Practical Ecommerce

PPC, Copywriting, Product Images

When jeweler Pat Coughlin decided to expand his brick-and-mortar business to include an ecommerce store, he set an ambitious goal to generate $1 million in online sales in the first 12 months. To pull off that feat, he hired six staff members to lead critical parts of the new endeavor.

Paula Lindinger

The launch of the new sales channel hasn’t been without its challenges. Three members of Coughlin’s web team agreed to share what they have learned during the past six months and provide some tips on areas that often plague ecommerce sites: Pay-per-click advertising, copywriting and product images.

Paula Lindinger

Duties: Pay-per-click, shopping comparison sites, customer service.

Previous Web Experience: None

PeC: What do you enjoy most?

Lindinger: I think one of the most exciting things is the feedback from the customers. When we get a great report from a customer, it gives me goosebumps, and that type of report sends cheers up through the whole store.

PeC: What has been most challenging?

Lindinger: I had no idea what it took to sell something online. For instance, handling credit card fraud was a huge deal for us when we first started. We just did not know what to expect. We are all such good, friendly people here that we expect everyone to be the same way. That does not seem to work that way, which is unfortunate.

PeC: Pay-per-click tips?

Lindinger: I would say start slowly with pay-per-click, spend wisely and do not fire up everything at once. Start with one campaign, pick a couple of items and work from there. Start out really slowly and do a couple of ads for a couple of products with a couple of different search engines — maybe Google or MSN. Then pay close attention, because it is kind of addicting, and before you know it you can spend a lot of money.

April Bryan

Duties: Copywriting, customer service.

Previous Web Experience: America Online entertainment writer, copywriter at a website development firm based in Phoenix.

PeC: What do you enjoy most?

Lindinger: I am delighted when a customer is happy. We have had a lot of really happy customers. They write to us, and they are personal about it. They are saying, “My wife opened it on her birthday, she was thrilled. She loves it.” That kind of stuff, it makes us [feel] 10 feet tall. I think making somebody happy is my No. 1 thrill here, and then the copywriting. If I could write copy all day, it would not be work. It is a lot of fun.

PeC: What has been most challenging?

Lindinger: I think one of the main challenges is that we want to do so much more, and we want to do it better. It is tough when you are just getting started. We have been learning as we go every step of the way and learning from our mistakes. Another challenge is that we have been disappointed a few times by credit-card fraud.

Following an ebiz start-up

Practical eCommerce is following American Diamond Importers of St. Clair, Mich., throughout the year to chronicle the triumphs and struggles that accompany the launch of an ecommerce site. Owner Pat Coughlin won a contest from eBay to launch a ProStore, and he’s made a significant investment into the project: Hired six people, purchased new computers and equipment and planned a $100,000 advertising campaign. Coughlin’s goal: Generate $1 million in new sales from his online business within 12 months. We’ll be there with him and his team every step of the way. His online store launched Aug. 18, 2006, and you can read previous articles about Coughlin’s journey at Practicalecommerce.com.

Copywriting Tips

The secret of good copywriting? Be honest, especially on the Internet. If you have a product that someone is looking at on a screen, all the details should be straightforward and honest. That way, when the person receives his item, he already knows what he is getting based on the words and the photographs. When it comes to eBay, if there is something scratched or dented, if your item is a little warped, let the customer know about it. Then, when they receive it, they are not surprised. In addition, you have got to know who your customers are and appeal to them. Sometimes for me, I have to put my own way of thinking aside. I like to use big, long words, but I have learned in copywriting that the shorter words are better. You know what? Shorter words are going to appeal to more people. For me, I want to please as many people as I can with one description. You’ve got to keep their needs in mind.

Matthew Montgomery

Duties: Product photography and information technology. Previous Web Experience: Project manager for a website design firm.

PeC: What do you enjoy most?

Lindinger: What I enjoy the most is the actual creating of graphics and taking Pat’s [Coughlin] ideas and figuring out how to get them to work. I enjoy taking his ideas and making it practical.

PeC: What has been most challenging?

Lindinger: Probably the most challenging part is photography. Jewelry is highly reflective. I mean the different kinds of metals and different kind of gems all reflect in different ways, and technical jewelry photography is very challenging even for people who have been doing it for 10, 20 or 30 years. Getting the right kind of picture is important because customers cannot come here and touch the product. So, we need the best photo possible.

Product Photography Tips

Two really important things to pay attention to with photos: First, your lighting. If you want to be able to control how much light hits your product, you want what is called diffused lighting rather than direct. Direct lighting is actual light shining on the item. All the lights in our light box are behind a plastic barrier that is translucent so it helps diffuse the light so that it is not so harsh. Another thing you want to watch for is your focus. To keep the entire item in focus, you need to have a camera that has a got a good depth of field.

Practical Ecommerce

Practical Ecommerce

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  1. Legacy User April 9, 2007 Reply

    Greetings Justin:

    American Diamond Importers uses a six megapixel Cannon Powershot S3 IS camera.

    — *mitch@pec*

  2. Legacy User April 9, 2007 Reply

    What type of camera do you use? What megapixel or do you find that irrelevant just get good images up?

    — *Justin*

  3. Legacy User June 13, 2007 Reply

    Justin, while a high megapixel count is important, your depth of field and lighting is more important. Use diffuse lighting rather than direct and a lens with a large depth of field so you can get more of the item in focus.

    — *Matt Montgomery*