Random Rants on eCommerce in 2011
I had a hard time settling in on a specific topic this month. I even emailed Kerry Murdoch, the publisher of Practical Ecommerce, for ideas. He sent me some great topics, but I still could not focus on a single topic. So, I came up with a list of rants about things that are wasting my time and affecting my revenues and profits. I suspect they are hitting your businesses too in some way. I don't offer many detilaed solutions herein, but I suspect this leads me to a "todo" list of projects we need to work through eventually!
Sale Tax Collections - as a small business with a physical presence in one state - why would I worry about collecting sales taxes for another state or reporting my sales in that state to you? I won't until the Supreme Court reverses its past rulings on interstate commerce (unlikely) or Congress passes and the President signs a bill that says I have to collect taxes for other states. Even if that happens, the states will fight for 2 more years over the "right" approach even though 20 or so have signed onto a common approach at this point. So for me, its a non-issue for now. End of story. To all you vendors who are licking your chops to sell me a "solution", stop inviting me to webinars about this non-issue until its actually an issue.
Google - As always, you've created a host of issues that should be attended to, but I just don't care as much as I used to because I've diversified my sources for new customers more. Let's look at the changes that have impacted eCommerce this past 12 months or so:
Google Instant - Lower ad click throughs and conversions after launch. I adjusted bidding strategies and stopped caring. ROI is back to being reasonable again after six months of tweaking.
New Algorithm - Lower organic traffic for many businesses - different keyword traffic for almost everyone. For us, its just different and less converting keywords are now delivering traffic. Better than some of you for sure.
Preview - Our PPC clickthroughs are down ever since that was launched. I think some people preview and don't bother to click through on ads. Not sure if that's saving money or costing revenue at this point. Don't even know if I'm being charged for a preview or not. Knowing Google, we probably are....
New Social Media +1- just what we need - another "like" or "fan" widget to add to our sites and pages to track. NOT! Without a doubt, we'll need to care a lot because it WILL impact our search results in the future. Guess we'll all be putting that up next to Facebook "likes".
Google's new focus on local results - I really don't want to see a list of every local brick and morter store selling XXX product when I search on the web. I shop online! For our stores, we now appear lower on the page for many popular things below a host of "local" stores that vaguely meet the search criteria in many cases.
Bottom line here - expand your presence through Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and your own newsletters. Build PPC campaigns that be easily scaled up and down based on your need for traffic or your own promotional efforts.
Email Promotions - For us, our competitors have turned an effective medium for promotions into "spam". Last week, at least 2 of my competitors sent out an email every single day promoting essentially the same promotion. Others 3-5 emails each over a 7 day period. Give it a rest. Use the email for targeted promotions, not broadcasting spam.
Not much you can do about it but test the level of tolerance of your own customers. Our opens and click throughs are down, promotional revenue is down slightly for individual campaigns. Our list is still growing organically, so I we have not crossed over into the toxic zone yet. Guess the trend of doing more promos is the only way to make up the revenue impacts of less effective campaigns.
Note - In spite of this, email is the most effective promotional tool that we have in our bag of tricks. We definitely need to invest some time in offering up different "lists" to sign up for so I can actually send email every day to those who actually say that want that level of abuse. Obviously, it works for some of you.
Free Shipping - I've blogged about this before. It's become a requirement in our market. Costs keep going up for shipping, but no way out this pit of quicksand that I can see.
Payment Methods - Now Visa and MasterCard feel the need for a "new" electronic payment method. Without a doubt, Facebook will be cooking one up for the day when they open up their own "marketplace". I don't know about you, but having more than PayPal and credit cards starts to be confusing to customers. Imagine your single page checkout when its just covered up with payment options. UGLY.
I hope we see a quick exit by some of these ideas before small businesses have to start thinking about adding them all. For us, PayPal Express and credit cards are just fine. No one is screaming at me to add Google Checkout or any other method at this point. Hope things stay that way.
That's enough rants for a single day. Here's my parting rant! Diversify your sources of traffic as much as possible. That will lessen the impact that any single search engine or social media outlet will have on your business. Build your own email lists and market smartly to your customers and prospects. Find value outside free shipping and constant "private 20% off coupons" or such promotions.
Luis Hernandez Jr says:
Gena Cornett says:
Can I add one more? Google Product Search requirements. So tired! of Google changing up the feed requirements and giving minimal time to get it done, or requiring a "one size fits all" approach. You are right on with the advice to diversify traffic streams.