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Expand to International Markets

Expand Your Sales to International Markets

I look at many e-commerce websites on a daily basis.  A  number of these websites based in the United States indicate that they do not sell internationally for a number of reasons.  If you don’t sell your product on an international level, then you are missing out on 70% of the world’s buying power.  The international market is open to US businesses.  The US commercial services website has great reasons to ship internationally:

how to ship international

Is It Complicated?

I would say that this reason comes up more than any other. People think international shipments are complicated.  It is hard to know what form to fill out when, they are worried about fraud or they don’t know how much to charge due to duties and taxes.  This is what I hear, but  the reality is that it isn’t complicated at all.

According to the export.gov website there were 9.2 million Canadians that purchased at least one item from an e-commerce store based in the United States.  Canadians are the simplest market to sell to if you are in the United States because they already buy from the USA online.  This means that they are aware of the charges.  With NAFTA in place, often times the charges to ship to Canada are less than what it would be if you were selling else where in the world.  If you aren’t shipping internationally, I challenge you to start with Canada to test out international shipping.  This will allow you to see how easy it actually is.

An important decision when selling to international markets is the shipping carrier you work with.  Obviously initially you are thinking to yourself that the cheapest carrier is the one you go with because this will get you the most sales.  On that note I will compare the cheapest option which is the USPS at the moment.  I will compare the USPS with shipping internationally with UPS.

Shipping internationally UPS vs USPS

The basics are that UPS is more expensive than USPS.  Does this mean you should choose USPS immediately?  That depends on a number of things.  Let us work with the assumption that  UPS is three times as expensive as USPS.  If it costs $25 to ship the package with USPS then it costs $75 to ship it with UPS.  In this example we are talking about shipping over seas because UPS does have a ground service to Canada that is more cost effective.  Honestly, if you are shipping to Canada after the examples I give you shouldn’t have any reason to use USPS when going to Canada.

Issue #1 Tracking

When it comes to tracking who is better at this internationally?  The USPS does not offer door to door tracking to all locations.  This list tells you what countries door to door tracking is available to:

Countries on the left door to door is available.

Countries that support E-DelCon Service
as of January 17, 2016
E-DelCon Service was temporarily suspended
as of June 12, 2014
Australia Brazil
Belgium Denmark
Canada Gibraltar
Croatia Italy
Estonia Luxembourg
Finland Portugal
France
Germany
Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Hungary
Israel
Latvia
Lebanon
Lithuania
Malaysia
Malta
Netherlands
New Zealand
Norway
Singapore
Slovak Republic
Spain
Switzerland
Turkey

A separate list is available for Priority packages:

Countries that support ECOMPRO Service
as of January 2017
Barbados
Belarus
Bhutan
Canada
Cape Verde
Djibouti
Georgia, Republic of
Ghana
Jordan
Lithuania
Maldives
Moldova
Poland
South Africa
Switzerland
Vietnam

For more information on this go to this link:  USPS international shipping door to door

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USPS limits door to door tracking availability to the countries listed above.  This means when you sell a product to a customer who is in a country that is not listed, the customer can say they never received it whether they actually received it or not.

 

Most market places like Ebay or Etsy will required you show a tracking number showing that the package was actually delivered.  If you cannot prove this then they will reward a refund to the buyer automatically.  In these cases you have to refund the buyer their money or ship them out a  new product.  In either case you have lost money on the transaction.  If you ship another you have to eat two shipping costs now, plus two product costs, not to mention time and labor dealing with the situation.  If your Product costs you $50 to make, and you sell it for $100.  Then you have lost $50 in product cost, plus $25 in shipping with the USPS.  The second time you send the product to that country where USPS doesn’t provide door to door tracking it is likely you will choose another carrier, so let’s assume you chose UPS, now you have to pay $75 to make sure that the product gets there since UPS offers door to door tracking to every country it delivers to.

 

Your costs are at $125 now a -$75 ROI for the transaction.

This assumes that the buyer paid the original shipping costs of $25 from the USPS.  This doesn’t include the $50 in product cost that you lose because you could have sold the replacement product for $100 to someone else had the first one arrived safe and sound.  This doesn’t account for the negative reviews you may get because of the time it took to complete this transaction.  Negative reviews hurt businesses in ways that cannot be calculated.  If someone posts a negative review on facebook to their friends, and they have 10,000 friends in that country, then you have decreased the chances of getting a re-order from that country in the future.  If the same buyer had a positive experience, and they post a positive review, then you have increased your chances.  This is why positive engagements are so important.

UPS is a single carrier network

UPS is a single carrier network meaning that the UPS driver that picks up your domestic ground and air packages also picks up your International shipments.  Even Fed-ex has two different drivers for domestic ground and Air/International shipments.  This means that UPS will be the only company handling your package from door to door, even internationally!  The USPS hands their packages off to the post office of the destination country.  You can imagine that different countries have invested different amounts in their postal system.  Let’s say you are shipping to a country that you wouldn’t travel to because you wouldn’t feel safe.  Is it wise to ship a product with your brand tied to it to the same country without the protection of an American company like UPS?  Are you willing to put your reputation in the hands of a postal system operating in a foreign country?

To Be continued

There is much more to discuss on international shipping via your e-commerce site.  I will continue this in a series throughout this week.  You will see a new category to the right titled international ecommerce.   Click there to see the series in whole, once it is completed.

 

Thank you for  reading!  Share with your friends if you find this valuable.

 

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The Unboxing Experience

What is the Unboxing Experience?

The unboxing experience is the moment your customer receives their package and opens it.  This seems obvious, but if you think about your last few packages you received, was there anything special or memorable about the experience?  We have written about engagement several times and how important it is to keep customers coming back.  The point of increasing engagement with your customers is to make sure that they share your business with their friends.  If you sell your products through multiple sites like Amazon, Etsy or Ebay as well as your own website, then you will want to drive your customer re-orders to the store that gives you the most margin on your sales.

This seems obvious, but I purchase a number of items online from stores that are terrible at follow up after the sale.  Your packaging can create a memorable experience for your customer.  One company that does this well is Mary Kay.  Here is an example of a package you would get if you received an order from Mary Kay:

The Unboxing experience

Compelled to Share on Social Media

You see the Mary Kay box, and it is unique.  This is an example of packaging that you want to share with your friends.  Usually if you want to show your friends that you purchased something cool you will take the product out of the package and discard the packaging.  If you are a small business, then you know it is difficult to differentiate yourself from the competition.

 

Shipping your product in a regular brown box with a regular shipping label like what you receive from a company like Amazon will not help you distinguish yourself in anyway.  I recommend looking into customized packaging to see what is available to you.  Companies like UPS have also come up with solutions to help you brand your package by putting your logo on the label.  Here is an example of this:

UPS Branded labelOften Overlooked

This part of the overall process is often overlooked by many companies, and you will know this is true because most of the items you receive after buying items online show up in a regular brown box that looks just like every other box you have ever received.  As you grow your business the package you ship your item in will be as important as the item itself.  The package is attached to your brand.  One thing people say they like about Mary Kay is the packaging the product comes in.  Their package complements them before they ever put the product on.  This is why Mary Kay is on of the most successful MLM companies on the planet.  They don’t overlook the little things in the buying process.

 

No E-commerce Store?

If you haven’t set up your ecommerce store yet, I recommend looking at two different companies.  Both Shopify and Big Commerce have easy to use platforms that will allow you to set up your website and store within an hour.  Here are links to both:

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What Do You Think?

Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.  Share this with your social networks if you found this valuable.  Thanks for reading!

Breaking Down Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization

When you think about Search Engine Optimization or “SEO” It is important to know what it actually is, and what this does for you.  Breaking down the three words actually helps to tell the story as to what SEO is.

Search

When people search they are looking for something.  Google is still the primary source on the internet used for search.  A lot of times people will be searching for an answer to a question.  You need to consider the question your product is an answer to.

For example, an online store selling plants would need to answer a question like “what plant grows best in cold weather?”  This is why having a blog that answers questions to problems can help sell your product IF it answers the question.

Here is the data for keyword “fastest growing plant”

seo long tail

This data is from the Google Keyword tool  Read this to learn more about this.

Using our plant store example, we can see that  if the store wrote a blog optimized for indoor plants, then they would have 100,000 to 1,000,000 potential searches each month.

 

 

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The Engine

The engine part of the SEO has to do with Google always running.  They are always working to improve themselves to become more efficient.  In the past there were ways to fool the engine into giving you a higher rank.  The Google team has worked hard to weed out those people trying to cheat their SEO algorithm.  As a business owner you should appreciate this fact because if you can provide quality content along with a quality product, then Google will reward you for this.

Back to our plant example:  You need to think of SEO the way you imagine a tree growing from a seedling.  Depending on the tree you may water and feed it for months without yielding results.  If you are dedicated to your business then this is also to your benefit.  Continue to write quality content that answers questions for people, then have that content direct your readers to your E-commerce store.

Just like a tree does not grow over night, your website will not get visibility over night either.  The days of spamming popular keywords on sites are over.  The reward goes to the consistent and the dedicated as indeed it should!

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Optimizing

The algorithm is working within Google to optimize results.  When a person clicks on your link then goes away, your website will receive a small penalty because of this.  Quality content is very important for this reason.  In the past there were people spamming the keywords that would attract visitors because they were moved to the top of the search results.  This was not a welcomed practice at Google, so this now creates a negative hit toward your website.  I am not sure what amount of time a visitor has to spend on your time in order for Google to consider your content “quality.”

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Get Started

Start a blog along with your e-commerce store and update it.  It won’t do you any good to start the blog and not write anything.  Be persistent and dedicated to your work.  It is important to be passionate about your business because you may go months and months without seeing an effect.

Even this blog has taken me months to get a couple hundred organic hits on a daily basis.  You can advertise on sites but that would obviously cost money.  Most small businesses don’t have a lot of extra capital lying around to spend on advertising.  If you do, then you need to have a focused campaign on keywords that have low competition but high searches on a monthly basis.

Persistence Pays Off

Thanks to google the persistent will be the ones rewarded in the end.  Hackers and Black Hat people of the SEO world no longer have the advantage.  Hard workers are the ones getting rewarded by google these days.

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SEO the movie:

This movie is about the history of SEO, it is very interesting insight into the SEO world

SEO the Movie

Amazon Prime Wardrobe

Amazon Prime Wardrobe

Amazon has introduced a service that will put more of a hurting on traditional retail outlets.  It is a service where you can try on clothes before you buy them.  The more you buy, the more you save.  This article from Zerohedge goes into more detail:

Zero Hedge Amazon Article

Good or Bad?

I guess the answer to this question depends on who you ask.  This may seem good out right if you are a consumer, but when you think about the implications this may have in the future for smaller retailers, then you begin to see issues with this service.

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Who will get preference in the search results of Amazon Prime Wardrobe?  How much will the service cost?  I have been unable to find answers to these questions as of right now.  You see if brands can pay for preference with this service, then there is little chance for the small business to ever compete with the larger brands.

Amazon Fulfillment Centers

What if Amazon begins making their own clothing brand?  What will be the chances of Amazon giving preference to another brand over their own?  This service would require retailers send Amazon their inventory in order to be on this program.  When you send Amazon your inventory, especially with clothing, they can begin to see what styles are selling.  There are many issues that come up when you consider who will be effected when this service launches.   Amazon is really becoming the Wal-Mart of the internet.

Great Gifts for any Occasion!

With Amazon you don’t see the stores it has put out of business because they are all online in most cases, but even this is changing as Amazon expands into the retail and grocery spaces.  The empty retail spaces throughout America can be seen in abundance already.

Start your own Ecommerce store

It is now more important than ever to have a back up to Amazon if you are selling things online.  I recommend Shopify as they make it easy to create a store.  Click this link to start your free trial:

UPS branded label

You can have your store up and running within an hour.

Yes it is difficult

It will be difficult to get started, but there are so many resources out there to help you grow your web presence.  This blog is dedicated to helping you grow your site.  I want you to do well and compete with Amazon.

Use Amazon to grow revenue and convert those engagements to your own website.

Thanks for reading and check out the zero hedge article for more information on this.

 

Let me know what you think of this by leaving a comment below!

 

Grow sales online

How do you grow sales online?

This is a common question that people ask when starting an E-commerce site.  The answer of course is different for everyone because the world of e-commerce changes from day to day.  Some people hear about a friend who started a Shopify store that is making $100,000 a year working from home.  People that hear these stories think that they are getting the complete story.  How did they really grow sales online?

You see it is possible that the person is running a store making $100,000 a year working from home, but is that the entire story?   How many hours did this person spend learning how to build a web presence before he got to this level of sales?  Often times when we hear success stories where the teller of the story makes everything seem so simple.

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Ironically one of my favorite quotes on this subject comes from Jeff Bezos when he said ” I find that most over night successes take 10 years to develop.”  By the time we hear about a successful person, they have already put in the work to get there, so we get the illusion of it being an over night success.

grow your sales onlineThe History of Amazon

As you can see from the graph above, Amazon is no over night success.  Though it does seem that way.  They have 80 million + prime members that desire two day shipping.  What was the first thing you bought on Amazon?  If you look back through your history, then you will probably see a progression from one random thing to multiple things to everything.

The site is called Escapeamazon.com, but I do admire still what Jeff Bezos has accomplished thus far.  I don’t want to discourage people from getting started on Amazon, but if you are going to rely on Amazon for all of your sales, then who is in control of the business you created?

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Sometimes the revenue Amazon provides can make you forget why you started selling the product in the first place.  Amazon does make it easy to sell on their platform.  Now I want to draw your attention to something else, the orange brownish line in the chart above.

How to will Amazon make income?

Amazon has built a business that no doubt has a massive amount of revenue coming in.  They are reinvesting this revenue to grow their business.  At some point the investors of Amazon will want profits out of Amazon.  Private label Amazon products have been popping up here and there.  When the investors start to bail out on Amazon, where will they turn for profits?  Let’s say that you have a best selling product on Amazon with no patent and no intellectual property rights.  If Amazon were to copy your product to an Amazon branded product, then what would be your legal course of action?  Do you have the legal team to beat Amazon’s?

Now maybe this doomsday scenario will never happen for you.  It is unlikely that you are a best seller on Amazon just from a statistical stand point, but you should always be considering that one day if you become successful, then someone will want to take what you have earned.  You need to build a moat around your business.

Get away from comfort

Amazon is comfort.  They provide an easy way to sell your product without much work.  What you need to do is create alternative stores on Etsy, Ebay, and most importantly your own website.  I recommend Shopify as you know:

UPS branded label

You can start a free trial, and have a store up within an hour.  Click the banner above to find out more.

Keep working

The most important thing is that you keep working at your goals.  If your goal is to start a business, then do that.  Amazon is a great place to start, but do not rely on them for everything.  I started this blog to help small business owners retain profits that they are giving away to third parties.

Thank you for reading, and share this with your social networks if you find this helpful.

From my personal Etsy store:

A handmade gift that everyone will love

Happy Father’s Day

Hope you had a happy Father’s Day!

There are times to remember what is really important in this world.  We also need to recognize that what is important is different for everyone.  While family and friends might be the most important thing to me in this world.  I recognize that there are other people who may not care about these things.  Everyone is different though we may share common views here and there.  Father’s Day is a great time to think about the future.

With all the political turmoil engulfing the USA today, sometimes a day like this is needed to reflect on what is important.  We can get caught up in the daily news cycle of constant negativity, but do not let this control the narrative of your own life.

Great Gift Ideas!

Holiday Calendar for 2017

holiday calender for 2017

This is the calendar for the upcoming holidays in 2017 from NYCdesign.co.  If you have your website up and running, then you need to prepare your SEO for these upcoming days.  July 4th is one day that is coming up to consider. Do you have any items that could be viewed as patriotic?  Have you set up a July 4th specific product page?

When Mother’s Day was coming up I wrote a couple blogs about how to effectively capture google searches for holidays.  For your review they can be found here:

Mother’s Day SEO article 1

Mothers day article 2

I may have flipped those, but they are both informative on the subject of using holidays to increase your sales.

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The idea behind this blog is to grow your online sales.  We first need to drive traffic to your online store before we can grow sales.  The only natural way to do this without paying for advertisements is to use SEO to your advantage.

What is trending?

To enhance your SEO you need to stay up to date on what is trending.  What are people searching for now, and how can you structure your content to capture these searches?  Google has optimized their algorithm to display websites that are actually talking about what the individual is searching for.

This is why it is important to set up a product page when you are targeting a group looking for gifts.  Google will ping the sites with product pages and content structured around the search.  If someone is searching for “july 4th decorations” and you have a July 4th page set up, then you will come up higher on a search than someone who does not have this page set up.  There are factors that could make that statement untrue, but in general this is the way it works all other things being equal.

If you haven’t started your store yet, I recommend giving Shopify a look.  You can start a free trial, and have your store up within an hour.  Check them out here:

UPS branded label

 

Have a great week!

There isn’t a lot to this post, but I did want to say thanks for reading.  I hope you have a great week ahead.  Share this blog with your friends and associates.

I believe you can do anything you want in this world if you have the desire to learn how to do it.  The important thing in every desire or goal is to get started.  That sounds simple, but we all know that it isn’t.  The first step is the longest stride is a saying because it is real, but at some point you just need to realize that your procrastination may make later become never.  You might not get another chance to try out that thing you have been wanting to pursue.  Do it today!