Archive for the ‘eCommerce News’ Category

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.

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.

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.

10 Things You Probably Shouldn’t Buy Online

Asking if Brand Labs loves ecommerce is like asking if Jeff Bridges makes awesome movies. The answer is obvious.  (We are still debating on whether or not the Tron remake did the original justice, but we’re also realists. We understand that even awesome things may not be awesome for everything. For example, The Dude will go down in history as one of the great characters in American cinema, while the whiny, sex-phobic math nerd Bridges played in The Mirror Has Two Faces just makes us sad.) That said, we’re well aware ecommerce isn’t 100% ideal for every, single purchase you make.

To help you avoid any potential problems that could arise from copping certain items off the Internet, here are ten purchases you might be better off making in person. You do remember how that works, right?

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Dual-Site Shopping Carts Make Buying Meaningless Items Like Neckties That Much Easier

Typically, the only time we break out our neckties here at Brand Labs is if we’re dressing up as Gomez during our monthly Addams Family-themed business meetings. On all other occasions, that whole cloth-choker-around-the-neck type deal isn’t really our thing. But, being the ecommerce junkies we are, that doesn’t mean we weren’t intrigued when we heard that Ties.com and Scarves.com had implemented a shared shopping cart experience between their two sites.

According to an article from PRWeb, these two highly-trafficked, accessory-based online retailers have linked together to help customers laterally shop amongst their respective products with ease. Prior to this tag-team effort, certain companies like Banana Republic had implemented similar cross-selling strategies with partners, but what separates these two Wild Attire Inc. properties from their more notable competition is that their customers can seamlessly shop between both sites within the same tab and never lose their shopping cart spot when navigating from one property to another. The functionality is a minor addition to the domains, but has turned out a huge response. Despite launching this e-merger only this earlier this year, referral traffic from Ties.com to Scarves.com has already risen by 50%, while overall sales figures for 2012 could increase average order rates by 25%. Not too shabby for a couple places that sell loose fabric you wrap around your neck, huh?

Although we personally haven’t bought any attire from either of the two sites, we did experiment with the navigation and agree that being able to bounce back and forth between carts while browing is quite nice and would definitely help keep our ideas intact while doing frantic and thoughtless Christmas shopping for ten people at once on December 23rd. Not like we would ever do that or anything.

What do you think, is a cross-selling shopping cart between two ecommerce retailers like this something you’d like to see more shops use? Or, is this just another feature you feel is simply trying to lure you into buying more products you don’t need?

Ecommerce Economic Defense Initiative – Official Launch Press Release

Logo for the Ecommerce Economic Defense Initiative ©2012 Brand Labs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Ecommerce Economic Defense Initiative Awards Over $60,000 in Prizes

The Ecommerce Economic Defense Initiative (EEDI) will award two separate ecommerce service grants in 2012 – each worth more than $30,000 – in their first-ever ecommerce grant competition.

Rochester, MI – Brand Labs – a studio specializing in ecommerce design, marketing, development and programming – has gathered together an alliance of online professionals with the proclaimed goal of “rescuing” the struggling economy by “utilizing the power of ecommerce.” The assembled group is called the Ecommerce Economic Defense Initiative (or the EEDI).

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We’ll See You at IRCE 2012 Next Week!

Ecommerce Economic Defense InitiativeThat’s right – Brand Labs will be exhibiting at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012 at McCormick Place West in Chicago, Illinois!  We’ll be in booth #1133 right next door to our besties, Volusion.  Our biggest bigwigs, Kevin Harman and Dane Downer will be in attendance along with senior account managers Katelyn Stanis and Ryan Forrest.  They’ll be working the booth all day and the dance floor all night.  You should definitely drop by if you’re looking for some high-quality ecommerce knowledge or some wicked sick dubstep.

Also in attendance will be Pauline Turner, our creative director.  She’ll be roaming the show floor and attending conferences as part of the Ecommerce Economic Defense Initiative street team.  She’ll be accompanied by an impossibly large hippie who may or may not be some sort of ex-convict that we hired as a temp off of craigslist.  If you see them, be sure to ask for the official EEDI swag that they’ll be handing out.

So if you’re an existing customer, but we’ve never met in person, come to booth 1133 and say hi!  If you’re not a customer yet, come by to find out why you should be.  As a matter of fact, no matter who you are you should stop by!  We can tell you about the huge contest we’re about to launch.  It’s really huge.  Like change-the-course-of-your-business huge.  It’s worth your time.

… and if you see the giant hippie, don’t look him directly in the eyes.

 

10 Reasons Your Volusion Store Needs Custom Development

Brand Labs is about a lot of things, but our real bread & butter is custom ecommerce development.  Yes, we design Volusion sites.  Yes, we build ecommerce apps.  We do a lot of things for a lot of online merchants, but custom development is the one thing we do that gives our clients an undeniable edge.  We say “undeniable” because when your store has something that your competitors don’t have, you’re ahead of the game before the shoppers even arrive.  By definition, you’re more prepared to serve their needs.  You’re more prepared to earn their trust.  You’re more prepared to win.

… but maybe you don’t think you need custom development on your site.  After all, Volusion does a good job of providing a feature-rich platform.  Why not just do what you can with what you’ve got?  Well, off the top of our heads, we can think of ten reasons…

  1. You’re unique.

    No matter what Volusion introduces, they don’t know you personally.  They don’t know the exact thing that you need to express your individuality properly.  They don’t know your particular value proposition.  That’s not a failing on their part, it’s simply a fact.  You are uniquely qualified to identify your store’s specific needs and to act on those needs.

  2. You’re not doing everything you can with your Volusion store.

    You know that smart phone in your pocket?  You’re currently using about 4% of its total capabilities (we may have just made that figure up).  That phone can do amazing things and you’re using it primarily to text people that you’re running late.  Your Volusion store is like that.  It can do amazing things that you’re currently not using.  Are you using the Deal of the Day function?  Is your mobile store set up properly?  Are you doing everything that Volusion allows you to do out of the box?  Probably not.  So, if we may continue to use the smart phone comparison: even though your phone is capable of doing a lot of things that you aren’t using, you still paid extra to download Angry Birds because it was a specific need that you were able to identify and address (i.e. your deep need to throw birds at pigs).  Custom development is like that.  You should definitely try to use all of the great functionality that’s built right in to Volusion, but just because you’re not, that doesn’t mean that you can’t add some features of your own.  Custom development for your Volusion store is just like apps for your iPhone.

  3. You’ve got ideas.

    Just because we’re ecommerce experts (and Volusion is filled with ecommerce experts), that doesn’t mean that we (or they) have thought up every single thing than could ever possibly be thunk.  You have insight.  You have a plan.  You know things about your business that we don’t, but we definitely know how to act on your ideas.  Don’t let your ideas die in your head.

  4. You’re probably right.

    You know that one thing that you think you know better than anyone else?  That one annoying thing that seems so simple and would make your life as an ecommerce merchant so much easier?  Or make your store more successful?  You’re probably right. Why not fix it instead of just letting it drive you insane?

    Read the rest of the list after the jump… (more…)

We’re Going to Make You Cry, Then (While You’re Emotionally Vulnerable) We’re Going to Talk About Ecommerce In a Way That May Seem Crass In Context, But We Assure You That Our Motives Are Pure, So Just Go With It

While searching the Internet this morning for important new pictures of baby sloths, we stumbled on the video we’ve posted below.  Before you play it, we’d like to warn you about a few things.  First, it’s eleven minutes long.  Second, you’re going to want to watch all of it.  Finally, unless your heart is a tiny, ice-cold cinder, you’re going to cry.  We’re misting up just thinking about it, but that might be because we’re also listening to Sarah McLachlan, so we’re probably thinking about that frigging animal shelter commercial that always drops like a bomb into the middle of whatever lighthearted romp you’re watching on TV and brings your life to a screeching halt while you scrape together all of your change to donate just so you can make all the big-eyed homeless puppies stop crying in HD all up in your grill.

The video below is the opposite of that.  Enjoy.

 

Okay… now just pull yourself together now so we can talk about this like the totally composed businesspeople we are.  So, that was deeply charming on a lot of levels – the boundless and inspiring enthusiasm of youth, the near-universal love of The Arcade and the way that something so frivolous can bind us all at such a basic level, the unqualified support of a working class father for his son’s passion project, the pride of accomplishment – there’s a lot of real genuine heart-string-plucking going on here.

but did you notice how no one gave a crap about Caine’s Arcade until a savvy outsider stepped in and started a social media campaign in support of it?  Did you further notice that Caine’s Arcade also benefited from the Holy Grail of viral luck – an appearance on the front page of reddit?  The Internet basically prevented this from being an incredibly sad or possibly even heart-crushingly tragic story.  Let’s talk about how all of this could have played out after the jump…

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