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The one thing that makes your e-commerce web-site successful

What is the number one thing an e-commerce website needs in order to be successful? The simple answer is “Traffic”. Without traffic you have nothing. You have no data to measure your success otherwise. I say this because if you have a pile of traffic you have useful data that can be used to determine the performance of your marketing efforts within your site. So you see without the traffic there in the first place you have nothing to go on. So if you want more on-line sales you absolutely must have the traffic coming to your site. Still not convinced? I took a random sampling of 12 of our clients. This sampling consisted of clients who have been on board from 7-27 months. What I found was a trend that simply cannot be denied. The chart below shows the actual numbers of this sample group. So once again traffic is the name of the game when it comes to success in e-commerce.
So of course the next question is usually this: How do I get traffic to my site in the first place? The answer to that is as broad as the question is. If you really want to know more I suggest reading our BLOG and of course calling us in the first place to answer your questions.

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.

Building Consumer Confidence in your website!

One major hurdle that ecommerce retailers have to jump is allowing their customers to shop in a secure environment. Consumers are wary of shopping at online stores due to the commonly held belief that their information will be stolen and they will be victims of credit card fraud and identity theft. Letting shoppers know that your site is safe and well managed will go a long way in reassuring them to spend money.
Here are three quick and simple tips to help reassure your customers that it is safe to shop on your site:
1. Post a picture of your payment gateway. If you have a certified seal for a secured payment gateway, it will help customers make the decision to part with personal information on your site.
2. In your contact us section an actual address and phone number goes a lot further to instill trust in a customer over a PO Box and an email address alone.
3. Make sure the look, feel, content and specials are updated and current. Design and content play a huge part in building consumer trust.

Social Media Schedule

By now, most of you have (hopefully) developed social media pages for your site — whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Keep yourself from falling into the dark abyss of businesses that develop social media pages and then forget to post, leaving a bleak and dismal page that makes it look like you have no friends, no followers and no hope.

Post on those pages!

There is nothing worse than a growing company, trying to form a following that completely gives up on itself before it’s had a chance to develop lasting relationships with those people who are genuinely interested in their company. The fans that you make on Facebook, those eager for content that follow you on Twitter and scroll through your updates on their smartphones every morning – those are the people that are going to use your products and give you return visits on your webpage.  It’s not only sloppy, but unprofessional to create pages and not post content. These are free tools for you to use when reaching out to your audience. If you don’t have time to post or are having trouble thinking of what to say, hire someone to do it for you!

If you are plan to do your own posts and videos, the best way to ensure that you don’t fall asleep behind the social media wheel is to develop a schedule and stick to it. Maybe you post every morning at 10am after you get into the office and get settled in for the day or perhaps you want to post something newsworthy on Mondays and something entertaining on Fridays. Whatever your posting schedule is, make sure that you have mapped out a plan that will give you a support system for managing these pages.

Something else to consider is creating a vault for your posts, writing them in advance and having them at your fingertips when you want to post them. This is helpful for a lot of busy small business owners who can use their free time to plan ahead so that they aren’t tied down during the work week with content development.

Finally, make your smartphone your personal portal to posting. There are plenty of apps out there designed to make updating content a mobile venture. If you have to travel, post from your phone so that you can be on the move and not miss your posting schedule. Keep at it, stick to your schedule and there will be content there for fans when they find you.

Mobile Sites: Breaking out of the Computer Box

Getting your business onto the internet is old news. We all know that it is important to have  brand representation online with social media, full functioning websites and plenty of user-friendly content. However, internet forecasting shows that in addition to your website, you need to be putting time and energy into a mobile site as well. Statistics show that smartphones are the number one source for all Facebook users, instead of computers. If Facebook, the largest social network on the face of the earth, is experiencing a trend in mobile usage, the rest of the internet is soon to follow.

The main problem with Facebook mobile is that the app does not include any of the ads that the full site does. So your business had better have a page if they want to be seen by smartphone Facebook users. And wouldn’t it be great if someone on their smartphone was looking at your Facebook page and there was a link to your site and it was mobile? You could streamline the experience for the user in a way that would encourage them to visit your site more frequently and spend more time there when they do visit.

Before you start a mobile site, there are some things you should consider:

1. What’s the point?

Your mobile site should have a focus and an objective. Are you trying to make the customer experience better when people try to purchase from your site? Do you want to streamline the ordering process so it is accessible from a smartphone? Think of some of the things you want to achieve by having a set plan. Here is an example of how ticketsnow.com used a mobile site to their advantage.

2. Who is your audience?

Is the mobile site for your customer? Is it for someone who is already loyal to the company, or are you creating something that will help attract new business? Developing a target audience for your site is crucial. Does your target demographic use smartphones? Keep all of these things in mind when designing and implementing the site. Remember, you want it to be easy to use.

3. How can you make it fresh?

An important thing to remember when creating your mobile site is that it should reflect the branding properties of your existing site. The mobile site is an extension of the internet image that you have already created for yourself. However, mobile sites should give a fresh, simple adaptation, showing your versatility to customers who already are familiar with your brand. Make it something that is easily identifiable as being related to your site, but also take that branding to the next level by creating a cohesive subsidiary to your pre-existing image. Google offers some insights and best practices here.

The Art of Facebook Domination

People from over 200 countries across the globe flock to Facebook to connect people. But what connection are they truly making — what connection to their favorite brands are they making, more importantly? What does the average user really want out of their Facebook experience? The realm of Facebook encompasses more than profile pictures and relationship statuses. It surrounds the basic human instinct to feel important; to feel as though your voice is being heard. That being said, what can be done on your page to encourage people not only to like your page but to enjoy going there on a daily basis. Breaking down the fundamental communication value of Facebook is key to incorporating a successful social media strategy into your brand. I will be using Coca-Cola to demonstrate three tips that can be developed over time to build something more than a brand — a true following. With over 41,000,000 likes, Coca-Cola has built a following with a social media empire to match:

1. Be True to Your Fans

There is a reason that people buy your product or partake in your services. Keep yourself rooted in that essential part of your business that got you fans in the first place. If you are going through a re-branding phase or are considering making a jump to a social media campaign, remember that within your innovation, there needs to be a core value that your business has carried and that has been related to your customers.

Coca-Cola is a great example of a company who keeps up with their evolving image while staying true to the basic values that most people associate with it. This is America’s brand and has always upheld this image with their advertising campaigns. Their cover photo on Facebook emulates the same emotions that some of their earliest advertisements did: wholesome, youthful, fun, tradition — a refreshing beverage to be enjoyed by all.

The mind-boggling thing about Coca-Cola is that it is virtually one product (beverage) that has made such a powerful throne as a brand. According to their website, “From humble beginnings 125 years ago, our Company has evolved from one product — Coca-Cola — to more than 500 brands in 2011. We’ve grown from selling a modest 9 drinks a day in 1886 to 1.8 billion a day. And we’ve expanded from one city in one country to availability in more than 200 countries around the world.”

1.8 billion a day. That could translate to roughly 26% of the global population buying a Coke on a daily basis.

2. Give Your Fans a Voice
Something that every good salesperson knows is that people love to talk about themselves. If you get them to tell you what they are truly in the market for, it is simple to sell it to them. Coca-Cola gives their fans a forum and an opportunity to be heard. The company encourages fan involvement and they put that right in their Facebook introduction, “The Coca-Cola Facebook Page is a collection of your stories showing how people from around the world have helped make Coke into what it is today.”

What fan wouldn’t want to be part of one of the biggest brands in the world?

So what you need to do is give your fans and opportunity to do your marketing for you. It’s as basic as the word-of-mouth method, but translate that into social media. Let them tell the story of your product and partner with local businesses and archives to do the same. This is the simplest way to let your loyal customers, the ones who actually spend a lot of time using your product, tell you what they want. It’s the survey, the research, the data collection, the analysis all rolled into one. And it’s free!

3. Incorporate All of your Branding Materials

Not only has Coke taken over the web, they’ve taken over color association. When you see red and white or even a red bottle icon, you know that it’s Coke without even having to think about it. Their social media is no different. It reeks of red and white and the Coke brand in a way that associates all of your fondest childhood memories with their Facebook. Remember being barefoot in the summertime grass, drinking a Coke and eating chips. Maybe waiting for 4th of July fireworks to start. Maybe playing with your best friend that moved away when their dad got a job two states over.

This branding pulls everything together with two colors, focusing on their heritage and yet calling people to action by telling them to “express themselves.” What Coke has done, is it’s become a cultural icon to the extent of which almost every significant image used in their advertising gets sucked into their image vortex. Polar bear. Santa Claus. These are things that have become part of their strategy and part of the reason why people drink 1.8 billion a day.

So how can you take this theory and apply it to your business? Incorporate a strong color association with your brand name. People associate by color more than almost any other medium because it’s usually the first thing you notice when looking at an ad. Develop a strong design and utilize colors in your branding efforts. Then, once you have developed the strong brand, make sure that your different networks, websites and other branded items are plastered with the same palette. Keep it consistent. This is crucial to getting your branding materials involved on Facebook.

Be sure to incorporate other things. The logo, pictures of the storefront, pictures of the employees. Show them who you are as well as what you do. This will encourage trust, which is essential in building any relationship. Keep your brand strong and consistent and be sure to incorporate these things in your Facebook page.

 

Hungry for more? Check out our website to see what services we offer in web-marketing, social media and brand development.

 

 

Mother’s Day Sales: Marketing to Online Shoppers

Many of us will go out this next week and find gifts for mom, grandma and other family members that we recognize on Mother’s Day. However, few people realize that Mother’s Day and the days leading up to it, if marketed correctly, can be some of the biggest revenue days of the year. The beauty of this holiday, however, is that it is one that flourishes within the world of e-Commerce.

This survey done by shop.org, which is owned by the National Retail Federation, says that 31.7% of consumers who celebrate Mother’s Day and shop online will be spending more this year than they have in the past, while only 17.1% of consumers who do not shop online for Mother’s Day are planning to spend more. The survey shows data that in every shopping category offered, online shoppers will spend more this Mother’s Day than regular shoppers.

So what is your business doing to tailor to this trend? Here are three tips to help get you started:

1. Use social couponing to spread the word. Shoppers have been clipping coupons since their inception, and the creation of social coupons such as Groupon and Living Social have taken this practice to the next level. Local businesses across the country partner with these coupon giants to create Mother’s Day packages to make it easy on the consumer and special for mom. Check out some of their gift ideas here.

2. Develop new keywords. Customers are going to be searching for local and national deals on the web, so make sure your site is prepared for the searches to come. You can make a page especially for your Mother’s Day specials, or include content on your homepage — just be sure that whatever you are doing has location-focused key words or Mother’s Day keywords to drive traffic to your page. When searching Mother’s Day gifts, you can be sure that shops like ediblearrangements.com will be optimizing their sites for those searches. Getting high rankings on a page like that takes serious time and resources, but getting on a local page is feasible to do in time to catch the holiday shoppers.

3. Market through your social media. Aside from using social coupons, use your Facebook and Twitter to advertise for Mother’s Day. The people who are following you or liking your page are already fans of your product or services, so marketing strongly to that niche is a no-brainer. Again, Edible Arrangements is on top of things. Something as simple as changing your cover photo to remind fans of the upcoming holiday will help spark interest in your product and help drive traffic to your e-Commerce site.

5 Free Resources Every SEO Should Have in Their Back Pocket

Although it has been around for nearly two decades, the world of Search Engine Optimizers is always evolving and growing. The industry is brutal but with the right resources, SEO’s can stay on the top of their game by staying current and changing with the trends of the market. Here are five free resources for beginners that will help advance your skill set and keep you current.

1. Google Webmaster Central Blog

The Google Webmaster Central Blog is a key resource as Google is the dominating power in all things internet, including internet marketing. This blog has everything you would expect from Google and more: videos, instructional how-to’s, materials for beginners and the tech-savvy. Best of all, the information is coming from those at Google who are monitoring and even creating the trends and breakthroughs we all try to follow. The Webmaster Central Blog is also a nice resource to have because it showcases various areas of study to make your internet experience well-rounded. Even though it may not focus solely on SEO, it gives anyone in the internet marketing industry a leg up on competition by introducing new areas if interest and covering topics from images to crawl errors.

2. The Daily SEO Blog

From the innovative team at SEOmoz, this blog is something that every SEO should be checking daily. It captures everything relevant from the industry, whether its new policies and penalties or the discussion of black hat SEO’s. They have a great segment called “Whiteboard Friday,” which is an entertaining way to stay informed and keep up on the hot topics in the trade. There are several different SEOmoz bloggers, but perhaps one of the shining qualities to this particular blog is that they pull excellent posts from their user-driven blog, YOUmoz. This is great for two reasons. Firstly, it allows outside voices to have a widespread audience and share their knowledge of SEO and second because it tells the reader that SEOmoz is cultivating the best talent possible for their articles.

3. Klout

While this may seem like just another social media tool, Klout is unique because it measures your influence over others. It tracks the analytics of your social media sites in one convenient spot and best of all, it’s completely free! It converges all of the different areas that you are active in social media-land, and turns it into tangible data. Not only is this a great way to stay on top of your game, but it also shows that you are taking the time and effort to track all of this data.  Klout is user friendly and is a great way for beginning SEO’s to break into the analytical side of the job. It tracks the influences of over 100 million users everyday, which means that you can see your reach and develop better strategies for broadening your brand. While your Klout score may not be the most important thing, try to look at Klout as a tool for configuring algorithmic success within the industry, not to track your popularity.

4. Open Site Explorer

Another great site from SEOmoz, this allows you to track sites and compare different sites to see the effectiveness of their links. This tool is an amazing one to have in your arsenal, as you can compare someone you are working with to their competition. You get more options if you decide to purchase SEOmoz pro, but there is still a lot of information from the free site, although you only get to do 3 reports a day. Between Open Site Explorer and Klout, there is a plethora of information, waiting to take your SEO skills to the next level. Open Site Explorer can show you incredible information about your site from page authority to internal and external links. This is definitely a tool to look into and get familiar with.

5. Pinterest

Pinterest is a newer social media site that allows users to “pin” things they like in a virtual inspiration board. Why is this important to SEO? Pinterest is trending to be the new big thing in social media, falling in the number 3 spot behind Facebook and Twitter. It is especially important because it goes beyond sharing information with followers. Pinterest represents the potential to create different pinboards and utilizing them as a two way communication strategy. The SEO doesn’t determine what gets posted or what is tweeted — the consumer is solely responsible for pinning items that they are interested in. One company that seems to be thriving on Pinterest is Blendtec, who is embracing the possibilities that this new form of social media represents. This is a site to keep in mind in the future as it grows and expands as a marketing tool.