Ecommerce Christmas: A Journey To Holiday Success

As part of the holiday festivities around Brand Labs’ offices, our design team mocked up a holiday card. While that may not seem impressive at first, keep in mind this card doesn’t just include employees posing in ugly sweaters or simply offer well wishes. Instead, this holiday card is a road map to holiday success in the ecommerce world. A Journey To Holiday Success, if you will.

Below is the final product and below that is the original sketch our designer Tim drew, before making it digital and extra awesome. Plus, the two step-process does a great job reinforcing our full-scale design skills, for any companies who might be interested in having us design logos and site graphics.

Enjoy the journey and have a great holiday season!

Original Sketch:

 

Twas The (Last Online Shopping) Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the last online shopping night before Christmas, and all through the house,

The only thing you could hear was me clicking my mouse.

In the cold dark of night, my computer screen glowed

Searching RetailMeNot for the right coupon code.

My laptop sputtered and chugged as I browsed all the Net.


There were gremlins inside it, I’m willing to bet!

eBay loaded so slow that I just felt betrayed.

I should’ve bought my computer from Mac of All Trades.


Could my presents arrive by December 24th?

Six days? Was I ordering from the pole in the north?

And I wanted free shipping, but it was too late.

Amazon wanted 35 bucks for that date!


And then, from behind, I heard a tiny voice squeak.

It shocked me so much that I let out a shriek!

I shot from my chair and I covered my screen

Before the pictures upon it could ever be seen.


Standing there was my son, his young eyes all agape,

His pajamas, the dark purple of a sugar plum or a grape;

His hair was all tousled, his big belly stuck out,

And I think there was drool coming out of his mouth.


He had seen all of Star Wars for the very first time,

And all he wanted ever since was to be a Jedi.

After days on the hunt, I found the most perfect gift.

A light saber from Ultra Sabers — and the shipping was swift!


So I gave him a cookie and I sent him to bed,

And in the silence, I thought I’d heard the faint sound of a sled?

The soft jingling of bells on the snow-covered roof,

Then the click-clack of…no, couldn’t be…not a hoof.


The hour was late, and my mind was perplexed,

Clearly lacking in sleep. Would I hear reindeer calls next?

“Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen!”


I flew to the window and poked my head out.

From the roof up above, I had heard a great shout,

But when I looked all around, there was little but night:

Empty streets, barren sky, save a craft taking flight.


I ran to the living room when the vessel was gone.

In my stocking, a new disc: Star Trek II: Wrath of Kahn!

On the table, mere crumbs of cookies left on a plate,

The glass of milk empty, a Thank You note set in place.


And the pile of gifts had swelled ‘neath the tree:

Brand new bikes, air purifiers (of course from Oransi),

And, oh, the very thing my whole family needed most:

A Shore Ex vacation going up the east coast!


My shopping was over; the presents, they came.

I whispered my thanks to the gift-giver by name.

For free shipping, I’d not had to pay one more dime.

St. Nick had delivered – screw you, Amazon Prime!



-Happy Holidays, from the entire Brand Labs family.

Transitioning from an SMB to Mid-Market Ecommerce Platform



Ten Essential Planning Exercises to Ensure a Smooth Launch

If you are a small business owner thinking about re-platforming, odds are that your rapid growth has left your Ecommerce ecosystem looking like a Jenga® tower on the verge of collapse. Your business needs are growing beyond the means of the platform, yet you continue to push its limits by adding block after block of piecemealed functionality. Pushing the boundaries of the architecture by building ad hoc solutions has created an unstable base that is starting to teeter. With every addition, the entire system becomes less stable, less reliable and more likely to fail.

This degradation of your ecosystem coupled with the growing expectation of a frictionless shopping experience by more sophisticated online retail audiences has you quickly losing marketshare to the competition. So what will transitioning to a mid-market platform do? Re-platforming will not only stabilize your infrastructure, but also empower the business to be more competitive and scale for growth as your business evolves. It provides the ideal opportunity to connect or retool existing and third-party assets and integrations. Ultimately a platforming endeavor should move your site onto an elegantly designed, scalable, rock solid ecommerce platform that maximizes revenue potential.

If the above describes your current situation, then it is officially time to start actively exploring transition strategies. The following Top 10 list will help you start forming a plan of attack.

Brand Labs developed this Top 10 list to help ease our clients’ transition from their current platform to Mozu. In combination, these exercises help key stakeholders know the up-front preparation needed to mitigate risk, control costs and drastically improve their sites’ speed to market.

1) Define Goals and Objectives

The goals and objectives behind a transition to the Mozu platform are the measure of a project’s success or failure, and should be considered critical. Write them down, be detailed, and clearly communicate them to your internal teams and partners.

2) Conduct a SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis is a structured planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a Mozu re-platforming project.

Strengths: Characteristics of the new platform that give it advantages over the current
Weaknesses: Characteristics that place the mid-market platform at a disadvantage relative to the current platform
Opportunities: Elements that the new platform could exploit to its advantage
Threats: Elements in the environment that could create challenges for the new platform

3) Perform a Gap Analysis

This involves determining and documenting the difference between your business requirements and current capabilities.

4) Create a RACI Chart

Considering the tremendous number of moving pieces involved in a proper re-platforming initiative and the sizable team behind executing a project of this size, understanding the roles and responsibilities of team members is critical for organization.

5) Gather Requirements

The most important step in controlling costs is gathering proper requirements. Brand Labs leaves nothing to the imagination; detail at a granular level should be specified with the deliverable being an unambiguous and close-ended requirements document that’s been vetted by stakeholders. Insufficient requirements gathering will result in scope creep and missed deadlines.

6) Develop a Proper Sitemap

● A sitemap is a list of every page on a website.
● Defining the sites’ category structure in sitemap form will allow content to be more easily inventoried and help solidify the content migration plan.

7) Prepare a Content Inventory & Migration Plan

Content migration refers to moving content (e.g., landing pages, product pages. etc.) from the old platform to Mozu. This process requires taking thorough inventory of every page and deciding if and how the content needs to find its way onto the new site.

8) Create Site Wireframes

● Wireframes are a visual guide that represents the skeletal framework of a website.
● A wireframe lacks typographic style,color,or graphics since the main focus lies in depicting site functionality and structure.

9) Have a Data Migration Plan

● By far, the most important and complex exercise on our list;. data migration is the most overlooked and underestimated process in transitioning platforms.
● Brand Labs’ migration plans move product and customer information from the legacy platform to Mozu while protecting the data, maintaining data integrity, and allowing for its full utilization on the new platform.

10) Find a Great Partner

Developing solid agency and vendor relationships is a huge part of guaranteeing a successful transition. Align yourself with companies that don’t just fit from a technology standpoint, but also meld with your company culture.

Transitioning from an SMB to a Mid-Market platform can seem daunting. By following these ten exercises, you’ll find that all the up front preparation will be rewarded with an on-time and on-budget launch.

Ecommerce Infographic: The Buying Power of Millenials

Is your company having trouble engaging the proper target market? Well, we all know teenagers are the loudest brand advocates and older generations have more purchasing power than most. But, don’t forget the Millennials. To highlight this evolving demographic and help ensure businesses can capitalize on their transitional understanding of the World Wide Web, our design team made this insightful infographic on Millennials and their online buying mentality.

Remember, men lie and women lie, but Ecommerce numbers do not. Use these stats wisely and your bottom line could be bulging in no time.

8 Ways To Earn More Facebook Likes

With 1.11 billion potential shoppers actively using Facebook, businesses have been racing for ways to build their presence on the popular social network and engage those users with their brand. However, with so many businesses vying for interest, most Facebook users only interact with the companies who make it easy or provide an incentive to do so. Yet, businesses who earn customers’ trust on Facebook essentially earn a qualified lead, so the benefit is huge.

To help companies earn clout on Facebook and generate the type of customer-focused and referral-based interactions necessary for repeat business in 2014, we have outlined 8 ways to earn more Likes on Facebook.

1) Post Quality Content: First and foremost, creating engaging content is the best way to generate brand buzz online. Seems so simple, right? Well, it’s not. To truly surround a business with buzz, companies must continually create engaging content that it’s demographics will latch on to, share, and hopefully encourage them to come back for more. Once users start seeing that level of quality content regularly, they’ll be enticed to keep coming back and eventually Like that business page – adding said business to their own timeline and subsequently seeing all their posts from then on.

Some easy ways to tap into the mindset of your target audience are by using Google Trends or Facebook Graph Search. Google Trends allows users to search broad terms and turn up popular trending topics from their industry, from within the search network. Facebook Graph Search allows business owners to search amongst info offered by people who have liked their page.

2) Stay Consistent: Not only should business owners be actively publishing engaging content, they should be posting on Facebook regularly. Don’t just post articles, then call it a successful social campaign. If business owners really want more Likes and action on their Facebook page, they must be regularly engage users.

They can do so by commenting on other business pages, their fans’ pages, or simply by sharing content that’s relevant to their business niche, which they feel will provide value to their followers. Posting consistently will reinforce the brand to users. If done well, the consistent posts will entice users to Like the business page and add said business to their Facebook Timeline – letting them see all their posts from then on.

3) Complete Your Business Profile: Facebook displays suggested business pages when a user searches for a specific business function (IE: ‘Heating & Cooling’). Businesses can give themselves the best opportunity to appear in those suggested results by completing their Facebook business page profile. Adding details such as Operating Hours, Tagline and Industry will enhance the chances of users seeing the page and giving it a Like.

4) Homepage Pop-Up: Adding a pop-up app, such as Like Box, to a Volusion or WordPress site will position the business Facebook page in a way that is very noticeable to site shoppers, encouraging them to see their mass of Facebook friends (reinforcing that others also Like the brand) and easily Like the page. To refrain from being annoying, allow around 10-20 seconds to pass before having the Like Box appear on page.

5) Incentivized Pop-Up: Very similar to the Like Box app. However, the difference is that this feature uses a third party called Shop Socially to administer the set-up and costs and can offer an incentive, enticing shoppers to Like a business’ Facebook page. To refrain from being annoying, allow around 10-20 seconds to pass before having the fly-out appear on page.

6) Facebook “Like” Ads: Although there are numerous types of ads Facebook offers, the “Like” ads are the most effective when trying to get more Likes. No surprise there. They work in two ways.

The first way is as second-hand referrals from Facebook (see above). They appear when people are using Facebook and show suggestions of pages they might like, based on friends’ interests.

The second way they appear is strictly as a recommended page you should Like or check out (see above), suggested from Facebook as a promoted ad, within a user’s news feed. For more specifics, please see set-up and pricing.

7) Post Engaging Images: In an era where Pinterest succeeds specifically on image sharing and Instagram has turned everyone into a professional photog, it’s clear people love pictures. Businesses can capitalize on this trend by posting pictures of products in-use, niche-specific topics or even quotes in design form on their business Facebook page.

If the pictures are good enough, people will start to Like the photos themselves. If business owners can stay consistent in posting the pictures, people will start to like business Facebook pages posting them – so they can see those business pages regularly on their Facebook Timeline.

8) Run A Contest: This is one of the most fun ways to engage users to Like your business page. Plus, they won’t bat an eye before actually hitting the Like button. However, the only difficulty with this option is that there must be a legitimate prize given away.

To start a contest, business owners must first generate the rules of said giveaway, spelling out the stipulations, requirements and prizes.Then, they should just make one of the rules in the contest that anyone who participates must Like the company’s business page. If the prize is good enough and your audience is broad, Likes will start pouring in. Other contest options are available, as well.

Seasons Greetings from Brand Labs

Seasons Greetings from Brand Labs

In our quest to keep up with the latest web technologies, apps, and social media sites, Brand Labs thought it would be fun to play with Vine to create a special holiday message for all our clients and everyone everywhere. Our whole team got together and made some short Vine videos that we’ve assembled into a special webpage.

From all of us at Brand Labs, we wish you the best this holiday season!
Now cuddle up next to your fireplace and Charlie Brown Christmas Tree and check out the fun →

Charlie Brown Tree

The Amazing 2013 eCommerce Holiday Shopping Season

It’s our favorite time of year at Brand Labs!

Ugly holiday sweaters and home-made cookie contests aside, what spreads the most holiday cheer around Brand Labs is seeing clients sales skyrocket through November & December! It’s true. We love seeing revenue records broken in 2013 and pushing strongly into 2014. We want nothing more than to call up a client only to have them tell us they’re just too busy to talk right now due to the volume of orders they must fulfill.

This type of steady growth in internet retail year over year is an exciting trend… not just with our clients, but with the entire industry. In 2012, online holiday sales grew 14 percent compared to 2011. It was estimated they would increase by only 12 percent. Early estimates this season is a 15% increase over last year. Here’s hoping your 4th quarter meets or exceeds your wildest expectations!

From all of us at Brand Labs to all of our clients, we wish you the best of holiday shopping seasons!

Volusion V13 Update: First-Hand Breakdown of New Features

As promised, Volusion has raised the curtain on a handful of new rollouts. But, before we embark on an adjective frenzy to display our happiness for V13 updates like enhanced mobile capabilities, automatic tax rates, Volusion mobile apps and new storefront page editor, let’s cut to the chase and get into some first-hand details. We spent the past week playing around with the different features and here are our findings.

mobile storefront volusion v13

Enhanced Mobile Commerce

With more people than ever buying directly from the phone or tablet, ecommerce stores should be putting their best foot forward on mobile devices. In order to help storeowners cater to on-the-fly buyers, Volusion has rolled out a long-awaited mobile commerce update.

Aside from minor aesthetics enhancements, the main functionality upgrade appears during checkout. On the old checkout process, mobile users would go through the buying cycle via a mobile-friendly version of the site. Then, when time came to complete the order, customers were redirected back to the non-mobile version of the checkout page.

Now, shoppers will see a mobile-friendly version of the desired site throughout the entire buying cycle, from start to cart. While functionality of the product and category pages are relatively untouched, the checkout process is now much easier to manage. No longer will users be required to expand tiny, non-mobile friendly buttons to go from page to page. Instead, they’re served up a clean and seamless cart experience, which will inevitably get them through the process faster and increase conversion rates for site owners.

Furthermore, the upgrade gives owners the option to add custom field names for checkout pages, add custom contact information in the footer of checkout pages and the ability to display detected credit card type when customer enters credit card information.

How To Set-Up: To enable mobile enhancements, simply go into your Volusion admin dashboard, navigate to Design > Mobile, then under select ‘on,’ under Mobile Checkout.

storefront

New Storefront Page Editor

In the past, when Voluson users attempted to make seemingly easy aesthetics changes to their storefront, the process required an FTP upload or knowledge of HTML coding. Now, to help store owners offer timely updates and promotions, Volusion has unveiled the new Easy Editor for impromptu site alterations in both their store and admin area.

In the admin, the ‘What You See Is What You Get’ tool allows users to adjust HTML in product or category descriptions and article bodies with half the effort. For instance, say someone wants to add in a hyperlink to a specific product description, directing users to an associated item. Well, with Easy Editor, all they have to do is highlight the field, click Edit and a new toolbar will appear (similar to Word Press or Microsoft Word). Then, users can easily add in styling like hyperlinks, color, font adjustments and paragraph indentations – without having to know HTML at all, which had long been a drawback of field editing for our clients.

volusion v13 easy editor

Another great way to use Easy Editor is when swapping out product pictures. Instead of having to use a FTP server as an intermediary between their site and computer, users can now add or replace pictures in the admin panel or storefront by selecting the ‘Insert Image’ icon and selecting the appropriate picture from their computer, or linking from a URL. From there, users can adjust the image further, by clicking ‘Edit,’ which allows them to resize the picture and add the appropriate tags. Adding updated product photos or pictures for Learning Center articles has never been easier.

Lastly, users can now make quick alterations to the hero image on their site, simply by hovering over them and clicking ‘Edit’. For example, if a site were running a Christmas-themed special for the holidays, this feature would hypothetically allow users to replace their generic banner with a holiday-themed banner, without having to use FTP.

For a full list of the added alteration options that will help your brand implement timely taglines and prioritized promotions for customers, read Volusion’s break-down of Easy Editor.

How To Set-Up: The features should be immediately implemented for up-to-date V13 users. Simply login to the admin interface, then browse around applicable areas and the Easy Editor options will become noticeable.

volusion v13 automatic tax rates

Automatic Tax Rates

In case anyone missed our blog post, Volusion has simultaneously solved all tax-related issues for eCommerce store owner’s, by rolling out their new Automatic Tax Rates calculator.

Essentially, the tool factors in all up-to-date tax variables on a customer-by-customer basis, coming up with the proper taxation for every buyer. As a result, store owners can focus less on managing variable tax rates per client and spend more time enhancing other aspects of their business.

How To Set-Up: To enable Automatic Tax Rates, log in to the admin dashboard, then go to Settings > Tax, then click ‘Settings.’ From there, users will be asked a few location-based questions, then whether they want to implement Automatic Tax Rates, to which they’d select ‘Use Automatic Tax Rates.’

volusion mobile apps

Volusion Mobile Apps

Most ecommerce storeowners can’t resist dipping into their dashboard. After all, a wealth of information about their business is only a login away and having up to date insight on their store status allows owners to adjust according to demand. Now, proactive owners can access vital store information even quicker, thanks to Volusion’s new native mobile app.

Upon installing the app on their mobile phone or tablet, storeowners can easily access store specifics, such as orders, revenue, stock status and more. For most intensive purposes, the mobile app offers everything users get from their desktop version, aside from merchandising.

Considering how hard much time entrepreneurs spend on their phone already, the only problem this new rollout presents will be getting them off the darn things.

How To Set-Up: The Volusion app is available in the Apple App Store and Google Play. To enable them, simply download, install and login with your store credentials.

For more information on all the new updates to Volusion V13, check out their official press release and all associated video explanations, which are quite helpful.

Brand Labs & the Mozu Platform




With Volusion’s official unveiling of its new commerce platform, Mozu, Brand Labs is thrilled to finally openly discuss the release with our clients and the entire interweb. Our relationship with Volusion, Inc. as a trusted solutions partner for over seven years allowed us the privilege of early access to “look under the hood” of the Mozu platform. With multiple trips to Austin (Volusion Inc. headquarters) over the past year, we have witnessed the virtual sea of amazing talent working tirelessly on Mozu. The platform promises a limitless enterprise-level commerce solution and we believe that it will deliver.


Why are we so pumped about Mozu?

Brand Labs is fanatical about creating engaging e-commerce experiences and enhancing the Volusion platform for some of the community’s top brands. While we maintain and strengthen our commitment to the Volusion platform community, the addition of Mozu allows Brand Labs to flex its proverbial ecommerce muscles in delivering unparalleled creative vision, technical wizardry and strategic direction to our mid- to enterprise-level customers.


How will Mozu allow us to push the boundaries of commerce?

Let’s take a quick look at the key feature sets that make Mozu an incredibly flexible / scalable platform designed to deliver a unified shopping experience across web, mobile and retail stores.


1. Commerce + CMS converged:

Mozu combines seamless publishing and content management in a fully integrated experience

Note: Mozu combines the power, flexibility and ease of a CMS like WordPress with enterprise level commerce. Beautiful.


2. Multi-brand, multi-site:

Mozu’s infrastructure and integrations allow merchants to manage multiple sites and connect data within one platform

Note: The ultimate in scalability and flexibility… connecting multiple data sources to one platform.


3. Responsive design:

Mozu provides retailers a beautifully seamless design experience for any shopper on any device.

Note: A prerequisite or standard moving forward for any enterprise level client. Responsive design allows Brand Labs to develop design systems resulting in design, development and maintenance efficiencies.


4. Omni-channel optimization:

Retailers using Mozu can efficiently manage all of their e-commerce properties and sales channels via one online admin

Note: One admin folks, it’s a must have.


5. Best-in-class usability:

Unlike other enterprise commerce platforms, Mozu creates efficiencies by providing intuitive site building and customer engagement via a simplified, enjoyable user experience

Note: This one is a little difficult to picture without giving you access to an account to see for yourself, but the Mozu team kept the interface simple but powerful.


6. API-first development:

Online retailers can easily connect their existing technologies and limitlessly expand by using the same API technology used to develop the Mozu platform

Note: The API is what allows Brand Labs to really shine technically without limitations. The completely open API allows us to advance the platform and meet our clients every need.


We anxiously await Mozu’s official launch on January 13-15, 2014, at the National Retail Foundation’s “BIG Show” in New York City (booth #707). As a Mozu agency partner, Brand Labs is poised and ready to deliver the same high level of service the Volusion community has experienced and been accustomed to for years. Intrigued by the platform? Want to know more? We’d love to open up a dialogue on how Mozu and Brand Labs can help you achieve ecommerce success.

Having Trouble Setting-Up Tax Rates On Your Store? Volusion’s Got Your Answer

Anyone who’s ever maintained an eCommerce store has surely been stumped when trying to implement up to date tax rates. Thankfully, Volusion has released a brand new feature that brings complete automation to this once arcane and manual process.

In just a few simple steps, this new feature eliminates the tedious work, leaving store owners with a completely automated sales tax tool.

For any owner who signed up after November 7, 2013, the upgrade is already in affect and sales tax headaches should be resolved. Woo-hoo! However, for users with an existing store pre-dating the roll-out, automated tax rates can be enabled by going to the admin dashboard, then going to Settings > Tax, then clicking ‘Settings.’ From there, they’ll be prompted with the quick, three-step process below and on their way to implementing up to the date tax rates for every order, without all the hassle.

Pretty easy, right? Not only do we love the ease of implementation, but we appreciate that it’s coming directly before the ensuing holiday madness – meaning that store owners can rest easy knowing that they aren’t over or under charging customers the right amount of sales tax.

Anyone who still has questions on Automatic Tax Rates, should make sure to watch this instructional video from the Volusion team on how implement the upgrade, step by step. If not, enjoy the hassle-free tax rationale and have a successful holiday selling season!

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