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Everything You Should Know about WooCommerce Gift Guides

October 10, 2018 - 7 Comments

I love to give people gifts. There’s something so cool about finding the perfect item for someone based on an offhand comment, something you noticed, or something they didn’t realize they needed. But… finding a great gift is hard when you don’t have the perfect idea ready to go. I find giving gifts toughest to do around the holidays because I’m looking for gifts for a lot of people at once.

At this time of year, I want help to generate ideas. I’ll often know of a store that my gift recipient likes, but I might not have a particular item in mind. I find gift guides extremely useful in this situation — I’ll visit a store, see that they have “Gifts for brothers”, “Gifts for moms”, or similar, and check out a few guides to find something my recipient will like.

Gift guides are a really useful tool for new customers and can be key to encouraging that first order from a customer. Once someone has purchased once, you’re in a better position to market to them and encourage them to come back after the holidays — repeat customers have a 27% chance of returning, so gift guides are worth the initial investment to start a relationship with a customer.

For returning customers, gift guides also have value. They help focus customer attention on specific items and help existing customers who are already loyal to your shop find the perfect item even when they don’t have something specific in mind.

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How to Build a Membership Site on WordPress

April 10, 2018 - 12 Comments

“I’m building a membership site.”

Those five words can have drastically different meanings. A membership site can mean many things, including:

  • a site that lets people connect with one another
  • a site to teach people something
  • a site to send members a package of goodies every month
  • a site to give certain customers special perks

There are a lot of different models for a membership site, so it can be difficult to know how you should set it up. What types of setups are possible? What tools are available for your desired setup?

To determine what setup is best for your WordPress membership site, you’ll need to define what your site should do, how you interact with members, and what the interaction between members looks like.

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Understanding Automation for eCommerce Stores

February 6, 2018 - 1 Comment

“Automation” gets thrown around like a dirty word when used in relation to your business:

  • “I don’t want to automate customer service, I hate not talking to a real person.”
  • “I don’t want to automate emails, they’ll lose their personal feel.”
  • “I won’t automate these fulfillment workflows, I want to be sure they’re accurate.”

Too often, we equate automation with call menus — “press 4 if you want me to repeat these options…” — which can be frustrating to work with as a customer. But automation doesn’t have to be synonymous with poor quality and impersonality. It is an investment: automating parts of your business is a way for you to purchase attention, so you can focus on other parts of your company.

As a business owner, maximizing your time spent on innovation or high-impact tasks helps you dedicate time to improvement and growth. Most merchants need to focus on a niche or USP to compete in eCommerce, and hone in on building a brand around what makes them unique. Automating lower priority tasks means you and the people who work for you can spend your time focusing on the things that will really help you compete.

As a shop admin (or a developer helping shop admins!) there are several opportunities for automation to consider, and some strategies to uncover those opportunities.

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Myths, strengths, and weaknesses of open eCommerce

November 29, 2017 - 3 Comments

It can be daunting to know where to get started if you’ve not worked with or used open source software before.

“Where do I turn when I have questions? How do I go about setting up this software? Who is building it?”

When you’re looking to build a business on top of this software, you want to have confidence that the tools you’re choosing will last, and will be the right fit for your store.

While it may seem like the path towards using open eCommerce platforms is less transparent for a new merchant, open platforms like WooCommerce give merchants unparalleled flexibility, freedom, and sustainability while powering their business.

Let’s take a look at some of the myths of open eCommerce, and its strengths and weaknesses, to learn more about how it can be a huge win for merchants.

But first, a story:

A business squashed by closed commerce

Imagine that you’ve built your own successful business selling laptop stands. It’s taken four years to get here, much of which was spent:

  • Designing your laptop stands and building prototypes of the product
  • Sourcing production materials and determining manufacturing cost per unit
  • Figuring out where and how you’d manufacture your product
  • Determining how much inventory you need on hand and replenishment strategies

…all before you could even think about how you’d sell this product and make money from it. Only then you could talk about sales and distribution strategies. You decided to sell via your own online store and Amazon, and now you’ve finally passed a milestone after a year and a half of sales: your company generated $1.5 million in revenue this year.

You’re a model seller on Amazon, with 98% positive feedback, 99% on-time delivery for all orders, and a 0.11% defective product rate. Amazon now generates 80% of your revenue.

However, since you sell laptop stands, your customers are a bit more tech-savvy than most. They know that if they want to try out a different stand, there are two ways to get free return shipping on Amazon: say the product was defective or “not as advertised”, and the seller pays for return shipping. Despite your wonderful track record, it only takes a small amount of negative feedback like this (5-10 instances) to be completely removed from Amazon.

That means that, overnight, your business of nine people must lay off four employees or more, and you have over $350,000 in inventory you can’t sell and are paying to store. Your effective business has been effectively squashed. And by the way, this really happened — you can read about it (different product, same situation).

While we could look at this as a cautionary tale about selling in a marketplace, I see this more as a larger concern: Merchants should evaluate their reliance on a platform that can shut down or remove them at any time in terms of acceptable risk factors for their business.

The beauty of open source eCommerce and WooCommerce is they can empower merchants to start their own businesses without relying on the whims of their platform.

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