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Minimum Advertised Pricing!

It came to my attention recently that some companies/people are under the impression that we are here to enable people to violate suppliers MAP’s. That is minimum advertised pricing for those of you who may not know. It is OBN’s intent to encourage the use of MAP and to help in any reasonable way to guide our clients who may have inadvertently or intentionally dropped advertised prices below MAP. We are more than willing to assist anyone who calls on us regarding this matter. With that said I have attached an article below to give the very basics on MAP for your information. If you have any questions please call us at 800-699-0820 ext. 1.

How Minimum Advertised Pricing Impacts Your Retail or Online Store’s Marketing Efforts

by Caron_Beesley, Community Moderator at www.SBA.gov

If you run an online or retail business, did you know that you might be prohibited from advertising a manufacturer’s products below a certain minimum price?

Minimum advertised pricing (MAP) policies are particularly critical to manufacturers who sell their products for online resale, given the ease at which consumers can now conduct online and mobile price comparisons. MAP policies are also established to help small businesses compete and sell on service and value, rather than entering into a price war with cost-cutting big box stores.

But how legally enforceable are these minimum advertised pricing policies and, as a small business owner, is there a way to get around them in your sales and marketing practices?

The Truth About Minimum Advertised Pricing

Minimum advertised pricing only relates to “advertised” pricing and is perfectly legal under U.S. antitrust statutes. So, essentially, you are limited to advertising MAP-protected products at a certain price, but you can sell these products at any price you choose (often guided by the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price or MSRP).

What Does this Mean for Online Businesses?

Under typical MAP agreements, online retailers can’t “display” any prices that fall below the MAP price. But which part of an online store actually represents advertising display space has caused quite a bit of controversy. For example, say a product is listed on a site for $10. Once a coupon code or other incentive is applied, the actual shopping cart price could come down to $8. Is that still considered “advertising” since a transaction technically hasn’t yet occurred, or is it a commitment to buy and outside the scope of a MAP agreement?

The difference between an advertised price and an actual price that you may be charged has come under scrutiny by U.S. Circuit Courts and FTC rulings, which tend to agree that an actual price displayed in a secure/encrypted shopping cart isn’t subject to MAP – because it’s technically not advertising space, but represents an actual storefront. So in an online world, an actual price may legally end up being a lot lower than the MAP-required advertised price.

In fact, manufacturers are often advised to focus their MAP policies on advertised prices in paid search ads, shopping comparison ads, and internet landing pages but not in shopping carts or other point of sale interfaces.

Look for Alternative Ways to Discount

While it’s not always advisable to lead with price in your marketing efforts, look for other ways to attract customers without breaking any MAP agreements. For example, many manufacturers are okay with your offering free shipping, coupon codes, or a “buy-one-get-one at a discount,” if MAP doesn’t protect that other item. Essentially, as long as the dollar value of the MAP-protected product isn’t reduced, then you are okay. Be careful with coupon codes. It’s safer to advertise the coupon—not the product that it can be applied against—so as not to imply that you are advertising the MAP item at a reduced price. Instead, be clear about what items are excluded from any coupon code promotion.

The Bottom Line

If you are unsure about how your online advertising and marketing practices may border on breaking any MAP agreement you have with a manufacturer, talk to them or consult a legal attorney. Manufacturers do monitor their dealers for potential violations and the law is constantly in flux on this one, so do your due diligence.

For more information about the legality of MAP policies, check out the Federal Trade Commission Guide to Antitrust Laws.

 

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

More on Search Engine Optimization

In several of my previous blog posts I have preached that the key to e-commerce success is deeply rooted in the volume of traffic your site sees every day. This Blog and the next few will start to drill into that a little further. I know some of these things have been talked about on many other blog sites including our own. I believe though we can’t talk about it enough as it IS what makes or breaks your sites performance.
This is basic information as the details will only overwhelm most at first glance. On site search engine optimization or SEO for short is simple in concept. Now putting it into practical use requires some practice and is a bit of a scientific art if you will. So for this blog we will stick to the concept.
Google and other search engines crawl the web using logarithms so complicated that I am not even sure they have it right all the time. None the less the things that Google populates a search page with when searching for specific goods and services has everything to do with the uniqueness and optimization of that particular website. Google doesn’t look at one thing it looks at a combination of conditions to exist before it starts ranking you higher in the searches. When someone says a site has been fully optimized that means each and every page has been optimized through its use of desired keywords and those items being present in proper context in meta tags, H tags and uniquely written content and descriptions.
Sounds simple enough right? Fundamentally it is. There are things to consider though. When I say uniquely written content or descriptions that means unique! Original! If you copy or even use authorized content the same as other sites who had it up first the great Google will know. Google looks at this duplicate content as bad and will push you further down the rankings. The use of keywords is delicate too. Too few and you’re not getting enough exposure. To many and your stuffing or overusing keywords and Google may penalize you for that. There is a happy medium that must happen to be optimized.
Well known established e-commerce companies spend a ridiculous amount of time and resources optimizing their sites. One of our companies we work with, www.Jazzmotorsports.com , has allowed us to get into their site and do this on every page. Now this doesn’t happen all at once. This has taken place over years. It is a process not an event. If you look at one of our average site that has 35,000 product pages and two dozen info and category pages it takes quite a bit of time to get through a site. The truth is it never really stops. There will always be more products and there will always be tweaks made to currently optimized pages.
As your site “develops” and grows with ever increasing content and optimization Google will continue to reward you in the rankings. Then it is simple, the higher you rank the more likely you get the clicks or traffic you need that I mentioned earlier.
The mistakes owners make is thinking just because you did a couple pages that instantly their traffic will jump through the roof. It just doesn’t work that way. Again these things take time and will not happen overnight. Another client Bushwhacker Firearms is in the beginning phases of this. We have begun to optimize product pages for some of their in house products that they exclusively manufacture. That in itself lends itself well to uniqueness.
As always if you wish to learn more about SEO and other marketing services that we offer please give us a call. 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

Have you called us lately?

The team at OBN has made a concerted effort to contact each of our clients. Much like ourselves we find our customers are busy running the day to day tasks. The reason for these courtesy calls is just that. Our first goal is to be sure you have all of your questions answered and possible assist you with any tasks that you have been meaning to get to. The second and possibly larger reason for us calling on you all is that we very much want to be sure that you are all aware of our marketing capabilities. From a simple logo design to a full on branded marketing campaign for your brick and mortar and e-commerce site we have you covered. If you have read any of my past Blogs you will know that OBN believes in the power of marketing. We can custom tailor your marketing solution to meet your budget. The process is really quite painless and the rewards that can be reaped are well worth the effort. While we will continue to reach out to all of you I urge you to get in touch with us too. There is no task to small to help you with and the knowledge that we have to share with you can literally be the difference in making or breaking your business. As always call us at: 1-800-699-
-0820.

Complacency, Work and other dirty words.

I am often asked by clients and acquaintances “Why isn’t my site performing as desired?” Now besides the obvious you aren’t getting traffic or conversions it really comes down to this one simple thing. WORK! That’s right folks it takes work and the time to do to make a site perform. Occasionally a customer will complain and tell me they don’t get why their site is lagging after all the work they put in. I usually follow with the question what did you do exactly? They go on about flyer this and I passed out cards at the local gun show or I sent out 1 email to their buddies……none of which were my initial advice. My previous blogs touch on the things I commonly preach about. This usually leads to the tough love kind of speech. I log into their site and I review the analytics, I note how many times they have even logged in and I certainly see if they have done anything since the original site was built for them. I also have a number of other tools in place to see what kind of links they are generating and I even check and see if they are copying content from other sites. Then I point out the error in their ways and again tell them what they should be doing to be a rock star. The common response is that sounds like work! Well yes it is work. The sad part is this “work” can be done while having your butt parked in a lazy-boy in front of your TV while in your PJ’s. So I would not label as work per say but more making better use of your time.

Take the time to put some new pictures or graphics or announcements on your home page. Big players in the e-commerce game do this on a daily basis. Work on those product descriptions. Make them sharper and stand out by adding images and providing uniquely written content. Think like the sales person you are and make your products attractive to your customers. Take the time and make your presence known on social media outlets and on various forums. If you do these things on a daily basis and you will have a significant impact on your sites performance over time. Give people a reason to come back to your site. Make them want to. You want them to ultimately check your site like they check their email or Facebook page. If you become complacent and NEVER change anything then people will become bored with your site and will not think to return to it. You have to make your site look lived in. If it is all crickets and cobwebs people will not return. Take the Google Doodle for instance. Do you think Google is doing this because it is fun. The answer is no. They are just giving folks one more reason to return and use their search engine.

In summary spend time better and do what needs to be done to make you a success. The faster you do this the faster you can hire some people to handle these things for you. If you sit back and do nothing then you should expect nothing in return. Once again I remind you that Outdoor Business Network is here to consult and hire for all of your marketing and optimization needs. 1-800-699-0820 sales ext 1.

Product Descriptions Tips

Many of you are selling products that have description and images provided in a digital feed. This is an outstanding way for you to get a ton of product available for purchase online in a hurry. The down side is you are not the only one out on the web doing this. I advise all of my customers to start off with a couple of their hot sellers or perhaps a few products that can be sold at a high margin and modify the product description pages. The key here is making this product unique. Write a solid description; perhaps include some of your own images or video of the product in action. The more info you can provide the better the chance you have of keeping your customer on your page as opposed to them bouncing to another site to find out the info they want.  It is important to write your own description….DO NOT COPY one from someone else’s website. Google will see this as duplicate content and it may actually hurt you in the search rankings. Take the time to think like your customer and try to anticipate questions they may ask and include this info in your description. If a customer can see lots of pictures or a video, have all the facts and figures and the price is attractive they are much more likely to stay put and make that purchase happen.

A common response I get from customers is this….”I don’t have the time to do this”. Well once you get proficient at it you should be able to knock out 3-4 of these in an hour or so. So let’s say you average 4 product pages a day for a year straight. That would give you 1460 UNIQUE product pages on your site. This will greatly improve your sites rankings. Oh and as far as the “I don’t have the time to do this” comment is concerned….What I actual hear the customer saying to me is this “I won’t spend 4% of my day working on my business to make it better and therefore make me more money”. Yes 4% is what an hour a day works out to. I am sure many if not all of us could squeeze that time in. Remember this is a web business. You can in all reality do this from your couch while watching the television. So even if every second of your day is allocated make it a point to optimize 1 page per day. This alone over the course of a couple years will have a profound effect on your sites performance. If you still don’t have the time then for Pete’s sake call Outdoor Business Network and let us make this part of your marketing strategy and hire us to do it for you. As always the number is 1-800-699-0820 ext. 1

Internet Marketing and Why

I am going to touch on this again for the simple fact that there are still some people out there who do not think marketing works. The “Why” is easy…because your competition is doing it. Marketing is probably more important on the internet than in any other medium when it comes to driving business to your retail storefront. In today’s smartphone/tablet rich environment, over 70% of users find their way to your brick and mortar store and your e-store through the use of one of these devices. So if you don’t have the basics in place for your website you are missing out on a ton of potential business. Big name brand companies that do a good amount of online business spend millions to make sure their sites are readily visible to the public when they start searching on Google or Bing. It would be just plane foolish to think your site will perform without some level of marketing effort put into it. So once again I urge all of you to take some time and give us a call to see how or what you can do to get your site performing to a level that makes it worth your while. Call us today 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.