The Rise and Fall of Flash Sales

This past week, Fab.com made news once again after its co-founder Bradford Shellhammer stepped down. The departure is a bookend to the ecommerce store’s pivot away from flash sales and into the territory of standard online retail, a la Amazon. In its flash sale heyday, the company raised over $150 million in funding and was valued at around $1 billion dollars. Since the beginning of the year, Fab.com has been going through some rapid downscaling in an effort to be profitable. Flash sales used to be the next big thing in ecommerce, but somewhere along the line, the business model’s wheels started to fall off. Surprisingly enough, Zulily, an ecommerce flash sale store for apparel designed for kids and mothers, is trying to launch an IPO north of $200 million total value. This seems to be an outlier though, as there’s a lesson to be learned from the Groupons, Fab.coms, Totsys, and the others out there. How did the flash sale business model fall apart? Continue reading The Rise and Fall of Flash Sales

7 Creative Ways Ecommerce Stores Are Using Instagram

There are now more than 150 million users on Instagram, and it’s growing faster than ever. Instagram is a creative visual platform where people can capture, customize, and share photos and videos. The photos can be also posted on Twitter and Facebook, making it easy to integrate all your social media channels. Before we dive into how ecommerce businesses are leveraging Instagram, acquaint yourself with the basics of Instagram if you are just getting started in the platform.

Instagram allows businesses to share moments that capture the essence of their brands. Brands are constantly trying to find innovative ways to engage with customers on Instagram, and the platform makes it easy to do so. With the use of hashtags, you can track campaigns, host photo contests, market your brand with trends (i.e. #ThrowbackThursday, #WineWednesday), and inspire action.

When it comes to ecommerce businesses, Instagram is arguably the most complementary social media platform to have. People want to have a personal experience with the brands they’re engaging with, and Instagram allows your brand to do this in real time while giving customers a unique experience. There are various ways to use Instagram for ecommerce business, such as showing off a collection of products you offer, giving customers a glimpse into your company and employees, showing customers what goes on behind the scenes (i.e. photo shoots, etc), and more. Here are seven creative ways ecommerce businesses are using Instagram to engage their fans. Continue reading 7 Creative Ways Ecommerce Stores Are Using Instagram

The Marketplace Fairness Act and You

Marketplace Fairness Act

Back in early May 2013, the US Senate voted to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act, inching it closer to its implementation and enforcement. The bill aims to level the playing field between ecommerce fronts and brick and mortar stores by making purchases from both taxable. Brick and mortar stores already collect sales tax based on local tax code rates and pretty much just serve the immediate community around them. On the other hand, ecommerce sites work across the entire country and currently just collect tax for in-state customers (in-state defined as an ecommerce store having a physical address in the same state). If the act is passed, state governments should see over $10 billion in tax revenue from online sales. The bill is still technically up in the air, as the House of Representatives hasn’t voted on it and President Barrack Obama has yet to sign it into law, but he has shown strong support for it. Here’s what you need to know about this piece of legislation.

A Brief History of Taxation and Online Sales

Back in 1992, the Supreme Court case Quill Corp. v. North Dakota resulted in a ruling that required a business to have a physical presence in a state for the state to collect taxes from it. Quill Corporation, headquartered in Illinois, is an office supply retailer that offered North Dakota residents a service that allowed them to purchase items remotely from the Quill Corporation store. North Dakota wanted to tax all purchases made through this, but the Supreme Court sided with the business and struck down the state’s attempt. Continue reading The Marketplace Fairness Act and You

5 Common Mistakes Ecommerce Businesses Make with Social Media

Social Media

Ecommerce businesses have much to gain by integrating social media channels into their general web presence. We all know that Facebook and Twitter serve as general hangouts, but they also help build your brand, strengthen your community, and generate quality leads to your website. While social media is a great way to keep a constant conversation with your customers, it’s also a convenient venue for customers to rant about poor experiences. How your business responds to complaints on social media should be taken seriously. One wrong move can cost you. Below are five social media blunders that are commonly made by businesses and how to overcome them:

1) Making the conversation a one-way street

Facebook and Twitter are great channels to create dialogues between your brand and target consumers. However, you need to make sure that the conversation is a two-way street. In other words, you need listen to every bit of what your customers are saying. You need to speak to your customers’ concerns (and quickly!) and not just talk at them. This means closely monitoring your direct messages, comments, mentions, and wall posts. By doing that, you will gain a better understanding of what types of content will appeal to your customers and show them that you truly care. Continue reading 5 Common Mistakes Ecommerce Businesses Make with Social Media

How Excellent Customer Service Can Lead to More Sales

Customer service is the most crucial aspect of sales for any ecommerce business. No product can sell itself without friendly, efficient service. Customers want their problems fixed fast, and they want to know that you truly care, which is why building a loyal following means delivering excellent customer service.  So, how do you make the extra effort to stand out from the competition?

Take Zappos as an example. The company has been called “insane” and “fanatical” for the way it will go the extra few miles to please its customers. Zappos Founder Tony Hsieh even wrote a book on world-class customer service, “Delivering Happiness,” and the company has been distinguished the online retailer as a standout in customer support. And, the company is surely a standout and has created an extremely loyal customer base with its incredible customer service. Zappos’ customer care stories are legendary and are a key part of its brand: Continue reading How Excellent Customer Service Can Lead to More Sales