Archive for the ‘eCommerce’ Category

Don’t Be Part Of An Online Virtual Mall

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

eCommerce is now so easy and so inexpensive that it really makes no sense to be part of anything calling itself an online virtual mall. We love Volusion. They have so many excellent features, and the pricing is certainly fair. Unless you need extensive eCom customisation (which we can do), Volusion should be a great solution for most sellers. We don’t get paid by Volusion to say that. We’re just happy to design Volusion sites for clients.

But once upon a time, I incurred some wrath…

Years ago, a website came onto the scene. It was called Bonanzle, later changed to Bonanza. I didn’t think the model made sense, so I openly said that people should not spend their time trying to make a Bonanza “booth” or bring traffic to a site where you might have competitors. The site billing itself as the friendliest shopping site online (because of its active discussion forums) went on a campaign to try to smear me.

That was surreal. But didn’t distract from the truth. Every time I asked somebody how their Bonanza sales were, I got either no information, excuses, or the truth that it was nearly zero. People who were making sales admitted that they were mostly coming from other Bonanza sellers trying to support the site. They would tell me the site needed time to get shoppers. I said that without serious marketing, how will anybody know to shop there? Who has heard of it? What is Bonanza doing about that other than waiting for you to bring traffic to the site?

People told me I was just a hater, and I was just an eBay cheerleader. I was neither. I was and am someone who looks critically and honestly at companies’ business models, how they market, etc… Sorry but Bonanza never seemed like a winner to me, and I didn’t think it was worth my clients’ time and effort. Yes even after they installed a module to import everything you had on eBay into Bonanza. Many of my clients’ eBay listings link to their eBay stores and make references to eBay… that has to look awfully weird on a non-eBay site.

I don’t hear about Bonanza anymore, and that’s just fine. But I decided to pop by Alexa, which has stats on websites, to see how they’re doing. I got two 2-year charts. The first measures the estimated number of internet users around the world visiting this site:

ScreenHunter_30 Feb. 06 08.03

The second chart shows the amount of time users tend to spend on the site. This chart clearly shows a decline. People visiting the site are spending less time on it than they were before. Obviously, a website would hope that over time, MORE people come there and spend MORE time. These charts show stagnation if not drops. Can we call this one yet?

ScreenHunter_31 Feb. 06 08.03

What’s the lesson here?

If I had to give you a takeaway tip, it would be that not every eCommerce effort is worth your time. Focus more on the sites that have great traffic, or on how to generate traffic to your own site. Don’t send traffic to anybody else’s site, and that includes eBay. If you have control of traffic, send people to YOUR site. Forget online malls, and for now, forget selling from Facebook as it’s been a non-starter even for big companies (future blog post).

Your own eCommerce site at your own dot com. It’s cheaper and easier than it’s ever been, and of course, we can help. Just ask. :)


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Why WordPress should be your blog and NOT your e-commerce site!

Monday, January 21st, 2013

I love WordPress, I have used it for years and you guessed it, you are reading this on a WordPress based website. For me personally, it works really well as a standalone blog or used as a content management system for a business website.

The attributes of WordPress like easy software updates and the wealth of plugins make it IDEAL in many cases. However, not for e-commerce.

There are shopping cart plugins for WordPress but they just end up feeling awkward on the user side and even more awkward for the retailer. It seems easy at first, a one click install…but don’t be fooled.

It isn’t what you need.

It’s only just one step up from using Paypal buy now buttons with Paypal shopping cart. If you want to sell on a few bits, that’s what I would recommend.

You need an e-commerce system to be a serious retailer.

A dedicated e-commerce system gives you far more than an cobbled together WordPress site with shopping cart add on can. It can flex and move with your business needs as it only has one purpose in life. It is not trying to be jack of all trades and master of none!

To really succeed in business you need a well thought out layout in design and configuration to maximize your sales potential. You don’t want to waste any money spent on driving to traffic to your website because of poor conversion.

Here at As Was we have worked with many eCommerce systems over the last 15 years, and if we are presented with a new store system we can quickly adapt and design it for you. We don’t charge extra if we haven’t dealt with it before!

Why don’t you check out our case studies:

Case Studies: Websites and eCommerce

Drop us a line, we will give you an honest review of your eCommerce plans as well as suggest the best transactional website system for you.


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Building An eCommerce Business From A Book’s Advice, Part 2

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Yesterday’s blog post was the story of a nice guy who called for a price on a website. He got a lot more than that.

He gave me permission to publish the thank-you email he sent me in response to the phone conversation we had. I wanted to share it with you…

I’m the guy you spoke with yesterday about the cologne website.

I just want to say thanks again for opening my eyes yesterday.

It scares me to think about how much more time and money I would have had into this business if I hadn’t talked to you.

I’m officially pulling the plug. Not because I think it would be impossible for me to ever achieve any degree of success with it, but because it’s impossible with the resources I have. And I approached wrong, bass ackwards as they say in Michigan.

I don’t know how to do research to see if the business would work or what it would take to work so I just disregarded it, when viability is the most important aspect of it all. I told myself, “The only way to find out if it works is by trying it.” While that’s applicable to some things, it’s a very dangerous approach in this application.

Its like me saying, “The only way I’ll really know if I can fly is by trying it, so I’m gonna jump into the Grand Canyon and hope for the best.”

My problem is I just assumed that hard work would assure success. I can work hard and will. I’m going to be working hard at something else now. But hard work doesn’t guarantee success. It doesn’t just come automatically with hard work. Other things have to be in place.

I was ill prepared and ill resourced and destined for a colossal let down.

Debbie, you have saved me hundreds of dollars and many hours of my time. If every person was as honest and morally sound as you are, the world would be a much better place. Karma is on your side I’m sure of it.

If I wasn’t broke as a joke, I would send you money for the hour of your valuable time you gave me and how much you’ve saved me, and I think honesty and good will should be rewarded.

The truth is always the best no matter how hard it is to say or to hear, you know?

You didn’t have to do what you did for me yesterday but you did, because you are a good honest person. Thank you so much!

I wish you the best of luck in life and business!

No, I wish YOU the best of luck in life and business! I got a serious smile when he told me karma was on my side.

This is what I do, and this is why I do it. Not every rewarding moment comes when a payment clears. Plenty of rewarding moments come knowing I’ve helped people. That’s why I do it, and why I’ve been doing it here at As Was since April 1995.


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Building An eCommerce Business From A Book’s Advice

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

I got a call earlier this week from a nice guy who wanted me to give him our price on customising his 3D Cart Store. Well, we are 3D Cart Platinum Partners, so sure, we can do that. But I wanted to know more about what he was selling, what was his plan to market the site, etc… I know that most online sellers have never really thought of these things, and don’t really have a plan. You need a plan!

On the surface, he thought he had a plan. He was going to sell men’s fragrances from his own website. He found a supplier (the online site most of you are probably buying yours from… evidently they also wholesale), and they were going to drop ship, so he didn’t have to buy or store anything. He started a website and bought a premium template. OK, how will you market it? He told me, “Affiliate marketing, SEO, and marketing consultants.” Well, you know me, so I asked him if he knew what affiliate marketing meant. He didn’t.

I said let’s take a good look at SEO possibilities. We went to Google and searched a popular men’s cologne. The top results were some of the biggest names in online and brick-and-mortar retail on the planet. You’d click on any one of them since they’re names you know and trust. The paid ads were also from these same big players except that Google showed a customer ranking for them. So even if the nice guy on the call with me paid for top Google placement, he’d be next to a company that Google shows as having over 3,000 positive comments. Who would you pick?

I felt like this was a serious uphill battle for him. His problem wasn’t his website design. I was concerned nobody was ever going to see it. The problem is how are people going to find his website, and why should they choose to shop there? When you can buy fragrances at many local stores… or online from Walmart, Sams Club, Fragrancenet (we did their eBay stuff :) ), Perfumania, and others… would you choose this guy’s site, especially if his prices are the same and not lower? How much time and money would he burn on SEO and marketing consultants as they tried to get him Google placement alongside Walmart and Fragrancenet!!!

I had to tell him that I thought his biz idea wasn’t very strong. It didn’t seem like it would be likely to succeed. And for the money he’d burn in getting it going… in this economy, does he have that money to lose? You can’t just assume this is going to work and make money. What if it doesn’t? And then he asked me an interesting question.

Can’t this just work a little? Can’t this work enough to bring me $1000 or $2000 per month? I just didn’t see that happening when he was up against such giants. He assumed that he would have SOME success, even just a little. I asked how much he will have to work and how much money he’d have to spend to HAVE that thousand or so per month? Will he feel like he’s working for 86 cents an hour?

It’s best to plan, do lots of math, look at competitors, and be honest about where you’re likely to end up in Google. Or how you will get the word out for people to shop with you. Can you make your time, effort, and investment worth it?

We stayed on the phone nearly an hour. He thought this was amazing. I do this all the time. :) Many people who call will never hire us… or sometimes shouldn’t hire us. I wanted to see him keep his money in his pocket until he had done lots of planning and math, and KNEW his idea was truly going to fly.

Tomorrow’s blog post is the email he sent me the day after we talked. He gave me permission to publish it. :)


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Magento Has A New Hosted Store

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Magento is now offering new “Go” stores. Check out the tour and features here. If you are shopping around for hosted solutions, this is definitely one to check out. Our clients also like Volusion.

Of course, As Was can design and customise these shopping carts, and many more.

Many online sellers ask me the difference between a hosted solution and one where you get all the code. A hosted solution is more turnkey. You turn it on, it’s installed, you can start using it, and as the company updates features or fixed bugs, you have all of that automatically. When you get the source code, like the full version of Magento, you have to install that on a server. You have to admin that server or hosting account. As there are updates, you have to have someone install them. If something breaks, you have to find someone to fix it as Magento doesn’t want to troubleshoot your custom install of their system (well, not for free!). So it can be more work and more expense, but the result is something that you can nearly limitlessly customize.

A third option is one I hear from time to time, which sounds something like, “I found a guy who’s going to build me my own eCommerce system.” In nearly all cases, this is a bad idea. Unless you are a giant marketplace with needs and requirements that no system could come close to fulfilling, then maybe that’s a good idea. But 99% of the time, it sets you up for two things: 1) Being beholden to this guy for all of your maintenance, upgrades, etc…, and 2) feeling like your eCom world fell apart when you can’t find the guy or he goes and gets a real job.

So remember, for most businesses, a hosted solution is a good way to go. A solution where you get the code, like the full version of Magento, can be right if you don’t mind running your own server, maintaining that code, and finding people to install your updates. It’s nearly never a good idea to have some guy or some company build you your own eCom system from scratch.


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