The customers are angry
  • Trust is broken
  • They might never want to buy from you again.

This has been the case with us a few times, and when I speak to customers who have been scammed, the conversation goes something like this:

“Hey, I haven’t received my order.”

“I’m sorry. I have no record of you buying from us.”

“I only paid $7.00.”

And so I explain what’s happened, and usually they say, “Well, that sucks. Can I order now?”

But it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

Is There Anything Amazon Can Do to Fix This?


  • Making sellers jump through a few more hoops before being able to list items would be a start.
  • Placing some restrictions on new sellers would help to curb the scammers, or at least slow them down.

But honestly, the way we’ve dealt with things on our own has been really effective, and if it can save you the hassle of going through what we went through, then I would be all too happy to share.

How to Stop the Amazon Scammers

There’s a bit of policing you’ll need to do yourself when it comes to taking down the scammers, but it’s totally worth it.

1. Keep checking your inventory.

If you have just a few items for sale on Amazon, then the first thing you ought to do is go to your inventory page on a daily basis — I do this multiple times a day — to make sure you’ve got the lowest price.

I’ve got my pillow, and I’ve got my extra pillow cover.

Those are my only two items. So I know that I should have the only price on Amazon.

There’s a little green check mark by each item saying, “Yes, you’ve got the lowest price.” I know if that’s the case, I’m fine.

This screenshot is of my inventory page. I checked it this morning and put a red box around the area I was looking at. I wanted to see check marks by both products showing I had the lowest price because I should have the only price, since no one else has my exact product. My extra pillow cover showed I did not have the lowest price, and instead showed someone else had it listed for less. Amazon puts a link there for me to click if I wanted to match their price – which tells me there’s a fraudulent seller out there (or maybe more than one) listing my item.

If you no longer have the lowest price, and you’re the only one selling that item, there could be problem.

If somebody has significantly undercut you on a similar item, do some research before going in guns blazing.

2. Get as many reviews as possible.

If your product has lots of positive reviews, it will help to keep you up high in the listings.

It’s also more work for scammers to fake reviews right after launch.

3. Be open and honest in your product description.

The other thing I do — since it’s my product that I own and manufacture — is to address scamming right there in the product description.

Here’s what I say…

“Beware fraudulent sellers! They don’t have a cheap knockoff version, they do not have a version at all. There is not an item, this is a scam.”

Explaining to people what’s going on –– that if they see something that seems too good to be true –– that it probably is, that helps a lot.

4. Send an email to Amazon.

The third thing –– the most important thing –– to do is to send an email to Amazon.

You don’t want to flood them with emails, or you don’t pester them with phone calls (it doesn’t work) but you do need to reach out.

The email is — just send them one email per day.

If you’ve got a lot of fraudulent sellers on your account every day, just pick a time of day and then send them an email.

Here’s the format and process that I use.

  1. Compose an email to
  2. Subject line: Possible Fraudulent Sellers
  3. In the email body, put the name of fraudulent seller’s store, with a link to their storefront
  4. Do this for however many fraudulent sellers there are
  5. Underneath, say, “We believe the above sellers are engaging in fraudulent selling activity. Please investigate.”

Presto. They will sort it.

This is what it looks like:


Subject: Possible Fraudulent Seller


Seller Name: HairWOW (or whoever it is)

Link to their storefront: (paste here)

We believe the above seller is engaging in fraudulent selling activity. Please investigate. Thanks!

And then you wait. That’s all. If there are multiple fraudulent sellers, you can just list them all in one email.

Bonus tip: Lay the smack down!

Because I believe that everyone should be held accountable for their actions, I also go to that fraudulent seller’s store and click on the button that says, ‘Ask Seller a Question’, and I hit them with my standard shaming paragraph:

“Didn’t your mother teach you not to cheat people out of their money? Don’t you know you’re hurting people’s businesses? This is not a victimless crime. Shame on you.”

I have no idea how many times that’s worked, but it makes me feel much better.

I hope that helps you to navigate this more seedy section of Amazon, and that you won’t get discouraged from selling on what has to be one of the best platforms we’ve ever used — after BigCommerce, of course!

Want more insights like this?

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]]> 0
Selling Swimwear to Alaskans: How 3 Retailers Successfully Expanded on Amazon Wed, 13 Dec 2017 13:00:56 +0000 It was a typical work day for Alex Young in 2012. He was at the Kap7 headquarters, his employer’s office.…]]>

It was a typical work day for Alex Young in 2012.

He was at the Kap7 headquarters, his employer’s office. It was lunch time, a Wednesday maybe.

He had a friend’s event that weekend and needed something … shoes, a pair of pants.

It doesn’t really matter, because, as usual, he was shopping on Amazon.

A tried, tested and trusted 2-day delivery was in his grasp.

It didn’t matter what he bought, or how late he bought it; he knew he would be able to get the item in his hands for when he needed it.

In fact, Alex and the rest of his co-workers, including the former Olympian founders of the company, Wolf Wigo and Brad Schumacher, all regularly shopped on Amazon. And they did this while running their own, independent online store.

On one of those quick Amazon shopping days, Alex did a query for the product his company sold:

“Water Polo Ball”

It’s hard to say what Alex saw years ago, but today, you do a similar search and two brands clearly dominate on Amazon:

  1. Misaka
  2. Alex’s own Kap7.

And Kap7 is the only one that is NCAA and NFHS official.


Kap7 also sells water polo swimwear, so I did a quick search for that, too.

This small, 7-person company headquartered in L.A. comes up third on Amazon, right behind Nike. That’s one heck of a search engine optimization success story.


Note: Turbo is Kap7’s water polo suit brand. 

“We were personally shopping on Amazon all the time, and there wasn’t anyone that was selling our type of products there,” says Alex.

“We needed to take advantage of that. None of our direct competitors have moved onto Amazon yet, so we are ahead of the game in the water polo market. Once you have it dialed-in [to Amazon], it runs itself.”

Alex thinks about Amazon as simply another sales channel for his business. Of course, Amazon does play by different rules than a typical webstore.

For instance, Kap7 can often make 50% margin off of its products. On Amazon, that may go down to 25%.

But a 50% decrease in margins for a highly trafficked and high sales channel doesn’t cause a bit of concern for Alex and his team.

They have full control over their marketplace selling, understand the industry and when it will spike, and know that different customers shop in vastly different ways.

For Kap7, control, sales and buyer personas make the expansion to Amazon a success — and a no-brainer.

“There are people who only shop on Amazon, and there are people who want to shop on direct ecommerce sites. Both sets of people are growing,” says Alex.

“Water polo is growing extremely fast in the U.S., and we can get spikes in orders. If we get low on inventory for a product we have to order in bulk, like balls, we will turn off our marketplaces and keep selling on our website.”

This level of control and ability to turn on and off selling options on Amazon as needed gives the Kap7 team, and Alex in particular, the freedom to use the webstore in unique ways.

For Alex, Amazon revenue is a known. It will come in. People are shopping there.

On a webstore, it’s a different story.

Amazon already has an audience. Independent websites must build an audience –– and that’s tough work.

But with Amazon as a steady source of income, Alex has figured out how to use additional tools –– like Google AdWords and Google Shopping –– to target consumers elsewhere on the web and bring them back to a dedicated website targeting their specific needs.

After all, you can customize a website to serve a buyer’s persona. With Amazon, you’re going for keywords and mass relevance.

“We do a lot of marketing to the end-user, who is the age-group athlete, and then the purchaser who is the parents. We try to loop things around with product reviews and videos, and water polo drills and tips,” says Alex.

“We use BigCommerce to power our ecommerce website, which also gives us more opportunity to focus on really specific groups. For example, we focused on selling Alaska-printed suits to people in Alaska using Google AdWords, and they sold really well for about six months.”

That’s right, the combined power of Amazon and independent webstore earned a water polo company in L.A. a buying audience in Alaska.

That’s how to optimize sales channels.

Take This Book With You

This full guide (all +17 chapters and +50 experts and their insights) is more than 35,000 words. That’s a lot to read on a screen.

So don’t! Download the guide below to print it out, take it with you, and start selling more on Amazon.

Download Now

Uncovering 100% Growth on Amazon through Search

We’re in L.A. again. This time, in the home of Emily Ironi, the sole founder and employee of The Dairy Fairy –– a quickly growing nursing bra company serving the likes of Zoe Saldana and Chrissy Teigen.

But this is no celebrity-only brand.

A little over four years ago, Emily Ironi was a new, working and single mom. And like any parent, she wanted to give her kid the best shot at life.

To her, breastfeeding was a part of that legacy.

The selection of nursing bras she found, however, were not.

To Emily, they looked like medieval torture devices.

  • They weren’t attractive.
  • They weren’t comfortable.
  • And even though they did the job, allowing a woman to breastfeed with a bra on, they left much to be desired.

For one, postpartum depression is real – and no new mom wants to be made to feel unattractive simply by trying to feed her baby.

For two, the pointy and uncomfortable nature made nursing bras near impossible to actually wear as a bra.

Instead, you’d need to wear another bra, and then change into the nursing bras before nursing to achieve maximum comfort and functionality from what was on the market.

No one has time for any of that.

So, Emily made her own bra – patent pending.

Today, new moms and older ones alike wear that bra, many of them choosing to continue wearing the bra beyond breastfeeding thanks to its comfort, support and … well … let’s just say it’s pretty.

In 2013, she launched her online store –– and immediately, sales began rolling in. She’d found a niche market. Customers were finding her by Google and bloggers.

Then, in October of 2015, she looked to Amazon and launched a test run.

Sales doubled.

“Amazon’s been incredible for my business. I started selling on Amazon in October of 2015, and it’s doubled my sales,” says Emily.

“What that tells me is that there’s a whole slew of people who didn’t know I existed, and they’d just go in and type ‘hands-free pumping bra.’ It’s working way better than a Google search for me.”

Amazon search outperforming Google’s isn’t surprising.

Research has shown that 44% of all product searches start on Amazon.

If you rely solely on Google search to bring in customers, your first competitor to sell on Amazon will mop up all the buyers that search there first –– much like Kap7 did.

Think about it.

Amazon is a search engine for products that likely has your credit card on file, allowing you to check out in a single click. It’s arguably the easiest shopping destination in the world. If you have an audience that is busy (and all of us are), Amazon is the quickest, most convenient shopping solution for them.

That doesn’t mean, though, that your own website isn’t relevant.

“Amazon as a business is becoming more of a competitor to some of the brands, and bringing out their own products,” says Emily.

“I find that it’s still critical to have your own retail presence. I have a lot of peers, especially in the baby products industry, their businesses were 100% on Amazon, and now they’re starting to catch up and trying to migrate more of their business to their own websites.”

“Ultimately, you have a lot more control over everything and also your interaction with customers. It’s about finding that perfect balance.”

Customer’s Choice: Using Data to Sell the Products They Want Where They Want Them

Relative to Austin Bazaar, The Dairy Fairy and Kap7 are newbies to Amazon.

Seetha Singh, the owner of the instrument retailer, launched her webstore almost simultaneously with her Amazon presence back in 2007 –– nearly a decade ago.

Her goal then and now is still them same: be wherever the customer is. Cost-effectiveness is high on her list as well.

“We wanted to be present wherever customers for our products like to shop,” says Seetha.

“Selling direct and via third party channels has helped us broaden our reach. Selling on Amazon affords us the benefit of reaching millions of Amazon customers without spending the advertising dollars up-front.”

And as you might expect from such a seasoned Amazon seller, Seetha has drafted a comprehensive multi-channel strategy for Austin Bazaar.

The company’s Amazon success is no fluke.

It took years of sales data and multiple iterations in the analyzing to determine which products sell best on the channel, and how to optimize each selling point for the highest conversion.

“We do not offer the same products on all channels,” says Seetha.

“We offer our best selections on our webstore, but also have products that are unique to each channel. The selection offered on each channel depends on the strengths of that channel and the kind of consumers that they attract.

By offering specialized inventory on our webstore, we are better able to mitigate the effects of cannibalization that can occur when multi-channel selling.”

For Seetha, marketplaces like Amazon are just the right places to be. Too many consumers are already shopping there for any retailer to ignore it. Getting in front of your customers in the way they want to shop is the most important part of selling success.

Your website can offer the who, what, when, where and why –– but your customers get the final say in how.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Know this: Amazon is not a set-it-and-forget-it channel.

You can go too big. It’s possible you’ll need to pull back.

But then again, is that the worst problem to have?

“Make sure you are focused on the channels you already have in place, so they are running themselves. Then step over to the next channel and build that,” says Alex.

“The biggest mistake we made is we tried to go full-bore on all of them – Etsy, Jet, eBay. We’ve actually pulled it all back because we want to focus on each one, make sure it’s perfect and understand why products are selling well, or not.”

“Once they’re running well it’s just a management and maintenance scenario, which is not that big of a deal.”

First, do the competitor research; then launch in the channel; finally, use product data to optimize.

That’s how these three companies are seeing 100%+ growth in revenue coming from their Amazon channel, plus extra time and money to spend on acquiring new audiences for their independent webstore.

It isn’t a no-sum game. In fact, it’s a winner takes all –– and the winner is the retailer.

The winner is you.

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]]> 0
The 19 Most Innovative Ecommerce Brands of 2018 Mon, 13 Nov 2017 13:59:14 +0000 Think a net promoter score of 100 is impossible? Andie Swim has it. What about a 2,000% increase in conversions?…]]>

Think a net promoter score of 100 is impossible?

Andie Swim has it.

What about a 2,000% increase in conversions?

Bob Johnson’s built a tool for that.

Thinking of selling a single product each day at flash sale prices?

Silver Jewelry Club has you beat.

In fact, it’s likely that all of this year’s 19 most innovative ecommerce brands have your online channel activities beat in terms of impact on:

  • Conversions
  • Sales
  • Customer Loyalty
  • Customer Lifetime Value
  • Time Saved
  • Money Saved
  • Revenue Increased

That’s because when we put out our second annual call for the most innovative brands around the world, we asked not just for what brands thought was innovative – but what actually resulted in a positive bottom line impact.

What we got back were hundreds of submissions from online brands building visionary developments that drive growth opportunities, solve business challenges and deliver outstanding customer experiences above and beyond traditional online retail.

And then, we partnered with the Who’s Who in the ecommerce industry to help us judge which of those hundreds of brands were pushing the limits of ecommerce the furthest, driving the industry toward new standards of online experience.

Those judges included:

Together, these 9 judges sorted through each and every submission, parsing out the top 19 branded innovations. And from there, they chose 1 grand prize winner and 4 category winners.

These brands span the gamut of ecommerce verticals, proving no online experience is siloed from how modern consumers shop — no matter what they buy.

Those verticals include:

  • Apparel & Jewelry
  • Electronics
  • Health & Beauty
  • Sports & Outdoors
  • Home & Garden
  • Food & Beverage
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Automotive
  • B2B
  • Direct to Consumer

So, without further ado, here are the world’s 19 most innovative brands.

The World’s Most Innovative Ecommerce Brands

  1. SeriouslySillySocks
  2. Bob Johnson’s Computer Stuff
  3. Andie Swim
  4. Beer Cartel
  5. Autograph Foliage
  6. Berlitz
  7. Dutil.
  8. Flip Flop Shops
  9. Freund
  10. Glory Cycles
  11. Ironlak
  12. NaturallyCurly
  13. Neon Poodle
  14. Pruvit Gear
  15. Restaurantware
  16. Rollie Nation
  17. Sam’s Furniture
  18. Silver Jewelry Club
  19. Sorority Specialties

Below, we’ll outline what each of these brands has done so well in order to be awarded the status of World’s Most Innovative. We’ll also give you tips and tricks on how you can do the same for your brand.

Here we go.

1. SeriouslySillySocks: Personalization & pick, pack, ship simplification.

Why they won.

SeriouslySillySocks won the Innovation Awards Grand Prize of $10,000 and a fully paid trip to a retail conference of their choice.

For building a personalized Build-a-Box tool that simultaneously reduced pick, pack and ship time –– saving time while making money.

Business outcomes of the innovation.

  • +50% increase in revenue
  • Increase in staff productivity

The Details Behind the Innovation

Dive in to the details of how SeriouslySillySocks implemented their innovation.

2. Bob Johnson’s Computer Stuff: Future-proofing on-site search.

Why they won.

Bob Johnson’s Computer Stuff  won the Innovation Award for Customer Experience.

For the brand’s ability to “think like a customer” and enable tools that addressed specific pain points in the search experience.

Business outcomes of the innovation.

  • Overall conversion rate up 31%
  • Conversion rate through funnel up 2,000%
  • AOV up 2x the rate in 2016

The Details Behind the Innovation

Dive in to the details of how Bob Johnson’s implemented their innovation.

3. Andie Swim: Fixing a broken industry purchasing funnel for good.

Why they won.

Andie Swim won the Innovation Award for Product Innovation.

For creating a product experience that extends far beyond the product itself.

Business outcomes of the innovation.

  • 160% increase in traffic
  • 2x increase in conversion rate
  • Net Promoter score of 100

The Details Behind the Innovation

Dive in to the details of how Andie Swim implemented their innovation.

4. Beer Cartel: Content marketing for a 34% gain in sales.

Why they won.

Beer Cartel won the Innovation Award for Marketing Innovation.

For creating a content asset that drove thought leadership, revenue and customer loyalty.

Business outcomes of the innovation.

  • An increase in online revenue of $65,000, a 34% gain on the previous year.
  • Site traffic grew over 100%, from 62,000 unique website visits in 2016 to 128,000 in 2017.
  • Beer Cartel’s mailing list grew over 130%, from 13,000 subscribers in 2016 to 30,000 in 2017.

The Details Behind the Innovation

Dive in to the details of how Beer Cartel implemented their innovation.

5. Autograph Foliage: Migrating to a 40%+ in revenue.

Why they won.

Brand Labs won the Innovation Award for Agency Innovation for their work on Autograph Foliage.

For fast time to market during a shopping cart migration and a discounts and promotions engine implementation that drove an immediate 40% increase in revenue.

Business outcomes of the innovation.

  • +70% increase in traffic
  • +40% increase in revenue

The Details Behind the Innovation

Dive in to the details of how Autograph Foliage implemented their innovation.

6. Berlitz: Selling online courses to modern ecommerce shoppers.

Why they won.

iMedia was a finalist for the Innovation Award for Agency Innovation for their work on Berlitz.

For API integration across various systems allowing for streamlined UX and back office efficiency when selling online courses.

Business outcomes of the innovation.

  • Simplifying employee system usage from 2 to 1 via APIs
  • Time saved for brand employees sans a hit to the customer experience on the front-end

The Details Behind the Innovation

Dive in to the details of how Berlitz implemented their innovation.

7. dutil.: Removing gender barriers from the online shopping experience.

Why they won.

dutil. was a finalist for the Innovation Awards.

For creative use of custom fields at the product level to fill industry and brand needs.

Business outcomes of the innovation.

  • Increased customer satisfaction and loyalty thanks to online store functionality aligning with brand’s mission.

The Details Behind the Innovation

Dive in to the details of how dutil. implemented their innovation.

8. Flip Flop Shops: Multi-store pick, pack, ship and in-store pickup.

Why they won.

Silk Software was a finalist for the Innovation Award for Agency Innovation for their work on Flip Flop Shops.

For bringing a franchise brand up-to-date online, using content and regional merchandising, shipping & store pickup to grow sales.

Business outcomes of the innovation.

  • Sales growth across all franchises, both on and offline.
  • A single site and source of truth for all online sales

The Details Behind the Innovation

Dive in to the details of how Flip Flop Shops implemented their innovation.

9. Freund Container: B2B empowerment through RESTful APIs.

Why they won.

Freund Container was a finalist for the Innovation Awards.

For B2B enablement and empowerment complexity that works seamlessly across customer and employee touchpoints.

Business outcomes of the innovation.

  • +80 points increase in conversion rate
  • 26.5X increase in lead generation

The Details Behind the Innovation

Dive in to the details of how Freund Container implemented their innovation.

10. Glory Cycles: High-end product-level customization for an expert customer.

Why they won.

Glory Cycles was a finalist for the Innovation Awards.

For high-end customizations catering to an expert audience base.

Business outcomes of the innovation.

  • 47.22% increase in revenue
  • 42.12% increase in orders

The Details Behind the Innovation

Dive in to the details of how Glory Cycles implemented their innovation.

11. Ironlak: Streamlining checkout complexity in a local hosting environment.

Why they won.

Ironlak was a finalist for the Innovation Awards.

For building a multiple product carting with a single add-to-cart one-click process.

Business outcomes of the innovation.

  • +43.3% increase in orders
  • +87.66% increase in revenue
  • +260.53% increase in customers
  • +99.88% increase in traffic
  • +30.86% increase in AOV

The Details Behind the Innovation

Dive in to the details of how Ironlak implemented their innovation.

12. NaturallyCurly: Integrating data across EDI and API endpoints.

Why they won.

Arizon Digital was a finalist for the Innovation Award for Agency Innovation for their work on NaturallyCurly.

For ERP integration across EDI & API complexity, saving the team time and reducing data errors.

Business outcomes of the innovation.

  • +49% increase in revenue
  • +52% increase in customers
  • +65% increase in orders
  • +15% increase in staff productivity

The Details Behind the Innovation

Dive in to the details of how NaturallyCurly implemented their innovation.

13. Neon Poodle: International expansion on steroids.

Why they won.

Neon Poodle was a finalist for the Innovation Awards.

For expanding to 3 continents in 18 months with a team of 2 (and a full-time job!).

Business outcomes of the innovation.

  • 3 sites for selling to 3 different continents
  • +232.14% increase in revenue
  • +11.21% increase in conversion rate

The Details Behind the Innovation

Dive in to the details of how Neon Poodle implemented their innovation.

14. Pruvit Gear: Saving $1,000,000 annually while building out custom print-on-demand services.

Why they won.

SUCCESS PARTNERS was a finalist for the Innovation Award for Agency Innovation for their work on Pruvit Gear.

For print-on-demand product personalization generating millions in revenue.

Business outcomes of the innovation.

  • $1,000,000 saved annually by migrating from Magento to BigCommerce
  • 312% increase in conversion rate

The Details Behind the Innovation

Dive in to the details of how Pruvit Gear implemented their innovation.

15. Restaurantware: B2B & B2C in a single dashboard.

Why they won.

Restaurantware was a finalist for the Innovation Awards.

For using design to solve for B2B and B2C needs with a single source of data truth.

Business outcomes of the innovation.

  • +35.17% increase in revenue
  • +186.39% increase in traffic
  • +25.74% increase in conversion rate
  • +33.56% increase in orders

The Details Behind the Innovation

Dive in to the details of how Restaurantware implemented their innovation.

16. Rollie Nation: Building innovation into the fabric of the brand (UX included).

Why they won.

Rollie Nation was a finalist for the Innovation Awards.

For building innovation into the fabric of the brand at every step of the customer experience.

Business outcomes of the innovation.

  • +200% MoM revenue growth
  • Launching international site (AU + US)

The Details Behind the Innovation

Dive in to the details of how Rollie Nation implemented their innovation.

17. Sam’s Furniture: Online furniture browsing and buying customers can’t get enough of.

Why they won.

Sam’s Furniture was a finalist for the Innovation Awards.

For bringing online furniture shopping and buying into the 21st century.

Business outcomes of the innovation.

  • 2X conversion rates
  • Local award for best online furniture purchasing process
  • ⅓ operating costs as previous platform

The Details Behind the Innovation

Dive in to the details of how Sam’s Furniture implemented their innovation.

18. Silver Jewelry Club: The newest flash sale site on the block.

Why they won.

Silver Jewelry Club was a finalist for the Innovation Awards.

For launching a custom flash sale site on SaaS, saving thousands in development costs.

Business outcomes of the innovation.

  • $1,000s saved with SaaS over custom development

The Details Behind the Innovation

Dive in to the details of how Silver Jewelry Club implemented their innovation.

19. Sorority Specialties: Catering to Gen Z’s ecommerce expectations.

Why they won.

Atmosol was a finalist for the Innovation Award for Agency Innovation for their work on Sorority Specialties.

For using APIs to cater to Gen Z online expectations.

Business outcomes of the innovation.

  • +500% increase in conversions
  • 25% decrease in bounce rate
  • +200% increase in time spent on site

The Details Behind the Innovation

Dive in to the details of how Sorority Specialties implemented their innovation.

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Seriously Silly Socks: Personalization + pick, pack, ship simplification. Mon, 13 Nov 2017 13:30:31 +0000 Why they won Seriously Silly Socks won the Innovation Awards Grand Prize of $10,000 and a fully paid trip to…]]>

Why they won

Seriously Silly Socks won the Innovation Awards Grand Prize of $10,000 and a fully paid trip to a retail conference of their choice.

For building a personalized Build-a-Box tool that simultaneously reduced pick, pack and ship time –– saving time while making money.

Business stats

Business outcomes of the innovation

  • +50% increase in revenue

What they do

We sell socks and nothing else! Many of our socks are bought as gifts and our product range includes a lot of gift boxes designed for this purpose. We have 3 types of gift boxes:

  1. Branded boxes containing 3/4 pairs of socks that have been packed by one of the sock brands.
  2. Our own high-quality exclusive gift boxes which we have designed in a drawer style and are completely re-usable, in which we pre-pack 4 or 6 pairs of socks.
  3. We also allow customers to create their own selection of socks which we pack for them into our exclusive gift box.

This is innovative in that it enables customers to create a personal and unique gift, but still benefit from the high-quality presentation and value that our gift box offers.

The challenge was in how to make that work!

The challenge behind the innovation

Initially our process was manual and the customer needed to add a box to their basket and then add four pairs of socks as separate items, five items in total.

In practice, this didn’t work for the customer or for our fulfillment needs.  

Customers would try to buy:

  • Only the box with no socks!
  • Or less than four pairs.
  • Or more than four pairs.
  • Or pairs that were excluded because they’re too big to fit in the box.
  • Or bought other items as well and didn’t tell us which socks to put in the box.
  • Or bought two gift boxes, eight pairs of socks and didn’t specify which socks to go in which box!

The feature got us sales, but more than our fair share of confusion.

Busy shoppers need something that works fast and doesn’t require them to think too hard.

Our challenge was to help them select the box and the right number of pairs of eligible socks and add that to the basket in a way that identified to us the gift we were to create.

It needed to be efficient at both ends of the process:

  1. Buying
  2. Fulfilling

We also wanted the solution to be unique in our market, disrupt the marketplace and differentiate us in the minds of shoppers to create something of unique and high value to them.

How they made it work

Our store designers, Cart Designers, based in Austin, Texas, developed a Build a Gift Box tool for us. You can experience it right here, and I invite you to try it out.

Here’s the new customer experience:

  • Adding items is easy and the pop-up shows the customer’s progress in creating their unique and personalized gift.
  • Shoppers can now add four pairs of socks, no more or less before being invited to add the personalized gift box to their shopping basket.
  • The process can be repeated should the customer want to buy more than one box.
  • The customer can also add other products without those being confused with the gift box they’ve created.

In all, it’s easy and fun to use.

Cart Designers did a great job in developing this tool and integrating it within our existing processes. Here’s how it works:

  1. Using BigCommerce category tools, we were able to designate only those socks that were eligible for the gift box offer.
  2. The BigCommerce order process shows the fulfillment team picker in detail which product he or she needs to pick.
  3. BigCommerce also integrates with our shipping tool, ShipStation, which makes the process even easier.
  4. Our product pages are stored in Findify, which is a smart search tool app we have integrated with BigCommerce that works brilliantly alongside the Build a Gift Box tool. It facilitates infinite scrolling through eligible products and narrowing of shopper preferences using faceted search. 

Final word

The business is saving time and improving service accuracy. We’re also extracting extra value because the customer pays full price for each pair of socks and pays for the gift box service as well.

Our primary success, however, is in the Build a Gift Box service itself, which offers something unique in the marketplace and differentiates us from the the competition.

The shopper is able to create a personalized gift with high perceived value.

There is nothing like this in our sector.

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Bob Johnson’s Computer Stuff: Future-proofing on-site search Mon, 13 Nov 2017 13:30:10 +0000 Why they won Bob Johnson’s Computer Stuff won the Innovation Award for Customer Experience. For the brand’s ability to “think…]]>

Why they won

Bob Johnson’s Computer Stuff won the Innovation Award for Customer Experience.

For the brand’s ability to “think like a customer” and enable tools that addressed specific pain points in the search experience.

Business stats

  • Founder: Bob Johnson
  • Who submitted (and is quoted below): Ed Lasher, Marketing Director
  • Year founded: 1996
  • Headquartered: Smyrna, DE
  • Ecommerce vertical: Electronics
  • Website
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube

Business outcomes of the innovation

  • Overall conversion rate up 31%
  • Conversion rate through funnel up 2,000%
  • AOV up 2x the rate in 2016

What they do

We sell refurbished rugged laptops; they’re niche products used by professionals in several different fields, all with different requirements. By necessity, we use a lot of product options.

The challenge behind the innovation

UX presented a particular challenge when dealing with our highly configurable products.

Long lists of options would push essential page elements below the fold and leave shoppers feeling out of their depth when navigating all the choices in front of them.

To top it off, our products are refurbished, so we have to work very hard to instill trust. If a shopper has any apprehensions to begin with, a less-than-optimal UX is a death blow to the sale.

We knew we had to find a way to optimize our product pages.

We also hypothesized that some of our shoppers needed more personal attention, both for technical guidance and for reassurance.

Our first course of action was to install Zendesk Chat (then Zopim) on the website.

For probably too long, I had resisted the idea of having chat on, mainly because I, personally, as a consumer, do not like it.

Chat modules on ecommerce websites are like roaming salespeople in brick-and-mortar stores.

  • Some shoppers zero in on them immediately, eager for guidance.
  • Others make an effort to avoid them, preferring the no-pressure experience of self-service.
  • Some shoppers are frustrated when assistance isn’t readily available, while others feel like they’re being stalked by salespeople.

I fall into the latter category, but I still want access to customer service when I need it.

Overall, the positives of the roaming salesperson outweigh the negatives.

Somewhat reluctantly, I installed a chat module. Chat comes with some significant limitations. For starters, we can only man the chat during office hours.

The rest of the time shoppers have to leave a message. Additionally, as previously mentioned, some shoppers simply do not like chat and will not use it.

While chat could certainly play a role, we needed a more comprehensive strategy.

How they make it work

Using chat, we identified several common questions and concerns.

We also found that some shoppers were getting stuck early in the sales funnel, unsure of where to begin or dealing with unique use cases that would require extra attention.

We developed two solutions:

1. Optimized product pages for self-service shoppers

Inspectlet and common sense had shown me that visitors had to scroll up and down the long list of product options to check how their choices affected the product price.

I knew from chat that shoppers often had questions about certain product options.

All the information the shoppers needed was available elsewhere on the site, but they would have to find it, and in doing so divert their attention away from the order.

So, here’s what I did:

  • Empowered by Stencil’s advanced features and support for local development, I created a custom product page template using JavaScript to make the price stick to the top of the viewport when scrolling down the page.
  • This ensures that you can always see the updated price in real time while selecting different options.
  • I also made information fly-outs explaining our most asked about options.

These improvements are simple by design, meant to be intuitive and distraction-free.

2. A “Selection Assistance” funnel for a more nurtured experience.

Peppered around are CTAs leading to the Selection Assistance form.

The form asks the user a series of questions about their needs and the environment in which they’ll be using the laptop.

Using conditional logic, it digs deeper when necessary, while avoiding irrelevant questions.

  • When a visitor submits the form, the information goes to a team member who then begins working with the prospective customer.
  • That information also goes to Infusionsoft for future reference, lead scoring and automated follow-up.
  • BigCommerce’s Buy Button adds a nice touch to the Selection Assistance funnel. We can now create a SKU for the exact configuration the customer needs and link them straight to the cart.

There you have it. No more friction.

Final word

Since implementing the custom product page template in May 2017, our conversion rate is up 31% over the same period in 2016.

The Selection Assistance funnel helps us cultivate relationships with our visitors, potentially creating brand advocates and lifetime customers.

The year-to-date conversion rate for visitors who submit a Selection Assistance request is over 2,000% higher than the overall conversion rate.

In fact, a visitor who submits a Selection Assistance request on is statistically just as likely to complete a purchase as someone who has already added a product to their cart.

The AOV of customers who requested Selection Assistance in 2017 YTD is nearly double the overall AOV.

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