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
Whether you’re into video games or not, you cannot ignore the behemoth known as the video games industry. In last year alone, the gaming industry saw over $63 billion dollars in revenue, and trends suggest that there is nowhere to go but up for the future. Many non-gaming companies have already noticed the power of gaming and are using gaming experiences to build their brands. Hence, the term gamification was born. You don’t have to be a true video gamer to participate in gamification. There’s a good chance that you have played in a game constructed by one of the many brands you interact with.
To step back a bit, let’s define gamification. Gamification takes typical video game mechanics and applies them to user engagement. Theoretically, this strategy works because it plays towards human beings’ competitive drives and desire for rewards. Do you check in to restaurants and buildings on Foursquare to receive badges you can display across your social media channels? Do you rack up points at the local coffee shop in order to get a free latte? Do you submit posts to online forums for badges that come with hitting certain posting milestones? If you said yes to any of these things, gamification has touched your life. In a recent Gartner study, the firm projects that 40 percent of Global 1000 organizations will use gamification some way in their business operations by 2015. Gamification is here to stay, and here are some approaches to using gamification for your ecommerce store. Continue reading Gamification and Ecommerce
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
The most incredible thing about Apollo 11’s journey to the moon was that it was accomplished without someone sitting at the steering wheel. It was engineered with systems that would triangulate its position based on the location and movement of various stars. It had sensors built in that knew how fast it was going, if it was slowing down or speeding up, and if it changed direction. Apollo 11 and all its successors had internal processes that handled the minutia and set the course ahead on autopilot.
Automation can do amazing things in ecommerce as well. By utilizing the right technology and creating processes that are scalable and repeatable, you can create tremendous momentum. Heck, you might even quadruple your vacation time.
Here’s how you can automate 3 of the core aspects of your ecommerce business:
3. Retention Continue reading How to Take your eCommerce Business to the Moon
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
When you’re in the initial planning phases of setting up an ecommerce site, selecting a platform is a daunting challenge. There are dozens of software solutions out there. Going through each one’s benefits and features is a timely, painstaking exercise. One key factor in choosing an ecommerce system is price. Package pricing is generally based around business size, and some platforms are designed to work specifically with enterprise companies. And then you have your free open source ecommerce solutions. If you’re in a small startup business, the word “FREE” is going to catch your attention. “I get to put my products on the web for free? What could possibly go wrong?” Actually, a lot can.
Support and Hosting
One of the main problems with choosing a free ecommerce platform is that you are mostly on your own when it comes to running and hosting it. Sure, a number of open source ecommerce systems boast having active communities full of development support. In most instances, however, these developers are not going to hold your hand as you go through all your problems. Say that you’re gearing up for the holiday season and something breaks. One of the few things you can do in this case is submit a post to the ecommerce system’s community forum, pray for the best, and hit F5 a bunch of times. It’s worth noting that some open source platforms offer support at a price. This may prove expensive in the long run since some lock you into contracts, while others charge a costly rate per each incident. Continue reading The Pitfalls of Free Open Source Ecommerce Systems
If you are an avid social media user, chances are that you have noticed an explosion of Vine videos on your feeds at some point. For those of you who don’t know what Vine is, let’s step back a second. Purchased and owned by Twitter, Vine was initially released in January 2013 and is a video making app that is available for iOS, Android, and (unofficially) Windows Phone. All you need to do is go to the app store and download it for free. The program captures sound and video with its in-app camera, and a user is limited to six seconds (it doesn’t have to be a consecutive shot, however) when creating a video. Given its simplicity and ability to create content quickly, companies of all sizes have already started using Vine to jumpstart advertising campaigns. These are big name companies, too—General Electric, Gap, Calvin Klein, and the list goes on. If you haven’t already, now’s the time to sign up your ecommerce store for the Vine express! Here’s how you can use Vine to support your online store. Continue reading How to Use Vine to Gain Social Media Exposure
eCommerce is a vehicle driven by visibility, and social media is the fuel that powers it. Need proof? Consider this. According to study conducted by eMarketer, nearly 1.7 billion people around the world will use social media in 2013, a figure that’s up 16% from 2012. Of those 1.7 billion, nearly all of them will make at least one online purchasing decision that’s been influenced by what they see on, and how they interact with, social media.
Like it or not, our hyper-networked society is addicted to the Internet, and in order to be a successful online store owner using and advertising on social media (Facebook in particular) is essential.
Continue reading Why Social Media Advertising Makes Sense for Every Online Store Owner
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising is a very strong segment of online marketing and is used in eCommerce to drive traffic and convert visitors into customers. With that said, it is only effective when done properly with the right goals and strategy in place. The most common error I often see merchants make in PPC is disorganized, chaotic campaigns. When merchants begin to dabble in Search Marketing, business owners are typically working with a small budget, with the end goal of driving more traffic, leads and revenue to their online store. If you’re not already using PPC to your advantage it’s time for you to understand the fundamentals and how to successfully (and continuously) convert traffic into customers. There is more strategy involved in crafting ad campaigns and building out a channel on the web to meet business goals than one might think.
This post is written for beginners who want to get started with PPC. I’ll detail the basics with a few tips along the way to help you maximize your budget and the success of your campaigns. Continue reading eCommerce 101: PPC for Beginners
After reading our recent post, “Advanced Email Marketing Strategies for Your Ecommerce” perhaps you know that email newsletters are possibly the least effective of all email marketing strategies. But that certainly does not mean they have zero effect on conversions or bringing traffic to your website. After all, newsletters are ecommerces’ most utilized means of communication with consumers, so there is merit to it.
There is strategy to master to crafting and sending email newsletters and garnering click-throughs. A well-written e-newsletter can gather new leads for your company, offer an avenue of communication between you and your current customers, as well as give an impression of authority and expertise in your industry. Newsletters also nurture leads that may not have purchased from your online store before but may very well convert. E-newsletters serve as a direct open line of communication between the customer and your company. Continue reading Maximizing Marketing Strategies for an Ecommerce Newsletter