How to Sell Online – The BigCommerce Blog https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog Ecommerce Blog delivering news, strategy and success stories to power 2x growth for scaling brands. Fri, 15 Jun 2018 16:19:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/cropped-e8d7fa0a-3b0e-4069-91b1-78460a4d4af1-150x150.png How to Sell Online – The BigCommerce Blog https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog 32 32 Business Taxes in 2018: Your Checklist for a Penalty-Free Tax Season [Important Dates Included] https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/business-taxes/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/business-taxes/#respond Wed, 13 Jun 2018 18:07:12 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=28930 Every business is unique and so is its tax situation. This not only leaves a lot of room for different…]]>

Every business is unique and so is its tax situation.

This not only leaves a lot of room for different tax strategies across all businesses, but it also means most business owners are unsure about where to start.

What is certain is that there are two things every business can do to succeed when it comes to taxes:

  1. Be on time
  2. Be organized

Once you’ve embraced these two mentalities, there are actionable steps you can take to avoid penalties and fees, as well as alleviate yourself from spending too much time, money and resources when preparing and filing your taxes each year.

Your Step-By-Step Checklist for Conquering Business Tax Laws

When it comes to taxes, to be perfect is to be punctual.

While it’s tempting to get caught up in the world of lowering your tax liability through deductions and credits, the real reason most small businesses overpay on taxes each year is because they miss their tax deadlines.

Businesses that are behind on taxes face financially crippling penalties, fees and interest.

Follow these steps to build a strategy around your key tax dates and lower your tax liability:

1. Know your due dates.

This is listed first for a reason — you need to know your deadlines to hit them. You can use this infographic to get started building your own basic tax calendar and avoid paying more than you have to.

Add these tax-filing dates to your 2018 calendar:

2018 Business Tax Deadlines for 2017 Tax Filing
  • Due March 15, 2018: Original deadline for partnerships (Form 1065) and S Corporations (Form 1120S).
  • Due April 17, 2018: Original deadline for C Corporations (Form 1120) and individuals (Form 1040).
  • Due May 15, 2018: Original deadline for exempt organizations (Form 990).
  • Due Sept. 17, 2018: Final deadline for partnerships and S Corporations (with extension).
  • Due Oct. 15, 2018: Final deadline for C Corporations and individuals (with extension).
  • Due Aug. 15, 2018: Final deadline for exempt organizations (with extension).

2. Pay your tax liability on time, no matter what.

Even if you file for the extension, that filing extension does not extend your deadline for paying any income tax liability owed.

If you fail to pay your taxes on time, you’ll be on the hook for both the late payment penalty (half of 1% of your unpaid taxes, per month), as well as interest (the federal short-term rate plus 3%), compounding daily.

3. When in doubt (any doubt), file for the deadline extension.

It’s very rare that the IRS gives you the gift of more time.

If for any reason, you’re worried you won’t be able to pull a return together before your initial due date, file for the extension and use that time to get organized (see more below) or give your tax preparer everything they need.

In addition to the penalties and interest you pay on your owed tax liability, there is also a late filing penalty.

This penalty starts accruing the day after your due date and ranges from 5% to 25% of your unpaid income taxes for each month the income tax return is late.

4. Spend money at the right time.

Your tax return and liability are based on the income and expenses your business had over the course of your tax year.

This means if you want to lower your tax liability for a certain year, you’ll want to make tax deductible purchases during that year.

Knowing when your year-end is based on your fiscal year and understanding how/when your business recognizes revenue and expenses based on your accounting method will allow you to plan to spend accordingly.

How to Manage Business Information for Tax Purposes

Fussy, persnickety, particular: these are all words you can use to describe the IRS.

Really, you can never know exactly what nook and cranny they’ll dig into when it comes to inspecting your business’s finances.

There’s no such thing as being too organized when it comes to dealing with tax authorities.

Here are a few ways you can organize your business records in anticipation of the IRS’s questions:

  • Solid bookkeeping year-round: This is the key to a stress-free tax season. When you give your accounting proper attention throughout the year, taxes are much more straightforward. Closing your books each month, quarter or year helps you plan ahead for tax filing as you go (in real-time with your business activities) and at the end of your fiscal year just before your file.
  • Separate business spending: Using a business account for personal spending (or commingling) is against tax law. The IRS will almost certainly flag any spending that could potentially fall outside of what is ordinary and necessary for your business.  Un-commingling these expenses after the fact is even worse, so keeping these transactions as delineated as possible using separate accounts is best for your own sanity.
  • Proper documentation for claiming tax credits and deductions: According to the IRS, you should keep records of your gross receipts, proof of purchases, expense documents and documents to verify assets. These will all come in handy when claiming deductions for qualifying business expenses as well as applying for tax credits for your business activities.
  • Well-organized essential company information: There’s basic information you’ll need to disclose about your business (incorporation details, legal name, legal address, etc.). Having all of your company’s essential tax information in one place will help you start off on the right foot when inputting your information when you go to file.
  • Cognizance of your location: In addition to your tax responsibilities on a federal level, you’ll also need to be aware of the responsibilities based on the states where you have tax nexus and any foreign activities. Online retailers and other ecommerce businesses should keep a special eye on state sales tax requirements based on the states where they sell, ship or house their merchandise.

Check off all the above points and you’ll be in good shape for a stress-free, IRS audit free business tax year.

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How to Use and Accept Resale Certificates in Your Online Business https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/resale-certificates/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/resale-certificates/#respond Wed, 13 Jun 2018 18:04:56 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=28932 One of the more common ecommerce business models is to buy products at wholesale or retail and then turn around…]]>

One of the more common ecommerce business models is to buy products at wholesale or retail and then turn around and resell those items for a profit online.

But sales tax can throw a monkey wrench in those works.

You will generally be required to pay sales tax on these purchases, even if you just intend to enter them into inventory in your online store.

And then you’ll be required to turn around and charge sales tax on those same items when you sell them to your customers.

Fortunately, online sellers can bypass paying sales tax when buying inventory by using a resale certificate.

What is a Resale Certificate?

A resale certificate is a document proving that you are a legitimate retailer or purchaser and are buying products to either resell or use as component parts of products you plan to resell.

To use a resale certificate, you generally need to be registered to collect sales tax in at least one US state.

Resale certificates are also sometimes called “reseller’s permits” or sometimes just the blanket term “exemption certificates.”

Your resale certificate is generally the same thing as your sales tax permit (sometimes called sales tax license.)

However, in some cases, a state may issue a reseller a separate “resale certificate” number.

Though it has the word “certificate” in the name, a resale certificate these days isn’t always a specific piece of paper.

While some states do issue retailers a specific resale certificate to present to their vendors, most just require that you fill out certain information.

The Typical Information You Need For a Reseller Certificate:
  • Your business identifying details
  • Your personal identifying details.
  • The type of business you operate.
  • What types of items you are buying tax-free.
  • A signature verifying that you are making the purchase in good faith and truly intend to resell the items you are purchasing.

Here’s an example of a Kansas resale certificate:

resale certificate Kansas

Resale Certificate Pro Tips

Forty-five US states and Washington DC all have their own sales tax rules and laws.

We always recommend you read your state’s rules of resale certificates.

In general, though, retailers can use resale certificates to buy products they either intend to resale or rent, or components of products they intend to resell.

However, it is unlawful to use a retail certificate to purchase items you do not intend to sell.

For example, office paper or printer ink purchased with a resale certificate (unless, of course, you own an office supply store and intend for those items to be resold) is not valid.

To avoid a hassle, always fill out the resale certificate completely before presenting it to your vendor.

Vendors are often the ones on the hook for unpaid sales tax should they accept a faulty or fraudulent resale certificate from a buyer.

This is why some retailers may refuse to accept a resale certificate.

Target, for example, is known for attempting to curb online competition by refusing resale certificates from any suspected reseller.

If you use a resale certificate to purchase an item, but do not end up selling it, your state requires that you pay “consumer use tax” on the taxable item.

This is generally paid at the time you file your state income tax return. This may be a separate filing if your state does not have an income tax.

It’s also important to note that nine US states will not allow vendors to accept resale certificates that were issued out of state.

The 9 US States That Do Not Accept Out of State Resale Certificates:
  1. California.
  2. Florida.
  3. Hawaii.
  4. Illinois.
  5. Louisiana.
  6. Maryland.
  7. Massachusetts.
  8. Washington.
  9. Washington D.C.

For example, if you have a North Carolina resale certificate but try to buy an item tax-free in Maryland, your Maryland vendor will be unable to accept your North Carolina-issued resale certificate.

To buy an item tax-free from a vendor in Maryland or any of the other states on the above list, you will be required to register for a sales tax permit in that state.

Note that if you hold a sales tax permit from a state, not only can you buy items tax-free from vendors in that state, but you are also required to charge sales tax to your own buyers in that state.

Weigh the pros and cons before registering for a new sales tax permit/resale certificate.

How to Accept a Resale Certificate from a Buyer

As an online seller, sooner or later you will potentially run into another reseller or purchaser who would like to buy from you.

In this case, it’s time to take your duties as a vendor seriously and meticulously review the purchase order.

In most cases, if you erroneously fail to charge sales tax, you will be on the hook to pay the sales tax you didn’t collect out of your pocket.

Here are a few pro tips for accepting a resale certificate from a buyer without finding yourself in sales tax hot water.

  1. Ensure the resale certificate is filled out accurately and completely – In the event of an audit, auditors will scrutinize resale certificates. Be sure each resale certificate you accept is completely filled out, including the signature.
  2. Verify that the resale certificate is legitimate – Most states allow vendors to verify a resale certificate online. This allows you to double check that your customer provided you with a valid resale certificate number and that the certificate is not expired.
  3. Make a good faith effort to ensure the purchase is valid – Let’s say someone presents you with a resale certificate. They say that they own a store that sells pet supplies, but they are purchasing a new suite of bedroom furniture for “resale.”

    It’s likely that this purchase is invalid, and you can refuse the resale certificate. If you do not refuse the resale certificate, you can find yourself on the hook to pay the sales tax you did not collect.

    The good news is that states don’t require you become a private detective, so if the customer falsifies the document, you can claim innocence as long as you made a good faith effort to verify the certificate.

  4. Keep the resale certificate on file – How often you should keep the documents vary, but most states require that you keep resale certificates on file for 5 years. In case of a sales tax audit, they will help you prove why you did not collect sales tax from a specific customer.

I hope this post has helped explain when and how to use and accept resale certificates in your online business.

If you have questions or something to say, start the conversation in the comments!

Make your sales tax reporting easier

TaxJar is a service that makes sales tax reporting and filing simple for more than 10,000 online sellers.

Try a 30-day-free trial of TaxJar today and eliminate sales tax compliance headaches from your life!

Want more insights like this?

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

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When and How to Charge Sales Tax on Shipping https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/shipping-sales-tax/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/shipping-sales-tax/#respond Wed, 13 Jun 2018 18:03:12 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=28937 As an online seller, chances are good that you charge your customers for shipping or delivery fees at least some…]]>

As an online seller, chances are good that you charge your customers for shipping or delivery fees at least some of the time.

In the US, this can present a challenge because some US states require that retailers charge sales tax on shipping charges, while other states do not.

And each state’s regulation on sales tax and shipping charges is not always clear and concise.

Let’s dig into how sales tax on shipping works and how you can ensure that your sales tax policies are compliant with state tax laws.

Sales Tax and Shipping: Laws and Regulations

Forty-five US states and Washington DC all have a sales tax, and each state is allowed to make their own sales tax rules and laws.

For this reason, you’ll need to look to the state level to determine if you should charge sales tax to buyers in a particular state.

If you dig in and read each state’s law on taxing delivery charges, you’ll probably also notice that they can be a little confusing.

This is because many state sales tax laws were passed before the rise of ecommerce.

The letter of the law is often more focused on mail order purchases or delivery by company truck or freight.

The good news is that many states have more recently provided guidance to online sellers, whether in a letter ruling from the state’s taxing authority or in a website FAQ.

Sales tax and nexus within a state note

In the US, you are only required to collect sales tax from buyers in states where you have sales tax nexus.

If you do not have sales tax nexus in a state, then you are not required to collect sales tax (including sales tax on shipping charges) from buyers in that state.

When should you charge sales tax on shipping?

You should charge sales tax on shipping charges when making a sale to a buyer in one of your nexus states if that state’s tax law declares that shipping charges are taxable.

The Connecticut Department of Revenue, for example, makes it clear on their website that shipping charges to Connecticut buyers are taxable:

Connecticut Shipping Taxability

Conversely, the state of Massachusetts does not require online sellers to collect sales tax on shipping charges in many cases.

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue addresses that here:

Massachusetts Shipping Sales Tax

It’s not the most user-friendly read in the world, but in other words, if you as an online seller ship an item to a customer in Massachusetts, and do not include the shipping charges as part of the price of the item, then you are not required to collect sales tax from that customer.

As an online seller, it’s your job to check with the state(s) where you have sales tax nexus and determine if that state requires you to collect sales tax on shipping charges.

You can see a shipping taxability resources for each US state here:

States where Shipping is Taxable

Shipping Taxability Examples

Let’s look at an example of the same transaction in a state where shipping is taxable and a state where it is not:

States where Shipping is Taxable

Theo sells a $100 lamp to a buyer in a state where shipping is taxable, and charges $10 for shipping, for a total transaction amount of $110.

The sales tax rate for the sale is 6%.

Since shipping is taxable, Theo would charge the 6% sales tax rate on the entire $110 transaction amount.

He would collect a total of $116.60 from the customer.

States where Shipping is NOT Taxable

Now Theo sells the same $100 lamp and charges the same $10 for shipping to a customer in a state where shipping is not taxable.

The sales tax rate is still 6%.

In this case, Theo is only required to charge sales tax on the $100 price of the lamp, and not the entire transaction amount.

In this case he would collect a total of just $116.00 from the customer, because he was not required to collect sales tax on the $10 shipping charge.

Common Exceptions to Sales Tax on Shipping

I recommend reading each state’s sales tax law or FAQ on shipping, because many states have exceptions to their normal rules. Here are a few:

  • You are delivering products in your own vehicle – State laws on shipping taxability generally refer to “common carriers.” A common carrier in this case is a service that anyone can use – such as the USPS, UPS or FedEx. But in some cases, if you deliver items in your own vehicle rather than using a common carrier, different shipping taxability laws apply.
  • You allow customers to pick up the item – Some states are adamant that shipping in an ecommerce transaction is taxable because the delivery of the item is an inextricable part of the ecommerce process. However, if you have a storefront, or otherwise give the customer the option to come to your location and pick up the item (in some cases, no matter how far away the customer may be), then the state considers shipping charges non-taxable.
  • “Handling” is included – In Virginia and Maryland, “shipping” charges are not taxable, but combined “shipping and handling” charges are taxable. Be sure to thoroughly read your state’s sales tax laws on shipping to ensure that your business process doesn’t inadvertently run afoul of a detail in the law.
  • The shipment contains a mix of taxable and non-taxable items – Some items, like groceries, clothing and medication, are not taxable in some states. For the most part, if you ship taxable items, then all shipping charges are taxable. And if you ship all non-taxable items in a parcel, then the shipping charges for that parcel are non-taxable. But if you ship a mixed shipment (i.e. some items are taxable and some are non-taxable), then some states say that you should only charge sales tax on the shipping charges used to deliver the taxable item. You may do this by dividing the weight of the items or the prices of the items and then assigning a shipping charge to each item.

Example of sales tax on a mixed shipment:

You sell a $50 taxable coffee table book and a $50 non-taxable pair of blue jeans to a customer and ship them in the same shipment, charging $10 for shipping.

In this case, you could weigh both items and figure out how much of that $10 was used to ship the weight of each.

Or you could simply consider the price of each item and only charge sales tax on the $5 you charged to ship the taxable coffee table book.

Fortunately, BigCommerce and other online shopping carts and marketplaces allow you to elect whether to collect sales tax on shipping charges in an individual state.

I hope this post has demystified when online sellers are required to charge sales tax on shipping charges.

If you have questions or something to say, start the conversation in the comments.

Make your sales tax reporting easier

TaxJar is a service that makes sales tax reporting and filing simple for more than 10,000 online sellers.

Try a 30-day-free trial of TaxJar today and eliminate sales tax compliance headaches from your life!

Want more insights like this?

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

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The Complete Handbook to Sales Tax, Business Tax and Amazon FBA Tax (+92 Ways to Save) https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/ecommerce-taxation/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/ecommerce-taxation/#respond Wed, 13 Jun 2018 14:00:31 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=19431 Paying your taxes isn’t what any entrepreneur dreams of when starting a business. You don’t think about the spreadsheets and…]]>

Paying your taxes isn’t what any entrepreneur dreams of when starting a business.

  • You don’t think about the spreadsheets and the constant state updates.
  • You don’t think about how to charge sales tax, when, where, why and on which products.

That’s because taxes are just the cost of doing business.

Sadly, doing them incorrectly (and definitely not doing them at all) can cost you your business.

So, to make sure you are zipped up on everything you need to know to pay the right amount, charge the right amount and do it all in accordance with state and national laws, we’ve put together a comprehensive resource you can bookmark for future reference.

What’s in the Ecommerce Tax Guide:

  • The basics of sales tax, including when you need to collect based on state laws.
  • How to register for a sales tax permit (and what could happen if you don’t).
  • The difference between origin and destination-based sales tax sourcing.
  • The true definition of sales tax nexus, and what it means for your business.
  • How to file regularly and on-time, without taking focus from growing your sales.
  • How Amazon FBA sellers need to file sales tax.
  • Where Amazon has fulfillment centers (and what that means for sellers).
  • How to collect sales tax on Amazon and set up product tax codes on FBA.
  • How to report sales tax collected from Amazon.
  • What the defines a resale certificate.
  • How to properly use a resale certificate.
  • How to accept a resale certificate from a buyer.
  • When to charge sales tax on shipping.
  • What exemptions there are for sale tax on shipping.
  • When you need to pay business taxes –– with a calendar you can keep.
  • 92 business deductions to look into (and 11 you shouldn’t even try).

First things first, though, let’s talk about tax compliance automation.

The Benefits of Sales Tax Automation

Bigcommerce automatically configures sales tax if your business does not have any special tax needs.

U.S. merchants use automatic U.S. state sales tax calculation that determines sales tax rates during checkout based on a standard tax rate for states in which these businesses are required to collect sales tax.

And for merchants who require any special sales tax exemptions, BigCommerce has partnered closely with Avalara AvaTax to streamline the tax collection process by integrating with their sales tax automation software.

AvaTax serves as an automated end-to-end tax compliance solution that provides BigCommerce users with a one-and-done option for nexus and taxability requirements in all states.

It uses real-time tax rate calculations and calculates sales tax via geo-spatial mapping, ensuring accurate results every time.

Plus, flow-through data from Avalara AvaTax Calc to Avalara AvaTax Returns ensures a merchant’s sales tax returns are always on time.

Why is this important?

Because there are more than 12,000 tax codes in the U.S. alone. And those tax codes are individually subject to change throughout any given tax year.

Businesses without their own accounting departments, i.e. most folks in the process of building a sustainable, long-term venture, cannot afford the time cost in keeping track of compliance across 12,000 jurisdictions.

While this guide will walk you through everything you need to know and cover any “Gotchas” in ecommerce tax, it is much more efficient to use automation instead.

This is especially useful when it is tax time.

Here’s how it works with BigCommerce and Avalara’s sales tax automation software when needing to file your business taxes.

1. Enable document submission:

Available within “Tax Options” in the BigCommerce “Store Setup”. This feature ensures completed invoices and credits are recorded in Avalara and populate sales tax reports to help you reconcile and file returns.

2. Tax settings: 

Login to Avatax to ensure you have enabled the proper tax settings for your BigCommerce store. Most importantly, identify where you’re registered so Avalara knows to apply sales tax on all orders shipped within your jurisdictions.

3. Filing tax returns:

Don’t forget that you must file a sales tax return and remit all tax collected on a regular cadence for each jurisdiction. You can do that by either:

  1. Accessing free tax reports from your Avalara account to reconcile and file yourself
  2. Enabling Avalara’s automated tax return service and put your tax filings on autopilot

Still want to do it all yourself? Let’s dive in!

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

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7 Brands Discuss the Benefits of the New Cashless Economy and Apple Pay’s Growing Ubiquity https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/apple-pay-tips-mobile-payments/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/apple-pay-tips-mobile-payments/#comments Tue, 13 Mar 2018 14:00:37 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17201 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, SmallBizDaily.com.

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.

Want more insights like this?

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

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, Ecommerce-Platforms.com 


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.

Want more insights like this?

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

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Your M-Commerce Deep Dive: Data, Trends and What’s Next in the Mobile Retail Revenue World https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/mobile-commerce/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/mobile-commerce/#comments Thu, 15 Feb 2018 15:00:08 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=23905 I often find myself doing a double-take when someone refers to mobile commerce as “the next big thing.” For me…]]>

I often find myself doing a double-take when someone refers to mobile commerce as “the next big thing.”

For me this implies that mobile commerce is a trend, a passing fad that will soon be forgotten, or superceded by something else.

It isn’t.

Is mobile commerce different to ecommerce?

Yes, and no.

Mobile commerce is a natural progression of ecommerce.

On some levels they are nearly identical, but there are also important differences between the two.

As a result, you will see me use ecommerce instead of mobile commerce a few times throughout this article, and you are welcome to do the same.

But I will only interchange them when referring to the aspects that overlap; there will be times when only mobile commerce will do.

Why does mobile commerce matter?

Mobile commerce is not replacing ecommerce, but a larger portion of ecommerce sales are now coming from mobile devices.

eMarketer forecast global ecommerce sales of $2.290 trillion for 2017, considerably higher than the $1,179 trillion forecast by Goldman Sachs in 2014.

At the same they were expecting mobile commerce to account for up to 70% of ecommerce sales throughout Asia.

In Germany, the US, and the UK, mobile commerce was predicted to make up a third of all retail ecommerce sales.

By now your website – and online store – should already be accessible on mobile devices, but that doesn’t automatically mean your business is ready for mobile commerce. And as eMarketers numbers suggest, you could be missing out on a lot of sales.

Per DynamicYield, “Only 12% of consumers find shopping on the mobile web convenient“. That’s a lot of room for improvement.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s start from the beginning.

What is mobile commerce?

Mobile commerce, also called m-commerce or mcommerce, includes any monetary transaction completed using a mobile device.

It is an advancement of ecommerce, enabling people to buy and sell goods or services from almost anywhere, simply using a mobile phone or tablet device.

But mobile commerce is more than just a simple evolution of ecommerce.

It has also served as a trigger for new industries and services, or helped existing ones grow, including:

  • Mobile money transfers.
  • Electronic tickets and boarding passes.
  • Digital content purchases and delivery.
  • Mobile banking.
  • Contactless payments and in-app payments.
  • Location-based services.
  • Mobile marketing, coupons, and loyalty cards.

Are there different types of mobile commerce?

While m-commerce covers a wide variety of transactions, they can all be categorized as one of three types:

1. Mobile shopping.

Mostly similar to ecommerce, but accessible via a mobile device. Mobile shopping is now possible through mobile optimized websites, dedicated apps, and even social media platforms.

2. Mobile banking.

Not too different to online banking, though you may find some transaction types are limited or restricted on mobile devices. Mobile banking usually involves a dedicated app, though some banks have started experimenting with the use of chatbots and messaging apps.

3. Mobile payments.

There are so many diverse mobile payment options that we have chosen to cover them in detail further in this article.

As a business owner, and user of BigCommerce, your exposure and interest in mobile commerce would mostly relate to shopping and payments, which is what the rest of this article will focus on.

Advantages (and Disadvantages) of Mobile Commerce

There are disadvantages to many forms of doing business, but this should never be viewed as a significant hindrance.

The advantages usually outnumber the disadvantages, and there are ways to overcome many of the pitfalls, especially when you know what some of them are.

Let’s start with the good, first.

Common Benefits of Mobile Commerce

1. Better overall experience for customers.

Ecommerce already made shopping more convenient.

Consumers were given access to:

  • A wider variety of products.
  • More competitive pricing.
  • All without ever having to step away from their computer.

With mobile commerce, they still have these benefits, but now they don’t even need a desktop computer.

As long as they have a mobile device, they can shop whenever they want, wherever they are.

New mobile commerce applications that enhance the customer experience even further include:

  • Augmented reality, with Ikea and Sephora among top retailers using augmented reality apps to complement their mobile commerce business
  • Chatbots and messenger apps which making it easier for businesses to interact with their customers using apps and services their customers already use and love.

2. Phenomenal growth potential.

eMarketer expects global ecommerce sales to reach $4.058 trillion by 2020, representing 15% of total retail sales.

And the percentage of that belonging to m-commerce will also continue to grow, as more online retailers see more than 50% of traffic coming from mobile devices.

This suggests that retailers investing more in mobile commerce can ultimately expect a higher conversion rate and ROI.

3. A true omni-channel experience.

An omni-channel experience is when stores sell both online and offline — likely also selling through multiple online channels (i.e. on Amazon, eBay, Facebook, B2B).

We’ve also been referencing the importance of listing your product wherever consumers are already spending their time. This is increasingly known as contextual commerce, a more strategic take on the overarching omni-channel term.

Omni-channel is about being where your customers are, and making it possible for them to buy what they want.

And mobile commerce makes this easier than any other form of multi-channel marketing and selling.

Push Products to Amazon in One Click

BigCommerce’s Amazon integration is really good – and it’s really helped us out. We’re converting more ecommerce and online sales due to our Amazon presence now.

I would have never gone out to put products on Amazon on my own. The fact that it was going to be easy to integrate directly through BigCommerce if why I did it – and now, we see 1 out of every 10 orders coming to us through Amazon.

It’s a great gateway to gaining customers, especially when you are strategic about which products you put up there, and which you make exclusive for your own site.

I think beyond just selling on Amazon for Amazon’s sake. Being there helps to create more customers for our website, too. It helps us with volume and with growing our website and our clientele.

– Brent Densford, CEO of BeachRC

4. Variety of payment options.

With new mobile payment solutions emerging, it is now possible to offer customers a truly diverse range of payment options.

This doesn’t mean we’ve moved beyond “cash or card,” but mobile commerce has given up mobile wallets, which make one-click checkouts possible in more than one store.

No more having to manually enter your credit card details and shipping details the first time you shop at a new online store.

Popular mobile payment solutions include:

  1. Apple Pay.
  2. PayPal One-Touch.
  3. Visa Checkout.
  4. Amazon Pay.

Common Pitfalls of Mobile Commerce

1.Constant need for optimization.

This isn’t so much of a pitfall as it is a need to change your way of thinking when it comes to developing and managing your online store.

As we will discuss later, the speed at which the pages of your website load play a critical role in conversions and repeat business.

You will need to be aware of advancements in technology, and changes in optimization best practices to ensure your website – at least on mobile – offers a superior experience that is fast and simple to use.

2. Variety of payment options.

The diversity of payment options is both a benefit and pitfall when it comes to mobile commerce.

Many mobile wallets are not available in all geographical locations, while consumers in some locations prefer one payment option over another.  

In Holland, for instance, 70-80% of people use iDeal, which is a payment system not really used anywhere else. If you don’t have iDeal in Holland, the Dutch won’t buy from you.

All countries have their nuances like that, which is why it was so important we used Adyen with BigCommerce. Adyen supports a large volume of sales, and allows customers to choose their preferred payment method without cluttering up the checkout flow with a bunch of different payment options.

You can even use IP addresses to automatically fill in a country’s preferred payment as someone checks out, so you don’t disrupt the checkout flow for the end user.

Rogier van Genugten, CEO at Vinyl Express

And offering more choices for payment isn’t always a good thing.

A regularly cited study from 2000 found that a higher number of choices often leads to a decrease in sales and customer satisfaction.

It will be difficult to get the right mix of payment options when your online store first launches, but in time you will gather reams of data about your customers that will allow you to adjust them to what your customers use and want.

One-click solutions will always be preferable because they make checkout less cumbersome, but don’t ignore some payment options because they only work in certain locations.

3. Easier for customers to compare prices.

The traditional way to do a bit of comparative shopping was to know your prices in advance, by scanning a number of catalogues and advertisements before you went to any physical stores.

Alternatively you could have moved from one shop to another, and get a great workout in the process.

But mobile commerce has – again- simplified this.

Armed with little more than a mobile phone, customers are able to rapidly compare the prices – and shipping costs – for dozens of stores until they find the one offering the most value.

And most of the time this happens without you even knowing it.

You can overcome this by – like your customers – constantly being aware of what your competitors are charging for the same products, not just those close to you, but also those miles away, and even across borders.

4. Need to know and comply with a wider range of regulations.

This is a pitfall for both traditional ecommerce and mobile commerce: knowing and complying with a large number of tax laws and other regulations for all the countries you ship to.

Some online stores avoid this by only selling and shipping to residents of one country, or only a small handful of countries.

But this severely limits the size of your market, which is meant to be a benefit of ecommerce.

It is true that some products can only be shipped to a few international markets, but for everything else you should – as your business grows – investigate the feasibility of expanding across borders.

A smart alternative is to make some of your products also available via Amazon, so while your own online store only ships to certain locations, through Amazon you are able to ship far more widely. With Amazon taking care of many of the regulations involved.

Own a New International Market Now

Cross-border commerce happens for online brands regardless of their strategy. The internet is a free for all –– with IP addresses dictating the currency your international consumers see.

But what if you are ready to invest in international expansion and localization to own a brand new market long before you competitors?

That’s what this guide will teach you to do.

Get the guide.

Understanding Mobile Payment Options

Choosing the right payment solution for your ecommerce business is even more important when it comes to mobile.

Your customers would prefer skipping the need for adding credit card and shipping details, so one-click solutions that integrate with mobile wallets offer you and your customers more.

Simpler checkout and payment leads to more conversions, more sales, and more repeat business.

For some brands, like Power Support, choosing the right payment solution can result in an immediate increase in conversions. For Power Support, they say a 26% increase in orders within two weeks after installing Amazon Pay.

Mobile payments is one type of mobile commerce that has become an industry all of its own.

Mobile payments now include:

  • Mobile wallets, also referred to as digital wallets
  • Contactless mobile payments
  • Closed loop mobile payments
  • Money transfers
  • Mobile point-of-sale (POS)
  • Carrier payments

While not all of these are applicable to ecommerce, it helps to understand what each type of mobile payment means.

1. Mobile wallets.

Mobile wallets make it easy for online shoppers to securely store their credit card details, shipping address, and more.

The benefit to shoppers is that when paying for online purchases they don’t need to enter all this information again, which can be especially awkward on mobile phones.

At checkout they simply select the mobile wallet they are registered with, and authenticate using Touch ID or a PIN. Nothing more.

There are a many mobile wallets available, though some are limited to specific geographical locations, and only a few are accepted by most ecommerce merchants.

Here is an example a brand out of the UK, Sour Cherry, using PayPal One-Touch for a one click payment option.

Similarly in the U.S., brands like Natori build a one-click m-commerce option:

Well-known mobile wallets include:

  • Apple Pay.
  • Google Pay.
  • Amazon Pay.
  • PayPal.
  • Samsung Pay.

2. Contactless mobile payments.

Contactless mobile payments make use of select mobile wallets to facilitate payments made in-store.

Supported mobile wallets typically include:

  • Apple Pay
  • Google Pay
  • Samsung Pay

Some banks launching their own mobile wallet too.

When making a payment in a physical location, customers can place their phone close to a supported terminal to validate and transmit payment, instead of swiping their debit or credit card.

3. Closed loop mobile payments.

Closed loop mobile payments are exactly the same as mobile wallets, but are linked to a single brand via a dedicated mobile app.

Examples include:

  • Walmart Pay
  • Starbucks
  • Taco Bell

All allow users to add their card details to the mobile app, and to then use the app to pay for their purchases in-store.

Here’s an example of Atlanta Light Bulbs’ app payment walk-thru. You can see, you only have to insert your information once, and then it’s one-click every other time you buy from them.

 

4. Money transfers.

Money transfers were previously limited to banking apps, but now there are an increasing number of ways to transfer money from one person to another – on a mobile device – without using a banking app.

Early adopters of this include:

  • PayPal
  • Google

Now you have:

  • Venmo
  • Square Cash
  • WeChat
  • SnapChat
  • Facebook Messenger

Convenience = Conversion

Anything that makes mobile and in-app payments easier is a plus. Venmo, for example, can be use for both single and split payments in so many scenarios. That means that it can only bolster conversions and revenue when offered as an option.

– Krista Fabregas, Editor, Ecommerce & Retail, FitSmallBusiness

5. Mobile point-of-sale (POS).

Mobile POS is a way for smaller merchants to process card payments without a traditional card reader.

bulSquare, PayPal, and other payment solutions also offer mobile card readers that are portable, and only need a mobile phone in order to process any payments.

These could either be small card readers that attach to your mobile phone, or contactless card readers which would allow customers to pay for their purchases using certain mobile wallets.

Some of these solutions integrate with various ecommerce platforms, so if you have both an online and physical store your sales and inventory are automatically synced.

Offline to Online Inventory Syncing – Automatically

The Square POS inventory sync and catalog import are exactly what I was looking for. Other platforms take up to 24 hours to update inventory, but BigCommerce captures changes instantly.

– Alexander Head, Drink Dispatch

6. Carrier payments.

Used less frequently these days, carrier payments were perhaps the original form of mobile payments.

Carrier payments were once a popular method for paying for downloadable ringtones, but is now mostly used for making charitable donations.

A user sends a message to a specific mobile number, and the value of the transaction is added to their next cellphone bill.

The Impact of Page Speed on Mobile Commerce

Page speed has always been an important consideration for websites, and it is even more important when it comes to mobile commerce.

Google has been encouraging developers to optimize for mobile page speed ever since they noticed that more than 50% of search queries were happening on mobile devices.

Page speed has long been a ranking factor, but Google has always only considered the speed of desktop versions of websites.

This changes in mid-2018 when mobile page speed becomes a ranking factor.

+272% in Mobile Revenue

The number one benefit of re-platforming is the responsive site. Now our mobile conversions are increasing rapidly. Mobile conversion rate is up 272% and mobile revenue is up 193% since this time last year.

I’m obviously very pleased with our growth and I definitely attribute it to our re-platform and our new mobile sites.

– Cory Barnes, Digital Marketing Manager for Exxel Outdoors

But how your site ranks in Google isn’t the only reason to pay attention to mobile page speed:

  • Forrester found in 2009 that 40% of consumers won’t wait longer than three seconds for a page to load before leaving a site completely.
  • With online shopping, site loyalty is contingent on page speed for 52% of shoppers. If made to wait, 14% of online shoppers would simply switch to shopping at another site.
  • After a poor site experience, 79%  of online shoppers state they are less likely to support a site again.

The study reporting these figures is almost 10-years old, but our expectations in terms of mobile page speed are likely even higher now.

A more recent study by Google found that the probability of bounce increases exponentially the longer a site takes to load on a mobile device.

Mobile Experience is key.

 

Mobile traffic has already overtaken desktop traffic, and we are seeing mobile sales approach desktop sales. This trend will continue moving forward, with mobile eventually overtaking desktop sales.

Retailers with a mobile first mentality will outperform those that treat mobile as a second priority. This mobile first mentality applies to everything: web design, email layouts, reward programs, and more.

– Steve Deckert, Co-Founder, Smile.io 

5 steps you can take to improve mobile commerce page speed

Most ecommerce platforms have various page speed optimizations built-in, but this doesn’t absolve you from running a few page speed tests, and identifying areas that could do with improvement.

1. Run some tests.

It is important to remember that users with a high-end smartphone on a WiFi connection will have a far superior experience than someone with a mid-tier smartphone with a 3G connection.

To account for this, we suggest running separate speed tests using several different tools:

  • Test My Site – a Google tool for testing mobile page speed. The test is run over a simulated 3G connection, and the results show how long the page takes to load, and how many visitors you can expect to lose with that loading time. You can enter your details to receive a slightly more detailed report via email.
  • PageSpeed Insights – another Google tool, but here you can expect a grading (and improvement suggestions) for both mobile and desktop speed. Here the performance of your website is compared to that of pages monitored by the Chrome User Experience (CrUX) report, and rated as fast, average, or slow. Your page is also assessed to see if it follows any common performance best practices, and you are then given suggestions on how to improve performance.
  • WebPageTest – using this tool you are able to specify what browser, device, and connection type the test should be run on, giving you a better idea of how your website performs for the average user. The results are more detailed, and while you aren’t given any suggestions, you will be able to better identify the root cause of any performance issues.
  • Pingdom – the reports returned after a test using Pingdom are easier to understand than those of WebPageTest, but the free test doesn’t include an option for mobile only.

It’s important to remember that all of the tools mentioned here are only ever testing the page speed for a single URL, not your entire site.

Depending on how your site has been designed, many suggested optimisations could be applied to your entire website, though you may still want to test several different pages to look for any isolated issues.

The following points will discuss how you can implement suggested optimisations to improve the mobile page speed of your site.

2. Optimize & reduce images.

Images are one of the biggest contributing factors to poor page speed for two reasons:

  1. They aren’t always optimized, and
  2. There are often too many on one page

Ecommerce sites undoubtedly benefit from the use of high quality images, but modern image optimization makes it possible to reduce the file size of images without affecting the digital quality.

But image optimization isn’t just about reducing the file size, it’s also about resizing images for different devices.

Get Automatic Image Optimization Now

BigCommerce recently partnered with Akamai to integrate automatic image optimization into BigCommerce stores using the Stencil theming engine.

The Akamai Image Manager automatically optimises and resizes images, and also converts them image formats that offer higher levels of compression. Customers in the closed beta for this integration reported as much as 70% improvement in load time across their sites.

Learn more.

Unfortunately, ecommerce sites are also at risk of poor mobile page speed as a result of too many images on a single page.

Because customers can’t pick up – or try on – products in an ecommerce store, it’s only natural to compensate for this by including multiple images of the same item from different angles.

But the old adage of “less is more” still applies here.

If you plan your product photos properly, it is possible to get by with two to four images, instead of six or more.

In many instances, all you need is a shot of the front, the back, and maybe one or two close-ups that show specific features.

Given how much influence images have on page speed, optimizing your images – and even reducing the number of images on each page – will almost always result in a noticeable improvement in load time.

Mobile Is Here

In the digital space we’ve been banging the drum on mobile for years now and there are still many sites that don’t get it.

Optimize your forms, create mobile first designs, load pages quickly. Mobile is here. Understand how your customers use mobile and optimize.

– Stephen Slater, Digital Advertising Manager, TopRankMarketing

3. Minimize code.

Minifying HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code involves stripping the relevant files of all spaces and line breaks.

Doing this doesn’t reduce the file size as dramatically as with image optimization, but every millisecond improvement in page speed counts.

Google recommends several tools which will minify your code for you, though most ecommerce platforms also minify these files automatically.

Every App Is Code

More built-in functionality means less apps –– and less apps means less code –– and less code means a faster site.

But that’s only part of the reason why BigCommerce merchants sell 34% more than those on Shopify.

Learn more.

4. Reduce tracking snippets.

The use of 3rd-party tracking and analytical services is a necessary evil when it comes to ecommerce.

But if you’re not using the Google Tag Manager, the snippets of code required by each service can affect page speed.

With Tag Manager you are still able to use all your preferred tracking and analytical services, but you only need to add one snippet of code to each page.

Set Up Google Analytics Across Your Site in 3 Minutes

BigCommerce customers don’t need to manually install snippets on every single one of their site’s pages to get the benefits of Google Analytics data.

Instead, one snippet drop on the backend will automatically place the code where it needs to go on your site to make setting up tracking quick and easy.

5. Do a feature audit.

Featuritus is a term originally used to describe the unnecessary addition of features to software.

And it’s a term that – along with Bright Shiny Object (BSO) syndrome – is also relevant to web sites.

Each feature and software integration you add to your site requires additional resources, which impact on page speed.

A feature audit means honestly judging the value of each feature and app you’ve integrated into your site.

The tests you ran through Pingdom and WebPageTest would show the impact of any scripts, images, and other resources needed for some features and apps.

Now ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you and your customers benefit from all of them?
  • Is the benefit gained more valuable than that of a better page speed on mobile?
  • Would removing any of them negatively affect sales and conversions?
  • If so, is there a way to keep the feature or app, but reduce the impact on page speed?

Depending on your site structure, not all of the optimization suggestions made by Google – or discussed here – will be possible.

And while those that are typically lead to speed improvements measured in milliseconds, each millisecond adds up.

And in the words of Daniel An, Global Product Lead for Mobile Web at Google:

No matter what, faster is better and less is more.

Remember also that there is a lot to gain from taking a mobile-first approach to developing and optimizing your website.

Mobile-First Wins

When we designed our new website, I told the designer, ‘Don’t send me desktop designs. Make mobile perfect, then make a responsive version for desktop.’

We’ve achieved 5% conversion rates on mobile with over 80% of our sales on mobile devices.

 – Brandon Chatham, CEO at NatoMounts

Deciding Between a Mobile App and Mobile Website

People began talking about mobile apps as the future – and as a must-have for any business – soon after Apple and Google first launched their app stores.

And while for some businesses there certainly is value in having a branded app, there is still some doubt over whether every business stands to benefit from having a branded app.

In their analysis of Google in late 2015, Morgan Stanley wrote:

Mobile browser audiences compared to mobile app audiences

U.S. mobile is still largely a browser based world as mobile browser audiences are ~2X larger than app audiences across the top 50 U.S. mobile web properties.

As shown, the median browser audience (across the top 50 U.S. mobile apps as of July 2015) has grown at 61% per year, while app audiences have grown at an average of 51% per year.

Said another way, mobile browser audiences have grown 1.2x faster than mobile app audiences off of a 1.8x larger base.

Note that this over-indexing toward browsers is the opposite of what most investors we speak with expect, who often ask about the”app-lification” of consumer behavior as we transition from desktop to mobile.

We attribute this difference to the most commonly cited industry report on app and browser behavior published by Flurry, which asserts that:

Nearly 90% of time spent on mobile (across iOS and Android devices) occurs in app.

But Flurry’s breakdown of how people are spending their time on mobile matters, as we see that the app time spent data is skewed upward by gaming (32% of time) and social (a total of 29% of time between Facebook at 17%, Other messaging at 10% and Twitter at 2%).

This doesn’t suggest SMEs should completely abandon the idea of a branded app.

There are times when a mobile app definitely helps, especially when it offers more than a mobile web site can, as Doug Root, CEO at Atlanta Light Bulbs discovered through one of BigCommerce’s software integrations, which:

[…] enabled us to build our own shopping app.

Our customers love it! We’re able to give it to our commercial customers, to set them up, put their favorite products in their phone, and then say, “Here, bam! All you’ve got to do is order on your phone, and you’re ready to go.”

Orders just roll in on the BigCommerce platform. It all talks back and forth wonderfully.

And BigCommerce’s strategic partnership with Handshake promises to give B2B customers unique features like:

  • A mobile sales app for paperless order writing. Perfect for tradeshows and customer appointments, it works both online and offline and helps you ship orders in hours instead of days.
  • A B2B ecommerce portal that lets customers place orders with you more often. It streamlines your processes, reduces order time and eliminates service calls for pricing and availability.
  • A dedicated mobile commerce app for your B2B buyers to help them save time by buying from their shelves. They can scan barcodes or search for products to quickly build orders.

For B2C customers, a Progressive Web App (PWA) could prove to be of more value than simply repackaging your website as a mobile app.

PWAs are a fairly new concept that has seen incredible adoption by big brands over the last year.

There are several features of PWAs that explain this:

  • The can be developed and deployed in less time – and at a lower cost – than regular mobile apps. In most instances they only require some modifications to your website code, and the inclusion of a few extra components.
  • They already support key “app-like” features like push notifications, background syncing, offline functionality, and being ‘added’ to the home screen. Other features like geo-fencing, etc. are planned.
  • They are cross-platform, and if setup correctly, will work as a traditional website on any desktop device and Apple mobile device. On Android devices (using the Chrome browser) they look and behave more like a traditional mobile app.
  • They don’t need to be submitted to app stores, which means you don’t need to put in extra effort marketing them, and your customers are not expected to download and install anything.

Progressive refers to another key feature: PWAs need to be supported by almost any device and browser, from entry level through to high-end.

This usually means either only including features supported by entry level devices, or creating different versions for different devices.

With PWAs, all the features you want can be included, but they will only become available to users progressively.

A user on a slow connection with an entry-level device will still be able to browse your store, and place an order. But they won’t see certain interactive features, and background syncing and offline functionality might be disabled.

AliExpress was a very early adopter of PWAs, and following their launch noticed:

  • Conversions for new users across all browsers grew by 104%, with an 82% increase in their iOS conversion rate.
  • The number of pages visited per session per user across all browsers doubled.
  • Time spent per session across all browsers grew by 74%.

One possible explanation for the iOS growth – despite the current lack of support for PWAs on iOS – is that PWAs are usually faster than regular websites and mobile apps, and use considerably less data.

Deciding whether to launch a mobile app – or PWA – shouldn’t be driven by claims that everyone else is doing it.

It should, instead, be influenced by whether or not it offers benefits and value to your customers, and to you.

Top Mobile Commerce Trends in 2018

As a final reminder that businesses can no longer afford to ignore m-commerce, the data team at BigCommerce analyzed figures and trends across the BigCommerce platform in 2017, in order to highlight just how important mobile commerce is right now.

Here are the biggest mobile commerce trends in 2018, based on consumer shopping data.

1. Increased trust.

More consumers feel comfortable shopping on mobile than ever before. Security issues have diminished as the age of m-commerce has increased.

Additionally, consumers are more and more of the “digital native” age, meaning they’ve grown up with computers and the internet their entire lives.

These generations are more likely to use mobile commerce than older generations.

2. Faster checkouts.

One-page checkouts and digital wallets (Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, PayPal One Touch) have improved mobile conversion by up to 10% at launch.

And it’s no surprise – as more consumers are comfortable shopping on mobile, more convenient mobile checkout experiences have surged in popularity.

Still requiring folks to type in all their credit card numbers?

You’re losing out on sales.

3. Easier to use sites.

More and more sites are now optimized for mobile use.

As mentioned earlier in this piece, m-commerce isn’t going anywhere. It isn’t the next new trend. It is a staple of modern retail.

As a result, ecommerce platforms and businesses alike have moved into near 100% responsive site builds, meaning most sites today are easy to use on mobile.

What’s more though is that many brands are moving to mobile-first, or mobile-unique experience. In this instances, a mobile site is created specifically for the mobile user –– different than what the desktop version looks like.

Brands that do this often see an increase in mobile conversion due to easier site navigation and specific experience built for the unique browsing patterns and challenges of mobile shopping.

Mobile Commerce Statistics

Look, you don’t need an article to tell you that mobile commerce is important.

You probably shop on your phone – or browse there at the very least.

That said, numbers never hurt, especially if you are needing to convince others in your organization about the benefits of a mobile-first m-commerce strategy.

So, let’s look at the numbers.

Revenue impact for the retail industry.

  • Mobile conversion increased 30% YoY from 2015 to 2016.
  • In 2012, mobile sales accounted for 10% of total purchases across BC stores
  • In 2016, mobile commerce sales accounted for 31% of total purchases

Same store mobile commerce growth stats by country YoY.

  • U.S. businesses – 24% growth.
  • Australia & New Zealand businesses – 33% growth.
  • European businesses – 18%.
  • Canadian businesses – 19%.
  • Asia-based businesses – 42%.
  • Other – 30%.

Mobile device differences.

  • iOS users spend 18% more on average than Android users.
  • Desktop average order value (AOV) is 53% higher than mobile AOV (iOS + Android).

Desktop still matters.

  • Desktop AOV is 50+% higher than mobile AOV.
  • Average conversion rate by device:
    • Desktop: 4.31%.
    • Mobile: 1.5%.

Here’s the full m-commerce infographic to share:

Want more insights like this?

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

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The Complete Guide to Sourcing from Alibaba and Building an Online Business https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/alibaba-faqs-security-shipping-taxes/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/alibaba-faqs-security-shipping-taxes/#comments Tue, 06 Feb 2018 15:00:29 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=11985 Whether you’re looking to start up an online business or diversify your offering to scale your current ecommerce business, you…]]>

Whether you’re looking to start up an online business or diversify your offering to scale your current ecommerce business, you need two very specific things:

  1. a product idea. 
  2. a sourcing method.

Product ideas can be difficult to come by, especially ones with true market viability.

But coming up with the idea is often less challenging than the sourcing of those products – so I found out.

Sourcing is a crucial business process for every retailer, and there are four main ways to do it:

  • Make
  • Manufacture
  • Dropship
  • Wholesale

There are pros and cons to each method and many retailers use a combination, or all four, to truly scale.

Typically, only those brands with high revenues and margins can account for the initial spend, and continuous upkeep, required to offer customers the best of all sourcing methods: unique products in combination with anything and everything else for which they may be looking.

These brands are often considered lifestyle brands, offering everything a customer might need to live a particular way –– think Goop, ShopBop, Madewell, ModCloth, among others.

Small businesses have long been hindered by the price barrier here, but one big name brand making serious headlines is changing all of that – enter, Alibaba.com.

What is Alibaba?

If you follow business or ecommerce news in the slightest, you’ve heard of Alibaba, the Chinese ecommerce company providing manufacturing sourcing options for businesses of all sizes at incredibly affordable prices.

In all, Alibaba doesn’t operate exactly like any other ecommerce company out there.

For one thing, Alibaba is a comprehensive directory of suppliers, connecting them directly to buyers from all over the world (i.e. retailers).

Alibaba presents millions of products to source, all from the suppliers themselves.

In essence, you are  getting supplier prices at insider rates, typically at a price point only senior and seriously connected merchandisers have before been able to nab.

Alibaba levels the sourcing playing field for legacy brands and small businesses alike.

How do I know that Alibaba is leveling the playing field for all businesses?

Because I started an online business myself, sourced from Alibaba and am seeing huge success.

Here’s exactly how I did it (and you can, too).

How To Source Products from Alibaba to Start an Online Business

I’ve always wanted to start my own online business.

But wanting to start your own business is one thing; actually doing it is another.

So, in 2017, I made a New Year’s resolution to start an online business – and I kept it.

I finally was able to get my business off the ground.

The sense of fulfillment, excitement and pride that I’ve experienced every day since starting my online business has been unmatched.

And I did it by starting with sourcing from Alibaba to get my brand up and running, and making money.

In this, you’ll learn how to :

  • Use Alibaba to make money
  • Use Alibaba to start a business
  • Find the right supplier on Alibaba
  • Source products from Alibaba

Plus, I’ll cover FAQs I hear from folks when I talk about this subject, as well as things I wish I’d known when I began.

Let’s get going.

Finding a Profitable Product Niche on Alibaba

One of the most difficult parts of starting my business was finding a product.

I had dreams. I had passion. I didn’t actually have anything to sell.

Here’s where I was mentally:

  • How would I even find a product to sell?
  • What are other folks selling?
  • Would I fail?
  • Would I get lucky?
  • Was I pretender?
  • A contender?

I had no idea. And I soon came to learn, that’s OK.

Fear is good.

Fear is what got me to start. It’s what pushed me to search harder. And it’s what brings me to today, a year later –– when I’m able to share with you exactly how I did it, and how you can, too.

1. Do market research to find a product to sell.

I did some research on items selling well online, as well as some inner reflection to see if I could find a product that would help solve a problem I experienced in my day to day as a dog owner, athlete, urban dweller and traveler.

Using Google Trends, I was able to understand search volume and interest in a number of different products.

Google Trends is often a great place to find whether items are trending.

And then one day, that proverbial light bulb went on.

As an avid music fan that attends a number of concerts and music festivals, I noticed a need for lighter, compact bags that would be able to hold festival essentials:

  • Sunglasses.
  • Water bottles.
  • Wallets.
  • Keys.

Security restrictions prevented the use of larger backpacks and bags.

Festival attendees were left stranded.

Where there’s pain, however, there’s opportunity to do something better.

I decided I could fix this. I could be a part of the solution.

Could I Be the Next Bag Guy?

I decided to start my own private label brand of bags and fanny packs: Who’s Your Fanny .

Early on, I decided that my business would begin as a private label business.

I’d sell via a ecommerce site on BigCommerce and Amazon.

The Definitive Guide to Selling on Amazon

This book is no joke. I read it to get started on Amazon – and continue to reference is to grow sales.

MSNBC has recommended it. Inc.com has recommended it. I recommend it.

What more do you need?

Get the book now

2. Validate your idea.

Great. So, I have an idea. That’s a start.

Now that I had an idea that resonated with me, I needed to validate that this was actually a problem.

Moreover, I needed to validate that even if it were a problem, that I could solve it.

Most importantly, I wanted to hear from prospective customers.

So, I asked:

  • Friends (and friends of friends).
  • Random people on the internet.
  • Co-workers.
  • Google, and evaluated search volume trends.

I asked questions like:

  • What pain points have you experienced.
  • What sorts of bags have you purchased in the past.
  • How much have you paid.
  • How much would you be willing to pay, etc.

I also pulled up that Google Trends thing again.

And it looked like fanny packs (or bum bags, waist packs, sling bags – whatever you want to call them) were rising in popularity:

My “mini focus groups” had a lot to say. I had no idea people were so passionate about what they used to carry their stuff.

But through that, I identified some crucial elements any solid fanny pack would need to have.

I quickly learned that my target customers wanted:

  1. Multiple pockets. Compartmentalization was a must.
  2. An adjustable belt was key.
  3. Some preferred low price; others preferred a cute design.
  4. Amazon was where they often began their product search.
  5. Guys and girls had different tastes.

And there I had it.

  • I had a product.
  • A product that customers would be interested in buying.
  • And my focus group could also serve as my first customers.

But, I still had no idea how I would source this magical fanny pack.

Off to finding a supplier or a manufacturer…

3. Find the best way to source your product.

There are several options to source a product, including:

  • Direct wholesale.
  • Privately branding your own products.
  • Dropshipping, etc.

I had to narrow my search.

So, as I picked an option, I determined that I would pick the path that best met the below criteria:

  • Sourcing must be easy.
  • Cost of goods sold must be low to ensure good margins.
  • Products must be tested, reliable and high quality.
  • Manufacturer must be scalable and grow with my business.

Criteria To Make Sourcing Easy

Running a business often means, on any day, you’ve got 99 problems and I really didn’t want sourcing to be one.

I wanted to make sure I had this down pat so that I could focus on running the day-to-day of my business.

In general, the framework I used to determine whether my sourcing option was easy often came to whether I could find my ideal product.

My criteria for my product being:

  1. Is the product light and easy to ship?
  2. Is the product price low enough per unit to have a solid margin?
  3. Does the product have health risks? No food. No electronics. Nothing like that.
  4. I wanted to know my product and have used one before: As an avid festival goer, I had.
  5. Confirmed there was a market for the product: My mini focus group did that.
  6. Confirmed there was an easy place to source the product from: For this my options were clear –– now I had to decide where I’d source from (Spoiler alert: Alibaba).

4. Decide where you are going to source.

I explored a number of options including:

  • Dropshippers like Printful and Printify.
  • Wholesale marketplaces like Alibaba and DHGate.
  • Local manufacturers/wholesalers.

Today, a year later, the business operates with a mix of suppliers.

But back then, a year ago, I started with Alibaba as my only supply source.

Why I Chose Alibaba

I chose Alibaba for several reasons.

  1. I wanted to find reputable fanny pack manufacturers who had been doing this for a while, and Alibaba had plenty of those.
  2. I was looking for a known marketplace so that there would be a lot of information on the web about how to use it. Alibaba checked that box.
  3. I wanted to ensure that there were rules and regulations on the marketplace to protect myself and any investment I made. On Alibaba, there are rules on how manufacturers and suppliers should behave. There are also tools out there to make sourcing easy on Alibaba. There are reviews of manufacturers, trade assurance options, various security levers. All of these things gave me confidence in exploring it as a sourcing platform.
  4. I needed something could fit my budget, so that my investment wasn’t monumental on an idea I was only testing. This was the biggest winner for Alibaba. There, I quickly found products that fit within my budget, manufacturers I enjoyed working with and ones that gave me confidence to move to the next steps in building my business.

Now that I had chosen Alibaba, let’s dive in to what happened next and how you can do the exact same thing.

Exactly How to Use Alibaba to Source Products

1. Setup your Alibaba account.

I did a lot of research prior to beginning my journey but today, I’ll save you all of that time and share what I learned.

The first step to using Alibaba is to set up a User ID and password.

This is fairly easy to do and straightforward. While Alibaba is based in China, the user interface is in English (and other languages) and caters to a number of different markets.

2. Understand Alibaba.

When you get into Alibaba (after you’ve decided on a product), you’ll want to search for a manufacturer.

On Alibaba, you have 2 types of manufacturers:

  1. Factory: This is the actual factory that will be producing your sourced goods. Many factories have their own sales teams to deal with retailers like you. Often times, trading companies will source from factories.
  2. Trading Company: A middleman that sources straight from the factory and sells to you. In some cases, it may be difficult to find a factory that produces your goods, but a trading company can assist.

It’s important to pick which option is right for your business. Many of these manufacturers are flexible in how they work with your business.  

Both a trading company or straight from the factory can be a good option, so it’s really up to you to determine how you like to work, your relationship and comfort level with the company, the quality of the product and so on.

3. Be smart how you search Alibaba.

In the next few sections, I will detail the steps to source a product on Alibaba.

Sample Product Search on Alibaba

In this example, we’ll be taking on the role of a hypothetical hat manufacturer because it meets the criteria we established earlier (easy to ship, low cost, etc.).

We’ll source for our hat company together and will go through the below steps:

  • Finding a Supplier
  • Picking a Supplier
  • Contacting the Supplier
  • Securing a Sample
  • Reviewing Your Sample
  • Placing Your Mass Quantity Order

In this journey, we’ll be (together) starting a hat company.

I’ve picked hats because it meets all of our sourcing criteria:

  • Hats are light and easy to ship
  • We can source at a low price and sell at a competitive price
  • Hats have few health risks
  • I feel like I understand the market for hats (I’ve worn one)
  • There is a market for hats.

First, go to Alibaba and type in “hats” into the the search bar under “products” and hit Search.

In this instance, we’ve picked a broad search term, but the more specific you can be, the better.

For example if you are looking for a “winter beanie for women” then you should start with a search for a term like that to get you the best supplier options.

There you’ll find a number of options. Immediately, you’ll ask yourself “how do I choose…”

In order to navigate Alibaba, here’s a “cheat sheet” on the need to know terms.

Alibaba Vocabulary:
  • MOQ: This is the Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) requirement on Alibaba. It specifies the lowest quantity of a certain product that a supplier is willing to sell. If you cannot reach the MOQ requirement, then the supplier is not willing to enter production.
  • OEM: OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturing. You can come with your own specifications, your own requirements, your own detailed visions of your product and hand them off to an OEM factory. The OEM will start manufacturing your product from scratch. This is the kind of supplier you should looking for if you want a unique product under your brand name.
  • ODM: ODM stands for Original Design Manufacturing. An ODM factory will give you products ideas. Give the factory some expected functions, some expected performance and some expected ideas of the conceptions and the factory will suggest some final product options. Don’t know how to build a product? An ODM factory can help.
  • Trade Assurance: If you have a dispute with your supplier, you can submit a claim to Alibaba. They’ll review it, and If they agree that the factory has not made good on their promises, they may give you your money back. Just keep in mind that from the very beginning your sales agreement must list the points that could cause a dispute, like QC, lead times, etc.
  • Gold Supplier: The factory is paying Alibaba to appear more favorably in the search results. It’s a good thing. The factory is pushing their business forward, so take it as a good sign.
  • Assessed Supplier: Alibaba has had a third-party company visit the factory to check out their facilities.
  • QC process: Alibaba has lots of quality control processes and terms. Here we go:
    • IQC: Incoming Quality Control means the control of raw materials or anything that enters the factory (the workplace) for the manufacturing of goods and products.
    • OQC: Outgoing quality control is concerned with the finished goods ready for shipment.
    • QC & QA: Quality Control and Quality Assurance are the ways that quality is controlled and assured during all the process.
    • IPQC: In Process Quality Control is made during all steps of the manufacturing of a given product.
  • FOB: Free on Board (or Freight on Board). This means that the cost of delivering the goods to the nearest port is included but YOU, as the buyer, are responsible for the shipping from there and all other fees associated with getting the goods to your country/address
  • CIF: Cost insurance and Freight (named port of destination). Seller must pay the costs and freight includes insurance to bring the goods to the port of destination. However, risk is transferred to the buyer once the goods are loaded on the ship.

Back To Our Product Search

So, looking at our hat search one more time, we have a number of options.

  • Knowing that this is my first search, I’d like to ensure there are controls in place with a reliable supplier so I select trade assurance, which allows me to pay via escrow after I receive my goods.
  • Also, for added protection, I select “Gold Suppliers,” Alibaba’s top suppliers. While Alibaba is largely safe, there are still all sorts of suppliers on there and these can help you feel more confident you’ll interact with an honest supplier.
  • To further narrow my search, full well knowing that I’m just getting started, I select a manufacturer with a low MOQ of 100.

You can select a MOQ that you are comfortable with but 100-200 is a good range for just getting started.

Per unit prices will start getting much less expensive at the 500+ range, but you will get there in due time.

4. Pick a supplier on Alibaba.

After we’ve inserted this criteria, a number of suppliers will appear.

As you look through the options, you’ll want to consider a few things:

  • Price.
  • Minimum order quantity.
  • Time listed on Alibaba.
  • Time listed as a Gold Supplier.
  • Supplier reputation and reviews.

In evaluating supplier reputation and reviews, I ask myself a few questions as I evaluate whether the supplier is legitimate.

For example:

  • How structured and detailed is their page?
  • Do they have pictures of the factory? Detailed information about the location and history?
  • Do they have professional descriptions and images of the products?
  • Do they describe their QC process and delivery times?

Asking and answering these questions should take out much of the fear from your Alibaba search and can help ensure that you work with legitimate factories and suppliers.

It’s unfortunate, but there are definitely scammers and fraudsters on Alibaba. However, there are ways to avoid them.

Many of the details in this article can help ensure you are working with well-intentioned, reputable, reliable, secure manufacturers.

In this example, I quickly identify a supplier that has a good track record, a number of transactions, and has a good response rate.

The MOQ is slightly higher than I’d like, but it’s OK.

Now, you’ll want to email several suppliers.

5. Contact the supplier.

Now that you’ve identified some suppliers that meet your criteria (low MOQ, gold, trade, etc.) you’ll be able to shoot them a note and get additional details.

Here are a few tips on outreach:

  • Keep it short and sweet
  • Introduce yourself & your business
  • Describe what you are interested in  
  • Inquire about shipping times and sample cost

In short, your end goal is to determine which suppliers can meet your basic requirements.

Depending on your budget, you’ll want to engage a few suppliers for your product. I typically reach out to 5-10 and track my findings in a Google Sheet or Excel spreadsheet.

When you engage these suppliers, you’ll interact with them to secure a sample.

A few things to know about samples:

  • Samples are important because you’ll want to see the product prior to selling it and investing more money into inventory.
  • Many manufacturers will charge for express shipping via DHL, UPS, FedEx to ensure you get your samples quickly.
  • In some cases, they’ll also charge you for a sample, which can often be refunded once you pick them and place a larger order.
Why do Alibaba Suppliers Charge for Samples?

Alibaba suppliers often charge for samples and sample shipping to vet that you’re serious about the business relationship. Both sides (you and the manufacturer) want to establish trust.

For a business starting out, I’d also suggest sticking to low MOQs to test and validate products before going all-in.

This allows you to build trust with your manufacturer to ensure they’ll be able to deliver larger high-quality orders when the time comes.

As you build a relationship with an Alibaba supplier, you’ll be able to purchase in bulk, which will give you lower per unit items.

But in this initial stage, you’re focused on delivering a viable product.

A note like this should work:

Hi,

I am a retailer exploring supplier options for my business in Austin, Texas. I am interested in a sample of your hat and am curious as to how much it will cost to ship this item to Austin, Texas. Additionally, I would like to confirm the price per order for your minimum order quantity, as well as turn-around and delivery time.

Sincerely,

<x>

Most Alibaba suppliers respond within 24-48 hours.

In your communication you’ll want to look out for a few things:

  • Does the prospective manufacturer answer all of my questions?
  • Do they communicate clearly?
  • Do they show that they can meet your basic requirements?

I’ve been very impressed with the relationship management Alibaba suppliers offer. Seriously, no complaints there at all.

With that said, Alibaba suppliers are bombarded with emails on a daily basis and it’s important to let them know that you are a legitimate customer.

You will want to ensure that you respond in a timely manner to any Alibaba correspondence.

6. Secure the sample.

Eventually, your supplier will reach back out to you.

They will provide answers to your questions and in some cases, offer to chat via WeChat or Skype to further discuss your request.

If you have the time, definitely take them up on it.

There you can discuss more details about any product customizations you are requesting, pricing and other questions in deeper detail.

With that said, it is not required and you can still place your initial order via email.

After confirming details with you, they’ll either ask for a small nominal charge plus shipping for the sample.

This small fee does two things:

  1. It often weeds out non-legitimate customers
  2. Pays for express shipping.

One thing that is important to remember is that sample costs can quickly add up.

Be selective in who you request samples from otherwise you may find yourself having lost a small fortune as you scope out new vendors.

At the end of the day you’re looking to source a quality product that will still deliver your target profitability per unit. It’s OK to be selective.

If it is a trade assurance supplier, they will send you an order in your Alibaba Control Panel confirming your order and transaction details.

You can pay for your order via Credit Card, your bank account or AliPay.

Since you have Trade Assurance, payment will not be charged until after you receive the goods. This builds shopper confidence as you are only charged once you confirm receipt of the goods.

If you’ve used a trade assurance manufacturer, at this point you’ll be able to pay for the samples and upon receipt, will be asked to confirm via Trade Assurance.

Depending on whether you are private labeling your product or selling the product as-is, the next steps might be slightly different.

If you are planning on selling the product as-is, you’re done. If you’re private labeling like I did, continue.

7. How to private label products from Alibaba.

There are two types of private labeling that is possible with products from Alibaba.

  1. ODM
  2. OEM

Let’s look at both.

What is ODM on Alibaba?

With ODM, you are essentially buying a relatively finished product and throwing your label on it. You may have a few small tweaks as well.

If you’re planning on private labeling the product, you most likely will have a set of designs you expect to print on the pre-manufactured item as well as a tag that has your brand name and other information.

For this, you can use “ODM.”

What is OEM on Alibaba?

OEM is when you start something completely from scratch.

In your discussions with the manufacturer, if you have a design that you’d like on this hypothetical hat, you can send them artwork (often in the form of .jpg, AI, etc.) and for a small charge, they’ll be able to put this on your sample.

This is often called “OEM.”

I would highly recommend securing a sample prior to placing a large order, especially if this is your first product.

If you are opting for the private label route, you can also often put a tag on the product with your brand.

A copy of my own private label used in my fanny packs.

And Now You Wait

It will take a few days/weeks for the sample to arrive, but being the budding entrepreneur you are, this gives you time to build out other elements of your business.

Use this time to learn more about Amazon and set up your ecommerce site with stock photography and sample descriptions.

If you are sourcing additional products continue explorations. Sourcify is a great option for this.

8. Analyze samples to ensure quality.

Once your sample arrives, you’ll want to check for a few things:

  • Does this sample look like the pictures?
  • What is the quality of the product? Is it durable? How’s the stitching?
  • Is the packaging what I expected? Do I need to request something different?

Feel free to take the product for a test run.

Pretend you’re a customer buying your product:

  • How does it feel?
  • Does it accomplish the task?
  • Does it solve the problem you’re solving?
  • Feel free to also show others.
  • Remember that focus group? Maybe you bring it as your next show-and-tell item. Find your least shy friends that also sit in your target market. Ask and hold your breath.

I’m just kidding. Don’t hold your breath. But definitely get feedback! Feedback is important.

Additionally, you’ll want to be sure that the price for this product will deliver you your targeted profitability per unit.

If the sample is amazing, but the per unit cost will come at an unprofitable price, you should continue to explore additional manufacturers/suppliers.

9. Place your order.

We like our sample and are ready to move forward.

At this point, you can reach back out to your supplier to let them know that you like the sample and to discuss terms for your larger purchase.

These details include:

  • Price per unit
  • Order quantity
  • Delivery time
  • Shipping method
  • Address.

The supplier will send you a trade assurance order form and you’ll place your order.

From there, you’ll wait for your products, most likely anywhere from 15-45 days, depending on order size, factory and backlog.

For example, if you’re ordering from China during Chinese New Year, expect a delay as many factories shut down for the holiday.

At less busy times, you might be able to receive your product sooner.

They’re Here! They’re Here!

In a couple of weeks (depending on the size of your order), you should receive your products.

When they get to you, be sure to inspect them (you’ll want to do this for your future orders as well).

Hopefully, the count you ordered, the design and the workmanship will be similar to your sample (and you should be ready to start selling).

At this point, take a picture for your product photography and get your products live on your site. And you have your private label product!

10. Continue to get feedback on your product.

After you launch, be sure to monitor your inventory levels.

Ultimately, you’re going to want to decide as to whether your product will remain viable (i.e. maintain margins, low return rate, etc.) or whether demand is actually quite low.

If you do find that your product is successful, you can reach out to your supplier and place larger orders.

Remember to continue getting feedback on your products from prospects and customers.

For any entrepreneur pursuing a private label business, I would encourage you to “follow a passion” or “sell something you know.”

Take it step by step and have fun!

I continue to grow my business and learn more and more each day.

I am so happy that I made that tipsy New Year’s resolution in 2017 and look forward to hearing about your journeys as well.

Sourcing from Alibaba FAQs

How does Alibaba work?

Once you create an account with Alibaba, you can begin sourcing your products immediately.

Unlike dropshipping, when you source through Alibaba you will need to house all products yourself. Whether you do that in your home garage or a distribution center is up to you, though there are particular small business tax benefits in the U.S. for designating a spot in your home for this, especially for small businesses.

Also keep in mind that you will need to buy your products via Alibaba in bulk (i.e. by the dozen or more).

You will also want to be sure that the products you purchase are market viable, meaning that there is a demand for what you will sell.

Things to keep in mind as you browse products on Alibaba:

  • Unit Price: Because Alibaba allows suppliers to sell directly to retailers, prices are generally much lower than you’ll find for similar products elsewhere. This means you can increase your margins. That said, you’ll see FOB often on Alibaba. FOB stands for Free On Board and means that the seller is responsible for all costs associated with getting the product to the dock. After that point, the buyer is responsible for all costs related to transportation from the dock to the store owner.
  • Minimum Order Quantity: This is simply the minimum order amount that the supplier is willing to accept. Keep in mind that this is negotiable, especially with the increased fees associated with shipping once the product reaches port.
  • Payment Options: For most buyers, you’ll likely want to utilize PayPal as your payment option. Escrow is also a good option for buyers, and more often preferred by suppliers. Check out Alibaba’s Payments Page for more information all all available payment options.

How does Alibaba handle quality control?

Like any online platform, scammers and hackers are always a possibility.

Alibaba consistently works to track down and take out those who are masquerading as manufacturers (but whom simply mark up prices, then buy from the suppliers themselves, effectively making them middlemen), and scammers.

For buyers, there are multiple ways to ensure that you avoid falling prey to these activities.

  • Choose Escrow as a Payment Option: The escrow payment option holds your payment in escrow (i.e. does not go to seller) until you report back that you have received the products and they are to the quality and quantity expected. This payment option will save you from scammers, though not necessarily false manufacturers. This method will also give you the power to actual see and feel your product before you pay, essentially solving for quality control issues despite your supplier preferences.
  • Contact the Supplier: Sourcing products from overseas can be a bit daunting and frightening for many small businesses. If you are wary about who you are purchasing from, ask them for a contact and set up a call. Skype works perfectly for this, plus you’ll be able to get a sense of the business and the people you will be working with.
  • Request a Quote: RFQ (request for quote), is a simple process and part of the daily interactions between suppliers and buyers. This is your opportunity as a buyer to feel out a supplier’s process as well as negotiate. Simply send the supplier an email and be sure to request information regarding minimum order quantities, production time and pricing, pricing for samples and payment options.
  • Verify Suppliers: Much like eBay and Amazon, Alibaba has a verification system for suppliers, alerting buyers to the historical accuracy of individual manufacturers. Below is a chart showing the different levels of verification. Look for these before you decide to purchase from a supplier.

Is Alibaba Safe? How can I avoid purchasing counterfeit goods?

Alibaba.com provides a very easy way for trademark owners to report and remove counterfeit listings.

But, since not all brands know about the issue, nor do all brands monitor Alibaba.com frequently, there are still many counterfeit goods available.

To reduce your risk of importing and selling counterfeit goods unwittingly, try to avoid sourcing any branded goods on Alibaba.com.

This is a particularly sensitive issue for luxury retailers. So, if you are looking to diversify within that space, it is recommended that you go through the luxury brand itself to ensure that you are acquiring the trademarked items in question.

Alibaba.com offers its own advice and best practices for avoiding fraudulent suppliers, below:

  • Fraudulent suppliers will sometimes offer unbelievably low prices, then ask you to pay through untraceable methods such as a Western Union or wire transfer. If such a case happens, you are advised to be cautious.
  • If a supplier places much attention on the payment process (they want to be paid quickly), please take extra care with all elements of the transaction. Generally, suppliers are just as careful as you are about fraud and they will take extra caution and time just to make sure they get your order correct before discussing payment.
  • Call the supplier’s telephone and fax numbers to verify your negotiations with them verbally. Bigcommerce addition: Skype can also be a great facilitator for this.
  • Be cautious if a supplier’s company name and personal name are identical, or if they use free email services such as Yahoo or Hotmail as their primary business email.
  • If you are still unsure of the supplier’s legitimacy, ask to pay for a sample to ensure the supplier’s product is able to meet all your expectations.

To answer the original question: yes, Alibaba is safe — if you take the right precautions.

Why are there significant price discrepancies between Alibaba products that look the exact same?

On Alibaba.com, you will often find a huge range of pricing for a single product.

Here’s why:

  • The product was listed at a time when the cost for the item was higher. Now, the price has fallen and those listing the product are pricing it correctly as of current.
  • The quality for one of the items is better than for the other.
  • The company is a trading company rather than a manufacturer (more on this below).
  • The company with the higher price wants to earn a higher profit via their margins.

Many businesses looking to source from Alibaba.com assume the price differentiation is due to the latter option, leading them to choose the cheapest item.

However, most successful products on Alibaba.com are copied by multiple manufacturers and trading companies in order to pull in more business.

To do so, some of these suppliers may lower the product quality in order to maintain margins, but present a cheaper price.

In all, do your due diligence when sourcing your products and request samples. Business that are successful when sourcing from Alibaba.com often:

  • Reach out to more than 10 of the suppliers they are considering
  • Go with the one that is the easiest to work with, taking into account pricing and quality.

What are Alibaba’s shipping costs, and why am I not receiving a response from the suppliers?

It is wise to contact a supplier before finalizing a transaction.

Simply emailing them a letter of inquiry requesting a quote (yes, you can negotiate the posted price on the product page) and samples.

Here are a few good things to be sure to inquire about within your email:

  • Minimum Order Quantities
  • Pricing for Samples
  • Production Pricing
  • Production Time
  • Payment Terms

Of course, not all suppliers will reply. In order to increase your response rate, be sure to keep your inquiry short and sweet.

The below sample email suffices for most situations:

Hi,

I’m the ecommerce manager over at ABC company. I’m looking to place an order for Product A, but have a few questions for you before I do so. I’d appreciate your timely response on the following:

  • What is your minimum order quantity?
  • What is your cost per unit and do you offer quantity discounts?
  • What are your payment terms for new customers?
  • How long is typical production time for a minimum order quantity of Product A?

Once I know this, I’ll be requesting a sample and will pass along my mailing address. Thank you so much and looking forward to doing business together.

Best,

Jane Smith

The cost per unit questions should provide an answer for the cost of their samples, at which point you can ask to have them shipped to your address.

In all, if you do not receive a reply, don’t worry. Move on to the next supplier.

Alibaba.com also offers guidelines for increasing your supplier response rate, below.

Keep in mind that Alibaba.com is merely the platform that connects suppliers and buyers worldwide.

The company is not responsible for suppliers who do not respond to inquiries.

  • Write inquiries that are detailed and specific. This is to help suppliers better understand your sourcing requirements.
  • Check the “Sent Box” of your “Message Center” to confirm your inquiry has been sent. If your inquiry is not in the ‘Sent Box,’ we recommend re-sending your inquiry again.
  • Chat with suppliers in real-time using our instant messenger service, TradeManager. Click here to download TradeManager
  • Call or fax suppliers directly. Their contact information can be found in the ‘Contacts’ page of the Company Website.

What is the estimated shipping time for my products?

Shipping from Alibaba’s Chinese manufacturers can take a while depending on where you live. Expect in some cases to be waiting up to six weeks for your items.

For cost savings, many orders are shipped by boat to foreign buyers (which means if you are sourcing from an Asian manufacturer and you live in North America, your items will likely be shipped).

Be sure to plan accordingly.

Also, if you are especially concerned with the timing issues related to shipping, you can always source your products from a closer manufacturer.

Alibaba.com is akin to the Yellow Pages for manufacturers, and not all of their suppliers are Asia-based.

As the platform grows and more international customers begin to use the platform, sourcing options near you will incrementally add up.

What do I need to know when it comes to import duties and taxes, as well as customs clearance for the items I’m buying?

A great way to handle customs when sourcing products internationally is to hire a customs broker like PCB.

At the very least, you can start reading some of the information they have on their site and find a customs broker that services your country.

Customs fees are a big variable that will depend on the product, the country of export and the country of import. A great solution to figure out customs is to use DutyCalculator.com.

Of course, many of the suppliers on Alibaba.com have U.S. warehouses.

If you choose such a supplier, the products themselves will be shipped directly to you and you can avoid import duties and customs clearance.

What’s the difference between a trading company and a manufacturer?

A trading company often acts as a middleman between the buyer and the supplier.

For the most part, businesses prefer to buy straight from the manufacturer in order to cut costs.

Trading companies often price their products a bit higher in order to produce revenue.

The upside, however, is that trading companies can offer a larger variety of products, allowing a buyer to source from one supplier rather than multiple – as may be the case if a buyer chooses to buy solely from manufacturers.

Here is a quick breakdown of how to tell trading companies from manufacturers:

  • “Factory” means manufacturer on Alibaba.com. Trading companies buy from factories and then re-sell to profit from the price difference. Generally, buyers can get a better price buying from factories directly. Some trading companies unfortunately list themselves as factories, so, be aware. In general, if a company supplies an array of items, rather than a quality selection of a single category (i.e. if they supplied apparel versus if they supply sneakers –– the latter here is likely the actual factory).
  • Ask to see a copy of a factory license. If you are unsure of whether or not your supplier is a trading company or a manufacturer, ask the manufacturer to supply the factory license. After all, you’re already requesting samples.
  • Don’t be so quick to judge. If you find a quality trading company via which you source multiple products without any problems, that’s great! The convenience of finding a good supplier and sourcing all or multiple of your products from them can be worth the extra spend.

Can I sell my Alibaba products on Amazon?

Yes.

If you’re planning on selling on Amazon (and depending on the size of your product) you can work with your manufacturer on ensuring it is in the right type of packaging (i.e. if clothing and apparel, a poly pack).

Again, many suppliers on Alibaba are excellent professionals and want to set you up for success.

So, if you have a question, just ask. Many are quite responsive.

Any tips for getting samples from Alibaba?

In your first order, decide how much inventory you want and how to ship the items.

In your initial order, since you’re most likely testing concept, you may pay a bit extra to get the items shipped to you via air.

At this point, this is OK. Focus more on getting your business live, testing, validating and then expanding your business.

Begin Your Alibaba Selling Journey

In all, sourcing products and receiving shipments from Alibaba.com can be a groundbreaking opportunity for your ecommerce business to expand its product offering and ultimately scale into additional categories.

Its direct from supplier capabilities can also increase your margins and double your revenue, even if you don’t decide to source additional product categories.

As with all platform and technologies, however, you must do your due diligence.

Find suppliers, talk to them, build a network, earn trust and take your online business to the next level and grow safely with Alibaba.

Want more insights like this?

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

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

Think of starting an ecommerce website?

Online competition is fiercer than ever.

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

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

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

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

Finding The Best Products To Sell Online:

Need ideas for what to sell online?

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

  1. Commoditized products.
  2. Niche products.

how to sell online

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

Commoditized products are the most popular products sold online.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take a look at Spearmint Love, for instance.

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

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

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

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

Coming up with unique products can be difficult, though.

The Value in Unique

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

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

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

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

So, we decided to up the game.

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

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

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

We’ve achieved that.

– Jim Taylor, President & Owner, Belted Cow

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

1. Identify or create products that solve a problem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It can be quite simple, yet exceptionally effective.

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

start-a-business-mason-jars-1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking Matters Into Your Own Hands

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

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

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

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

Finally in desperation, she tried it.

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

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

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

– Estelle Letizia, Shipping Mgr., Sinus Support

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

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

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

Putting Love and Life to Work

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

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

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

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

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

The launch story was oddly similar.

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

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

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

start-an-online-business-highway-robery

Combining Niche with Passion

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

When other runners saw it, they wanted one.

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

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

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

At the time no one else was doing this commercially!

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

3. Find products with branding potential.

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

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

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

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

Some great questions to start with here are:

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

When a Brand Becomes a Lifestyle

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

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

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

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

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

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

start-an-online-store-nine-line-1

Read More

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

4. Hop on trends early.

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

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

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

SoSuzyStamps Aloha Stamp

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

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

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

Launch Before the Craze

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

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

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

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

start-a-biz-fugoo

Read More

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

5. Find products that fulfill guilty pleasures.

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

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

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

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

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

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

start-a-biz-jenis-2

Jeni’s Mission Statement:

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

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

We like to make people feel good.”

Turning Strife into Comfort Food

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

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

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

Consumers LOVE our product!

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

6. Identify and serve niche segments.

Niche segments often spell success for ecommerce.

Take, for example, Berkey Water.

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

It is that good.

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

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

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

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

berkey-start-a-biz-reviews

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

Niche Crafting Over Generations

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

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

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

–  Nicole Facciuto. Founder, CORKY’S NUTS

7. Spot business opportunities absolutely everywhere.

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

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

Start Where You’re At and Build From There

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

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

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

It is all about helping people.

– April Rowden, Owner, Missouri Medical Supplies

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

FAQs About Selling Online:

How do you sell products online?

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

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

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

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

Where can I sell my products?

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

Below are several places to sell your products online:

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

How do you start selling on Amazon?

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

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

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

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

Additional Resources:

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

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

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

Successful Ecommerce Business Basics.

Designing Your Store.

Accepting Payments

Configuring Shipping.

Protecting Customer Data.

Make Your First Sale:

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

Driving Traffic.

Converting Shoppers.

Retaining Customers With Marketing.

Measuring Success.

Sell Everywhere:

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

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

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

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

Selling on Amazon.

Selling on eBay.

Selling on Google.

Selling on Facebook.

Selling on Pinterest.

Selling on Twitter.

15 Ecommerce Success Stories:

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

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

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

What’s Next?

Ideas are great, but it is all about execution.

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

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

Want more insights like this?

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

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How to (Realistically) Start an Online Ecommerce Business That Actually Grows https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/how-to-start-online-business/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/how-to-start-online-business/#respond Fri, 02 Feb 2018 14:00:12 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=19260 Why people are starting online businesses The most popular course at Stanford isn’t a STEM class. It isn’t in entrepreneurship,…]]>

Why people are starting online businesses

The most popular course at Stanford isn’t a STEM class.

It isn’t in entrepreneurship, how to start a business, nor coding.

It is one in how to design a happy life.

The course is co-taught by Dave Evans, the former lead designer of Apple’s first mouse and co-founder of Electronic Arts.

In those positions, he learned how to design for user experience and remove unnecessary elements.

Apple’s first mouse, if you remember, had one button rather than the conventional two of the time.

The same elements that go into designing for user experience, it turns out, work well for designing your happiest life.

In fact, they work well for designing success in general.

Selling yourself short isn’t an option. It’s go big or go home, and it starts right here.

The key is knowing your options and yourself.

“I have true agency over my work, because I know what I stand for and I have tools to fix the things that I encounter in my life,” Kanyi Maqubela told Fast Company about the course he took as a Student at Stanford.

Today, Maqubela is an investment partner at an early-stage venture capital firm.

For those looking to start a new ecommerce business venture, those dreaming of turning a side-gig into a full-time job and long-term, sustainable business, the key to your success is the same.

You must know your options. And you must know yourself.

It is hard to be successful as an online store. Competition is fierce and customer expectation even more so.

The best offense to these industry realities is a planned defense – and knowing what you are getting yourself into before you ever begin.

Star building your ecommerce store.

Bring your ecommerce business idea to life with your own digital storefront.

Your platform should give you the flexibility you need to stand out, the data orchestration you need for operational efficiency and the low total cost of ownership that lets’ you reallocate dollars to marketing spend, not technology debt.

The first step is finding the right platform with an RFP. Our free template includes more than 100 questions to send to all platforms you are considering, including:

  • Hosting & Security
  • Design & Development
  • Marketing and Expanding to Omnichannel

Get the template. Save yourself time. And begin building your store. 

Get your free RFP template now.

Who is this guide for?

This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to be successful for the long-term.

You’ll find in it countless of success stories from entrepreneurs selling across the web, whose sage advice you’d be wise to take.

You’ll also get step-by-step instructions for how to start an online business:

  1. Determine your product niche.
  2. Size up your competition.
  3. Nail down your target market.
  4. Determine market viability for today, tomorrow and next year.

Your business can become your personal legacy, providing jobs for hundreds and changing hearts and minds, one checkout at a time.

BigCommerce powers tens of thousands of online stores making billions in online revenue.

Most of these stores didn’t exist a decade ago, many still not even five years ago.

It is possible to build a legacy brand beginning right now.

It won’t be easy. It comes with costs. It will take know-how and strategy. It will take dedicated design from day one.

But do it right, and your business will bypass those one-hit-wonder brands to become something much more than a dream, a side gig or a even a small business.

It will become your personal legacy, providing jobs for hundreds and changing hearts and minds, one checkout at a time.

Buckle up. You’re about to go on a deep planning dive to prepare your business for long-term success.

Selling yourself short isn’t an option.

It’s go big or go home, and it starts right here, by learning how to start an online ecommerce business — no more procrastinating.

Show Up Every Day. Start Right Now.

Be patient, use the tools provided and never give up.

Each day I contribute something to make my business better. Literally, everyday.

  • New products
  • SEO metatags
  • Better pictures
  • Marketing
  • Blogs

Your business will grow. It has too! BigCommerce offers all the most innovative solutions in a simple way to grow and grow and grow!

– Daniella Park, Designer, Webmaster, SEO expert, Jewelry Maker, One woman show, Doing It Sober.

9 Steps to Start an Online Business

The following guide breaks down the process of starting a small online business into manageable chunks.

We will discuss all of the following points throughout every chapter in this guide; at its conclusion, you’ll know how to start and run your own ecommerce store.

Here is an overview of the 9 steps for building and growing your successful online business:

1. Find a niche.

Before you start selling, you need to find the right product with the potential for serious profitability. You’ll learn how to research different niches and even examine your own life to find problems that can be solved.

2. Evaluate market viability.

Now that you have a business idea, it’s time to dig deeper into product viability. Think about the kind of details that can make or break your business, like number of SKUs and shipping weight.

3. Conduct market research.

Validate your product using tactics such as keyword research and evaluating trending products.

4. Conduct competitive analysis.

find out what’s working — and what can be improved upon — from your biggest competitors. This will tell you more about how to define your branding and positioning in the market.

5. Learn online business laws.

Shipping restrictions, zoning laws, and trademark considerations. These can all make or break your business. With this list, you can avoid the ecommerce landmines that derail your business before it gets off the ground.

6. Analyze your target market.

This is where you dig even deeper to understand your ideal shopper. Who are they? What do they like? How can you tailor both your product and your website experience to appeal to your perfect shopper?

7. Source your product.

You know you have the right product, who your customer is, and how to set up your business. It’s time to get the physical product. We’ll walk you through different ways to source your product and how to avoid common pitfalls.

8. Build your store.

None of the above matters if you don’t have an ecommerce store that sells your product, provides an intuitive shopping experience, and makes customers want to return. We’ll show you how to go from zero to beautiful online store in a matter of minutes using powerful ecommerce software (spoiler alert – we have a recommendation).

9. Become productive.

The difference between operational and successful is in mastering man’s greatest nemesis — time. Get firsthand accounts from successful entrepreneurs who have grown their home based business into online behemoths.

Let’s get started.

Want more insights like this?

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

 

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59 Productivity Hacks for Online Small Business Owners https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/productivity-tips-small-business-owners/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/productivity-tips-small-business-owners/#comments Thu, 01 Feb 2018 14:00:54 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=11899 There are a lot of ecommerce resources that are publicly available. So, we’ve put together a quick hit list that…]]>

There are a lot of ecommerce resources that are publicly available. So, we’ve put together a quick hit list that will enable you to be more productive and stay up-to-date on your industry.

We’ve limited and categorized the list for easier handling.

Our goal is not to overwhelm you, but rather give you a solid foundation on which to get started.

Productivity Tips for Business Owners

Everyone is looking to save time and money, and no one is more eager to increase productivity than those running their own businesses.

Here are some simple, inexpensive tools to help.

1. Decide what’s vital versus what’s nice to do.

First off, you need to prioritize your tasks. Start by making lists of tasks you do on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis.

This can include small things like checking email, to large things like doing your taxes. You might be surprised by exactly how much you do on a regular basis.

Next, for each of these lists, prioritize the tasks.

Organize them in order of the things your business couldn’t live without to the things that would be nice to get done, but usually do not.

Finally, annotate next to each task how well you are able to complete them. Some annotations may include quick and easy, must be done by me, not good at it, time consuming, and similar.

Once you have done these things, you should be able to easily see what tasks are vital to your business, and which ones you are the most capable of completing.

With these things in mind, it’s time to move onto the next step.

2. Find out what your team is good at and delegate.

If you’re a solopreneur, you will want to skip to the next step.

For those small business owners with one or more employees, you will want to consider which tasks can be delegated from your to-do list to your employees.’

For example, let’s say that one of the tasks you want to delegate is creating content for your business blog. First, you will want to consider your employee’s interest and ability to do this task.

If you have a few employees that love the idea of writing for your blog and they have some time to devote each week to the task, then they would be the perfect people to delegate the task to.

On the other hand, if they are not good writers, or are fully consumed with other revenue generating activities, it might be better to go with the next step.

3. Understand the value of your time.

When you have tasks that would be better suited to a skilled expert, but you’re not ready to hire a full or part time employee, then outsourcing to a freelancer, contractor, or other professional might be a good alternative.

If your biggest objection is price, consider this:

How much money could you be making if you fully focused on the things you do best for your business, and leave the rest to others?

So instead of you spending a full day trying to figure out how to design a new logo for your business, spend your day generating revenue and use a fraction of that revenue to pay a designer.

And instead of stressing about your quarterly taxes, hand that job over to an accountant.

By outsourcing, you free up your time, reduce your stress level, and ensure someone better suited to it is getting the task done.

While it may feel like a hit to your bottom line, in the long run, it gives you time to focus on the areas of your business you really enjoy working on.

Also think about the random tasks that consume too much of your time. For example, use a scheduling tool like Calendar or Mixmax to organize meetings.

4. Batch your day into productive chunks.

One thing that can be time consuming in managing the day-to-day tasks in a business is bouncing back and forth between tasks.

The ability to focus on one task at a time and keep a consistent rhythm can make it easier to finish that task in less time.

This is why you want to batch the tasks you do as much as possible.

Let’s say that you are a solopreneur that has to handle emails from customers, packaging and shipping products, and marketing via your social media networks.

Instead of prepping an item to ship each time a sale comes in, answering emails each time the notification pops up on your desktop, and checking your social media networks in between, try batching.

  • Check and respond to emails at the beginning, middle, and end of the day.
  • Check social media network notifications and post a new update to your social media networks twice a day.
  • Set aside an hour or two before you need to leave to drop off packages or before your carrier comes to pick up packages to do shipping and handling preparation.

By doing this, you’ll get into a rhythm with each task instead of having to start and stop throughout the day.

This allows you to be productive with the time you would normally spend shifting gears from one task to another.

5. Monitor, measure, tweak, repeat.

Last, but not least, you need to monitor & measure your activities to see the profitability and efficiency in everything you do.

By analyzing your activities continuously, you can identify when one task is starting to take longer than usual, or when one task that was once profitable no longer is. Here are some examples.

  • By setting up Google Analytics, you can find out which online marketing activities are driving traffic to your website. If you see that Facebook generates more traffic than Twitter, for example, you’ll know that you need to focus more of your efforts towards Facebook.
  • By using unique coupon codes in your email marketing campaigns, you can find out whether your emails are generating more revenue than your paid marketing. 
  • By calculating how much an hour of your time is worth and using a timer to monitor how long it takes to do a specific task, you can find out whether something is taking long enough to justify delegating the task to an employee, hiring an employee to handle that task, or outsourcing it.

6. Get design help on the cheap.

Need some simple graphic design help for a logo, PPC banner or social media ad?

  • Check out Fiverr, where as little as $5 can go a long way.
  • You can also use a service like 99designs for help with logo and site design.
  • Depending on the complexity and quality you need, you can also search for a design agency.

7. Streamline your bookkeeping.

This is a huge pain point for many startup businesses. Although it pays to hire a professional as you grow, try QuickBooks and Xero when you’re starting out. Both integrate with one-click into BigCommerce.

8. Schedule social media.

Social media is a 24/7 gig. You should schedule your tweets and Facebook posts to make sure you’re regularly posting, plus test which times of day see the most engagement. Try for times not on the hour –– like 9: 13 a.m. or 1:47 p.m. Tools like Hootsuite and Buffer can provide a one-stop-shop for this type of work, maximizing your productivity.

9. Improve your email marketing.

Are you using your personal email for marketing? Stop! There are plenty of email marketing tools out there that will help you work smarter with pre-built templates, scheduling and list segmentation. Test out options like MailChimp, Constant Contact or Klaviyo.

10. Schedule shipping pickups.

At no extra charge (unless you want a time outside normal mail delivery hours), you can schedule your shipping provider to pick up a shipment rather than waiting in line at their offices. Check out options for FedEx, UPS and USPS.

11. Manage your email inbox.

Boomerang for Gmail schedules emails to automatically send based on criteria you set.

12. Collaborate and manage projects.

Trello is a great option for growing businesses struggling to manage it all. You get integrated file sharing, project management, workflow automation and centralized communication from any device. Also check out Slack or Pivotal Tracker as alternatives.

13. Share resources.

There are so many tools out there to help you share notes, ideas and even files. Try out Google Drive or Evernote as a start. For larger items like images and video, try Dropbox.

14. Take care of yourself.

Forgetting to take care of yourself is a common issue for entrepreneurs.

  • A Fitbit or similar device will help you stay active, monitor your sleep and eat right.
  • Try out a financial service like Mint to track what you’re spending.
  • Use a virtual assistant like EasilyDo to help you stay on top of your schedule.
  • Set up a few triggers on If This Then That to stay relevant on social networks without having to manually post.
  • Finally, download an app like Coach.me that allows you set and track goals like increasing productivity, improving your health, etc.

Less work. More money.

Want more productivity tips and applications? Head on over to the BigCommerce app store for hundreds of one-click apps to maximize productivity and revenue.

Get the tools you need.

Keep Track of Great Content

There’s a lot of information out there concerning small businesses and ecommerce, and it can be difficult to keep track of it all.

Here are three tools to make sure you never miss a thing.

  • Google Alerts: Get email notifications at whatever cadence you’d like any time Google finds new results on your industry, competition, related news and more.
  • Feedly: Organize all the blogs and publications you like to read via a simple (and pretty) RSS feed.
  • TweetDeck: This powerful tool lets you see what everyone on Twitter is saying about your industry, get involved in tweetchats (and perhaps run your own), follow experts in ecommerce and track your competitors.

Follow the Best Blogs

Staying on top of industry information, government regulations, ecommerce best practices and marketing trends is key to your success.

Don’t forget to subscribe to your competitors’ blogs to keep abreast of your industry, products and how the competition markets themselves.

Also, don’t forget about the big guys like Inc, The Wall Street Journal and Entrepreneur.

Of course, there are countless great blogs out there to follow to help you sell more and educate you on the industry.

There are so many in fact that it’s hard to tell which are the most helpful.

So, I went out to the ecommerce experts and influencers and asked them: what blogs and publications do you recommend?

These are the people who were once in your exact shoes –– and have since found multi-million dollar success.

Here is what they read to help them stay on top of their game.

Alex Birkett, Growth Marketing Manager, HubSpot

I like Conductrics Blog and the Testing Discipline blog for tactical business info. You can tell they aren’t writing for BS reasons like social shares, and more to put good information out into the world.

I also like The Atlantic and FiveThirtyEight, though they aren’t business specific.

Jan Lastuvka, CEO & Co-Founder, MonkeyData

The Hubspot marketing blog is an absolute must for online entrepreneurs.

These guys have been in the game a long time, have a ton of great content, and, very important for me, great visuals, which helps to illustrate the results of their recommendations.

They also have a ton of other great resources that can help your business.

Everett Sizemore, Director of Marketing, Inflow

Aside from our own blog at Inflow, I recommend the Get Elastic ecommerce blog and Moz.

Jamie Turner, CEO, 60 Second Marketer

Right now, I’m a big fan of both The Hustle as well as Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com website. Both are knocking it out of the park right now. Bravo.

Ted Rubin, Social Marketing Strategist, Keynote Speaker, Brand Evangelist and Acting CMO Brand Innovators

Harvard Business Review for great insights. SethGodin.com has brilliant thought leadership.

Jason Dea, Director Product Marketing, Intelex

My favorite online resource for business information is actually Quora.

Once you get the hang of navigating the site, it’s incredible the type of advice and the caliber of advisers you can find in that community.

It’s a great example of how the internet has allowed us not just as entrepreneurs but people to connect in ways that were unheard of only a few years ago.

Andy Etemadi, CEO, EYEMAGINE

I get a lot of valuable information from LinkedIn Pulse and HubSpot’s sales and marketing blog.

There is so much good content on almost every topic that a simple search will return the relevant information I’m looking for.

Taylor Sicard, VP of Growth, Rare.io

My favorite online business resource is Saastr.

Every business needs to grow and SaaS (Software-as-a-service) businesses are turning growth into a science.

Understanding how to use those key metrics to grow a SaaS company is extremely beneficial for an online store as they have to deal with the same challenges (customers acquisitions, customer retention, monthly recurring revenue, etc).

Ruthie Berber, Co-Marketing Manager, Yotpo

Not to do a shameless plug, but the Yotpo blog is packed with original data, unique customer case studies, and tons of deep dive how to’s.

It’s a super valuable resource for me when looking for the latest ecommerce tips, trends and benchmarks.

Adii Pienaar, Founder, Conversio

My suggestion here isn’t a must-read, as much as it’s a must-listen.

I have really enjoyed the ZenFounder podcast in the last year, because it uncovers some of the entrepreneurial challenges that aren’t spoken about as often.

I see so much advice for entrepreneurs that focuses on tactics or things they need to do within their business, but it ultimately neglects one of the most important parts of any business: the founder or entrepreneur.

The podcast has definitely helped me be more aware of my own triggers for bad (business) behavior or to just be more aware of when I need to take a break for example (to avoid burnout). As a result, I’ve definitely learnt to take much better care of myself.

Jacob Firuta, Content Manager, LiveChat

I was always a fan of the content HubSpot produces. You always get a two-for-one deal with them.

First, you can read up on all kind of topics, from email marketing to landing page creation. Second, you see the things they preach put into practice – either in their content or on their landing pages. Especially their reports are worth checking out!

Meni Morim, CEO and Co-founder, Findify

Without a shadow of a doubt, this blog. There are quite a lot of startup blogs out there, but nothing beats the Groove blog.

First of all, it’s honest, transparent, and humble.

They share everything, from the huge wins, to the horrible losses. They take you with them on their journey, which is incredibly inspiring.

An absolute MUST READ for any online business.

Sanjay Arora, CEO & Founder, Nextopia Software Corporation

I am a huge fan of Practical Ecommerce, as it’s a well-rounded source of ecommerce news and covers everything from marketing and social media to practical tips and strategies to improve your ecommerce store.

It’s a great resource for anyone working in the ecommerce industry as it publishes high-quality, informative content that can be applied to everyday business.

Grant Thomas, Digital Marketing Manager, Justuno

Ecommerce Influence has been my destination of late. Great for articles, podcasts and also have a members only community which gives you access to a bunch of free ecommerce marketing content.

Tracey Wallace, Editor-in-Chief, BigCommerce

I’d be remiss not to include myself, right?

Naturally, I firmly believe the BigCommerce Blog has tons of great insights and actionable info to help you grow.

But, insofar as what I’m reading everyday, I’m actually much more of a listener.

Here on the Podcasts topping my list:

  • On Being: Krista Tippett navigates the spiritual world like a saint herself, and the caliber of people she speaks with will blow your mind. This isn’t business related, but often the best business ideas come from outside the business box. So, listen up!
  • More Perfect: After watching Harvard’s Justice YouTube series, I’ve become obsessed with principles and philosophy and more More Perfect tells great stories around those 2 themes. Better yet, it covers how those two themes are the basis of everything in the U.S. (and the world). It’s great thinking for how mindset, beliefs, principles, and action impact our lives in both micro and macro ways.
  • The Tim Ferriss Show: This choice is pretty cliche, but the man does speak with some of the best in the industry –– and you get an inside look at how they live their lives to be so insanely productive. It’s a good place to get a few tips and try a few thing sout (i.e. meditation, which Krista Tippett would also recommend!).
  • Longform Podcast: This podcast talks with writers, interviews, editors and more about the process of storytelling and connecting with audiences. For any online marketer, it’s a must-listen. Customer loyalty is driven by engaging storytelling.
  • 2x Ecommerce: This podcast is how I ever even found Kunle Campbell (who writes often for the BigCommerce blog). Here, he talks with leading ecommerce experts on how to grow an already successful business (about $1M or so in revenue) to $10M or more. It is definitely more for an already experienced audience, but it is aspirational for anyone just starting up.

And, when I do read, it is often a Medium post, like this one: Why People Buy Things.

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