Monday, March 19, 2007

Tips & Tricks: getting creative with coupons

Electronic coupons are a great marketing tool.

Most (good) small biz e-commerce software includes a bunch of features to create and manage electronic coupons (or "discount codes").

You can use them in a variety of ways to promote higher and more frequent purchases on your online store. Remember, there are two great ways to increase sales without acquiring new customers (i.e. without incurring customer acquisition costs):
  • increasing repeat purchases
  • increasing the average purchase amount
A quick example that takes little time to setup: promote a repeat purchase by adding an electronic coupon to the Order Confirmation or Order Shipped email. The idea is obvious: "hey, come back to our store! Here's a 10% discount for your next purchase."

For a more targeted marketing campaign, you could restrict the coupon to a certain order amount and/or a certain category of products (e.g. "Come back to our store and buy at least $50, and here is $10 off" or "Come back and get 20% off our winter jackets!").

On my company's Web site we have a page that contains more examples of how to use electronic coupons creatively on your online store. You shopping cart provider might have done the same.

To do list:
  • Review your shopping cart software's User Guide for details on electronic coupons
  • Figure out what you can and cannot do and... push those features to the limit!
  • Write down at least 5 ways to use an electronic coupon on your store
  • Turn each idea into a marketing campaign!

Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Build online sales... offline

More and more companies are finding that one way to grow online sales is go back... offline. Should you? It's worth taking a look.

The buzz word these days is "multi-channel" retailing, which is the idea that to maximize sales, you need to put your products in front of potential customers using different channels.

The talented writers at Internet Retailers have written several great articles on this. I do encourage you to get a subscription to the magazine (it's free). There's definitely a lot to learn from reading what other businesses are doing.

What does multi-channel retailing mean to you? If you have a retail shop, you're already a multi-channel retailer: is that a fancy title or what?

One way to become a multi-channel retailer is to try out printed catalogs. Wait... weren't printed catalogs dead? Apparently not. In fact, there have been several case studies written about the fact that printed catalogs can help drive Web sales. For example, here are a couple of Internet Retailer articles on using print catalogs to do just that:
Printing out a catalog does not cost a fortune: tons of companies compete like crazy on this kind of service. Try it out and see what happens. For example:
  • Pick a few hundred customers that have already placed an order on your store
  • Send them a catalog
  • Track the conversion
How can you track the conversion?
  • Use your ecommerce software to create an electronic coupon that can be redeemed on your online store (e.g. one time coupon for 10% off).
  • Include the coupon only in the printed catalog
  • Make sure that you can get a sales report based on the coupon. Good shopping cart software like our ProductCart (and many of our competitors' as well) can do that.

Let us know how it went!

Friday, March 2, 2007

Ecommerce Features and Cash Flow

I can't tell you how many times I see businesses make this mistake:
  • They want to create an ecommerce store
  • They have in mind a certain set of features
  • Some of those features are not supported "out of the box" by any popular ecommerce system
  • They spend time and money adding them to the shopping cart software that they decide to buy.

Wrong way to go...

Of course, if one or more of those new features are crucial to your business, then you have no choice. But in the vast majority of cases... don't start developing before you start selling!

In most cases, the right way to go is...

  • Phase 1: Open your online store and start generating some positive cash flow
  • Phase 2: Based on your experience running the store, develop a Wish List of new features that you want to add and set priorities for all of them
  • Phase 3: Start devoting time and money to implementing the new features based on those priorities.

There are always exceptions, but being successful online normally takes time: don't run out of money before you get there!

On another note: My friends at BAIA recently published an interview with me on their BLOG, in case you want to know more about what I'm up to :-)