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Firearm Friendly Merchant Services

Lately I have had a bunch of clients and associates express their concerns with finding “firearm friendly” merchant services for their respective businesses. OBN has developed a wonderful working relationship with FAST CHARGE/Electronic Transfer. They can take care of all of your gateway and processing needs and have an excellent record with our clients. If you wish to learn more about their services please go to the FASTCHARGE link and complete the form. If you have any other questions call us at -1800-699-0820.

Is your sites speed really as slow as you think?

Another hot topic I have been getting questioned about lately has to do with site speed. According to Radware.com, load times for the top US retail websites are approximately 22% slower than in December 2011. The average in 2011 was around 5.94 seconds will currently it 7.25 seconds. This was of course for a first time visitor. The main reason for these times getting worse and not better is simple. Websites are getting more and more complex and have an ever increasing number of resource requests. It is simple, the more images, scripts and codes used to make a site function in a certain way the more time it takes to do. This isn’t the only thing that can affect speed either. It turns out in a recent study on Radware.com that the browser you use also plays a role. Of the big three Firefox is over half a second faster on average than Internet Explorer 9 with Chrome23 smack dab in the middle. Another thing that affects site speed is simply activity on the site itself by many users or if a site is on a shared server spikes in activity on other sites on that server can bog down your site. So the next time it takes more than a few seconds for a site to load keep in mind that there is a lot more potentially going on than the site just being “Slow”. If you have any questions on how to improve your sites speed and performance please give us a call. 800-699-0820

Common Mistakes in Ecommerce

I talk a lot about things to do to improve your e-commerce business. Here are some things that some “e-tailers” do wrong.

1.) Relying on limited sources of Traffic.
I have said in the past that traffic is the key to Ecommerce success. Often time’s business owners get into a comfort zone once the get a little success and are reluctant to move out from that. With the way that Google constantly revises their algorithms that comfort zone will move right out from under you. Owners need to constantly seek out new sources to drive traffic to their sites. Traffic needs to come from and be balanced from several sources. Pay-per-click, social media, partner sites, blog, forums, email campaigns, actual foot traffic are all things that you should participate in. Rely too heavily on any one source and you may find yourself hurting down the road.
2.) Focusing on limited or current products.
We have seen this specifically in the firearm industry. So many companies only knew how to sell guns and ammo. Often it wasn’t a matter or “knowing” how to sell them at all it was simply that there were that many people buying them that even a poorly run ecommerce site could move these products. Well when the supplies of guns and ammo dried up many merchants were standing there with no new sales because they couldn’t get their hands on the 2 products that did so well for them. Their numbers dropped and many had to call it quits. The savvy owners were more prepared and quickly started promoting different items & categories in new and exciting ways. They constantly promoted a new batch of products to consumers.
3.) Letting your website sit unchanged.
I see this over and over again. Merchants set up an on-line store and then forget about it. Take a look at the larger companies out there…….take Wal-Mart or Cabalas’ for example. Every single day companies like these have something new on their site. This is simple to draw people in on a daily basis to promote new products. Consumers have become accustomed to going to websites to find new products, information etc on a regular basis. If you let your site sit unchanged it is obviously boring but more importantly you aren’t giving potential customers a reason to return. It doesn’t take much to keep it interesting it just has to be done.
4.) Not paying attention to site performance.
This is simple. If you aren’t looking at your sites analytics and understanding them there is a good chance you are wasting a bunch of time and money. It would be like slapping a scope on a rifle and never taking it to the range to ensure it is performing properly but expecting it to hit the bull’s-eye. E-commerce sites are no different. You need to know what is going on or you can never improve on your current course of action.
5.) Ignoring customer input.
We all have ideas about the types of things we think sell best or how we want to make our sites look. I propose you survey your customer base and ask them what they want to see. Reward their feed back with a small discount code. Don’t just listen to a handful of clients but rather get the biggest sampling you can. The more people you have data from the better.
6.) Live by promotions and you will die by promotions.
Short term at calculated times super discount promotions are fine. Over the long haul though the most important things are going to be good content, new and amazing products and above all else the best customer service in your industry.
7.) Not getting on board with Mobile Commerce.
Consumers in record numbers are shopping online with smart phones and tablets. This is simply put the future of e-commerce and anyone who doesn’t embrace this technology will be left in the dust. Another point is that mobile technology is how an overwhelming number of consumers are finding your brick and mortar location. So be sure your site is mobile friendly.
8.) Not paying attention to your competition.
You must watch your competition. You can learn a great deal from them to see how they are optimizing there sites, what they are selling, what they have on clearance (because it didn’t sell) and how they are ranking. If you come up in Google on a search page and there are other businesses above you they are doing a better job promoting their website. Take some cues from them and see what you can do to improve on your sites performance.

Obviously there are other pit-falls in the world of business and e-commerce but these are few things for sure to pay attention to. Again if you wish to learn more about these topics I encourage you to call us and talk to our team. 1-800-699-0820 ext 1

Did you know?

Generally speaking Outdoor Business Network focuses primarily on businesses associated with the outdoor sporting industry. Did you know though that OBN can and has worked in many other industries? All of our capabilities and skills can be easily adapted to fit the needs and wants of just about any web, programming or marketing environment. OBN is always interested in seeking out new challenges in the world of e-commerce and digital marketing/media. We welcome any and all business that wish to expand and grow their businesses to new heights. For a free consultation on what OBN can do for you please call our sales department at 1-800-699-0820 ext 1

How to address bad internet press.

Today one of the challenges we face is just as the internet is an amazing avenue to market your website, products and even yourself it is equally an amazing way for disgruntled users to tarnish your otherwise good name. The internet has given a voice to everyone. Good bad or indifferent people of all walks of life speak their minds freely in every conceivable way on the internet. They also tend to be braver and more disrespectful as they can use the anonymity of the internet to hide behind. So with that said if you work in an online environment long enough you are going to upset someone enough where they will feel it necessary to berate you beyond reproach. I know for a fact most of these people would never act this way or even say anything at all however that isn’t what we are dealing with here.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that you did in fact make an honest mistake and messed up a customer’s order. Maybe you shipped it late or you sent the wrong item. This customer decides that this is the end of the world blasts you on the popular forum or facebook page. If it was in fact your fault, admit it. Respond politely, honesty and with dignity. Accept responsibility for the mistake. Your customer absolutely doesn’t want to hear nor do they care that the UPS or FEDEX guy didn’t show up on time. The only thing they know is they ordered a particular item and you failed to deliver it. So own up and apologize publicly. You would be amazed at what a simple apology can do to calm an irate customer. Now let us say this doesn’t calm them down. Publically offer to make it right. Perhaps offer a coupon code for them to use on their next purchase. What is important here above all else is to take the high road and maintain integrity. Do not under any circumstances lose your cool and retaliate. Continue to offer to help the customer and anyone else reading the post will quickly see who is trying to fix the situation and who is simply there to stir up trouble.

Another solution is heading it off before it ever happens. If you know you did something wrong, such as you discovered you sent the wrong part to the customer because you attached the wrong shipping label to a package, call them first. Do not wait for the customer to be surprised. If you call them before they notice it shows you are on top of your game as a company and it will also give you the opportunity to control the flow of information. You can apologize for the mix up before the customer even has time to get mad about it. More often than not this will solve the problem assuming you have the correct part on the way.

Once again I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to maintaining a high level of composure. Trust me when I say you will be tested like never before. People will say horrible things, make threats and demand ridiculous actions from you. Simply apologize and offer reasonable solutions. Never argue as it will only escalate the situation and make you look unsympathetic.  Again if they are acting like a crazed person on the internet it will quickly become evident. If you have a particularly tricky situation give us a call and we will do our very best to help you smooth over a bad situation.

Nothing to sell in the firearm industry??? Part 2

A couple weeks ago I touched on the complaint that many retailers feel they have nothing to sell online through a distributors feed on their website. I think I proved that simply is not and should not be an excuse. I wanted to take the time to expand on that with another idea. I have no doubt that you brick & mortar store owners and probably a hand full of the virtual store owners have piles of products lying around that are collecting dust. There is a certain “big box” retailer out there that sells these oddball misc. items on-line in their “Bargain Cave” section. This is a brilliant idea. First of all it gives you a chance to sell off some items that have been setting on your shelves for years. Secondly with a well written product description page on these items you can help expand and tune your sites SEO. These products along with your descriptions and images will add to your sites unique content which we all know shows favorably in the all seeing eyes of Google. So in one shot you can sell off some old inventory, optimize your site and make a few bucks in the process. I can’t possibly see how this would not be something you would want to do. If you need a little refresher course in uploading your own products to one of our sites please give my support team a call at 1-800-699-0820 ext 2.

 

Nothing to sell in the firearm industry???

Folks I simply had to touch on this. The past few months the number one bit of feedback (complaints) is that the distributors have no product for them to sell. I ask. What products are you specifically referring to? The overwhelming response is firearms, ammo & magazines. Every customer I talk to repeat this to me over and over. Now I am no fool and understand all too well what is happening right now in our industry. I also understand that there is a definite shortage if you will on those for mentioned products. Here is the major news flash many retailers are missing. THOSE ARE NOT THE ONLY ITEMS THE DISTRIBUTORS CARRY FOR YOU TO SELL!!! The major distributors carry and currently stock tens of thousands of items for the outdoor sports and shooting industries. I know it isn’t the fun stuff like a Sig Equinox or a box of PMags but it is a bunch of stuff consumers want and need. Many of these items are consumables that will be re-ordered from time to time. As a retailer it is your job to show case all these other products. Let’s take for an example a lot of guns have been bought out there and no doubt a bunch where first time gun owners. These people will need all the usual cleaning accessories, targets, hearing protection, gun oils & lubes, bi-pods, shooting rests, belts, holsters etc.  The veteran gun owners will need, sights, tools, parts, spacers, grips, just to name a few. The simple fact is there are way more items to sell than to not sell. I have customers who have truly embraced this mindset and have learned with our help to market and sell a ton of these “forgotten” products. These customers have shown growth in a time when others are stuck wallowing in mediocrity. To survive and do well in any industry you must adapt and overcome with the changing times. As always contact our sales department to learn more. 1-800-699-0820 ext. 1

Fraud Prevention and awareness

E-commerce and fraud go hand in hand. There are dishonest people out there trying to beat the system or even going as far as aiding terrorist groups abroad. This blog will cover some “red flags” to watch for when processing your orders on your e-commerce website. I will go over the things that we look for as warnings that something may be amiss. I know it’s exciting to get a stack of orders in on your site but you need to be vigilant at this time and carefully screen them. If you ship out a fraudulent order or have it drop shipped from your distributor there is most likely no turning back and it will only be a matter of time before the true card holder charges back the order. You will be left with no product and having to refund the money and will still get billed by your distributor. That is bad and can be a killer for a small business. Here are some things to look for below that could be considered suspect. This list is by no means all inclusive but it will serve as a good guide. If you are unsure about an order call Outdoor Business Network and/or call your merchant service provider. We will be more than happy to help you research the questioned order.
1) Check Shipping, Billing and Customer addresses.
If you see the discrepancies in addresses call your customer to verify ALL information you have received. I would even go as far as casually asking them perhaps what kind of a firearm they are using a particular item they ordered on. If you are worried about the customer being annoyed they won’t be. Treat it as you are simply looking out for their best interest. They will thank you for this. By doing this and verifying they are who they say they are you will also be building customer loyalty and they will be far more likely to repeat business with you down the road.
2) Let Google & Google maps be your friend.
We use these tools all the time when something seems fishy. We search addresses for a multitude of reasons. One thing happening in the fraud world is items are purchased from a legitimate card unbeknownst to the actual card holder. The Customer and Billing address usually match but the shipping address is different. On several occasions we have found that by searching the shipping address we find that it is some form of mail forwarding service. These “services” many times are involved in terrorist activity overseas. If this scenario arises I advise to not ship that order at all.
3) Expedited or Overnight Shipping.

Yes that is correct. The bad guys have figured that they have a limited window of opportunity to use someone’s ill gotten credit card info before they or the bank figure out what is happening. So with time being a factor they want these things shipped out as soon as possible. If you see the faster shipping charges being used call your customer.

4) Larger than average orders.
If your average order is consistent between $100-$150 and then all of a sudden you get a string of orders for significantly higher amounts that could mean you are being targeted.
5) Orders for several similar or identical items.
In the shooting industry by far the most sought after products when it comes to credit card fraud are scopes and holographic optics. I would call and check on every single one of these. These are definitely the hot product and they definitely do end up in the hands of some very bad people. So when you see orders for a scope and definitely when you see orders for multiple scope/optic type items you will again want to contact your customer.
6) International shipping addresses.
A large number of fraudulent transactions are shipped to international address. As far as the shooting industries being concerned I would almost avoid that all together as many items, such as scopes, are prohibited from being sent out of the country without the proper exporting paperwork. If you are going to get into international shipments be sure to do a ton of research to protect yourself as much as possible.
7) Payments with similar card account numbers.
Many bad card numbers are created through various types of software. These numbers are often similar.
8) Multiple orders shipped to the same address.
If a several different cards are used to ship product to a given address especially in a short period of time this may also be an indicator of fraudulent activity. Again the crooks have a limited time frame to work with so they order as much as they can with as many cards as they can in a short period of time.
9) Multiple shipping addresses.

When a particular card is used to ship to several addresses that may also be cause for alarm.

As far as prevention is concerned you can also do the following things listed
1) Educate yourself and your staff
Many of these things are simple to avoid if the whole team is simply on the same page. As a business owner learn about this stuff and pass that knowledge on to your staff. The time and effort spent will be well worth it.
2) Use a reputable merchant services
Good merchant service providers often have many security tools built into your account. Use them! If you are unsure of who is a quality company to work with OBN is happy to make a recommendation as we work with several trusted entities.
3) Use the card security codes
Card Security Codes help verify that the customer is in a physical possession of a valid card during a card-not-present transaction.
4) Use Address Verification System
This will verify the billing address for the card.
5) Call the payment gateway

When in doubt, you can call the payment gateway and verify everything on the card is on the up-and-up. You can verify the card holders name, address and funds. You pay for a service, make sure you are taking full advantage of it.
Nothing makes us happier than seeing traffic and sales come through your site; just as nothing pains us more than seeing fraudulent orders come through. We want to see you succeed in your business plan. It would be easy to change your website to process orders automatically but that would do nothing to stop fraud and be detrimental to the long term viability of your business. Profitability is the objective but nothing short of due diligence will help you accomplish that goal.

Essential Elements And Importance Of Good Logo Design

Essential Elements And Importance Of Good Logo Design

Every company needs an effective logo to represent their branding and provide consumers an easily recognizable graphic representation of the company and it’s core values. Logo’s can become the public face of a business and in examples of extremely effective logo design, can even replace the brand name as the most ubiquitous aspect of a company (see the Nike “Swoosh” or McDonald’s “Golden Arches”). Creating and implementing an effective logo is an essential step in the evolution of any successful retailer.

What is the purpose of a logo?

Logos are an aspect of a company’s branding, they’re used as the graphical representation of a company’s values and goals. Logos are used to identify a particular entity in a sea of competitors, and help to inspire loyalty, trust and admiration among consumers. An effective logo design will help to convey not only what a company does, but what it stands for. Although logos are not generally created to be a salable commodity, it’s not unheard for a great logo to become just that (again, see the Nike “Swoosh”).

What elements make up a good logo?

Generally it’s accepted that there are 5 basic principles that every logo should encompass:

  1. Simple
  2. Memorable
  3. Timeless
  4. Versatile
  5. Appropriate

Simple: Often logos need to communicate both effectively and quickly. Logos need to be as easily recognized by someone speeding by a billboard at 70mph, as they would be by someone watching a 30 second commercial on tv. The key to speedy recognition is simplicity of design; the fewer elements, the easier it is for the viewer to distinguish what he or she is looking at.

Memorable: Of equal importance to the logo being recognized, is the logo’s ability to leave a lasting impression on the viewer. The goal of an effective logo is to create a relationship between a symbol and what it symbolizes, to accomplish this task it must be easily remembered. An effective logo will be easily remembered so that the consumer can easily recognize the symbol of a company and what that company stands for.

Timelessness: In order for a logo to remain memorable it also must remain unchanged. Logos need to be created in such away that allows them to remain relevant even with changes in design aesthetics and popular preferences. Updates are appropriate from time to time, but the general feel of a logo should be created in such a way as to allow for changes in taste without compromising the logos integrity.

Versatile: Logos need to be able to function across a variety of different media and applications. For instance an ideal logo would look good on a website header, plastered on a billboard, or stitched into a company t-shirt. An effective logo should look as good in black and white as it does in color. Ideally logos should be created in vector graphics format. Vector graphics scale to any size and can be enlarged or shrunk to fit any application without a loss of quality.

Appropriate: The effective logo needs to take into account the audience it is hoping to capture and be appropriately designed with the intended viewers in mind. This isn’t to say that every logo for a gun store needs to have a firearm in the design, however if you’re intended audience is the recreational hunter you may want to include camouflage or a deer, where as a company going after tactical sales may want to include carbon fiber or soldier silhouette in the design.

What does good logo design cost?

The cost of logo design can vary greatly depending on the needs of client. How many logo concepts need to be presented? How many rounds of revisions are included in the design quote? What type of finished files are required, .pdf, .eps, .png, .jpg? Large companies have spent millions of dollars on logo design and implementation. OBN offers logo design packages starting at $499 that include multiple design concepts, one round of revisions, and final image outputs in several formats including scalable vector graphics.